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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