After staying at home for close to a year without having a job, I got the gist that there was an internship opportunity in an exchange program somewhere in Cote I’voire.
The fact that I would finally wake up in the morning and dressed up for work thrilled and excited me. You tell your friend, ‘Can I call you back when I return from work.’ or ‘sorry I couldn’t respond to your chat. I was busy with work.’ Sweet right?
The funny part of this story was that I hadn’t even been accepted, yet I went ahead to get my passport and yellow card. I had this strong assurance that the internship would be approved even though I wasn’t a registered member of the exchange program. God answered my prayer and the internship was approved.
I got set for the trip. I was grateful for two things. One, we were two Nigerians going for the program. Two, prior to the trip, I had taken serious interest in French language which led me to take lessons at Alliance Francaise and coupled with constant practice with my French speaking friends, I knew enough to communicate with a native speaker. Yes, I pulled through with little help. I took public transports to work alone, jumped buses, went to the market without an interpreter and lived with my host parents who understood close to nothing in the English Language.
When we arrived Côte d’Ivoire, I was amazed to find people speaking freely a language I’d paid to learn. In Nigeria, to complete the beginners course (A1) almost 90k or even more if you are registered for the morning classes.
I was tired that evening and thankfully, my accommodation had been sorted out as well as other logistics.
When we got to the place where the members usually hold their meetings, I was introduced to my host brother. It was with his family I would put up with during my stay there.
I almost screamed, ‘No!’ He was dressed in a funny attire with a hat on his head. He looked like the African version of Michael Jackson.
What kind of family would I meet? Would they be nice to me? As I stepped into the taxi with my host brother, my gloomy countenance deepened. Fear and anxiety clutched my throat.
Then I met my host mother. A woman with a beautiful soul. I remember how she looked at me strangely when I greeted her with my knees almost touching the floor. Yoruba girl like me, wetin I sabi? She didn’t speak English yet we communicated deeply. As I type this, I can still hear her laughter and her soft voice filling the house even after four years.
There was this morning she came to my room speaking the language do fast and with so much excitement that I couldn’t get a word of what she said. I had to plead with her to speak slowly. To communicate in a second language no be beans.
The introverted part of me came to the surface especially during the first and second week and I stayed in my room on weekends and in the evenings. Mummy wouldn’t let me rest. She persuaded me to join the family downstairs where her kids sat in front of the house chatting and laughing.
When I had to travel to the capital, Yamoussukro, with some friends to see the tourist attractions, she gave me so many tips, the things I should avoid and those things I should look out for.
Gradually I became familiar with her smiles, her laughter, her firm voice when she was upset, those moments of silence as she listened to her children tell stories and share experiences.
Never for once did I see her deal unkindly with the househelp, Nadesh. This I observed from mum’s relationship with the young woman, her grins and loud outburst of laughter as we all sat in the veranda in the cool of the evening.
Even though my host father rarely smiled and the only conversation we had was “Bonjour” “Bonsoir”, I remember mum would sit beside him while they watch TV, her face glowing and full of smiles.
The day I discovered that one of the children in the house was her step daughter, I was shocked. You would never have known. She treated her like her daughter. The day her step daughter passed the phone to me so I could speak to her biological mother, every French sentence I knew disappeared. Lol.
In that house, I learnt to eat Attiéké. A delicious meal you eat with fish or chicken sauce. I became addicted to that meal before I left Abidjan. Even though the interns serving in Côte d’Ivoire were expected to take care of their feeding, I didn’t have that challenge. Lunch/Dinner was ready by the time I returned from work.
Months after I returned to Nigeria, I met a Nigerian lady who had stayed with this same family during her internship and for several minutes, we talked excitedly about our experiences with this family.
Long after our discussion, I stared into space, my heart returning to Côte d’Ivoire, to that beautiful family, to a woman whose life had influenced me in so many ways.
This is what I have learnt…
A woman is largely responsible for the ambience of her home. I’m not saying the man’s attitude isn’t important, but the effect isn’t as much as it is on the woman. If she is not happy, it will reflect. If she is the type who carries a frown on her face, it will affect other members of the family. Nobody wants to be around a bitter or an angry woman.
How can you be relaxed in a home where all you can find is nagging and couples flying off the handle at any little situation. Temperament is not an excuse to hold on to that sour attitude. We don’t live by our feelings. We live by the Spirit. As we spend time with the Word and allow the transformation process to work in us, our homes can become a refreshing space to come into after a long and tiring day.
Don’t you think there is a problem when visitors cannot even stay a week in your house without running off because your facial expressions puts them off? Why should your kids become sad because your annual leave coincides with their holiday? If as a single, your friends cannot stand you or your siblings are happy to be away from you, what magic do you want to perform when you get married?
Look at these scriptures drawn from the Book of Proverbs for a moment.
1. A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that makes ashamed is as rottenness in his bones. Proverbs 12:4
2. A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1.
3. Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful face on an empty head. Proverbs 11: 22.
4. Better to live on a roof than share the house with a nagging wife; better to live out in the desert than with a nagging and complaining wife. Proverbs 21: 9,19
5. A nagging wife is like water going drip-drip-drip on a rainy day. How can you keep her quiet? Have you ever tried to stop the wind or ever tried to hold a handful of oil? Proverbs 27: 15,16.
6. Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time. Proverbs 17: 22
7. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. Proverbs 15:4.
8. Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16: 24.
We can be happy, hospitable and kind. We should laugh more. We should smile more. People ought to be better off than when they first met us.
Oh yes, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Related: When I was an unemployed graduate