Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The 192nd good thing about Lagos: Interesting encounters with animals

While in Osogbo, we stayed at a guesthouse belonging to the batik artist, Nike Okundaye. She is a very talented and dynamic artist and person, one of the contemporary artists of Osogbo. She has a fabulous gallery of fine arts and crafts in Lagos, and a gallery and her school in Osogbo. When she spoke recently at an American Women's Club function, she talked about her marriage as a young teenager -- she was the 16th wife to a man who also became well known as an artist -- Twin Seven Seven. She was talking about how much she learned from American women when she came to Lagos; they taught her how to quilt and a lot about sewing, as well as how to speak English. When she went to the States to learn more about fabrics, she learned that some women just have one husband, and they don't have to give all the money they earn to their husband. She came back to Nigeria and shared this revelation with the other wives. Sometime after that, she got rid of her husband and she's done very well for herself.

The guest house was nothing fancy, but quite comfortable, with an open upstairs patio where we had an evening meal and entertainment,

an inside sitting room and shared bathrooms.

There was a lovely garden outside, where we had breakfast and lunch. It had birds of all sorts, including some lovely peacocks.

There was a very large tortoise. When I first saw him in the garden, he gave me this look like he really didn't want me there. I went over to the table and asked our group leaders, who were there often, what was up with the tortoise, because he seemed really annoyed at me, and all I did was walk past him. They said that the tortoise was very curious because he really had a strong personality and it wasn't very pleasant.

After a few minutes, the tortoise (don't remember why, but we started calling him "Charles") made a beeline for our picnic table and proceeded to harass us. Charles set a speed record -- he was amazingly fast. And you may not think tortoises can bite, but I wasn't about to get caught between his jaws.

We led him away from our table with a banana, but he saw this duck pulling on a banana and went to take away that one, before he pursued ours. He swallowed the banana peel and all -- I don't know how the thing managed to choke it down. The duck knew better than to protest to Charles -- the tortoise was bigger and meaner.

And then it took another couple of bananas to get Charles away from us.

My next animal encounter was also a bit unsettling. First, an introduction: Down the street from the guesthouse was this cute school with alphabet pictures painted on the wall. I've read many alphabet books in the States to my children and grandchildren. Here in Nigeria, there are often different words for the letters than are typical in American children's books.

Q will often be for Queen, but it's not often that R will be for Rat. I've been subbing for a kindergarten teacher the past few days and we were making words with the ending "-at" the other day. Mat, cat, pat, and, of course, rat. Then the kids -- almost all of them -- were telling of their encounters with rats in their homes. And all the kids going to this school are expats or rich Nigerians -- so it's a common problem here. We haven't noticed any in our flat (where's some wood to knock on?)...yet.

Well, when I checked into my room at the guesthouse, there were animal droppings evident, so I knew that my room had been occupied. I hoped that the rat would recognize that a paying guest had checked in and would leave me alone. But, alas, one night when I returned to my room after dinner, there was a startled rodent jumping out of the closet and hiding behind my suitcase. I called for a staff person and she chased the rat, as it followed its familiar path out behind the air conditioner vented to the outside. She just shook her head and said, "Those rats --sorry." I was amazed I got to sleep that night.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

You must have been really really tired, to sleep after that. Interesting tortoise. I know some people he reminds me of. :)