Lagos was the first time I had seen international news since mid-November. There were hurricanes in the Philippines and Northern Europe, and civil unrest in Thailand and the Central African Republic. Paul Walker died, but then Nelson Mandela’s passing took over all the news coverage so I stopped finding out what else was happening in the world.
It’s hard to watch the world pass you by, but I’m always reminded how depressing it is I watch the news since they only seem to cover the bad and terrible things that happen around us. I prefer to listen to the stories people have shared with me in west Africa, giggling about the small, unimportant or unbelievable things that have happened to us.
My hitchhiker friends in Nigeria once tried to catch a 23:00 flight out of Lagos Int’l airport, so they left Cotonou, 150km and one border crossing away, at 6am and still missed the flight. You’ll have to try driving that road one day to understand how it’s possible, but I can vouch for him that it’s very possible to spend 17hours on route. He said at one point, he sat parked on the same spot of the highway for 4 hours and at that point he should have walked to the airport and he might have made it.
He also joked about the animals in Lagos. Everywhere else in west Africa, you see stray dogs roaming the streets and birds flying in the sky, but not in Lagos. I asked why and he said “probably because they eat them all.” But then he took another guess and said “actually, probably because they have nothing to eat,” but that’s hard to believe when you drive past yet another 5m high garbage pile with little kids rummaging through them for who-knows-what.
I did see goats in Nigeria, but they were different than the other African goats. They were like Pigme-breed, fat with short legs. Senegal has monster chickens, these huge, fluffy birds with feathers on their feet. But then there were this mini-pigeons in Nigeria that probably interbred with some little birds to be so small but still silly purple around their necks.
When I walk around alone, I’ve had a few funny looks from people, truly making me feel like I may be the first non-black human they’ve ever seen, but I’m never sure if they’re gawking or checking me out. One guy close to my age passed me on the street, and his eyes stuck like glue on my face as his head turned to keep staring. Once he was a few steps past me but still looking back and walking forward, he walked straight into an umbrella and knocked over the street sellers temporary shelter. A toddler once did something similar, but instead he walked straight into an electricity pole and fell backwards on his (thankfully) diapered bum. One uniformed school kid was looking up at me for long enough that he didn’t see the gutter coming up so he tripped and fell too. Each time I thought to run to their aid, but I wasn’t sure if I would scare or hurt them more.