Eight weeks ago, I was all set to go home to Nigeria. Now I'm still living in the States and look to live here for a while longer. What happened?
Why I wanted to go in the first place:The push - Mostly the completely impossible travel and visa situation. It's related to the class stratification in the US, and the fact that being black doesn't confer many advantages here. Raising children requires help and community to a degree that most Americans do not even aspire.
The pull - Family and support system, living in a place with sunshine, the thirst for shared values, doing more meaningful work, appreciation. In Nigeria, nobody is in a class higher than you - our constitution may not be explicit about this, but the practice of pride is alive and well.
What changed:EVERY TIME I have traveled internationally, it has followed a nerve-wracking bureaucratic drama: I've been detained and strip-searched, paid hundreds of dollars in transit visas and thousands in canceled tickets. Further, roughly every weekday I've spent in Nigeria has seen me at the embassy lobbying to get in (pushing and shoving and then pushing fellow Nigerians some more, keeping up with the rumours about the ever-changing application or entry or passport photo or payment "system") or lobbying for a visa. Naturally, I surmised that "they" don't want "us" to stay. As a dear racist friend of mine used to say "Go back to Africa." No problem.
One day in July I tried to go home, having accepted that I wouldn't be able to come back due to the fierce gate-keeping by the Immigration authorities. We got tickets (thanks N) and packed for the airport where I was told that I couldn't fly without a transit visa to cover my one-hour stopover (for flight-change) in Europe. I couldn't get a transit visa without a few days of embassy palaver. Transit visas are only required by people from selected countries, whereas until recently Americans could travel overseas for weeks without a passport. Siooma.
Anyway, this taught me that bureaucracy is not as rational as I thought; it would work to keep me from going back to Africa as well as block me from coming in. Oh well. I returned home. Home is in Berkeley (a guy named Raj.)
My new cynical take on the whole thing is: they want you to go, they want you to stay. Do what you want. You may need to get a lawyer. Nobody understands chaos like a lawyer.