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‘I found bits of Calabar in Thailand’

Travels out of Nigeria

As Lions, we have a lot of travelling to do. Our work is not restricted to carrying out services; it is also about networking with people with similar ideas and values across states and countries. We have the ISAAME forum––India, South Asia, Africa and Middle East. We have been to various cities covered by this constitutional area. For this year’s ISAAME, we are going to Kolkata, India.

We also have the All Africa Conference (AAC). Since 2004, we have been to different African capitals like Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Cairo (Egypt). In 2018, we are visiting Lome (Togo). We are going to Las Vegas for our International Convention in 2018. The last one, which held in Chicago in July, coincided with our centennial celebration. Our conventions had taken us around the world in the past to Bangkok in Thailand and Honolulu in Hawaii, and to cities on Australia and Canada, to mention a few.

To Lions, travelling is not necessarily about leisure; at the same time, hardworking minds need to have an avenue to recreate, connect to people to share ideas, look at global challenges and compare reports from the different circumstances. This is the dynamics of our travel-based convention, which offer opportunities for us to have our leadership training and as well as showcase our cultural diversity. Our parades showcase our cultural identities, the beauty of where we come from and our cuisine.  So, when members of Lions Club International converge in any part of the world, our interaction brings an exchange of ideas.

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Culture shock

Coming from Nigeria, a country with over 200 languages and ethnic groups, I have hardly experienced culture shock in the real sense of the word––instead, I have had the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of other people’s culture. I have seen that the Asians are very good in hospitality, especially good when it comes to cultural display. The Asians are like the people of Calabar in Nigeria; when it comes to cuisine, entertainment, hospitality––they are there.  Personally, I enjoyed most of my Asian conventions better than others.

Lessons from travels

Tolerance is the big lesson. Every travel is an opportunity for knowledge, an opportunity to interact with other people and have first hand information about them, their culture, their behavioural pattern.  When I was in India, I realised that the beef we eat and take for granted as normal was a taboo there. They view cows from a worship point of view. The Chinese have very wonderful culture. So do Japanese too, and South Koreans.

Despite the language barrier, people still make attempt to communicate with you. Just smile at them even when you don’t understand what they are saying––you will be surprised that with a smile, you get things done without hindrance.

Favourite Destinations

Lions Club emphasises tourism. We take our members to tourist sites to see the beauty of that environment. Thailand is beautiful––a country that explores her tourism potentials. Australia, too, is cool, despite the long journey. So also Canada. From these countries, you have some interesting things to take home. Good photographs. They are wonderful. But my most memorable travel experience so far was in Thailand. When it is about hospitality, give it to Thailand.

Travel advice

Travelling is something to be encouraged, though it doesn’t come cheap. Don’t go out of your way to do it. If the opportunity comes your way, take advantage of it.

Secondly, keep an open mind and be patient enough to learn something new. Having an open mind does not mean losing your beliefs and values. Being open-minded will broaden your horizon with new things from a new environment.

Dream destination

I have not seen a lot of places in Nigeria. Up north for instance. There are still the people of Koma who are, as we know, still not familiar with the civilisation of wearing dress––it makes you wonder that there are still people living without clothes in this age, and what might their culture be like?

Okpeseyi, an executive director at Lord Cowries Limited, is a legal practitioner, specialising in real estate, facilities management service, intellectual property and corporate service.

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