Friday, July 3, 2015

Yellow Mitsubishi: The Fifth Road Trip

Ngwo Pine Forest, Caves and Waterfall, Enugu

For Democracy Day weekend at the end of May we planned a road trip to Enugu. We left Lagos at about 8.30am and arrived our hotel at Independence Layout, Enugu, sometime around 7pm. Take out the bad roads and time spent stuck in traffic and we would have got to Enugu much sooner. 

We stayed at Utopia Suites. Our hotel accommodation cost less than N7000 per room for both nights, thanks to our Jovago discount. Utopia Suites did not live up to its name, though – from dirty looking sheets and bath tubs to an apparent one-towel-per-room policy, and other small inconveniences, Utopia was one of the more unpleasant hotels we’ve encountered on our travels.

Our time in Enugu was pretty short. Due to the distance from Lagos we knew we would spend two days travelling and have only one day to explore. One thing we made sure to do was partake of the food of the area. I tried okpa for the first time (I’d come across it many times before but had never bothered to), and some of us got a first taste of abacha from a roadside bar.

We set out from the hotel around 11 on our first morning with a plan to visit Udi Hills, Ngwo Caves and Waterfall and Ezeagu Waterfall/Tourist Complex. We figured out, with maps and with the help of some policemen and passersby, that Ngwo caves was closest to our starting point (it was about 45 minutes away), and so with the policemen pointing the way we headed off onto a narrow, winding road. The bends were breathtakingly sharp, and to our right was a drop of several feet. We couldn’t go any faster than about 20km/h. Where we didn’t have trees blocking our vision, the view was amazing, with hills and the city’s buildings dotting the landscape. It was exhilarating, and a little scary. Not the kind of road you want to be on with any kind of trouble.

We reached a roadside fuel station, and there we picked up a man who knew where we were headed and offered to take us there. The winding road took us further, into Hill Top, Ngwo, and from there we made our way to the pine forest. There, we were met by two men who wouldn’t let us through; they were asking for a N5,000 ‘entry fee’. There was no official entryway or booth, or a ticketing system, just these two guys trying to fleece people. We haggled a bit, threatened to leave, and were able to get in for much less.

The pine forest consists of neat rows of trees. The canopy created by their branches and leaves overhead gives an ethereal feeling. We came across groups of people praying, and at least two wedding parties taking post-ceremony pictures. We invited ourselves to take a picture with a lovely couple who didn’t seem to mind.

One of the men who’d demanded money from us became our unofficial guide. He took us down a long path in the bush, sometimes steep and sometimes rocky (it was like a less extreme version of our Erin Ijesha adventure). He’d said there was an easier path through the pine forest, but that it would take much longer. We had plans to visit other places so we chose the quicker route. It was a difficult path, though; so with the luxury of time the pine forest would be the easier and more scenic choice. At some point it started to feel like the guide might be leading us into an ambush in the forest.

Eventually we arrived at a clearing. The waterfall and caves are tucked in a narrow cavity that opens into a small circular space. It’s like being in a dark room with a small skylight, the water falling from the hole in the roof of the cave and down into a pool that forms into a stream. It’s a small waterfall; you can get close and even stand under it.







The cave has an air of mystery to it, and its walls look like burnt clay. Our guide stood to one side smoking weed and saying nothing, so we had no commentary to go with the sights. I doubt he could have told us much anyway. We had our fill of the caves, took several pictures and made our way back out.

When we left Ngwo we decided to head to Ezeagu. We’d read about a place called Ezeagu Tourist Complex, with caves and a waterfall. Nobody we asked knew an Ezeagu Tourist Complex, but they knew Ezeagu Waterfall, and we figured this was close enough. We found our way with the help of an okada rider. Apparently, it was quite a popular spot.

We found out just how popular when we got to the gatepost leading to the waterfall area. There were several buses parked, most bearing logos from University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and we could hear party music in the distance. When we got to the waterfall there was a massive crowd of young bodies, some frolicking in the water, others dancing or drinking or smoking. There were three Deejay posts, with different music blaring from each of them like there was some kind of contest going on.

Unfortunately, we could not stay long – the teeming crowd, the loud music, the partying students, it just wasn’t very inviting. But it looked like a beautiful waterfall, from what we could see of it.


This has been our farthest journey yet on Yellow Mitsubishi. As always, it was a great exploring; I only wish we’d had time to visit more of the attractions Enugu has to offer.

Photos courtesy Yellow Mitsubishi

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Theatre Review: Single in Gidi



If you haven't seen Single in Gidi yet, you still have two Sundays to do so. With a stellar cast and some of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a long time, Single in Gidi was loads of fun.

Single in Gidi is a one-hour (approximately) stage adaptation of a blog by the same name, created by Sheila Ojei. The Single in Gidi blog “covers topics of dating, relationships and love. It’s a place to talk about all things stomach butterflies, heartache, confusion and the joys of romance in the chaotic city of Lagos.” And the play feels just like this, like watching a conversation amongst friends. Though the play has no traditional narrative structure or a storyline per se, this takes nothing away from the enjoyment.

One thing that I found particularly pleasing was the ‘stage’ set-up and seating arrangements. Instead of the stage as a raised platform with the audience seated across from it, the floor space was set up as the stage, and the audience sat around it in twos and threes. This made me feel like I was a part of the performance and not just watching it.

The cast consists of three young males and three young females, all single in Gidi. They talk about the fun, challenges and peculiarities of living in Lagos, and being single in it. From the pressure to keep up appearances to the desperation to become a Mrs, from loves lost and hearts broken to aso-ebi politics, from learning to spot a Lagos Big Babe to man-hunting on the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge, they bare it all.

Single in Gidi is as thought-provoking as it is humorous. It challenges us to rethink our demands and expectations, especially as far as love and romance are concerned.

Single in Gidi shows at Terra Kulture every Sunday in June, at 3pm and 6pm. Tickets cost N3000 (regular) and N5000 (VIP).

Cast
Omoye Uzamere
Meg Otanwa
Leelee Byoma
Timi Charles-Fadipe
Austine Onuoha
Tosin Oguntayo

Producer
Lydia Idakula Sobogun (Gbagyichild Entertainment)

Director
Kenneth Uphopho

Writer/Creator 
Sheila Ojei

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Crown Troupe of Africa marks 19th anniversary

Here's something for theater lovers. To celebrate its 19th anniversary, Crown Troupe of Africa is hosting a variety of theatre events in Lagos in the months of June and July. 

Below is the schedule of events. I'm definitely watching a play or three.

Sunday, June 7th: ORISIRISI - Skits: Play Your Part and Our Area
Venue: Lekki Waterside Theatre, Wole Olateju Crescent, off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase I
Time: 3pm and 6pm
Gate: N3000

Sunday, June 14th: ORISIRISI - Skits: Our Area and Open Letter
Venue: Lekki Waterside Theatre, Wole Olateju Crescent, off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase I
Time: 3pm and 6pm
Gate: N3000

Sunday, June 21st: ORISIRISI - Skits: Monkey Post and O Ti Ya
Venue: Lekki Waterside Theatre, Wole Olateju Crescent, off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase I
Time: 3pm and 6pm
Gate: N3000

Thursday, June 25: PIECE OFF (dance piece) 
Venue: Wajo @ Freedom Park, Lagos Island
Time: 5pm
Gate: Free

Sunday, June 28th: ORISIRISI - Exodus and O Ti Ya
Venue: Lekki Waterside Theatre, Wole Olateju Crescent, off Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase I
Time: 3pm and 6pm
Gate: N3000

Sunday, July 5th: Wole Soyinka's KONGI'S HARVEST
Venue: Terra Kulture, Tiamiu Savage Street, Victoria Island
Time: 3pm and 6pm
Gate: N3000

Sunday, July 12th: Wole Soyinka's KONGI'S HARVEST
Venue: Terra Kulture, Tiamiu Savage Street, Victoria Island
Time: 3pm and 6pm
Gate: #3000

Monday, April 20, 2015

Untitled

It has always existed as a cliché in my head.

Woman goes through some kind of upheaval (usually emotional), and as a result, or in protest, or in defiance – or in fear – she takes a pair of scissors to her hair. Life begins anew. Perhaps.

Today, I am that cliché.

Recently many unanswered questions, many issues in my life that I have so far refused to confront, have begun to come to the fore. Questions about who I am and what it means to ‘be myself’; questions about my family, my friendships, my past, about the fears that I have carried to this day. Questions about masks and the reasons why we – why I – wear them.

Questions about what happens next. What happens now?

Upheaval can be a good thing. It can be the ass-kicking we need.

Sunday morning the thought came to me in the bathroom – cut it. Do it quick, don’t wait for tomorrow or you know you’ll change your mind. Do it now, you know you want to. I laughed cos it was ridiculous. I was becoming a character in somebody’s book; and even then, couldn’t I do better than the ridiculous hair cutting ‘symbol’. What does it really do anyway; how does it help? But before I finished showering there were tears in my eyes and the decision was made. Maybe things were changing inside me, and I wanted… what? To let myself know things were changing? To let the world know? What was this, some kind of commemorative gesture? Was it an attempt at taking control? Would it make me feel any freer, any more courageous?

I do not know.

I loosened out my plaits and cut my hair.

I won’t make out like it was anything close to spiritual, this cutting of my hair. But it was a strange thing. Every other time my hair has been cut there’s been a reason I knew. You’re starting boarding school: cut your hair so it’s not a distraction. You want to try a new look as you wean yourself off relaxers: cut most of your hair, make the transition easier. Things aren’t so clear this time.

I hold clumps of my hair in my hands, this disembodied thing that used to be attached to my head, and a part of me already feels removed from it. I don’t need to hold it to my nose to smell it, but I do anyway; it’s the smell of Cantu Shea Butter, oils, sweat, me.

When I am done, I take a picture, of my hair in the Spar bag I have put it in, with my trusty scissors. My hair is brown; a lighter brown at the tips, darker the closer it is to my scalp. But not black; never black, as far as I know. I wrap it up and stuff it in the bin. Done is done.

This feels like beginning.

Maybe it’s the start of something good.

Or maybe it’s just PMS.

Friday, March 20, 2015

2015 Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop

Farafina Trust will be holding a creative writing workshop in Lagos, organized by award-winning writer and creative director of Farafina Trust, Chimamanda Adichie, from June 16 to June 26, 2015. The workshop is sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc. Guest writers who will co-teach the workshop alongside Adichie are the Caine Prize winning Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina, National Librarian of Norway Aslak Sira Myhre, and others.

The workshop will take the form of a class. Participants will be assigned a wide range of reading exercises, as well as daily writing exercises. The aim of the workshop is to improve the craft of Nigerian writers and to encourage published and unpublished writers by bringing different perspectives to the art of storytelling. Participation is limited only to those who apply and are accepted.

To apply, send an e-mail to Udonandu2015@gmail.comYour e-mail subject should read ‘Workshop Application.’

The body of the e-mail should contain the following:
1. Your name
2. Your address
3. A few sentences about yourself
4. A writing sample of between 200 and 800 words. The sample must be either fiction or non-fiction.


All material must be pasted or written in the body of the e-mail. Please DO NOT include any attachments in your e-mail. Applications with attachments will be automatically disqualified. 

Deadline for submissions is April 30, 2015. Only those accepted to the workshop will be notified by June 2, 2015. Accommodation in Lagos will be provided for all accepted applicants who are able to attend for the ten-day duration of the workshop. A literary evening of readings, open to the public, will be held at the end of the workshop.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Awkward in Church: How to Pray with Fire

One Sunday morning I get to church early enough for the pre-service prayers. Following the pastor’s instruction I turn to the person beside me and hold his hands; we are about to pray a prayer of agreement. The pastor warns before we start, saying something like, “This is not one of those prayers that you will pray quietly, eh-ehn! You are going to open your mouth and you will cry out to the Lord in a loud voice such that the earth will shake and the heavens will hear you. You will say ‘Faaather…!’”

I sigh as I repeat the pastor’s words, not in a shout but in my normal talking voice, which is quite small. I almost never shout, whether I’m happy or upset, panicked or excited.

The people shout; the pastor is not satisfied.

“I cannot hear you ooo,” he says, and the people get the implied warning: if I, standing right here before you, cannot hear you, then God, all the way in heaven, most certainly cannot. They scream louder. 

I know that God hears me. But I worry. I worry that the brother holding my hand does not know that God hears me, even when I whisper; that he is silently judging me for not being louder. This brother shouts, exactly the way the pastor wants. And when the pastor gives the command to “Now pray!”, my prayer partner spews off a loud barrage of words that distract me and drown out my own thoughts. He squeezes my hands, shakes them up and down, punctuates every “in Jesus’ name” with an emphatic tug on my arm. This dance tires me, and I worry that my prayer partner will think me selfish, because he is praying so fervently for me while I stand there with my quiet words, no tugging or squeezing or spittle flying from my lips to show God that I mean serious business.

The pastor speaks into the mike again: “This prayer is one of violence. Remember, the violent taketh it by force. If the person you are holding is not praying very well, leave them and find someone who has the Fire!”

We carry on with the prayer I keep waiting for my partner to let go of my hand. With all of his fire, he deserves someone just as fiery for a partner.

My partner does not let go of my hand until the prayer ends. But two prayer points later, when the pastor calls for hand-holding again, he quickly turns to the person to the other side of him and grabs his hand. The person to the other side of me pairs up with the person to the other side of her.

So there I am in the middle, bereft but somewhat relieved, with no hand to hold and no pressure. It’s not the best feeling, but it will do for a time. Until I get comfortable enough with being myself that I don’t feel like I need to put on a show.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Yellow Mitsubishi: The Fourth Road Trip

Agodi Gardens, University of Ibadan Zoo and IITA

Ibadan was the destination for our fourth road trip. We started out at about 9am and reached Agodi Gardens, our first stop, early in the afternoon.

The entry fee at Agodi Gardens is N500 per person. There was a small situation at the gate because one of the guards was insisting we couldn’t take our cameras in. It was puzzling; what was the idea behind a place like Agodi Gardens if you couldn’t take a camera in? And if they weren’t allowing cameras, were they going to stop people from taking their camera phones in too? The guard said yes, camera phones were allowed in, but not cameras; or not certain kinds of cameras. We were able to call the manager’s attention and he explained things better. We could take pictures as long as they were not for a photo shoot or commercial purposes, otherwise we would have to pay a separate fee. We assured the manager that we were just casual visitors and our photos were for personal use, and we were allowed to go in with our cameras.

Agodi Gardens felt like some kind of outdoor events centre (there was a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship meeting going on when we got there) that had other stuff. There’s a wide expanse of land, a lot of which is covered in lush grass, and meandering walkways.

Agodi Gardens

When you step in from the gate, there are toilets (which I found remarkably clean) to your right and a restaurant with outdoor seating to your left. There’s a tiny lake with inflatable rafts, and you can take a ‘ride’ in one of them for N100. This lake is so small, a ride did not seem worth it. There is also a pool and a small water park area, and a small zoo that had, apart from different kinds of monkeys, two lions. I couldn’t see much of them because they stayed in their dim, cavernous cage the whole time we were there.

From Agodi Gardens we headed to the University of Ibadan to see the zoo. I think the N500 entry fee was entirely worth it; so far, it’s the best-kept zoo I’ve seen in Nigeria. The cages and enclosures were reasonably spacious and looked clean, and it was clear that some actual thought had gone into the planning and structure. And there were so many animals: at least three lions, a pretty giraffe called Ajoke, several apes and reptiles, an impressive range of birds, hyenas and jackals, horses, and many animals I’d never seen before.

Ajoke the giraffe


Camel


We left the zoo for the IITA guest house where we were to spend the night. The IITA compound is beautiful and serene. In some ways it reminds me of the Ikogosi Warm Springs Resort. Many of the roads and walkways are lined with these lovely trees that kept shedding their pink flowers which fell like snowflakes, carpeting the ground in pink. It was such a pretty sight. 







IITA is quite a pleasant place, but the service from the staff could have been a lot better. One of the reasons we had chosen to stay at IITA in spite of their long list of rules and prohibitions (and there really is a long list) and their insistence on rooms being paid for in full to make a reservation, was their Nature Walk. Only at the point of check in were we told that we would not be able to go on the Nature Walk because the guides did not work on weekends. Also, speaking of checking in, they have a rule at IITA that requires guests to check in certain electronics at the gate – laptops, cameras, tablets – a long process when you have a bus with thirteen people.

Our rooms were quite spacious, with twin beds and a wall of glass louvers that I found delightfully retro. The compound has a tennis court, a squash court and a swimming pool.

I was quite displeased at the treatment we got at IITA; we all were. It did not help when on Sunday morning a different receptionist informed us that her colleague who had checked us in the day before had been mistaken; some guests had booked a Nature Walk for that very morning, and she could see about arranging one for us. We decided to forego the walk when she said it would cost an additional N2,500 per person. We would make do with seeing the lake, which was free, on our way out.

A view of the lake





This done, our trip came to an end and we made our way back to Lagos. 


Photos by Yellow Mitsubishi

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