The moment: we’re dancing, outdoors, under canopy on a rooftop somewhere near the ocean. Juliet, the Lagos office manager, has pulled me from my seat, and I stumble through my best-geeky-white-boy-from-California moves while the rest of the g|Nigeria team hoots and cheers. I’m self-conscious about how beautiful she is, and try to focus on the beat of whatever Afro-pop hip-hop song the three-man band has segued into this time. Behind us, on a pair of enormous wall-mounted monitors, Nigerian music videos silently act out the same banal male fantasies that American videos glorify -Abdu and I had observed earlier that there are some universal cultural constants. From below, the heat and chaos of a Lagos nightscape rise up and spill over us, like towering waves crashing against a lighthouse in a storm.
Anyhow. Now I’ve got a grand total of 36 hours in Lagos, and in that time have managed to add the Lagos Civic Center and a second restaurant to my extensive tally of Nigerian destinations (the hotel room, the back of a minivan, one restaurant and an ice cream shop previously listed, for those keeping track).
The overwhelming crush of reverberating background noise is how I think I’m going to most remember Nigeria. The civic center – why on earth would anyone tile the interior of a meeting area with granite? It’s beautiful, mind you, but effect when you stuff it full of enthusiastic Nigerian tech-heads is somewhat like what you’d expect from cutting loose with a foghorn in a shower stall. I swear – I was talking to people so close I could feel their breath on my face, and couldn’t hear a word they were saying.
It was still great fun, of course, and felt like old times, back in the day when Google was this small, hip, crazy company that everyone adored. We got treated like rock stars just for showing up and dishing out the Google love and gospel. Honestly, though – it was good stuff, and I spent hours talking with developers and local bizdev folks, showing them how to get their businesses online and hook themselves into our maps. Until the jet lag blindsided me. I guess I should be surprised I lasted that long, but I was doing fine until I heard Peter’s voice asking, faintly and from somewhere far away “Should we wake him for the team picture?” Apparently I’d fallen asleep upright in my chair, head cocked against the back wall.
There was the picture, a wrap up session – this one of local developers showing off their own stuff – and Anna divvied us up into our now-familiar convoy of cars and minivans. Again through the tangled spiderweb of Lagos at night, past street markets and alabaster edifices, huddled faces around open fires and limousines. In past armed guards staring intently out into the night, and up, up – onto the rooftop.