May 19, 2011

Of Errands, Malfunctions, and Impromptu Friendships

I'm sure I've mentioned it here before, but there are some days when it just hits me that I am really in Africa. A-FRI-CA.

Today was such a day. Now, sometimes I use this blog to share frustrating experiences, and lately I have been noticing that my blog has been sounding a little . . . sad/depressing/whiny/lame . . . take your pick or feel free to add another adjective. So, in an effort to change this, I'm sharing a beautiful moment that happened today.

I was not looking forward to the afternoon because I knew that I had many errands to run in preparation for heading back to the States and then moving to China (things like getting more passport photos taken, getting a physical - which has been postponed -, and buying gifts for people back home). So after running all around town getting things done, I finally brought my cloth that I've had for MONTHS to the tailor to get made into an agbada. In case you're wondering what an agbada is, think of the West African Presidents you've seen, and they were probably wearing one (See picture below in case you're still lost). I'm really excited about getting it done.

So, back to the story, I was walking back to the van after dropping off my material. I bought some plantain chips (which are unbelievably awesome) and as I was walking, the local guys started shouting, "Oyinbo! You chop* plantain?!?"And I couldn't help but smile and start a conversation with them. This type of thing happens all the time here, and it is one of my favorite parts about Nigeria. The people are NOT shy about talking to me.

After this, I was driving back to the house. As usual, there was traffic (back me up on this, Eva) - a semi had turned in such a way that he was completely blocking the road, and then he proceeded to make an eleven-point turn as he tried to back into a driveway. And so I did what every good Nigerian does to save petrol - I turned off my car. Forgetting that the car has been having problems with the wiring to the battery.

Of course, once traffic started, the car did not turn back on. On go the hazards, open goes the door, and then I proceed to push my car off the road to work on the wiring (by the way, this is going above and beyond what most Nigerians do. Usually, if a car stops working on the road, they just fix it right there until it runs. None of this move-your-car-off-to-the-side-of-the-road-so-that-the-traffic-doesn't-have-to-take-turns-going-through-a-single-lane business.) As I was pushing and steering and feeling pret-ty proud of myself for being so strong, I looked back to realize that two young Nigerian guys walking past had seen me get out of the car and immediately helped me out, even though they were dressed in nicer clothes. They then asked me if I needed help to call a mechanic, but I knew how to fix the problem so I thanked them in Yoruba and said I would be ok.

Now let me tell you something about the Yoruba people. Anytime you speak their language, it's as though you have just given them the best news in the world. "Ah ah! Oyinbo done speak Yoruba-o!" Even the simplest Yoruba greetings provide the most cheerful responses.

Once the people selling "bis-keet" and "mineral" (sweet crackers and cookies, and soda) heard my simple Yoruba thank you, they all started chattering away and coming over to meet me. Once I fixed my car, I had made many new friends. This is the type of thing that simply doesn't happen everywhere in the world.

So, even though this is not a perfect country by any means, I am still enjoying my final time here. And, despite all of the frustrations I've had in the past, and despite the problems which will surely come in the following month and a half, I will definitely miss this place.

*chop = eat in Pidgin
The Agbada

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