I have been woefully absent from the blogosphere with nothing to blame but life getting in the way of me talking about life. I thought I'd make up for it by spewing my experiences all in one go; a bid to appease the masses (or the few, if I must be realistic).
It goes without saying that I don't drive in Port Harcourt. What with the safety issues that seem to govern everyone's thoughts, the idea that I should be gallivanting around the city alone in a small but incredibly cute imported car is...well, fantasy. So I gallop around town in a Prado with a driver and a MoPol, and I try not to think wistfully about my like-new smoke colored sedan sitting in London.
Still, I wouldn't actually want to drive in PH. People are on a special breed of crack here and the worst offender is my driver. Now I actually like Mr. G and he's a funny man when he wants to be. He works late whenever I do without complaining, he knows the city like the back of his hand, and he takes my deadlines as if they were gospel commandments.
Case in point, I was traveling to Abuja and I was woefully late for my flight. I had an hour to travel what usually takes an hour and a half in no traffic, and it was 7am rush hour. I mentioned this to Mr. G and he said, "Don't worry Madam, I'll get you there." How was I supposed to know that this was an ominous sign? In the movies, the sky would have darkened and lightening would have lit up the space behind him. But in real life, I just took it as a very eager driver and took no warning.
Umm. Thus began the most frightening one hour of my life. Mr. G and the MoPol seemed to have teamed up to cause as much havoc on PH streets as possible. His usually placid face was screwed in deep sudoku-like concentration as he performed illegal maneuvers I would never have thought of.
I'm talking driving directly in the face of on-coming traffic, only to veer in line at the last second. I'm talking climbing the sidewalk and horning for pedestrians to move out the way, the idiots. He formed a third lane on a two lane road, he drove in the mud off the paved road, he played chicken with a lorry. And the MoPol of course obliged him by screaming "Hey you! Your mamma no born you well, come on get out of this place!" and other such epitaphs out the window.
We made it to the airport on time. The plane was delayed. I had lost about 6 months off my life expectancy. Mr. G was grinning and looking at me like "See? I told you we would make it." A part of me was mortified because I had just become that a*whole everyone screams about on the road. Big jeep, tinted windows, acting like my father built the road (which is slightly ironic, but more on that later), and oh, forgive us wee folk for being born.
Oh well, I suppose I should stop bellyaching and be glad I have a driver willing to break rules in my favor. Better to be in the jeep than shouting at it as it whooshes by me, right?
And don't for a second think PH is the only place with such driving. Up until now, in Lagos I stay in Ikoye, and in Abuja I don't move around till dark, so I thought bad driving was limited to PH. More fool me.
In Abuja, I met up with a friend of mine from uni, Big D. He was running errands all over the city and I tagged along just to hang out with him. Sitting in the front seat, for the first time I wondered at the violent name "shotgun". This boy made Mr. G look like a 65 year old granny, and worse was he was driving a Corolla, not even a huge jeep to scare people away. We'd get to an intersection and a car would want to cross over. Big D would open his window and scream "My guy, I did not wake up this morning to allow you to commit such foolishness! No way! You're not entering here!!" Then he'd proceed to swerve his car around the front of the oncoming car and speed off. Keep in mind that this puts me, little ol' Lolo, at the closest point to the oncoming bumper. So if anything goes wrong, Big D ain't feeling it. I spent the whole trip squeaking and squealing and calling on "my God, my God, My GOOOOOOOD!" His friends in the back seat snickered the whole time and of course I was glad I could provide amusement.
So yes. I shall just bide my time in the back seat, safely ensconced in a seat belt and practice my tried and true method. If I just close my eyes and pray the whole way, then I don't see all the near misses that we avoid. And if one of them doesn't actually miss, then I can die praying and that counts for something.
On NYSC Registration
I actually don't want to talk about this because it really is entirely my fault. As it stands I probably won't be able to begin my NYSC this November because I haven't successfully registered. A lot of the things I need, I don't have and other things they are being so ornery about. I hope everyone is aware of what they need, and if not, let me do a simple public service announcement:
1. High school diploma
2. Original high school transcript
3. Undergraduate diploma
4. Original transcript
5. Nigerian passport
As much trouble as I went through with the high school transcript (it was 6 years ago, they lock it up in a vault and it has to be requested for in person. I'm in Nigeria, they're in Maryland) it turns out to be the Nigerian passport that holds me up. I applied for one and it got lost by FedEx. Yes, this actually happens, or at least it actually happens to me. Now, I have to wait for a police report before I can file for a new one. There might still be a problem because all the times I traveled to and from Naij, I did it with a visa. Long story short, the passport has to show you leaving Nigeria for school, and returning into Nigeria after school. So we're negotiating with the people now because if that holds then I'm probably never going to be allowed to serve.
Anyway, for the sake of my sanity, I've put that whole thing on pause for now. The original registration day took about 5 hours and I got sunstroke. My advice for those going for the March registration:
1. Go at least three days before the deadline. If you leave it later than that, might as well bring comfy shoes because you will be there a while. There are only two people working the verification office and they move slower the more people are in line.
2. Have at least three copies of EVERYTHING, even things you don't think you need copies of.
3. You'll be asked to go to several different rooms to 'prepare your form'. If you want to leave sometime this decade, make eye contact with one of the staff doing the forms. Choose someone sitting down, because they're invariably in a better mood than those forced to stand. Speak to them, "Aunty, I'm next-o. Can you help me?" Even if the line in front of someone else frees up first, it's probably best to wait for the one you connected with. Usually, there's something filled in wrong, there's a form missing, there's a number you have to look up, etc. A nice person will walk you through all this until you finish. But I saw lots of people being told to step out of line and sort themselves out, only to have to wait their turn all over again.
4. Be patient and VERY polite. If you're in any way rude or imply that they are less than competent, they'll simply make you wait until they serve EVERYBODY else. I saw this happen and it wasn't pretty.
If this is done, it should be a relatively quick process. If you do it at a time without crowds, it can be finished in 30 minutes or less.
I sincerely hope you have better luck than me.
So I've finally managed to make friends, and like a big lame-o I'm so excited. It feels just like every time I've moved to a new city and I start to panic wondering how long it will be before I hit my stride. I work best with a small group of goods friends and a large group of acquaintances. I like knowing what I'm doing this weekend, who I'm doing it with, and who I'm likely to run into. I like having a social calendar (yes, an actual calendar on my BB marked 'social') and being incredibly busy all the time.
So far, I've chronicled my semi-frustration with having all my friends in other places and far from me. I love hanging with my sis and my cus and actually we've all come closer together so no complaints. But like a missing limb that seems to throb (so I hear) I've been missing 'friends'.
My one friend, Lonely Boy (so called because he really was lonely, and I've been gorging on the new season of Gossip Girl) and I have made a real go at things and I truly enjoy his company. Still, last weekend I finally called a cousin of my friend who's a PH girl, Ms Tee. We met and actually had a nice time at a makeup launch party (ding ding ding! social diary!) then went for dinner at Blue Elephant. A side note about Blue Elephant, why on earth is it as popular as it is? The food is only slightly better than the service which is awful. The decor includes plastic chairs and beach umbrellas and bold-as-hell rats. The only thing they have going for it is the ice cream cake and yes, even I will admit that it's pretty good.
Still, Blue Elephant seems to be the jewel of GRA so we went and I called Lonely Boy to join us. Imagine my surprise when he walks in with his older brother and his friend who's just come to town. This guy happens to be a friend of mine's brother and also went to high school with Ms Tee. Anyone knows that when introductions become as complicated as all this, it's bound to be a great mix. And it was. We sat in Blue Elephant for a good 4 hours gisting about everything and nothing. I got tipsy for the first time in over a month (one glass of white wine, honestly I'm such a lightweight) and laughed harder than I have in nearly as long.
So like I said, lame-o that I am, I'm already taking this as a sign of good things to come. We're planning a get together this weekend to hang and meet other people, and who knows? My plans for a social club might actually take off.
So that's me in a nutshell. Things aren't exactly as I planned but they're working out anyway.
And now, let me stop wasting my employer's time and actually get back to work!