The longer I’m outside of the States, the less American I feel. This journey into West Africa has been interesting to say the least. And from what it seems at the time of this writing, productive (unless I get screwed over which is always a possibility.) But, here are some reflections of my time here.
Who Did I Help?
It always seems the list of people I’m able to help is short. Perhaps it’s because of my limited skills and intellect. But anyways, I built a few websites (for a fee of course) and the businesses I built them for saw it as a godsend as they were proverbially on fire and I was selling water.
What Did I Learn?
Well I learned a good deal about international trade, from initial procurement to getting things onto the port and loaded on the port. And of course all the parts that come before it, from incorporating a company, cold calling prospects and getting a bank account.
Along the way, I just can’t do it by myself. The operation spans 2 different parts of Nigeria and the US, so it’s not possible for me to do it all on my own (which is contrary to all my past business ventures.) Therefore, I’ve needed to learn how to spot good character in people that will do their task, especially when money is involved. There is a need to trust and relinquish control to the select few people when expanding. That is the only way to be efficient. And a lesson I’ll need moving forward.
This was all done in a foreign country where I had zero contacts, nor any organization backing me. I’ve had to learn how to adapt quickly to any given environments and still be functioning. Part of that functioning is getting the right people to be willing to assist you. Because when you are abroad, you need allies. Which I found you need in order to survive, establish local contacts, not many, but a few key ones.
On another note, things went very differently compared to my time in east Africa. I think part of that is because when I was in east Africa, I didn’t have much to offer. It was just showing up and seeing what happens. But that’s not how the world works, you need to have something to offer. Which as time passed, that became clearer, it’s a maturing process, the options you have available gradually narrow. And the options you do have require you to make decisions. Decisions where people around you are looking to you to decide on. Another word to describe that is responsibility.
Who Am I?
Well out of many things, I’ve found I’m very much a solo guy. I have enough mileage so to speak to compare different stretches of my life stages. Especially since I’ve been in so many different parts of the world. And what I have discovered is that these periods that I am alone and on my own are the ones in which I am most productive.
What Matters to Me?
How does an Asian American that grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown end up in West Africa? Well not because he wants to work a 9-5 to say the least. I want freedom, that is what I place of great value among other things. Starting my own little venture in Nigeria gives me a shot at that freedom. That freedom to dictate my own reality.
That and the attempt to do what has never been done before, refusing to believe that I was placed on this earth to be like everybody else. And going to a frontier market like Bauchi State, Nigeria where (it seems) no one has gone before, is part of it.
What Am I Good At?
I’d like to say this point that I am fairly adept at immersing myself into new environments. I’ve been too far flung parts of the world and came out the other side. And not only that, I can make local friends from scratch, fast. Which is a key skill to have, especially when you don’t have a bubble of money to protect yourself with as most tourists do. It’s a foreign land and you need help and you also must need to do whatever it is that you got to do. Which I’ve found I’m also good at. Doing what needs to be done. I’m not a bad man as one would put it, but every so often I must ask myself. What would a bad man do?
Kingston S. Lim
January 20, 2022