Lagos

I’ve never been in Lagos before and had heard some not too encouraging stories about the dangers and pitfalls of this city. So, when one of Nabil’s best friends, Zico, offered to host me I was actually really grateful and relieved. Not only because this would save me quite a lot of money as accommodation in Lagos is really expensive but also because I offered that his driver could be me up at the airport – yes, airport. Both, Nabil and Zico strongly urged me to take a plane to Lagos rather then a bus as I had originally planned and with all that money for accommodation saved I had run out of arguments. So, I spend my first few days at Zico’s place at Victoria Island and, wow, what a change after four months without much power supply or running water!!! I mean, can you believe it: a proper shower with hot water! Well, and air condition, a well filled bar, a dart board in the lounge, a household help and a driver. Oh, and the guys were not only pretty nice and entertaining, they also took me out for dinner and a proper night out on Saturday! Only … I don’t know whether its my East German upbringing, all those socialist values coming through, or just that servants are not part of the lifestyle of anybody I know or … I don’t know, to me there is something weird about this kind of expat life style the guys introduced me to. I can’t really put my finger on it but … I mean, one of their friends actually told me that he’s in Nigeria for a few years now and has never taken suya (barbequed meat Nigerian style, delicious) and that’s not because he’s vegetarian or so! Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed getting some extremely nice Indian, Chinese and Tex-Mex food as a change from my usual diet of local dishes and the occasional Lebanese treat but … and also it was great to spend a whole night out chatting with the guys and dancing but having security escort you back to your car because it is not safe to go on your own kind of leaves a bitter after-taste. I mean, at the end of the day the insecurity of Lagos has a lot to do with the enormous gap between rich and poor in this country. I mean, this gap also exists in Maiduguri but somehow it appeared more clearly to me in Lagos – come on, a house help, a driver, security at the gate, air condition, outings which are paid for in 10.000s of Nairas on the one hand, piss poor beggars at the road side on the other hand, that just rubs it in. I don’t know, I don’t think I could live like that … and yes, I know that’s quite hypocritical in a way to say that because not only did I absolutely enjoy having European standards again for a few days (and chances are I will go back to them at the end of this year anyway) but even in Maiduguri I’m better off, enjoying a better life-style then many Nigerians and there I don’t really think about it …
Anyway, after a few nights, the guys got a short notice visit from some business partners and because the company pays for the apartment I had to quickly move out. Looking back that was actually quite funny, how Zico didn’t know how to tell me and ended up calling Nabil in Maiduguri to call me back in Lagos and break the news to me. And, how I then started to ring all the hotels in my guide book – and of course, the only one I actually got through didn’t have any room for the same day – and already saw myself sleeping under some bridge when Zico’s driver came to pick me up because I had to leave before my calls had achieved anything. In fact, they had already found a hotel for but neither Zico nor the driver had told me, so for two minutes I had a proper panic attack … anyway, the hotel turned out to be good value for money and was right back in Nigeria – I mean, streets bustling with traders and food stalls around it, bucket showers, cockroaches, air condition but the window doesn’t close anyway, suya, fried yam … what a change from Victoria Island and a pretty welcome one in a lot of regards. It took me a bit out of this bubble that expat life in Lagos appears to be to me. This is not to say that I’ve experienced anything close to the ‘real’ Lagos of most people based there – there were too many areas, especially at the mainland I didn’t go to, partly for lack of time (which I mainly spent at the National Gallery and about this more another time) and because I was told it would be pretty dangerous to go there on my own – even more so at night, to the extend that I was seriously told off for going out in the dark on my own to buy some dinner from a suya stall two corners away from my hotel, an area I was told was otherwise safe enough. But it certainly accorded me some independence and flexibility that I never feel I quite have if I’m staying with somebody else – and giving that there was a lot of things I felt I had to do in Lagos, a lot of places to go to – this was actually quite good.

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