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Inspirational Fiction Holiday

Four friends from college decided to go on a trip to Africa for their 25th graduation anniversary. Paul, a businessman and philanthropist from Boston, Penelope, a New York award winning journalist, Scott, a political activist lawyer in Washington, and Dianna, a scientist and engineer from Philadelphia. Their purpose going to Nigeria was to help themselves rediscover their ideals from their college days, and attempt to gain a new perspective with their current busy lives. They are all very excited about their trip, but don’t really know what to expect, because none of them have ever been to Africa.

Penelope, an attractive blue eyed blonde, was thrilled about the prospect of writing some stories to bring home to her newspaper, the New York Post. She brought her camera along with her too, even though she is not normally the one who photographs her subjects. This is a personal trip, so she doesn’t have her camera crew tagging along with her. Penelope is always looking for big stories, which could one day earn her a Pulitzer Prize. She thought perhaps this excursion might be the one to finally put her over the top, even though she’s on holiday.

Paul is a successful financial planner for one of the large banks in Boston. He became rich by investing in the stock market. He has dark hair and brown eyes, and looks a bit like a nerdy professor. He has round glasses and is clean shaven. His suits are tailor made, and the silk ties he wears, don’t often match his monogramed shirts. After spending long hours every day crunching numbers and making calls to his broker on Wall Street, Paul is often left with a feeling of emptiness after two failed marriages. He hopes he will find new meaning and purpose for his life on this trip.

Dianna helps design new water systems for new business parks and housing developments. She had read about the water issues in Africa, where in many places there is insufficient clean drinking water, and very limited in-home running water or consistent power supply. She has red hair and green eyes and is the mother of three beautiful children. Her husband is an electrical engineer, but he is not along for this reunion, since someone needs to take care of their children, and be sure they make it back and forth to school. Because she is a mother, Dianna is curious about how well children are being cared for on the Dark Continent. She was reading that many of them are orphaned, after their parents have died, and they are living on the streets with minimal ability to provide for themselves. 

Scott is always looking for the next cause to launch a crusade. He’s organized protests and marches, concerning civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, and the rights of the poor. He became involved in causes back in college, which motivated him to go to law school at Georgetown University, and he has been an activist most of his adult life. He and his partner have been fighting for people who have no voice, no power, and no money, for over two decades. Scott is very intrigued and excited about traveling to Nigeria, because he hopes it will give him a new opportunity to become reenergized concerning the plight of the oppressed and the underprivileged.

When the four friends land in Abuja, which is the capitol of the country, they are a bit surprised at how modern the city seems. However, they have planned to venture out to one of the smaller towns, and they will need to rent a truck to arrive at their destination. They decided to go to a village called Ilesa, which is a village in a state called Osun, further southwest toward the city of Ibadan. As they leave the big city, the roads become more narrow and are a little harder to travel over. There are fewer and fewer cars along the highway, as they travel southwest. People can be seen walking in sandals, sun hats and head scarfs, and they are dressed very colorfully, but modestly.

When they arrive, Penelope, Paul, Dianna and Scott soon find out that the people in this village speak a language called Yoruba, but many of the locals also speak a little English as well. Before coming to Nigeria, the college friends had done some research on the country, in order to prepare for any difficulties that might arise, during their adventure. Tired and hungry from their long journey, they decide to get a bite to eat and then look for the hotel they booked in advance to stay for the week. It’s a place called Zenababs Half Moon Hotel, which is not too far from the marketplace where they stopped for lunch.

“Where do you guys want to eat?” Penelope asks.

“There’s a few street vendors I see, and it looks like one or two sit-down restaurants across the street,” Scott replies.

“Let’s try that Kokodome restaurant over there,” Paul says. “It looks like a number of people are going there to eat.”

“Okay,” Dianna replies. “Let’s try it.”

The four of them sit down and are handed menus by one of the waitresses. Fortunately, English words are printed alongside the Yoruban language.

“Oh look, they have something called efo, which appears to be some kind of vegetable soup,” Paul says.

“There is a dish with isu, semo, anamo, and iresi, which is yam, potato, corn flour and rice,” Dianna remarks. “There are also chicken, fish and meat pies on the menu.”

“It all looks and sounds interesting,” Penelope says. “Why don’t we choose several dishes and share?”

“That sounds good to me,” Scott says.

The waitress comes back, and the group orders about a half dozen dishes, along with a bottle of wine, in order to celebrate their reunion and new adventure.

“What is that you’re wearing?” Penelope asks their waitress, whose name is Palumi.

“It’s called iro ati buba,” Palumi replies.

“It’s very beautiful,” Penelope says.

“And, what about that gentleman’s shirt there; how do you call that?” Dianna asks.

“It’s called dansiki,” Palumi replies.

“It’s very nice looking,” Diannna says.

           The four friends finish their lunch, and afterwards, they decide to walk around the town a little while, before heading to the hotel. Along the road, they come across a young woman selling fruit.

“What’s your name?” Scott asks the girl.

    “Olamide,” she replies.

“What can you tell us about your country?” Penelope asks, as she pulls out her camera to take some photos.

“First you buy fruit, then I tell you,” Olamide replies.

“Deal,” says Paul. “Here’s $500 naira.”

“What do you want to know?” Olamide asks.

“Tell us about how you live,” Penelope inquires.

“Well, I live in a small house with my mother, not far from here, so we can walk to the marketplace,” Olamide says. “We have no running water, so we have to walk several blocks to bring water home from the well. We have no stove, so we cook outside with firewood when it’s not raining. My mom and I sleep together on a matt on the floor. We can’t afford a blanket, so it gets cold at night sometimes, which is why we sleep next to one another. We make only about $1,500 naira per day usually, which is about three of your dollars, so we can’t afford much.”

“How much do you pay in rent where you live?” Paul asks.

“About $60,000 naira per year, which we pay all at one time; this is about $145 American dollars,” Olamide replies. “Sometimes my mom and I can’t save enough money to pay the rent, and we are afraid we will be put out on the street. Many of us have to sleep on the street and beg for food each day because there aren’t many jobs, especially for women.”

“That’s terrible,” Scott says. “Do many people live like you here?”

“Yes, many people, especially women without husbands,” Olamide replies.

“We suffer a lot, and we can’t find a good husband here easily in Nigeria, because many men are very bad to their women,” Olamide says. “They beat us and have sex with many other women, sometimes when they don’t want.”

“That’s simply awful,” Dianna says.

“Yes, it’s like this here, and the police don’t help us,” Olamide says. “We have to pay them to do anything. The government here is very corrupt and useless.”

“What about medical care?” Penelope asks.

“Well, that’s another story,” Olamide replies. “It costs about $124,000 naira for insurance; this is about $300 American dollars. Most of us can’t afford that, because we can barely afford rent and food money. So, if we have to go to the doctor or hospital, we have to pay cash, because our government won’t do anything to help with medical costs. Many people can’t afford that either, so if we become very ill or badly injured, many of us will just die, and no one will help us.”

“That is outrageous!” Scott replies. “Something must be done about this.”

“Something will be done about this,” Paul says. “We’ll see to it.”

“Like what?” Dianna asks.

“Well for one thing, I can write some stories about the conditions here, and have them published in the New York Post,” Penelope says.

“Once we generate enough public support back home, perhaps I can run a campaign in Washington to convince Congress to allocate money for Nigeria?” Scott says.

“I can contact my business colleagues, and we can put together private money to begin to create good paying jobs here, and perhaps even open some schools for advanced learning,” Paul says. “There are already some American businesses here in Nigeria, but perhaps we can open more, and even help the local people start businesses of their own. I’m sure with a little capital investment; they can make a better living than they are now.”

“If we have the funding, I can design new water systems here, which will also create jobs, so the people will have greater access to drinking water,” Dianna says. “I read somewhere that many people here have contracted typhoid fever, due to poor drinking water, in some cases.”

“We definitely should put our heads together and come up with some concrete plans to help raise the standard of living here, along with other parts of Africa, in order to help save lives,” Paul says. “Every year, we can investigate more counties, which need similar assistance.”

“Agreed,” Scott says.

“Let’s all go to the hotel unpack, and start working on a plan,” Paul says.

“Goodbye Olamide, and thank you for the information,” Penelope says.

    The four friends return to their car, set the GPS for the destination of the hotel, and head away from the village. Each one of them felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose. They were also very glad to be reunited and working on such an important project together. This could very well be the most meaningful experience they will have embarked on in their lives, and they all couldn’t wait to get started.

September 16, 2021 23:13

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1 comment

Delight Asaph
18:03 Oct 04, 2021

Alex, This is so lovely. As a Nigerian, I really enjoyed your story and apt descriptions. I'm so glad you enjoyed you and your friends enjoyed your stay in the country. Happy to welcome you anytime in the future.♥️🤞🏾

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