Monday, September 14, 2009

A trip down to the South-South

We (that is to say my family) just got back from a trip to the South-South, specifically Delta State. We went there to attend a traditional wedding ceremony — my dad's.

We left Friday morning, a few minutes past 6am. I was late as usual, trying to complete my previous post, add appropriate music to my MP3 player and phone, and generally get stuff ready to create my kind of atmosphere in a strange land. One consequence of my leaving the house late was that I was left to lock the flat, but someone had taken the key away, so I was basically wasting my time in there. Anyhow, we managed to get to my uncle's less than 10 minutes late, said hello, hi and whatnots to my cousins, and then left for the 'real' convergence point, where some staff from my dad's office were already waiting.

Nobody had had breakfast, and I was just recovered from a bout with malaria, so I was pretty hungry. I then realized I'd left my medication at home. Fortunately, I'd completed my dosage of shots the evening before, and since I was basically on painkillers, I decided it wasn't too much of a problem (of course, I still have a sneaking suspicion that the shots were responsible for some itching attacks I got about my hands and feet). I would have cause to feel some regret about that later. After waiting around for some people to show up, we finally took off from Ojota almost two hours later than we agreed to meet. I promptly fell asleep within 30 minutes of our departure, considering that I'd been up most of the night before, and I've shown very little tolerance for staying awake on long journeys till date.

Anyhow, the journey was pretty uneventful until sometime about 11am, when we got to Ore. Let it suffice to say that quite a number of the rumors I heard turned out to be true, as we spent about 5 hours in senseless traffic there, and might have spent longer had not our driver taken a turn off the main highway and somehow linked to the end of the snarl. At this point, I must: thank God we weren't longer in the traffic & congratulate the Federal Government of Nigeria for keeping to the Zero Point Agenda with such tenacity. The road was in a woeful state of disrepair — it was common for drivers to leave their rightful lane and face oncoming traffic. I can't say I completely blame the leadership of the country, though — attempting to start the necessary repair on that road would probably paralyze traffic. Still, while they vote themselves pay raises and feed fat on the nation, ordinary people have to make do with such sub-human circumstances. Casting blame won't solve the problems facing the country, so I'll get on with my story.

Sometime close to 10pm we wandered into the Ibru Center, Ughelli, Delta State after a long journey. While it's showing age, it's a lovely place, well laid-out. It was built and donated by Alex Ibru to the Anglican Communion. It's usually used for retreats and the like. It's even got a swimming pool. Would have uploaded pics, but the camera I used is actually a camcorder and records better movies than it takes stills (crappy 640x480 stills). The upshot is that we turned in late, really late.

Saturday began at a rather more sane pace. The traditional wedding was to start at midday, so we basically had free time till it was about 11, then proceeded to get stuck again in traffic. We finally got to the venue some minutes to 1, and soon after I began recording the proceedings. Then I had to deal with people walking just any old way and getting in the way of my recording. After some preliminaries, the real action moved into the house while most people started on the food. I was constantly on my feet, pushed around by photographers and cameramen, as well as trying to avoid stepping on people's feet, and soon my patience had gone where dead crabs go (it also didn't help that I'd wanted to take a leak since we got out of the bus). After the customary gift-giving and payment of the bride price, some fake brides were presented :), before the real bride was brought forward. Soon it was over, and then the couple presented themselves to everyone before going to their 'thrones'. Loads of pictures were taken at the point, and after about three-quarters of an hour more, we left. I don't think I have to say what I first went to do ;) I later heard that someone fired a gun into the air. I had seen some guys walking around with arms, but I decided to pay them no mind. These Niger Delta people, dem fit kill person o!

The trip back yesterday was mostly uneventful, except that an idiot mobile policeman threw a block of wood at our driver when he didn't turn as quickly as he wanted to. I wanted to toss the wood outside the bus, but when I saw he wanted to pick it up for another go, I help on to it tight. I guess he was pissed off that he couldn't get something from a younger man, so he punched me in the head. I spent quite some time after that wishing I had super powers, like an ability to stop time or something. Of course, I didn't get any by wishing :P. When we got to Lagos, someone wanted to get off at Alapere bus stop, since we were en route to Ojota via Ogudu. We parked into the bus stop proper, only to be told by waiting LASTMA and mobile policemen (ostensibly overjoyed that some mugus had fallen into their trap) that that spot was a BRT-only parking space and we'd have to shell out 25k. For crying out loud, there's a pedestrian bridge at that spot! Of course law-abiding drivers would want to drop passengers off at the bus stop and not just stop off the highway. Besides, the sign that the space was only for BRT buses was located inside the parking area! You wouldn't be able to read it until it was too late! Anyhow, it was settled in proper Naija fashion — which I'm not proud of.

Well, I'm back and will soon be leaving for Zamfara again, as my leave's just about over.

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