Welcome to America, My Brother

by Victor Ehikhamenor

Welcome my brother please put your bag down
The entire room and the bed and the shining mirror
And the opposite bathroom is all for your use
Please don’t use water after #2 use the tissue paper
The sheets are clean I have extra in the closet…
The double door facing you, pull it apart and take the floral sheets
If you don’t like the white ones on the bed
Make sure you sleep properly, don’t listen to the alarm clock
Wailing at 5 am from the next room please…it can be rude sometimes
I need it to be able to wake up and get ready for my day.
You might not see me in the morning and you might not see me in the night.
“I thought you said this is your house?”
Yes it is, but for me to call it my house I have to spend more time outside
The house to get the money to maintain my ownership
But don’t worry we will catch up over the weekend…
Oh what was I thinking, I am on call this weekend
That means I have to go to the office this weekend too.
But don’t worry you will find everything easy to use
The taps run but don’t forget to turn them off
The lights work but don’t forget to turn them off
The TV has nice programmes but don’t forget to turn it off
The radio plays beautiful music without frequency squelch but don’t forget to turn it off
If you forget to turn them all off, I will have to work on my weekend off.
Welcome my brother, oh yes this is Washington DC
You are right; the White house is much bigger on the post card I sent to you…
That is because the photographer was allowed beyond this fence.
Say cheeeeese…that is good. Turn your head slightly, that is good
This one will be good for your friends in Lagos
I hope the pictures come out nicely or else how are they going to know
You have visited the gates of the White House…
Please don’t stare too hard at the police man
They can be funny sometimes…no they don’t take bribe and please don’t offer any
Anything lesser than one million dollars when you want to give bribe.
They will not whip you because you are a taxi driver
That is only done in Lagos
But they will empty their entire cartridge of bullets in you because you look different
“You mean because I am black?”
You ask too many questions my brother; let’s go it is getting dark.

Welcome my brother, welcome to America
I hope it meets all your expectations…
Eddy Murphy! No, he does not live in DC
I don’t even know where he lives, maybe in Hollywood.
Washington DC is for politicians and young female interns
When you want to see movie stars you have to go West.
No, not today, we cannot go there…remember I am working this weekend
And my boss has not given me any day off.

No, you cannot drive my car; you have no driver’s license.
“I don’t need a driver’s license to drive! I have been driving in Lagos
For good ten years without a license”
Sorry what were you saying? I was watching the traffic lights.
Oh, that is right but here in America we live by the license
And die by the license like the proverbial sword.
You will go to jail for driving without a license
You will go to jail for selling beer without a license
You will go to prison for selling food without a license
You will go to prison for marrying without a license
You will go to jail if you die without a license
I will go to jail if I bury you without a license
“Brother Victor, haba you are too funny”
My brother do you see me laughing…welcome to America
I sacrificed my laughter on the altar of a foreign god
“God forbid bad thing brother Victor, why do you say things like that
you have changed o?”

Welcome my brother, welcome to America
No, there are no police or roadblocks on the highway. That is a waste of manpower
They are in 7 Eleven drinking coffee and eating glazed donuts
The police trust you to obey the traffic laws even at 3 am in the morning
They only rough a brother up when they are bored or pissed off.
The RED light means stop
The GREEN light means go
The shinning bird-like eye in the extreme corner is a camera lens
If you do green on red, you will receive a nice mail
A beautiful picture of the rear end of your car
And that picture is worth nine thousand seven hundred and fifty naira
If you don’t send the government photographer that money within 30 days
You will be taken nicely to a windowless studio for what they call “mug shots”
That is if you are lucky enough to escape the gunshots.

Welcome my brother, welcome to America
Please don’t call them “beggars”, that is insensitivity
They are called “homeless people”
That is correct; America has people who have no homes…
I see you are surprised. The abundance you heard of is not really for all
The freedom you dreamt about is not really for all
Even the loneliness that will constrict your intestine later is not for all.
Lord have mercy, please he is not a “cripple”; handicapped maybe.
If you think you are seeing a mad man, then you must be mentally challenged.
Welcome my brother, welcome.

Put the grocery in the trunk…
Trunk is what you call boot back home.
And please don’t call it pigeonhole
Americans might think you are an “asshole”
It is called glove compartment
Though I have never seen anybody put gloves there once
So the joke is on them…whoever gave it that name is the asshole.
On our way home we will buy gas
Not cooking gas… I don’t even know where that one comes from.
The gas I mean is what you know as petrol.

Welcome my brother, welcome to America
I wish I could take you to a night club
I have to work the graveyard shift this week…that is the late shift.
I wish I could take you to the beach
But I have to go renew one of my licenses.
I hope you won’t mind some hamburgers
There is no pounded yam
I hope you will enjoy the chicken nugget
There is no bush meat
I pray you like the fries
There is no roasted yam.

“You have plenty letters, you must have a lot of friends writing you”
No, actually they are my enemies
They are the ones that made me restless in this America
They are the ones that have denied me visitation to Lagos
They are the ones who have put a wedge between you and me
They are the reason why you will see me less and we will grow apart
Like a forked road…
“Brother, who are these people?”
They are the ones who send me bills everyday.
They will soon get to you…you can hide but you can not run
They will get you…they will get to you…they will get into your head
And you will soon be marching up down…up down like a well-made puppet.

Goodnight my brother, sleep well
Tomorrow if I return from work early enough we
Will talk about your Green Card
That is like the corpse of a relative in America
No matter the stench, it has to be buried.
Sleep well my brother and hold on to your dreams in your sleep
Once again, Welcome to America.

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Anonymous February 8, 2006 - 9:39 am

Very Excellent

Anonymous June 9, 2005 - 2:33 pm

very well presneted to capure the issues relted to the differences in ameican from the prespective of a perosn who is just coming to american from an african country.


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