A Twist Of Fate

I could kiss the hand – God’s, my ancestors’ or the UK consular’s – that delayed my UK transit visa in June. That delay prevented me from flying out with Philip to Nigeria in July, and consequently fixed a flaw in my scheduling of the Nigeria production trip.

My original thinking was to fly out with Philip and document his reunion with his family after a year apart. I expected this to be an emotional scene, worth crossing oceans for. Philip’s plan was to visit his mother and four siblings for a few days in Kano, northern Nigeria, and then head to Lagos for the first week of the Exposure Robotics League (XRL). Therein lay my suboptimal planning.

The first week of XRL was to be an instructor-only affair, during which they would prep for the next 5 weeks of teaching robotics, computer programming and SAT prep to 35 secondary schoolers. Essentially I would never have met any of the students, and never have seen the premier run of this bold program in action, let alone been witness to its exciting final days.

When the transit visa I am required to have in order to switch airplanes in Heathrow failed to arrive before Philip’s departure, I was in a sour mood for days thanks to the hefty flight change fees I was slapped with. I rescheduled my trip for the end of XRL, planning to spend 10 days embedded with the program until it finished and then to fly out to Kano with Philip to see his family and home. This new plan turned out to be a superior one.

What a finale the culminating robotics challenge ended up being. The students worked for days and a night to refine their algorithms. Teams fell apart and came back together. In the middle of the week, unexpected drama unfolded from what started out as a snooze of a day. And then the final competition day itself. Rife with dramatic tension, tears and celebrations, the program’s finale will make a worthy end to a story. XRL’s story is about the curiosity and competitive spirit latent in African youth, and the initiative of a few MIT-trained Nigerians to activate these qualities. Enough happened in the 10 days I documented that I know I have a standalone documentary short on my hands.

Thank you Exposure Robotics League for letting me live and eat with you, and most of all for giving me access to your wonderful story. I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

August 18, 2012

– Arthur Musah

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