Driving in Lagos

Someone once told me that if you can drive in Lagos, you can drive anywhere else in the world. For a long time I believed those words because it is only logical that if you can do something in the hardest or toughest conditions, you can do it when things are easier. In the past few weeks I have decided to re-evaluate whether this is true. 

What makes driving in Lagos truly challenging is quite complex and difficult to explain. One reason I say this is the fact that there are too many cars and not enough roads; hence most of your driving experience is spent in traffic (‘go slow’), and I have to say that driving in traffic is an art. It is a story of near misses and dodging of  potholes, danfos (commercial busses) , and broken down vehicles. It is one of patience when there is grid-lock and gruesome aggression when the traffic eases up. 

There is also the competing modes of transport. In some parts of Lagos okadas (motorcycles), kekes (Nigerian rickshaws) commercially  operate simultaneously as well as danfos, let us not forget the occasional bicycle rider. What this means is that the average Lagos Motorist has a lot to pay attention to; you can not make sharp turns or fail to horn or use your pointer( “traffigator”), You have to communicate effectively with your lights to not only other private cars but other road users (pedestrians inclusive) to avoid accidents.

There is also the number of trucks in Lagos. For a long time, I remember avoiding roads that had too many big trucks and tankers. I soon realised that the only way to avoid them was to move out of Lagos; they are everywhere. The hardest part about driving next to an average 7.5 tonne truck in Lagos is the ‘road-bullying’. These truck drivers are in a mad rush and will do anything to get you out of the way. With a lot of horning you can overcome your fear and overtake a truck (but please don’t overtake them on a bend).

For the most part driving in Lagos is tough, however just because you can drive in Lagos does not make you a better driver, in contrast I think you become a horrible driver. The driving environment in Lagos does not foster good driving habits, such as, waiting at a zebra crossing, or giving way for traffic on the left. It is almost impossible to observe any of these traffic paradigms because of the fear of causing an accident when you slow down suddenly or the simple fact that there is just too much traffic to slow down any further.

Driving in Lagos is no guarantee that driving anywhere else will be easier, for the most part it is harder to drive else where because there is a lot more to driving than just competing for space, road raging and horning!lagos-traffic

Sincere

It is the first day of the month and she is feeling really positive, so she set out as usual by herself looking for money

she was only nine, but she had mastered the trade quite well. She will stand at the road side and wait for the traffic lights to turn red.That was how her mother did. ‘Just watch the cars, aim for the shinny ones’ she’ll say.

Amina saw the lights turn yellow then red and she made her way to the first car, it was a shinny red car, she walked to the drivers side trying to peer into it. She found that making eye contact often helped, on this occasion however she was nervous because this car had tinted windows.

‘Please give me some money, I don’t have any money, Please, Please’ she spoke to the Driver leaning against the car, she was sure he could see her. She could see her reflection on the window; her brown curly hair flying wildly from an old pony tail, her top was torn at the sleeves, and her face was covered in filth.

The driver moved forward, he was trying to get her off his car.

She stepped back spontaneously and walked away, ‘what a waste of time’ she thought. She  looked at the next car, it was an old raggedy van. The driver seemed old and poor, she could not decide whether it was worth the effort begging this man. She looked back at the traffic light and saw that she only had about 30 seconds till it turned green. So she gave the van a chance, ‘please give me some…’ the driver stopped her mid way into her chant and threw two green notes at her. There were twenty Naira notes. She jumped at them like a hungry dog. ‘Thank you sir’ she said with excitement in her voice. ‘God bless madam and the family’ she kept thanking him as he drove off.

In that moment Amina learned a weird lesson, it was not about the car as mother had taught her, but it was about whether the giver was sincere or not.

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This is a response to today’s one-word prompt ‘sincere’, make sure you participate before the day runs out.

Grandma

‘I just can not believe he would do such a thing! I’m so angry…’ her voice trailed off. I had been eavesdropping for three minutes and I still did not know what made mum so mad. I knew it had something to do with Dad, it always did. She was talking with Grandma but I could only hear her voice. Grandma was soft spoken, even in regular conversations you had to read her lips to understand what she was saying. From where I was standing, on the landing I could only see Mum, the living room door was barely open. 

The phone rang suddenly.

‘Hello. Yes. Speaking. I would be right there’ Mum hung up. ‘That was the Police’ she said frantically. I could see mum pacing around the room likely looking for her hand bag. ‘Take care of Elsa for me.’ She said hurriedly, the front door shut loudly behind her.

I tip-toed back upstairs, but Grandma was already at the living room door trying to make sense of why I was walking funny. ‘What are you doing up at this time?’ She whispered.

‘I-I just wanted some water, good night Grandma.’ I started for the stairs again, running through them in twos.

‘Elsa darling, since you are up you might as well have some tea with your favourite Granny’ She said looking up at me.

I knew what ’tea’ meant and I did not want to be a part of this.

‘Err I don’t want tea.. you were right I should be asleep’

‘Nonsense my child, come come back down Elsa’ she motioned with her hands  ‘ I’m going to put the kettle on’.

Grandma seemed so small looking down at her from the top of the stairs. Something in her eyes made me scared of disobeying her quiet order.

I began the descent one step at a time. Grandma watched me patiently with a weird smile. She held her left hand toward me. When I reached the final step, I took her out stretched hand and looked into her eyes and that was the last thing I remembered.

 

I could hear the toads croaking and see the birds flying indistinctly from tree to tree. I could barely see, I was lying on dirt in my pyjamas under a tree. The sun was not out yet but the forest was awake. I searched around for Grandma, she was not with me. ‘Grandma’ I got on my feet, my head was spinning, it was difficult to focus. ‘Grandma’ I shouted this time. I looked up at the tree I was under and realised that I knew it, it was not far from the house. Getting my skewed bearing in check, I began walking in the general direction of the house. I could not understand what was I doing here, how did I get here? I soon noticed that the ground became really wet, and uncomfortable, I looked down and realised I was walking in mud. I panicked and I tried to run back to the tree but I could not see it. So I stopped. I considered the possibility that I was dreaming. I slapped myself and pinched my nose and closed my eyes, nothing seemed to wake me up. Suddenly, I saw the torch light. ‘Grand Ma?’ I whispered walking toward the light.  

‘Elsa, Elsa’ I could hear her old raspy voice. She pointed her torch at me. It felt like she was holding two torchlights. I used my elbows to block out the light. ‘Oh my goodness Elsa I thought I had lost you’ Grandma picked me up and gave me the tightest hug. Just then, I realised Mum was standing next to her, ‘Elsa you cannot just run away like that’ Mum yelled, she seemed upset and not as pleased to see me, something was wrong. ‘I did not run away Mum, Grandma… she brought me here, and, and…’ the more I explained the more I felt stupid, I could feel Mum’s burning stare on me. ‘What Elsa is trying to say is that she is sorry and would not behave like that again, would you Elsa?’ Grandma cut in. I looked back at Grandma. I could not understand what was happening, why was she lying like she was not the one who brought me to the forest, how did she get back to the house so quickly, how many minutes had I been knocked out?

‘Grandma why did you bring me here?’ I raised my voice at her and she just stared at me like I was crazy. ‘Let’s get you home Elsa, we would talk about this in the morning’ Mum said holding my arm tightly and pulling me away from Grandma.

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I decided to try my hands on thriller. I have come to appreciate that it is hard to gauge fear. There are just too many questions a Writer has to ask, the most important I think is, ‘how lost do you want your reader to be?’ I usually enjoy leaving the end of my stories as open as possible- incase I want a sequel, or to elicit various interpretations from the reader. With ‘Grandma’ I am still undecided, I’ll leave it to you, would you want a sequel, were you confused? I’ll really appreciate your comments.

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Time will tell

Tick tock tick tock.

Seconds turn into minutes,

Minutes into hours,

Hours into days.

Waiting- Just waiting for inspiration.

Waiting for the motivation.

Waiting for the kick.

It is hot and humid, my brain is fried.

I must meet the deadline, so I try. 

First draft, not good enough,

Second, too quirky,

Third… May be I’m not that blocked.

I’m going to write about this. Write about now. Write about how I feel.

Write about how hard it is to write when you’re time bound. 

Pour out my thoughts just hoping for some order. 

Waiting, believing my writer’s block will be over. 

But with things like this I know; only Time will tell

She knew she’d have to run alone, she always knew.

She did not know how sad it would be actually doing it.

It’s been several years coming, her income was low, and drugs were high.

 

What sort of mother abandons her daughter? She thought. The fight was internal, one she knew she would not win.

They soon arrived at the orphanage; she nudged the little girl to the door.

 

A day had passed but she could still hear her calling, ‘mum’, ‘mum’, ‘mum’

She kept telling herself this was the best decision, and soon she believed it.

 

This was my attempt at a 100-word story. Did you figure out what was going on?Let’s know your take on this. #SometimesLessisMore.

I failed to tell

He doesn’t hold my hand as tightly as he did before.
I know why, I just cannot believe that he would be so affected by it.
He found out that I had lied to him. I had failed to share with him a vital part about my past, I kept him in the dark all those years to protect him. At least that is how I wanted to rationalise it.
10 years ago I found out that I had fibroids. I was shocked, ashamed and confused. I was not married then. The doctors ran me through my options. The option I picked then is what separates me from him.

We are waiting at the bus stop on a cold Monday morning about to board the 61 to town.
We chose to get rid of our cars a few months ago because of Kola’s new found green love. He wanted to save the planet so badly that our life style changed with each new conservation idea. I loved seeing him passionate about something and I welcomed each innovation by complying.
We have two cats and a small house. We were living the life for three years. No external family, no comments. We were a perfect fit in this society.

Sitting in my dressing room taking off my make makeup after work, I wonder what sort of woman I had become. I lied to my husband, and now he does not look at me like he did before.
Was it really a lie, or had I just failed to tell him. Was an omission a lie?
I remember when we met we had dreams of travelling and living in a foreign country. He never once mentioned children. He was not a big fan. But I couldn’t tell whether he was just selfish being an only child, or he was kidding. At least now I know he wasn’t kidding. I mean what man knows what he wants at 23?

I resented what I had done. I was afraid, I did not know what telling him would do to us. I was sure he would still love me, but I was not certain. Especially because Anika was in the picture, it was too risky. So I kept my secret to my self and looked at him everyday wondering if he would love me the same way if I told him what I had done.

He walked into the room and ignored my existence. It was already a month since I told him, he was not over it. I deserved it, I did not blame him. I was selfish, and anything that would result from this I decided to accept.

‘You cannot keep ignoring me like this, I’m sorry, I don’t know how many times I need to tell you this’ I said almost in a whisper.
‘I’ll stop ignoring you when I am ready June. I mean how could you, how could you do this to me, to us?’
‘I had no choice, it was spreading, I was going to die. I decided to have a hysterectomy to save my life!’
‘Why didn’t you tell me? We dated for three years, yet you kept it from me. What am I going to tell my mum, that you are barren?’ That word rang in to the air louder than the bells of a cathedral.
‘You don’t have to tell her anything, we can adopt, there are other ways out of this…’ I tried to save the situation.

He had one hand up with his eyes shut as if trying to block my words. ‘I can’t do this’ he mumbled storming out of the room. I stood up and held his arm. There was so much anger tied up in his muscles that I let go immediately.

‘Are u ending us?’ I said.
He paused, sighed heavily and shut the door angrily.
I knew it was over.

I had ended us not him by failing to share my secret with him. There are few things in this world that hurt a man, and I know now that concealing secrets is one of them.

National meal

So yesterday someone asked me, ‘what is the national meal of your country?’ To be honest I did not understand the question. It was not that it was my first time of being asked this trick question the problem was that it was the first time I had began to think about the political and social implication of what I said next.

Coming from Western Africa, Nigeria precisely there are a range of different cuisines. I dare say the number of dishes number into triple digits. What most people don’t realise is that it is such a huge country with various ethnic group and tribes and some meals are tribe-specific.
So going back to answer the question ‘what is the national meal of your country?’ I’m not sure what my response should be. Should I say it is Egusi soup and pounded yam*- surely it is not every Nigerian who would agree with me, those from Lagos might be happy with that but what about those from Kano or Warri.

What I have observed though is that in as much as there is such a variety of delicacies, there are a few delicacies that resound in parties and events that no one can say with full certainty what tribe they come from. The meal jollof rice for example is a staple food served generally in every Nigerian party. However, I would be wrong to say it is Nigerian because I have noticed that it is eaten across West Africa and beyond. History further reveals that jollof rice has its origin in Senegal as it was named after the Wolof people who loved to make stewed rice.

The question though is, Can I be reasonably politically correct if I said jollof# is the national food of Nigeria? On the surface I might be correct to say that but upon closer examination I wouldn’t. Looking at the definition of ‘National food’, Wikipedia reveals that ‘it is a meal or snack that is indigenous to a particular group or country’. So for example I could say Sunday roast is England’s national food but I would be wrong to say it is fish and chips (don’t freak out!). Even though fish and chips is a long held friday English traditional meal it is of Italian decent and so would not fall within the definition of a national meal. What this means basically is that I would also be wrong by extension to say that jollof rice is Nigeria’s national meal since it’s origins are not Nigerian.

The question I should thus be asking is ‘does Nigeria have a national meal?’ I would say No. The correct answer would have to be that Nigeria has regional meals.

Do you agree with me? I agree this is a controversial subject and I would love your take on this. Feel free to drop me a comment in the box underneath. If you are not Nigerian I would love you to share the national meals (if there really is one) of of your country. Don’t forget to like and reblog!

Key:
*Marshed yam and stewed green vegetables in mellon seeds
# jollof is used interchangeably with jollof rice

Jollof rice I made this a couple of months ago. This is jollof rice and chicken, garnished with cucumbers and tomatoes

Jollof rice
I made this a couple of months ago. This is jollof rice and chicken, garnished with cucumbers and tomatoes

Egusi soup Picture courtsey: lohiscreations.com It captures Egusi soup and pounded yam. Usually eating in separate plates- But I thought this presentation was creative

Egusi soup
Picture courtsey: lohiscreations.com
It captures Egusi soup and pounded yam. Usually eating in separate plates- But I thought this presentation was creative