For those of you who love traveling, our adventures continue! (If you’re new to my blogbacks, go catch up – see archives).
Okay guys, this has to be done. Yes, let’s talk about driving – in Lagos. It’s a thing of wonder, I tell you. Headed out to a mall, I asked the driver (of the house I stayed in) to take me there. While he was driving, I had two options. I could either do what came naturally to me (being able to drive myself), which was to look at where he was going/the road before us, OR I could just decidedly look away, and keep myself busy in the back with my phone. In the end (and by “end” I mean in only a matter of minutes!) I decided it was best for my mental and emotional well-being to stay occupied with myself at back. Why, you ask? Hmm….where do I begin? Ok. Right at the beginning.
It takes me back to the day of my arrival here. I had actually arrived at night and a dear friend was driving, taking me from the airport down some major highways clear across town to the other end – to where I would be living. Folks, imagine with me a man driving at some serious speeds across a highway that has zero (!) lighting whatsoever, that has curves that show up whenever they want to, that has no clearly demarcated lanes, and that has cars that drive in any direction (right or left) they so please without so much as a blinking light on the side of their car to let you know what they’re considering doing. I was noticing all these happening in the blink of an eye. It was almost too much. In a funny way, for sure. And then, imagine with me the same man, who in his kind way decides that this is also a good time to do some “tour guiding” as we sail across town on said highway. Note that I use the word “sail” very loosely here. He starts pointing out to me the river on the right, “oh, and if you look faaaar, toward the front, in that distance, yes, yes, there in that dark side…where you see a few lights? Yes, that’s UNI LAG.” Ok. Guys, in your imagination journey with me so far, do you actually see me looking towards where he was pointing? Yes? Then you’re way off. You see, there is no way I was looking at what he was pointing at.Why? I chose life.
I made sure my eyes were on that road, because I felt sure something would happen that would ensure I’d have to scream his name, or ask for him to slow down, or…something! I don’t know…maybe a stray armadillo crossing the road? Something sha. I was…what’s the word? Nervous doesn’t do it justice. Ok, let me just say what’s on my heart. I was TERRIFIED. I kept myself looking calm by smiling of course. Heaven forbid that I show off my “newness”, having been in the country only a matter of hours. “Ah ah! Uche. Already struggling??” Lol. I didn’t want any talk like that. Not that he would do it. I would do it though…to myself. I do definitely tend to be harder on myself. 🙂 So I held on, kept smiling, and when he pointed out something, I’d do the pageant queen smile because, I mean, the gesture was nice of him. Then, I’d quickly glance (corner of my eye, mind you, and at the speed of light) at what he was pointing at. That way I’d have a most appropriate response. “Oh really? That place? It looks really big! Bigger than I thought it would. Oh? That’s where the president lives? How fancy.” And on it went.
I took it upon myself to periodically check on him – indirectly of course – by commenting on how crazy the driving is here, how there are no street lights, etc. Anything to get a response from him that would reassure me without giving my fears away. And it worked! The wonderful man said: “Uche….ah. Don’t worry yourself oh. Me, this is how I drive all over this Nigeria. If you don’t drive like this, you won’t get anywhere. And this is the best speed, the best way to avoid being stopped by the police.” Say what? Excuse me. Parallel universe here. The best speed to avoid….police? I should totally use that line in the States. See what people say. Hehe.
But all in all, the man got me home, as my Nigerians would say, in peace and not in pieces. To which my mind would reply: “yea, but barely.” Amen? 🙂 I’ve had to come to agree that there truly is a skill to it. In fact, the driver who took me to the mall (see the start of this blog post) and back also got me home in serious peace. He’s a calmer driver though, I have to admit. As you can see, the more I live here, I find that it’s the little things that make me fall for people now! Hmm. You got me there and back? It means you really love me. That’s just it oh. L-O-V-E.
Well, let me add one more thing to do with the driving (to the mall) situation. In this case, I actually noticed that there were nice, clear lanes on the way there. In fact, the paint job looked new and well done. Does that matter to Nigerians? Ok, maybe they think it’s nice to look at. Glad it exists, that sort of thing. For driving purposes, the road might as well had been all-gray asphalt. They wove in and out of lanes at will. I discovered then that the only way to know whether you can pass/overtake someone is apparently by honking loudly before and during – as you pass by. Ok that makes sense…except, how do then you separate that honking sound from the myriad other honking sounds occurring on the roads at the same time? And it’s scarier a thought when you realize that the mere fact that you have to honk to pass a car means that for most people, the side mirrors to their cars must be just for decoration. To end this section, as they will easily say in churches here, “may God help us in Jesus’ name.”
Church. That was quite an experience today. I found myself sitting right in-between a grandma to my left and another younger woman to my right (still much older than myself though). The guest speaker today spoke about living a life that moves us from the ordinary to the extraordinary. His sermon reminded me a bit about how prosperity speakers preach, although I wouldn’t put him wholly in that category because he provided balance. But there was a point in his sermon that made me laugh. He was speaking about the fact that no matter what we go through in life, our attitude is important. Interestingly, whenever he ended a section of his topic, he would do so in a triumphant note. For this section on attitudes, he ended with: “miracles, signs & wonders that will bring about rib-crrracking laughter will be your portion in Jesus’ name!” To which everyone always had a ready response. Some people did it even without paying attention to his message: “Aaamen!” As he was teaching, he said that whatever we’re going through, we should know that because He (Jesus) lives, we can….but before he finished his sentence, the lady to my right already felt that she knew what he was on about, so she finished it for him: “…face tomorrow.” Never mind that what he really ended up saying was something like: “…we can handle whatever comes our way.” Ok, because she’d finished his sentence for him, it seems like the song was at that point already ringing inside her heart, as it was now in mine. The difference between she and I, my friends? She started singing the song out. That’s right. SINGING it. In a deep Yoruba-accented voice. And she didn’t feel the need the stop. She went on with line two, line three…The woman completed the song! I was giggling in my internal organs! (that’s a skill I’ve had to learn here – to avoid looking odd when I actually just have to laugh!). But some of this stuff are just too too funny. Man. The woman sang it regardless of the presence of her husband next to her, the man on the podium busy speaking, people around her trying to hear the man, how deep her voice was, etc. Many things were just wrong about the setup. And yet it was downright funny! Good lord.
I loved the ending of the man’s message though. It gave me a giggle, though it was amen-worthy. Lol. He said, and I quote: “all your O-F-F (operations for the future) will be for productive enterprise this year in Jesus’ name.” And all God’s people there said a resounding “Amen”…while I was left pondering why in goodness Nigerians looove acronyms! Oh my word. This is the same man who earlier in the message had told us to speak to ourselves, to tell ourselves when we feel low that we are not down and out; that we are winners, we are just battling and conquering every P-H-D (Pull Him Down) syndrome.” Wow.
God must have a plan for Nigeria. A G-O-O-D plan. 🙂
Till next time, peeps.
The expat – signing out! xx