Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Big Salon. Bigz Girlz!

I’m not proud of it, but I’m one of those gals who will wear braids, cornrows or weave-on for 3 months if you let her. In the States I used to cite the outrageous price of doing hair as my alibi for carrying ageing hairdos. $55 to relax my hair? Pul-lease. Aren’t relaxer kits supposed to be Do-It-Yourself? I didn’t repent even after I ditched my student earnings of $6.50/hour for a post-graduation paycheck.

Maybe it was the childhood routine of sitting in hot salons between smelly legs, as they wove my hair that causes me to over-exert the freedom that I have now, but I don’t like paying to have my scalp tugged at for hours. I’ve been in Nigeria for almost two years and I’m yet to do braids, even though I can fix braids for a fraction of the price it costs in the States. I’m not ready for that gig, or for the damage it does to my own hair. (weird how I have to say, “my own hair”)

But in Lagos, hair is big business! Trust Nigerian women to turn anything wearable into a status symbol. Imagine my shock when a friend told me her hairdresser, or as y’all would say, stylist, was trying to sell her a N70,000 weave (give or take $500)!

I thought I heard wrong.

I’m used to buying N800 human hair. And I like to buy the type that is very full, so that one pack will reach. In fact, I always warn my hairdresser to manage that pack well, because I’m not going to buy another pack if it finishes before we finish my hair! If ya know what I mean. The stylists used to beg me to remove my hair after two weeks! And when they raised the price of fixing weaves from N400 to N500, I didn’t hide my discontent.

But one Sunday afternoon, God delivered me from the stronghold of miserliness.

It was the weekend before Christmas and I was in a mad rush to do my hair. I was driving through Ikeja GRA area and drove in to a large salon hoping it wouldn’t be too crowded. As I parked I took note of the fancy cars in the lot. Uh oh, I thought nervously, but quickly shrugged it off. How much could it be?

Me, that I’m used to retouching my hair for N300 – pere! By the time I stepped out of their upscale dryers, I was slammed with a bill of N4,500. Embarrassed at my shock, and upset because my hair was poorly done, I gave the stylist a N500 tip to help me stay calm. Later on, I had to stop myself from rattling off the opportunity cost of N5,000 – new shoes, new outfit, fuel for my gen. Hours of GSM talk time. Ok stop.

Two weeks later, seeking to restore the disaster on my hair, I found what looked like a more economical salon, but was served with the same bill. Initially disgruntled, I lightened up when I noticed just how healthy and well cut my hair was. You wouda thought I was wearing a weave! As my American sistas would say, “that girl know how to do hair!” I’ve been able to stay clear of extensions since she started managing my do. With my hair budget up, I feel like I’m being indulgent considering how little I used to spend on my hair.

Now to seal the deal I just need a serious solution to conquer dandruff. Those anti-dandruff shampoos aren’t working. Any suggestions?

So yels, my peoples, do you think I’m shedding the ayetoro mentality and becoming a bigz girlz? Even though I’m not sure I’d buy a $500 Brazilian/Indian/whatever other nationality’s hair—but if you bought for me, I’d wear oh!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Caution - Crazy Drivers!

That’s a picture of one of Abuja’s major highway. In a country where many people buy their driving license, you can see how such freedom can be a hazard!
How do you survive the driving? (my boyfriend visited Nigeria recently and he said the driving there is very risky)When I first moved back home, I was intimidated by the driving, even though before I left Nigeria at 19, I was a crazy Lagos driver. When you leave the shores then return home, it’s like you become a new driver all over again.

Driver’s education is practically non existent in Nigeria, but the driving wouldn’t be such as big issue if people were more courteous on the roads. Here, it is when they see you’re a woman that they want to chance you.

I’ve noticed that Lagos and Abuja driving cultures are different.

Thankfully, the presence of both mobile police and LASTMA has increased in the major cities. In Abuja, they mostly crack down on running red lights, cell phone usage and unfastened seat belts. The sneaky guys will pull up behind you on their law enforcement bikes in slow moving traffic and pull you over. After the stunt I pulled with those police officers, I am careful to abide by traffic laws now!

A major annoyance: There’s no such thing as “right of way” on Abuja roads. If you’re cruising down a street and another car is threatening to merge onto your lane, move over ! They will surely cut in front of you. Lagos drivers don’t do that as much. But the truth is that most of the drivers on Abuja roads are new drivers.

The drivers in Abuja , especially the cab drivers, are more reckless than Lagosians. Economic immigrants from Lagos who are not used to roads that are smooth, wide and free. And boy, do I have stories about those capital city cab drivers!

I remember one particular man who said he’d been driving for just four months, but the confidence with which he owned the road you would have thought he was a veteran!

There’s no courtesy, This commenter puts it aptly when he writes: “They hit you and beg you. They hit you because you are conscious of driving rules and apply it. They, who do not apply simple driving rules, rule the highway in Nigeria. In a society not used to insurance, and where vehicular laws are not implemented, begging has replaced insurance coverage. Even passer bys would chip in to ask the offending reckless driver to beg you and get on with his life. If they beg you, you must accept. That's your only recourse.”

In summary: say your prayers, and then hit the road!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Foreign Shoes on Nigerian Roads

The picture at the top is what my heels looked after I picked it up from the cobbler. What you see on the bottom is what happened the following day! Needless to say I'm going to look for another shoe man!

My hip swinging, shoulders-back strutting, down the streets of Lagos is eating up my heels. I used to wonder why a lot of pretty Lagos ladies wore slippers and suits to work in the morning. Now I understand. They keep their fancy shoes in their handbags. It more than comfort, it’s about preservation.

Thank God for the shoe cobbler in front of my house. I give him N50 and he hammers on new rubber soles for me. But I might have to take the cue and carry my pumps in my handbag like other sensible females.

Nah…I’ll keep clomping down the streets or keep my signature flats. In any color or style, I’d take flats over heels any day. I milk the advantage of not needing the added inches. But I can’t deny there’s nothing like a pair of platforms, stilettos, wedges or the good ‘ol pair of pumps to pump up a gal’s confidence.

In true human fashion, all my neglected shoes that were labeled too high, too big or too un-cool have been dug up from the back of the closet. I also plan on pilfering my mother’s same shoe-size collection. Me, I’m not following them to buy N12, 000 shoes oh. I still can’t get over the prices of goods in Nigeria. More on this later.

Do those of you who live in Chicago, New York, London, experience this shoe chopping effect?