As told by Nsipidi
One of the things that I enjoyed doing with my dad was going for walks. We always walked in Fairbanks and even when we moved to Anchorage we didn’t stop doing that as well. Anytime dad was away, Yukon, Ptarmigan, mum and myself would go for walks with the dogs. We used to call it family walk. It was a culture that dad brought to America with him. He said that when he was in Nigeria he used to walk a lot, this formed part and parcel of him. Not because he enjoyed walking but because he had no option than to walk. He used to walk to the farm, he used to walk to the market, he used to walk to the stream to fetch water. He used to walk to the bus stop to catch a bus. Walking was a way of life for him. In his words, it was his ‘Legedece Benz’.
When he arrived America, he did not have money to eat healthy food. He was eating tons of crap food. So, the only service he could do for himself was walk away the pounds and stay fit as well. He walked everywhere walk-able. On the average he was walking about twenty five kilometres a day. He didn’t have money for gym membership, he couldn’t afford a car in his early years, so he took public transport where applicable and walked the rest of the way. He walked to grocery stores, he walked to community centres, he walked to his place of work, he walked to visit an old aide of his. He made darn good use of his ‘Legedece Benz.’
When he stabilized, he carried on with this good old habit and I can still hear him loud and clear saying to us,” keep your life simple. Devise a lifestyle that will work for you. With walking, and running, you only need a pair of trainers and you are good. No one will ask you to pay for walking on the street”. We laughed at this his famous saying.
In the village, my dad would take me and Yukon for walks. We would go to see plots of land that he owned, his goats, cows, sheep, and his plantations. We would visit relatives and the local schools. We would go to the local churches and we would participate in the village events. My dad made sure we attended initiation events, celebrations, launching, funeral and marriage ceremonies. We made local friends and interacted with them. These local friends would come to visit us and want to stay overnight and I would always ask them to go back to their homes. Why? Because my dad always said to me, learn to be content with what you have, enjoy what you have till the next one comes along. Yes, we may be privileged than most of them but we have also experienced rough times, times of lack and times of uncertainties.
These walks opened my eyes to the harsh economic realities of the moment. We had choices – choice of food, choice of schools, choice of clothing, choice of language, choice of dreams and here were a people who did not have choice. Life presented one side to them and they believed that one side and lived that one side. Life presented a particular music to them and they only danced to that tune of music. The very thing that made my daddy to leave Nigeria was replaying right in front of me. He had tried hard to change the tune, he had tried hard to change the perspective, he had tried hard to dream a dream and live it, but it did not work for him, so, he left. I could see that history before my very eyes. I could see his people, my people, resigned to fate. I could see the people helpless and crying out for help. I could see the people stare at us and wonder, whether we lived on the same planet. They wondered why we were so different to them. If only they knew that, my daddy made a choice, a choice to change the destiny of his life.
These were my people. These were my kinsmen. They had all been sold out by their leaders, they had all been bought over by the richer politicians, they had all been numbed by poverty. They had lost loved ones because there was no money to pay for hospital bills, they had lost family lands because they had to raise money to bury a family member. How about selling that same land to have school fees paid? Doesn’t that baffle your imagination? They would rather sell a plot of land to bury someone, a dead person, than sell that same land to train someone in the university. My people were living a lie, a delusion. They had been deceived.
That was why my dad took us on those village walks. I fast forwarded, a year from that moment, how and where did I see my kinsmen?
The following year when we were planning for our yearly pilgrimage to the village, we had shipped a container ahead of us. In this container were old clothes, used books, used computers for the village schools, old ipads, printers and items that would help empower the people.
We had printed the programme for the summer – leadership training for the local youth free of charge, language lessons, applied math course, life’s skills, thinking skills courses. I fast forwarded again, and Yukon said he could see the people create a life for themselves, believe in themselves and live their lives. Even Ptarmigan and mum would act as facilitators in the summer programme. History would be made in Ntanda village.
My people have a right to dream. They have a right to fast forward their lives to see that, the picture it holds is bright.