Posts Tagged ‘Wanderlust’

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.

Advertisements

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.