Nagos Shops

From the outside, the so-called “Nagos shops” -- the shops run, usually, by Nigerians -- were unprepossesing. They were small, with galvinized tin roofs and painted with fading paint, perhaps with crude drawings of a cowboy. But when you walked inside, it was hard not to be dazzled by their astonishing array of consumer goods, meticulously packed into the tiny space.

Underarm deoderant, laundry soap, radios, candles, batteries, cloth, kerosene lanterns, canned milk and mackeral, pens, notebooks, plastic purses, insecticide, kool-aid.... some items (e.g., mosquito coils) could always be found; others (Glade air spray) might be there one week and gone forever the next (who bought it? why?). For those of us living in the smaller towns, stepping into a Nagos shop was our Togolese equivalent of a trip to K-Mart. There were two in Sotouboua, and I could always depend on them to have the canned Quaker Oats that served as my breakfast most mornings.

And when the birthday of an old high school of mine Stateside was approaching, I even found the perfect gift for him in a Nagos: a pack of playing cards, each one graced with the picture of a lovely and voluptuous scantily clad young lady, in the manner of a 1956 Playboy. In fact, I bought a second pack, and kept them for myself.

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