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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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—



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.

Musings along Adalbertstrasse.

Girlfriend wants to travel.

She’s talking excitedly about some classmates who recently went to Amsterdam.

I listen only halfheartedly.

I recently decided to keep my bank account at a minimum of two hundred dollars.

It’s a goal I set for myself.

Hopefully my financial rock-bottom will only get higher from there.

She probably has the money to travel. In addition to her internship wages her parents probably send her some pocket money on a periodic basis.

I on the other hand, have just my internship wages. There is no money coming in from Nigeria.

I’m just trying to get by pls

I keep listening to her talking enthusiastically about Amsterdam while we turn a corner at a building with an expansive piece of like purple graffiti.

I am at a restaurant along Adalbertstrasse.

I bought a small pizza.

I’m munching on it while I scroll through my phone, preparing for a class which begins in less than an hour.

It’s an interesting restaurant. Gold-themed. Looks fancy.

I’m the only one here. Munching on my pizza and preparing for class on my phone and feeling cool.

I bought this burger the other day.

From a Burger place. Along Adalbertstrasse.

Chilli pepper burger or something like that.

I was curious what it was going to taste like.

I was heading down the sidewalk, wondering if I should join a fellow classmate in organising computer programming tutorials for students who were having issues.

I did stuff like that in San Francisco. It was pretty cool. People felt it really helped.

San Francisco was good. Come to think of it, San Francisco was actually good. San Francisco was very very good.

This semester has been terrible.

This semester has been extremely terrible.

I feel like an idiot.

Everything has been bad.

Hm, maybe I should organise tutorials in the parts of programming I know I don’t have to study for.

I don’t know. I don’t see how that makes anything better.

It’ll probably make me feel good temporarily.

Make me feel like I’m actually good at something.

Remind some people I’m actually good at something.

But I’m not going to escape feeling like an idiot overall. The academic problems I’m experiencing will still be there.

Plus it’s a completely insensible financial situation. People usually get paid to teach. Why am I paying school fees (however little, given the scholarship, financial aid etc), and then still teaching?

That does not make any sense.

I got back to the apartment and decided to try the Chilli Pepper Burger.

A few bites in and I was like

Oh My God

What did I just do

What did I just buy

How much did I just spend on this thing

What would have happened if I told the sheepily-smiling guy at the Burger place that I wanted the maximum level of Chilli

Oh God

Another time I bought a full chicken.

From another place along Adalbertstrasse.

I think the first time I ever bought a full chicken was in San Francisco.

It was one of these meal delivery companies that had an incredible student discount- something like that.

There was SpoonRocket. And Munchery.

They still send me emails.

I got a whole chicken at a very good price.

When it arrived and I opened the box, I felt bad.

I felt bad eating an entire chicken.

Like, me.

Just me. One person. A whole chicken.

I felt very greedy.

Growing up in Nigeria I was made to feel greedy for wanting more than say, the one piece of chicken I was given. During dinner or like at a party.

Usually we would make surreptitious plans to procure more chicken from wherever it was kept. We used to do it. We felt greedy doing it- for wanting more than we were given, but we used to do it.

Now I’m faced with a whole chicken.

Not one thigh.

Not one thigh plus two stolen wings.

An entire chicken.

I had to implore my American roommate to join in.

I was not going to be the unimaginably rapacious being who consumed an entire chicken by himself.

My roommate found it weird. Apparently, singlehandedly obliterating an entire chicken did not feel absurd to him at all.

I kept imploring him to join me. He kept declining.

In the end I had to go through the immeasurably shameful and deplorable act on my own.

Oh God.

Some (mostly) free food at the San Francisco dorms. From either SpoonRocket or Munchery.

There’s this Turkish place close to Kottbuser Tor.

Before the supermarket next to the Burgermeister.

I went there to get this Döner kebab thing they’ve got. The one wrapped in bread with lines on it, that looks like it has just been Panini’d.

It was at night.

I was just coming from the girlfriend’s place.

The moment I stepped into the restaurant, it felt like the middle-aged Turkish men over the counter had their eyes glued to me.

I was wondering what was happening.

The room was dimly lit, and the walls were like reddish-brown. Reddish-brown but more reddish.

I made my order, got my food, ate and left.

As I walked out the door I could feel their eyes pulled by my strides across the counter.

I couldn’t really make sense of it.

I just thought:

I don’t know. Maybe I smell like sex.

Maybe I’m oozing with some hormone that makes them think of their Turkish wives at home.

I don’t know.

I should read more on the whole pheromone thing.

There’s this Florist place.

Along Adalbertstrasse.

On the ground floor of this building that has scaffolding around it. Like they’re doing some renovation upstairs or something.

The flower shop looks really interesting.

I haven’t gotten the chance to visit.

Not yet.

I mean, I stopped by once.


There’s a manhole in the road- somewhere around the shop.

On the right side of the road if you’re coming from Kottbuser Tor.

I was on my skateboard.

Approaching the manhole cover.

And then I thought oh

Why not carve around the hole?

Head straight towards it, and then cut a curve around it?

The covers are pretty steady, so just skating straight on top of the cover is fine.

I mean, entire cars roll over the covers. I’m just one guy on a skateboard.

But then I thought why not try something different this morning

Why not

I got close to the cover.

Close enough to begin cutting a curve.

Then I began to swerve.

Almost done.

Now curve back into your original path of travel.

The skateboard wheels were sliding out a bit, which was expected- there were like 101a.

But oh

At some point it was evident there wasn’t enough traction to close the curve.

The curve was too tight.

No the curve was not too tight. Did rain just fall?

Is there some water on the ground

These were probably the thoughts forming in my mind as I somersaulted along the road.

I got back to my feet and tried to make sense of reality afresh.

I wasn’t so bothered by falling- with skateboarding you get used to it.

I was just surprised I fell. I didn’t attempt anything so spectacular.

A kind guy helped me fetch the board from the other side of the road.

I smiled and said thank you. He gave an understanding nod.

I collected the board and walked by the manhole cover again, wondering what in the name of God happened to me.

It’s dark.

I’m walking down Adalbertstrasse.

I’m right by this red-brick building that looks like the office of some diplomat. Right before the crossroads. The crossroads where the road on the left passes by a lakefront restaurant on its way.

The lake with swans. And overhanging foliage along the walkways that border it.

Ah, I’ll have to break my $200 minimum account balance resolution.

The girlfriend and I have been having literal arguments over this travelling thing.

We’re going to have to go somewhere.

Oh God.

Rock bottom here I come.

Image: Somewhere in Berlin.

Now Playing:

Cachupa is Very Filling.

I am walking down the street.

There is a problem- there is an immensely disconcerting problem on my mind.

I am visibly grappling with this problem. I am talking to myself. My arms are moving about as I walk.

My hair is extremely rough. The red dye is beginning to fade. It’s probably due for some retouching.

There is a problem.

It is a foundational conundrum which I believe to have very far-reaching implications on the general domain of Statistical Learning :

It is an issue involving statistical learning models and what I believe to be an unfounded presupposition of input variable completeness.

I look extremely unkempt.

I look like I just emerged from weeks of living alone in the desert with wild animals.

And that is actually true. All except the wild animals part. I really did recently emerge from living alone in the desert.

For some reason there are like no animals in the wild on this island- at least I haven’t come across any. For some strange reason.

Someone is laughing at me. He’s in the grocery store by the left.

It’s Meky. I can tell from his voice.

I’m angry at him for mocking me.

Of course I’m not entirely sure, but I believe I’m the one he’s laughing at. I feel sad about being laughed at, but at the same time I somewhat understand. If I was in his shoes I’d probably laugh at myself too.

Walking about the island like an insane person, with no definite purpose. Wonder why he won’t just get a job. Always having sand in his hair. Talking aloud to himself. Fighting against problems nobody can see. Getting arrested every once in a while. He has a computer that is probably worth a few thousand dollars, but he has neither money nor food to eat. Strange guy. Very very strange guy.

Yeah, I’d most likely laugh at myself too.

Meky is cool though. We met in a restaurant at Espargos earlier in the year. I was there for some breakfast. I still had some money left from the hundred dollars I landed in the country with. That morning he introduced me to Cachupa- Cape Verde’s flagship meal.

It’s very filling.


It was indeed pretty filling.

I like Meky. He’s very tall. Tall and burly. He is like a wall. Like a smiling, brown-skinned wall. I like him.

But he’s pissing me off this afternoon- Why is he laughing at me?

I don’t have time for him and his painful derision right now- I have an illegitimate statistical learning presupposition to worry about.

I need to pay him back his money soon. I’ll feel comfortable enough to really dish him a piece of my mind then.

It’s difficult to properly express annoyance at someone when you’re owing them money. You can’t really say the things you want to say, how you want to say them.

Don’t worry Mister Meky. Wait till I pay you back your fifty euros. Then you’ll know what’s going on.

I needed some money that day. I needed to open a Cape Verdean bank account, and a deposit was required by the bank.

I had recently reconnected with an NGO in Nigeria, and we had just vivified a monthly financial agreement which was hibernated by my travel to the USA for studies a few years earlier.

My Bank of America account was unusable because my balance there was a very negative number.

I had a Nigerian bank account. In fact, I had some money in it. It was to my inestimable dismay however, that I learnt the Central Bank of Nigeria had banned the use of debit cards outside the country- in a bid to somehow prevent a further devaluation of their currency.

And so the little money in that account had been transformed into a sequence of meaningless numbers which could not rescue me from the hunger and general pecuniary anguish I was experiencing.

Oh God, these Nigerian people have struck again. They want me to die in this place.

Meky owns a grocery store.

A grocery store is like heaven when you’re hungry to the core, and you’re like friends with the owner.

He helped me with some direly needed food. He wrote me a cheque for fifty euros after holding on to my GoPro and tripod and other recording gear as collateral.

This is not a GoPro.

He looked at me, with a smirk on his face.

Ah, Meky. GoPro. Chinese GoPro clone. Whatever. Just sign this cheque you this wonderfully benevolent being so I can move forward with my life and not die of frustration in this strange land pls

Thanks to him, it was possible to open the account. The new account still was not usable for the NGO connection though. There was another infuriating complication with international transfers that precluded it’s use for that purpose.

This life and problems.

Meky’s voice is sounding more distant now.

I keep walking, and grappling with this very important problem that no one can see.