07.08.2010 - 19.08.2010 14 °C
Mention Nigeria to anyone, and they will think of scammers . Most people have received a letter or an email from a widow of an ex-president of some X-nation, asking them to provide a bank account number so that they can transfer X-millions, all for a handsome commission, of course.
Some unfortunate people have fallen in love with a fantasy person online, only to find out later a Nigerian scammer wrote the letters.
And in Nigerian internet cafes, they even have signs saying “no scam emails, please.”
No wonder then, that when I received a comment on my blog from Lolade (a Nigerian), saying she could help us with anything in Nigeria, the first reaction was that she might be a scammer.
Lolade then sent us an invitation to Nigeria, and asked us to Google her to provide some credibility to her person. Lolade definitely did exist. There was no question about it. She had two web sites, and newspapers had commented on the books she had written. But was the person communicating with us the real Lolade? Or had someone stolen her identity? There was no way to know, so we had to take a leap of faith.
When we first arrived in Lagos (thanks to Lolade's invitation), I called her. She sounded real. I even thought she could be my new best friend. But when she said she will send a driver to pick us up, and please bring our money and passports in case they break into our crummy hotel, we weren't sure. We decided to take a pass (and rest after a night in an even crummier bus terminal).
The next day, when Lolade arrived in person and hugged me, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. She was real. She was beautiful. And she was wonderful!
From that moment, Lolade took over, and our stay in Lagos changed for the better (a million times!). We stayed at Lolade's house, she took us bar-hopping, to concerts, to Fela Kuti's house, we visited her country house, her cooks made our meals and we were taken care of as royalty. Thanks to Lolade we had some unforgettable experiences that we, as tourists, would never have had without her.
Lolade's amazingly charismatic father (who looks like Nelson Mandela) said that he always gives people he meets something – whether it's something material or spiritual. And he has passed on that sense of generosity to his children. Lolade and her sister Yemi go out of their way to help others, not only us. The sheer goodness of this family has definitely taught me a huge lesson and made me want to give back to any strangers I may meet in the future, like a “paying-it-forward” effect.
Interestingly enough, Lolade's actions also had an instant-karma effect for her. A week after we arrived, her somewhat estranged aunt from Zurich called her to say Lolade could stay with her when visiting Zurich a week later. In addition, when Lolade went to see Andreas Vollenweider's concert, she got the chance to go back-stage to meet him and his family.
As they say, what comes around goes around. All good deeds you do (and bad) get repaid three times over. Definitely something to think about.
However, Lolade and her family were not the only ones – all Nigerians we met on our trip were absolutely wonderful!
So, if you have the chance, you should definitely visit Nigeria!! Despite the corruption at the embassies and borders, it is totally worth it!