The Bitterness of 'Japa' - When Loved Ones Leave for Foreign LandsJul 27, 2023 10:00AM ● By Gift Joe
Photo by Brett Sayles
A friend recently went on trip to the city she grew up in. Every time we chatted on phone, this friend was always home. I had to ask if she does not go out, and she replied that she had no one to visit or hang out with. According to her, most of the people she knew in the city have relocated to the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, and other foreign countries - they have “JAPAed”.
‘Japa’ is a trending slang among Nigerians derived from the Yoruba language which means to run, flee, or escape. The ‘japa’ wave has been sweeping across the nation as many continue to flee to other foreign countries to seek greener pastures.
To put this into perspective, a stop at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, would have you wondering if there is anyone left in Nigeria, due to the crowd of people with their fully packed luggage waiting their turn to jet out.
The Nigeria Immigration Service granted 38% more passports in 2021 than it did in 2020, according to the service.
The former Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, also disclosed at the beginning of 2023 that applications have been increasing every year at an unprecedented rate, due to the tendency of many Nigerians wanting to travel outside the country.
In the last two years, several Nigerians have quit their jobs and closed their businesses to seek better life abroad, and from the look of things, a lot more will join the exodus.
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Impact of ‘japa’ on relationships and friendships
We talk about ‘japa’ a lot. What we do not talk about enough is how much impact it has on friendships and families.
The ‘japa’ trend is not without consequences as it sometimes puts a strain on friendships and other relationships. You wake up one morning and you are hit with the shocking news that the buddy whose house you always run to when you are feeling bored and need a change of environment is moving to another country. The friend who stays up all night chatting with you may no longer be available to do so due to difference in time zone.
Families are also not left out of this. Siblings are scattered across different countries, and away from their parents. Husbands are separated from their wives, mothers are away from their children as they seek a better life abroad. Some have been away from home for more than five years. Some may never see their parents or siblings again.
Sandra (not real name) successfully relocated with her children to the United Kingdom for her master’s degree, while her husband stayed back in Nigeria. For her, staying in touch with friends and family has become a daunting task as she has to deal with school, children and work all alone in a foreign land. “Where does someone who barely has time for herself find the time to chat with friends and family like she used to before leaving Nigeria?” she asks.
Dealing with “losing” friends and family to Japa
We can all agree that there is this feeling of sadness that comes with losing friends and family to the ‘japa’ wave. You have to adjust to the reality that your bestie of family member is no longer just a drive or bus away. You can no longer hold that monthly or yearly family party. Communication begins to dwindle, and before you know it, you become strangers. How does one deal with this?
Make plans to keep in touch
Technology has made it easy to keep up to date with each other’s lives. Make an effort to stay in communication via phone calls. Find time to chat on WhatsApp or other video chat apps. This, however, requires the effort of both people.
Make new friends
Not many people find it easy making new friends, but you have to, even if you do not feel like. Push yourself to get out there and try new things and meet new people.
Accept the new normal
Keep in mind that communication may not be the way it used to be. Accept that some things will change, and do not start feeling neglected or abandoned. No matter what, life goes on.
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