Monday, December 29, 2014

The Golden Baobab Tree

Originally submitted for the Africa Book Club Short Reads competition, The Golden Baobab Tree (by Nkiacha Atemnkeng) is a story that blends age-old African storytelling traditions with a modern twist. Set in the village of Letia, the story centers around the baobab tree, which is where the villagers come to meet with their chief, and children gather to listen to storytellers when they visit. On this day, Uncle Jimi Solanke, the storyteller comes to Letia at the invitation of the chief.

Solanke gathers the children under the baobab tree and shares his story about an old man who travels to America to visit his son. The story carries important lessons that will resonate with many young readers and their parents, moreso those who either live in the Diaspora or have relatives there.

The Golden Baobab Tree was published in November 2014 by Aalvent Books

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ethiopian Airlines' Dreamliners soars the Cameroonian sky

When I heard that Ethiopian Airlines’ Dreamliners would be coming to Cameroon from the month of October, I was elated. So the next time I was scheduled to work on Ethiopian, I made a request to our Ethiopian Airways Swissport supervisor to post me on the ramp…
“CY, I brought my camera. I want to take photos of the plane and write about it!”
“Ah, okay. So Nkiacha, position 4, Ramp safety.”
“Yes! Great.”

So a few hours later I was on the ramp, waiting for the arrival of the aircraft. And at about its estimated time of arrival, I spotted it in the sky blinking and approaching like a comet. As the world’s biggest Boeing airplane, the 787-8 Dreamliner landed, I announced it over our radio, took out the camera for the first landing shot and…Oops! It couldn’t switch on! Damn it.
“Come on, you’ve never done this to me! So you want to spoil my Dreamliner photo plans abi?” I slapped it gently. Nothing. Camera deny for work again.
“See me see trouble oh! I owe you?” Okay back to work.

The first thing I noticed about the state-of the-art aircraft is how gigantic it is. I used to consider the Swiss Air and Air France’s Airbus 330 planes big but the Dreamliner is bigger. It is colossal, with a max take-off weight of 227.930 kgs. The length is 57 metres, wing span 60 metres and interior cabin width 574 cm. Now that is a flying mansion! And it is very beautiful too; white, spotless, majestic, even sexy (the plane is as beautiful as Giselle Bundchen, Jessica Alba and Beyonce put together. Hehe) With its sharp tapering nose which is evocative of Concorde’s. Uh huh, I said it earlier, Giselle has that kind of nose right?


Other Stats
Fuel capacity: 126.903 litres
Range: 14.500 km
Typical cruising speed at 35.000 feet
Thrust per engine at sea level: 64.000 pounds

The second observation I made is how “quiet” it is. The plane doesn’t make noise that much. It lands, taxies on the ramp silently and parks silently such that, if you are not looking at it, you’ll barely even notice that a plane has landed. You don’t really need an ear defender when working around it. The other smaller Boeing and Airbus planes make noise well. Not to mention those small archaic propeller planes (like those in the Rambo jungle movies) that fly to Malabo, with reactors that rotate and shatter the air with their deafening, ear splitting noises, “praaaa-pra-paaaa-paaa-papaaaapa” like a million primary school children and seek attention all over the place and if you don’t close your ears you will develop instant deafness and….sighs. (Wunna throw am abeg!)

The Dreamliner’s greatness is due to an improved engine and fuel efficiency improvisation. This contributes to 20% reduction in fuel consumption and emissions thus it is environmentally friendlier than the previous versions.

It is also going to be Ethiopian’s flagship aircraft. Okay, statistics move away, let me find my camera. Hmm, yi di still deny for work. Ca ne marche pas! Ca ne vas pas comme Petit Pays. Mais que’est qui’il passé?
“What is wrong with you, uh?” Then it hit me. Try something, anything. I removed the battery and put it back in. I switched it on and….it worked! Yay. So you wanted your battery to see the Dreamliner first eh? Wandas! Okay the shots.

Rear view of reactor

I earlier said it’s gigantic right? But look at this. The 1.77m tall Nkiacha stood underneath the aircraft and his head couldn’t even reach the plane’s "belly"!
Underneath the aircraft

 Okay, take off time. I have to position myself perfectly for the photo. And as its speeding away furiously like a rhinoceros, I’m focusing and estimating exactly where lift off is going to be but…oh ho, I got it wrong, there are baggage containers barring my vision and I begin running away from those containers to get the plane back in sight and focusing to get the perfect shot and…..yes, got it
Take off
As the biggest Boeing airplane in the world pierces the afternoon sky and soars away like an eagle, I ponder about aerodynamic lift and admire the peak moment in aviation –takeoff.