24 January 2007 (My flat in Ugbowo, morning)
I just came from my first morning jog, alone. It feels good. I am still waiting for my Nigerian driver’s license to arrive (how we secured the license is a whole other story), so my independent movement remains limited. Since there are no police on or near campus and I live nearby, I can drive there without harassment. I intend to take this drive every other morning, park somewhere on campus and run. UniBen, in fact, all the federal university campuses here in Nigeria are very spacious. They are much like the land-grant universities in the Mid-West of the United States. The streets are wide and mostly lit. I try to leave as early as 6:15. By the time I get to campus the sun is just coming up. It’s lovely…a quiet hour to myself…a good form of meditation.
I hit the wall yesterday when Efe took me for my second run. Since I had run a couple of days before, I had a sense of where I would like to run the next time around. As we were approaching campus I mentioned where I would like to be dropped off. Efe interrupted and told me, “I’ll show you your route.” Something inside me cut loose. My anger shot out like a fuse. I knew campus was fairly safe, so this wasn’t about safety; and it was my run. So, why did I need direction on this? I responded curtly; I don’t remember what I said, I was so furious. He stopped immediately, and let me out. When I finished, we drove back in silence.
I had half a day to think through it. I had to insist on a few things. First and foremost, my morning runs have to be my own. Secondly, I need to go and buy my own food…select my fruits and vegetables, and pick out the cut of meat I want in my soup. Basic. Thirdly, I need to make my appointments independently. Efe will have days where he will not have time to go to the market for me, or he will have his own appointments. Case in point: we have delayed going back to Ibadan because he has an entrance exam to take. This in itself does not bother me, but he needs to have his time and space as much as I need my time and space. I must learn how to move in this environment sooner or later, especially if I am going to be coming and going to Nigeria in the years to come. Efe absolutely will not be able to follow me around like a shadow in future, when he has a career and family. This set up doesn’t make sense, nor is it working anymore.
I understand the risks in driving myself long distances on these roads. That, of course, is out of the question. I am asking for a little wiggle room in the daily back and forth and short runs to appointments and to the market to pick up a few items for a basic stew. On big shopping days, of course we can go together. On days that are more complicated, I may need help, but on the whole, I need to learn how to get around this city and around Warri on my own. I will be very busy soon. And, Efe too will soon be busy with his part-time schooling (starting in March). We’ve got to work things out differently.
It has been extremely difficult to lose so much personal independence. This, added to the fact that my research has not yet come off the ground, is crushing. Poor Efe…I really blew up at him. He’s doing the best he can with things, with no help from Otite, as promised. And here I am, crabby and telling him to let me breathe. I guess we need to find a place in the middle…balance.