It was Enrique’s first time in
His second time in
The first time was 26 years before. His father ,Jose Alonso, was on his way to
They flew in with the Nigerian Airlines.
The Pilot, a 29 year old Architecture graduate of
The pilot had such a chain link to the political powerhouse and so he got the job.
The plane didn’t crash. The god’s were lenient. Instead, as some form of punishment, they sent the pilot the worst recorded turbulence experience in the last 5 years.
After 6 hours of praying and being butted across the skies the plane finally arrived at the
The Alonso’s where of strong Italian stock but 6 hours of turbulence alongside a menu that offered Amala and Ewedu, will defeat anyone.
Maria Rosalina Alonso gave birth as the plane rolled to a stop next to Hanger 12 of the
Thus did Enrique D.G Alonso, born from two, true blooded Italians, gain Nigerian Citizenship.
The Alonso’s changed their plans immediately. They sat in the airport clinic for an hour before hitching a return trip back to
Mr. Alonso never got to do his survey or see
25 years , 11 months and 28 days later Enrique returned.
Enrique had a guidebook. He had done his research.
The Italian consulate had been nice enough to hand him a list of do’s and don’ts.
He knew for instance that it was not healthy to drink water from the tap. Whilst this most accepted of acts was recognized behavior outside the country, within the irregular borders of
He knew, again, that at this time of the year the country was going through it’s unpredictable weather cycle... The sun was known to shine as brightly and as warm as 40 degrees, five minutes before making way for dark clouds that emptied their water load o the city drenching the sweltering inhabitants of
To this end he had packed in his Nike knapsack, Sun screen crème. A small umbrella and a raincoat. Reading the brochure carefully he discovered that there hadn’t been a Volcanic eruption in
He packed a Volcano survival kit.
The sun was high in the sky when Enrique walked out the airport doors. A strong blast of heat hit him, threatening to boil the air in his lungs and leave him choking in pain. He found himself looking up to the sky for the dark clouds he had been promised. No one had mentioned it would be this hot. The sun screen on his face was beginning to sizzle.
Desperate to escape being cooked alive He made his way to his first Nigerian Cab.
It was a Peugeot 504 painted bright familiar yellow.
On the side was the word “TAXEY” boldly written in black.
Enrique assumed it was the Nigerian Translation of the universal word.
The driver was dressed in a T shirt with the words “Nothing dey happen”.
He looked at Enrique with a happy smile as he walked over.
"Where too?” he asked grabbing Enrique’s bag for him.
He tossed it into the back seat.
Enrique made a move to get into the back seat but the driver stopped him.
“No…Seat in front. The airconditioner…It’s better.”
Desperate to get out of the heat Enrique consented and moved to the front. Whilst making a quick check to ensure his bag was indeed behind him, he noticed that the entire back screen was covered in Stickers. There where a lot of them, starting from “1987 my year of laughter “to “2007. My year of Breakthrough”.
He probably had a bike in 1987 Enrique thought.
He asked the driver why he had so many stickers behind.
How do you see behind you?
The driver looked at him puzzled as he made a motion to start the car.
“Wetin I wan look behind me for. I’m moving forward not backward.”
He pulled out two wires and touched them together. There was a spark, followed by a loud cough from the engine and the insides of the car was instantly flooded with smoke.
Thus did Enrique D.G Alonso experience his first Taxey in
It took him that long to say The Lords Prayer, the Nicene Creed and Psalm 23.
He looked up just in time to witness the driver blaze by two trailers with only inches to spare. The speedometer wasn’t working but Enrique was convinced they had passed MACH 1.
He turned to meet the driver’s amused gaze.
“Where are you going?
Enrique corrected him. The question wasn’t where but what.
What did he want to do?
He had made a promise to himself regarding his first action in
The driver shrugged
“So what do you want to do? “ The driver asked.
Enrique told him what and watched the driver smile.
She looked at the duo in front of her. First at the driver and then at the sweating white man behind him.
“You say what?” She asked for the third time.
“This man talk say e wan chop Amala and Ewedu..
“Amala…” The woman repeated staring at the white man behind.
His eyes where darting around nervously. She didn’t blame him. When a white man walks into a National Union of Road Transport workers canteen that many eyes are bound to stare at you.
‘You say this white man wan chop Amala?”
“Yes… With Ewedu. And Bush meat…” The driver looked behind him and then added quickly. “Two plates. Put Gbegiri for my own.”
Iya Buki had seen a lot in her 29 years of work at the Ikeja NURTW canteen. But this, she shook her head, this took the cake.
She was finally getting old.
“Sikirat!” She called wearily. “Bring me two plates of Amala!”
She had had longer experience being a Nigerian.
“6000 Naira for two plates “She announced handing over the meal.
Thus was Enrique D.G Alonso given, albeit expensive, his first taste of Nigerian cuisine.
Enrique loved it.
Iya Buki was so thrilled that she offered him an extra plate free—without the bush meat of course. He and the driver.
Enrique returned to the Taxey completely sated with a complementary stain of stew on his shirt.
“That Na your dining badge.” The driver announced grandly.
“Dining badge.” Enrique repeated happily, touching the stain with pride.
Midst cheers from the crowd of Okada riders and Cab drivers who had come to watch this Oyibo eat
After a quick question the driver changed heading and headed to a well known bar. Beside him. Thoroughly stuffed Enrique smiled with a glazed look in his eyes.
They gisted about idle stuff.
The driver asked him if he was from
“Okay….” The driver nodded “How close to is that to
Enrique laughed (it was a joke wasn’t it?) and closed his eyes whilst trying to figure out what exactly “Nothing dey happen” meant.
Noting the happenings?
The car slowed down as it hit slight traffic.
There was a tap at his window.
He looked out to see a man holding the watch of his dream.
A Tag Heur. The diver’s edition. There where only 980 of them made. And one of them , to all appearance and events, was being sold in a hold up here in
“How much?” The driver asked after winding down.
“4000 naira.” The watch sales man said very quickly.
The driver shook his head. What did the watch man think he was made off.
To Enrique’s horror he began to move forward in the traffic.
To Enrique’s shock the watch man kept speed with the accelerating car, barely breaking a sweat as he grudgingly announced.
“Okay. Take am for 2000 Naira.”
“I’ll take it.” Enrique said quickly.
Hell a plate of Amala had been 6000 naira. He was getting a bargain here.
He nodded his acceptance to the driver, before he changed his mind.
5 minutes later there where still 980 of such watches in the world.
One of them ostensibly was being worn by Enrique
And thus did Enrique D.G Alonso discover the hidden secrets and potential of a Lagos Traffic Holdup.
Specifically, A bar on the water side where for 200 naira or 1000 naira (depending on whose version you believed the barman or the interpreting driver) you could have a bottle of the freshest palm wine.
Comfortable in his role of driver cum interpreting guide, Noting the happenings ordered for four bottles of frothing fresh palm wine.
“Wait until you taste this.” Announced the driver “There is no better wine in the entire world.”
Secretly Enrique considered the wine from his Uncles Vineyard the best but he kept his observation to himself until he sipped the palm wine.
He was glad he did.
Thus did Enrique taste his first Nigerian Drink.
Seated in a chair, his hair being played with from side to side by the wind , a mug of poured palm wine in his hands Enrique could not think of a better evening.
He was wrong.
“Is this seat taken. “ She asked.
Enrique stared entranced.
Blonde braids framed a face which contained eyes that where opals of black lit with the strangest of lights. Her gaze ripped through him. Seeing into his darkest shadows and highlighting his secrets. Her soft lips shone with the hint of gloss. He found himself swallowing even though he hadn’t had a sip of palm wine.
She smiled at his silence and sat beside him
They sat in silence for a while.
“You’re American?” She asked softly.
“Italian” he replied finally finding his voice. She nodded her head softly.
He looked at her with more interest.
“Really? That’s interesting. Where in
She made a face.
“Yes we all are.”
“Italian…” She murmured looking at him.
Again she gave him that look. He found himself correcting.
“Actually I’m also Nigerian. My parents gave birth to me here.” He raised his hand “Citizen by birth.”
She looked at him with surprise.
“I’m serious. “ He said with a laugh. He let down his tone a notch. “I even have a Nigerian name. My mum called me after the man on the plane that helped my child birth. He was a real gentleman.”
“You where born on a plane?” She asked laughing.
“Yes I was. My Nigerian name is Dele Giwa. That was the man’s name. I’m not sure but my mum thinks he was a journalist. Would you like to hear the tale?”
“Please.” She said softly.
Noting the happenings.
Today had been a good day.
He didn’t notice the stars.
He didn’t notice the ghostly moon's rise.
He didn’t notice the amused stare the bartender gave him.
He didn’t notice that his limited edition Tag Heur had suddenly stopped working.
All He noticed was her lips.
And she noticed.
So they did something about it.
Thus did Dele-Giwa E. Alonso ,a terminal ill patient suffering from Cancer, see, taste, hear and feel the first of his last 60 days in his first country.
The tale ends