by Harriet Michael
Okay, I know. The real words to that song are “I bless the rains down in Africa” but personally, I miss the African rains and so many other things too! As some of you may have noticed, my blog posts often have some connection to Nigeria, the nation of my birth. I’m a Third Culture Kid—a person born and reared in a country different from her citizenship. Well, I actually had duel citizenship until I was 18 and had to choose. Of course, I chose the USA. That was the right choice, but I do miss so much that I left behind in Africa. Thanks for letting me tell you again about a place my heart loves.
Though travel to Nigeria today is not advised due to political dangers, such as Boko Harem and other sad realities, the country does have some incredible places, many tucked away forever in my memory.
There are beautiful rivers to see. The Niger, near where I was born, is a wild river. Swimming is not recommended due to the possibility of crocodile attacks. But it’s beautiful, just the same. My family crossed it in a large open canoe-type boat with wooden seats and a thatched roof when I was about 10. I remember sitting on that boat and thinking it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen in my short life. The first time I ever visited Disney World and rode The Jungle Cruise, I was taken back in a flash to that moment in my early life when I traveled the Niger.
The Ethiope is a different story. It’s tame and wonderful. Most all of my missionary kid friends have fond memories of swimming in the Ethiope. Here is how I described snorkeling there in a post on my personal blog a few years ago:
“The place we entered was only about a five-minute swim from the pier, but it seemed to take forever to get there. First we drove for a while, then walked a small path for what seemed like a long time. Finally, we came to the river. From the bank we could see the other side. Even to a child it did not look too far to swim. My dad put goggles, flippers, and a snorkel on me. Another missionary went in first, then me, and my dad behind me. What happened next was like entering into a world of wonder—one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
What appeared to me to be a short, easy swim to the other bank suddenly seemed wild, challenging, exciting, and even scary. As I kept my eyes under the water, in an instant I saw the ground below me drop what seemed to be a mile. I don’t really know how deep it was but it was clear to my child’s eyes that it was deeper than anyplace I’d ever been before. It was over my head and my dad’s by a long shot! It felt like I was swimming from the top of one underwater mountain to another, as I swam from that shore line to a sand dune a short distance away. The river floor below was alive too! There was grass swaying and fish swimming everywhere. I understood why my dad wanted to be behind me and didn’t want me swimming this part of the river by myself. And I was really glad he was there!
Very soon the three of us were on the sand dune resting. I sat in utter amazement and wonder at what I had just seen. Then we set out again and swam to the pier which seemed to be just around the corner. The river floor below me in this part was much more shallow, brown in color from the sand, less green and not so alive.”
This is an actual picture of the Ethiope River shared with me by a childhood friend who grew up in Eku, very near the river.
Another place I fondly recall from my childhood is the warm springs in Ikogosi. The mission had a retreat there when I was a child. The place was managed by missionaries, John and Doris Mcgee, and the beautiful chapel on the grounds was designed by missionary Wilfred Congdon. Even as a child, the warm water had been diverted in part, so as to gather in a swimming pool but flow out again so it would not become stagnant. Today, it is a resort. The pictures from the website show much development, but the chapel still stands. http://www.ikogosiresort.net/
The chapel in Ikogosi in the 1950’s, when it was fairly new.
There are so many other places I could write about—the Yankari Game Reserve–I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard stories about it from my childhood friends, http://www.wcsnigeria.org/Wild-Places/Yankari-Game-Reserve.aspx. The incredible rock formations in the northern Plateau State, http://www.nigeriagalleria.com/Nigeria/States_Nigeria/Plateau/Riyom-Rock-Formations-Jos.html, –and so many more.
I love this picture! It was taken about three years ago by a childhood friend on a visit back to the Plateau State.
I miss these places, but I must admit, I’m glad I am a US citizen. Ours is truly the greatest nation on earth, and we are blessed to live here.
Writing Prompt: Make up a fictional adventure in Africa. Include why you went there (business, pleasure, mission work?) and what happened while there.