There is always more to people than meets the eye. I just had a 30 minutes conversation with a very sweet African lady. Once again I was reminded to respect every one not because of their status but because they are human beings.
It was 6:30 pm. I was alone at the center where I had gone to read since morning. When I was leaving the house in the morning, I had taken two packs of food with me because I knew I would stay till late in the night. However, I wasn't feeling hungry so I didn't eat until then. So I brought out my Egusi (melon) soup and Ugali (maize meal) from the fridge, microwaved them and began to eat in the African style (with my hand).
Then the door squeaked open. I turned round to see who had entered. I smiled at her - the cleaner who comes daily around that time to clean the room and she is African. Usually when I see her, I greet her the Nigerian way, "Good evening", and we don't have any further conversation beyond that. She noticed what and how I was eating and asked, "Is that Garri?" "Yes", I replied. "No actually, it's maize flour". I was already about to finish eating. "Can I taste?" I was surprised she'd asked to, but I didn't hesitate. "Yeah. Sure." She was so excited, she washed her hands. "It's been a while I ate with my hands." "Is it chilly?" "Erm.. not really" "I like chilli". "You can have it all", I said, "I'm done". She grabbed the plate cheerfully, but I quickly reached back for it. "Not with the meat. I'll divide it", I said jocularly. So I divided the meat, giving her the bigger portion. "Every body loves meat", she remarked. "Is this egg?" "No", I replied, "it's melon seed. It's called Egusi." "Hmm. How do you make it?" Then I went on to describe the process and that for the Ugali.
"Where are you from? ", she quizzed.
"Lagos. Well, I live in Lagos but I am from Anambra. I dunno if you know it. Where are you from?"
I was quite surprised, 'cause save for her ignorance about Egusi soup, she would have passed for a Nigerian by her looks.
"I'm eating Nigerian food!", she exclaimed. "Do they sell it in the African market?"
"Yes. But this one (referring to Ugali) is from Kenya".
"You are mean. You didn't even invite me. How can you be eating African food alone?"
I stammered, "I ... didn't know you... erm... especially 'cause I'm eating with my hand"
So we went about chatting and laughing, then she mentioned that she graduated last week. It was then it dawned on me that she might be more than just a cleaner.
"What did you study?", I probed.
"Masters?" I had gauged her age to be around the 40s
"No just BA but I'll soon be doing Masters"
Wow. Here was a woman I had seen severally and just assumed she was one of the migrants who found no choice but a cleaning job because they were uneducated. Guess what? She is a graduate of Psychology with a 2:1 from the University of Nottingham.
I remembered I had another plate of food (Jollof rice) and I asked her if she would love to have it. She was so excited. "Today is my lucky day". "I'm going to enjoy my work and just sleep when I go home".
That was how I had some laughter brought to my long studious day. Next time you see an African who speaks good English doing a menial job here in UK, don't be deceived. They just might be a professor.
©Radiant ~ July 2017
Click here for my previous post - International student: Surviving the UK.