Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Articles of interest to moi (2016)

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Friday, July 15, 2016

This is not a test

Hola peeps.

It is 936pm on Thursday, July 14th and I am typing this from the comforts of David’s couch in Kampala. You finding it difficult to keep track of my movements, huh? Yup, that’s ‘cos after landing in Kigali last Thursday with grand plans to do touristy stuff from the next day until my return to Juba on Sunday, fighting kicked off in my new nation’s capital. No need to provide links to news reports as I am sure you’ve already heard of the loss of lives and displacement of thousands.

Woke up Friday morning to news of skirmishes the night before, and mind went back to incident described in last blog entry, and also last week Wednesday night when I was stopped by “security” on way from buying pizza. Though I took the ‘normal’ route this time, I was not surprised to be stopped, as things get a little heavy towards Independence Day (July 9th). First, dude accused me of speeding, and only backed off after I gave him my patented Come on, I’m Nigerian. You really think that lame excuse to extort money is gonna work on me look that worked so well in Monrovia back in the day, and recently at the Nairobi airport. Then, after glancing at driver’s license, the car’s log-book, aka “particulars” to you Nigerians, was requested. Dunno why it is referred to as “book” seeing as it’s just a tiny, single-leafed laminated document with the car details. I recall having a copy made and kept in the glove compartment, so I confidently flipped open the compartment hoping to be home with loadsa time to have pizza, pack for Kigali trip, then watch Wales take on Portugal in the Euros.

Did not quite happen to plan as could not locate log-book. Efforts to reach my driver proved abortive as both his phones were off; guess he was enjoying his public holiday a tad much. Further efforts to explain this to the security personnel fell on deaf ears. Dude seized car keys and I had to call a South Sudanese colleague to rescue the situation. While thinking, I really need to learn Juba Arabic so these incidents stop recurring, colleague informed me he parted with $100 in order to get the car released. U what?! One hundred US dollars?! I was miffed, and told him I would have left the car in their custody and asked the driver to return the next day with the document requested. Dude laughed and said if we had let them hold on to car for the night, chances are one might not see car again. Or if our luck was in, only certain parts of would be taken out. Turns out dude was not exaggerating. Just like traffic control officers who unscrew car license plates, say if one parks incorrectly, to compel driver to seek them out and  discover what one’s crime (and “fine”) is, not guaranteeing security of car, even though it is in the custody of the “authorities”, is one of those uniquely Juba-esque phenomena.  “What are you gonna do”, mate asked when I appeared shocked at this news. “Did you see any name tags on any of them? If they choose to take your car to their base, best go with them and sleep in car if necessary, else that is last time you gonna see car”.

Woah, I have been in Juba for 15 months and still get surprised by stuff. I recall first time I heard about girls fighting in clubs over mundane stuff, now it’s normal to see the girl that previously looked like a saint threatening to stab her ex-boyfriend for hanging with her friend. I no longer flinch at tales like guy causally discussing shooting his girlfriend’s cuz whose only crime was not allowing girlfriend go off with him ‘cos said girlfriend had told her parents she was spending night at cuz’s crib, and cuz didn’t wanna be held accountable should stuff go awry. Yup, Juba still seems to hold a lot of surprises in store for moi (and that’s not even accounting for recent discovery that the Tinder app in Juba only has seven (7) people signed up). Case in point is the recent outbreak of violence between rival factions of what should be a unity government.

Last week, when I told my female colleague I was off to Kigali, she jokingly asked if I would return to Juba “cos Rwanda women are uber hot”. Well, didn’t get to really see anyone ‘cos as intimated earlier I was distraught at news of the clashes. Good thing on the day of arrival I made appointment for a 90 minute sports massage for the next day. After spending most of Friday following up on events in Juba I chose to decompress with said massage, and, ahem, a mani+pedi. On Saturday, went with mates to the Kigali Genocide Museum which was beyond sobering. Was on verge of tears a number of times, and the events in Juba further added a sense of poignancy to the day. The next day, as flights to Juba were cancelled, I had to re-route return ticket to Entebbe. Hence, why I am currently camped out on David’s couch.

A ceasefire was announced the evening of on Monday July 11th, and one sincerely hopes this is for real, and not just a simulacrum of peace before another recrudescence in fighting. Even though the ceasefire has been pretty much adhered to, a number of nations have continued evacuating their citizens as precaution. My colleague was flown out of Juba yesterday on a charter flight that cost $1,200 for a one-way ticket to Entebbe. Yup, that crazy. Poor lady was indoors throughout 4 days of fighting and, as expected, remains traumatized by any sudden outburst of noise. Although bosses in Nigeria insisted I return to Lagos until events in Juba assume normalcy, I fought against it and assured them I would rather be here, nearby, monitoring events, and shall only return to Juba when I get reassurance from peeps at the coalface.

On second thought, maybe I should have taken their advice as it feels weird to wear the same clothes twice in a week. Plus, I can’t work out ‘cos don’t have any gym clothes, rechargeable electric toothbrush is running outta juice, and most dire of all, I am running outta jokes. Usually my trips to Kampala last for a max of 3 days, where I regale Dave with funny anecdotes about Juba. Now, before I say stuff, Dave politely blurts out, “oh, you’ve told me that already.” Darn! Contents of my usual travel toilet bag are also running low: miniature cologne, miniature deodorant, and miniature lip balm. Now here’s where you are probably thinking, how much lip balm does a brother need? Hey, it ain’t like I have huge ass Mick Jagger lips where a large tub of Vaseline is a monthly requirement for keeping lips moist; it’s just that, you know what, who cares what you think?

David’s been having a ball having me around as he now has an excuse to throw out every non-PC joke he’s ever thought of. When a mutual friend called his phone to commiserate with me on situation in Juba, he goes, “Welcome to Dave’s substitute UN camp. For refugees from Syria, press 1. To speak to refugees from Nigeria, press 2…” And there I was thinking his take on Prince’s cremated body filling only a shot glass was a nadir.

Yup, I remain the world’s only refugee offered a choice of fresh meals, cable TV, a standby help to carry out laundry and make bed, and access to 3G Wi-Fi access. Let it be on record that I put in a complaint to my local UNHCR (aka David) about his camp not having 4G Wi-Fi connectivity. I am not comfortable reprinting the words he used as this is a family website.
Not all bad though, as Wi-Fi access has enabled me keep up with work and arrange a few meetings for Kampala. I met some dude who told me Kampala’s now the fastest growing market for Uber. Man, I hate those guys for stealing my Rent-A-Driver idea from a decade ago. Sure, I didn’t pursue my idea further, but it’s never too late to piggyback on their concept. With the spate of extramarital affairs in Kampala Dave keeps telling me about it might be time to found an Uber for monitoring one’s spouse’s movements. A mix of Uber and the Cheaters TV show if you wish. Need your suggestions for a snazzy brand name as so far all I have come up with are Uber Xxx and Voyeur.

Everyone that meets me here keeps asking for reasons for the recent clashes like I am supposed to know intricate details ‘cos I live in Juba. However, while explaining depth of what I knew to David and his pals, I started to make sense even to myself, and realized this is how one gets designated an “expert” on certain issues. All that is left for me to appear on a few global news networks, and before you know it, I’ll become a sought after talking head. Yup, it’s that simple.

A few others still don’t get why I moved to South Sudan in the first place, and are even more incredulous when I tell them I intend to return as soon as regular commercial flights resume. They mean well though, and keep offering unsolicited advice. Some lady told me to always have a month’s supply of food at home and an emergency pack that has essential items such as “strong deodorant that is guaranteed to prevent sweat for at least a week”. A week?! That reminded me of a comedy show at GeorgiaTech when a lady said she bought a drug that was guaranteed to prevent pregnancies for life. “I took those two tablets and within 24 hours all hair on right side of body fell off. I am talking on head, armpit, eyebrows, eyelashes, everywhere! Plus my breath stunk like a skunk. Then I realized the manufacturers were right: looking and smelling like this, ain’t no way I was gonna get pregnant ’cos ain’t nobody gonna wanna touch me!

On a serious tip, my host has been a good sport, and did his best to cheer me up when I arrived on Sunday dejected. After a meal with ice-cream, we went to catch the Euro 2016 finals, and he suggested we drop by a club. I was about to complain about it being a Sunday night and how club would probably be empty as most folk would be prepping for work the next day….then I remembered I was in Kampala, the nightlife capital of East Africa, and kept mouth shut. Sure enough, we got into the club at 1am, and there was a sizeable number in there. Mind was still on happenings in Juba, so sat at same spot and hardly moved until we left after 2 hours.

Funniest event of the night was when Sinach’s gospel hit I Know Who I Am came on. A number of couples who had hitherto been grinding against each other slowly created some space between them. Then, after the song ended they went back to the way they were. Yup, that song has become this generation’s Stomp and Shackles(Praise You) all rolled into one. That sight took me back to uni days when you having dirty thoughts in head with chick you dancing with and then Shackles comes on. All of a sudden the message of your last Bible study pops in your head, and you start confessing sins you have committed and ones you are about to commit. Come to think of it, my guiltiest feeling was probably dancing to Stomp in a Leeds club called Heaven & Hell. I am sure I musta told you this before, the club had separate rooms, Heaven, with paintings of angels on the wall, and Hell with you know what. I ended up not asking for any girl’s number at end of the night due to immense guilt. Ha. Man, did I think I was fooling God?

The minor inconvenience (of being away from station) obviously has nada on what others went through in South Sudan, and I apologize for joking about it earlier. You musta noticed by now it’s my way of dealing with stuff. Immediately I heard news of the fighting my mind went to the verse in 1 Timothy 2 about praying for those in authority so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. We take a lot of things for granted when things are hunky-dory, but this episode has taught me to watch what I say, and even though I may not fancy a leader’s policies or the cut of their jib, I am bound to pray for them. Now, this doesn’t mean they get a free pass, but in my criticisms I must also remember they are human and God ultimately has control of their lives (Proverbs 21 v 1).

Speaking of prayer, since I am not alone at David’s I tend to pray sotto voce so I do not disturb anyone. Come to think of it, even when I was alone for almost a month in 5-bedroom crib in Lagos – and chose to use a different toilet a day just so I could “fully utilize” rent – I still never prayed aloud. I have always prayed quietly and tend to do other stuff, like shining shoes, while praying so mind does not wander off. A friend once told me of a neighbor who prayed so loud it bugged him so. Once while studying, all was tranquil until a paroxysmal “OH, SO SATAN, YOU ARE STILL HERE? GET OUT!” was heard from his neighbor’s apartment. Instinctively, he ran out of the room and it was only when he got to the door leading out of his apartment he came to and cracked up upon realizing what had just occurred.

Another close friend’s currently on a 21-day fast to help her “pray better and connect to God”. Now, that is commitment! Prayer should be a two-way conversation where one talks to God, and God talks back to one. I can never truly say I have heard God talk, you know, like talk, TALK. My friend insists she has. Said God once told her to get me chocolate and she didn’t know why until I showed up miffed about stuff and only calmed down after she provided the candy. Oh by the way, she now tells me she had a dream about me lying on the ground and being flogged way before incident of weeks back occurred, but she did not know what it meant at the time. Woah. Lately, I have attempted planting subliminal messages in her head about the $40,000 Hublot watch I wanna get as a 40th birthday present. Wish me luck.

Tot ziens and God bless.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

King Kunta

Hola peeps.

It’s 2:52am on 6th July and cannot sleep. Tomorrow, well, today really, is a public holiday to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Yesterday (Wednesday) was initially set to be a holiday, got a news circular and everything, only for moi to get up and find it had been rescinded overnight. Juba of things?

Just occurred to me today’s also Feyi Fasan’s birthday. She was my first ever crush in Primary 5 and recall visiting her crib in Festac for a birthday party, and catching Rocky IV and The Karate Kid while waiting on driver to pick my bro Ayo and I up. Fast forward a few years, I cannot remember how we re-connected, but met up for drinks in London and ‘Feyi’ was now ‘Faye’. Didn’t matter as it was just great to see her. Weirdest of weirdest thangs, some months afterwards I step up to some Asian girl at a club in Leeds who I later found out was Faye’s closest pal in uni. We ended up dating for a while and she was very sweet. Now why am I telling you all this? Haven’t the foggiest idea. Woke up three days ago with a sore neck and the pain’s been affecting my thought process ever since.

Don’t matter if today’s a public holiday though, as I am still gonna be busy working. Had heard whispers last week about public holidays being held on Thursday and Friday, and, as such, booked a ticket to Kigali as some mates were going. Since it’s too late to cancel plane tix, I gotta take that time off vacation allotment. Well, never been to Kigali so it should be an experience.

Speaking of experiences, Black Damme realized last week Tuesday that everything in one’s head, every preconceived idea of what one would do in a situation, disappears at the sight of a gun. No roundhouse kick, no saving the damsel in distress, no smart-alecky one-liners, no……wait, there could be cheeky one-liners, but those would only be played in one’s head, no way one would think to blurt that out.

Recall that Arrested Development song, Everyday People? There is a line there, my day was going great and my soul was at ease…..well, that’s what I felt like on Tuesday. I had returned from work, where everyone commented on my snazzy new blazer, and tried to take a dump. Since I moved to apartment, I hadn’t spent much time in it, before travelling to Nigeria for work, thus didn’t realize issues I had raised a fortnight before were not fixed. One of them was the bog. Since return, I insisted they resolve the fault, and while about to take a dump, the plumber walked in – I coulda sworn I locked the door – so had to halt business for him to do the needful. Decided then to go say hi to folks I hadn’t seen in a while ghost plumber – he musta walked through walls ‘cos I am sure I locked door – did his thing.

First stop was kickboxing coach, where I told him I’d be primed to resume classes over the weekend. Next trip was to former abode where I spent almost 12 months of my life in Juba. Man, I felt like a celebrity. All that was left to do was sign autographs ‘cos of all the love that was in the air. Ladies at reception were all smiles, waiters and waitresses in the restaurant gave me hugs, guys working out in the gym talked about how they had missed me, in short, my day was going great and my soul was at ease.

After hotel I stopped by to see another mate and caught up on goings on in Juba since I left. Leaving mate’s I decided to try out a new route home. Why? Well, it was 830pm, so wasn’t so late as to be dangerous, and I was still buzzing from all the love I had received earlier…plus, I was bedizened in my GQ blazer. Hate to admit it also, but I tend to get an adrenaline rush from seeing how long I can hold poop for. Was hoping by taking a new, hopefully circuitous route, by the time I returned home there would just be enough time left for a mad dash up to apartment to test the skills of (Casper the Friendly Ghost) plumber.

A minute into new route I noticed a soldier pointing a gun at me so I slow down and dim the headlights. Another walks from back of car to passenger side and I wind down. Dude asks why I didn’t stop when he beckoned – he didn’t use the word ‘beckon’ – at me. Told him I didn’t see him, and during the back and forth, I was asked to alight – he didn’t use the word ‘alight’ – from the vehicle.

Recall last blog where I told of peeps getting robbed by security personnel, well, I thought this was what was happening to me, and like a true Nigerian the following thoughts quickly went through my head: Tunde, think back. Did you sin a few minutes earlier? No. THINK BACK! Why did you take this route? Was it so you could go do something seedy? No. So it’s just a mistake, right? And if you get killed you feel you would be in right standing with God? Yup. Okay then, I am satisfied. Let the robbery commence…

I get out of the car and the following conversation ensues with dude I shall call Captain Phillips just ‘cos like in the Tom Hanks-starrer of the same name, he was the only pirate that spoke English.

Tunde: Sorry, I don’t understand you.
Tunde: I apologize, I didn’t see you. I don’t know this route. I usually take the route back there.
Tunde (*wishing he had a recording device so he could capture discourse accurately for blog, then later, wondering why he isn’t scared, if it’s normal to think of blogging when soldiers have weapons pointed at one*): Going home. Just off that major road.
Tunde: Sir, I just took wrong route. I apologize. You can search my car, you will see I have nothing on me.

Captain Phillips and his crew insist I sit on the ground, even with my dapper blazer, and start searching car for “guns”. All the while my heart’s beating like crazy, yet, strangely, I am not freaking out. What is wrong with you, Tunde? Normal people panic at times like these. You do know abs don’t stop bullets, right?

Oh yes, apart from feeling bulletproof, another thing I have noticed since I started kickboxing classes is I randomly hit hard surfaces with clenched right fist just ‘cos…just ‘cos. Maybe I am testing my pain threshold, maybe I am too wussy to engage in a kickboxing sparring session so this is a way of enacting my will against the big, bad, immovable wall that won’t hit back, or maybe it’s a cri de coeur against the spate of oil on head. More on that later…

Nah, let’s just get it over with: For the past few months I have noticed increased oil on scalp, so much so I can start a business from oil generated on head if I chose to! No one believes I don’t intentionally oil scalp. Even Googled oily scalp and only info I got was directed at women!
I have always had an oily scalp, but this is ridiculous. ‘Cos of oily scalp, I get oily face, and with Juba heat I am getting noticeably darker. Is oily scalp a way of fat leaving body ‘cos of all the cardio I am doing? Or could it be nature’s way of ‘evolution’ so darker-hued skin allows me blend in more easily in Juba? Who knows, okay back to our regularly scheduled blog story….

Captain Phillips returns to me.
Tunde: Nigeria.
Tunde: At home, I don’t move around with it.
Tunde (*erm, shouldn’t this dude say South Sudanese? I best not correct him. Maybe it’s like one of those instances where black folk can use the N-word freely, but get upset when a white person says it*): Let me take out my work permit, you can see my name and nationality there.
Tunde: I don’t know what else to tell you. Here is my business card too. I work for Maersk Shipping.
Talk about a 4th wall, hey? Wink, wink.
Tunde (*wondering if Capt Phillips followed the Brexit debate*): Erm, sir, we are a pretty large country and there is a good chance there are some SOUTH Sudanese working there.

Nice one, dude, for not falling into the S-word trap….come to think of it, if South Sudan ever decided to leave the East Africa Community, would there be a snazzy rubric like B-R-E-X-I-T? How about S-S-E-X-I-T? Hmm, would the first ‘s’ be silent, or maybe the second one? What if the chief proponent of the movement is dyslexic and ends up placing one of the ‘s’s between the ‘i’ and the ‘t’?

Tunde (*can we just get this over with the robbery please?*): No.
CP: My job is to search car for guns and I have done it. Now what do you have for these people?
Tunde (*here we go….*): Sir, you have seen my wallet, this pittance is all I have on me.
Tunde: No sir, I don’t. You have searched my car and my person. Truly, this is all I have on me.

One of the other soldiers shouts something in Arabic that I don’t understand.
Tunde: Pardon?

This 40 year old executive of a of a company in a foreign country proceeds to lie down on the floor, yup, even with blazer, and gets hit circa 10x on his bum and back of thighs with a long whip, causing welts that hurt to some degree over a week later.
Woah, I am getting whipped for doing nothing wrong. Hey, this doesn’t hurt as much as I expected, maybe my kickboxing training is yielding dividends after all….wait, nope, it’s starting to hurt now. Darn it. This dude had better stop soon else I will be forced to get up. Father Lord, please help me forgive them for these acts. Wait, am I turning into Stephen the martyr now? Speaking of which, if this dude keeps this up I might be forced to change name from Tunde to Toby or Kunta Kinte or any Dinka name he prefers. Man, this hurts….

Tunde (*in full Kunta Kinte mode now*): No, massa, I is only got money I showed you earlier.
Tunde (*oh, I am supposed to believe it’s only them that want the phone, huh?*): Sure. Can I take out my SIM cards first?

Captain Phillips and the crew converse in Arabic and surprisingly, he hands phone back to me.
Tunde: Sure. I apologize again.

I get in my car and take the original route I was meant to take home. All the while I have a smirk on my face, wondering how to succinctly relay this adventure to folks on my phone messaging services. Got home, went to the loo, sent out message to peeps, realized toilet was now working, and smiled to myself. Good ol’ Casper….

Based on similar incidents that have happened to other mates in Juba I had it pretty easy. Sorta helps being the shortest man in Juba as my fancy jacket was not “obtained” off me, since it would not fit anyone. Yeah, the welts hurt, but I found the funny side of things, and actually prayed for God to help me forgive them.

The next morning, I inform the only other non-South Sudanese at the office what happened, and she proceeds to shed tears. I couldn’t understand why she’s being so emotional, and it was not until sometime past noon the extent of what occurred actually hit me. Folk in my shoes have been killed for less in Juba! If I relayed what happened to my company HQ in Nigeria, I would be mandated to get on the next flight out. Before I moved to Juba, we weren’t sure of the security situation so plan was for me to work outta Entebbe and fly to Juba for meetings; I am sure they’d insist on implementing that if they got wind of what happened.

Two days later, in the wee hours of the morning, I was woken up by an exchange of gun fire that lasted about 30 mins. Yup, it was definitely time to effect that Uganda relocation plan going. Also didn’t help that mate’s favorite cousin, who was in the security services, was gunned down around the same time I heard the gun shots. No one is quite sure what occurred to him, but heard he lived close to my new crib so maybe gunfire I heard was related to his death.

I walked out of apartment when sun came out, and security guard acted normal. The gun shot? “Yeah, happened down the road. Heard it could be some guy whose car was being jacked.” Could not believe how casual he was being. Almost considered moving back to hotel (where I am loved) until Caucasian neighbours walked outta their apartments and went on about their business as if nada happened. That’s when I decided to stay put. Yes, they have early curfews, but if these kawajas can cope in Juba, then Jeanclaudevandamnit, so can I. Ain’t no ass whupping gonna drive me away. I moved all the way from Lagos to make a success of this startup. I ain’t going diddly.

Forgot to mention that one of the reasons I stopped at the hotel before the Captain Phillips incident was to hand out flyers for a kickboxing tourney. The winner would be flown to Nigeria to compete against the Nigerian kickboxing champion. In all honesty, I was ambivalent about which country I would support in such a tourney, but after the, ahem, encounter, last Tuesday, all I can say is Go Nigeria, Go!

Tot ziens and God bless.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

You haven’t lived ‘til you try the chef’s crispy jelly…oh and let’s not forget his bony boneless chicken as well

Hola peeps.

I am writing this a day after my bro Ayo turned 40. Called him to wish him the best and also laugh at his old arse when he retorted that I’d attain the same milestone – if you can call it that – in just 5 months. Woah, I am old. Real old. I remember my 30th birthday party like it was yesterday: the crowds, the multiple females I danced with wondering which I’d date, ahhh good times. Fast forward a decade and the more things change the more they stay the same.
Pssst, I really do not know what the last part of that sentence means, but seems like what a mature 40-year old person would say….

At my age I should be concerned with real world problems, but instead I’m wondering why my toilet appears to be breathing, why the air freshener I nicked from the gym – hotel has refused to provide me one – smells worse than poop, and why hotel equipped me with pink bog roll after I informed them this would be my last month at their establishment. Also don’t get why they gotta change my internet password every month. Latest password is…wait for it….666 (no jokes about Yoruba demons please). Happy with the service, staff, and swimming pool I have never used (save for a night-time pool party last December), but after a year in hotel accommodation I reckon it’s time I make like a 40 year old man and get my own apartment.
Pssst, don’t tell anyone this, but lately after I catch myself doing something infantile I look into phone to catch a reflection of self and whisper to self, “You are a 40 year old executive of a company in a foreign country, GET WITH IT!” Then I pick my nose and wipe its contents on the front of my trousers….

The apartment I chose is very nice. Has a gym, a jacuzzi, maid, laundry, and just about everything I’d at hotel, save food. Apartment is also equipped with a cooker and hoped to get a discount on rent by telling the manager the truth about cooker never getting used, but that didn’t fly. I move in on the first of next month and most exciting thing about new crib is its proximity to the training center where I take kickboxing classes. Okay, in all honesty I have only taken two classes but that’s a start, right?

Had my first kickboxing class on Saturday and didn’t realize how lissome I was….NOT! Shoulda taken yoga or salsa as a prerequisite. 
Thought it was a good omen when I saw a documentarian with his camera - if you catch a simulacrum of someone like me in an Oscar-nominated doc on martial artists in South Sudan, it's probably me - and coach said, "take your time, you cannot be Van Damme in one day", taking me back to that Kickboxer (or was it Bloodsport?) movie from my childhood. I imagined myself in the Van Damme mode ready to go through any pain in order to avenge my brother (read mates robbed by security operatives…more on that later), until my wonky left hip kicked in. Yup, same left hip that got hurt in a football tourney back in 2013. It had been so long it hurt that bad. Guess I am gonna have to acquiesce to orthopedic surgeon’s prognosis after all and cough up £15k for a laser surgery. Maybe I can raise the bucks by winning the prize money in a martial arts tourney like that Bloodsport (or was it Kickboxer?) movie from my childhood. Anyway, the first day of my "movie" ended with me practising more shadowboxing than kickboxing, while learning I never quite mastered the art of skipping rope with both feet off ground at same time, and promising the coach I'd show up the next day.

The next day, Black Damme (i.e. Black Van Damme) psyched himself up with the ‘mind-over-matter’ mantra favoured by drug cheats and less-endowed strippers everywhere, i.e. if you don't Mind (winning or making money) it doesn't Matter (what sorta gunk you put into your body). Could not locate illicit drugs anywhere to dull the pain so he loaded himself up with Vitamin C and Lucozade. An hour and a half's worth of training later, where he learned his 3x a week HIIT cardio has nada on kickboxing training, the soles of his feet were caked in a batter (geddit?) of Vaseline and E45 ‘cos of blisters, and for some reason his right armpit hair kept falling out. He spent the rest of the day switching between TV and googling "vitamin c and lucozade effect on armpits".
This paragraph was brought to you by your local pharmacy….hey, who am I to balk at product placements if the Hollywood geniuses can fully embrace them….

Speaking of Hollywood, during last trip to Nairobi I binged on movies in the cinema while waiting on portable hard disk to get fixed – long story. Saw Zoo-topia/tropolis, Barbershop 3 and Eye In The Sky, back to back. Yup, that’s what Juba does to moi. All great movies, but most interesting thing about the experience was not hearing any murmurs of Kenyans about their country being mentioned as we exited the last movie. My Nigerian people woulda been shouting at top of their voices on the phone and to anyone who’d listen, “Did you see how this oyinbo people dissed us?” Case in point is Captain America: Civil War. Now I haven’t seen the movie – it’s being reserved for next trip outside Juba – but all everyone back home keeps telling me is about a scene that featured Lagos. Thought we’da been over this by now. Similar happened with that crap Bruce Willis movie Tears of the Sun, which I am sure got most of its box office takings from Nigerians going to catch it so they could tell others about how their country was portrayed. Anyone recall the pre-I’ve-got-99-problems-but-the-IRS-is-the-main-one Wesley Snipes starrer Sugar Hill? How about the awful The Real McCoy where Val Kilmer’s character informs Kim Basinger’s that Betamax VCRs are still in use in Nigeria? The movie was released in 1993! Everyone knows we stopped using Betamax way back in 1990. Booo Hollywood, booooooo……
Pssst, going back to previous paragraph for a bit, anyone know the use of armpit hair? Googling “what is armpit hair used for”……

Back at Bradford some girl copped a car for £50….yup, didn’t know those existed either. The jalopy was in its element within Bradford city limits, but as soon as she drove the car outside Bradford it would begin coughing and sputtering, Soon as she reversed back from the ‘Goodbye From Bradford’ sign the car would miraculously resume its merry jalopy way. My body seems to be that car; I have become so used to Juba whenever I leave I contract an illness. During aforementioned trip to Nairobi I came down with a bad cold and contracted typhoid fever during a previous trip to Kampala. Plan was to attend a friend’s wedding, but ended spending most of time between the hospital and pal David’s couch. Can’t complain much though, as on first night of arrival we went to Big Mike’s where the DJ was amazing. Huge contrast from Juba where DJs seem to share same playlist.

Last late-night outing in Juba had worse music than I remember. Only eventful incident was a gunshot in the club….yup, didn’t know, well, knew those existed. You’ve heard of the Internet Of Things? Well, let me introduce you to the Juba Of Things where network of humans are so connected when an incident occurs to one person you know, chances are it’ll happen to someone else in your circle before the week runs out. Mate has been robbed twice in a month on his way to work in the morning, another friend got robbed within a week of other mate’s first robbery by same set of security operatives. They even took her shoes! Girl is so traumatized she no longer drives alone past 7pm. The modus operandi is the same: car gets stopped for a security check, then after the “search” one is requested to hand over phones and other valuables. If one protests they are beaten up and/or threatened with being shot. Now with these incidents recalling trauma of getting jacked in Nigeria yonks ago, you’d think I’d be warier of moving out at night, right? Wrong. Maybe something in me thinks my kickboxing lessons render me bullet-proof.
You are a 40 year old executive of a company in a foreign country, GET WITH IT!

The Juba Of Things may also apply to animals as this is the only place I know where dogs cross the road without a care in the world, and expect cars to slow down for them. Even with dog carcasses lying by the road side it appears the circuits embedded in their brain doesn’t appreciate the death of their kinfolk. Or maybe they so tired of life they just wanna go to doggie heaven. No way The Littlest Hobo  would have made it in Juba.

I’da coined the Juba Of Things for what I mentioned in last blog entry about folks’ chilled out attitude to work, even for multinational companies. Tried to transport some goods out of the country last month and was assured they had been dispatched, only upon further enquiry 3 weeks later did I discover they were still warehoused in Juba. No updates, no nada. If I hadn’t followed up I am sure goods would still be in the country. Noticed same with the news: Sometimes 8 o’clock news on TV starts at 8pm, sometimes 803pm, sometimes 805pm, sometimes no news broadcast is shown at all. It appears the news producer thought, “we don’t have much to report today so let’s not even bother…maybe nobody will notice, they are probably too busy avoiding running over stray dogs.” The news station needs its very own Ron Burgundy to start making up stuff on air.

When TV is not on terrestrial news I am glued on BBC World News. So grown up, eh? I am addicted to HARDtalk. Seriously, every guest deserves a commemorative I Survived HARDtalk tee shirt. Love that show. Soul Music on the BBC World Service is also worthwhile listening in the car.
One thing I am gonna miss about my hotel though are the oldies that blare over the speakers. A couple of months ago they decided to chime in music and for an entire week all I heard was Celine Dion. Now I love Celine as much as the next guy, but my old ears can only withstand so much grating. After repeated complaints the playlist was expanded to everything from Country-Western to R&B. Ace listening to songs I had long since forgotten about and reminiscing about where I was when I first heard them.

The music channel on dodgy cable on display in the hotel seems to show only old videos as well, especially in the morning. While having breakfast last week I was compelled to think back to which of the ABBA ladies I had a crush on as a kid, or why wasn’t it so obvious Boney M were lip-syncing, or how dude that wrote The Rain musta been really cheated on by a chick. Seriously, which R&B song in the 80s has the lyrics, You without me: like cornflake without the milk/ It's my world--you just a squirrel/ tryin' to get a nut/ Now get on outta here/ Ah! Don't touch that coat! I have heard of gangsta rap, but gangsta R&B?!
Because I Love You came on this morning and couldn’t help but marvel at how much music videos had changed – yes, old guys tend to do that. That video would never pass muster today. Or can you imagine Chris Brown singing Guy’s Let’s Chill without doing his patented epileptic dance moves? Neither can I.  On a side note, Teddy Riley had the coolest beard ever.

Sooooo back to the present. Sorta a shame I am leaving hotel as really enjoyed staying here. Spent almost a year here and only 3 clothes have been ruined; at previous hotel I lost 3 shirts in less than 2 months. Sure, these guys took the piss now and then, but they always made up for it, like providing me my own cable decoder. They seem to have stepped up their game after the opening of a new hotel down the road. Since then I’ve been pampered with fruit baskets every month. As the hotel is fancied by the big kahunas in Juba, I have gotten to meet loadsa cool people such as Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times and the new Fifa President. So many memories…

This hotel was first place I took a boda boda to, this was in order to retrieve passport after airport official would not allow me use driver’s license (even after airline staff had deemed it okay to issue me with a boarding pass) on a local flight. With incident that occurred at Nairobi airport in January and this Juba incident, I’da made #TravellingWhileNigerian, or #PotOnKettleCrime a trending topic on Twitter. Oh I forgot, I have a life, that’s why I ain’t on Twitter.

How can I forget the folk that keep mangling name? There’s been Twende, Tunday, Tundy, Tundee, Tunda, Tuna, Soonday, etc. Seriously, I may need to get a South Sudanese name as given up correcting folk. Gonna miss my pals at hotel gym the most though. They’ve helped me stay on point. So much so I have won the abs-off competition I had with pal Bobby in Abu Dhabi. Problem now is, like Bobby, I have taken to showing off body at every opportunity. The other day I had a headache and when describing symptoms to female pharmacist I asked if I could take top off. C’mon, like you wouldn’t do the same if you were a 40 year old Nigerian in Juba with abs of steel…..is this where I confess my new favourite pastime is feeling my abs through my shirt when I am bored in meetings, or that each of my packs is nicknamed after movies in the Rocky franchise?
You are a 40 year old executive……….

Tot ziens and God bless. 

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Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Hola peeps.

I am not even going to apologize or promise to blog more often as we all know it’s a lie. All I can say is reading two books just published by close friends (Baron Of Broad Street and And After Many Days) has reawakened the writing ranting spirit in me. Long may it last……but we know it mightn’t.

With oil price achieving record lows daily most people in South Sudan are panicking, but I have always had this preternatural sense of not bothering about stuff I cannot directly control….except when it comes to sports. Thinking of signing on to Twitter just so I’d keep alive the #WengerMustGoNow hashtag. C’mon this is just plain ridiculous. Good thing I spent a significant portion of the season buffing shoes whenever Arsenals games are on, else watching the games woulda been a complete waste of time. The punks. Didn’t catch the Oscars last weekend as hotel cable network did not show it. So, yeah in essence, I, ahem, boycotted the Oscars in solidarity with Will and Jada. Talk about wrong spokespersons to head a campaign. Then Snoop Dogg/Lion/Zoo jumped on the bandwagon as well ranting about his lack of Grammys. Boo hoo.

So what’s good? Since last blog entry…hold on, lemme check when that was…May 2015! Oh my, I have been a lazy boy, haven’t I? So let’s make up for lost time. Since last blog entry I have moved hotels, visited Zambia for business – where I spent a night on transit in Addis Ababa and got to understand why Ethiopian men never bother with women outside their country…man, even the ugly women were hot – I am still trying to get effected (more on that later), done Kampala a number of times to take a break from the Juba heat, few days Mozambique for business, and Nairobi for business where I was held up at the airport for over an hour even though I had a multiple entry visa, yup, amazing what respect is afforded one with a Nigerian passport. Kenyan mate insisted the immigration folk were angling for a bribe and didn’t believe her until a few days later on another trip when an airport police officer under the guise of searching for drugs blatantly requested a bribe. I mean, what gives?! Shameful.

So what have I learnt with all my African waka? Travel within Africa is a huge pain in the backside, what with all the crap airline connectivity between countries and visa requirements. It took two months to get a 6-month Kenya multiple entry visa even though I was assured it would take a quarter of the time. Travel to Uganda from Juba using Kenya Airways is just as ridiculous as one would have to fly over Uganda to Nairobi, and then hop on another plane back to Uganda.
Also learnt Ethiopia has the best-looking women in Africa, Kampala is the party capital of East Africa, Nairobi traffic is at par with Lagos only they are more organized and don’t hoot the car horns like crazy Nigerians do, to avoid travelling to Kampala on a Friday evening as the traffic from Entebbe airport into town is ridiculous…not as bad as Nairobi’s though.

Work load’s crazy intense now, but when things were a bit chill in July/August I was in Kampala every other weekend. Got to the point my pal David’s help got tired of me. Initially it was “Hey, welcome sir!” then eventually transformed to “this n*&%ga’s back again?!” sotto voce. You cannot blame me though. Efforts to get mates to reciprocate visit so I could show them the sighT and sounD of Juba have yielded no takers.  Things got so boring I tried to enroll for both boxing and yoga classes on same day. Taken to wearing watch on right wrist now ‘cos….just ‘cos. Hey, it’s just another way to say I did something different.

Back in the UK I once bumped into Kinzo practicing Will Smith’s moves in the Men In Black music video.
Let me see ya just bounce it with me, just bounce with me, just bounce it with me c'mon / Let me see ya just slide with me, just slide with me, just slide with me c'mon / Let me see ya take a walk with me, just walk it with me, take a walk with me c'mon / And make your neck work, Now freeze...
Recall that part? Yeah, so I walk into the living room and there’s my older brother in front of the TV doing the moves. I crack up and tease him no end that day. What he didn’t know was I had been practicing same moves too, furtively, some days prior…under the duvet…while lying on the couch. Heck, ain’t no way I was gonna be the subject of family’s mirth-inducing tale! And why am I telling y’all this? ‘Cos one of David’s mates in Uganda reminds me of Kinzo. Alan is the ne plus ultra of the old guy at the club that initiates a dance-off with others to demonstrate how hip he is. I love him, but dude must spend most of his babysitting time practicing shoki instead of looking after his kids when his wife ain’t home. U know u old when u see a grown-ass man dancing shoki and u think to urself, “ain’t that dude too old to be attempting the shoki dance?” while u console urself by dancing like the dude from Erasure. Er, speaking of Erasure you know what David’s most frequently asked question of Siri is? “Siri, why can’t white people dance?” David and his mates deserve their own reality show.

Zambians are real slow when it comes to business decisions and recognizing the time-value of money, but still enjoyed my time there. I left there thinking one should undertake some research into how idiosyncrasies develop in each country. For instance, in Zambia they recall time in 24hr segments unlike everywhere else I have been. Took a while for ears to get used to “eighteen hours” as opposed to “six pm” or “oh-two hrs” instead of “2am”. Quite delightful if you ask me. Plus, they have had (when I visited) constant electricity supply and even exported same to neighboring countries. During recent blackouts, due to maintenance at transmission stations, folk had no electricity to power cookers so resorted to charcoal as hardly anyone uses gas for cooking. My Zambian friend was once evicted from his apartment after landlord discovered he had a gas canister. Dude was accused of trying to burn down the house. To avoid a recurrence his current landlord is unaware he still uses gas for cooking. Amazing. In Zambia also tried Chikanda – African polony.For some reason one cannot refer to it just as ‘Chikanda’ it must be ‘Chikanda – African Polony’ like it’s a movie sequel or something. Even movie titles get abbreviated, e.g. First Blood part 2: Rambo is now just Rambo, but noooo, Chikanda has to be Chikanda: African polony. All in all it definitely is a taste that I did not acquire while over there. While departing for the airport it suddenly dawned on me all the billboards in Ndola, Zambia seemed to be owned by the G. Rutherford Advertising agency. Weird thang is they have more billboards advertising their agency than actual client products or services. Most of the billboards are of smiling females. Go figure.

Oh, Job, yes dude from the Bible, probably spent some time in South Sudan before he got afflicted with disease as that musta been the only way he learnt to be patient. My goodness! There must be something about Juba that makes people just regard work as a hobby. I have come across lazy, carefree workers in Nigeria but what I have seen right here takes the piss and then adds some drips. I had a full head of hair - it was an afro wig but, still - when I arrived in Juba; now I am fully bald and beard is all grey. With associates I have tried everything from Obama-esque rousing speeches to threats to taking over their tasks in an attempt to shame them into working, but nada seems to work. Tried prayer too and if this keeps up I am gonna open my own church with a fancy Nigerian-esque title like Church Of The Praying Eye Bags. Speaking of eye bags I look constantly tired and doesn’t help that I spend my weekends thinking up ways to motivate staff. I really need to set up that church…well, maybe not so fast as I’d probably end up being pastor cum usher cum choir cum congregation. Remind me again why I chose to come to Juba?

If I had written this blog two months into my Juba sojourn I would have crowed about how impressed I had been with the folks here. Do you know while trying to register company visited loadsa government institutions and amount paid was what was reflected on receipt? Not one person asked for "lunch money" or "something for weekend"?  Had only seen traffic police now and then harass mostly foreigners for bribes…..until this punk at the airport in July.

Got to airport early enough and while in departure lounge it occurred to me I had left funds in hotel room. Now hotel’s less than five minutes’ drive from airport so pleaded with one of the officials there to let me out as I’d be stuck in destination without funds for hotel and the like. After hemming and hawing and spouting some official line about not being allowed to leave after entering departure area he said he’d let me go if I gave him “something”. U’da seen the rage I felt inside, almost smacked the guy. 3 whole months of South Sudanese worker integrity as my rubric to folk in Nigeria and then this doofus ruins it! Boy, was I disappointed. Told him he wasn’t gonna get squat, then I called a colleague who came by, picked up keys to hotel and returned with funds. The bribe-seeking airport official musta felt embarrassed because as soon as I told him off he furtively crawled away and didn’t see him until I boarded flight. Or maybe it was his lunch break, who knows? Saw same dude at airport early this year and he obviously didn’t recognize me because he approached me with that same ‘I-am-engaging-in-mindless-chatter-with-you-so-I-can-get-something-off-you’ look all frequent travelers through Nigerian airports must be used to.

First trip to airport after I moved here in April was no less dramatic. It was a local flight and had to get off plane 2ice after boarding. First time we were informed one of the engines was faulty and when we boarded again plane sped up until end of runway, but couldn't achieve lift. We disembarked and a standby plane was flown in from over two hours away. Finally, we get to leave for our destination….not so fast as air conditioning on backup plane was faulty. Had to wait for original plane to be fixed so spent a total of 5hrs before departing from Juba – the Juba airport is not a place you want to spend a significant amount of time due to inadequate seating and poor ventilation. My South Sudanese colleagues kept insisting we reschedule, but told him I'd experienced worse in Naija. If we had returned another time it'd still be same plane we'd travel on so why bother? Naija hardens folk, man.

Pluses about Juba? The people are uber nice and in order to avoid ennui I do the gym about 4x a week now in addition to 3x a week intense cardio stuff I did to get my fancy shoes. Yup, I am slowly shrinking into…well, let’s just say this: I didn’t learn to whistle until my 20s and so when I discovered dimples some months back I thought it was just another of those late developmental things until I discovered it was not as I suspected. You know you getting real gaunt when you develop faux dimples. I am like a walking Zoolander poster now. I suspect the problem’s due to the high intensity cardio workout but I am too scared to stop as I know how difficult it was to complete the routine. Yes, my name is Tunde and I am a high intensity cardio workout addict….. Oh, and also recently noticed left foot’s slightly longer than right foot. Now having to wear two pairs of socks on right foot in order to compensate.

So ten months in Juba now and time does fly. Juba has its quirks, it’s only place I know that has more Chinese hospitals than Chinese restaurants. Had to visit one in August after I overdid it at the gym – that’ll teach me for trying to one-up gym instructor in front of his Ethiopian girlfriend. Anyways they had a South Sudanese dude interpreting my ailments to the doctor and afterwards I was given some tablets and two aerosol sprays. One spray smelled of oyster sauce and the other like freshly plucked chicken; tablets tasted like wood chippings. Did it cure my ailment? Can’t remember actually, all I know is I always developed an appetite after using the aerosol sprays, plus stray animals would cozy up to me.

Everyone has all their names, well at least three of them, in official docs, biz cards, plaques, etc., and they are addressed as same to boot. So if JFK was South Sudanese he’d always be addressed as ‘John Fitzgerald’, only with first part of name being his English/Christian name and second being indigenous. Guess it’d work for those Nigerians who introduce themselves as – my pet peeve by the way – “my names ARE…” No, surely you mean your name IS…
Had to ask a South Sudanese about the multiple name thang and she didn’t even realize they did that. Guess it takes strange/different eyes to notice things. Must be why other folk say Nigerians are loud and yet we VIGOROUSLY DENY IT WITH OUR EYES WIDE OPEN AND OUR VOICES LOUD ENOUGH TO BE HEARD FROM SPACE.

The South Sudanese greet each other by touching shoulder, handshake and then a hug. Not as creepy as the Middle Eastern nose-touch though. They love shaking a lot too. Yesterday I shook someone’s hands and immediately saw him pick his nose. Did he do same before he shook my hand? Hmmm….I have taken to carrying a hand sanitizer everywhere I go now. Oh yeah, Juba’s probably still only airport where temperature screening is carried out on incoming passengers. Problem is weather’s hot so how could one tell if high body temperature’s as a result of the weather or Ebola?

Just returned from the Nigerian Community Association meeting. Attended my first in July last year and do utmost to attend these monthly events regularly. Honestly, after first meeting I swore I’d give it one more go, and if there was no improvement in time-keeping I’d boycott them. After second meeting I realized I’d not have as much comic relief anywhere else in Juba should I avoid these meetings. You can take the Nigerian outta the country, but for obvious reasons you cannot cleave the country from him. Meeting that shoulda begun at 3pm didn’t kick off until 430pm – today’s started at 450pm - and when I asked one of the officials why, he said "u know African time na".

That first meeting was akin to a Nollywood movie in some instances: Anyone getting up to speak would follow the established format which is a call and response. One’d say “good people”, and everyone else would chorus “great nation”. Sometimes some would repeat it more than once, or even switch up the order to “great nation” first and we’d all respond “good people”. One time some dude stood up to make a point before he was beckoned, and when told to follow proper protocol he took exception to way the official – as it turns out it was the same “u know African time na” dude - spoke to him, and that resulted in 5 mins of back and forth. "Gerrraway, am I ya boy that you talk like that to me?!" Bloody hilarious. Apart from that, quite liked the fact that most folk wore traditional outfits. Some dude came with NYSC hat and shirt though. That confused me. I get it if it was laundry day, but a bad hair day as well?!
Best thing about first meeting was appeal for funds to help out members whose shops got burnt. There were also a security advisory by another guy who almost got mugged some days before in the daytime.

For 2nd meeting I made sure I arrived at 4pm yet meeting didn’t commence until thirty minutes afterwards. Some dude argued against giving bucks to just one of the dudes whose shop got burnt, but his point was pooh-poohed after it was explained to him that monies raised from members of the Nigerian Community would only be given to those who attend the meetings regularly. New members included two footballers, yup, there is a local league apparently, a policeman on international duty, and a guy that came “to visit his Nigerian in-laws”. Another new member – owns a bar - was asked for his passport after he said he was from Imo State (Eastern part of Nigeria), but gave two English-sounding names. Apparently, our Igbo brothers couldn’t believe there exists an Igbo guy in this world with both names being non-Igbo. These meetings are really my source of mirth in Juba.

The past ten months have been a valuable experience in running a start-up, but was most happy during breaks to Nigeria (and the UK) I took in August and December. During trip to the UK last month I couldn’t, ahem, download movies ‘cos most torrent sites I knew were barred so ended up securing, ahem, bootlegs off some trader in Lagos. You know Juba’s lack of cinemas has had an effect on you when you exchange numbers with a bootleg DVD seller and feel like it’s the most normal thang in the world.

Mom turned 70 in August so the entire clan went to the UK – she usually spends her summers there - for a celebration. As was a family event I was asked to MC and actually surprised myself with the heckuva job I did…if I do say so myself. Almost turned out to be a roast where select folk came forward and spoke about mom. Chief provided clipped remarks about mom’s vituperative mouth, uncle sent a message about mom’s sacrifice, aunts spoke nice stuff, sisters spoke about mom’s stroke of the cane, and it was left to me to round up the occasion. I was in my element, man, y’all shoulda seen me. Went on about us kids getting her a mirror as a present due to her vanity, even did Chris Rock’s patented leg stamp when making a point. Was excellent to see family guffawing. I am definitely volunteering to host more family events. This way I can diss everyone while couching it in humour. Me likey.

Oh, to show that age hasn’t slowed down mom’s “world revolves around me” vibe. I recently asked for confirmation of bank details in order to pay in some money. I got, “Atuns, so you don’t know me? What if I dropped dead? You want to tell me you don’t know my account details?” Oh my. Speaking of not changing, good to know fatherhood hasn’t affected my bro Loye as dude failed to contact someone I told him to. Had to frantically get someone else to reach out to said person before she departed Nigeria. Loye ended up calling the girl while she was on her way to the airport. This is same dude that forgot to hand over a present I bought for one of my nephews until I saw it ensconced in his suitcase nearly a year later! Yup, some things never change. Oh yeah, he and his wife recently gave birth to my 17th nephew….and if y’all keeping count at home that makes 23 grandchildren for Chief. Oh yes, now it all makes sense why I chose the move to Juba - no babysitting duties for moi.

Tot ziens and God bless.

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