I am not Island material. My allergy for hot air makes me unfit to live on VI.
‘Madam, we will find you a quiet place on a serene street in Ikoyi.’
Me: ‘But I do not want a serene place in Ikoyi! I want to live on the Mainland.’
Estate agent: ‘But Madam, people like you are supposed to live on the Island. Let me show you some nice property in Lekki Phase 1. You will like it.’
Finding a place to live in Lagos, as a white woman, comes with its challenges. My biggest one has turned out to be explaining why I do not want to live on the Island, even though most expats live there.
Trust me, I’ve had the Island experience. Since I moved to Lagos three weeks ago I have been staying on Victoria Island, in the apartment of a family that is on a holiday. This is a temporary solution: I need to find my own place before they return. It is the first time ever that I stay in Lagos and am not on the Mainland. I miss it dearly.
I am not Island material. My allergy for hot air makes me unfit to live on VI. I get grumpy when a taxi charges me 1000 Naira for a drive of not even one kilometre (I was carrying groceries, otherwise I would have tracked). Even grumpier I get when I have to pay the same amount for a cold STAR. Needless to say my night is truly ruined when I go out to a place where for some pretentious reason drinking beer is not allowed, as posh Island bars and clubs tend to do.
Still, I let myself be convinced to at least look into accommodation on Lagos Island. I went to check out a two bed room apartment in Dolphin Estate. Words can hardly describe what the landlady dared to ask 800,000 per annum for. Granted, the living room was tiled, but the cement underneath had already started crumbling and every step produced a worrying grinding sound as if someone was using a mortar. The floors in the rest of the apartment were bare concrete in different stages of decay. I suspected entire colonies of bugs in the kitchen cabinets that looked like they had been installed way back in the seventies. Not that any vermin would have been visible to the naked eye: the few tiny windows – most of them lacking window panes – did not let enough light into the apartment to even enable reading on a sunny day. I have seen bigger three bedroom apartments for less and in a much better state on the Mainland. Viewing that two bedroom ruin in Ikoyi once and for all ruled out the Island as a location for me. I reverted my attention to the Mainland, specifically Ebute Metta.
The reasons for that are not solely financial. I did not come to live in Nigeria to hide behind a fence. I did not come to lock myself up in luxury. I came to be in Nigeria to be with people, talk to them, write, learn Yoruba. I have written about Ebute Metta before, about the little street I lived on last year, where I had beer with the elders and where I was rebaptised Funke. Where I was picking up the language almost through osmosis. Also, Ebute Metta is by far the most centrally located place on the Main Land and, contrary to the overpriced flood zone of Lekki, the inhabitants most of the time keep their feet dry when it rains.
You can imagine my excitement last Friday when I went to see a brand new apartment in Ebute Metta that turned out to be everything I wanted and more: plenty windows, top floor, a safe setting and a guest room for when my mum comes to visit me in Lagos. I have learnt not to count my chickens before they are hatched, but if all goes well by next week I might have my own place. Ebute Metta rocks.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.