A guest post by Temie Giwa
I often wonder how people go about deciding which country or countries deserves their allegiance. I suppose if you have lived in one country all your life it wouldn’t matter. However, when you have the special fortune of having dual citizenships then it becomes a topic worth exploration. I am Nigerian. I was born there. I also have an interesting relationship with the USA. I live here, and I vote here. I am often told by my Nigerian friends and colleagues how American I am. And anytime I attempt to pronounce “house, hot, and or home”, I am reminded that I am a proud daughter of Oduduwa, and his stamp remains in my syntax.
I had the opportunity of spending last evening with a group of individuals learning English and the American culture at the international Institute in St. Louis Missouri. They hail from as far as Bhutan, a little country in the south of Asia and some were Mexicans, our Southern neighbor. I also had a conversation with a Nigerian woman from Ogun State and another from China. They all were interested in America, eager to learn her history and above all so grateful to their teachers and the country that has given them a second chance. For a moment I was touched and I could not help but sing along with everyone to the song that best illustrates the magic that is America. “This Land”. This land, I hope truly belongs to all of them.
I love Americans, but I never expected to become one, or to like being one. The citizenship was not something I sought nor did I have control over it. My parents gave me a blue passport on my 16th birthday and that was that. I suppose if I had gone through the naturalization process like the men and women in the American citizenship class, I might have felt more comfortable with my American self. Oh I get away with a lot. People already expect me to be loud, obnoxious and fat. So I just shrug away moments when I feel like being loud, obnoxious and fat as my American moments, it suits me well. And whenever I find my self in Nigeria, any rudeness to the elders is automatically forgiven, this I tell you is a major blessing.
The evening started with a tour of the Institute and one thing that arrested my attention was a little poster displaying famous American immigrants. Among them were Albert Einstein, Madeline Albright, and Pulitzer. These individuals like myself immigrated to the United States and were able to create lives that still inspire the world. The evening proceeded predictably. On the main stage was a PowerPoint presentation of flags and snapshots of all countries whose members have migrated to the United States. Turkeys were given out in celebration of thanksgiving and we sang and laughed and clapped. I am especially thankful for a country that invokes hope in the heart of so many. The people who spend their free time teaching others how to make a new life in a new country are the very essence of what makes this country oh so great.