Archive for the ‘TRAVELOGUE’ Category

This is the second instalment of my Maiduguri trip tale. MTT. Sounds nice. Dope abbreviation. Sounds like something serious. This is serious biko. As serious as serious can get. But I digress. Part one is here. Let’s get on with it.

So! One of the first things that hit you once the announcement about the descent into Maiduguri is made and you look out the window might be that there is the Maiduguri we all hear of and the Maiduguri you meet (in person). Perfect opposition, especially if you’re besotted with foreign media reports.

It’s the red roofs and cream-colored buildings, the wide expanse of uninhabited land; it is the land itself. Green and luscious one minute, dry and scorched the next. This contrast presents itself throughout the duration of this trip exaggerated many times over by the insurgency.

Immediate thoughts on sights at the airport?

  1. Maiduguri international airport, like several international airports in Nigeria, is, unfortunately, international only in name. The absence of an arrival lounge reduced hopes for a carousel or conveyor belt to mischievous thinking. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long for our bags, and it was off to our lodgings in a convoy dotted with an armed security truck in the front and at the rear.
  2. Decrepit buildings, chipped away at some corners, time, negligence, and incompetence ensuring that even the lettering on the building announcing the airport was barely visible. I confirmed the airport had never been attacked. What was the excuse for this eyesore then?

The second thing I noticed (or that hit me) was the heat. Dry, prickly heat, and yours truly was wrapped in a jalabia and head scarf. I genuinely thought I was going to have heat stroke.

So, we got into our cars and drove in a convoy to our lodgings, a place called Lake Lale Guest Inn. Here’s an idea of the sight I became accustomed to for the rest of the trip.

military

The first room I was given had bad locks and because I didn’t want any how stories starting from “while she was sleeping…” I asked and was given another room which was cleaned while I was there. Tut tut tut.

We were to have a team debrief at 8:30 pm. I had been warned that the restaurant was a bit slow but I forgot meaning that the chicken and chips I ordered weren’t ready before our meeting. By the time the meeting was done, I got back to my room and asked for the food. It was brought and the rest I captured on twitter.

borno-2016

Anyway, I ate it like that, spoke to Tata and my folks, and slept off, grateful for safety, a roof over my head, and the privilege to be on the delegation to a place I had only heard about. A few mosquitoes, but nothing the airconditioning wouldn’t handle. Or so I thought.

The evening and the morning, the first day. Tomorrow? Bama.

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I was born in Kano, and raised (amongst other cities in Nigeria) in Kaduna and in Abuja. My mother says we spoke Hausa fluently at some point, and having lived in some western cities at some other times, we spoke Yoruba too. Matter of fact I vividly remember acting in Yoruba plays in primary school and coming top of the class in Yoruba. My parents are (still) fluent in three Nigerian languages, while I currently struggle with all three. Life isn’t fair.

Like every good student, I know the states and capitals and having the privilege growing up in at least thirteen locations in Nigeria cutting across most of the geopolitical zones, I have a fairly intimate understanding how people in these parts behave. Except the North Eastern part of Nigeria though – Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Taraba, Borno, and Gombe. My parents were never transferred there, and my travels as an adult never ventured there either.

From 2009, we heard bits of the North being famous for things other than agriculture, vehicles, fabric, or even cattle. Religious extremism (in various parts of the country), like a pot silently boiling over, peaked. Not the brand Kano, Kaduna, Benue, Nassarawa, and even Plateau had seen, a new wave challenging the tenets of Islam and more importantly, condemning everything Western, especially education. Say hello to Boko Haram.

With this sect came a wave of devastation and destruction I dare say Nigeria had not seen before, ravaging whole states, especially Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa.

Fast forward to 2016, my work with a client focused on the reconstruction of the devastated areas, and therefore an assessment trip to Borno.

At first, I had said no as the trip coincided with another trip I was to make outside Nigeria. Fluctuating forex policies/restrictions, an agent with an interesting attitude, and a lot of back and forth communication after, it was obvious to me I wouldn’t make my flight date, at least not without spending approximately #150,000 more than the ridiculous amount I had already spent. I decided I couldn’t afford it, retrieved what I had already paid, and said yes to Borno. Note that three months after I made that trip out of Nigeria at about half the cost of the original ticket I initially turned down.

The next few pieces chronicle the trip with all the accompanying visuals; I hope it comes just as alive for you as it was for me.

DAY ONE: The Trip.

We start as always, with movement. I woke up on Thursday morning, first off smarting that I didn’t wake up in Frankfort connecting to Houston and then suddenly afraid of what Borno might have in store. I had read the briefing notes and known we would be going to Maiduguri and then to Bama, using the same route the UNICEF workers had been ambushed on a few weeks prior. Apparently, we were scheduled to visit twice: cue apprehension.

I cleared my movement with my family (sans my mum, lol),  and my dad’s excitement helped me feel a lot more positive about the trip. And then there was the dash to the market to get a jalabiya (outer, over-all type garment commonly worn in the North) and a veil. The plan was to blend in as much as I could.

Quick stop at TATA’s for Brunch, some goofiness and emergency Hausa lessons(lol) and it was off to the airport to catch 1.30pm flight which didn’t leave till 3pm. We will skip that point and talk about my intense feeling of nakedness when I met the rest of the team.

I had assumed (erroneously of course) that I only needed to don my extras on the way to Bama. The other females (mostly northerners) on the team, however, were dressed to the neck with veils, hijabs etc. – one person was even wearing socks. Yours truly was blissfully sporting my favourite pair of jeans, my sister’s pink and grey tee, and my favourite slippers. Guess who had to dig through her checked in luggage, retrieve her jalabiya and veil and become culture/religion complaint before we touched down in Maiduguri? Yup! Me!

As we took off I prayed a few prayers, especially for safety, strength (both physically and mentally), and the presence of mind to be able to get solid work done/think through creative solutions for my clients. I wanted to have an interesting tip too, something to write about.  And then I prayed for safety just a bit more.

One hour five minutes later, we touched down , Maiduguri International Airport. Nothing remotely international (or even national) about it, but we’ll discuss this and more tomorrow morning when the next instalment is up. Tomorrow.

First off, two fingers in the air for period pain if you’re a lady reading this; it’s 4.40am and I’ve been up now for close to an hour because my belly is talking to me in ways I’m sure can be nicer and definitely less painful! In fact, can I get two fingers in the air from the guys as well, for obvious reasons? Done? Thank you very much.

Now that I’m awake, I started reflecting on a lot of things and first off is my round ups should be a lot more frequent! So I’ll work on that. A quick second is that I am blessed. Like, God has really crowned my year with good things, things money can buy, and the things money cannot buy. Especially the things money cannot buy! So grateful.

My niece turned six months old yesterday, and she’s an absolute beauty. Gosh! Just watching her grow, all the developments we’ve seen and continue to see, and her smiles. Sweet baby Jesus my niece’s smile can melt ice! Thank you God for such a gorgeous, healthy, happy baby!

In other baby news, our flu has cleared! So for three weeks or more Talia and I were coughing, runny noses, etc. Like cough syrup after cough syrup, one antibiotics course after the other, the flu refused to clear. At some point it occurred to me we were probably just re-infecting ourselves, lol. Glad to announce that we’re both fine now (the devil is put to shame once again, whoop)!

At the end of July I was invited to #TechPlus2016 to speak; had been pencilled down for two panels – one on cyberbullying, internet security in the age of social media, and the other one on increasing digital literacy for women. Both panels featured very interesting panelists, and I enjoyed speaking about TechHer, things we do, lessons we’ve learned and how they intersect with the topics.

So my friend Nana was a panelist as well, and so we were in Lagos together. I’ll attempt to chronicle the trip.

First off, that morning our flight was scheduled for 9.30am, and I had a prior engagement for 7.15am on NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) to talk about social media, entrepreneurship, etc. As you can imagine I had to be up really early to pack, head to the station to say my piece, and then sped off to the airport… Found a really nice, safe, but quick cabbie to drive me, and of course we’d detailed one of our friends working at the airport to check us in.

He calls and says that our tickets were for the 22nd of August, not the 22nd of July. W-H-A-T? And so the calls began to the organizers, they called the travel agents who booked the flight, we spoke to the airline, plenty talk. From no seats on any flight that day, to none for our class of ticket, to rescheduling us to a 10am flight that got delayed till 1pm.

We went into a restaurant to wait and encountered a very rude, uncouth man. Fathers and mothers, train your sons. Some things are unacceptable, including raising your voice or trading insults. Am I perfect? No, but in the last few days I’ve met some very uncultured young men. It is shameful.

Anyway, we finally took off about 1pm, and got into Lagos safely (praise God for that). Soon as we touched down, we were in the able hands and care of the #TechPlus2016 team, and I must take a full moment to appreciate the warmth and stellar logistics ground team they had in place to cater to us.

Got to the hotel, checked in, and barely had enough time to freshen up and head to my first panel. Interesting, intimate, just the way I liked it. Was nice to bump into my brother Chude on the way in…always a joy to see that man.

Panel done, we explored the exhibition area and I was so impressed! As a child of God planning an exhibition for TechHer myself, there was so much to be impressed by! We will get there, and very soon! I copped a ring, some bangles, and some gorgeous fabric, and I can’t wait to see what my designer #NitazCouture does with it! Been a long time since a designer/seamstress/tailor excited me, and it’s so refreshing that Francesca, head honcho at #Nitaz not only knows her craft, she knows my body and what works. So great!

Next day was easy. My session was about 4pm but we went to Nana’s session at 2pm and wandered off into the exhibition area again. We attended a few other sessions, including one with Teju Ajani, Frank Donga, and a few other people. Interesting how content is so dynamic but totally reliant on the principle of relatability. Can people relate with what you’re going to put out as a producer or curator? If it’s a yes, you’re on the road to doing well!

Sunday morning I worshipped with Pastor Ituah Ighodalo’s church, Trinity House. Amazing! It was the sixth anniversary of the church, and I remember the prayer his wife led, both in thanksgiving and committing the rest of the year into God’s hands. God is amazing I tell you. I had a great time, and I must visit again. By the way, their choir is amazing! Something the choir sang resonated with me so much, “my status is changing, no more decline, I’m on my way to better days”. In Jesus name!

Then, it was a dash back to the hotel to grab our bags and head to the airport. Airline? Arik. And that means that is a totally different article by itself. I’ll write it!

Welcome back! Part one is here, and ended with me falling asleep, despite my best intentions to watch Minions!

Addis Ababa.

We disembarked, and I met up with Fatu and Shamsudeen who were going on to Kigali, and Japheth and Rotimi who would spend the night and meet us the next morning.

And then the struggle for WIFI began. I’d flown through Addis at least three times this year, and I knew the airport didn’t have WIFI. But, my companions said to ask one of the Customer Care agents and she pointed us to one connection that didn’t work. So we went to a café and they said if we bought stuff worth $30 ($10 each), they would let us connect one device each. Didn’t make sense either, so we walked around for a bit, and then it was time to get on our connecting flight.

Oh, before I forget, while we were waiting in the departure area, there was this guy playing music really loudly from his phone. Like, with every song, the music became louder. So, I brought out my Bose mini speakers, covered it with my poncho, connected it to my phone, and started playing Nigerian music. Turn up! Didn’t take long before the guy turned off his music. (I’m sorry!)

We boarded, took off and for some reason I was really hungry. Ate, went back to sleep (again movies were useless), and then interestingly I dreamt about the movie Raid on Entebbe. When I woke up, even more interestingly we’d landed at Entebbe to drop off some guys and pick some others. I told Shamsudeen we were in Uganda; he said we were in Kigali. I looked at the time and said we were more than an hour early to have landed in Kigali, but somehow he convinced Fatu and they both got off the plane.

Hian. I thought about it again, got out of my seat, and went to the door of the aircraft. I asked one of the hostesses and she confirmed we were indeed at Entebbe, and then I saw my friends standing there (by this time they’d found out they were in the wrong country), smiling (shaking my head).

Anyway, so we got back in our seats, and it was back to sleep for the hour-long flight to Kigali. We touched down at 2am.

Hello WIFI! Like, it was a bit like Frankfurt airport, where you’re spoiled for choice with WIFI. Apparently, there were a lot of us who’d come in, and after we finished with immigration, sorted our visas we got into buses and headed for our hotels. Mine, the beautiful Lemigo!

My room was reminiscent of the old bedchambers I’d seen in movies, so quaint, so warm, so beautiful. Want to see?

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Fit for my royal majesty!

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What a beauty! When I make up my own house I must have a bed like this…

By the way, there was a beautiful Bible on the bedside stool, and two packs of condoms in the drawer beneath it. Lol. I stayed awake long enough to take in the beauty of the room, and then it was lights out. Literally.

By the time I woke up, it was already time to head to the first of the sessions; rushed a bath, grabbed a bite (their food is gorgeous), and off to the meeting halls we went. God being super merciful, we were lodged in the same hotel the event was holding. Good stuff!

Potatoes, the sexiest sausages I've had in a while, and eggs. A bit of a tale with the eggs, communication, and language. I asked for egg whites with peppers only, even pointed them out to the chef. I got eggs with bacon. #StillGrateful #INeedToBrushUpMyFrench

Potatoes, the sexiest sausages I’ve had in a while, and eggs. A bit of a tale with the eggs, communication, and language. I asked for egg whites with peppers only, even pointed them out to the chef. I got eggs with bacon. #StillGrateful #INeedToBrushUpMyFrench

I thoroughly enjoyed the panels, listening to election issues and hindrances to youth and female participation across Africa. Interestingly, the problems are the same – high cost of participation, election funding, tokenism, lack of intergenerational trust and knowledge sharing, partial election umpires, patriarchy, I could go on and on. In that regard, can’t we say that Africa is a country? Up for discussion.

Then it was lunch time and after we said hello to a bunch of people (ticked off the ‘networking box’) we made our plates, and joined a table where one lady was spitting half her food out as she spoke. I was happy to leave the table. Urgh.

We got back into the sessions and Nana who was supposed to be up the next morning had been moved to that afternoon. Boy did she bring it! She spoke as a young female actively involved with a political party, and I was so proud. So very proud of the knowledge she brought to the panel, the confidence of her delivery, and the passion as she expressed truth after truth. So proud!

That night, we decided to go to the hotel gym. Brethren in Christ, it was an intense workout! According to my Polar, I burnt about 750kcal; very productive.

Dinner was a drag. I rang room service, ordered chicken and chips, and they said it’d be ready by the time we got downstairs. We got downstairs and it wasn’t ready so we waited. 30 minutes after we sent the first person to the chef, nothing. He didn’t even come back. I was irritated by this time cos I was hungry and the language barrier made communication a bit more difficult. Nana sent the second person to the chef but it seems the thing that swallowed the first guy swallowed this one too!

Of course we left. Ended up in a lounge called People’s and the music was off the chain! From Nigerian songs to the 90’s, to chart toppers, the video DJ (like audio wasn’t enough) dropped hit after hit, after hit! Turn up! Oh we had an amazing time, and I had two bottles of water instead of ordering food because I was distracted by the really great music, and it was really late anyway.

Got back to the hotel about 3am and the receptionist said my food was ready. Shaking my head! I just went to bed. Good night jor!

Ahh! I’ve missed blogging! Like, I love the #31Days31Writers series (really, really love it), but the entire month I feel like everything I publish that’s not a part of the series detracts from it.

But, I feel like I need to share details of this trip, and I’ll catch up on my trip to Rwanda earlier in the New Year. Ready?

So, Monday night was amazing (and that’s all I’m going to say about that), and somehow, my night wound up about 1am with me buying an Aero Contractors ticket headed to Port Harcourt that same morning. By 7.15am (I know, I’m crazy, but there’s a thing about friendship that will make me turn my plans on their head to be there for someone).

Of course seeing as the decision to fly was taken a few hours before while I was out with my nephew (gorgeous, adorable kiddo), I was unpacked, no idea what I even wanted to take on the trip, and cashless. Cashless because of my nephew actually; we’d gone to Silverbird Entertainment Center’s arcade. The End. One game after the other, till my purse emptied! And the ATM’s weren’t dispensing (of course, SMH). But it was a wonderful evening out, and Boo Boo was so happy with this wings and magic wand (which I didn’t plan to buy, but bought, lol)!

Back to me in my room, smiling like a Cheshire cat (for reasons y’all don’t need to know except you already know then you don’t need to ask or need to be told… lol, I’m rambling I know) but trying to figure out how to get to the airport in time for my flight, what to pack, etc. Managed to throw some things in my little suitcase, and then I settled in to sleep.

Woke up (with a start) at 5.30am, showered, zipped my box, and knew I wouldn’t find a taxi. So, I drove! Not going to tell you how quick I got there (‘Lewisa Hamilton’ in the building ladies and gentlemen), but I got in, then rang my cabbie to come pick up the car.

Boarded, and can I take a minute just give a big thumbs up to Aero Contractors? On their website they apologized, saying some flights might be delayed because of the weather and poor visibility sometimes. I thought it was really thoughtful of them to say that. But, we were in the air at 7.17am! Not waiting for a passenger, not even taxiing; we were airborne! I was so tripped!

So, got to Port Harcourt about 8.30am, and had to wait for my hosts to come to get me. So I sat down, and ‘people-watched’ for a bit (I like to do that sometimes).

Can I take another minute to discuss the horror that is that airport? God forbid. Absolute disgrace. Like, all shades and levels of shameful.

Anyway, so I sat down, waited, started working on some documents (we must s-l-a-y financially in 2016 biko), and then this lady with a dirty but super short, clingy pink dress comes in. So short her crotch was almost on display. Not my business really, what got my goat however was how dirty the dress was; imagine lots of streaks (maybe from fingers), wet patches, that kind of thing. I sneaked a photo but I’ve since deleted it *re-adjusts halo*

Long, unnecessary story about the long wait for my hosts so let’s just say that I ended up in GRA, at Genesis Cinema where I had a meal, and saw a movie. #SpoilerAlert It was ‘Point Break’, a film about some people who were doing some outrageous, extreme stuff in the name of connecting with Mother Earth, fulfilling the dictates of some leader, etc. It was nice to watch but I would have been happier spending that time on a cartoon. Thank you Kevin for being a great, great host!

Met up with my friend, and we started the trip to Umuahia, which was lovely but a few things stood out.

  • The Port Harcourt/Umuahia expressway is a mess.
  • Aba is filthy. Like ‘turn up your nose at it’ kind of filthy.
  • In Aba there were a number of cars sporting the Biafran flag. I hope they know Nnamdi Kanu has a Nigerian and British passport, ha n’ezuzu ifa.
  • Pretty much everyone was driving in the middle of the road, and it wasn’t about avoiding bad roads. So frustrating!

Long story short, we got into Umuahia and then my friend’s village in one piece, safe (despite the communal clash my friend and the driver stumbled on in Rivers State), and we met everyone at hers hale and hearty! Thank you Jesus! Bed time now!

Looking forward to the return leg of this trip (not sure of the date yet), because I get to use another airport I haven’t used in more than ten years! I really do love travelling!

Exactly one week ago I was in Lagos recently for the #TheREDSummit, the 10th anniversary of Red Media Africa, and the gala in honour of 121 media legends of our time. Truly successful event which I was proud to be a part of. It was exciting to meet people (some I didn’t know and others I’d built relationships with on social media), to listen to different views on media, communication, the next 10 years, etc. Two ladies stood out from all the new people I met; Adenike of Naija Info FM, and Toyin Poju Oyemade – gorgeous women who love God and are fun, down-to-earth, I could go on and on! Truly exciting.

Gala night... so much fun! Rocking my new haircut - love it!

Gala night… so much fun! Rocking my new haircut – love it!

I also enjoyed the time away from work (even though I was pretty much working from my hotel), from Abuja, from the norm. I thank God for the opportunity to travel which always ‘disrupts’; I wonder how bored I would be if I couldn’t ‘up and go’ every once in a while.

I spent a lovely time in Lagos, almost destroyed by the traffic (which is high up on the list of why I  detest the place to be honest). On Saturday I’d gone to the University of Lagos to be a part of the event organised for students in media and communications drawn from a number of schools. I met some really fascinating people, including Anita Erskine, a former Studio 53 presenter who was brutally honest when we spoke about wake-up calls, women helping women, and how she got to where she is now after waking up one morning and Studio 53 was over (for a number of reasons). Love her!

I left with Tosin Ajibade (Olorisupergal), and we were stuck in traffic just leaving Yaba for approximately 2 hours 45 minutes. Sweet baby Jesus I dislike Lagos for the traffic! It was awesome to talk through social media et al with her the entire time (wonder what I would have done if I was in a cab) but I got back to my hotel and passed out!

Speaking of hotels, one day I’ll chronicle the different hotels/hostels I’ve stayed in in this life; this trip was spent between Oriental Hotel and The MoorHouse. Obviously the latter beat the former hands down!

On Sunday the 18th of October I went to brunch with my girl Tokes and her friend (now my friend) Joy; we went to The George Hotel, also in Ikoyi. Hilarious afternoon full of good food (which I love), great laughs, and even greater conversation! I know we shouldn’t (so soon) but I’m looking forward to doing that again!

Then it was back to the hotel, snatched up my things and sped off to the airport. Made good time, checked in, and we boarded a 5.30pm flight on time. Medview. Remember the drama on Wednesday when I flew in with them? That story is here.

So we take off, I’m wedged between a guy with a really smelly armpit and a buxom, really chubby lady. I decide I will distract myself from the fact that I don’t have a window seat.

The pilot comes on to say hello and announces there’s a storm coming over Abuja and he’s going to try to get us there before it, and to enjoy the flight. I settle into the book I took off my friend Chinma (was so good to see her, especially since we missed each other in Boston just last month)!

Next thing I know, the plane LITERALLY drops; taking my stomach with it. The next 10 -13 minutes all I can see from straining to see past the lady’s arm/body are thick clouds, all we can feel is bumpiness, like we were trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to avoid potholes. Everyone started praying (loudly), except the man with the smelly armpit. He just looked straight on.

I was afraid. I’ve seen turbulence, but never  like this. And then someone started saying, “Father if it is your will”, and in my mind I’m like, “I’m under 30. God’s plan for me is NOT a violent death”. And so I willed myself to block her voice out of my mind, and started praying for composure for the pilot.

The longest 11 minutes of my life. I thought of my nephew, and how he wouldn’t remember me, and then of my folks and how crushed they would be. Instructive to note I didn’t think of work, folks owing me (and they are plenty, sigh), or of anything beyond my nephew and my folks.

I snapped out of those thoughts, and this song came to my mind. “Miracle Worker” by Glowreeyah Braimah and Nathaniel Bassey (it’s one of my favourite songs ever) and so I was alternating between the song and prayer.

Pilot (Captain Boye) comes on. Says we couldn’t avoid the storm, and he can’t land so he’s going to go ‘try’ through “The East”. He sounded so calm (and I was really thankful he was communicating with us – God bless him). Cue at least 30 minutes of circling. Lagos to Abuja is approximately 50 minutes; we took off before 6pm and by 7.30pm, we were still solidly in the air.

I started listening for the sound of the wings broadening (I’ve become used to that sound) because it tells me we’re starting to descend. Sometimes I’d hear a sound, but it wouldn’t be it. The woman beside me started singing Igbo songs, and I remembered my mother. And I prayed even harder.

It went quiet for a bit.

Then I heard it. The unmistakable sound of the wings. We’d commenced our descent! I started crying. Then the pilot announced it, and the woman beside me started crying too. She hugged me, and in that moment I felt my Aunty Pat. So I hugged her, and rested my head on her ample bosom for a bit.

The landing was rough but I didn’t care. What!!! People started clapping, shouting. “Praise the Lord, Halleluyah, God is good” rent the air, and people congratulated each other as soon as they dried their eyes. Even the men. Even the hostesses. Pilot was unavailable to the folks who wanted to say hello (I totally understand). Everyone started calling everyone. I rang my sister.

She said she was asleep and when the rain started (apparently it was that intense), it woke her up, she rang me and when my number was unavailable, she knew I was in the air and started praying.

Here's the birdie that brought us home...

Here’s the birdie that brought us home… Notice I wasn’t the one taking pictures…

I got my luggage, got in a cab, tweeted “God himself landed our plane tonight”, and wept all the way home. Get there and guess who runs to get the door? My nephew. Cue fresh tears as my munchkin wrapped himself around my neck. Boo thang didn’t even notice my tears with the 100 questions he started asking.

Exactly one week after that flight, and my eyes are still watering as I type. As I imagine how the story could have ended different.

But it didn’t. And I’m thankful. Today, and everyday.

 

The weirdest thing happened yesterday… Really scary stuff. I can laugh about it now, but yesterday I was frightened as anything, and really upset at the lackadaisical attitude we have here in Nigeria about security, identities, and things like that. Of course let’s leave customer service alone because that would be reaching for the stars where we have not first learned to walk!

I will provide commentary for my tweets, but they pretty much tell the story.

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So I get to the airport (and ON TIME) because I’ve had a rough time with my health recently and so I’m not in the mood for any adrenaline-fuelled stunts involving airlines and me trying to make flights. I have about an hour to spare and I’m looking forward to a quiet time in the lounge before my flight is called. Then this happens.

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Was really confusing. Would I ask someone to check me in and then not remember? I had a suitcase to check in. Would I ask someone to check me in and not give them the suitcase? I asked these questions, asked if the person presented any identification, nothing.

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One thing that really frustrates me is people upsetting me/others then asking me/them to ‘calm down’. It’s like pinching a child and getting surprised when they cry. What else were you going for? Why should I calm down when you’ve given my boarding pass to God knows who? And then sound like it’s my fault?

They write something on my boarding pass, inform the boarding gate of the issue, then ask me to go wait to board. What if this person…never mind.

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Of course all of this drama meant that I got upstairs to departures and had barely found a seat when they announced boarding. Soooo stressful. I was panicking!

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*is a guy

So I get to the boarding gate and while they’re checking mine, I see another boarding pass with my name on it! My eyes follow the hand holding it up to the face and lo and behold, it’s a guy! Hian! Even better, when I said to him that he had my boarding pass, he started arguing! Said it was his. Uncle your name is not/cannot be Chioma Chuka (which was spelled out on the thing, not initialed o) and then he raises his voice, etc.

Obviously the airline made a mistake (a most stupid one) but you don’t compound it by not having a ticket to hand, talking about your office bought the ticket and checked you in so you don’t have anything on you. What did you present to the officer who gave you a boarding pass? My boarding pass? *Rolling my eyes*

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I was asked to go board while they sorted the ‘other’ Chioma Chuka out, and as I walked to the foot of the plane, I played out all the ways this could have gone really wrong. What if he was a really bad person, like a terrorist or something?

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Very scary. Very unserious too.

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I was terrified. Truly terrified.

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I noticed I was sweating really bad. For some reason I was afraid. So I called one of the hostesses, explained the issue to her, and said I wanted her to check what name was on his boarding pass. In my mind, if he still had the Chioma Chuka one, I would deboard. No two ways about it.

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Said hostess didn’t come back to me, so when the plane was taxiing, I got out of my seat and walked to the front of the plane to ask for the outcome of her investigation. Again I was furious. I was in my seat, breathing and sweating crazy from fear, and our dear hostess couldn’t take two minutes to come back to me with an answer!!

Even worse, this young man apparently just shares one name with me. Therefore, this is a very stupid, incompetent airline, and that official who made this mistake deserves to be whipped. What if I had a bad heart? What if I’d passed out from fear? What if this man was a truly evil person who had evil designs for me or even for that flight?

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Then, they announce during the flight that they’re launching flights to the United Kingdom later this year. When you cannot execute a local flight without incident? Rubbish. I’m still considering my options, I should sue.

PS: I forgot. I wasn’t worse off on the plane! When we touched down there was a Navy guy who got off the plane and said, “ahn ahn! This is not Port Harcourt. I was supposed to be going to Port Harcourt.” Made me laugh, like it was hilarious. Didn’t he hear the announcement about where we were going before he boarded, didn’t the hostesses check his boarding pass, didn’t he listen to the pre-flight announcement, didn’t he… I have a million questions!!

So I heard about this Nigerian tour group called NaijaTreks from my friend and co-member of the Wanderlust club, Yejide!Aparently they organize trips to different scenic sites in Nigeria, and there was one scheduled for the 4th of July to Badagry! How exciting!

By the way, Yejide is brain behind NaijaNomads, and if you love traveling you should totally subscribe to her site! They’re on Instagram and Twitter with the same name as well. Check em out, especially on Instagram!

Now, I’d never been to Badagry, and my dreams to conquer Kilimanjaro in June with the Truppr team were cut short by my really bum knee. Sigh #OldPeopleProblems So I said I would come along for this one, and after booking tickets to and from Lagos and paying the N8000 fee, I started packing! I’ll be honest, I think I packed the morning of the trip, and in my normal style, I dashed to the airport and was the last person to board. Would have been swell just that my knee gave me hell the entire flight!

To be honest, the weekend spent in Lagos was literally spent in traffic. I met up with ace developer and friend Samson somewhere on the Island as soon as I got in, and after we put in some good hours working and grabbing lunch, it was off to the bestie’s in Ojodu, which I didn’t get to till close to midnight. Sigh. Lagos isn’t working (argue with your inner witness biko). I can’t live here!

Next morning we set out to the rendezvous point near Marina House. Got there about 6.45am, settled in and the bus set off like 30 minutes later. Long story short, we didn’t get to Badagry before noon, simply because the roads are horrible, a living death trap, and there was construction going on without any alternative routes. Sigh.

Once we got there though, the fun began! And the picture taking started!! I’ll spend the rest of this in photos if you don’t mind..

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Built in 1863!! Really cooool!

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Slave coast – Benin republic and Nigeria Gold Coast – Ghana Ivory Coast – Cote D’Ivoire

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Out of every 10 slaves, Nigeria and Benin Republic brought 6.

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My mother said her father always said, “there is the thing that the oyibo man did to Africa which was/is bad, but there is the thing which Africans did to Africa which was/is worse”

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Muzzle, for human beings. Sigh.

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Slave auction… For fear of mutiny, families were always separated, sent to different countries.

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Announcements for auction… Negroes for sale… Sigh

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All sorts of clasps, including ankle clasps, and the big padlock was for the exceptionally naughty slaves…to padlock their mouths.

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Note that the horse is the first prize…ranking higher than the mulatto girl… negroes weren’t really considered as prizes back then.

Wow… Ready for a bit more?

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No first or business class flights for these ones, the slaves were transported by ship, taking up the lower deck, having to sleep one on top of the other. The sick or dying/dead were simply cast overboard. #HumansToHumans

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This is a really deep drinking pot, filled once a day. Slaves, bound hand and foot, would struggle to get here and drink at the same time. The edges of the pot were jagged enough to mean that sometimes they were drinking water and blood from their cut skin.

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Errant slaves were punished in different ways, sometimes by setting dogs on them while bound and unable to flee/defend themselves.

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No extra words needed.

By this time I’d just about had it with the history class. I decided to wander off on my own, and discovered like a lot of things in Nigeria, the management of this place is piss poor at best, shameful at worst. Dang!! Everywhere else this place would be a protected site, secure, maintained, etc. But no… it must look like rubbish. Because Nigeria. SMH.

Of course... I'm sure it's the slaves who threw the stones that broke these windows so they've been left as a memorial...

Of course… I’m sure it’s the slaves who threw the stones that broke these windows so they’ve been left as a memorial…

No one has thought to repaint this? Since 1863? Really? Really?

No one has thought to repaint this? Or fix the piping problem that caused it?  Since 1863? Really? Really?

Just so you see I'm not just whining...

Just so you see I’m not just whining…

Anyway, rejoined the group and we set off for the next spot.

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Cheeky monkey!!!

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Of the 40 slave cells in this enclosure, 2 have been preserved by the Lagos State Government for tourism purposes, while the rest are occupied by people. 70% of them are direct descendants of Alhaji Seriki Faremi Williams Abass.

A barracoon was like a holding loft where the slaves were kept waiting for the ships to take them.

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This broom is over 170 years old and was one of the items the slavers would give to the African chiefs as currency for the slaves. 40 slaves to one small gun or umbrella 10 slaves to one bottle of gin or ceramic bowl 100 slaves to one big cannon gun Na wa!!

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This gin bottle dates back to the 1800’s… don’t remember what date we were told…

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That’s Yejide and my royal excitedness!! Behind us are more of the items used as currency during the slave trade era…

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This is where Chief SWA was buried when he died in June 1919… he had 128 wives and 144 children. His last child died in 1987…

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Yup, I had to take a closer look at his (SWA’s) final resting place. Interestingly, his names are derived from his slavers (which was common at the time). He was orginally known as ‘Ifaremilekun’; he was from Ogun state.

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Well, built in 1847. Incredible stuff! Did I mention that each slave cell housed 40 slaves? They would sleep standing up cos there was no room to lie down.

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Ah! How could I forget this well? Evil, evil well. It wasn’t the oyibo guys who did this o! It was chiefs and local slavers to their brethren!

 

This well? Apparently it had been 'jazzed' (voodoo, witchcraft, whatever else you want to call it) so that the slaves who drank from it would forget their homelands and not pine for home.

This well? Apparently it had been ‘jazzed’ (voodoo, witchcraft, whatever else you want to call it) so that the slaves who drank from it would forget their homelands and not pine for home.

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It was said that from this ‘point of no return’, slaves had no hope of ever getting back home. They were either shipped off, or if unsold, were killed and used for rituals because the slavers didn’t want them returning home and telling.

And then, it was time for the beach!! Now I’d worn leggings all morning cos it was a little chilly but by now the sun had come out so we had to bring the legs out! Yes!!

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I think I climbed everything possible!!

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Beautiful… water is everything…

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Getting ready to push off…

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Once we got to the beach, I had to do this!! Right before a giant wave washed it away!! SMH!

The beach was so much fun!! We played games, I made a video, and then guess what, I climbed a tree!!

I climbed a tree!! I know, I'm crazy... but I climbed it with a rope!! Didn't get to the point of plucking a coconut but I was high enough!

I climbed a tree!! I know, I’m crazy… but I climbed it with a rope!! Didn’t get to the point of plucking a coconut but I was high enough, considering it was my first time ever of doing this!

I made a video even!

Oh yes, I made another video, not a very nice one though.

The beach was filthy!! Lord Jesus I haven’t seen a dirtier beach in my entire life! Nylons, animal dung, rotten food, yuck, yuck, yuck!

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Selfie time!! Blessing time! This was on the way to Topo Beach… I just love water…

 

The boat driver decided to show off his skills on our ride back to shore... This is how fast we were going!

The boat driver decided to show off his skills on our ride back to shore… This is how fast we were going!

I was the official DJ on the ride back to town, thanks to my Bose travel speakers and playlist on my itouch. Turn up!! It made the long drive back a little more bearable, and thankfully the traffic wasn’t as bad.

Now, I had a truly incredible day!! Met so many lovely people, had lots of laughs, and it was a truly fantastic day!

Next morning however, I discovered someone had taken $100 out of my purse. Meaning that the trip had now cost me return tickets and local transportation, cost of entry, cost of refreshments, and an extra $100. Shame. Didn’t ruin my memories, but I will probably think twice before I join another tour.

Like every other Nigerian desirous of movement between two states with airports, I bought Arik Air tickets to Asaba for the 23rd of April, paid for them online.

That morning I rang our friend at the airport to get my boarding pass only to be told the airline had issues and wouldn’t be flying at all that day. I saw in the papers later that day that they were owing airport authorities over a billion naira and so were stopped from flying. The shameful thing is they were still selling tickets, with no plans in place to cater to customers with disrupted flights apart from “we apologize for the inconveniences caused!” Why?

Anyway, since Aero unceremoniously stopped flying to Asaba about two weeks to this date (their site said no flights till the second week of May – again for no reason at all), my only option was to go by road and get a refund from Arik. Suffice to say, one full month plus after I’m still talking to Arik about this refund – it’s incredible.

Road trip abi? I haven’t done this in a loooong time so I was excited, very curious too. The entire gist about roads getting fixed, etc, I was more than eager to see. I was also curious about the rest stops on the way, like has anything about them changed from the time my main means of interstate transportation was by road? Would I sleep as soundly as I do on planes? Would I have a neighbor who wouldn’t shut up? Questions, questions, questions.

Friday morning I got to Dunamis Motors (a long distance car service) where I would have just taken a car by myself, and they said all their cars had been chartered. No surprises there at all.

I went to Delta Line, and there were only buses, the cars had left. Ok. I decided to buy up a row of seats so I would be comfortable/by myself/undisturbed. I explained to the lady selling them said she had two seats on the row I wanted and then one at the back of the bus. I explained (like the 3rd time) that I was the only one travelling so single, scattered seats all through the buses wouldn’t profit me much.

When she offered me the same two seats on a row and then one of the seats in front with the driver, I quietly paid for the two I already had and went to sit down.

When it was our turn we boarded the bus, and I made sure to tell the older gentleman beside me I paid for the two seats because I wanted space, and then I started arranging my bag to fall asleep. A loud voice (coming from a very elderly lady) totally cussing out the driver delayed the sleep; apparently she’d seen him smoking something and asked him if he was the driver. He said no. Then he gets in the driver’s seat and she proceeds to rain curses that reminded me why I should never piss off an elder. She cursed him, his generation, on and on and on till people started begging her, that the guy she was heaping all these curses on was going to drive us (including her) to Asaba. Then she chilled.

Two minutes after the door was shut, THE SAME LADY said we should “commit the journey AND THE DRIVER into the hand of Master Jeses” I started laughing. Hilarity. The same driver you just cursed out? Ahn Ahn!

No jokes o, this old lady started singing and invited us ‘children of the Most High God’ to join her in worshipping the Lord. So from ‘in the morning’, to ‘all glory glory glory’, ‘we are gathering together’, brethren in Christ, we sang. I was so amused!

Songs and prayers over, the driver drove into a petrol station, where we spent the next 50 minutes waiting to buy fuel. I nearly lost my mind. How do you pack all of us into this kind of rubbish movement? What happened to getting fuel BEFORE picking us?

It gets worse. For the hour we spent on the queue, guess how much fuel we bought? N1870. The princely sum of one thousand, eight hundred and seventy naira, including the 10-litre gallon he said he would need (which of course we ended up not needing). Kai. I haven’t been that angry in a while.

Well, we set off, finally, and I can count at least 6 times we nearly hit another car, a pole, ran into the bush, flew over a speed breaker, or some other avoidable incident. At a point I wondered if it wasn’t the curses working a little quickly.

We got to the rest stop (I promise I don’t remember where it was again), and I went to pee. The young girl manning the place nearly followed me inside the cubicle in the name of calling me ‘ma’. When I was leaving I tipped her, and then had to ask her to stop following me. Even if I had a child and didn’t know, SMH.

Got back outside and the bus and driver had disappeared. Hian!! At first I thought I’d taken too long and the bus had left me till I saw a cluster of the other passengers talking at the top of their voices, asking for our driver dearest. I started laughing, and checking that I had WIFI so I could tweet and ask for anyone in the area to come get me. Moved closer to the passengers and someone said the driver went to fix his brakes, that they were bad.

What!!! Bad brakes and we’d come all this way? Sigh. The things we do beggar belief walai. And he couldn’t even tell anyone, it was the lady he bought water from who told us!!

He came back, didn’t apologize to anyone (matter of fact started raking that we should be lucky he noticed the brakes were dodgy). Of course that meant I didn’t sleep from there to Asaba, we were all driving with the guy.

God being most merciful, we got into Asaba ok. A lot later than we should have, but we got in ok. And Momma came to get me from the park, so I promptly forgot the driver. Till I was searching through my bad for aspirin (naughty headache that’s refused to go away) and I saw the ticket for that trip.

And I had a good laugh. And then I chronicled the trip for you.

PS – Written on the 23rd of April.