“So after I wrote about those cultural experiences I started to think where I went during my stay. I spent most of my time in Ife, which felt hectic for a small town guy like me, but I enjoyed staying there: it was peaceful and OAU’s campus is really beautiful. Too bad I wasn’t able to go mountaineering but we’ll fix that the next time I come. Ile-Ife town was beautiful too; it had this character I can’t describe, but it sure was amazing.”
As a health care student, I felt my biggest cultural shock in health centres around Ife, because things were done bit differently in Nigeria than in Finland – if one thing I’m proud of in my home country, is the health care: best in the world! But lack of medicine, instruments etc. didn’t stop the nurses and doctors to commit really comprehensive health care: I was very impressed of the skill level of nurses and nursing students of OAU. I had my best conversations about health care in Nigeria with my peers, by which I mean the nursing students. If these people are let in charge, Nigeria will have fantastic health care in the future – they showed that treating patients is not about funding or money. It seems to be appropriate timing to write this statement I had in my mind, before I started writing this text: Nigeria, don’t let your potential to slip away!
Out of Ile-Ife, I spent some time in Lagos, Ibadan and Akure: sadly, I was so busy during my stay that I wasn’t able to travel more but I will come back and then I’ll see more of that beautiful country! Akure really impressed me, it was truly fantastic place and I’ll definitely go back there one day. I come from a small town called Imatra, population approaches 30,000 but doesn’t quite reach there. But since my origin is in small town with an incredible landscape, I was very keen to experience Nigerian nature, which to me seemed unbelievable. Ile-Ife has so amazing surroundings that I must’ve taken more 1000 pics from the nature, plants and animals. I beg you people, leave your nature as much untouched as possible! I’m hoping to explore your rainforests, mountains, savannahs and fields again in the future. Lucky for me colorful and breathtaking nature is all around in Naija so I guess now worries then even if modernization strikes your country and therefore some forests will get cut down. I’ve already planned some destinations for my next trip to Nigeria: I want to visit Abuja, Calabar and Ilorin. Ilorin mainly cause my crush-on stays there… But what I’m trying to say is that Nigeria is not all about crowded cities with a hectic atmosphere: I hope you all appreciate the beauty that can be found outside your cities!
I think I may have completely ignored one topic that seemed to be very interesting for many Nigerians: food. Just three words can cover everything I want to say about your traditional foods – I loved it! My personal favourite was Semo and Egusi with chicken but I really did enjoy everything I was able to try out. And if I could import Viju-drinks to Finland I would do it immediately! Plantains were tasty too, I demanded them for almost every meal I had, my Nigerian friends living in Finland say that one can come by those from Finland too – you just need to know where to search.
This topic raises a few food-related discussions with Nigerian people that weren’t so comfortable for me, though: there were people that looked at me in disbelief when I told them I really like Nigerian foods and some even asked if I wanted to eat something different from Nigerian food. My friends put it best: those people think local Nigerian food is not good enough for me. What kind of attitude is that? It’s part of every traveler’s experience to try out local specialties. And those people really should be proud of Nigeria and all the cultural features you have. I mean it, be proud of Nigeria! Without pride there usually isn’t any progress either. I could go for pounded yam right now, maybe I’ll ease my hunger by making garri (I don’t know how to spell that) at home when I get there. I got that before I left Nigeria and there’s still some left.
It’s -3 degrees in Finland in November, winter is coming but there’s no snow on the ground yet. I realize I could never leave this country finally although I dream about living somewhere abroad, after all I have my family and friends here… I’ve grown up in this country. But I really miss Nigeria a lot and I know I’ll be coming back very soon. I hope Nigeria keeps developing itself so that the world will acknowledge what great country it is, young people over there are so bright, smart and passionate that without any hesitation I can say Nigeria will be successful! Maybe I’ll set up a business there too… For me the most important thing was to show some people that I can survive by myself too, even though I have traveled I’m still seen as this baby-faced boy, who needs constant protection wherever I go. I didn’t feel unsafe at all in Nigeria so I was also able to prove some Finnish people that Nigeria is a safe country for regular people.
That’s basically what I’ve been telling to all people, that Finnish media has got Nigeria all wrong in almost every way, my mission is to correct all the false assumptions of that country: my interview about my trip will be published at the end of November in public newspaper in Finland. All in all, I grew up as a person too… I owe Nigeria a lot, hopefully one day I can pay back! Thank You, for the best three months of my life! I miss you Nigeria!
To know more about Lari, you can visit his blog at http://laripaananen.blogspot.com/
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