Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Combining Past and Future

Funchal, the capital of Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal

Funchal, the capital of Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, where I lived for nearly a year.

Memories of Madeira

On Wednesday I had lunch in Funchal, the capital city of the island of Madeira!

Well, not really. I had lunch with Adrienne Farrar Houël whom I’ve known and admired for years. She is President and CEO of The Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises, Inc., GBCE. She has years of experience both here and abroad in real estate development and marketing. She told me about The Green Team, part of GBCE, which focuses on environment, energy conservation, and reuse and recycling.

When she suggested the lunch place across the street from Housatonic Community College, she gave me the address but couldn’t remember the name. I was excited when I arrived to find it was Funchal Cafe.

I asked the man at the counter why the name. He began to explain where Funchal was, but I stopped him, “I lived there for a year,” I said. “I know where it is and how beautiful it is.” He’s the owner, and he’s from Funchal. He knew the street where I lived with my parents in 1968-69.

We talked about the New Year’s Eve fireworks, a big event and tourist attraction on the island.

I related my story about the fireworks. New Year’s Eve came just three months after we’d arrived in Funchal in 1968, fleeing the Biafran War (the Nigerian Civil War) that had been underway for more than a year.

My father took Chinaku, age 3, to see the fireworks. Chinaku was familiar with the sound of bombs falling and running for cover. But he had never seen fireworks, and he was frightened by the noise. My father was annoyed and scolded him for his fear, and I was angry at my father for his lack of understanding

New Year's Eve Fireworks in Madeira

New Year’s Eve Fireworks in Madeira

I haven’t actually seen the fireworks myself but  I understand that they are amazing!

How Big is a Yam?

On Tuesday I went to lunch with my friend Ruth Ahlers. She’s finished reading my memoir. She had told me before that she had a complaint. “I’m not getting my work done,” she said. “I have to keep reading.”

Yam barn

Very full yam barn constructed from bamboo poles

She had several questions. I won’t tell you all – I’ll see if you ask any of the same questions after you’ve read the book!

But I’ll share one. “You wrote that the boy carried a yam on his head. I can’t picture that,” she said. “Is it bigger than our yams?”

I explained that a Nigerian yam is a lot bigger than what we call yams here in the U.S. A yam can be as short as 10 inches, but is usually at least a foot and often sixteen to eighteen inches or even longer.

It’s big around too. The picture shows a yam barn where yams are stored after the harvest in August to be used throughout the year.

Will you Write a Review?

I wrote about delivering the signed book to Deborah Stewart as her reward for the first review on Amazon. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also write a review. The second one, by David Koren, is there now.

David says he’s heard that some Amazon buyers won’t even read reviews or consider buying a book unless there are seventeen reviews! That seems extreme. But I’d love to have more.

Can You Believe Fifty Years?

Wedding photo as it appeared in Life Magazine, Jan. 1965.

Our wedding photo as it appeared in Life Magazine, Jan. 1965.

My husband and I are celebrating fifty years of marriage on December 26 – unbelievable! The major party will be in Nanka, Nigeria, his home town, where I spent one year during the Biafran War. My husband and our sons are organizing, with Sam the principal organizer in Nigeria. It’s a huge job. I suspect he’ll be pleased when it’s all over!

On December 18 we leave for Nigeria. We do have internet access in Lagos, but a good part of the time we’ll be in Nanka, where there is no internet. We arrive in Lagos on the 19th, and I can’t imagine I’ll be posting that day. So the last blog post before 2015 will be on Dec. 15. The blog will be quiet until Jan. 8, unless one of you wants to write blog posts!

Let me know if you’re interested.

I sent my application for my Nigerian visa by FedEx yesterday to a visa processing service. The form is seven pages long with far too many questions. It asks where I’ve lived for more than a year, including the date I departed, when have I visited Nigeria, again with spaces for three answers, including purpose of each visit. I had to include a copy of the ticket, photos, and of course my passport.

Where have you traveled when you needed a visa?

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Enjoy your trip – and happy anniversary to you and Clem!

  2. Enjoy this wonderful very special celebration! Sounds amazing!

  3. Congratulations on your 50th wedding anniversary! That’s quite a wonderful accomplishment!

  4. That is really exciting, next time I’m there I want to go there. As usual I really enjoy reading this, didn’t at first but now for some reason I can’t wait til the fourth day…..

  5. Just did write a review — about reading Nigeria Revisited on my flights to Africa — Morocco. The book arrived the morning I was to leave so I was very glad to be able to put in my pack for the trip! Thanks for writing your memoir and sharing it with us! My Amazon “name” is “Barn Photographer.” The Morocco trip was a photo expedition with my photo mentor and then a few days with my son who was returning from meetings in Europe. I am actually hanging a barn show in Brattleboro, VT later today.