Is It Paradise?

I always love listening to people's stories about their experiences related to Africa. While I don't feature these as much as I would like to, I am always pleased when the opportunity arises. My sister recently flew to Nigeria and will eventually also spend some time in Liberia before making her way back here. She had these few words to share with us about her journey so far.....

Whenever I make plans for a trip home to West Africa, my friends are generally excited for me. On my last trip, a friend made her first visit to the continent with me and I have a list of other friends who want to join me on future visits.

But I realize not everyone has Africa on their 'must do some day' list and this time around someone asked - why do you go? Is it paradise?

My friends know I am a Liberian citizen, raised in Liberia by my Liberian mother and that my proud Nigerian father has lived his whole life in Nigeria with the exception of time spent in Europe for school. So I knew the question wasn't about visiting family but rather the pull that Africa has on me - the need to plant my feet on African soil. I'm honest when I say I don't foresee myself living in Lagos or Monrovia, but there is always the need to refill myself - ground myself - every two to three years by coming "home."

Why do you go? Is it paradise? The question has continued to spin in my head. Five years after Hurricane Katrina, I listened to stories about those who had gone home against all odds, those who could never bring themselves to return and those who were still trying to get home. Many have asked Katrina victims - why do you go? But for residents of the lower Ninth Ward no one asks - is it paradise?

Listening to those Katrina stories you realize that paradise and the word "home" has many meanings. So when you ask "Is it paradise?" I can only say its paradise to me - its Christmas at the beach, feeding chickens in my Grandmother's yard, warm rain, plum (mango to most) trees, guava jelly, goat meat, green jumpers and white shirts, farina with powdered milk, tea with condensed milk, the love of family, the joy of stories (once upon a time - time!), "you are welcome", a simpler life. But my paradise is also mosquitoes, great poverty, spotty electricity, and a "you are welcome" may be followed by "what do you have for me today." Nevertheless...it's still paradise to me.

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