Thinking like a Nigerian

Posted on August 20, 2009 by Timothy Fries

The folowing is a slightly abbreviated version of a blog post by ELCA Missionary, Mary Beth Oyebade.

My Grandma had major heart surgery in Rochester, MN in June. My mom, dad, aunt and uncle were at the hospital before, during, and after the surgery. But within a day or two, they started to go to their respective homes. I was horrified. I said, “But who’s going to stay with Grandma?!” My mom gently explained that what they were doing was acceptable. They didn’t need to be with her 24/7. And moreover, my Grandma really didn’t need constant company if she was going to get adequate rest. I understood what she was saying, but I still felt a twinge of guilt that someone wasn’t sitting with Grandma.

In this area of my thinking, I have become very Nigerian. If you are hospitalized in Nigeria, you have to bring someone to take care of you – especially for your feeding and bathing. It is just expected that a family member is always present.

In a similar vein, as I was making various presentations this summer, I noticed I was using some Nigerian terminology, and I couldn’t think of how to express that thought in American English. For example, I would mention that we train youth on computers, and that having these computer skills would enable them to get a small job. “Small job” didn’t sound right in the U.S. In retrospect, I could have said, “Youth are able to get part-time or entry-level jobs with these computer skills.” I can tell that I have been here a long time.