So what is The Alejo Project?
Alejo means ‘guest in Yoruba. In Alejo Project (#alejoproject), we tell the undiluted stories of foreigners who have moved to Nigeria. This project tells first-hand stories of their own Nigeria and is curated by The Village Pot; an online platform for uncovering food, culture and travel stories across Africa.
Today, the focus is on Claire Edun. We hope you read and enjoy today’s story.
Nigerians in Nigeria are often forced to consider a list of reasons to move to other countries. However, foreigners like Oyinbo Princess have never let go since their first encounter with the country and its people. Oyinbo Princess, whose real name is Claire Edun, picked up the moniker because of her strong affiliations with Nigeria. In its simplest form, oyinbo is used to refer to people of Caucasian heritage. At first, her job working for an international airline brought her into Lagos and Abuja every ten days or so, with each stopover serving as a taster course on Nigeria and what the country had to offer. She recounts warmly “I would take the opportunity to discover local areas, try out new foods and get to know the country in general.” In a matter of time, her eyes and heart had opened to the country, its people and its culture and Oyinbo Princess became eager for more.
The first time Oyinbo Princess stepped into Nigeria, she was unprepared for the adventure that awaited her in Lagos. Coming off a long flight in the wee hours of the morning, she was tired and longed for a good night’s sleep. “I remember as the plane doors opened, the rush of hot air hit my face and an industrial smell washed over me in a gust of warm air.” It is this smell, which according to her was pleasant, that she would come to recognise as the smell of home. After overcoming the renowned hassle of Nigerian custom officers, she made her way into the darkness of the morning and could not imagine how alive the city was at such an early hour. “It was dark but the hustle and bustle of the locals and travellers was exciting“, she said. She adds, “the people were welcoming, offering to help me change money, push my bags and locate a taxi.” With a driver waiting for her, she did not need to accept the help. If she arrived a little later, she would have missed the beauty of the rising Lagos Sun, a sight which she recounts with great nostalgia. The momentum was building and on every new trip, she would come to explore a different part of the country by car, keke, okada and on foot. From her first visit, she was hooked.
Looking back on the time prior to visiting Nigeria, she describes her impressions as ‘preconceived’ and ‘cautious.’ She explains: “I was sceptical about visiting due to advice on sites such as the Home Office saying it was a ‘Red Risk Zone’ and media reports. I guess it was more of a fear surrounding the unknown and going by ‘hear say’ comments and reviews. There is ‘bad’ in every country, but there is also a whole lot of good, I prefer to use my own knowledge governed by personal experience, to made a decision or judgement. Regardless of all the information I had read or seen, I always had a burning desire to visit Nigeria. Once I started working for an international airline, I was lucky enough to visit regularly.“
After so much first-hand experience, her relationship with Nigeria is much different. She says, “Nigeria literally means the world to me. Nigerian people, the country, their culture and traditions have enriched my life in so many ways. I have more respect for people in general, I am culturally aware of the Nigerian ways and traditions.” She is not immune to the complexities the country offers, socially and politically. But her outlook is positive and reaffirms the character of the Nigerian people. In her words, “Nigerians are very straightforward once you understand and embrace their culture and you become accepted as their own.“
Keeping Nigerian Memories Alive!
“I take my hat off to a country of such humble, determined and happy people…“
When pressed for her favorite Nigerian memory, Oyinbo Princess struggles to pick one. “It is hard to be specific, but I fondly remember a visit to a local Bukka Hut to enjoy food with friends.””I take my hat off to a country of such humble, determined and happy people“, she continues, “and Nigeria is always memorable to me because regardless of the circumstances, a smile is always available.”