Sunday, January 10, 2016

Vacation in Chaos

Finally, a leap year! That the new year is a leap year must mean something! Or maybe not.

I like new years for their ambitious resolutions brimming with optimism, replete with bursts of faith and child-like hope. At the same time, new years could be so banal. Nothing more mechanical than digital time tellers incrementing their counters and resetting themselves. However, life is time and the time of life, like everything else, is easily managed and measured when broken down into intervals.

class Counter(object):
def __init__(self, start=0):
self.value = start
def incr(self):
self.value += 1

counter = Counter(1)
print counter.value

While I like new things, I believe that new years, or resolutions, could start whenever you decide to take stock and be resolute about something, and not only on the first day of January. That being said, I am starting this one off with a large chunk of joie de vivre. Following a listless second half of last year, I took a break just before the year ended, threw some bikinis and sun dresses in my suitcases and headed to Lagos.

The irony. Who really vacations in chaos?

The timing was perfect, it was mid-December and Lagos was in holiday mode - as I was. The energy was always on, and you could recognize it from the constant humming sound in the background from generators, or keke napeps, or water pumping machines or all of it together. Not much had changed though. It was still as receptive, electric, entertaining, tenacious and noisy as ever. I wasn't even mad at the neighbors for blasting Burna Boy's Don Gorgon a little too loud. It was good enough for me to find my groove in the kitchen. I wanted everything - the sound, the food, the spirit, but of course without all the hardness. 

In terms of infrastructure, there was ongoing construction of the new Eko Atlantic city, and real estate was sprouting in areas like Maryland and Lekki. The social scene was vibrant, teeming with youth, entrepreneurs and creatives of food festivals, musicals, pool parties, football matches, corporate end of year parties, concerts, fashion shows, house parties, beach parties, night clubs, joints. Also noteworthy was the fact that the naira weakened to a record during this period. The forex scene was seeing the dollar selling at about 200 naira, and as high (or low) as 280 at black market rates. Preposterous! Oil prices were at an all time low (in the low 30s), and there was conversation around the Central Bank of Nigeria being unable to meet the majority demand for hard currency. Circulars were also flying around about forthcoming directives placing even more restrictions on imports and international spending. Hardship.

My perception was two-edged: I came back and fit right in - like nothing had changed since I left, but at the same time, everyone was moving. The people hadn't essentially changed but it was more like a metamorphosis - they had unlocked new phases of their lives. For the most part, no one was loafing around. They seemed okay: adjusted and content, sort of. More content than comfortable. My friends seemed to have their careers and/or parenthood going for them, old crushes and toasters alike were engaged, near or actually married. I read between the lines and heard gripes in conversations at times, but those were few. No one really complained about their jobs, the traffic, or the fuel scarcity, like I gripe about NY traffic tickets, or insurance premiums :| Was it because it was holiday season? I wonder.

Without a doubt, spending time at home did me a world of good. Reuniting with family on Christmas day, ringing in the new year in prayers with old friends, catching up with former schoolmates and coworkers over delicious Nkwobi, rocking out the social scenes, spontaneous and hilarious Youtube karaoking into the wee-hours with my best boys and their roommate, feeling out the corporate scene, running into Wole Soyinka at the airport, attending weddings - even having our first family wedding, savoring those one too few walks on the beach, and quieting down for heartfelt conversations. My only disappointment was that I was unable to access my personal library and journals at one of our homes, which would easily have been a major highlight of my trip. And on New Year's day, I had a case of food poisoning, which was a careless, honest mistake - I threw my guts up and felt like crap for the next twenty four hours. Great start, innit! Yes, after being gone for almost four years, it seemed three weeks was just enough before the scene and toxins started to do my head in. 

On my way out of Lagos, I stopped in Paris and reconnected with Jolie, whom I last saw in 2012 but have Skyped and texted practically everyday since. We had about 5 hours, which was quite a stretch but we made the most of our time with a few touristy things, and prayed together. Hello was almost as fast as goodbye, but it was well worth it.

So here I am back to my reality, where it's 47F outside and raining. Where shoveled snow sits idly on the pavement refusing to melt, and the ducks outside are also not interested in leaving the frozen pond. Cheers to the New/Leap Year!

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