Thursday, 8 September 2022

An era driven by validation

In search of validation by likes, comments?
Ever noticed how when you post something on social media, you instinctively pick up your phone numerous times to check how many likes or comments you might have? Or how we scroll aimlessly through our feeds looking for nothing in particular? I am guilty as well!

I heard a couple talk of  the highs and lows of parenting and how other parents made parenting look so easy with photos on instagram. Although they have come to embrace it, there are things they wish they were warned about or guided on.
Social media has a way of sucking us all in and at the same time deceiving us that everyone's life is so glossy. In many cases, we share our best moments on social media. The ability to distinguish between that and real life is key, especially in an era of such consumerism.

Friday, 12 August 2022

What kind of traveller are you?

When it comes to travelling, there are different categories of travellers :

1) those who get to the airport way ahead of their flights, then take all the time to stroll around or just wait at their boarding gates

2) those who wait for last minute, are constantly in a hurry, running or missing flights

3) those who spend their time window shopping or eating

I happen to be in the first category. I get into a bit of a panic when I'm running late, so I would much prefer to get to the airport early, ahead of the long queues. This saved  me once when I was asked to do a covid test by an airline because they had not yet updated their regulations (didn't need a test) from the country I was travelling to. Thankfully, there was a place to do an antigen test at the airport, and I had more than enough time to get the result, check in and wait to board.

I recently had to travel to London via Kigali, Nairobi and Paris. There was a 40 minute delay from Kigali which was not a problem. However, on arrival in Nairobi, there was a 3 hour delay. I watched the time pass and kept consoling myself that I would make the connecting flight in Paris. At times like these, you watch time pass quicker than anything. I spent 40 minutes in Paris and I spent a good amount of that time on ground running. 



As we arrived, we disembarked then got on the bus that took us to the terminal. That took about 15 minutes then I ran from the bus to get through security. Thankfully, there wasn't a long queue but as every minute passed, I was getting more and more apprehensive. I saw some people go right under the security barriers, but I didn't want anything to delay me more than necessary in case someone decided to be difficult with me. 

Anyway, it took me 7 minutes to get through security. I felt my phone vibrate but that was the least of my worries. As soon I got through security, I ran like my life depended on it. I had a family event in London starting at 2pm and I kept saying to myself that I could not miss that flight. I was to arrive around noon. 

As I approached the boarding gate, the counter seemed empty, but I kept running. Right on cue, a lady appeared, then shouted London in that familiar asking tone. Out of breath, I shook my head while running to get to her and she gestured for me to slow down and said it was okay. God knows I was grateful for that. I was the last one to get on the plane, the door closed right as I got on. I sat down, panting, then I spotted a couple that was on the Nairobi flight as well. They were seated just in front of me. I remember seeing them go under the security barriers, I spoke to them. You made it from the Nairobi flight. We all shared the knowing laughter of 'we made it'. As I was about to switch off my phone, I saw a text message from Air France notifying me to go to the boarding gate. That must have been the vibration I felt while waiting to get through security.

Of course my suitcases did not make it onto the plane. As we landed, I got another text message notifying me that my suitcases were in Paris and would arrive on the next flight, which was at 4pm. I found the Air France baggage unit, filled out the forms with my address and my suitcases were delivered the next morning. I have to admit, their service in this regard was great. 

I find Airports very fascinating. It's a place where people 'put aside all dignity' if need be, when it comes down to it. The two times I have had to run like this (with no shame) to catch planes, were between London and Paris. First time was in London in 2010, I was returning to Paris where I lived at the time and this time, in Paris. Fortunately, all ended well for me, I can't imagine how frustrated I might have been if I had missed the flight.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

A Very African Problem

Pilar had been quite stressed at work and was looking forward to getting away from her life in Bangui, Central African Republic. It had increasingly become unsafe with more and more car jackings taking place. The curfew constantly made her feel imprisoned, it was midnight at first, then it moved to 11pm but was recently changed to 9:30pm. What could anyone possibly do before 9:30pm? The only time to socialise was during weekends, people from different organisations organised barbecues and house parties during the day. From 8pm, one by one, everyone would start to jump into their cars, contacting their various radio rooms to announce their return home, not to contravene security rules. The country was known for its constant conflicts. Rock club was always full during the weekend, of those wanting to swim, to play tennis or to just sit out in the sun. Hôtel Ledger was known for their Sunday brunch and also had a nice pool, then hôtel Oubangui, not the fanciest but had good massages. These were some of the things that helped Pilar decompress during weekends.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

There Is No One Size Fits All Approach To Stress And Burn Out

Not so long ago, when reference was made to burn out and stress, there was a tendency to think it was something far fetched. Or something that had other forms in which it manifested. However, more people are coming to terms with this and how it is linked to mental health. From my experience, I realised that a good number of people are indeed stressed, burnt out and in dire need of a break. It manifests little by little, our body tells us, then as the signs accumulate, chronic stress manifests and some people never recover from it. At this time, immunity is weakened, which could easily culminate in chronic or terminal illnesses. It creeps on you slowly then spirals out of control.

In the bid to be great at what we do, we sometimes lose ourselves or forget to pay attention to ourselves. Being overworked or stressed these day seems to come with a badge of honour, which makes me wonder why we glorify stress. 

When it gets to the point where we can no longer go on or on those days when it all seems too much, one would like the world to pause for just one minute. But you realise in horror that the world can be cruel and life just seems to go on. One also wonders if some people who are able to stay disconnected from their feelings have a super power. The quick realisation of being dispensable hits differently. From holding it together for so long, it is easy to fall apart. And fall you might, very hard. Through certain kinds of events, you also get to realise which of the people around you you can really rely on. 

Friday, 22 April 2022

Can we get past this?

I think I have just the right person for you. You are smart and beautiful, I wonder why no one has taken you off the market yet. 

Boma was on Vee's case, they had been friends for a long time and she had been married for 15 years, a feat they were currently celebrating. Vee was beautiful and successful but this part of her life had been on a standstill for as long as Boma could remember. Vee was a loyal friend, as she stood there attending to guests, Boma could not help but be grateful for this friend of hers. The anniversary party turned out to be much more fun than they anticipated.

By the end of the day when they all settled down, the ladies did the usual, analysing different scenarios and laughing at some. It was always fun for them. All of a sudden, with a matter of fact look on Boma's face, I meant what I said earlier today she said to Vee. I do know someone I think you might like. Vee was not opposed to being set up, so asked for all the details. 


Saturday, 16 April 2022

Visiting Senegal? A few things to do

I visited Senegal last month after 10 years! I didn't remember so much about Dakar from the last time I visited, but the thing that struck me most in 2012 was the Gorée Island (île de Gorée) and I knew I had to go back.

Senegal is a small country in West Africa with a population of about 16 or 17 million. Largely on the coast, a good part of the population speaks Wolof, one of the national languages. Wolof and French are widely spoken.

The baobab tree and the lion are national symbols. While talking about boabab trees, someone made reference to how elders sit under baobab trees in rural areas and disputes get resolved under boabab trees. It obviously holds great significance and there are lots of these trees all over the country.

If you followed the Africa cup of Nations recently, you'll know that the team that won was the Lions of Teranga 😊

A baobab tree

Dakar, the capital of the country, has a nice vibe to it, it has a life of its own and there are lots of things to do. The night life is indeed night, as they start late, close to midnight (depending on the kind of fun you are looking for) and go on till morning. There is a wide range of restaurants, bars and hang out spots with live music. There is a beach area lined with exercise equipment already set up. You'll find people exercising there most times, the area is called La Corniche. 

In Dakar, the art scene is grand, from street art to graffiti, museums and the art village. The traffic is equally hectic so the colourful streets can keep you company while you get through. Have a look at  some of the street art I drove past:




Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Travelling in Rural Africa

One of the many adventures of living in a remote place is travelling. Since I've been in this line of work, I have appreciated the ease with which I could travel in normal times. Getting from point A to B now takes a lot of planning and consideration. To get out of Uvira, the town I am currently in, I have to travel for 3 hours to another town called Kamanyola, then cross the border to Rwanda to a town called Kamembe.    

Kamembe is a small town that has a national forest of 1020km2. There are two exit/entry points from the Democratic Republic of Congo into South Kivu : 1) Kamanyola, which is around 46km and around 1hour and 15 minutes from Kamembe airport and 2) Bukavu which is 20km from the Kamembe airport and about a 40 minute drive. Typically, I would spend the night in Kamembe then fly to Kigali the following morning. It is a 40 minute flight, but a 5 hour drive to Kigali where I can fly from. This option is more practical for me than going to the capital (Kinshasa) to access the international airport. It is equally a two day trip.

See my previous post about some of my first impressions of the DRC.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Meeting the Democratic Republic of Congo

I got to the airport early to avoid the rush. As I finally settled at the gate that was displayed on the screen, I got busy, killing time. At some point, it didn't seem right. The people at this gate all seemed too calm and quiet. I had 30 minutes before boarding time and decided to check again. I decided not to rely on the information on the screen and asked an airport staff. I was told that I was indeed at the wrong gate.

I rushed to find the right gate and as I approached, I knew these were the people I was looking for! Congolese people are vibrant, kind of like my fellow Nigerians. There were people speaking loudly, some overly dressed, which the Congolese are known for and of course they were disorderly. People had started lining up to make their way to the plane. The flight was smooth, then when the plane touched down, on cue, people started clapping. I did not understand how I felt, but I was actually shocked that so many people were clapping in sync. 

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

"The Gains of a Fitness Boot Camp"

As the sun sets in Uvira, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of colleagues are twisting and stretching in readiness for an hour of physical activity. There is usually between six to nine staff attending this evening exercise routine that happens three times a week. It may not seem like anything out of the ordinary to take time to exercise; but for the staff of this hardship site, taking a moment to release steam in what we termed as ‘the boot camp’ is helping them cope with working under difficult conditions.


Monday, 24 January 2022

Played

It’s A Match…the familiar pop up from the dating app showed on his screen.

He didn’t care so much anymore. He had had several matches, some seemed cool while others were clearly there to grind and move on. It kept him entertained, which he was enjoying.  A few messages came in, this one seemed to know how to hold a conversation. They both were spontaneous and met same day. She was even more beautiful and charming in person. Her photos did not do her justice.

He’d been chatting with another person, they got on really well, but with the strange times in the world, they were yet to meet each other. Video calls, voice calls and chats were all useful thanks to covid, but it was wild that the whole time, 3 birthdays had passed, and she never remembered his birthday. So, for the third year, he erased hers from his memory. With this in mind, he had decided that were he to match with anyone, he would meet in person as soon as possible, then decide if they wanted to remain in touch or move on.