I know back home we take a lax attitude towards everything but here, time is everything. Every day I come home during lunch to make sure the two were doing okay and drop off things from a laundry list they give me every morning.
“Stay and eat something now. You are always in a hurry,” Aunty K said.
“No. I have to go back to work. I spent the last 45 minutes of my lunch hour going to the grocery store and looking for a store with an international cell phone charger for you guys. I will eat a sandwich at work.”
“So are we still going shopping this evening?”
“Yes. So be ready at exactly 5:15 when I get back because I am not changing. We will enter the car and go immediately.”
When I got back, they were both huddled on the couch under a bundle of blankets watching a Nigerian movie.
“Why are you not dressed?”
“We are ready, we will just change quick quick,” Aunty K said. They spent five more minutes laughing at a comic performance then got up to change into outdoor clothes. We left an hour later.
The next afternoon I dropped the two off at the mall near my job to do some shopping. I told them to call me when they were done and I would pick them up and take them home. When my Uncle J called, I told him I would be there in 10 minutes. As soon as I pulled up to the mall entrance and he said, “Chei! You are truly Americanized! You were here in exactly 10 minutes!” He turned to Aunty K and said, “e be like say we go dash America this one. Dem don train am well.”
Dropping by someone’s house is perfectly normal back home. Serving your guest a nice dinner is also a sign of a good hospitality. Here, it is customary to call before showing up at someone’s house. And if invited to dinner at a restaurant, it is not an indication your host will pay for your meal. One day, a lady Aunty K met at a convention called and asked her to dinner.
“Where is this place you are going? And why am I finding out two minutes after coming home from work?” I asked.
“Kenapaw. The place is in Kenapaw and she told me three days ago but we did not finalize until today.”
“Ha, it is an hour away! Why did you tell her you will go?” I asked.
“It is good international networking. I have to go.”
“The restaurant is expensive too, who will pay.”
“She will, now.”
“Is that what she said?”
“She did not have to say that.”
“Aunty K, unless someone says ‘my treat’ then you should assume you are paying for dinner. How do you expect someone to pay for you, your husband, myself ? That bill will almost be a hundred dollars if not more. And she does not know you very well.”
“I think she will pay. We should go.”
“Okay, let’s go. I will pay for myself. The two of you are on your own,” I said.
There were eight in total at the dinner and when it was time to pay, us seasoned yanks jeje-ly took out our Visas and Mastercards and paid. Uncle J and Aunty K were looking at each other. They started to argue about who will pay. Uncle J took out the $19 he had and said that it was all he brought with him. Aunty K got angry. After arguing back and forth and embarrassing the heck out of me, I grabbed both their wallets, dumped out all the cash they had and paid their bill. The others at the table had their mouths open the whole time. I wish I could explain not all of us act that way.
I was horrified when Uncle J sent back a Heineken he ordered at a restaurant because it was not in a big bottle. “Why are they being stingy?” The next day, I bought him Yeungling, a beer made by the oldest brewery just came out in full force in Georgia recently. I bought him a six pack, opened one and gave it to him.
“Why is it so small? This is just a mouthful,” he examined the bottle like he spied a roach in it.
“American beer is usually in small bottles,” I replied.
He took a sip. Then a gulp. The bottle was empy. “Just a mouthful,” he said then proceeded to drink all six bottles, so I had to go get a 12-pack for him again. The next morning he was not doing so well.
“Ah this yinglin (he pronounced it like a wind chime) na wah oh. My body get as e be.”
After I refused a drink at a restaurant because I had to drive, he did not get it.
“What do you mean you can’t drink and drive? Shebi na just down the street we live now?”
“If I get pulled over, it is jail time and fines plus higher car insurance.”
“Ha! Na wa. Una no get real freedom here.”
All through their stay, Aunty K told me she they would be leaving on Wednesday. So I told my boss, and scheduled a few meetings for Thursday. On Monday, she told me she was mistaken. Her itinerary said Thursday. I was ticked off.
“Do you know that I am the lead in a project in the meeting I set up on Thursday? Now I can’t even be there! Do you know how this makes me look?”
“Sorry, now. I did not know. Just tell your boss I said…”
“Aunty this is not secondary school. I won’t tell him anything. This is the real world and this job is important to me. I can’t manage my time if you keep pulling all this last minute stuff.”
The night before they left, I forced them to pack early and thank God I did. Between the two of them, they only had one big case and one carry on. So I had to part with two of my own luggage. They argued about my packing. I insisted on making sure they did not jam all kinds of stuff in the cases to make it overweight. The day they left was really uneventful. I was in such a hurry to dump (I mean drop) them at the airport that I could hardly contain my excitement. We arrived early, checked in early. All the luggage were under 50lbs (Uncle J hi-fived me to my utter embarrassment) and commented loudly to everyone in line about their little efiko of a niece. I bought them a snack and watched them go through security. I dashed for my car and squealed out of the airport parking lot like the devil was after me. On a lighter note, there was a wonderful bouquet of flowers waiting for me at home from my wonderful (I am gushing…) boyfriend who had been banished for the entire time my relatives were with me. He knew I had been stressing out and wanted to cheer me up. Mission accomplished.
On another note…NIA, how una dey oh! I salute una. Signing off…..