Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Guess Who's Back

I am back in Lagos, and not too much has changed about the place. I guess that has to do with the fact that I was only gone for 10 days. I have a new room that appears to be better than my last one. This room has windows that actually seal shut, and the TV has clear reception, so I am happy. It does lack the tabletop oven that was perfect for reheating the dining hall’s pizzas, but maybe I can get that fixed with a phone call or two. I am still pretty exhausted from my trip over, which was somewhat of an adventure.

As some people have noted, I tend to be a procrastinator, especially in the area of packing. Well this trip was no exception. All Sunday day, I thought about packing, but decided that Sunday night would be better suited to my avoiding work. I was fully aware that I was going to a concert Sunday night, but I thought that I would easily be home by 10:30 since the show ended at 10. Well, my prediction was very wrong. The concert was by the Houston Press, one of those uber-liberal, grass-root, blue collar, free-publications that promotes all things local. It turned a lot of the downtown restaurants, bars, and clubs into venues in which quite a number of local acts performed. It was a lot of fun, but it definitely did not end at 10. The performances ended at 10, but then the DJ exhibition started at one of the clubs soon thereafter. This turned out to be nothing short of a freakshow which was pretty awesome. The crowd was made up of hippies, druggies, gays, punk rockers, ravers, the seemingly normal, and the obviously not. There was an even a guy with a foot-long safety pin going through his nose and mouth (he had on orange platform shoes too). The point is, we ended up partying with these fools until one or two in the morning. It was well worth, besides I was able to witness a three way body shot by already scantily clad women. The music was great too. Eventually I got home and went to sleep, vowing to wake up and pack in the morning.

And I did. I woke up three hours later and started packing, and by 7:30AM I was 90% done and looking forward to my 8:00AM pick up. I may have forgotten to mention that I agreed to bring a bunch of stuff back for people, mainly meat for one of the expats and medicine for a Nigerian co-worker. The expat’s daughter lived in my apartment complex and she had put the package of meat together that I was supposed to take with me. So she calls me around 7:40 telling me she needs some help carrying the meat down. Turns out she has damn near 70 pounds of meat (69 pounds to be exact) that I am supposed to be taking with me. All this is in a duffle bag filled with little hot/cold packs stuffed with meat. The bag was heavy, so getting that down to my apartment brought me pretty close to my 8:00AM pick-up time. So I stuffed the rest of my stuff in my bag and got in the limo to the airport. The driver said only one thing when he saw my bags, “You must be going to Africa.”

I check in my 68 pound personal bag and the 69 pound bag of meat without any trouble (gotta love first class allowances) and head to my plane. I have no idea if it is legal to ship meat or prescription drugs, so I just listen for my name to be called on the loudspeaker, but nothing happens.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, except for the layover in Atlanta. Being passed out the entire trip to Atlanta, I forgot to set my watch one hour forward, which resulted in me being almost left by my plane. That time I DID get to hear my name over the loudspeaker. I realized this error maybe five minutes after ordering my food at TJI Fridays while on the phone with Tiffani. It went something like this:

Me: Well I will let you get back to work, I don’t want people to think you are goofing off
Tif: It’s pretty late in the day so it should be ok
Me: I guess so, it’s almost four right.
Tif: No, its almost five.
Me: [Looks at watch] Oh that’s right, its almost five to you, but I am in… (mind realizing that I am in Atlanta, therefore its almost 5)… wait, my flight is leaving now.
Tif: Oh
Me: Gotta go, talk to you later [click]

I tell the waiter to cancel my order, but it is obviously too late since the food is being brought to the table. So I pay for the food and get a to-go box then rush out the restaurant. It was 4:55PM when I heard them announce my name for my 5:10 flight, so I started running. It is always when you are late that your gate is at the very end of the hall, so I was running for a while. I literally was applauded by people as I approached the gate. Eventually I got to my seat and honestly did not see what the big deal was, I still had ten minutes to spare.

Stepping foot in Nigeria was met with less excitement and nervousness this time, but it still felt good walking off the plane. I got yelled at by a Nigerian guy because I was trying to steal his luggage cart (I did not think he was using it) but besides that the only worry was managing the 140lbs of luggage I had checked in. Luckily the ExxonMobil greeter got a cart and took care of everything. I ended up being the only one on the bus, so they turned the radio up loud and I could look out the window without any white people getting scared. I took some pictures and relaxed.

Back at the hotel I was treated like a celebrity. Those notes I wrote really did the trick, everyone was very nice to me. I got in at around 12:30 but waited a while to tell my job that I was in the area or else they might have asked me to come in. Instead, I fell asleep and did not wake up until five hours later.

P.S. They served leather again in the cafeteria. I forgot to mention this last time, but one of the delicacies here is Leather, as in skin from a cow. It tastes like nothing, which is much better than what I would have guessed it would taste like.

Monday, July 21, 2008

On White People

Comments are duly noted. I wrote some stuff but kept deleting it. In short, you guys are right.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

White People

[Written under the influence]

I just had a recent disturbing and confusing encounter with a white man. Less than four hours ago, I was in the airport returning from Lagos, Nigeria. But since that time, I agreed to meet up with some friends to celebrate my return. I met this guy from New Orleans, Matt I think, who has really left me in a confused state.

I was intending to come out for a beer or maybe two, but here I am recording the events several drinks later. Matt is a friend of a new coworker of mine name Lane. Lane is an ex-Army guy who evidently was awesome in Iraq. Matt was telling me all the heroic tales of Lane and how every member of Lane’s family was preposterously successful. In short, Matt was telling me to ride the coattails of Lane all the way to the top. I was enjoying the gossip and was truly impressed by Matt’s recounting of Lane’s accomplishments. But then the conversation changed.

‘Can I be perfectly blunt with you,’ asks Matt. Which automatically raised my alarm system. Very seldom does a white guy ask if he can be blunt, and then something good follows. But Matt ends up saying, ‘You know, I am just proud to see an African American doing what your doing, working for one of the best companies, ExxonMobil, and being successful.’ He went on to explain how where he comes from, New Orleans, you don’t see to many successful black folks. I told him that I took no offense to his bluntness and that I really appreciated the realness of his statement. For the next twenty minutes we talked about race, and honestly, this Matt fellow was the most understanding of white guy I had ever encountered. He attributed this to his sociology major, but the guy was on point. He recognized the double sided problem of black folks, the governmental and historical system that has and is working against them as well the need for black folks to step their game up. We went from supporting Barack Obama to agreeing the real problem with people was ignorance. A perfectly candid example was given by Matt, ‘If my mother would have wanted to marry a black man, my grandfather would have put a shotgun to his chest. If my sister wanted to marry a black guy, my parents would be pissed but would eventually get over it. And if my daughter (he has a three year old) wants to marry a black guy, I would just make sure he is a good Christian guy, and I would give my blessing.’ Matt said that this evolution is what gave him hope in the world.

Matt appeared to be the realest white guy I had ever met, and I let him know that. I told him that talking to him about race issues was similar to talking to most educated black folks about the issues, neither blaming things completely on society nor on black themselves. We were real close then. But then we went into real dangerous waters. He asked me if I had seen the news today, about how the NAACP had decided to bury the N-word. I told him I had not seen the news today, but that the NAACP ceremony had happened months ago. Regardless, he went on to ask me what I thought of the N-word. I told him that I don’t appreciate anyone using it in my presence, especially white people because they cannot excuse the implications of racism. Following the I-don’t-see-color line to the dot, Matt proclaimed that a word is a word. I had to remind him that a words have histories and memories, and he seemed to relent. We talked more about race and stuff and how he sympathized with the black man.

Matt by this point was drunk, and had ordered me perhaps my second round of drinks. He was telling me how good it was to talk to someone about these issues, and that he really did love me ‘bro’, and what not. I returned the sentiment, he had convinced me that he was a sincere guy. After a few words of general talk, we returned back to the N-word. He said, ‘I want to be completely honest. Whether you know this or not, white people use nigga all the time. What up my nigga, this. And what up my nigga, that. We don’t really see it as that big a deal’. Beginning to feel uncomfortable, but still bolstered by the strong foundation we had set, I took Matt’s statements at face value. He was simple telling me that white people make a joke of the n-word. That I thought of us as neither bad nor good. Good because they seemed to really be oblivious to the negative connotations of the word, and bad because they were oblivious to the negative connotations of the word. Matt in this explanation switched from the term ‘N-word’ to ‘nigga’. He asked me if it was ok if he used it when describing his situation. I told him, I personally have a thick skin to the term, and would not mind him using it only because I had decided he meant no libel by it.

That was a mistake. As he ordered more drinks and dived deeper into his New Orleans social group’s use of the word, he took to using the word in the present tense. ‘You know you my nigga’, he would say… quickly followed by, you know I don’t mean anything by it. I told him that normally I would take huge offense to it, but really the last twenty minutes of talking had convinced me that the word meant nothing more than a weird sensitivity to him. He certainly did not mean anything by it, so I told him ‘I’m your nigga, only if you are mine as well.’ To which he joyfully agreed. This was about the time where I thought I should leave, but Matt was on a role. After more conversation and perhaps one more drink, Matt ordered for two shots of Patron. I insisted that I pay, but he said, ‘I am paying for these, bitch.’ Now to be honest, I am not schooled on white boy protocols or drunken etiquette. As far as I have noticed, the most offensive the comment the better. So I took the ‘bitch’ statement in stride. After the Patron shots came, he went on a rant that included such comments as ‘you my nigga, and I’m your nigga too’. That was comment number one of white folks getting too familiar. Then seeming to test his limits came, ‘you my ugly black brother’ or something like that. It was only then that I came to the conclusion that he had buttered me up for just this moment. He had spewed his equality message, and social understanding just so he could feel familiar enough to insult me (without seeming to insult).

It was then that my memory reverted to 8th grade when a Chinese kid used the N-word in my presence. Honestly, I don’t remember the kid saying the word, or even the context in which he said it. What I remember was the reaction of another black kid, Freddrick Peterbark, when I told him the story. I told him that [Chinese kid] used the word, and I just walked away from him, convinced he was a jerk. Fred reprimanded me for not beating his ass, saying that was the right response to the slur. I remember being somewhat torn, because my natural reaction was to label the kid a jerk and move on, while the seeming black thing to do was whoop ass. So here I was again. I was convinced that this drunk white guy had descended into the meaningless realm of base insults, but did not feel any urge of violence towards him. Instead, the only thing I wanted from him was yet another drink. Before I had felt bad about his drink buying, (he had no job as far as I could tell) but after his pointless slurs, I insisted that he order more drinks. The beauty of drunks is that they don’t think straight. He ordered two more drinks, and I put mine on an empty table and walked off. That was what made me feel better.

But after I walked away, I had a whole bunch of questions. I do not feel that Matt was a closet racist, but rather that he felt some sort of latent desire to say the un-utter able. To speak the unspeakable, to break the rules of taboo. Here was a black guy telling him that he understood the black plight, and the temptation was too great to resist. He had to take it to the next level and say those things that only black folks or the truly accepted white’s can say. As a graduate of Morehouse College, I have come to terms with certain things. First, the word Nigga is embedded in the culture unfortunately, and also that non-blacks (even at Morehouse) would use the word in a non-controversial way. Matt wanted to ascend to that level of acceptance by testing these phrases out on me, but curiosity was not behind his request, not sincerity. As much as I hate the word, Nigga, I recognize the facts that it can be used by blacks and non-blacks alike as a word of brotherhood. This guy just wanted to use it, not with any meaning behind the word, as a test of his limits. This really has hurt my image of white folks. Here was a guy that truly seemed to sympathize with the struggle of blacks in New Orleans and around the country, but did not really understand his role. He thought that he could circumvent the history of black perception on words by just having sympathy with their current situation. To me that proved he was as ignorant (on race relations) as most other white folks I encounter.

Instead of getting violent, or argumentative, the best I could do was contribute to his high credit card bill for the night. Which made me feel like I was for sale. I essentially said, I will tolerate your belittlement as long as I am getting what I want from you. That seemed like the best course of action, but maybe I should have just told him off. He would have lost nothing then.

This whole situation made me miss Africa (Nigeria specifically), where this issue did not come into play so much. But it also made me think of how Nigeria and whites interact. It was essentially the same way as my situation at the bar. The western (white) companies come in, emphasize their understanding of the Nigerian situation, and then secretly practice superior sentiments. Nigerian get theirs by letting the whites think they are superior. They let the whites work twice as hard at the job, bring in twice the money for the investment, and at the same time let the white companies pay the vast majority of profits to the Nigerian people. Essentially, Nigeria puts up with the western superiority complex to maximize what it is that they want. But is that temporary surrender of respect too much? I don’t know.

What I do know is that the general white population is on notice. This Matt guy made me think that at least some of you understand, but that turned out to be a farce. Now my hope in a shared dream amongst all races is stuck, yet again, in the sand.


Leaving Lagos was a difficult process because it was quite the rude awakening. In order to get to the airport, we had to drive through the overwhelming poverty of mainland Lagos. The trash, the housing, the people reminded me that I had truly had a sheltered experience. What I witnessed on that trip was the real Nigeria.

Once we arrived at the airport, things got no better. The scene was just shy of chaos. Everybody was just so rude to one another. Customers yelling at airline employees, employees yelling at customers, police officers yelling at everyone, and nothing really getting done. Things turned sour to me when I was told that they had to weigh my bag. I knew my bag was heavy, so I was not surprised when they told me my bag was overweight. I was acting as a courier for a few people, so I was carrying other peoples items to deliver to folks back in the states. Those extra pounds were causing problems. I tried to take the heaviest item (a voltage converter) out and stuff it in my carry-on but that was denied because they said I could use the heavy electrical equipment as a weapon to ‘bash someone’s head’ with. So I did the best I could and stuffed a few pairs of pants in my carry on. This did not get me any closer to the legal weight limit, but they eventually felt sorry for me and gave me an exception to the rule. ExxonMobil had a local Nigerian travel expediter assisting me through this whole process, and I gave him a large tip for his help. Strangely he seemed torn when accepting the money, and for a second I think we both felt dirty for the instinct to reward kindness with cash. But he took it and sent me on my way. From the bag scale, I had to go to the bag scanner, which is a guy that looks through your stuff and asks you for money. Once again I paid up, because I am pretty sure my passing that inspection was directly related to the amount of my tips. One of these days I will learn to carry smaller bills because I am still forcing myself to shell out 1000 Naira bills, leaving me constantly strapped for cash. By the time I got through to the departure gate, I had 50 Naira, 10 Euros, and 10 Gulden left to my name.

The flight was supposed to leave at 11:45, but it was not until 12:45 that we left the gate (which proved to be very problematic for my one hour layover in Atlanta), and the delay was straight due to coonery. That is the only word that can describe the process that the airport took in getting people on board the plane. It was 11:30 and they had not even started boarding people, which confused me because both the plane and the passengers were present. The boarding was just as bad. I have never heard a pilot basically have to beg people to take a seat, or to turn off their cell phones in order for the plane to take off, but now I have. I tried to say hello to the Nigerian lady sitting next to me in business class, but she just ignored me. The only time she said something was sorry when she spilled her drink on me (luckily it was just water). Basically the trip back was not the greatest.

But on the plane I had time to reflect about Lagos. The more I thought about the place, the more depressed I felt, because it is a place that suffers unnecessarily. I don’t even have the energy to go into it. Most of what I would say has already been written. But here is a quickie. On that plane, I felt for Nigeria much how I felt for Michael Vick during his recent scandal. They both were blessed with wonderful resources and talent, but each has been ruined by self destructive tendencies. I can never try to unravel the choices that led Michael Vick to his stupid decisions, and I cannot grapple with the circumstances that have led to Nigeria’s ineptitude. Most unfortunate is the phrase that comes to mind.

Goodbye Lagos

Today is the last day of this trip to Nigeria, and I can’t begin to encapsulate how wonderful it has been. The amount of love and sincere well wishes given to me have made me feel proud yet unworthy. Proud of what a strong connection was formed over this short time in Lagos, yet humbled because I cannot match such a bountiful level of caring. I honestly feel closer to the people here in Lagos after this month than I do with most of my coworkers in Houston that I have known for a year. It’s such a beautiful thing, the spirit of these people.

This evening, I wrote out letters of appreciation to a few of the hotel staff that have been especially kind to me, and included a modest tip. One of these letters I gave to Patience and Angela, and the response was overwhelming. I gave the letter to Angela before going to dinner, telling her to wait until I left to open it. Turns out she and Patience opened it pretty quickly. Angela insisted that I come and talk to her and Patience after dinner, and in the meantime asked if I wanted dessert. I thought I had a seen ice cream being served to the guy at the next table (which I had been told was not served in the Hotel), so I asked Angela if I could have the ice cream. She said they did not have any but pleaded with me to let her go and get some, claiming that it was really simple. This girl walked from the hotel to another restaurant and came back with a huge waffle cone filled with ice cream. It was the best meal I have had in a long time. But the real treat came after dinner. Patience and Angela were so moved by the letter that I had wrote them that they were near tears. Patience told me that in the four years that she has worked here she has had customers treat her nice and treat her bad, but never had she received such a gift. She said that letter meant so much to her, that she never ever got the feeling that non-Nigerians really appreciated her, until this letter. Angela then proceeded to bless my family and myself many times over. It was really all very surreal. Many things were said, but the gist of it was. We each found much needed acceptance through each other. This whole scene was a little awkward because we were actually standing in the middle of a bar full of coworkers. The white coworkers just watched and listened in confusion, wondering what it was I could have done to make them so happy. This whole paragraph might be sort of bragging, but I am proud of myself. The truth is that they gave me much more than I gave them. That letter, although sincere, took nothing to write, and the money was something I can easily part with. But they gave me love that was so sincere and so fulfilling that it has left me in a daze.

My last day in the office was no different. There was so much love and well-wishing thrown my way that I felt uncomfortable. All I can say is the people have a beautiful spirit.

The hardest part of my job so far has been saying goodbye to people. In Qatar, I had a less intense but similar departure from another set of wonderful people. I will really miss this place and hope that I get to return. Luckily I have a plane ticket to return on July 29.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why Do We Have Underarm Hair?

I was in a meeting recently, and I was sitting next to a guy in a loose shirt who had his hands on top of his head. When I glanced over, I could not help but notice that I could see straight through his sleeve to his armpit. Surprisingly, I was not greeted by the usual tuft of hair, but by smoothly shaven skin. It even had a little sheen to it. First I was simply amused at the idea of a man shaving his underarms, but when you come to think about it, is not that bad a practice. This is particularly true in places, such as Nigeria, where deodorant is not widely used. Smooth skin is less sweaty and easier to clean than the hairy parts… at least that has been my experience. By the way, I actually like the smell of people here in Nigeria, everyone has their own smell.

The second thought that the shaved armpit provoked: why do we have underarm hair, it is such an unlikely place. I imagine that we were once really hairy creatures, but I guess clothing gradually reduced the need so we lost most of our hair. Hair on the head is naturally a keeper since a huge proportion of heat is lost through the head. Hair on our arms and legs can be thought of as remnants of things once necessary, but why the armpits. They are naturally warm places, yet they are places where the hair has yet to recede. So if you know why we have underarm hair, please tell me. I think I am going to google it, but perhaps someone has a good theory.

Web Guesses:

In fact these areas become hairy at puberty, that are part of our secondary sexual characteristics. When we were animals running around naked they were one of the ways of letting the opposite sex know we were old enough to be interested in breeding. Nature of course neither knows, nor cares that we now generally cover these signals with clothes, making them fairly superfluous.

Actually it was originally used to absorb and keep body odor on you because believe it or not, body odor used to be used to *attract* members of the opposite sex. I wonder why we try so hard to hide it now?

The sweat we produce all over our body is water based, except in our hairy places where it is oil based. Water based sweat is made to evaporate and keep us cool, oil based sweat is meant to stick around and make us smell funky! The hairs hold on to this perfume for longer than bare skin would. It's only the waste products of the bacteria that eat the sweat that gives you B.O.

It is believed that the functions of pubic hair include the dissemination of pheromones and protection from the friction of sexual intercourse. Natural selection may also have sustained it because it can show a potential sexual partner that the other person is sexually mature and can reproduce. Pubic hair and the growth between the tops of the legs and the buttocks, like under arm hair, helps to lubricate the areas, making movement smoother and more comfortable.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Just boiling below the surface of my experiences here was the suppressed truth about this place: the problem with Nigeria is Nigerians. Please don’t hang me for heresy before I get the chance to defend myself. I have grown to love this country and its people, but it is obvious from the moment I stepped off the plane into that mildew saturated airport that this country has some serious issues.

Today at lunch, I had an important and real conversation with Ladun, my coworker, and a man I had never met before, both Nigerian. I asked them if they had been keeping up with the issues developing in Zimbabwe and in Sudan, and when they said they had not, I briefed them on the presidential woes of both countries. This opened up a floodgate of opinions, not about these countries and their problems, but about Nigeria and its problems. Corruption, laziness, unfathomable geed, petty vindictiveness all were detested with such sincerity by my lunch guests. All of these evils were spoken of as if they had already won, that the country was firm in their grasp and nothing could shake it out. Bluntly, Ladun explained that it is the people, it is the mindset. This I thought I knew, but her interpretation of the Nigerian situation made me realize that I only scratched the surface.

One example: In America, you may have a police officer, and he may not be paid well by American standards. But chances are, that police officer will do his job with pride, be committed to helping others, and generally exhibit integrity. Here in Nigeria, there will always be one officer that ruins everything from everyone. The government will give the chief officer money for uniforms or supplies. Instead of siphoning off parts of that money, or collecting on the interest of the funds over time, the officer will take all of the money and cover his trail with lies.

Naturally, this is a worse case scenario, but in the newspapers and in conversation with people here, it is obvious that it happens on a grand scale with alarming frequency. This country is extremely rich people, yet no one sees the money. When a society produces government leaders that have no issue at stealing billions of dollars from impoverished people, that is a problem. I tried to argue that corruption is everywhere, even in the US, but they made the true point that other country’s corruption cannot even approach that of Nigeria’s. She said if a politician used 20% of a budget on himself and did something for the community with the rest, the people would praise the man. They would hardly care that he lived in a big house or drove 15 cars. But the situation here is that the official will use 75% on himself, 20% on friends, and 5% on improvements.

But the worse was yet to come. Ladun brought it home to our workplace. Mobil Producing Nigeria, 55% (at the minimum) owned by Nigeria, the rest by ExxonMobil is not immune. “I am glad I am on a project that has more whites than blacks,” says Ladun, “otherwise things would not get done.” I damn near choked on my water hearing that. My instincts of labeling this as self hatred were overcame by the fact that she was probably right. Accounting for the facts that Americans are generally workaholics, and that there are certainly highly qualified and highly capable Nigerians, the statement still rings true. In the month that I am here, I have noticed that westerners (I refuse to use the term whites) essentially run this place. And that the areas that are not ran by westerners are pretty bad. The gentleman who sat relatively quiet excused himself to leave, but before he left, he offered one last piece of advice. “We need to import our leaders. We import everything else we can’t make, from cars to refrigerators, we should do the same with leaders.” The words that stuck out were “can’t make”. When you feel you cannot make the leaders that can grow your nation, the society is failing. Their harsh criticism of their people was not borne out of contempt, but of disappointment. Their people have squandered so much and as a result, morale is terribly low. It was like Ladun’s feelings for her people mirrored my feelings of my people. The situation of blacks in America is horrendous and no matter how much you take into account the forces acting against us, our own selves are our biggest deterrent.

White supremacists need not rejoice at the admission that we (Africans and the diaspora) are suffering from major internal failings. This internal bleeding are symptoms of gross violations inflicted upon us by our fair skinned brethren. The vice grip of the West on Africa was not slackened until the last century precluding any periods of growth that was our due. The same story applies to brown people world-wide.

People of Africa and its legacy are trauma victims that have been widely unattended. We must not be blinded by the pride of the defeated. And yes, we lost, we did not know that we were fighting and they certainly did not fight fair, but we lost. We need help to get back on our feet. If we can help ourselves, lets do so, but if not, take the help wherever it is offered… even if it comes from our attackers. When we recover, we will awaken to a world molded to shape by those that conquered us. Getting off point now…

Nigeria, really Africa and its Diaspora, must grow, and it will take time. We have been stunted, but only temporarily. But the first step is to recognize that things must change. We must set our course on the right bearing.


The rich American is broke, in Africa. Last Thursday morning I borrowed a 12000 Naira (100 USD) from my boss to get me through the rest of the week. By early Friday morning it was gone. The reason I have to borrow money instead of just using my own, is that I have no access to funds here. My Corporate Card is off limits because the company bans its use in Nigeria, my ATM card won’t work here because my bank will assume some sort of fraud scam is going on, so really the only funds I have is the cash that I brought with me. Everyone told me that this was the case, but they grossly underestimated how much I would need. All the coworkers I talked to before coming said that I would be hard pressed to spend 500 USD. The meals are free, your hotel is covered, the only time you spend money is if you want to eat somewhere besides the hotel. So I brought 500 bucks with me.

What they left out of their explanation is that they never leave the hotel and have fun. Fun here is expensive, because they price the troublemakers out. So all the partying and having fun let me run through my 500 in four weeks, leaving me forced to borrow money from the bossman on Thursday morning. He had offered to let me borrow money before, so it was no big deal. I had big plans of not spending the vast majority of those funds and giving most of it to the staff of the hotel in tips.

But then Kunle called, asking if I wanted to go out with him and some Chevron folks for dinner and maybe a drink or two. Thinking Dinner was within the budget, I gladly agree. It turned out that the little dinner was actually a big going away party for one of the Chevron guys. When the drinks and bottles were ordered without any regard of keeping track of who got what, I knew this was not going to be a cheap night. Dinner was a lot of fun, and really tasty, but the bill came to about 6000 Naira each or about 50 USD. It was a good time so I was not too upset at having spent that much money. But they weren’t done. Wes, the coordinator of the event, as well as the driver of Kunle and myself was not satisfied. He managed to get the group of about 12 people to agree to continue the party at the lounge Number 10. His most convincing argument being that the leftover money from dinner could buy us a bottle at the bar. Everyone was won over. Wes’ girlfriend Iji (a beautiful Nigerian woman) even agreed to invite some of her friends at my request, so it seemed like a win-win situation.

At Number 10, I split the night into a healthy good time, and belligerence. The healthy good time consisted of the ‘free’ bottle of absolute being split amongst everyone, and Iji introducing me and Kunle to her friends Joy and Cynthia. Joy showed up drunk and belligerent, but was a lot of fun, and Cynthia was a self-employed “model”. When Cynthia said the word Model, she flared her eyes and made a face that produced an instantaneous and unintentional ‘Ah!’ of fright from me. I had to apologize profusely for that. But they were nice girls and we were all pretty tipsy and had not spent a dime. Then Wes orders about 12 shots of tequila. Turns out Wes is an alcoholic… and none of his friends keep him in check. Eventually those shots get consumed, although I suspect mostly by Wes because the majority of folks were at their limits by then. Wes then pulls the waiter over and starts to order another bottle of Absolut. I immediately intervene telling him that it was a terrible idea to do such a thing, but you can’t keep an alcoholic from his drank. Besides, his friends were not protesting it all making me seem like that party pooper. I relented and the 80 or 90 USD bottle was ordered. Thus begins the debauchery stage. The older folks and the sane headed home, and those that did not mind acting the drunken fool in a near-empty club stayed. The hours pass, and it seems the staff is getting ready for us to get the hell out, but not before Wes gets in another round of tequila. I just take a seat, note that it is three in the morning, we have glasses full of undrunk alcohol on the table (although a surprising amount of that second bottle was consumed somehow), and brace myself for the tab. I secretly hope that Wes is so drunk that he volunteers to pay for everything (which would be appropriate), but the talks of splits begin. NOW all of a sudden people start paying attention to what Wes ordered. Protests are futile at this point and the calculations begin. I hear numbers like 8000 Naira, and 9000 Naira being tossed out, but in the end it comes to a comparably reasonable 6000 Naira a head. Deciding not to be ‘that guy’ I hand over my cash and laugh about spending 100 bucks in one night.

It was an amazing time and worth a hundred bucks, but it was not worth my last hundred bucks. Now I am going to have to ask the boss for another hundred and face his inquiries about what happened to the last loan. That Friday was rough; on three hours of sleep, I was woken by a call from Cynthia making sure I was awake for work. Unfortunately I was. I got a text from Kunle asking if I wanted to go out again, to which I replied with an adamant no. I was going to sit my butt in my room all weekend and not spend a dime.

Monday, July 14, 2008


These posts about legless bums and life being random are painting me in a bad light. People aren’t getting to see my puppy dog side. Really I am a giant soft belly. I cry in movies, I give to those in need, I want to save the world, I go gooey for kids and puppies. Is that enough to convince you? I really just think I am the ultimate optimist at times. I can’t feel sorry for someone if I think they still have a pretty good life. It just so happens that I think everyone has a pretty good life.

I had a very meaningful dream once, brought on by a book, and in the dream I was confined to a tree. I was stuck in the trunk of the tree, and the only movement that I had was being able to look up through the trunk of the tree and see the sky. Somehow I was able to stay alive, but I was miserable. I was in pain, I could not move, I was alone. But then I calmed down and looked to the sky, and a bird flew by. That bird eased my pain and fear, because it let me realize I was not alone. From that point on, I would look to the sky. Sometimes I would see a shooting star, other times clouds, birds, insects, etc. And soon enough, I was at peace. Not happy being stuck in the tree but at peace. That’s when I woke up.

That dream captured a belief that had not previously solidified. We can overcome the greatest of obstacles if our minds are in the right place. Learning to appreciate the smallest of things can get you through the biggest of trials.

For the record: If I ever get stuck in a tree… someone shoot me, that would really suck.

Life Makes No Promises

My brief existence has led me to few conclusions, but here is one: life makes no promises. Life never promised to be fair; it never said it would make you happy; or that you would be successful; or that you if you do right, you will be blessed; likewise, it never insists that you be miserable, or poor, or a failure. Life takes no accountability, it gives and takes without consideration for those effected. Life simply is.

I have been of this opinion for a long time, but only recently has it taken a forefront in my mind. I finished a book entitled The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, about the struggle of survival. This book, teamed with my surroundings of poverty and struggle, made me remember that life makes no promises. We see it everyday, even if we choose to ignore it. The injustices in life, which make us ask why would things be allowed to be this way? Or maybe the person who tries so hard, but just can’t make it, why? Then there are those that achieve so effortlessly. Or worse, those that waste what is so precious to others. As frustrating as it is to have nothing to blame, or to celebrate, it ultimately provides understanding.

It provides an understanding and a responsibility. Understanding that nothing was ever promised to you gives you a choice. You can realize everything you have and see a blessing, or consider everything you do not have and perceive a curse. That choice is largely influenced by the cards you have been dealt in life, but for myself and those that I have known in life, our cards are unquestionably a blessing. We therefore have the responsibility to share what we have with others. When God, or fate, or chance decided my path, or simply the circumstances of my birth, I had done nothing to have deserved my good fortune. Similarly, Youssef (the poor Iraqi boy who had his face set on fire) did not deserve the pain and the trauma that will likely scar the rest of his body and mind for the rest of his life. So why must we all behave like we are owed what we have. It is in the best interest of us all to even out life’s excesses and shortcomings.

This seemingly secular thought actually arrives at the same conclusions as most religious teachings. Be grateful, no matter what the situation; be generous when you can give what others need; be forgiving, for you never know the situation of another.

But you pay the price in sympathy. That emotion largely originates from the belief that someone does not deserve the fate given to them. I have never pretended to know why things happen to people, whether for good or bad. The question why is just as appropriate as why not? Both are equally pointless. Life (you can substitute God for life if it suits your tastes) decided an action was to take place; all you can do is help them through the bad and help them appreciate the good.

I did a lot of thinking as a kid, and one of the thoughts was… why were some kids born in Africa (it was one place to me back then) with hunger and disease, and I in America with food and fun? Why was I able to go to church and know Jesus when some kids in the Amazon had never, and might never, see a Bible? I used to come up with all kinds of possibilities. God knew that some kids would be bad, so he stuck them in the crappy places. Or perhaps, God knew some people needed more help to be good so he put them close to church. Or even, you were bad in a previous life and that decided things. But really, the answer that stuck was, nobody (human at least) knows why.

Take things as they are and act accordingly.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Snippets... Mo Fiya

So there is one consistent facet of a night out on the town in Lagos, and that is the legless bums on roll-carts. Picture Eddie Murphy in trading places, if you can recall, and that’s pretty much it. Now make him dirty, skinny, and just very pitiful looking. My first night out I was intrigued by the man’s existence but that was about it. At the second place we went to that same night, I saw what I thought was the same man, and thought, “wow, for someone with no legs, he sure get’s around town.” Later I realized that there are many legless cart-men rolling through the streets of Lagos. But it was not until this past weekend that I began to ask myself why I feel so ambivalent towards them. After the Karaoke bar, a bum literally hung on to the car for probably a quarter mile, begging for money as we attempted to shake him off. I began to worry that his shirt was caught in the door or something, but he must have been just hanging on to the underside of the vehicle because he let go when he felt the effort was futile. After he drifted into the distance, I asked myself…why do I feel intrigue but no sympathy? I should feel sad or bad or something sympathetic for the homeless guy right? Whether I should or not, I don’t and that made me think I am as my sister reminds me ‘a cold-hearted bastard’. Except I don’t want to be that, so maybe there is some other explanation. Honestly though, I have never felt that particularly bad for almost anyone. I say things like ‘that sucks’ or ‘that’s unfortunate’ but rarely do I have real sympathy accompany the words. Generally real sympathy is saved for abuses to the young or helpless, or rape and murder, but everything else I feel you can sort of deal with. There are obstacles in life, and some people are born with more than others. But we all just have to make peace with them. If my little spot of Vitiligo takes over my whole face, I would just have to make peace with that, not feel terribly sorry for myself. Maybe it is pompous or ignorant to expect the same from everyone else, but I do. If your fat, get over it; if your ugly, get over it; if your short, get over it; if you have no legs, get over it…haha.

Before you solidify your contempt of my lack of sympathy, allow me to tell you about a recent discovery. Those bastards on the carts DO have legs. I saw one lift himself up with his hands, and there beneath his bended knees were gen-u-ine FEET! Granted, his legs and feet were in terrible shape, but they were there. You may be thinking that I just saw one faker, but I have been paying attention later. And I was able to witness one other faker, a big ole’ pinky toe was sticking out the back of the cart. So I have witnessed two separate fakers, the rest I could not get a read on. This leads me to a new theory. Maybe I felt no sympathy because I could subconsciously tell that the guy was a faker. Yes that’s it. These guys were just like Eddie Murphy in Trading Places, fakers, but with better acts.

The goodies from the admin came in today, and I am ecstatic. I have 6 cases of evaporated milk, one huge jug of powdered milk, a giant box of corn flakes, Pringles, and some digestive cookies. I am set for at least a week if Nigeria erupts in an unexpected civil war that traps me in the office! My boss is still grumpy because he did not get all that he ordered, further convincing him that Florence is making off with the remainder.

By the way, why don’t they have fresh milk in Nigeria, I can’t find it anywhere. I know they have cows, I have seen them. Why can’t they just squeeze a tit or two? And they don’t refrigerate the eggs here, I don’t know if that is okay or not. I asked my friend about it and she said asked “why would you refrigerate them, do you think they are going to hatch?” I did not have an answer for that. So if anyone knows, let me know, does refrigerating eggs make a difference?

At lunch the other day, folks were talking about their family members and Dimola started talking about her pregnant sister and how she was going to give birth soon. Ladun then asked if she was going to have the baby here. I assumed here meant Lagos. ‘No’, replied Dimola, ‘she is going to the states’. Evidently here meant Nigeria. Letting my naiveté shine brightly, I ask ‘why the states, does she not trust the hospitals here?’ To which they laugh, and move on with the conversation. Later I get them back to the topic. They explain that she is going to the states to have the baby so that the baby will be a US Citizen, and will be able to go in and out of the states without an issue. I do not approve. I never considered myself a Minuteman (meaning the guys who board the Mexican border not sexually… I mean, yes sexually as well) but in this instance I wanted to warn immigration that the lady had sinister plans for her US visit. I understand the ladies motives, but I also think that the US should probably have some sort of plan to prevent this from happening. Easier said than done I know, but worth a try.

At the hotel, I was talking to the desk clerk about how my mom traced our heritage on her side to Senegal. She said that she had hoped I was Nigerian. I told her perhaps that is where my Dad’s side came from, and she did not understand. She asked, ‘your dad is black also?’ When I told her yes, she said, ‘Your not American, you are African.’ For some reason that made me happy.

This past Friday, the all night outing Friday, we were quite the interesting group. When Ehi picked me up from my hotel room, it was hard to ignore the four young pretty women stuffed in his back seat. These girls had to be between 18 and 20, no older than that. Now I felt old as a 24and a ½ year old (taking it back to elementary school), so I know Ehi and his partner Obi had to feel old. I suspect Ehi and Obi are closing in on the big 30 so it was very fitting that towards the end of the night, R Kelly was brought up. Obi, who only referred to Kelly as Kells, was a staunch supporter of him getting free. Arguing, the girl is not pressing charges, why go to jail. But really his point was, in Nigeria, R. Kelly never would have gotten in trouble for that. Which made me ask, what is the legal age here in Nigeria? The responses varied from there are none, to there is one but no one besides lawmakers knows what it is. Jokingly I said that Obi would find out when he is being arrested. Obi laughed, but responded more cleverly with, I will tell them I am not a Negro (African American) I am Nigerian! And demand that they let me go.

I eat at the crappy hotel restaurant virtually every day for food. It’s easy, it’s free, and I don’t have to call for a cab to take me anywhere. Besides, I like talking with the staff and have become superficially close with some of them. One of whom is a server named Ben. Ben and I talk about sports and the books that I am reading and just general banter. So I thought it no big deal last Friday when Ben started talking to me about his weekend plans. He was describing how he was going to have fun on Saturday (his only day off) and that I should wish him a good weekend. So I say, ‘I wish you an excellent weekend Ben’. He says, no, no, and he lowers his voice and says something that I can’t understand. I ask him to repeat himself but he says he will tell me when he delivers my food to the room. So ten minutes later [I was actually on the phone arguing with my sister about diseases and their levels of badness at the time] he shows up with my food, and he says, ‘I was asking you to wish me a good weekend.’ Thinking the message was lost in translation, I tell him I don’t know what he means. So Ben says, ‘Money, I want money.’ To which I was so thrown off, that I just end up saying some mix of Ohhh, Of course, and Hold on. As I walk to my wallet, I start to get over the shock of his request, and realize that he is forcing a tip out of me. This was coupled by the realization that I only had 1000 Naira bills and a quickly diminishing supply of cash early on a Friday night. But I had been feeling bad about not having ‘tipped’ Ben the whole time I was here, so I relented and gave him the 1000 Naira. Needless to say, he was very pleased. Ever since then he has been EXTRA nice to me.

There is this one street in Lagos that is more entertaining than other’s to drive down. I call it Ho Row because the real name is hard to pronounce and not nearly as cool, but as the name implies, its where the prostitutes congregate. These aren’t the ‘classy’ meet you in the club type prostitutes, these are the street walkers, the come up to your car window type. What is so entertaining about this road is that there is only one institution of note once the sun goes down. The place is called, very fittingly, Why Not? And the pro’s are spaced symmetrically around this central hub. I have heard many of the expats joking about this place, because if you go in there, you know exactly what you are going for. But other than the blinking neon bulbs that spell out the name of the joint, the other entertainment comes in seeing the ho-wear. Some of these women might as well stand out there naked. I have seen a fishnet outfit people, not just the stockings, the whole outfit. Then there is the deep v-cut shirt where the nipples are purposefully not covered. Oh the sights and sounds of Lagos.

Tuesday I had a pleasant surprise. The tailor for my African outfits came to the office. I made the mistake of saying I wanted to have a traditional outfit so I can dress like everyone else on Friday’s (Traditional Day), and the ladies of the office have made it their goal to hook me up. They have brought in fabric to show me, helped me pick stuff out; pretty much everything but make the shirt. Luckily they have a tailor, and she was coming to the office to measure the girls for their outfits. They were going to get me measured at the same time but I had strict rules. Mostly, I could not speak, and I could only answer by Emeka (Emeka Chukwu was my given Igbo name). So nervous I walk to the outside of the building with them, and meet the seamstress. You try introducing yourself without speaking, I think I just managed to come off as rude. After the introduction I just went to a corner and tried to act like a shy person would. But soon they were calling Emeka and it was time to get measured. My officemate and official cultural integration expert, Ladun, stood by my side during the whole process in case I got stuck in a bind. Naturally the seamstress asked quite a few questions. Is this sleeve length ok? Is this pant length ok? How would you like this designed? To everything I just nodded, yes, yes, yes, to everything. I thought I was doing fine until Ladun bursts out laughing next to me. I look over and she can barely contain herself. The seamstress notices and gets suspicious, but Ladun says something that makes her calm down. After the measurements, I went back to my corner and then up to my office. I went up to my office having successfully faked being Nigerian. Can’t be paying no foreigner price for stuff, especially not the American foreigner price.

I have periods of suspicion around these Nigerians. I wonder if they are being nice just so they can dupe me into being kidnapped. I keep expecting one of them to say, why don’t we take a weekend trip to the Niger Delta… doesn’t that sound fun? So far I can’t pick up on any malice, but there has to be some catch to them being so nice. Right?

I felt really bad at lunch the other day. I was approaching fullness and giving up on finishing, when Ladun asked me, why don’t you finish all your food? All those times Mom said, ‘There are starving kids in Africa, and you can’t finish your food!’, came rushing back to me along with a flood of guilt. I was twenty feet from those starving kids and I had not finished half of my plate. Needless to say I gave my food another shot, but I have decided to request smaller portions from here on out. Must not waste. In a related point, I saw this man sitting on the side of the street making a feast out of the contents of a garbage bag, and it made me feel sad for the guy. Not sure why I felt so bad for the guy, I see bums in the US eating out of the garbage all the time, and I don’t feel to bad for them. But this guy got me. Maybe it was all the flies buzzing around his head. That last sentence was not meant to be funny, but it sort of was.

Escape from Justice

I never thought I would be a fugitive from the law, but yet I am. It all began one fateful Sunday with the simple idea of going to the movies. My friends John and Pauline, both native Nigerians, swung by my hotel and picked me up to head to the theater. After the hello’s I ask what time the movie is going to start, and with a slight amount of hesitation, he says Hancock starts at 4PM. Checking the time, I point out that it was now 3:50PM, but from the way John sped out of the lot, it was apparent that he knew we were running late.

Over the next five minutes, John weaves in and out of traffic, cuts through intersections, and honks his way past pedestrians. We are making excellent time. In fact, we eventually pull up to the avenue where the theater is located, but that’s where the fun stops. All of a sudden, a cop steps into the road and blocks our way. A second later, two more cops are on the other side of the car and they are yelling for John to roll the window down. John politely ignores them. This lasts for all of about 30 seconds, during which John explains that this is a bad situation. We have clearly been targeted for extortion he says, and that we probably don’t have enough money between us to pay them off.

So after realizing the officers were not relenting, John turns his attention to them, but still refusing to roll down the glass. After many gestures and accusatory exchanges, John relents and cracks the window. John yells at the cops, saying that he did nothing wrong and to stop harassing us. But the cops yell back that the road we had just turned from was a one way street. We all turn around, and sure enough, there was a dusty sign with an arrow going in the opposite direction from which we came. As having been on this road yesterday, both me and John realized that between then and now, this road had become a one way. We certainly were not the only ones ignoring or not noticing this change, but we were the unlucky ones to get pulled over for it.

John becomes instantly more concerned once he realizes that they have him for an offense. He turns to us and tells us that they could charge him 50,000 Naira under the new traffic enforcement law, and that if we did not have that, we were screwed. Unfortunately we were all cash-strapped. Looking straight ahead, John proceeds to say under his breath, “I am going to have to do something crazy, are you okay with that?” Slightly shocked, I don’t say anything. Again John asks, “I am going to do something crazy, are you okay with that?” My adrenaline level kicks up a notch, and I take a look at the group of officers surrounding the cars, and notice that they are without their trademark AK-47’s. In the meantime, Pauline gives her consent. Reluctantly, I say “go for it.” John tells us to get ready, and then he puts the pedal to the metal. Next thing I know, we are speeding away from the side of the road, the cop in front and the cop on the right side are jumping out the way, and the cop on the left side is swinging at the side of the car with his baton. But it’s too late we are creating our own lane in traffic and speeding away. I fight the instinct to duck deep into the backseat, and instead look back through the window, to see our former captors losing ground in their chase after us.

Celebration lasted only about 20 seconds, because we soon realized we were heading in the opposite direction of the theatre. Somehow we were going to have to get back that way. Going back down that one way was not an option, so we eventually make it to a roundabout and turn around. This put us on the same road as the cops, but on the opposite side of the street, with a divider separating the two. Sensing the very real possibility of another encounter with these cops, John speed builds exponentially as we near the intersection. My hearts thumping, but I dare not look over, and we all let out a little yell of excitement as we rocket through the intersection. Quickly, John has to slam on the brakes because we are nearly running into the group of cars ahead of us, but we are safely through the gauntlet.

A minute or two later, we pull into the mall area and park. The time is only five past four, and all is well. We get in the mall and up to the ticket counter, and that’s when we notice the billboard. It says Hancock Showtimes: 3:00PM, 6:00PM, 9:00PM. All this trouble and the movie was not even showing. Refusing to let the trip be in vain, we get tickets to the Incredible Hulk instead which was showing at 5. All in all, it was a good time.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Snails and Equality

At lunch, two things of note occurred. First, they served snails as the entrée. I am not talking the little snails from your garden, these were monstrous chicken-finger sized snails from the jungles of the Congo. Wherever they were from, the Nigerians were all about them. There was no line for the continental cuisine today, which worked for me since I was not bold enough to commit myself to that much snail just yet. I ended up tasting some later, and it sort of tasted like a rubbery mushroom. I was not a huge fan.

But the real fun of lunch was the topic of conversation. Today, we talked about crazy ole’ America, starting with marriage. Statements like, ‘Americans change wives like they change their clothes’, and, ‘American’s don’t care about marriage like we do here’, and, ‘People in America don’t get married expecting to stay together.’ So I had to defend the pride of my Red White and Blue home. First, I clarified that like anywhere else, people in the US intend on staying together. Also, that these marriages are built on the same principles as most anywhere else, love, vision, and family. Conceding the fact that divorce is much more common in the US, I told them my theory about why. Basically, the dynamics of marriage are changing before our eyes. We are transitioning from a society that labeled the man as the driving force of a family, to one that is shared equally amongst both spouses. Before, women may have had ambition, but the opportunities were severely limited, leaving most women to rely on their husband’s ability to provide for the home (not to mention the social expectation of female subservience). This resulted in marriages where only one person’s vision trumped all others. What the man said was accepted by all other parties, it had been so in the past, it would be so now. But lately the momentum of change has peaked, where women of recent generations are ambitious WITH opportunities. Interestingly enough, this fact does not seem to have stifled women’s desire to get married. So now people are getting married and the marriages turn into that two-headed Hydra from The Odyssey. Two heads on one body have to focus four times as hard on growing in the same direction. Unfortunately, this is very difficult, and people end up ‘growing apart’ or developing ‘irreconcilable differences’. The two captains realize they can’t stay on the same ship, so something has to give. Basically, I told them that divorces were a consequence of the women’s rights movement. Women realize they deserve more, expect more, and refuse to put up with less. In time this will hopefully increase our marital standards. Equality is to blame.

They agreed, but then the conversation changed to testier waters. The men at the table said, ‘That is why it is better in Nigeria, the man decides the way of the family’. And the women said ‘Men have it too good here, it should be more like America’. Ladun explained, “In America, the man will cheat on you, you get a divorce, and you keep half his stuff. Here in Nigeria, the man cheats on you, get’s another wife, kicks you out, and you get nothing.” She was half joking, but the problem was illustrated. It is without a doubt that men still rule the family here like they did in the USA circa the 1950’s. This is sort of amazing, just looking at my office building I would say 50% of the engineers and employees are women, making good money. But that reminded me of a separate conversation I once had. I was telling someone how I would love to marry a rich girl, and I would stay home chillin and raising the kids (no diapers, cooking or cleaning though…we would have a maid for that). My coworker said that here in Nigeria, the girl would go and make all the money and then somehow the man would be the one controlling all of it, making the wife cook, clean, and take care of the kids when she gets home. Also a half joking response, but momma says, always some truth in jest.

Somehow the same lunch conversation switched to gay marriage, and how that is accepted in the states. It amazed me how against it they were, asking the most ‘ignorant’ of questions. Like ‘do you know any gay people, what are they like, aren’t they so weird?’ They made it seem as if there are no gay people in Nigeria, and I having seen some flamboyant displays in the clubs, I can say that is not the case. They proceeded to make me ashamed to say that I supported gay marriage, because they considered the idea to only acceptable amongst crazy people. I gave them the following history. When America was first forming, they hated certain immigrants (Irish, Scottish, Polish, etc.) and discriminated heavily against them. Eventually that changed, and it made the US a better place. Then they hated black people, and eventually that also changed for the better. Then it was time to look at women and decide they deserved equal treatment, again, a good choice. Now we look at gays, and say, if it worked for immigrants, blacks, and woman, why shouldn’t we give rights to gays as well? The point of my story was completely missed. Met with more, America is crazy talk.

Throughout most of this America bashing, I was thinking to myself, most of these fools only wish they could get to this ‘crazy’ country. The other thought, was, maybe this difference in thinking is why Nigeria is Nigeria and the US is the US. That lunchtime was certainly entertaining and enlightening, but it was also the only time that I felt like a stranger in a strange land.

Awesome Weekend

Well this past Friday night/morning, I did not have to worry about getting locked out of the hotel because I came in after they had opened for morning operations. By the time I got in my bead it was 6:20AM on Saturday, and I had pulled my first all night party scene in as long as I can remember. We ended up bouncing from club to bar to club all night, capping it off with some late night/early morning Chinese food. Needless to say, I stayed in bed till about 1PM that day. I got up, watched Venus overpower her sister in the Wimbledon finals, went to the gym, and then got ready for the night again.

A co-worker named John wanted to take me around so he stopped by the hotel and picked me up. The idea was to go to a movie, but Hancock ended up being sold out. Instead he suggested Karaoke. Who can turn down Nigerian Karaoke? Certainly not me. So we get to this Karaoke bar, and man, this was completely different from what I expected. It was dark, there was no stage, but more surprising was the fact that the people could SING. I always thought black people could generally hold a note, but these folks were making me wonder if it was the real thing playing or karaoke. My friend John evidently is a singer too, so he was none too fazed by this. I guess it did not stop me either. I told John that Karaoke in the states usually consists of drunk people singing terribly to wild applause, he found that to be quite backwards. One other minor difference, during love songs, the background to the lyrics was what I would describe as PG-13 soft porn. The usual scene consisted of something like a white couple making out in a bed naked with all their squirly areas tastefully covered… meanwhile the words scroll unabated.

I did not notice this until the girl I invited along pointed it out… which made me think either that I was too into the song or a little too used to porn. After the Karaoke, the lady friend Pauline invited us to a house party. The house party was in an insanely rich neighborhood. The houses in this place were some of the biggest I have ever seen anywhere. Nigerians as a whole may be poor, but this country is rich. [Side note: I was told that contributions by ExxonMobil and Shell alone would put 18000 USD into the pockets of every Nigerian citizen annually if the money was split up. I hope that’s gossip, otherwise that’s just sad.] There have only been two times thus far that Nigeria really blew my mind. The first was when I saw a Rolls Royce Phantom (450KUSD vehicle) parked outside of a club, and the second was the size of the houses a mere mile or two away from the poverty of mainstream Lagos. What might have been more amazing was that the roads in this neighborhood were even worse than most of Lagos, and that is saying a lot. We had to creep through at about 5 mph or else we would break the car we were driving in. Now why can’t these obviously filthy rich people pull together 2000 bucks each and pay to get the road paved… there has to be a reason. I am sure the driveways inside their gates are paved, why not outside? Oh well. So the house party was in a big, but reasonably sized, home of a well-to-do Lagosian. The party was very awkward mostly because Pauline ended up leaving me and John to socialize (understandably so, she was trying to score a job through flirting with the head of Zenith banks) and because John was very uncomfortable there. This was not his crowd. John is what I call a real Lagosian. He is not rich, he is not westernized, he is very religious, and he, traditionally, is only interested in finding a wife these days. So here he was in this crowd of rich folks being offered alcohol that he is not interested in (it was some good stuff to, Grey Goose, Hennesey, etc.) and dressed in traditional clothes in contrast to everyone else in Western attire. So I was stuck not drinking the free booze, gasp, and not getting to socialize with anyone because John says ‘You don’t meet good girls in clubs.’ Disregarding the fact that we were not in a club and that these girls seemed perfectly normal (and besides, I was not looking for a wife), I agreed with him. We did not stay too late, and we ended up leaving Pauline at the party with her friends.

The ride home was pretty interesting. I was finally told what exactly was so dangerous about going to the mainland in the late hours. He explained that there are gangs are on either side of the bridge and underneath the bridge, and they sometimes just trap people on the bridge and rob them. He explained that if your car breaks down on the bridge late at night, you just leave it and run. Let them have it.

Sunday was another failed attempt at seeing Hancock, so I was forced to watch the Incredible Hulk again. We did have quite the adventure getting to the theatre though, but that’s for another post.


My official response to the question, “What is Nigeria like?” has been, “Imagine a country ran entirely by black people.” All the good and all the bad associated with that fact are present here. Considering the world’s impression of Nigeria, this may sound like a bad thing. But I still think it holds true.

The spirit of the people here is so strong that the seemingly insurmountable challenges facing them are simply taken in stride. No matter how little they may have, they are generous; no matter how sad they may be, they still laugh; and if you can’t make ends meet, you hustle. Lagos to me is like one big hood, full of street peddlers, corner shops, hustlers and crooks. But it is also filled with people who have learned to derive happiness from the immaterial. Maybe these things go hand in hand. True materialism is present here like anywhere else, but it is also so impractical that it is treated as a fantasy and not a reality to guide your life by. Family, God, Love, money and sex… these are the foundations of society here unclouded by some of the distractions of the ‘civilized’ world.

But along with the good comes the bad. The generosity can be abused (which ultimately allowed the colonization of Africa), the good-natured mindset can stifle the desire for change, the struggle to survive can erode the structure of an honest society. These factors have taken their toll on Nigeria and specifically Lagos, where these issues are concentrated so densely.

The people are smart, motivated and talented, but these traits are not being taken advantage of to the fullest. Most conversations with Nigerians about Nigeria result in the pointing of an accusing finger at the leadership. The leadership is corrupt, they have failed to inspire the country to change its ways. But really, Leadership and the Nigeria cannot be separated so easily. The country, the culture, the people create the leaders. The leaders are a reflection of the greater culture, a sort of summation of the state of affairs in a human body. So when saying that the Leaders have to change, so also, do the people. This entire paragraph could so easily be telegraphed onto to the Black American situation. The parallels are so apparent, the only difference is that our (African Americans) problems are replicated in the rich and powerful United States. But the issues are the same. We must expect more from each other. We must instill values that promote wellness amongst the community. These go beyond the admirable generosity and good-nature, and into a different arena of accountability and change. Not tolerating corruption, can start at the individual level… regardless of that individual being the President or a bus driver. Easing tribal tensions is a personal choice of acceptance that can practiced by all.

As much as I love this place and it’s people, I hate the state that it is in. But by fixing one does it alter the other. I hope there is some balance, and that we (all of the Diaspora) find it soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Preciousness of Life

I attended a safety meeting this past weekend where they made simple acts like walking steps or crossing the street seem like life or death situations. ExxonMobil is borderline OCD about safety, so I have been enduring these meetings on a regular basis since I started at the company. Thankfully they give some awesome prizes away at these meetings. But at this particular one, I started to think, at some point the concern for safety has to limit your life potential.

The amount of caution saturating our culture (American) is alarming. From seven airbag vehicles, to terrorist threat color schemes, to warnings of identity theft, the number of threats and precautions seems to quadruple annually. Should I simply stay at home on the couch with a fire extinguisher (most fire deaths occur at home) protecting myself from the unknown? From this past meeting, that seemed the only safe way to exist.

But really, I think our culture has placed entirely too much emphasis on healthy living and not enough on really living. What happened to getting outdoors, doing something mildly adventurous, meeting new people, getting a few scars… or better yet, understanding that the best way to succeed is sometimes to fall down, literally. Jill Scott says in one of her songs: Just because you have a nightmare, does not mean you stop dreaming. Likewise, if you get in a lot of car accidents, don’t just buy a car with a million airbags, learn to drive better.

Longevity is another obsession that I just never grabbed hold of. The idea of living till 80 or 90 is all fine and good, but what about getting the most out of life now. Too many people are not doing for themselves what they can do now, yet are worrying about 50 years down the line.

Safety like anything else can be taken too far (I am pretty sure that statement could get me fired), use everything in moderation. The entire presentation that I attended could be summed up by the following words: Don’t be stupid.

Aside: Real life dilemma. The ‘safest’ way to handle food here in Nigeria is to ship it in from the states from a source that you are completely familiar with. But is that 1) reasonable, and 2) any way to really get the most out of an experience. True you may put yourself in danger of sickness, but you gain a lot as well.

Poisoned Words

My boss might have well have cursed me. Today, he turned the haterade on full blast, and succeeded in making me genuinely worried. It all started with some groundnuts. Basically it is the local peanuts from Nigeria, and I am occasionally provided them by the admin for the group. I have come to like them a lot, and usually eat a few handfuls each day. Today Greg happened to see me, and he made it seem like I was eating fresh meat that had been lying on the ground. Over and over, he repeated, don’t you know they don’t have the same cleaning standards as us, don’t you know this isn’t the States, don’t you know you are really pushing your luck eating the stuff you do? All this I would have brushed off if I did not secretly believe that it’s true. Really, I just made piece with the fact that I will get really sick at least once while I am here.

But what he was warning me about was worse than sickness, it was worse than death actually. According to him, people here don’t just get the usual runny poo and stomach aches, when you get sick here, you end up in the hospital for days. ‘Have you ever been so sick you wish you would die?’, that’s how sick you will get, says the boss. Worse yet, he had supporters. One of the Pilipino guys that I work with said the same thing. He got so sick he wished he would die, and said he surprised that was possible, considering the things he ate in the Philippines. So now I am pissed, why couldn’t they let me live in blissful ignorance. And if I got sick, so be it. Now I am setting at my desk dissecting any movements in my bowels in search of foul play, thinking back over my last meal. I have lost the mental advantage, and everyone knows that soon after, the physical falls as well. Before the talk, I was in the middle of eating a roasted plantain that was brought to me, but afterwards I quickly wrapped it up and plan to throw it away. Although that is probably a good idea since it came from a street vendor and was wrapped in newspaper. But now I have to fight this paranoia, because scared or not, I have to eat this food. Unlike my boss, who shipped over two years worth of pre-packaged food (yes his apartment is full of boxes), I have to eat the food here. So all he really did was make me afraid for no reason. I liken Greg to the guy who tells you that there are 92 deaths a year on elevators, right as you press the button to get to the 72nd floor. Yes I made that fact up, but the point is the same. Greg knows my situation, he just wants to rain on my parade. Really I think he is upset that I like it here, because he has convinced himself that he has to be miserable in his room for the next two or three years. Que sera sera… whatever will be will be.

My New Office Distraction

I was trying to find a map of lagos and ended up finding this awesome website instead. It is and is basically a forum for discussion about Nigeria or Nigerians.

Here is the post that got me hooked

Entry One (Submitted by angry African American)

I've been reading the Nigerian online News reports and all I see is loads and loads, and loads, and loads of articles on how this person and that person has stole some shit and or cheated somebody out of some shit. I mean, like a good 85% of the listed articles are focused on instances of mass corruption in the nation and or mass violence incurred most like via some form of corruption. I'm tired of it.Why in the hell can't them knuckleheads get their shit together with all those resources and talent amongst you folks and that nation still hasn't been developed in to being worth a shit more than providing the west and Asians with resources like this is till the fucking colonial days. Please, I want to know, what the mess is the problem. Don't you know the world is laugh at you fools raping each other as they go about raping you unison? This is ridiculous, to have all that free potential and yet not achieve a got damn thing with it. LOSERS is what most folks would call such unproductive people. Don't get me wrong here, I not trying to be hateful; I mean AA need to step our game up too, though at least we've made extreme progress within the past few decades in getting many of our social ills under control. Though Nigerians as a whole seam like they're make no progress, and in actuality have gone backward. To have what you Nigerian have and not be like a major world power by now is just trifling ridiculous. All that potential wasted. I can't even joke about this shit because it make me too angry to even think about it. What the hell is it going to take to stop the rampant mass corruption holding that nation back; and save me the bullshit about the government heads doing all the corrupting, because its like a nationally embedded mentality. Not all are mentally corrupt though a pretty damn large bunch are. You need like a national mental cleansing of that whole nation.

Entry Two (by genius Nigerian)

I've been reading the US online News reports and all I see is loads and loads, and loads, and loads of articles on black-on-black crime, drug dealing, violence, baby mama syndrome or the high black drop out rates. I mean, like a good 30% of African american males are in jail. I'm tired of it.Why in the hell can't them knuckleheads get their shit together with all those resources and talent amongst your white masters and your schools and neighbourhoods still haven't been developed in to being worth a shit more than providing the media and racists with yet more ammunition since the fucking days of slavery? Please, I want to know, what the mess is the problem. Don't you know the world laughed at you when Katrina exposed your collective intellectual poverty? This is ridiculous, to have all that free potential and yet not achieve a got damn thing with it. LOSERS is what most folks would call such unproductive people. Don't get me wrong here, I not trying to be hateful; I mean continental Africans need to step our game up too, though at least we've made extreme progress within the past few decades in getting many of our social ills under control. Though African Americans as a whole seem like they're making no progress, and in actuality have gone backward. To have what you Americans have and yet be nothing more than unwanted appendages or mere cheap labor for a major world power like the US is just trifling ridiculous. All that potential wasted. I can't even joke about this shit because it make me too angry to even think about it. What the hell is it going to take to stop the rampant illiteracy holding you ex-slaves back; and save me the bullshit about white racism, because its like a colour-embedded mentality. Not all are mentally inept though a pretty damn large bunch are. You need like a complete re-engineering of you folks as a people.

Now I know that neither of these people addressed the issue, but I found the dialogue very funny.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Things I am afraid of Part Two: Death

Death has always been a reliable source of apprehension. I can recall sitting in bed as a child worrying about the prospect of going to heaven or hell. It was not the fear of going to hell that gave me the willies, it was the idea that I would be stuck in either place for Eternity. There isn’t anything I like to do so much that I would enjoy doing it Forever. There I was in my Spiderman PJ’s tucked away in my Transformer sheets, trying to list things that would drone away the milenia. It was thinking like this that resulted in my first and only peaceful resolution to the afterlife. But we will get to that later, because as of late, even that is not solid ground.

First things first. It is not the dying that scares me. One of my most recent realizations has to do with my lack of fear for dying. As much as I enjoy living, I really am OK with the idea of dying. Outside of having a family, I sorta feel like I have had a pretty successful run at life. From elementary school, it was obvious that everyone dies, and we are therefore given enough time to get over the fact that we will not be here forever. It’s what’s on the other side of that partition that worries me. There are many things that I am contentedly ignorant about, but death is not one of them. My childhood theory was a good one, at death you simply return to the source. You die and then you become one with that which created you, i.e. God. It occurred to me that only perfection could satisfy the demands of eternity, and the only perfect thing in my mind was God. Gone were the golden streets, and the long lost family members, and in came a reunification with the force that created you. That let me sleep easy.

But at some point, things started to get shaken up. The What Ifs appeared? What if there is no God? What if there is a God, and he/she/it is not perfect? What if there is no God, what is the point of this infinitesimally small existence? What if we create our own afterlife? What if… What if… What if… Perhaps the worse one of all, what if there is simply nothing? It was around this time, that I started resenting my inquisitive mind, its lack of acceptance of things assumed. In general, I started to be jealous of the happily religious person’s carefree view of death. To them, Heaven was like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Once you get it your happy. But just like the pot of gold, what do you think is going to happen once you get there? All problems are solved I suppose. It seemed most people looked upon death in the same way they looked upon any other seemingly attainable goal: once I get there, everything will be just fine. Unfortunately, God/nature wired me a bit different.

So I have been left in a weird spot with death. The spot of ignorance. The best theory to the afterlife I have is: I don’t know, I will just have to see when I get there. [I am reminded of something I told my sister long ago. I said that I was going to wait until I was 80 to get baptized, and then I will be cleansed of all my previous sins. I should of known I was a heathen back then. But even then I was half joking, half serious about my post-mortem insecurities.] The only problem with the ‘I don’t know theory’ is my proclivity for control. I love to control the things that are important to me, and death (potentially the longest part of my ‘life’) is something I feel I have no control over. But although I can have intense moments of brief despair, I am becoming more and more ok with the idea of just letting things play out. Nowadays I can use my imagination to explore the vast possibilities of death without feeling much nervousness. I keep these thoughts on a tight leash though, because one misstep and I am back where I started, sitting in bed scared of eternity.

Bonus: Has it never borrowed you guys that we are all going to hell in someone’s book? If you are Christian you believe Christ is the way. If you are Muslim, there is Mohammad. Hindu… well you have thousands of Gods and none can spare you the suffering that is life. Buddhist, the way of the Buddha can bring you enlightenment. Then there are the hundreds of smaller religions that are equally exclusive, or refreshingly open. But the point is, if we accept the separatist view of most religions, aren’t we just condemning the vast majority of the earth’s population… mostly because they were not brought up believing the same things as us. Probably the worse part of my fear of death is that I seem to be rather a lone in respecting life/death enough to at least give it some serious thought. Or maybe it’s just not a good topic of conversation.

Lastly, the flip side of fear is excitement. For every moment of fear is an equally intense feeling of excitement, it’s a land where anything can happen!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Snippets: Part Two

So I was talking to my boss the other day about how lucky he is to stay on the lagoon side of the Bayshore hotel. I on the other hand have the street side with its associated honking and traffic, and it really is preposterously noisy. So my boss says, very matter-of-factly, “You should probably talk to one of the managers about that… and it would not hurt to give him a little something as an incentive… maybe a hundred bucks or so.” Then he quickly adds, “I mean I am not telling you that you have to do that, but that was how it was done for me.” So it seems I have to bribe my way into a nice hotel room, but I am too cheap for that. I will just try and make nice with the staff so they will let me know when any of the rooms open up.

Not too long after the bribery conversation, we get out of the car and walk into the hotel. At the door, Greg asks me if I know why there are mosquitoes in the car in the morning. I said no, and that I thought the mosquitoes only came out at night. Greg then explained that our driver Linus actually sleeps in the car every night. Wow. Greg went on to say that his wife, kids and brother are the only ones that can fit in the house, so he sleeps in the car. In the process of going in and out, mosquitoes get in the car.

Similarly, when I was coming home at all odd hours of the night, I learned that a lot of the staff slept outside on any flat surface they could find. Some on boxes, some in chairs but evidently it was the best that they had. Greg asked how much one of these guards made per month as we came in the gate one day, and Linus guessed about 18000 Naira a month. That translates to about 2000 USD a year! In fact I went to dinner with one one guy and his wife recently, and our bill was over 20000 Naira. He had to show the bill to the guard on the way out so that we did not have to pay for parking, and the guard wanted to keep the bill. If some guy just spent more money on a meal than I made in a month, I would also want to show that to my friends.

This past Friday, I had a thought that I wanted to share with someone, the problem was that I did not know who to share it with. It ended up just coming out in the car on the ride home with my boss. It went something like this: “You know why I like it here Greg, because it feels very familiar. So much of the African American culture can be felt here that it’s like some weird sense of Déjà vu. I can see how their food evolved into our [African American] food, how their music became our music, how their mannerism are our mannerisms and so on. It’s a little scary feeling this welcomed and comfortable in a strange place so quickly.” After that short rant, I waited to hear what he had to say. He said absolutely nothing for about two minutes until it was time to get out of the car, then it was a quick ‘See you tomorrow’. I guess I could not blame him, I might not have known what to say either if I was a white guy that had absolutely no sense of connection with my current environment.

There has been a cultural war going on recently in the office, and the turf has been the thermostat. It is not unusual to see the Nigerians (women at least) wrap a scarf around their bodies, or for an expat to only where short sleeved shirts, both of whom do so because they are equally uncomfortable. The Nigerians complain about it getting too cold, the Expats too hot, and then there is me who thinks the temperature is perfect. I would guess that when I started here, the temperature was set at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. But ever since Friday of last week, it has slowly been creeping up. And at the last serious power outage, the AC failed to come back on at all. This left the office at around 85 degrees. To everybody this was warm, but I think the general Nigerian population preferred it at 85 to 78. So the great standoff was set. The expats (myself included) were literally sweating at their seats, complaining loudly of the temperature in hopes that the Nationals would have some sympathy. They must have heard our cries, because today things have returned to normal, a cool 78 degree peace has returned to the office scene. The expats are still hot (but bearably so) and the Nigerians are still cold, but you gotta remember the saying ‘a successful compromise leaves everyone equally screwed’.

So we went to a really nice club Saturday night called Club 10, and on the way out of it, I had a very odd experience. I walked towards my ride’s car, but ended up catching the glance of two attractive young ladies. As I passed by, one of them asked me a strange question “Excuse me sir, do you know if they let girls in there?” Perplexed, I look from them to the club and say. “I would think so.” They continued “Are you sure, have you been in there?” It was then that I realized their predicament, girls was code word for Hoes. So I changed my answer to “I don’t really know, but you can try.” Then with the most pitiful voice one of them asks “Will you walk us in?” I felt bad for them, but not that bad. I told them that I was leaving and wished them luck. But it makes me wonder, how can you tell a ho from a crowd. The bouncers at the club clearly knew, but I would have been fooled. This is why I think I may have a problem here (see Prostitution post). An Aside: To get into the club you enter this rotating tube which keeps you enclosed while it scans you for metal, it was really cool.

Late Saturday night, probably around 3AM, we were driving from one Ikoyi Island to Victoria Island. In the middle of the street with flashlights were men with guns stopping cars. I felt relieved once I realized they were cops, but I soon was unsure about whether that was a good thing. When it was our turn to stop, the cop made us roll down the window, and Obi (the driver) knew exactly what he had to do. He took out some cash and handed it to the cop as if he were paying a toll. Perhaps out of guilt, he proceeded to explain, sympathetically, why this happens. The police demand money because it is pretty much their only source of salary, he explains. On top of that, they are in a very dangerous job where they are always outnumbered and outgunned by their opposition. The criminals and armed robbers have new weapons and almost always have enough people to force the police officers into surrender. So to make it worth their while, they supplement their salary with ‘donations’ from the people. I doubt they would have done anything if we were without money, but generally I look unfavorably at AK-47’s being present when solicited for ‘donations’.

These people club hop, and the beautiful thing is that most places don’t charge a cover. They don’t even seem to have a dress code. Don’t get me wrong though, if you look like you don’t belong, you won’t get through the door because these bouncers look like they are used to kicking out the riff raff. We went from Club 10 to Volta to Caliente to Baccus to La Casa and I noticed that if you look like you have money, you get in. By the way, I have officially been to a club where the bouncers are armed with AK-47’s. Hooray!

Ladun, my office mate, was telling me at lunch that she was going to give me a Yoruba name. She told me she had been thinking of one and would deliver soon, but due to my resemblance to a Yoruba man, I could not get by without a proper Yoruba name. So upon getting back to the office, I mentioned my excitement about my Yoruba name to the office Admin. She gasped and said, no no no, you are Ibo not Yoruba. She then proceeded to take me to a nearby group of friends, and asked each of them whether they thought I was Ibo or Yoruba. Each said Ibo (although I think they were all Ibo, and therefore biased), so they decided that I was to have an Ibo name instead. In about five minutes they had it, Emeka Chukwu. I went back to my desk and told my boss that he can call me Emeka from now on, but I don’t think he is going to play along. Hopefully Ladun will still give me a Yoruba name, that way I can match my name to whatever tribe someone thinks I am from.

Ladun has malaria. She informed me of this like it was the common cold. She said she had been feeling ill, headaches, joint pain and such, and I asked her if she knew what was wrong. “Probably malaria,” she says. “Malaria! You need to go home and stay out for a week,” I reply, but she shrugs my advice off. She did end up going home early and staying home today, but it shocks me that Malaria is such a non-event here. I was talking to a coworker today about it, and she said that she gets malaria three or four times every year. I thought Nigerians were immune, but really they are just used to it. The reaction is less severe, and their bodies have built up some defense, but you still get it. This was yet another thing that impresses me about Nigerians. Americans will stay home at the slightest sign of a sickness, while Nigerians are steadfastly coming into the office while suffering a malarial fever.

The Nightlife

So Ehi goes out a lot, and Thursday’s are no exception. I had just gotten back from dinner at the Guest Quarters (a little haven for US citizens), and was looking forward to a good read and sleep when Ehi calls. After some slight peer pressure I decide to go out as long as it’s not too late. Not too late ended up getting me home till 2:30AM, but it was worth it. We went and picked up one of his friends from her home, and man this place was nice. Her family had a compound and guards just like my hotel, and they were just one family. Ehi of course insisted that her house was not that big, it was only average for a military officer. So the young lady, Pauline, comes out and we hit the town. We end up going to a few clubs and meeting up with other groups of people throughout the night, and I realized for the first time that I really was going to like this place. The music at these places were good, the people were nice and classy, and they know how to have fun. Throughout the night I kept saying I had to be home by midnight… then 1AM… then who cares, because I figured that if Ehi and Pauline can stay up and go out, so could I! On the way home though, Pauline explains that she was heading to Ghana tomorrow and Ehi said he does not go in to work till 10 on Fridays. They thought it was pretty funny that I had to be up and ready for work at 7. Good times nonetheless.

Friday night was a bit different. When I got home I went straight to sleep. Mostly because I was exhausted from my previous night’s lack of sleep, but also because I was invited out again. This time it was not Ehi, but a black American (as we are called) who was taking me out. We ended up going to this nightclub at about 12:20 and it was completely empty, but by 1:30 it was packed. We were in the VIP section and even that was crazy packed. At around 3:30 our crew was burnt out and we decided to head home. Getting out of the club was much more difficult than getting in, because I did not know the proper dash policy. Dash is another word for bribe, and evidently, you are supposed to dash the bouncers as you leave. It seemed like I passed 15 bouncers on the way home, each gripping my hand and then giving me a perplexed look when there was nothing in it. I ended up dashing the bouncer that was letting me in the VIP section, but the only bills I had were 1000 Naira notes, so I gave him that. He was happy, but then the other bouncers wanted some. But my generosity had passed. We finally made it out of the club and got home.

Saturday was an even busier night than Friday, which was bad because I was without my nap. I went out with Ehi’s crew again (they know much better spots than the Americans) and we ended up staying out till 4 and bounced around to 5 clubs. A testament to how popular Ehi and his crew are: we went to one club that was turning everyone away because they were past capacity and as we were turning around to leave, one of the promoters basically forced to let in Ehi and everyone else with him. The ironic thing was that we ended up leaving because it was too crowded in there. Nothing too eventful happened the rest of the night, but I think it’s safe to say I have been introduced to the nightlife of Lagos.