Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Won't be long now

One of my favorite expressions here is "How far?," which is a greeting, like "How are you?" It comes from the Yoruba, "baawo ni" and the proper response is "da da ni," meaning "It won't be long now." Sort of like kids in the U.S. asking "how much longer, Daddy?" from the backseat.

With less than two months left in Nigeria, it won't be long for me now, so I'm seeing some sights before I go. On Sunday I went to Makoko, a village built on stilts over top of Lagos lagoon. (Check out the google map, which is quite fascinating, here.) It is home to an estimated 20,000 people, most of whom make a living fishing or digging sand from the bottom of the lagoon for use in the construction trade.

As I walked toward the lagoon, the ground got muddier and muddier, and then I began walking on rickety wooden planks built over the water. Eventually the path came to an end. I paid a teenage boy named Michael $7 to show me the rest of the area in his family's dugout canoe.

Makoko is known for it dire poverty, but I apart from the flimsy houses, I didn't find it worse than many other areas of Lagos. There is electricity (when it works!), water is pumped out from the mainland, and I even saw a health clinic. Women paddle around selling bread and fabric. And, like most very poor neighborhoods I have been, the sense of community is incredibly strong. You will hear more children laughing in a place like Makoko than the richest suburb in the world. And it is very peaceful to be on the water. I had a wonderful time.

Of course, things are never so simple. Instead of promoting Makoko as a tourist attraction,as it should, the Lagos government has given the residents eviction notices, according to one man I spoke to. Its hard to believe the authorities would destroy such a vibrant and proud community. But, like with street vendors here, the poorest people make the easiest targets. And it wouldn’t be the first time it happened – Amnesty International wrote this report about forced evictions in Makoko in 2005.

1 comment:

  1. you have been visiting so many places! That is great.