While global problems are discussed then usually famine is considered the worst. We all have heard how children in poor Africa starve. This is even brought out as an argument while talking pro genetically modified food – it should solve the hunger problem. Shortly before the trip, finding myself quite penniless, I imagined that I was going to Africa to starve.
It came out that one or the other doesn’t have to cope with starvation. At least in Nigeria the starving children of Africa are declared a myth, and on our tables we had notably moor food than we’d manage to carry in our stomachs.
There is food. Food is cheap. Servings are huge.
But there’s no choice, no gourmet. In Africa they give the food weight – a serving of rice is about a kilo, a serving of corn dish is comparable to a loaf of bread. And an innate commitment of every hospitable Nigerian is to feed their honourable guests as much as possible.
But at the moment my aim isn’t to analyse African food culture, I’ll do that at some other time. Now I’d like to introduce you a whole new phenomenon through such a new word, which invention was unavoidable when describing the following situation.
The word is FREEBOARDING and the situation was the following: We’ve been planning to take a hike from Lagos for two days already, but “in a cage and with baby sitters”, whose parasite phrases are “Let tomorrow come first”, it isn’t an easy task. We’ve been trying to go to exchange money for a half a day. What I mean is that foreign exchange doesn’t take place in banks or through those “official” exchange points where the currencies blink on an electronic board and a lady is respectably sitting behind glass.
Here we have professionals dealing with the issue. And a professional doesn’t need anything but a pocket calculator and contacts. Like this a currency professional can come to you or you have to find him at the money exchange boulevard.
Since our boys are poor we have to count on buses and go to the money exchange boulevard. Usually Yinusa has a friend here but sadly he isn’t here today. Yinusa lets his sharp look travel over the army of the exchangers who are mainly Muslims and are laying in the shade, away from the cutting afternoon sun. But as soon as they see oimbus approaching, (who happen to be women!) they stand up and raise their voices.
Just like that we happen to the perviously mentioned “clerk” who tries to find a place for him in our suitcases. „Take me in your luggage!”
At first he makes each of his move more and more time consuming. (“The boy went to get the exchange money, it takes some time.”) Then he starts peeling ginger at the next cabinet. Then he tells somebody to go and boil some water, finally his colleague asks whether we’d like some coffee. Since the situation seemed unavoidable and as getting accustomed with African time showed its divinatory signs we decided to have this coffee with the gentlemen.
There was more hustle than the coffe would have ever been worth of. Immediately they bought us a pile of dried meat and then the new marker developed – FREEBOARDING.
Yinusa poured into his cup both tea and two packets of Nescafe. Then he added at least three pieces of sugar. Everything at at once since it’s for free. At the same time he munched the meat. Greedily, stingily, as if it was his innate commitment. He muched and continued munching. Until there was not a crumb on the table and even the last Nescafe had been drunk.
The three main tribes in Nigeria are hausa, ibo and yoruba. Stereotypically the hausas are belligerent, ibos do business and yorubas are smart. One way of distinguishing one from the other is to read their faces, literally. Yorubas usually have two vertical lines on their cheeks, these are scars from the cuts made in childhood. Ibos have the lines next to their eyes. Ljaw tribe has half of the face striped.
Yinusa is yoruba. His mother made the tribe signs when he was two, so that he wouldn’t cry. Yinusa hasn’t cried since. Of course, it is said the strongest men in Africa are Nigerians. Yinusa isn’t an exception. (And he continues munching the meat.)
But the “clerk” is hausa. He has “whiskers” round his mouth and one longer line on his cheeck. While having his coffee he says how hausas are allowed to marry up to four women. Four wives live happily under one roof. His father, for example, had three wives adn 25 children.
25 chilren! Why so many?
Hausa seemed to have a logical explanation: “You never know who could be blessed by God!”
Which child is blessed?
„Healthy, successful and rich.”
So you need to make new babies. For rising the certainty of having The Chosen One in your family. If your lucky The Chosen One can take care of the well-being of the whole family.
From here you can only think what would happen if an ideology like that was rooted in Estonia. That would solve our population growth problem immediately!
Yinusa licks his fingers, nods and our freeboarding party is over. The huge pile of meat has disappeared.
And one more time
FREEBOARDING – a carving born from the “it’s for free” feeling to eat and drink everything that has been offered.