Sighting: Chimamanda Adichie

So, I saw Chimanada Adichie…. twice in one day. One of the many reasons I LOVE DUKE. She came over [thanks for coming] to discuss her latest critically acclaimed novel Americanah which was the assigned summer read for the freshmen. Trust me, I learnt A LOT today not only from her but also from the experience in general. This sighting postis going to be quite different because you know typically, I have a picture of myself WITH the person sighted but nope… Not today with Miss Adichie. Brace up because this is going to be quite a story…

Thursday [2 days ago] 

I’m in class chilling and my friend (bless her soul) messages me saying there’s a small “exclusive” luncheon with Aunty Chimamanda the next day (Friday) and apparently we have to RSVP and I’m sitting in class thinking why didn’t I get this email? I knew about the general convocation but not this one. Well, it turns out it was specifically sent to head chairs of culturally affiliated clubs and organizations on campus and I’m thinking oh… that’s why I didn’t get one. Haha! Mind you, she was to speak twice that day; one for the “exclusive” luncheon and the other for the formal convocation in the evening where she formally talked to everyone.  Anyways, I RSVP but BUMMER, they respond telling me all the spots are filled. I was discontent with this news and my friend got a spot so I shared my sad finding and life continued till the next day…  

Friday [the next day]

I’m sitting in class with my friend that got a spot on the luncheon and I tell her “I’m coming with you” then I email the organizing committee one more time asking if I could be on some sort of waiting list because usually, there’s always that one person who doesn’t show up. But she tells me the usual “Oh, the spots are filled up and we’ve already turned a bunch of people away”. Whatever, I already made up my mind I was going and I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Ooopsie!

After class, we scrambled there and I had no plan whatsoever but to show up and argue till I got in but things turned really well. We were asked to check our names off the guest list OURSELVES. Such, great news! What do I do? I write my name on the list and put a check sign next to it. BOOM! I did RSVP after all. Who was I representing? Heck, I am the head chair of Miss LAJA thank you very much!

We go in and I’m so anxious to see her, of course. I would be seeing the same person who’s TED talks had me screaming like a crazy person because of how much I could relate. Life is crazy. She comes in and of course I start taking pictures like some thirsty paparazzi and I’ll give my impressions on the meeting.

This is kind of the important part…

I was simply in awe of her. I’m not going to act like I’ve read any of her books because I haven’t (but I will). What really won me over were her TED talks and articles. I’ve watched her talks at least a million times. I scribbled some notes from what I took from the session as the questions varied from where she draws her inspiration from to favorite books etc

I’ll just write down some quotes that stood out to me:

“Books formed me”

“You were a child who was happy?”- in response to one of the speakers who mentioned she lived in some part of New York really close to Princeton most of her child hood. Miss Adiche said Princeton had “a smell” LOL! Whatever that means.

“I wish the [writing] workshops [in Nigeria] had more funding”- She does have her own writing workshop called Farafina.

“I remember seeing a lady in the airport [in Lagos] two days ago and noticing her toes looked like fingers.”- so she wrote it down in her thoughts book. She said it was beautiful.

Immediately the session was dismissed I rushed up to her to introduce myself but I COULD NOT TALK. It was embarrassing. I was just rambling all over the place and people were being told to back off because she wasn’t taking any questions or photos since she just flew in from Nigeria that morning. I was so disorientated and felt like quite a failure after; like I wasted my opportunity. I didn’t get my picture and I REALLY wanted to tell her about Miss LAJA! I did introduce myself though. Hopefully she remembers…

I called my mum and poured out my “extra emotions” onto her and how unhappy I was that I couldn’t get a picture and my dismay by my obvious lack of orientation. You’re the best, mother. Never in my life had I been so star struck. NEVER. I couldn’t believe it. It’s because she really impacted some parts of who am I today so seeing her in person was like: Is this life? Am I dreaming? I felt so weary and to make matters worse, I saw a [smart] girl pass her a piece of paper that probably had some useful info inside and I slap myself thinking. Wow, why didn’t I think of that?  Get it together Ashan-wa. What will you do when you see Beyoncé? Geez! I’ll probably pass out if you’re wondering but I’m working on being able to absorb and withstand the realness when that situation comes.

I decided to write her my own letter (no I won’t be sharing that with you, sorry) and I rewrote it 4 times to make sure it was perfect. I had one last shot tonight at the convocation. If I couldn’t talk to her like a normal human being, at least I’d give her my note and hope she reads it. I arrived 30 minutes before the convocation and the struggle for seats was quite real but I ended up in a really good spot. Yay!

This is where I fall quite short because I can’t really put into words how enriching it was. She addressed topics ranging from racism to sexism to identity and much more. Hopefully it was videoed because that was an enriching 90 minutes but if not, you should definitely watch her talks (especially We should all be feminists and The danger of a single story) here.

After the convocation, I’m thinking this is it. I’m finally going to get my picture but the organizer AKA Dream Killer A said she won’t be coming out to take pictures or mingle because she was too exhausted and jet lagged. No problem, I thought. I’ll just go to her. Dream Killer B tells me “Sorry, no one can go through this door” and I stand there thinking “This chick is PLAYING” and I stayed there questioning her. I was ready to BITE OFF her head and get through that door. Dream Killer A comes back to further crush my dreams telling me that she would be leaving through a “secret” exit. Ummm, seriously? He was lying and I knew it. 
I’m really optimistic and believe me when I say I spent almost 2 hours after the show waiting, hoping she’d come out and I’d catch her JUST to give her my letter and take a picture. I believe Dream Killer A was quite freaked out because we “accidentally bumped” into each other quite a lot. I waited for every single car that had guest passes on them to leave because I KNEW SHE WAS STILL IN THAT BUILDING. They were lying. I interrogated every single person that came out of that building so I knew. Call me crazy but I couldn’t take no for an answer and I had faith. So I waited 2 hours; patrolling around the building with my letter in my hand and hope burning deep in heart that this is what God wanted. The patient dog gets the fattest bone right? I was with with a few other girls so it wasn’t a lonely wait. I even went into the building to see if she was still there with the help of the police (a guy was looking for his wallet, okay?) and that was when I finally accepted that today wasn’t the day. 

It was already 11 pm and I left feeling really satisfied and thought wow, I’m going to blog about allthis. At the same time I felt a little down because, I really wanted something more to give you guys so you could feel even just a fraction of what I felt. I guess God has another plan in mind?

Saturday morning [12:36am]

Well, I didn’t get my photo obviously but I wasn’t sad because I got to see her in flesh and blood twice in one day. If I hadn’t shown up at the lunch in the afternoon because it was “exclusive” and filled up, I would have missed that opportunity. Don’t always take no for an answer. 
If I hadn’t waited almost 2 hours in hope of seeing her, I wouldn’t have felt so energized and inspired to write this post at 1am on a Saturday morning. I also met a bunch of new people under unusual circumstances. We were united under the same goal. 

I also learnt that sometimes even when we don’t get what we want, the satisfaction of knowing you did you best is really fulfilling. It was an experience and I don’t regret it one bit. Yes, I’m pissed I didn’t get my photo but I will keep my letter and I know that one day I’ll meet her and hopefully exchange more than a letter with her. Maybe then, those 2 hours would be just a fun memory and even if I don’t meet her again, I still had a really cool story to share with you all. Either ways Aunty Chimamanda, thank you.

I don’t care how long this post is because I feel really inspired and happy and I need to let it all out so I don’t explode. BUT If you read all this, you’re the real MVP.

Do you like rants like this? Let me know in the comments or reaction box below 


10 thoughts on “Sighting: Chimamanda Adichie

  1. Your post help me live the moment! I got an opportunity to attend the dinner but didn't have a chance to go
    😦 Thank you for recording this memory Ashanwa!

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