Yvonne Ndege’s Expat life in Nigeria

Yvonne Ndege

Yvonne Ndege is a Kenyan-British television journalist and Mum. She is the West Africa Correspondent for Al Jazeera.

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I started wondering what it was going to be like being an expat Mum in Nigeria early in my pregnancy with Baby Safari in January 2014.

I had been working in Nigeria and across West Africa for just over 4 years at that time. Working as the West Africa Correspondent for the Qatari owned tv network Al Jazeera. It was fine when it was just me. But the prospect of raising my daughter in Nigeria felt very daunting. My biggest initial worry was being able to access good medical services. I think it’s fair to say medical services in Nigeria are in need dire need of massive improvement. Infact my decision to give birth to Safari in London, United Kingdom was motivated by the fact that I had little confidence in being able to give birth in Nigeria safely if there were any serious problems. The statistics on Nigerian medical tourism are out there for all to see.

So I hope people will understand how I felt.

A second worry was being able to shop for my baby’s needs easily and economically. Nearly all baby-related products in Nigeria are imported from the UK and US and sold at exorbitant prices. What would I do? How would I cater for my baby’s needs without spending a fortune? I also worried about clothes, it sounds very fickle. But I felt like I had waited my entire life to dress up a little girl in fabulous cute dresses. And now I was going to be living in a place where there were probably not any. And if so, very expensive. But above all these things, I began to worry about Baby Safari being far away from her maternal family who all live in England. Her my parents, her grandparents, her aunty and uncle, Bianca and John, and her 4 cousins.  Bianca has 4 children – Eliza, Bez, Boaz, and Sapphire. And away from the British culture and way of doing things.

I myself had been raised in England.

And not experienced Africa until I hit my thirties. I very much wanted and still yearn for Baby Safari to experience and to be a British kid about things. Everything from playing in the cold, having a runny nose because of the awfully cold weather. Having Weetabix cereal for breakfast, eating apple pie and custard at school. Learning the English rhymes and poems, like Humpty Dumpty, and playground games like hop-scotch.  And to become an adult. Everything from constantly talking and complaining about the weather, to not talking about and never appearing to be concerned about money. The quintessentially British reserved stiff upper lip on certain issues.

Mums Village Yvonne Ndege and Baby Safari

I wanted to raise an English Rose. Not an African Queen. Smiles.

I wanted Baby Safari to epitomise British behaviour and culture and the way of doing things, like Mum!  And have all my childhood experiences. I didn’t know and still don’t know the Nigerian equivalent of all of this stuff. I’ve been an expat Mum in Nigeria now  since New Years Day 2015. Thankfully it’s not been as awful as I thought it might be. I found a good paediatrician at local hospital who Safari seems to love. I did however have to spend over $3000 dollars importing all the baby care products, toys, learning aids and clothes I wanted Baby Safari. Including Aptamil. The formula milk widely sold in the UK. Mainly from Harrods and Selfridges and John Lewis. Major department stores in the UK. Food differences have been interesting. Baby Safari is growing up on tropical fruits I never heard of as a child growing up in England. It’s not Granny Smith Apples and blueberries and Strawberries. It’s mango’s, coconuts and papayas! And soon she will be eating Nigeria’s famous Jollof Rice and Chicken Stew. Maintaining her British connections and identity has not been easy being thousands of kilometres away. The occasional Skype calls to my family in the UK have helped to strengthen the bond I like to think!  Lol! Fooling myself I guess, as Baby Safari is completely oblivious to the fact she’s living in Nigeria. Or what Skype is. Though since arriving in Nigeria we’ve traveled to Copenhagen and Paris.

I guess in many ways I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’m raising a British born Nigerian Princess.

And that many of her experiences and cultural behaviours are likely to be more Nigerian than anything else. Which is obviously not a bad thing but something to be celebrated. But I intend to take Safari, her name does not belie her,  back to England as often as possible. We have trips planned in April, May and August.

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