Hello and a wonderful good week to everybody. I’m seated at my desk listening to my favourite music for the mood I’m in at the moment, Look and Laugh by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His instrumentals are simply amazing. They carry with them this sort of laid back yet purposeful beat to them with the keyboard weaving intricate patterns in and out of the soul like little ribbons wrapping themselves round several little packages and stringing them together in the most complex and comprehensive beauty. I listen to him when I’m in the mood for melancholy which has the habit of evoking the fondest of memories from me. This time it makes me long for a good holiday, like the last one I shared with my friend JB a short while ago.
Our usual haunt to go to, my friends and I, when we want to take a break from it all, especially when we are on a tight budget, is to go to the neighbouring country, Benin republic, to Cotonou in particular, the commercial centre. It is such a different environment from ours here in Nigeria where the hustle and bustle is eternally at an annoyingly feverish pitch. Everyone everywhere is in a constant state of stress trying to eke out a living to find where the next meal is coming from. The rich try to grab as much as they can to shore up as much as they can for fear of reverting to the poverty they once knew while the poor in desperation, claw their way towards finding their lone meal for the day, day by day; no contentment anywhere. In Cotonou one can just sit back in an outdoor bar with a cool beer and watch the world go by at a leisurely pace. One could sense contentment in the air even amongst the poor. It is wonderful to see locals and tourists milling about together or zipping about on the local motorbike taxis – the tourists standing out because of the constant swiveling of their heads from side to side drinking in the sights, sounds and smells new to them. I am one of them and more so because I can’t speak the language, French and/or Fon – not that I am particularly bothered about my impediment. I had since learnt in Poland that one of the best ways to learn a new language in adulthood is to try chatting up a pretty lady who’s a local or do so while buying something at her shop or stall. It helps a lot if you have an open smile or a charming disposition though, if you, like me, are not particularly rich. There was one of these occasions however, that I did not bother practicing my pitiful French; when I was confronted with true beauty, however superficial.
JB and I had finished for the day. We had had lunch at our hosts’ in the country, shopped for artifacts – I’d come away with a lovely stringed drum, a leather portrait depicting a fishing village and a lovely wooden female mask – and stashed them at the hotel. For supper we went to the local Lebanese grill to grab a kebab while planning our next modus operandi. It was as we were leaving that we happed upon a nondescript bar close to our hotel. JB my friend has an uncanny knack for sniffing out joints wherever he is and naturally, it was he who spotted this one. We went in, and were pleasantly astounded. The interior looked nothing like the exterior. It looked more like a Middle Eastern sultan’s harem than a bar. It was a fair sized room, about the size of two large sitting rooms. It also had a low ceiling that was rounded off by sloping arcs at the corners, giving it a softer more intimate look. The lights were different shades of red and blue lending the room a softer rather than garish look, discreet rather than furtive. Low soft couches, cushions and pillows were strewn about the place without cluttering the room or making one stumble over them. The atmosphere was pleasantly scented with incense wafting from braziers in the corners of the room, unseen odours and colours of strange petals transporting one to exotic gardens unknown. I half expected to see hookahs or water smoking pipes beside the cushions and couches but there were none. We stood there drinking in the atmosphere, not believing our find, wondering what else our night had in store for us and contemplating where to sit when Sarah our hostess floated up to us.
Here I will have to do the unthinkable and beg to be let off as yet again my pen threatens to do a runaway again and make this post unpalatably long. But I assure you that I will complete the story of our fleeting encounter with our lovely hostess Sarah. I ask you my dear readers to please bear with me with your infinite patience until we see once again next week. Until then, do have a wonderful week everyone.