Japa Love: Distance Makes The Heart Fonder
It’s 2022. Many Nigerians have left the country and those that haven’t are deep into planning their exit in the coming months. Japa; the Yoruba slang meaning to “run” explains the attempts by many Nigerians to start afresh in new countries.
In the search for greener pastures, love and relationships sometimes bear the brunt of this race for a better life. Today, migration has become a deal breaker for many relationships and a conversation is required at the start of said relationships.
Despite the countless heartbreaks, separation and, in some cases, divorce that has followed the Japa trend, many others have found new ways to make things work.
Readers of Guardian Life share the positive cross-border relationship stories, real-life experiences of different lovers who found ways to make things work despite the geographical distance.
Relationships are hard, but long distance is even harder, but definitely not as hard as people portray it. The most important thing for my fiancée and me is trust, and this is usually the deal breaker for many long-distance partners. Trust is not a result of proximity; trust is a state of knowledge in the integrity and character of your partner. We both trust ourselves and we are wholeheartedly open about everything.
Communication is another important ingredient in the mix. Communication is the lifeline of every relationship, but in a long-distance relationship, it is needed twice as much as normal, because everything relies on virtual communication. There are technological advancements that afford us the ability to make video calls, take part in online dates, watch films together, play games, and we do all these to keep the spark alive.
We also make sure that we don’t let our fights linger. Since we do not have physical contact and prolonged fights can lead to bouts of resentment which stifles the relationship, we ensure to quickly resolve our conflicts and keep the bond alive.
What excites me the most about getting together after passing the distance hurdle is my partner’s physical presence. Lol. Simple. Her smell, just watching her gesticulate while talking, holding her hands, going on a walk, and physical touch as that is one of my important love languages. There are expressions that cannot be communicated without physical contact, and breaking the distance barrier makes it a wholesome experience because we are no longer at ourselves on our phone screens, we are together in flesh and blood.
Life is okay. We live in our own house in Lekki, we can afford 3 square meals, pay our bills and, by virtue of the estate structure where we live, enjoy 24/7 power – as long as you can afford to pay the lighting bills, but the need for a better, brighter future for the children was the major drive to leave.
We are both actively employed with a combined annual salary of about N40m. We have dependants we take care of, and house staff whom we pay salaries. Like any average family, we have two functional vehicles and life is not entirely bad, but with a corrupt government and without a plan for a better Nigeria, one has to think out of the box literally.
Although the decision to leave was my husband’s project as I nursed scepticism and was scared of starting afresh in a different clime where news reports also claim are facing economic hardships and a rising inflation rate, he was determined because, according to his analysis, earnings in a foreign currency far exceed earnings in Nigeria. Besides, primary education is free and living in a properly structured environment-no matter how bad the economy is-will encourage success and better savings/earnings.
The period leading up to the visa application and actual travel strained us financially because we had to accumulate savings amid growing expenses and new additions to the family unit (babies). Then the decision to search for a job before relocating came with its pressure; job search and interviews and sleepless nights.
However, at the point of leaving, I was heavily pregnant and my husband thought it would not be wise to travel at the time because we were not sure of the terrain. Starting a new job having a baby (ies), extra living expenses and housing arrangements could hinder immediate effectiveness at the new place of employment and, generally, the fear of the unknown.
Aside from the excitement of living abroad (not like I’m really a fan – I am just okay with travelling to other climes for vacation 🙂 )to the promise it holds for a better future for the kids, especially being able to rub shoulders with the privileged children whose parents can afford to pay millions per term in the best of schools in Nigeria, the future opportunities for the family remains the motivation for the decision.
I’ve had to stay back with my daughter. To be honest, doing the baby shopping alone, and setting up the nursery, being all by myself in the labour room, postpartum and planning the christening, came with mixed emotions.
My 2-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is worst hit by this temporary separation – she was so close to her daddy that for days when he travelled eventually, she would search the whole house looking for her Dad and eventually felt the Peek-a-boo game had gone on too far and stopped responding to his video calls.
Right now, I’m all set to travel excited even-to have the family unit reunited and Dad and son needing bonding-immersing myself in the new environment and the immediate need to get a remote job-running the family. Just the thought of being away from the commotion of the hectic traffic in Lagos and seeming uncertainty in the polity further drives the need to join hubby.
Also, the wind of *Japa* has taken its full effect as I have scores of colleagues and friends leaving the country either to Canada via higher education or to the UK.
Already, I have an online Masters degree program I’m completing. I have also started writing certification exams to enable me to get better paying jobs when I arrive in the UK.
A whole new world awaits. I’m excited that my children will grow up living in a saner and more advanced environment with a winning mentality. We know we can always come home whenever we like, but the knowledge of having a Plan B or a contingent plan makes the whole situation more endurable and a worthwhile sacrifice.
In January 2022, my husband got hired by a UK FMCG company through what we consider a miracle. My family had been trying to Japa for over 5 years, like most people due to the rising insecurity, high cost of living… the general difficulty of living in Lagos forced us to take practical steps to leave the country. Canada was our first country of destination, and after several IELTS, we became what you can describe as Canada immigration experts. We had immersed so much knowledge that we started supporting friends and family with our expertise. But somehow, the coveted PPR never landed. As I write, we still have a pending Canadian immigration application.
Last year, we decided to start trying other countries, so I started looking for schools in the UK and my husband started applying for jobs. He attended several interviews, and one of the companies offered him a job and sponsored his visa application. Even though we have always wanted to leave the country, nothing prepared me for the next couple of months.
We decided to leave our 3 children behind in Nigeria, while i went with him because my visa was sponsored alongside his, to do the house hunting and also concentrate on job hunting.
In March, my husband and I travelled to the UK. The decision to leave my children was made after a lot of thought and careful consideration about how relocating and settling down in a new country can be tough, how intense the London rental market can be…too many people chasing too few houses, and how absorbing house hunting can be.
Who will my three children live with while I was out viewing houses and my husband was at work?
The next 6 weeks were spent making WhatsApp calls all day to my children in Nigeria. I got a lot of snide comments from a few concerned people about my decision to leave my children with my mum in Nigeria while I sorted accommodation in the UK, and applied for jobs.
In May, I travelled back to pick up my kids. It felt great to be finally reunited with my kids. I missed them more than I can possibly express. We are now together as a family, and even though it is a whole new DIY world here with so much to take in about our new country of residence, I daresay, are happy about our decision to explore living in another country.
When people say love happens at the most unlikely times, I didn’t understand what they meant until I met my husband. I met him when I wasn’t searching for anyone. I had just gotten out of a toxic relationship and I was taking a break.
I met him during a wedding, he wasn’t based in Nigeria and had only come in for a few days just for the event.
When we got to talking, in my head, it was strictly going to be a friendship, so I kept him at arm’s length. But love comes when you don’t need it and that was the case here.
We gradually started to talk longer. Long-distance relationships are hard and it took so much for us to keep things going, but when you meet your person you just know.
We began planning virtual dates around our free times, ate together, caught up during the day and always talked before we fell asleep. And like a proper Nigerian man, he started sending me gifts lol, a lot of them.
During the course of our two-year relationship, we only met twice physically after the wedding and at the second meeting, he proposed.
He popped the question, and I immediately said yes, but I didn’t know getting married and being with my husband was going to be a lot harder.
COVID came and I couldn’t travel to be with him, post-COVID. It was even more difficult because I watched other people travel several times but getting my papers to be with the love of my life kept looking like an effort in futility.
We kept trying for over one year. Time zones seemed longer, we barely found time to talk and when we did it wasn’t enough because we fell asleep almost immediately.
Eventually, my visa was approved and I could leave.
Meeting my husband and moving in with him is the happiest I have ever been. But the journey getting there isn’t something I’ll wish on anyone.