Recent search queries have me thinking about Nigeria. We moved there, a German/American family with four children between two and nine, towards the end of the Biafran War.

I was young enough and had moved around enough to accept life in a diplomatic community in post-Colonial Africa as just another version of normal.

We lived in Lagos, on Ikoyi Island, at 4, Maitama Sule Street, in a compound surrounded by a high wall. There were two ornate iron gates at each end of a semi-circular driveway. Inside the circle, poinsettias grew all year. The house was framed by hibiscus. There was a narrow screened veranda that ran the length of the front of the house.

Behind the house, rows of daylilies and papaya, mango, lemon, orange and banana trees concealed the servants quarters – a row of four cinderblock rooms, each with one doorway (no door) and one window (with a shutter?), all facing a tall block wall. I didn’t know then how much they resembled slave quarters. We children came and went in the servants’ rooms, always standing by the doorway to ask permission to come in. I loved being with our nanny, Regina – her walls were covered with images of white Jesuses and Virgin Marys, encrusted with glitter. It was always dark and hot inside, like a tiny Orthodox church.


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