I am sitting on a plane right now after having landed in North America earlier today. As I munched on sushi and was sipping on a cappuccino a couple of hours later, it seemed almost surreal that two days ago I was sitting packed into a rickety old van driving across Nigeria. Just forty-eight hours ago, I was anticipating the experience of the seven hour trip across the country with Maureen and one of our soccer girls Amaka, until a moment of trepidation entered the picture. This was due to a preacher coming just before departure to lead the sixteen passengers tightly packed into the van, into prayer song, so that we could survive the trip on one of the “most dangerous roads in Nigeria”
Two notable things happened on the trip. The first was that on one of our stops at the random police checks through the trip, Mo (my nickname for Maureen) bought the national sports newspaper. She eagerly threw the paper towards me when she came to a page dedicated to the Women’s World Cup draw and Canada and Nigeria being in the same group. We both read through the couple of articles on the page; the whole time I was thinking how cool it was to be on the other side of the world getting Nigeria’s perspective and the media’s bravado that they would make it past the first round at the WWC. As we were shutting the newspaper, I caught at the bottom of the page the word Canada again, and opened up for a closer examination, when I saw that there was an article about the project that Mo and I are putting together to bring a team of girls from her home state of Anambra to Canada for my Western Canada Soccer Showcase. The article detailed that I was in the country and our plans to put it together. We were so excited in the back of the van reading the article, and it was pretty cool when some of the passengers in the van caught on, and recognized Maureen.
I think it’s worth mentioning that I felt totally safe in my time in the country, and I would like to say that I think it’s really important for people as much as possible to form their opinions from their own experiences, instead of what they read. I had read the Canadian government page before I left, advising against non-essential travel to Nigeria, and at one point I thought to myself, am I crazy for doing this, but I trusted Mo and that she would take care of me, and she definitely went so far and above the duties of a good host, and everyone that I met was absolutely welcoming and wonderful.
I also had the experience of not seeing another white person the entire time I was in Nigeria. I quickly learned what the word “On-y-etcha” meant, as it was yelled at me almost constantly. I questioned Mo and she told me that it meant white person. It was definitely interesting to have the experience of being a complete and utter visible minority.
I have so much to tell, and it really just amazes me that I was only there for 6 days, as I feel like so much happened. I have some pictures and video that are on my currently dead camera which paint a better picture than my words ever could, but I definitely feel like this trip was the start of something very very special, and I look forward to sharing the details of what I learned and experienced over the next few days.
Best of all, I am so glad I took the advice of a very wise person in my life who encouraged me to get to Nigeria as soon as possible to see what Mo was doing, and how the foundation could be tied in. After seeing what is there, I have a very clear picture of one of the directions that I want the foundation to head, which is combining soccer and educational opportunities for underprivileged girls.
Most importantly, meeting the girls that are coming to the Showcase, face to face, has lit a fire in me, in a way that nothing else could, to do truly whatever it takes to make them be playing in the Showcase in Vancouver in April. I will do whatever it takes to make these girls dreams come true. I am truly blessed to be able to do so. I can’t wait to begin to give back to the game that has given me so much.