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Surprised by Nigeria?

Coen van Wyk

Posted on July 1, 2018 08:03

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Despite being tired and stressed, a nameless stranger gave good service, helped out and made our day. We had a pleasant experience on a long voyage. Why were we surprised?

We were tired and stressed. The Libyan crisis, elections in Cameroon and the rainy season had forced us to cross Nigeria. We traveled four days from west to east, on indifferent roads and through frequent roadblocks.
 
On the second night, we entered Enugu in bucketing rain. Camping, even seeking for a campsite, was out. The only option was a long-ago invitation from someone working in a local hotel. But, he was long gone, and the staff disinclined to honor his initiation, of the suggestion of a discount.

Camping out in our hotel. 

We were short of cash. Shops accepted dollars, but at ridiculous rates. The three men were exhausted and Mariana was recovering from malaria, so Shahnaz and Elismé offered to change money. The hotel staff would not help, but called a taxi, and the girls set off into a tropical downpour.
 
The first bank would not change money, the second was closed, the third… but the taxi driver had a friend who had a cousin somewhere in a teeming, smelly hive of shops and booths. The girls were worried. They had no communication, the simcards we had bought after crossing the border were not yet activated. Where would anyone start looking for them in a city with a population of a million people?

There are good roads in Nigeria. This wasn't one. 

 The taxi driver pushed his way into a tiny shop and told them to sit down, then started a heated discussion with the proprietor. Then, he asked for the dollars. Shahnaz handed their stash over, and the proprietor disappeared. A tense ten minutes later he reappeared and handed a thick wad of Naira to the driver. They left, and the driver said: “You need simcard? I know someone…”
 
Eventually, after exploring more dripping, smelling shops the driver stopped at the hotel. Leaning over the seat he produced the wads of money and proceeded to count it off. “There is your money. Now this is for the taxi, and this is my commission. Have a good evening!”
 
Back in our room we counted the money again. This was the best exchange rate we had in Nigeria, despite the fact that they were sure they were going to be robbed or kidnapped.
 
And yet, we asked ourselves that evening over pizza and beer, why not? Perhaps our image of Nigerians had been distorted by the offers to refund our Microsoft Lottery winnings, the tales of drug smugglers and other criminal gangs, the venality of the customs officers and the insistence of police officers that we “bring something” for them. Perhaps the failure is with us, to expect the worst and be surprised by integrity.

Another chaotic road scene. There were stretches were we did 90 miles per hour. But not here. 

 

Coen van Wyk

Posted on July 1, 2018 08:03

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Source: WDSU

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