By Mfon Ekpo
In Pursuit of more clout, my legal career has taken me to the United Kingdom where I am undertaking a, er, gruelling study in Maritime Law. After the Initial euphoria of settling in a society where everything “seemingly works”, I could not help a new habit I fondly termed “Comparative Compulsive Addiction (CCA)”
It began when I walked into my apartment in London one evening and there was light everywhere, no NEPA/PHCN to mess things up (by the way we grew up shouting “UP NEPA” when power was restored, are we actually expected to shout ‘UP PHCN”? It does not even flow: no rhyme scheme or symphony whatsoever.)
Anyway like I said there was ‘light’ and everything was working… and surprisingly, I was peeved! I missed NEPA, especially as I recalled the positive effect of power failure where I grew up. People came out of their houses (generators were not so widespread at the time). Adults conversed, children played, and if there was a program we were interested in watching (e.g. Mirror in the sun behind the clouds, Ripples, a football match, the rich also cry etc) we all converged at the house of the neighbour fortunate enough to have generator and interacted as we watched. People slept on verandas under the star lit skies until power was restored.
The revelations came fast and hard. I realised that in spite of the foreign books we read, that assailed us with vivid descriptions, “Agbalumos” tasted far better than strawberries.
Inconveniences, yes; but it was unfair. So that night, I switched off all the lights in my apartment pretending NEPA had “taken light” pulled back the curtains so I could see the sky and slept with a smile and a trailer load of memories.
I dreamt of my country.
The following day I walked into Nandos, a restaurant that reminds me of home (the spicy rice reminds me of palm oil rice). Imagine my joy when I found corn on the cob in the menu…roasted corn? I was over the moon! I checked the price it was 99p. My CCA kicked in 99p is approximately one pound, which is equivalent to 250. ‘Wow. That must be a lot of corn” I mused excitedly. Instead, what I got was a quarter of one corncob staring at me! In my country you could get four or five full corn on cobs for 100 boiled or roasted! With pear or coconut to boot.
I longed for my country.
While shopping in Tesco Supermarket later that week, I bought a snack, which looked strangely familiar, but which I was sure I had not eaten before. On tasting it, it took me back to primary school in Festac, where one mama sold a variety of snacks. The snack I was now eating is called “Coconut candy” then I checked what name Tesco had given it…”Yoghurt Flavoured Coconut Clusters”. No one told mama that she could package hers too. I wondered what Tesco would call “Babadudu” if they got their hands on the recipe. “Caramelised Toffee?”,
I prayed for my country.
The revelations came fast and hard. I released that in spite of the foreign books we read, that assailed us with vivid descriptions, “Agbalumos” tasted far better than strawberries. I watched an old man throw up at the train station while people just walked passed, and remembered that even in the parks in Lagos, at least one person would have said “Baba Kilode”
I released I wanted my children to grow up at home and made up my mind that would achieve what I came here for, return home and…
I will fight for my country.
Time and space would fail me to tell of all the other things my comparative compulsive addiction made me realise. Nonetheless, I have to come to one conclusion.
I love my country.
This article was published in Y! Africa magazine issue 2| 2010