It’s been 2 weeks days since I got back to Nigeria from Cyprus and so far it has been an experience worth writing about. Even though I have visited Nigeria 4 times since the first time I left for Cyprus in 2006, this time is actually different because I’m back to Nigeria for good! The last 111 months of my life were spent mostly in Northern Cyprus and my visits to Nigeria have lasted a maximum of about 5 weeks, but out of those weeks I have spent a total 2 or 3 weeks in Lagos. My problem right now is mainly with Lagos and if you’ve been abroad before, I bet that you can relate with some of the experiences I’m about to describe. For those who may not have been abroad, let me tell you of the differences that I have to deal with, some of which I was not very well prepared for. Note that some of these problems are not new but I simply just had to endure them in the past because my days in Nigeria were numbered; I really couldn’t be bothered. Nevertheless, they remain a challenge for me while in Lagos, and in Nigeria… Enjoy!
My first and obvious challenge is with electricity. I won’t exactly call this a challenge because electricity in Lagos is way better than I remember it was in Benin. The last time I was in Benin, we barely had electricity for up to 8 hours per day, even though we were scheduled to have a guaranteed 8 hours of electricity everyday. On average, we had about 3 hours of electricity and that’s almost useless. Thank God that in Benin there’s an inverter and a generator that helps with things like charging mobile phones and laptops and so on. Thankfully in Lagos, the situation of electricity is way better. The schedule here is 5 days on, 1 day off and they mostly keep up to that. Also, there is a generator here which they run most of the time (even too much, if you ask me). Nevertheless, electricity is the least of my challenges in Nigeria right now.
This one is major! In Cyprus I usually subscribed for a mobile package that comes with 10,000 SMS (9,000 local, 1,000 international), free calls to subscribers of the same package plus 1GB mobile data. This of course was in addition to Wi-Fi at work and Wi-Fi at home; so 1GB was more than enough mobile internet for me. At home I got a special WDSL deal with a speed of 1mbits at 500 lira (N41,500 naira) per year! Yes, per year. The normal price though was 600 lira (N49,800 naira) per year. Oh, and if I paid for a year at once, I would get 3 months extra, so that means 500 lira for 15 months of WDSL at 1mbits speed… what a deal! As at the time I left Cyprus, my internet still had 5 months left on my internet subscription, and I had no one to pass it on to… what a pity!
Now, in Nigeria I asked around for internet options and all I get are mobile internet subscriptions. Since when did GSM companies become ISPs??? I still cannot find WDSL or public hotspots to use here and all the mobile subscriptions are limited. For instance, N40,000 naira (or about 480 lira) would get me 120GB of internet for ONE month! Yea, 1 freaking month! That’s nothing for me because back in Cyprus I often listen to music from my YouTube playlist (about 400 songs)… imagine how many gigabytes of data that consumes. Then I watch Ted videos almost everyday, and YouTube videos (Equals 3, vine compilations, etc.), podcasts and so on. So the popular or recommended 4GB or 5GB per month will not satisfy my regular internet usage. I would then have to cut down on my internet usage as a result, and given what I do with internet from time to time, it would be tough for me. I am still in search of an ISP that offers WDSL for real. I mean, how do churches and banks and schools handle internet? I refuse to believe that they use 120GB monthly internet in such organizations, and fortunately I came across a company with public hotspots for just N5,000 naira (60 lira) per month which is reasonable for unlimited internet via hotspot. I need to keep searching until I find something suitable for me, or I have to go back to my internet usage habit of 4 to 5 years ago when I was using 8GB internet monthly. Even at that, 8GB internet was costing me 60 lira (N5,000 naira) monthly. In Nigeria, that will be a “too good to be true” deal.
My frequent destinations back in Cyprus were well within walking distances. On a typical day, I could walk 5 km to 15 km per day, depending on the day. I know this because I have an app that I use to measure distances covered when I go for my daily walk. When I was in Lefke (the city where I schooled), I and 2 other friends would walk 5 km during our daily walks. Also, a walk to and fro school from home was 2.4 km; when I moved to Lefkoşa (the city where I worked in the last 2 years or so), I was walking 3.2 km daily on my own; a walk to and from the market was about 3 km; a walk to and from church was 6 km. There were days that I would have to walk to the market twice in a day or more but for longer distances, like to the hospital or out of town, I will have to ride the bus. Even at that, I seldom had to make such movements. Going out of town usually meant that I had something important to attend to out of town, or I was going out of town for the weekend and these kind of movements usually happened once in several months, or once in a week (at most).
Even though there were taxi’s and public transport, I and my friends usually always walked to the places we had to be at. Even when my dear friend Sommie comes to town, we would usually walk from my place to the cinema and then to the bar and then walk back home. Of course it would be nice to sit in a taxi and be driven around, but such luxuries aren’t always necessary (or affordable, in some cases), especially when walking affords us more time together, you know. So I am used to always walking to my frequent destinations while taxis and buses were for longer distances. Now I have to sit through 2 to 3 hours of traffic and traffic jam just to get anywhere else in Lagos, costing me time and money just to get around.
I noticed something though when riding the buses. One time I noticed my hand was touching with the hand of the lady behind me. Initially, I thought my hand was just touching the chair behind me, so I didn’t pay attention for the first couple of minutes. But when I realized that it was a lady’s hand, I was shocked (mainly because she did not react)! I mean, in Cyprus the seats are so comfortable that there is hardly any physical contact with the next passenger. So imagine my surprise when I realized I was making a lot of body contact with those beside, in front and behind me. However, this was very normal to them because the buses are always jam-packed and there is always physical contact with everyone sitting next to you, weather in front, behind or besides you. I am trying to get used to that because it seems “normal” to very other person lol.
When I first started working full time at Blue Fox Technology, I used to ride 2 buses from Lefke to Lefkoşa and back everyday, for 2 months! With the first bus it was a 30 minutes journey, while the second bus was an hours’ journey so it was a 1.5 hour journey one-way (3 hours on the road daily). As much as it was tiring, it was also okay because I had the opportunity to catch about an hours’ worth of sleep either on my way to work or from work. Eventually though, I had to move to Lefkoşa in order to save 3 hours of my day.
Now let’s compare with Lagos where I spend about an hour stuck in traffic and traffic jam on my way to a destination that is actually just 20 minutes away! I hate Lagos and I hate Lagos traffic, so I don’t really move around in Lagos to know a lot of places. That’s why my favorite meeting spot in Lagos is the Ikeja City Mall and it takes me an average of 2 hours to get there from my location in Lagos (Alagbado). If we cut out the traffic jam and waiting for the bus drivers to fill the buses, I will get to the mall within an hour or less.
I am convinced that Lagos and all that it has to offer, considerably reduces the lifespan of its occupants and make them live shorter as compared to their counterparts in other more relaxed cities. And don’t you tell me that it is a result of overpopulation because Lagos is not the most populated city in the world. There are other cities that are just as large as Lagos or even more populated, but they don’t have terrible traffic. I think the traffic condition in Lagos can be greatly improved if the roads were better and if the average Nigerian was not strong headed and will just abide by simply laws, rules and regulations. Then there are the commercial bus drivers who have zero regard for rules, and the passengers who are in 1,000% support of such nonchalance.
The buses in Cyprus move with time, like every 15 minutes or 30 minutes, and it does not matter if the bus is empty or not. They also have very comfortable seats that make you enjoy the ride and even fall asleep. The most uncomfortable seats are not enough for me to sleep on, but they are still comfortable enough to enjoy the ride. Last night after I got off the bus, I literally could not feel my butt… my butt got numb from sitting on the uncomfortably hard chairs. Buses in Benin are way more comfortable than those in Lagos. At least those in Benin and other cities seem to care about the comfort of their passengers, while the Lagosian drivers care about maximizing profits… but it’s the same country.
At this time of the year, Cyprus is usually hot because it’s summer. And by hot, I mean so hot that the water from the solar heated tank is near boiling point! So hot that doors expand, laptop computers malfunction, AC’s don’t function properly, and in a place Lefkoşa you can even feel the heat from the roads through your shoes at the sole of your feet, if you stand on one spot for more than 5 seconds… yea, it’s that hot!! But even at that, you need to do some work (chores, manual labor, walk, jog, etc.) in order to break a sweat. In Nigeria on the other hand, just sitting down at home doing nothing is enough for you to sweat; sticky, annoying sweat! As long as I am at home, I’m usually on (boxer) shorts and no shirt, and I could shower several times a day. I sweat easily and I feel the heat easily too. Long before moving to Cyprus, I remember how hot it used to be in Benin… when I take afternoon naps without a fan on, I would wake up soaked in sweat! The bed or couch will be wet, my clothes, the pillow… everything soaked in sweat! Yea, that’s how I sweat!
In Cyprus at this time of the year it is hot because we have clear skies all day, plus the sun rises at 5:30 am and sets at 8:45 pm; so the sun is on full heat from early in the morning until evening. At least there’s a reason for the heat in Cyprus, unlike in Nigeria… rain or no rain, the place is always hot! Then there are always cloudy skies that some days I do not even see the sun at all! Then there’s all the smog from the exhaust of cars that make the rain more acidic than usual, and the humidity and the carpets inside the house and so on.
I’m not a very social person but I do like to have a good time in the company of friends. During my last week in Cyprus, I had visited more places than I normally would in a space of 1 to 3 months because my friends wanted to spend some time with me before I left finally. Besides my last week in Cyprus, I would sometimes go to the cinema or just (window) shopping or lunch/dinner with a friend or two at a café, or drinks somewhere. The kinds of cafes and places which I visit from time to time in Cyprus don’t seem to be easily found in Nigeria. My brothers don’t even know of Starbucks or if there’s one here. The only place to my taste so far was Barcelos at the Ikeja City Mall, and I don’t know about similar places like Barcelos, but that are just on their own (not in a mall), like Mardo, Gloria Jeans, Mado, Pascuccini, Segafredo, and so on. I don’t frequent those but when I want to hang out, I like to chill at those kind of places. Imagine I once walked into one Tantalizers in Lagos and it seemed like I walked into a beer parlor or something! lol So there aren’t the kinds of places I’m used to around me where I can go chill at. Perhaps there are, but I don’t know how to locate them.
So these have been my challenges in the 2 weeks that I’ve been back to Nigeria from Cyprus. I intend to settle in Benin though and eventually move to Abuja, but it seems that choosing to “rest” in Lagos for the first month in Nigeria was not exactly a good idea Luckily, I have to cut my stay in Lagos short as I will be going to Benin next week.
Have you been out and back? Please share your experiences or opinions in the comment section below