People often ask me what I miss. The question is usually along the lines of, “what will/do you miss about America?” or “what did you miss about Nigeria?” and it always comes at the strangest times. While visiting old friends, someone offered me amala to eat, then followed it up with a “Did you miss amala?” while staring at me expecting a fairly detailed report.
Like I was expected to reply in my smooth bedroom voice “Oh yes, I missed it so much…” and then dip my hand into the warm morsel, rub it all over my chest while crooning softly, “Did you miss me too, amala, did you?”
No, I don’t miss amala. I wasn’t even aware people ate amala out of luxury until I ran into a member of the Oyo State A.L.A. (Amala Lovers Association) wearing a badge that proudly said, “Associate Member Amala Lovers Association (A.M. A.L.A.)”
With the world being what it is now, smaller and faster, the question of what I miss becomes harder to answer when I can’t think of anything that is available in one place but not the other. Sure, some items are harder to find and more expensive to get, but they are almost never completely unavailable.
So I banked the question, like I do with everything I don’t immediately have a response to, and mulled on it, waiting for the answer to reveal itself.
A couple of days later, I was standing on the streets of Abuja, in front of the Banex Shopping Plaza, eating boiled groundnuts out of an old newspaper when a fight broke out across the street. I moved to get a better view of the action and I saw it was a policeman carrying a rusty rifle fighting a taxi driver.
As they wrestled each other to the ground in front of a largely uninterested crowd, I popped open another kernel of boiled groundnut and stuffed its contents into my mouth like a kid at the movies. And it suddenly hit me that I had stumbled upon the answer I was looking for.
So… things that exist in one place but not the other?
Policemen with ineffective weapons fighting taxi drivers.
And more importantly, boiled groundnuts. You can’t get boiled groundnuts.