1st day at Work……Zmirage Ltd

IMG_1601

Abe everybody. Hope you all been well. Started work at Zmirage Ltd today.  The day was a stark contrast to my usual Monday in London.

Last night was a little rough; I had pounded yam and egusi for dinner. I have not eaten this since my last trip to Nigeria in January and I was really looking forward to it. I ate the food gluttony and I paid the price, my stomach which had not used to handling such heavy foods for a while could not handle it. Instead of preparing for my 1st day at Zmirage, I lay on the bed like a woman about to give birth at any moment. It became so difficult to move that I was forced to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians rather than retrieve the remote control from the table a few meters away. Trust me, watching that show didn’t hurt as much as my stomach.

I woke up around 6am and got ready for work. At 7:30 I went to hotel restaurant to eat breakfast (fresh fruit salad, picked this morning). I had breakfast with my Uncle TJ who schooled me on how to do business effectively in Nigeria or anywhere else for that matter. The company car came to pick me from the hotel around 10am, as we drove towards work I couldn’t help to wonder at the contrast between my Mondays in London and Lagos. In London, I would hustle to get on already packed Northern line train from Euston to London Bridge, stand all the  and probably have stale croissants for breakfast. Isn’t life wonderful!!!!   The only thing I missed was the view of the River Thames from my desk back in London (And my colleagues of course).

My first day  as a consultant went well, I was a little nervous initially but I have settled down.  I asked a colleague Hanifat a thousand and 1 questions and she patiently answered each. I am fearful of coming across as trying to implement my superior working methods and culture in this environment.

Just returned to the hotel….. it is 10pm I exhausted!!!!!!!

Tomorrow is Nigerian Independence day, I am escorting Uncle TJ to Abeokuta.  Till tomorrow…. KKB out.

Major Discomfort

It has been an “uncomfortable” two days. My body has been acclimatising to the different environment over the past couple of days. Without going into too much detail, I have used about five rolls of toilet paper in the past two days. My friend Titi gave some cold pap to drink this morning which seems to have solved the problem. It is my last day in Ibadan and one of the most significant things I have realized that Nigeria is an expensive place to live. (is prices in other parts of the country are in line with costs in Ibadan.    Fuel is probably the highest expense this week, food prices are just ridiculous. It makes me appreciate the grit and determination of the citizens of this nation a lot more.

I went to a couple of parties on Saturday; one was a wedding and the other a kid’s birthday party. The wedding was hugely impressive, when Nigerians do things big they do it big. I was most impressed that the wedding started on time, it confirmed my belief that with proper planning and execution, things can be done on time. On that point, I was very late for the second party due to circumstances beyond my control.

I am now in Lagos where I will be working for the next weeks before returning to Ibadan for Eid Kabir. Apologies if this post hasn’t been as entertaining as the previous one, I am currently suffering from writing fatigue.  Writing this blog has been more challenging than I expected, I will continue to endeavor to update on a daily but I may need to spread it out a bit. I have not had  a chance to work on my book am a little afraid of burning  out.

I start work at Zmirage tomorrow, wish me luck.

Till tomorrow…..hopefully-KKB out

When in Rome……….. abi????

Qu’est-ce qu’il se passe.

It has been an interesting couple of days.  Today is my 7th day in Nigeria and just as I was feeling like I was adapting to my environment, I was reminded by my father and Mr Manager that there is still a lot learn.

One of the most important things I have realised over the past seven days that there a lot of time but there isn’t always enough time. For me , my action plan for the week was based on my time frame I was used to in the UK, but I have quickly realised time is allocated differently in Nigeria. For some others, they invest a lot of time in their livelihood for little or no reward.

I am going to write about a topic which I was hoping not to write about at all on my journey, but I stated that I would write about the good the bad and the ugly so here we go. Mr Manager and I went to the University of Ibadan (UI) Mosque for Jummat prayers this afternoon. On the way there, we came up behind a taxi; I saw a woman try to open up the passenger side door of the taxi from the outside and when unsuccessful opened it up from the inside. I thought it was a little odd but thought nothing of it until she held the door open without getting inside. The situation became clearer when Mr Manager told me that the woman was a plains cloth police officer, and she was extorting money from the taxi driver. Sadly, although I have only been here 7 days, I have seen this once too many times. My entourage and I have had a number of running with then of the past couple of day, the funniest incident happened last night when the police officer who had stopped us asked Muyiwa who the owner of the car was while he was reading through the registration documents!!!!!. Dumb huh??  One of the oddest things I have noticed about the police this week is the signs on their vehicles; it states “Police- Anti Crime Patrol”.  Talk about stating the obvious!!!!!!  They can’t exactly be the pro-crime patrol can they??

They mosque was enjoyable; UI mosque is still the same as I remembered it over 22 years ago. When I walked into the grand prayer hall, I was a little shocked that it wasn’t as grand as I remember because the ceiling used to be a lot higher. It took me a few seconds to realise the ceiling had not come down, but I had grown up. I was still expecting to see it through the eyes of the 10 year old boy of 22 years ago.

On the way back to the factory from the mosque, I need to get my sandals repaired so Mr Manager asked a wandering cobbler to come over to the car. “Aboki, come here”!!!!  I gave him sandals to the man; he inspected it and told me it would cost 150 naira to fix them. From the passenger seat, I said “ok, fix am”. Either he didn’t hear what or said or his response was automatic “ok, how much you wan  pay?”. That was when I realised that he was expecting me to haggle; I didn’t think to argue over fee of less than £1. Unfortunately for the Aboki, Mr Manager who had been temporarily distracted was able to haggle the price down to N100.

Later on in the evening, I went to the cyber café and I decided to buy some roast corn for my father on the way back to the factory. I asked the old lady who was selling the corn by the side of the road the price of each corn.  She looked at my face and said 40naira each. I had N120 in my pocket so I asked for three. When I gave the corn to my dad and Mr Manager in the office, my dad asked me how I bought them for. I told him 40naira each. He then asked how I haggled the price. He saw the blank look on my face and he began to laugh. My father and Mr Manager had a good laugh at my expense for about 10 minutes. Amongst  other things, they said the woman must have been thanking her lucky stars when she saw my face and must have thought i was a God send. I know haggling is part of the culture here but I cannot see myself consciously haggling with an old woman over what cost less than a double cheese burger. To survive here,  will have to adopt the proverb “when in Rome, act like romans?  I don’t know if my conscience will allow me to do that. But we shall see.

Till tomorrow, KKB out.

U better enter o……..

Mathew the rewirer

Mathew the rewirer

Mayaparu (Hausa). Apologies for the delay of this new post, I have had a very long day and did not have the energy to go to the cyber café. It was a full and very interesting day; it is a long post today so prepare yourself.

My work day started at 7:00am. Owolabi (Mr Manager at Molaka waters) and I went on a field trip; he took me to Bodija market for to observe how Molaka waters staffs interact with their customers. I interviewed a few customers as part of my consultation work, after which we went to assess the rams my siblings and I will be purchasing for our father for the upcoming Eid Celebrations. For some reason when we got back to the factory at 10am, I was exhausted. I had not sat down for more than 10 mins when I heard the oga shout my name “Kabir!!!, oya o  follow the manager and go and sort out the problem. Nepotism means nothing to Alhaji Kareem, he wanted to make sure I worked for my money (ironically, I am not getting paid for the consultation. Food and board is not free I suppose). Mr Manager filled me in on the current situation when I got into the car; a truck from the fleet (four trucks!!!!) had broken down on route to deliver to our customers so we had to pick up a mechanic to meet with them to fix the problem.

We met the mechanic at his office, (under a bridge) the manager told him the problem to which he responded “let me go and get my tools”. We waited for about 2 minutes and the mechanic, who was called Mathew the rewirer, entered the back seat. I looked back and was stunned to see he was only carrying 1 screwdriver, 1 pliers and one long strip of wiring. I was expecting a toolbox full of tools. I didn’t say anything and we were on our way. We met up with the broken truck and watched in amazement as Mathew fixed the truck within 10 mins with his basic tools. (Pic above). On the way back to the factory, we saw of the co another truck had broken down on the highway; the manager stopped the car and went to sort out the situation. We didn’t get back to the factory till 1pm. I was way behind on my work schedule and I getting irritated.  I worked for on my scheduled work for approximately two hours when the oga told me to follow my manager to the bank and use the opportunity to open a bank account. This is where my day became really interesting.

Before going to the bank, we had to take a passport photograph; in Ibadan the process was considered short but for me it was too long. When taking a passport photograph involves turning on a generator, the process is too long!!!!!!.  After taking the required photo, we made our way to the bank. I wanted to open a current account, the first employee we spoke to said we needed a passport photo, a formal ID, and proof of address. I had all the required paperwork, then he said I needed two people who had current accounts within the bank to vouch for me. I wanted to slap him in the face as I knew this was not possible, with that I said I would open up a savings account which would not require references. He directed me to another officer, when I reached his desk; he shoved an application form in front of me and left. I began to complete the form, at the section which asked for nationality, I automatically began to write  “Bri” before I realised where I was, crossed it out and changed it to Nigerian.  I called him over and gave him the completed form.  As he reviewed the form, a hard faced soldier in full military fatigue entered the office and my attendant asked him if he required any assistance. I was annoyed but kept my patience. They began to have a full blown discussion about the extension of his overdraft limit, etc. I was getting annoyed by the minute, my entourage was due to pick me up from the factory at 5pm and these guys were wasting my time. I wanted to express my displeasure but the likelihood of receiving an ass whooping by a trained killer as a result wouldn’t brighten my day so I kept my mouth shut.

He finished reviewing the application form and required documents, and then he said I needed N2, 500 to open the account. At this point, I just wanted to punch him in his face and leave the bank. Mr Manager and I didn’t have enough on us so I began to argue. In my strongest British accent, I said “but the poster downstairs states that I can open a saving account with just a passport photograph”.  “Yes I know” he replied “bet you need a minimum of 750 naira to open the account so that they can take the cost of producing the ATM card out of your account”. We both stood looking at each other for about a minute; I had things to do, so I relented. Mr Manager and I agreed that we should ask Alhaji Kareem to send one of the staff at the factory to the bank with the required funds to the bank.  This took approximately 25 minutes and temper rose along with the heat wave which had descended on the city. When the staff member finally arrived, he and Mr Manager exchanged the money inside the bank compound but not the bank itself. The security guard who saw this promptly told them “you better enter oooo…”. His statement was short but the meaning was long. I took it took mean “if you get robbed, don’t expect me to come to your assistance. I don’t get paid enough to get shot for you ye ye boys ooo”. I finally opened my first bank account in Nigeria at 3:30 pm. On the way back to the factory we had to take a detour to collect money from a customer who hadn’t paid for good received.

But my day didn’t end there. My entourage picked me up at 5:15 pm. We had to make a few stops on the way to our final destination.  On the way home from watching the Arsenal match at the local bar, we were asked to pull over to the side of the roads by the police. Kabiyesi rolled down the driver side window and this upstanding enforcer of the law shined his torch light into the car. As soon as the light hit my face, I could see his face light up like a predator that had just seen a weakened member of the heard. I made the mistake of saying “hello” and waved. He briskly made his way to my side of the car, and shined his torch directly in my face; he could see that my face was fresher than my compatriots. I suspected he wanted something but Kabiyesi said something which made him laugh, I shook his hand and sent us on our way.

This was just the 5th day of my trip, I wonder what the rest of the journey has in store for me, and I can’t wait to find out. Till tomorrow…………KKB out.

Mathew the rewirer

Mathew the rewirer

Rain, Rain and more Rain……..

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Nanika atta everybody

I was meant to start work at Molaka waters today but you know what they say about the best laid plans. (If you do please enlighten me because I don’t actually know………seriously I don’t) It began raining at approximately 1am, I was glad because it provided me respite from the humidity which was seriously affecting my beauty sleep. I woke up around 7:30am and it was still raining, my friend Muyiwa made me breakfast and we waited for my Uncle Waidi (Kabiyesi*) to pick me up to take to me the factory where I will be spending the week working.

Unfortunately the heavy rains had caused some flooding in some parts of Ibadan bringing parts of the city to a halt. I have never experienced such rains in my life, it rained heavily and continuously for hours and hours. It got to a point that I stopped using my umbrella. While waiting, I used the opportunity to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in over 20 years and met her new baby- that was the only bright spot of my day.  Kabiyesi picked me up around 13:00, by this time I was miserable and my running training had been ruined. I was meant to start work at 10am. Driving through the puddles of pots felt like going through a timed rally race. We had to make a couple of stops on our way to the factory; we finally arrived there at 4pm.  By this time the business day was over and the factory had closed. 

It was not a great start to my working life in Nigeria but don’t worry, the oga** be my papa!!!!!!!!!!!!

*King

**Boss

For the love of football and Ozzzzziiiiillll

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Kimisele (Ejebu) The flu has not only messed up the start of my journey, I have just realised that I it has affected my fantasy football team. Just before I left home, I had changed my team to include Ozil and Ramsey, alas I forgot to press the confirmation button. You may be wondering why this information is pertinent; it is segway into my story of the day. I was on the way to my uncle’s house when we drove past shed which had a sign outside stating that all the Sunday premiership games were being shown. Kick-off for the Arsenal vs. Stoke game was at 13:30, fortuitously for me it was exactly 13:30. I asked my uncle to drop me of and pick up me up later.

The venue which I watched the match was probably the most basic I had ever experienced (it wasn’t exactly the executive box at the Emirates stadium), but it was a memorable one. There were two television sets and benches for people to sit. The cost of entry was N50; I paid the fee and took a seat. Within five minutes, a lizard ran across my feet. It was a good game, arsenal won comfortably which I am happy but, but Ozil gave 3 assists and Ramsey scored a goal which annoyed me no end.

The thing that made these 90 minutes so interesting was the discussions/arguments between the other patrons of this fine establishment. I knew Nigerians loved their football but the passion for the game and love for teams that the vast majority would be able to see live is immense. Some these guys would give the Match of the Day or any of the Sky Sports Pundits a run for their money with regards to analysis and commentary of the game. I will not go into any detail but the conversations ranged from how poor Torres is, the reasons for Torres being so poor, why Mourinio doesn’t play Juan Mata.  (I know what you are thinking, this is an Arsenal game right!!!!!) They discussions were loud and sometimes over passionate. If a foreigner walked past the shed and heard the commotion in the build, he would probably think there was a riot going on inside.

I enjoyed watching the match not only because my team won, but the entertainment was priceless. Additionally, over the past few days I have seen the effects of poverty on my fellow countrymen. I was happy to see that for only N50, they can forget their ills for 90 mins.  

I start work at MOLAKA waters tomorrow, really looking forward to it. Till tomorrow, KKB out.

It Chop my money…..

What the deal what the deal ya’all. It’s your boy KKB writing from Muritala Mohammed Airport, Lagos Nigeria. The flight was uneventful apart from a crying baby and people talking across aisles while I am trying to get some sleep. The plane took off on time and landed half an hour early.  Usually I would be happy about this but it is still dark outside and because there are no chairs available, I am currently writing this while sitting on a steel pole, which offers zero comfort.

The day of my departure started off badly, I woke with the flue which I had been trying to avoid all week. My head was hurting and my whole body was aching.  There was so many things I needed to do before my flight, buy a watch, change my fantasy football team, ……. Etc. I nearly got knocked over by a car on Camden High Street as I crossed the road to buy night nurse from the chemist because I was not my usual agile self. I did what I could but I slept most of the day until my sister and mum came to pick me up to drop me at the airport.

The flight was uneventful apart from some children crying and people having multiple conversations across the aisles like they were in their living. Despite this, the night nurse I took before take-off enabled me to get a few hours’ sleep.  Going through passport control at Muritala Mohammed Airport went smoother than I had expected, I paid N150 for a trolley and waited for my luggage. The conveyor belt was extremely slow and I was still feeling the effects of the flu.  While waiting for my luggage, I listened irritability as a passenger berated a porter for having to pay for the use of a trolley and the porter’s assistance. “In London, all this is free, she exclaimed arrogantly”. I thought to myself, “well in New York its $2 for a trolley”. I doubt she would have made the same complaint if she was in New York. She then made a statement which really infuriated me “you people in Nigeria gan sef, you are so backward”.  I could tell by her accent that she could have been in the UK for more than 5 years, yet Nigerians were already not in her class.

I collected my luggage and went through to customers, I attempted to walked towards the exit when I heard “oga, this way please”.   A woman customs officer beckoned me over to her desk; she rifled through one of my bags briefly and allowed me to go on my way.

Upon entering the arrivals foyer, I saw approximately ten men lined up against a wall. As I walked past them, I realised that they were touts. As I walked past each one, they offered to change my money or to get me a taxi. I kindly declined their offers, what amused me about the situation was that each one could see that I had declined the offer of the one in front of them yet they still tried their luck as I walked down the line. Did they I would go for their service over their colleagues because of their winning smile?

It is 5am and still pretty dark outside, my uncle had not arrived to pick me up so I decided to sit on the steel pole like my fellow passengers. The lack of seats is very disappointing. It is 5:30am and I was extremely thirsty, I asked a security officer where I could buy a drink and he pointed me towards a vending machine. I got the vending machine, a can of sprite was N300, as put a N500 note in the slot, I heard “it no give change o”. I looked to my left and short me man was standing right next to, I don’t know how he got so close without me noticing. “You have change”? I asked.   “Give me the money, I will get change for you”, he responded. I was about to give him the money when  I came to my senses, I don’t know this person, there was nothing to stop him taking my money and disappearing, this was his territory.  “Don’t worry, I will buy chin and drink, I don’t need change”. He gave a look of disappointment and slinked away. The machine rejected my note on 9 different occasions; I was getting thirstier and more irritable after each attempt. I elated when it accepted my money on the tenth try. I pressed number for my chosen product when I heard someone from behind shout “the machine is broken o, do not put money it”. I instantly became deflated and my mouth which had been moist at the prospect of drinking a cold can of sprite when the machine accepted the money a few seconds previously suddenly felt like it had been filled with sand. I pressed the buttons a few time to confirm and was sorely disappointed that the man had been correct. To make matters worse, someone had taken my space on the steel pole.

My entourage arrived to pick me up around 5:45am. It has been an interesting start to my journey and I am sure there will be more things to write about along the way.

Till next time-KKB out.

Homecoming

Essential Tools

Essential Tools

Welcome and thank you for taking the time to visit my blog; “Kiloshele-kkb”, this will hopefully be the first of many visits. I created this blog with the help and encouragement of a good friend of mine (SW), with the initial objective of sharing my experience as I embark on a physical and personal journey over the coming weeks.

This journey has been a few months in the planning, I fly out in a few days but there are still a thousand and one things I need to do. Those who have read my article “Where is home” will probably understand why I am making this journey. For those who haven’t read it, I will enlighten you over the next few weeks. Basically, there is a longing to belong and feel accepted by/in my country of birth.

During the journey I hope to discover a number of things about myself and my homeland. In addition, I aim to challenge myself in a ‘foreign environment’, get inspiration for my new book, carry out research for my documentary, have some adventure, study, catch up with old friends and hopefully make new ones, …….the list is endless.  I hope I can get it all done!

For me, Nigeria is the most unique country in the world; it is `probably` the only country where:

  • Everyone wears a watch but nobody can ever keep to time
  • A place of abundant opportunities where the belief that a man or woman can wake up a pauper and go to bed a millionaire reigns supreme.
  • Despite the hardships faced by the majority, its citizens are sustained with the belief/hope/promise of a better tomorrow.

 

It is a writer’s paradise. No two days are ever the same so I plan to share some of my experiences with you while I am there. I will write about the good, the bad and the ugly.

 

The things I am looking forward to the most on this journey is spending some quality time with my pops and celebrating my 1st odun ile ya (http://to.ly/p7qL) in 22 years at home. Can’t wait!! I am not looking forward to the mosquito’s though. As a result of my last encounter with those minuscule bloodsuckers, I was out of action for about three to four weeks. I am better prepared this time round. (Pic above).

 

A big thank you to my boss (LH) for giving me so much time off work, truly appreciated.  I will only be ‘home’ for a relatively short time.  I seriously considered staying a lot longer but upon completing the financial plan for this jaunt, the likelihood of returning to London to drink gari and epa/peanuts (http://to.ly/p74u) during the winter months put a swift halt to that prospect.

 

I endeavour to post a new story every day or two about what’s been happening and start each post with “Kilonshele” in a different language or slang.  I hope my journey will be fruitful and enjoyable, we shall soon find out.

 

 

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

 

Life is about the journey, not the destination- let the journey begin!!!!!!!!