Sunday, June 21, 2009

weekend work

I am currently in lobby of the metropolitan hotel in downtown calabar shamelessly stealing their lobby wifi. Don't worry, I plan on compensating them by buying some criminally overpriced drink in their bar for their happy hour and then walking back to the lodge.

It's been an interesting weekend. I just returned from a semi-emergency meeting with one of my coworkers, meeting with some of the big time stakeholders here in calabar. We had to to defuse a situation concerning a grant program we're running and assure everyone we're not going to give grants to companies that don't care about Calabar or Cross River State. Afterwards, two of our hostesses treated us to lunch at their hotel.

It was a fascinating bit of conversation. Both of the ladies are expats, they married their Nigerian husbands when they were in school, one is an Armenian by way of Romania, and the other is a German lady. They run an event and hotel management firm and also dabble in interior decorating. They've been here in Calabar going on thirty years. To an extent, their's is a positive tale that speaks to the tremendous change and growth that can be found in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. They were here when it would take 2 weeks just to get a telegram back home and 6 hours to place a phone call. But they are equally frustrated at the backwardness of the government and the loss thay Cross River has suffered concerning tourism. Before the tourism bureau became entirely ass backward it actually worked well with the private sector and the governor, Gov. Duke, liked working with the private sector as equals. Some good things were happening, but with Duke gone and the bureau ashambles, life has been hell for business owners. The tourism bureau decided to compete directly with business, slapping a 5% tourism levy on the business, ostensibly for "training", and then using that money and the assets that the bureau and the business owners originally worked on together and made its own packages and tried to steer guests to their own state-owned hotels. It was a betrayal of the worst sort and was entirely sudden. We're feeling the effects of it now and not much can be done until government can their shit straightened out.

I enjoyed their conversation btu it also was more than a bit disconcerting. There are so many issues here that I wonder how much good our little project can do in the face of the lack of proper infrastructure, proper upkeep of tourim assets, and the shoddy frontline customer service. Not to mention a venal, incompetent tourism bureau. It's truly frustrating, but baby steps must be made. I have faith that our program has a good start and my only concern is to try and make sure that it works. The other problems can't prevent us from trying to do something.

Ms. Anoush, the Armenian raised in Romania, gave Jess and I a ride to and from the lodge and talked a bit. She asked me if I had tried to trace my roots at all since I'd been here. I confessed to her that I hadn;t looked and that, honestly, it would be next to impossible. The efforts of slavers to erase any possible history was very effective. Not to mention, why worry about catalogouing the extensive background of what you saw a relatively common commodity? But still, the question stung a little bit. It's not something I've thought about too much since I've been here because I thought the effort would be futile. Records are not great. But it is true, though. There is a good chance, a chance as any I guess, that I have some ancestors from there and it is fascianting to walk around and, like Richard Pryor and Jamie Foxx, see people who look just like people back home. This area of the country has some pretty distinct tribes and ethnic groups, so there are some semi-common phenotypes but Calabar also has a lot of other Africans and others from abroad so you get a good mix. It stung me a bit. It's just one of those things that sweeps over from time to time, I guess. All I know is America. And what family I have. We can go back a bit into slavery, but not much farther. It's a bit despairing to not have an idea of an ancestral homeland, at least one that isn't Kentucky.

I don't know. I'm surrounded by black people and not of them. But there's a warmth and openness, most folk are just curious to see a person with my hair. And as I said, somedays, I just think I'm walking through DC, just seeing folk I haven't seen before. I miss home, I guess. But, more importantly, I miss and regret the fact that that history ws STOLEN from me and for the vast majority of African-Americans. I try not to get too angry but I still believe, and will die believing, that America has a lot to atone for that it never will. It can't get my history back. It can't undo the effects of slavery and it's having a ahrd enough time trying to let go of its virulently racist strains, although, even there, much of it is institutionalized and will take a while to weed out. I know even greater change is coming. But it's astoundingly depressing to be aware of some things we won't ever get back.

I'm out. Daddy, I pray you have a happy father's day. You and mom and everyone else are always in my thoughts. To everyone else, if you have them, say thanks to your dads.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Your hair is definitely noteworthy.

and this was a very insightful post.