Friday, February 24, 2017

Tale be sura

Hola peeps. 

The Oscars are on Sunday and like this time last year I am desperately searching for an Oscar party in Juba. Like this time last year I am probably going to end up following it online and watching the actual ceremony weeks later on David’s couch in Kampala. Joy oh joy.

It is almost end of February and though I do not make "resolutions" at the start of the year, whatever, ahem, goals I set are already faltering. I had planned to curb my sugar crutch after I discovered my UK dentist had taken out a second mortgage based on revenue projections from fixing my cavities. Still struggling with that. Add to my struggles blogging at least once a month, learning a Bible passage a week, and inserting three new words into vocabulary on a weekly basis. What is a synonym for ‘insert’? Or ‘three’? Or ‘vocabulary’? Oh drats!

One target I have sorta, kinda steadfastly stuck to though is learning Juba Arabic – a mix of Swahili and Arabic - by the end of the year. Returned from the Christmas break to find a neighbor had the same plan and had actually found a tutor. It was a sign, there was finally someone to practice with! Then I flew to the UK for my daughter’s 5th birthday and even though I packed my Juba Arabic notes I didn’t open a page. The good news is since I returned last week I have jumped right back into it. Now I can understand gist of certain conversations whereas in the past I just smiled and did my patented “hey, I am a foreigner, what do you expect from me?” shrug. Come to think of it, maybe I should continue pretending I do not understand the lingo and catch people out. Catch them out on what exactly? Who knows, just me being paranoid. Watching the news lately will do that to you.

Nowadays I just skip channels and try not to click a link whenever a Trump-related story is brought to my attention. I recently renewed my US visa and made a short trip to the US earlier in the month. This was just after the travel ban was rescinded by the courts and as I was still antsy all messages on phone were erased. Even pictures were deleted so that after 8 hour trip from the UK I don’t get sent back due to some innocent joke or tweet. Surprisingly, I was waved through and barely spent any time at the immigration queue. Going to be an interesting four years watching the developments in the US.

So how’s 2017 treating y’all so far? Tamam? I am really excited as things are progressing on the job front and for the first time in a long while Juba is safe. Yup, no more gunshots outside window, no daily reports of random robberies and killings by “unknown gunmen”, nada. Folk that spent the Christmas holidays here remarked at how peaceful it was, so I chose to find out for myself a few weeks back. After late dinner I decided to drive around Juba from 10pm. As I left the house something in my head kept asking, “You sure you okay? What if you get beaten up again? What if you get robbed?” But my heart kept humming the chorus to “No Easy Way Out” from the Rocky IV soundtrack…..There's no easy way out there's no shortcut home…There's no easy way out givin' in can't be wrong….Why that song? Dunno. All I know is since my kickboxing coach has taken to calling me Champ or, my personal favourite, The Drubber From Juba, I have felt invincible. So much so that I am thinking of moving from sparring 1 hour twice a week to partaking in an actual exhibition fight in April. I kid you not. I attended a fight in December where some dude got his lip clubbed it was as if he had had one of those botched plastic surgery jobs that celebs get after they slide from A to D-list and can only afford to go to pizza delivery guys moonlighting as surgeons.

Before I continue I must first rant at technology. L&G, never ever ever buy a Nokia Lumia or a Samsung Galaxy Prime. I try to spread love amongst tech companies by using an iPad and phones by two different vendors. Never again. The crap Lumia conflates phone numbers from different contacts and the Samsung joke of a phone deletes contacts during its time of the month. Just received a call and went on for a minute before I realized I was talking to someone else, not the person listed as the contact. Not to worry, I bought some overly complex HP phone that came in a massive computer package. Now that I think of it, the crap phones have sure kept my life interesting in past few weeks as I got to talk to peeps I haven’t connected with in yonks. Oh well. Goodbye N.Korea Lumia, goodbye Samsung Galaxy Puke.

Okay back to botched plastic surgeries…so as a result of the facial reconstruction I experienced I swore I would stick to strictly sparring with coach and never engage in an actual fight. The week afterwards a Spanish neighbor was teaching West African dance classes and she invited me along for support. Although there were about ten of us I have never felt that self-conscious in my life. I love dancing, I feel I do a good job at it, but following a choreography with others watching? Nah, that was a step too far. Now it makes sense why I always make a comic show of it when dancing in public or why my boyband career never took off. I walked outta that dance class knowing I’d rather get smashed in the head than dance like that in front of strangers again.

Thus, armed with coach’s hype and the Rocky IV soundtrack in head I drove around Juba and though I was stopped by security personnel they checked car for weapons and gladly waived me on my way when they didn’t find any. Was so confident I even practiced some rudimentary Juba Arabic on them. First spot I stopped at was nigh empty and was bored after 5 minutes. Ended up venturing into areas of Juba I would not normally visit at night to further confirm the veracity of “safeness”. Nada happened, a pretty uneventful night.

Last weekend I decided to give it another try and hopped from packed place to packed place. Seemed all of Juba finally figured out it was once again safe to go out at night! Bumped into a few friends and had great fun. Highlight of Friday night, however, was a mate’s girlfriend. I couldn't take my eyes off her. If she was in Nigeria she would get dissed as having “sneakily watched music videos from a neighbour’s window ‘cos she was too broke to own a telly” ‘cos she tried to execute an atinga or I think that’s what she was trying to do, that ended up looking like a sumo wrestler attempting a shinko while having a bad case of the runs. She also did this weird thing where she would suck in her bottom lip like she had an overbite and stare dance partner dead in the eye as if trying to hypnotize him. Look into my eyes, you are starting to think this epileptic fit of a dance is the best thing since sliced bread, aren’t you? Look into my eyes and not at my overbite…

After the initial agita following the West African dance class I started doubting if I could actually go through with three 3-minute rounds of intense fighting. (I daily fool myself into thinking) I have a high pain threshold, but it’s stamina I especially need to work on. You don’t realize how long three minutes is until you are getting your arse kicked. Like I tell anyone who would listen I am pretty bad ass at start of a sparring session and not even Van Damme can get with me….for the first 12 seconds. Afterwards I start panting and wheezing like a 10 pack-a-day smoker. It’s easy during the sparring session as I tend to distract the coach with tales of goings-on at work or ask him questions I already know the answers to in order to catch my breath. How am I gonna do that in a real fight?

‘Cos of stamina issues I signed up for yoga class hoping it would help with breathing. Wait, it just occurred to me my entire existence in Juba is affiliated with kickboxing in one way or the other!
Yoga class? To aid in breathing during kickboxing.
2ice weekly Taekwondo class? To help in hip movement required for solid kicks in kickboxing.
16 minute treadmill workout in gym? To build stamina for kickboxing.
Watching hypnotic overbite dancing queen? To find a story to distract kickboxing coach with when trying to catch breath during sparring session.
I could go on and on. Even my new chocolate shock therapy - whereby I stuff pantry with chocolate hoping the sight of all that chocolate goodness would force me to quit – I am sure can be attributed to kickboxing. Before I came to my senses (literally) I deigned to quickly guzzling ineffably cold water right from the freezer hoping the resulting “brain freeze” would simulate punch to the face from a kickboxing opponent. After weeks of doing this I knew I was fooling myself when I accidentally smacked head against the open pantry door and it hurt like crazy. All the brain freeze foolishness didn’t dull the pain, and there’s probably a high chance it was responsible for my forgetting to shut pantry door after another failed attempt at chocolate shock therapy.

My fight-or-not stance is a daily struggle I am yet to conquer. For instance, while at the men’s section at Superdrug I found myself spending too much time staring at facial scrub. I shoulda dashed for the door, instead I ended up with two tubs of lime scented facial scrub as well three bottles of beard oil. U what?! Yup. Was so disgusted with self I immediately went online and ordered a boxing mouth guard. Now that’s what I call MACHO.
Chief called last week to wish me a happy Valentine’s Day. Now some folk (wusses, females) would consider that sweet, but I knew he was thinking I didn’t have anyone to spend the occasion with, so I resisted the urge to call anyone and instead watched a gory war movie war while rapidly quaffing an ice cold bottled water while having a mouthful of mint-flavoured Dairy Milk. Now that’s what I call MACHO.
Bumped into beautician who works at salon close to hotel I spent a year in. She complained she hadn’t seen me in a while and asked when I would next be visiting for a manicure and pedicure. I scheduled a mani+pedi appointment after kickboxing class tomorrow, but I have decided to shave head myself with a razor until after kickboxing tourney in April while growing beard out and applying beard oil to beard and eyebrows to keep them “lit”. Now that’s what I call…well, not sure if it’s macho per se, okay maybe macho-ish, or macho with a lowercase ‘m’? Need to consult the Gillette Guide Book for Real Men first.

Tot ziens and God bless.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Articles of interest to moi (2017)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Articles of interest to moi (2016)

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Friday, November 04, 2016

When life gives you lemon they tell you to make lemonade, what then do you do when life throws up unripe tangerines?

Hola peeps.

Been a while. Had to look up last blog entry to see how long it’s been. Nada much’s changed in Juba: local salon still ain’t open, and my fave Indian eatery has closed down – you can imagine my surprise after walking 6 flights of stairs! Oh yeah, noticed I unconsciously sit on left arse cheek even though blister (mentioned in last blog entry) has long since healed. I blame Chim-Chim.

Remember how I lauded hotel I used to stay at for not charging me for use of gym facilities? Erm, can I take that back? Turns out that offer was only for one gym session. Was asked to pay during subsequent trips, but no hard feelings. Still use the place and actively encourage others to reserve rooms there when they visit Juba. Desperately wish I have more visitors arriving in Juba soon as my ijebu garri stash just ran out. Dunno how I’m gonna cope, already breaking out in fits and my skin’s taken on a sallow sheen due to garri withdrawal symptoms.

All’s been quiet in Juba since July, but last month there were a number of insecurity reports on the main road leading to/from Uganda. On their way to a tourney in Kenya my kickboxing coach and his crew narrowly missed an armed incident where two passenger buses were burnt.

Maybe I am deluding myself but really think I have improved in kickboxing so much I wanna sign up for a tourney in December. I feel I need to spar first, but pride/ego won’t allow it. I tell you though if a round of kickboxing lasted 12.3 secs I’d be badass ‘cos that’s how long I last with rapid punches and kicks until stamina runs out. Maybe it’s due to age, though signed up for yoga classes to help with breathing.

Speaking of age I turned the big Four-Oh last month and even though I had planned to take some time off to go somewhere and reflect ‘cos that’s ostensibly the thing to do, I had to abort that plan due to workload. I always felt there’s something romantic about starting a business from scratch…well, there’s nada romantic about the intense workload. I need a break worse than the Americans need to elect Hillary.

Mate once told me his eyesight gave out on the day he turned 40. I kid you not, he now wears glasses. My eyesight’s still ace, but noticed abs no longer as defined. Could it be the curse of turning 40? Or is it what Rick Warren said about God removing stuff from one’s life when that appears to one’s sole focus? (Lord, I’m sorry for waking up in the middle of the night to admire abs in the mirror. Please give them back to me….) Or was mom’s feeding in the UK responsible? Or am I just looking for excuses for my eating habits, or lack thereof. Realized I only eat a solid meal once or twice a week. Rest of time I subsist on snacks……and drinking garri. Surely this ain’t right for a 40 year old man. Oh yeah, remember how I complained about oily head? Now noticing increased sweat from armpit even when air conditioner is on, and I have not changed deodorants. Could this be the curse of turning 40 again? First head dripping excess fluid and now armpits? If nose starts dripping next I am quickly getting adult diapers before I begin peeing on myself unconsciously. Okay, I’ll stop grossing you out now.

Wanna know worst thang about starting a biz from scratch? Being away from family. Now I am having to struggle to keep daughter’s attention during our FaceTime chats. Like her dad, she sure does love TV so that when I am asking this lovely girl what she’s been up to she has one eye on the TV and another barely acknowledging me. Ha. Can’t complain though ‘cos until a few years ago (maybe when she got bored or she suspected if she kept at it I would never pay for her flight tickets or Jesus touched her heart) mom would always beat me over the head regarding my relationship with TV. “You never did like me anyway. That was how when you were 3 years old you were asked to come visit me in the hospital when I had complications after Kemi’s birth and you told them to say hello to me as you were busy watching TV instead...”

The other day I had to Google “How to entertain a 5 year old” just so I could convince daughter to spend more time with me on FaceTime. Ended up on some website about origami and that’s when I remembered I could still make paper planes. That night I actually recalled in my dream how to make a paper boat, a skill I musta learnt as a 5 year old. Was so chuffed to show these to my daughter that when our FaceTime conversation began, after our initial pleasantries I jump into “look @ the boat I made you”….no joy. “I can teach you how make these if you want”….no joy. Despondently I gave up and went back to enquiring about school and her friend Matilda. Seems Matilda is no longer the flavor of the month ‘cos she didn’t expatiate on it. Then she got bored and reverted to her usual “well I have to go now daddy” and said “you can press the red button now”. I replied, “no, you press it”. She responded, “no, you press the red button”. I said, “no, you press it”, hoping we would go on like this some more and maybe it could be our new game. Who needs origami when one can play this back and forth game, rght? Wrong. She then said, “okay then” and pressed the red button to end our conversation. I know certain parents dread their kids growing up too fast, but I cannot wait until my daughter’s older so we can have proper conversations.

Did get to see her while in the UK and had her full attention then so that was swell. She also got to see her cousin, Mama’s son Timi. It was also my first time seeing Timi as I hadn’t been to the US since he was born and lucky that younger sister, Mama, happened to be in the UK for a medical conference. Man, still weird wrapping my head around Mama being a mother. Life, eh? Oh by the way Jide just had another baby so Chief has 24 grandchildren now. Dude sure is blessed.

Arrived in the UK on day of mom’s birthday and turned out house was filled with friends and family. Got to see folk I had not seen in yonks. Holiday was mostly a bummer though as the curse of leaving Juba struck again. Seem to always fall ill when I leave Juba - returned from Diani with a sore throat, it was a cold on last trip from Kampala, had typhoid fever on trip before last to Kampala,well, this time I got struck with viral conjunctivitis in right eye….for all of 2 week stay in London. My eye was uber-sensitive to light and had to wear sunglasses everywhere even at night. Never could figure out how certain celebs wear sunglasses all the time. Now I get it.
Even with their stress best thing about UK is seeing friends and family. Met up with mates from boarding school and hadn’t seen one of the guys since graduation in 1992! Still looked the same, a bit rounder, okay a lot rounder, but still looked the same. Was a fun time reminiscing about the past and busting each other’s chops.

Fast forward a few months someone started a What’s App group dedicated to adding as many old classmates as possible to find a way to give back to the school (FGC Warri) and organize a reunion next year to celebrate 25 years since graduation. Phwoarrr, twenty five years is a heckuva long time. Would be ace to see everyone again, hopefully I can make time to attend the reunion. People have been putting up pics of themselves back in the day and their families now. Dunno if it’s the whole 40 year old curse again, but try as I may I cannot recognize some of the faces or even the names. Always thought I had a good memory but some of these peeps don’t ring a bell.

Fear it could be the same with class mates from the University of Bradford, but doubt it. Though boarding school transformed me into living the nidifugous existence I currently exhibit where I gotta keep moving from place to place to stay sane, I “survived” boarding school. Bradford was different, it left far more indelible marks. First place I ever fell in love, first place I ever knew what heartbreak really felt like (and as a result know the lyrics to Brian McKnight’s 6,8,12 by heart), first place I ever shared a toothbrush with another person. Before I arrived Bradford I considered stuff like girlfriend sharing my toothbrush or public displays of affection uber gross. By the time I left, I was snogging in the open and didn’t care what anyone thought….I still do. The toothbrush sharing thang though has def been laid to rest…I hope.

Anyway we’ll get to find out if Bradford had such a lasting impression on me when David organizes “his” reunion. “His” because for the past couple of years he’s been threatening to hold a reunion not to mark any momentous anniversary, but to show off his stupendous wealth….when he makes it. He plans to fly everyone (including tutors) to his yacht in Miami for the “Inaugural (17th/18th/19th/? year) reunion anniversary of the Year 2000 Chemical Engineering Class of the University of Bradford”. Festivities will include a “So how rich are you compared to David?” quiz, a “Is your partner as hot as David’s latest model girlfriend” photo session, and a “My bodyguard can beat you” MMA lucky dip. Now you can tell why workload’s not the only reason why I haven’t returned to Kampala since July, even with David dangling Nuba’s phone number as carrot to convince me to celebrate my 40th birthday in Kampala.

Can’t blame David too much as we have all been guilty of grand dreams. As the immortal line from one of the songs off Breakdance 2: Electric Bugaloo goes…..They say money can’t buy happiness, but I’d like a chance to see/‘Cos I can go where I want and do what I feel, and that’s good enough for me….MONEY!!! That song sucked now that I think about it, but since I am too tired to delete that line we might as well find a way to segue it in….oh yes, they also say not to count one’s chicks before they hatch, but for a recent deal I assumed was a cinch I not only counted, but killed, fried, ate the chicks and requested for another plate. Was gonna use some of the funds to get me that Hublot watch I’d been dreaming about too. If it had worked out I might even have beat David to the Chem Eng Bradford “just ‘cos I’m rich” reunion. With all that cheddar was already thinking of hiring someone to dance for me. Well, what I really mean is having someone to dance in my place ‘cos I have realized lately that I don’t fancy dancing at all. Can I even remember how to? So with all that moolah one would obvious have fawning company. Then when I see a Ciara wanna-be doing stretches just before a song comes on and she approaches me to dance I’ll get my stand-in Chris Brown to dance in my place. Now you get why chicks were already hatched, right? I really should stop hanging with David.

As expected, family and friends from all over the world called me on birthday. Also as expected, due to wonky telephone connection not a few of these peeps had to settle for a call the next day as they could not get connected. Chief was one of those who when he discovered anyone had gotten through to me would wonder why he wasn’t getting connected and even asked mom if I was intentionally avoiding his calls. U what? Yes, that’s how sensitive Chief has gotten. A few weeks before birthday I received SMS/BBMs/What’s App messages from members of family asking me to call Chief. Said dude had heard some awful news regarding South Sudan and wanted to know if I was safe. Now why didn’t he try to call me himself you ask? Well, Chief fronts worse than most girls I have dated. This is a guy who would ask mom if she had spoken to me in order to slyly guilt-trip her into telling me to call him. I usually ignore her but this time I called to alleviate his insecurity fears about South Sudan.

Chief: So you can’t even call to see how I am doing?
Tunde: Aren’t you the one supposed to enquire as to my welfare since you think I am in an insecure country? How are you anyway?
Chief: You have abandoned me!
Tunde (*yup, no girl I have dated was this needy*): Ha. But I spoke to you 8 days ago?!
Chief: Ehen, isn’t that long enough?

Of course, mom tells all siblings about this exchange. Now my uncle teases me by calling Chief my girlfriend. As far as I know only Jide and I call Chief frequently, so he considers it an affront when we slack off on this occasionally yet doesn’t give other siblings grief. You gotta love the dude.

Chief stopped over in the UK and our stay intersected by 3-4 days. As is their wont sisters came over with loadsa food so much so there was not enough space to store it all, there never is. Yet when Tunde was home alone sisters did not “send him” as us Nigerians say. Typical. Forget mom, I am blaming sisters for my waning abs since I did not wanna waste food.

Good thing about Chief’s visits is sisters come to the house with their kids so I don’t have to fret about travelling from one end of London to the other in order to see nieces and nephews. Watching sisters interact with Chief and (subconsciously) try to outdo each other with tales of their kids’ exploits was delightful to observe…as much as one can observe with one functioning eye. No sooner was one done regaling us (well, Chief really) in quirky thangs their kids had done than the other kicked into gear with an even quirkier tale. Guess my sisters are like those parents that think everything their kids do is worth documenting. If they ever read this blog I won’t be getting any Xmas presents, but they never send me any anyways so tough. Hee hee.

Must be in their DNA as watching them took me back to childhood when we would go visit one of mom’s friends or relatives and she would coach me beforehand on some lovely compliment to pay. Now that I think about it there is no way in heck the aunt whose home my eight year old self had just commented on being “incredibly beautiful and commodious” woulda believed those words were mine. Yet mom would nod and in mock shock say something along the lines of “woah, these kids of nowadays, hmm, they are real studious o….” Yeah right. Even as a kid I always felt unctuous after such encounters. Yet my sisters are repeating the same cycle. Expect my nieces and nephews to use their Galaxy Note 50s – the ones that will sear thoughts into walls as graffiti – to complain about same thing when they grow up.

To show nothing really changes I happened on a conversation between mom and Nike where mom said she was glad none of her kids ever drank or smoked. Nike had to insist I did drink and mom came to confirm if it was so. She musta conveniently forgotten the time she chided me for having to stop the car to urinate ‘cos I had quaffed two bottles of Guinness stout in a hurry. Chose not to break her heart further by keeping my marijuana smoking phase secret.

Chief, on the other hand, was the Kaiser Sőze of parents. Remember that scene in The Usual Suspects where Verbal Kint is making up stories to feed Agent Kujan from stuff he sees around the room? That was Chief. Trying to find the right words to admonish one of my siblings for not being effervescent enough, he spots a soda bottle on the table and declares “you need to have more SPRITE, you need to be a self-starter!” Another time he used CRISPy when trying to convince me to be less diffident about school stuff. I think it was after he said, “I have stated my piece….if you now want to be a king, be a BURGER KING”, when I would not give up on an argument we were having and he was instructing me to have it my way, that I finally caught on to his faux words.

I shouldn’t have been surprised though because growing up as a kid you think my oldest brother is the coolest guy out there – he still is though - and assumed your dad would never tell a lie. The moment the veil was lifted was during one of the family prayer meetings – yes, we used to have those every evening – when he was discussing on the virtues of hard work and made up a ditty that was supposedly popular among his peers in elementary school. I’m working for my life, I’m working for my life, if anyone ask about me tell them sayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy I’m working for my life. All of us kids glanced at each other, trying hard to suppress laughter. It was obviously a made up song, I could see Chief’s eyes darting from side to side while singing it almost trying to find a way to end the song while wondering what he had gotten himself into. I mean the song didn’t even have an agreeable melody for goodness sake! After the meeting I remember cracking up about it when mom walks by and retorts that she actually remembered that song from her childhood and attempted to improve the melody. In one fell swoop I realized my adult parents who should guide me along the right path were mendacious storytellers, and what made it worse was this act was actually carried out during a PRAYER MEETING! Life was never the same after that.

On to the present, you will be glad to know I have renewed residence permit here so tales from Juba are set to continue for another 2 years at least. One would think an extension would be fairly straight forward seeing as I had one before, but it took nearly two weeks and constant disruptions to office schedule. Once, some guy told me to wait then after ten minutes he returned and said, “Oh, it’s time for lunch. Come back after lunch”. Dude didn’t resume until the next day. Another time this dude told me to meet him at his office in the morning. After repeated calls and the “I’m on my way” lies that us Africans know too well he showed up an hour later and that’s when I discovered he had been at home when he asked me to come by the office. “Why did you keep me waiting this long then?” I enquired. “Welcome to South Sudan”, he responded. “You should be used to these things by now.” The most ridiculous requirement, however, is having to register finger-prints with the police twice a year. Surely finger prints don’t change. One cannot help but laugh.

Loadsa places that used to be packed are now empty due to depreciating currency and possibly insecurity. Still, you must give props to those that are still open and some folk are even opening new businesses. I try to support these folks and last week I went to a new place that houses a chain of eateries - a pizzeria, ice cream spot, and a café. Pizza was not bad but ice cream was dire. Chocolate ice cream tasted like expired lime-flavored cough syrup. In the same building another spot has lovely chicken wrap. Had it twice and raved about it. The other day I finally took someone to try it and it was a wrap alright, but with no chicken. Shoulda backed out after waitress said they had run outta chicken, but insisted she ask the chef to check again ‘cos I brought someone specially to try out the wrap. That’ll teach me.

Still haven’t used jacuzzi in apartment complex, but not that bothered as I get a surprise every day when I return from work. Girl fixing room must have been a cake decorator before she moved to Juba as I get a “pink surprise” every other week when she changes my piebald bedsheet to the pink one. Each day brings a different layout style utilizing pink bedsheet and duvet. Bet she musta studied origami as well…..or somehow ended up on with same Google search as I did.

Tot ziens and God bless.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

They tried to mess up my hair, but I won’t stay throwed. Y’all better listen to me, I won’t stay throwed!

Hola peeps.

So back in Juba for a week now and all is tamam. On day of arrival from Uganda I stopped by a pal’s office and folk made cracks at my presence. They all thought I’d be back in Nigeria due to recent fighting, but told them I am fully junubi now, thus I have no other place to call home. Was glad to see folk were okay, and I could tell they were glad to have my solidarity in these trying times. What’s sad to see is the needless loss of life and property damage from 4 days of fighting. Folk that were also here when fighting broke out in 2013 all insist the recent unrest was worse. Oh my.

On Friday, went back to my previous hotel to use the gym - best spot for leg workout – and did not find any Caucasians, apart from those working at the hotel. That’s major. On another note, can you believe I was asked not to pay when I enquired about the gym rate? Yup, they sure love me. Again, was ace to see everyone unhurt, especially the girls at the front desk I usually flirt with – trust me I ain’t no roue, the girls are my soi-disant Moneypenny(s). Hee hee.

Stepped inside the gym and the instructor immediately asked for my digits. Said he had asked around for my contact details when the fighting broke out as he wanted to make sure I was okay. “You are my brother”, he said. Awww. Now y’all get why I was angling to return? This is now my home. Further proved it by doubling down and extending rent for 6 months, even though landlord advised to only pay for 3 months “as one can never tell what will happen again”. I have no choice really, I gotta make company projects in South Sudan a success; there is no Plan B. #LikeArseneWenger

David still doesn’t get it though. Before I left Kampala he tried to convince me to prolong stay “until things calm down”. I know he cares, though I secretly think he would miss my company, especially after I threatened to give his “camp” a crap rating on TripAdvisor. Don’t get me wrong my stay was okay, but after dinner with one of David’s friends who made me a better offer I had to reconsider my options. Nuba, for that is her name, offered me her spare room with Egyptian cotton bedsheets. Could Dave’s hard bed with a mosquito trap – yes, the mosquito net had so many holes I might as well have had FREE BLOOD tattooed on my body for the mosquitoes – compete with that?
I usually get my best ideas while on the bog, but one of those nights when the mosquitoes were having a buffet on my flesh I got the idea for a Mosquito Exorcist. He/she would be like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but for mosquitoes. I am sensing a (Nollywood) movie ideaaaaa…..When something strange’s in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters Mosquito Exorcist!

Plus, Nuba is uber pretty, and with her name rhyming with Juba, surely this was destiny (or at least one of the ever evolving lineups of Destiny’s Child) suggesting I move camps. Was so excited at thumbing Dave’s nose in it I forgot to take her number after dinner. Efforts to convince/cajole/bribe/blackmail/subliminal-message Dave into handing over her details proved abortive. And that was one of my reasons for not waiting until Dave (and the internet) had determined things had “calmed down” before returning to Juba.

Another reason for leaving Kampala is I’d missed mint chocolates, and knew I had some left in the fridge at my Juba apartment. And no, I could not find any in all of Kampala. It appears there are no more Cadbury’s chocs in Uganda supermarkets. I kid you not, someone needs to investigate this. One of the nights when I was having mint-choc withdrawal symptoms, I took a break off developing the story for Mosquito Exorcist: The Movie and mind wandered back to where this love for mint chocolate actually began.

I was on a British Caledonian flight – yes, I am that old – to or from the UK and reckon I was about 8 years old. I remember a black air stewardess, no, they were called air waitresses back then, well, this lady gave me some chocolates and said if I wanted more I should remember to ask for “mint chocolates”. I recall the chocs came in green wrappers like those ones on Viscount biscuits. Man, those were the days…oh to be young and not have a care in the world, but accumulating mint chocs and Captain McCall bric-a-brac.

Last time (before Kampala) I had similar mint choc cravings was during trip to Diani, Kenya 2 months ago. I stayed at the scenic Baobab Beach Resort for the weekend, and wish I coulda stayed longer…well, except for incident with a monkey, let’s call it Chim-Chim, and my mint chocs.

I arrived at the hotel on a Friday and had to attend a wedding that evening, so was crazy tired by the time I returned to the hotel. Opened pack of mint chocs and fell asleep with half-open pack in hand. Early the next morning my pal in the adjoining room kept insisting I go take in the view from the verandah. So I go, close the sliding doors behind me, and lie down on the lounge chair. As was still tired I fell asleep and woke up 2 hours later to discover clothes thrown outta duffel bag and my pack of mint choc that I left beside bed in room was gone – actually the choc was taken, but the empty pack was left as a taunt. It was not until I investigated further I saw
monkey poop around the room. Didn't notice it the night before, but there were signs in the room warning residents to always close doors to prevent apes from sneaking in. So either I didn't shut sliding doors fully when I napped on verandah or I was stumped by one of those monkeys from The Hangover movies that are incredibly adroit at nicking people's stuff. I was glad the culprit monkey had not completed his "freedom" from nicking school as passport, wallet and non-Hublot watch were intact.

Instead of enjoying rest of stay at the resort I kept thinking of ways to trap a troop of monkeys and torture them until they either pointed out the guilty party or I got a whiff of mint off the guilty ape’s breath. I only calmed down after I saw another sign requesting guests not feed the animals as human food may kill them.
Yup, being the corpse with the freshest breath in the animal kingdom would be condign reward for Chim-Chim.

Returned to Juba and thot I had gotten over Chim-Chim’s antics until I saw a roach as I was about to shower. Boy, did I take out my frustrations on it. I held a can of insecticide in each hand and went all gangsta on that poor roach. My inner Tupac came out and didn’t know I was also spouting the lyrics from Hit ‘em Up - ALL OF Y'ALL MOTHERROACHERS, F%$K YOU; DIE SLOW, MOTHERROACH.
– whilst terminating the roach. As I coughed and ran outta the room to escape the insecticide fog that had saturated it I laughed out loud and couldn’t help but shake head at the effect candy had on me. No wonder (as detailed in last blog entry) God instructed mate to calm me down with chocs when I was upset. Man, Chim-Chim sure got one over me. So much so that when I saw The Legend Of Tarzan back in Kampala I could not help but wonder if I hated the movie ‘cos it was meh, ‘cos Jane left all the black male friends she grew up and ended up with a jungle boy just ‘cos he’s white as she was, or ‘cos all the apes reminded me of Chim-Chim. Crap monkey.

While I still choose to remain on the subject, I now understand why we have Spiderman, Batman, and even Antman, but no serious monkey superhero. One, what would his superpower be, slowing down bad guys with banana-tinged urine? Gimme a break. Two, most folk might not even recognize their rescuer as a superhero. They will look at Chimpman and probably think, “Hmm, this guy in a cape is so hairy he must be Greek/Middle Eastern (delete as appropriate). Am I sure he can really save me from this burning building without singeing all his body hair?” Crap monkey.

If I ran on a political platform it would be to be tough on (ape) crime and the (ape) causes of crime. One day is mint chocolate, the next could be a nation’s economy. Okay, enough monkey business, back to humans….

Although things are now calm in Juba, one can tell a sizable part of the population has departed the city. Several businesses remain closed. Local barbing salon is shut as most staff – Ugandans and Kenyans – skipped town. My fave sandwich spot no longer opens on Sundays and shuts at 8pm on weekdays. Drats. Was so pissed I could not get sandwiches after gym workout on Friday I stomped home and wanted to take out frustrations…..on insects. Luckily for them I had run out of insecticide. The next morning I soberly searched for insecticides in neighbourhood stores, but could not find any. It wasn’t ‘til I went to a large supermarket I saw some. Yup, that search brought a few things home. Most stuff is imported into the country from Uganda and with the traders gone stores now lack certain goods one used to take for granted.
Almost forgot to mention when I couldn’t get sandwich on way from gym I stopped by some roadside vendor to buy what I assumed was beef. Hey, who knows if it was dog meat I ate, but I was hungry so…..

Feels good to be back in apartment though. Feels like I have been here for longer, though it’s only been two months. Loving it. Have sufficient space unlike cramped hotel room, though at hotel it’s easy getting food from room service. Not sure how much longer I can survive on cereal. Good thing about this move is for the first time since I moved to Juba I got to experience the local market when I went to get stuff for the crib. I told you new crib has a gym and jacuzzi, right? I keep stressing the jacuzzi part, only I don’t know why. I spent a total of 13 months in hotels and only used the pool once…during a pool party. Chances are I won’t have the time to use jacuzzi.

As I was in a “new” place I decided to try something “new” and went for a body scrub after some lady commented on dead skin on face. Never done it before and it was not a particularly enjoyable experience, though had to make sure I took a dump and showered before I went there to avoid tales being told about streaks in underwear, etc. long after I have left Juba.
Reminds me of time when we used to have a cleaner come by in Atlanta. Miguel and I would pre-clean crib to ensure it’s in a reasonable condition before the cleaning lady came around. Come to think of it, the reverse occurs in Nigeria where folk purposely don’t clean dirty dishes days ahead of a cleaner coming in so “the cleaner can work for her money.” Similarly, I have had educated folk defend the practice of tossing trash outta their cars, “after all the street cleaners get paid and if I don’t do this how will they keep their jobs?” Pitiful.

Anyway, so while lying down on bed scrubber lady remarked on how the bed suited my size as most of her clients “have their legs dangling over the edge”. One, I get what she was trying to say as most South Sudanese are really tall. Two, “the bed suits your size” is probably at par with “you don’t sweat so bad for a fat person” in list of worst backhanded compliments ever.
I walked out of scrubbing session and was shocked at the number of men getting mani+pedis. The shock was due to my undeveloped mind assuming the last thing middle-aged South Sudanese men would think of is getting pampered with body scrubs and manicures. I hardly encounter such in Nigeria. After some further investigations I discovered men here prove their machismo in other ways. For instance, my driver who just turned 40 proudly told me he has eight (8) kids. E-I-G-H-T!!!!!

I, on the other hand, have continued kickboxing lessons as a show of my manliness. I am getting better at it, but stamina and sideways stretches need more work. While swimming in Diani I realized why old folk are encouraged to exercise in pools: with resistance caused by water one can execute stretches that’d be otherwise excruciating sans water. While walking on beach I immersed self in water and did some kickboxing stretches that made me wish I had some music playing in the background and a montage of stretches could be recorded to make me look badass like in Rocky IV.
In reality, I would hate to see a recording of myself attempting kicks with left leg. Almost like when you see kids at that awkward 4-5 year old stage where they really think they can dance, but all they are doing is a weird uncoordinated combination that’s indicative of what Sia would act like on cheap drugs? That is me! Coordinated with right leg, but left leg makes me kick like an obese girl who has been home-schooled all her life.

Kickboxing and movies are a bad combo as I now try to impress chicks at hotel reception by kicking down a bamboo tree – yes, I log a retractable bamboo tree around in back of car - like my kickboxing hero Van Damme in Kickboxer. So far, in between multiple visits to the clinic, I only have managed to chop a piece of wood…well, it was a toothpick, but still, can you imagine the difficulty in chopping a tiny toothpick with shin? Exactly!!!

Oh, while feeling adventurous I switched abs workout last week from mat on floor to a reclined bench. Dunno if it was the bench, the shorts I wore or even the underwear but felt a burn on butt after third set. Shoulda stopped, but powered through it so much so that after 2 hours I discovered I had a blister on right arse cheek. It hurts so much I now sit on left side of arse and have skipped abs workout until it heals. Guess I should not be surprised it occurred on right cheek as that’s same arse cheek I got what I now affectionately refer to as my stupid stamp. I am sure I have regaled you in tales (in earlier blog entries) of how I got it, but here’s the Cliff Notes version: you know that adage about boiling a frog in an open pan by turning temperature up slowly so frog doesn’t notice, well same principle works with this here genius sleeping fully-clothed with his bum rested on a house heater on a cold winter night in London. Not my brightest moment.

Counting days until next London visit. Mom’s currently there and I arrive on her birthday. Now I didn’t plan trip to coincide with her special day, but mom’s gonna be glad to see me and probably gonna think my arrival date is no coincidence. Am I gonna tell her? Nah, gonna milk it like crazy as I am already the world’s greatest son ever since I contributed towards the plane tix for her recent US visit. Man, never seen mom so grateful. She told everyone to thank me. I am thinking if I knew she’d act this way I’da bought her plane tix decades ago.

You know the lyrics from You’re So Vain by Carly Simon? Well, my mom was partly the inspiration for that song. Growing up, everything just had to be about her. When I started going bald years ago she blamed it on the fact that I wouldn’t listen to her and chose to start shaving off hair as a 17 year old, as no other male in family suffers from ‘premature’ baldness. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It had to be about her, huh? Being her only son, you would think we would be close, right? We hardly have anything in common, well, there’s the complexion…and the eyes…and I have noticed lately I am getting a modicum of her vanity. Sadly, it has to do with hirsuteness, rather lack thereof.

I recall when I was younger I used to proudly pronounce that I purposely chose to shave head for the look, and not ‘cos I was balding. Then when I start losing hair on middle spot on head, it was, well, it’s just the middle spot, right? Lately, I’m losing hair at the front of head…what’s my vain excuse now, Chim-Chim? That reminds me, it’s time for my daily dosage of mint chocolates.

Tot ziens and God bless.

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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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