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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Little Understanding

"Better to understand a little than to misunderstand alot." Anonymous

This week, I have bus duty on our compound. Each week, one of the moms on the compound is the very "lucky" lady who gets to ride the bus with the driver and guard to get the children to school in the morning and the afternoon. There are two round trips in the morning and three round trips in the afternoon. So, that would add up to 50 trips in a week going to the school and coming back. I have to say I never got motion sickness until I was the bus mom last year. That did it...the pot holed dirt roads and the bus hitting each and every single bump in the road as I was watching the okadas drive by doing the same thing was enough to turn my stomach. And so, since then, I am not able to text, read, or even look at a map while riding in a car. Needless to say, motion sickness accompanied by 50 bus runs in week can make for a very long week.
Yesterday was the first day, and I had told Fatai on Friday and then sent him a text on Sunday night that I needed him to be at work early to be the "chase" vehicle for the bus ( The bus mom's driver has to follow behind the bus in a separate car in case there is an emergency. He can call on a radio to security or drive to go and get help should the need arise) It was 6:45 a.m. and I was looking for him to be parked near where the bus was. No Fatai...the bus was leaving in 10 minutes. I checked my watch Fatai. I called him, and asked where he was..the answer I received is one I hear alot in Nigeria...he said "I'm coming..I'm coming!" Just to explain, the statement"I'm coming." in Nigeria can mean a variety of things. It can mean " I am getting close to where you are.", " I am thinking about coming.", " I am just getting out of bed."," I might be coming",or " I'm not coming, but I don't want you to be mad. so I will just tell you that I am." So, I was in a little bit of a panic since not having my driver to follow the school bus is a little bit of a security violation. I asked the bus guard, Mr. Moses, why people in Nigeria always say they are coming even when they haven't even left yet. He looked at me and laughed.:) I was laughing a little bit too...but I really did want to understand why i heard that phrase so much. He said he didn't really know either as he kept on laughing. He said " No Oyibo has asked me that before." I was so relieved when it was 6:54 ( one minute before we had to leave when I saw Fatai show up. Thank goodness in his case he really was coming!:)
The first bus run went pretty well. There weren't too many kids..and it was pretty quiet. The second bus run was a totally different matter all together. The bus was extremely full and all of the jumpseats were used down the middle aisle. But, the kids were pretty good. The problem came when we actually got to the school and the bus stopped. All of the kids started scrambling to get off the bus. No one was waiting for the people in front to get off or for the poor kids in the jumpseats to get up so there was no room to actually walk off the bus. The kids were actually trying to climb over each other to get off. I really couldn't believe my eyes. Of course, I had to use my "teacher voice" and make everyone sit back in their seats and explain to them that to get off the bus they needed to wait until the kids sitting in the seats in front of them got up and then, the next row and so on... the kids weren't too happy about getting off the bus that way, but they did comply. After I dropped the kids off at school, I was riding home and I really couldn't believe that those kids were trying to jump over each other. I understood the younger ones, maybe..but not the high schoolers. Then, I realized that when we land in Lagos, even before the seat belt light is turned off, Nigerians are already standing in the aisle with their and luggage shoving into each other trying to get off the plane as if there is a grand prize for who makes it off first. ( I am really not exaggerating....the flight attendants get very agitated with Nigerians when we land in Lagos). I see many city buses here with people who are actually tumbling out of the bus. At church, there is no rhyme or reason as to how people receive communion. This Sunday, there were three Nigerian women who were already standing in line to receive communion and the priest wasn't even ready to hand it out yet. Why such a big hurry? I asked Happiness why people do not wait for each other or show each other what I think of as common courtesy. She said that in Nigeria people "do not give a chance". She said that if they don't try to be first at whatever they are doing someone will take their opportunity away from them. I never thought of it like that. Lagos is still a developing country, and in that respect, if the people in this country don't seize the opportunity when it is given, they may very well miss it. Most people aren't thinking too far ahead into the future...most are just thinking about how they will get money to eat tonight. For me the concept of not knowing where my next meal will come from is so foreign to me.
I thought back to watching the kids trying to get off the bus , and thought to myself they see Nigerian people everyday doing the exact same thing. So, when does it come to a point when you are an expat living overseas to try to change the way things are done as a culture ( or at least for the expat kids who are living in a different culture)? Is it even my place to try? Do the kids even understand why the Nigerian people don't wait? Now that I have a better understanding of why Nigerian people are in such a hurry to "be first" maybe I can try not to be as annoyed when they are blocking the jet way to the plane when I am trying to pre board with two little kids. ( I will really have to meditate on that one!) There are so many things to think about. Then, like always happens so many times when I am in the car, I will see something that will make me laugh out loud. A car drove by me with puppies in the back. I thought, "That's strange, I don't see many puppies in Nigeria." I looked again and saw what I thought was a "tail" was actually a tail feather! I know the picture is not very good, the car was going by me too fast to get a good picture. But I really couldn't believe my eyes...of all the things to see in the back of someone's station wagon.......chickens.....really???!!! The driver was so nonchalantly driving down the road like it was no big deal. He looked like he was just doing something he would do on any given day......maybe that is what he does everyday!? I laughed so hard! After I caught my breath from a really good belly laugh, I thought to myself, I may not always agree with how things are done the way they are in Nigeria. But I can understand it a little better and accept Nigeria for what it is. And most importantly, remember to keep a good sense of humor about it.:)

1 comment:

  1. That is such a great attitude. I agree it is important to understand a culture rather to change it to our standards. You are doing a great job!