December Nights in Berlin.

I am in the passenger’s seat of the cab.

It is dark. We’re driving along a bridge of sorts. We are headed to the Berlin Tegel Airport.

Oh my God, this is such a fucked up situation. This is so motherfucking fucked up.

I cannot believe I just completely forgot, Jesus. Jesus Christ.

Jesus!

How long till we get to the airport?

I look at the driver.

He’s like Turkish I think. Looks like late twenties.

Not too long, we’ll be there soon.

I’m berating myself in my seat.

Jesus Mayowa, Jesus. How could you fuck up like this- How? Howwww???



I’m just getting back to the dorms at Adalbertstrasse. I think I went out for a skate.

A couple of classmates are on the sidewalk.

I see Jakob.

Fiona is heading inside the building.

Colette is talking to Jakob.

“I think you just need to take time to figure your shit out. You shouldn’t bring her into your confusion…”

I’m somewhat disturbed. I wonder why she’d be saying that to him.

I think it’s very unfair. She’s speaking so harshly to him, and protecting Fiona- her friend- his girlfriend.

I think that’s very prejudiced. Very very. Fiona herself is a problematic person who very well does her part in making his life miserable. But he’s the one getting the scalding words.

I feel bad for him.

When he’s done talking with Colette, I walk up to him and ask if he’d like us to walk back together to Sonnenallee where his apartment is.

He says not tonight, that he’ll prefer to walk back on his own.

I say okay.

A couple weekends ago he messaged me, inviting me to come join him and some buddies at Skatehalle.

Skatehalle is a skatepark.

I think there’s a sizeable halfpipe there. I think that was where they were. At the halfpipe.

I’ve got no experience with halfpipes. I’m comfortable skateboarding on roads, some hills, but skateparks- not really. Every now and then I spend some time at the mini-skatepark at Warschauer Strasse.

Usually I’m supposed to be in class. But no, I’m at Warschauer Strasse. Skateboarding and thinking about my life and racking up academic penalties, while I wonder how exactly you’re supposed to skate on the smooth concrete lump in the middle of skatepark.

I was also somewhat occupied that day. So I couldn’t go hang out at Skatehalle.


I am strolling along the sidewalk with Sadie.

Sadie is the Resident Assistant for my room and a couple others.

We’re talking.

She’s asking me how the semester has been.

I say it’s been problematic.

She asks how so.

I say it’s not clear. That I’m completely immersed in the problems so I don’t have the perspective to properly evaluate them.

She smiles and says “Oh yeah the thing about the fish being in water, and how it would possibly know that it was in water”.

I say yes. Just like that.

We keep talking.

At some point I mention that I don’t feel like there’s room within the school programme to explore my personal passions.

She asks about these passions. Asks if they’re related to Social Change. It appears some people have similar concerns. About not having room to explore passions.

We keep talking.


I am walking up the staircase of the dorm building.

My head is swimming in the miry uncertainty of my very near future:

This semester is over. We’re in late December.

The next semester begins in January.

We’re to move to Argentina. From Berlin. For the new semester.

I’ve never been this uncomfortable about travelling to a new country. I didn’t even know it was possible to dread a flight to a new continent this way.

With respect to academics, this semester has been horrible. Horrendous. Absolutely horrifying. Everything is fucked up. Superlatively fucked up. Nothing makes any sense.

What I need right now, is a break. I need time to sit down on the ground somewhere for a few months and stare blankly into space, while I process all of the things that have recently happened to me.

That Buenos Aires flight is not happening, no. I am not going put myself through another few months of this.

No.

Nah.

Nuh.

Uhn uhn.

Someone calls my name. It’s Sadie. The Resident Assistant.

She says her parents are around. Asks if I would like to join the family for dinner.

I smile and say thanks, but maybe another time.

Dinner is the least of my problems right now.

I keep heading up the stairs.


I am in the sitting room of the apartment I share with two flatmates. They’ve both gone home for the holidays. One to Argentina and the other to Turkey. That’s if they’re spending Christmas in their countries of origin.

Sadie is here with me.

She’s typing on my computer. We’re sending an email to Barbara.

I asked for Sadie’s help with the intricacies of my situation:

My German visa expires this December.

I need to fly somewhere.

I recently applied for a gap year. The request was approved, which was wonderful.

Now I just don’t know where to go.

My US student visa is still valid for another year, but I’m not going to the US. I have no plans to get a job or anything of such. I just need time and space to think about my life. The US doesn’t seem like it’ll be conducive for that. Especially at such short notice.

Nigeria is a no no. The boy who travelled to the USA to study, is supposed to come back with pockets brimming with US dollars.

I have no dollars in my pockets, and I have no answers for all of the questions that await me there. So no.

We’re asking Barbara if there’s some last-minute internship work I could do, to raise some money. Sadie came up with that very valuable idea.

I plan to fly to one of the (few, given my Nigerian passport) countries I can travel to, without needing a visa.

I recently decided on Cape Verde. Information online says it’s visa-free for Nigerian passports, and the flight ticket from Berlin is not too expensive.

Sadie says Opodo is where she books her flights.

We go through Berlin – Cape Verde flights on Opodo. I think the website looks nice. The fonts look chubby and cute somehow.


I am at Barbara’s office.

We’re booking the Cape Verde fight.

I think someone somewhere is lending me the money. A staff at the college HQ in San Francisco. Something like that. We’re using her card. Very generous of her.

The flight is booked. I express my gratitude to Barbara.

I have a little over a week of internship work, to raise some money.


I am in the bathroom of my apartment.

I am lying in the bathtub. The tub is full of warm water.

December in Berlin has been somewhat cold, and very dull. I don’t even see the sun anywhere. I find myself walking sleepily around the city, just looking for it.

All of that increases the appeal of warm bathtub soaks. Plus all of my flatmates are gone. I’ve got the entire place to myself.

The bathroom is saturated with steam.

The walls are reverberating with sad poignant music. I’m probably playing Daughter.

It’s been about a week since we booked the Cape Verde flight.

I’ve been working with Barbara. Moving stuff. Chairs. Sofas. Stuff from the dorm apartments.

Right now things are not so bad. The real uncertainty now lies in the next few days. I’ll be flying to a country I have absolutely no experience with, and know little about. I’m taking the time to mentally prepare myself.

My things are ready to be packed.

What am I going to do for income generation in Cape Verde? I have no idea. Well I have some ideas, but I don’t know. There’s a lot to think about. A lot.

I should pack my things. Get ready to move out of the apartment.

Hold on, when exactly is the flight?

I know we’re in the temporal vicinity, but I’m actually not sure of the precise day and time. Somehow that has felt like a secondary detail in the face of spending an entire year in an unfamiliar country where I know no one.

Knowing the precise time of the flight has so far felt like the smallest of my concerns.

Hold on, I think I should go check. So I can begin to make the final steps of checking out.

I step out of the bathroom.

I walk into my room, warm water dripping on the ribbed wooden floor.

I open up the computer.

Hm, where’s the calendar.

Hm.

Hm, an event is about to begin. Something happens in the next few minutes.

Hm, I don’t recall booking anything for today. The semester is over. I wonder what event I’d still be booking on the calendar.

I take a closer look at the calendar.

YEEEEEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

YEH YEH YEH YEH YEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

I am finished!!!!

HAHHHHHH!!!!

THE FLIGHT IS IN A FEW MINUTES!!!!!!!!

JEEESSSUUUUSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

JEEEESSSUUUSSSS CHRIISTTTTTT!!!!!!

HAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

And I was there soaking in the bathtub!!!!!!!

HAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

YEEEEEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

A FLIGHT WE BOOKED WITH BORROWED MONEYYY!!!


I am at the door of Joy’s apartment.

Joy is a classmate from Nigeria. We’ve been moving furniture together with Barbara.

I am knocking frantically.

Joy opens the door.

From her face she was either sleeping, or she recently woke up.

I begin to explain my situation.

I need a taxi to get me to the airport. I’ve not had a reason to book a cab since I got to Berlin, so I don’t know how to do it.

I looked online briefly before deciding it would be best to talk with someone who already had experience.

Joy says okay, and helps me book a cab. Joy is a lifesaver.


I am in the passenger’s seat of the cab.

It is dark. We’re driving along a bridge of sorts. We are headed to the Berlin Tegel Airport.

Oh my God, this is such a fucked up situation. This is so motherfucking fucked up.

I cannot believe I just completely forgot, Jesus. Jesus Christ.

How long till we get to the airport?

I look at the driver.

He’s like Turkish I think.

Not too long, we’ll soon be there.

I’m berating myself in my seat.

Jesus Mayowa, Jesus. How could you fuck up like this- How? Howwww???


This post is directly connected with a number of others. An index of these other posts can be accessed here.


Image: Somewhere in the dorms.

Gluhwein in Dresden.

We’re having an argument.

Passing blame and getting pissed at each other.

We’ve just missed a bus.

To Dresden.

From Berlin.

The girlfriend has wanted to travel for some time.

Amsterdam is where some classmates have been visiting.

Our Berlin student visas give us access to the Schengen area, and so non-EU citizens (or people who usually wouldn’t have visa-free access) have been really cashing in on the opportunity.

After some deliberation and back and forths, we agreed on Dresden.

A few minutes after the decision I booked a bus.

Flixbus.

I booked a bus that was leaving in a few hours.

I felt it would add to the thrill of the trip.

Having to pack and leave with just a few hours notice.

From her facial expressions, she obviously also thought it was an exciting idea.


It is a number of hours later.

We missed the bus.

We overslept.

As a matter of fact, we didn’t oversleep. The bus was just scheduled to leave at an anomalous hour. Like 3AM or something.

And so we’re having an argument.

This is the sort of argument we’re usually always having.

She wants to do things the usual way. The tested and trusted way. The safe way.

I’m a lot more experimentative. Apparently, even with the seemingly more consequential decisions.

Although these days, I don’t know if I’m experimentative or just irresponsible. I don’t know.

“Experimentative” doesn’t really make sense to her.

I think I’m just irresponsible.

I don’t know.

We keep arguing.

I’m wondering if this wasn’t the same person who was grinning with excitement at the thought of leaving for Dresden at very short notice.

I don’t know.

We keep arguing.


We just got into the bus to Dresden.

We almost missed it.

It was parked in a section of Alexanderplatz that we weren’t expecting.

Some time passes, and we’re out of the city.

We’re headed along the highway, surrounded on both sides by the picturesque rolling grassy fields I’ve come to love about Europe.

I think they’re super interesting.

The girlfriend doesn’t find them amusing. She says they’re the usual thing in Europe.

Southern Nigeria generally has a tropical rainforest climate, and so travelling through the countryside you’re surrounded by dense impermeable forest. Trees and leaves and branches clustered by the roadside like a thick green blanket.

And so here in Europe, being able to see the horizon on both sides of the bus is new to me. Very new. And very interesting.


We’ve just booked a room at a hostel for the night.

We got to Dresden, argued, got food at a Pizza Hut, exchanged laughter and smiles and starry stares and kisses, argued some more, and then got a place to sleep.

At some point while sorting out some arrangements at the hostel reception, I saw a guy bring out a five-hundred euro note from his wallet.

The piece of paper drew my attention like a magnet.

JESUS CHRIST.

FIVE HUNDRED EUROS.

ONE NOTE.

ONE NOTE. FIVE HUNDRED EUROS.

JESUS.

My head began to spin.

I wonder what he does for a living.

I wonder if he’s a very responsible guy.

He looks normal. Normal clothes, normal hairstyle. Normal guy.

Probably works a job at some very formal company and wears a suit and tie and stuff to work.

Hm, he doesn’t look like he’s experimenting with his life.

Ah, maybe the girlfriend is right. Maybe I’m on the wrong track with my life. Ah. Oh God.

Ah.

One note. Five hundred euros. Yeh. My God.


I’m on the rooftop of the hostel where we’re lodged.

I needed something to drink, and a flier I saw somewhere said there was a bar or something, on the roof.

The girlfriend is asleep.

I walk around and ask where I can get a bottle of something to drink.

An older German woman gives me directions.

I buy the drink. It’s a bottle of wine I think.

The German woman says she’s heading to the balcony for a smoke. Asks if I’d like to join her for a bit.

I say okay.


We’re on the balcony. Talking.

She’s talking about Christmas markets. Christmas markets in Germany.

She mentions by the way that she likes my hair. Says the hair was why she helped me with directions to get a drink in the first place.

I think Okay.

Someone likes my hair.

I bleached it yellow at a Hair-Dye house party a friend’s sister invited me for in San Francisco.

After a few months of wearing the yellow, I dyed it red.

The girlfriend hates it. The hair. Thinks it’s irresponsible. Thinks I’m trying to get attention. Thinks I’m trying to feel relevant. There’s nothing she has not said. There is no name she has not called me.

We keep talking. Me and the older German woman.

She says she finds Christmas Markets boring. That it’s the same thing every year.

I find that perspective very shocking. It’s my first time in Europe. First time experiencing the Christmas markets. I’m still mesmerised by the entire thing. I walk about marvelling at the spanners and bolts and nuts that have been ingeniously forged out of chocolate. Staring wide-eyed at the different assortments of candy and snacks and all sorts of food on display. Enjoying the view of the picturesque stalls and exciting activity in the markets.

However I can imagine for someone who has experienced decades of Christmas markets, it might not be particularly exciting. Hm.

We talk some more.

At some point she’s done with her cigarette. We smile and say goodnight. She heads inside, back to the bar place. I head downstairs.


It’s morning. We made a list of places to visit.

We’re walking through the Christmas market.

We see these guys from, Ethiopia I think. They’re siblings. Brother and Sister.

It’s a family business.

I buy some spicy curry rice. It’s been a while since I ate rice.

I never thought that was even a valid English statement.

It’s been a while since you ate rice? What do you mean? No rice? Then what have you been eating?

I think rice is the most commonly eaten food in Nigeria. I think. Rice or bread. If bread counts. And so living in Nigeria, the thought of going months- possibly even over a year without eating rice, feels preposterous. Unrealistic. Like it’s not even a possibility.

But here I am.

I’ve been experimenting in Berlin.

I’ve been liking this Tortellini thing. It’s pasta, but with meat wrapped in it somehow. I’ve really been liking it. The Gnocchi thing is also alright.

The girlfriend says I don’t eat enough meat. Says guys need to eat a lot of meat. To be buff. Says I’m thin. Says I was a lot more buff when we started dating. Says I’m bony. Says I’m —

See, let’s not even go there.

I take my time to enjoy the spicy curry Ethiopian rice thing.


We keep walking around.

Girlfriend gets some crepes. It’s like bread and stuff. Flat. Flat disks of like bread and stuff.

We keep walking around.

She introduces me to Gluhwein.

It’s hot wine.

Like, hot wine.

Initially I think it’s strange, but after a few sips I think it’s pretty nice.

We keep sipping on the hot wine.


We’re walking around the city and talking.

At some point we stopped to enter a church.

Neither of us is religious, but the surreal serene environment of the church still had a perceptible influence on our conversation. The stained glass and pictures of Mary and Jesus and Saints. We did some introspection. Talked some about future uncertainties and anxieties.

We’re still walking around the city.

At some point we come across two classmates. A couple. From Nepal and Bulgaria. Also in Dresden on a trip. The Nepalese guy says there’s a museum not far away. Says we can use their tickets. That the people at the entrance don’t even check the tickets to make sure they haven’t already been used.

Haha.

Cool.

We collect the tickets.

At some point we head for the museum.


We’re on a bus back to Berlin.

The time in Dresden was pretty cool.

We’re travelling at night this time, so I can’t see the interesting grass outside.

The girlfriend is watching movie on her computer.

It’s in Russian. I’m reading the subtitles.

There’s some guy in an apartment sitting in a chair. I think he’s reading a newspaper. There are I think, three girls jumping about the apartment in excitement, marvelling how big and nicely furnished it is, and giggling about how rich the guy must be.

I think he met the girls in the city and then invited them over to his apartment. They began to bounce about in awe, apparently they had never been in such a luxurious living space.

Something like that. That was what was happening.

At some point the girlfriend prods me and asks if I’m going to be like that guy.

Inviting girls from the city to come marvel and jump about in awe at my luxuriously furnished apartment.

Hahahahaha.

I laugh and say something in response.


Image: Somewhere in Berlin.

January 2 2017. Nelson Mandela International Airport, Santiago Island, Cape Verde. [1]

I’ve been chatting with this Swiss guy. We met at the airport in Lisbon, while boarding. He’s a cool guy.

We just landed in Cape Verde. We are at Santiago- the capital. For some strange reason a flight to Santiago (through Lisbon) from Berlin, was more expensive than a flight to Santiago, and then connecting to Sal. The budget was tight, and so the cheaper flight was chosen.

I am at the point of entry into Cape Verde. I am on the queue. Being a Nigerian citizen, I have an ECOWAS passport which grants me visa-free entry into a number of (mostly West African) countries. I learnt about this while embroiled in disorientation and confusion and anxiety, as I researched my post-Berlin plans in late December.

Rolph is on a different queue. I think he is on a visa-on-arrival queue. He is to pay like 50 euros or so.


About fifteen minutes have passed. Rolph has long been let through to the main hall for his connecting flight. He’s heading to a different island- Maio. He’s doing some volunteering on a boat there, something like that.

There seems to be an issue with my documents. The immigration officers have been passing my passport about. I’m not quite sure what is happening. I think it’s a Nigerian-citizen issue. They don’t trust my country of origin. They don’t trust my passport. They don’t trust me.

At the same time though, they’re not quite sure how to interprete the visas on my passport. I have a Germany visa which expired 2 days ago. I have a US visa which is still valid.

He has a valid US visa. He’s coming here fresh from Berlin. Surely he cannot be such a terrible human being?? Surely he cannot be a potential drug dealer?? Surely he cannot be a reprehensible criminal element who will make life even more difficult for our law enforcement?

Oh man, but he’s from Nigeria though. Should we let him in? Should we not?

I watch them deliberate. My passport is passed through the chain of command. It goes in and out of a number of offices. I keep waiting, wondering what’s going to happen.

At some point an immigration officer walks up to me and communicates that they would like to know how much I have in my bank account.

I hope I’m not hearing him correctly. I have just about a hundred dollars in my Bank of America account, and that’s my most fleshy account. I did some internship work in Berlin during the holidays, but I’m not getting paid until two weeks time. But even then, that is just a little over a hundred and fifty euros. I don’t imagine those are the sort of numbers that make immigration happy.

He’s telling me how much needs to be in the account for me to be let in.

“Mil euro”.

Mil what??

Mil freaking what??? Did he just say a million euros???

Wait wait, are Nigerian citizens so terrible that they need to have a million euros in the bank to be let in???

See, we’re going to have to figure something out. I have nowhere to go, you guys. I have absolutely nowhere to go- as a matter of fact, my flight ticket here was covered by the generous assistance of a number of people.

He clarifies. Mil euro is a thousand euros. “Mil” means a thousand in Portuguese.

Ohhhhhh. Ohhhhhh okay. Okay I get it now.

He takes my sigh of relief to mean that I have at least a thousand euros in my account. He begins to walk me to the ATM.


I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen next. I feel heavy as we walk past the point of entry into the main hall.

The ATM is right up ahead.

One thousand euros.

I am in trouble. I am in so much trouble.

All of a sudden I see Rolph, seated in one of the chairs at arrivals.

Heyyyy Rolphhhh!!!! Wassuppppp!!!!

We exchange excited handshakes.

The immigration officer stares at me with surprise. I think he is trying to re-evaluate his assessment of me.

Hm, he has visas from the USA and Germany, and he is friends with a Swiss. I think this guy will have the required amount of money- maybe I shouldn’t have stressed him with this ATM trip.

We are at the ATM. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I have absolutely no plan. At this point there is zero sense in requesting my account balance, but I do it anyway.

The ATM is taking some time to respond. I think there is a network issue. I attempt the operation again.

At some point the immigration officer tells me not to worry.

Don’t worry, don’t worry- let’s head back to the other room- You’re good to go.

I am superlatively relieved. At the back of my mind I am thinking about the somewhat racist thinking that influenced his final decision (I’m a suspicious traveler until it seems to be the case that I’m friends with a white guy- really?), but right now I’ve just been granted entry into this country so I’m not really complaining.

We head back to the point of entry, and my passport gets stamped.


I head back in to keep chatting with Rolph. We talk about skiing and Swiss watches. “Switch watch” is a phrase I have heard an uncountable number of times in my life, but right now- talking with a Swiss about his first-hand experience with watchmaking factories in his country of origin, the phrase takes on a new noteworthiness- a much more personal and less distant significance.

We keep talking. He shows me skiing videos he recorded in the Alps. I am very excited to watch them. I went around in Berlin in December, making inquiries about snowboarding. Visited a number of shops, got information on snowboarding locations. Someone said good things about Oberwiesenthal.

Bucket list: Oberwiesenthal. Snowboarding.

[Part 1]


Image: Bedroom in the Berlin apartment.


This post is directly connected with a number of others. An index of these other posts can be accessed here.

Timeslice.

Er, hello. We’d like to take a look at the inside of this building, is that alright?

Er, no. Visitors are not allowed.

Oh okay. Ugh. And we’d really love to take a look.

I’m sorry. Sorry about that. It’s just that we do not allow visitors, sorry.

It’s fine, it’s fine.

*Turns to go*

I think we have to go. Go check out other buildings.

Er wait, by the way I’m pretty pressed and I’d like to ease myself. Is there a bathroom close by I can make use of?

Oh sure. Just go down this hallway.

*Points*

It’s at the end by the left.

Ah great, thanks!

—————————–

We are in the building. For some reason we’re not allowed entry if we’re here for sightseeing, but it’s perfectly fine if we want to use the bathroom. Haha.

This was what I used to dream my university building would look like. Arches and apses and grey mossy stone and gargoyles. Haha.

Some man is walking by. He walks with the air of an instructor. He is probably a lecturer in this place. I stop kissing you and squeezing your ass and generally behave myself while he passes by.

——————————–

We’re done at the bathroom. There’s graffiti like everywhere.

Oh there’s another door that leads outside from here.

Ah great.

Kaleidoscope. 1.

I am hungry.

I am very hungry.

I have been here for practically the whole day, making use of the WiFi network of the restaurant next door.

I am not under the delusion that the owner of the restaurant is unaware of this. I think he’s somehow alright with it. He seems like a pretty cool guy. From England. We’ve had brief chats during times when I legitimately patronized his restaurant. Now I’m not buying anything, I’m just sitting next door and using his WiFi.

I am hungry. I am very hungry.

Earlier in the afternoon a Cape Verdean woman invited me up to her apartment. She was smiling at me very widely- I wasn’t quite sure why. We got into her apartment and she began to show me around. Introduced me to her daughter. Took me out to the balcony. All the while grinning at me very widely. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening.

There was some cheese and like bread on the table. I began to help myself to that. I was hungry and I had come across some food. I began to consume it voraciously. That was the one thing that made sense throughout my brief visit to that apartment.

.

It is evening.

I am hungry.

I am very hungry.

I drift towards a group of Cape Verdeans having a small birthday celebration across the street.

The birthday cake is magnetizing me from across the road. I can taste it already. I can feel the icing melting in my mouth.

“Hello. Is this a birthday party? Do you mind if I join?”

I say something like that. Probably with a lot of gesticulations because I am new in Cape Verde, and my Portuguese Creole vocabulary is expectedly diminutive.

He walks over to the celebrant and consults her. She looks at me and takes some time to mull it over.

He walks back over.

“She says you can’t. It’s a small celebration. And it’s private.”

“Alright. Thank you. Thank you very much.”

 

No birthday cake for me.

 


 

“Oh wow you’re from France? That is so cool!”

I am in a conversation with an interesting French woman at a house party in San Francisco.

It is Halloween.

A Spanish classmate found out about the house party. Somehow. I have no idea how. I have no idea how that guy finds out about the very cool events and places he has taken me to. He is such a cool guy. And he’s very tall. Taller than me. There’s an interesting feeling I get when hanging out with people taller than me. I feel like a child. And I feel even more playful that I normally would feel when I am in a good mood. It’s usually a very exciting and freeing feeling.

We’re dressed as Pulp Fiction. My Spanish classmate and I. He is the white guy, and I’m Samuel L. Jackson. I have no idea who the white guy is. I haven’t even really watched Pulp Fiction. My best friend strongly recommended the movie back in university in Nigeria. I tried watching it, but I kept losing concentration, I’m not sure why.

At the parade at the Castro I told someone I was the black guy in Men In Black. Then I remembered it was supposed to be Pulp Fiction.

What the hell – Pulp Fiction, Men in Black, there’s a white guy and there’s a black guy- they’re both in suits and they look cool. That’s who we are.

This house party was supposed to be 21+ but somehow we got in, courtesy of cool Spanish classmate.

This is so exciting.

I go get some glowsticks.

 


 

I am hungry.

I am very hungry.

There is a group of Cape Verdeans having a small celebration by the side of the road. I think it is a birthday party, but I am not sure.

I walk towards them.

I approach the member of the group closest to me, and what comes out of my mouth is:

“Hello, I am a student from the USA, and I’m currently in Cape Verde on a gap year, do you mind if I join you?”

He doesn’t even wait for me to finish. He grabs me in a warm and energetic embrace.

“You student from USA? Estados Unidos?”

His face is brimming with excitement.

He pulls me over to the other members of the group.

“Escola li! Escola li! Escola Estados Unidos!” Something like that.

Everyone seems happy to have me around.

I don’t mind. I exchange pleasantries with the celebrant, and begin to indulge in the barbecued chicken and red wine.

We have a nice time.

The guy who pulled me over gives me some valuable insights on Cape Verdean life philosophy and organic living.

“Terra Terra!!”

He pronounces the “rr” like a harsh “h”, almost close to a “k”.

“That is from the ground, from the earth!! We live from the earth!!”

“Hmmmm!!! Terra Terra!! From the earth!! Alright! I’m getting you, I’m getting you!!”

I am nodding and smiling excitedly, my mouth active with the mastication of fresh barbecued chicken.

At some point I sneak one unbarbecued chicken thigh into my pocket.

I could go cook this at the studio apartment where I stay. I don’t think my hosts will mind.

I guess these are “Student from the US” privileges.

 


 

It is my birthday today.

Today I am twenty years old.

I decided to try ice skating this evening. Union square has an ice skating rink, and I thought- Why not? Why not give ice skating a shot?

It has been fun so far. I have fallen a number of times, as expected, but it has been fun regardless.

I saw a woman fall earlier. She had been skating pretty vigorously. I was in immense admiration of her skills. She fell suddenly.  Hit her hip on the ice. It seemed like a pretty bad fall. She got up after like a minute and kept on skating with her partner. I hope she’s alright. I hope she’s alright.

I am getting ideas involving attaching ice skating blades to the underside of a skateboard. I wonder what that’ll be like though. I wonder how it’ll work.

I keep moving forward on the ice. I won’t quite call what I’m doing, skating.

We were at a comedy show earlier. There was me, two Brazilian classmates (who found out about the event), and one Nigerian classmate. And then everyone else at the show. The Brazilians turned twenty one like a few weeks earlier. I am so envious. Now they can legit go for 21+ events. While I’m stuck with 18+. Ugh. The very interesting events are always 21+.

At some point the performers at the comedy show began to pay a considerable amount of attention to me. Use me as a subject of their jokes. In a good way.

It was strange. It was very strange, because they portrayed me as a handsome guy who had absolutely no life problems because of his physical attractiveness.

First, I am still trying to get used to people describing me as handsome. Or physically attractive in any regard. All my life I have never really thought of myself as a handsome or attractive person. I have always perceived myself to be about average in terms of attractiveness. But it seems like things have changed a lot in the past year. Things have to have changed. All of a sudden I’m getting all of this physical attention that was not there before.

Even to the point of being pointed at by a performer who was like “I go out for parties and it’s a herculean task to get women to talk to me but this guy *points at me* has absolutely no such problems”.

I was wondering who he was pointing to.

Another performer did something similar. This one was female. At the end, one of the Brazilians described my experience at the show as “He almost almost got laid by a performer”.

I don’t know what he was talking about.

I don’t know what to do with it though. This whole physical attractiveness thing that people seem to be perceiving. What do you use it for? What is it useful for? I don’t know. I really do not know.

I’ll have to think about it. I’ll really have to think about it.

 


 

“Onde kuta morra?”

“What?”

“Onde kuta morra?”

“What?”

“Onde kuta morra?”

Okay this isn’t going anywhere.

I am in a settlement behind Espargos, on the island of Sal in the Cape Verdean archipelago.

I am trying to understand what the hell this guy is asking of me.

Google Translate is not quite helping, I’m not sure why.

“Onde kuta morra?”

“What?”

“Morra! Morra! Onde Kuta Morra?”

He is making hand gestures now.

I don’t think my confusion has reduced.

Morra? The fuck does Morra mean?

 


 

Image:

From a night at Shiro – a Pan-Asian Restaurant at Victoria Island in Nigeria. View of the gallery.

January 1 2017. Aeroporto de Lisboa.

January 1 2017. Aeroporto de Lisboa.

I’ve probably been in Portugal for less than an hour, but people seem significantly shorter here than they did in Germany. I don’t know how representative the current airport demography is of Portugal’s general population, but that’s just my observation.

I look around, watching the different streams of people moving about. I am submerged in a trepidifying internal pool of wrenching heartbreak, and am being unnervingly chafed by the scathing anxiety for the future that intermittently eats at the raw insides of my chest.

I booked a one way ticket to Cape Verde from Berlin. I have about a hundred dollars in my bank account. I have no idea what will happen once I get there, but I know I have no choice but to go.

The certainty is not in the specific location of Cape Verde- I was actively considering Madagascar for my flight destination about a week ago. The certainty is in the decision to spend some time in a new environment, uncumbered by the commitments of an academic programme and let my thoughts which for the past few months have been discomfitingly repressed and constrained, be freely expressed.

So far no one has stopped me from skateboarding around this airport. Those German airport security guys were less tolerant.

I have about four euros in my pocket. I had a twenty dollar note somewhere in my bag upon leaving Berlin, but for some reason it is now nowhere to be found. I first realised it was missing in the taxi to the airport, on my way to catch the first Cape Verde flight I booked – one which I eventually missed. Regardless, I am subconsciously optimistic the twenty dollar note will reveal itself when I eventually arrive at Cape Verde, and am able to pour out all of the contents of my backpack.

For some reason I overestimated how much time I had before the day of the flight. I had just emerged from like an hour long warm immersion in the bathtub of the Berlin apartment. I opened up my computer, still dripping from the bath, only to realise I had a Cape Verde flight in about thirty minutes. The panic was intense. I eventually got to the airport about fifteen to twenty minutes late. The nice lady at the reception kept telling me in the most placative of terms that there was nothing that could be done about it. No flight, no refund, nothing.

It was one of the very highly discounted flights so I think the refund policies were a lot less well-defined. Something like that.

I scribble some lines of what could be called poetry on a piece of paper.

Somehow I find myself in a conversation with a guy. He is on his way back to his country of origin after an extended period of time as a missionary on an island in Cape Verde. I think it was Mozambique. A few years later I would check him up on Facebook to realize that he now had a baby boy – a subtle (or maybe not so subtle) alert that I had now entered the age group of people who were beginning to have children.

We are walking through a luxury items store at the airport, browsing through the interesting looking female bags and high-heel shoes that line the posh hangers which seem to go all the way to the ceiling. A few weeks ago I would probably have been having thoughts in the direction of buying something here for someone who occupied a special position in my life- in my heart, but not now. Not anymore. The thought hurts. My heart hurts. I need to think about something else.

I am in a conversation with a woman advertising some luxury personal effects. She is telling me about the Brazilian fashion designer that came up with the ideas for the items. I am listening to her voice and following her explanations, entranced by her red lipstick.

You just keep talking please. Just keep talking, you interesting Portuguese woman. Keep telling me about this evidently very remarkable Brazilian fashion designer that came up with the ideas for all of this cool stuff. Please keep talking so I can be calmed by the sound of your voice and the sight of your red lipstick and not feel too immensely perturbed by all of the uncertainty in my immediate future. Oh you want to give me your card? Please give me. Oh yes thank you very much. You keep going.  You just keep going.

At the Lisbon airport checkpoint I saw the line for the travellers who were headed to Madagascar. There was a guy with very long dreadlocks being attended to by the immigration officer. I wondered what it would feel like to be on that line. Headed to Madagascar. I just wondered.

—–

It is gradually getting dark. My Mozambican companion left to catch his flight a number of hours ago. I think I’ve been to every publicly accessible part of this airport. I spent most of my four euros on a cup of coffee and a croissant earlier in the day. I’m lying down on a small sofa at what seems to be the children’s playground section of the airport. The colour theme is lemon and purple, thereabouts. There is no one around to give me any judging stares.

I keep waiting for the flight to Cape Verde.


This post is directly connected with a number of others. An index of these other posts can be accessed here.

Cape Verde: A Story of a Transgender Prostitute. [Part 1]

“Some of them really want you to fuck them. They really like it.”

He is talking about sex.

Anal sex.

Homosexual anal sex.

Homosexual anal sex with a transgender woman as the penetrator.

I stare across the restaurant at a group of men seated a few tables away. They are all white except one. The last one is Cape Verdean- a badiu1. He seems to be hanging around them so he can get money somehow. Either by being their ad hoc tour guide, or via some other means.

Apparently all every black person in this room is thinking about is how to get money from white people. Either by being their bartender, or by being their tour guide, or by sticking a penis into their rectum.

I have run out of annoyance at this obsequiousness.

————————————————————

A few hours earlier.

I am in a bus at Espargos2. It is a medium sized bus, not the much more capacious single-decker buses that seem to be the only ones in use in the U.S. or the parts of Europe I have been to. In spite of that, the seating is still comfortable. Unlike Nigeria, the capacity regulations of public transport buses are actually adhered to in Cape Verde.

Much later I would wonder why Sal (the island I am currently on) has none of these larger buses in their transport system. Santiago, a neighbouring island, does. Does it have to do with the difference in size of these islands? Population? Complexity of the road network? I would not have figured this out by the time I decide to write this story.

It is a sunny day. It is always a sunny day on the island of Sal. I think this is the day when a colleague of the bus driver takes a piece of local candy out of my hands without asking, and throws it into his mouth before I can say anything. I don’t know the Cape Verdean name for the candy. It is brown and somewhat flat- bumpy on the surface with a smooth underside. I really enjoy the nameless brown Cape Verdean candy.

I don’t really mind about the candy- It isn’t my last piece. If it was, I would definitely get into some sort of argument with the covetous man. Although I am pretty sure he wouldn’t even do that if it was my last piece. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t.

The bus is on the way to Santa Maria- an interesting urban hub at the southern end of the island. As I look around the bus, someone catches my attention.

The first thing that catches my eye is his lipstick.

He has black lipstick on. At the time of my writing this story I will try to remember his hairstyle without success. I am sure however, that it is interesting. In my perspective Cape Verdeans have very interesting hair. The Cape Verdean population is majorly a product of centuries of genetic intermingling between Africans and Europeans. Consequently, they have a combination of physical features that I find very interesting because they defy the learned mental templates I usually employ whenever I unconsciously attempt to understand, and possibly appreciate a black person’s face.

I suddenly find myself changing seats to be beside him. Questions begin to position themselves at the forefront of my mind.

“What is your story?”

“How do you identify yourself?”

“What is your perspective on the state of transgender rights activism here in Cape Verde? In places like San Francisco, there is a pretty formidable Pride movement, how would you describe the enthusiasm of the people here towards advancing awareness about the transgender phenomenon?”

Before I know it, we have begun to converse.

—————————————————-

Is this your new wife?

I laugh out loud. The question comes from a friend of one of my Senegalese neighbours. He is somewhat tall with hunched shoulders. His teeth are sparse and very brown. I do not know much about him, save that he has a very resonant voice and that he is always talking excitedly about New York in the Wolof3 language.

“Hahaha no, he is not. No he is not.” I reply.

I am referring to the trans-woman walking alongside me on the street. We haven’t yet discussed what pronoun he would most prefer being referred to by. He does not seem to mind being referred to as a “he” though.

A question pops up in my mind about something we discussed in the bus.

[End of Part 1]


This post is one in a Series. A list of all of the posts in this Series can be accessed here.


1. badiu – A name to denote the dark-skinned fraction of the Cape Verdean population.

2. Espargos – A city located around the centre of the island of Sal in Cape Verde.

3. Wolof – The lingua franca of the Senegalese people.

Image Credits: (Image has no actual association with the story save the striking lipstick) https://www.yslbeautyus.com/makeup/lips/lipsticks/rouge-pur-couture-the-slim-matte-lipstick/30YSL.html

Cape Verde: A Night In Police Custody. 01.

Part 1.

The Arrest:

My face is pushed against the side of the van. There are about four Cape Verdean policemen holding me still, muttering excitedly to one another in Creole, while one of them briskly handcuffs my wrists behind my back.

Unintelligible Creole words bounce about in the chilly midnight air around me. A multiplicity of strong hands grip me in different places, rendering me helplessly immobile. I feel the cold unfriendly metal of their handcuffs bite into my wrists. In all of this disorienting confusion, I am most taken aback by the hostility palpable beneath the actions of my assailants. Their voices are derisive- I can perceive that even though I understand nothing of what they are saying. Their hands are oppressive- thoroughly communicating the overbearing will of their owners, without even a smidge of regard for my comprehensively violated sense of self respect.

“I am an escola at Estados Unidos!” I cry out.

I honestly do not know if I am speaking English, Portuguese or Cape Verdean Creole. I am simply stringing together some of the few words I learnt from Clayton, the manager of the small hotel I lodged in a few days ago.

In the few days I have spent in this country, I have become aware of the level of regard  Cape Verdean natives have for visitors from the west. Telling people I go to school in the USA makes them afford me a different level of respect. I do not like it. In fact I hate it. I find it very irritating to think that I have to affiliate myself with “the white man” to be respected by black people. Irritating as it is though, it is ridiculously effective at making the people here treat me like a celebrity. So sometimes I do it.

Like now.

“I am an escola at Estados Unidos!” I cry out again.

I wait for some sort of reaction.

I wait.

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing. The excited Creole words still bounce about. The roughandling still continues. I am still haplessly pinned to the side of their police van.

One of the policemen makes the handcuffs even tighter between my wrists. My hands feel contorted- like they have been forced to assume a position they were not designed for.

I stand there. Unmoving. Flabbergasted. Utterly clueless as to why all of this is happening to me.

————————————————————————-

In the Van:

I peer at the outside world through the small opening at the back of the van. My hands are handcuffed behind my back, and so it is difficult to keep my balance. It is also difficult to prevent my face from hitting the back of the van as I peer outside. I think the driver is swerving unnecessarily from side to side to make the ride very uncomfortable for me.

The bright orange halogen street lights recede from me as the van moves forward. Street lights have never looked so beautiful. So desirable. Right now they represent freedom. Liberty. Something which is currently, painfully beyond my reach.

I am not sure why, but I feel like the policemen are enjoying themselves. In a tyrannical sort of way.

Swerving to make my ride more uncomfortable?

Really?

Or maybe they aren’t swerving at all. Maybe the captivity of the small dark van is amplifying whatever small movements the vehicle makes. Maybe this confinement is messing with my senses.

————————————————————————————-

In the Cell:

Was I correctly implementing the matrix multiplication?

During back propagation I think I was supposed to transpose the gradient matrix before multiplying with the neural network weights to update them. Did I do that?

Did I make the right choice for the learning rate?

You know what, I’m not sure. Maybe that was why my code was not working as it was supposed to. Maybe.

The room is dark and still and quiet. The only light here is faint and distant- a tired beam that peeps through the remarkably tiny window situated high on the wall above my head.

I am lying on a hard concrete bench. I think the bench was cold at first, but it gradually warmed up to contact from my body. Time seems to make this alien room a little more tolerable. Even the hardness of the bench seems to gradually become less offending to my back.

I occupy myself with thoughts of computer programming. I was programming on my computer when I got arrested at the beach. I was trying to build a neural network module from scratch. I was working to acquire a deep understanding of how they work- neural networks.

Things have taken a different turn now, but I think I have regained enough of my composure to continue what I was working on. My computer and other accessories have been seized by the police, but I still have my mind. Some of it at least. So I keep thinking about programming.

Why was I having that annoying issue with the three dimensional visualisation? Is my Matplotlib up to date?

———————————————————————————-

It is morning.

I am in the police van again. They say I should take them to where I stay.

So I take them.

We alight from the van. I lead the way to my room in the hotel where I am lodged. The policemen begin to push me for no reason. They seem to just derive pleasure from making me uncomfortable.

I do not like it. I stop walking, and begin to protest. One of them strikes me across the back with his baton.

I do not flinch. I got hit by thick sticks and leather belts and many other unfriendly objects while in boarding school in Nigeria.

Your stick isn’t really a big deal Mister policeman.

————————————————————————————

We’re back at the station. The policemen turned my hotel room completely upside-down. I have no idea what they were looking for. They got a good look at my international passport with the different visas that were on it, my school identity card, and some of my other means of identification.

One of them looked at me and said, “So you’re a smart guy right?”.

I had no idea what he was talking about. I began to wonder what exactly gave him the false impression that I was an intelligent individual. Like dude, look at the situation I am in right now. Look at my life. I do not feel very smart. I do not feel smart at all.

I am led into an office. Seated across me is the man who seems to be in charge of this place. I sit down and we talk.

After he asks me some questions, my mugshot is taken. This is the first time I have had a mugshot taken of me. It’s not as glamorous as I expected. Apparently, here they don’t have the interesting black and white Hollywood-movie background that shows how tall you are. What a shame. I would have liked that. I’m pretty tall. It would have looked really cool.

I am made to fill a police report.

The police boss gives some instructions in Creole to his men, and a number of them march me outside the station and into another van.

I am no longer in handcuffs, but the men are still ordering me around and treating me very roughly.

I wonder where they are taking me now.

I wonder.

End of Part 1.

Image Credits: https://www.cnc3.co.tt/press-release/3-men-escape-police-custody


This post is one in a Series. The other pieces in the Series can be accessed here.

A Saturday Morning, Some Alcohol and a Secret.

It was a Saturday.

I think.

I think it was a Saturday.

Or you know what? I’m not sure. There was very little difference between the various days of the week to me. I had structured my life in a way that made my schedule entirely under my control, and so the days of the week had no special significance other than that which I assigned to them.

Mondays were no different from Sundays because there was no early morning rush to get dressed and head to work. My working hours were very flexible, and completely determined by me. Every day of the week was the same- entirely open to my interpretation, and entirely subject to my intent.

Well, banks didn’t open on Sundays. This was one way external routines still exerted some sort of influence on my life: There could be no banking on Sundays. But the banks were open on Saturdays. Banks are open on Saturdays in Cape Verde.

I got up that morning with a pliable schedule: What did I intend to do?

I probably walked about in my studio apartment for a while, doing some things which I now do not remember. I then opened the door, basking in the exhilarating view of Praia Antonio D’Souza- the excellent beach on the South side of the island of Sal. I loved that beachfront apartment. I really loved it.

I do not remember how I got upstairs. I probably bumped into one of my Cape Verdean neighbours in the hotel, had a short chat (as much as I was able to chat in Cape Verdean Creole- a language which I was only mildly fluent in) and then followed him upstairs to spend some time with his friends.

—————————————————

They were passing around a cup. Inside it was some sort of beverage. It had evidently been mixed with alcohol- I could smell it. I did not object. I accepted the communal cup and gently sipped some of their questionable beverage.

We were all enjoying our conversation- the alcohol was doing its job I think. Inside my head I was marvelling at my position: living in a foreign country, spending time with interesting locals and engaging in conversation, partly in a completely new language. I was living the life.

Every once in a while though, my mind would steer my attention to my MacBook Pro in my apartment downstairs. That computer was my most prized possession- I spent thousands of dollars purchasing it in San Francisco, USA. And these Cape Verdean boys, interesting and exotic as they were, were very light fingered. A number of things had spontaneously gone missing from my place in the preceding few weeks: My binoculars, my mini-drone, my bluetooth speakers, and God knows what else had gone missing that I had not yet noticed.

These boys were thieves.

And so in reaction to that, I resorted to hiding my MacBook Pro in the ceiling of my room whenever I was going out. The door to the room had a non-functional lock, and Simon- my Senegalese neighbour cum de facto caretaker, had not fixed it despite my having provided him with the money.

And so while I was chatting with the guys in Creole and sipping their dubious drink, my inner man was very anxious about the safety of my computer.

Shit what if one of them finds out where I keep it?

Nah they can’t. My hiding place is pretty covert.

Wait but what if they do?

Calm down Mayowa, calm down your MacBook is safe. 

Shit but what if they do though? I mean, look at that guy, the one with the purple beanie- look at how widely he’s grinning. He knows. He definitely knows. Oh he so knows. Fuck I am in so much trouble, fuck.

My MacBook Pro is gone, my MacBook Pro is fucking gone. Fuck.

A odj means to see.” One of my Cape Verdean neighbours said to me.

“Ahh. A odj. To see. Ohh.” I nodded my head excitedly, adding the new term to my Creole lexicon.

“Ah wait, so that hotel- the really nice one by the beach- Odjo d’Agua, Odjo means to see right? And Agua means water right?”

“Yes yes!” Replied Nilton. “Odjo d’Agua means sea view! Sea view!”

“Ahhhh. Sea view! Odjo d’Agua! Ahhh!” The previously cryptic name of the hotel suddenly realized some sort of meaning in my head. Before that moment, all it was was the nebulous indecipherable alien name of some fancy hotel.

I was enjoying myself.

“Odjo d’Agua. Sea view. Ahhhh.” I nodded slowly to myself.

Two of the guys in the room were engaging in a transaction. I think one of them was buying marijuana from the other. Marijuana was definitely something that united young people from all over the world. From all walks of life. If there was a global political party having Marijuana as being core to its ideology it would definitely have all of the world’s young people solidly behind it. Definitely.

It was time for the Marijuana-buyer to pay his vendor. He walked to a corner of the room and stood on a small table that was positioned there. He tiptoed and stretched his right hand into the ceiling…

My brain froze.

He was reaching into the ceiling to get his money. Where he kept his money was exactly the same position I had hidden my MacBook Pro in my own room.

Shit.

Shit shit shit shit shit Mayowa.

Your hiding place is no fucking secret.

Everybody knows it.

Everybody fucking knows it.

Fuck.

Your MacBook Pro is gone.

Your MacBook Pro is fucking gone.

Fuck.

 

 

PS: I actually do not swear this much. I only indulged in profanities to this extent because I was in a pretty precarious situation. And all of the swearing was in my head anyway, not out loud.

For those bothered about the swearing, that is.