Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Unexpected Visitor; or Hospitality Isn't for the Weak

We had a surprise visitor last Sunday immediately after church. The guards called up that there was someone to visit. Joy tried to speak to him, but the guard told her that there was someone here for her husband and he would only talk to her husband. I spoke to him on the phone and he indicated I had told him to come by any time he was in the neighborhood. Now that doesn't sound very much like me, and I couldn't remember saying that to anyone here. He proposed that I might remember him when I came down.

Fair enough.

I still didn't recognize him when I went outside, which he could obviously tell. He told me that we met at immigration as we first arrived in Nigeria three and a half months ago. He had been pleased to welcome us to Nigeria and wondered if he might visit us sometime. That jogged about half of a memory. When he said I had responded that he should stop in any time he was in the neighborhood, I realized that it actually did sound a lot like something I would say. We didn't even have an address at the time! I treated it like the casual conversation it would have been in the US and was friendly and grandly flippant about the whole thing. In Nigeria, people take you at your word a good deal more.*

Well, now. Fair's fair. I have host-duties to see to and I have no idea what a good host does in Nigeria. Thankfully, my guest was right at hand with a suggestion: how about being invited inside for some water? Delightful. Yes.
He sat down while I grabbed some water, informed Joy of what was going on while she was preparing lunch, and made small talk. How ever did you find us? Well, your names were on your passports, duh, -- he remembered everyone's names -- and so when he was visiting family in a nearby village for the holiday, he stopped by AUN and asked my address. They gave it out and over he came.

Joy greeted him and I looked forward to being relieved of some of my awkwardness, small-talk not being my forte. Then he informed her that for his culture, it was only appropriate for him to address me as Head of the Household, so please do not be offended if I ignore you. She was not offended (thank you, Dearheart) and returned to preparing lunch.

We chatted a while longer about Nigeria, about his family and his work. His ride then came and he offered his services next time we passed through immigration, particularly if Joy had to travel without me. We thanked him for spending time with us and bid him adieu. I'll have to make sure to look him up in February after my conference in Addis. Friendly fellow.

... That, and I need to ask around to find out what a good host is supposed to do around here. The mild touch of irony in the whole thing is that just the night before, we were asked how we were dealing with culture shock and I had brazenly offered that I hadn't really had much of any, being so taken up with work I hadn't really separated the demands of a new job from the demands of the culture.

* - Joy's great story, as nearly as I remember it, involved a fellow in the market announcing that he would follow her home to the States. She very politely but firmly shut him down. I remember some similar experiences dealing with asylum-seekers in Germany who wanted my parents' family to adopt them.