First Culture

Mimi Mwiya: Giving Up My Ajebutter Ways

Mimi Mwiya: Giving Up My Ajebutter Ways

Aje Butter( ah juh bouta ), adj; Pampered someborry.

As the end of June hit, two things happened:
1. I decided I would be extending my stay in Nigeria(still loving it here, halla!)
2. I went to an ATM and found I didn’t have as much money as I thought I had in my account.

I think that those two things happened simultaneously was quite significant in showing me that if I was going to stay in Nigeria, I needed to stop spending like a foreigner just passing through, and start spending like a local.

I especially needed (still need, actually) to stop thinking of public transport – buses, kekes and okadas (I’m yet to ride an okada on this trip)- as exciting once in a while treats where I get to have the wind in my hair as we zoom through traffic. And start thinking of them as actual means of regular transport so I could stop using the Ubers and Taxifys I’ve so far been spending far too much money on.

Besides, we don’t have Uber and Taxify in Namibia- the closest we have is something called ‘dial-a-cab’- so I think the novelty of them also just had to wear off, and it has, thankfully.

Now, it was a Tuesday when i realised I didn’t have much money in my account. I went to the ATM hoping to withdraw 20k, I was able to get exactly 3k, and that was about all the money I had between myself and being completely broke. On Wednesday, I needed to meet someone in Surulere, something I couldn’t quite get out of.

I knew Surulere wasn’t too far from Yaba because one day as I told Jenny I’d been to the Shoprite in Ikeja (that and the one in Lekki were the only ones I knew of), she told me I should have gone to the one in Surulere as it’s much nearer. So I knew with my 3k, I would be able to get to and from Surulere, and that week, that’s about all I needed, enough money to get to and from Surulere on that Wednesday afternoon. The rest of the week and the week after would sort themselves out.
I’ve discovered that on the best of days, Uber and Taxify are actually relatively cheap, but the best of days also depend on traffic, so I needed to get to Surulere(you guys should know each time I type ‘Surulere’ I mentally sing the Dr Sid song) using a means whose price wouldn’t be affected by traffic. So for only maybe the third time on this trip, I hailed a random taxi on the road, the yellow ones(we also don’t have a uniform colour for taxis back home, so Nigeria really just keeps giving me novel experience after novel experience).
I’ve said before that Namibia has a really really cheap taxi system, so random taxis on the road are my way of life, they are what I’m used to, i’ve been spending so much money on taxis here, because spending money on taxis has been my life. I swear the day I stop using taxis, all the taxi drivers of Windhoek will go into mourning. The only reason I hadn’t been using the random taxis here all that much is that with them, I need to bargain to bring the price down, I cannot bargain to save my life. Namibia has standardized cab fares everyone knows to adhere to. So I preferred the Ubers and Taxifys because with them, what you have to pay is what you have to pay.

So I was willing to pay 1.5k going to Surulere, and 1.5k coming back. I imagined the cabbie would start off with something like 2.5 and I would talk him down to the 1.5, I wasn’t prepared for him to open with 1.5, ah ah! If he was going to open with what I was willing to pay, what on earth was I going to bargain down to?

It also meant I probably would have been able to talk it down to at least 700 or something, but he asked if I knew where exactly in Surulere (because he didn’t even though I showed him a written address) and I never ever know where I’m going, so for the trouble he would have to go to asking people for directions, we settled on 1.2k.
Given my utter lack of direction, when I’m going to a place for the first time, I always try to leave ample time for getting lost several times, so I was super early for my appointment.

My aje butter self wanted to find somewhere I could have a drink and write, but I had to remind her that still saving at least 1.5k for my return trip, I only had 300 naira for this drink I wanted, so I decided to just respect myself. I took a walk around the environs, then bought a cob of roasted corn and a sachet of pure water. The woman selling them was nice enough to let me share her bench for a bit, so I sat down, took out a notebook and wrote. There, I got to have my drink and write.

After my meeting, the man I was meeting dropped me off at home(he lives in Surulere so he wasn’t going my way or anything like that, Nigerians are just nice people) and I’d only spent 100 naira on my corn and water, so I went back still having 1.7k to my name. I felt rich o.

in that same week, someone told me they thought me really brave to just leave home and decide I want to live in Nigeria, of all countries. He said he loved how I was “following my heart”. I told him I do have a problem of listening to my heart a little too much, but more than I am brave or anything like that, I am really really just spoiled. Even though I had no money to me, I still had a Jenny to house me, a Jenny who I know will split the last apple in her fridge with me. And I have a big brother who, two days after I realized I was broke, something I didn’t communicate to him at all, called me saying, “Mimilo,I miss you, so I sent some money to your account.”

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that there’s an underlying urge to talk about privilege in everything I write, but I struggle because I am still stuck in this place where I don’t know if what privilege I have, is something I should be feeling guilty and apologetic for, and knowing that privilege is not an insult, it just is.

Maybe one of these days my big privilege article will come through, until then, I’m just an aje butter in rehabilitation, asking cabbies to please stop so I can quickly get some veggies by the road because rehabilitation means learning I don’t need to go to a Shoprite each time I feel like surprising Jenny with dinner.

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Mimi Mwiya

Mimi Mwiya

Munukayumbwa (Mimi) Mwiya is a floater who sometimes sits still enough to write.

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Mimi Mwiya: Giving Up My Ajebutter Ways

by Mimi Mwiya time to read: 5 min