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.'
(English version yet to be published)
Read my interview with Chika Unigwe in OneWorld.
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
A slightly outdated website does not mean that I am not writing. My column Femke becomes Funke appears almost every week on the Dutch website OneWorld.nl
, and in English on several Nigerian sites. It covers all aspects of my new life in Lagos, Nigeria, from concocted electricity bills till Nigerian cuisine. The Nigerian sites are worth a visit, even if you have read the entries already. The comments of the Nigerian visitors tell a lot about the issues in Africa's most populous country.
Find Femke becomes Funke on these websites:
-- Premium Times Nigeria
After a couple of weeks in the Netherlands (a week longer than planned for reasons of Dutch bureaucracy) I have returned to Lagos. And I notice it right away. I have lost my skills. When I am buying a yam at the junction and are asked to pay 400 Naira for a sorry looking tuber, I try every trick in the book: the price does not go down even one Kobo. While I thought I had learnt the art of negotiating prices down so well from my friend Sola. Bargaining in Lagos requires special training and I am not about to graduate.
Read my column on YNaija
Sometimes it can make you cry. And really serious pepper soup does not allow you to talk while eating. It is of my favourite dishes from the Nigerian kitchen, though its spicyness takes getting used to. The good thing: because of the pepper, it is best taken with a cold STAR lager. A heaven made match. Pepper soup comes with many things, like fish (yummy), 'assorted' meat (like don't ask what kind), goat, snail or chicken. I used to stick to catfish, but last week I stopped being a fishtarian: I killed a chicken
. The fowl ended up in the delicious chicken pepper soup Elnathan John
prepared, who besides a brilliant writer, is also an excellent cook.
For the recipe of Elnathan's chicken pepper soup click 'more'(more)
You have to forget everything you have ever learnt about priority, traffic rules or the highway code. Think Darwin instead. This is the survival of the fittest. Recalibrate your mind in this manner. Wilma, the bright red Toyota I had shipped, and I started driving in the streets of Africa's biggest city a week ago. This is what we've learnt so far.
Read How Femke becomes Funke on YNaija.
Lagos' most famous slum, built on the water of the lagoon, is being partly demolished. Entire families, some of whom have been living there for generations, are getting homeless in the process. I took a gondola to cross the quarter euphemistically known as 'Lagos' Venice' to report on the demolition. And found that sympathy for the Makoko residents amongst my Nigerian friends was not as widespread as I had thought.
Read my column at YNaija