Connect with us



In a Strange Land

Pages from the diary of a 17 year old,

Relocated to the United States for college education.




Kunle Atanda

Pages from the diary of a 17 year old,

Relocated to the United States for college education.

The yearly visits, the blue passport, two brothers schooling here, even the movies… you’d think I’d be well able to adjust to the land but no, new land new challenges! Here’s my story…

As I walked the terminal gates of JFK airport and gazed on the huge sign that read ‘Welcome to the United States of America’ the reality dawned on me, it’s real! Another chapter had just begun. Immigration didn’t give me much hassle but rather I gave myself, first off- where did all the cart- attendants go? Oh no! They dint use that anymore, there were cart machines. All you do is slide in $5 and whoop! Here’s your cart for carrying your baggage. How come I never knew? You see, I’d always travelled with someone older, so I basically didn’t handle much of this type of stuff.

Day 3- I had my placement test in school. 9AM sharp my brother who had taken a pass from work escorted me to the college. He told me to observe strictly the route we took as that would me my daily route to school. He dropped me off at the college, gave me a metro card for the bus and a little money just in case. As he was about to leave, I sneezed. He suggested I use the hand sanitizer stand; I walked towards it and just stared. I was blank, it had nothing to press, pull or instructions. My brother just whispered to me in our local dialect “simply place your hands underneath”, I looked at him with raised eyebrows but still adhered since I had not many options, and what do you know, automatically sanitizing gel dropped on my palm.  It was motion controlled. Technology! I praised in my mind.

Oolaakunzlae… oolaakunlae… Please step forward” the lady repeated several times. We freshmen just wondered ‘who could she possibly be calling?’  Then all of a sudden I remembered I owned an unfamiliar name, I hastily stepped forward and asked to check the spelling. Lo and below it was Olakunle she was calling oh! Ah ah, it sounded like she was calling a rare specie of plant! See me see wahala, I spent about five minutes trying to teach her the movement of the tongue and lips required in the pronunciation of my name, I just gave up and accepted the name of a plant. I entered the class were I was going to take my exams and sat on the chair assigned to me. As our coordinator started giving the instructions, I noticed that the computers placed in front of each of us did not give any room else for writing, so raised my hand and asked in a sarcastic manner  ‘where are we suppose to write?’. To my amazement, there was a burst of laughter in the room. She explained the test would be carried on the computer. I sat feeling pretty dumb, then I thought in my head- na wa oh! Where I come from no be like this oh, the number of computers in this one room beats the entire number in my school in Nigeria! I also thought ‘what about those who aren’t privileged enough to have computer knowledge’ their strive here would be more tedious, Nigerian schools should make I.T education a compulsory class in secondary school.

Done with my test, I completed registration. The most frequent vocabulary in my conversation with the academic adviser I was assigned to was “uh-hunh?” it was mutual. I was at the brim of placing my ears next to her lips just to understand what she was saying. Why do you have to speak via your nose and so fast?? I wondered. She herself repeated “uhu?” several times… ok, maybe not uhu, but vocabs like pardon? Excuse?

I proceeded to the vending machine to get myself a soda and candy bar, brother was thirsty and hungry mehn! I followed the instructions I saw printed, inserted my money… ehn!! Where’s my purchase? I started shouting, Ole ni kini e oh! (This thing is a thief oh). I even hit it. Someone close came to my help, I explained to him that the machine collected my money and refused to bring out my drink. All he did was press a little red button on the bottom, and “here’s your drink sir” he said. Another dumb look fell over my face. Don’t blame me, familiarity was the drug I needed. Done with my snack, I looked for the closest litter bin and dumped my refuge. Not too far I noticed a water fountain (dispenser), a rage unconsciously came over me. Why you ask? I just spent $1.25 on a bottle of 440ml soda, when I would have drunk unlimited mls of water from the fountain! The rage was that Ijebu-istick/ free-loving nature we Nigerians have.

Walked a little distance to my bus stop and waited for my Q30 bus (mind you, that’s how buses are labeled, no Obalende/ Oshodi/ Surelere labels or yells from a conductor.  If you’re looking for that O.Y.O (on your own), stood for a few till the bus came, I sat at the back so no elderly would ask for my seat as they are apparently able to(story for another day), I was tired.  I was unable to sleep as I needed to keep my eyes peeled so I wouldn’t miss where I ought to board-off. As the bus drove and I observed the fellow passengers- the one with the dread locks, afro hair, mini(x4) skirt, Asian, the shirtless, the one who spoke to himself, the two who couldn’t talk in low tones, Caucasian, one who uttered words my ink isn’t allowed to write, the old lady who smiled at me like she knew me, the one who slept with his eyes open… America is the state for all! The crazy, the sane and whoever. Funny enough, this diversity of culture is what gives America her unity, her strength. The journey continued, I got down on Jamaica Avenue, crossed the street and boarded the Q111. This was my last bus journey, so I bread a sigh of relief. Still, as the bus drove my mind only roomed to being in Nigeria- Where I’ll be back seat- owner’s corner seating and the driver driving and me directing the A/C vents to myself. Hmmm, we struggle today only so we can relax tomorrow!

to be continued…

Photo Credit:


  1. Missyont

    October 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    awwwwww, thanks for sharing

  2. 2cute4u

    October 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Nice read..

  3. viv

    October 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm


  4. fokasibe

    October 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    What an interesting read….You be real JJC sa! LOL…Kidding….Please continue asap o!!!

  5. Molicious

    October 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    It ain’t easy oh…

  6. Honest

    October 5, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Pls everyone share your jjc story!!!

  7. Nneka

    October 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    This kind JJC is serious o. You suppose learn how you go dey code your ignorance a bit and learn by observation. Eg. Ask your brother to use the sanitizer so you can observe and reenact.
    My own JJC was mainly on word pronounciations. Eg. You know how naijas say ’embarass’….don’t even try it here!! Americans will go, “whattt????(3ce) …..Ohhhhh, you mean…..”

  8. xena

    October 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    As a JJC what I learnt was to quietly observe the person in front of me using an unfamiliar machine!

  9. somebody

    October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    LOL. At least you had brothers. Many of us were On Our Own!

  10. Ronnie

    October 5, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Reminds me a little of my JJC’was in jand and I didnt realise it was one of those trains that their doors only open when you press the red button and I watched with utter dismay as the train rolled past my stop, tears tumbling down my eyes…(sigh)

    • Aweni

      October 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm


  11. eli

    October 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    LMAO! I can totally relate mhn, thats me 7 yrs ago, ull blend in soon enough, just relax and have fun

  12. Ego

    October 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    [email protected] ronnie…pele i feel ur pain tooo ooo…maybe u to shud tell ur story jare….ur small story u shared was beautiful cuz tears also rolled down my cheeks when i realized the button was to be pressed.

  13. saywot?

    October 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    dnt forget to tell them about how the metrocard works o!!! and ow u cannot jump the turnslides in the subway..omo.. i identify with ur story die!

  14. Prism of an immigrant

    October 5, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Lol.. I enjoyed this story so much. My own lil story was when I missed my bus, I had no idea there was another bus which went through my neighborhood, so I proceeded to walk home in almost knee height snow ( I know right, great decision). The walk took me almost 30 minutes, and by the time I got home, my feet and fingers had frostbite. I was crying seriously. I thought they would fall off. 😀

  15. Ify O

    October 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Interesting!! Quite funny as well but its the truth of life. We take our luxurious life in nigeria for granted until we step outside the shores. thanks for sharing.


    October 5, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Very interesting read..reminds me of my own JJC experience in 1994…i dey wait part 2 patiently.

  17. Mo'Diva

    October 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    OMGGG Kunle loved it…. your are so funny!! Very interesting Piece cant wait for part two. New York is the best place to learn as a JJC. If you can survive NYC u can survive in any other state… (but it doesn’t work the other way).

  18. Big Yink$

    October 5, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Whoa! Now that’s one interesting article bro. We all can relate to your story. Keep it up!

  19. Lil Chipsy

    October 6, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Wow!! really nice. Menh your funny sha. Your gifted
    If you keep this up you can become a great writer and im serious.

  20. Anonymous

    October 6, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Lol. Funny read.

  21. mimi

    October 6, 2010 at 1:20 am

    OMG!..i Love this piece!.. super!

  22. mariam

    October 6, 2010 at 1:48 am

    haba some of what you wrote are pure exaggeration! even before i left nigeria, i knew how to use a vending machine. haba how can you drink water from the fountain? but then again, it will be totally understandable if you came straight from the village in nigeria.

    • lola

      October 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      Its HIS story..
      Tell yours…

    • niyoo

      October 6, 2010 at 7:11 pm

      i’m sure he doesn’t mean water fountain in the middle of a park!!!
      you know those ones, that are attached to a lil’ sink … viola!!! bush pikin

    • Omada

      October 7, 2010 at 12:49 am

      why not write your OWN story?

  23. Tolu O.

    October 6, 2010 at 3:17 am

    Kunle this is really cool..!
    I was so LMAO…(sanitizer..seriously?.. smh!!)
    but this is a really good..keep writing..:)!

  24. deebaby

    October 6, 2010 at 3:49 am

    ha! nice own story…First time I used the water fountain, I came back up with my face like I just finished swimming!..

  25. Kilonsparkles

    October 6, 2010 at 7:12 am

    This was awesome man. Keep it going.

  26. Joke

    October 6, 2010 at 7:32 am

    @ Mariam, Serioulsy?????

    Did you really ask “How a person can drink water from a fountain” and you say you left Nigeria at some point..
    Pllllllssssss……Try observe before you paste your ignorance

  27. oreofe

    October 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    lol gud story brov!! JJC is crazy doe

  28. uche

    October 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    awww ur hiliarious

  29. Garnetcore "Boss"

    October 6, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Lmao at: “I just gave up and accepted the name of a plant.” I totally identify with that part. Trying to get people to pronounce my name properly is a sure ticket to getting a headache. My surname is totally out of the equation. My brain does not do somersaults anymore when trying to decide if ‘THAT name’ they are calling might be mine. A very funny one happened just a few weeks ago. i had gone somewhere for some photo shoot. When the Lady came out asking : ” who is ooch?”, we all looked around but no one answered. After asking for the 3rd time, one Naij chic seated in front of me asked to see the name. I was in stitches when i discovered she had been trying to pronounce ‘Uche’. 🙂 =))

    • Omada

      October 7, 2010 at 12:48 am

      dats funny. ooch… rolling on the floor with lafta….

  30. adedoyin Adedun

    October 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    this is mad funny kunle,but a very nice blog…miss u loads..
    Dnt go and do J.J.C der oooo.

  31. Omada

    October 7, 2010 at 12:51 am

    great read. very very funni and well written…

  32. ElleMag

    October 7, 2010 at 4:54 am

    Beautifully written! Great piece.. You cleverly& hilariously combined the African-Nigerian prose style and the ethics of a well-poised writer in this magnificent write up. Kudos to your bravery to share. Core Litral Entertainment at its best. Vigourly waiting for the next part sir…

  33. Bimby

    October 7, 2010 at 8:46 am

    lol,this is really interest,i can identified with u.

  34. queen

    October 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Abeg, naija people, i don miss una die!! this made me laugh so freakn hard!! I could totally understand too. The number of times I showed myself due to my JJC-ness is too many to mention!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Tangerine Africa

Star Features