My tales of life in Nigeria as a Nigerian expatriate continues…
I’m back! Did you miss me? Naturally….I expected you to.
Well, while my original intent was to continue in backtracking mode today, I’m heavily driven to first inform you about some goings-on today. While out to deposit money in a newly-opened bank account, I had to go through the body scanners first. Yes, only in Nigeria have I discovered that you are scanned by machines (like at the airports) prior to entering a bank. When I finally asked my friend “Sylvia” why, she reminded me of Nigeria’s most severe problems with armed robbers. Aaah. That’ll do it.
Well, those machines have never liked me. I beep on arrival. I beep as I go through. I am lucky I don’t beep on exit. I am consistently held back and double, sometimes triple-checked. What?? It’s ’cause I’m Black, isn’t it? hahaha…that joke holds no standing here. hehe
But yea, so I make my way in and try to figure out how things work here. The main guy at the front gives me a deposit slip, I go and fill it out and join a queue that looks like where most things happen. When it’s finally my turn, I’m pointed in a different direction to go join ANOTHER queue. Awesome. So I go there, and stand behind someone. This line takes forever and a day, only for me to discover that the way people understand queuing up here is different from how I do. The next person was called up, and was being helped…except it happened to be someone who was standing not behind the guy in front of me, but standing to the RIGHT of the guy. Ohh sweet lord. Then the security guy asks me later (as if I’m this clueless chick): “are you trying to make a deposit? Yes? ok…stand here.” He basically motions for me to stand to the right of the person in front of me. How could I have missed that, you ask? Goh-lly. So, that’s a funny lesson/experience for today. One I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.
Move on from there and I’m waiting at the car for Sylvia, who’d run off earlier to do some errands. While waiting, a street guard guy decides he wants to get to know a bit about me. He begins by asking me if Sylvia is my sister. Just for the sake of not encouraging a deep discussion with Monsieur “Friendly”, I answer in the affirmative. “Sure”. He mentions that when he first saw said lady, he initially thought she was white. Well, without thinking, I unwittingly encourage a discussion by adding a juicy tidbit: “well, she’s half-white.” Right then, I bit my lip. The floodgates opened. “Where’s her father from? And her mother? How about you? Are you really sisters or is she your cousin? Is she married? Ok, what tribe are you from?” Ooooooh my goodness. I begged internally for Sylvia to show up. And then….salvation. I spotted her a little ways away, but acted casually, like I hadn’t. Trust Monsieur friendly to point out to me: “she’s coming.” When I mentioned that I knew, he was surprised. But then he smiled, and duly noted to me: “Ah. You’re sharp oh.” Hahaha. THE best.
Now that I’m done with today’s events, let’s head into backtrack mode one more time. Ahhh, lots to tell, so little time. Ok, let’s start with little differences I’ve experienced thus far. To begin with, I’m easily tempted to ask about buying “gas” and the cost of it. Each time I do that, people do a double-hear (the listening aspect of “double-taking”). It’s like with my use of that little word, they know that truly, this chick is not from around these parts. People here are more inclined to complaining about fuel prices. Oops. Ok, another. When I complain about not being able to hear someone on the phone because I’m having terrible reception, again, people blink at me, trying to register what I’m really saying. When they finally make sense of the sentence, they say: “yeeessss. It’s the network. The network is really bad.” Hmm. Note to self: not reception, use “network”. Got it. Another: when I arrived, I assumed that tap water was only safe based on the part of town one lived in. Well, I live in a pretty nice area, so I was excited about gulping down some tap water. Yeeea, let’s just say that people had a GOOOOD laugh at my expense regarding that. All good naturedly of course. Boy, do I have a lot to learn. Another learning point is when I use my “OFF” [brand name] spray protection against mosquitoes – which I got from the States, people just asked me: “but why don’t you just flits your room??” Uhhhh…come again? “Flits it, nah. Flits.” Uhhh….still unclear. Then they explain. “You spray (sound: “flits”) your room with a bug repellent.” To which I casually reply: “Oh! Ok. I can do that when I go in.” Fits of laughter Whaat? What did I say? “You can never flits your room when you’re inside! It’s not good for you to breathe that thing na? You have to do it when you’re about to leave the room for at least an hour!” Oh.
Well. Folks, is there hope for me? ‘Course there is. 🙂 I will survive! lol. Let me leave you with one last thing I’ve noticed is quite common here. Sylvia will again be my scapegoat. When Nigerians greet each other, they do it all over the place. From the car, they spot an acquaintance a mile away (sharp, sharp eyes!) and they start waving frantically from that distance. As one gets closer, one says: “hello ma! How are you? How are the children? Well done oh.” Done. Greeting complete. Aaannnd, greeting tends to happen in the exact order I’ve just written it in. Too funny. Note: people don’t necessarily have to explain exactly how the children are doing. Indeed, you can trust that the answer to “how are the children” will almost always be “fine”. Love it. So, to be able to greet everyone, one’s eyes must be soo sharp! I’m truly impressed here. Sylvia will be driving, deftly avoiding hitting a guy on a motorbike, telling me a story, and still in the next second will either respond to a greeting or initiate one. And I may NEVER have seen the recipient ANYWHERE in my peripheral vision! How does she do it? And where do these friends/greeters suddenly appear from? It’s an amazing gift she has – and indeed, they all. Nigerians also look at each other. They look at you while you’re in the car, look at you as you walk, as you enter a place, as you leave. Now, they are not at all as bad as Bangladeshis in that regard, but man, we are lookers. And here I don’t mean in the other sense of that word. Lol. I have come to cope with people’s gazes by walking while looking at the ground. It has turned out to be a handy survival tool because in addition, you never know what you may want to avoid kicking against – especially if you’re a novice at gallivanting around here. As I am.
I think that’s plenty for you to digest. I am enjoying the sights and sounds here. Such a friendly, happy people. They keep you excited about each day, that’s for sure. I’m sure I’ll have more to share soon-erly so, again, hang tight.
The expat – signing out! xx