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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