A foretaste of Nigeria

Last November, when my friend Uche invited me to her wedding in Nigeria, she had to witness a lot of jumping around while enthusiastically screaming « WHY NOT? YES I am coming!! ». However, it all seemed a bit hypothetical, difficult if not impossible to realize. But there is no resisting such an invitation and now here I am, all set to go. After gathering the required documents (among them, a beautiful official invitation letter that had me shedding a few tears) the last step was to attend an interview at the Nigerian embassy in Bern in order to obtain a visitor visa. And it’s precisely in the most Swiss of all towns that I had my first taste of the country I am soon going to visit.

In the waiting room of the embassy, I took out my book and didn’t realize it was a couple hours before a smiling spokesperson came and performed a little ceremony of welcoming the visa applicants to Nigeria (or at least, the few square meters of it that stand in Bern). We were cheerfully told that we had been waiting because they were checking our documents: in today’s world, it’s best to ensure we didn’t have the intention of killing somebody (it was impossible not to appreciate such honesty…). The delegate then explained how once in his home country, we will find people in the streets calling out Oyibo and that this signify they want to talk to us because the word means ‘white person’. We all had to repeat ‘Oyibo!‘ a couple time -just to be sure- before the man disappeared in his office with the first visa candidate.

The little piece of paper I had received at the entrance had the number 5 handwritten on it and it was soon my turn to be interviewed. The embassy delegate carefully read my invitation letter, then very seriously stated that it’s lucky I am going to Nigeria: after all, Switzerland is way too quiet. People don’t talk to each other and apparently, they get suspicious if you try and listen to their phone conversations in the street. The delegate then explained that no such thing would ever happen in Nigeria, where any place is good for a conversation. He called over his colleague and had her confirm to me that yes; there is too much silence in my home country. I was also told I probably will not want to come back to Switzerland after experiencing the noise they have in Nigeria – but I don’t have to worry: a specific Visa exists, should I want to marry a local man.

I stepped out the embassy and soon realized I hadn’t been asked a single question during the interview. I had the passport with the visa in my pocket and a smile on my lips; because I may be Swiss, but I’m not indifferent to unexpected warmth. I just can’t wait to go.

Happiness is a piece of paper