Life Abroad

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Hi there…it’s me again. I just feel like discussing this little matter with you. Yes, you the reader. It is getting to that time of the year again when folks in America start rushing to buy tickets to travel home to Nigeria. A time when joy is mixed with stress and anxiety and exasperations.

Buying the ticket is the easiest part of the whole December madness, because all you do is pick up the phone…or whip out your cell phone like John Wayne’s gun (aha, you don’t know who John Wayne is, abi? Ask your daddy!) and call your traveling agent. Who most likely is a Nigerian.

“Hello, is that Godwin? I am traveling to Lagos on the 18th of December… Aha, Godwin abeg give me discount now, na you I follow buy ticket last year now… No, na only me dey go this year. No I don’t want to fly Nigeria Airways, I had a bad experience last year… I know it is cheap, but I would rather wait and pull out all my eyebrows one at a time and feed on my brains in Amsterdam, than get stuck in Lagos while my job is on the line in America… Thank you Godwin. Yes, I am paying cash, you know me I don’t like credit cards… OK…yes mail the ticket to me. O dabo, my brother.”

I have been dealing with Godwin (my travel agent) for the past 4 years, and I am yet to see him face to face. I don’t need to. That is what the phones and postal services are for; to reduce my unnecessary waiting in someone’s office.

OK, I digress.

The hard part of traveling to Nigeria in December is the shopping. People at home are expecting everything from America, except a dirt bomb. We are not like Americans who go on vacation with a carry-on bag and a Mastercard only. As Nigerians, we travel! And when we do, we travel like Eddy Murphy and Arsenio Hall in Coming To America. We travel like kings. At least six large size luggage that beat every airports required weight limit. Three of those luggages are yours; the remaining three are messages that you have to deliver for your friends and friends’ friends.

Mind you, you are going to Benin City (Midwest), but first you will have to deliver those messages in Abuja (up North) or if you are lucky maybe Lokoja. That is the burden of the Nigerian in America traveler.

Now I am not going to go into details of the contents of the boxes, but they range from CK Jeans to talcum powder to Tomapep to cooking utensils…It is a nightmare for the US customs.

I will go ahead and categorize the people waiting for these gifts back home in Nigeria:

CITIZEN LADY:

She is the aunty or cousin who always requests for wristwatches. I buy that every year I travel home. The same person asks for them annually. I am sure she thinks CITIZEN wristwatches are disposable like soaked diapers. But I have come to realize that she does not discard them. She merely needs a different color for the many different gele.

YELLOW FEVER:

Aha, she is the one that wants me to buy her bleaching cream. She has sent me a list of the most “wicked” variety I have ever encountered. I shall name a few that comes to recollection; Demovate, Tura, Millilo, Crusader, Venus de Milo, IKB, Crusader, the list goes on and on. What she does not know is that I have no idea where these creams are sold in America, so I will ask her to check Balogun or Apongbon markets in Lagos. Last year I reminded her she looked like a human chameleon and her skin was at the stage where the typical bleachers’ skin color look like cooked spinach: dead green. This is the last stage before they disintegrate into smelling like a badly embalmed cadaver.

MR. RALPH LAUREN:

This is the “colo-mentality” uncle who works in one of the banks in Lagos. He wears a three-piece suit in a baking tropical sun, just to look like a colonial master. He will not touch any shirt that does not have a badge of honor in the front. Last year I mistakenly bought an ordinary 80% cotton shirt. He asked for the remaining 20%. I promised to get it for him this year. Well, I have learnt my lesson. This year I am keenly looking for 100% percent finely combed cotton RALPH LAUREN shirt.

FUBU BOY:

He is the undergraduate who is in and out of school like a well-oiled piston. (Not his fault). He wants an over sized sweat shirt in a hundred plus degree weather. No wonder his brain is fried and he cannot spell his middle name even though he is a 300 level student. Last year I bought him a FUBU shirt that has a logo the size of Washington DC. He said thank you, but he could not fool me with the disappointed look on his face. I asked him what is the matter…he said the logo was too small. Ladies and gentlemen when I got back to the US, I complained bitterly to the FUBU organization. The three owners of the company personally wrote me and apologized, needless to say they sent me a sweatshirt with a logo the size of Texas. It is the sole content of one of the luggage I told you about earlier on.

TOMMY GIRL:

She is the undergraduate niece who cannot spell “demovate”! Her request is a TOMMY HILLFIGER tight jeans and tight T-shirt; with the inscription Tommy girl. She is actually size 8 but she wants me to cut that size in half when I shop for her. (Cut your coat according to your size…that does not hold water in the philosophy of my Tommy Girl niece). I dare not imagine how a size 8 will look in a size 4 clothing. I hope there is an ambulance around, because there is bound to be blood clot in certain region of her “anaTOMMY”.

IRS (Internal Revenue Service):

This is could be anybody. This category is very wide and wild. They usually gun for cash. Reasons for the cash ranges from sending their son to Morocco, marrying a second or third wife, putting marble tiles on their new mansion in Victoria Island (forgetting that you don’t even have a land in the remotest village where land cost a keg of palm wine.) or this cash could be used to finance his political campaign in the next local government election. The IRS don’t care if you came home for a major heart transplant, as far as he is concerned, your heart can wait till…God knows when. This group is not shy to label you useless if you are not forthcoming with cash. Folks, the cash we are talking about here is not the type you can carry in your wallet; you need a Bagco Super Sack and you need a counting machine.

THE ENTREPRENEUR:

I kind of like this group. They are full of ideas about business but lack the money. They want to open a shop that will process palm kernel and turn it into cooking oil. Sometimes they want to go into oil exportation and petroleum jelly importation. The only problem this group has is that, they do not have money or a written business plan. Those things are not a necessity to this group because they know they have you in America. He has given you the idea, and that idea is worth more than a million dollars. You better seize this golden opportunity and give him some money or else he will sell the idea to somebody else.

“How much will it cost to start this business?” He scratches his head and tells you to hold, then he comes back with an ear-burning amount. For me to get that kind of money, not only will I have to rob a bank, I will have to sell the bank building too. People in this group do not mind the postponement of the proposals to a latter date. The reason I like them is that when you come home next year, the business proposal will now be on how to make semi-conductor from locally grown mushrooms. And they still don’t have a business plan. It is all in their head.

THE POACHER:

Aha, this is the old school mate that thinks he prayed you into America; therefore you owe him your firstborn. He does not send you a request ahead of time like others…no no, he waits for you patiently like a jungle sniper. Even when you meet him waiting at the airport he does not ask for anything, and will not accept the usual Fruit Of The Loom singlet and underwear. He is like a vulture, very patient till your last days in Nigeria, then he flares up like an over flowing kerosene lamp. He wants all your personal possessions. Your brand new Kobe Bryant sneakers, your wedding suit and ring, your Kenneth Cole shoes, your Movado wristwatch, your Colgate toothpaste, your face towel, your traveling bags, (he gives you Ghana-must-go to hold the leftover), your socks and anything that is not physically attached to your body by either bone or tendons. If he is merciful he allows you to keep a pair of jeans and shirt to enter the US. To him these things he has poached from you are flowing in American streets for free, you can always go back and pick some more. Unknowing to him, they are products of your annual savings. To buy them again, you need a second mortgage.

NEIGBORHOOD WATCH:

These are your neighbors who believe they helped your mother deliver you; therefore they should harvest the joy of parenthood. They are contented with whatever you have earmarked for your biological parents. And they are so close to your house they whip in and out of your father’s inner room like a bad smell.

MOTHER THERESA AND POPE JOHN:

These are your actual biological parents. They are the ones who paid the school fees and paid for your ticket and BTA couple of years ago. They want nothing from you; they just want you to be safe and healthy. All they do day and night is pray. They tell the local priest to say a mass for you in the church. They send in prayer request to the pastors. They go back and forth to the local oracle man, just to ensure your safe stay at home. They even offer to give you back the money you gave them last year if they see how you have been badly “poached”.

This finally brings me to the question: What have you ever done for me? How come when folks in Nigeria are coming here on vacation they do not shop for those in America? No, I don’t want Nigeria Tommy Hilfiger, thank you very much. But I could use some egusi, crayfish, okporoko, ogbono, elubor, garri, dry bitter leaves, or elubo. I still like bush meat. I could use a nice African sculpture on my wall, how about some tie and dye casual wear?

That adire and aso oke you are selling to me for an outrageous price, how come you can not give it to me the way I gave you RALPH LAUREN 100% cotton shirt? How would you feel if I had to sell the CITIZEN wristwatch you are wearing to you? How come when I came to Nigeria last December you could not take vacation to drive me round the whole country? Yes, I want to see Aso Rock too, just the way you want me to drive you to go and see the White House in a sub zero degree weather. Why can’t you put your life on hold to attend to me, the way you cripple my activities when you come to America? I am talking to my fellow Nigerians…What you have done for me lately.

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