Port Harcourt Epistles: Lockdown

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I always look forward to posting Chris Duncan’s blog posts. I am a huge fan of travel journalism and just simple stories that narrate the personal lives of others. In Chris’ latest blog post from Port Harcourt in Nigeria (where he is the general manager of a rather fancy hotel), he talks about the tumult before and the celebrations after the historical election of a new Nigerian president. There’s even a sentence or two about a rumoured Ebola victim arriving in Lagos! A wonderful read for a Friday. It’s made me want to get out and travel somewhere new this weekend and write a blog post about it! Enjoy! – Tracey Ruff

By Chris Duncan

The Easter weekend has passed, further pushing down the already low occupancy of the hotel, a call from JC to visit which I duly did on Easter Sunday. First a visit to the Spar with him as he shopped for a pot we were going to make that afternoon and some groceries for himself for the anticipated lockdown the following weekend. There would be no flying offshore over that period and no movement to and from their compound.

That afternoon over a few Castle draughts, we put together a chicken casserole whilst exchanging good banter. I had to rush to finish up as my driver and escort were coming to collect me early as under the circumstances I did not want them out late at night.

March April 2015 005

Looks delicious…

On returning to the hotel, I was informed that Doug had just arrived back in town and with warm greetings we chatted late into the night at the poolside. The following day we went shopping again and explored the newly opened floors of the Port Harcourt Mall. A new expensive looking restaurant, some clothes shops with ridiculous prices, a new furniture shop with some of the ugliest furniture I have ever seen, self-contained shower units that are computer controlled – how they get installed I hate to think. Doug made a comment to a poor fellow sitting in the shop looking most forlorn – his wife was happily shopping and he was paying and did indeed look miserable. The next floor up held a cinema with a Debonairs pizza. All new and modern – we were like school boys as we wandered around passing time.

A quick Chinese lunch and back to the hotel, everywhere was quiet as the weekend continued.

A spectacular tropical storm erupted during the week, the skies darkened, the wind rose and torrential rain fell with bolts of lightning cracking all around. I was a bit nervous as I left my office to dash the downpour with the intimidating display overhead. Watching from my window I observed the display as the skies were lit up as the lightning bolts hit the surrounding communication towers and the polo field quickly turned into a lake.

The week saw the build up to the gubernatorial election with a great deal of tension here in this hotly contested state. A new curfew imposed from midnight Friday, stern advice from our security manager not to leave the hotel as anything is possible. I was issued with a two way radio for just in case.

In the preceding days, several attacks by political thugs have been made with a rising death toll. Staff were rostered onto shifts to avoid the curfew, others left early and a noticeable tension was rising everywhere. Occasionally in the distance gunfire could be heard.

Saturday saw empty streets – an eerie silence, no sirens, no cars, just the occasional pedestrian moving along. The silence was later broken as a military helicopter patrolled overhead.

Chris Duncan Port Harcourt Nigeria

The hotel in Port Harcourt.

The following day started just as quietly as the previous. We had decided that as we were locked in we would have a braai, a simple half chicken on the coals with potato salad.

Well as I lit the fire, the heavens opened and we dashed for cover. It then continued to rain and drizzle for the rest of the day but we succeeded and the chicken was good.

On retiring that evening, the sound of fireworks was heard. I lay in bed listening carefully to be sure this was not gunfire. The news must be out and celebrations beginning.

Monday morning and whilst getting ready for the office, the early morning stillness was quickly broken with repeated gunfire. Here it starts I thought to myself. After fifteen minutes or so it subsided.

As the staff arrived for work the upbeat mood and atmosphere was immediately noticeable, the tension of the past few days broken, their party had won a landslide victory and almost all were in a celebratory mood.

It was also announced in the morning meeting that a fellow with Ebola had turned up in Lagos. That’s all that we need after what we have been through as I scanned the news for confirmation. Fortunately it was corrected as being just a rumour.

Still the tensions remain high, some neighbouring states more troubled than here, some are demanding a new vote, others are scornful and call them bad losers. Tales of missing ballot boxes and bribery and corruption abound.

I am assured that the situation will normalise in a few days. I really hope so so that we can get back to business. I suspect over the next few weeks we will have a large increase in Food and Beverage as the winners will no doubt be in a celebratory mood and all concerned can get along with their lives.

Culled from here

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