There’s pleasure in being back here…in this place where it rains 7 days out of 7…making sure that everything is both lushly green and sopping wet. There is pleasure in walking around, exploring familiar unfamiliar places and discovering new ones.
It doesn’t feel like I’ve come back home, but it does feel in a sense like I have come to rest. I’m not the girl who left here, and somehow it doesn’t feel like I’m the girl who I was 3 weeks ago.
It’s been a while since I heard these languages spoken, but my ears are beginning to recognize the rhythm and like a forgotten thread, my mind is picking them up and connecting them to words I used to hear and speak. Suddenly, in the middle of a conversation, an Efik word pops out of my mouth almost of its own accord, almost as if the air itself is whispering them into my ear.
My name is no longer exotic or unusual. No one asks where it is from, I don’t have to spell it; instead the people I meet have a sister or cousin whose name is Arit, and they pronounce it, not simply as I have come to, but with the emphasis from the throat that turns it from something slightly exotic to something very cultural.
I recognize the bodies too, because they are my own. In a workshop, I sit across a woman who almost looks like my cousin will in 20 years; beside me is a woman who looks just like one aunt and speaks just like another. I recognize my frame, my hair, my calves; I see them in the bodies that walk past me.
People speak Efik to me, I reply in English and they smile…and continue. I’m standing on the street and hear my name called…name and surname, by someone who probably saw me last 11 years ago. When women I barely know call me baby, or sweetheart, I smile, I do the same, I have the same easy affection, the same love of endearments.
There are no strangers here…well, not many. I may never have met them, but somehow, I know them. I know who they are.
It’s not home, but I fit right in…in the ease of living, the quiet unhurried pace of life. Sitting in a taxi while the driver moves as if he is out on an evening jaunt, I feel myself slow down; I become one with the people chatting and laughing as they stroll on the sidewalk, with the old man sitting on his porch, with the children dashing almost recklessly into the street. I take pictures with my eyes, of 2 teenage girls playing cards, long legs sprawled on either side of their little stool,watched avidly by a little crowd of children. Pictures of the mother busily frying groundnuts on a little stove while her toddler dances contentedly behind her, pictures of men, woman and children…pictures of people living.
The houses are neatly painted, surroundings tended…people live here; they sit on the impossibly green verges and chat as they watch life go by. They sit outside on plastic chairs and eat roasted pork and roasted fish and wash everything down with a cold beer. When they are done they go home and sleep; tomorrow will be another day of the same simple pleasures. They do not ask for more; they do not need more.
The influences are familiar, the accents are familiar, the silence is familiar.
This place is familiar.
There is pleasure in being here, the woman that I am. I walk into my beautiful uncompleted house and my mind comes to life with plans for décor, with visions of the life I will live here. And then I marvel at time, that I am here, at this time, this person, in this place; planning a home for the time that I will be here.
I never bothered about décor before; no real need to paint this or buy that or do this. But here, I know exactly what I need, I haven’t seen it yet but I know it exists because my mind has drawn a picture so clearly that the things I see must exist in this dimension.
I imagine the nights when I will come home, and prepare my dinner, and write, and listen to the world outside my window.
Did this place bring these pictures? Or was their creation sheer serendipity?
I splash in the puddles, my hair is wet but I don’t care. What is wet hair compared to the pleasure of the warm drizzle against my skin?
On Saturday I climbed on a pedestrian bridge and looked at the city laid out below me. It was so beautiful but I couldn’t focus. I thought that I must take a picture but instead all I could think of was how high up I felt, how fast the cars below me seemed to be, how flimsy the bridge felt, how insignificant I felt. So I hurried down, heart pounding, one step after the other, eyes resolutely planted on the ground. And when I got to the ground I looked up at the bridge and laughed at my silliness. I will climb it next week and every week until I can take a picture without fear that a strong breeze will topple me over the shoulder high rail.
There is pleasure in new things – new faces, new experiences, new places, new thoughts.
I feel gratitude so strong that it brings tears to my eyes and turns my face upward. My heart, my mind – they’re full of pictures, of impressions, of feelings, of disbelief. How did I get to be this blessed? This favoured? How did I get this life? How did I win this life that I have lived?
There is great pleasure in the person that I am, profound gratitude for the opportunity to experience every single thing that I encounter; for the chance to laugh, to be silent, to watch, to not care.
There is pleasure in being; in being here, in being me, in being me here.