The old and the new
The airport was not very busy at this point as we came to the second piece of equipment not working; the escalator. After carrying the luggage down the escalator, we went through customs without a wait and the people were very friendly and I joked with, them showing what few words I know in Igbo. We then came to luggage carousels where there were three and only one was working, we waited, others began to wait as well and soon the crowd around the carousel swelled to about 100 or so. It took a while but we got all our luggage. People were very friendly and courteous, even as the crowd grew and this area became packed with people. The chaos was beginning.
We met our driver who was to take us to our accommodations. We walked out and were hit by a barrage of people looking to offer services like carrying the luggage, driving, chariy donations. Some a little aggressive but not unfriendly, we declined as the walked along. Then the drive began and I saw the futility of traffic laws. it was the way of things. There were split second decisions of life and death almost every moment. The shear volume of people on the roads was incredible. One lane roads made into three, cars just inches from one another, the traffic inched ahead until there was space to run, no void left unfilled. Everyone driving with extreme awareness of the periphery. it was full on chaos. And where you stopped for the lights that were respected, the street vendors took to the line of potential customers. Everything you could imagine walked past the cars a walking 7/11. Produce, candy, nuts, paintings. I was told you could do alll your shopping done just by being stuck in traffic. The spirit of free enterprise was on fire in this city. The people were on fire, buzzing with activity and life. In New England people walk around like zombies, half dead. No merchant is just sitting and waiting for customers but actively seeking contact.
Market after market crowd the side of the route. People fill the markets. Fish and fruits, bread, vegetables, beer and wine. Row after row, a perpetual yard sale. The sky is still hazy. The sun reduced to a yellow disc you can look right at. The traffic is swelling. New concrete buildings are being built all over. Everything is concrete. And it’s hot. But, people are managing even laughing sometimes at the absurdity of things that go by the window. Someone is carrying a full length mirror, A man with a small live alligator holding it by the tail is swinging towards the slow moving cars. Presumably for a meal? It’s for sale; everything is for sale it seems. Then mixed in with this are new restaurants and coffee shops, clothing stores, everything you would see on Boylston Street in Boston. Nice cafes, a Jazz club that sells hamburgers, fast food joints. It is all swirling around under Lagos haze the new growing right out of the old. The mall is the same as any mall I’ve seen and is a nice respite from the heat.At the far end there is space reserved for local crafters to sell their goods and services. We buy some chocolate that is nice and is made locally.
We walk around the neighborhood of VGC. There are nice homes guarded by high walls with barb wire on top. Every home is surrounded by high walls and large metal gates at the entrance of the driveway. It is a well planned community with clean streets and traffic signals. All over small lizards dart across the road and under the fences like squirrels.
We arrived in Umuchu and were greeted warmly by our hosts. This is the holidays so it is the one time when entire extended family is at the the family compound. As a result it is perfect time for weddings and memorials. I’m amazed at the the commitment to ancestral lands. These parcels of land go back generations and passed on from one to the next.Everyone here seems to be living off the grid. Roads are built by individuals.Government involvement in everyday life is non existent . It struck me that these folks are pure libertarians doing for themselves what the government provides in many countries. We are welcomed to family memorial and reunion in Achina the next town over. There is live music provided with a whistle and a drum corps of a dozen drummers. It’s time for the masquerade. Masked dancers dance to the music and collect small paper Nigerian Naira denominations tossed to them by the crowd. They play for a good 1 hour straight in the sweltering heat, I’m told they will play for 3 hours at times. I can’t imagine that, because I’m just sitting and drinking and ready to succumb to the temperature. The food is good and plentiful and the wine is poured generously. Everywhere is fresh fruit and produce, yams hang from the wall. There are orange trees, coconut trees and other fruits I have never seen before.All their meals will be made from local produce. The meat will be fresh cut from cattle slaughtered just around corner. And it’s all organic.
The houses are nicely kept. The landscaping showcases beautiful palm tree hybrids that look like they have been hand painted with spirals halfway up the tree. It’s a very peaceful neighborhood. We stop at a fresh food market to buy fruit. Again it’s organized and vendors are patient and very helpful