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Cockroaches, Clubs and Clocks: An Academic in Africa

I have missed being here, and it is good to be back.  I think I have missed the life and the people rather than the place itself though. 

The familiarity which has made it so easy to settle back in has also revealed how completely the last tendrils of novelty have evaporated and that has made a curious difference.

I had frozen absolutely immobile, halfway through a step, with my shoulders hunched up around my neck

On that note – I have a motherfucking huge cockroach in the kitchen.  When I saw him struggling out of the little drain in the floor (the gap was a little small for him) and waggling antennae like my little fingers around, I felt quite proud of my restrained reaction.  Then I realised that I could only feel this way because I was alone.  Whilst I had not screamed like a girl, or jumped on the nearest high surface, I had frozen absolutely immobile, halfway through a step, with my shoulders hunched up around my neck and a look of fixed horror on my face.  I didn’t resume my half taken footstep, or relax my rictus until the roach had made it safely to the cupboard.  Not exactly a triumph of manhood.

I also have a large frog on the balcony.  I like him better.

The point is, I guess, that a lot of things that were strange are becoming familiar, or familiarly strange anyway.  I’m not implying some deep knowledge of Nigeria, or that I’ve worked the place out, just that doing something for the first few times you concentrate more on the newness – on soaking up the impressions and dealing with the situation – than you do necessarily on whether you are enjoying said occasion, if you see what I mean.

annoying bouncers and stupidly expensive drinks

Take clubbing, for example.  I’ve been out more here in the last six months than I have in the last three years.  And had a great time.  But then again, not once have I been in a club that played music I liked, and pretty often I’ve been in hugely overcrowded places with annoying bouncers and stupidly expensive drinks.  And I think the appeal of that is not everlasting.  Last Friday we went to the opening of a club that was a case in point.  It was rammed, the “VIP VIP” bit was a room with a sort of 70s shagpile, two tone carpet on the floor, and was decorated only with a big poster of Beyonce -literally a poster in a frame, complete with “B.E.Y.O.N.C.E” written across the bottom, in case you weren’t sure.  Flat screens showing girls in lingerie walking up and down catwalks.  Actually marginally better music than usual, but overall, just a bit surreal.  And shit.


Term starts next week, and we seem to be ready.  Well, as ready as we’re going to be anyway.  The academic meeting to deal with all the questions for the new semester was full of responses that started, “We’re anticipating that…”, “We’re hoping that…” and, “There’s due to be…”  Which means that things may or may not happen in the next few weeks or even the next term.  But I can’t be bothered to worry about it.

we ordered it yesterday

One thing that did annoy me, however, was when I asked about the new photocopier.  Oh yes, we ordered it yesterday, Michael replied.  I countered that I thought one was already on its way as I had been told that it had been ordered in April and given regular updates along the lines of “it’s left Lagos” ever since.

A slightly embarrassed silence in response to this followed by, “Ah yes, this is the same one.  We delayed ordering it so we wouldn’t have to pay until later”.

Which is fine, because we muddled through last term with the antediluvian machine in Val’s office.  But why lie to me for all those months?  It’s a bit bizarre, and frankly a bit pathetic.  Ho hum.  We now have a photocopier and a lady to do the copying, but I don’t think she realises quite what she’s let herself in for.  Reading for 200 odd students every week equals a hell of a lot of a paper.

And we still don’t have any clocks.


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