Are you from Angola?
Now this was a first!
I am often assumed to be Nigerian and on one occasion Ghanaian but never Angolan!
Maybe it was because he couldn’t quite place my name – which didn’t seem like a typical Nigerian name or from the Francophone countries of Africa. To him, I must be from the former Portuguese colony of Angola.
It was a funny exchange and I thanked him for thinking I was from the continent. I then corrected him and told him I was an American. He said, “Really!” – Obviously confused by my strange accent and unusual name.
While Angola is a first, I have these conversations all the time. When I was in California recently for the wedding of my friend Vartan, I was often asked how long I had been in the US and whether I studied in the US. At first, I wanted people to know that I was an American and extremely happy to be in the homeland. But after a while, I soon realized that people couldn’t place my accent and just assumed that I was Nigerian. Once I told people that I was from Alabama, people were either shocked or amused…the next question was, how did you get from Alabama to Nigeria!
I think the longer I stay in Nigeria or even on this continent, the farther removed I become from home. My accent continues to change on my need to communicate with my colleagues and my mannerisms take on new forms to reflect how I interact with Nigerians. What was once loud and colorful is now normal! A car beating a traffic light is normal and an individual relieving themselves on the side of the road is commonplace. Sometimes I often feel like a man with no home but one call back to my mom and I am reminded that home is in Mount Vernon, Alabama.