A little more stage-setting for the Ireland trip. While I’m there, I plan to visit my friend David, who some people will no doubt remember from my volunteer days in Nigeria as the Irish guy who lived next door and fed me a steady stream of Kit Kats to keep me from having a meltdown every day.
Yes, that David. The guy who I stayed with the weekend I arrived in Abuja and who showed me how to shop in the market, and hail a taxi and haggle my way through both. The one who announced that the lizard living in a pot in my kitchen was harmless with the same casualness as when he warned me that there will be a spate of Church bombings around Christmas. And the one who tricked me into eating both pigeon and rat – but not on the same day. You know, the best David.
He kept me grounded – or at least, as grounded as one could be when living in a place that is, as my former college professor put it, “a madhouse where the staff has guns and are crazy too.” But David, bless his soul, had been in Nigeria for three years and even though he had it all down to a science, he always had the patience to explain it to me anyway.
Best example: While I was in Nigeria, the unions went on strike to raise the minimum wage from N7500/month (about $50) to N18000 (about $120). On my way home from work that night, my coworker warned me, “You won’t have power when you go home. Just so you know. That’s part of the strike.”
And of course he was right. So I settled in for a night of reading by headlamp and decided to eat a block of cheddar cheese on the theory that it would soon spoil.
An hour in, David came by my apartment. I said, “So we can expect at least three days of this, huh?”
He said, “No! You didn’t hear? They called it off. The strike ended this afternoon.”
“Well that’s great,” I said. “But then why are we still sitting in the dark?”
David predicted that we would have power back by 9 p.m. at the very latest. “They missed one full shift. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. When the next shift starts, we’ll have power. Just wait.”
He seemed pretty sure of himself but I continued to eat half a pound of cheese just the same because if there was one thing I established during my few months in Nigeria it’s that there are no guarantees. And David joined me because, quite frankly, he was just hungry.
But sure enough, at 8:30, the lights came back on and the water started running. David, the prophet.
Now, several years later, my New York refrigerator has no less than five varieties of cheese at any given time. Sometimes, when I get to the last icky little bits, I am tempted to throw them away. But then I think of sitting in the dark with David and how we would have eaten that nub of cheese right out of the trash. Or, more likely, we would have picked it out of the garbage and split it with each other.
In the end, it was David who took me to the Abuja airport on my last day and bought me beer in the terminal until I was able to board. And as I was leaving, I promised that any time he was in New York, I would buy him an entire menu – top to bottom – and let him turn on as many lights in my apartment as he wanted and just let them burn. I’m more than a little surprised to be heading to Dublin before he made it to New York, but I’m going to buy him a meal or ten anyway.
No pigeon. Not rat. But definitely Kit Kats.