Posts Tagged ‘Cameroon’

When did I even meet Azeenarh? I don’t remember to be honest. What do I remember about her though? Frank conversations, laughter, real talk, dinners at her place (babes remember the ‘after birthday party’ you threw for me this year with lots of cake)? @Xeenarh’s a real person; what you see is what you get. No airs, no high shoulders, nothing. One way we’re alike? She loves to travel! Dang! Like, you can grab a bite with Azeenarh today, and tomorrow you call to pick up, I don’t know, a pencil you forgot in her bag and she says she’s just touched down in some European country! Girl can move! 

We did some work together last year, first time I’d ever done that so I was really excited – it was a Book Sprint for Heinrich Boll, and I chronicled the 7 days we were holed up in a house in Maitama here

So, give it up for my gorgeous, skinny (yes I’m beefing) friend, Azeenarh!

I’m Azeenarh Mohammed, Nigerian, resident in airports and tech conferences, happily unemployed.

The first thing I am grateful for is that 2015 is ending. Yeah, I said it! Despite recording a couple of good things (Nigeria eradicating polio, a peaceful democratic transition, passage of Violence Against Persons Act) the year was also all round shitty. Boko Haram continued to wreak havoc in the land, we passed a very vague and harmful Cyber Crime Prohibition Act which is being used to silence bloggers and journalists, and we switched a clueless government for another one that seems just as insensitive. But let me step away from that (deep breath) and focus on some not so bad stuff…

One thing I learned this year; it is a gift to be able to say I love you. To ourselves, to our parents, to our family, our friends, our partners and even many other people in our lives. So many people go through life not hearing these words said to them and I feel this is one of the tragedies of our times. One thing we can never do too much of is say and show people how much we love them. Life is too short to feel awkward. So go ahead, look at yourself in the mirror and gift yourself the words; I love you. Don’t be shy to tell your parents, your friends, your personal persons, your baby sister, how much they mean to you and how grateful you are that they are still here with you. Then before ringing off, tell them you love them. I promise it gets easier after the third time 🙂

The one thing I would undo in 2015 is everything that happened on 19th January 2015. I wish I had called my sister to tell her I loved her. I wish I had called her to check on her. I wish I had taught her how to use Circle of 6. I wish I had been more present in her life. I wish I knew more about her last moments. I wish I could have hugged her. I wish I could turn back the hands of time. I wish. I wish. I wish…

But sadly, life doesn’t work that way.

Things I would do all over again; quit my job. We are brought up to ‘go to school, get a degree, find a partner, find a job, settle down and live happily ever after’. This puts so much pressure on individuals that we never really get a chance to find ourselves and follow our passions. If there is a gift I could give to everyone, it would be 1 year of paid unemployment. So we can all learn to breathe deeply, live simply, listen/sleep consistently, find/confirm our true calling and most importantly, center ourselves. But since I cannot gift you that, I encourage you to save hard so that you would be able to take anything from six months to 1 year off work and life. We need to be able to pause, to heal, to grow, to marinate in ourselves and our emotions.

I wish that the gains humanity recorded in 2015 are surpassed, that we start to look past our perceived differences and learn to live together in peace. I hope that we learn to dream, to actualize those dreams, and to allow others the freedom to dream big and actualise their dreams. I desire joy, happiness, good health and contentment for myself and my loved ones. And I wish the same for all of you too! See you in 2016.

Love, @xeenarh.

I love you baby girl, and again I’m truly, really sorry about January. Here’s to a 2016 without any bad news or evil occurrence, full of God’s great joy, peace, and very many blessings!

Day started ok; I woke up a bit earlier than others and got in some work out of the way (hello entrepreneur), and then I smiled through a very encouraging email from a former colleague. I also danced my way into 3000 steps before our first session. Can I just mention here that I’ve been on a fitness high since the 29th of April this year, and I can’t wait to show before and after photos of my work as soon as I hit my weight target? Whoop!

Back to the day, looking online there was news about Boko Haram continuing what seems to be a renewed onslaught in the North East. It seems to me like there has been one incident or the other since the 29th of May, like these insurgents are baiting, testing the President’s hand, want to see what he will do. I can’t wait for a reaction myself. One too many people have perished. One too many to be honest

Like I didn’t have enough trouble, my monthly visitor came through this morning, with the attendant cramps, irritation, turning me into the perfect grouch. Sigh.

We did something really fun in the session today though, simulated the postponement of the Nigerian elections. The class was divided into civil society, the press, party agents, and the general public, each group playing a different role. I was cast as Professor Jega, and had two guys as principal officers of the commission.

Before I even went through half of my arranged speech, my own ‘Orubebe’ surfaced, and didn’t stop disrupting proceedings periodically. Different questions kept on coming, I could barely take one before another came, my team was swamped, it was incredible. It was hilarious too, but very stressful, even though everyone knew we were just role-playing. It gave me brand new respect for Professor Jega and all the pressure he withstood during the elections. I also learned a few things from the feedback session afterwards

  1. Make more allies than enemies.
  2. Added to the three points from Mr Kaberuka, there’s a fourth leadership quality. And it is to let the people you’re leading know you care about them.
  3. Appearances in the face of challenges are everything. The more ruffled you appear, the easier it will be for people to have a go at you.
  4. Stay on the message. Focus. Pleasant or not, never forget why you’re in a place/doing something/passing a message.

We also talked about elections erroneously being referred to (and treated as) a periodically occurring event (like Christmas) instead of a never-ending process. Think about it for a second. It’s more process than an event right?

Let’s backtrack a bit and I’ll tell you about the gala held in our honor yesterday.

First we had Kie traditional dancers, a troupe that has been in existence for over 30 years and produced renowned artistes famous around the world. Their energy was everything! I made two videos. Sorry, three.

Then there was this young lady, beautiful singer with an incredibly powerful voice. Only snag was I couldn’t tell when she was singing in French, in English, or when she didn’t just know the lyrics to the songs!


Then it was food time, and the only thing I got from the menu as it was read out to us was ‘ndole’ which is a Cameroonian dish that tastes like egusi with ground nuts without palm oil. It would have been lovely if it didn’t have so many onions! There was also something that looked like couscous but is made from cassava. Not the best for this #FitFam life… Sigh.

I ended up with a bit of duck, a bit of lamb, ndole, cured meats, rice, and some chili. Of course I ate the rice and little else.

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2015-06-11 22.59.28

And then we danced!! Boy! I really enjoyed that! Music from across the region, in English and every other language, so much fun! I was sweating like I’d been in a steam bath by the time I got back to my room, but, I’d achieved over 10k steps so yippie!

Got into bed, and I was out like a light!

Happy new month! It’s February, the month of love and all over the world, the focus has moved from our Herculean and sometimes plain unrealistic resolutions to Valentine’s Day, and all the activity (or drama) it brings. What are your plans?

I love the caption!

Before I veer off point, on the 1st of February 2010 I was in Abuja, working for the BBC World Service trust and I remember attending a praise service at Winners’ Chapel Durunmi before rushing to catch my flight en route Bayelsa State on assignment.

This year, I’m in Birmingham studying Social Media, and no I didn’t attend a praise service this morning. Matter of fact, it would have been a regular, uneventful Tuesday except that I bought return tickets to Warrington Quay (pronounced ‘key’ – I found out today).

So why did I buy the tickets? A colleague of mine graciously offered to ‘show me England’ so this is the first of many days in different cities. The destination for today however, is Chester Zoo, and then a little tour of the city. Forgive me in advance, there are loads of pictures in this one!

I was up  at 6am, ready to leave at 6.45am, and I must thank my newest friend, Tomi, for insisting I wear the white sweater, it looked lovely sha! I caught the 7.20am train and soon after I settles in with my mocha and bagel (thank you McDonald’s), I noticed two kids making out a couple seats away from me. I say kids because even with the makeup, both kids didn’t look a day over 15, and I wondered where their parent’s were and where they were going so early in the morning. Then I wondered (as I always do) what the motivation for the public display of affection was. I’m not talking hugs or pecks on the cheeks, it was more like fondling, a very active Saliva Exchange Program, and more! At that time of the morning? At their ages? And the gentleman in the seat in front of me who kept farting didn’t help my state of mind!

God being merciful, I got into Warrington safely (phew), met up with Andy, and we drove to Chester; beautiful sights, lovely conversation, Lagbaja in the background, bright sunny day, what else could I ask for? Andy......trying to take a picture, he got his picture taken!

Fast forward to the magnificent elephants at the zoo. Last time I was in a zoo it was June 2010, the Limbe Wildlife Conservatory in Cameroon. That’s (in my words), an orphanage where animals rescued from poachers, extreme conditions, and ailing parents are nursed/raised. It’s a really beautiful place, you can see pictures from my visit here: Limbe Wildlife Center. For all of that, they didn’t have elephants!

They are so huddled together Andy thinks they could pass for a boy band! I'm thinking JLS.....

Do you know how to tell if an elephant is preggers?  From their poop! Their keepers take several samples of their poop and can tell from the amount of hormones in it if the elephant is horny, pregnant or about to give birth! Just from their poop! That’s jut amazing!

This one was eating twigs, that's not even a proper meal!

From there we went into the butterfly world and believe me I’ve never seen so many butterflies at the same time! They all looked gorgeous, but for some silly reason, I couldn’t get any of them to perch on my hand!
Next we saw the ‘lazy giraffes’, they are so tall! I know you must be thinking, “duh, they’re giraffes” but you know what? That’s how I felt so whateverrrrr! Also, I can bet one of them was fluttering their eyelids at me!

Moving on, I felt the spirit of the jaguar! I was awed watching the jaguar move around in its recreated home. I was just awed……that’s all I’ll say about that… 

Lazy Jaguar!

At the Realm of the Apes (the biggest orangutan enclosure in Europe), I saw a baby! Of course I meant an ape; from the time I brought out my phone to take a picture of it, it wouldn’t stop looking at me! And don’t even say what you’re thinking!

Outside the Realm of the Apes!

Baby kept looking at me!

We saw a couple  snakes too, and a big funny type of lizard that was shedding its skin and then we were off to see the penguins.

Happy Feet anyone?

Flamingos are just beautiful, and looking at all the animals I just think God is amazing. Walahi He is!

A ha! How could I forget? So we saw a tiger tearing at flesh (it was lunch time), and while we were trying to get a good shot of it some school girls amble to where we were and were talking, giggling, and (in my opinion) trying to get the tigers attention (Olorun maje)!

Good afternoon your highness?

I ignored them till one of them said

School Girl 1: what’s the tiger eating?

School Girl 2: it is eating meat

School Girl 1: oh really?

And I turned around, looked at her, and thought, “no darling, it’s eating cheerios”! With all the bone cracking sounds?

Anyways, so we moved on and saw some ostriches but I’m sure the ones at Abuja’s Wonderland Amusement Park are bigger, cleaner, and more healthy looking. I was so disappointed in the one I saw I didn’t take a picture!

We saw Red Pandas too, show offs! They are really cute though, and I love the varying degrees of brown they wear as skin.

Little cute things......

The parrots were gorgeous too, so much color!

Absolutely gorgeous!

Still on birds, I HATE bats! #thatisall

We saw cheetahs too, that picture reminded me of the parts of Lion King with Mufasa and then Simba on Pride Rock. Nice…..

*now singing, it's the circle of life*

There’s not much to say about the lions because they didn’t do anything other than mope, the male was falling in and out of sleep, and the female was just staring.

Sleeping at 1pm? Shame for me

So much for being lions; whatever happened to a little activity?

Not very clear but you should get the idea!

The animal above is called a tapir. They are special in the sense that urine is as important to them as poop is to elephants. Using the Jacobson’s organ in their mouths, they can tell from urine whether their females are ready to mate. They also use their urine as a tracking tool in the forests to tell if their mates have passed a particular area. Funny but their urine is also used as a defense mechanism. When a tapir is scared (or angry), it will pee, and the urine travels for metres. And even though their urine isn’t poisonous, it stinks to high heavens!

By the way, I learnt something today. Chester is an old Roman town, as evidenced by it’s name.

Feeding a statue a snickers bar in the Roman gardens in the zoo!

One way to tell which towns/cities in the UK were built by the Romans is they end in either chester, cester, or caster. Examples would be Lancaster, Manchester, Leicester, get the drift? Thank me later!

Ok, so that’s it from the spirit of the jaguar, also known as the Chester Zoological Gardens! We’re off, next stop? Chester City, and Jabula!

P:S – all the pictures from the Zoo are here: The Zoo and more….some of the animals were not striking enough for this chronicle!

This chronicle tagged a Douala is really about the things I learnt and/or experienced about Douala and the people therein!

Lets start with the fact that Cameroonians are party goers; as a matter of fact on weekdays (including Mondays), they will throw parties, go clubbing, hit the bottle and then resume the next day ready to work (for those of them that value their jobs that is). The flipside to that is a whole lot of alcohol is consumed here. It is not uncommon to find people sitting to drink form around 10am; this will go on till midnight or the wee hours of the next morning. It’s so a part of the people that on public holidays, the government stations ambulances in most parts of the country so that accidents caused by drunkenness can be attended to promptly (talk about a government caring for its people)!

Ok, what else did I learn? Most husbands here are barely educated (for whatever reason0. Out of the few families I came in contact with, a typical scenario would be a Masters or B.Sc degree holder wife and then a husband who would have only the First School Leaving Certificate. One particular lady I met is the daughter of a Chief Surgeon dad and Senior Lecturer mom but baby girl’s husband didn’t finish Primary 6. Still on marital issues, young girls here are encouraged by their families to ‘have children at home’ (before they get married) so they can leave a replacement of themselves with their parents. Seriously?

Moving to food (yay), Douala and other French speaking parts of Cameroon have more baguette (long bread rolls) than sliced or bromated loaves. Move to Buea (pronounced Boya), Bamenda, and other English speaking areas and the reverse would be the case.

What else? Cameroonians are warm, very hospitable people. I must say I got a really warm welcome almost everywhere I went, with loads of air kisses, pecks, etc (the normal form of greeting here). They are also very inquisitive (in a very funny kind of way). For example, a couple of days after I came in, a lot of people came into the office just to see my father’s daughter. One of them said, ‘ah she looks like you sir’ and I thought, ‘before nko? Did they tell you I was adopted? (Forgive my mouth).

Cameroon is fighting corruption like everyone else; at least watching the news twice I was told the President said he would deploy all the resources in his power to combat corruption. It’s funny however that though elections hold sometime next year, most of the populace believe the incumbent will win and not because he’s a Mandela, Gandhi, and Nyerere rolled in one! It is also worthy of note that Cameroon’s democracy is amazing. The president is elected quite alright but he (the President) appoints everyone else. Here they have regions and provinces instead of states and local governments like we do so from the Ministers to the Delegates, the President appoints. Imagine what Nigeria would be like if the President could appoint the State Governors, Ministers, , Commissioners, etc. is it any wonder that Paul Biya (President of Cameroon) has been running their ‘democracy’ for the past 28 years? I rest my case. There’s also something in Cameroon known as the ‘Presidential Decree’ – anything Mr. President says by presidential decree, has to be done, and regardless of what it is. Yes, regardless of what it is!

Moving on (and back to food), in fairyland we were taught that most times if a man comes to you complaining of a myriad of problems, feed him, and very well too. You will notice that when he’s relating his woes to you again, they will appear smaller and less life threatening, to him and to you; that should tell you how much we in Fairyland regard food! It also means that if I didn’t sample the foods here, this chronicle would be grossly incomplete!

First and foremost, Cameroonians are good farmers and they provide at least 81% of their food themselves. It is on record that Chad and Libya come to Cameroon to buy food for their people; same way Nigeria goes everywhere else but within to source food, food that we can actually produce for exportation! That however is not the thrust for today so let’s leave it alone.

In the first chronicle in this series I said Douala was full of cheap food and fruits; I wasn’t exaggerating, there’s actually a lot here! Driving home from the airport was a long line of people selling mangoes and bananas. Bananas such a bright shade of yellow I literally needed sunshades! The mangoes are really large too, one mango could serve as a meal, and you’d truthfully say afterwards, ‘I’m stuffed’!

For dinner the first night I was here I had rice (known as parfum du riz because of its particularly beautiful aroma) with vegetables (another thing in abundance here) and roast fish (roasted by our darling nanny)!

The pawpaw here is different too; it’s a lot smaller than what we have, looks like a nig grape and is called. It’s also very sweet (hence the name), tastes like it has sugar sprinkled in it. I’m normally not a big fan of pawpaw but after the first time I had some, my ‘sweet teeth’ didn’t stop calling for more and who am I to deny my teeth?

From my eyes, with love from Douala…

Ok! Settle in, fasten your seatbelts, and get ready for the ride of your life! This chronicle is the first and the beginning part of the Fairy Godsister’s (moi) trip to Cameroon and its environs. I’m lying in bed now and ending day one and I must say that at this rate I might just have six or seven chronicles in one day alone!

Anyways, so this morning I ‘woke up’ and a friend graciously got me to the airport before 7am for my 7.30am flight. I checked in, said hey to a couple friends, and then sat in the departure lounge, praying our flight would be called early so I could board and then sleep. The FGF heard my prayer because we were all seated before 7.27am. Again I was privileged to seat beside a pretty lady who didn’t know how to use her seatbelt and I wondered why I get to seat with such people when I’m too tired or busy to be mischievous. Meanwhile after I helped her with her belt she said, ‘are you going to Lagos’?  What! ‘No, I’m going to Belgium so Aero will drop you in Gidi then take me to Belgium, jeez’! Don’t worry I said this and more in my mind. Reminds me of an incident that happened in our office recently. So, someone from the admin department came to ask for my department’s work plan for the next week. Amongst other things I said, ‘the writers are coming in on Monday too’. She asked, ‘are they coming to write’ and before I could stop myself I said, ‘nope, they are coming to paint’! We had such a laugh! But, I digress.

Ok so I slept soon after and next thing I knew my ears were ringing because we were in Lagos. Fast forward to me sitting in a café in the international wing, trying to decide whether to write, eat or sleep! I decide to have breakfast and because I am for now a good Nigerian (who doesn’t want to run down), I look up and match the items with prices. Now is it me or are the snacks/foods/confectionaries sold at the airports worth an arm and a leg? The most ridiculous was one springroll costing N300! Haba! How many are you supposed to eat to feel like you’ve eaten something? Or is it the small Pringles pack that cost N800?

Finally boarded (after Virgin Nigeria called me on board to please come and board); got in to find just about everyone else was seated and I smiled to myself, grateful that they had the presence of mind to call me on the one hand, and on the other hand thinking, ‘how will they know I’m the Fairy God Sister if I’m not the last to board? We took off and again I slept off; waking up once when lunch was served, and when I was told to straighten my seat for landing.

The landing was rough (nothing that Nigerian airlines don’t do) but the pilot apologized! Yes, he said he encountered strong unexpected adverse weather and that’s why it was like that. I kinda didn’t believe him but the fact that he apologized? It’s the little things that count you know.

So we got down from the plane and started walking towards the immigration and health desks. At the health counter (first stop), I realized that everyone else had a small white card (immigration form) and yours truly didn’t have it. I asked and was told it was shared during the flight. Seriously? They could wake me to eat but couldn’t wake me to take the card? One gentleman gave me one (how nice I thought, and I tried not to ask how he had two) but then he asked for my number and I thought, ‘oh hell, nobody does good deeds for free again abi’? And no, I didn’t give it to him!

I must say that in less than two hours of being here I’ve noticed two things

  • Wood and woodworks are a major source of income here! Everywhere I looked, beautiful woodwork rose to meet my eyes! Some parts of the airport look like one bamboo republic I saw in Asaba just that here it’s all wood. And it’s beautiful
  • Douala (in particular) has loads and loads of food! Oh My God! Food, fruits, drinks (and yes, I was told that 60% of Cameroonians are semi alcoholics)! This is one of the places you can come and live a life on fruits (and cheaply too, especially since their currency – FCFA – is one naira divided into four)!

Moving around I noticed quite a number of women wearing a particular kind of boubou. I’ve since learnt that it is called ‘Kabala’ and looks like our regular boubou in Nigeria; this one is just mostly with thin sleeves, bunched at the shoulders and then free from the bust downwards, running either to the knees or ankles.

Then for the Owambe lovers, Douala is the place to be! At least two streets on the way home from the airport were closed for parties….need I say more?

Ok, so I need to stop writing now, decide what I’ll eat and then get up to find it!

A bien tot!!