THIS IS LAGOS: Welcome to Lagos
I should start by noting that it was nearly impossible to highlight my 6-day stay in Lagos on one blog post – succinctly that is. My writing tends to get a bit lengthy when I’m in my feels, so I’ve decided to break this into a series of dedicated posts instead.
After 15 odd years away from my country of birth, I finally returned for a short but much needed visit to Lagos, Nigeria. Before I go any further, let me do some due diligence and thank Lagos for that final push which led to me taking this blogging thing a bit more seriously.
Prior to my trip, it seemed like I had become life’s punching bag – taking hard, overwhelming blows one-after-the-other! When things seemed to be picking up, in would roll another flurry of disappointments gifted from this roller coaster of a being called life. If I had to get more specific and give it a name, I’d probably call it The Behemoth (only because that’s the most overwhelming roller coaster ride I’ve ever experienced). Needless to say, remaining present became much harder to do with each passing day… that was until I landed in Lagos and received the hardest blow of them all.
I now refer to it as the much needed reality check/slap that brought me back into a 34 degree celsius, humid and overcrowded realm of consciousness I had forgotten ever existed. Had I lost awareness of how short life can be and how much I take for granted in life, this trip certainly jolted me awake and pulled me back into a present state. Given the duration of my trip, I knew that crossing off certain items off of my bucket list would prove difficult. Nonetheless, I was determined to staying present and living every moment in full.
The first thing I came to appreciate upon arrival in Lagos was the art of the undying hustle.
Just a few kilometers away from the airport, we turned into a street storm of aggressive panhandlers, street hawkers and roadside sellers . It was not my first time coming across this hullabaloo but for some reason I sat in observance, astounded by the persistence and determination demonstrated in the hustle. It seemed sudden but the gratitude toward the little I had increased immensely as I realized just how privileged my life has been thus far.
Children, ranging from ages 0-17, accompanied parents/family members on the roadsides, waiting to attend to the next customers that would potentially be the source of their next meal/income. The buildings were colourful and visibly tarnished. Women, young and old, walked the streets dressed in tailored fabrics, modern fashion or simple cloths wrapped around their waists, complimented with a plain t-shirt or blouse. Yellow taxi-like Keke Napep’s flooded the streets and unapologetically forced their right of way at every corner. On the Third Mainland Bridge, drivers who occupied the roads formed a 6-to-7 lane paradigm of anarchy in what was meant to be a 4 lane road.
Balogun Market – Lagos Island
One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to Balogun Market. This is one of the biggest free markets in West Africa, known for it’s plethora of clothes and fabrics.
If you were to do a google search to gather information on Balogun, here is what you would find. A one-paragraph Wikipedia page lacking detailed description which states that “the market has no particular address because it sprawls across so many streets on the island.” If you’re not a local, this is a pretty good indication of what you’re getting yourself into should you make the bold decision to visit. Wiki should also note that a visit to the market is not for the faint of heart.
Should you happen to get lost in the labyrinthine streets and alleys of the market, shed no fear at all. You’ll be directed back on track by one of the hundreds of vendors/bystanders who fill the markets population. But not before they try to sell you on buying something from them first.
Anything you’ve ever thought of or need can be found in the skreets (yeah I said skreets!) of Balogun and if you can’t find it yourself, someone WILL find it for you. From hearty roadside meals, drinks, fresh produce, livestock (living and deceased), beauty products, jewelry, fabrics, books, electronics, carpentry to human wheelbarrows (referred to as Alabaru’s). If you can name it, I guarantee you that they’ve got it!
To be continued…