America on his mind. (And the challenge of our times.)

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It was just two days before the last Christmas. It was getting late. Willy was engrossed mending an old big map. It was one of those huge maps that National Geographic Society is well known for – a fold-in map from an old edition of the National Geographic magazine. Several old copies of the magazine are scattered all over the house. Two sheets of this map, made in the form of a cloth are almost large enough for an average adult to make a decent shirt  out of. The map was still in good shape except for some few slashes here and there due to frquent folding and unfolding. Willy had to spend ample time mending  the torn big map. To this end, he has previously bought a big cellotape from a nearby store. The borrowed pair of scissors from his mum also came in handy. This is usually his style any time he finds a pet project to occupy his time. His mum said that the boy is like me in this area. All focus and concentration. The boy reminds me of those days back at Ososo Grammar School and later at Oyo State College of Arts and Science Ile Ife. Then, I used to explore the world – just reading and poring over maps in my college atlas. That was before the days of the world wide web. That was long before computers and laptops as we know them now were concieved and embraced en-masse. Both Yahoo and Google were still many years ahead – behemoths of the future,  yet to be born. The first job I got after my WASC/GCE OL was selling audio cassettes at one of those noisy open shops at Gbagi, Ibadan. One of the first things I bought from my first salary was a college atlas. That was long before what Professor Os Guinness in his book “Fools Talk”, described as the modern Weapons of Mass Distraction  (WMD).These weapons of mass distraction if you don’t know them are in their legions – Google Whatsapp, Skype, BBM, Yahoo IM, Telegram etc, etc

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Daddy: “Willy, you’ve spent so much time repairing a “broken map” of USA and cramming the names of all the 50 states in US, can you even tell me the names of all the 36 states in Nigeria by heart?”
Willy: “Yes. That is easy now. I can name all of them along with their capital cities.”
Daddy: “I’m sure I can do the same too if I really have to. When I was your age, Nigeria had only 12 states… ”

Late in the evening of the following day, resuming from where he stopped yesterday, Willy has itemized the list of almost all the states that make up US in his notebook. Hawaaii and Alaska were also included in the large spread out map.  He has written down all the names of the states of US correctly (along with their capital cities). All except for the state of Rhode Island. At long last , tracing his finger towards the North East section of the large map, he exclaimed with excitement.
“Daddy, is Rhode Island also a state?”
“Yes, it is. On the map, the state is very small, that is why you were not able to locate it quickly.”
Willy: “The area is very small. It’s about the size of Rivers State.”
Daddy: “I think Rhode Island is even smaller than Rivers State.”
Willy: “Daddy,  I can mention almost all the states by heart.”
Daddy: “Are you sure you can do that?”
Willy: “Yes.”
Daddy: “Sure? OK. Will President Obama, Bill Gates or any American citizen give you an award for naming all the states of their country correctly without looking at your map?  You had better go and find some better thing to do with your time instead of cramming the name of the states in US.
And don’t forget to cellotape together the large slashed out hole in the centre of the map. Doing so will help the map to last longer.
On my own part, I’ve been through only 3 of US states. I’ve been through the states of Texas, Oklahoma and Illinois. Do you know that Texas is larger than Nigeria in terms of land area? Texas and California are the two largest states. You can even see that from the map.”
Willy: “Daddy…”
Dad: “Yes son?”
Willy: “How do you pronounce this state M-a-s-s-a-c-h….
Dad: “That is Massachussetts.”
Willy: “Okaaay.”
Dad: “One of the most famous universities in the world – Massachussetts Institute of Technology is located there.”
Mercy: “That is “MIT””
Daddy: “It is not pronounced MIT (as in meat), the alphabets are pronounced individually M-I-T.”
Mercy: “I know.”
Now addressing myself to Willy, “you had better start putting in more efforts towards your Maths. You never can tell. May be one of these days, you will find yourself at the MIT.”
Willy: “OK.”
He was grinning from ear to ear and finally walking away from the map still left open on the plastic table.

So here is my son working hard to fix a “broken map” of America. And I said to myself, it seems that this America don’t even know who their true friends are. And what do you expect when you don’t even know who your friends are? Why won’t you be running from pillar to post when you cannot differentiate between your true friends and your sworn enemies?
And I said to myself further on, if only there were more of our youth who will commit themselves to mending this broken and battered nation of ours – Nigeria. Let’s commit ourselves to this goal in this year 2016 and going forward. That’s is the challenge of our times. Willy’s Challenge.

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Whatever it is that life throws at you…

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I was in the taxi on my way back to PHC from Obigbo the other day. Seated behind the driver, I had only one chance to capture this shot on my sluggish camera phone. Just one chance and the whole thing was gone!

Zoom in on the shot and catch what I caught. That, “In the school of experience, there is no graduation.”

So, whatever it is that life throws at you, make sure you keep on learning. Yes, you can always learn, grow and profit by whatever life flings your way.

http://www.akinlade.net

Once upon a Garden City

Friends and brethren. How many miles can one reasonably cover in 5 hours and 20 minutes? That is the time it took me to drive home from my office to my residential village (in Port Harcourt) after closing from work today. A distance of less than 12 kilometres! Welcome to Port Harcourt,, the once upon a Garden City of Nigeria. Who will bring back the glory? I don’t mean to panic you but who will “tell them for me”?

http://www.akinlade.net

Aborted … A chopper and an aborted flight.

Aborted … A chopper and an aborted flight.

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The chopper was unable to make the return flight from the rig back to town yestetday. So here we are, all cocooned on the rig while awaiting the technicians (for the helicopter company) to come from town and fix their chopper. (Bell 412). The technicians will be flown to the nearby FPSO from where they will sail by boat to our own rig to do their jobs – fixing the chopper up.

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The chopper was left strapped to the helideck overnight while awaiting the arrival of the aircraft repair technicians to salvage the situation. The two pilots stayed on board along with the other rig personnel. The co-pilot, a tall, young and handsome confident-looking Nigerian has two stripes on his superbly fitting work coveralls. He responded warmly with thanks when I complimented him about his fitting coveralls. He reminds me of my son who dreams of becoming a pilot some-day. The pilot, equally smart looking and in similar uniforms has 4 stripes on his shoulder. My guess is that the white pilot is old enough to be the father of his Nigerian co-pilot. Yesterday, while trying to lift-off the helipad, the duo quickly discovered that the chopper will not be able to make the flight. They quickly aborted the flight before straying far from the safe perimeter of the helipad into the air and wide deep blue sea of the Atlantic (Bight of Bonny). Talking of experience. If any 2 pilots will fly and land a chopper safely, these are the men. So, I assumed. By God Almighty, so let it be. Amen. Experience and confidence. I was not on the flight myself. I was still expecting the arrival of a spare part needed for my job (via chopper flight).
Commenting on the experience while we were in the galley yesterday evening, one of the rig personnel who was inside the aborted flight said something along this line “… we want to go home, we want to go home. The way some people’s bodies use to shake when it is time for them to go for their days-off on crew-change self. Thank God for answering the prayers we make here. At the rig’s Christian fellowship meetings, we always pray steadfastly for safe flights especially on our crew-change days…” To which I replied, “the pilots are really experienced, that is why they were able to quickly detect that the chopper will not be able to make the flight back to town and immediately aborted the flight. You can imagine what would have happened if the chopper has flown far from the rig before they discovered the fault? It would have just plunged into the sea. And you know what that means. It could as well have been any one of us here who would have been on that flight” To which the other guy saying further, “… this company (by which he meant the oilfield operator) with their old choppers. Why can’t they just change this chopper to a newer and more air-worthy model? They and the government will wait until people lost their lives before they start doing something.” Another guy replied, “… it is not really their fault, it is the fault of the people at the top and at government levels who are to be blamed. They “force” or turn blind-eyes to these people even when they know that the choppers and planes are of doubtful air-worthiness.”
In the mean time, I keep working on my next project. I scanned (I actually took pictures of the individual pages) a frequently used book with my Android optical character recognition program (OCR) back at home. I started it some 3 weeks ago and I am more than 60% complete now. The job is a painstaking labour of love. The OCR program on my Galaxy S3 did a fairly good job (of recognizing texts in the pictures taken with the phone camera), but I still needed to do a lot of Word corrections and rearrangements to make the work as decent looking in e-formart as it was in the hardcopy format. You are asking me, “Chris, are you not violating copyrights of the author ?” No. I am certainly sure I am not. Even the printed book itself is not copy righted. Moreover all or most of its contents are freely available in the public domain. At any rate, I will still cross-check to ease your doubts. I will share with you when I am done with my e-book project.
Along the passage, I overheard this brief exchange. “Are you going today?” “No, I am not. I have to wait till on Monday.” “OK, the chopper has not made the flight back yet.”
“The helicopter mechanics have arrived now but they are still in the boat. The crane ( that was repaired last night) could not pick them off the boat. Hmm, this rig has many issues o.” “The men is (sic) here.” So the chopper mechanics are onboard at last.” “And the weather is really getting unpredictable already.” “At best, we can only make one flight, if at all there is any today.” In fact, even if the flight is ready, I don’t want to go again today myself. I will go on Monday.”

The time is 3.43pm. The chopper is still strapped to the helideck. I (we) are still cocooned on the semisub.
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3. 55pm
The co-pilot came in a short-while ago. Reassuringly, he told us that the chopper was being fixed. “It was a minor problem. It will be fixed shortly after which we will test it before proceeding to PHC.”
When the co-pilot reentered the briefing room, I approached him and requested if he will oblige my taking his picture. I told him that my son dreams of becoming a pilot some day. I want to show him the picture of what a pilot looks like. The co-pilot with a smile graciously permitted me. I was even fiddling for the flash setting of my Galaxy Note 3. Again, he came to my rescue and helped me to spot out the setting. I hope the shot did justice to his confident friendly demeanour.

4. 40pm
We have weighed in and have watched the flight safety video.

Still waiting …

5. 20pm
Finally, we were marshalled into the chopper. Yes, the same chopper. The pilot gave us a brief review of the safety procedures to be followed in any emergency. “Make sure you are strapped to your seats with your seat belts all the time. Only removed when we touch down at NAF Base.” And as if to allay the fears and the concerns of his passengers he said, “This chopper has been tested thoroughly and it is perfectly safe to fly it. I will not accept to fly it if I have any reservations about its being safe. I want to go back to my family too.” His reassuring and warm infectious smile brought the smile to my face too. Not long afterwards, the machine was airbone. Flying directly into the setting sun, the chopper was deftly manouvred by the pilot in a nothern direction as we head towards Port Harcourt.
The flight was like many previous ones safe and hitch free. Over the Atlantic and then over Niger delta swamp, approximately 35 minutes later, we were back to terra firma. The terrain below welcomed us with incandescent bulbs shimmering and flickering like gloworms lighting. Below us, the landscape was dotted with mostly brown rusty color of old corrugated roofs of mostly old buildings.
Finally, we disembarked from the chopper, with smiles of appreciation, we all shook hands with the co-pilot one by one. Approaching the co-pilot, I shook hands with him. Back on the rig when I took his picture, I forgot to ask for his name. “My name is Akinlade Christopher. May I know your name please…?”
Thank you Jesus. All is well that ends well.
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