Today I ate in what my colleague called the “black hood” or “southcentral L.A.”
“What does that mean when we are in Nigeria, and the people are all black?”
“This is where the gangs are…cars are stolen here all the time…it’s not safe for you to be here…give me your camera. You cannot carry it.”
“Ok. Here. Let’s eat.”
We sidestepped mud and puddles from the afternoon rain. I saw 4-5 tarp tent-like rooftops and smoke rolling out from behind a 4 foot high cinder block wall. We walked inside. All eyes on me.
“Oyibo’s eating here. With us.”
The lady cooking food says, “Why do you bring him here? I don’t want any trouble.” (I was told this 5 hours later!)
A friend responded, “It’s ok madam. It’s still early. The boys aren’t out yet.”
“Do you have beans and plantains?”
“Ok. You want beans and plantains?”
“No meat.” She looks at me like I’m crazy. Nigerians eat a lot of meat of some kind, which could be beef, goat, chicken, fish and whatever else. Meat is anything that is animal.
My beans and plantains were on the cold side of lukewarm, but tasted good. I washed it all down with a cold Coke.
As we were leaving, the lady said to not bring the Oyibo–white man–at that hour (3:30 in the afternoon) and that if we come back tomorrow, make it noon. My friend says, “We’ll be here at 8:00 in the evening!”
“You bring him here then, and I see him, I’m shutting my door. I don’t want no problems.”
We walked back to the car. My friend opened the driver’s side door and then reached down towards the gas pedal. I noticed a clamp of sorts with a Master lock on it. He locked the pedals.
“That’s cool. Purely Nigerian invention!”
“Yes. You need it here.”
In the week I’ve been here, it was the first time he used it.
“But your car is a piece of junk?” And it truly is.
“Yes, but it does not matter. It’s the hood.”
I also learned later that no white person has ever ventured close to the market eatery area of that section of town.
“So, why did you take me there?”
“Ah…it’s safe I guess in the day time. And you eat anything. It’s cheaper.”