Merry Christmas, dear people! The thing about living in Jand is that whether you like it or not, whether they form secularity or not, this is a Christian country. In fact, this is the seat of the Anglican Communion, so you can forget that any of the Royals will be called Ifagbemi or any such thing, any time soon. All this is why Christmas is a big deal. Sort of. If this is your first Christmas in London, then this is how it may well pan out, when juxtaposed with Christmas in Nigeria.
Nnamdi from London: You’ve booked a flight (never mind if it’s Arik or BA or Congo Airlines), gotten home to Nigeria and already dished out your presents a week ago. In fact, most of the presents are being worn, cooked, sprayed on and even being spent. As in, the God of exchange rates has not been sleeping but has smiled on you on this Christmas day. The goat/chicken you bought is laying down its life for your family. Even your aching back which bore the brunt of the extra luggage and your wallet that carried the surcharges tell you it’s all worth it when they hear the prayers from Mama, the shouts of glee from your siblings…even the belle of your greedy Iya Oko Bournvita in-laws stays sweet this Christmas. At this point, you allow your head bop to the strains of Don Jazzy’s Dorobucci filtering in from the street; you’ve earned it abeg. Life is good.
Gbenga in London: You bought a Christmas tree a week ago, mainly because everyone else did so, and put presents under it because everyone else says that’s how it’s done. You open the presents, which of course everyone knows they’re getting because they wrote a list to Santa or nagged you for it and hinged their love/lust for you on it. Because they wrote a list to Santa/nagged, you have no wriggle room and could not buy a cheaper brand or something else entirely. You want to blurt out that you wish you were in Naija where people don’t know Primark from Pucci. Rather, you pick up the phone and call Naija, speaking to everyone, begging them to take pictures of the food they’ll be having just so you can eat vicariously.
At this point you are not sure if the cold worrying you is from the heating or the pictures you are seeing from your Naija friends and family, all wearing T-shirts and sweating plus balling. You get up and go check what exactly is wrong with the heating. And catch a glimpse of the mountain of snow on the street. Sigh. Na who send me come Jand ooo, you find yourself asking the witches in your father’s family. #VoicemailNoAnswer
Nnamdi from London: Between your cab guy or driver and your friends with the wheels, you have no actual venue named but you know they’ll turn up and you all will turn it up this night until New Year sef. The decision will be made in the car or even over lunch…no stress because after all, na Naija na. You tell all 10 of them to feel free to pop in to your house for breakfast because you’ll all be eating lunch at one of theirs. By the time you hit the club at night, you’ll probably be at least 20 in number, minus freeloading chicks. But you don’t care because…that is the point of Christmas. Your only worry at this stage is getting in as much of your accent to score enough hook-ups without coming off as a show-off. Innit.
Gbenga in London: You are worried. So far you could only invite two of your friends because you don’t have a big enough dining table or chairs to seat everyone. You know such things matter, before you are perceived as uncivilised. You don’t want to annoy your mates further because you gave them just two weeks’ notice and it was a hassle for them to fit it into their diary. Your main problem now is how they will get here, because it is already costing you so a lot to keep the food warm and the drinks cold. There are no buses, trains or the Tube on Christmas Day. So they keep texting back that they didn’t expect the cabs to be this expensive and scarce. Your phone pings. You expect to hear your guests are nearly here but instead see a picture of Nnamdi and the crew laughing, clutching plenty yellow-yellow girls at The Place. You find yourself sitting at the table alone. And downing countless shots of brandy…neat. This Jand is so quiet you can even hear yourself swallow. You drink some more, not a lot, just enough to make the inorganic turkey turn to a heap of fried meat bathed in ata dindin. Just enough booze to transform the mince pies to fried rice with liver and the music playing from your Wi-Fi speakers turn into the sounds of the Ogbunigwe knockout bangers you are sure Nnamdi and co are hearing right now.
Nnamdi back in London: You get off the Tube, shivering, but happy to be lugging your stash of Naija goodies into the flat. You carefully balance your box filled with Indomie noodles as you retrieve your pile of mail. Squashed Indomie is a serious pet peeve. Nyama, you mutter, as you open the mail.
You begin to sweat, even though the heating isn’t on yet, as you realise that your bank has declared that your debt of £5000 is now officially a pet peeve to them. You switch on the telly, and run to wash potential Ebola viruses off your hands. Sure enough, the short-term loan adverts begin. You write out a number and reach for your phone. Just as you are about to dial for a loan, Gbenga’s call comes in. As you are not in the mood to talk about chics and trips in Naija you cut the call…and begin dialling.
Gbenga still in London: You just called Nnamdi and the poser didn’t take your call. Na im sabi, you think, as you give a mental shrug. On second thought you realise it is better you do not talk to Nnamdi until at least 21 days have passed. He may want to meet up and may bring some Ebola along with the gist.
Your phone rings and you pray it isn’t Nnamdi. Ah, it’s just some number. So you take this call, because you’re hoping to hear back regarding that job interview.
But your heart sinks. No, it isn’t that you didn’t get the job.
It’s something worse.
A Pakistani-sounding female voice from your bank, wanting to discuss your overdraft.
Happy holidays, y’all!
*Resumes search for crowbar*
See you next week.
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