December Nights in Berlin.

I am in the passenger’s seat of the cab.

It is dark. We’re driving along a bridge of sorts. We are headed to the Berlin Tegel Airport.

Oh my God, this is such a fucked up situation. This is so motherfucking fucked up.

I cannot believe I just completely forgot, Jesus. Jesus Christ.

Jesus!

How long till we get to the airport?

I look at the driver.

He’s like Turkish I think. Looks like late twenties.

Not too long, we’ll be there soon.

I’m berating myself in my seat.

Jesus Mayowa, Jesus. How could you fuck up like this- How? Howwww???



I’m just getting back to the dorms at Adalbertstrasse. I think I went out for a skate.

A couple of classmates are on the sidewalk.

I see Jakob.

Fiona is heading inside the building.

Colette is talking to Jakob.

“I think you just need to take time to figure your shit out. You shouldn’t bring her into your confusion…”

I’m somewhat disturbed. I wonder why she’d be saying that to him.

I think it’s very unfair. She’s speaking so harshly to him, and protecting Fiona- her friend- his girlfriend.

I think that’s very prejudiced. Very very. Fiona herself is a problematic person who very well does her part in making his life miserable. But he’s the one getting the scalding words.

I feel bad for him.

When he’s done talking with Colette, I walk up to him and ask if he’d like us to walk back together to Sonnenallee where his apartment is.

He says not tonight, that he’ll prefer to walk back on his own.

I say okay.

A couple weekends ago he messaged me, inviting me to come join him and some buddies at Skatehalle.

Skatehalle is a skatepark.

I think there’s a sizeable halfpipe there. I think that was where they were. At the halfpipe.

I’ve got no experience with halfpipes. I’m comfortable skateboarding on roads, some hills, but skateparks- not really. Every now and then I spend some time at the mini-skatepark at Warschauer Strasse.

Usually I’m supposed to be in class. But no, I’m at Warschauer Strasse. Skateboarding and thinking about my life and racking up academic penalties, while I wonder how exactly you’re supposed to skate on the smooth concrete lump in the middle of skatepark.

I was also somewhat occupied that day. So I couldn’t go hang out at Skatehalle.


I am strolling along the sidewalk with Sadie.

Sadie is the Resident Assistant for my room and a couple others.

We’re talking.

She’s asking me how the semester has been.

I say it’s been problematic.

She asks how so.

I say it’s not clear. That I’m completely immersed in the problems so I don’t have the perspective to properly evaluate them.

She smiles and says “Oh yeah the thing about the fish being in water, and how it would possibly know that it was in water”.

I say yes. Just like that.

We keep talking.

At some point I mention that I don’t feel like there’s room within the school programme to explore my personal passions.

She asks about these passions. Asks if they’re related to Social Change. It appears some people have similar concerns. About not having room to explore passions.

We keep talking.


I am walking up the staircase of the dorm building.

My head is swimming in the miry uncertainty of my very near future:

This semester is over. We’re in late December.

The next semester begins in January.

We’re to move to Argentina. From Berlin. For the new semester.

I’ve never been this uncomfortable about travelling to a new country. I didn’t even know it was possible to dread a flight to a new continent this way.

With respect to academics, this semester has been horrible. Horrendous. Absolutely horrifying. Everything is fucked up. Superlatively fucked up. Nothing makes any sense.

What I need right now, is a break. I need time to sit down on the ground somewhere for a few months and stare blankly into space, while I process all of the things that have recently happened to me.

That Buenos Aires flight is not happening, no. I am not going put myself through another few months of this.

No.

Nah.

Nuh.

Uhn uhn.

Someone calls my name. It’s Sadie. The Resident Assistant.

She says her parents are around. Asks if I would like to join the family for dinner.

I smile and say thanks, but maybe another time.

Dinner is the least of my problems right now.

I keep heading up the stairs.


I am in the sitting room of the apartment I share with two flatmates. They’ve both gone home for the holidays. One to Argentina and the other to Turkey. That’s if they’re spending Christmas in their countries of origin.

Sadie is here with me.

She’s typing on my computer. We’re sending an email to Barbara.

I asked for Sadie’s help with the intricacies of my situation:

My German visa expires this December.

I need to fly somewhere.

I recently applied for a gap year. The request was approved, which was wonderful.

Now I just don’t know where to go.

My US student visa is still valid for another year, but I’m not going to the US. I have no plans to get a job or anything of such. I just need time and space to think about my life. The US doesn’t seem like it’ll be conducive for that. Especially at such short notice.

Nigeria is a no no. The boy who travelled to the USA to study, is supposed to come back with pockets brimming with US dollars.

I have no dollars in my pockets, and I have no answers for all of the questions that await me there. So no.

We’re asking Barbara if there’s some last-minute internship work I could do, to raise some money.

I plan to fly to one of the (few, given my Nigerian passport) countries I can travel to, without needing a visa.

I recently decided on Cape Verde. Information online says it’s visa-free for Nigerian passports, and the flight ticket from Berlin is not too expensive.

Sadie says Opodo is where she books her flights.

We go through Berlin – Cape Verde flights on Opodo. I think the website looks nice. The fonts look chubby and cute somehow.


I am at Barbara’s office.

We’re booking the Cape Verde fight.

I think someone somewhere is lending me the money. A staff at the college HQ in San Francisco. Something like that. We’re using her card. Very generous of her.

The flight is booked. I express my gratitude to Barbara.

I have a little over a week of internship work, to raise some money.


I am in the bathroom of my apartment.

I am lying in the bathtub. The tub is full of warm water.

December in Berlin has been somewhat cold, and very dull. I don’t even see the sun anywhere. I find myself walking sleepily around the city, just looking for it.

All of that increases the appeal of warm bathtub soaks. Plus all of my flatmates are gone. I’ve got the entire place to myself.

The bathroom is saturated with steam.

The walls are reverberating with sad poignant music. I’m probably playing Daughter.

It’s been about a week since we booked the Cape Verde flight.

I’ve been working with Barbara. Moving stuff. Chairs. Sofas. Stuff from the dorm apartments.

Right now things are not so bad. The real uncertainty now lies in the next few days. I’ll be flying to a country I have absolutely no experience with, and know little about. I’m taking the time to mentally prepare myself.

My things are ready to be packed.

What am I going to do for income generation in Cape Verde? I have no idea. Well I have some ideas, but I don’t know. There’s a lot to think about. A lot.

I should pack my things. Get ready to move out of the apartment.

Hold on, when exactly is the flight?

I know we’re in the temporal vicinity, but I’m actually not sure of the precise day and time. Somehow that has felt like a secondary detail in the face of spending an entire year in an unfamiliar country where I know no one.

Knowing the precise time of the flight has so far felt like the smallest of my concerns.

Hold on, I think I should go check. So I can begin to make the final steps of checking out.

I step out of the bathroom.

I walk into my room, warm water dripping on the ribbed wooden floor.

I open up the computer.

Hm, where’s the calendar.

Hm.

Hm, an event is about to begin. Something happens in the next few minutes.

Hm, I don’t recall booking anything for today. The semester is over. I wonder what event I’d still be booking on the calendar.

I take a closer look at the calendar.

YEEEEEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

YEH YEH YEH YEH YEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

I am finished!!!!

HAHHHHHH!!!!

THE FLIGHT IS IN A FEW MINUTES!!!!!!!!

JEEESSSUUUUSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

JEEEESSSUUUSSSS CHRIISTTTTTT!!!!!!

HAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

And I was there soaking in the bathtub!!!!!!!

HAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

YEEEEEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

A FLIGHT WE BOOKED WITH BORROWED MONEYYY!!!


I am at the door of Joy’s apartment.

Joy is a classmate from Nigeria. We’ve been moving furniture together with Barbara.

I am knocking frantically.

Joy opens the door.

From her face she was either sleeping, or she recently woke up.

I begin to explain my situation.

I need a taxi to get me to the airport. I’ve not had a reason to book a cab since I got to Berlin, so I don’t know how to do it.

I looked online briefly before deciding it would be best to talk with someone who already had experience.

Joy says okay, and helps me book a cab. Joy is a lifesaver.


I am in the passenger’s seat of the cab.

It is dark. We’re driving along a bridge of sorts. We are headed to the Berlin Tegel Airport.

Oh my God, this is such a fucked up situation. This is so motherfucking fucked up.

I cannot believe I just completely forgot, Jesus. Jesus Christ.

How long till we get to the airport?

I look at the driver.

He’s like Turkish I think.

Not too long, we’ll soon be there.

I’m berating myself in my seat.

Jesus Mayowa, Jesus. How could you fuck up like this- How? Howwww???


This post is one in a Series. Do feel free to go through the Series index here.


Image: Somewhere in the dorms.

Dinner At Kottbusser Tor.

We met one evening a few weeks ago. Me and Ryan.

I was skateboarding along Berlin’s streets, and getting angry at the cobblestones. I had spent the previous year in San Francisco, and Berlin just felt so annoying because there were cobblestones everywhere.

You can’t skateboard on cobblestones, not really. Not with smaller harder wheels, at least.

I think we met at an intersection of two streets.

I’m not quite sure how we started talking. I probably started the conversation because he reminded me of someone else. Someone I met in San Francisco. With his blondish hair and general vibes.

We began to talk.

He was an artist. Had an art studio here in Berlin. He was also an Art teacher at some tertiary institution.

We talked some more. At some point we exchanged contact details.


It’s a few weeks later.

We’re having dinner.

Well it’s not like a full-blown dinner or anything, we’re just having light stuff to eat and it’s dark outside.

I think this restaurant/bar is interesting. It has these fun multicoloured lights over the doorway. I think they’re cool and kinda trippy.

The guy at the bar is stocky-looking, with a blonde beard.

We’re chatting.

A group of people walk into the restaurant. They walk by and sit at a table not far off. They work in the Tech team of the university I study at. It looks like they’re having some sort of Tech team dinner.

I worked on somewhat close terms with one of them last summer in San Francisco. Jason. It was really interesting. I learnt a lot. It was fun getting immediate answers to my questions about code deployment frameworks and opensource communities.

I was very shocked to see him effortlessly bypass a security mechanism on the login page of the bank I use in Nigeria. It was also really interesting to hear he studied EECS at MIT. A few years back I spent some time going through some of their Computer Science course material on MIT’s OpenCourseware.

I think his girlfriend was pregnant then. With like the fourth or the fifth kid. In my head I was thinking, Oh wow that’s a lot. He seemed pretty young to me, and so it felt like they were still going with the kids. He had a picture of she and the kids on his desk.

And then he also described her as his girlfriend.

At the time I thought a couple with that number of kids and such an established, well-defined plan for a joint future would unquestionably be married. My accrued ideas at the time of how adults ideally lived their lives, was along the lines of the “Get married and then have kids” formula.

But apparently people attach different levels of significance to words like “girlfriend” and “wife”. And some people’s notion of a “girlfriend” is about equivalent in meaning to some others’ notion of a “wife” – Something like that.

We met again a few weeks ago at a small restaurant along Adalbertstrasse. It was our first time meeting in Berlin since I moved here for the Berlin semester, and he with the tech team deployed to Berlin.

I talked with him about my challenges with the second-year curriculum. I was taking a Social Sciences course, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through with it. Initially I thought it would provide breadth in combination with the Computational Sciences courses I was taking, but at the time I was thinking of switching it for one in the Natural Sciences.

He talked about his experiences with settling in Berlin with the family, given the work move.


Ryan and I are talking.

He’s talking about a space in Berlin he and a friend jointly got. I think it was a living space, or some art space, something. He and his friend both moved to Berlin from the US.

He feels resentful about how things turned out with the space. I think his “friend” moved to Berlin before him, and for such a reason had more relatively-established relationships with people in the city. Somehow he leveraged that to oust Ryan of his part ownership of the space. Something like that.

He feels bitter and hurt about it. I try to empathise.

We keep talking.

At some point I ask about clubs in Berlin. Where can I find cool clubs. He says Berghain is a very popular one. Tells me a bit about it. I say Hm, sounds interesting. I take note of it.

We keep talking.

At some point dinner is over, and we’re concluding our conversation.

He seems somewhat surprised by the current direction of things. He says he thought this was a date.

Like, a date.

In my head I’m like Wait Hold up. Hold the fuck up.

What?

Wait, is this guy gay?

Is he gay? Oh man, I had absolutely no idea!

I thought this was just two guys hanging out?!

He’s gay?

Wait, I thought I saw a picture of a wife and a kid on his Facebook?

Wait, What the hell is going on?

I say Haha no. The thought that this was some sort of a romantic outing, never even crossed my mind.

I have a girlfriend.


I’m still trying to make sense of all of the homosexual attention I’ve been getting in Berlin- I honestly don’t understand it. Usually there’s a way I make sense of interactions with a biologically male person. This whole sexual thing is adding a dimension to it, which is just very unfamiliar to me.

Especially when it’s like just, everywhere. In Berlin it feels like there’s no specific social context where I should prepare for and expect homosexual inclinations. It’s just everywhere and anywhere.

We finish up dinner.

I like his boots. They’re high-heeled, goth-style boots.

It almost feels like after-the-fact he looks obviously homosexual, but I think that might just be confirmation bias.

We head out of the restaurant. As we walk by the open-air stalls of fruits and vegetables in the farmer’s market at Kottbusser Tor, I mention my struggles with academic coursework. The issues I’m facing with classes, and how I’m beginning to question the fit of the academic programme I’m in.

We walk a bit further until the paths to our apartments diverge.


Image: Somewhere in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

Lagos: On Dating Apps and Strip Clubs. 2

The waitress whispers her phone number into my ear.

I take note of it as I sip on my drink.


This piece is one in a Series. A list of all of the pieces in this Series can be accessed here.


I walk into the consultation room.

The doctor is working on a computer further away. She turns around on her chair to welcome me.

I sit on the patients’ end of the consultation desk.

I think there’s a UNICAF page on the computer screen.

Hm, you’re working on some online courses?

She tidies up on the computer.

Yeah yeah. You know, as a doctor learning never stops.

Hmm.

She gets up and walks towards the desk.

We begin to discuss.


The waitress whispers her phone number into my ear.

I take note of it as I sip on my drink.

It’s definitely been a while since I attempted memorizing a phone number in one go. Usually it didn’t have to be repeated so many times, before I was certain I had it.

When I initially asked the waitress for her number, she said it was against company policy.

Said she could get in trouble.

I told her she didn’t have to write it down or anything.

She could just whisper it into my ear while we discussed the drinks menu.


“I just feel like relationships in Lagos are all about money.”

“And the guy is the one who pays for everything.

Honestly, sometimes it’s not clear if you’re actually dating someone, or if you’re just hiring an escort.

I think it is absolutely ridiculous.”

I am expressing my disconcertion to the doctor, in the hope that she will empathize with me.

I am somewhat taken aback by her response.

“Everything in life involves expenses. If you’re in a relationship you have to spend money. Even if you’re getting married, you have to spend money. That’s just what it is.”

Ahhhh.

This woman has scattered everything.

It turns out she herself is a proponent of the unsettling asymmetry of financial responsibility, which seems to be the norm in Lagos relationships.

Ahh.

Nigeria is just an absurd place, with its very strongly patriarchal norms. Some people are fine with it. Some even like it.

I’m just very uncomfortable with the idea of taking responsibility for a fully-grown human being under such an agreement.

Like, why in the name of God would I want to burden my life in such a manner? Am I incapable of appreciating the value of spare money?

And here is this woman trying to make me feel like this is just the way life is. That I have no choice but to accept the way things are.

Ah, I need to travel.

I need to travel and reconfigure my brain.


The waitress is punching some numbers on the POS machine.

I am paying for the drink I had.

I am in a nightclub in Victoria Island. I’m seated by the bar, listening to the music and watching the pole-dancing women up ahead.

I give her my card.

She keeps punching the numbers.

At some point she says she’s adding a tip for herself.

I say Hmm

She says she’s tipping herself one thousand five hundred Naira.

Hahahahaha.

One Five.

A whole One Five.

It seems this waitress took some shots before commencing her shift.

Odindi One Five ni o fe fi se tip. A whole One thousand five hundred Naira is what she wants to tip herself.

At my expense.

Hahahaha.

She’s definitely tipsy.

I express my objection.

She begins to flirtatiously debate. Smiling and teasing and doing all sorts.

That’s the sort of flirting Lagos women know how to do. Flirting to collect money. Financially motivated flirting.

Nonsense.

I insist that I am not going to pay such a exploitative tip.

What rubbish. Where is the money.

She begins to renegotiate.


Part 2.


Image: Mojito somewhere.

Lagos: On Dating Apps and Strip Clubs. 1.

I’m in conversation with the doctor.

She just said something I find counter-intuitive.

She said at any given point in time, female sex-workers are less likely than women in general to have sexually transmitted infections.

Hmm.

Hmm.

Hm.

Well first it depends on the place.

I’m in a clinic on Victoria Island (VI). Victoria Island is one of the more affluent parts of Lagos. Sex workers here would generally be in association with a more affluent and health-conscious clientele. And consequently I imagine their employer would ensure they underwent medical checks on a frequent basis.

And so first I think her perspective varies by location. I’ve spent time in different parts of Lagos and so I’m somewhat aware of how different things can be. Take Obalende for example.

Second, I disagree with her choice of words.

Her words were “They are cleaner than the general woman you come across on the street”.

I don’t know about “cleaner”.

I don’t see how someone who has sex with other people for purely financial reasons, is cleaner than someone who doesn’t. I don’t see how that works.

But I definitely see the logic in her thinking.


I first visited this clinic a few weeks ago. I had some things I felt I needed to discuss with a healthcare professional.

I was in VI for the weekend.

There’s this interesting DJ guy (I think. I don’t know who exactly is behind it), who throws really cool parties I like to come around for. Pretty frequently they fly in DJs from other countries to perform. I think it was a few weeks ago they flew in Hanna Hais from Paris. It was fun.

I’m not sure who exactly is behind the Instagram page that announces new parties, but whoever it is definitely has considerable international exposure. People generally seem to be aware of this, because there’s usually a substantial expatriate presence at the parties.

The events are cool, and the prices are fine. Nothing like the usual overpriced bougie Victoria Island events. I get annoyed by a lot of them because they’re so much about spending money and exhibiting financial capability, than they are about genuine interactions with other people.

Lagos can get very annoying. You can spend an entire week going out every night in Victoria Island and still not feel like you’ve really met anyone. I think it’s partly because at events in Lagos people generally keep to themselves a lot:

They go out with people they know.

When they’re out, they talk almost entirely with those people they went out with.

And when they leave, they leave with the people they came with.

Lagos makes me miss cities I’ve lived where people frequently go out with the primary intention of meeting new people.

The only people I know in Lagos who regularly do this, are the women who go out for parties and stuff, with plans to meet guys who will pay them for sex.

Like seriously. And it’s normal. Like, very normal. That’s just the normal thing. It even has a name.

See, let’s not even go there yet. Let’s still talk about some other stuff.


I got a ride from the hotel where I spent the night, to the clinic- all the while wincing about the inflation that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything is more expensive. The places I stay whenever I’m in VI, are now about 50% more expensive than they used to be. Hotel prices have gone up, and I’ve quickly realised that my personal surveys on the cost-effectiveness of different hotels around VI are now outdated. A lot of things are different now.

I got to the clinic like Okay I’d like to speak with the doctor.

The clinic is actually very visually appealing. Medicenter. I found it via a Google search. A considerable amount of effort went into the aesthetic of the place.

Got a brief glimpse of CNN on the TV in the waiting room. Something about Lebron James getting the COVID vaccine. I spent some time wondering why that was on (inter)national TV.

The receptionist was like Okay sir you’ll need to pay the fee for somethingsomethingsomething.

Which is twenty thousand Naira.

Sorry what?

Hehehehee!!!! Wetin happen? What is the problem??!!

In my head I was thinking: What is this person saying?

Just to see the doctor? I’m not sick o. I didn’t come here with a heart attack. I’m fine– I just need to talk with a healthcare professional.


For some sort of a reference, twenty thousand Naira is like the cost of eight very solid meals. Say we label meals in any city from 1 to 5 based on price. 1 is a meal from like a roadside stall or a food truck, and 5 is the priciest of the priciest. Then by eight solid meals I mean eight meals which are a very good 3. And so depending on how frequently you eat out, that could be the amount you spend eating out in say a week if you eat out everyday or a couple weeks if you don’t.

People generally convert into dollars and go Oh X Naira is equivalent to Y dollars or so. I feel conversions like that are misleading because they do not take into account the purchasing power of the concerned amount of money, and how that varies with location. So whenever I hear stuff like “Soso people (whose primary legal tender is not denominated in USD) live on X dollars a day”, I’m like Jesus Why. Why.


I had some back and forths with the receptionist, and then at some point she said I should come talk with the manager of the place.

She took me into a different room. The manager was this dark-skinned thickset woman pointing out some things on a MacBook Pro screen to someone who looked like a young nurse.

The receptionist introduced me. And then the manager and I began to exchange words.

I explained that I just intended to talk with the doctor and ask some questions.

Usually with a hospital in Lagos, any sort of visit requires that some you have some sort of membership account. With a first-time visit you’ll need to have this account created, and this usually comes with a fee.

I was aware of this, however I was really just at the hospital for information. I wasn’t about to begin a treatment routine or anything, I was just there to talk with a doctor. And so it was pretty unsettling to think I would have to pay for the full package. I asked questions to know if there was a way around it somehow, but that didn’t seem to be the case.

I liked the way she spoke though-

So, I enjoy learning new words, I enjoy using new words, and I enjoy hearing people use interesting words.

The manager (she herself a doctor) and I exchanged some interesting words, and then at some point I thought Ah to hell with it. I’ll just pay this money and keep moving forward with life.


That was the first time I visited.

That was a few weeks ago.

I got here this morning and told the receptionist I intended to see the doctor for a follow-up on the initial appointment.

Got another glimpse of CNN in the waiting room.

The receptionist was like Okay sir you’ll need to pay the fee for somethingsomethingsomething.

Which is Sososo thousand Naira.

HAAAAAA!!!!!

What do you mean?!

I didn’t really register the amount she mentioned. I just registered the range. It was not too different from the amount I paid the first time. It might have even been the same thing.

For a follow-up?

The receptionist and I began to debate.

At some point she said I could discuss with her manager.

Manager wasn’t on seat so I had to give her a call.

We began to discuss.

Yes, hello?

Oh Yes Hello! Yes!

I began to explain the situation.

At some point we began to exchange words.

You this woman. You’ve come again. With your voice and your English. All you Doctor people. Leveraging my anxiety and my need to hear pertinent reassuring words from a healthcare professional. Leveraging that to empty my bank account.

Where is the money?! Where is it?!

We debated a bit more.

At some point she went, Alright don’t worry you can go see the doctor. I’m going to let this one slide.

Yeah that’s right you Manager Doctor woman. You’d better let it slide.


I’m in conversation with the doctor.

She just said something I find counter-intuitive.


This piece is one in a Series. A list of all of the pieces in this Series can be accessed here.


Image: A My Coffee shop at Victoria Island.

A Story of a Hungry Gap-Year Student and some Untouched Hotel Food.

It is an afternoon on the island of Sal.

I am headed somewhere.

Maybe to find some electricity to charge my computer.

Maybe.

I am headed somewhere to do something.

My computer is in my backpack.


I am hungry. I am immensely hungry.

I have not had a decent meal in a good while.

Usually my sense of personal pride and agency is sustenance enough to withstand the discomfort of physical hunger.

But every now and then, even that gets depleted.

And then I resort to my tagline:

Hello, I’m a student on a gap year from college in the US. Do you think you could help me with some money?

Usually people are sympathetic. Cape Verdean natives are generally very generous. Not with money- not really, because they themselves might not have so much to spare. But with empathy, with goodwill, with food, with company, and with alcohol.

Usually the problem with generous Cape Verdean men playing board games at local bars, is that I end up with a hangover the next morning- From drinking ill-advised amounts of Grogue– their unfamiliar rum.

Tourists generally have more money to spare, but I’m even less inclined to ask them for money because usually they’re Europeans on vacation in the Cape Verdean islands. And so there’s a perspective from which it’s really just some disadvantaged Black guy- You know, just one of the innumerable disadvantaged Black people in the news, asking some White guy for money.

I think that’s an immensely horrible picture. And it’s just absolutely horrendous imagining myself as the disadvantaged Black guy happily receiving Aid.

I’d rather just stay hungry.

I don’t enjoy having to depend on people’s sympathy, and so I usually avoid employing that “Gap year student” tagline.

But every now and then, push comes to shove and I have to admit the reality of my current financial situation.


I am hungry. I am immensely hungry.

I am walking through a cobblestoned walkway in Odjo D’Agua hotel.

Odjo D’Agua is a four-star hotel on a rocky promontory of Praia D’Antonio Souza- Sal island’s southern beach.

I think it’s a really interesting hotel. It’s owned by a Cape Verdean native. I don’t know for certain that he owns the hotel, but it’s not unlikely. He definitely feels like someone with the means. Plus, he does not have the air of an employee. He moves with the air of someone who built something from scratch. Or maybe it’s just me.

I think Odjo D’Agua is really interesting, and I’m particularly fond of it because it’s the most prominent Cape Verdean hotel on the island. It’s the most prominent one which actually aims to promote Cape Verdean culture and tradition, in addition to providing a luxurious hotel experience.

Pretty much all of the other renowned hotels are foreign. They’re also really interesting, I’ve spent some time exploring a few. I just think it’s important for a good proportion of the most prominent hotels to be locally-owned, and designed to promote the native culture. Like, what’s the point of even spending time in a country if you aren’t going to soak in as much of the culture as you can.

I was in a conversation with his younger brother- The hotel owner’s younger brother, at his own restaurant in Espargos earlier in the year: Caldera Preta.

Caldera Preta. Black Pot. That’s the name of the restaurant.

Odjo D’Agua means Sea View.

It was my first time meeting him. I picked up the menu, wondering what to order. A dark-skinned man in a light white beard turned to me and said “Sorry, we don’t have pizza today”. In case I was thinking of ordering pizza.

We began to engage in conversation. Interesting guy.

At some point he mentioned his older brother- who I didn’t know at the time, and some issues he was facing with directing tourist streams towards his hotel.

A lot of the foreign-owned hotel chains in Cape Verde have their visitors book all-inclusive stays. So you’ve got tourists coming in from Europe and the US, booking their stay at these foreign-owned hotels- complete with food, island tours, recreation, etc, before even stepping foot into the country. And so most of the money they’re ever going to spend while in Cape Verde, is going to be spent inside these foreign hotels.

Of course that’s a problem for locally-owned hotels who do not have as much of an established presence, both online and in the scene of international tourism. Or locally-owned restaurants who don’t experience as much patronage because the tourists have all their gastronomic needs met in their walled-in, all-inclusive hotels.

Impecunious gap year student that I am, I definitely empathise with the local business-owners.


I am walking through a cobblestoned walkway in Odjo D’Agua hotel.

I am walking by the dining area, which is separated by some palm trees and decorative plants.

The owner of the hotel is having a meal. He seems to be having a date with some woman.

She looks very young. Relative to him at least. She looks like she’s in her thirties. The Odjo D’Agua guy on the other hand, must be at least Seventy. Or sixty-something.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s not a date. Maybe they’re just having lunch. Maybe I’m just reading into things.

I keep walking.


Not so long ago, I was having a conversation with a tourist couple from the UK on the Santa Maria pier. The man was mentioning to his wife about the fibreglass job on one of the fishermen’s boats, and how it was similar to that on their own boat in the UK.

I was curious what fibreglass was, and they seemed like friendly people so I asked them a question.

We ended up talking for about thirty minutes on the pier.

We talked about the man’s profession and his career decisions, we talked about their recent Safari vacation in I think, Tanzania. When I mentioned I was studying Computer Science in the US, he told me the husband of one of his daughters worked in Tech, and was doing VERY WELL. Like, VERY WELL in Caps.

That’s one aspect of the entire conundrum I’m grappling with during this gap year. Everyone says Tech is a great professional domain to venture into. I’ve got the skillset for it, but I don’t feel like that’s the path for me. Usually people are primarily concerned about the financial prospects of a career path. That’s usually enough motivation to forge ahead. For some reason I’m not really like that.

How am I like? What am I like? I don’t know. That’s why I’m here on some island in Cape Verde with no money in the first place. To figure things out.

At some point our conversation touched on the Odjo D’Agua hotel. The man said they had been vacationing in Cape Verde for a number of decades. He said initially the entire southern beach of Sal island used to be empty. There was nothing there. No one. No businesses, no restaurants, no Windsurfing schools, nothing. Just the Odjo D’Agua hotel.

I found the span of his perspective immensely interesting. That was something a person my age would just like, never know. Just because they weren’t alive or usefully sentient back then. That was something I could really only learn from talking to someone much older than me.

Given that one piece of information, it was very possible to visualise the trend of business-population formation on the beach over time. Initially it was just the Odjo D’Agua guy. And then as both the tourist numbers and the awareness of tourism as a stream of national income increased, businesses gradually began to dot the beach.

In your head, you could practically visualise the beach populate over time.

I thought that was really interesting to think about.


I am heading back.

I am walking back through a cobblestoned walkway in Odjo D’Agua hotel.

The Odjo D’Agua guy and his “date” have left the table.

The hotel owner guy left his food practically untouched.

I need to get back to the—

—-

WAAAAAIIIITTTTTTTT

The hotel owner guy left his food practically untouched.

There is Food on that table. Food- There is Food on that table. Practically untouched Food.

What is going to be done with the Food???

Yeh! What is going to happen to the food??!!

In this very moment, my body ceases to be my own. My legs begin to march around the palm trees and decorative plants, towards the hotel dining area.

What Rubbish.

Because he owns a 4-star hotel he thinks he can waste food however he wants.

What Nonsense.

I find myself seated at the table. My backpack is on the ground, resting against one of the table legs.

The rice in the plate ahead of me begins to rapidly disappear.

As I sit there, munching and fuming, face practically buried in the plate of rice, I vaguely perceive a uniformed being hovering over me.

I am completely incapable of processing what is happening. All of the currently ensuing events are far outside the circumference of my shrunken consciousness.

My sole concern in life right now, is effectively seeing to the plate of rice before me.


I am about to finish the rice. Hunger somewhat assuaged, my sense of environmental-awareness gradually begins to expand to its usual extent.

Now I have the cognitive resources to process the visual signals I was receiving earlier.

The hovering uniformed being was a waiter at the hotel.

The waiter carted away the bowl of chicken on the table.

Ah that’s true, there was chicken.

A pang of grief stings me. I find myself grieving the departed chicken.

Why did the waiter take the bowl of chicken away? Couldn’t they see I had plans for it?

I finish up with the rice.

At some point my ears begin to function, and I can hear the ocean waves crashing against the beach a number of metres to my left.

I couldn’t hear all of that before.

I drink some water and prepare to leave, fuming sub-vocally at the overzealous waiter.

I pick up my backpack and sling it across my shoulder, as I find my way out of the hotel dining area.

Today has not been such a bad day.

Not so bad. Not so bad at all.


Image: Random day at the Santa Maria Pier, with the Odjo D’Agua Hotel in the background.

Gluhwein in Dresden.

We’re having an argument.

Passing blame and getting pissed at each other.

We’ve just missed a bus.

To Dresden.

From Berlin.

The girlfriend has wanted to travel for some time.

Amsterdam is where some classmates have been visiting.

Our Berlin student visas give us access to the Schengen area, and so non-EU citizens (or people who usually wouldn’t have visa-free access) have been really cashing in on the opportunity.

After some deliberation and back and forths, we agreed on Dresden.

A few minutes after the decision I booked a bus.

Flixbus.

I booked a bus that was leaving in a few hours.

I felt it would add to the thrill of the trip.

Having to pack and leave with just a few hours notice.

From her facial expressions, she obviously also thought it was an exciting idea.


It is a number of hours later.

We missed the bus.

We overslept.

As a matter of fact, we didn’t oversleep. The bus was just scheduled to leave at an anomalous hour. Like 3AM or something.

And so we’re having an argument.

This is the sort of argument we’re usually always having.

She wants to do things the usual way. The tested and trusted way. The safe way.

I’m a lot more experimentative. Apparently, even with the seemingly more consequential decisions.

Although these days, I don’t know if I’m experimentative or just irresponsible. I don’t know.

“Experimentative” doesn’t really make sense to her.

I think I’m just irresponsible.

I don’t know.

We keep arguing.

I’m wondering if this wasn’t the same person who was grinning with excitement at the thought of leaving for Dresden at very short notice.

I don’t know.

We keep arguing.


We just got into the bus to Dresden.

We almost missed it.

It was parked in a section of Alexanderplatz that we weren’t expecting.

Some time passes, and we’re out of the city.

We’re headed along the highway, surrounded on both sides by the picturesque rolling grassy fields I’ve come to love about Europe.

I think they’re super interesting.

The girlfriend doesn’t find them amusing. She says they’re the usual thing in Europe.

Southern Nigeria generally has a tropical rainforest climate, and so travelling through the countryside you’re surrounded by dense impermeable forest. Trees and leaves and branches clustered by the roadside like a thick green blanket.

And so here in Europe, being able to see the horizon on both sides of the bus is new to me. Very new. And very interesting.


We’ve just booked a room at a hostel for the night.

We got to Dresden, argued, got food at a Pizza Hut, exchanged laughter and smiles and starry stares and kisses, argued some more, and then got a place to sleep.

At some point while sorting out some arrangements at the hostel reception, I saw a guy bring out a five-hundred euro note from his wallet.

The piece of paper drew my attention like a magnet.

JESUS CHRIST.

FIVE HUNDRED EUROS.

ONE NOTE.

ONE NOTE. FIVE HUNDRED EUROS.

JESUS.

My head began to spin.

I wonder what he does for a living.

I wonder if he’s a very responsible guy.

He looks normal. Normal clothes, normal hairstyle. Normal guy.

Probably works a job at some very formal company and wears a suit and tie and stuff to work.

Hm, he doesn’t look like he’s experimenting with his life.

Ah, maybe the girlfriend is right. Maybe I’m on the wrong track with my life. Ah. Oh God.

Ah.

One note. Five hundred euros. Yeh. My God.


I’m on the rooftop of the hostel where we’re lodged.

I needed something to drink, and a flier I saw somewhere said there was a bar or something, on the roof.

The girlfriend is asleep.

I walk around and ask where I can get a bottle of something to drink.

An older German woman gives me directions.

I buy the drink. It’s a bottle of wine I think.

The German woman says she’s heading to the balcony for a smoke. Asks if I’d like to join her for a bit.

I say okay.


We’re on the balcony. Talking.

She’s talking about Christmas markets. Christmas markets in Germany.

She mentions by the way that she likes my hair. Says the hair was why she helped me with directions to get a drink in the first place.

I think Okay.

Someone likes my hair.

I bleached it yellow at a Hair-Dye house party a friend’s sister invited me for in San Francisco.

After a few months of wearing the yellow, I dyed it red.

The girlfriend hates it. The hair. Thinks it’s irresponsible. Thinks I’m trying to get attention. Thinks I’m trying to feel relevant. There’s nothing she has not said. There is no name she has not called me.

We keep talking. Me and the older German woman.

She says she finds Christmas Markets boring. That it’s the same thing every year.

I find that perspective very shocking. It’s my first time in Europe. First time experiencing the Christmas markets. I’m still mesmerised by the entire thing. I walk about marvelling at the spanners and bolts and nuts that have been ingeniously forged out of chocolate. Staring wide-eyed at the different assortments of candy and snacks and all sorts of food on display. Enjoying the view of the picturesque stalls and exciting activity in the markets.

However I can imagine for someone who has experienced decades of Christmas markets, it might not be particularly exciting. Hm.

We talk some more.

At some point she’s done with her cigarette. We smile and say goodnight. She heads inside, back to the bar place. I head downstairs.


It’s morning. We made a list of places to visit.

We’re walking through the Christmas market.

We see these guys from, Ethiopia I think. They’re siblings. Brother and Sister.

It’s a family business.

I buy some spicy curry rice. It’s been a while since I ate rice.

I never thought that was even a valid English statement.

It’s been a while since you ate rice? What do you mean? No rice? Then what have you been eating?

I think rice is the most commonly eaten food in Nigeria. I think. Rice or bread. If bread counts. And so living in Nigeria, the thought of going months- possibly even over a year without eating rice, feels preposterous. Unrealistic. Like it’s not even a possibility.

But here I am.

I’ve been experimenting in Berlin.

I’ve been liking this Tortellini thing. It’s pasta, but with meat wrapped in it somehow. I’ve really been liking it. The Gnocchi thing is also alright.

The girlfriend says I don’t eat enough meat. Says guys need to eat a lot of meat. To be buff. Says I’m thin. Says I was a lot more buff when we started dating. Says I’m bony. Says I’m —

See, let’s not even go there.

I take my time to enjoy the spicy curry Ethiopian rice thing.


We keep walking around.

Girlfriend gets some crepes. It’s like bread and stuff. Flat. Flat disks of like bread and stuff.

We keep walking around.

She introduces me to Gluhwein.

It’s hot wine.

Like, hot wine.

Initially I think it’s strange, but after a few sips I think it’s pretty nice.

We keep sipping on the hot wine.


We’re walking around the city and talking.

At some point we stopped to enter a church.

Neither of us is religious, but the surreal serene environment of the church still had a perceptible influence on our conversation. The stained glass and pictures of Mary and Jesus and Saints. We did some introspection. Talked some about future uncertainties and anxieties.

We’re still walking around the city.

At some point we come across two classmates. A couple. From Nepal and Bulgaria. Also in Dresden on a trip. The Nepalese guy says there’s a museum not far away. Says we can use their tickets. That the people at the entrance don’t even check the tickets to make sure they haven’t already been used.

Haha.

Cool.

We collect the tickets.

At some point we head for the museum.


We’re on a bus back to Berlin.

The time in Dresden was pretty cool.

We’re travelling at night this time, so I can’t see the interesting grass outside.

The girlfriend is watching movie on her computer.

It’s in Russian. I’m reading the subtitles.

There’s some guy in an apartment sitting in a chair. I think he’s reading a newspaper. There are I think, three girls jumping about the apartment in excitement, marvelling how big and nicely furnished it is, and giggling about how rich the guy must be.

I think he met the girls in the city and then invited them over to his apartment. They began to bounce about in awe, apparently they had never been in such a luxurious living space.

Something like that. That was what was happening.

At some point the girlfriend prods me and asks if I’m going to be like that guy.

Inviting girls from the city to come marvel and jump about in awe at my luxuriously furnished apartment.

Hahahahaha.

I laugh and say something in response.


Image: Somewhere in Berlin.

Psych Ward Diaries. 04.

The preceding piece in this series can be accessed here.

It’s a calm evening in the ward.

It’s always a calm evening.

In this place you’ve got about half a dozen inpatients, incessantly plied with food and antipsychotics throughout the day.

Evenings are always calm.

You’re usually either full, or faced with a new meal you have no choice but to consume.

And there aren’t so many ways to expend energy.


I feel like I spend my entire time here digesting food and adding weight.

The chief Psychiatrist instructed Mr Dayo to take us through routine morning exercises.

I recently realised I hate mandatory exercise.

This came as a surprise to me, given that I’m generally a physically active person.

I think it’s the fact that the exercise isn’t self-motivated.

Every morning Mr Dayo rounds us up to do some weird shuffle-jogs around the corridors.

Mr Dayo used to be a hockey coach.

I imagine he’s in his element taking all of our unfortunate selves through this annoying routine every morning. He’s probably done this with tons and tons of unwilling students in his life.

Yemi’s own fitness passion seems to be Yoga.

Yemi is the guy with sleeve tattoos.

He’s very good at it. Yoga. Taking everyone through the poses and stuff.

I don’t like it. Or maybe it’s just this place. Yoga feels too slow-paced and static and somewhat ostentatious for me.

I don’t quite get the appeal if I’m being honest. I just don’t get it.

There’s also the topic of Yemi’s stature. Or at least my perspective of it.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but he seems small in a way that makes me feel like I’m too big.

Like I’m too tall.

And like my head is too big.

And like my limbs are too long.

I don’t understand it. I don’t get it at all.

This is even more confusing for me, because my physical stature is actually something I’m very happy about. Like, I have no complaints. None.

And so this feeling is one I do not understand at all.

I don’t get it at all.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just this place and the drugs messing with my head.


I am in the room. In the room I share with two other patients.

One very annoying thing about being in this place is the significant absence of personal space.

I am twenty-two years old.

The past few years of my life have seen me gradually grow into increasing personal independence.

In addition to me getting used to having my own personal space and having a predominant say in the affairs of my life, this independence and personal space is becoming a part of how I assess my quality of life.

I could be like: “Oh I don’t like this apartment- I feel like there’s not enough personal space. So I need to get a new place to stay. Somehow.”

It has become a part of how I assess what direction in my life constitutes forward movement.

And this?

Oh God.

Sharing a room- One room, with two people- Two Entire Separate People who have no personal relationships with me?

Like I’m in some slightly-upgraded boarding school environment.

Oh God.

Being woken up at God-knows-what-time every morning for exercise?

Like I’m in primary school?

Oh God.

Mr Dayo seems pretty calm about being here. And he’s in his late fifties.

Although I can imagine how a much older person might be less bothered by all of this spoon-feeding and monitoring and lack of significant personal agency.

They probably already know who they are and have a pretty definitive idea of their place in life.

All of this micromanaging on a personal level might not take so much from them, because they know the moment they leave this facility they’re back to their normal lives- Back to whatever place they’ve carved out for themselves in life. Something like that.

For me, it’s like everything is still very vague. Nothing is clear- I don’t even know so much for certain about my future and what my life is going to be like.

Pretty much everything about my future is just plans and ideas and feelings right now. Not so much exists in tangible reality.

And so fighting for things like personal space and independence is still this very intense psychological battle.

That makes being in this place feel like profound backward movement. I feel like a lot of my personal progress in the past few years has been completely eroded.

I don’t know if that is actually true, but I can’t help feeling that way.


Uchenna is on his bed, wistfully thinking aloud.

“Men, today na Friday. If to say I dey my area right now, I go just dey one bar with some correct beer and correct smoke, dey get myself right now.”

“Man, today is a Friday. If I was in the area where I live right now, I would currently be at a bar with some solid beer and respectable weed, seriously getting in touch with my inner man.”

I burst into laughter.

You miss the simple things in this place.

A quiet evening with drinks. Just chilling.

Music. Music of your own choice. Music you want to hear, the way you want to hear it.

You miss the simple things in this place.


Image: Chinese dinner in Ikeja, Lagos.

The Omo Onile with a Machete.

I’m staring at a rip in the Chain Link fence, assessing the damage.

These Omo Onile guys are motherfuckers.

These nonsense guys in the neighbourhood.

A group of them came over to the construction site yesterday, interrupting the activities of the workers setting up the metal fence.

A fe ri Engineer! A o ni je ki e se ise kankan nibi! A fe ri Engineer!!!

We want to see the Site Engineer! We’re not going to let you guys do any construction here! We want to see the Engineer!

The fence guys called me and I had to show up. I think I was asleep or something. In a rented apartment about twenty minutes away. I had to abandon that endeavour to come see what was happening.

I ended up paying them some money. The Omo Onile guys. “Sons of the Soil”.

People are generally familiar with them in Southwestern Nigeria:

Whenever there’s some sort of construction going on in their neighbourhood, they show up sporadically and begin to demand money.

All of this is separate from the money you must have paid the family from which you purchased the land. Separate from official donations to the community, Separate from building costs, etc. These arbitrary guys just show up and begin to demand their “birthright”.

Ah. I wish I could simply approach the organisations I correspond with professionally, and request “birthright funds”.

I wish I could insert “Birthright funds allocation” in like budgets and financial requests and stuff.

I wouldn’t mind at all, if that were actually a thing. I honestly wouldn’t mind.


I had to pay them some money, regardless of the outrageous nature of their claims.

Else they would have put our work on site to a definitive stop.


We had initially agreed on a price. I was doing what I could to beat it down some more.

And then all of a sudden this new guy came along, bristling with fresh discontentment. He began to galvanize his colleagues to raise their price. Began to make them feel like they were settling for a ridiculous amount.

The strangest thing about such negotiations is that you’re not actually paying for anything. You’re not buying anything. And so there’s really no way to quantitatively determine how much the “Sons of the Soil” should be paid. It’s predominantly an interplay between your reluctance to release money and the belligerence of the insistent Omo Oniles.

I had to quickly pay the price I was initially trying to beat down. Before the new guy successfully influenced the rest of them.

But all of that was yesterday.

I thought the Omo Onile issue was completely sorted out.

Who the hell is this guy who ripped the metal fence with a machete?


He’s obviously unaffiliated with the people I paid some money yesterday. Obviously. This guy tornadoed through this space with a very fresh sense of disgruntlement and unfounded entitlement.

I’m standing by the rip- trying to make sense of the situation, and wondering what to do about the diminished morale of the construction workers setting up the fence.

They had to spend the night here yesterday. If setbacks keep occurring at this rate they might just head back into Lagos, with the work here suspended until God knows when.

As I stand here, immersed in contemplation, a being emerges from the trees right up ahead.

His skin is gleaming with sweat.

He has the crazed look of an unimaginably-grieved wild animal in search of an object on which to offload his wrath.

He walks towards me, staring me in the eye as he swings a machete in his right hand.

E gbo, se eyin ni e ra ile yii ni owo Family?

Hello, are you the one who bought this land from the family?

He keeps walking towards me- a menacing scowl on his face as he flexes his machete.

I try to make some meaning of what I’m seeing.

It seems like the blade of his machete is meant for the neck of the person who bought this piece of land.

And so I myself begin to wonder who that unfortunate being might be.

Hm, who is the unfortunate entity who purchased this godforsaken piece of land?

I look around a little, momentarily joining the machete-wielding guy in his search.

Somebody bought this land?

Where is the person?

Where did they go?

Ah, that person is so fucked.


We eventually sorted out the issue.

The guy with the machete was the younger brother of the wife of the younger sister of the actual person I purchased the land from.

Whatever. They have their lives and their family trees.

All of these Nonsense guys.

Of course he collected money. More than the other Omo Onile guys collected per-capita.

It was just annoying that he messed up a part of the fence. The constrution workers had to redo that part.


I am lying down under the shade of a tree, swatting at the occasional mosquito and watching TED-Ed videos on Youtube mobile.

I am right next to the Site. The fence guys are working.

TED-Ed videos seem pretty cool. More objective. With TED talks sometimes it feels like everyone is positing their personal perspective like its absolute truth.

Oh this is how life works.

Oh this is how you should be living your life.

Oh this is how this should be done etc etc.

Ted-Ed videos are more focused on objective topics.

I’ve been watching this video about how toilets evolved through human history.

There are a lot of animated poops and embellished fart sounds.

Hopefully none of those Omo Onile guys come around to cause any more trouble.


Image: At the Construction Site.

Mercado Municipal

I’m standing on the first-floor balcony of the Mercado Municipal– A brown two-storey building which houses Santa Maria’s Farmer’s Market, as well as a good number of offices.

It’s a new building. I think they recently commissioned it. A considerable number of the offices haven’t even been allocated yet.

There’s this empty office in one corner of the second-floor. I sneak up there every once in a while with my laptop to get some electricity. I sit on the floor in my jeans- stiff with salt from walks along the beach, and make life plans on the computer.

What sort of a shape should my professional life take, What the fuck is my precise plan with this gap year, What’s going to happen with college etc.

I don’t know if it’s allowed. But the door usually isn’t locked so I’m not like, breaking in or anything.

Making plans gives me a calming sense of reassurance during these thoroughly uncertain times. I’ve spent all of the money I came into this country with. My parents and I have been in intense arguments since the beginning of the year, and so I don’t ask them for money.

I don’t think it makes sense to exchange in series upon series of heated messages with your parents, engage in boiling, livid arguments on the phone-

I don’t think it makes sense to do all of that, and then at the end be like Err, so I know we’re all like boiling with rage and stuff, but do you guys mind sending me some money so I don’t like, die in this country

Yeah, I need you to send me money so I can keep doing what I want and we can keep having more arguments- How’s that

I want to do what I want with my life, but I want to do it on your own dime

Not like there’s that much money to send in the first place.

Parents are like, What????

What are you doing in that country? Who sent you there? Aren’t you supposed to be with your classmates in Argentina? Your classmates in that ridiculous unrealistic school that we don’t really understand?

Aren’t you supposed to be studying to get your university degree?

So you can get a good job in the US after graduation and begin to earn in Dollars?

What are you doing in Cape Verde?

Who sent you there?

Wait, where is Cape Verde again?

Ah! You must be experiencing a spiritual attack. The envious enemies from our village have seen your future glory and have employed metaphysical projectiles to derail you from your destiny.

Demons were launched from our hometown to turn your brain upside down. That is why you think it makes sense to jettison a marvelous college programme- To abandon an opportunity to be employed in Heaven- Heaven being another name for the USA-

That is why you think it makes sense to abandon all of that and begin to roam the wilderness.

Doing what??

What are you doing??

You need deliverance.

Ah, our enemies have won!

Ah, our enemies are rejoicing over us in their witchcraft covens!

Ah! Our lives are finished! Our son is lost! Lost to the evil demonic powers of the world!

Ah! O ma se o! What a pity!


A lot of the time, I have absolutely no idea where my next meal will come from.

My Senegalese neighbours have been immensely helpful. I am extremely lucky to have them. Most afternoons, they make a huge bowl of delicious food. Usually they invite me over. Most of the time I’m in my apartment, pretending I don’t need their food. Pretending I’ve got things all figured out. Stomaching my discomfort.

And then the aroma of their Senegalese dishes- with names that sound like Chebujeri and Maave, begin to waft in, torturing me all the more.

And then eventually there’s the invite.

“Mayowa!! Come! Come eat! Come!”

“Mange!”

“Comida!”

Those guys are mind-blowing cooks. Like, I don’t understand. I have absolutely no idea.

It’s always like magic. I have absolutely no idea how they do it.

Their food is so good. Like, so good.

I had no idea some people boiled carrots. In rice. Amongst a lot of other things, they put the carrots in seasoned rice to boil. I was very surprised to see that.


But every once in a while things are horrible. Business doesn’t go so well for them, and they make barely any money from the stream of tourists on which Sal island thrives.

On such days, everyone is hungry. You can feel the hunger in the air.

There was this day:

I was seated somewhere on the expanse of small black stones that I think used to be a lawn.

I saw Izmir Bamba walk by.

Izmir Bamba is one of my Senegalese neighbours.

I saw him walk by, but he wasn’t really walking, no. Not really.

He was swaying. From side to side. Like a speedometer.

He probably hadn’t eaten anything that day.

He was swaying from side to side because he could barely stand straight.

If I myself was feeling more energetic, I would’ve burst out laughing.

Not out of derision. No. It was just funny. I’m sure even he would’ve understood.



There’s a small opening in the wooden frame of the roof.

The roof of the empty corner office on the second floor.

The one I sneak into, to charge my computer.

It’s like a sunroof. Skylight.

It’s a skylight.

The woodwork on the roof is interesting.

One of my college professors in the previous semester, had a similar skylight in his office.

I could see it in the background of his video stream during our remote classes in Berlin.

He was in Budapest.

I thought it was cool.


There’s tailor who has a stall on the other side of the building. Right across the square space between the office rows from which you can peer downstairs at the Farmer’s Market.

It usually feels good looking down and seeing all of those nice colourful inviting fruits. Very picturesque.

Earlier in the year, a kind fruit vendor gave me some bananas and I think some oranges for free after I tried buying with my last Euro and US dollar cents.

She had this understanding, sympathetic look on her face. Like aw, he’s trying to buy fruits with these useless coins, let me help him out.

The tailor.

The tailor has this apprentice. More often than not, he’s expressing some sort of disappointment at him.

The poor guy usually has his nose to the sewing machine- or tailor’s chalk- whatever instrument he happens to be using at the time.

And his tailor boss is usually like, yelling in frustration. In Creole.

It’s not always so clear what he’s saying, but from his flapping arms I can usually tell it’s something like:

What sort of a human being are you?”

Why can’t you learn? That was not what I said!!”

Look at this! Look at this line you’ve just sewn. Was that what I said you should do??”

Was that what I said you should do????”



I’m standing on the balcony of the first floor.

I’m thinking about a book I’ve been reading- “You Must Set Forth at Dawn” by Wole Soyinka. it’s an autobiography.

I think it’s an immensely inspiring book. I started reading it late last year in Berlin.

I find the author to be a remarkably intelligent and insightful individual. Wole Soyinka is extremely popular in Nigeria- particularly because he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature sometime in the nineteen-eighties. He’s the first and only person from Nigeria to be awarded a Nobel- and I think the first black African.

Before coming across the book, he was this name I had always heard in conversation, and was generally this Nigerian poster-child for people who use “big words”.

I began reading the book, and all of a sudden I was like Wow, this guy is actually a remarkably interesting guy Hm!

I’ve been thinking about a line from the book. I think from the Foreword or Dedication or something.

It went something like “I dedicate this book to my wife- my loving wife to whom my perpetual absence made me a husband only in name, and to my stoically resigned children…”

I’m particularly surprised by his “matter-of-factly” tone. He doesn’t sound regretful about being a perpetually absent husband or father. he doesn’t even sound sad. Just this flat “This was how it happened and that’s that”.

I think it’s very unusual, and I’m curious why he has that perspective of his marriage and his children.

I started the book late last year. I’m still reading it.

You know, as much as I can afford right now. In between figuring out how to get food and stay alive.

I’m standing on the balcony, ruminating on that sentence, and peering down at an interesting playground across the road.


I’m here today, because I’m waiting for someone.

Two people actually. I’m waiting for two people.

About a week ago I walked into this woman doing something in an interesting-looking office. Here. Here at the Mercado Municipal.

We began to talk.

It turned out she was a Director of this Biodiversity NGO in Cape Verde. She and the second Director were from Spain. Very curious, I asked questions about the NGO. As she answered my questions, she showed me around the office. There was this really interesting miniature model of a Turtle Nest facility they had somewhere on the island- It was just beautiful to look at.

At some point I chipped in that I was on a gap year from college in the US. I mentioned that I had some cool techy AI stuff I could do with their historical turtle nesting data that could help provide useful insights into their strategy and stuff.

She seemed interested. We talked some more and then scheduled a day for me to meet with both her and the second manager.

That day is today.

I’m very excited. We’re planning to do some AI stuff.

Some real stuff. In the real world. With a real organization. Not some inert college paper that’ll end up in just grades. I’ve been very uninspired by that recently.



There’s this guy.

In one of the offices on the first floor.

He’s an optician. I think.

Or an ophthalmologist. One of those eye people. He’s got all of the eye equipment in his office. Lenses and charts and stuff.

He’s from somewhere in Europe.

I walked into his office the other day. We got talking.

He has this interesting car collection on one of his desks.

He was telling me about his perspective on life and marriage and children.

There was an old picture of him standing with a woman- somewhere on the wall I think.

I asked if she was here on Sal.

He said no.

He said a man and a woman should only be together for a while, have kids, and once those kids are grown everyone goes their separate ways.

He said: “Children are like birds. They fly!”, gesticulating with his fingers.

He said his children were doing well. Said one of them worked at Apple.

He said their mother was somewhere, living her life.

I was standing there and listening to him. I thought his perspective was weird.

At some point he began to talk about girls.

He looked at me:

“Girls, When I need…” he said, looking around

“I catch!”, clasping his fingers together like the talons of a hawk.

I kept listening.

Hm.

Okay.

Mister “When I need I catch.”

After our conversation, I headed out of his office. I think at the time, I was trying to figure out how to withdraw the last few dollars on my Bank of America ATM card.

As I headed out, I saw him like flirting with a Cape Verdean girl walking by.

I focused my mind on my financial worries, trying not to imagine what happened whenever Cape Verdean girls came along for eye tests.


I’m still here, standing on the balcony.

The NGO guys are not yet here.


Image: Somewhere on Sal.

Cape Verde: A Story of a Transgender Prostitute [Part 1.5]

This post is one in a Series. A list of all of the posts in this Series can be accessed here.


We’re walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria.

He’s sashaying beside me, in his black lipstick and dark-auburn gown.

We’re definitely getting stares.

We come across Anso.

“Heeeyyyyy Ansoooo!!!!”

“Heyyyyyyy Mayowaaaaa!!! Begeeeee!!!”

We exchange pleasantries, amidst excited laughter.

Anso is one of my Senegalese neighbours.

He is also a member of the Baye Fall- an Islamic sect whose meetings I regularly frequent for the free food.

I usually understand nothing that is said at the meetings. Usually they’re just chanting strange things in Wolof.

But food.

Food.

That is a language we all have in common.

Bege” is this word the Senegalese guys use when they’re greeting each other. It’s some sort of an expression of regard for the other person.

I don’t know if it’s a Senegalese thing, or a Baye Fall thing. I don’t know.

Anso has his dreadlocks wrapped up in a swollen rastacap which sports the usual Jamaica-colour stripes.

After Anso and I are done exchanging pleasantries, I continue heading down the street with the sashaying trans-woman beside me.

“Hm, you’re very popular.”

It’s the transgender guy.

Hm.

Well I certainly don’t see things that way. Although to be fair we have come across a good number of people with whom I’ve stopped to exchange excited greetings.

Hm.

I don’t know. I still don’t see myself as a popular person. I think today is just a good day.


We’re walking by a roadside grocery store. A Mini Mercado.

The Mini Mercado is owned by a Cape Verdean couple. It is situated on the ground floor of their 1-storey home.

The woman is usually seated at the counter- processing purchases with a smile, and counting money with a very remarkable air of satisfaction with life.

Her husband on the other hand, is an extremely annoying guy- I don’t like him. I don’t like him one bit.

He’s this pesky stocky guy that walks about by piercing the air in front of him with his big round stomach. In actual fact there is nothing so annoying about his physical appearance- I’ve just grown very inclined to perceive it negatively because of the pointless hurt and frustration he has made me experience.

Every once in a while I’ll be somewhere in the store- maybe selecting eggs or picking onions. This guy- this despicable edifice of annoyance, just appears from nowhere and begins to accost me. He tries to budge me about with his stocky frame, with a bewilderingly unfounded frown on his face.

And he doesn’t speak English!

So I never understand what exactly his problem is. In spite of the fact that I can speak enough Cape Verdean Creole to get by, his mutterings usually don’t feel sensible enough to make any real meaning to me.

Like, what the fuck is this guy saying please

And then I myself get upset to the point that my limited Creole becomes inadequate as an avenue for verbal expression.

So I switch to English:

What the fuck is your problem, What exactly is the issue, Why in the name of God are you bothering my life, etc etc.

But of course he never understands anything I’m saying.

And so to him I’m just uttering this jumble of unintelligible sounds.

And worst of all, he mimics me.

He pouts his lips and sticks his tongue out in my face and goes “Tfe tfe tfe tfe tfe“, making fun of my English fricatives.


One day at dawn, I was walking by his house. To my pained dismay I looked up and saw him standing at his balcony, gripping the railings with his stocky arms and frowning down at me.

In my head I thought:

“Jesus Christ, this guy again.

The day has barely started for God’s sake.

I’m barely awake.

I’m still navigating the realm of inspiration that exists between sleeping and waking.

What is all of this nonsense?”

I saw Anso hanging out by the road with a number of his Senegalese friends.

I drew his attention to the glaring gargoyle on the balcony.

“Anso, what is this guy’s problem?! He’s always staring at me and trying to make my life miserable for no good reason. What the fuck is his problem?”

“Hahaha! You’re not the only one who experiences that! He does it to everyone! His wife never lets him have sex and so he’s always walking about in a horrible mood.”

Now I had absolutely no idea if what Anso said was true, but it made perfect sense. And it felt good. It was a very enjoyable explanation for the pesky guy’s inexplicable irritability. So I chose to believe it.

I raised my eyes up to the stocky frowning being on the balcony- seeing him then in a very different light. I pointed my finger at him and began to laugh out of spite.

Haha motherfucker.

Haha.

Your wife is completely satisfied by the fulfilment of managing a successful grocery store. The grocery store gives her all of the stimulation and excitement and catharsis she needs in life, and she has no need for sex.

You’re probably bound both by your marriage vows and by the possible societal disapproval of marital infidelity by a man your age, and so that leaves you stuck in a sexless marriage.

Plus, having sex elsewhere will cause problems with your primary source of income- which is the grocery store you both manage.

She probably just turned away your sexual advances. That’s why you’re out here fuming on the balcony at 6 o’ clock in the morning.

Hahaha motherfucker.

Hahaha.


We’re still walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria- The trans-woman and I.

He’s still sashaying beside me, in his black lipstick and dark-auburn gown.

Something I think I’ll always find strange about seeing a biological man in a gown, are the narrow hips. The gown just goes straight down from the waist. Like it tapers from the shoulders down to the waist, and then poom– just sharply straight down from there. I actually think it’s a bit funny.


We’re still walking down one of the cobblestone streets of Santa Maria.

We’re still getting stares.


Image: Bunch of people gambling somewhere on the streets of Santa Maria.