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