Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Doing the Aussie haka

Hola peeps.

So it’s a month in Juba and all is going swimmingly……well, as can be expected. Came up to room from breakfast this morning to pick up bag for office when I received a knock on door. Turns out to be the hotel’s security advisor – he didn’t show any identification now that I think of it – who said he received a report someone from my room was taking photos outside the window. Oh did I forget to tell you one ain’t allowed to take pics? Yup, one requires special permission and signs informing all of this are posted in most hotels. During first visit here in December I had iPad out at airport snapping at this and that until guide warned me of the dangers I’d face.

Informed the security dude was told he was mistaken and set about my day….well, as can be expected. You see for the past week loo has been leaking from the sides. Dunno what issue is, but wouldn’t rule out crap food I have been consuming in quest for perfect culinary experience. Seriously, DON’T RULE IT OUT. Anyway the maintenance dudes at hotel have been up to room so many times - like the dude fixing shower from last blog entry (oh by the way shower now produces hot water once one turns it on at least 30mins before shower time) – I feel awful when I have to recall them. Plus most times it coincides with after I just set bowels free and with no air freshener in room you can guess what their impression of me is.

Now I could cop a can of air freshener from the shops but tired of assisting this hotel folk, man. My clothes are never laundered properly, takes forever to get hot water, food sucks, for some reason housekeeping always place dental floss on side even though it is designed to be placed on its base, and worst of all got told off by an ugly chick. Now the last part sounds downright sad, but thang is…..okay here goes:

Was having dinner with some colleagues some days ago beside the hotel’s mirthful excuse for a pool and after they left wasn’t keen to go back to room so approached two ladies seated by themselves. I politely asked if I could join them as didn’t wanna finish eating meal alone. Got the quickest "no" ever in my life. U know one of them "no"s that make u think you have foul breath or something. Hey, do folk with foul breath even know they have foul breath, I mean how do u tell them without upsetting them? It ain’t like there’s a Tell Your Friend Their Breath Smells Day with an accompanying Hallmark card with a humorous title like So……erm, how’s the Halitosis?
After the “no” sunk in, shook my head, apologized and went back to my seat. Wanna know the most painful thang about being rejected? It was the ugly one that said it. If the better-looking one had done the same my ego wouldn't have been as bruised. Now thinking to self, "woah, spawn of Quasimodo probably thinks I fancy her. Darn."

This "no" took me back to teenage years when a friend and I were driving and saw 2 girls at the bus stop in Surulere. Now there was petrol scarcity at the time …hmmmm eerie, wonder where I have heard that before….. and mate had just got petrol after selling a pound of flesh, but he/we were willing to risk this for chicks. So as I am the designated 'scrub' (i.e. sitting in the passenger side of his mate's ride) I ask the cute one if they'd like a ride. She's keen and about to step in the car - I have a vague picture of her still - when the Coke-bottle-glasses-wearing friend screams at her until cute chick backs away. Yup, Bride of Frankenstein’s "no" was one of those that has one reminiscing, that's how bad it was.

Come to think about it I don’t remember the girl in glasses being that ugly, but then again it'd just be my fragile teenage ego trying to compensate for being rejected. Musta told y’all about time back in Bradford days when I hitched a ride to London with some dudes. They had come up for an end of term house party thrown by some mates. Apparently the driver got rejected by some chicks the night before and his excuse was...wait for it...."u saw the girl holding her stomach, right, like she was ill? I am sure she just had an abortion and that's why she didn't wanna holler at me". I didn't wanna say anything as this dude was my ride to London, but darn bro, really???? Yup, Zelda’s uglier sister’s “no” took me back to Bradford as well, darn it.

So where was I before my negative encounter? Yeah, crappy hotel. So I have decided to secure new digs and might settle for place with ace fruit juices even though I hear their rooms are just as crap. Well, at least they have a more diverse food menu. You know I got so tired of same ol’ breakfast offered here I bought a tin of oats and requested they make me oatmeal for breakfast. After waiting for 15mins I get a lukewarm cup of milky fluid sprinkled with oats. If I wanted to drink garri for breakfast I would have man, I requested oatmeal! I did my best can-u-imagine-ugly-girl-told-me-‘no’-snark while flawlessly executing a flipping-mythical-dreadlocks-as-if-obstructing-vision motion, picked up tin of oats and stomped out of the restaurant. First thang I did at office was to surf web for directions on how to make oatmeal with a microwave. Plan to give it to the restaurant folk tomorrow morning.

I haven’t been able to make the goat/chicken bbq spot I told y’all about last time, but NEED to do so this weekend as my lack of desirable food options is driving me bonkers. Someone suggested another Chinese place and when bill was provided (after another lackluster meal) I found myself doing the Aussie haka. Some bloke described that to me as what most New Zealanders do when they visit Australia. Things are so expensive there as compared to New Zealand, when a bill is provided they end up tapping both front and back pant pockets searching for money while screaming at top of their voices in a manner that is reminiscent of the ancestral war cry of the Maori New Zealanders.

Finally had some local food and favorite is fool (yeah, you read that right) which is some combination of beans and cheese. Now if there ever was a trivia question to Mr. T’s favorite meal you can thank yours truly for the answer. Not to worry some of you won’t get that joke for another week…..make that two weeks… I also tried kisra (which is like enjera but tastes better), kudura (which is green and tastes like ewedu), and some paste made with eggplant and groundnut. Speaking of groundnuts I found a spot where it’s sold so back to loving cooling down with nuts and ijebu garri after gym workouts. Sweet!

On a sad tip my pack of plantain chips is almost gone. Man, plantain chips has made me more friends here than I can count. In a weird way it was ‘cos of the chips I came across 3 good-looking sisters. They swore they were sisters but didn’t believe a word until I saw their identification. They all South Sudanese – or so they say – but look nada alike. The youngest kinda, sorta looks South Sudanese, the one before her Ugandan, and the oldest Kenyan. Don’t trust me on this as I haven’t been here long enough to positively identify folk. Took almost 4 years at Bradford before I’d tell the difference between Indians and Pakistanis. Surely someone musta created an app for that by now.
They need to do that asap for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ‘cos I get confused, and don’t wanna end up creating a stir or upsetting someone. Dave Chappelle had some sketch where he mistakes a Chinese guy for a Korean and dude blurts out “do I look Korean to you?!”, only for Dave to respond in the affirmative. Kills me everytime I hear that. Get same reaction when I recall one of the apocryphal stories we heard as kids where the Chinese national team was banned from football for decades after a game against Nigeria. As the story goes Nigeria led 3-nil at half time, then in the second half the Chinese came back and won 10-3. It wasn’t until after the game an intrepid sports journalist discovered the Chinese had subbed all 11 players at half time but ‘cos they looked alike no one was the wiser.

I had a white mate once confess he initially had difficulty telling black folk apart, and dude never said anything ‘cos didn’t wanna appear racist. Come to think of it he did mention he had a relative who’s a professional football referee. Mate from Bradford once used another black dude’s railcard, and even though the white ticket inspector scanned the card he let him through. Hmmmm, the ‘R’ word, used to be the black man’s get-out-of-jail card back in the day. Good times, good times.

Heading to gym soon as missed out on a workout yesterday. Trying to restrict the intense 27-minute cardio I told y’all about last time to thrice a week and gym to same. Might need to increase the latter ‘cos before I came over here folk complained of my gaunt appearance. Initially thought they were joking until I travelled to the UK and it was the same thing. Weird ‘cos I still weighed the same and wasn’t until pants started falling off waist and tried on a pair of waist size 30 pants – and they fit! – I knew this was serious. Yup, the quest for those expensive sneakers sure took their toll.

‘Cos of folks’ comments on appearance I have turned into the very folk I detest: peeps that look at themselves in gym mirrors. I find myself unconsciously flexing arms and admiring biceps. Shame. There’s this girl at the gym though that provides me comic relief. She does the mirror gaze thang worse than anyone I know, only she glances at her teeth. I kid you not. Maybe she eats a bowl of spinach before each gym visit?

One thing I have noticed is I seem to be the only one sweating. It gets crazy hot and I’m sweating even in an air conditioned car, but I see folk walking about with no sweat stains on clothes or perspiration on face. Women in make-up looking pristine and no smear. What gives?
Even with the heat folk here drink more tea than the English…with loadsa sugar. You visit someone and first thang they do is give you a bottle of water, ‘cos of the heat I presume, and ask if you want some tea.

Uh oh, gym’s on hold as just got a call from a friend who panics a lot. Called to see if I had bottled water as she was stocking up ‘cos she had got wind stores were running out of the good stuff. Laughed at her, but I ain’t laughing no more. Asked around and one cannot find bottled water anywhere. Loadsa juice and soda but no water. Reason? Folks feel it is cause of the rising price of US dollars in the parallel market. Yeah, but water is bottled locally and only incremental cost item should be the purification chemicals or plastic bottles as cost of petrol/diesel has not changed; so what gives? Something must be done to curb widening currency exchange rate ‘cos the only folk making money, apart from bottle water hoarders, are printing presses where restaurants get their menus re-printed. I’ve been here a month and cost of breakfast at hotel has doubled in that time.

From what I gather this country has largest petroleum reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and Angola yet due to the fighting up North development has slowed. It pained my heart the other day to see a bunch of street kids sniffing glue. Just sad.

Went to Nigerian embassy yesterday to register presence in the country and was introduced to the president of the Nigerian residents association in South Sudan. Informed me of monthly meetings held so plan to stop by next month. Maybe we can raise funds to finally put to bed the recrudescence of fuel scarcity. Man, felt ashamed and downright embarrassed when folk at work teased me about it and were genuinely curious as to how Nigeria finds herself in such a situation. What plausible explanation could I provide? I mean it’s just shameful.

With what is going on in Nigeria guess I’d not complain so much about hotel in Juba, huh? At least I ain’t struggling for petrol, right? Okay one last vent…..

Last week I return from work, draw open curtains and see some dude painting walls outside window. Dude’s 4 flights up with no harness and merrily painting away. Didn’t know what to do. Do I offer him a cookie? Would that distract him? Or do I wait for El Chupacabra to show up at hotel and wager him to spit on her food from 60ft? Hmmmmm.

Tot ziens and God bless.

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Sunday, May 03, 2015

New year, new shoes

Hola peeps. Welkommen to 2015. Well, a delayed welcome so to speak.

Came across a draft blog that shoulda gone out in January with the opening paragraphs: No new year resolutions for moi as I think that’s dated (geddit?) but decided to follow Skee-Lo’s 90s mantra about wishing I was a li’l bit taller, wish I was a baller…. In trying to be a “baller” I resigned my position with the firm in Port Harcourt and am moving to Uganda. Yah man, remember blog entry of gazillion years ago titled You Always Return To Uganda? Well, who woulda thunk I was prophesying to myself?

Why did I choose to do it? Let’s just say the inner Caucasian in me thought “hmm, what would it be like to abandon a secure job and go on an adventure?” After decision was made I rejected an offer from another firm to move to Lagos before I resigned from PH role. That way I was sure there’d be no rescinding my decision. Next step was to tell my folks. I hemmed and hawed and when I finally did it Chief was effusive in his support and wished me the best of luck. Mom? After I assured her I’d have some source of income and not be a destitute she nodded her head and said she’d pray choice works out for the best.

Impressive, huh? A tad dishonest too. You see ‘Uganda’ is euphemism for ‘South Sudan’. Had to do that initially to calm peeps down. When peeps would initially enquire as to new location I’d say East Africa, then it’d shift to Uganda for the more curious amongst them, then once I saw they weren’t too dismayed about the move I’d finally say something along the lines of ”…well in all honesty it’s actually South Sudan” and then…wait…for….the facial expressions. A more enterprising individual woulda captured these expressions and used them in some art exhibit or maybe a revival of the hackneyed tagline in MasterCard commercials of yesteryear.

Yup, Juba, South Sudan. Today marks Day 21 of my sojourn here. Why the tracking in days? Dunno, just wanna see how long it takes before I ignore that and move on to months. Reminds me of the weekly newsletter I used to receive from BabyCentre.com pre- and post my daughter’s birth. They would send weekly guides on what to expect as a new mother. Yup, mother….guess they figured no guys would be bothered to sign up. Cannot remember if they eventually gave up after week 24 post-birth or I unsubscribed from the newsletter, but a part of me wish I’da wagered to see how far they’d go. Well it’s week 2,080 now and if your child is still living at home you have failed as a parent….

So why Juba? Well, everything the shoulda-January blog paragraph stated and more. A business opportunity arose that involved relocation to the world’s newest country and I jumped at the chance. Coulda made way, way more money being situated in Lagos and woulda finally utilized Lagos crib, but this just felt right. So far…so Juba. The people are warm and uber-friendly and also crazy tall. I am officially the shortest man in Juba! Since my arrival I have been sampling the eateries in order to discover where best to eat and so far…..so Juba(?) Need to try out the spots that serve local dishes to really make mind up, but in the meantime here is your guide to eating out in Juba:

Quality Hotel has best French Fries, but the pizza sucks. Do not, I repeat, do not try the Quality Special pizza! Their menu is quite vast and most things are tasty however. Also don’t ask for butter as you’d get margarine instead.

NOTOS restaurant has the best food I have tasted so far – Indian dishes are nice – but bread rolls are always served cold for some reason. Ice cream tastes thawed and refrozen.

Tulip Inn has tastiest ice cream in Juba….but it’s only served on weekends…..and even though the ice cream machine is brand spanking new they haven’t had ingredients for the past 3 weekends! Their chicken wings suck. Mexican burger is nice and pizza is aiight. Limited menu though.

Terrain is some spot on the outskirts of Juba; Jebel (Mountain) to be precise. Quite an idyllic place and Caucasians love it. Maybe ‘cos of the Caucasians the chef didn’t believe me when I asked for my extra spicy pizza. For some reason I’d smell the pepper but not taste it. That said it’s best pizza I have had so far.

PANACHE restaurant? Crap pizza, crap milkshake.

Paradise Hotel? Crap ambience, nice Chinese food on a good day. Best go a la carte, don’t try their buffet.

CROWN Hotel has best fruit juices and desserts as well. Rest of food not so impressive.

Still in search of good food I tried some Chinese restaurant in a Casino & Restaurant last Thursday. Shoulda known something was off when only the ‘Casino’ part of the lettering was lit up. The restaurant was situated in a warehouse storing mattresses and clothes for sale. I kid you not. Ever heard of a Chinese restaurant with an ‘FC’ suffix a la KFC? Exactly! Requested prawns and they didn’t have any, but ‘cos I was hungry asked for a chicken wrap, which was cold. Come to think of it “restaurant” could actually be a canteen for casino staff.

So that’s my take so far. Never could understand Nigerian folk that pack loadsa foodstuff when travelling outta the country, but now I get them. Miss beans and plantain like crazy. My first attempt at local bbq here wasn’t so pleasing, but I hear there is some place at Jebel that does a goat/chicken bbq….well from what I heard it’s either a goat bbq that tastes like chicken, or a chicken bbq that tastes like goat….not sure really. All in all my taste buds shall be giving it a go next week. Wish me luck.

Hotel stay gets real boring so jumped at the chance to go out Friday night. Got to some bar about midnight and it was Habesha night. Had never experienced Ethiopian/Eritrean music before and though the beat was catchy I didn’t get why people ‘danced’ in one spot doing a combination of the go-go shake and some caricature of ‘ten-ten’, a Nigerian game I recall girls – and one particular effeminate boy who just happened to be best mate - from my childhood playing. People-watched for about 2 hours as this was all new to me, and kept thinking “how does one work up a sweat dancing like this?”
There was one dude though that was definitely perspiring. He was doing the usual moves previously described, but had both arms flailing by his side and twisted them vigorously left to right like a waiter struggling in vain to open a wine bottle while also anticipating lift-off. I had a hoot.

When not juxtaposing cultural differences between Nigeria and South Sudan the gym has been a useful distraction. The gym appears to be one of the few positive thangs about this hotel as the swimming pool is more like a bath tub and should only be used for baptisms not swimming; I keep sending clothes to be re-ironed as laundry person “hasn’t passed freedom”; and only get hot water in shower on Monday mornings. Complained numerous times and after maintenance guy is sent over – been to room so many times we are on first name basis and yesterday he asked if I’d be bestman at his impending nuptials - just like the experience at Terrain I smell hot water but don’t feel it on skin.

So why don’t I move hotels? Kinda like the ambience here and it’s quite close to office. Plus the gym instructor is quite helpful. At previous hotel gym instructor spent more time dancing to hip hop beats than working out. Being at this hotel has made me experience other stuff I previously wasn’t privy to: Arab music videos! Unlike music videos everywhere else that inform the viewer of the artist’s name and maybe the director, in Arab videos the credits roll at end of the video! I kid you not. One gets to see who the grip is, the producer, lightning dude, the whole nine yards. Amazing.

Forgot to tell y’all I resumed work out today, light workout, after the doctor said I tore a ligament on Tuesday night. Couldn’t sleep at all and arm had to be put in a sling on Wednesday. Either I am a Nigerian X-Man or the painkilling drugs prescribed worked a treat.

So what else? Yeah, weekends have been particularly tough as I have more time on my hands then and tend to miss Nigeria. What exactly am I missing? Can’t put my finger on it, guess it’s just the essence of the country. There ain’t no place like it. Essence of Nigeria! Now that’s a cologne I’d pay big money for.

Glad I was above to vote in Nigeria’s presidential elections. We did it Africans, we producing positive stories from the continent. Forget the Burundi dude, in due time he and other sit-tight leaders will see they cannot continue as is. Burkina Faso did it, Nigeria did it, change is sweeping across the continent.

Know what else was sweeping across Nigeria? Women with moustaches! Is it me or is it more prevalent that ever in the country? Everywhere I looked I’d see them. Is it something in the food? Do women not give a hoot anymore? It cannot be that as they are more gym-conscious than ever, so what is it? Need to commission a study when I have cash to spare. Haven’t noticed it much in Juba, but then again I haven’t looked closely. Don’t wanna get slapped for no just reason.

I do miss weekly sojourns to the cinema in Nigeria. Got so bad I was at lunch at some hotel last week when a Furious 7 poster with a ‘Coming Soon’ sign below it was sighted. Was so elated I rushed in hoping to find a pseudo-cinema instead I saw some dude selling bootleg DVDs! Yup, dude’s advertising arrival of his new stock like it’s a world premiere. Whatever next, a red carpet rolled out where he’ll give interviews to local media giving a synopsis of his upcoming movie stock? Ridiculous.

To get out of the rut yesterday I took up a colleague’s invitation to attend a celebration of her graduation from university. It was a grand affair and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Spent about 4hrs there and sadly had to leave for another appointment. Sadly? Yeah ‘cos woulda loved to try home-made indigenous dishes. Yup, been here for 3 weeks and closest I have gotten to a local dish is nyoma choma prepared by Kenyans. As I left I thought to myself, “..this move is gonna be good for me….more Nigerians should move here to learn patience….can you imagine being at an event in Nigeria for over 2hrs and all one is served is water? No alcohol? No small chops? There would be riots! Ha.”

Did I tell you I was resplendent in a white Yoruba traditional outfit with a hat to match? That’s right, son. Was seated in front and though the ceremony was conducted in Dinka language, the MC would intermittently break into English for my benefit. There were speeches, dancing, speeches, and more speeches. Must be an East African thang ‘cos experienced same thang at weddings in both Kenya and Uganda. Practice must make perfect ‘cos every single person that took up the mic was articulate, no hemming or hawing. Woah.

After the hostess gave her vote of thanks – with an honorable mention for yours truly – the MC said, “I would like to thank our African brother for attending. I am not sure where you are from but from the way you walked in and what you are wearing I presume from West Africa, maybe Ghana or Nigeria. The main thing we know about West Africa is your movies, we watch them a lot. Now you have experienced South Sudanese culture when you go back you can include some of these in your movies and I assure you we shall watch them…..“

Woah, I am a cultural ambassador! Didn’t wanna ruin the guy’s day by informing him I ain’t a fan of Nollywood, but woah. Not sure us Nigerians appreciate the sort of impact our music and movies have on others. Just woah. Now I wanna be a Nollywood producer! Now I wanna make my country proud! Now I…….hold on, hold on, did that dude just mistake me for a Ghanaian?! And what did he mean by “the way you walked in”? Is that euphemism for “you are wayyyy too short to be South Sudanese”? And….man, need to ease up on the Orique-ing.

In case you wondering what an Orique is it all began after a November trip to Abu Dhabi to catch the F1 season ending race. Stayed at a mate’s and it was sorta a guys weekend as other mates from UK and Nigeria converged there. While walking past a Porsche Design store I saw these red Adidas Bounce S3 and fell hopelessly in love. As they were crazy expensive I decided I’d cop them only if I was able to complete an intense 27-minute cardio exercise everyday for 27 consecutive days as penance. It wasn’t easy but succeeded. By the time I was done there was no size 10.5 in red so had to settle for the grey, less-shocking ones.
I plan to get the red shoes and still searching for another task(s) to undertake. One of the guys from the Abu Dhabi holiday plans to climb Kilimanjaro in December and that could be just the ticket. The other dudes appear to be keen so here’s hoping. 

Woah, I tend to go off on a tangent, don’t I? Orique is…..maybe a brief synopsis of the guys will elucidate thangs:

Bobby – Abu Dhabi host; gym partner back in PH; closet nudist. He truly is the most narcissistic guy I know. We used to push each other at the gym and since he’s moved from PH to Abu Dhabi he spends his time working out and exposing his nude self on Instagram. More fain than a boyband member to show off he suggested we have an abs-off, i.e. sorta like a dance-off where we’d compare abs on a busy stretch of highway and whoever gets more women to crash their cars would be declared the winner, but I politely declined.

Orique – Bobby’s childhood friend; fave hobby is growing his beard; professional hater. Not as much a gym rat as Bobby, but his daily exercise regime consists of: 100 pushups, hate on people around him, another 100 pushups, hate on music stars on TV, 50 pushups, call random folk on his phone and hate on them. Plans to publish a book on how hating keeps folk skinny.

Jawz – Nigeria’s next great author; has a Chimamanda Adichie shrine he lugs everywhere with him. You know the creative writing maxim, Write What You Know? Sadly all this dude knows about the world he learnt from books. He’s 45 years old yet hasn’t experienced puberty! Hangs with Orique a lot more now so could be co-penning Haters Guide To Weight Loss.

Cannot wait to experience Kilimanjaro with these guys and live to tell y’all about it……if they don’t sabotage my hiking gear after reading this blog that is.

Tot ziens and God bless.

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