Femke to Funke: “Oyibo, Oyibo!” – Best enjoyed at night!

It gets better! YNaija introduces you to Dutch writer and journalist, Femke van Zeijl who has been traveling across sub-Saharan Africa for about 10 years.

Now she trades her, um, nomadic existence for a permanent position in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. Follow Femke’s journeys through her new life in Africa’s most populous country.

The sweet smell of roasted suya – Nigerian beef kebab – mixes with that of urine in all stages of decomposure.

My right hand with the carefully kneaded little ball of amala is half way my to mouth when I look up. Three pairs of eyes are pointed at me. Apparently the personnel of this joint around the corner in Agege, Lagos, does not have a whole lot to do. The waitress with the shuffling pace brought me a bottle of water and then took a seat at the nearest table. She manoeuvred the plastic chair in such a way she now has an excellent view of the stainless steel bowl with okra soup in front of me on the table.

With great interest she follows how I dip the yam dough in the slimy green sauce and try to hoist it up without creating to many threads. I stuff the amala in my mouth, wipe the one unavoidable string of slime off my chin with a napkin and go on eating. Ten years of travelling in Sub-Saharan Africa made me almost immune to stares. Most of the time, at least.

The day after I walk down my street with a Nigerian friend. I concentrate on not tripping on the crumbling pavement and avoiding traffic. I routinely block the many ‘oyinbo, oyinbo!’ outcries coming from everywhere. Therefore I don’t hear what the skinny driver yells as he’s hanging out of the window of a minibus whizzing past. To the friend accompanying me it is loud and clear though. It is meant for him: “Yahoo yahoo!”

‘Yahoo yahoo’ is slang for the Nigerian scammers who find gullible white people on the internet to court and then chisel out of their money. I could die realising what my friend has just been accused of. But the loudmouth was only bellowing out what everyone else on that street was thinking anyway – it is what people here think to know when they see a black man accompanying a white woman. I would like to tell him the remarks will become less. But that would be a lie.

Oyinbo ni? Albino abi?” The two okada drivers cannot make up their minds a couple of days later. I decided to wear a hat and sunglasses that morning, covering my short hair and eyes. It confuses the bikers. One inquires with the other whether I am a white person or not. His colleague shrugs. He does not know. On a hat-and-glasses day the street around me remains pretty peaceful.

Then comes Sunday evening in Agege. A local joint by the road side. Plastic tables full of empty beer bottles, surrounded by men – mostly – whose voices are getting louder with every sip. I sit in a corner, my back against the load speaker blaring Nigerian club music. For once nobody notices me, the oyinbo. There are more important matters. Such as a beer promotion: one STAR bottle for 170 Naira.

The yahoo yahoo guys at the long table celebrating a fruitful scam seem to be preferring Heineken. And the Yoruba lady in traditional dress quietly sitting next to her husband is holding on to her little bottle of non-alcoholic Maltina. 
The sweet smell of roasted suya – Nigerian beef kebab – mixes with that of urine in all stages of decomposure. A corrugated iron cabin placed directly over the open sewage serves as a makeshift toilet. It opens to the terrace, and the men relieving themselves do not even bother to close the door behind their backs.

I sit back and enjoy not being stared at. Agege for an oyinbo is best enjoyed at night.

Comments (6)

  1. What would you write about in Lekki? Are you kidding? Still Agege will treat you well. Their 'oyibo' 😀

  2. Lol – relocate to Lekki. How many times I haven't heard that. First of all, I couldn't afford it. But more importantly: I am a writer. What would I write about in Lekki? Because eventually there will be another book. Not a biography – I am not that interesting – but one chronicling everyday life in this city. I am not avoiding VI or Ikeja: they are part of Lagos' life as well. I just won't be based there.

  3. Please leave my funke alone o. Even if she stays in ajegunle, moreover she doesn't even stay in agege o. werin concern una. Abegi no mind them. Am really feeling the storied about ur expirences in Lasgidi. Would make for a swt read in your biography

  4. The sweet smell of roasted suya – Nigerian beef kebab – mixes with that of urine in all stages of decomposure

    *Sigh* My Lagos… Thank you Femke

  5. The sweet smell of roasted suya – Nigerian beef kebab – mixes with that of urine in all stages of decomposure"

    *Sigh* Lagos…. Thank you Femke.

  6. why did u choose to live in agege, u must be poor. pls relocate to lekki, VI, or Ikeja. oyibo ko, oyibo ni

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