Thursday 30 March 2006

Not in my local shop

A cure for nostalgia
It is always a pleasure to pass by the African shop run by an Igbo lady from Nigeria just at the entrance to the metro service at Amsterdam Central Station.
She stocks all the essential ingredients from Nigeria that I never really find that I am nostalgic about food stuffs that one can get from home.
However, for those who cannot find a shop to visit to feel the yams, smell the pepper or get stained with the red of palm oil there is an online outfit called NotInMyLocalShop.
Indeed, those things are not in my local shop which happens to be on the ground floor of my dock-side apartment. The last time I tried something called dasheens which are corms very much like our traditional cocoyam, the result was only fit for the bin.
If the bin were living, it might have regurgitated the stuff; well that is what bins are for, things you cannot stomach.
Healing the pain of sickles
In fact, the only thing she does not stock is Prickly Ash Bark (Orin ata in Yoruba), which is a savoury chewing stick which is supposed to have properties that help alleviate the pains and travails of sickle cell anaemia.
I remember that vividly because, I once was school mates with three kids who unfortunately all had sickle cell anaemia and when my mum found out about it, she recommended the prickly ash bark to them, it became like chewing gum for them, but the elder died whilst I think the others did thrive. I hope they are well now and probably in their late 30s.
Prickly ash bark is said to have quite a number of medicinal properties that I found myself asking for the stuff from Nigeria because I heard of an unusual case of a little white boy suffering from the sickle cell disease.
Well, I thought it was impossible or someone in his lineage might have been of a West African background for there to be a trait to be become obvious in him.
My friend swore to me that his parents and forebears were peasant folk that it is very unlikely that any might have gone for either the exotic of the Nubian. We learn strange things.
Who do you think you are?
I could take his word for it, but after watching a few episodes of “Who do you think you are?” programme on the BBC; where celebrities trace their genealogy going back up to 8 generations or more and learning of their ancestry; we can come from anywhere and sometimes the truth is just too hard to bear.
Beyond the condiments at the shop, I noticed that two other commodities raced off the shelves before they had time to gather the next morning’s dew; false hairs or hair extensions and skin-lightening creams.
Both of which seem to elicit some commentary whenever I get to the shop because it is one of those occasions that I get to speak Pidgin English – not the best because many a time, I have to switch to English to get a point across.
Skin-lightening creams illustrate a dichotomy of needs as Caucasians seek a tan and Africans seek a tone, no one seems to be satisfied with how they look. It is a mad world.
Disguises in the guise of the opposite sex
However, I could not help but observe as her son was unpacking the new deliveries of hair extensions how useful they would have been for Charles Taylor as he tried to escape from Nigeria at a border crossing to Cameroon.
That episode would still develop wings as it is possible that President Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia was ambushed and blackmailed into making Charles Taylor a priority in her visit to the US.
How that really helps the Liberians fails to impress me, but it is not the first time that the US has made aid conditional on fulfilling self-interest.
I could imagine a disguise with hair extensions giving the effeminacy that let the ex-Nigerian Governor Alamieyeseigha escape justice in the UK but was lacking for Charles Taylor to leave Nigeria.
For once, it appears the Nigerians were a lot more vigilant than the British who were fooled by a big black man in drag who had just undergone a tummy-tuck in Germany.
Alas! We see a lot but observe very little.

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