Home! away-from Home! H!aH!

by ahjotnaija

The question to ask is this: Why must people give me reason(s) to connect good things with bad. And it seems they often do. At least, each time I enter Afro-shops in Dortmund. Home away from home. I am not missing home. Good?! That exactly is the problem! There are things I definitely want to miss about home, some of them prompted my departing after all. Top of the list is dirt!

The other time I went to buy okro. My sister followed me. I was thankful at first the usual close-to-badfish odour did not welcome us. The thankfulness was short-lived. The pay-counter was beyond dirty. The young oldwoman attending us was unkempt. Yes, she is young, but must have chosen to age herself faster. She hit the rickety scale. Then tried to type in something. The machine did not respond. She hit again. When it finally answered, I paid for my two plantains. My sister handed over her fish. The woman put her fingers into a small transparent cup beside the scale, punched in something to tell the price of my fish. I already mentioned the pay-counter was beyond dirty, allow me spare you the details. In short, the whole place is a successful mess.

Skin-bleachers are everywhere, in Germany too! I was lucky my own laughter did not choke me when I read someone said she was not bleaching, that she was only toning. Was it Yvonne Nelson or another actor like that. Yes, this is how good our sense of comparison and humour is. It sounds perfectly cool, init?! Crazeman-logic.

In there I had attempted to strike a conversation with my sister.

Me: Iya Bukunmi, have you heard?

Iya Bukunmi: What?

Me: I heard our people now use shampoo toner cream to “tone” skin colour to yellow! I read it on a blackberry thread.

We continued our conversation outside the Afroshop. I began the shampoo toner talk because I saw a woman who must have been a user of this terrible method of skin degradation. She left too soon for my sister to notice what I saw. Her whiteness yellow pass palmoil. But why are our people like this?, I asked my sister.

Apparently, self-hate would stop at nothing to kill her victim. That was how the other day I saw this teenager who overnight turned mulatto; she is now a mix of bad yellow and spot-stained black around neck, fingers and wrists! I almost screamed at her! ALMOST! She used to be black. She was beautiful. We used to enter (enter!) the same metro and tram, so I knew her well. What desperation could have driven her to damage her skin this bad?! I will not pretend to know.

Bad role models? Maybe. Talking of bad role models reminds of a black couple I saw last year in Bochum. I was sure I set my eyes on them, saying nothing until they disappeared into their parked jalopy. I was beyond thankful Ibukun did not follow me out that day. She would have asked why I looked on with so much pity and disgust. The mulatoness of this couple showed they are unrepentant bleach cream users. The husband has a burnt back neck. The redness lay between deep-pink and light-lila. The wife looked more terrible. When the young lady I was with told me they had actually come to buy more bleaching cream from the Indian shop-owner, I could not be more surprised. I remembered the Yoruba logic of that proverbial cough-victim who but would not stop biting at coconuts and chewing dry-corn. This stubbornman-story was the only explanation I could find for the couple’s addiction to bleaching.

Now think of children birthed by these parents and the picture of a shampoo toner offspring is perfect. I told a friend she could consider our friendship over that day if she ever shampoo-tone herself. Abi? Even if I hate myself, I will not be foolish  enough to teach my children to self-hate. Lailai!

I think of using the toilet in a “normal” African church somewhere in Europe to see what is wrong with anything communal in Africa. If the toilet is not being cleaned non-stop (yet stinks of piss plus uncomfortable to use), then the water-pipe is leaking. I might even have to pour water using a bucket to flush my business. Scratch that, I exaggerate a little. The last time I was in such a toilet in London, memories of Iza-antiseptic tormented me. I missed and I did not miss home in that short moment. I was sure to keep my bladder under control till I got home. Each time I entered a good toilet, say Mc Donald, I was sure to tip the toilet-boy/-girl well after I finish. And I think of say many of these boys/girls (read MEN/WOMEN) are good churchgoers.

Yeah, it is that bad, so I avoid at all cost being haunted if I could. Hear a nightmare: I once heard a slab covering a pit-latrine gave way under the feet of a toilet-user. That was long ago. Each time I squatted, remembering the fate of the unknown fellow scared the hell out of me. If you don’t understand why I was that scared, stop trying, you never would!

Hell is real! At least for those who chose to live in the hell they left behind. The last time I showed up in that congregation was on my second visit. I went with Tumi. I throw-way face when he first complained the mounted loudspeakers were deafening. Our own noise as fellow-singers only increased the whole thing. He began to cry. Ibukun pinched me. I took a walk, away from the noise. We met a bird on the green grass and I was sad we had no food to feed the beautiful companion.

Some worshipers walked past us into the congregation of hell-believers. A woman was shout-talking. When we returned, the pastor was cursing himself to prove he told nobody secrets left in his custody by counsel-seekers who had visited during office hours! During prayers he saw some of us had trouble sleeping because a python pursued us in our dreams; the python spirit was in our midst, he concluded. When service ended, he prayed favours for those who shall visit government offices the next day. His declaration confirmed my fear all along. I was (back) home!