Please don’t mind me: I am a new arrival, a JJC to Nigeria after almost three decades in Yankee. Since my arrival, I tend to get things wrong in terms of my understanding of body language, meaning of idiom and parables, permissible and impermissible behaviors, fashion and music and how to approach women. I knew, but somehow forgot that the Western and non-Western world are worlds apart in terms of authenticity of language and nuances. You see, I have been cheated and taken advantage of so many times by taxi drivers, market women and by my neighbors it is no longer fun being a novice, a Johnny Just Come. In fact, I get too many things wrong so much so it is beginning to bother me as my mistakes and miscalculations generally open me up to ridicule and exploitation. Haba, what’s a man to do? Please help with these questions and observations.
First, how do I get rid of my Yankee Accent? Every time I open my mouth to speak, it gives me away. Something else: I keep forgetting that the currency is Naira, and not dollars. Every time I say dollar this or dollar that, the merchants eyes light up — signifying “here comes another sucker!”
Second, what’s the matter with my eating habit? I am still not comfortable eating with my bare hands. I eat pounded yam, egusi and panla with knife and fork; I eat Amala, ewedu and gbegiri with knife and fork. The other day when I asked for a straw and ice cubes with my glass of coke, my host looked at me funny.
Third, I went out on my first and second date early this month. On my first date I caused some commotion when I paid half of the bill and asked my date to pay her half. I haven’t seen her since. On my second date, when I attempted to kiss the girl in public, she refused asking that I wait until we are alone. Nna, what’s the big deal kissing in public?
Fourth, what is it about Mr. Biggs and about chicken joints? Most people I know prefer that we go to such places. I am more than 80 pounds overweight — which was brought on by several years of eating cheeseburgers, pizzas, fried chickens and tacos in America. Here in Naija, all my male and female friends want chicken and cheeseburgers and egg rolls and meat pies. Haba, I go die oooo.
Fifth, what is it about can Coke, can Pepsi, and can Sprite? Is it some sort of status symbol? I am a social drinker. In Yankee, it takes me a week or so to consume a six pack of beer; here in Naija, people are drinking the equivalent of a dozen six-packs at a sitting without getting drunk. My goodness, have you seen those hefty beer bottles?
Sixth, there are fine-fine sophisticated babes in Naija. But tell me: why is that most don’t shave their armpits? Unshaved armpits are bloody turn offs. What’s more, some leave the bush down under to grow uncontrollably. Why? Besides, most wear cheap and nauseating perfumes.
Seven, you know what pisses me off in the mornings? Those preachers! Just when I am about to get round-three or round-four sleep, some bloody preachers starts to preach and ring their bells telling me about the need for me to forsake my sins and all that. Haba, there ought to be a law against early morning preaching. Can you imagine committing fornication or adultery that morning and then some preacher telling it to your face?
Eight, if you think those preachers are intrusive, well, there are other pests: merchants who invades ones thought and privacy in city busses — selling all sorts of traditional and non-traditional medicines. The other day there was this fucker who wanted to sell me the Nigerian version of Viagra. He told me that his concoctions will help in congolizing babes. Heck, who told him I needed help in that department?
Nine, once it becomes apparent that I used to live in Yankee, I become the center of attention; once they know I have the ability to return to Yankee and that I do not need visa to dozens and dozens of countries, they become enamored with me. Gosh, in America, I was a cook with mere community college (AA) degree, yet even those with master’s and law degrees in Naija want to pin themselves to me. Kai, na wetin happen?
Ten, it is amazing how Nigerians are able to walk around with bags and bags of the Nigerian currency. The other day, I wanted to change $5,000.00 into naira…I needed a bag to hold the local currency. Not only was it inconvenient, I thought I was going to get robbed. And you know what: it took me forever counting the money to be sure I wasn’t being short-changed.
Eleven, when I was a boy/teenager growing up in Lagos, Ibadan, and Ilorin, prostrating to greet an elder was the normal, correct and required thing to do. I never shook an elder’s hand unless the elder extended his or her hand (even so I bowed and bowed and bowed to receive the hand). Today, I don’t see that many people prostrating to greet their elders. Young boys just say “Hi!” “Hello!” or just greet nonchalantly. Haba, what’s going on?
And finally, are there boarding schools left in Nigeria? I sometimes think that if I hadn’t gone to boarding school, I would have turned out less than a model citizen. (Trust me I am a model citizen!) Besides great formal education, there is a lot boarding schools give, i.e. self-discipline, responsibility and responsible behavior, time management and the ability to multi-task, getting to know and establishing life-long relationship with people from diverse background. My stay at Government Secondary School, Ilorin, Kwara State, was a balm…one of the finest and best years of my life.