It was a casual affair. More men and women in beige Euro-American attire than resplendent African fabrics. We arrived a bit late at 10:15 p.m. but managed to find a seat in the front most pew. Excellent, I thought as I made my way past hundreds of black faces in the pews, more people to see me in my native Yoruba outfit (iro, buba and gele). I was the only white person out of around 400 in chapel that last night of 2010 and for one of the first times since I’ve been here, I was not a center of attention. Not even the Yoruba-speaking Oyinbo could distract the ardent New Years Eve churchgoers from their prayer marathon.
For me, the church service that spanned from the last hours of 2010 to the early morning of 2011 was exhausting. It is remarkable how long and with how much vigor Nigerians can pray. It is a full body prayer, not just a bow of the head with closed eyes. Hundreds of hands are flying, lips moving, torsos gyrating. At the seven or so different times the Pastor invited the congregation to pray, a humming noise emanated from the pews and mixed with the whistle of the oscillating fans positioned every few feet. Mildly taking part in the prayer (I have a brand new baby niece at home to pray for) but mostly observing it tired me out. Without a Power Horse or Red Bull I don’t know how everyone was then able to dance for an hour straight for the thanksgiving. During this time, the entire congregation dances down the aisle pew by pew to give a money offering to the church foundation. The church band belts out songs about thanking God, Oluwa wa while the band pounds away on their instruments creating an offensively loud noise magnified from the blown-out speakers. Young men are the most amusing to watch because they come up with the most outrageous moves and even come around twice to extend their 5 minutes of fame. For one full hour I danced next to my Mom and little sister in my pew, alternating between laughing at the dancers and leaning against the pew for a dance break.
I’d say the whole experience beat popping bottles of Champagne while watching the ball drop. I reflected heavily on 2010–all my achievements, areas of growth in my life, good and sad memories. I also came up with what I think is a perfect goal for 2011, a year where I am expecting great transition as I come home from Nigeria and finish college. My goal–or resolution if you will–is to write something down in a journal every day of the year. So again, happy fourth day of the new year. If any of you, dear readers, made any resolutions, I hope they are still in tact. Mine sure is.