My City of Circumstance
by Aisha Waziri Galadima (Nigeria)
Audio: “My City of Circumstance,” read by Aisha Waziri Galadima
They tower high above and I can see them from my window. There’s a single house on top of one of the mountains. I think the owner must be a bit egotistical to build a house on a place that seems to have a staircase to heaven.
The mountains come in different shapes and sizes. Many look like dark scarred bald heads, or rocks thrown at a kid by school bullies, but instead of being spotted with blood, the mountains are dotted with trees. Gorgeous, lush, verdant trees.
Certain mountains are in the form of humungous hills, embellished with rolling green grass dotted with white, the visiting goats and cows from faraway lands that visit depending on the season.
I wish that someday someone would take me to have a picnic there, or a date. If you ever proposed to me there, I would definitely say yes (in theory).
The mountains are special, people have learnt. So now people visit them accompanied with dynamite to blast a space for the newest mansion belonging to whoever has enough money. Forget the wildlife. They don’t speak cash.
When I was a child, I associated this city with dark clouds and moist, heavy air, and light, warm drizzles. It’s not always like that.
There are two major seasons in this city. Rainy and dry.
In the dry season, you can find two sections, cold, and hot. When it’s cold and dry, your cracked lips plead for warmth, and scream to your swimming instructor;
‘I will not swim! I’m going to die of hypothermia!’
When it’s hot and dry, your cracked lips open to beg. ‘Please, please can I swim? And NEPA please bring back the electricity. And please let the water come back. Amen.’
And then the rain comes, replenishes your veins and quickens your heart, and people have a reason to rejoice, somewhat.
The roads here are occasionally smooth and occasionally pot-holed. Where I live, the major problem isn’t about the texture of the road, it’s the traffic. No matter how early I wake up, or how hard my father hustles me, I always am late to school because of the traffic.
At traffic lights and busy roads, you can buy absolutely anything from hawkers or by the side of the road. Really. From chickens to African cherries, cars to second, even fifth-hand clothing, dogs to boiled quail eggs (delicious) and even scary-looking scythes and machetes, to be used in a farm, of course.
The roads get smoother and quieter the fancier the neighborhood is. Range Rover, Porsche, Maserati country is my favorite.
Here, every big man (man because here, apparently women usually aren’t that important, big) has an official black (always black because you must show dominance) Toyota Prada or Land Rover they oppress people with and nee naw nee naw their way through traffic with an escort of police.
It’s a whole culture.
The food cannot just be called food. It is love and flavor and origin joined together in holy matrimony. It is tuwo and miyan kuka, burabisko and karasu, pounded yam and egusi, amala and white soup. It’s okra and tomatoes and pepper! pepper! pepper! It’s spinach and melon seeds and moringa leaves.
It’s a party in your mouth at any price you can afford, whether it’s at a classy restaurant in Maitama or a Mama Put Kitchen in Nyanya,
—and a free ticket to the gym, if you care about the state of your belly.
Take your pick from the lying, rich politicians,
disgruntled civil servants and fellow nine to fivers,
gold-toothed housewives and suckling beggar women,
spoilt kids nicking their daddy’s car,
hawkers at the traffic lights,
the overly insistent salespeople at open air markets,
the kidnappers, bandits and common thugs,
the richly dressed, beaming couple in the huge come-to-church billboards,
the Hijabis and Niqabis and the women in short, tight dresses of stretched fabric,
the Sheikhs with the long beards and the ones with short ones.
It’s a free-for-all.
Protests usually meet in front of Millennium Park so we can move upwards towards the Federal Secretariat, but keep your hopes low. You might make headlines and trend for a while, but you will not really change things till you decide to change things yourself.
This is the city of the president that forgets he is, and the people who remember when it’s relevant and convenient.
This is the city my grandparents once worked for, my parents have sacrificed themselves to, the city I find myself in.
It’s hard to make friends here.
Aisha Waziri Galadima, age 16, is Muslim and Hausa-Kanuri, born in Kaduna, Nigeria. She enjoys reading and playing basketball, among other things. She also loves writing because she can create her own worlds and express her very loud thoughts. Aisha believes empathy would save the world a lot of resources, time and pain.
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9/17/23, 8:43 AM
Powerful. Spreading the truth some don't think about, some don't have to worry about. A great and strong piece.
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
9/16/23, 2:41 AM
8/25/23, 10:35 PM
Excellent and amazing
8/17/23, 7:00 AM
Absolutely beautiful poem! The words were picked meaningfully and used it a descriptive way. Very relatable.
8/11/23, 4:59 AM
Beautiful, moving and thought provoking. Keep up the amazing work!
8/11/23, 4:48 AM
Absolutely beautiful work! Relatable for some and eye-opening for others.
6/19/23, 6:26 PM
It is really great, I'm impressed!
Eunice N Kitchener
6/11/23, 5:13 PM
Quite amazing and interesting story. It's also a challenge to others. Develop your skills through hard work.
6/8/23, 7:21 AM
Beautiful. A wonderful portrait of the identity crisis caused by colonialism.
5/26/23, 6:23 AM
Congratulations Claire - this is a powerful piece - this feeling of a yearning for a home that may not even exist anymore will be something that everyone who lives outside of their original homeland will resonate with. Well done.