Friday, 12 December 2008

What have I learnt?


This is probably ridden with clichés but I just couldn't help myself.

I’ve learnt to be thankful;
For big things,
For little things,
For everything.

I’ve learnt to be patient;
Knowing that things will definitely and always work out.

I’ve learnt to believe;
In myself, knowing that anything I set my heart & mind to, I can do.
In God, knowing that everything I ask in faith, He can do.

I’ve learnt my strengths and my weaknesses;
Knowing to accept the things I can not change and striving to make better the things I can.

I’ve learnt to persevere;
Knowing that I’ll come out stronger after every hurdle.

I’ve learnt that though we are separated by boundaries, borders and language;
We are all the same.

I’ve learnt to make meals from almost anything,
And ‘veggies’ aren’t so bad.

I’ve learnt to listen more and talk less;
There’s a lot to be learnt from holding my tongue.

I’ve learnt to forgive;
Life is too short to dwell on things that don’t matter.

I’ve learnt that there are good people and better people;
Why worry about the not-so good people?

I’ve learnt that;
To receive, I have to give and
To give, I have to receive.

I’ve learnt to focus, aim and shoot;
With my mind and my camera.

I’ve learnt to let go;
Knowing that the universe is watching over and will take care of me.

I’ve learnt to Love;
Others, Life, Myself, My sister, My family and My God.
For without love, I am nothing and have gained nothing.

I’m in love…


I’m in love with a big city.
It’s such a big and enchanting city (our definition of enchanting might not necessarily be the same.)
It is a city that has a life of its own and feels likes it has many faces. It reminds me a lot of Lagos, Abuja, Dakar and some other cities I’ve been all rolled into one.

Lagos, because of the bustle and the pulse of the city you can almost feel. Also the many ‘flyovers’ scattered across the city.(though it’s a lot neater than Lagos)

Abuja, because of the high rise buildings dotting the skyline.

Dakar, because of the wide streets and high ways, and of course the smartly dressed people, going along, chatting in French or simply minding their own business.

Abidjan reminds me of home, yet it’s different in its own unique way. The city makes me feels as if there’s still a lot to see, still a lot to do.
We went to other places, not that we didn’t. San Pedro, border town in Ivory Coast from Liberia, quaint beautiful little town but it couldn’t quite compare to Abidjan. I’m tempted to stay on but I know I must leave; for now.

I’ll definitely be coming back, how soon I don’t know but soon enough to come and continue my love affair with this beautiful and enchanting big city

Friday, 21 November 2008

Liberian License Plates

It’s always a delight to find in every city something that clearly distinguishes it from the next and if there’s one thing you should look out for in Monrovia, it’s the license plates. I don’t have the current figures but I think more than 60% of cars in Monrovia have customized license plates. They are as diverse as the many cars on the streets.
Each is unique in its own way clearly identifying a person better than any ID card or passport possibly could. Each telling us a different story, depicting status, gender, age, earning power, job function, marital status, position, even dates of birth.

I’ve seen all manner of license plates like ‘4 my wife’, ‘husband no2’, ‘4 me’, ‘rush 2’, ‘manager 3’, ‘baby 1’, ‘big boy 5’, ‘Emily 1’ ‘Psalm 23’, to mention but a few.
We couldn’t get to the bottom of the reason for these diverse plates so we decided to play a game to tell the stories behind each customized license plates.
So here are some of our ideas:

4 Me: This plate was on a Volkswagen golf car and it was driven by a young woman. So we figured that she probably worked so hard and suffered a lot to buy the car that she had to stake her claim by making sure everybody knows the car is ‘4’her.

Husband 2: This is self explanatory, he’s a second husband and wants to be identified by that.

Big boy 1: He’s so obese that he couldn’t think of any other thing but his weight when he was getting the plates made. Guess his next car would be ‘gym boy’ for when he starts using the gym.

4 My wife: The 'Oga' probably bought the same car for his girlfriend, so he just wanted to be able to differentiate one from the other.

Psalm 23: I think that’s the only Bible verse this owner really knows or can remember from his childhood.

Bro 419: His brother is probably a ‘419er’, the car was bought from the proceeds and they wanted everybody to rejoice with them.

The funny thing was that the ‘big’ cars didn’t have customised plates, they just had regular plates. I’m thinking of getting my own car soon and I would welcome ‘name’ suggestions for customized plates.
Whenever you are in Monrovia, you can check out the license plates and come up with your own stories.

Taxi Talks…

The Taxi driver kept complaining, “I’ve been in this country for 6months and the people here are no good. They treat you like aliens and no body wants to be nice to you”.
And then he narrated his ordeal from the border. How after he had been harassed and exploited, they got stranded and he had to help his fellow passengers (from this same country) with transportation, feeding and clothes.
He went on to conclude that after his experience in the country, he’ll never be good to anyone from this country again. In fact, when he goes back to his own country (another West African country), he’ll make the people from this country pay dearly for everything that he has gone through.

We asked him if he had met any good people in this country, if anyone had been nice to him and if anyone had gone out of their way to try to help him, and he answered yes to all of these. If yes, why would he then decide to punish a whole people for the errors of a few of their countrymen? We asked him what his own attitude towards these people was and he said he had to defend himself.

I felt bad because I realised that this is the way a lot of us think and behave, gearing to mete out punishment on someone for the sins of his brothers or her people.
Why can’t we all just try and get along? Why can’t we all just hold hands and hum, hug trees and wear ‘Jesus’ sandals? Why can’t we look beyond the today and think of the bigger picture? Why can’t we all try to broker peace rather than tearing one another to pieces?

We pleaded with our Taxi driver to change his attitude towards these people and expect them to treat him nicely. Like my sister always says, ‘If you expect something, you’ll get it’.

Quick Relaxation Motel

After spending more than 12 hours on the road from Bo town in Sierra Leone to Monrovia, Liberia, we arrived around 9:30pm and for some reason we couldn’t get in touch with our host. Apparently she had misplaced her phone and there was no way for us to reach her. So, we decide to check into a motel in the suburbs of Monrovia for the night. As I walked up to the receptionist for a room she looked at me weirdly and asked ‘is it for sleeping?’ The question seemed a little dumb and I laughed sarcastically, ‘of course it’s for sleeping’ I said. I later found out that the joke was on me.

As we checked into the room, the first thing I noticed was the pile of condoms on the side table, the second thing was the porter switching off the TV set. Curious as to why he switched off the TV, immediately he left the room, Oluchi switched it on and switched it off the next second. Then we burst out in laughter.

It dawned on us that we had just checked into what we call a ‘short-time’ motel or ‘slaughter-house’ in Nigeria. That is, a motel designed strictly for quick discreet sexual escapades. To set the mood, the motel had graciously provided some light entertainment on TV by way of a fully dedicated pornography channel and a dozen pack of condoms. Also the only identification needed to check-in is your money. Talk about being discreet.

We had a good laugh and we had to acknowledge that someone has to provide these services and it looked like they were doing a good job. As we left the next morning, we noticed the motel sign – Y Motel, for quick relaxation- that had us laughing all over again. If you’re ever looking for ‘quick’ relaxation in Monrovia, check out Y motel.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

National Dishes


Cassava-leaf soup; potato-leaf soup, roasted cassava and raw cassava. People were asking if we had tried these dishes and I kept wondering if it was some kind of joke. What are these guys talking about??!
Back home in Nigeria, cassava leave is goat feed, roasted cassava is unheard of and you only eat raw cassava when you are suicidal. I don’t have the statistics but I know that the cyanide in raw cassava will kill you faster than a loaded gun (I don’t know where that came from). Here in Sierra Leone (Salone) these dishes are national delicacies.

In naija, we eat roasted yam/ corn and we have to take the raw cassava through various processes (which I know nothing about) before it’s edible enough to make garri, fufu or African salad popularly called abacha. I didn’t even know that potato had leaves.
Our caretaker, S, convinced us that this specie of cassava was different from the one we eat where I come from but did we want to take any chances?

Never let it be said that we African celebrators were too afraid to taste a national dish. So with trepidation we asked S to make the cassava leaves soup for us and I had my Andrews liver salt nearby, and my phone ready to dial 911 just in case.

We were pleasantly surprised. It was tasty!! I really, really liked it! I think it was the best tasting ‘African’ soup I’d had in a while (apart from the egusi I ate the other day and the okro of 2weeks ago). Best of all we are still alive and very well, so I guess that means S was right and this specie is different.
Anyway, I’m recommending that whenever you decide to visit Free town, drink in the beautiful hills and mountains, swim in the Atlantic ocean and eat some cassava-leaf soup.

Guinea gini*??


“The country side smells of fresh curry leaves, the air is crisp & inviting and birds are busy chirping away”. This isn’t some unknown foreign land; it’s the ‘path’ leading from Bissau to Conakry. I say path because we veered off the road shortly after the first border patrol and headed straight into the bushes. Why some countries will not merge and become one is beyond me. Apologies to all the Guineans reading this but I’m only trying to speak the truth here.

Dear readers, another reason why we are doing this trip is so that we can have fun on your behalf and make your mistakes for you so that when you decide to take this trip you will not make the same mistakes we did. (And of course to celebrate)

Now I would suggest to you against my better judgement and against everything celebratory about this trip, if choose to go to Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry, please do it by air!!!

The countries in themselves were not bad but the journey to the country nko? Another matter. I saw the best looking statures in Conakry, right in the middle of the road and the sunset was lovely. Bissau reminded me a bit of Brazil with their Old Portuguese style buildings and the people looked like they were having fun just being there.

I just didn’t like that it took us 2days from The Gambia to get to Guinea Bissau, a journey that should have been 8hours. Also the fact that we spent another 24hrs on the road for a 12-15hours journey from Bissau to Conakry. (Literally sleeping on cold hard tar, on the road)

Now, my advice is pretty simple. If you must go on these 2 roads, prepare your self for the best or worst (depending on how you look at it) camping experience of your life, except of course without the fire. Arm yourself with a blanket, flash lights and a towel because you’ll paddle a ‘ferry’ and sleep on the road in the middle of nowhere with only the stars and your fellow passengers to watch over you.

However, there is much to celebrate and that is the unbreakable spirit of our co-travellers on the journey from Bissau to Conakry. These people were in high spirits throughout the 24-hour journey, chattering loudly, sharing their food, even offering their shoulders as support for the next person who needed to rest. It was absolutely amazing and the most surprising part for me was that many of the passengers travel this route constantly for trade purposes. As one passenger told me, there is money to be made and even if the governments of these two countries don’t provide a road, the travellers will find a bush-path.

*what?? in my local language

Monday, 20 October 2008

Where are we?

I just realised from the blog that no one knows exactly where we are at the moment.
We travelled through the peaceful country of Ghana to Serene Burkina. We’ve gone from the breath taking Dogon country in Mali to the beautiful beaches in Dakar, Senegal. We went round the streets of Banjul, The Gambia experiencing Nigerian Independence day in another land and then moved to Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry.
We are now in Free Town, Sierra Leone. This is our 8th, yes eight country and we are having a ball. Would we want to do anything differently? Certainly not!!!

Up Naija!

The Nigerian Independence Day was on the 1st of October, so I am dedicating this post to my naija people. I apologise to my friends from other countries, this will be my one indulgence.

Do you have a Nigerian passport? Yes? Good for you! Congratulations you have become part of the privileged few who have the exclusive right to spread their wealth around the continent. Once you get to an immigration check point, especially in francophone West Africa, pull out your passport with confidence (they’ll smile at you with a knowing look and say, ‘ah Nigeria’) because you’re going to be asked to donate part of your ill-gotten wealth to the military men, police officers, and immigration officers on duty.

Look, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never done anything dishonest in your life. After all, the less than 2 million fraudsters in Nigeria are related to you (the remaining 138 million) and you should pay for their sins. The sins of your country man shall be visited on you. Don’t complain or else you may be given a body search or manhandled or just generally threatened with arrest.

It’s ok though because if you’re in public transport all the other passengers will be looking out for you, urging you to pay up so that the bus can leave on time and we can all get to our destination on time. Even if you don’t have the money, (why shouldn’t you anyway, Naija is richest country in Africa, No?) some kind-hearted fellow passenger will pay on your behalf or plead with the officer on your behalf. You see didn’t I say we were privileged?

It has nothing to do with the colour of your passport, because nearly every country in West Africa now uses a green passport. Rather, it has more to do with the coat of arms on your Nigerian passport. It has ‘Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress’. Unity: we are united with all the fraudsters and drug dealers in Nigeria. Faith: we have faith in their abilities. Peace: When we spread the wealth we promote peace in Africa. Progress: Law enforcement agents in Africa need our wealth to progress.

So the next time you’re in a francophone country like Guinea and you’re asked for your passport, bring it out with confidence because as we all know, ‘Naija no dey carry last!’ Unity and faith, peace and progress. Up Naija! Up Amala! Up Kilishi! Up Isi-ewu! Up pepper soup!

Three Glorious Months


 Three Glorious Months

 Wow! I almost can’t believe its 3 months already! Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday that said goodbye to my family with tears in my eyes and a song in my heart. I have gone through 7 countries, experienced a wide range of emotions; sometimes very happy, very angry a few times. I have felt frustrated and been awed at other times. The one thing I have not felt is regret.

 I have met different people, some have become lifetime friends. I have had 3 marriage proposals (believe it), been invited to become a fraudster (I was so angry I almost had a coronary), partied all night and slept all day. I now know how to say ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’ in 5 more African languages. My French has moved from non-existent to ‘un pe, un pe’. I can now do local currency conversions in my head, from CFA to dalasi to naira.

 I have not kept some promises I made to my self, like blogging everyday, working with non-profit organisations and filming everything. That’s part of the journey; if it’s not practical then it probably won’t get done.

 In 3 months the website has nearly 3,000 hits from diverse countries, some with names I can’t even pronounce. We get emails everyday from people wishing us well and telling how they have been inspired. Some of these comments are unbelievable because we can’t seem to understand how some silly dream became such an inspiration but I am thankful that it is so.

 Things have become even more dramatic, since Oluchi joined. Now I have someone to annoy, gist with and be a general nuisance. A girl can’t ask for a better travelling partner especially if she comes with great packing skills, I think that came from her stint in shipping.

 In all it has been a fantastic (I like that word) three months and we look forward to another beautiful nine months. If only we had a major sponsor to take our money worries away.

The Gambian Experience

My first impressions of The Gambia were, I have to admit, distinctly unfavourable. Oluchi and I endured a manic stampede to embark on the ferry that would take us across the river into Banjul; not only that, the weather had this oppressive feel about it - equal parts high temperatures coupled with the feeling that a mighty, invisible wet blanket of moisture had been added to our outer clothing without our consent; and in addition, some of this moisture, the quantities the blankets hadn’t been able to absorb, had leached into the streets, turning walking into an experience in mud-sliding that a frolicsome pig would have revelled in. Last but not least among the annoyances that made me question my sanity for adding this country to our itinerary, was the presence of a highly aggressive species of human mosquitoes known as immigrations officials darting this way and that on the streets, asking us to ‘identify’ ourselves.
As the old saying goes: “Beware of identification, it often leads to briberification!”
So, let’s just agree to say: Gambia, the first time wey I land for your top, no be your best side wey I see!

But we were there, we were committed, we knew that sometimes the book’s cover didn’t tell the whole story, so we gave it the good college try: we did the usual ‘touristy’ stuff (yawn!) we visited the beach, went to the local franchise for Crocodile Villages, Inc. (mainly to see whether the locals could compare to the ones we had seen elsewhere, especially in their ability to inhale the sacrificial chickens, turns out they are fish-vegetarian.), we were so enthralled by the available options on our visit menu that we even went to the port just to see cargo being laden and unloaded. Boy, I tell you, this was big fun that we were having. It’s no wonder that after three days we thought we had written the book on The Gambia: too small, too expensive, too wet – that just seemed to sum it all up for us.

The magnitude of our disappointment at that point seemed to be in direct proportion to the magnitude of our initial high expectations. The Gambia was destined to end up as a cautionary tale in our travel journals.

“Not so fast, girls,” some guardian angel of Gambia up there must have said!, “Allow me,” the angel went on, “to put on a real Gambia show for you.” In rapid succession, the angel arranges for us to meet, the day before we were supposed to leave, some Gambians and ‘Naigambians’ (transplanted and the results of intermarriage) and our view of Gambia changed dramatically. While the previous week – after we had done crocodiles, the beach, the port - had been spent flipping channels, watching satellite TV stations from the Middle-East and going to bed – at the same time as, I mean, just to make sure our more lascivious readers don’t get the wrong ideas - with the birds, we became more optimistic that the second week would be different. Our brothers at immigration had given us only permits for a 7-day stay, but we were ready to risk their wrath (read extortion) for another 7 days just to rectify our dismal view of Gambia. So we did.

Gambia’s image rectification – the process. First, now that we were hooked up with the right people, was the exploration of the nocturnal – the night spots featuring groovy music, groovy people shaking it. These people could have been on something, the energy with which they danced. Step Two: a tour of Senegambia with people who knew what they were about. Hey, it wasn’t just about the mud on the streets, you know! Once you lifted your eyes and concerns up from the pressing issue of which mud sinkhole would engulf you completely, you realized that this was a miniature jewel of sights.

But best of all, by some happy coincidence, we had managed to time our sojourn to coincide with ‘Koriteh’(The Gambian word for Eid-el celebration after the holy month of Ramadan). As part of the observance, the government declared a 3 day holiday, for us, liberated as we were from the obligations of religious observance, it was enjoyment galore. We experienced first-hand how Gambians celebrate Koriteh , largely, by visiting family and eating Benachin with them. Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you have eaten Benachin, nothing beats the feeling of oneness you get from eating from the same platter with your friends and family. Then there are the cheeky kids barging into the house demanding ‘salibo’, i.e, a monetary gift to, ostensibly, mark the festival.

Talking about Koriteh, It seemed to me that the best time to see Gambians looking their best was during the Eid-el festivals. Beautifully-clad women in their lovely, heavily embroidered dresses, glamorous hairstyles complemented by the dashing dark-skinned men in colourful kaftans: you would be forgiven if you wished they dressed like this everyday.

Famous for being a tourist destination, The Gambia is also the most stable economy in West Africa and the one the with most rapid economic growth, which I think is why all the Nigerian banks are opening up shop in every corner of the country. (Trust Naija now, we no dey carry last) Apologies o, if you’re not from Naija.

Anyways, for me, the most interesting part of our stay was meeting the people of Gambia. Gambia was a very enjoyable contrast between a relatively unprepossessing environment, if you compare it to the beauty of Mali, and a wonderful populace, once you got to know them. I more than enjoyed the warmth, the generosity, the friendliness, and I love the sing-song Wolof or Madinka tinged accents.

On a personal note (yeah, like all this hasn’t been personal?), Gambia holds some promise for me and I’ll definitely be going back. The morale of this chapter of the journey: don’t trust first impressions all the time.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Updates coming...

Dear friend,
Yeah, i know, we've been really bad girls. We've been MIA. It's all the travelling, we've been on the road 3 straight days in a row, we even slept in the bush in the middle of nowhere. I know it's an excuse, but it's a good one, no?
I promise we'll post something interesting this weekend.

Meanwhile, you can amuse yourself by looking at some of the pictures on, if you haven't already.

Take care

Thursday, 2 October 2008

No 'blem


I smiled the first time I heard this and couldn’t help but wonder how it came about. I’m told it’s a mixture of Wolof (the local language) and French.It’s a slang used frequently in Dakar by any and everybody and it depicts the way they live in this my ‘1st’ city I’ve come to love. I call it my first city cos it’s really the first city on this tour for me (even though I’ve been to Accra already).

They seem to love life a lot and sleep in late, taking life really easy like they don’t have a care in the world. Did I mention their beautiful women? Oh! I already did.
The people say we’ve come at a time when a lot of things are shut down because of the Ramadan. We really can’t see the night life or the dancing and jollying that best describes the Dakar people and I dare say the entire people of Senegal.But have I had a good time here? I would say yes, because even with the ‘restrictions’ we’ve seen the people at their best and I really wonder what it would be like here without the Ramadan.

From what I see here, there isn’t that great gap between the rich and the poor and you can’t find any poverty stricken children roaming the streets and begging for food (well not as many). The streets are tarred and clean (?) and they have electricity. Food is beaucoup and transportation is cheap (that is when you take the NDND* and not taxi).

If you crave the sun, beautiful beach and want a feel of the Caribbean still with the complete African flava, then I suggest you take the next plane, bus or ferry to Dakar. Would I recommend Dakar for a holiday place anytime of the year? Most definitely!

*Ndjiangi ndjiayi, it’s the local buses around the Dakar area

Monday, 29 September 2008

In Dakar, Life’s a beach everyday.


In Dakar, Life’s a beach everyday.

Valle D’Or, Yoff, Terou Bi, do these names sound familiar?  They are the names of some of the beaches in Dakar and being the nice person that I am, I took it upon myself to visit these beaches so that I could tell you my readers about them. It had nothing to do with me wanting to escape the heat and having a good time.


There are 10 beaches in Dakar and all of them different from each other. Some like the Pointe de Almadies and Yoff, you can swim and surf, in Ngor & Terou Bi, you can go fishing, snorkelling and diving to your heart’s content. As for none swimmers like me who just want to paddle in the ocean and feel the water on our body, you can visit Ngor and Goree. If you like a little more privacy far from the crowds, then visit Valle D’Or, but be aware that the smell of smoked  from the fisheries close by can spoil the experience.


Our first beach was the Plage de Yoff, probably the largest beach in Dakar. For someone used to really huge waves at the beaches in Lagos, I was pleasantly surprised at how gentle the waves were and the soft sand made it a pleasure to walk on the beach. Since it was a Sunday, the walk on the beach was also for people-watching. This is strictly for the ladies, if you like well-built, tall dark-skinned men, my sister, Yoff is calling. Its eye-candy ville, my eyes had such a huge feast they thanked me for bringing them along.


For the brothers, all is not lost as the Senegalese babes are right up there on the scale of beautiful women and if you stick around you may see the occasional topless babe on the beach. Hmmm the stuff dreams are made of, right?


Another memorable beach trip was the one to Ngor. The plage de Ngor was not really impressive because we could hardly get into the water for the sea-weed. So we got on the canoe to Ngor Island, which is about 5 mins from the mainland. It’s a small beautiful island with well preserved brick houses and the main attraction is the beach.

Here we spent about 3 hours in the water because it was sooooo good, that we one couple looked they were having sex right in the water, all I could think was ‘I hope they have a condom!’  When we were not ‘swimming’, we were being ogled by those buff bodies I talked about earlier. I can’t say I blamed them though, when you’re hot, you’re hot especially in a bikini. Sorry guys, no more bikini pictures.


Although, technically it’s not in Dakar, the beach on Goree Island is another lovely one. A 7-minute boat ride from Dakar, Goree attracts the eyes with all the brick buildings and clay? roofs. An island known for it’s history of the colonial times, it’s a place that is well worth visiting. If you like dreadlocked guys, then you’re in ‘Rasta Paradise’ because  almost every man here wears dreadlocks. I asked our guide who also happened to be a rastaman (surprise, surprise) about this, and he said ‘it’s the island spirit, it makes everybody want to have dreadlocks’.


After a heated conversation with the islanders over the future of Africa and how we can change the continent, we spent the night in Goree, at a small guest house called, Keur Sokhna for 13000 cfa (about 30 USD) and it was money well spent. We woke up to bird-songs and went for a morning swim and another walk around the island deliberately avoiding the slave-museum, we were on our way back to Dakar.


 Ok, enough of the vicarious living for now, the beaches of Dakar beckon. More gist later. I’m outtie! 

Friday, 12 September 2008

Any beautiful day...

As time goes by, i wonder where the day has gone.

Its been 4days in Senegal and it feels like i've always lived here. Its a friendly and peaceful environment, with everybody trying to help especially when they understand that you dont speak French. The day flies by really quickly because there's so much to do.

I've always heard people say that Senegalese women are beautiful but i didnt quite understand what they meant until i experienced it first hand. They are easily the most beautiful women i have come across yet in Africa and i say yet because i havent travelled wide and there is still a lot to see.

From their slim tall figures, to their beautiful smiles to their lovely faces, i would say God took a little extra time creating these women.

All around me here, i see a clear appreciation of the body, beauty and skin that is African. With a wrapper around their waist and a spring in their step, they swing along to some unheard tune playing in the distance.

I'm thankful that im not a man and not in the least inclined towards women, i would have had my plate full contemplating what to say to these 'works of art'. Instead, ill say to a creator who did a great job and took a holiday afterwards...Good job Monsieur Dieu!

Visa to where?

This is an amusing something that happened to me at the airport as I set out on my own journey to Celebrate Africa.
At the Virgin Nigeria counter I handed my passport and ticket to the attendant. As he quickly flips through my travel documents he fixes me with an exasperated and impatient expression and demands “where is your visa?”
“Visa? I mouthed wondering why I needed a visa. He returns my passport to me and replies in Pidgin English, “Aunty, if you no get visa you no fit go!”
He immediately signals to the next person behind me to come forward. “Visa to where?” I asked in a very bemused tone and he goes “UK Visa”, “if you no get am, you no fit go”.

I smiled and told him I was headed to Dakar and therefore didn’t need a UK visa. He literally took a step backwards, looked up sharply with a shocked expression on his face and answered me in thick Yoruba, “ehn, then why did you dress like people going to London? You should have said all along that you were going to Dakar”. His colleague at the other counter quickly adds, “We know people wey dey go Dakar when we see dem”

What?! That had me almost doubling over in laughter; so the next time I’m travelling, I have to go to the airport to get the dress code for each country I visit.

Celebrates Africa Makes Two

09/09/08 .
Hooray! we are now officially a team – Team Celebrate Africa – with the addition of Oluchi to the hoofing it, sightseeing, bus-riding, strange food-eating, Celebrating Africa partnership.

Not that this significant milestone was achieved without some struggle...

Two months after the journey began, my sister Oluchi has joined the Celebrate Africa team. She arrived in Dakar on the 6th of September, with much anticipation and excitement on my part. I am very excited to have company on this journey but this also means that I have to adjust to not running the show alone now.
In December last year when I began making concrete plans for CA, Oluchi did a lot of the planning with me, with the intention to do the trip together. However, as time went by she lost her nerve, and said she couldn’t do it just yet as it would mean leaving her job, leaving the family etc etc. You know that long whine of the uncommitted! After just one week in Accra during the first week of CA, she became a thorough-going convert: she promptly went back home and resigned her job.

Our travelling partnership is now three days old, time we have spent trying to gauge each other’s rhythm. I’ve bitten my tongue when the impulse to scream at her for mishandling the video camera – by my perfectionist standards -becomes almost uncontrollable! She’s been trying not to become exasperated – but I can feel the eyes rolling and the little intake of breath that goes along with that - with my wanting to attend to every detail.

We are going to have fun together, as long as we don’t end up killing each other before the year ends. I have to try and not ‘big sister’ her – hey, after all we are partners – the sisterhood of the Africa Celebrators, right? That’s cool long as I’m the principal partner, ok, Oluchi?

Oluchi will be focusing mainly on filming and interviews with the various charming Africans we come across. You can read more about her on the website. I am sure you will agree that it was a great idea for her to join me on the road. Big welcome, Sis and Junior Partner.

Hell is a bus ride to Tambacounda.


Hell is a bus ride to Tambacounda.

I am trying to Celebrate Africa, but I tell you these our bus driver, border officials and their mates, are not helping my mood at all!

The bus ride was an adventure or misadventure – take your pick! - I didn’t bargain for. A journey that was supposed to take five hours became a bus-ride from hell!

The bus left Kayes – a border town in the west of Mali- after a 2-hour wait and a mad rush to get onboard that completely disregarded the fact that you’d paid the full fare for, gasp, gasp, a seat. If you weren’t nimble, ruthless or cold-blooded you simply ended up standing all the way to Dakar. I gave up my seat for two elderly people and squeezed myself between two really large people, it was a little suffocating, but all for a good cause, and I didn’t really mind as it was going to be a mere 5-hour drive. 5 hours? Yeah, right!

At the first immigration check-point, we all submitted our passports on command and had to pay a “special handling” fee of 1000cfa each to get them back. I’m thinking, “that’s okay, it’s normal even though it’s not written in any books anywhere but it has become institutionalised.” Again, I reminded myself that border control duty was dirty and dangerous, and that these poor, prosperous looking guards had to be helped in any way possible.

Next, we get to the border [yes, there are two immigration posts at Kayes] and once again, we submit our passports. We wait for our names to be called out aloud, my name is called last and when I walked up to the customs official to collect my passport.

Customs Official: ‘Give me 10000cfa!’

Sassy Nigerian Woman: ‘ 1000? For what?’

This support of Customs Officialdom is getting to be too much: I cock my fist and put in on my hip in an unmistakable gesture of defiance.

In the meantime, the other Nigerian on the bus who has been asked for the same amount quickly pulls out a 5000cfa note, causing the immigration officer to look at him and say ‘if you don’t have the money, go to that side and wait for me’. So I follow the Nigerian man (who by the way has a Ghanaian passport, which may explain his quiet acquiescence) and we wait for a few minutes in the two-person No-Money line.

Some Nigerians, who were travelling in the other direction toward Mail, overheard me as I complained to my fellow “sequesteree” about the injustice of the situation. These experienced border crossers, overhearing me, said to me, gently, as in the way you talk to a difficult child, ‘look, na so dem dey do for dis place o, if you come from English speaking country dem go dey treat you as dem like. Infact the Senegal side worse pass sef’

In surprise –maybe, I was buying too much into the ECOWAS hype, I ask them ‘why 10 000, why not 1000 like all the others?’ They just laugh and tell me to bargain for 5000cfa.

I walk up to the counter and hand out a 5000cfa bill to the official and after a long song and dance act about me being a student and not having more to give him, he accepts and signs my passport.

Being a believer in‘The Secret’, I make promises to myself that I would cross the Senegalese border without paying a dime. Well, I guess I haven’t gotten a hang of The Secret yet, because not only did I pay 10000cfa, but the officials subjected me to a barrage of pushing, shoving and screaming, the like of which I hope never again to experience when I refused to pay. Another official seized my passport and kept yelling at me ‘ Just pay your money! Pay your money!’ This is not the Africa I was counting on Celebrating, I can tell you, gentle reader!

Eventually, the pressure to become a good fellow traveller and to allow the bus and all of the people on board to continue on their merry way broke through my wall of resistance and I paid the bribe. It was ugly, but it had to be done, my fellow travellers were wondering whether I had taken leave of my senses, my Ghano- Nigerian brother was literally begging me to pay so that we could leave. I was boiling-point livid, but it was clear that my righteous anger was not going to resolve the problem there and then! I consoled myself by thinking that these guys obviously did not get the memo that ECOWAS citizens don’t need more than a passport to cross the border. Or maybe they did and could not be bothered.

The thoughts kept on crossing my mind with some frequency: “surely, this is not the Africa that I left my home and family to celebrate? This one where I get beaten up when I refuse to pay a bribe? This one where they don’t even ask for a bribe nicely? Should I have stayed home?” These thoughts release me from my inhibitions and I curse these thieving Customs Officials and their brothers wherever they can be found throughout the world, but that doesn’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks.

Advisory to the Senegalese government: “Stop your employees from sullying your country’s good name, or and put up signs at the border posts that say ‘Beware! Crazy officials at work’! You would be doing travellers a favour!

Time check, 11pm.
The bus drives for a few more minutes and drives into the customs garage at Diboli, a Senegalese border town. All the passengers begin to alight and spread cloths on the ground around the bus. Bewildered, I quickly look for the Nigerian guy, and ask, ‘what’s going on?’ ‘Oh the bus is not moving again till tomorrow morning. There are some women in this bus who have goods to declare at customs but the customs have closed so we have to wait here till morning!’ Ok, I take deep breaths, I can deal with this. I quickly take out my blanket, dab on some insect repellent and stake my claim on a spot on the ground. Bonne nuit.

Time check, 2 am,
There’s a heavy wind blowing and the woman lying next to me says something loudly in Wolof. At once, all the sleeping people wake up and quickly rush back into the bus. I, as usual being clueless about what’s going-on, walk behind the bus for a quick pee. When I’m done, I turn around to see that the heavy wind has turned into a sandstorm, blowing so much sand my way. Sand in my eyes, my hair, my mouth, my clothes, everywhere!

I run as quickly as I can back into the bus, back to my seat.
It begins to rain and I try to sleep in my seat, but I can’t sleep because there’s a really strong smell coming from right next to me. It smells like urine, sweat, bad breath all combined. I think the old lady and her blind husband have urinated on themselves. All the windows are closed, it’s suffocating. I can’t stay in the bus, but it’s raining outside. I chose the rain over dying by suffocation.

Time check, 7 am.
All the passengers are awake and in high spirits, making loud conversation and laughing loudly. I try to cheer myself up by washing my face and brushing my teeth. I discover a huge blister on my neck, I must have been bitten by an electric fly. So much for using insect repellent.

Time check: 2pm
We are finally back on the road and have been since 11am, which was when the almighty customs officers resumed work and cleared us. We’re eleven kilometres from Tambacounda, where I’ll be staying with my friend and her family.
We get pulled over, again! Customs officials on a stop and search, we all alight with our bags submitting our passports as usual. The customs official peers through all the bags and detains a passenger for daring to question his authority. We get delayed for one and a half hour. Tamba is so close yet so far away.

Time check : 4:30 pm
The bus finally rolls into Tambacounda, 24 hours since I left Mamou’s family in Kayes. It looks like a dusty old town but after my ordeal on the bus, I’m ecstatic to be here. I feel sorry for the other passengers who still have to get to Dakar, another good 8 hours from Tamba. If anyone tells me they’re travelling to Senegal from Bamako by bus, I would say ‘Enter at your own peril.’

Monday, 1 September 2008

The 'Real' Africa?

I posted this article a while ago on my website. Please feel free to comment.

The ‘Real’ Africa?
They call it the Dark Continent, even to this day! It's unknowable, it's stuck in the era before light, before television, before anything good. It reeks with waste from pit latrines. It’s filled with animals that are worth seeing, and humans that are worth shooing away! It's a blank page upon which anyone can write their fantasies. It's the place lovers of "authenticity" can travel through without noticing anything that disturbs their fantasies.Welcome to Africa!On the bus to Tamale, I met H-----, a Jamaican-American (or is this a redundant term, after all Jamaica is in the Americas). We got talking and eventually, she came to stay with me at my friend’s house while I was in Tamale.
H---- swears by Bradt, a guidebook on Ghana targeted at mainly European and American tourists visiting Ghana. I noticed that many of the tourists I saw had a new copy of this and I wondered how much money the publishers must be raking in.According to Bradt, there are a few things worth seeing and doing in this vast area of great historical importance. We are here to celebrate Africa, so let’s celebrate the African experience as it is lived by tourists to Tamale.

H----- suggests that we do a few things around Tamale as have been suggested by the ‘bible’, like visit Kalpohin, the Mole National Park and spend the night in a village called Larabanga with some people called The Salia brothers. We head out to Kalpohin for a ‘cultural exchange programe’ on a bus alongside some other tourists, though it turns out there is just two of us and the bus is actually a motorbike.

Next, We get on a bus by 4am to go to Larabanga and then Mole park which is about 6km from Larabanga. Once we reach Larabanga and step down from the bus, we are swarmed by young men who are immediately offering us a place to stay, to act as guides and just generally be of help (nuisance?). H.... tells them that we’ll be staying at the Salia Brothers guest house, so they point us in the right direction, making sure to tell us that the place is full. Me, being the city girl that I am, I’m expecting to see a modest house with a terrace and nice roof, you know, a very simple building. So you can imagine my surprise when we find the house, and it’s basically a collection of poorly built, hurriedly constructed mud-cement plastered huts, with dingy looking rooms and a pit latrine.

The beaming owner, Alhassan graciously offers to let us sleep on the roof for 3 Ghana cedis or stay in one of the rooms when the Dutch family who spent the night there check out. I’m horrified, because 1: It’s a filthy house and I don’t understand why anyone should pay to live like that and 2, this guy is making it look like it’s the Ritz or something. But H----- is sounding very excited, saying ‘wow, I can’t wait to sleep under the stars’. I’m thinking, No thanks.

Finally we decide that we need to get Mole Park and see if they have any accommodation, luckily I get a bunk-bed for 8 GhanaCedis a night and quickly stake my claim on it.

Afterwards, H----- accuses me of not being authentic in my decision to celebrate Africa since I refuse to experience what she calls the ‘real’ Africa. This got me asking a question many before me have asked.What is the real Africa? Is it a ram-shackle, filthy, rundown hut with no plumbing or is it a room with a comfy bed and running water? Is it an unwashed, naked kid, with runny nose and a bloated tummy or a happy, well-fed, fully-clothed kid? Is the real Africa the one where villagers perform on demand for tourists for a hand-out or is the one where the legendary Yaa Asantewaa stood up to the colonial invaders and demanded the release of her King in the 19th century Ashanti Kingdom?

Is the real Africa, dreadlocked guys on the beach trying to catch the eye of any foreign tourist for a quick buck and possibly a visa or is it an evening at the local drinking spot, having long conversations about Plato?

Heaven forbid, that I should complain about those lodgings because that would mean that I’m not truly African. To be truly African, I need to live in a mud-hut with a pit-latrine and if I choose properly planned sewer systems that give people a modicum of dignity – that would be inauthentic , almost …European… and we can’t have that happen.

I reject anything that makes it acceptable for anybody to live a helpless, filthy, poverty-stricken life all in the name of being authentic. Those same villagers who perform on demand have shea butter, cotton and pottery as a source of income. Why aren’t they being engaged in an equitable way to make money from these things and change their status?To make an experience really African does not mean having to battle flies from the pit-latrine. I know many people who live in villages whose houses are very clean, not paid for by any aid agency. Are they not Africans? Shouldn’t that way of living be celebrated?
Am I being naïve?You tell me.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Hating markets and loving Bamako

I hate markets, the strong smells, the crowd, the people badgering you to buy their wares, the mud, the fear that makes you hold on tightly to your purse, all the noise that gives you a headache… I hate markets!

I love the Bamako market. I think if you want to know the real character of a city, visit its market. You can observe the people, discover their creativity, how they feed, how they relate to themselves and to strangers. At the Bamako market, I became convinced that Malians are warm, friendly, caring people. They welcomed me into their stalls with warm smiles and once they realized I didn’t speak Bamara or French, they quickly found someone to translate in broken English. I even met a Ghanaian trader, Kodjo who did most of my translation at the waist bead stall (it kinda felt weird, him watching me try out the beads). They made sure to warn me about keeping my money safely in the market because there are bad people around, I smile at them and think, ‘ I’m a Lagos babe, your small time pick-pockets don’t scare me.’

That woman with skin badly damaged from bleaching holding hands with her beautiful dark-skinned daughter, showed me the futility in trying to negate who you are. You can only change the surface, you are what you are.
The tailoring section of the market, which had at least 100 tailors creating works of art from Malian fabric, convinced me that Malians loved their own. There were so many delicious designs and fabrics, I could not decide on which one I wanted. I was spoilt for choice.

I discovered the Bogolan woven cloth section, I say discovered because you really need to go right inside the heart of the market to find the stalls. The many different motifs depicting rural life had me thinking of how to make some money by buying them there and shipping them for sale in Nigeria for at least 5 times the cost!The rich colours made me come alive. Brightly coloured waist beads, beautiful fabrics, vegetables and fruits, bags, books, everything! The smells give me a jolt. The smell of leather at the craft section, smell of fried food, new fabric, all a treat for the senses.

The pulsating and pushing crowd, moving at its own pace. Chaos that has a method to it. The anonymity of being part of such a huge crowd and the feeling of safety that comes from knowing that everyone is looking out for me because they notice that I am not from these parts. The market is right in the centre of Bamako and interestingly, it does not have a name!

I love markets, the strong smells, the people smiling and offering you their wares, the laughing voices conversing loudly in a mix of languages that you cannot understand, the creativity and beauty on display. I love the Bamako market.

Friday, 15 August 2008


It’s been one month since Celebrate Africa started and all I feel is joy, love and freedom. If I had known that it would be this glorious, I would have done it earlier. It’s better than anything you’ve ever imagined, better than chocolate cake, than rice and dodo, it’s better than watching your favourite team win the world cup! It’s like being on Big Brother, Survivor and Idols all at the same time.Joy; abundant joy. I’m living my dream, it is a reality. Many people go through life never being able to live their dreams and for me, in less than two years after I seriously thought about this dream, it is coming true. Effortlessly, seamlessly, joyfully. It is true what they say, ‘if you can dream it, you can achieve it.’ Believe it.

I feel love for all the many people who believe in me and encourage me. The one who gives me advice about what to do, who to see, who to call, who encourages me because he has done this in the past. The other one who I call my ‘energizer bunny’, because he’s excited about everything I’ve done on this trip and badgers me to write about everything. My sister, who is packing her bags to join me on the road. All the fantastic people who leave such beautiful messages on my guestbook, including the spammers because they increase the hits on my site.

The feeling of freedom is the most powerful of all. At first, I thought I had to write, I had to update my website regularly, I have to see all the interesting places, I have to, have to, have to… Then I realized, I DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING! I do only the things I want to, when I want to do them. I am as free as air; I can make my home anywhere. The earth is my home.I am absolutely thankful for the opportunity to be doing this. Celebrate Africa is not about me alone, it’s about us as Africans and how we need to see all the things that make our continent fantastic. This is who we are. We are African. I am African

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Dear Ouaga

It ended before it really had a chance to start, didn't it? And all for that old reason, we just couldn't communicate... I felt your vibe before I met you, and, by aixe, it felt good. It was a vibe that got me right where it should...cinema, sexy guys on bikes. Oh, it took my breath away when I first communed with you.

Then we met. Hit and miss.

You tempted me with your art, granite sculptures at Lango, Hassan’s recycled metal furniture gallery, even your art village. You spoke to me with the strings and high-pitched-voice of your music. Remember that night when I went out to dinner and stopped by at Jardin Dliss? I felt something, a connection; too bad the long-winded taxi-driver spoilt the mood.

Why didn’t things work out even after I sat through a 3-hour movie in French? See, I heard you were the capital of African cinema and I tried to understand you better through your movies, it’s not my fault that the only the movie showing was the one from Conakry.

I thought we would be happy together. Your past lovers had spoken so well of your vibe and how you liked to party. Looks like I got the short end of the stick because the only party I went to, was the one in my head.

I got on a bike and went to Ouaga2000, just to see another side of you and see if I could connect with your more modern side. All I saw was a concrete city that was not different from all the capital cities in the world.

Darling Ouaga, paga waga schnookums, from the day I met you, I started looking forward to the next city. I felt how a prostitute must feel with one of her clients, ‘abeg do quick, make I dey go, person dey wait me’. Though your French accent had me thinking naughty thoughts, made me want to bat my eyes and say ‘oui, oui, monsieur’, yet there was something missing. There was no spark, no ‘va-va-voom’. My heart was not in it.

Our relationship might have been different if we had communicated but we didn’t speak the same language, so we didn’t speak. I guess that’s the way love is, sometimes you get on like a house on fire, other times you get burnt by the fire. It gets you all excited and then does not deliver on its promise, ‘promiscuous’* love.

I am sure we’ll meet again someday when we’ll both be older and wiser, then maybe, just maybe…

Au Revoir

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Easy Borders

Hey, if you have been conditioned to believe that every border crossing is difficult and unpleasant, that you must be prepared to lubricate the hands that open the gates into the new country with some "dash," if you have ever felt your heart sink at the prospect of dealing with the various officials who seem to enjoy torturing the African traveler, then, my dear friend, journey to the border of Ghana and Burkina Faso for a little corrective reconditioning.

Come to Paga and Dakola, don't speak French, expect to be put into the line for cretins and morons, look suspiciously at the officials! Then, realize that they are smiling at you, they are being courteous. The Ghanaians are helping you fill forms, they are having extended conversations with you about the brotherly rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana.
The dream gets better: the officials on the Burkina side are outdoing the Ghanaians in courtesy, in politeness and helpfulness.

I pinch myself. Should I be even more suspicious? Is this a trap, am I being set up?
No, it's all real. I can celebrate this. This is the Africa I came looking for. I can go home happy now. I knew it was out there.

But it really begs the question of why it's so different at the Seme-Cotonou, Hillacondji & Aflao borders. My wild guess? Corruption o! Corruption, the pit latrine of human commerce. Let's be as one to make all of Africa worthy of celebrating. It doesn't have to be this way!

Je ne pas compre francais

I love to communicate; I love the interaction with people. I love words and language, I love expression, I love the way thoughts are modulated into expressions that other people react to. I also love listening, but I don't love it exclusively – I want to talk and listen!

Maybe I was stupid, but it was only after I crossed the border into Burkina Faso that it really sank in that they actually spoke French there. Well, not just French, but also hundreds of other African languages that I didn't speak. Can you say, "this is a new experience?"
I was marooned in the Africa I had come to celebrate, my only means of communicating were a garbled French that sounded like I was rolling marbles in my mouth, a frenzied gesturing of the hands that left my biceps numb from the effort after three minutes. How did Tarzan do it?
Had I bitten off more than I could chew?

Anyway, there really was no going back. I was here to celebrate Africa, and I was not going to let a little matter of language stop me. There is beauty in listening to sounds you don't understand. You notice that your survival or merely your ability to cope comes to rest on your ability to grasp intonation, to observe nuances in body language. You start to learn to tell the difference between the woman who is offering to take you under her wing and the man who is eyeing the money in your hand with way too much avidity.

I decided to make the experience fun. I mean, how often do you get a chance to make mistakes all over the place and be able to blame the language? There's a lot to be said for this.
But on a more serious note, this brings to mind a lot of what is truly great and frustrating about Africa: the linguistic and cultural diversity. Just thinking about this alone may keep foolhardy home, but we fools know that it is when we surrender to the impulse to see for ourselves that the magic unfolds. And so it has.

By the way, how do you like my French? Je ne pas Compre Francais

My apologies to my French teachers in primary school, it really wasn't your fault!

Mad People, Insane Baboon.

I was in the middle of taking a nice cold water shower in Mole National Park, bracing as it was, I even felt as though I was really getting into the being as one with nature thing, when the place erupted. I could hear the kind of excitement in the voices of people as they screamed and ran this way and that. I thought, "Hmm, these people, one small elephant in the distance, and look at how they are shouting and carrying on!"
Nothing special, I concluded, and just continued with my daily constitutional.

A quarter of an hour later, I was done, dressed, and out of the door, skipping almost gaily to join the next safari leaving for the park. Oh, I had missed my normal breakfast of - ok, not akara, like a good African woman- bread and was eating my way through a small packet of shortcake biscuits. I was so enraptured with the day, the park, the weather, my shortbread, I was so into celebrating Africa – this was the Africa I came looking for – that I didn't notice the baboon that stalked up to me, eyeing my biscuits with a very proprietary air.

I was so startled, of course, that the normal thoughts didn't make any sense to me. Did baboons like shortbread, was I supposed to make cooing sounds and offer a handful of grubs, should I just reach out, pat it on its head and go, "Good boy, good boy?"

The baboon took note of my indecisiveness and just reached out and in short order took the packet of shortcake out of my hands! No argument, no negotiation, no rethinking, no navel gazing. And then he realized that I probably had more shortcake hiding somewhere, so he took the one I had in my hand as well, the one I was about to pop into my mouth. At this time, I was really impressed with its dexterity, the speed of its reflexes; the crazy animal could have been a champion middleweight boxer, if it could have been persuaded to spend time in a gym.

And then as quickly as it had begun, my introduction to wildlife in its native habitat was over, she was off into the scrub, loot in paws. it was then that I noticed that my knees had been shaking, my teeth chattering. When my eyes could focus again, I saw the sign that said 'Visitors are not allowed to feed the animals on this park!' And, you know what? I agreed, except that no one had told this baboon about this rule. And in any case, feeding an animal should have been conscious choice, what had happened decidedly wasn't what I would have chosen to do.

But to be fair to the baboon, I was none the worse for the experience. Hey, this is why I left the human baboons I was used to at home. I wanted to see how their "wilder" cousins measured up. I think it's a toss-up, but I did get a blogpost out of the encounter, so I wasn't doing too badly.
Anyhow, the rest of the day went according to script, we saw the dozens of fauna and flora whose pictures inspired all my fellow tourists to leave comfy homes all over the world to trek here, but to be honest with you, my heart belonged to that baboon!

So that was that, I managed to snatch a few hours of sleep till three a.m., when there was a crazy you-sleep-you-lose rush to get a seat on the bus for Larabanga. This was a race I had fought before in Lagos, so I pressed my advantage, and just like that I was on the bus. "Sorry, lady", I said in my head to the one I had to elbow aside elegantly, "won't do it again, ok?"

I got to the Salia Brothers', and realized that in spite of my friend H's desire to sleep on the roof to count the stars as one ought to in the "real Africa," the heavy rainfall from the previous night had put paid to those plans. Hah, I exulted quietly, even the gods have sense.

I have a detour to make to see a traditional healer who specializes in mental health. Hmm, maybe I should have offered the healers number to the baboon and quite a few of the tourists I encountered. I think I will really enjoy this bit of Africana, only a week or so out of Lagos, and I already need a mental tune-up, way too much fun stuff has happened already.

Tomorrow, I press on to Burkina Faso…I can't wait.


P:s I confess, I have had lots of help in writing this post, i'm not half this witty all by myself. Most of it is from my friend K, my pseudo editor. Thanks K.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Leaving Accra

We finally left Accra, kicking and screaming. I almost wish I could stay longer but I already postponed leaving twice this week. We got into Kumasi around 5pm, because even though we got to the bus station around 10, we didn’t leave until 1pm! I think I’m beginning to learn the true meaning of patience and slow down the pace I used to have when I was working, it’s a bit humbling to realize that the world does not revolve around me and what I want!

It’s been another beautiful week, with me meeting more people than I have met in a loooong time, I even fell in lust (I’m not telling who). Everyone has been very encouraging about ‘Celebrate Africa’ and with contributing wonderful ideas for making it a truly successful project.

It seems like the possibilities are endless and I think that’s one of the things that scares me, it might be such a runaway success that I wouldn’t know what to do with it.

I’m now in Kumasi, and will be in Tamale on Tuesday, if I can find someone to host me. Then it’s on to Burkina Faso on Thursday. I’m a bit apprehensive about Burkina because I no ‘parle francais’, but I bet it’s going to be really interesting to see how far my sign language and a smattering of French mixed with Hausa takes me.

My sister, Ijeoma leaves for Lagos on Monday and then it’s just me and any of the many friends I make along the way. Two people close to me have expressed interest in joining me, but we’ll see. Anyone who wants to join is welcome, so long as I don’t hold anyone’s hand or baby-sit because this is as much a journey of self-discovery as it is a journey to discover Africa. So we’ll see.

I’m going to try and write something everyday but update during the weekend so that I don’t have to spend everyday of the week looking for internet connections. Remember to check my website for updates and remember to donate, donate, donate.



Saturday, 19 July 2008

Six days on the road.

Six days on the road.

Boy! Have I had a good time or what? I’ve gone to the museum, been to an Obama Rally that didn’t happen, gotten a killer hangover, visited the botanical gardens in the hills in Aburi, got hit on by dreadlocked guys on the beach in Cape coast looking to score with any foreigner, even if you’re from Nigeria, visited an essential oil processing plantation, stayed up all night, all in six days!
I got a great confidence boost when I met June, a Kenyan, who travelled across Africa in a straight line, through conflict zones for the BBC. She was very enthusiastic and encouraged me to go for it, saying it’s going to change my life for the better if I do. She’s also volunteered to give me some contacts and we talked about how we could eventually develop a contact pool for anyone who wanted to do this trip. Sounds like a great idea, something worth looking into.

Next week promises to be activity-packed as well and it looks like I’m going to have to turn down some invitations. I’ll be visiting some towns up north as I move towards the boundary between Ghana and Burkina Faso. I’ll be making stopovers in Kumasi, Tamale and Bolgatonga.

Right now, we’re in Takoradi, a quiet peaceful town in the western region. If you ever want to go on vacation in Ghana, make sure you visit Takoradi. It’s a beautiful city, with a great view anywhere you are and green everywhere. There are several beaches within walking distances and hills for you to go hiking on if you wish. We’re staying at a lovely house up on a hill with a view of the ocean and lovely garden with exotic flowers. Yeah, it’s a good life.
I’m creating a page on the Celebrate Africa website for every country I visit, so you can read all about the people I’ve been meeting on the what’s new page.

It begins!

Yeah, I’m off! Finally. I’ve waited so long for this. My parents and my younger sister Chinyere ,saw me off to the bus station and there were tears as we said our goodbyes. My sisters Oluchi and Ijeoma, decide to go with me as far as Ghana, since they’re on vacation. So we’re looking forward to a lovely time in Ghana.
The trip was the usual, with the customary stop and hassle at the borders even though luckily we went on an ABC bus, so we didn’t have to deal with the immigrations officials directly. However, I think Ecowas needs to do something about travelling across our borders because it can become a lot easier than it is right now.

Anyways, we got into Accra on Sunday and it’s been slow-paced but fun so far. We got an invitation to an ‘Obama rally’, another one to visit a plantation in the western region and an invite to some friends in Kumasi.

So far, I will be going to all of these places and I still plan to visit a designer from a Burkina and a non-profit in Accra.

The most liberating thing about my trip so far is the fact that I can just up and do whatever I wish, no questions asked. I can decide to visit any city I want, I can change my mind. It’s my prerogative. If I like the city, I can stay longer but if not, I could leave on the next bus. This really promises to be a great trip.



Monday, 7 July 2008

Two send-off parties and a new beginning.

July 1st 2008

Two send-off parties and a new beginning.

Last night, I went to the movies with my friends and family. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t really be significant except that for the next year, I wont be going to the movies with my friends and family every Monday as I usually do. So, last night we had a send-off gathering for me, drinks and the movies. Everybody kept asking me if I was really going to do this. For about 30 minutes they took shots at me in jest, Jide called me foolhardy, Funmi called me crazy, Ijeoma said ‘the wildlife in Africa is the least of your problems, it’s the people you should be afraid of!’ We had many laughs and a few drinks.

I will definitely miss the movies with the ‘fun bobs’ ( I don’t know what that means, but I found out that’s what our weekly gathering’s called), I’ll miss meeting up at the cinemas in the evening on Mondays to watch even the wackiest movies from Hollywood, because it’s about the hanging out not the movie. I’ll miss all the cynical commentary and chants of ‘chick flick’ whenever we hear any corny line. I’ll miss all the laughs and fighting over salt or sugar popcorn. I’ll miss Jide’s Gummi worms.

Today, my office threw a send-off party after working there for nearly 5 years. I left with mixed feelings, joy that I’m starting something new and sadness that I’m leaving something and people that I’ve known for that long. There were many tears, mostly from me but there were lots of hugs too. Thinking back on my years with KIND, I realize that I’ve grown a lot since when I first joined the organization and I’ve learned a lot from working there. I’ll surely miss my colleagues who have become like my family.

I feel many emotions, most of it excitement for the new adventure, lots of heartfelt joy because my dream is coming true, relief that I’m finally getting to do what I’ve always wanted and fear that I’m out on my own now in this big bad world. I am going away to create new memories and pursue a dream that might be foolhardy but definitely worthy, crazy but exciting. I plan to thoroughly enjoy myself, take the difficult days in my stride and just generally have a blast!

It’s a new day.


Resignation Day

2nd June 2008

Resignation Day

I handed in my resignation letter today. Liberation. Freedom. Excitement. Fear. Sadness. I go through all these feelings as I submit the letter to the admin manager.
Liberation because my own time is now mine to do as I will, work on my own terms. I now call the shots! Freedom from all the politics that comes with working in an office, I’m now free to be and not worrying how to make my every move at work strategic. Excitement because this means Celebrate Africa is really happening, my dream to see Africa by road is no longer a dream, I am doing it! Yippeee!!
Fear of the unknown: what if I fail? What if all my money finishes on the journey halfway and I have to come back home without accomplishing anything? But it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all( Yeah, I know it’s a cliché, but that’s because it’s true).
Sadness because I have spent four and half years working here, making friends, learning, growing and becoming. Goodbye is truly the saddest word.

It’s 44 days to take-off date. I have so many things to sort out, because of the tight work schedule I’ve had since the beginning of the year, all the planning for Celebrate Africa has been in my head. I have to sort out banking issues, contacts for every country, learn how to use the cameras, shop for stuff, work on the website, raise more funds, and the list goes on and on…

As I reflect on the past 4 years, I’m literally surprised at how far I have come since January 2004 when I was really in a bad place and needed a change in my life. That change came with the job and all it’s challenges and triumphs. I don’t wish that anything happened differently, it was the way it was supposed and for that I’m thankful.

Like they say, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. All that remains is for me to figure out a way to tell my parents that I quit my job!

Ndewo nu.