In America, we sell hot dogs on the street. Here they sell just about everything – just this morning, half-melted packages of Fanice ice cream, dried fish, and car floor rubber mats caught my eye. A man, selling Hercules Mouse Boards (designed to kill domestic rodents), had very real, very pungent dead rats dangling from his other hand to demonstrate the validity of his product. Driving through town is always a spectacle for me. Motorcycle taxis that haul a passenger in and out of traffic, on and off the sidewalk, over the broken, sun-bleached roads – it’s fascinating to watch. Especially when the passenger’s baby is strapped to her back, the baby’s head precariously bobbing up and down with each turn of the bike.
I feel comfortable claiming that vehicular awareness is much higher in Nigeria than in America. Anyone who has spent time in the developing world knows what I’m talking about – mad driving skills! Impossible parking jobs appear effortless. Traffic, at first unnavigable, opens up with a couple of delicately aggressive, forward nudges. Movement, though, in the middle of the day, continues to be slow. I can’t say that I like idling, but I’ve learned to cope.
Squinting in the thick, filmy heat of equatorial sunshine this afternoon, I noted a substantial amount of religious-themed shop names. “Adonai Concrete Block Industry,” “Pastors Bookshop,” “God Is Able Electronics,” “Shalom Cyber Center,” and “Blessed Joe Computers” were my favorites. I wonder who the first missionaries to come to Ibadan were. Where they stayed. What they were thinking. I’d like to do some more research on missionary migration throughout Africa. Any suggestions?
Before my Internet connection runs out, I have two quick stories to share:
- Just go with me on this one – I was pressured to give a prostitute my phone number, so I gave her a wrong one. She found out, and howled at me as I drove by the following morning. She tracked me down to the hotel and ended up calling my room last night. I said no. 30 minutes later, she called again. I said no. This morning, at the hotel restaurant, I was grabbing a quick bite to eat, and she walked up to the table! Apparently her sister had spent the night with a Canadian man (or something?), so she was there to pick her up. Again, I tell her that I’m not interested. I hop into Seyi’s (my driver’s) car, and 10 minutes later we are idling in traffic. The sun is hot, and with no AC in the car, I rolled the windows down while explaining to Seyi what had happened the night before. THE SAME WOMAN walked up to the side of the car and said, “I hear you be talking about me.” Remember, this is a 10-minute drive away from the hotel. She then knocked on the window of the car in front of us and jumped in. No call tonight.
- At a real estate meeting, I was discussing the Ibadan rental market with an agent when he began to laugh. I asked him if everything was OK. One of his colleagues chimed in, “you are the first white man he has ever seen.” The agent made me take a picture with him.
I can’t make this stuff up folks.
That wraps up Ibadan. Tomorrow morning I leave the hotel around 7am for my 11:30am flight from Lagos. I should be in Accra, Ghana by 1pm. Talk to you then.