It is the end of the afternoon when a truck drops me off on the outskirts of the giant city of Ibadan. From there, it takes me more than two hours to reach the university campus where my friend Bimbo lives and she is waiting for me to host me. Traffic is hell on earth and I must stop constantly to ask for directions to get to my destination. I pedal, I get lost, I ask, I pedal further, I get lost and I keep asking until finally, I arrive almost at nightfall. Bimbo and her boyfriend Jide receive me with the usual energetic Nigerian joy and lead me to their small dormitory on campus where I will not only rest, but I will literally collapse.
Bimbo is a professor at the University of Ibadan and lives in one of the dormitories on campus. It has only 15 m2 and still, I had been generously invited to stay with them. There is a very narrow single bed and that bed is for me. They will sleep on a foam mattress on the floor, in the only remaining space of the room. They do not even let me argue that I should be the one who sleeps on the floor because Nigerian hospitality is not disputed.
In that small bed and hard mattress, I collapse of exhaustion shortly after finishing the wonderful dinner that Bimbo had prepared for me. What I did not know at that moment, is that from that small bed I was not going to be able to get up. The next morning, after sleeping for 12 hours uninterrupted, my body is paralyzed. I wake up fac up in the same position in which I had fallen asleep, but now I can not move. Half of my skull has been numb for more than a month, the pain of the infections in my legs is unbearable and the impetigo begins to advance towards the upper limbs of the body. Now, probably as a result of the hard mattress, exhaustion and all the weight that I lost in these months, an inflammation formed in the lower part of my back, reaching the coccyx and around my malnourished buttocks. It is so painful that it doesn't even allow me to sit down. When I try to stand up I cry in pain. I'm paralyzed. I need to go to the bathroom but I can't and I have no choice but to piss in a bottle.
Ibadan is forcibly the turning point for me. In Ibadan, my body says: "Enough, this is over, you have already abused me too much and now I go on strike. You can not use me anymore". I have to lie down all day and I need the help of Bimbo and Jide to roll over in bed and release the pressure on the inflamed region. I want to believe that during the day it will pass, but the day feels endless. The blackouts are long and frequent in Nigerian cities. The November heat turns the bedroom into a 50C sauna, and without electricity, the only fan we have to get air from outside does not work. Neither the inflammation nor the time pass. Even so, exhaustion makes me collapse so I keep sleeping, hour after hour. I do not stop sweating, because of the heat but also because of the fever that at times makes me delirious while dreaming.
On the second day the fever passes, I find myself in a very good mood too, but I still can not move. The pain I have in the inflamed region is unbearable, and the worst is that when switching position, everything starts to hurt at the new points of contact so I can't stay too long in the same one. Bimbo brings me a cream for infections that she got from the pharmacy, but I think nothing works for them anymore. I think of Patrick's phrase "Problems? (In Africa) we have no problems, we have challenges". I spend the day prostrated in the company of Bimbo and Jide, who are so funny and make me laugh so much that I think it is detrimental because they crack me up and they end up making me hurt even more.
On the third day, I manage to stand up to go to the bathroom, take short walks and take a bath, but I must go back to bed because I get tired very quickly and the pain in the swollen area and in the legs is very, very intense. At that moment, Bimbo offers me again what she had mentioned two days ago: to massage the inflamed part of my back. Finally, quite reluctantly I decide to accept but soon after I regret. I think I've rarely seen as many stars during daytime as when Bimbo pressed her fingers on the upper part of my buttocks. For 20 minutes in which I almost faint from the pain, Bimbo unleashes the forces of her fingers without mercy on my buttocks to the point where I can not feel anything anymore and my teeth hurt from biting the pillow. By the time she's over, I feel like I've finished running a triathlon, but hours later, as if by magic, the inflammation begins to subside. I do not really know if it is because the massage actually made its effect and it is really not hurting, or because the pain of the massages was so powerful that now nothing hurts anymore. Whatever the case is, I feel better.
On the fourth day, I finally went for a walk with Bimbo through the immense markets of Ibadan, coloured in red by those peppers I had seen decorating the edges of the road a few days before. It is a chaotic but fascinating city, famous for its brown tin roofs that extend indefinitely along the urban skyline. Immigrants from all over the country come here to make a living selling things on its streets. Extreme poverty, overpopulation, social polarisation, pollution, insecurity, Ibadan has all the typical characteristics of a metropolis of the third world and I am lucky to live it from within with the Nigerians.
When it's time to leave, I have peace of mind having already crossed almost the entire country, but the last challenge still lies ahead of me, the most feared of them all: Lagos. My energies are totally limited but it is only 160 km on the main highway what separates me from the legendary financial capital of Nigeria. I am not worried about my energies anymore because since I made it so quickly until here, I still have a lot of time left on my visa. Therefore I know that I will be able to rest in Lagos for a while, as well as treat my infections properly.
I leave Ibadan feeling that I leave two siblings, Bimbo and Jide. I do not know what would have happened to me without their care and their deep affection. I have spent 5 days of absolute intimacy with them, the three of us living in the space of a shoe box. Their hospitality, like their sense of humour, moves me to tears. It helps me restore my faith in humanity. I do not believe in any God, but if something this big really exists, it is not in any of us, but in the space of openness and selfless love that arises between us.