Within the first 2 weeks of our arrival I experienced “the test”. I knew at the time it was a test, and I knew I had failed — from my perspective at least. From the tester’s point of view, I had passed and he, or they, were going to have some fun with this newcomer to Nigerian trickery!
As it unfolded, my husband was out on the back patio, the company-assigned temporary steward was at the kitchen sink, and our newly hired driver was behind me as I faced my husband on the patio. The driver was in fact between me and the kitchen desk, where I had left a paltry sum of money. That money was to be a tip for the temporary steward who had worked for us for 10 days and was leaving later this afternoon.
When my husband was done on the patio, and the steward was finished with his work, I turned to get the few hundred Nigerian naira. I am embarassed even to say that it was just a few hundred, because I now realize it should have been more, but I didn’t understand the money yet. In any case, I went to pay him the 400 Naira, and there was only 300 Naira there. I felt fear. I thought, “this is a test”. Yet I didn’t raise a ruckus. I didn’t raise a ruckus because I also thought, “Oh my gosh: these people must be really desperate to steal the tiny sum of 100 Naira (60 U.S.cents).” I was overwhelmed with guilt feelings and discomfort: how could I make a fuss about 100 Naira when it must be a precious amount to them but it was so little to me? I didn’t have any real doubt that 100 Naira was missing, but in my unwillingness to confront the situation my discomfort did transform itself into wondering if I had indeed had counted the amount of money I thought I had.
Of course, I had counted correctly — I had not missed counting from 1 to 4! And of course, it was a test, and of course, I failed. Little did I know what kind of ride I was in for!