Six years sounds like a very long time! But I remember most of the details; from the spice-ridden Indian food to Kim shouting orders at the Nigerian bunch to get their acts together, to everyone trying to get their voice heard on the chilly shade in the middle of a green Washington DC park.
I sat beside Paul Johnson and Benjamin Hoorkwarp aka Ben Beno or Shampz as famously dobbed by his closest friends, he had a big grinn on his expression from the drama unfolding and I was having a hearty laughter because just the other night in the hostel uptown I watched a YouTube video of similar debacle where the legislators in Abuja broke into their famous WWE royal rumble, I had my head cocked back from the crackle and I could make out a small bird collecting a small twig; “atleast somebody is trying to build something” I thought to myself as I bring my head down to the Tanzanian bunch listening intently to Justin as he was handing out responsibility to the rest of the group.
Ashley and Kimberly were by the side watching everything unfold… in a few hours we’ll be on a flight back to Iowa to be united with our host families for the next 10 months of our exchange year and the plan for our cultural presentation weren’t coming up too tidied. I see SDI and Daniel making small talks on the side and Muhsin had an innocent stare at Ajet who’s trying to restore tranquility; after a few more exchanges and loud voices, cultural greeting of the 3 major tribes were decided to be showcased.
Iowa; It was time for presentations and my heart was beating out my chest, I cleaned my sweaty fingers on my ‘half jumper’ and wore a fake smile when Halima asked what’s wrong.
“Will they recognize me? Will they want me after recognising me? will we ever get along? what are they like?” were but few questions in my cranium as everyone was busy trying to get their custume ready before they get called. I could make out Doctor Saidu’s voice over the comm, that signals that it’s almost close to our cue. I struggled to stop my hand from shaking.
“We only had a few hours to prepare this and I hope you enjoy it” Christelle said in her French accentuated English as she was introducing the 30 Nigerian kids from the 60 total East and West African kids.
“Allah ja zamanin ka, Allah ya Kara ma tosono a hanci, Allah sa ka mutu muci gado” I could make out Doctor laughing so hard in the audience. I searched around to see if the host families recognized me so I and could wave, but everybody had a smile on their façade and a few were looking at their screens.
Finally! It’s the Tanzanian bunch’s turn and they were on the national anthem now and I found myself captivated by the Swahili wordings and perfect piano keys incorporated into their presentation and for a second I didn’t bother about my immediate worries.
“okay find the one with your name and go find your perfect fit, that’d be your host family.” Ashley said almost yelling. “can this get any interesting?” I thought to myself as I find my elephant shaped cardboard…
“oh mom I found him!” Helen said with a charming smile, I could make out her dimple as we tried to join the paper; it’s a perfect fit. Mom, as I came to call her had her handbag clutched under her arm, we exchanged a brief hug and she said “well you don’t quiet look like you’re 6’5″ ” I shyly smile and made a mental note to laugh at the doctor’s mistake of exchanging the digits of my height in my medical form. Ana was smiling, her full set of teeth showing, her hair was also adorned by the autumn sun; She had it drawn down by the left side of her face, full and fading just below her belly button.
“Quique help him get his bag so we could go” She said to the oldest of three kids. Quique was playing with her Prius’ key eyebrows raised, he looked like he had a long day even the hot August sun could not hide.
We went in and got my baggage about to head out, looking for the trio of Ana, Helen and Mom.
“Mom! Mom!! Mom!!!” Quique shouted over the voice of people saying Hello’s and Goodbyes, and she seemed unperturbed by the maternal call because there were a thousand moms in the arena and a few people shouting that same 3-letter-word.
“Rachel!” he shouted at the hive of raised voices, she turned and motion to the girls who obeyed her rhetoric movement as they stepped down the shade from the ISU structure.
It was a red car!! I stepped in after Helen beside Quique with Ana in front, “she called shotgun” I thought to myself when I sat down… There was laughter in the car for I’d spent too much time trying to find the latch for the seatbelt.
It was in the Chinese restaurant down the street that we had a very interesting conversation, and the rest of the story spans about the best 10 months filled with a family that I grew to be part of, a community that left a mark in my heart and friends that broke barriers from culture to colors, religion and beliefs.
Written by: Shak Abner
Photo Credit: IRIS, YES7 Staff
Blogged: Ajet Hosea