The Nigerian Day tradition includes wearing traditional Nigerian attire and eating Nigerian food while enjoying African music and dance. A few weeks back I became aware of the upcoming celebration and learned the importance of getting 'Nigerian attire' for the family. I knew all the kids at school would be clad in their regalia and we needed to be as well. Unfortunately, you can't exactly stop by the Mall and pick up something to wear for the big day because there aren't many "ready-made" clothes for sale here, and definitely no Target, Walmart, or anything resembling mass-production. If you want something, you either make it or get it made.
My first step was finding the fabric for our clothes and the best bet was the Wuse Market. I ended up going with a friend who is from Camaroon and has lived in Nigeria for a few years. She grew up in Africa, meaning that she has been bargaining since birth. Her negotiation skills as well as her sense of direction were beyond helpful as we searched for just the right patterns and colors in stack of African fabric. All fabric here is sold in a 6-yard piece. It makes it simple knowing that each bundle is long enough to make a dress for even the most "ample" woman. It's a bit frustrating though, when all you want is a few inches for a trim or accent and you are stuck buying enough fabric to cover all the windows in the house! I'm sure the 6-yard standard is also the reason I've seen so many husbands and wives walking down the street wearing matching outfits. It is not uncommon to see entire families clad in identical fabric. I guess the thought is, that if you have six yards of the stuff, you ought to many things as possible to insure you get your money's worth!
|So basically, the wife picks out fabric that will look good on her|
....the husband is stuck wearing it too! He's one of the lucky ones
because I've seen men wearing floral pastels.
|Tyson would sooner have his fingers gnawed off by a wild animal than dress as "twinners"!|
|We had a very similar picture growing up... I'll have to have my mom find it! We are all wearing twinner shirts!|
Being the one foreigner at the market adds an additional measure of difficulty. For some reason, the Nigerians erroneously think that just because I'm from the US, I must have wheelbarrows of money. Actually, to buy anything substantial here, you really do need to use bags, or boxes of money to do your transactions since the highest denomination here is the 1000 Naira bill. Sounds like a lot, but it is only $7.00 US, and nothing is done by check, credit or debit. So, when Tyson bought both of our cars, and had to make the transaction carrying all of the cash in huge stacks of $7 bills, you can only imagine the awkwardness of the situation...it's a bit reminiscent of a gangster movie with a briefcase full of bills! When checking out of the hotel he stayed in for several weeks when he first arrived in town, Tyson told me it was also important not to let anyone know when he was leaving. This is because it is not unusual for someone to be robbed the night before they leave a hotel because everyone knows they would be carrying hundreds of thousands of Naira in order to settle the bill. I'm feeling more comfortable using Naira and doing the computations in my mind, but I still feel like I'm using Monopoly money around town because anytime I spend 100,000 of anything, it doesn't seem quite real.
|Stacks of Naira....Since N1000 ($7) is the highest denomination...you have to carry alot to make any transaction....|
Nothing is done in Credit, check or Debit!
Why rob a bank when you can rob the man leaving a bank oh his way to pay his rent!
I'm off the topic again, but that really is where my mind floats to much of the time here......
After a little shopping, some negotiating and hassling, I emerged with the fabric needed to make Nigerian clothes for the family. I ended up spending $6,800 Naira, or about $60. If we all wanted to go as quintuplets, I could have gotten out of there spending half that!
|Piles of fabric at the Wuse Market....each six yards long!|
|My heart can't handle it.|
Within a few days, Abdul was done, meaning I had to make my way back to the "shop" to retrieve my things. Abdul was very accommodating, and happy to make any adjustments needed later. He also sent me home with a bag of scraps from all of the dresses he had made recently so I could construct my own patchwork skirt. He'd seen me admiring the one he was making and talked me through how to make it myself. I will definitely bring my friends back....... and probably a large man with me when I go!
|Abdul in his little workshop! He arrives at 6am and leaves at 8pm every day.|
As I ran in my Nigerian get-up, I heard the music "We are Africa" coming from the multipurpose room. Just in time! She was only 30 seconds into her dance and her eyes met mine as she spun around with the other second graders. For all she knew, I'd been there the entire time. Alexis is definitely no stranger to the stage. Although she has been in more dance competitions and recitals than I can count, I have never seen anything quite like what I saw on-stage that afternoon. She was insane! Seriously, she was tearing-up the African dance moves like nothing I've ever seen! The best part was, she was having a blast! Several strangers and teachers came up to me afterwards and commented on her African dance ability. Who knew our little 'goldie-locks' could move like that! I really wish I had video of it. I will have to track down a parent who taped it and get a copy. It was Hilarious and stunning at the same time!
|Alexis modeling her traditional |
Nigerian Dress made by Abdul!
|At school in our Nigerian Attire... Alexis is wearing her dance costume.|
|One of the other school moms.|
Other dances were performed to highlight the three major tribes and languages that make up Nigeria. The Hausa, Igbo, and Yuroba. Finally, there was a fashion show of parents and students exhibiting different traditional Nigerian wear. Some of the women's outfits were stunning, especially the Geles (head wraps) which appeared be gravity defying. Everyone in the audience was dressed to the nines. We were dressed traditionally of course, but in daily attire, not formal wear like many of the others. Most were dressed in green and white regalia, the colors of the Nigerian flag.
No celebration would be complete without a feast afterwards. The Nigerian parents treated the rest of the school to an amazing spread of.....um..all sorts of things I didn't recognize and can't pronounce the names of anyway. All of the dishes were traditional Nigerian food such as suya, yams, rice, kabobs, plantains etc. The rush on the food was insane! I haven't seen pushing and shoving like that since the line for BYU Fudge during Education Week!! Seriously, it was worse than any ward pot-luck I'd ever seen....Like flies on....well, Like flies on Nigerian food! It seems that there are different social norms in Nigeria... Apparently, here it is acceptable to trample small children as long as fried dough balls and Kabobs are at stake.
|Puff Puffs...The last thing Alexis ate before|
vomiting all over the house...coincidence??
On another note, Independence day wasn't all celebration here in Nigeria. The following day I saw the news about a horrific event that happened that day. Only click on the link if you have the stomach for it. Otherwise, ignore it.