Time: Lunch (sometime between 4 and 5 I think)
I'm sitting with my colleague from the institute, tucking into my (by-now cliched) standard fare of half-a-doz chicken wings and fries and coke (and burgers that never taste like back home). The place is filled with giggling high-schoolers (so many young people in Uppsala!) - there's two sitting opposite us. And then a guy joins them, more like takes the seat near them, he's older-looking - and I hear him speak what sounds like English, which is rare 'cos everyone speaks Swedish (EVERYONE). From the looks of it I can't tell if he knows the girls or not. They exchange words, the girls keep giggling...
And then I ask him if he's Swedish.
No, he's not. He's American.
Guessed as much. He's got an American kinda confidence, teasing the girls endlessly and making faces.
Where are you from, he asks me.
Oh, Nigeria! Why did you guys lose the Nation’s Cup? I know, Nigeria likes saying: We want to allow other people to share in the glory? But hey, you’ve allowed Egypt to share in the glory like SIX times!
I laugh. Funny guy. He's new in Uppsala, 2 months old, only slighly older than me. He's - wait for this - doing 2 masters simultaneously at Uppsala Uni. He sighs, laments about how tough it is. Before Sweden he was in Liberia, working with the UN. (The 2 masters programmes he's here to do are in those fields that qualify you to work in Africa, y'know what I mean - aid, development bla bla.)
Shame on me. He's busy saving my continent while I sit in Uppsala trying to write the Great Nigerian Novel (FYI tentatively titled "A Moving Portrait of Obasanjo-era Nigeria")
I spend the rest of the time watching him and the girls (by now there are four girls) tease themselves.
The girls speak English (all young people in Swedish, and most old ones can speak English, only that they won't). One of them mentions that another sings (like) Oprah, I'm not quite sure if she meant "opera" or "Oprah", I think it's "Oprah".
The American says his girlfriend's also a singer, her name's Shakira. Yeah right, laughs one of the girls. Very American stuff.
Apparently one of the girls is of Spanish origin. He asks if she speaks Spanish. He says his high school GF was Spanish. It's difficult to know if he's teasing or not.
Another of the girls is of Turkish origin. He asks if she can count to 10 in Turkish. She starts, he stops her, saying she got '1' wrong. Then he recites, breathlessly, 1 - 10 in Turkish (I hope).
I confirm it is when immediately the Turkish girl also recites something that's identical with what he's just recited.
He says he worked for 2 years (or so) in Asia.
I just love Americans. They're so easy to categorise using a single 'line' - binary delineation (ie they can be divided cleanly into TWO according to so MANY criteria!):
1. Those who either have never held an American passport or only just got one in their forties or eighties (e.g fill-in-the-gap) or those for whom the world is their country, saving orphans in Rwanda tonight, and Tsunami victims in Laos tomorrow morning, and catching a front-seat at the NBA finals by evening. Restless, Conquering, Messianic, jolly...
2. Republicans OR Democrats...
3. Apples OR Microsofts...
4. Small-towners OR Washingtonians...
5. Joe Six Packs Married to Hockey Moms OR [need to ask Sarah Palin about this]
6. Drill, drill, drillers OR Drill, Baby, Drillers
7. For Obamans OR Anti Obamans
God Bless America men!
Last thing Mr. America tells me, as I stand up to leave:
"Did you know that in Liberia Nigerians are treated as God?"
Yeah, I say, ECOMOG...
And did you know that there is a village (in Liberia) full of half-Liberian half-Nigerian children…
Yeah, I laugh...
It's funny, really. Next to Americans, I love Nigerian Soldiers the most.
They went to Liberia as Deliverers and came back as Daddies!