**Yes, someone actually shouted this at me at the market.
On Thursday A and I went shopping. She needed to get a dress sewn for the Church service on Friday and had arranged with her tailor to drop the material off early in the day and come back later in the evening. School was going to close down around noon anyway (Thanks to the Government declaring Thursday afternoon a sort of extension to the National Holiday) so I figured I'd skip out on my usual routine and go with Augusta instead. One of the drivers had the day off so F said his driver could drop us off but we'd have to find out way back. I was excited and up for the challenge. In every other place I've traveled public transport has been one of the more exciting parts of my daily routine. However, because of security issues here it's not always safe to rely on public transportation options. Luckily the M's are gracious hosts and usually are able to loan me a ride with one of their drivers to get me where ever I need to go. Since I've been here 11 weeks (almost at that point) and I've traveled here before we decided that on occasion I can do some running around without attracting too much attention to myself and getting in harm's way. I'd never go off by myself anyway and A is the perfect shopping companion.
So the driver took us to "New Benin" which is pretty far across the city from where we live. We arrived at the market and it was pretty chaotic. Much more chaotic than some of the smaller markets where we usually go. We made our way to her tailor and haggled with him for a while. A is the Queen of Haggling. She always gets the bottom dollar, well Naira. Her tailor is MUCH less expensive than the one I have been using. I'm sure some of it has to do with quality, but I'm also sure that A's tailor doesn't have many white clients and doesn't realize that he could probably make a lot more from me. A has a couple of really cute dresses & shirts that I said I'd like to also get so she was able to use me as a bargaining piece to get her one day custom order done for a deal. I am having 2 dresses and a shirt made (for almost the same price I just had my last ONE outfit made by the other tailor I am using).
We then set out for the fabric market across the street so I could choose what colors I wanted. After wandering through the cramped stalls in the blazing heat I finally got what I needed and we headed back to the tailor so I could drop off my cloth. They will be ready in about a week. Another negative is that it's across town and the tailor I've been using lives right around the corner and will drop stuff off for me. I know, value added. But even going and fetching the clothes will be cheaper in the long run. And hey, I love to run around town anyway so really, it's like a bonus. The entire time we were walking around the market I was getting shouted to (not at) by nearly everyone. If someone was blind they could trace my steps through the market just listening to people lose their minds when they saw me. Tons of "White Lady!" or "Oweebo!" (which means white person in local language) and yes, even "Big White Aunty, do you like Nigerian men???" which made me giggle inside. When this happens I just pretend like I'm a draft horse with blinders on. I plod ahead and never look. Only once did someone say something that made me turn my head, and that's when some guy shouted an Ishan greeting at me. Ishan is the language that they speak in Uromi, where I have been doing medical work for the past 5 years. There is a substantial Ishan community in Benin but you would not normally hear that greeting just randomly. After I shouted back the appropriate response, without stopping my stride, I could hear wild peals of laughter as I continued one. I'm sure he didn't expect that one.
After we left there we wanted to go to this fancy store closer to our side of town so I could get some American goods. A asked if I minded stopping by a market off of Ring Road first (center of town) and if I didn't mind taking a public transport bus to get there. Public transport? Sign me up! So we went and caught a bus that was leaving for Ring Road. It cost us 20 Naira each ($0.13) and we stuffed ourselves in with the other 8 people already in the bus. Fun times.
We buzzed around the market for a bit and picked up a few things. I still had my "blinders" on and rudely snubbed a woman from church. I had to explain why I didn't hear her talking to me (i.e. I tuned her out completely) and she laughed. Then we decided to call the fancy taxi company that one of our friends uses to take us to our fancy store and then home. We negotiated a set price while we were on the phone, because once the driver saw who he was carrying (e.g. white woman) the price would likely double. They said it would be about 20 minutes before they got there so we ducked into a shoe shop that A was familiar with some we could "hide my white face." She was so cute. She was worried about people harassing me, although I'm sure some of it had to do with her own safety as well. The cab ended up taking FOREVER, no real shocker to me, but she was irritated. We finally walked down to the "bus depot" area where there are buses leaving for major cities (Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, etc.) and stood another 10 minutes or so. I could tell A was getting nervous but I just tried to make small talk while of course keeping my eyes peeled just in case.
Finally the cab picked us up and it was nice and air conditioned and in great shape. The cab driver was hilarious; a younger guy with some foul, foul music but a great sense of humor. We got to our luxury shop and apparently as we got out the driver told A to remind me to buy him something. The nerve! But it would apparently be rude to NOT buy him anything (even though he was like 45 later than he said he would be AND the cab was going to cost ME a pretty penny) so he got a dumb Coke. A apparently thought I was being cheap (so what???) and bought him some candy. Dumb social customs. We had fun shopping in the store and then headed home, but not before I almost snubbed another person from the University. Luckily I had let my guard down so I ended up just doing a double take and not completely ignoring him.
All in all I'd say it was a pretty fantastic day. I got to use multiple modes of transportation, missing only a motorbike ride, which I can say right now is never going to happen. I've seen enough bikes crashed on the side of the road to be petrified of riding one, and frankly the thought of hiking up my skirt (which is 95% of what I wear here) and hopping on the back of a bike is less than appealing as well. Can't wait to do it again!