Make love. Make friends. Refresh your spirit. Laugh. Cry. Move, Run. Look back. Look forward. Reflect. Think. Read. Watch. Live! Find happiness and motivation within and around. Don’t take good health for granted. Exercise your body, mind and soul.
Living Abroad Is Not Immortality
By Adeola Aderounmu
Let me drop these few lines from the perspective of a Yoruba living far away from the land of my ancestors. These few lines will be based on my personal experiences.
I met a guy in Sweden in 2013 or thereabout. Indeed, it is a mystery how I didn’t meet him in Festac Town, Yoruba Country before I came to Sweden at the beginning of 2002.
We shared common childhood friends like the Olisehs and he knew many of the guys I played football together with, like Ubaka, George and several more. At that time of my life, my football skills took me near his own place of residence in Festac town precisely along 711 road/ 24 Road. But we met first in Stockholm at the reunion of Festac people in the Scandinavian, the first edition, which I hosted. In the subsequent edition in Finland hosted by Ebunoluwa, he could not make it.
During my visit to Malmö in 2019, he came to my hotel room and as usual we spent some quality time together.
Onyebuchi had probably arrived from Japan in the early 2000s and he contemplated whether to settle in Sweden or not. A few years later, he sent me a private message thanking me for inspiring him to stay in Sweden especially after we met in 2002. If you asked me what I told him or how I inspired him, I have no idea.
I have listened to people saying I (Adeola) did this and I did that, but often I have no recollection of what they are talking about. I just do the things I do and always stay positive that everything will work together for good. I remembered someone said I gave him the opportunity for his first white collar job in Sweden. How was I supposed to know that? It was a job that we needed someone to do, and I found him suitable. That’s just it.
In 2019 I travelled alone to Malmö in Sweden. In fact, it turned out to be my last major travel before the covid pandemic, and the last time I saw Onyebuchi in person. I drove all the way and stayed at a hotel in the central part. But I was visiting 3 friends, all with Festac connection, and Onyebuchi was one of them. It was 2 or 3 days well spent during the summer holiday. Seeing Adex and senior Tolu will always be a pleasure.
If I knew Onyebuchi had issues or could depart so soon (around Jan 1, 2023), I would have strained myself to make another drive to Malmö. Who knows what would have happened? Together, we may have changed the sequence of history. He may still be with us today. But we are mortals. We will die. That we will exit this planet is the surest thing in life. Nobody will leave planet earth alive no matter how long/short, or how good/bad we live. Death is our common denominator.
It’s just very sad to die far away from home when life has not been fully lived, when that dream of growing old is cut short. I’m happy that Onyebuchi made Malmö his home and that he loved his young son with all his heart. The agony that is felt by the families we left in our home country is the sad aspect. It is therefore imperative that whilst we are alive, that we see ourselves as living things that want to survive, that crave for happiness and fulfilment but in the end, not afraid to die. It will happen anyhow.
We left motherland to live in faraway places. Mostly it is in search of comfort, the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment. But our accomplishments of these feats do not make us superhumans. Those who left home to faraway places are not superior beings. They are made of flesh, bones and blood. They are humans living with pains, hope, laughter, good times, bad times, thoughtful and thoughtless times. They fall sick, they get depressed, they may be curable or incurable of their illnesses. It’s still all the same about our frailty and mortality no matter where we find ourselves.
The opportunities we have to succeed are also still relative. They depend mostly on our competences and then that element of luck or coincidence that place us at the right places at the right time. A sad outcome of chasing dreams far away from home is ending up worse than what you could have become elsewhere (home or another place).
Personally, I have no idea if being a professor of Parasitology in Yorubaland would have made me happier than my life in Sweden as a special education teacher (of mathematics). Can I still become a professor? Yes. Will I aspire? I do not think so because it seems I have reached a point where I do not want my knowledge about things and my ways of reasoning to be subjected to measurement any longer. I believe with the right tools; every person can see how infinitely the human brain can function. I have been infinitely influenced by a phrase I saw in my cousin’s hose in Ibadan around 1995/96. Bloom where you have been planted. How do you know where you have been planted though?
If you have family members abroad, you need to start seeing them differently. Indeed, there are several millions of Africans scattered around the world today and the reasons are no longer due to direct slavery (even if some circumstances are similar to it). Abroad is anywhere that is not home. So how many people do you have to take into considerations when you think of the people you know abroad or in different geographical regions from where you are?
People abroad are not superhumans. They will develop new ways of thinking and acting after a long spell in places different from home or birthplace. They will make mistakes; they will fall, and they will try to rise again. They may be out of jobs, and let’s hope that is temporary. Young people generally, will lose their minds and stability if they are out of jobs permanently. Some of us will be crossed due to unstable family relationships. Humans are social animals and any attempt to find a way around that socialization is unhealthy.
Whether we are at home or abroad, we should make efforts every now and then to reach out to another (but not in cases when reaching out can cause you trauma or discomfort). Make efforts to build a new bridge if the old ones get burnt. One of the harms you can do to yourself is to be static. Make love. Make friends. Refresh your spirit. Laugh. Cry. Move. Run. Look back. Look forward. Think. Reflect. Find happiness and motivation within and around. Don’t take good health for granted. Exercise your mind and body. Read. Watch. Observe. Live.
If you open your eyes every morning, if you get out of bed every morning, think about what you can do better this day than what you did yesterday. Think about newer opportunities and if there is a little effort you can make to achieve something great. Within the limit of your human capabilities, not doing harm to yourself, see if you can make a positive influence in somebody’s life. If you can do without a payback, ask them to pay forward. If all you can do at a certain time, is for yourself, to be happy, make it clear.
In the end, home or away, we are all mortals with the same basic needs: air, water, food, companionship, and shelter. The major differences in societies, mainly due to types of government and use of common sense, are access to these things and the infrastructure that adds quality to our lives.
This essay is for you Onyebuchi Echigeme. May the city of Malmö remember you. May your son grow to be strong and worthy. Farewell my friend.
Rest in power bro!