don’t be the first off the plane! another crazy lagos airport story

About a year ago I shared a story about a crazy experience a friend of a friend had at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria.  Here’s another one!  This morning, at the airport in Brussels, I was chatting with a retired Scottish aid worker.  He told about his friend who got on a flight in Lagos to find it completely full…plus one.  One person was standing in the aisle with no seat.  The flight attendants went through and checked that everyone had a boarding pass, which they did.  (Apparently someone had a forged pass; welcome to Lagos.)  The staff then made an announcement that everyone was going to de-plane and that they were going to check everyone’s boarding pass carefully. 

As soon as the first person stepped off the plane, the staff slammed and locked the airplane door, despite the person’s cries and banging on the door.  Problem solved.

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Whitman: “imprinting my brain for future use”

During the last couple of weeks, as I’ve ridden through busy streets of Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Banjul (the Gambia) as well as some lonely roads, I look hard at my surroundings, seeing so much more than I can photograph and yet that I would like to store.  As Walt Whitman said

Once I pass’d through a populous city imprinting

my brain for future use with its shows,

architecture, customs, traditions

I haven’t yet found a good way to make the imprint stick.

5 statements in Krio

With many thanks to the commenters here and at Blattman’s site, on Friday I interviewed my friend PK in Sierra Leone for 5 statements in Krio (the lingua franca of Sierra Leone). 

Here are the five.  I’m not set on these, but with very little time spent thinking about them, here they are.

  1. You look beautiful today.
  2. I love you.
  3. What planet am I on?
  4. Do you know the way to Disneyland?
  5. What is your favorite movie?

Hear it in Krio!

it’s like the jungle book, but with dead people – and it’s free

Last night on the NPR Books podcast I heard Neil Gaiman talk about his latest book, The Graveyard Book.  A boy’s family gets killed, he is adopted by the residents of a graveyard and learned to live like…dead people. 

In the course of his book tour, Gaiman read the entire book aloud, and it is posted free on his website.

If you don’t know Gaiman, he wrote the book that the movie Stardust was based on.  I personally loved his book Good Omens and would recommend it.

getting to the airport: no small matter

I was on today’s 10:30am Bellview flight from Freetown (Sierra Leone) to Banjul (the Gambia). Bellview is Nigeria’s airline notorious for delays, cancellations, and worse. A significant amount of water lies between Freetown and the airport, and there are several ways to traverse this: helicopter (fast, expensive, dangerous), ferry (slow, cheap, slow, slow), hovercraft (fast, expensive, inherently awesome, prone to break down – but at least no one gets hurt), and speedboat.Someone told me the hovercraft left at 8am, so at 7:30 I took a taxi from my hotel and arrived at the hovercraft site. No hovercraft today! Saturday is maintenance day! The taxi man then took me to the helicopter pad. No helicopter today! (If you have a fancy UN passport, you can fly in the UN helicopter, but I do not.)

Taxi man (Daoud) took me back to the hovercraft, where I argued for a long time with the speedboat captain about price. After waiting a half hour to see if someone else might show up to split the cost, I paid a crazy price and sped across the waters.

The speedboat dropped me on the beach of a hotel. First the beach boys demanded money for walking across their beach (No, I said, Do you own the beach? Show me the title! – I was grumpy at this point). Then the hotel proprietor wanted to be paid for walking through the hotel, and after a fight, I agreed, walked through the hotel, walked up a big hill, took a taxi to the airport, and arrived just one hour before my scheduled flight time. Phew!

I walked up to the attendants. Bellview to Banjul? They laughed. Maybe by 3pm or 4pm. I should have taken the ferry. Twice.

Update: The plane finally took off six hours after the scheduled time.  No one batted an eye.  The napkin my in-flight beverage rested on read “Bellview…the preferred airline.”  Perhaps preferred by people whose alternative is a donkey cart.  That said, the flight felt completely safe, for which I am grateful.  And what a view of West Africa!

give me some of your tots

Sierra Leone is my new favorite country. Some months ago I posted about the used clothing market in Africa and showed this picture taken at Freetown’s ferry port.

Friday, sitting in a car in Freetown (as the driver searched for a lost hubcap), a young man passed with a shirt that said

Give me some of your tots

with a picture of tater tots. For those not in the know, both the picture above and the line above come from the film Napolean Dynamite. Sierra Leoneans have the best taste ever.

I very unfortunately did not have my camera this time.

5 questions in lots of languages: a collection

As I travel around, I collect currency for my dad and sand for my cousin, but besides the names of authors, I haven’t really gotten psyched about collecting anything myself except crazy assault stories.

However, I might start collecting languages.  Specifically, recordings of people speaking different languages.  I think it would be interesting to collect (and post) recordings of the same 5 questions or statements in a host of different African (to start) languages.

The first question is, What would be interesting to hear expressed or said in lots of languages?

Any ideas?