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Friday, May 30, 2014

ABOUT TIME

Image from here


Sometimes certain things happen, and you feel like no, time should not go on after this. There should be no recovery. The seconds should not count anymore; days should not pass. Especially when you are in the eye of that storm, in the centre of that tragedy. You know that the world does not deserve to move on, that this is not something that should be ‘moved on’ from. If you could you would freeze frame. Forever. No escape from this hell.

There is something brutal about time, the way it marches on regardless of what you are feeling, regardless of what you have done or will do. Regardless of how much you cry or fight, or of how little. Time keeps ticking, the seconds will keep passing. And nothing can stop this. Your pain will be buried, the people that cry with you in the beginning will run out of tears and so will you. Duty will call: mouths to feed, businesses to run, babies to make. Lives to live. They will move on, and so will you. Maybe you will be left with a scar, an indelible mark, or maybe just a little twinge in one part of your chest, to remind you of the things that have gone before. But your life will continue. Or maybe it won’t. Either way, life will continue. The world will turn. Sunrise, sunset. Time.

But the thing that is brutal about time is also the thing that is healing about time. Memories fade, faces become blurs, scars seem to blend in with skin. You become expert at working around your pain, so well that you barely know it’s there. If you’re lucky, maybe it stops being there.

At first you hate people for forgetting. And then you hate yourself when you realise, always a little late, that you too are starting to forget.

Time.

Friday, May 23, 2014

ROAD TRIPPING WITH YELLOW MITSUBISHI

#1: Badagry, Lagos and Olumo Rock, Ogun State

One weekend in March, I and seven other friends took a road trip from Lagos to Badagry, and then on to Olumo Rock in Abeokuta, Ogun State. We started our journey from Surulere late, at about 1.30 pm, and reached Badagry some minutes past three. First stop was the Badagry Heritage Museum, where our guide, Mr. Michael, showed us around and took us on a boat (a canoe with an engine fitted behind it) across the lagoon, so we could walk The Path of No Return.

No going back

Badagry has a number of slave museums, as it was a major slave port in Nigeria at the time. Also in Badagry is Nigeria’s first storey building, which is still standing. 

The route we were walking, according to our guide, was the same one captured slaves were taken through after they crossed the lagoon from mainland Badagry. On the path to the beach there’s a well, which I think is called the Spirit Well. It is said that water from this well was force-fed to wilful captives to subdue them. Make of that what you will. 

At the end of the path lies the Atlantic.  

The Atlantic

Found this abandoned candlestick and footprint and got inspired to take feet selfies

Visiting the Badagry Heritage Museum cost us N500 per head, and the lagoon crossing N1,000 per head.

Sunset on the lagoon

After the lagoon crossing, we headed to Whispering Palms, where we were staying for the night. We’d underestimated the distance between the beach and Whispering Palms, and we ended up spending well over an hour getting there. It did not help that the road to the resort was badly potholed and unpaved in places, and darkness was falling quickly. But we made it there in one piece, all eight weary travellers and our driver, Mr. Segun. After haggling for several minutes with Stephanie, the good-natured receptionist we met at Whispering Palms, she was able to give us a discount everyone was happy with.

Whispering Palms has nice large rooms, an expansive compound with tennis courts and other facilities, and some caged animals – I spotted a donkey or two, monkeys. The staff we came across were good to us. One thing, though: if you’re going to order food be prepared for a long wait. I’m not sure why; maybe they make the food as people order.

At about 11 am the next morning we left for Olumo Rock. On our way we agreed on a name for our travel group: Yellow Mitsubishi, in honour of the little yellow bus we were travelling in. We probably won’t use the same bus again – our muscles ached for days after the journey – but I suppose it holds a special place in our hearts for being our very first carrier.

Olumo rock was spectacular. 

View from the gates

Olumo Rock... best seen in person

We saw a few traditional shrines and gravestones in the rocks, learnt from the museum guide that there still existed people who lived and worshipped amidst the rocks, though we did not get to see any of them. We got to see the inside of one of the rooms that the Egba people lived in while inter-tribal wars raged.

The guide and the grave

Looks like a shrine

Then, of course, we climbed the rock. And here’s a handy tip: if you ever visit Olumo and want to get to the top of the rock, don’t take the boring stairs or elevator (unless maybe if there are kids or the elderly or infirm in your party). Ask to be taken via the ‘Ancient Route’ so you can get an authentic (or as close to it as possible) experience. There were treacherous bits, and some parts where it looked like one might fall, but nobody did. Our guide assured us that no one has ever fallen from Olumo. 

(And this shouldn’t need saying, but if you’re going to climb a rock you should wear comfortable shoes.) 

Going up

View from above

Abeokuta
Happy troopers

Going down, we used the much easier stairs, but we all agreed the Ancient Route was better.

We got back to Lagos in one piece, tired and achy, but happy we’d gone.

What did I learn from this experience? For one, that Nigeria has so much more to offer than I imagined. This wasn’t my first time visiting Badagry, and again I came away feeling like this quiet town should be so much more than it is. Why isn’t it a vibrant, thriving tourist destination instead of the relic it looks like? Olumo Rock seemed better taken care of, like there’s been a deliberate drive to attract visitors. But it could be much better. They could start with something as simple as clean, functional toilets.

For me it’s a worthwhile thing, visiting the places I can in my country, seeing and experiencing these things which, ideally, should not be new to me.

Next trip, Ikogosi Warm Springs in Ekiti State, and then on to Erin Ijesha Waterfalls in Osun State. 

Note: I don't remember how much it cost to get into Olumo (sorry), but it was not a lot; about N1,000 or so per person. It's slightly cheaper for students and NYSC members (with ID), and slightly more expensive if you need parking.

Friday, May 16, 2014

TALKING PHOTOS #6: PANTOMIME



This man is not screaming properly. I have been watching him from my place under the tree that bears no fruit. He is one of this young generation that believe us old people to be fools. They hold our traditions in disdain, and so when you tell him, first time father, that he is to scream for his wife, to scream with his wife, like the fathers before him did, like his very own father had done so he could stand here today, he scoffs.

Bad spirits will feed today. 

The young father-to-be is making a pantomime, his mouth open wide but no sound coming. His anguish is theatrical, and his friends gathered around him hold their sides and laugh. It is a foolish generation that we have bred, and I am thankful that I have planted no seed in it. The good spirits were kind for granting me no progeny.

I hear the woman’s screams from the birth chamber, and for a moment the young men pause. The birth attendant’s assistant hurries from the chamber with a handful of salt that she dashes at the doorway before rushing back in. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing, and so the young father-to-be lets his friends buoy him. But I know. The arch in my left foot is starting to itch.

It is a long time before the birth attendant’s assistant emerges from the chamber again, ringing the bell that says their work is done. The young father prepares to receive news, confident that it will be good; his friends are smacking him on the stomach. The assistant circles the birth chamber three times before stopping at the doorway, ringing the bell all the time. Now the world is frozen; the birth attendant comes.

We see the unmoving bundle wrapped in red in the birth attendant’s hands, and now my itch is gone.  The bad spirits chose young blood this time. The not-to-be-father-to-be is still for a moment, but this time when he opens his mouth to scream it is from the pit of his stomach, from the newly formed cracks in his heart. 


What does this picture say to you?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Table for Two

Image from here

The restaurant was quiet, apart from the clinking of cutlery against ceramic, and the muted music from hidden speakers. Outside the glass wall on the east side, dusk settled over Lagos, lines of standstill traffic covering the asphalt beneath.

He looked across the table at her, wondering if she ever took off those glasses that made her look like a prim librarian nursing deviant sexual fantasies. After weeks of riding on the same elevator with her at work – she got off on the fifth floor, he on the twelfth – he’d finally summoned up the courage to ask her if she knew of any good restaurants around; he’d only just moved to Lagos.

‘I’ve heard good things about Horton’s, but I haven’t tried it myself,’ she said.

‘Oh.’

He watched the indicator until they got to the fifth floor. She gave him a polite smile and stepped out. And just as the doors were closing, so did he.

‘Em…’

She turned to look at him. He swallowed.

‘Were you maybe… planning to go to Horton’s one of these days? Or weeks? Maybe?’

She gave a slight frown. ‘Not really.’

‘Well, perhaps… we could check it out. Maybe one day, after work. If you want to, of course.’

She shrugged as she turned away. ‘Okay,’ she said, hurrying off down the hall.

He stared after the door she’d disappeared into for a long time. Then he got back into the elevator and rode to his floor.

Over the next couple of days they made and remade arrangements in the seconds they rode together, and now here they were. Here he was, on his first date in ages. And one he had made happen all by himself too. He felt proud, and he thought she looked happy – or at least not unhappy. Might there be a second date in the works? He had a good feeling about this.

Everything was going very well. Then she ordered efo riro with her rice.

***

She didn’t mind him. She didn’t mind him at all. He seemed… nice enough, in spite of the bland-ish conversation. She tended to avoid guys like him, sure that their perpetual uncertainty would drive her mad. But maybe she had been wrong. She found his constant hesitation, his need to check everything with her first, and repeatedly, somewhat affirming. She could get used to calling all the shots. She could get used to being the one fawned over, the more-liked one. The centre. She watched him take another sip of his sparkling water and knew he would be as delicate with his woman as he was with that glass. Even the way he nibbled on his food was careful, like he didn’t want to offend the fries. She could do with some of that in her life.

The date – and he hadn’t used the word but the way he’d been looking at her she would bet he’d thought it – was going well so far. She wondered where she’d have them go the second time around. He would probably make her choose again.  

She looked across the room, saw a man rise from a table. Her heart stopped for a moment, and then she laughed loud so it would carry. She leaned forward to touch her date's arm as she laughed, hoping the last thing he said had been even remotely funny. The man across the room looked her way and their eyes met.

***

He felt guilty about the green thing that had been stuck in her teeth the last ten minutes. With every passing moment he urged himself, ‘tell her now!’; but then she would say something and he would lose his resolve. It distracted him, that piece of efo riro that clung to her teeth like a needy child. The waiter had cleared their plates away, and still he couldn’t bring himself to say the five simple words: There’s something in your teeth.

To mask his guilt, and to distract himself from the vegetable which he now imagined to have taken on a neon green, he talked on and on, hoping to keep her mouth shut with his excessive words. He was on about his former place of work when her laughter startled him into silence. What was so funny about him having worked at Halliburton for five years.

‘Hello, Helen,’ a voice said.

He looked up at the man that had stopped beside their table.

***

Helen grinned at her ex of less than four months, then she stood and let him kiss her on both cheeks.

‘Tunde,’ she said to her date, ‘meet Felix, an old friend. Felix, Tunde.’

She sat as the men shook hands. She looked up at Felix again, her smile smug. He would see in that smile that she was doing well, and would no longer be calling trying to convince him to take her back. He would see that she would now be the more-liked. 

She said, ‘Tunde works with–’

‘Helen,’ Felix said, tapping his teeth. ‘You’ve got something…’

***

Tunde was immediately remorseful, and more than a little annoyed with this Felix. What business of his was it anyway that something was stuck in her teeth; he would have gotten round to telling Helen himself. Eventually. Helen was moving her tongue over her teeth, her eyes fixed on the table cloth. She must be so embarrassed, knowing that all this time he had seen. Or could he pull it off, pretend he hadn’t noticed it?

Felix turned to him. ‘You didn’t see it?’ he asked.

Tunde was caught off guard. ‘I … I…’

‘Excuse me,’ Helen said, standing and hurrying toward the ladies’. Both men watched her leave.

‘Well,’ Felix said, his smile white and perfect, ‘I have to run. You kids have fun.’

Tunde barely heard him. He was thinking what he would say when Helen came back out. A joke might be good, to soothe her embarrassment and ease the awkwardness. Yes, a joke would do. Then he realized he didn’t know any.

Helen emerged from the bathroom and took her seat again, her face blank. Tunde struggled to find the right words, even as Helen avoided his eyes.

‘Good thing he wasn’t an ex, right,’ he said. ‘That would have been even more awkward.’

The only laughter Tunde heard was his own.

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