Tuesday, 22 November 2011

day 2 in nigeria - live by the horn, drive by the horn

I left the house today, for the first time since I arrived.  A stone mason from Ibadan came down to talk business with my Mum - she's expanding the school she's built here, building on new plots of land not far from the original school.

Driving in Nigeria is… a consummate skill (is that a tautology?).  There is no room for timidity or poor technique, because if you display either, there is a great possibility you will die.  I have much respect for anyone that commandeers a vehicle on the roads of Lagos - and cannot fathom people who seem perfectly happy to put their lives into the hands of okada (the small motorcycles that act as taxis) which flit in and out of other traffic, often with the bags carried by the passengers brushing the trucks, buses and cars that they zoom between.  And yet, perhaps because of the difficulty of manoeuvring the roads (at least, in the areas in and around Ikorodu, where my Mum's family all live), from what I can see at least, there seems to be a whole lot less road rage.  When you're busy trying to find a safe path around all the holes and ridges that make up bits of the road, you've not got time to stop and swear at anyone that jumps in ahead of you.  Impatience is reserved for people that are too slow - like I said, you can't afford to be driving like a learner on these roads.  And everywhere you go by road, the sound of every vehicle's horn sounds almost the whole time - as a warning to pedestrians in tight spots, when turning into or out of a junction, when you're over-taking, when you're passing a bus being loaded up with passengers, when you're backing out of your compound onto the road etc etc.  Again, it's very rarely used as it is in London - just for the sake of signalling annoyance, or just for being an idiot (e.g. blaring horns when you're in a hold up - what is the point - as my mum would say: 'you want to fly?').

I saw my first cockroach of the trip yesterday.  It was just emerging from the kitchen's walk-in store room.  Luckily I didn't spy it till after my mission in there to get some container or other.  I have a serious phobia of cockroaches.  I mean, serious.  Anyone who's seen my behaviour around moths or butterflies - that is nothing compared to this.  I once smashed the tiles in our kitchen with a hammer, killing the tiniest cockroach.  Another time, one touched my hand - I nearly broke said hand whacking it against the cupboard.  My feelings towards them verge on the hysterical - I can't even bear to look at pictures of them in books, talk less touch them.  Sharing a house with them is one of the only few things I've never been able to adapt to out here.  Intermittent electricity? Yeah, you get used to that very quickly, and it's not as much of a hassle as you might imagine.  One hour journeys that take about three times as long?  Again, something you just learn to accommodate, and not bother to freak out about - a good time to catch up on reading, correspondence, and new music.  But the house-invading cockroaches - eugh!  Trips to the toilet take doubly long, as I check the place over throughly each time, making sure none are going to corner me once it's too late to get out.  This is especially fun at night when there's no electricity - thank you, torch.  And once I've seen one, I start seeing them everywhere - even when they're not.  Eugh - just the sight of those antennas, even just the thought of them, makes my skin crawl.  I was thinking earlier today, it would have been a real shame for Indianna Jones if I was the woman that had to put my hand in that hatch full of bugs and insects to pull the switch to stop the room crushing him - he totally would have died in there.  I'd have been full of remorse, but there'd have been no way I could have just grit my teeth and let anything crawl on me - eugh!

Anyways, in a turn up for the books, and one of the times when Nigerian timing worked in my favour, my uncle called earlier in the day to postpone the meeting he'd arranged today.  Shame.

I went to visit my Mum's school today - more on this another time.  It was cool to see these little kids there, all eager and and attentive, though they seemed to be learning stuff that looked really hard for such small people (I'm sure in primary school, I never learnt that water was 'tasteless, formless and odourless' - it was just wet, and fun to splash with.).  And after the school, I got to chase and recapture a few of my cousin's chicks, which kept escaping from the barn they live in, and then being really confused as to how to get back in.  I could totally be a chicken-chasing farmer.

Seeing the ram slaughtered yesterday, I was struck again by this luxury of remove that most meat eaters in the UK have from where their succulent steaks or juicy drumsticks come from.  I once had a friend who said she couldn't bear the sight of raw meat, because it reminded her too much of what it actually used tp be.  Whereas I reckon if you're going to eat meat, you should at the very least acknowledge that you're eating dead animals.  Going a step further, I'd say that everyone that eats meat should see at least one animal slaughtered - perhaps that could be one way to persuade people to eat meat a little less often, or at least be a little more thoughtful in their carnivorous consumption.

Anyways.  I'm finishing this in the dark - the generator's off, and so is the electricity.  For the first time, I've just realised how quiet it is outside at night.  I can hear crickets, and very little else.  I could get used to going to bed surrounded by silence.  So, even intermittent electricity has its upsides.

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