‘city living’ is Googled around 246,000 times per month globally.
Those first few months in the city felt like a dance in which I had two right feet. I didn’t fit in anywhere. Though the city was still uncivilized compared to the United States, it was very progressive compared to the village. I stuck out like a sore thumb, as a country bumpkin type who was completely unaware of the latest trends and social protocols. I’ll never forget my first day of school in the city. I quickly became the most popular student in class because everyone took notice of the new plastic shoes I wore with great pride. It had been my understanding, or should I say misunderstanding—that the plastic flip flops we were fighting to wear in the village, were universally acceptable as the latest trend. My pride quickly diminished and my face felt hot with shame as I tried to hold my head high in spite of the taunts and teasing. This was not the first time I would face embarrassment because of missing the style boat and it wouldn’t be the last. My redemption would be superior academic performance. No one would ever want to sit beside me because I was cool. But everyone would eventually want to sit somewhere close to me because they knew I had the right answers.
Having gained popularity in school, I was feeling a little more confident that I’d eventually find my own in this new place that at one time had felt completely over my head. Living with my aunt, in such close quarters, with nieces and nephews who were increasingly jealous of my mere presence, was enough to create a level of stress that distracted from my ambition for excelling in school. If it weren’t for some of the friends that I had made at school who were from more affluent backgrounds, I would have been stuck with rarely anything to eat. Certain of my friends’ parents would always send them to school with enough money to buy lunch and snacks at break. Those friends were gracious enough to give me a bite of food here and there and some of them even bought me my very own beignet or doughnut at times. A classmate, who would later turn out to be my best friend, gave me a pair of tennis shoes and some nice clothes, so that I could fit in a little better. I’m still in touch with him today. And though I will always owe him for bringing me up to date in the city, he was one of the first ones I tried to repay by sending him part of my cadet pay upon my arrival at the academy.