One last time I take a look out the large window. I spent so many hours sitting in its sill, thinking, enjoying the view over the Utrecht houses onto the Dutch polder landscape. Then I pick up the last box, walk out the studio apartment and return the keys to the land lady who came to say goodbye. As of today I am homeless. I have moved out of my place in The Netherlands and will leave for Lagos in three weeks time, not quite knowing where I will end up. The one thing I will miss, apart from dear friends and family, is the abundant light and the view that came with that studio apartment.
The Dutch have funny ways with windows.
In The Netherlands, we cannot get enough of them. My brother, an architect, is a good example. He lives in a house like a glass box. Light flows in from everywhere. I guess it has to do with our northern climate and the lack of sun: we cherish every ray of sunshine. So unlike Nigerians.
Every time I enter someone’s home in Lagos, I am flabbergasted by the square meters of curtains one finds in there. Enormous patches of textile – often ridiculously fringey and hideously flowered – are blocking even the littlest hole in the wall that could let in some day light. Nigerians seem to despise that phenomenon. Apparently, when you are spoiled with light, it becomes something to be avoided.
Because most of them have never suffered the gloomy, suicidal tendencies invoking darkness of Dutch winter, it is hard to explain to my Lagosian friends why I am looking for a Mainland apartment with a view and lots of big sized windows. Why I cannot imagine myself in a prison like windowless room with just electric light. The place in Agege where I stayed last time in Lagos had such tiny windows that even on a sunny day I needed lamps to read. As Jenny, my moody little 5 litre generator, did not always feel like running, I often spent my time in half-darkness. In hindsight I think part of the reason why Agege never did grow on me, was the lack of light.
But there is more to the Dutch window thing. I only realised this when I started travelling. Getting to know other cultures confronts you with the oddness of your ways. In my case, I became aware of the total lack of privacy in my light adoring nation. Especially at night.
On a typical Dutch evening after dark, a stroll through a typical Dutch street will offer you a front row view of many a typically Dutch living room. The drapes wide open, there are entire Dutch families on display. They will be having coffee or dinner, reading a magazine or clipping their toe nails, all in plain view. Even when there is no sunlight to let in anymore, the only reason the Dutch close their curtains is sex.
I am thinking it is my Calvinist country’s way to show the outside world we are not doing anything dodgy. That we are harmlessly slouching on the settee, watching the long running Dutch soap ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ and being proper Dutch citizens, and everyone, including the pastor and the vicar, is invited to come and witness this through our curtainless windows. Basically, leaving our windows uncovered is proof that whatever we are doing, we are not having sex.
Makes me wonder what goes on behind all those closed Lagosian curtains.
Talk to Femke on Twitter @femkevanzeijl
Previous entries of Femke Becomes Funke:
‘Idiot oyinbo woman’
As good as your gadget
My moin moin madness
White sexual commodity
‘I became angry the Lagosian way: skin deep’
Beer in the morning? I would not dream of refusing
A terrifying dream
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.