Embracing Liminal Identity : Uncovering Hidden Diversity : Celebrating Cultural Mobility

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Omo and Eulanda bring the world (and a bit of themselves) to the blogosphere

Omo and Eulanda Osagiede take readers on intimate adventures through countries around the world with their travel blog Hey! Dip Your Toes In. Through the art of storytelling, the couple introduces readers to delectable foreign cuisine, interesting national histories, incredible individuals and much more.

HDYTI (pronounced hi-dee-tie) launched in March 2015 and has rapidly grown into an award-winning blog with a wide readership. Exploring the site, you will learn how Aiysha is overcoming stereotypes as a tour guide in Zanzibar, discover just how pervasive the perception of pale skin as an ideal beauty standard is in Sri Lanka, and relive Omo and Eulanda’s first trip together in Costa Rica through pictures.

“I feel very strongly about having a platform to be able to share not just my stories, our stories, but others’ stories as well,” Eulanda shared. “We bring their voice to an audience that’s willing to hear them.”

As HDYTI has grown and evolved, sharing both their stories and the stories of the people they meet has helped Omo and Eulanda better understand themselves.

The couple grew up miles apart, but, with a little serendipity, eventually met and fell in love in London, England.

Eulanda initially moved around the States with her military parents, but soon settled in Denver, Colorado when she was four. After graduating from Colorado State University, starting her own dance studio, experimenting with photography, and teaching, she decided to go back to school for her master’s degree. With acceptance letters from programs in Hawaii, Florida and England, Eulanda decided to attend Roehampton University in London. “England was just kind of calling my name,” she said.

Omo was born on the other side of the Atlantic in Lagos, Nigeria. “My parents come from two different parts of Nigeria which means that growing up I had perspectives of two cultures,” Omo said. As an adult, Omo pursued a career in IT risk management which brought him to the U.K. about ten years ago.

While living in London, the two both decided to start online dating profiles. “I had met some family members in the states who had met their own partners online and got married. I met the people that they got married to and they seemed like normal human beings,” Omo said. “So maybe it’s worth giving a try.”

Omo and Eulanda's relationship milestones.

Omo and Eulanda’s relationship milestones.

Eulanda set up her own profile after being gifted an account from her roommate. Within two weeks, she received a message from Omo. “We began exchanging messages back and forth until I finally summoned the courage to ask her out on a date,” Omo said.

After dinner and coffee, the couple spent the evening walking along the Thames. “I had a few other first dates that weren’t going to lead to second dates, and I knew during that conversation that it would turn into a second date, without a doubt,” Eulanda said.

“Here were two people that had grown up worlds apart in different continents, but then somehow came to meet in a little island in Northern Europe,” Eulanda said. “There’s just something very connective about that for the both of us.”

The couple got engaged a little over a year later in Oslo, Norway.

Omo and Eulanda used old fashioned objects to decorate for their 1920s Harlem Renaissance theme.

Omo and Eulanda used old fashioned objects to decorate for their 1920s Harlem Renaissance theme.

Their wedding in Denver, Colorado was a beautiful blend of both backgrounds. Eulanda wanted to have a 1920s Harlem Renaissance theme, “making reference to writers from that time and jazz musicians,” she said, “and I wasn’t sure he was going to go for it.” Eulanda found that knowledge of the Harlem Renaissance is not as common in the U.K. as it is in the States, so the couple spent some time researching and learning about the era together. “We really had a great time planning it together and then trying to combine that with the other cultural influences that we had which were Nigerian attire and cultural traditions from Nigeria,” Eulanda said.

Omo's family dressed in symbolic colors.

Omo’s family dressed in symbolic colors.

Traditional Nigerian weddings take place in three parts, Omo explained: the introduction, where the groom’s family goes to meet the bride’s, the engagement, and the wedding. For the wedding ceremony, guests dress in specific colors to signify which family they are a part of as well as how closely related they are to either the bride or the groom.

Omo and Eulanda incorporated these elements into their wedding in different ways. To denote their relation to Omo, many of his family members dressed in red. His mother wore red with a bright turquoise while his sisters paired the red with a light gray and his aunts chose a gorgeous gold. After their “white wedding” reception, the couple changed into traditional Nigerian attire and made a second entrance with dancers and drummers.

Omo and Eulanda dancing in traditional Nigerian attire.

Omo and Eulanda dancing in traditional Nigerian attire.

This intermingling of cultures has continued to shape Omo and Eulanda’s life together as they have traveled the world. Travel has always been a top priority for the couple.

“I always saw the ability to travel internationally from a kind of underprivileged perspective, growing up in a black neighborhood, coming from kind of a lower socioeconomic level,” Eulanda said. “You’re always told what you can’t do.”

Before she was born, Eulanda’s parents lived in a number of different countries. Each time she lost a tooth, they would leave a coin from one of these countries under her pillow. Eulanda collected the coins in a purple Crown Royal bag, vowing to visit each country someday.

After sharing her coins during show-and-tell one day, Eulanda remembers her teacher telling the class “‘Oh you guys can all dream of all the places that you can go to. I hope that Eulanda’s presentation inspires us all to dream.’ It wasn’t very encouraging for a classroom of black kids feeling like they probably will never ever go to any of these places,” Eulanda said.

Later that day, one of the students stole her coins. Reflecting on the experience, Eulanda felt that maybe her coins were stolen because she and her peers were made to believe that the closest they would ever get to visiting those countries was “holding those coins in the palm of their hands.”

HDYTI allows Eulanda to change this narrative by sharing her story and the stories of people she meets; she uses this platform to both equip others for international travel with tips and advice and to show that international travel can be more than just a dream.

Travel has also helped the couple understand and talk about their own identities a bit better. “When people ask me where am I from, my first instinct is to say that I was born in Nigeria but I live in the U.K.,” Omo said. “But over time I’ve found that that answer doesn’t quite capture the range of my experiences.

“I come from not just one place but different places and different experiences that have shaped who I am today and I think it would be unfair of me not to acknowledge those experiences and those places that have shaped who I am as a person. [By traveling] I’m not just improving my understanding of my identity, but I’m also collecting stories that I can share to tell people about my identity and how those places and those experiences have influenced who I am today.

“It’s a bit of self soul searching, but also, in that process of soul searching, finding stories that mean things to me and potentially to other people.”

By: Joanna Pierce

Joanna Pierce is a journalism student at Colorado State University. She is a National Nomad who grew up in six different states throughout the US. Joanna is passionate about the arts and their ability to create community. She loves to travel, read, and watch Spongebob.