Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Travel Essay Contest -- Entry 12

I Must Be Off! is having its first annual Travel Essay Contest. Each entry will appear at first without byline or bio. These will be added at the end of the contest. As you enjoy these travel essays from around the world, please feel free to comment; but if you offer criticism, remember to be positive. These writers are my guests.


Home Was Good
Emmanuel Ugokwe

IMAGINE how interesting it would be to take a trip to see how your ancestors lived! In a sense, I made such a trip to the home of my ancestors. I was born in the city and my parents had lived all their life outside the home of their birth. We never had the torch of rural
life. We never knew home at all.

That summer, father was out of work and the family at a breakfast table agreed to go home to see these ones we had long been told about. Father was used to telling us that our people would be pleased to see us and we too looked up to see them. A night to the morning of our departure, my mind ran into many things. They could seize father (he had long been outside home). They might kill us as they are so backward. Many thinking outcropped and died within me, yet I wanted to see home.

The next day, we came to the reality of our long wait. When we finally got home to meet these gentle people, they were astonished to find us at their door, speaking in their dialect! Picture the scene.

“Son where have you been? They ask in their local dialect and kept torching him all over his body to know how well he is.

”You should not have abandoned us so long at least with many children with you. You made them to forget their root,” another old shivering woman said.

“Because I have been busy with work in the city,” father replied.” I am sorry,” he added.

“But many things have happened since you left home!” They were puzzled.

Many doors swung open, and we get a glimpse of a lifestyle that seems to belong in the distant past. Instead of lightbulbs, there are oil lamps; instead of cars, bicycle; instead of running water, a well and windmill; instead of radios, singing.

What impresses us the most is the humility and modesty of those whom we are visiting. They were very good at heart. Father walked in freely to a cramped old room with all happiness, answering greetings questions and hugging. It was his home. Be it ever bad there is no place like home. Everyone loved him. I have never seen father receiving such loving attention since he became my father.

Soon, word spreads that a son had come from the city. Much coming, much going. Food and gifts came and we could not keep a large share of it. Many requested that we visit their relatives, which we gladly did and grandfather who was too old to walk offered to accompany us. At least we were pleased with him and asked him many questions. What baffled us was that he was never tired of answering questions. I was not sure it was his way of talking, but he could make these sacrifice for us children. He wanted us to be happy. The children observe us with great interest wherever we went. They cheered us and wanted us to talk. Loving faces and good smiles. They must be nice, I thought. Later, we were invited to eat a noon meal with grandfather’s old daughter who was my aunt. That was the last place we visited before the earth lowered for the darkness. She was pleased to have us. We represent her pride that day to her own people and children. It was difficult to visit from the city.

A long wooden table is loaded with good things to eat. But these foods were very local to my liking. I could not understand the combination, but dad would eat. So I would eat too. He was making me see them as my people henceforth. Before the meal, each one says a silent prayer. As the dishes are passed, we chat about the city and its busy life, and they told us something of their life on the farm. The children whisper and giggled throughout the meal, tempting us to talk to them in return.
At the next day, I got up from my local made bed at the very crack of dawn. Night was long and I endured. The local made lamp was placed at the center of the room and it shone everywhere. I had conditioned myself to rise at that hour to work out a plan; to tell father that we would be leaving the next day. Soon a voice was heard a far end, the voice muezzin, repeating his prolonged hypnotic chart for As-sub, the first muslin prayer of the day. The early morning and innocent leaves around felt at peace and maintained quietness. The tranquil nature of that time of the morning was exceptional. I do not know the reason, but for the first time in my entire life, I had not witnessed such. It was because we were home. I set out to greet everyone and was well received.
Wow! Home was good. I told myself.


Emmanuel Ugokwe is a Nigerian writer, trained film producer,
translator, essayist and a journalist. The last son of a retired local
school teacher, Mr. Phinihas and school-teacher mother, Mrs. Rebecca
Ugokwe, he spent most of his time with the youths in different age
brackets, mentoring and encouraging them on how to make a change. In
2008, he founded Popular Age Youth Foundation of Nigeria, an NGO with
a difference that have worked with over 6000 Nigerian youths in
secondary schools and Universities. He has published novels, short
stories, essays and poems in both English and Igbo languages and is
recipient of numerous prizes in essays and literary works. One of his
biggest achievements is in the area of writing. He carved a niche in
writing with many awards, in different genre of writings and
literature. His essays were short listed in 2006 and 2008 respectively
by Happynews America and world Movement for Democracy.  In 2008 he was
awarded a prize by Wordinaction International Writing Competitions
in England, for his drama ‘The Silence Within’. Also in 2008, he
won Association of
Nigeria Authors/ Things Fall Apart at 50 Art Prize
and wrapped the year up with Association of
Nigeria Authors/Ken
Nnamani Prize for Igbo Literature. In 2009, he won Princess Hastrup
Prize for The Best Researched Work. In 2010, he won a prize in
Preemptive International Essay Competition and was Star 16 in Nigeria
50 Stars @ 50 Award for Nigeria 50 years Golden Jubilee in 2010. In
2010 he was also a Nominee for Young Writers Achievers Award for
Nigeria 50 Years Golden Jubilee by Commonwealth Club London. And in
2011 Ebedi International Writers Resident, in Iseyin Oyo state. In
2011, he was shortlisted for Ugreen Essay Contests and another three
in 2012. He has judged essays and many writing competitions like ken
Sarowiwa annual essay contests, Lona jones essay contests
preemptive essay contests etc. He also won the 2011 Zahara Foundation
essay writing contests and received training in film production by
PIND foundation in 2011 and has facilitated training to youth in
secondary schools and youth organizations. In 2012, he was appointed
southeastern chaperon for Premeptive international project,
southeastern chaperone for lifeline foundation and currently a student
Sikim Manipal University Ghana.