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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Two Different Worlds

Ek'asan (Good afternoon)! Yesterday, I went out to one of the new grocery stores which has opened in Lagos. I had to take a picture of it from the outside because it just reminds me of how big the supermarkets are in the U.S. To me ( and other expats here), it is really strange ( and pleasantly surprising) to see a market like this in is kind of like finding an elephant in your flat....and the elephant happens to be potty trained:) After Fatai and I were able to find it ( we took a few wrong turns and asked several okada drivers who had no idea what we were talking about) I had Fatai drop me off in front of the door. I told him my usual "od'abo" ( goodbye) and got out of the car and told him I would flash him when I was done. I went inside and grabbed a big cart (the carts in the markets here are always so small) and began to browse the fruit section with my eyes on the small pack of grapes for 1500 naira ( 10 U.S. dollars). I was deep in a silent debate in my head over whether I should buy the grapes because Jeremy LOVES them and we don't really ever get to eat them here or if I should just move on when I heard Fatai's voice behind me.

"Hello, Madame!" Two thoughts went through my head at this point:

1) Another car had hit him in the parking lot and he needed to tell me about it.


2) He had hit another car in the parking lot and was running for his life from an angry Nigerian driver.

I looked at him and was just very surprised to see him in the market with me. I asked him if there as a problem. and he said ." No, madame, I have just never been in a market like this before. I had to come in and see it." I immediately got a pain in my heart. ( One that comes very often since moving to Nigeria). Here I was shopping in a store which felt "normal" to me, but there was Fatai, a 50 year old Nigerian man ( who calls me Madame!!! crazy!!!) who had never seen (or known) about supermarkets like this. So, I told him if he wanted to walk around the market and look, he could and I would just call him when I was done. He said, " No, Madame, I would prefer to just walk with you." I felt a little uncomfortable having him walk with me and see what I was buying. But, I could tell he was a little uncomfortable to just walk around on his own. So, I thought, we could just feel uncomfortable together. There's some comfort in that , right!:) There I was in the market shopping with my driver pushing the cart behind me. Was this for real? I only a had a few things I had to get on my list, but I was painfully aware by watching Fatai's face as he looked at the price of things, that he thought it was very expensive. I started looking at the prices and realized that there really couldn't be a way he could shop here...on a regular basis, he doesn't make enough money. Don't get me wrong...he gets paid very well for a driver in Nigeria....but I was very aware of the difference in the living standards between my expat lifestyle and his as a Nigerian driver.

I had gotten everything on my list...last stop, the wine section!!!! ( Yes, can"t leave the market without that!) Thank goodness there are some good Argentinian and French wines imported here.:) As I was looking around, Fatai yelled over to me," Madame!!! Look at this!!! It is so costly!!" I walked over and saw he was looking at a bottle of champagne which was literally about 3 feet tall and cost 35,000 naira ( about 230 U.S. dollars). He was in complete shock! I was uncomfortable, even though I knew I would never buy something like that ( at least not until I have an extremely bad day in Nigeria!:)) I laughed and told him I didn't have money to throw away like that today and we walked away...but I couldn't help but think..." He probably does think I have money to throw away...I am shopping in a place he could never shop in."
When I got to the check out line, I could see the looks on the checkers' faces. They were thinking, "Please don't let this oyibo come to my lane." I can always tell they get annoyed when oyibos count money...we are so slow. (The Nigerians can count money like a machine.....literally. I guess thats what happens when you have to bring shoeboxes of money with you everywhere. I really have to get a video of it sometime.) I find that if I make a joke about it....that seems to get them smiling and they aren't so annoyed. Again, when I got my receipt, I saw Fatai looking at children's backpacks (possibly for his own children) and checking the prices. There was that darn pain in my heart again...

Here is the market across the road from the supermarket. I went here afterwards to pick up a few things. You can find some beautiful purses, gifts, beads, etc. here ( even though I know from the picture it doesn't look like it. You just have to know where to look. I didn't feel like having a young boy come with me through the market, so, I thought, "Well, Fatai already shopped with me once today, why not again?" So, he walked with me through the market. This time, he was really comfortable, and I was the one who felt out of place. I am still working on my bargaining skills and I am getting a little better...but I can't say that I have reached the bargaining ranks of a Nigerian.:)

I took a few pictures of the produce as we were driving out of the market. In the lower right of the picture is a huge pile of gigantic yams. Pounded yam is a food that is commonly eaten in Nigeria. I had never seen yams that big before until I moved here.

This market is much different than the grocery store I went to earlier in the day. As we drove away...again...there was that pain. The pain of wondering how I was so blessed to be born where I was to the family that I have and to be given all the opportunities I have been given. Every day, I see such poor people and I want to help them all, and that is a struggle I have in myself everyday. How do I reconcile all the things I have when the people I pass by each and every day are literally walking with no shoes, starving, or pushing themselves around with their hands on skateboards because their legs are literally shriveled up? Then, I have to tell myself that I may not be able to help everyone here, but I think in some small way, we are helping Fatai and Happiness by employing them. I think they are learning a little bit of our culture from us and we are learning alot about Nigeria from them. And that thought takes away the pain in my heart, just a little bit.:)

1 comment:

  1. great post! I still look forward to your posts every night!