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Tag Archives: Lagos
Anytime you beg friends, family, and co-workers to give you thousands of dollars to go meet your estranged family members in a foreign country over 7,000 miles away, things are bound to get interesting. As interesting as things were at the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos, they didn’t prepare me for where I would be staying.
My driver safely navigated through the streets of Lagos to deliver me to Lekki (Lekki Lagos Nigeria Peninsula is a developing suburb considered a prime real estate location). This trip was a 4-hour feat. That’s right it took four hours to travel to where I would be staying. Along the way we experienced a great cross-section of the diversity that is Lagos.
A man selling watches caught my driver’s eye. His time pieces were stored away in pockets that had pockets. The street vendor walked alongside us displaying his watches while we crawled through traffic. His best pieces must have been tucked deep because he always had a better watch to show for each one that was rejected. About a half a mile and a dozen watches later we hit a wall [not literally]. My driver needed to make a decision and couldn’t chose between three different pieces. So, the plan was to get off the exit that was about a half mile up the road. The only thing that seemed like a catch was- traffic picked up and that meant we would leave the vendor in our dust. Much to my surprise he ran all the way to where we parked off of the exit, and was there as soon as we looked around for him. I knew that if my driver wasn’t going to buy a watch, I had to give something to the hardest working watch salesman I had ever seen.
After the excitement over the newly purchased timepiece calmed down, we were now getting hungry. That was not a problem either. Along with mattresses, tires, cabinet sets, magazines, dresses, travel kits, and windshield wipers, there were several food items to be bought while in motion on Lagos roadways. Given my apprehension to eat any of the sliced fruit or unpackaged food, we settled on plantain chips. The chips did exactly what they were designed to do. The kept me from taking a bite out of my driver’s right arm.
Soon, we were in the area where I would be staying. Some of the houses were huge, while others were literally shacks. It was interesting to see such wealth and poverty cohabiting literally feet from each other. One thing was sure, security was a major consideration. Each major estate was only visible above the 8-10 foot wall that guarded it from the outer world. I remembered seeing houses that were guarded like this, once before. The only houses that I had witness using this much security were the ones in Beverly Hills.
We pulled up to the house about 7 or 8 and I yelled to the driver, “Yo Holmes! Smell ya Later”.
No, seriously, it was like I had pulled right into a Bel-Air Estate. The one thing that would divert from that comparison, that I noticed right off the bat, was a distinct smell. It wasn’t ganja or anything crazy. It was actually something pretty good. I am at a loss of words for what fragrance it was but it was definitely African. I had smelled this smell at the poetry spots in the US. It was like a black soap/Nag Chompa/shea butter/non-european smell. I wish I could explain it better. Whatever the ingredients, it was both welcoming and fresh!
The maid opened the door and ushered me upstairs to greet the owners of the home, the Desalu Family. I quickly learned that I had family in Nigeria that I didn’t even know about. The owners of the home are not related to me by blood, and yet they treated me as their long lost son. Therefore, they literally turned me into the Fresh Prince from our first conversation. This was the home that they toiled hard to build and I was enjoying the fruits of their labor with maids, drivers, cooks and all!
When entering the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Desalu, the maid did a curtsey gesture. I first thought that this was done because she was a domestic servant and that it was expected of her. I later saw all people who were younger than the Desalu’s greeted them the same way, no matter their position or profession. That’s when it became evident to me that Africans have a very deliberate way that they pay respect to their elders. The respect that the maids showed to the Desalu family was indicative of their way of life. I liked that.
Another thing that I liked, was the fact that I had my own wing of the house. The suite where I was staying was fully equipped with a frig, microwave, sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom. The walls were adorned with beautiful art and I had they key to the suite. This was dope!
Every morning breakfast was delivered to me on a tray with linen’s and freshly squeezed orange juice. The only time it didn’t arrive, were days when we had to leave the house early.
[And yes, they do have Aunt Jemima in Nigeria]
Outside of my suite was the rest of the beautiful estate, which included: a living room, two sitting rooms, dining area, several bathrooms and bedrooms, an Olympic sized swimming pool, and a back yard with a view of the ocean. You could tell that ‘living’ had gone on in this home, good living.
After the initial shock of the thought of staying with Affluent Africans, I began to see the real value that their home represented. It was a home that entertained guests, raised children into adulthood, housed relatives, and covered this family. It was anything but the empty mausoleums that we often see celebrities use to shield themselves from society. It was a real home of a real family that is doing really good in Africa.
As you can see, I was involved in a lot of maxing and relaxing during my trip to Nigeria. Check back to hear more about the places I went, people I saw, and the things I did during my time in the Motherland!
Click HERE to learn about my first day in Lagos, Nigeria.
Back from the MothaLand: The play by play of my journey to seek acceptance on the African Continent///Day 1:The Airport
Many Americans go to 3rd world countries with a singular mission, service. For many, this includes building schools, providing drinking water, medical support or even spreading the gospel… While service is always in season, I was not one of those with that mindset. My mission was very specific and I wouldn’t even need my cape for it. Two weeks ago, I was headed to Africa to meet my family.
With financial backing of donors from around the globe, I embarked on a trip that would be full of triumphant success and tragic heartbreak. 10 days in Africa’s most populous city was an unbelievable experience for a person who wondered if he would ever experience life outside of public housing.
I stepped off the plane into a hectic airport that was crawling with what America would call “minorities”. Almost everyone in the whole place was black. The flight attendants rushing to catch outbound flights were black. The concession stands were black-owned and operated. Black pilots strolled past pulling small small black bags. I was anticipating seeing alot of black, and that’s what I got…all except the line I was in- passing through customs. This line was filled with all the world’s nationalities that weren’t black. If there were “US” and “Them” surveys to complete, I would have clearly had to complete the “Them” survey. to I seemed to to be part of the small group of people entering Nigeria that day that was black, but wasn’t African.
While trying to make this a Kodak moment, I quickly learned a lesson. Taking pictures at the wrong time could get me into some big trouble. Immediately after snapping a shot of my first sight in Nigeria, I was approached by two angry guards that wore a look that spoke very clearly. Their facial expression said, “Don’t you know we have back rooms we can take you to and practice interrogation techniques! Keep taking pictures if you want to disappear!” I don’t really know what was coming out of their mouth; but angry is universal, and they were angry!
I began to wonder what lied beyond the airport doors. What would happen once I officially set foot on African dirt? Would I stand out? Would I blend in? Could I shed the “minority” title that strangled my psyche for 30 years? Or, would everyone just snicker and make jokes about the American who was wearing three hats? I pretty much made sure that the depth of Africa’s first impression of me would be “Is wearing three hats a style that is celebrated in America?” Seeing that I am a hat man, I had to give Africa the same first impression that people in cities across the US have of me… I have no problem looking silly to keep my hats from getting smashed.
Once in the car, I began snapping photos again. The only problem, I forgot to ask if it was a good time to resume. One could begin to think that I was intent on ‘not’ being welcomed into Africa. In just a half an hour I had managed to piss off airport security, stick out like a sore thumb wearing several ‘funny looking’ hats at once, and now…Now, I clearly offended a gentleman who was minding his own business until… I began shooting pictures of his airport business.
After this picture, he came and tapped on the car window demanding to be paid for the pictures I took. That’s when I began to wonder if it was safer to take photos of the scenery instead of the people. I’m glad I had a good driver, and he got us out of there with the quickness. That was my first episode of “when being a dumb tourist gets real.”
As we made our way from the airport to where I would be staying, I began to think, “I hope it doesn’t get any worse than this”. Would it get worse? Would I make a better impression on the people related to me? And most importantly, where will I be staying for the next week and a half?