I finally moved in with my host family Monday, and moved out of the hotel we had been staying in for the weekend. I had talked to my host father on the phone a handful of times, but our conversations were short and I really had no idea what to expect beyond very basic information that I knew. My father just retired from a job in the Bursar’s office at the University, and my mother teaches English at a high school in Ibadan. I couldn’t have been happier with the family I have. My father and mother were ecstatic that I finally came ( I was originally supposed to come in June but my trip got postponed). They immediately gave me a huge hug, and explained how they were so heartbroken when they found out I couldn’t come in June. Their overwhelming excitement was beyond evident. When I entered their small 3 bedroom flat, they immediately apologized for the ‘mess.’ They were in the process of renovating the entire flat-new flooring, new paint on the walls, and best of all a newly renovated bedroom and bathroom all for me! The down side, is that the plumbing doesn’t work, so all of our water comes from large basins scattered about the house. Since I had already gotten used to the bucket-shower concept, this was not a big deal. Although nice, I feel bad that my family went to the extent they did to prepare for my arrival. They immediately grabbed my hand and arm (Yoruba people have a very different concept, or lack there of, of personal space and privacy) and led me to my room. My room is beautiful! It is bigger than my room at home. They explained they had bought everything new for me-a new desk, bed, nightstand, etc. I also have my own private bathroom! WOW! Thats a first in my entire life! I especially feel bed considering my two parents, younger brother, and older sister (who is here sometimes) have to share a tiny bathroom. I explained my reserve to Moses (our resident director), but he assured me they would have it no other way and it would be insulting to suggest otherwise. As I mentioned, I have a 15 year old younger brother who took an instant interest in me when I moved in, and didn’t leave my side until I went to bed. I like him a lot. He is very intelligent-he speaks 4 languages fluently and wants to become a lawyer (COOL!). My older sister is recently married and lives with her husband, a dental surgeon, in a city about two hours away called Ile Ife. I also have an older brother who lives in Kano State who is a lawyer (again, COOL!). I gave my parents and brother the gifts I had brought for them-Wisconsin Badger T-Shirts, Bread from a local bakery, and Time magazines. My mom and son immediately ran to their rooms to put the shirts on. We ate omelets for dinner. I unpacked my things and went to bed.
I had a little trouble sleeping, probably a combination of excitement, jet lag, and rapid and drastic environment change. I was woken several times during the night to the different loud big-city noises of Ibadan. Perhaps most unsettling was the firecracker like gunshot sound followed by screaming. One of my teachers assured me this morning that it was probably security chasing away theirs or large animals, or that it could also have been a car backfiring.
I woke up at 4:45 AM when my family woke up to prey (they are devout Muslims) and started cooking, washing dishes, etc. Just as I had fallen back asleep, my younger brother came into my room at 6:30 to wake me. He had toothpaste in his hand and said it was for me, but I assured him that I brought plenty with me. I awkwardly sat on the couch (my family was busy getting ready, and the one working bathroom was occupied) watching Africa Magic (Nigeria’s favorite TV station featuring a plethora of strikingly similar Yoruba Drama shows/films, and an occasional music video). FInally, after I had an opportunity to take a bucket shower. I ate rice, tomato-pepper stew, and beef for breakfast. Thankfully, I also have a six month supply of Starbucks Italian-roast Ready Brews to satisfy my strong caffeine addiction (unfortunately for coffee snobs like me, NesCafe instant coffee is pretty much all you can find in Nigeria if anything). After breakfast, I went to the Flagship center (our class building) to continue checking things off the to do list-purchasing phones, opening bank accounts, registering with the dean’s office, etc.
I returned home around 630PM. Shortly after, a photographer stopped by the house to give my host parents the photos he took at my host father’s retirement party the previous week (he was the chief accountant for maintenance and grounds in the Bursar’s Office at the University of Ibadan). My host mom, my father, and myself sat in the living room reviewing the pictures. The photographer explained that he was a teacher on campus in the agriculture school. After we had reviewed all the photos, the issue of price came up. As to be expected, the photographer and my host mother quarreled calmly over the price (unless you are at a modern Nigerian big-box style retailer, pretty much everything is negotiable). The mother pointed out minor mistakes and pitfalls in the pictures, as the photographer defended them and explained that he had the lowest price, made excuses about inflation, etc. My host father then entered the room. He sat down and reviewed a few of the pictures and asked my host mother how she liked them. The photographer immediately started to quarrel with my father as he tried to haggle. All of a sudden, the calm conversation turned into a yelling match; my host father raised his voice, and the photographer followed by raising his. The yelling match didn’t last more than 10 seconds when my father started mixing more and more English into his discourse. Finally he stood up with a fierce and angry look on his face and shouted “calm down” in Yoruba. The photographer was still trying to plead. My father was using all English now, explaining how he understood the photographer needed to profit, but his prices were ridiculous. He explained a basic rule of business logic-the more quantity of an item you by, the more of a discount you should get. He charged the photographer with doing the exact opposite. The photographer still tried to plead and still standing, my father finally shouted in mostly English, “Nnkan to n she pissing me the hell off!” (This thing you are doing is pissing me off). His furiousness, forcefulness, and tenacious body language made me sink further back into the couch. Since I hadn’t even been with my family for a full 24 hours, I began to wonder if I had moved in with some irrationally angry and violent man. The father than sat back down and with intensity said he wouldn’t hear another word. You could still see the blood rushing through the veins popping out of his head. His unyielding frown combined with his traditional tribal marks/scars on his face mad him look like someone I would never want to mess with. He turned his head toward the TV (of course, African Magic was on again) and pretended to be interested (even though he was watching credits from a movie he didn’t even watch). The photographer immediately started to respectfully and calmly plead for the father to listen, but my father wouldn’t even make eye contact. My host mother, who had left the room to help the house maid do something in the kitchen, returned to the room. She spoke Yoruba to the photographer, stating many proverbs communicating good character and morals a seller should have in a haggling situation. Finally, my father agreed to talk. The photographer refused to look him in the eye (as it is disrespectful to look an elder in the eye when they are angry with you). The photographer looked like an angry 14-year old girl who’s mother had just told her she couldn’t get her ears pierced for the 1,000th time. He signed loudly and heavily, rolled his eyes, and still wouldn’t make eye contact. My father calmly reiterated everything he had previously stated, but in clear, plain, and perfect English this time. His argument seemed very logical to me even though his initial reaction appeared to be a little irrational. After he finished his explanation, he said the photographer had lost his chance to sell any photos at all, and re-zoned into the Africa Magic movie credits. The mother calmly spoke with the photographer for quite some time, and in the end, she finally talked him down to a better price. The fact that the father would no longer acknowledge the photographer was a huge insult to him. Finally, the photographer agreed on a lower price, but was reluctant. The mother explained that they would give him no money today because of his behavior (at this point I thought, his behavior??). He asked if he could return tomorrow or the next day and the mother said that would be way too early. Finally, he left. The father apologized and explained to me that this was a typical Nigerian transaction. He had heard from several colleagues that this photographer was somewhat of a conman who likes to cheat people into paying ridiculously high prices for pictures. He said a few of his friends who had advised him had been ripped off. He explained that in Nigeria, if you don’t watch out for yourself in transactions like this, many sellers will try and cheat you. Due to the fact that my father had reliable knowledge about this particular photographer, he said he needed to show him (using cultural cues and norms) that he had absolutely no patience for his behavior whatsoever, and would not tolerate being ripped off. He calmly apologized several times and explained how he understood how I must have been feeling. He also acknowledged what he thought of as a good character in me that I had the ambition to live with a host family and learn at every possible opportunity. This consolation made me feel way better, and the feelings of care and love I experienced the day before immediately returned. The father and mother both calmed me and explained the situation for nearly a half hour until I was well beyond the point of feeling better and understanding. These are truly great people, especially because of their ability to communicate bi-lingually and bi-culturally. They really have an active interest in seeing me learn and grow which is very evident by all of their actions. I am once again excited and eager to live with them for the next 9 months, experiencing every thing their family may experience with them, and growing alongside them.