I’m back in Canada after six weeks away! It’s good to be back and I thank God that the four of us who returned to Canada arrived safely (my sister is in Lagos with her husband!). I also thank God that we were protected through all our comings and goings within our country of Nigeria. Security is increasingly a concern: kidnappings are more common than they used to be in the city we were staying and the neighbourhood was constantly on the lookout for robbers so things felt a bit scarier, in particular at night. I added a side trip to Paris to my itinerary on the way back and I couldn’t resist visiting Deola, Aloted, and No Limit in England while I was so close by!
I’d hoped to blog more than once as I hinted at in my last entry but good intentions apparently don’t write blog entries for you!
My sister’s wedding went well. I’m officially convinced that you could come to Nigeria three weeks before your wedding and plan the entire thing from scratch and have a lovely affair. And when I say from scratch I mean it: without a colour scheme or wedding planner or even a dress! Maybe even without a groom (but that could be risky; hehe!). Things just seem to happen really fast in Nigeria: to do the same here you’d either have to pay a lot more money or have a really casual wedding where you buy things off the rack, don’t customize anything, and you’d definitely need to keep the number of attendees to a minimum because most halls are booked months if not years in advance. Maybe it would be hard to plan a wedding from scratch in three weeks in Lagos or Abuja but in our corner of Ondo State three weeks is ample time to plan a nice event!
One thing that I must comment on is the ethics of some vendors who wanted to change the price they had quoted us after finding out we didn’t live in Nigeria. I understand that bargaining is an integral part of our culture but once both parties have agreed on a price, I thought it was rude to try and change it.
A trusted family member recommended a caterer to us and after meeting with the caterer and discussing our needs, my mom and the caterer agreed on a price for her services. The family member who had made the recommendation was present during the negotiations. Not one day later, or five days later, or a week later, but 10 days later the caterer came back to my mother and said “Owo yi o to o (This money is not enough)”! We then found out she had first met with our family member and had been advised to ask for more money if she was not satisfied. Well my mom wouldn’t have any of that: she promptly informed the caterer that her services would no longer be needed and found another caterer who she ended up paying a little more to, but it was a matter of principle at that point. Thankfully our last minute caterer did not disappoint (well, except in the expected way of stealing food…which we were told all caterers do).
This phenomenon of mysteriously shifting prices post-negotiation happened more than once: prices would double or triple when people found out we didn’t live in Nigeria. Another funny incident was related to the decorator for the wedding. Our cousin got married the weekend before my sister. As we arrived in the reception hall, a decorator was putting the finishing touches on the hall and I was really impressed with her work. We had not yet booked a decorator at that point because we were in the midst of negotiating with a decorator whose prices kept changing (yes, just one week before the wedding; my sister and I were certain we’d never find a decorator in time), so I approached the decorator to ask her about her rates. She coyly urged me to enjoy the wedding and that we could talk afterwards.
When we spoke I told her that the hall of my sister’s wedding reception was about half the size of the hall we were currently in, and we wouldn’t need decorations as fancy as what she had done. She then looked at me and asked if 120,000 naira wouldn’t be too much. Now I know people who paid much more than this amount for their wedding hall decor but this is the part that got me: when I asked her how much she charged for the hall we were currently in, you know, the one that was twice the size of the one we’d be using for my sister’s wedding, she said she charged them 50,000 naira! I appreciated her honesty but I didn’t like that there was no justification given for the higher quote; I mean she could have even said it was due to the short notice! When things like that happen I feel like even if we bargain down to, say, half of the cost, there’s a chance that due to sour grapes, we may end up being disappointed in a big way, like she might not have shown up. We ended up hiring a different person just two days before the wedding(!) and he and his crew did a great job.
The issue of caterers stealing food bothers me: Why do they do this? Why does everyone tell you to expect and accept it? Can’t they just charge more money for their services and ensure that all the ingredients you provide them with to prepare wedding food will make it to the reception hall? Or couldn’t they mention upfront that they will keep food for 20 people (or however many people) aside for themselves? Most if not all of us were taught that if something isn’t yours, you can’t have it, at least not without asking and receiving a positive response! Yet I can’t only point a finger at the caterer and his staff: family members were sneaking away with things under the guise of helping us manage the flow of said things (beverages) or keep things safe (gifts from the engagement ceremony). If they had asked, my parents would have given them what they wanted. When I witness things like this I feel I’ll never understand those who feel they have to cheat the system or skim a bit off the top for themselves rather than just asking for it. Thankfully not all Nigerians share this mentality!