Are We There Yet?

It’s been about a year since we fully swung into pandemic mode with lockdowns, disruptions and travel restrictions, and the countless changes to life as we knew it.

I fondly recall – and kind of miss – the early days of the pandemic. We were collectively confused, afraid and anxious, and it was okay. Holed up alone, we found ways to connect. With birthday parties on Zoom, games on House Party, cook-alongs and bake-alongs, we held each other up as we navigated through the rather strange times while waiting for it to be over. And slowly it seems, we realised this was not going to end as abruptly as it started. We were not going to wake up one morning to find that this episode is done. This was it. For a brief moment we seemed to think it’d become history when the clock struck 12 on Dec 31st.

But alas, this is life.

Life with Mass on TV instead of congregating im Church on Sundays; with Skype calls while webcams are securely concealed instead of sitting around a meeting room table; with pictures of food sent to friends in chat groups instead of bantering around a grill while struggling to get coals alive for a barbecue.

Now however, it appears we are on the verge of another phase. The vaccines are here! After going stir crazy for months on end, is this the end? Are the skies about to open up and allow us see new places again? Have we got to the end of being afraid of contracting the virus? Have you?

Do let me know if you’ve taken the shots yet, or are waiting to see if the early birds grow a third limb before you decide.

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Dominus Vobiscum

If you’re close to me, you might already know of this thing I do where I randomly choose to test my willpower through one challenge or the other. Sometimes it’s pretty easy – like opting to give up alcohol which I barely drank anyway for a period of 3 months (which has now become 3 years and counting); and other times it’s hard – like coffee. My dear darling coffee whom I can count on for bursts of energy, for focus, for elation, and to keep sleep away when the night needs to serve some other purpose unrelated to rest. I promise I am not a junkie.

Maybe I’m lying.

Lent is upon us now. It sounds like the perfect time to take on a challenge, and so I’ve decided I will give up refined sugar. 46 days with no chocolate cake, no ice cream, no cookies? Can’t help but ask myself if I’ve really thought this through. And now, while writing I suddenly feel the need to add yet another layer and DO something each day as well.

Makka Ho.

I recently came across an interesting article about a Japanese exercise routine consisting of a series of seemingly simple stretches touted to transform your body if done right. Brimming with confidence born of my days as a flexible child, I got into position to give it a try. Let’s just say ‘I get am before’ no be property.

In addition to giving up sugar, I hereby commit to doing the Makka Ho routine twice daily, for all of Lent. Amen.

For the record, while this coincides with the most sombre time on the church calendar, this is by no means my spiritual exercise for the period. In other words, no doctrines were flouted in the making of this post. I suspect that this would be my toughest abstinence challenge yet, so expect to hear a little (or a LOT) more about my struggle to keep at it.

What new challenge will you be taking on this period? Care to share? Do let me know, and may the Lord be with you while you’re at it.

xo

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Of Dreams and Drinks

Who else finds it really interesting when in the middle of the day, you randomly recall a dream you had? That was me when a text conversation about drinks in real life triggered my memory of my dream the night before and had me exclaiming excitedly with my ‘AAHH’ breaking the silence in the quiet pool office at work.

I dreamt I was in Paris. I had two companions – I don’t recall who they were, and we were in a lovely living room, drinking wine. The wine was particularly good, and we tried to make a video while clinking glasses.

Now I’m wondering: why am I dreaming about wine? For context, I haven’t had a drink in years. I’ve never found alcohol particularly enjoyable so from being a social drinker, I moved to the point where I decided to just abandon it all together. Now it is showing up in my dreams. Is this a sign?

Now open to collaborations of the drinking-good-wine-in-fancy-places-in-Paris type. Enquire via email.

…or not jare. *sips green tea*

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The Green Passporter

8:50 am

With my international passport set to expire in less than 6 months, there was an urgent need for me to renew it in order to carry on seeing the world. As with most things around here, that can be unnecessarily complicated. To supposedly make the process easy – and easy being same day issuance, I opted to take a trip to Abeokuta and get it done there cos processing in Lagos can be a nightmare not to be tried if you need your document at short notice.

On getting to the Immigration office, an officer at the gate asked if I was meeting anyone in particular. I wasn’t, and he let me know what was available – 64 page booklets valid for 5 years at the cost at N50k. In order to hopefully get a better offer, I dug up the number of my sister’s old contact person and opted to process it through him instead, only to find out a little too late that my bill was 10% above pump price. When my attempt at haggling didn’t work, I took my L in peace.

If you’re shocked that passport renewal fees can be negotiated, you clearly are not Nigerian enough.

Two hours into my wait, my plug comes to ask if I’m ‘mobile’ – if I had driven there, in local parlance. Before I was done wondering why he will want to borrow my car, he returned to summon us – I and 2 others, into an office to break the news that cos they had insufficient booklets, we’d have to go to Sagamu for our data to be captured, and then return to Abeokuta for issuance. The only other time I had been to Sagamu was that interesting owambe trip a few years ago, and it appeared the fates decided another was due.

After informing my family of the development and sharing the officer’s number, here I am with a stranger’s little kid sleeping on my arm as we embark on this totally unplanned road trip.

Hello Sagamu!

So we made it there in good time, and started the next round of waiting. While sitting around, I learnt from a lady I sat beside that processing costs 45k there. Now the interesting part is she got the information from a companion to whom she gave money to make the payment. However, I saw the same companion update someone else that the cost was 35k.

There are clearly way too many Ls to go around today!

Sidenote:

At the start of the first leg of the trip, the officer asked anyone to lead a prayer and because I definitely needed God’s protection on this k-legged trip, I gladly did. I must have been good at it as our way back he specifically asked me to pray again. My point is if this 9 – 5 thing doesn’t quite do it for me, please I could also be a prayer warrior on hire. Spread the word at your places of worship and make your bookings now!

Yet Another Sidenote:

Just in case he has saved my number and can see my WhatsApp profile where I have a link to the website, I am not publishing this post until I collect my passport and leave the Immigration office, before they nab me for crimes yet unclear.

Final Update

#Goals 😐

6:23pm.

Passport received. He still tried to get extra money from me fa, as his reward for the Sagamu trip. I’m tired as hell, yet to have my first meal for the day, but e go better.

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Of Sacrifices and Related Matters

I love coffee. With its rich taste and delicious aroma, my day is not complete without it. Morning, midday, evening, night… no time is the wrong time for a cup.

And then a few days into Lent, I thought it might be nice to give it up. While this period is a good time to make sacrifices – fasts, abstinence and the like, this for me is more of a test of my willpower than a spiritual exercise.

The first few days were surprisingly easy. No coffee? No problem.

Then I started to notice the changes. I run on somewhere between 4 and 5 hours of sleep usually – stay up till 2 am, give or take an hour, and be up around 6. Jump out of bed, straight into the shower and out the door as quickly as I can, then get through my day with no problems, and do it all over again. Great stuff.

But what do I have now? I’m up by 5 or so – start the day by drinking water, then doing some exercise and having breakfast *gasps* and then sometime around 10pm, maybe earlier *double gasp* I’m off to sleep.

This sucks!

I loved my sleep deprivation. I love my caffeine kick. Who on earth needs 8 hours of sleep anyway? I wish I was kidding, but it feels like I’m sleeping my entire existence away!

(Is this what withdrawal symptoms feel like?)

I am looking forward to getting back in bed with my poison. Come Easter, come!

In the meantime, if you love a good cup too, I’d totally recommend Gorilla’s Coffee.

I have a pack to spare. Send me a message and I’d hook you up 🙂

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Rwanda Day 4 – 5: Hello Congo!

Well, almost.

After a really laid back time at Kinigi, we headed on to catch a glimpse of Lake Kivu. Lake Kivu lies both in Rwanda and Congo, and I’m glad we didnt skip it like we wanted to. The view was everything, and even though there wasn’t enough time for a swim and a boat ride towards Congo, I now know to plan a return here.

Taking In Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu

After a spending a short while taking it all in, we headed for the actual border. If you’ve ever been at the hellish Nigeria-Benin land border, you’d be taken aback by how different this is.

Look and Learn Seme! *side eyes*

We first walked into the complex, looking around to get permission before taking pictures or doing anything that may cause any problems. We were literally walking around and expecting to be harrassed. If this doesn’t sound like the after-effect of a bad relationship, I don’t know what does.

No one bothered us.

As with many other things on this trip, it evoked a mix of emotions. Some shame at how chaotic things are back home, awe at how the country has fixed up, pride and hope that things can be better… but I digress.

We headed on to Nyungwe, home to one of East Africa’s most diverse rain forest and a myriad of hiking trails, where we tucked in for the night. Options were the really fancy, 5- star, $900 a night Forest Lodge, or the no-frills $50 a night guest house. Feel free to guess which I settled for. Next time, Nyungwe. Next time…

After a restful albeit chilly night, and a hot breakfast, we were on our way. I had run out of motion sickness pills – I must point out that if you get bouts of this while travelling at all, on this route your medicine is a must. The beautiful views while driving in the hills comes with a little price to pay. Thankfully another tourist we had offered a ride had a stash and was generous enough to share. Day saved!

View of a Lake and some Baby Islands from the Road :)

View of a Lake and some Baby Islands from the Road 🙂

The Nyungwe National Park has a myriad of hiking trails on offer, and we opted for the canopy walkway. Briefing done, sticks in hand, we headed off. The trail is pretty easy – there was a little girl in our group who had no trouble with the hike, and all it took was a few hours.

If you have not attempted to dance Shaku Skaku above a rain forest, you cannot talk to me please.

New heights conquered – literally, new friends made, Nyungwe done, and we headed on to our next stop at Nyanza.

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Rwanda Day 3: Volcanoes National Park

I’m back to regular programming now aka off the road and back home getting the year started; and with all that it has been a liiiittle more than a day since the last post, but I’m back with all the gist about Day 3 🙂

Hiking enthusiast or not, a visit to Kinigi which is home to the Volcanoes National Park is an absolute must. If you’re not braving the climb up one of the various peaks in the Virunga mountain range, it is enough to hang around in the fields and just soak in the views of Mounts Sabyinyo, Karisimbi, Muhabura, Gahinga and Bisoke.

Beautiful View of Mount Sabyinyo

The plan was to hike Mt Bisoke, an active volcano with a crater lake at its peak. Taking about four hours to ascend – and about the same to get back down with temperature at the top between 6 and 9 degrees, it is said to have a stunning view that is totally worth the trouble. However, because you conquer obstacles in your mind before you hold victory in your hands, and our heads were not just there at that time, Mt Bisoke will have to miss me until I’m back in drier season.

The day was spent leisurely exploring the neighbourhood, chatting with locals, and then we headed on to Musanze, a larger town a few minutes away, exploring the shops for any interesting buys, and having a delicious lunch of wings, fish strips, salad and lemon + ginger tea, before heading back to Kinigi to spend the afternoon on a guided tour of the village.

This very authentic experience had us walking through paths lined with rocks from volcanic eruptions from decades past, stopping to play with kids spinning tops in the street and learning about culture, lifestyle and even government policy from Joda, the very pleasant guide. We talked about all topics from free, compulsory education for all children in Rwanda, to merit-based university scholarships provided by the government, to relocation of homes to areas close to social amenities to ensure everyone has access, to agricultural policy executed by the villagers aimed at replenishing the land. While practicing some Kinyarwanda, it was really funny when Joda noted that we were getting people confused by looking somewhat different yet sounding the same  🙂

Intore Dancer

And when it was time for the highlight, a performance of Intore, the Dance of Warriors, it was impossible to not join in.

I may not have conquered Bisoke this time, but Kinigi definitely has a piece of me and I have a feeling I will be back 😉

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Rwanda Day 2: Akagera National Park

After the New Year Countdown shenanigans, Tuesday got off to a slow start. Thankfully the driver who the host S had graciously helped hire for the next six days was scheduled to arrive by 11am, and we spent no less than two hours in the morning discussing Rwanda’s recovery and growth, Nigeria’s state, our countries’ prospects and our people, over breakfast of brown bread and homemade avocado spread. Have I said how amazing S is yet?! While the conversations made my heart heavy and left me personally challenged, I was still excited about the adventures ahead.

The plan was to head to Akagera on Tuesday, go on the Night Safari to see nocturnal animals, camp overnight and go on the Day Safari, hoping to see the Big Five. Water, drinks, snacks, insect repelllent, torches, warm clothing, blankets and a padded mat (bought after combing all of Kigali in search of sleeping bags with no luck) were loaded in the back of the jungle- ready 4×4, and off we went on the 2.5 hour trip from Kigali.

Fees settled and introductions to the guide done, while chilling at the reception before heading to the camping area to retire for the day as the night Safari was fully booked, a group returned with news of sighting a herd of elephants. We quickly set off to see them just in case we were not as lucky the following day. Smart move.


Excited about having seen the elephant, hippos, baboons, impalas, warthogs and a whole bunch of other animals, we called it a day and headed to the camping area which was overlooking a lake with a stunning view, and surrounded with an electric fence to keep us from becoming dinner. With the fence open at the camp entrance, the slight hint of danger made it all the more exciting.


Nothing prepared me for how cold the night was going to get! Jacket, thermals, socks and I was still freezing. I must have woken up to look for the warmest position I could curl into a hundred times. Each time I woke up it seemed like a new place was numb. Fam! I still don’t understand how I zipped myself straight-jacket-style to maximise my body heat, but I can’t forget the confusing discomfort that woke me from the awkward position. This was Type 2 fun that I’m ready to do all over again!

The campsite was overlooking a lake with a stunning view, and the sunrise in the morning is hard to describe. Nature is the most perfect artist!

Beautiful Sunrise

Beautiful Sunrise


Four hours and sightings of buffalos, girraffes, zebras, more hippopotamuses later, while listening to the Park Guide talk about his love for Tekno and Patoranking and how he stopped being a PSquare fan after the group split, it was time to depart. To the elusive lions and rhinoceros, see you later.

Next stop on the trip was Kinigi, home to the Volcanoes National Park where Mount Bisoke is located. Heading from Akagera, we made the 2.5hour trip back to Kigali, had lunch and the absolute best lemon and ginger tea ever made, and  continued 2.5 hours or so to a quaint little guest house at Kinigi. Dinner was a little unfamiliar to the Nigerian palate – but there are few things large doses of chilli oil won’t fix. After sleeping off in front of the fireplace at the lounge and then sauntering off to my room, Day 2 was done.

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Muraho from Rwanda!

That’s ‘Hello’in Kinyarwanda, the language spoken where I’m posting from. Right now my stomach is stuffed with dinner and I’m sitting at the table nursing a cup of hot milk and ginger. I’m stuffed, but the Nyungwe cold won’t let me give up what’s left in my flask. It’s my 6th night here, and having spent not more than two nights in one place, I really do owe the world a trip report. Haha!

To begin with, the choice of Rwanda was totally by chance. I randomly decided on a trip days before my birthday in August after seeing an ad on Instagram which didn’t happen but I realized it was a destination to keep an eye on. When the travel bug bit a few months later and I was looking for somewhere with affordable tickets and no visa troubles for GreenPassporters, it was an easy choice. Plane ticket and yellow fever card in hand, I was on a plane to Kigali last Sunday!

My first introduction to the Rwandan spirit was at the point of entry. Visas are issued to Nigerians on arrival for $30. When I handed the official a $100 bill however, I got back $20 change. He was pretty sure I had paid him $50. After I walked off when processing was done, he hurried after me asking that I come back so we confirm the correct amount. Back at his post, he went through his drawer and computer, and reiterated that he was right. I did not have a $50 bill so I knew for sure he wasn’t as I couldn’t have paid him that, but it was my word against his and I was certain it was an honest mistake so I let it go. By Monday morning, my host whose details I had provided at entry, had received an unholy number of missed calls. The Immigration officer checked yet again and realizing his mistake, called so I could return to the airport and get my money. I am still impressed.

On Monday, got properly acquainted with the most wonderful AirBnB hosts, who helped create an itinerary for the trip. Going back a little, the plan at first was to sign up for a tour with an agency, but decided to land here and go with the flow. Best plan! This has turned out much cheaper and the flexibility is priceless. On Monday, the day was spent in Kigali getting information and supplies for the road trips to follow, and partying at the Kigali Convention Centre, counting down to the New Year, screaming along to Simi, Bruce Melody and well, Patoranking who seemed like an even bigger star in Rwanda than back home. The music DJ Waxxy, DJ Miller and the third impeccably dressed super skilled DJ whose name I don’t remember played at the concert was so Nigerian that I could have been in Lagos. It was a blast! Back home sometime around 3:30 am on Jan 1st, day one was over.

I really should talk about the clean Rwandan streets, impeccably dressed, helpful, well- mannered people and the chilled vibe, but it’s 9:23 pm right now, I’ve left the dinner table for my bed and I’m stuffed and sleepy so I’d just go to bed now. Tomorrow I’m scheduled to climb the canopy walkway above the Nyungwe rain forest which has been described as the road to hell. Let me just rest in preparation for facing it tomorrow. Stay with me 🙂

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On Pain

Yesterday evening seems like a blur.

I had skipped lunch, and so opted to make myself a lovely dinner. The kind of evening I was going to have was clear in my mind – a quiet one with me huddled on the couch, in my living room which I’d have made too cold, all by myself with no one to get in the way of my thoughts as I allow my mind wander after a delicious plate of seafood pasta and a glass of wine.

Cooking done, dinner had, everything was going according to plan and then it begun…

It started as a dull ache in my tummy, and before long I was in pain all the way to the soles of my feet. I hope I never find out how 10/10 pain is, but it sure felt like it. Lying in the floor with my feet elevated gave little relief. Before long I was puking out everything in my bowels, while intermittently ‘cleansing my colon’. I was going from having my face over a place it has no business being, to replacing my face with my bum, to lying on the bathroom floor and back again.

By the time this had gone on for a short while, I began to feel faint. I staggered to the front door and unlocked it so that if I passed out, help will have easy access to me lol.

Now here’s the interesting part. At some point, my body had enough and went to sleep. I don’t even recall when that happened. Have to say I’m surprised I woke up on my bed rather than the floor. This morning I feel as good as new, with the added bonus of feeling really light – no detox needed! My first thought when I woke up was “what exactly happened last night?”, and until I started to write this the details of how bad I felt were but a distant blur.

Often times we have pretty plans all laid out, like my quiet, introspective Friday night, and then fate goes “Just whollup!” Here’s wishing that painful patches, if any, in this journey called life are over so quickly that we look back and can barely remember if they really happened.

Here’s hoping we heal right away and are better off for the lessons that they teach. Or at least we get free detoxes.

🙂

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