So I touch down in Lagos Murtala Mohammed airport.
I turn on my blackberry bold phone and I am greeted with a message from the local telecommunications provider Etisalat “Welcome to Nigeria.”
1 missed call from Dad.
I join the passport control queue, a heady mix of passengers, humidity and body odour, and then onwards to the baggage claim hell,(I mean hall.) Most people would say that the chaos of Nigeria starts at the airport, and I have to agree that this is true. What a scene! Welcome to Nigeria indeed! A young uniformed gentleman directs me to where I can get a trolley for N250, (the equivalent of 90p) and then proceeds to linger for awhile before asking for a tip. I am bewildered as I thought that this was all part of airport customer service. After shaking my head, he lingers for a while and then disappears. I proceed to wait for my luggage to arrive. There is no organised process for gathering your luggage here so I roll up my sleeves and join other passengers in the shove, grab-and-go process of getting my luggage. Eventually after some time passes I collect my my two bulging suitcases.
By this time the prickly heat is beginning to itch my legs and I suspect the resident mosquitos have bitten me.I feel slightly over dressed in my skinny jeans and jumper. It was raining in London when I left and I have a thing about cold planes so I pre-layered my clothing for moments like this. I adjust my clothing to suit the new climte by removing my jumper to reveal a loose Zara T-shirt underneath, ahhh better. Much better.
Once through customs and luggage claims, I walk to the noisy waiting hall of the airport and a casually dressed young man touches my arm. I am startled, but I quickly realise that he only wants me to take his taxi, so I shake my head. I have not spoken a word of English yet but someone every eye that gazes upon me knows I am not from here. I walk a little further and spot my Dad, his traditional chief’s red hat catches my eye in a whirl of people waiting for their loved ones and friends. I am relieved. He is standing with my uncle. I smile as my Dad reaches out and squeezes me in his arms. I am safe now.
United with family, we go outside to look for the company driver. Night has fallen and there is a sea of faces waiting for arrivals. I scan placards looking for a long time but I cannot see my name. Mr Lawal … Mrs Sofowale … Then I see it in bold written on a placard held by a short young man, with a boy-like dimpled face. I hold back from asking him if he is my driver? He is way too young and errr cute. I smile politely and point to his card.
I wait with my Dad whilst the young man swings the silver Toyota Camry around to the entrance of the pick up area where we are waiting. We get into the car and begin to follow a steady stream of headlights in go-slow traffic in the heat of the night. I smile and breathe deeply, my eyes sleepy. Finally I am home.