Alpha's diary- January 19th, 2008
With a population of 24 million, crime rate hitting the roofs, corruption and huge environmental concerns, I guess I can say I am feeling completely at home. From the sky, this sea of a city looks flat except for the occational cell phone towers that rise higher than the modest sand-color settlements. While driving us to our home from the airport, the driver says that if you don't know the 'blood-language' of the locals, you would be termed as 'goats'. 'You know that they do with goats right? They slaughter them.' I just hope to learn the blood language sooner than later.
Huge population of Christians in the south of Nigeria, this part of the country is not really conservative by any standards. I wonder why I brought only long skirts and kurtis while women are walking half naked. 'Oh, she is a prostitude,' said Dennis, the driver. I saw another skimpily dressed woman and expressed my concerns about a city laden with sex workers. 'Oh no, can't you see, she isn't one. She looks like a Goddess. The last one we saw was my ex. Hence I call her that. That bitch, she slept with me and now says she is pregnant.' [I could write a book on this driver and his shenanigans]
English speaking and trying hard to make a living, the city is distinctly poorer than many Indian cities I have seen. We live in a real nice part of town called Ikoyi Islands. The place has fairly new roads (paved) with open drains. This is due to the fact that the governor is our neighbor. Nigerian food is definitely not the greatest I have eaten and the sentiment is shared by all. They eat pepper soup and interesting bread that needs acquired taste. They eat this bread for breakfast (a whole loaf) with water. I am sticking to my honey bunches of oats. They live on cassava that is eaten in the form of gari (cold and flowy) or eba (hot and lumpy). Jolof rice (tomato rice), fried plantains is something I liked. I don't eat meat and they have a variety of suspicious looking (and highly suspect smelling) meat dishes.
I am spending my time exploring the city on foot. It's not that unsafe as people had scared me. Yes, in the nights you sometimes could be looking at a barrel of the gun and handing all your valuables. But that is in the night. Even our Nigerian driver pees in his pants if he has to drive at night. Daytime, its fine, especially in the neighborhood when we live. I sometimes ride on the 'okada', a two-wheeler public transport that gets you from place to place for a dollar. So you hail an okada like you hail a taxi, he hands you a helmet (safety first always) and expertly weaves through the traffic, sometimes crashing to the asphalt as we avoid a mini bus with more people than there are in Pittsburgh and its suburbs. Most of these bikes interestingly are Indian makes like Bajaj. People are not overtly friendly like the Malians, but are friendly enough if they trust you. Once they do, they are loud, funny and very friendly. There is a general mistrust among the expats…and its both ways. The resentment is due to the fact that even after colonialism, they feel that they end up being subordinated to the wealthy Expat community. You will not see an expat walking alone on the streets. They get carted by cars everywhere and do their shopping in Dubai. They socialize with other Expats and this is but natural. Most of the crime in Lagos is towards the expats by the poorer locals. Just for a few bucks, they apparently kill.
Interestingly I went to this book store where I got chatting with the book store owner and Tundum (her name, I just like saying it) hooked me up with the African Book Club of Lagos and today I was in a room with 20 women, all expats. As much as that was not the Nigeria I came to experience, it definitely helps me gain some perspective on what the 'oyibos' (white people) think of Nigeria. And also get me to read a lot of African Literature.