Saturday, 28 April 2007

Sweating In Nigeria

For all the flaws of this grand but faded hotel - the Presidential - I'm staying/imprisoned in while working in Port Harcourt, it does have a tennis court around the back. This one feature transforms days spent in the hotel from idle nothingness to having something to look forward to. My colleage - the "cognac colleague" - is about the same level as me, so we can have some pretty competitive matches. The only trouble is the heat - in the mid 30s, with the sun out, and with high humidity, it can get more than a little sweaty.

Sweat has been rather a feature of the last couple of days. Dripping, pouring, soaked-through with sweat, not through the leisure of tennis but from the toils of work. From hopes earlier this week of being home by now, it now doesn't look likely till early next week. There has been an enormous amount of work to do, preparing kit, made all more difficult by changing demands from the office in Aberdeen regarding what's meant to be happening with the kit. By the end of the day my coveralls have been dripping wet and filthy, and my hands black from dirt and grease. It's most unlike my usual working day of coffee and afternoon naps.

Today is a day off from this though. Not because it's Saturday, and not because we've finished, but because Halliburton have insisted on a shut-down. This means no Westerners are to leave the hotel or compound. The reason is something about run-on elections, and this apparently poses a risk.

To be honest, I'm beginning to think the security is a little too much. Port Harcourt is a violent city, but it's not a war zone, nor is it like one. Kidnappings appear to have descreased. There's been some election violence in Nigeria, but none that I'm aware of here, and none that has involved foreignters. The other day, after going to a meeting in some other part of the city, I had to wait for about 45 minutes for extra security going home. The one armed guard in my vehicle wasn't enough, I had to also have another vehicle with four armed police trailing me. Just for me. It wasn't at night, it was broad daylight in the middle of the city, I think there was a little too much paranoia at play.

Anyway, just a couple more days of this mania, then I'll be back home. Nigeria saps my motivation, and I don't feel being here benefits the nation much. It's certainly a financial boost, but I'll be happy not to return for a while.

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