Chinyere—“God’s Gift.” How could a name meaning something so sweet be so hated by this lady.
See her story:
As early as Pre-Kindergarten, I was engaged in a war against my name! Every day, all I heard from my classmates was, “What’s you name again?” as they snickered and made snide remarks, mumbling, “African booty scratcher!” I was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and my parents were born and raised in Nigeria. I had always wondered why my parents gave me such an awful name.
Although I have lived in D.C. all my life, I have been traveling to Nigeria with my family every two to four years ever since I was born. It was not until the last years of elementary school that I truly appreciated flying to Nigeria.
The smell of pollution combined with that of burning wood filled the thick, humid air anytime we landed at Owerri (Nigerian state) Airport. The distinctive smell was coupled with another characteristic component of the Nigerian experience—corruption. Corruption was evident even before we left the airport as the security guards detained us with bogus claims that our bags had not been searched.
After being detained for a while, my parents simply paid the security guards a little Naira (Nigerian currency) and they immediately let us go. I thought to myself, “This is what you call home?”
Finally, my family and I walked into our house in Owerri. As I reached to turn on the light, my cousin, born and raised in Nigeria, said, “The light has not come.” Confused, I asked my parents if they had paid the light bill, and to my surprise, they said they had. Later, I learned that even if you pay the light bill, the light comes on only periodically. Electricity, something that most Americans, such as myself, waste on a daily basis, is a blessing in Nigeria, and when it did come, people proclaimed, “NEPA (National Electric Power Authority) Abiala (has come)!” More important than NEPA, however, was family, for those times when NEPA was not around became genuine family time where we did anything from cooking to taking a walk around the village.
I was struck with immense humility when I saw with my own eyes how fortunate I was to have US currency; for one US dollar is equal to lots of Naira. The life of struggle and suffering really baffled me and made me realize how lucky I was. Soon I began to realize that home is home no matter where you were raised and now I am beginning to accept my lovely name – Chinyere.
My emotional struggle with my being ashamed of my name had ultimately ended in great pride. Now when I say my name, I proclaim it with the pride of a lion, for I am a proud product of my culture and my name represents that. When they try to make jest of my name, I laugh at them and make jest of theirs too.