Suffering and Smiling

Posted: June 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Some studies show that Nigerians are some of the happiest people in the world.

Hmmmmmmmm.

The last couple of weeks have been tough for the Nigerian people. Besides having to deal with the everyday frustrations of our society, which are too numerous for me to pen down right now; we’ve also had to deal with the reality that we are living in a country that is so mismanaged, our everyday safety might be in jeopardy.

Do I exaggerate?

Maybe…maybe not.

When 153 passengers boarded a flight on June 3rd, in Abuja, Nigeria, enroute Lagos, they were probably not thinking about plane audits, and their planes’ flight history, or the Nigerian aviation system.

On that flight, there were families, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers…

….aunts, uncles, grandmothers… children…too many little ones…ALL on one airplane.

And on that Sunday afternoon, of June 3rd 2012, that plane crashed into a residential area near its destination; the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos.

There were no survivors.

All 153 gone…including 30+ people on ground died.

When I share my experiences on this blog; “The Nigerian Experience”, they are usually light hearted and entertaining at best. They are experiences that make me surprised, smile or laugh. But when experiences in Nigeria turn fatal…

NO ONE is Suffering and Smiling.

So I’ve been thinking…A LOT.

Complaining…A LOT…a bit.

And honestly I don’t know what can change my country. I have no answers. Nigeria is like a child who has everything it needs “medically” to develop into an adult but is struggling inch by inch…bit by bit…

….To grow.

The Giant of Africa.

I won’t go into the specific details of my country and its mismanagement issues, nor the woes and frustrations of living here, I might just end up ranting…and that’s not cute.

But I will ask…when will enough truly be enough?

Is there hope?

There is ALWAYS hope when there is life.

No country is perfect. I’ve lived in a couple different countries, each country I loved more than the other…but I could tell you at least 3 reasons why you shouldn’t live in each of those countries. So, I know no country is perfect.

But when Nigerians, a country of 150+ million inhabitants are known to be suffering and smiling…year after year??….

I can mandate that change is ESSENTIAL for my country Nigeria.

Somethings’ DEFINITELY got to give…

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Oh goodness…its been too long! I’m more or less officially part of the everyday Lagos grind. I’m ashamed to say, but I have a backlog of experiences to share with you all. However…umm…well no excuses. I should have updated long ago. Well, its never too late 🙂 Let me tell you about what happened to me about four weeks ago…Reeewwiinnddddd!

I woke up this morning and I could have sworn it was going to be a regular mundane day. Little did I know that at some point in the day I would end up in the middle of a major Lagos road with my skirt ripped in half. Crazy! I know…

BUT…before you jump to conclusions. Please. Let me explain.

You see, public transportation(PT) in Lagos isn’t easy at alllll. There are many intrusive, challenges that keep you from enjoying PT. For me, in the states, PT was a time for me to daydream or catch up on my reading, or just simply enjoy the bus ride. But here in Lagos, the last thing you will be doing is daydreaming while you are being transported on a “danfo” bus.  There are many situations you may face; Be it the body odour, a bus fight, or having to yell out the name of your bus stop to the driver(sometimes even jump out of the moving bus); for taxis…well I’ll save my ‘Taxi tales’ for another blog post. Basically, PT in Lagos is not a “delighful” experience.

Back to my story.

So, when I woke up this morning deciding whether to take a bus or a cab to my destination, I decided to embrace my new surroundings (and save my money) by taking a bus. So two buses later and I’m flying through the streets of Lagos on an ‘okada ‘(a motor bike for PT) on my way to my final destination. 

Now on this very day, I’m wearing a pretty snug skirt that’s very much not-so-bike friendly. In fact when I boarded theokadaI had to tug and wiggle my skirt to sit comfortably on the bike seat.  Upon reaching my destination, I prepare myself to get off the bike and as I adjust my skirt, a little voice in my head says, “your skirt is going to rip, hike up your skirt before you swing your leg over”. I’m thinking…uhh no way…any higher and I’ll be exposing my undies to the whole world. So I ignore the little voice and swing my leg over the seat to get off the okada, and right before my foot hits the ground….

WOOOOOSSHHH….

Yes, you guessed right; it’s the feeling of the Lagos cool breeze all along my thighs and my tooshy!  I reach back to grab my skirt and what do I feel?  MY PANTIES! My skirt slit had split all the way up to my waist.  I immediately take cover behind a car, not sure who has or who hasn’t seen me. As I stand there in shame and embarrassment, tears spring to my eyes and I swear I’m about to start balling like a baby when I hear…

“Aunti! where u dey go? (“Where are you going?”). I look up and it’s my okada driver.

I give him a death stare and reply, “You no see my skirt don tear? “(Don’t you see my skirt has torn?)
“Ah! I no see oh. En you fi go market and buy new skirt.” (Oh no! I didn’t see it. You can go to the market and buy a new skirt).

Just then, my emotions go from panic and sadness to just plain anger.

“Na you tear am, na your fault!” I growl at the okada man (You tore it! It’s your fault!”).
“No be me oh! You no know say skirt dey tear like dat” (I didn’t tear your skirt. That’s what happens to skirts).
I’m aware it wasn’t his fault that my skirt was quite snug on my hips…(I really should blame it on my consumption of too much fried plantains…). However, I was embarrassed and simply grasping for straws.

Soon I notice a red cab attempting to park next to me, so I immediately flag the car down. As he pulls up to me I ask the cab driver if he can take me to the nearby market. 500 Naira charge he says. Usually, I have a rule. When I am quoted a price on almost anything in Nigeria, I cut the price in half and minus 100 naira. After overpaying for too many items, I learned that bargaining is always almost necessary at places you can bargain. However, today was different. My undies were hanging out for the whole of Lagos to see, all I wanted to do was get into that cab. I nod my head frantically and as I am about to get into the car I hear a voice say,

“My Monie??” (Where is my money?”)

It was the okada man, and despite my dilemma he wasn’t leaving without getting paid. Usually, most okada men launch away in search of their next passenger once you have paid them. So this explains why he was still hanging around there. I grudgingly pass him his 100 naira and practically run into the back seat of the cab.

As the cab drives down the street, my mind is racing.

How will I get out of the car to start shopping for a new skirt? Either way my undies will be in free view for the whole of the market place to see.

I run through a bunch of scenarios and just as I am cracking my brain, what do I see?

The beauty that IS: (game show winning music) A sewing machine!…with a lone man operating it. He was like my guardian angle awaiting to save me from my dilemma.

“Abeg Sir Stop!” (Sir, Please stop), I say to the Taxi man. “I need that man to sew my skirt,” I cried out.

“Your skirt???”

“Yes sir. E don tear.” (Yes sir, my skirt is torn)

“Ah! Sorry oh. But dat man no fit sew am for you. Dat na industrial machine hin dey use”. (He can’t sew it for you, that’s an industrial machine)

Hmmmm…so I have a taxi driver…turned seamstress expert.

He drives past the sewing machine.

*Side note*- How great is Lagos for stuff like this?? How many countries do you see a drive by “tailor”. And mind you, the amending would almost always be dirt cheap; about 50 to 100 Naira. Less than a dollar!

Okay, back to my story…

So the taxi driver turns onto a different street. And almost immediately, I see another man with a sewing machine sitting by the sidewalk in front of a makeshift salon. I tell the cab driver to stop again, but he tries to object again claiming that the man is sewing a bag and he might not be able to sew my skirt. At this point I’m like, does this taxi driver not want me to get my skirt fixed??? However, this time I insist that he stop in front of the tailor, so he parks in front of the salon.

“Okay sister. Go and meet him.”

“Oga I can’t. My skirt is torn,” I thought he understood my dilemma.

“So what do you want me to do”

“Ennn….okay sir, do you think you can take the skirt to him to sew?”

Without replying my question, the taxi driver goes to the salon. I can’t hear what he is telling the gentlemen outside (there were no women at the salon, only men outside the salon and my prospective tailor). Soon the taxi driver comes back with a wrapper aka ankara cloth and tells me, “remove your skirt and use this”. Now because we are in a very busy commercial street and I’m desperate for a solution, I don’t object, I mean how else was I going to get the skirt to the tailor. Still seated in the taxi, with the taxi driver a good distance away, I squeeze out of the skirt (the skirt was still snugly intact around my waist), and tie the wrapper around my bottom. Within 10 minutes my skirt is amended and paid for by the taxi (he paid for it without my knowledge, while I was squeezing my bottom half into my newly amended skirt. I thanked him profusely and we were on our way back to my former destination in no time.

So all my fellow Naija okada-daring-women…Don’t wear a skirt if you want to board an okada! In fact, the money I was trying to save by taking a danfo and an okada instead of a taxi went straight into the pockets of my helpful taxi guy. But at that point I really didn’t care. I was just so grateful that my skirt was in one piece.

Ironically, when I finally met with the person I was meeting with she commented on how great my outfit was. If only she had seen me 30 mins ago…

Oh! And can you believe from the time my skirt tore to me getting it back in one piece and making it to my meeting it took only 30 minutes?  Yup. Here’s to more quick solutions in good ol Lagos!

I will confess I’ve ridden okadas while wearing a skirt more than once since my ordeal…what can I say…I enjoy the lagos breeze whipping around me while I ride on an okada…I can hear my Naija people saying…which kind whipping, u think say okada na Harley Davidson???

*Big Smile* Thanks for reading!! Sayonara my blog readers!!

Driving Encounters in Lagos

Posted: March 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

THINGS YOU WILL MOST LIKELY ENCOUNTER WHEN DRIVING IN LAGOS

In my last post, I promised to share specifics on my driving experience in Lagos. My only experience of driving in Nigeria has been driving in Lagos, but I’m sure it may apply to some other Naija cities.

FORGET YOUR BRAKE…

Forget your brake because, your horn is your best friend (ok well…don’t forget your brake, but you get the point). And make sure your car horn is nice and loud. It amazes me that in Narobi, Kenya it’s considered rude to use your car horn at a fellow driver. In Nigeria, be heard or be SMASHED. It will save you and your car. I recently had the opportunity of driving a car that the horn volume level was low/muffled. I promise you, it was a very frustrating experience.

LANE STRADDLING-

Lagos drivers don’t stay in one lane when they drive. So I call it “Lane straddling”. Don’t be fooled that the people driving are just trying to switch lanes. You may witness cars straddling the line that separates lanes, the whole stretch of third mainland bridge.

Therefore in cases like this, I am passionate about giving fellow drivers advice on their bad driving habits. If after blasting my horn they don’t adhere to the simple traffic rule of “stay in one lane”, I will happily drive by such drivers and yell out “Stay in your lane!”, although it’s usually quite ineffective.

DANFO BATTLES-

I think I have to save this experience for a different post. Be aware that you WILL get in a danfo altercation.

It will happen.

Best scenario? You will go away with your car unharmed only having lost your voice from a screaming match with the “danfo driver” or “danfo conductor”. Worst scenario? Your car will be dented and the “danfo” driver would have sped off failing to account for their crime.

PEDISTRIAN UPRISING-

With close to 8 million inhabitants, Lagos is the most populous city in Nigeria. As a driver, you will compete with pedestrians for road space. The sidewalks are not big enough to contain the amount of people that navigate by foot through the streets of Lagos. Besides, sometimes, random cars choose to park on Lagos sidewalks, especially in busy zones, so pedestrians may be forced to maneuver themselves besides moving cars on the roads. This is definitely dangerous for pedestrians but as a driver, especially when I first began…I was so sure I would run over an unsuspecting pedestrians’ feet. Which is why I’m an avid believer in the use of a car horn to get them out of the way, even though I absolutely hate it when cars horn at me when I’m walking on the streets of Lagos.  Hypocrite much?

CHAUVINISTIC DRIVING ADVICE-

If you are female, driving in the streets of Lagos, you will often have men determine that your driving ability is below average. You may hear statements like;

“E mo motto wa! E lo gba driver jare!” (You don’t know how to drive! Go get yourself a driver!).

Or if you are young lady, fellow drivers, sometimes even pedestrians will make comments such as, “Omo keke re, ta lo fun yin ni moto” (Young girl, who gave you the car you are driving?)

OKADAS-

Our infamous okadas aka Commercial  Motorbikes.  After standstill traffic in Lagos, Okadas are your worst enemies when it comes to Lagos driving. Wondering how you got that random scratch on the body of your car?? It was most likely an Okada’s job. Also, they drive like they and their passengers have 7 lives.  For some Lagosians, okadas are timesavers and for others they are a no go area. No joke…unfortunately, I’ve seen some ghastly accidents caused by okadas.

INCONCLUSIVE DIRECTIONS-

After getting lost soo many times in Lagos, I‘ve concluded that I NEED a reliable GPS system in Lagos. Many people have sworn to me that Google maps works fine here but I’m yet to try it out. My smart phone doesn’t support that app. So for now, I will be relying on getting my directions from fellow  Lagosians on the streets. The problem is that, my sister and I noticed that most of the time the directions are…well…rather inconclusive. Let me draw out a scenario;

“E ka son sa” (Good afternoon sir!) (A nice greeting is necessary, especially if you are young. If not you’ll be challenged with a “Can’t you greet [your elder]??”).

“E jo, ba wo ni mo ma de third mainland bridge?” (Good Afternoon, pls how do I get to third mainland bridge?)

“ahhhh O ji no” (oh no, It’s too far).

 “E ma worry, ki ni directions?” (it okay, pls what are the directions) .

And then it gets interesting:

“E ma ya bai . (“Turn like this”. He turns his hands in God only knows what direction).

“ E wa ya bai ”,(“Then turn like this”. His hand is pointing up. And I’m thinking…”Do I go left… right…straight…or back??)

I’ve hardly had someone give me directions on the road with them using the terms, “go left or go right”. So how do I maneuver my way around Lagos? Let’s just say 30 mins journeys have turned into 2+ hours journeys…due to bad directions…and my poor sense of direction.

RANDOM POLICE CHECKS-

“Aunty how weekend na? Show for your boys na”!

I talked a bit about this last week. Basically the police will stop different drivers…they pick them randomly…or so. There is major ‘profiling’ when it comes to how they select who to pull over. And then they’ll request that you reward them with money. Why…Don’t ask.

And last on my list but most certainly not least is TRAFFIC.  In fact you are sure to encounter this whenever your drive, unless you are only driving a 10 meters distance.

TRAFFIC.

TRAFFIC.

TRAFFIC.

Yes, that repetition was necessary.

I remember reading an article that asked people what their least favorite thing about living Lagos is, and 99.9% of the people said, Lagos Traffic. Lagos without traffic would be like…Nigeria with constant electricity.

BLISS.

Some people leave their house by 4am to get to their place of work by 8am. Some people leave their place of work by 5pm to get home by 9pm. Also, wrong turns can’t be afforded in Lagos. You might just end up in stand still traffic that will make you want to pull your hair out.

So there you have it guys. My list of things that you will encounter when driving in Lagos. Please note, this is only a summary. Lagos driving always promises to be eventful and “exciting”. So get your license, get in your car and enjoy the bumpy ride…and I mean that literarily.

“NIGERIAN FIRSTS”

Posted: February 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

I always have to answer to people in Nigeria.

They want to know, ”But why did you come back to Nigeria? I mean, why didn’t you just stay out there?”  I understand their bewilderment.

I mean, while thousands of Nigerians knock on the steel gates of the embassies of the U.S, UK,  Canadian, French, Ukrainian, Romanian…even far away Australia, I decided to return home to Nigeria! Did you know up to 100,000 Nigerians apply for just for a U.S. visa per year? Man! Nigerians want OUT.

But as for me, after living outside Nigeria for almost a decade, I longed to call my country home. I got tired of living in another man’s land while my country waited for me to possess my full citizenship rights. When I tell people in Nigeria this, I’m usually met with blank stares of “What’s she talking about? or vows taunting me that I will soon run back.

My first week in Nigeria I was well-pampered. There were a number of family celebrations that allowed me to see most of my extended family that I hadn’t seen in years.  It was great. Also, I didn’t experience much of the infamous power outages that we usually have in Lagos. Little did I know that NEPA aka PHCN  was giving us a record breaking 72+ hours of uninterrupted power supply as an incentive for people to go and pay their bills….

The first night that I slept without light in Nigeria was…let’s just say I really couldn’t sleep. It was World War 3 in my room! I battled those mosquitoes, like crazy. I was certain they were sent to me, to induct me into my life in Lagos. I can never forget that night.

When you move back to Nigeria, you will find that there are a number of ,lets call it, “FIRSTS” that you are bound to experience. Things that you’ll encounter and almost ask the people around you,

“Are you seeing this?” Does ANYONE else think this is just…a wee bit abnormal?”

Sadly, soon enough, you might come to accept it as somewhat normal.  Like the first time I drove in Nigeria. It was truly a memorable experience.  But first, a background on why driving in Nigeria was such a big deal for me.

You see, while studying in America, the furthest I got in U.S. Government Issued Identification was a U.S. State ID : I never got a drivers license.  I never learnt how to drive. Public Transportation was my main form of transportation and I also had good ol’ friends who would give me rides in their cars. Shout out to Dudubeauty!

So imagine my former roommates’ surprise when I tell her, “Guess what! I’m now driving in Nigeria!” She’s like, “You are What?” Thinking she can’t hear me because of the bad phone connection caused by our transcontinental phone call, I repeat myself, “I’m now driving in Nigeria! Can you hear me?!”,

“I heard you! But how are you driving in Lagos, when even people who have been mastering Houston driving for decades come back to Nigeria and don’t drive”. After sending her proof of me driving, (I had taken pictures of my great accomplishment), we did a happy dance over the phone.

Yes sireee! Lil’ ol me. I -drive -in -Lagos!

So, what made me conquer my fear of driving? And in Lag (Lagos) of all places; a place that competes with Italy for having the worst drivers ever?  Well I’ve come to the conclusion that I got the guts to drive in Lagos because, there are no rules when driving here! I’m scare of breaking rules. In America, if I make a left turn at the wrong time, its…

*winnnn yannn! winnn yann! winnnn yannnn!* (that’s a police siren).

Then I’d have to face the polite yet stern face of a police officer. US police do not play. They will get chhu! You drive crazy… and you get yourself a nice fat ticket, in extreme cases… a night in jail. Gulp! But in Naij (Nigeria)…there are virtually no driving rules. Well maybe I’m exaggerating, I’ll rephrase it. People drive like there are no rules! And if you do encounter the police, it usually involves the exchange of money from your hand to the police officers hand…for God only knows what. Oh, and you most likely will not get a receipt.  However, look on the bright side; the price tags of the “tickets”,or whatever you want to call the polices’ demands for money, are negotiable!

Also, don’t be afraid that the police will pull you over for bad driving in Nigeria LASTMAs‘. Be afraid of the police…period. Police checks are frequent and regular. You usually know where they are. They are supposed to be there as a way to ensure car inhabitants are well…you know what?…I have NO IDEA why they are there. Just be aware that  they may be in your neighbourhood or major roads and when they pull you over, they will most likely ask you the most dreaded question…

Police Check (courtsey: nigeriavillagesquare.com)

” Auntiiiii…ow weekeeennddd ?”

I’ll refrain from explaining what that question means. All this police talk might get me in trouble…hehe…If you are not Nigerian and don’t know what that question means, ask a Nigerian friend of yours. If you don’t have one, shame on you! There are too many Nigerians in the diaspora for you not to have at least one Nigerian friend.

All in all, it’s important for you to know what you are getting into before you decide to brave it and drive in Lag. So in my next post I will be posting the “Things you will most likely encounter while driving in Lagos”. This of course is all based on my driving experience in Lagos. *Big Smile*

Thanks for reading my first post and I’m glad you enjoyed it! Here’s to the Nigerian Life!

Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos (courtsey Nigerian masterweb daily news )

“Attention all passengers, please take your seats, we have not yet completed our landing process. The captain is still taxing. Please take your seats! I repeat please take your seats.” I chuckle to myself as I hear the German female flight attendant struggle to take control of the situation. Her pleas fall on deaf ears as my country men, male and female, young and old, snap off their seat belts and hurry to their feet; as though a prize awaits the first person to step their feet onto Lagos soil. In the midst of the chaos, I myself, choose to stay in my seat; not because I’m particularly an obedient person but I like to be the last one off the plane, to ensure I get a chance to rummage under the seats and make sure I have all my belongings with me. Virgin Atlantic is still owing me my first digital camera…sigh…but I digress.

“Good evening all”, a voice booms over the intercom, “this is your captain, Captain Kirsch. We are at our destination, however we do ask that you please stay in your seat as we are still taxing to our gate”.

The conversation that ensues next is one that I will never forget:

“Won so pe ka jo ko” (The pilot has said we should sit down).

“E ma da won lohun jare se won fe gbe mi de enu ono ile mi ni?” (Don’t listen to them! Does the pilot want to drop me right at the door of my house??!)

As I hear my neighbours dismiss the pilot’s instructions so flippantly I burst into a fit of laughter. Really? Really? So, for some reason this individual has determined she knows better than the pilot?! Wow.

At this point, the aisles are filling up with people struggling to take their bags from the over head cabin, with lone passengers like me still tightly tucked into our seats. “Sister, sister…please pass me that my bag, its in the cabinet on top of your seat na”. I realize I’m being prompted to get off my butt and join in the, do I dare say, madness.  I’m this close to retorting to the man, “Why can’t you follow instructions?” but instead I refrain myself from engaging with him and simply pretend as though I didn’t hear him. As people continue to struggle with their bags, and maneuver themselves into the stagnant queue, granted no one will be leaving the plane until doors of the plane are opened; I resolve that experiences like this are almost only unique to my people and that I am truly back in Nigeria.

I’ve been back to  Nigeria now for a number of months now. When I talk to friends, they always ask me, “How has your move back been?” I always feel like I’m “cheating” them when I say, “it’s fine” or “I’m learning”, or “Abeg…get me on the next plane out of here!”(I kid, I kid). Anyway, those answers all fall completely short of the truth about my back-to-naija experience. It’s not that easy to explain. The Nigerian experiences are…well…hmmmmm, what’s the word….(still thinking)….hmmm. They are SPECIAL. That’s the word.

Now, I’m not so new to the blogging world. Let’s just say I’ve made a number of attempts at putting my thoughts out in cyberspace. Unfortunately, the blogs died before they even began, with a once in a blue moon visit from….me…the author. I’ve had a lot of interesting experiences in my lifetime that I wish I had documented. It’s on this note that I say its time to officially execute an active blog in the world of blogosphere. No more waiting around. I’m more or less settled into my new (new being totally debatable) life in Nigeria and I am ready to narrate, my many daily special experiences. So, here it is “The Nigerian Experience”. Join me as I blog about the good, bad, exciting, sad, frustrating and best of all, hilarious experiences that I will share with you from my life in Nigeria.

*Disclaimer* In no way am I claiming this to be the daily experiences of ALL Nigerians, this is simply the experiences I, the author has had in Nigeria.

Video  —  Posted: February 9, 2012 in Uncategorized