Thanks to my Spanish Academy, I have graduated from sign language to a form of Spanglish. Apart from that, it is life as usual, nothing spectacular happening. I miss home and if I close my eyes and imagine reeeeeaaaalllllyyyyy hard, I can almost believe that I am still in Lagos – there is even traffic to help me get in the mood, only here it is a more gentlemanly kind of traffic. They stop at red lights and horn only when they need to horn. Of course I have to pretend that some cars are okadas; and that I actually understand the language flying all around me, like it is Yoruba and not Spanish.
Speaking of which, get this…near my flat, there is one “Clinica Oftamologica, Fisoterapia”. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what that means and does it not remind you of Hausa? This Spanish is a lot like Hausa-English with an extra o or e or a or an f instead of ph etc…..So now we know that the Igbos are related to the Jews, the Hausas have Spanish brothers….Which oyinbo relations do the Yorubas have?
Of course to really believe I am in Naija, I would also have to pretend that It doesn’t feel weird having EVERYONE staring. Yes this is the 21st century and black people are everywhere, but we are in serious minority here and what is even less common is one of us walking the streets like they own them, you know, as opposed to “hanging ” on street corners or selling stuff by the road just waiting for the signal to hide from the immigration police. I can almost hear their thoughts…” Who is she? Halle Berry? Naomi? Some movie star on holiday?” Ha! I wish! But the people are all so friendly, always smiling greeting everyone.
The minute it goes past “Hola”, then I know it is a serious matter. The person will talk and talk till I have to say three words to make it clear I have no idea what they are saying: “No hablo Espanol”. And follow with “Tu hablas Ingles?” 8.5 out of ten times, the answer to that question is no, but believe me, that does not slow them down, they will go on and on while I stand and watch just smiling politely, sometimes nodding and saying “si, si” even though I have no idea what I am si-si-ing to, while I wait for a break in the conversation to remind them “no hablo Espanol”.
About the food, hmmm…it is ok if you can do without your swallow. Because to find anything you can even use for that, you either have to go deep into the bowels of the city or else you go far to the fringes where you can find the ethnic communities. My excitement the day I found a proper naija kiosk in Madrid, can only be imagined. What did I not buy? Milo, maltina, plantain chips, okro…pepper! Infact I was so excited by the pepper that I misused it and my stomach showed me pepper!
Most interesting though is that they eat bread like no man’s business at every meal. In fact,
bread is free at every restaurant you go to, it is used like cutlery. Is your fish too scattered to pick with your fork? Use your bread to push it on the fork. Is your chicken refusing to cut neatly for you? Thank God for bread to hold it still while you cut. Was that soup so tasty you want to drink every last drop but you cannot raise your soup dish to drink it? Thank goodness for bread to soak it …infact to scrape the plate if you like. Everything is good manners as long as it is done with bread.
Keep that in mind till next time. Adios