Monday, April 21, 2008

Celebrating the Naija Way!

In Nigerian-Christian tradition, two ceremonies are very important: the naming which takes place after eight days of birth [all babies have a Christian name and a Yoruba name] and then the dedication ceremony after three months [the baby is dedicated to God in Church]. Nigerians love to celebrate in a grand style! There is lots of food, drinks and many are invited.

On 28 March, Baby Christabell became three months old. It was very opportune that I was able to play a very active role in her dedication ceremony on 20 April. You know I LOVE please bear with a more than required detailed account of the whole process:)

With a list and naira in hand, Lizzy [Bell's mom] and I headed to the market a day before. I was carrying the baby which attracted the attention of many [I alone attract many eyes, but with the baby it was heads turning back twice...]. 2-3 people were actually curious to know if I was married to a Nigerian! We bought veggies, turkey, pepe, spices, rice! Lizzy marinated the turkey, mashed and boiled the mashed pepe and tomatoes. On D-day, we woke up at 3:30 am...we started frying the marinated turkey, chopped the veggies, fried the bananas [called dodo], and finally made the "jollof rice". We were quite efficient, and even with the on and off NEPA, we managed to cook everything and clean up at about 6 am! Unlike Lizzy who had to feed the baby, I got on hour of sleep!

I woke up all excited to wear my lovely Nigerian dress. Basically it is a short top, a long skirt and a head scarf all in the same fabric! It fit quite well, I was even motivated to wear earrings:). We went to church [vow, the energy there of 400 + people was amazing]. The Pastor then blessed all the babies. We then got home and gorged on the lovely food [not just because i helped cook it, it was a real treat!].

After all the eating, chatting, drinking, I had a lovely 3 hour siesta! What a day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

India Trivia!

I have been bombarded so many questions about India and I am actually starting to realise how much or how little I know about my country! Questions range from:
  • what is the weather like in India?
  • how do Indians see Nigerians/ foreigners?
  • do Indians like football?
  • are Indians very religious?
  • what kind of transport system does India have?
  • is there corruption?
  • why do Indians sing and dance in the movies?
  • how do Indian men treat Indian women?
  • how is the crime rate?
  • why dont Indians eat beef?
And sometimes I marvel at my answers, to most questions, is "there is really not one SINGLE answer.." because maybe I simply don't know enough to give an answer that represents the whole country!

But one thing that really amazes Nigerians about India [and what amazed me about Nigeria] is that in India the woman pays the man's family in a marriage, whereas in Nigeria, its the man who has to pay the "bride price" to the woman's family! I have to attend a Nigerian wedding to get all the details...wait till then:)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tarkwa Bay: An Oasis Amidst Chaos

I am feeling extremely proud of myself. Yesterday was the first time in Lagos, when I dared to venture out on my own-for a very noble cause indeed-a visit to the BEACH!

After a swift one-hour traffic-free bus ride from Ipaja to the marina, I caught up with another VSO volunteer-Gregg! [A 26-year old entrepreneur from Canada, who did his BCOM and set up a business...vow I thought I was a rare breed...he has been here for 3 months now and is working as a fundraiser for an NGO in Lagos].

We took a bike to a spot under the Lagos bridge from where boats regularly go to Tarkwa. We waited for the boat to get full and were whisked to Tarkwa in 20 minutes! It was lovely and exciting being bouyant in water! We were dropped off near the beach where an interesting system operates. There are these self-appointed agents who "manage" the beach. They have put up these nice canopies, chairs and tables all along the beach for which you pay for! Now you are in their hands and have nice at-your-chair service. You can order chilled beer or minerals and enjoy spicy suiya [barbecued meat]

As in India, an Oyibo is to vendors as a sweat is to a after another traders and craftsmen came by to sell us their handicrafts, jewellry, peanuts, biscuits, bananas etc....But they are quite friendly and if you decline politely, they will not bother you much. Volunteers have a standard response, "we are volunteers, we have no money!"

Just like what was mentioned in the guidebook, you see tanker after tanker pass by you...check out the tanker right behind me in the photo! I took a nice stroll on the beach. It was quite quiet being a saturday! There were quite a few oyibos slowly trickling in as the day was passing...

I am so happy that I am living just couple of hours away from a beach! This is definitely an excellent outing for a weekend!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Living the Naija Way!

Since my arrival in Lagos on 27 March, I have had the pleasure of living with a very nice Nigerian family. There is Pastor Samson, his wife Lizzy, their adorable 3-month old baby girl Christabell and Pastor's mother, Mamma! They have a three-bedroom house out of which I am occupying one room. My room is very airy with two windows facing each other so there a constant breeze [NEPA the power company is jokingly called "Never Expect Power Again"]. I have a mattress, a table and 2 chairs. I am also very lucky to get many things from the previous VSO volunteer in my organisation--pots, pans, cutlery, cups, plates, glasses, iron [just like our Indian one], a gas stove, a standing fan!

The family is quite adorable, I eat with them once in a while [when I am not eating my favourite Indomie noodles: Nigerian "maggi"]...they keep me great company, I watch TV with them [we watch american soaps, Mexican soaps dubbed in English, Nigerian films, Who wants to be a millionaire?"]! They make me feel very much at home and I feel very safe when I sleep at night! Luckily for me, Nigerian mosquitos dont seem to have a liking for Indian blood:)

And an added bonus, I am invited to attend their weekly service on Wednesdays and Sundays in their backyard, where they study the Bible and talk about Christianity! Quite educational!


The Nigerian film industry is the third largest in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood! Ironically there are very few cinema houses, most people watch pirated movies which are available cheaply everywhere! In fact today I was watching the animation "Hunchback of Notre Dam"...which was part of a DVD set which had 38 movies on a single DVD...and for only 300 Naira [100 rupees] and the DVD didnt stop in the middle, the sound quality was great! [Parul, KP Video could surely learn their secret!]

In fact you can pretty much bye DVD sets of all the hit sitcoms, I saw Ally Macbeal, Friends, Grey's Anatomy etc etc...this is the VSO affordable style of weekend entertainment! I am surely going to buy you know what!!

I am actually getting addicted to watching Nigerian films as well! They remind so much of Indian films and the saas-bahu dramas! There is suspense, love, revenge, mystery, you name it! One reason why the movies sell so cheap is because of the low cost of production! You can make a movie with a videocamm in a natural setting and you have a movie!

An Oyibo's Perspective

Nigerians are used to seeing white people or foreigners in fancy chaufeur-driven when they see a white person riding in a bus or on an okada, they are pleasantly surprised! As they are when I attempt to greet them in the local language [Yoruba in Lagos]...somehow you gain some respect in their eye, as if they know that you empathise with them since you are living their when I am on the road...I constantly hear "Oyibo" [means white person], all the time, mostly its meant as an expression of surprise, so I just smile and greet them back whenever I hear it...that seems to do the trick...

I think I feel less and less like an Oyibo as the days go by. I am now quoted the same price as the locals so I dont have to use my bargaining skills!

Landed in Lagos

I am sorry for the long silence since I arrived in Lagos!

Lagos in a snapshot is a big in that it is no better or worse than a city like Delhi or Mumbai....sure it has all the problems: constant traffic [called "go slow" or "hold up, can take upto 2-3 hours to get from one place to another] especially at peak times, bad sanitation, pollution, people rushing to sell you things all the time, low pedestrian safety....but looking at the sunny side, it has those good things too: diverse and easily accessable means of transport [the bikes called "okadas" after a defunct airline, the taxis if you want go solo, the "use till they die" minibuses called "danfos" which can carry upto 30 people, the well maintained high speed bus with a special lane [what Delhi is attempting to do]...]; a booming market: you really marvel the entreprenuerial spirit of the people, as you are waiting in go slow, atleast 10 people will come up to your bus and you can buy pretty much anything [fried plantains, recharge cards for mobile, hankys, cakes, icecream, colddrinks called "minerals" here, mouth fresheners, coconut chips, music etc etc]....; variety of food: you have a wide range of food to choose from, the local nigerian street food to fast food joints, there is even a China Town here! [I feel very lucky being in Lagos that I can have any of these foods anytime compared to my fellow volunteers who dont have such luxury living in smaller towns or villages]....

And of course the bubbly, loud, Nigerian spirit! You know atleast once a day on my to-and-fro in the bus, something or the other happens which causes a "wahalla" [problem]...usually it is the conductor who talks back to an irritating passenger or doesnt give back change or a fight about why so five people are forced to cramp on a seat meant for four...its so interesting to see strangers coming to the rescue and joining in your fight!

My target now is to visit the happening "Victoria Island" and of course the beaches nearby Lagos...I have been on the Marina and like Bombay, its quite beautiful...oh the sight of all that water!! Due to traffic, it takes almost 2-3 hours to get to the closest beach...well my goal for next weekend is to use my charm with some serving volunteers and get them to take me to the beach...can't wait:)