Growing Up, Personal Experiences

Attention

Attention

“Pay attention to the ending you want. Never lose focus.”

That morning, as I prepared for school, my dad had promised me a private treat. “We will do something special after school today”, he said.

And that was it. I couldn’t concentrate at school. I imagined oh so many great and mighty things that day… a bicycle maybe? No no no… it couldn’t be…a computer game… a pet?…I was delirious with suspense and anticipation.

Finally, after the longest school day in the history of the world, it was time to set out to get the treat.

He never spoke much, my dad. So the ride was a silent one, broken by the hazy music coming from the car stereo.

To cut a long story short, it was a visit to his farm. To work. This was my special treat.

I was shocked, yet too young to be disappointed, confused as my great imaginings collapsed into the reality before me.

Not having experienced a farm before, I somehow turned on recording mode and ended up with strong memories of many life firsts for my 6 year old self.

I ate farm-roasted corn-on-the-cob for the first time that day.

He roasted it right there on the farm. He used his cutlass to dig a small pit, then asked me to gather small pieces of wood with him. We worked together and created quite an impressive stack. I watched him start the fire.

For the first time, I watched a fire I had helped create pop and fizzle, with the occasional high-pitched whistle as green twigs caught fire. The glorious aroma of roasting corn even as the wind occasionally sent heat and flames from the fire-pit our way, making us run laughing to a safer location.

No unnecessary word was spoken.

It rained.

A sprinkle at first, then a downpour. He didn’t seem to notice.

He planted me under a stand of banana trees, smiled at me and continued working. I remember the smell of wet soil, the drumming of the rain on the banana leaves, and tiny me wondering how exactly I was better off under the banana trees, with the amount of water that got on me.

In the manner of children, I created a private game under that wet banana tree; pulling up weeds, weaving stories around the wet world around me, watching ants gather food, and ultimately committing a few ant murders.

My dad kept on working, weeding, slashing with his cutlass, soaked to the skin under the heavy downpour.

He would come up for air from time to time, water streaming down his face, look at me for a few seconds, smile and go back to work.

We left after dark. The forest night shift had started, heralded by the insect choir screeching the symphony I have come to associate with wet and cold forest nights.

We stopped at a bush bar on our way home.

I tasted palm wine for the first time that evening and almost forgot to breathe as the sweet liquid burst onto my tastebuds for the first time.

For what seemed like an eternity, I sucked in huge mouthfuls of the delicious fresh palm-wine, resisting my dad’s attempt to stop the flow of liquid heaven until he had to physically wrestle the calabash from me.

I caught him smiling with embarrassment at the men at the bush bar. They said something to him and everyone burst out laughing.

I didn’t care. I smiled happily, my mind struggling to capture the wonder of this, oh-so-exquisite high fidelity experience.

I can still taste that first drought of palm-wine anytime I want.

The drive home was as quiet as the drive to the farm. I spent it re-living the memories of the day, cocooned in a beautiful cloud of palm-wine generated bliss.

My mind kept on recording.

The growl from our trusty Peugeot 504. Dusky foreign music merging with radio static, fading in and out of the car speakers. No electricity at home. Lantern light with the smell of soot as we ate rice at the dining table.

A perfect day.

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A real Nigerian

I met a neighbour recently. A Nigerian, yet in behaviour like none I have ever met.

In the time I’ve known her, she has never once complained. Not about Nigeria, the government, her ex, the traffic, electricity, Nigerian men, corruption, the economy or the one million other things Nigerians routinely complain about.

I wish more Nigerians would think in this certain way.

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The things we measure (Lagos)

In September of 2021, a container crushed a car in Lagos, trapping the four occupants. The emergency services arrived at the scene 120 minutes after the distress calls.

At 44, Gerard Road Ikoyi, the emergency services started arriving 120minutes after the distress calls.

Lagos must reduce this response time, which affects the outcome in trauma patients.

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Correlation

Listened to a pastor use what I thought was a basic sales process from my marketing classes.

I was on a Cross Country Bus about traveling to Accra from Lagos this past week.

As usual for the Nigerian Road Traveler, there was the silent thought in the collective mind, “what if today is our last day”, swiftly squashed by the collective blood of Jesus.

Close to set-off time, at about 9am, I heard a voice

issuing some quick commands from behind me. I sat in front of the bus. “Clap for Jesus”.

Some scattered clapping, which became stronger with carefully placed guilt trips placed between the commands.

Stage one:

Qualification and introduction using several short stories (why should we listen);

Stage two:

The message itself, aligned to the target market (traveler you will not die today on this bus if you believe)

Stage three:

Testimonials and Proof (How brother Ken reluctantly donated N1,000 in obedience to God, and called to testify about getting N100,000 a week later – actual story)

Stage Four:

Call to Action (Offering time)

I’ve been thinking.

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Africa, Photography, Travel

Nigeria to Ghana by Road – Motorcycle Trip (November 2017)

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The Lagos to Ghana Road Crew.


Nigeria -> Benin Republic (10 hours)

The journey from Lagos, Nigeria to Accra, Ghana started around 5.30am at Falomo roundabout, Ikoyi Lagos.

falomo

Assembly point | 5.30am | Falomo Bridge – Lagos

I had developed familiar phantom malaria symptoms some days before the trip, my mind’s attempt to give me an easy way out of the trip.

Once the journey started however, the only thought and feeling became the ride. Straight through the city we rode, towards the Lagos – Benin Republic border.


It’s difficult to describe the joys of riding to a non-rider. 

The volume and rate of information to be processed forces the mind to drop all non-essentials.

Breathe in. Breathe out. You’re alive. Process the information. Breathe in. Breathe out. You’re alive.


The ride to the border was a nightmare. It was the worst part of the entire journey. The roads were filled with huge potholes, with portions of it completely devoid of paving.

After getting through this portion, we had to take a breather to stretch and rehydrate.

We got to the Nigerian-Benin border about 8am and waited another 5 hours while an “agent” sorted our papers. In hindsight, it should have been done individually. The experience was disappointing, and consistent with the border corruption experienced at each border crossing. The Ghanaians were the only exception.


Benin Republic -> Togo Border (4 hours)

By the time we left the border, it was already 1pm Nigerian time. One of the Bikes had developed a fault which took another two hours to fix. By the time we were done, it was past 4pm, our estimated arrival time in Accra, Ghana.

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November 2017. BP Petrol Station, Cotonou

We filled up on fuel in Cotonou. A full tank would take us to the Benin-Togo Border.

It was after this that the journey really began.

Through Cotonou we rode. It was already rush hour and there was a bit of traffic with more motorbikes than cars, and it was a common sight to see well-dressed women riding motorbikes.

It started raining about this time and surprise, the white road-markings became slippery. Most roads are specifically designed for four-wheeled vehicles. After my bike fishtailed a couple of times crossing over those lines, I quickly learnt to avoid them.

The scenery was spectacular. I wish I had a Gopro on my bike, it would have captured some of the scene. The process of stopping the bike to take a picture with my mobile phone is a lengthy one, and it wasn’t a good idea to get lost in a strange land.

There was a lot to see on both sides of the road. I think more people should travel by road. It reveals a unique picture of Africa not yet captured in the media.

After two hours, we got to the Togo border. It was 6 pm by this time. The estimate was one hour for processing.

Gists flowed around how good the roads were, the people we saw, the villages, and the unhurried lifestyle of the people.

We started making plans for our anticipated 10 pm Accra arrival… hit the Accra Friday night clubs with the Accra bikers waiting to receive us, sight-seeing the following day… you know, typical biker gist.

Unknown to us, our plans were busy being dismantled in heavenly places.


Togo border -> Ghana border (4 hours)

The document processing took longer than anticipated and by the time we were done, it was about 9 pm. We refueled just inside Togo, exhausted from the long hours of riding, and with Togo still to be crossed before getting to the Ghana border.

The estimate was that the Ghanaians would need about one and a half hours to process us. Hopefully, we could cross Togo in about an hour and reach Ghana before the border was closed for the night. Tiredness was already setting in, but the consensus was to ride on.

After being cleared, the journey continued through some of the darkest roads I have ever seen in my life. It was gut-wrenching. No streetlights at all, and no divider separating us from oncoming traffic. Too dark to determine if there were potholes ahead… I was really tense during this part of the trip, since I had to lead the entire group through that darkness.

We finally got to the border after about three hours of slow and careful riding. It was a huge relief, I tell you.


Ghana Border -> Accra (5 Hours)

By this time, a few of us were considering sleeping at the border. The Ghanain Immigration officers  were meticulous in checking every letter on every VIN. I couldn’t believe it, at almost 12am we were looking for VIN numbers and reading it out while the bespectacled officer followed on his notepad, the only country that had checked VINs, and also the only country that hadn’t extorted us.

The morale was still high. I would have expected that tempers would be short by now, but no, we still jocked and laughed together. Going through adversity seems to brings people closer.

After being cleared, we set out for Accra, having been promised by some fast-talking Ghanaian that we could make it in 2 hours.

By this time, one of us had his clutch cable misbehaving, but thanks to amazing Germans engineering, the BMW was still moving excellently once it got moving. This same bike got back to Nigeria using only one gear (gear six), and still left a lot of us behind.  (I’m accepting contributions for my own BMW (GS) by the way. I don’t know of any other marketing that can beat what that bike did performance-wise.

It was at this point that I started dozing off.

I was deeply fatigued and I became worried I would fall off the bike. So I pulled-over on the hard shoulder and walked around.  The others didn’t seem to notice and I was soon the only one left on that empty stretch of road, with trucks whizzing past me in the other direction. i remeber seeing the distant lights of a village settlement twinkling through the bush.

By the time I got back on the road, I couldn’t see any bike, no matter how fast i rode, but thankfully my unofficial riding partner had noticed my headlights were missing, and she had stopped ahead to wait for me. She was worried something had happened, and was about to turn back to look for me when I appeared.  We road on together and met the others at the Lower Volta bridge.

We continued for what seemed to be forever, with drowsiness washing over me in waves until 4.30 am Nigerian time, Saturday 25th November 2017 when twenty-four hours after leaving Lagos, I rode with my crew into our hotel in Ghana.

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GHANA

I won’t say how long I’ve been writing this for…

Whenever Ghana comes to mind, I get a mix of different impressions.

There’s the good-natured and ongoing online rivalry between the two countries, something which revolves around the mysterious yet glorious Jollof Rice.

I usually don’t like taking sides in such international disputes, but I have to weigh in on this one… Ghanaian Jollof didn’t “werk” for me.

There’s also the frustratingly “slow” nature of the average Ghanian when compared with their Nigerian counterpart. This particular aspect has led to me having to sleep at the Ghana/Togo border twice in the past 18 years.

Jollof Rice apart, I found Ghana to be a lovely country with easygoing, friendly and interesting people. I enjoyed their nightlife, especially when shown around all the cool spots by my good friend LMS.

The local street food!

The first time I tasted it would probably be one of the scenes that might flash through my mind during my last minutes. It was such a new and strange experience for me.

In fact, Ghanaian street-food beats her Kenyan version hands down.

I mean, I still can’t believe how boring the Yamachuma in Kenya is, considering the fact that it is basically meat. How can meat be boring? Meat oh. Meat.

Maybe it’s a West African thing.

My first time to Ghana was in the year 2000, as a student of Architecture. It was a road trip and was the first time I heard Dbanj’s Tongolo.

That particular track became the soundtrack for the entire journey, and automatically transports me back into that school bus anytime I hear it.

Nothing beats singing along to  “Mobolowowon” at top the top of your voice with follow travellers.

That trip was pivotal in waking up the wanderlust in me. You would think having to sleep at the Ghana boarder would have resulted in an overall bad experience, but no.

In conclusion, I’m glad I did those things back then. There’s absolutely no way I can recreate such an experience again.

Road trips are so awesome.

 

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I was in Kenya two or three times within the past one year, all strictly work related. I wasn’t able to see anything that required more than 1 hour of my time, but I did take a few pictures.

I sadly got only one perspective of Kenya: that of a business visitor keen on seeing a bit of Nairobi. No wildlife, not even a visit to the National park. I really have to go back for a proper visit soon.

Africa, Architecture, Photography, Travel

KENYA

A hurried snapshot of Nairobi .

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Africa, Travel

I spent a week in Zanzibar recently and here are photos from a beautiful Island…

 

 

 

 

 

With love from Zanzibar…

Aside