Posts Tagged ‘Storytelling’

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.

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘may you live in interesting times’? I think that it was written for me! What people get through uneventfully, I must have enough drama to derive a story from! Now I love it, but sometimes it’s just exhausting!!

Ok, so first off, greetings from Aberdeen, quiet, peaceful, and my beautiful hotel room. It’s my friend’s baby’s 1st birthday today, and I am really excited to be here to help out, and of course share in the joy and fun!

I didn’t just appear here though, there was a trip. And in that trip lies the story I’m about to share.

Now, for some reason I had booked a really early flight (I’m never doing that again), which meant I had to leave my house at 4am yesterday (Friday). By 1am I was still up (was still trying to figure out what I’d travel with really) so I told myself I wouldn’t sleep, I’d just shower and stay up till it was time to leave (which is what I’d normally do). Sounds easy right?

So I sat on my bed, reading and trying to finish some writing I started earlier in the day. By 2am I felt sleepy so I started chewing gum, and I didn’t cover myself so I would feel the chill and it wouldn’t let me feel comfortable enough to sleep. I had my laptop on my lap, and both my pillows behind my back for support.

Next thing I knew, it was 5.41am. I was confused. What!!! ( I actually said shouted that when I looked at the clock)! I jumped up, got dressed, rang for a taxi (train was out of the question), and by 6am, we were speeding off to the airport. Now the hilarious thing there was I noticed that my duvet was still neatly folded at the foot of my bed, but I had somehow pulled off my sheets to cover myself. Also, the gum I had in my mouth was mysteriously placed neatly on the casing for my mac.

Anyway, we got to Gatwick and I had like 7 minutes before the boarding gate closed. I was checked in so I ran to what I thought was my gate. ‘Thought’ because I got there and brethren, this Fairy GodSister wasn’t just at the wrong gate, I was at the WRONG TERMINAL!! Ahhh!!

Had to go back downstairs, catch the shuttle to the proper terminal, I just knew it wouldn’t work, I wouldn’t make it. And I didn’t want to fly, you see I hate to show off, lol.  So I went to the customer care counter, and I had to pay some money to rebook my flight for evening. Had like 8 hours till the time so I headed home to shower (thank you very much), catch up on sleep, and get a hot meal (it was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g!)

Got on the train (thank you to the station manager who let me use my off-peak ticket during peak hours), and headed to London Bridge to catch my connection to Kent. Got on that one, and slept. I slept so hard next thing I knew someone was tapping me. Apparently there was a signal failure two stops to mine and so they had evacuated the train. My royal majesty was obviously oblivious, hence the gentle tap on my shoulder.

*sigh* I think I was dreaming of Booski…

They sorted themselves (after a 40-minutes wait, SMH), we boarded the train, and I got home in one piece, thoroughly amused when I looked at my bed again. I don’t think I’ve had my cereal that hot in a long time, and all the heaters in the house were on, full blast! Chatted with Booski, and then I fell asleep.

Got ready like 5 hours later, made it to the airport on time, cleared security, and had enough time to order a meal from Armadillo, more about the food later.

Then, I…

*that’s enough for one post abeg, come back in an hour for the next one!*

When I was younger, if something unpleasant was going to happen (like I was about to tumble down the stairs, or more realistically, I came home with another dismal grade in math) my mom would say something like, ‘God did not promise me this’. To her (and this is a belief that I’ve embraced wholeheartedly thanks to her), God is the author of EVERY good thing, and God would never let any evil come near her or hers, even in the form of my math scores!! Ha ha! Don’t get it twisted o, I was exceptional at English and any other subject where my head would be allowed to roam. But that math? Naaaa!

Another thing Momma instilled in us was ‘God (who) cannot lie‘. And He can’t.  Several times in the scriptures we see where that is alluded to, either in Psalms, “my covenant will I not break, nor alter that which has gone from my lips’, the book of Numbers where we see ‘surely as you have spoken in my ears, so will I do unto you’, on and on and on. Noticed I’m a Kings James version child yet? *wink*

My favorite scripture though is in the book of Titus where it says, “God who cannot lie”… Boom! As in, even if God woke up today, this beautiful Friday and said, “you know what guys, I want to start lying”, He can’t! It’s not in His nature! Whoop! Whoop! That scripture gives me such joy!

So in the same way that I cannot be a whiz at math (I’ve given up don’t worry), God cannot lie. At all. Guess what though? Humans lie.

Ooh yes humans lie. Through the skin of their teeth, while looking you straight in the eyes (that’s after you’ve asked them to look you in the eyes and tell you the truth), humans tell the greatest fibs known to… humans! Dang!

Have you ever been lied to? I guess we’ll all say yes. Have you lied to someone? Same answer, yes. Why did you lie,  was it to escape punishment of some sort, appear better than you are,  gain undue advantage over your peers, cover or commit a crime, or because you were afraid? Let’s flip it a bit, why do you think you were lied to? Amongst other reasons, was the person trying to ‘protect’ you? What on earth does that even mean? Shaking My Head!!!

In my short time on earth, I’ve met people who told me horrible lies, and then when I was gutted from finding out, said, ‘I was doing it to protect you’. Protect me from what exactly? The hurt and pain I now feel from finding out even your greetings were lies?

Hmmm, I can imagine you settling in, probably even grabbing a bowl of popcorn in anticipation of some juicy gist, what my people will call ‘gbeborun/tatafo’.  There’s nothing here o, get a move on!

Ok, perhaps I will share the story that inspired this post some day. Just know that ‘someday’ might be when I’m 70 (so you don’t say I lied to you, and yes I plan to still be blogging then). I will tell the story of how implicit trust was broken, how I literally jumped from a frying pan to a furnace in the name of escaping one evil.

To digress, have you ever been in that place? Tried to dodge one evil and then found yourself ensconced in another, in what you thought would be your safety? My dear, not an easy place to be in at all.

All this ‘rigmarolling’ is to tell us to be careful from here on, beyond being a sin (and I’m not even going to start preaching here), lies hurt. They break hearts, trusts, and beautiful friendships. They (literally) remove the essence of relationships, they literally kill them. Some people have hurt themselves (sometimes gravely) because they were lied to, and I don’t think any of us want that on our conscience.

Try. Let’s see if we can get through the entire day (from when we get out of bed to when we get back in), not to tell a lie. Not a small one, or a white one, or a lie to ‘protect’ someone or what we think we have with them, nothing of the sort. Let’s try today. I’ll be trying too.

Life, love, and the best weekend ever,

The FGS.

 

People who know me know I love stories, fiction or real. I love listening to folk tales (God bless my Momma for never leaving me starved of them), real life experiences (my father is a rock star with that), and tales derived from my interactions with people.

Don’t get it twisted though, I detest lies and liars  (they are definitely not the same thing). But, I love stories, and I love deriving them from places I’ve visited, people I’ve met, and generally from experiences I feel will benefit the next man.

Professionally, I can create stories from scratch, or from user-generated content. Am I brilliant? Yes (with all the shards of modesty I’ve got left). Heck, one of my most fulfilling roles was working on a radio drama series for the BBC called Story Story! Am I selling myself? You bet! If I don’t, who will? Lol.

Seriously though, storytelling was one of the reasons I started this blog… Go to my About page for the very first story!

Ok, so I was speaking to my Momma on Monday, and she was telling me of a wedding she’d attended with my father over the weekend. Speaking of weddings, this past week their marriage clocked 33. Boom! They’ve been married to each other for 33 years and not once have they ‘taken a break’, ‘separated for a bit’, ‘been apart to evaluate the relationship’, or any of the excuses our generation gives for walking away from vows they’ve made to each other. God help us!!

Back to Momma now, she told me a story the Reverend who joined the couple told in his sermon, all about admonishing the couple to be true and open with each other. Ready for it?  A couple had been  married for quite a bit, and then they moved to a new community. By their house there was a nice spread of chubby mushrooms and the couple didn’t know if they were poisonous or not. One day, this couple decided they would serve their dog the mushrooms and if nothing happened to it, then they would cook for themselves.

On the day appointed, they cooked the mushrooms, and fed the dog the first helping. They were watching it but it seemed fine, playing about. Second helping? Dog seemed better than ever. Third helping? Even better! They figured the mushrooms were fine so they cooked and had a little feast!

Later that even their dog all but crawled into their compound, wincing in pain and making sounds that were clearly not of joy or rejoicing. Then it curled up in one of the corner, and lay still. The couple was shocked! They were going to die!

Quickly, they went inside, and as it were, started putting their house in order to die. All of a sudden, the man said he had something to tell his wife. Teary eyed, she asked what it was. He said that he wanted to confess some stuff to her, and started talking about affairs he’d denied in the past and how they really happened.

When he was just about done talking, she said she had a bit to confess too, and started telling him the real fathers of four out of their five children.

She was on the story of the third child when a neighbour knocked on the door. Frowning at being disturbed, they told the neighbour to go and come back, but this neighbour was insistent on being heard. They let him in and he said he came to see how their dog was doing.

“What’s your business with our dog?”, man and wife were irritated but curious.

Their neighbour replied, “Well, I was working in my garden and a goat was eating the tomatoes I was harvesting so I threw a stone at it. It missed the goat but hit your dog and from the way it screamed, I knew it was hurt. I tried to go near it but it barked at me so I said I would come and tell you people, see how it is doing”.

The end. (of a lot of things obviously)!

Moral of the story? You tell  me! And while you’re at it, say a big thank you to my Momma!

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