about   |   writing   |   archives

Shifting Beans

Ibadan: shifting beans

The crew slips into the local grain market in Ibadan – a sprawling throng of stallholders and hawkers selling grains, vegetables, heavy-earthy yams, to conduct a series of interviews. They hustle, we hustle back, they hustle some more, we give out best and it appears everyone is happy (at least until they decide to hustle again). Mostly its them feeling out how daft the foreigner is. Our imported team of 5 is supplemented by a very capable local crew of 4 – we go beyond holding our own. It takes a while to feel out a new environment, people’s openness to conversation with strangers, documentation – Ibadan is very different to Lagos, and with the bombing of the UN building in Abuja people are little nervous. Never forget that it’s all fine, until it’s not.

Ibadan was flooded by torrential rains on Friday – newspapers put the dead at between 20 and 100 (precision is, well, variable) including one corpse lying crumpled in a puddle in the middle of the road as we edged into the city – cars working around to the left and right of it. Visited one of the communities badly hit by the floods – the camera mostly stayed sheathed – documentation felt to much like disaster tourism. Took a wet-shave in the local barbers to slow down the conversation, feel out where things are at. There’s a strange mixture of getting on with making the shell of a home livable, and there being not much to get on with – with some homes totally devastated. Desperation and abject normality side by side.

At least the corpses were already taken away, presumably buried.

A couple more days here, then a decompression of sorts in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to unwind before the next double-long-haul. Another month on the road, give or take – a journey that will take in Shanghai, Beijing, Dalian, Johannesburg, New York and Austin, plus whatever last-minute meetings throw up. Early October is national holiday in China – looking forward to a few days rest from work-travel to climb/trek around Mount Gongga.

See you on the other side.