Sunday, February 26, 2017

Loving life in the Friend (Twilight) Zone

Hola peeps.

Two blogs in the space of two days? Haven’t done this in yonks. Yup, feeling fresh as just returned from kickboxing where coach gave me a new nickname: Full Contact. Yah man, Full Contact is in the hizouuuuu. Had planned to activate new phone but it’s so complicated I fear messing around with it without first reading the manual properly may bring down a NASA satellite, so I am gonna take time and get it right. A massage woulda been tight after conditioning training today, but after yesterday’s experience I think I’m gonna wait for fancy phone to help locate a non-pervy massage spa.

You know how ALL Nigerian artisans, from electricians to car mechanics to carpenters, all start out by condemning their predecessor’s work before they start to fleece you and demonstrate they are just as incompetent? How they all blurt out the same line, Who be the guy wey do this work? Oga, the guy no sabi work at all!, as if it’s part of their union oath? Well, from my experience over the past 3 months, dodgy masseuses have a similar mantra. Whenever she compliments you on your body and asks if you work out, just know that presages some untoward contact. Please get off the massage table pronto and head for the hills, or stay, if you are that way inclined.

After his call on Valentine’s Day I won’t be surprised if Chief sent out a secret memo to massage spas to be on the lookout for me and do their utmost to help me r-e-l-a-x. Started out in November when I bumped into an Ethiopian acquaintance that once slapped me when she was drunk – story for another day – and she told me of a new spa she just opened. Decided to pay a visit and had the best massage I had had in Juba……until near the end when masseuse did a, ahem, let’s just say she did her best to get me aroused.
Over the Christmas holidays some dude that used to cut my hair saw me and requested I come try out his new spot. I did. Had a haircut and stayed for a mani+pedi. When beautician told me as it was the last Friday of the month they offer deals on mani+pedi+massage combos, I jumped at the chance. Again, it was the best deep tissue massage I had had in yonks….until near the end when she started negotiating the size of the tip I should offer her and blatantly offered to gimme a “happy ending”. Politely declined, gave her a 50% tip and quickly donned on clothes. Maybe it’s just me but felt the receptionists gave me a knowing wink as I darted for the door. Almost as if saying to themselves, “I bet he had a great time in there”. Oh man, felt so ashamed – though I did nothing wrong I must stress….again – when I stopped by an eatery afterwards I voluntarily paid for a total stranger’s – she was married, had to make sure she was married so she wouldn’t get the wrong idea - meal just to wash the stench(?) of guilt off myself.

Fast forward to yesterday when I decided to try out a spa close to my crib. The spa shut down after July skirmishes and just reopened so I thought I would give my neighbourhood spa some business. Shoulda known there was something dodgy when masseuse was eating on the massage table, and couldn’t quite explain to me the advantages of a hot stone massage over a deep tissue one. To avoid getting scalded I settled for a deep tissue massage, but it was the worst massage ever. Once I turned over to lie on back and she started with the whole nice-body-I-am-sure-you-work-out line I shoulda known what to expect. My mani+pedi place in Juba is sorted, but the search for a non-pervy massage place continues.

On to more wholesome stuff, I FaceTimed my daughter today and saw she had lost her first tooth. Aww man, being absent for such occasions really tears at me. Unlike previous times, we really talked for a bit today and she showed me the note and the “gold coin” (£2 coin but didn’t wanna ruin it for her) the tooth fairy left under her pillow last night. Man, the innocence of kids, eh? Cannot remember tooth fairy leaving me diddly after I lost tooth. Think mom made me akara with pap the morning after and that was it. I am definitely gonna make it a point to stress these non-pampering moments by parents in my autobiography.

Seeing my daughter in the UK was highlight of my trip. Was a bit antsy before trip due to inability to hold her attention during FaceTime conversations. Was she gonna tire of me after just 30 minutes? Boy, was I wrong. You should see how wide my grin is anytime she calls me “daddy” in her inimitable Queen of England voice. Woah, just woah. Cannot thank God enough for her. Took her and Nike’s 7 year old son to an indoor jungle gym and still amazed at how satisfied kids are with just running through obstacles and throwing plastic balls in the air. I really shouldn’t, but I am already fretting on how our relationship would evolve as she grows older. Would she understand how/why work took me to another country during the early years of her life? She’s a kid now so rough-housing with her and buying presents is fine, how do her maintain the bond as she grows older?

Trying to figure this out as well with teenage kids of siblings; Zane is a perfect example. Used to kid around with him a lot when he was younger, but now he is 13 going on 14 I know practicing my kickboxing moves on him like I do with his younger brother ain’t gonna fly. He is a good kid, a real good kid, and I actually had tears in my eyes when Nike requested Chief pray for him last September before he ventured off to boarding school. Of course, being MACHO I didn’t let anyone see my tears and as there was no one chopping onions within the vicinity I quickly made up an excuse to use the bathroom when I felt I couldn’t hold it in any longer. On another tip, you know they really shouldn’t refer to it as “boarding school” as Zane gets mobile phone privileges, returns home every weekend, gets his laundry done, etc. In other news, the ghost of Tunde from FGC Warri can be observed shaking his head in disgust and vowing to expand that chapter in his autobiography about his parents not truly loving him.

Zane is on What’s App messenger so send him messages time to time to check up on how he’s doing. Apart from that I really am not sure how to bond with him. Took him and his brother to see The Lego Batman Movie earlier this month and with the exception of a few “enjoying the movie?.....okay with the popcorn?” chitchat that was it. Took him to the Notting Hill carnival last year and he appreciated it. When I dropped him off at home afterwards he offered to walk me to the nearest tube station, but told him it was cool. Maybe he was trying to reach out then, you know to discuss stuff, girls maybe (?), he wouldn’t feel comfortable talking to his folks about. Perhaps all I need to do is be more observant and let him know I am available if he needs to talk. Man, when did I become such a wuss? On to more macho stuff…

So Full Contact is definitely, definitely gonna fight in April. Coach has agreed to bring on a regular fighter to spar with me from next week in preparing for the fight. Even though my offer to fight a lady kickboxer was rejected – hey, I am secure enough in my masculinity to fight a woman – Coach agreed that as it’s my first fight I am only going to go one 3-minute round with another expat. Dude’s called Sam and is Russian. I know him a bit as he’s been to a few parties at my apartment complex. Sam used to train with Coach, but hasn’t in a long while as he told Coach he is now “more into music than fighting”. Those words were…wait for itwait….wait….drum roll please…sweet music to my ears. Hmmm, wonder what sorta entrance music I should request for as I strut into the ring. Meanwhile, somewhere in London Full Contact’s dentist (aka the reverse tooth fairy) is making a down payment on a Ferrari at the thought of replacing several teeth should Sam kick Full Contact’s arse.  

In order to properly prep for fight I have decided to improve eating habit as I have developed dimples on cheeks from shedding so much skin. It’s one of the reasons why I elected to grow a beard as got tired of folk in Nigeria and the UK and Kampala and Nairobi commenting on how gaunt I now look. Hired a cook and recently discovered a source for plantain from Uganda. As soon as Full Contact gets recipes sent over from Nigeria, Full Contact is gonna bulk up on beans and plantain. Oh yeah, Full Contact sure does love referring to himself in the third person. He is…wait for it…ill-eism like that. Oh man, this dude should have his own TV show!

While scanning TV channels today I saw a behind-the-scenes feature on John Wick 2. In it they talked about all the martial arts Keanu had to quickly master and I recall he did the same with The Matrix movies. How come actors get trained in various types of martial arts and become au fait with them in such a short space of time? Is it ‘cos they get the best trainers and totally dedicate themselves to the craft since they don’t have a day job? Or does the process of learning dialogue somehow expand their brain’s power to quickly absolve multiple tasks? Maybe I should take acting classes in bid to help with kickboxing. I occasionally go watch salsa dancers in Juba – to be honest, I really go to laugh at the novices when I wanna take out frustration after another Arsenal collapse – and was gonna try (uttered sotto voce) salsa to aid hip movement in kickboxing, so acting classes shouldn’t be much of a stretch. Trouble is I have no spare time, plus, after experience in West African dance class I would rather get beat by a lady kickboxer, and even proudly wear a tee embossed with the words I GOT BEAT UP BY A GIRL…AND I LIKED IT, than “perform” in front of a bunch of strangers. Full Contact out.

Tot ziens and God bless.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Taal 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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