Archive for September, 2013

Vacation 2013: The Gambian Experience

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment

So here I am. . .after over a year of not blogging. Not that I haven’t been writing or lacked what to talk about, as it is the case with most wanna-be bloggers like myself, you should expect flaws like this one, as many times in one year. Though I have written articles (technical and non technical) I thought are not worthy of publishing, written poems I am too scared to post (Cold, I’ve been there, Broken Pot, As I write, etc) simply because I know it is through poetry the entire blogosphere will get to know what’s happening in my life – which I don’t want of course. I have a mantra which says “Believe my poems, not what I say”. I let it all out through poetry. If I ever end up appearing before a judge as a witness, rather than pleading the fifth, I’ll beg to express myself through poetry J

This post is about my vacation so sit back and relax. Get ready to smile, laugh, curse me and of course, cry if you have watery eyes like mine.

So many rains has fallen that the soil has consumed . . . but the soil still looks thirsty every time you see it like it was never moist. So many things have happened to me, yet I still look normal. In other for me not to lose it and end up in “Yaba Left”, I decided to use my annual leave to travel around in the hope that I leave behind each scrabble piece that spelt “Pain” in me, in each city that I visit. I visited Banjul (Gambia), Kaolack (Senegal), Dakar (Senegal), Lagos (Nigeria), Kampala (Uganda) and Kachumbala (Uganda). Did it work? Hell YES…!!!

My leave started on August 1st 2013. Ramadan was still on so I didn’t think it wise to begin travelling. Already, the Ibrahim Cisse led African Youth Panel had invited me to their African Youth Charter Ambassadors Training in Banjul Gambia to make a presentation and official launch the mobile app for the Youth charter I developed. I was billed to travel on August 9th (Friday), a day after our Eid-ul-Fitr celebration. While I was invited in my own capacity as Lukman Jaji the Software Developer, my colleague, Keni was also invited, as the representative of the African Union Commission.

Fast forward to Friday the 9th, bags and baggage were ready and off to the airport I set out. Got to the airport and I was lucky, no queue at the check in counter. “Do you have any bags to check in sir?” asked the “konjo” looking attendant. “Hao” I replied grinning from ear to ear like smileys. I placed my bag on the …em…em…whats that thing called again? That thing that tells the weight of our baggage used by the check-in counter attendants. Someone help me here. “You speak Amharic?” She asked, this time smiling at me. Once again, I replied “Hao’ smiling back at her.”Tsra izi sost amet ka min-a-min ahun” I said to her and her soul nearly jumped out her body. “Ennndeeeeeeee!!!!” she screamed attracting the attention of her colleagues. Now I was feeling like a boss. We chatted for a while in Amharic before she handed me my passport, boarding pass and luggage tag. “Melkam berara…” she said. “Melkam tsra…ciao” were my final words to her.

I completed my immigration formalities in no time at all and took the escalator upstairs where I would chill for my flight. While walking around aimlessly, I sighted a tall, dark looking fellow from afar, walking aimlessly around too. That was Keni. “Hey dude…you got here before me…” I said, like the airport belonged to my father for me to determine who gets to the airport first and last. “Yea…so what’s up..u ready for your presentation?” he asked “Yea..yea.. I am…the app is ready, so is the English I’ll speak to the audience”. Keni’s presentation focused on creating a better understanding of what the Youth charter is by explaining each article from a legal perspective. Ohh..I forgot to tell you, Keni is a lawyer. We chatted about many things to while away time. Where two or more employees of an organization are gathered, you can guess the things being discussed. We gossiped about the office and our bosses keeping serious faces or laughing hysterically in the process.

“This is the boarding announcement of ET flight 901 to Accra…” Yes, our flight was enroute Accra-Freetown, then Banjul. We joined the long queue which moved like a tortoise not under any pressure of time. We were there for almost 25 minutes when I began feeling the pangs of hunger. “Dude..I’m going to get a sandwich, u care?”. . .”Sure get me one as well..” Keni replied. I dashed hurriedly to one of the cafes, got two sandwiches and drinks. Luckily for me, I had some “Birr” left so didn’t have to change my dollars. “Here you go bro…” I handed him his own while I devoured mine like a starved lioness handling a baby deer. Some minutes later, we were climbing the stairs . . . to the plane. I really can’t remember the person I sat beside but I know we chatted for sometime before I brought out my laptop to do some coding in the air. The flight was smooth and Alhamdulilah for journey mercies.

Transit in Ghana

We walked around the airport looking for internet access. By the way, I believe I’m suffering from Internet Addiction Disorder because I know so for sure. We went around to cafes, shops etc asking where we could use internet, at least to while away time. We got out of a shop when suddenly Keni screamed….”Yea..!! We are Kenyans…we will always bounce back”. Looking dumbfounded, I asked, “What’s the matter?”. . .”Look Jaji, that’s a flight going to Nairobi. . .” as he pointed to the flight schedule board “Yes our airport just got burnt but flights to and from Nairobi were not crippled for long….Yea!!!”. . .”That’s really cool” I said. “How dare he brag in front of a Nigerian. . .this bobo dey find trouble ooo” I thought. J

After wandering around for minutes, we ended up in the priority lounge at the airport. There, we had internet, food and beautiful women to look at. I was online chatting with Helena (you will read about her in subsequent paragraphs) and a few of my friends. Time flew faster than an F16 jet fighter and in no time, there was no time. We boarded the plane to Banjul enroute Freetown. That flight still holds the record as my most unpleasant, scariest flight ever. It was raining like hell. The clouds look thick; they look hard and impenetrable like floating metamorphic rocks in the sky. The plane shook throughout and I remember one time, I screamed “Mo gbe ooo” when it seemed we were experiencing a free fall for like 5 seconds. I felt so relieved when the pilot announced that seat belts be fastened for landing in Banjul. No Mr. Pilot, if I had a long rope throughout the flight, or a chain, I would have tied myself to the seat. But then, Alhamdulilah for journey mercies, we landed safely in Banjul.

Banjul, Gambia

As we walked down the stairs of the plane, I sighted a man holding a placard with “African Youth Charter blab la” written. I walked up to him. Keni joined, two other guys joined us, including a guy in dreads and a little girl. That guy was later to be known as Teddy Mak and the little girl, Hanna Girma. Teddy is an Ethiopian musician and the owner of Studio 10 in Addis. The little girl is a very talented musician, vocalist, opera singer and one time winner of the Ethiopian Idol. Ibrahim had invited them to come perform on the evening of August 12th to mark the International Youth day. Watch her song here with Teddy Mak.

Soon, we were in the shuttle, heading towards the VIP lounge of the airport. Ibrahim has proven to me once again, that he’s not just a big boy by mouth alone by arranging a VIP airport proceeding. The transfer arrangement from the airport to the hotel was seamless. “Me too, I be big boy oooo” I thought in pidgin English.

After like 30 minutes, we arrived at “SunSwing” Beach Hotel in Sene-Gambia. Now if you are a Java programmer, you would think this hotel was built for me. J I got into my room, took a warm shower and rested for a bit. Dinner time and I joined Teddy Mak, Hana Grima, Ibrahim, Christian and another person at the restaurant. We ate, drank, chatted and soon, my eyes began closing slowly like a curtain marking the end of a stage play. “Guys. . .I feel sleepy. .. I got to go to my room now.”

The next day, a Saturday, it was difficult to get out of bed but made it for my early morning solat (prayers). After prayers, I jumped back to bed for a second round of sleep that never came. My eyes were wide open like a bullfrog. Breakfast time and I freshened up a bit to join the rest of the guys at the restaurant. After a meal of omlettes, toasts, beef sausages, baked beans and water, we decided to take a walk on the beach. We talked about different issues while the ocean waves sometimes flowed to our feet as if to say “Welcome to Gambia, let me take the dirt off your feet and the pains off your heart”. It felt cool.

First day on the beach

First day on the beach…Lawrence got me the “I love Japan” tshirt I have on 🙂

Later in the day, I joined some new found friends to play soccer on the beach. It was fun and I remember I scored a goal Stephen Keshi would be proud of. I was getting into vacation mood already, though I had a presentation on Tuesday the 13th.

In the evening, with Ibrahim and a few friends, we made it to the Nigerian restaurant where I had my favorite Amala and Okra soup. The Okra didn’t come bare. It came with pieces of dry fish (eja gbigbe) and some cow leg (bokoto) and Malta Guinness to wash it down. In Nigeria, living large tells also from what you eat and how you eat it not just what you drive or where you live. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m living large oooooo

I hadmissed Amala sooo much...

I had missed Amala sooo much…

Later in the evening, there were plans to go clubbing which I wasn’t down for. I went to my room and literarily “died” after that bowl of Amala. At around 12am, someone came to inform me it was time to go clubbing. I was like yea. . . I’ll join you guys soon. I went back to sleep. The Amala was still at work. As I was about to cross over to the realm of sleep again, my phone rang. “O boy we dey wait for you for lobby ooo. All man don ready to club” That was Ibrahim. “Okay. . .Ibro, abeg make una dey go. . .this sleep dey wire me no be small” I said in a sleepy voice. The next morning at breakfast, I was given the gist of how the night went.

 On Sunday, Keni and I want for a hair cut in town. That afforded me the opportunity to see what Gambia looked like in broad day light. For a moment, I thought I was in Lagos. The Banks we drove past were all Nigerian banks: GTB, Zenith, Skye Bank, First Bank and UBA. Minutes later, I saw ArikAir office. I felt like I was in Lagos extension. Finally I had something to brag to Keni about. There is a touch of Nigerian in every country.

A GTB sign post. . .

A GTB sign post in Sene-Gambia. . .

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, we were on the beach once again playing soccer but this time with Keni and the rest of the team. It was fun, running up and down like jobless men chasing a round leather. . .(yea that’s how girls describe soccer). Soon after, we decided to abandon the soccer to swim in the ocean. Did I say we? No, I meant “they” because I can’t swim and had never been in the ocean before. No thanks to growing up in Lagos Island where my brain had been bastardized. I have lost not one, not two friends to water and since then, I’ve always been scared. “Dude, don’t worry, we can walk a certain distance into the ocean, its not that deep” Keni said and Ibrahim echoed the same. “Moreover, if anything happens, we all can swim, we will save you” Ibrahim said. Immediately, my confidence level rose like it was propelled with a rocket. Before I could say Jack Robinson, I saw Malaika, the South African participant, entering the ocean, smiling at us. I wasn’t surprised at what she wore which were quiet revealing by the way. I wasn’t surprised again, that everyone immediately followed her into the ocean like vampires following the traces of blood. I was surprised at myself for being a sissy. Now, you can call me a chauvinist at this point but how on earth would the chic be more courageous that I am? Without thinking twice, I jumped into the ocean as well screaming “Guys…wait for meeeeeeeee. . .” I caught up with them and soon, I was enjoying the experience. I enjoyed going under the ocean waves when it came hard or jumping to avoid it. I enjoyed looking back at the ocean bank to see how far we had walked. Oh dear. . .it felt so good cracking jokes and making everyone laugh. Life can be good my people.


Now, I was beginning to get worried. We had walked too far, almost 400 meters into the ocean. I began screaming like a child. “Guys..please lets go back…we are going too far”. Obviously they weren’t ready but I persisted in my cry. After a few minutes, they agreed and we began our walk back. The fun continued as I played so much with the water. Then something happened. . .

All of a sudden, the water became taller than me and it seemed I had fallen into a hole. I thought I could maneuver my way at first but it soon became evident I couldn’t. To cut the long story short, I was drowning. I tried severally to scream for help but ended up drinking salty water in the process. I was drowning and even though my friends noticed, they thought I was still joking for almost forty seconds. Christian was the first person to notice I needed help and he came to my rescue. I held on to him like a baby whose only hopes are the arms of his mother. I was scared to death. Because of the fear in me, I didn’t make the rescue exercise easy for him. Ibrahim then came and joined in the life saving process. Earlier, Chris had come with a big water skateboard he was playing with. I think that board is used for saving “drowners” and it is at this point Chris and I agreed there was some form of divine intervention involved. How did he know he would need the saving board even though the beach managers never wanted him to take it but he insisted? Anyway, I was placed on the board and pushed ashore. It wasn’t funny at all.

Now, they say a picture can tell a thousand words but its not impossible that 999 of those words could be lies. If you look at the picture below, you would think I just finished water skating and getting ready to go home. Nope. . . .!! That’s a lie. I just got saved from drowning. . .lol

Please don't laugh. . .:)

Please don’t laugh. . .:)

Later that afternoon, I got a call from my friend, Fatou Jeng. Fatou in Gambia and Senegal is equivalent to Fatima (for those who don’t know). Fatou is the youngest magistrate in the whole of the Gambia and she’s also the president of the Gambian Children’s Court. I had not seen her in like two years. She changed a bit, and by that I mean she’s now a mother of a very cute and peaceful child. We chatted a bit about life, Islam and what it feels like to sentence people to jail.

Playing with Fatou's baby. . .she so cute :)

Playing with Fatou’s baby. . .she so cute 🙂

Same afternoon, I got a call from another friend. She used to “never exist” anywhere except the internet. We’ve been buddies for more than five years, but all online. We became so close to the point of wanting to “get married” (don’t ask why it’s in quotes). This friend is known by millions of Nigerians, home and abroad. She’s responsible for banning and unbanning people on Nairaland forum. Yes she lives in the Gambia (though she’s Sierra Leonean). We were meeting for the first time and I finally put a face to the name. Now I know who you are thinking about – and yes you are right. Many of you call her mukina2.

Mukina2 and I

Mukina2 and I

On Monday the 12th, the program officially opened. I’m not going to dwell too much on the proceedings as nothing was extraordinary. Same old opening ceremony, people giving presentations, people asking questions, arguments etc. One point worthy of note is the cosmopolitan nature of the participants. We had actors and actresses, lawyers, parliamentarians, a pastor and of course youth activists. It was my first time attending a meeting of that nature. I liked it

Group Photograph. . .:)

Group Photograph. . .:)

I also got a chance to speak with the Gambian honorable minister of Youth. He’s a smart dude and I enjoyed conversing with him.

The Youth Minister I

The Youth Minister I

In the evening, we were to have a cocktail and cultural performance by some local artistes like Egalitarian. “Ega” is really good. He also teamed up well with Teddy Mak and Hana showing how dynamic he could be. We had dancers, drummers and the youngest musician in the Gambia.

Before the cocktail, I went swimming again!!! Don’t be scared, it was in the pool. I won’t go near the ocean again. I wasn’t alone. We were like ten. We played pool basketball while some of the girls cheered by the pool side. It was at this juncture I wished I had a pumped chest like professional weightlifters. I have deceived myself enough in the gym. Nothing is coming out and I think the only solution for me is to be carrying bags of cement at home. I guess that will work faster. J

Next day was Tuesday the 13th. That was the D-day, not just for me, but for every participant of the workshop. I was to make the presentation of the mobile app. No tension, no pressure. I delivered as I should and everyone felt pleased with my work. I didn’t just receive applause and kind words from the audience. I got a standing ovation. Because of my presentation, some participants compared that moment with their happiest moments ever. What can I say, other than to ask myself the same question that was posed to man 1,400 years ago . . . .? Which of the favors of your lord will you deny?

As the popular Yoruba saying goes, the biggest masquerade will always be the last to leave the shrine. My presentation marked the end of the workshop. It was nice meeting the people I met as everyone had something new to share.

Same evening, some participants had to travel back to their home. We exchanged hugs and contact details before they left for the airport.

Next day, (Wednesday the 13th), more people departed. The hotel looked empty and I remember it was just I, Ibrahim, Christian and TRP left. TRP is an acronym for Thomas Rogers Pedersen. He is the head of the MDG campaign at World Best News based in Denmark. He is also an advisor to the African Youth Panel since they are funded by the Danish government anyway.

In the afternoon, we made it to the museum to catch a glimpse of Gambian history and culture. Gambia is also very rich in Jazz (juju) like Nigeria. We saw charms, masquerade costumes, ancient drums and many other things that typified the cultures of the tourism rich country. We saw colonial pictures as well, though I believe that is one thing that could never be missing from any West African museum. We also played with the crocodiles. . .:)

That’s the Gambian Experience. Next post will be about my road trip to Senegal. . .:)

Enjoy pictures from the museum. . .:)

DSC04741 DSC04742 DSC04743 DSC04744 DSC04745 DSC04749 DSC04751 DSC04712 DSC04716 DSC04724 DSC04725 DSC04726 DSC04728 DSC04729 DSC04733 DSC04734 DSC04737

Categories: Uncategorized


September 20, 2013 3 comments

I could decide to pick a prostitute and “sex” it away
I could decide to get a wrap of ganja and smoke it away…
Or visit a “pharmacist” to sniff it away
I could decide to spend all day and night in a bar drinking it away
At least I know, like my friends say
The bottle doesn’t betray

Better still
Without much delay,
I could go to a karaoke bar and sing it away
Or attend a comedy show to laugh it away
I could give it out as charity by smiling it away
Or like a bush baby who lost his mat, I could cry it away

I already visited the ocean to swim it away
Got on black horses to ride it away
Hung out with friends to chat it away
Walked dangerous alleys of thieves
In the hope that it gets robbed away
Oh dear. . .
There just must be a way. . .!

Maybe I need another get-away to get it away
Or fix my stereo and have Adele’s songs on replay
But by the way,
To my dismay,
Even making a fun trip to Santa Fe
Will not stop me feeling this way

For I have been decieved, hurt, heartbroken and made an enemy
Thought I had a lover who turned out to be nothing but love’s effigy
Played like puppets on strings, on a bridge and everyone’s watching
Where I feel like, right before my eyes, my whole life is crumbling
But like wise say, joy wouldn’t feel so good, if it wasn’t for pain
That statement, surely keeps me sane.

So how do I get the pain away?
Cos by Allah’s commandment, drinking, smoking and prostitutiing is not my way
The one who made me, knows how and why I ended up this way
In him, the hope I have is immortal as long as I inhale and exhale
And there is no other way for me to escape all that pain entails
Than for me to bow down and. . .
Pray it away. . .

“pharmacist” -In Lagos Island where I come from, we refer to drug barons as “pharmacists”. . .they deal in “drugs”. . .don’t they? lol

Categories: Poetry, Uncategorized