Friday, 25 September 2009

No White Flag!

Dear Blog,
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I haven’t been writing because I haven’t been travelling and it would be futile to write a travel blog when there’s been no travelling wouldn’t it? So you must be wondering if I’m travelling again since I’m writing this blog. No, I’m writing because I need to talk about the challenges to Celebrate Africa.

We’re now 6 months behind schedule. Ordinarily, 6 months is not a long time, it’s just 180 days, half a year, no big deal right? Wrong! It’s a big deal, it’s 180 days we could have spent travelling through 12 countries. It’s 6 months of hawking proposals and waiting for responses from potential corporate sponsors. 4320 hours of anticipation and being in limbo. Half a year of dodging questions and emails about which country we’ll be visiting next and where we are ‘right now’ because it just felt silly to keep telling people we’re still in Nigeria.

In those 6 months, we’ve been ‘advised’ by a certain pan-African bank to ‘seek funding elsewhere’; Been informed by one Nigerian telecommunications company that our budget was ‘a drop in the ocean’ only to have them turn around and say they couldn’t afford to sponsor us.

We’ve been asked to change our proposal to fit yet another telecommunications company’s media strategy which we did since it was in line with our project. Then to have this proposal misplaced by this company, not once but twice! Eventually after weeks of phone calls, visits and general ass-kissing, we got a verbal promise that our project would be sponsored. Imagine my frustration then when we were turned down after submitting the proposal a third time with that old line ‘budget constraints’.

We’ve even gotten the services of a PR company to help with presenting our work, just in case we were not making any headway because we didn’t know how to write proposals for corporate sponsorship. We’ve had to answer the question, over and over again, ‘what is in it for our company?’ We’ve sized and re-sized our budget to suit every possible sponsorship combination.

Now, 6 months behind schedule, I’m asking myself, what next? Should we forget about this whole celebrating Africa thing and get a regular 9-5 job like everybody else? Is Africa really worth any of this? As I think of giving up on this, I remember the hundreds of emails we received from total strangers encouraging and supporting us by telling us how they have been inspired by our work. The radio station that has been inspired to start a ‘good news’ segment, the secondary school student who has taken up geography just so they could learn more about Africa.

Thinking about this, I realise that we’re not only doing this for ourselves but for all these people. For this alone, it is worth it. Now, it’s back to Plan B which used to be Plan A until Plan B became Plan A. We’re asking everybody to donate and not just to donate but to ask somebody else to donate. As Dido says in her song, White Flag, “there’ll be no white flag above my door…” we can’t give up now!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Whole Bloody Story

DISCLAIMER: This is a complete work of fiction, any incidents and/or characters resembling actual events and/or persons living and/or dead are purely coincidental…

The whole ‘bloody’ story

One of the few reasons why I love our Nollywood movies is the makers’ ability to make a ridiculously impossible thing seem possible and beautifully (???) turn it into a movie. Notice how I said movie twice in that one sentence, because it supposed to be make-believe. Imagine then my utter shock and disbelief when scenes from Nollywood play out ‘live’ before my very eyes.

Act 1, Scene 1;
We (host inclusive) wake up in the morning to find drops of blood on the balcony floor. Sister and I try to rationalise that it’s probably the blood of a hurt winged creature or a rat that escaped a trap. Host says it’s impossible and begins to imagine the worst.

Act 1, Scene 2;
Host begins making frantic calls, calling on family, friends and pastors alike to come over to witness this strange occurrence. “It has never happened before”, says host.

Act 1, scene 3;
Pastor 1 arrives, wielding a 25kg Holy book and ‘cabashing’ and repeating incantations right from the entrance. He employs the blood of Jesus and holy fire to deal severely with this few droplets of blood and its source. (At this point, I begin to feel sorry for the poor animal whose blood it actually might be). He then goes ahead to conduct a prayer session inviting all occupants of the house (which I attended) and damning everyone who refuses to attend, my sister included. The spirit also leads same pastor to pray for my marriage and even though I had informed him I was single, he went ahead regardless. Pastor 1 leaves.

Act 2, scene 1;
Host queries sister as to why she didn’t attend prayer session and is not convinced when sister responds that she doesn’t believe in all that hogwash. I mean, the blood could be from any source; from a tiny injured animal to the maid. (Who coincidentally started her period the night before?) But that’s just me and silly details.

Act 2, Scene 2;
Around breakfast time…

Host becomes hostile, refusing to help sister and me thereby implying that we were somehow involved in the goings on in her home. She doesn’t understand why we can not show some empathy. Are you effing kidding me? Sister and I decide to go for a stroll to clear heads and to stop ourselves from bitch-slapping someone for being…

Act 3, Scene 1;
Host returns with pastor 2 who refuses to acknowledge our greeting as he senses some evil from within. Pastor 2 begins a round of prayers, casting out and binding every source from within and outside the home. He further explained to host that these sources are sometimes difficult to detect and therefore needed ‘constant prayers and ministering’. “It is a spiritual warfare”. Pastor 2 leaves after reading from another Holy book (5kg)

Act 4, Scene 1;
Hostilities continue and host refuses to speak to us and continues to carry on with the day, sister and I do the same.

Act 4, Scene 2;
The maid begins to monitor and follow us around the house and into the kitchen, probably to make sure that we don’t sprinkle any evil dusts into the meals while they aren’t looking.
Sister and I are so angry at how ridiculous the whole thing is and while sister decides to go have a word with host about how the day went, I’m headed off to bed to forget this whole episode. However, I’m sleeping with one eye open in case either pastor 1 or 2 has informed host of someway to rid us of the evil within while we are asleep.

Curtain Calls

The End

Please don’t ask me the morale of the story, as with most make-believe Nollywood movies, it has none ;-)

Monday, 18 May 2009

Robbed in Douala


Robbed in Douala
We were robbed today. I’m still trying to get over it.
We had concluded our business in Douala and were heading to Limbe, a coastal town in the west of Cameroon for a weekend on the beach. From our hosts place in Bonapriso, we took a taxi to Round Point( pronounced Ron pon in french) to board another taxi to Limbe.

As we got to the taxi park, a group of about 10 young men swooped on us, pulling us in different angles, some selling bread, all pretending to be cab drivers trying to convince us to get into their own cab. In the confusion, I noticed that Oluchi’s bag had been opened and the compartment that held our passports was spilling its contents with some documents falling out. I quickly called her attention to it and I heard someone whispering to us to be careful that we could be robbed here.

Belatedly, I remembered my phone which I had hurriedly thrown into my handbag as we were leaving my hosts’ place. Too late, it had already been stolen. I couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t fucking believe it! This happened in less than 2 minutes! What the hell?! Me? A lagos babe? Robbed in Douala? Impossible! Travelling through my 14th country and I get robbed after all this time?

I confess, I totally lost my cool. My body was shaking as I broke into a cold sweat. As I looked around me, suddenly everyone looked like a thief. Naughty Cameroon, I don’t like you anymore!

Needless to say, we didn’t go to Limbe anymore as I had the numbers of the guys who would be hosting us on the phone. Kai! I cried o! Mind you, this was not just a phone, it was a PDA/ Pocket-PC/Phone/GPS/Camera, this was a ‘correct machine’ as we say in Naija. I don’t even know if the thief would be able to use it. Heck , it took me two weeks to figure out the basics.

I’m trying very hard to love thief and pray for him to have a better life and stop stealing. I realise I owe the motor-park touts in Lagos an apology for all the times I’d been mean to them because I’m proud to say this would never have happened at a taxi park in Lagos. You can take that to the bank!

Anyway whatever happens, I’m still celebrating, still keeping it rocking. You can’t stop the shining, I still love Africa.

The Pope is the world president

The Pope is the world president…
One of the thrills of public transportation is the opportunity to meet different people, jostle for seats with them, share a drink, tell your life story and borrow their phone charger… No? Well then I guess it’s just me or you’ve not been travelling on a ferry to Cameroon recently.

Anyway among all these thrills, you also get the added bonus of overhearing or being forced to listen to snippets of different conversations which can be highly amusing. As usual, me being the nice person that I am, I’m bringing some of those snippets to you. You can thank me later, a donation to Celebrate Africa will do.

‘The pope is the president of the world, he should get full security and his own private jet’ said the young man to his friends sitting outside on the upper deck of the ferry. ‘Yes’ his friend replied ‘but T.B Joshua is also very powerful and deserves a private jet too!’ ‘Who is T.B Joshua?’ interjected another one loudly, How can you compare him to the pope?’

Meanwhile on the other side of the deck, there’s another heated conversation. ‘Look the Nigerian government has failed us, can you imagine? No road, no lights, that’s why I live in Cameroon’

‘I have built 3 houses in Cameroon now’

After a while I couldn’t keep up with the loud conversations as they all became too much and the amebo* in me wanted to hear everything. My head felt like what must have been the tower of Babel

‘My brother offended me and I will never go to church again because of him’

‘The bible says that we MUST to believe in God’. ‘What do you mean we MUST believe in God? Do you know the meaning of must?’

‘Look, the pope is stronger than all the world leaders combined, the Catholics are very strong’

‘Who be police? I have been in this country for six years, they can’t try me’

‘I can afford to fly o, I just decided to take this ferry because I wanted to get there on time’ At this statement, I wondered how an 8-hour boat ride can be faster than a 2-hour flight.

‘How can you say that? Who be pope?’ Finally as a parting shot, ‘ let me tell you, pope is in Africa, right now, infact e come Cameroon e no gree come Nigeria because of too much trouble’. Well you’ve been told.

Thinking about all this later, I realised that I had learnt a valuable lesson. The pope is the president of the world and if only the rest of the world knew it, the world would be such a great place… or maybe not.



It’s great to be back on the road again or should say I say on the sea? We almost missed the Ferry to Tiko, a small town on the coast of Cameroon. When we called ‘Achouka’ the ferry company, the day before, they had told us that the ferry usually leaves Wednesday mornings by 6am. Well we got there by 6 and the ship was almost leaving.

As we drove into the port, the pandemonium hit us. The ship’s horn was tooting loudly, the crew were running around and screaming loudly while hurling giant bags of luggage on deck. Passengers rushing unto the boat, dragging their luggage. Just being there was tiring. A massive contrast to the peaceful, serene atmosphere of 6am, Calabar.

Realising that we were late, we rushed to the ticket office where the sales guy tried to convince us to pay for a first class ticket for 9000 naira. I refused thinking that the guy just wanted to sell his VIP tickets and wondered how bad a 2nd class seat that cost 6000 naira must be.

Well I needn’t have wondered too long because a few minutes after going through immigrations, paying 500 naira to have my passport stamped with the immigration officer loudly scolding us for coming late, a mad dash onto the ferry with our heavy bags in tow, we got on the second class deck.

One word: utter chaos. Ok, that’s two words but who’s counting? Anyway, that’s the only word that comes to mind trying to describe what greeted us as we got on the deck. Bodies lying on the floor, corridor, seats, gangway; bodies everywhere. No standing space not to talk of sitting space. On top of all this was an oppressive heat and disgusting smell of unwashed bodies cooped up together for a while.

Did you say ‘hell no’? Well, that’s exactly what we said as we did an about turn back down the stairs towards the ticket office to change to first class tickets. Alas we couldn’t be left off the boat as it was already leaving the shore. Not to be deterred, we marched to the VIP lounge and took our seats. As we sat down, I turned to Oluchi and said, ‘the only way anyone is getting me out of this deck is buy using a forklift and even with that I’d be kicking and screaming!’

The VIP deck was as different from the second class as pounded yam is different boiled yam. They were worlds apart. For one, the air conditioning worked. Secondly, there were no bodies lying on the floor and lastly there were many unoccupied seats! SOLD!

Afterwards, I asked myself what lessons I had learned. Lesson number 1: Never believe Achouka when they tell you the ferry leaves by 6am because you may miss it.

Lesson number 2: Always believe the guy who is trying to sell you a first class ticket otherwise you may end up standing all the way on an 8-hour boat ride and paying more money than you would have paid on the shore because the ferry has already left.

Friday, 20 March 2009

The land of Rusty roofs

After Lagos, Ibadan is probably the most famous 'city' in Nigeria. Famed for its rich place of history, its one of the oldest citiAfter Lagos, Ibadan is probably the most famous ‘city’ in Nigeria. Famed for its rich place in history, it is one of the oldest cities in West Africa, with many legends surrounding it.

Ibadan is the capital of Oyo state, part of the old Oyo Empire. It is the third largest city in Nigeria by population (after Lagos and Kano), and the largest in geographical area. At independence, Ibadan was the largest and the most populous city in Nigeria and the third in Africa after Cairo and Johannesburg.You could almost imagine that these old buildings have been around since those days of old. Knowing its colourful history, I was very eager to see what the city had to offer.

First off, we went to the University,the first in Nigeria, established in 1948. We arrived just at the right time, as the University in its finery,still had all the tell tale signs of celebration, seeing as it had just passed its 60th year anniversary. It was during exams and you could see the students going off in groups to read. Walking through brought back memories of my own days at the Imo State University. It had a state of the art library and bookstore, like any modern university should. It was everything a university is supposed to be and more and for about 2seconds I wished that I had attended UI. Luckily, the IMSU Imo stars spirit returned to reclaim my allegiance.

You couldn’t visit UI without seeing the Botanical Zoo, which I also heard was the first of its kind in Nigeria. Even though the lions were sleeping when we got there, the other animals were active enough to keep us entertained.

Your visit is incomplete without tasting the famous meal of Amala and gbegiri ati ewedu, which is made from yam flour and soup made from beans.

I went to a restaurant called Straight Down in Yoruba, and apparently it got its name from the fact every time you asked for directions to the place, people would tell you to “Just go straight down.”

With the delicious smells wafting from the restaurant as I arrived there, I have to say my hopes were raised for a good meal. I was not disappointed as the Amala pelu Gbegiri ati Ewedu was a delight to the senses. In my haste, I must confess I may have missed the mark with a few droplets of Ewedu soup. Blame it on Ibadan, I say.

Bower towers was my next stop. At the top of the tower, a magnificent view of the city greets your eyes. With a sea of rusty roofs as far as the eye could see, it was definitely unforgettable.

The OjaOje is also another place of interest and you will learn here how the people of Ibadan trade and interact. There's plenty to buy or just see. Right next to it is the splendid Olubadan’s palace, which is the seat of power to the monarch.

In all, the ancient city of Ibadan did not disappoint me because there was plenty to see and I had the pleasure of tasting Ibadan-style Amala with Gbegiri ati Ewedu.

So I’ll leave you with the famous Ibadan greeting: S’alafiani!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I know, I know, we've been away for too long. We apologize.

We took a break from traveling and went back home to Nigeria for the holidays. We'll resume traveling next week by doing celebrating Nigeria and this part of the tour will see us travel through 10 states in the South-West and North Central regions of Nigeria.

We will definitely be bringing you the usual gist on the road and pictures on the website.We have so many plans for the next year and we'd love you to be a part of it. I will be posting our newsletter with all the details shortly.

While we've been in Nigeria, we've done a few interviews in both the print and tv media. Here a few links for your viewing pleasure.
Why we're touring Africa.

Nigerian sisters are celebrating Africa

See you soon.