Daniel is the king of the barracas in Maputo. With an Amstel beer in his hand and his hair in dreadlocks, he parades from bar to bar, and from woman to woman. His prey: white people with a heart for Africa. When he meets Portuguese Cristina, his future appears to be provided for. Cristina was brought up with the motto 'you need to help those who are less off than you' and works as a volunteer for a foundation for street children in Mozambique. At first sight they seem to be a couple that confirms all clichés, but Daniel and Cristina might turn out to be an exception.(more)
After months of silence, I returned to the Netherlands temporarily, which coincided with the publicity boom around the kidnapped girls in Chibok in the northeast of Nigeria. All of a sudden the country where I am posted was a hot item, and Boko Haram the only subject foreign desks of tv and radio shows wanted to hear about. I did try to also explain that Nigeria is more than Boko Haram - not always successfully. After two weeks of media frenzy I was happy to return home to the peace and quiet of Lagos. Some of the interviews on radio and tv - all in Dutch:
Nieuwsuur, 12 May
De Nieuws BV, 23 May (item starts at 26 minutes)
Dichtbij Nederland, 26 May
And Friday June 13, 12.45 at BNN on Radio 1
Why so little is heard off from my side? I am spending a couple of months in Jamaica. I took some time off from the hustle and bustle of Lagos to finish my third book. This novel - my first - will be published this year with Dutch publisher Ambo|Anthos. Next month I'll return to Nigeria. Your correspondent will then be fully functional again in her journalistic capacity. Enough work to be done with the Nigerian elections in 2015 on their way. In that sense my Jamaican retreat may turn out to be the silence before the storm.
Since September, I have spent over fourteen full days in different Magistrate’s courtrooms in Lagos, and I haven’t heard a single verdict. One of the reasons cases drag on is a chronic absence of witnesses. Formerly dedicated witnesses get tired after years of adjournments and eventually give up on over-aged cases. Even if they have been informed about the date they are supposed to testify in court, there is not much the Prosecutor can do to force them to appear.
Read Court Chronicles: Witnesses Suffering Court Fatigue
My new series on the wheelings and dealings of the Nigerian court system started in September. The English version will be running in Telegraph Nigeria, and has been baptised 'Court Chronicles'. After rounding up my previous series—Femke Becomes Funke
—I contemplated how to move on in my writing about Nigeria. Then I remembered I used to love court reporting when I started out as a journalist in The Netherlands, which also reminded me of how much I learned in court. It made me realise there is no better way of getting to know a country and portraying a society.
Read Court Chronicles' first entry
When we met for the first time, Chika Unigwe was the immigrant. In Turnhout, the Flemish city where she lives with her Belgian husband and four sons, I interviewed the Nigerian writer about one of her books. Five years later the tables have been turned. I have moved to Lagos, Nigeria's biggest city, and Chika comes to see me. A good moment to compare our notes on life as a stranger. 'Belgians find it self evident that an immigrant eats chips.
Read my interview with Chika on Brittlepaper
A booming city of millions with an economy in overdrive. The urban development of Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, comes with its own dilemmas. One of the questions is what to do with the urban slums. Do you break them down, or do you try to improve them? In fishing community Makoko, the most famous slum of Lagos, built on poles in the water, an Amsterdam based Nigerian architect is trying to build, where others are demolishing.
Read my article (in Dutch) on Makoko
It seems a lifetime ago, my interview with Dutch late night radioshow 'Met het oog op morgen' just before I left for Nigeria. Over seven months later I listen to it again, now from an unstable internet connection in my Lagos apartment. 'An expensive little joke', I describe my moving to this metropole, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Every day confronts me with the high cost of living. The 'decent job' I spoke of I ended up not taking in the end. My freelancer's heart simply beats to firmly for such a thing.
Listen to the interview in Dutch