I used to constantly laugh at Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic while he was freezing to death, now, not anymore. I now empathize with him despite feeling less than one-tenth of what he was feeling. Back home in Nigeria, I intentionally started an Industrial Training in ‘Airconditionology’ which means an act of being in the air-conditioner for a number of hours. All my preparations were in vain, as the chill hit me from all sides. This wasn’t fair, for over twenty-something years of my life, I have been in perpetual heat and all of a sudden, I was thrust into this giant freezer of a country. At that moment, I longed for humid, sweaty Nigeria. Having my bath proved to be harder than the Gulf War, it took me ages getting the right combination between hot and cold and when I finished I had to rush to seek solace in front of the heater (my new best friend).
My first days here also proved to be filled with unnecessary paranoia. My mentality was still in Nigerian mode and I always had this feeling at the back of my head that NEPA a.k.a PHCN were going to strike. It was at this moment I realized how much my psyche has been affected by that ‘terrorist organisation’ known as PHCN. God, these dudes are worse than Al-Qaeda. I always rush to iron my clothes, charge my phone (which at the moment is complaining of overcharging) and my Laptop. The feeling still lingers and in a funny way I kinda miss the blackout and the way NEPA plays with our emotions when they toggle with electricity like kids in a candy store. After dressing, I set out for my first day at school. As I was walking out of my room, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and was impressed by what I saw: A confident, good-looking man. I silently thanked Pa and Ma Nizzle for their gene pool and I began to understand what Miss Nizzle saw and admired everyday.
Back to the story before self-conceit takes over, I started to walk to school, YES, Walk. I was not going to waste my money on cabs that the fare metres were faster than a male cheetah chasing a female one to mate. The bus too always took time to come, there were time-tables they adhere to and lazy me always missed the early one besides I always feel like Rosa Park in the bus anytime I enter. Imagine being the only dark-skinned guy in a whole bus, pretty spooky! I began to reflect on the irony of life: Back in Lagos, I used to drive everywhere, I loathed walking, “entering bus” and used to mock those who did and all of a sudden, I am now a ‘walkaholic’, sometimes, now, I think I can rival the Israelites of old in the walking game. In fact, I think I should be the next Johnnie Walker model. During my mandatory 15mins walk to school, I periodically cast envious glances at those who had cars and even more at those who had bicycles. Bicycles are the coolest, most efficient way of going to class here. They actually look like Range Sports to me here and I am looking forward to saving and buying my own shining bicycle.
Finally, I got to school. The environment was what I expected and so much more. Everything was neat, tidy, and picturesque. As I sauntered in, a girl smiled at me, I smiled back but alarm bells rang silently at the back of my head. I remembered Miss Nizzle’s lovely face, her silent warning and I immediately sped away. The Devil is a liar. One thing I noticed was the multitude of smokers at the school. I instantly labeled school ‘Smokeville; As in, they were so many and you would actually think nicotine was the new oxygen, not that I blame them, it was so freaking cold and smoking was an outlet. For a second, it looked tempting but once again Miss Nizzle’s disapproving face flashed by joined this time by Ma and Pa Nizzle. Quickly I erased the thought and settled for a milder form of nicotine a.k.a Coffee. Walking into my faculty, I was amazed by the decor, the setting. It didn’t look like school; it looked like President Yaradua’s living room.
I mentally compared it to Mass Communication, Unilag; it was like telling a tortoise to race with a Lamborghini. From flat screen TVs in every direction to elevators, to using special codes to enter your classes. In class, everyone had a computer and you could choose to facebook even during classes. The internet was faster than Superman; I could go on and on. One particular episode made me flustered. It was during Radio presentation class and we all had to come in front of the class to present. To complicate matters, I was the only African in class and always have to be on my toes to represent and defend everything African. My classmates presented and then it was my turn. When I got to the front of the class and heard my voice presenting, I almost broke down. I sounded like Olusegun Obasanjo at a press conference. I was surprised that they didn’t laugh as I felt I would have laughed at “me” if I were in their shoes. My God, I was pathetic. My classmates are cool though and my name has never been pronounced better.
Getting directions to places is one thing that takes some getting used to over here. They believe in using maps a lot. Ask for anywhere and they instantly log on to Google to get the map and directions. The sad truth is that I don’t know how to use the freaking maps. Back at Nigeria, my map was the nearest okada man who could direct me anywhere. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them but I still prefer okada men any day, anytime though. Another thing here is the food. I miss hot Amala. My dreams nowadays are laced with ‘Amala and pounded yam intentions’. Over here, I eat trash, food that I can’t even pronounce the name. The diet has so changed that my stomach rumbles in protest, I can hear it screaming ‘Amala,Amala,Amala’. My diet has so changed that even my fart smells different. Smells like jand, you could use it as fresheners.
After classes, I headed back to my room. Crossing the road tentatively like a northerner hooked on anti-depressants. To prepare for another day, to adjust to another culture…