Posts Tagged ‘France’

From Nigeria we head off to the Philippines and one of my most recent friends, Lyssah! I met Lyssah in The Hague in May, during the Hope XXL conference, and she is simply amazing! For one, she shares my love for travel (more like she totally dwarfs me in that area, she’s been to SO MANY countries)!

Lyssah is also a very free spirit – always has a smile on, always wants to learn something new, and was one of my favorite people during our stay in the Netherlands! We also share a love and pride for our countries, and I still remember the talk she gave about tattoos being a long-time tradition in her place.

Here’s Lysssah, try to keep up with all the places she’s been to in this post!

My name is Lyssah and I just finished my scholarship grant in Spain and come back to the Philippines, my home country.

For the first half of 2014 I was trainspotting in the South of France, couchsurfing in Belgium, stargazing on the yellow stretch of the Sahara desert, getting lost in the medinas of Morocco, hitchhiking to a concentration camp in the Netherlands, getting my tummy happy in Italy, wine tasting in Bordeaux, falling in love with the words of Fernando Pessoa in Portugal, celebrating the ‘semana santa’ in the South of Spain and basically doing a lot of learning outside the classroom.

But all of these adventures really started with a dream, the literal one, the one when you’re adrift at night and suddenly fill your subconscious with countless moving images of undefined places, unnamed faces and simply unexplainable things. I kicked off the year following that dream. A year ago I dreamt that I was in a train in Europe and as I looked outside the window, I saw an image of a lady whom my subconscious made me believe that it was The Lady who made an apparition in Lourdes, France to a young girl named Bernadette in 1858 who would later be beatified as a saint. I made sure I was in Lourdes on the exact date of her apparition to Bernadette. That was the first time that I travelled alone in my 21 years of existence. It was a sort of pact that I made with myself that if I had the chance to be in Europe, I would do everything to visit the apparition site of The Lady to express my gratitude in fulfilling my dream. I rode a train from San Sebastian, Spain to Lourdes, France. During that time, I was still living in Oviedo, a subtle and tranquil little town in the north of Spain. After graduating from my first degree last April 28, 2013, I received an email stating that I was awarded with an Erasmus Mundus scholarship grant in English Studies for nine months in Spain.

I never saw that coming, Spain wasn’t even in my bucket list and studying English Studies in Spain is really an irony. I come from the Philippines, a former colony of Spain and there I was in our former colonizer’s land, seeking their tutelage.

When I was in a train in France, I realized I was like the irony of the trees outside my window. Their leaves were being stripped off from their bodies leaving them naked in the cold during winter and in the summer, their leaves clothe them under the scorching sun. But maybe it was really supposed to be that way, things are better the way they are; the same way as how I just suddenly found myself in Spain living with all the ironies that I could think of. I have come to realize that you have to accept things as they are without expectations and just cut all the baggage after all you can’t fill a cup that’s already full.

I remember having a hard time leaving Spain when my scholarship grant finished just a few weeks ago. The people who were once strangers but who have become friends and some even more as families, were the hardest to leave. More than the places that I have visited in Europe and in Africa, it’s the people that really mattered most and the bonds that I have formed with them that I will really treasure for the rest of my life. We can actually form a United Nations with the diversity of nationalities in our circle of friends. Leo Bormans, the author of the World Book of Happiness defined happiness in only two words: other people. And I agree with him.


Lyssah takes a photo with this pose for every new place she visits! She’s incredible!



Remember I said I was catching on blog posts of trips I’d made in 2012? So I know we’re already in 2013 (ending the first month in a couple days sef) but that doesn’t stop me from going back to September 2012, and unearthing this chronicle filled with drama of epic proportions!

Having completed a bit of work I’d been in Nigeria for, it was time to return to ‘Rondon’. Bought an Air France ticket (cheapest at the time), and i remember asking, ‘what’s with BA and pricing abeg’; the difference between their prices and what I got off Air France was almost £1000! *I know I’m getting to the place where I won’t batt an eyelid to buy a ticket bet err, we’re not quite there yet*

Ok, so in the name of the cheapest option I’d booked ABJCharles De Gaulle-Orly-LHR. CDG and Orly are in France and I’d assumed that since I was just changing airports, I’d be alright. Momma said to confirm (since I didn’t have a Schengen) but I told her to chill, saying there was no need.

Two days to the flight for some reason I rang CDG and explained my route to an official (I think I’d bought the ticket by then). He explained that because it was independent operators running the transfers between the airports, I would need a Schengen and since I didn’t have one, it would be one of two things: I would have been turned back at the airport in Abuja and if for some reason I got to CDG, I’d be turned back too. What!!!!! The speed with which I got to Sheraton the next morning to reroute ehn! Worked out cheaper too, by N700. Lol!

Fast forward to the night I was to leave. Checked in online, and got to the airport but for some reason they closed the check-in counter 10-20 minutes early. In other words, I missed the flight. First time ever. After we spoke all the English possible, ranted, raved, they didn’t let us check in; there must have been about 12 of us. From the Alhaji who bulldozed his way through security, to the Igbo guys who brought their brother headed to start a Masters Degree programme, to the lady who had tears in her eyes, we all got turned back.

Got to Sheraton early the next day to reschedule the flight, and the only option was to upgrade to premium economy with an additional N119, 230 or wait a week. While I was paying, the lady from the night before came in and when she called someone ( I suspect her husband) to tell him of the cost implication, the way he started yelling (we could hear and no it wasn’t on speaker) broke my heart. He just went on and on and on and on. God won’t let me end up with someone who yells like that o.

All sorted, I got to the airport by 3.45pm (once bitten twice shy) to check in and drop my luggage; was the first one there. As I was leaving, one of the staff called me back and said they’d been instructed to upgrade me to business class. Whoop! Thank you!

When it was time, we boarded, and yes, I cried. Lol. You must be tired of me crying on planes now. Then I slept (very comfortably, lol), and only woke every other hour to eat (I have this thing for food on planes). Any other ‘plane-food lovers out there?

Meal three... *smiling* Don't even judge me!

Meal two.. *smiling* Don’t even judge me!


Fruit and yoghurt…. *smiling* Yoghurt was wonderful…


*still smiling*

We got to Paris, and my ‘economy mind’ didn’t remember I had a business class ticket so I was in the long queue to check in for the flight to London! Let me preach a bit; occurred to me later that that’s how sometimes as children of God we ‘forget’ our place as kings and princes on earth and start to scavenge for leftovers. *sigh*

After a few minutes of standing and almost cursing (there’d been no progress on the line), I saw a gate marked, ‘Priority’. It hit me that my boarding pass read ‘priority’ too and so after chuckling to myself, I went through that gate, got checked in immediately, and had enough time to get a latte and make a call before it was time to board!

Sat beside a lady who was tacking the hem of her trousers; she went into the bathroom, wore a skirt, came out, tacked her trousers, and then went back in, coming out in those trousers!! Correct lady!!

Got into London ok, and immediately started counting down to Christmas, and the trip home via Egypt Air, which I’ve already written about, and can be found here and here.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

A friend of mine is planning to get married soon and amongst other things, I was a little curious as to where the honeymoon will be (if their jobs allow them that is)! We drew up a list and the bride-to be said she’d rather do a couple of places in Africa than one country in the West. At the time I knew I would be doing a small tour myself so I said I’d look around and then suggest; now I need you to decide whether I should suggest this spot to her, but only after you’ve read this!

Ok, so a little basic history about Chad. Chad means, ‘large expanse of water’, and actually derived from Lake Chad which experts say has shrunk in the last 13,000 years. Chad is very hot with temperatures getting up to 60 degrees Celsius in the peak of the dry season. While I was here, the temperature hovered between 32 and 39 degrees and our hosts said it’s the coolest they’ve had in a while; especially since it rained the night we got in.

Before I tell you what I had for dinner (since we got in at night), when I was  younger I was in love with oranges so much I could eat up to nine or ten a day. One day the Fairy Godfather saw me with a big bowl and knowing the fate of the oranges therein said, ‘at this rate you’ll wake up soonest with an orange tree on your head’. Suffice to say that it’s almost a chore for me to eat oranges now; I was so scared!

Dinner was rice (looking forward to a rice plantation on my head at this rate) with potato and carrot sauce and loads of chicken. It was a lovely meal except that I had to keep apologizing for each onion ring I pulled out of my plate, I so cannot stand onions and they were so many!

Ah ha! Before I forget, I stayed in Hotel Santana and it was a really nice, Egyptian style decorated room. One evening, out of extreme boredom and I knew I couldn’t go out because the sun was blazing like it was angry with the Chadians, I started flipping channels, looking for something nice to watch. Fourteen channels and no English later (save CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, and then MBC 2 with its ancient movies), I was going crazy. Continued flipping till I saw an MTV logo and I was like, ‘yes! Finally something I can relate to’! Two non English songs later, I consoled myself with the thought that it was probably time for alternative music or stuff from around the world. Then it was time for news; immediately I saw writing from the right to the left I knew I was in trouble! It was MTV Arabia! What!!! That was it; I gave up, and slept.

The day we were to leave Chad, we got to the airport early only to be told our flight would be delayed for 3 hours. God of grace, just like that? A little about the airport; like every other office/organization in N’djamena’ they pride themselves in the number of different uniforms their workers wear, even if they’re doing the same thing! Did I mention that the flies in N’djamena nearly killed me? They were so many, even in the airport (what was I thinking, flies have ‘restricted areas’)? The flies were part of the reason I was almost never outside the car or my hotel room. Other reasons would be the sun, the strong unnerving presence of the non English speaking, mostly under aged, heavily armed military men on the street but, let’s leave that for now.

Since Ethiopian Airways had given us three hours to play with, our hosts decided to drive us around the town to pass time; this is what I found out. By the way, I saw some security cameras on the way out of the departure lounge that (forgive me) looked as old as Chad’s independence and I wondered if there was even a CCTV room in the airport.

Back to what I saw, do you sometimes wish someone could come take care of your issues? Yes? Means you have Chadian streaks in you, streaks that mean that you expect help from everywhere but within! A couple of reasons I said that

  • Kempinski, the largest hotel in N’Djamena (and Chad by extension) was built and is managed by Libya.
  • The largest mosque in N’Djamena which houses a primary and secondary school and a university was built by Saudi Arabia. Can you now guess the more prominent religion in Chad? I must say however that religious induced fighting is rare, there are many other things to fight about. But, I digress.
  • When Chad had issues with rebels and there were attempts on the presidents life, the American government built blockades outside the President’s house; France offered him exile and Ukraine (amongst others) supplied the soldiers and weaponry that quelled the insurgency. Speaking of France, they have a huge military base in N’Djamena where according to our host; the best surgeries (if any) are done. Before nko?

We passed by the President’s palace; more like a fortress if you ask me, with the heavily armed mostly underage soldiers every 10 feet! I asked if we could stop and take pictures; you know, Buckingham palace style and things.  Our host laughed so hard I almost felt insulted, till he said the guards had express orders to shoot to kill anything that stops around the palace unlawfully, including tourists. He said that once, the wife of the American envoy to Chad was in a car that mysteriously developed a fault and stopped outside the palace. Men and brethren, the soldiers opened fire o! With the American flag, diplomatic number plates, they opened fire! Fortunately the car was bullet proof but the lady was traumatized and it was a big international issue at the time. Are you still asking why I don’t have pictures of the palace? I thought so!

We saw a river which is the boundary between Chad and Cameroon. I was told people swim across the river; made me wonder where they keep their passports when they’re swimming, especially since there are no immigration desks on both sides!

A little about President Idriss Deby Itno; he’s been in power for about 20 years now and has already declared that he’s contesting again when the country goes to the polls in April next year. ‘He’s going to win’, our host says, ‘it’ll be the moon in the morning if he doesn’t’. What is amazing is that he’s given the UN quit notice from the country; people say it’s because he doesn’t any ‘interference’ in the elections. Interference? Ok o.

By the way, the United Nations have a big base in N’Djamena; noticeably close to the airport. And I don’t blame them. As fortified as the place is, I think they need a close by exit in the event of violence because as far as I am concerned, like a lot of other poverty stricken places in Africa, Chad is as volatile as they come.

On a lighter note but still on the scarcity of resources, bananas are not sold in bunches but finger by finger. I asked and was told it’s so that you can buy only what you can afford, and only what you can eat!

So, I’m done! I’ll leave you to holler at my bride-to-be friend; all I can say is if I had known I’d encounter so many flies in N’Djamena I’d had chopped off the ears of the guy who sat in front of me on the plane and used his ears for swatting, especially since I’ve never seen ears so wide and floppy in my entire Fairy life!