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New Lagos!!!

by: Dozie Okpalaobieri

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On my way to go and get my passport in NY, I passed so many towns, I went by New Haven, New London, New Rochelle and even New Lagos!!!!!!

Believe me, in Connecticut, Exit 39, there it was, New Lagos!!!

This was one exit that I had to get off. New Lagos? In America?

The sign just off the exit said, Welcome to New Lagos, Rest Stop 2 miles, Gas, Lodging and Food, 5 Miles!!! I told Yemi we had to check this place out. So we got off the freeway at Exit 39.

I was expecting to see McDonalds with a Mobil gas station but instead, I saw "Obalende Suya" with a Total gas station in the corner.

They even had their orange gas cylinders arranged for people who wanted to buy cooking gas. I thought this was America? We approached the Obalende suya building and as we entered, a lady came out to greet us. She smiled and I couldn't help but smile back. She had hips that swayed with every bounce.

"What would you guys like to eat?" Gosh, she her Pepsodent smile came with close-up appeal, her teeth were shining and that little gap-tooth was sexy.

I love women with gap tooth, they are always created beautiful. The truth is I have never seen a woman with a gap tooth who is ugly. Period.

Yemi: Do you have eba?

Woman: We have everything, Eba, okro, fufu, pounded yam, jollof rice, Mbanaga soup, okporoko, gizzard and isi ewu for desert, in short, anything you want, we give you.

Yemi: I will have eba please.

Me: I want pounded yam with Okro soup, my sister, where are you from, cos your beauty seems to be heavenly ordained.

I was getting carried away by this woman and her smile was certainly captivating.

This was not one of those juju where I could have sworn that she hit my bum and I started following her everywhere but it certainly seemed like it. Neither did she blow any powder in my face that has started to mesmerize me.

Remember in Nigeria when people use to sweet-talk folks, maybe blow powder in their face and ask them to go and bring their mother's jewelry and their father's hard currency? Those days were hard sha.

Worse was the tale of the disappearing "thingi"!!! Guys were walking with their hands in their pockets, refusing to shake anyone's hand while the women would walk sometimes with their hands across their chest, refusing to hug anyone. Those were really suspicious times but anyway, this lady sure had me going hmmmm.

Girl: My name is Omari, I am from the Buguma area where the Niger meets the rivers of all rivers..

Me: Yemi, you sure say she no be mami water as she fine so?

Omari: I love your GM

Me: I am sorry, I don't drive General Motors vehicle, I drive a Toyota.

Omari: No foolish, that's not what I mean.

Me: Your fineness, pray , what do you mean?

Omari: I meant, I love your Glutus Maximus

Me: (Whispering to Yemi) Chei, Yemi, I never siddon, she don dey checkout my yansh

Me: Even me, I like as you rock your defenders as you move, you face just dey shine like oyinbo own. What perfume is that you are wearing?

Omari: Contradiction.

Me: I don't blame you, you are a contradiction to all the Nigerian women I have seen, special in your own way, well, make I no talk anymore, I don't want to...don't want.....

As I tried to continue, I started to choke on the appetizer, the bone from the fried fish was hooking me.

ME: Damn, I asked for tilapia fish, why is this fish somersaulting in my throat?

Yemi started banging my back as if he was trying to make the fish do a break dance in my throat. See the kind of friends I have?

Mamiwater, sorry, Omari came over and scolded him, started rubbing my back in an upward motion and I am not sure what happened in those two minutes, but the bone was suddenly gone.

She was feeding me the pounded yam and okro. Swallowing gari or gari substitutes was a remedy for fish bone giving you the choke hold.

Me: A beg, I know its winter but can you please put on the AC, as you are standing so close to me, I am feeling very hot.

Omari: Its too cold to put on the AC, I am sure you are one of those people who like to drive on the highway with the window all the way down.

ME: How do you know that? And don't tell me you saw me on TV...(as if..)

Anyway, look, I hear you cook a mean jollof rice with sweet potato and ribs, any chance I might get to sink my teeth into that after I am done with this poundo and okro?

Omari: How did you know that?

Me: Apart from the fact that you are famous? I hear all Buguma women cook like that. The only people that come close are the Sapele women. Its all in the water. Look at the whole country, everywhere that is near water has a soup that can make you bite your finger..Mbanga soup, edikaikong, even okro in the Calabar format can make you hmmm.

Do you know that Ofe Nsala started near Onitsha at the banks of River Niger. Compare that to Gbegiri soup that came from Kwara..See when the North produces excessive groundnut, they ship it to Kwara and those people grind it to make Gbegiri.

Yemi: How do you know all this?

Me: Ah, stay there, where were you when they were teaching nutritional geography in FGC? Let me break it down for you.

Me: Do you know why they call Ibo people, Nyamiri? They are always begging for water, why do you think they are all over Lagos? There is no running water in Lagos and they can sure live without it if they have to.

Look at all your Ibo friends when they eat, They can eat a sack of akpu with egusi soup and not a drop of water will go down with it. The rumour is that they even rubbed off on Bendel People as I have witnessed in some of my friends.

That's why Ibos are generally called "Aje okuta ma m'omi" which means we eat stones and still don't drink water. I don't think we rubbed off well on some Bendel people sha because my ex-roommate used to pass out on the couch after trying such patented experiments.

On the other leg, we have my Yoruba friends who will drown the little rice left in the pot in oil. Like we used to say in secondary school, if you dey cook Yoruba food and you never put oil, you never start be that.

I went to my friend's house on numerous occasions to eat (I only go when they are cooking anyway) and when dinner was served, I saw the chicken swimming in oil, trying to stay afloat, at least I knew it wasn't "anu 404" (dog meat) since dogs can swim in any liquid medium.

One time, I was eating pounded yam, and after rolling the poundo, it fell into the soup. For the next 10 minutes, I wasn't getting any sonar response, the black box on the plate couldn't reveal an inconsistent liquid level and after the NTSB (my host) invited divers (a fork), the debris was located and deposited in my stomach for further enzyme analysis.

Nowadays, I take an oil drill when I go to his house, at about $22 a barrel, I could still come out ahead of Bill Gates.

But have you noticed that you can tell where a person is from by how they fry plantain?

After conducting analysis at the Omoibo Institute of Technology, we discovered that Yoruba people will soak the plantain in oil and deep fry??? While Ibo people will use the tiniest bit of oil so they can have enough left over to run the generator!!!

Now to the land of dry air, chapped lips and bland food. This was where the art of making suya started.

Get a dog, bang it on the head and by 6pm, you are selling out on the corner of Angwar Sariki and General Market in Kaduna. Its hard to stay away from suya even if you know that Bingo disappeared a day before.

The only thing different we got in Kaduna was plenty of rice and Camel meat which at the time I thought tasted like chicken even though it was really really HARD!!!!

So you see, "I know my stuff."

Me: Anyway, beautiful one, we have to start running, we have a long day ahead of us at the Embassy.

Since it will be a long day, could you pack one plate of Mbanga Soup and pounded yam, some of that suya, extra spicy jollof rice with fried meat, gizzard as we've never seen it.

Yemi, do you want to add anything?

Yemi: Me I just want Eba.

Me: You never ask for much do you..Omari, thanks for hosting us, we enjoyed your smile, oh just for next time, there is a difference between dancing to sweet mother the African way and dancing to it as if it is Russian ballet and you are dancing to the Nut Cracker.

Keep the smile going, I will keep in touch after all, your rice leaves a lot to be remembered as well as your hands that managed to remove the bone from my neck.

We will try to pass by on our way back.

Please, on our way back, can you call all your friends that look like you and ask them to come for dinner, we wont mind meeting them.

Oya, yemi, make we dey go!!!!!!


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©Dozie Okpalaobieri - September, 2000
Published with the permission of the author

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