Deja Peru?

By Chiamaka, Tufts Civic Semester Participant

Deja vu is a real thing. However, is deja vu in another country realistic? You may know it as a “motor taxi” but I know it as “keke na pepe.” I never thought I would see it again until one hot afternoon on September 1st 2019 – I experienced deja vu in Peru.

It rode right past me and I gazed as if it was the first time I had seen “keke na pepe” again. The last time I had entered one was in Nigeria when I was just 10 years old. I never thought that a country 9,479 km away from my hometown could remind me so much of it and bring back a little part of my Nigerian identity.

When I was 10 years old, my mom, little brother, and I would normally take a “keke na pepe” almost every Sunday in order to get to church. In Peru, I entered one for the first time in on an afternoon when I was returning from my internship. Immediately, a flash of memories, and a feeling of deja vu took over me. I heard my mother’s voice again, taking me back to my 10 year old self. I could hear her say “Chiamaka ri da ta motor a hu” which means “Chiamaka get down from that vehicle.” I could see when she paid the driver, I could hear her laughter and see my little brother as an 8 year old child. For the first time in 6 years – something, one thing, a vehicle reminded me of my hometown.

I have always pondered whether Peru is my home. I have come to the conclusion that it is different – they speak Spanish not Igbo and English, they wear different clothes, they have different traditions that are not similar to mine. However, I and Peru both have “keke na pepe” also known as “motor taxis.” I and Peru both have a rowdy market, I and Peru both have a culture, I and Peru both have a language, I and Peru both have a sense of appreciation for our identities.

Even though I live in Cleveland, Ohio now, I feel a sense of home here in Peru because I may not have my family, may get homesick every now and then. However, I have everything else that makes me believe “Yes, this is where I should be.”