When I left the UK for Abuja I took with me (amongst other things) the Dr’s old laptop, which he had recently swapped for a very shiny Sony Vaio. The Dr’s old laptop was at that time (mid August) around 5 years old which in laptop years is approximately 55 years old but it still worked well enough for me to carry it halfway around the globe with the sole intention of it acting as my second/home machine.
Getting the laptop to Nigeria was not easy. I was due to fly immediately after the UK terror alert that had resulted in many travellers being issued transparent plastic bags to carry their hand luggage, so in preparation I went and bought a laptop rucksack which was apparently the right “carry-on” size. I say apparently because the woman working at the British Airways check-in desk the day I was due to fly was of the opinion that my rucksack was way too big. Unfortunately for me, those metal tray things by the check-in desk that let you determine if one’s bag is the right size supported her opinion. I was not keen to check-in the old laptop so I decided to buy one of those pull-trolley things that one often sees cabin crew dragging along. Still the item was too big. The BA woman, sensing my determination to carry the laptop on board informed me that BA did have bags available.
I wish I had taken a photograph of the bag, which is no longer in my possession. It was one of those of raffia/plastic-chequered bags that many African/Caribbean families in the UK use as laundry bags. My brother told me that these bags are called “Ghana-must-go” bags and that certainly appears to be what everyone in here calls them. Sokari has a photograph of similar bags on her blog. I say similar because the one I was given was incredibly tiny; like a medium to small handbag. I am actually tempted to call it cute had it not clashed, both in colour and in style, with what I was wearing.
The bag was blue, red and white. I was wearing black trousers, a white top, brown shoes and should have been carrying a matching brown hand bag (which was now emptied of all its contents and squashed into one of my suitcases – the very same suitcase that arrived in a Abuja more than a week after I did!) The extent of my higgledy-piggledy look was brought to the fore when the man at the Duty Free counter took one look at my bag, pulled out an extra-large duty free bag and dumped my ‘Ghana-must-go’, laptop and all inside. As he handed the bag back he gave me a look that said ‘it’s ok…your secret is safe with me!’
Upon reaching Naijaland I discovered that my work computer was not where I expected it to be i.e. on my desk in my office. Neither was my desk for that matter, which at the time made perfect sense because I hadn’t been assigned an office. The old laptop which no doubt was sulking after suffering the indignity of being carried in a bag that lacked the necessary cushioning and support that it was accustomed to became both my work and home computer. I reassured both the laptop and myself that this was only a temporary measure but by January 2007, despite getting an office and desk, I still didn’t have a computer.
By this time the laptop had gone from old to ‘one foot in the grave’. It could no longer serve as a ‘portable computer’ because one slight move would result in the machine turning itself off. It would then take a further five minutes of twiddling with the power cord and coaxing it to stay attached to the computer. As the battery never seemed to charge, I did consider taping the power cord to the laptop but then I remembered that the power cord was a replacement of the previous one that had caught fire around the part that connects it to the computer. Aside from the laptop’s in ability to stay on for more than 30 minutes at time, there was the start-up issue (it took 20 minutes to start-up) the lack of multi-tasking capability (the machine could run no more than one application at time), failing USB ports, broken DVD drive … basically the machine was barely functioning.
In mid-February, the Dr and I decided that it was time to get a new machine, which he would bring to Abuja when he came to visit in March. I knew what I wanted; a black MacBook and by the end of February the BlackBook was sitting in a box in Lancaster awaiting its trip to Naija.
There is common saying about buses – you wait for hours and then two arrive at once. Well the same can be said about computers (in this case at least) because two days before the Dr was due to arrive my desktop; complete with printer and a back-up power supply unit was delivered to my desk!
So here I am six months into my stay – I finally have a machine in the office and a machine that I can use at home for blogging, Skype, playing games, listening to music…all at the same time. All I need to do now is get accustomed to using a Mac, which I recently discovered does not have a delete key.