The Uncommon Man

November 04, 2006

James Arana's Notes from Nigeria: "I am overflowing with blessings"


Over flowing with blessings I am for I’m going back home twice in one year. I continue to give thanks to God for the opportunity to join my brothers and sisters on this journey in Nigeria in the struggle to end all forms of violence. MRI is honored to be standing side by side with DOVENET in the journey to bring men, women and the community together to eliminate gender-based violence (GBV). I am looking forward to listening to my brothers and sisters as they tell their stories of the richness of their communities and the strength and courage they have and display as they encounter life.

Going back home after oh so long a time, five hundred plus years, I am looking to connect to my history. My daughter was excited and anticipates the stories I will bring back. The only gift I have to give my brothers and sisters is my long history of helping to build communities. I look forward to connecting with the land, people and spirit of Nigeria.

After all the rushing to prepare for the trainings and the nail biting about getting our visas on time, I now find myself with extra time waiting in airports. Like Steven, I got to Logan airport four hours before my flight time. I got into Frankfurt Germany six hours before my connecting flight to Lagos. Using the time well to catch up on some much needed sleep and reflecting.

I am looking forward to seeing the different faces like when I was a young boy and just moved to the Bronx, NY and looked at all the African faces to see if I can see another Garifuna. It was great to see someone's fetchers and knew that they were from the same region I come from; and when I heard them speak Graifuna, I smiled wide because I felt the connection. I felt great knowing that I was connected in so many ways. I now know that I’ll be looking for the resemblance of my family. I’ll be listening to words I know in Garifuna and see if they mean the same thing. I’m looking and listening to drums and find the Punta beat, the soul of our music. I am looking for my long lost brothers and sisters.


Ugo welcomed me at the airport in Lagos with open arms and it felt good to have a familiar face and someone who knew the place -- it was a great gift. I could not be in better hands and I’m glad. Her ability to navigate this system was great. While driving from Abuja to Abakaliki, we came to a checkpoint and got stopped by soldiers with machine guns and asked what was all the luggage we had. She just said to them that we were returning from travel and that they were personal belongings. They then checked the papers for the driver and then they let us pass. This felt tense for me, for anything could have happened. It was like being in the States and getting stopped by the police, with the difference being that the police looked like and they were not stopping me or us because we were different but because of chance.

I can’t believe that it is Thursday already. The past few days have been getting my body into this time zone and it seems as though it’s taken a little longer. My meeting with Ugo for breakfast and dinner has helped to acquaint me with life here in Abakaliki. Patrick can’t believe that it is really happening. Patrick is working hard at following up with participants. Ugo has arranged for me to meet with one of the participants and I just got back from a 5-hour walk with a participant in the upcoming training and we had a great time getting to know each other. It was great how this young man asked me with anticipation what is it we are coming to give in the training. He asked me very direct questions about my skills experience and commitment to this kind of work. It was great the way he said that he felt good about the way I responded to him and that he feels good that MRI was there to help them in reaching others.

Posted by Daniel at November 4, 2006 02:03 PM


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