Sunday, October 16, 2016

Meeting Ghanaian actor Majid Michel

I was working on an Asky Airlines flight the other day and guess who I met, Ghanaian actor, Majid! Aka Shaker.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Scenic views of Madagascar

The photos above are some scenic beach shots of Madagascar, the very beautiful archipelago nation situated off the southeast coast of Africa deep in the light blue Indian Ocean. It is certainly a hot spot tourist holiday destination for many visitors from around the world. The weather is warm and sunny all year round and their standard of living is not high. Though it is an affordable country, getting the best outdoor experience can be expensive! The roads are generally not in good shape, so transportation to some of the best tourist spots can be difficult. Antananarivo is the capital and largest city. The local currency is the Malagasy Ariary (MGA). (One US dollar is currently worth 2232 MGAs). Also, you don’t need to strain in order to obtain a visa from their embassy in your country before travelling there. All you need is just your onward and return flight ticket to Madagascar.

You can obtain a visa on arrival at the airport for a maximum stay of ninety days. The visa fee for a maximum visit of 30 days is 80.000 MGAs which is approximately 25 dollars. For a 60 day sojourn, you’ll pay 100.000 MGAs which is 32 dollars. To complete the whole 90 day tourist visa status allocated by immigration, your visa will cost you 140.000 MGAs (45 dollars). Vaccination against Yellow fever is required if arriving within six days after leaving or transiting countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. Malaria prophylaxis is highly recommended because of a malaria risk there, with the highest threat being in the coastal regions. Want to try a christmas holiday trip to experience lemurs, baobabs, rainforest, desert, trekking and diving? Then you know better.       

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Promotional fares on Ethiopian Airlines

Fly to all Ethiopian Airlines' destinations around the world, on the modern long haul widebody aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and enjoy the amazing promotional fares, mileage and baggage allowances until December 31st 2016. These include 64 kilograms for Economy class, that is, two checked-in bags of 32 kilograms each instead of 23 kilograms each and 96 kilograms for Business class, that is, three checked-in bags of 32 kilograms each instead of two checked-in bags of 32 kilograms each.

Also, travel from Douala and Yaounde to any ET destinations from November 1st to December 31st 2016 and enjoy bonus miles which are, 2500 miles per sector for all business class travels and 2000 miles per sector for all economy class travels.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On winning Ethiopian Airlines' blogging award and choosing an African nation as a holiday destination

You receive a message from Monique Yemeli of Fabafriq magazine that you write for, that you have won the Ethiopian Airlines Award for most consistent blogger. You are happy after waiting for so long for the announcement. Your Fabafriq boss Adeline Sede had told you all during the 70th “birthday” hangout with ET that the prize is actually a two way ticket to any African country. So you head to the ET office in Bonanjo, the next Monday afternoon to meet the Area manager of ET Cameroon, Mr. Tesfaye Girma to talk about it. His assistant ushers you into boss’s ornate office. You greet him. Mr. Tesfaye looks up from his desk, peers at you through his reading glasses and responds to your greeting calmly.

He asks you what you want. You tell him you heard from Adeline Sede, that you won the ET best blogger award. He smiles and congratulates you. You say thank you. He asks you where you want to go. You halt and almost scratch your head. “Anywhere?” You ask, wondering. “Yes, just tell me where you want to go and we’ll issue your ticket.” You think about the 54 countries in Africa in an instant and you can’t decide. But you’ve always loved the Indian Ocean African island nations with their exquisite beaches and colourful waters, so you just instinctively say, “Seychelles?”

Mr. Tesfaye smiles again and asks, “You want to go to Seychelles?” “Yes”. He nods. “Seychelles is really nice and its visa free, so no problems trying to obtain a visa.” “Okay”. “But it’s a little expensive. So maybe you need to carry along your own food which you’ll eat. The food is quite different from the food here too.” Oops, when the country manager of ET, who is surely loaded, starts warning you that a country is expensive, maybe you need to think otherwise. “Do you have a family?” he asks. You think it’s a tricky question because he wants to know if you’ll travel with a “loved one(s)”.

Sure, you have a family that nurtured you. But you reason that, the word “family” means a wife and children along those aviation lines. You remember that ET had said, “the best blogger will win a ticket to an African country” and not “the best blogger and his family will win a…” You think of a witty answer to his question. “I’m not married but I have a girlfriend. No kids.” He tells you it’s best to travel the world when you’ve not had a family yet. And it’s not very cool when there is a wife and kids, and you take off, so now is the time to travel!

He asks if you have a passport. You tell him you have one and you even brought it. He laughs as if to say “this guy is serious about his travelling oh”. He photocopies your passport's biometric page and hands it back to you. You tell him you need to take a holiday and plan the trip. He tells you to take your time and choose a nation and travel dates. When you’re ready, they’ll issue your ticket. You tell him thanks and leave.

You remember that you had not discussed anything about accommodation with Mr. Tesfaye. Oops. You tell yourself you’ll ask him next time you’re there to get the ticket. You go to work and google up “top holiday destinations in Africa”. You see ocean options like your Seychelles, Maldives, Mauritius, Cape Verde and safari countries like Kenya, Namibia and Botswana. You discard the safari nations because you’re from a “forest country” and you’ve already visited the Kakum National Park in Ghana. You’ve seen lots of forests already. A lion or crocodile could even bite off your head in Botswana! No way. You relish the colourful pics of the Indian ocean nations, so you start checking immigration procedures from the Swissport Travel Information Manual (TIM).

Seychelles is visa free and you can obtain a visitor’s permit on arrival for a max stay of three months. But as you read the TIM further, you see a line that says you need to present 150 dollars a day for all the days you spend there to immigration, so 20 days equals 3000 dollars in cash, that's about 1.5 million francs. And it is just what you’ll declare to immigration, excluding food, accommodation, transportation –pricey boat rides among the different Seychellois islands of La Digue, Desroches, Praslin, Bird etc.

You shake your head no. You check other aforementioned island nations. and they seem pricey too. You express your worry to Adeline that your beloved Seychelles may be expensive. She just goes, “I’ve been there, it’s not a little expensive, it’s very expensive! Just one boat ride to 3 different islands cost 300 dollars! And the hotel bills are really high. Imagine a place where Prince William and Kate Middleton go to for holidays. Everybody there will hike up prices... But the place is really beautiful!" Your colleague Wasu, tells you its because it's so lovely, that's why it attracts so many people including really rich people and even celebrities.

She gives you a pep talk about going there as an eco-tourist and doing AIR BNP lodging. You look at her and just go, “Maybe I’ll only go there when I become a boss like you someday”. She laughs so hard. Next, she proposes beautiful Gambia. You shake your head no because you’ve read articles about its poor human rights record and that, it is the most difficult country in the world for journalists to work in and that, sometimes president Jammeh can be…weird! She proposes the archipelago of Zanzibar in Tanzania, saying it’s also really beautiful. You are already in refusal mode, so you also say no to that and you don't even know the reason why.

"Kenya? Great safari there. Botswana?” Hmmm, you're thinking about those lions eating you up all over again! Ok, you can easily travel to Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia in the near future for writing stuff, literary festivals etc. “What about Ethiopia? Not just Addis. Kuriftu, Hawassa or another place?” You say, you've done two night stops in Addis, you don’t want to go there for this one again, somewhere completely new”. Simo Jandie proposes north Africa, Magrebian Sahara land. You say no because you don't like north Africa, although you know Tunisia is beautiful and prehistoric Egypt is legendary with its pyramids. Boss lady digresses to another discussion and you keep talking. You're still undecided.

You suddenly remember your dear cousin, Joseph Asong Anu who is a missionary and who’s studied and worked all over southern Africa. You ask his suggestion for an affordable beach country. He types back on Whatsapp, “Tanzania would be a good try. It is a regular destination for Nigerians, so I am sure Visa may not be a big deal. The touristic element there is simply awesome especially if you have a contact to show you around. Not to mention if you get a chance to hit Zanzibar…Life is evidently cheaper in Tanzania compared to several other countries in the region. Cape Town in South Africa could be considered but Visa could be an issue, plus in country expenses would obviously be higher.”

Okay, you'll grapple about Tanzania later. But South Africa! No! You recall how the lady at the SA high commission in Yaounde spoke to you harshly and abandoned you in 2014, when you wanted to apply for a South African transit visa, for only a two hour transit period in Jo'burg when you intended travelling to Mutare in Zimbabwe for a writers workshop. Mere transit visa! You imagine the procedure of getting a real SA visa this time and you shake your head no, once again.

On the contrary, Tanzania especially Zanzibar sounded like Aaliyah’s music to your ears after missionary Joe’s message. You wonder why you had rejected it when Adeline proposed it as you check the TIM again for more info. You read that you can obtain a visa on arrival for between 50-100 dollars. You google up Zanzibar pics online and they’re amazing. Persian empire feel, centuries old castles feel, diverse people feel, stunning beaches!

You tell your engineer friend who works for ET, Rahmet, the next day while you’re both working on the ramp and Rahmet informs you he’s been there. The visa cost him only 40 dollars. Oh! Cheap! You exclaim. He tells you the standard of living is like that of Cameroon. You nod. He tells you that it’s got so much iconic infrastructure and wonderful beaches. It sounds like what you’ve just read and seen online. You concur. And then you tell him, “My friend, I’ve finally made my choice. I’m going to Zanzibar!” “Oh, man, you will certainly enjoy it, congrats for your ET blogging award once again."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Imbolo Mbue; Cameroon's new literary superstar, Africa's first million dollar novelist

Who is Imbolo Mbue? What does it mean to write a million dollar novel? How does the diaspora influence her writing? I explore these questions and review "Emke", Imbolo's first published short story in the following review.

When I first heard that a US-based writer from Cameroon, Imbolo Mbue, had signed a whooping book deal of one million dollars for her manuscript, The Longings of Jende Jonga (the title was later changed to Behold the Dreamers) at the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair with the prestigious publisher Random House, I was really elated. For a first-time novelist from the coastal resort city of Limbe in Cameroon— which is not as big as Nigeria or South Africa on the African literary map— to sign such a mammoth book contract was quite an achievement two years ago and will always be.
I tried to google her name since I’d never heard about her and found almost nothing. This made her book deal more stunning and, to a certain extent, even mythical. Up to the age of 32, she had no publishing history, whether in print or online, which one could jump on and read as an aperitif for the upcoming novel. She had no blog and no personal profile on any social media platform. (I later learnt she has a phobia for social media). Dibussi Tande recounts, in a story in an article some months ago, that he couldn’t even find a single photo of her online. So who was this mythical Harper Lee-like million-dollar author from Cameroon called Imbolo Mbue? She was so unknown in the literary circles both in America and Africa that acclaimed writer, Jacqueline Woodson, started her appraisal of Imbolo’s hitherto unknown talent thus, “Who is this Imbolo Mbue and where has she been hiding? Her writing is startlingly beautiful, thoughtful, and both timely and timeless.”

Well, maybe Imbolo wouldn’t even have ever written any fiction. In fact, she has said that, even though she has been a lifelong reader, she had never considered writing until she read the brilliant novel, Song of Solomon, by the acclaimed 1993 Nobel Prize winning American novelist, Toni Morrison. She loved the novel so much that she picked up her pen after she finished it and became a wordsmith. Anxious readers and new Imbolo fans finally got a taste of her craftsmanship in her first published short story, “Emke” available for free online on the Threepenny Review. The story is set in America as is her just published debut novel. I think Imbolo will be writing a lot of immigrant literature. This will probably not be very god news for us Cameroonians as we would love to read her Cameroon set stories and ponder on her musings of her motherland.
She was so unknown in the literary circles both in America and Africa that acclaimed writer, Jacqueline Woodson, started her appraisal of Imbolo’s hitherto unknown talent thus, “Who is this Imbolo Mbue and where has she been hiding? Her writing is startlingly beautiful, thoughtful, and both timely and timeless.”
Imbolo travelled to the US in 1998 when she was sixteen just like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinelo Okparanta, and NoViolet Bulawayo, who also left for America as teenagers. She studied at Rutgers and Columbia Universities. So these questions will always linger in my mind: How does the diaspora influence Imbolo’s writing? Does she write “to get back to Africa”, like Tope Folarin once said on BBC when he was asked why he writes? Or does her work reflect that state of flux between America and Africa like Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, which fluctuates between America and India? Here is what Jonathan Franzen writes of the author: “Imbolo Mbue would be a formidable storyteller anywhere, in any language. It’s our good luck that she and her stories are American”.

Her first published work is a short story titled “Emke”, whose title is derived from the main character’s name. It relates the life of an African man, probably Sierra Leonean, who is extremely ill and, in the writer’s words, has “a disease of the blood” in a US hospital. This may probably be leukemia. He suffers from nightmares but maintains hope, “a frail optimism”, and then finally dies. The story is so real it comes alive on the page. It has the ability to evoke memories of your own deceased loved ones. Imbolo knows about dying, rather she knows how to write about dying. Her imagery on the subject is so vivid that you dread your own dying day. At some point, Imbolo presents her readers with a taste of Ben Okri-like magical realism:
After he had toweled off, he would tell us about the nightmares. In one, he was given a glass of blood by a hand without a body, and asked by a baby’s voice to drink it all in one sip. In another, he saw his head on a tray, laughing at him.

There are various issues highlighted in “Emke” such as illness, healthcare, politics, treatment, death and burial. Imbolo’s characters, though very few in this story, are well rounded. Her writing style is simple, clear, and very concise. Her economy of words is remarkable, especially in this tale. It is such that I describe “Emke” as a “short-short story”. The piece is so terse. While you are in the groove with its pretty lines, it just stops and is simply over! Poet Mp Mbutoh writes about its brevity thus, “But perhaps its briefness makes it all the more memorable, just like an interrupted French kiss!”
At just 1400 words, it is not eligible for a Caine Prize submission!
Questions will always linger in my mind: How does the diaspora influence Imbolo’s writing? Does she write “to get back to Africa”, like Tope Folarin once said on BBC when he was asked why he writes? Or does her work reflect that state of flux between America and Africa like Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, which fluctuates between America and India?
Imbolo’s language is beautifully unique and is at times reminiscent of Toni Morrison because of the way she pays attention to language, imagery, and poetry in her writing. Below are some excerpts,
He knew that blood is the river of the body and with his being contaminated, his body might soon shrivel up and die like plants on a dried river bank… His disease sat between us, like an August forest fire, burning away. With every glance at him my heart enlarged, overcome at the beauty he was even in his state of ugliness… Emke lay frozen with a grin, wearing a suit he would never have chosen for himself, packed in an ice box for the five-legged journey.
Nevertheless, I felt “Emke” was too predictable. I guessed the whole plot and it didn’t deviate from what I was imagining all through, thus the element of surprise was missing for me. I wanted Imbolo to take me to some other place I wasn’t expecting. But the twists and turns weren’t there. Is it because the story was too short for such explorations?

Furthermore, I didn’t quite agree with the political views of Imbolo’s character. Emke’s political utterances didn’t go down well with me. Take the following excerpt …The talk about the future of Africa resting on the institution of exemplary democracies amused him. Such fancy Western ideologies will never take root among our people, he often said… Why such pessimism? It can take root. Yes, many African countries have leadership problems and there have been many dismal failures, but some nations have shown good democratic track records like Ghana, Tanzania, and Botswana. Nigeria has discarded brutish military dictatorships for democratic civilian rule for sixteen years now. Though, I admit, even those good examples still have problems. But then, is America’s democracy perfect? Also, many western countries have practiced democracy for about 500 years. Meanwhile many independent African nations have been practicing democracy for just over fifty years. They’ll slowly get there.

This other statement caught my attention and I also disagree, What we need back at home isn’t some absurd imported idea of government but a chance to live in good health and govern ourselves as we see fit.
However, “Emke” is overall a solid short story that signals the arrival of a new sublime literary talent from Cameroon. It is no wonder that her just published debut novel created a lot of buzz in literary circles around the world. It is definitely one book that I’m looking forward to reading in the near future.

Nkiacha Atemnkeng is a Cameroonian writer based in Douala, where he works for Swissport at the Douala Airport. His illustrated story book for children, “The Golden Baobab Tree” was published by Aalvent Books in 2014 and is available on Amazon. His work has also been published in the 2015 Caine Prize anthology, “Lusaka Punk and other stories”, the 2014 Writivism anthology, “Fire in the Night and other stories”, Fabafriq magazine, the Caine prize blog and His musings can be found on his award-winning blog, Writerphilic, and on twitter @nkiacha

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

2016 English Premier League Pun Muse

So it's back again, the world's best football league. A fairy tale happened last season, that "small" team compelled the whole footballing world to learn how to pronounce their name properly "without the letter C" and beat the 5000 to 1 odds to win it. They retained the bulk of their stars except Kante. So can they do it again? "Winning it this year is harder for us, maybe the odds are 6000 to 1" said Ranieri, their inspirational manager whom fans quickly nicknamed Godfather!

Maybe that's because of the influx of three high voltage managers into the EPL to topple him. Serial winner, Antonio Conte, poached Godfather's Kante to Chelsea. And that's the 2 best things that have happened at the bridge. In Kante, Conte has brought back Makelele like work ethic to the midfield that may inspire misfiring Costa whose misses last season were Costly. And hazardous Eden Hazard who was also simply lost in the mid garden of Eden. But fans hope the 2 will be back to clinical forms that saw them win it 2 years ago. I call them the dark horses this year, the surprise package.

Mourinho said way back at the Bridge, way before the sack that, the theatre of dreams job was his dream job, and years later he got it. I interpreted the Ibra signing as a feat to inject his rich European league winning experience into our baby forwards, Martial, Rashford, Lingaard etc and lead the team too like Cantona did when Giggs and Scholes were baby players. He's old, but he's still got goals in him. In resigning the Pog as football's wildest splash cash, we've got another Paul with Scholes like inch perfect passing to feed the guys upfront to score goals and win the league, which i think we'll do.

Our enemy noisy neighbours, City were also busy too, sipping a new Pepsi called Pep, who brought in great talent like Gundogan, and with a pool of talent there already, they are also very good contenders to win it like us. No, after us! Klopp's club is finetuning their reconstruction job to completion, beating Barca 4-0 in pre season. They brought in exciting prospects like Cameroonian, Joel Matip to aid them finish at the table's tip.

Arsenal football club, rather, Arsenal TV series wasn't busy in the summer transfers. And with talent there that doesn't match that of it's competitors, the trophylessness will go on and their fans will keep watching the Arsenal TV series, Game of thrones for the next season. Maybe Arsene will just pack his bags and run back to Monaco on foot. I applaud the delightful twinkle toe football  he's injected there and his money making profit ideology anyway.