Oh, think twice, it’s just another day for you and me in paradise. Well maybe for you, but I’m in Lagos and that’s just about everyone’s version of anything but…
I mean this morning I saw a guy having a poo over the side of Third Mainland Bridge. In full view of everyone. When I told my wife about it, that I may develop Post traumatic Stress Disorder as a result, she told me to ‘Stop being faecesious!’ A lot smarter than me that one!
Just remember traffic doesn’t flow here, so one can’t miss seeing this awful spectacle until it’s too late, though I forced yourself to look away, like when you ‘accidentally’ look at the dog that’s been hit by a car a few hours before and subsequently driven over a couple of times on the highway.
Anyway, my driver assures me the guy is mentally ill. No sh!t. And does that all the time… phew, now I feel better about my morning drive. Knew I should have nicked the eye covers that come with the socks when you fly long haul.
Oh Lagos. What a place. Scares the, erm, crap out of you when you first arrive. The hustle, the bustle, the hustling and the bustling. You quickly learn that there’s no one special here – unless you got money and police number plates on your car.
You need the police plates or you get stopped every two kilometres only to watch your driver and a man with a gun have a heated argument. You on the other hand nervously thumb your Blackberry, head down, trying to ignore everyone and act much cooler than you are.
But slowly, if you let your fear subside, and start opening your eyes…. you start realising this place is getting interesting – in a cool way, not contrived African cool, but genuine cool.
The kind of authentic cool that comes from true indifference. Laotians are too busy working to actually care about anything, so they just get on with it, and that’s super cool (even if the phrase ‘super cool’ isn’t).
The radio DJs are patronisingly good, the billboards are as funky as you’d expect in a dog-eat-dog market place of 20 million people, and you have fun trying to work out how the city is divi’ed up between the islands and the main land.
If ever there was a city that assaults your senses…this is it. It heaves on a scale unprecedented. A hot sweaty humid heave.
I mean I’ve travelled, lucky for me plenty, but this place heaves like no place on earth. It’s complete chaos. It’s completely organised. There’s way things are done, granted differently, but they get done.
The sight of huge buildings juxtaposed slums on silts in the mud; burning coal and acrid smoked plastic- and the constant white noise called traffic everywhere that you go. The sea, the land, the people, the buzz all blur into each other.
From beautiful, anti-septic, air-conditioned shopping malls with Louis Vuitton shops to sprawling, loud and hugely colourful market places with their own Louis Vuitton shops too, there a little of something for everyone in this town.
This is the ying and the yang city. The ‘opposites attract’ city. There ain’t no government jobs here, no food if you don’t work things out, this isn’t ‘hamburger and coke’ town folks , this is hard work…
I marvel at the notion of 20 million people getting up every day and somehow making a plan; going to bed and getting up to do it all over again’. Wow!
Sure there’s the quirks. The richest pastors are from around here. One of the largest churches claims their founder as ‘the only true anointed representative of the Lord’; which possibly explains why he has to have seven different coloured Hummers, one for each day of the week. That correlation runs deep everywhere though…. poverty and church; but the anointed reps take it to another level here.
Anyway, people often ask how I ‘tolerate’ a place like Lagos. But therein lies the problem. Lagos doesn’t ‘tolerate’ me. Hell it doesn’t even welcome me. It just doesn’t care.
So all you’re left with is ‘Lagos is an attitude’. Once you get it, you get it. Explaining won’t get you to understand it – it’s the city equivalent of a bad relationship, when it’s good it’s good, when it’s bad…… It’s the ultimate dichotomy.
Sticking rich, dirt poor. It’s North and South, Good and bad ass… It’s hip, it’s hop, it’s all one massive heaving, hulking rhythmical frontier town; dancing to the beat of its own drum!
If you really want to say you’ve seen the world, then you got to take the good with the bad. And if you want to feel good and bad at the same time. You have to see Lagos! Man I f*#king hate this place. I mean I f*#king love this place.
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