NY TIMES: "The fate of New York City’s legions of rats remained something of a mystery in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Rodent specialists predicted that many rats would drown in submerged subway tunnels, but also that survivors would feast on the buffet of garbage strewed in the streets. Now, several exterminators say they know exactly what happened to the rats: Driven from shorelines, the rodents came inland, in droves."
There are many traits I’ve inherited from my parents. Among them are a love of, and geeky interest in, perfume (that’s from my mum), an innate conviction that the plausibility of a piece of information is in no way connected to its truth (that’s from my dad), and (from both of them) the idea that you don’t have to stay in a place just because you were born there, or because you’re used to it.
My parents moved from Ibadan to London 22 years ago. Of course it wasn’t easy. They’ve put up with a lot and have since found tons of friends, fun and a place of their own. My mum’s jokes were one of the only good things about last year’s general election for me. Especially the text message where she mused about starting up her own BNP – the British Nigerian Party (slogan: British Jobs for Nigerian People!). So, as my mother’s daughter, here’s what I think about migration: it’s just as John Dickson Carr wrote concerning murders. The first is the hardest. After that, it’s a piece of cake.
As I packed my books and teapots in preparation for moving to Berlin, I wondered if I was on my way to a city I could actually have a functional relationship with. Well, I’m writing this from Berlin. City of my dreams, if you’re reading this somehow, I’m still available.
A long time ago, I read Women who Run with the Wolves. In it, the author uses the parable of The Ugly Duckling to make the case for understanding that the circumstances (i.e., family, environment, etc.) in which we are born, might not be where we are meant to be. To that extent, I have always seen myself a bit like the ugly duckling in the story, in that I always felt pretty much like an outsider my entire life. Reading that book was like someone turning on a light switch: suddenly I could see and I knew I could muster the courage to move on and away.
I appreciate Ms. Oyeyemi’s story. I think that it’s important to think long and hard about identity, place, and belonging, which she has certainly done. How funny that she’s now in Berlin. In any case, I hope that she finds her dream city … I know that I’ve found mine.