Port Harcourt hasn't changed since I last saw it, the roads were still as bumpy as hell and all the regular landmarks were there. The traffic however has worsened a million times over to the point of serious frustration. I shared driving responsibilities with Coco, I did end up scratching the car on an eventful day. Not that it was completely my fault, the other fella cut into my lane and apparently I was supposed to be 'aggressive'. My mind was still processing 'road rules' et al. The truth is simple, to survive on Nigerian roads, you must throw all rules out of the window. I won't reveal all the highlights of the PH trip here, let's just say I came single and didn't leave the same way, lol.
However I'll drop a few other highlights.
Coco was bemused by my 'habit' of tipping people for 'doing their jobs', lol. The hotel I stayed in was pretty nice, except that it took 5minutes to open the door with a key. It was a funny cycle that transpired through out my stay at the hotel. I would complain that I couldn't open my door, the concierge would beam a smile at me and send a porter to assist in opening the door, then the porter would wrestle with the door knob and keys for 5minutes, sweating profusely in the process, eventually the stubborn door would open and I'ld gladly tip him for his efforts, the porter's face would light up with a big smile and after firing off several "thank you Oga" greetings to my embarrasment, I finally gain entrance to my room.
I went to watch the new Twilight flick with Coco. Now you have to understand that I'm not a Twilight fan, and I haven't even watched any of the previous Twilight movies but a man's gotta stick his by his wifey, lol. The movie wasn't all that bad, I wasn't in Team Edward or Jacob, but I was amazed at how excited people were in the cinema. As in, people were so 'involved' in the movie that some clapped during the action scenes and even yelled encouragement to the actors, "Kill am well well, he go die today o". It was hilarious to observe but I did enjoy the experience. I remember watching movies/soap operas in 9ja as a kid and believing that the villains were really wicked people, lol. There was no seperation between the character and the real person, so I could identify with "he go die today o".
After 4 nights in PH, our next stop was Las Gidi. We turned quite a few heads at the airport (permit me to brag small, we are a beautiful couple, thanks to wifey) and the flight was uneventful. No stress, till we got to Lagos...
How do I begin? The flight from PH to Lagos took 45 minutes, but it took us over 2 hours to drive from the airport to Lekki. Bear in mind that our taxi driver was a seasoned professional who could navigate all the backroads to avoid traffic and it wasn't rush hour, yet it was crazy. Las Gidi keeps transforming every hour, tis pretty hard to recognize the city I grew up and schooled in. There are still alot of landmarks from the past but there are a thousand new buildings I could barely recognize. I still recall the days when Lekki was like the wastelands, just sand and no buildings, back in 1996 when Abacha-stove was popular and baggy jeans were still in fashion.
We drove by LOP (Land of Plenty) and memories of secondary school and boarding house came flooding back. Even Bar Beach looks transformed, as if it has received a super anointing to deliver it from the evils of the red light district (if you lived in VI back in the late 90s then you would understand what I mean). "The Palms" in Lekki seems to be the rendezvous point for oppressing thy neighbor. We ran into an overdressed young woman who was happily 'posing' and taking pictures in front of different stores at the mall, oblivious to the people walking by. I exchanged a hidden glance/smile with Coco, "fresh from the village" we thought, lol (biko, don't judge). A few minutes later, the young chic walked by us again and as she passed we heard her say "chai, my leg dey pain me". Las Gidi effizi is on a different level o, I must admit that I was impressed by the 'style' on display, as in color blocking and color combination toh badt! Sunday service was at TPH, and the choir/singing was fantastic, best I've heard in years.
We eventually bid Las Gidi goodbye and prepared for the last leg of our journey to Abuja. That was when the kasala started. First of all, our cab ride from Lekki to the airport wasn't so comfortable. Considering the heat in Gidi, having a car with a functional AC is a necessity, so we didn't mind paying good money for a cab with a decent working AC. We never waka reach 5 minutes before traffic hook us, the AC wey bin dey blow cold before o begin blow very hot air. At first we suffered in silence for over 20 minutes, then Coco asked the cab driver if he was sure his AC was working and his response nearly scrambled my brain cells: "When the sun dey shine, the AC dey normally blow hot, na because of the sun". I won't lie, I did a mental review of thermodynamics and heat flow in my head just to be sure that I heard him right, my final conclusion was that either our driver was suffering from heat induced dementia or that the laws of thermodynamics were different in Nigeria! We got to the airport and the drama still wasn't over...
Our flight was delayed by a few hours and when we finally boarded, the plane was filled to capacity. The flight was pretty smooth and everything was peaches and cream till we landed in Abj. First of all, this idea of getting off the plane straight onto the tarmac is not ideal, coupled with the fact that you have to identify your luggage before you board the plane. Anyway, we stood by the luggage conveyor belt inside the arrival area of the airport, waiting for our bags to show and 45 minutes later we still never see am. By then 3 other airlines had landed and the passengers picked up their bags and left while none of the passengers on the flight I arrived with had received their bags. Till today, I still don't understand why I stood patiently staring at the conveyor belt, maybe because I was lost in the fragrance of Coco's perfume or because I had faith in our airline system since our plane didn't crash, but we did stand there for 45 minutes sha staring at the belt repeat its 360 degrees cycle. Finally my eye cleared (or I think Coco moved, so I was released from the spell of the daydream), and I noticed that all the passengers on our flight were still standing and waiting for their luggage. Could it be that...? Nah, impossible! How could that happen, u follow what I'm thinking ba?
Anyway, we went looking for an Aero contractor official to find our luggage and ran into a very angry yoruba man clad in native wear, accompanied by a tall, dark and serene looking Igbo gentleman (he looked like a Chinedu, don't ask me why, I just know). The Igbo guy looked so peaceful and calm (I almost thought he was high on bitterleaf or ugu) while the other man kept yelling at him with rage. I moved a little closer to Coco to shield her (as a knight, I no want make anybody kolo near my wifey biko, I never pay) as we approached the pair and the scene below played out:
Warning: The dialogue below is written as it transpired, with the grammatical inflections used by the speakers
Angry Yoruba man (yelling): Can you imagine! Can you imagine! You must be mad!
Calm Igbo saint: Silence...staring into space.
Me to St Igbo (who apparently had a tag identifying him as an Airport rep): Excuse me sir, but we've been waiting for our bags for a long time and they still havent showed up.(2 things to point out: I used my pseudo yankee accent, apparently if you want to get things done quickly with maximum respect, the yankee accent helps. Secondly, I used the word 'bags', big grammar confuses alot of people. I once asked for my 'baggage' and the person thought I was asking for 'garbage')
Angry Yoruba man (still yelling and trying to get Coco's attention): Can you imagine! He left it behind!
St Igbo(with that same peaceful look): Well, I am the Aero official here and I'm responsible for your safety. First of all, I just want to thank the Lord that you arrived safely...
Coco cuts in quickly..."what happened to our bags?"
I'm listening attentively and wondering why St Igbo is so thankful that we arrived safely, was the plane supposed to have crashed?
St Igbo (continuing without looking ruffled): Yes, the plane was filled to maximum capacity and because of safety we left the bags in Lagos.
Me: I'm sorry, I don't understand.
Angry Yoruba man: Can you imagine! You are not serious o, what do you mean by that!!!
St Igbo (still in that same calm voice, it was hypnotic, wallahi): I'm responsible for your safety (this dude wasn't even on the plane), and they just filled the plane with full tank of fuel, so it would have been overweight if we carried the bags. Your bags will arrive on the next flight.
Coco (her beautiful eyes wide open in surprise): Isn't the plane designed to fly with full capacity? So how are you sure that our bags will arrive on the next flight? What if the next plane has a full tank as well?
St Igbo: It is simple arithmethic.
Till today I don't understand how that answered the question, there has to be something to the arithmetic that only he understood.
Angry Yoruba man: Can you imagine!!! Nonsense, where is your manager!
By this time, a crowd of angry passengers had gathered round and as the information spread that our bags were still chilling in Lagos while we were in Abuja, the anger level rose rapidly and voices climbed to the ceiling.
St Igbo (still as unruffled as ever): First of all, I want to thank the Lord that you arrived safely...(dude was repeating his soundtrack all over again, and he finished with..."It is simple arithmetic")
Me (as naive as the white man in Things fall Apart): So what about compensation? We'll get some form of compensation, right?
A number of faces in the crowd turned and looked at me, some with the "eeeiyaaa, poor ignorant foreigner" look, others with the "what is compensation?" look...
St Igbo(calmly repeating his arithmetic soundtrack over and over)...
Me: What about compensation? Some one has to compensate us, that's the procedure right?
Finally someone in the crowd responded: "Ol boi, na 9ja you dey o, here no be America o"
My accent changed immediately and I joined the angry crowd..."Can you imgine!!!"
NB: This will probably be my last post for the year. 2012 was wonderful, and 2013 promises to be even better. I'm thankful for my family and friends, life and every little blessing it brings. Big shout out to my blog followers/readers, y'all rock. Most important, I'm thankful for my fiancee, Coco, 2012 was special just because of you, te amor! To everyone, my parting words for 2012 are: Count your blessings, be thankful for everything and show a little more love in 2013, be a shining light for love, hope and joy in your own little sphere of influence. See you all in 2013...
As for the Mayans, "una no well o, film no dey finish till actor kill the bad guy". Una prediction don enter "To be continued"