6:50am: I’m seated at the Gate 24 waiting lounge at JKIA. The amber colour of the sun is rising above the airport roof adjacent to where I am. A woman with a West African accent seems raved up about something. It’s got to do with her boarding pass? I can’t quite get what that is all about. She’s boarding a flight to… I don’t know where. Oh, Bangui. That’s where she’s going. Her hair is covered in a red head scarf. Her African print dress runs to her ankles. She’s making her point, complaining about her hand-baggage allowance. I can hear that part. Ah, she wins.
The attendant at the KQ desk is smiling. Our protagonist is smiling, wearing the kind of joy a bomb diffusion expert puts on when they have averted the possibility of an explosion. I’m smiling too because there’s nothing else a normal human being can do when smiles are being passed around.
“A smile for you, a smile for you and a smile for everyone,” I say this in my head in Oprah’s voice.
Our protagonist walks out of Gate 24. She enters the waiting airport-track van covered in an ad. “Live The Magic,” reads the words running across the van. A picture of a man sky-diving with a woman on his back draws me in. It’s a Magical Kenya ad. A bird with white feathers and strip of black on its head walks on the roof of the van. It’s chirping as it does its morning walk. It isn’t fazed by the big birds that perch on the ground and fly at over 30,000 feet above sea level.
The back of Madam Protagonist’s dress tapers away and disappears into the van. They drive off. And in under five minutes, they return full circle, back to Gate 24.
“We apologize for the inconvenience,” a KQ staff announces. “There’s a technical problem and we’ll give you an update in 30 minutes.”
The flight to Bangui has delayed. There are men speaking in French, visibly expressing their frustrations. I can read from the tone and mood that they aren’t amused. They are right. My flight to Entebbe has also been delayed.
“Why should we wait for thirty minutes for an update,” shot one.
“Just get us an alternative plane,” said another.
Our protagonists simply strolls across the lounge. She doesn’t say a thing. Maybe she says it in her head.
I had two adrenaline filled days in Nairobi, spent both days at the KCB Leadership Center running a do or die race. It was intense, requiring the highest form of intelligence and readiness. There was no room for complacency. Not for me. There was zero room for half-heartedness. Disinterest in any activity would be a negative to your name. Pretence would not take you through. Fear would knock you off your socks and throw you off balance. Self-doubt would kill you.
I had to be at my best. My mental state had to be right. I was in this to win it.
I would wake up and do 20 push-ups, then do a stationary jog. Does that make sense? A stationary jog? I’d look in the mirror and positively affirm myself. It worked. What I did in Nairobi over the last two days is something that could completely transform my life. And the lives of all the other people I met including the two Nana’s from Ghana.
Nana the first was a happy go lucky girl. She’d walk out of all her sessions with a beam on her face. She spoke with gusto, a paint of strong will dripping all over her. She had the kind of passion that probably only comes from Ghanaian jollof. She became the class monitress, checking the list to make sure none of us who were scheduled to leave for the airport at 5:00am stayed in their bed.
We got into the two cars that were waiting for us. She read out our names.
Anthonia looked at her and smiled.
He was at the back.
Deborah had delayed. She was still coming down from her room and checking out.
Nana the first was very personable and fun to be around.
Nana the second was meek and reserved. He spoke little and would drift into a world of his own thoughts during meal times. He’s the type of guy who can meditate in a club that’s playing loud music. He probably goes for yoga, lights scented candles, plays soothing music, sits on a mat, folds his legs, shuts his eyes and does what people who do yoga do. I should’ve asked him about this.
I loved Nana the second’s sense of style. He’d wear Ghanaian fabric and it fitted his body shape so well. Imagine a guy in a grey fitting suit, with shining shoes to match it, happy socks covering his feet, a clean groomed face and head and the majestic confidence of an elephant in the park. That was Nana the second. His personality carried weight in the intonation of his voice.
And I liked it that Nana is a unisex name.
Remember the Deborah I mentioned somewhere up there? Yeah? The one who was late to the airport taxi? Hehehe. She’s from Nigeria. She taught me some Pidgin. She wrote me a mini-pidgin dictionary on a napkin. Ah, you should see it. I carry it like a treasure from the days of Aladdin. I took pictures of it.
Pidgin lifts my soul. It makes me glow. When I’m bored, I usually open the BBC Pidgin website and laugh my head off. I like the way the words are pronounced, the way it flows, the energy in the language. It is beautiful. And it’s easy to strike a conversation with any Nigerian.
When you see one. Walk over to them and say, “How far?” And smile.
That is the best Pidgin conversation starter. With “How far?” you’ll have a brother, sister or potential date in a snap. When you use that line, you’ll touch the other person’s heart. It shows you at the same level with them. I says, “I see you. I understand you. We are one.”
It’s informal yet works like a bolt of lightning when you need an ice-breaker.
And how do you respond?
Simple. “I dey.”
Imagine there’s commotion somewhere. And the curious you wants to know what’s going on. You see your old Nigerian friend. Walk to them and get the conversation going.
“Bro, how far?”
“I dey, bro. I dey.”
“Wetin dey happen?”
“I no no. But I dey hear one say I go land you slap.”
“Nawa oh! Na so?”
“Listen well well. I no lie.”
And when you have no other Pidgin words to say, just tell them, “My friend, make we go shayo.”
That’ll will get you a spot in the book of best friends.
So now, why don’t you go practice this new language you’ve learnt?
Bye-bye we go dey see.