Spotting WOWs! in Nigeria

Last week I was in Abuja, Nigeria, for a VSO regional conference on Gender and Capacity Building.  My first thoughts on stepping out of the airport in Lagos weren’t so intellectual.  I was too busy turning my head pivot-like to gawk at the many things I haven’t seen in months!

Leaving Canada bound for Cameroon did mean giving up some creature comforts.  But not being able to brunch on burritos or consume cappuccinos didn’t really hit us until we were in Maroua for a few months.   Now that we’re in Yaoundé we really have access to a lot more… We actually can go to – count them! – FIVE supermarkets!

In spite of now being back in the periphery of urbane consumerism, a lot of things caught my eye …  Here’s some of the mundane things that scored a “WOW!” in West Africa’s biggest economy.

WOWs! While at the airport in Lagos,

I actually saw people!!! The airports in Cameroon echo with silent desertion except during sporadic pell-mell dashes for the few planes taking off each day.

I visited airport shops that were not only open but also had items to purchase!

I dined in airport restaurants that overcharge for absolutely everything. $10 for a latté!!!

WOWs! While driving in Lagos and Abuja,

I MERGED onto a 12-lane expressway!

I glided over asphalted roads that didn’t require drivers to navigate slalom-like around a myriad of potholes and chasms.

I luxuriated in air conditioned-public transport!

I marveled at public bus stops!

I gawked as mostly new cars whizzed by

I did a double-take at election advertising for more than one political party!

WOWs! While in Abuja,

I sniffed dubiously at the smell of chlorine in a swimming pool that wasn’t green and cloudy

I told a taxi driver the name of the street I wanted to go to and knew I’d arrived when I saw the name on a street sign!

I mourned the absence of street stalls selling everything from fruit to fashion.

WOWs! While driving around Kaduna State,

I enjoyed spotting (and poking fun at) each town’s distinctive businesses – for example,

I wondered what they served at Stomach Paradise

I admired the ambitiousness of Feed Africa Restaurant

I was sucked in by Triumph Over Danger Driving School

I had faith in God is Able Pharmacy

I pondered whether The Young Shall Grow Strong Transport relied on child labour

I dallied outside Patience Joint Restaurant; Just how long to wait for my meal?

I pondered quality at Work and Pray Furniture

I won the (slow & steady) race at Endurance Transport

I salivated outside Lip Licking Restaurant

I dreamed about the secret sauce at Enjoy Your Delicious Restaurant

I asked when the fish would bite for God’s Time Fishing Company


Not everything in Nigeria is all that astonishingly different from Cameroon though…  Restaurants still don’t have half of what their menu advertises!

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~ by Greg Spira on March 16, 2011.

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