I dialed her number for what had to have been the upteenth time from my hotel in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja. Each call would be dropped after a few seconds of conversation and we were both becoming extremely frustrated.
She couldn’t take it any longer; she had to know what had happened between the boy I was seeing at the time and me. I sounded a bit upset and she needed to know what was bothering me. “Come to my place. I will text you directions,” read her text message.
I packed some clothes, a toothbrush, and some toiletries in a small overnight bag. I prepared to spend the night in case I didn’t have transportation back to the hotel.
Standing outside the hotel lobby, I hailed a cab. “Jabi” I told the taxi driver as his vehicle approached me. “250 [Naira]” he responded, which is equivalent to $1.67. I agreed and climbed in the cab. I showed him the piece of paper that I had written my friend’s directions on. He didn’t understand so I dialed my friend, prayed that the call would stick, and gave him my cell phone. They conversed long enough for him to be clear about where her apartment was located and he continued driving, dashing along roads and honking his horn at every corner.
When we got to my friend’s neighborhood, I relied on my memory to show him exactly which apartment was hers, which meant that I had to let him in on my secret: I was a foreigner. When he heard my accent, he asked where I was from. “Nigeria,” I responded. Since he didn’t believe me, he increased his price from 250 to 400 Naira ($3). I haggled with him for a little while. How dare he increase the price because I was a foreigner!
I wasn’t going to give him any more than 250 Naira – the amount we had initially agreed upon – but he had been so helpful and patient with me in helping me locate my friend’s apartment that I decided to give him a little extra – 350 Naira ($2.33). I appreciated his patience, helpfulness, and general friendliness towards me in what could have been one of the most frustrating nights in Africa, given my failing memory and cell phone catastrophes.
My friend was waiting outside her place and greeted me upon my arrival. I was pleased with myself for doing what Americans had advised me not to do – take local taxis alone at night in Nigeria. I hugged my friend and climbed the 2 story staircase up to her apartment unit. We chatted freely for about 15 minutes when the room suddenly darkened and the TV went blank. “This has been happening all day,” she explained.
I chuckled at first, thinking to myself, So what are we going to do now? Continue our conversation in the dark? And that’s exactly what we did.
I told her about my boy, confiding in her some of the things that upsetting me. She told me about her relationship woes. We agreed that men were from Mars, and proceeded to discuss TV shows, Nigeria politics, and Nigerian culture — in the dark. She cooked a quick meal, which is Nigeria’s equivalent of Raman Noodles — in the dark. She brought me blanket and we fell asleep on the couch when our conversations tapered off -– in the dark.
This happened three years ago, but it’s funny how memories become more precious to you as you get older. Who would have thought that a night without electricity, cell phone service, and Internet would yield such meaningful conversations with a good friend? A night without electricity and cell phone mishaps in America would have been filled with complaints and calls to Georgia Power and Verizon Wireless. In America, I probably would have forfeited the opportunity to be content with less by complaining about missing my favorite television show and missing cell phone calls. But in Africa, that night was one of my favorites.