things to TELL about my TRIP to Lagos
I went to Lagos for the first time in 2011. It was an anxiety inducing prospect for several reasons: I was meeting for the first time in person the man who became my fiancée; I had never been out of the United States before; I had never been on an overnight flight; and my online research of Lagos, Nigeria produced much negative information. Government advisory boards basically said to stay the bleep out of Nigeria unless you simply MUST be there. Everywhere were posts from people who advised to trust NO ONE from Nigeria as it is notorious for its scammers. What if a terrorist were on my plane, or if the plane crashed into the ocean? What if I contracted malaria? What if I were the American to get kidnapped and held hostage? What if I got sick or injured and couldn't make it to qualified medical professionals in a timely manner? Oh, there was much to fret over, but you know what? It was a great experience, and I have gone back two more times since then!
The first order of business was to make it out of the airport without being accosted by men wanting money to carry my luggage or drive me in their taxi. The last time I was there, a White lady (I'm Black) said 'they' would not let her leave the airport unless she paid them. That's right. She had to pay someone to let her leave the airport every time she was in Lagos. She wanted to know if they asked me for money to leave too. I told her that they have never asked me to pay to leave. When traveling to Lagos, it helps to look Nigerian. When I go, I love to have only a carry-on bag with my purse. Yes, it is difficult as a female to travel so lightly for such a long trip, but it is so worth it to spare myself some aggravation. I don't have to pick up luggage at a stifling hot airport. Nor do I have to worry about having to tip someone to carry bags I never wanted them to carry for me in the first place.
Thankfully, I don't have to worry about transportation when I go to Lagos. My fiancée picks me up at the airport and does all the driving. It's great to rely on him because the traffic is absolutely a dreadful, disorganized, hectic mess. People selling everything from bottled water to belts are walking in the traffic which is scattered across roads with no regard for lanes. There is much honking, slamming on brakes, bumper to bumper slowness, and angry words and expressions at times. Lagos traffic is definitely not for me.
Still, I found the people I came in contact with, my fiancée's family and friends, to be very hospitable. They are welcoming and friendly. They are lively, with deep, strong, authoritative voices. Some may be less lively, but are respectfully reserved. They can be quite animated when they are greeting and joking with each other in their pidgin language; half English and half Igbo, Yoruba, or anything else I imagine. Sometimes, they spoke it in my presence and made fun of the fact that I had no idea what was being said.
My fiancée took me to buy fabric and had skirts and tops sewn for me. This is one of my favorite things I did while there. A friend of his that was with us tried gallantly to negotiate the price of the fabric down with the shop attendant. I absolutely love the traditional clothing the women wear. The way the clothes are cut and sewn to fit the shapes of Black women are gorgeous to me. Some of the skirts are form fitting around the waste and butt, and then flare out around the lower legs. The patterns are intricate, elaborate, colorful, and whimsical, or simple and elegant. The head wraps were regal and very dignifying.
The food may not be for everyone, but it is just how I like it...spicy! I ate whatever my fianceé ate, but drank only bottled water, juice, soda, and malt drink. Some people there were amazed that I ate whatever was placed in front of me, and without getting sick. I always shared a plate with my fiancée and we ate with our hands when eating garri and vegetable soup. The first time he mentioned soup to me, I thought of something like our chicken and noodle soup which is thin, mostly water. Not Nigerian soup. Nigerian soup is thick and heavy, more like stew, I guess. I found the food to be very flavorful and hot, as they like seasonings. We also ate some fresh fruit (papaya, pineapple, coconut) and ground nuts.
I enjoyed seeing the children. It was especially enjoyable for me to see the mothers with their babies tied to their backs as they went about their daily activities. Most of the babies tied that way had been lulled to sleep by the heat, softness of their mother's body, and her motion. So cute. I was asked by one child to "back" him in the same manner, but I had no idea how to do it safely and comfortably. I could have "hipped" him, as is more customary here in the U.S., but backing him was quite strange to me.
It was a good experience. I took many photos, some of which I compiled into a calendar which can be purchased online.