So why did I get on a plane heading to Lagos, Nigeria?
To be honest, I asked myself the same question everyday for the past year. I don't know why I let my parents talk me into it, despite forebodings at the back of mind. Guess I just wanted to be cool and show them no amount of punishment would totally faze me.
Oh boy, was I wrong!
First off, my mom came along for the ride but my dad refused to comply, even though the punishment was his idea in the first place.
You look at me in an odd way, as if to say, you dumb babe! "That probably raised a red flag, huh?"
It did, believe me, but I was too busy bitching about my cell phone privileges being taken away, to notice. Talk about the classic 'penny wise, pound foolish' syndrome.
There I was, sulking about my Blackberry, not even noticing my parents had something more sinister in mind. When I finally caught up to what was on board, it was too late!
"Jeez!" you yell, "what are you? Like the dumbest kid on the block?" You shake your head in disgust.
I cringe from you and and your snarky attitude and hide my irritation behind my words. I know you're right, but say what you may, had you been in my shoes, even you wouldn't have seen it coming.
You roll your eyes to high heavens and smirk, "Yeah, right!"
Seriously!!! Lagos, Nigeria isn't exactly San Francisco, California.
So like, we stepped out of the Muritala Mohammed airport building and it suddenly hit me:
Mosquitoes are truly the most evil and vicious insects you'll ever come across.
"No kidding!" you exclaim, running my pink hairbrush through your hair. "You think I oughta shave?" You peer at your reflection in the mirror, caressing your smooth jaw with long tapered fingers. You have no stubble--you're only fourteen.
Well, yeah. I'm referring to the mosquitoes, not your non-existent facial hair. Like most pre-pubescent males, you're already obsessed with growing a moustache.
Anyways, back to my story. In Lagos, the mosquitoes are as large as moths, noisy and unrelenting. They must have a unique way of discerning fresh blood, cos they descended on me and my mom in droves as soon as we stepped out in the open, forming a distorted halo over our heads and singing in our ears.
Their bites are sharp and stinging, the pain akin to none other than that of bees. They never let-up, no matter how hard you slap at them. Hiding under layers of clothing don't help either cos they've figured out a way to feed on you through your pants.
The frustrating part is, you put up your hand to wave them away, they go ahead and bite your knuckles and the skin underneath your nails, the two places that are the most difficult to appease by scratching--assuming you can find the exact spot to scratch.
"I can imagine," you say, not really getting it.
But I won't blame ya cos, unless you've been to Lagos and have been attacked by a million of those bad boys at once, you'll probably never get it. End of story!
Mosquitoes are just one of the many evils of Lagos. The traffic congestion, air and garbage pollution, lack of traffic laws, harassment by road-side vendors, and general lack of law and order will blow you away.
"How come?" you ask, finally letting go of your boyish chin. You pick up a scraggly sneaker and stuff your sock-less foot into it.
What I'm saying is, you don't wanna make the mistake of taking Lagos, Nigeria for granted. It's a city like no other. Lagosians fondly refer to it as Eko. As far as they are concerned, no other city in the world can totally offer what Lagos does.
And, after spending a whole year in Nigeria, I began to see it too.
The exciting night life, the sleepless natives, the exotic and mouth-watering foods, the language, the accent, the thankfulness of the people when blessings come their way, the frustrations of business owners when power goes out, the rowdy markets sporting anything you desire under the sun, the intimidating area boys, the church functions, the parties and ceremonies, the music, the pulse of the streets. It's a whole lot to take in at first glance. But before long, the city gets to you and you get infected with the feverish enthusiasm.
You pause in the process of knotting the laces of your second sneaker. "You don't say?" You stare at me with eyes wide as saucers.
On the contrary, I really do say. Just three weeks in the city and I totally found myself screaming with the rest of them:
Lagos for life!
Eko o ni baje!
(Definitely more to come, so stay connected.)
For excerpts and information about the upcoming novel FEDDIE GIRL, visit http://bernardbooks.com