13 July 2009

10 things I never imagined I would do – Part 2

In the last post, I started a series on ‘10 things I never imagined I would do’, please find below the continuation of the series. You may need to read part 1 to grasp the full gist of the series:

Sleeping under a mosquito net – This is a pragmatic strategy to ward off mosquitoes and of course malaria. The reality of malaria is that if you don’t get bitten by mosquitoes, you can’t get malaria.

I have never been a fan of mosquitoes and I am aware of the fact that they are one of the greatest killing machines in sub-Saharan African. I also know that some countries in the West have been able to eradicate malaria and that if we have the political will and the determination, we can do the same in Nigeria. In the interim, I tuck myself under a mosquito net every night with all the attendant restrictions. On at least three occasions, some renegade mosquitoes have succeeded in entering the net with me. I’m sure you need no guesses to know that they feasted on me with reckless abandon. Hmmmm!

I also do make sure that my feet are covered during the day, so I wear a pair of socks even at home. For some weird reasons I have not been able to figure out, mosquitoes seem not to summon the courage to bite me anywhere around the head – ears, face, and neck.

I have also made it one of my lifelong ambitions to continue to campaign for the eradication of malaria and have written position papers on this. For now, I will continue to sleep under a mosquito net at night and wear socks during the day. Hmmmmm!

Crossing the motorway – I don’t mean jaywalking. As dangerous as jaywalking is, it is small change compared to having to first join a fast-flowing traffic, then make a u-turn to the other side of the main motorway that links the rest of the country with Lagos each time I have to leave home. This was a scary experience for me when I first had to do it as a passenger. It’s still a scary thing to do with oncoming vehicles screaming down on you. Whoever you are, you cross this motorway on a wing and a prayer.

Is there an alternative? Yes there is. The alternative route is under the bridge that carries both stretches of the motorway to and outside Lagos. However, this route is generally not recommended at certain times of the day given its past notoriety for armed robbery. So most people ignore it altogether. Is this a justification for a suicidal dash across the motorway?, Hmmmmmm!

Opportunity to haggle – This has become a most interesting aspect of living in Nigeria. In Britain, there is no such thing as haggling, you go into a shop and pay the displayed price for goods. All the cards are also held by the seller, few buyers, if any, will ever dare to ask for a price reduction.

In Nigeria however, haggling is the norm and it is always expected. As a result of this expectation, it is factored into the price communicated to buyers. Initially, I used to convert prices to their ‘£’ equivalent and pay without quibbling because they generally appeared reasonable. Nowadays, I feel I am an expert ‘haggler’ to the extent that I sometimes feel guilty after cutting the price very drastically. Depending on the item, I might offer 40% of the communicated price to start with.

Haggling is a game of wits, it’s about reading the psyche of the other person, and in haggling, who dares the most wins. In reality, the seller probably wins all the time as it is inconceivable that any one will intentionally make a loss.

More than anything else, haggling is a communication experience, some verbal, some non-verbal, some primordial and some contemporary. It is also a social experience that employs all of our thinking, persuasive and emotional skills. It is often like an accused person pleading before the judge for mercy, except in this case, it is very difficult to decide who is who. I enjoy all of these different aspects of haggling and in my forays to the United Kingdom, I no longer feel restricted to ask for a bargain and very interestingly, I often get them. Hmmmmmmm!

Going native – That’s how people refer to wearing our traditional attires. I have found that the designers of our style of dressing must have been geniuses. Excluding the male ‘agbada’ – the third layer which is more commonly worn for grand occasions – our traditional style sits perfectly with our weather and provides perfect comfort for both male and female. I have come to appreciate this.

The style I love the most is what is referred to as ‘old school’. It comprises of a pair of trousers and a simple top, usually close fitting and with little or no embroidery on it. It’s a leaner and slimmer reincarnation of the buba and soro of the past which is why the ‘old school’ appellation.

I would really love to go 'old school' on a permanent basis; however a suit is still the acceptable mode of dressing for corporate Nigeria until of course you become a ‘Mandela’ and wear what you like. I do not for a minute despise the suit and tie; it’s just that our style of dressing suits our weather the most and I always look forward to going native. Hmmmmmmmm!

Drive in Lagos at night – To drive in Lagos in the first place is an achievement given the frenetic, free for all driving style characterised of most drivers. Driving at night is considered a dangerous game by most people for many reasons. This includes the risk of armed robbery, vehicle breakdown, accident etc. Considering the fact that most roads are unlit and there are several unexpected potholes, it is certainly unwise to attempt to drive at night. However, like many other people, I have found myself not only having to drive in Lagos at night but sometimes travelling to other parts of the country in the late hours. Whatever may be the reasons for driving at night and in the dark, I am aware of how far I have come – from believing no one should drive in Lagos at all, to actually driving or being driven in Lagos at night and in the dark and trusting God to get me to my destination safely. As you can see, it has been 'a long drive home to freedom'. Hmmmmmmmmm!