They are surprised to hear that nobody else has made the same offer....though Petra confides that her colleagues at work were astonished that she was receiving someone in her home that she did not know at all.
I take the train to Amsterdam with Petra, and when we arrive at their flat, the novel fragrances of Nigerian cooking waft from the kitchen. I see a big bag of "pounded yam", cassave flour, on the floor.
Bede tells me a 2.5 kilo bag costs an amazing amount in Holland. In Nigeria it would be supercheap (for European standards). There, pounded yam is what potatoes are for the Dutch...the basis of every meal.
Considering the markup, it is no wonder Bede is planning to set up a shop with Nigerian food products. At last some competition for the only Nigerian shop in Amsterdam, that draws crowds from all over the country.
Over dinner (pounded yam 'balls', two thick sauces to dip the balls in and deep-fried plantain), we discuss the bad image Nigerians seem to have in the West. I listen while I dip the starchy balls in the different sauces, egwusi and agbono, and try to keep my fingers clean.
Bede suggests that part of the problem could stem from non-trustworthy people from Cameroon and Ghana etc. who can easily get a Nigerian passport.
Together we laugh about the stupid (and greedy?) people who react to -mostly Nigerian- bank spam. You must know about those emails about "my father, ex-minister of Defense, left 70 million dollars and I desperately need to transfer it to a European bank account".
Bede emailed back with his phone number as a joke and when some guy called he kept him on the line for a while questioning him on where he was from. Did he know this city and that town?
At last he disclosed he was Nigerian himself and told the man to hang up and not waste his phonecard any longer...
In Nigeria he already knew some Westerners. In his home town, an American missionary often visited his mom's house. And in Abuja (a big town), he would chat with Irish ex-pats in cafes.
They usually worked for the Heineken brewery there that also makes Guinness beer.
After dinner we have tea and I leaf through their photo album. I admire a picture of Petra in Nigerian wedding dress. Also there are some clippings pasted in of Bede's football accomplishments. He first lived in Sweden for a while and shows me action photos of him during football matches in Sweden and Holland. In this sense you could call him a true "international", as he has played for teams in three different countries. But by now (he is 30) he has given up on his dreams of becoming a professional player. New dreams of opening a shop have replaced the older ones...I hope to be at the opening someday soon!
(The original post about this meal is from March 16, 2006)