Fat and Happy

by Ariel Bleth


“Promise you will stay one more year.  We are so happy with how you relate to us.  And you are happy, yes?  You are getting fat.”  Looking at Mama Ami, I know she is quite serious.  How would she know that where I come from, being called fat isn’t exactly a compliment? My mind jumps full speed into a rapid analysis of how much I may have changed in the months since my arrival in Nigeria – a diet primarily of okra or bitter green soups with starchy porridges; the occasional dish with beans and crayfish but general deficiency of good protein; the dearth of fresh produce in our market, the lack of refrigeration and my waning interest in learning the labor intensive traditional methods of preparing their dishes – anything was possible. Snapping out of it, I let myself simply feel pleased that they are comfortable with my presence.   

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would be here – a country of over 200 different ethnic groups, a mixture of Muslims and Christians, an international image well ensconced in corruption and scams.  But here I was, living in a small town, working for a local organization whose office was housed on the family compound.  The business’ fish tanks and hatchery edged one side of a large dirt yard otherwise surrounded by the homes of the cousins, their families, and the elder mamas.  Sitting on the porch with Mama Ami and her husband Joshua, I know she is right - I am happy.  The contentment has been unfolding so slowly I barely noticed it; made up of hundreds of tiny milestones of recognition and inclusion.

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