The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
If all my many years of watching overly dramatic spy-thrillers has taught me anything, it’s that Russia, its spies and its president are 100% not to be messed with.
I thought everyone that journeyed to Moscow in 2018 had serious mind,and I still can’t watch Vladimir Putin on the news without avoiding eye contact.
I’m a professional drama-queen in case anyone missed it.
Thankfully, the subject of this week’s Abroad Life is less easily swayed. He’s lived in Russia for the past nine months, attending school while also pastoring a church. He tells us how balancing that has been going since the countrywide lockdowns were instituted.
For those who think Russia is a scary place where ‘KGB’ are the first letters children learn and vodka is a suitable H2O supplement, how very wrong are we/me?
I have to say, Russia is fantastic, and it’s filled with the best people. Before I came to Russia, I was under the impression that they weren’t friendly people, but from my very first day here, up until now, all the Russians I’ve met have been very helpful. Some have even gone out of their way to be kind.
Blink twice over this WhatsApp voice call where I can’t see you — if you’re being made to say this
Haha. But really, they are helpful, and it might be because I’m black, because it still isn’t common place to see that many black people in Russia. I remember when I first landed in Russia, like that very day. Two people, out of the goodness of their hearts helped me carry my bags and helped me get to the right place to book a ticket to my destination.
Okay, forget blinking. Cough twice
Hahaa. You know what, sometimes they want to take pictures with me on the street or in the shopping malls, again, because I’m black and it’s still uncommon to see here. But they’re always very good-natured when they ask to do so.
It’s definitely great to know you’re in a welcoming environment. Now, moving past my very tired tropes of Russia, I know you’re primarily there for school, how difficult was making the transmission from Nigeria all the way?
Making the move really wasn’t difficult. The processes were very clear. I just needed the right documents and that was it. I remember being at my visa interview and laughing almost throughout with my brother, who is my sponsor, and the interviewer.
I mean, it was obviously hard leaving family, but everyone understood why I had to leave, so it made the transmission pretty easy.
Great, I hear that. Now, I’m on damage control for all the stereotypes I’ve been encouraging. To make up for this, let’s hear some of the best bits about living in Russia.
Hmm. I have to say for me, the language is one of the best parts,it’s so fascinating to me and it’s incredibly fun to learn. I’m studying software engineering, but before that, I have to complete a mandatory one year Russian language course in the university before beginning my main course the following year.
Now normally I’d have put you on the spot and made you translate something like, ‘Boyin is the cutest Zikoko staff member’ in Russian, but I’m changing my ways. Instead, let me jump in and ask how you’re managing language classes in the midst of the coronavirus
Well, obviously we’ve all gone online. But early on with the virus, we were mixing online classes with some physical meetings. My language class is on the top floor of my hostel so we would occasionally meet.
Other than that, schools are closed, online classes are in full force and the government has banned gatherings of more than ten people.
Got it, so what else is great about Russia?
The weather. It is fantastic. Let me tell you something. In March, it was meant to be spring, but somehow it was snowing. The weather can be unpredictable, but that’s what makes it so great.
*Stares in rain, dry and harmattan seasons*
Another thing I love is the Russian transportation system. It is excellent. So that’s language, the weather and the transport systems for my favourite things in Russia.
Got it! Random question. Because I’m very pro looking towards the end of the coronavirus, what are you looking forward to the most when this is all over?
Oh easily, being able to gather physically for church services. I pastor a Christ Embassy Church in Tver, Russia. It would be great to meet with the congregation in fellowship again.
Fantastic! Hold that thought, we’ll get right to it. But first, a little balancing act. You’ve said what you love about Russia, now what are the downsides?
Well. I’d have to say being under constant surveillance. Russia is known for this, but it’s mostly for a good cause.Over here, because cameras are constantly on you, you’re required to always be on your best behaviour. So little things like littering, Russia doesn’t have problems with that. Imagine how in control it is of more serious situations.
But the surveilling can be a little annoying.
Big Brother has entered the chat
After that, I have to say getting a job placement in your first few months. If you can’t speak Russian, getting a job will be very difficult for you. So if you don’t find a job in a multi-national company or something of the sorts, getting a job can be difficult.
I imagine how limiting that can be for foreigners. So a big pro-tip for anyne looking to work in Russia, learn the language first
Now to the ministry. You’ve been in Russia a number of months now. How was the transition from managing a Nigerian church in Nigeria, to managing a Nigerian church all the way on the other side of the world?
First, you have to know that the approach to ministry is way different here than it is in Nigeria. First, we had to get a license before even starting the church. We even had to even come in as the English version of an already existing church before they granted us the opportunity.
Oh wow, they don’t play. How is balancing school with pastoral duties going?
Well, it’s all about planning. I pastor a church where there are black members from Congo, Ghana, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Nigeria. And also some white members, we have services translated to Russian as well, so it’s a special grace I’m grateful for. Learning to balance classes and receiving directives from my Group Pastor or the Regional Director for Europe during weekly meetings, defintitely help. It requires a lot of balance.
Definitely. Now we’re in scary times. This is a faith question. Do you think there’s a reason we’re experiencing all this? Asking for a person trying to make sense of this all
The world is fighting an enemy they don’t understand; one that seems more powerful than them, against which they have no weapons. This just shows the extent of human frailty, the weakness of men. They can only fight what they understand, yet the greatest enemies of this world are unseen; they’re invisible, and this is what Jesus came to show us. He came to show us the real adversary and to give us adequate weapons against the most wicked and vicious enemies of men.
Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.