So we all know the stereotype in America – mom leaves for a business trip or to go visit family for the weekend and you’re all alone with dad running the house – and it consists of three days of junk food and destroying the house and watching cartoons before a panic-clean-up before she returns. While my dad is an awesome cook, I have gotten my fair share of dominos pizza out of this phenomena.
In Nigeria this is different as it deals with a huge cultural difference among many places across the world and that’s the idea of what I’ve heard coined ‘woman’s work’ – or the idea of domestic responsibility (huge huge deal) being placed heavily upon women. As I’ve seen in too many Nollywood films, a women who cannot cook might as well be dead – no joke.
So yesterday I came home in a huge thunder storm (almost hurricane status) and found myself locked out. After fifteen minutes of banging on the doors of the house I realized everyone in the family had already left for isomoloruko (naming ceremony for our newest baby boy – I couldn’t go because of school). I hurried over to the library to find my host father. He smiled and told me everyone had left and came over to let me in the house. Then he turned to the kitchen and we looked through what our house mom had left us – some soup and rice but definitely not enough for four days. Together, we discovered the kitchen.
My host father told me to make whatever I wanted so I started frying some plantains. He yelled into the kitchen “uhh that actually smells good. Make two?” So I’m the cook (not great at it, totally oversalted our dodo) for the next couple of days. It’s been interesting to have conversations with my host father about academic life and Wole Soyinka, who lived in the house before him (Nobel Prize winner for Literature – the first from Africa). And about ‘women’s work.’ My friend who is married to a Nigerian said she was shocked to hear her husband say on one of their dates “what is the worth of a woman who cannot cook?” Gender roles are always interesting and I’m beginning to discover the importance of a woman’s job in Yoruba culture.
Important things to note
1. Yesterday I used a Yoruba insult! Insulting is important. If you can’t trade insults you’ll be run over and made fun of but the ability to insult really helps your credibility. An aggressive Nigerian man wanted to follow me home but I said “se ori e fo?” or “is your head broken? It’s none of your business where I live!” He was shocked but respected it and left me alone.
2. The phrase “Don’t get into cars with strangers” has never been more relevant. Here, people like to drive and don’t really get the point of “going on a stroll” anywhere. I’m also getting more noticed by people (I probably greet/talk to about 20 people in Yoruba a day who are interested in what an Oyinbo is doing in Ibadan). This has lead to many people asking me if I want rides places throughout the day.
3. I ate toast last night. I need my host mom back.
4. My next two months are shaping up to be very exciting. In the next weekends I will be celebrating Nigerian independence, going to a hot water spring, hiking next to a waterfall, going to Lagos with some friends to attend a big beach party, and going to Ife. Very exciting and busy! Which I’m loving.
5. Sadly, there will be less and less funny kid stories. There is now only one eight year old boy living in my house but we get along really well and he’s pretty hilarious.
6. There is a hidden language of car honks here I can’t really explain. But cars speak to pedestrians, other cars, okadas (motorcycles), etc. all in this mysterious language.
7. While September was the month of family and culture-adjusting (and food… always food), October is shaping up to be the month of talking and talking and meeting new people. Nigerians are very friendly for the most part and a lot of people want to make friends with Americans. While it can be easy to be taken advantage of by people who think you have money because you’re white, a lot of people just want to talk to an American, which has been nice.
8. Miss you guys! Having a lot of fun this week shocking many Nigerians by speaking Yoruba. Also… everyone thinks I’m French and can’t speak English at all. So they’ll speak Yoruba and then try to speak French. Then ask if I can speak English at all. My hair maybe? I don’t know.