Hello folks, I am back with more observations of my newly acquired country-Nigeria. Thanks for all the best wishes. Continue to remember me in your prayers and in the meantime let us continue on this wonderful journey of ours.
It’s the last Saturday of the month and I have so much to do today but I am stuck at home. Ask me why. Well, in Lagos, there is an environmental sanitation exercise every last Saturday of the month starting at seven in the morning. Residents are expected to stay in to clean their homes and surroundings. Trust me you do not want to be caught out. So I await patiently till after ten when I can finally step out.
In my previous piece I forgot to mention how respectful Nigerians are. Prostrating or curtsying is a norm when greeting your elders and the use of Sir and Ma are common. I found this so odd at first (thank God my in-laws are very understanding) with my westernized hi, hello and hugs but with time I learnt to appreciate it and found myself following suit at times. It creates a function of respect that exists between the different age groups which is admirable.
Two weeks ago, I went to braid my hair and was very excited hearing people refer to me as Aunty and Ma. It made me feel important and respected (brushing my shoulders lol).One thing that struck me was the encouragement and empathy shown by the ladies as they braided my hair. “Well done Ma”. “Sorry Ma”. I wondered what I had actually done to deserve this praise and affection but it does add to great customer service. I did not hesitate to tip them once they were done.
I have been to a number of Nigerian homes as well as hotels and restaurants (eateries) and one thing that struck me was their preference for yam for breakfast and this is normally served with egg stew, palm oil stew or fried whole egg with some sauce on the side. At this juncture, I must say that my husband has been very understanding as he never complains when I serve him English breakfast. I am however gradually adapting this Nigerian style which ensures that one gets the needed amount of energy to start the day.
The first time I drove within Lagos (the bourgeois part though), I was impressed by how easy it was to reach my destination due to proper street naming and placements of street signs. Nothing like, ‘when you reach the orange seller turn right’ or ‘after that large MTN advertisement board, count three junctions to your left after which you will see a green story building’ lol. Names of the various streets corresponded perfectly with that of Google Maps.
This is just by the way but I woke up this morning yearning for waakye (rice and beans) with all its condiments- talia (sautéed spaghetti), wele (cow hide), gari, leaves and shito (Ghanaian black pepper sauce). Yes, and with some fried plantain on the side. I know some of you feel my pain.
For all you sweet lovers, the Coldstone franchise is actually present in Lagos. What a glorious day it was when husbi suggested we go for a treat. Numerous flavours of ice cream and sorbet, different assortments of toppings and syrups, delicious wafer cones, cakes, milkshakes, you name it. I had to constantly pray for the spirit of self-control to help me ward of my continuous cravings otherwise I would have ballooned out of shape. And yes, they also have the Dominoes franchise. I can’t wait for Subway to get here too.
My husband is half Yoruba and I have noticed that they say “sorry”(eyah pele) so often it seems to be a form of greeting and encouragement. They meet you cooking, “Eyah pele, well done my daughter”. They call and you say you just woke up, “Eyah pele”, you are traveling “Eyah pele”, you just got back from church “Eyah pele, how was the service today?” Just this moment, husbi read one of my entries, hugged me and said “Eyah pele”. To be honest, I am still confused by this though I find it very soothing.
Hmm, so I can’t figure out if I am loving the architecture of houses here in Lagos. As much as the designs seem very modern and solid, I can’t shake off my desire for spacious compounds. Obviously a silly thought looking at the large population and limited amount of land.
What I am definitely sure I love is the aesthetic appeal the current governor of Lagos has helped achieve within the city. Despite the congestion and some amount of filth, one gets to see a lot of greenery including flowers at flyovers, round-abouts and middle pavements. I find it quite refreshing. The island and its environs (Lekki-Ajah axis) offer a sneak peek into living by the water with the soft breeze offering some consolation from the hot sun and great views massaging your stressed out mind. Here and there, you get to see different water toys, which adds to the picturesque appeal of the city.
“Naija no dey chop last”. I hear and see this a lot from many Nigerians. It showcases their perseverance and zeal to be successful in life no matter what. Due to their desire to always find a solution to problems, they tend to be very innovative and hardworking, with a touch of competitiveness. Of course this should be encouraged for lawful gains only.
So, I have been asked to talk about the traffic situation in Nigeria, just so that people don’t feel it is all ‘lovey dovey’ out here. Let’s just say that the traffic can be that guy who makes your heart melt one day and then crushes it the next. Ensure you are with people who can entertain you during the drive or better still, put your dial on a good station. You could even use the opportunity to talk to God.
Back to food. You know that soft box-like sugar bread you can find on the streets of Accra, where they cut it open and pour condensed milk in and it soaks up the bread, oozing out its sides? Can you believe I cannot find any in Nigeria? There are just those days you say “off with this healthy lifestyle” and you proceed to have that combo with a bottle of chilled malt. I was in such denial that I told my husband he was an enemy of progress, not wanting to help me search further and he argued with me saying that condensed milk is even scarce on the market. So I finally had to settle for normal sugar bread with chocolate spread and a chilled bottle of you know what. Second to heaven I guess.
Need I talk about their fashion sense, when the lovely pictures websites including Bella Naija put up provides us with enough evidence of that. Let’s just say they invest a lot in looking good, men and children included. Let us not forget the makeup and accessories that complement their dressing. They are not intimidated by colours and this shows in their bright outlook. This country has really kept me on my toes fashion-wise. Chale, I have to represent my country Ghana and I am doing a good job so far so ‘no shaking’.
Unlike back at home, Nigerians do not colour code for respective occasions. Black can be worn to weddings and baby dedications and white and other bright colours can be worn to funerals. It’s a change I cannot yet adapt to and might just never (except the funeral aspect). I just can’t imagine wearing something dark to a friend’s wedding.
Despite their wide and varied exposure, and you will agree with me that you will find a Nigerian in every nook and cranny of this planet, they do not let go of their culture so easily. It is embedded so deep in their roots that even hypnosis will not erase that. In Antarctica, the Igbos will still find palm-wine and kola-nut to carry out their traditional marriage. And a rich man’s son will still have to prostrate in front of his poor father-in-law at a Yoruba wedding. They celebrate their culture in numerous ways including dressing and this has been embraced by other countries especially during special occasions. A wonderful legacy to leave behind for your children I must say.
For all those Ghana girls being courted by Nigerian men, please note that to most of them the wedding ceremony is an opportunity for friends and family to share in your joy so there is nothing like ‘strictly by invitation ‘. It was by God’s grace I was able to pull mine off so good luck with yours.
I keep going back to food. That should tell you something about me. Anyway, I love love pepper and I am glad Nigerians know how to spice up their foods. Unfortunately, I cannot find the green (papo shito) pepper here so I am appealing to anyone who knows where I could purchase some to come to my rescue. My okro soup is just not the same without it. My mom had to bring me a frozen batch from Ghana but I need those fresh crunchy ones. Thank you in advance.
I was extremely surprised today when I discovered how the rains had flooded Lekki and its environs. The whole place was transformed. Beautiful stone roads were transformed into kiddie pools where people had to take off their shoes and socks and roll up their trousers to wade through the water. There were places that cars could not get past without getting stuck. Eish, I could not believe this was happening in ‘almighty’ Lekki.
But so far so good and I am glad I am adapting well to my new environment. Let me know what you would love to learn about Nigeria and I will include that in my last update about my observations living here. Cheers.