July 14, 2010

Bose and Her Husbands

My hostess Moji took me to the Moshi neighborhood this afternoon so I could order business cards and fool those Presidents into thinking I'm a professional. We walked past dirt mounds, cement block houses, and dozens of children playing in their skivvies, then teetered across a plank that spanned a ditch of stagnant water to find a wooden, shed-size structure that offers everything Kinko’s does. After placing our order and making a deposit, we took a quick okada ride (motorcycle taxis = NOT safe over long distances) to visit Moji’s friend, Bose, at her streetside convenience store.

Bose is the beautiful and compassionate girl next door that every teenage guy wished he had grown up alongside. Her convenience store (a shed with a patio out front) doubles as an all-day party zone for the young men in the neighborhood who sit outside and keep Bose company. She calls them all her “husbands.” The group gladly welcomed me into their circle, and before I knew it they were uncorking a bottle of wine on my behalf and toasting that I “find success in my research and stay away from the mosquitoes.” I think this crew jumps at any chance to uncork a bottle of wine, but I wasn't going to quibble.

I was grateful not only for the group’s hospitality, but for their candidness. Some of the questions I was soon fielding: “What are the perceptions of Nigeria in America?” (I answered honestly and was quickly inundated with passionate protests to Nigeria’s scam reputation) and then “So what do you think about black people?” Like most other people I’ve encountered, the gang wasn’t hostile to an oyibo in Nigeria, but they were all very, very determined for me to hear and understand what they had to say about development, democracy, and Nigeria's place in the world. Oh, and they wanted to know if Lady Gaga was a witch of the occult. I did my best just to listen, and to assure them that Lady Gaga was mostly harmless. (Lying for the sake of diplomacy?)

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