11:12 p.m. 2010-01-12
The awesome entry.
There is a critical part of being in Nigeria, that all my co-workers agree on but that is so hard to convey. It is that being here is awesome, and that awesome things are going on all around us, all the time.
Cars make U turns starting in the right hand lane. People wander in the middle of the streets at midnight. Masters of Ceremony have the audience imagine beautiful women checking themselves out in the mirror after their morning baths as a segway to praising Jesus and singing Motown. Food is sold steps from open sewers. It is radically off center signage on top of major city buildings. Plaques are placed on 4 foot high pillars that rise out of the middle of the side walk, and announce that it was placed there to commemorate the fact that it was placed there. It is a family of four squeezing onto the back seat of a motorcycle. Live stock are hauled around the city in government pick up trucks. On the way home one night I went through 4 police check points, and I live in the nicest part of the biggest city on the continent.
That list seems like it is a little traffic heavy, but that is just a selection bias. That is where most of my interactions with Nigeria society “in the wild” have been to this point. I assure you, there is awesomeness everywhere.
By awesome, I don’t mean scary, or great, or fucked up. I mean awesome, like that feeling you get on a roller coaster. A roller coaster is you putting your senses through something that they just never go through. Your inner ears never send messages to your brain like that. It is your instincts saying “something terrible must be happening” but your mind knowing that you actually aren’t in danger.
The awesomeness that is all around me happens when my expectations about the world get violated. All these rules of thumb that I’ve developed living in all sorts of other places get tossed out the window. My eyes tell me “what you are seeing can’t be true” but my mind knows that not only is it true… it isn’t even wrong. You can’t call the person making a U turn from the right hand lane a bad driver here, that judgment just has no meaning. You can’t say that the middle of the side walk is a weird place to put a monument, because it isn’t. There are a million other assumptions and rules of thumb that exist here that let these things happen.
These other approaches to the world are things that would be impossible for me to think of on my own. They pop up when they violate assumptions about the world that are so deep in my thinking that I could never get under them if it weren’t for the fact that I see them being subverted before my eyes. Every day I am confronted with the unimaginable, and that is just awesome.
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