Updated: Jun 8, 2021
Now fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, I am once again ready to travel, and this season will be a busy one. Of course, it was impossible to do any travel to Ghana during 2020 to research the third Emma Djan novel called LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ--that's Lapaz, Accra, not La Paz, Bolivia. However, having to stay home in 2020 facilitated my finishing Emma #2, SLEEP WELL, MY LADY in record time, as well as starting on LSIL, which I'm scheduled to turn in to my editor on or before July 1, 2021. The deadline looms large!
Now that I've passed the halfway mark writing LSIL, I know which areas of research on which I need to focus. In addition to the standard visit to Ghana, I need to travel to Nigeria and Niger, because substantial portions of the novel take place in these countries. You can get an idea of the itinerary from the map below, which is numbered in sequence according to the destinations during the trip.
My destinations in West Africa (edited, original image Shutterstock / Porcupen)
So, for your reference, I will be in Lagos and Benin City, Nigeria, for ten days in July; Niamey and Agadez, Niger, for eight days, and Ghana for the remaining four weeks or so. I went to Nigeria as a small child but remember little to nothing about the trip, so Nigeria will be a new experience for me, as will Niger. The issue with these two countries is that neither scores high in the safety category. The US Department of State puts Nigeria and Niger at a Level 3 warning: reconsider travel.
So, why am I going to these two countries? I considered not doing it, but anyone can do Google and YouTube research. I believe I owe readers a lot more than that. Being "afraid" to travel somewhere is not going to cut it. On the other hand, I'm not throwing caution to the wind. I've secured a guide and escort to be with me at all times in both countries. The unofficial jacket cover copy will help you understand what I'll be looking into during my travels. When Nnamdi Ojukwu’s daughter Ngozi elopes with boyfriend Femi, Nnamdi appeals to Emma Djan and her detective agency boss to investigate Ngozi’s whereabouts. Weeks later, Femi is found murdered at his opulent residence in Accra, but Ngozi is still nowhere to be found. How is she connected, if at all, to Femi’s killing? As Emma digs further, she discovers Femi was part of a horrifying network of sex traffickers in Europe and several West African countries. Migrants from Ghana, Nigeria, and other West African countries, are duped into thinking they are on their way to success and riches in Italy. But once there, they are manipulated into prostitution with little chance of escape. As successful as Femi has been, he has made a lot of enemies, all of whom have had possible motives to murder him. The question is, which one of them did it? Not only does Emma have to hunt the killer down, she’s in a race against time to find Ngozi—that is, if she’s still alive. As you can see, LAST SEEN IN LAPAZ tackles the complex and uncomfortable subject of human and sex trafficking with scenes in Ghana, Nigeria, and Niger. The West Africans one sees on TV attempting to cross the Mediterranean, sometimes perishing in the process, depart mostly from the shores of Libya, but they originate primarily from Nigeria, and to a lesser extent from Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Mali. Agadez, in Niger, is the legendary transit spot for migrants before they make the hellish trip to Libya across the brutal Sahara desert, which is fraught with danger from armed gangs, the intense heat, and the threat of dehydration. Needless to say, I'm not going to Libya.
Migrants crossing the Sahara packed into a pickup truck (Shutterstock/Torsten Pursche) Many migrants get stuck in Agadez or Libya because they find they don't have enough money to proceed. Sometimes, it takes months to gather the wherewithal to continue on. During that time, they may be subject to physical and sexual brutality, particularly in Libya. If and when they get to Italy--surprise, surprise. Contrary to the glowing picture painted of making tons of money working in a store or being a travel guide, migrant women discover they will be working as prostitutes for the "madam" who paid for much of the trip. Now they owe her money--lots of it. The madam is often a woman who has been a prostitute herself. The blatant disregard for human life in this trafficking world is dismaying.
Regardless of the present, this region of Africa holds a long and storied past--periods of epic achievements in culture and learning on the one hand, but strife on the other. Apart from researching for my novel, I'm hoping to make a connection with aspects of West Africa's history.
Migratory routes from West Africa to Libya (edited, original source ECFR/ICMPD)
In addition, there'll be something new: I will be vlogging my journey, allowing for slow or absent Internet connections and various other West African inconveniences. My vlogs will be on my YouTube channel. It's going to be quite an adventure!