18 March 2020

Hafiz Adewuyi

Kennedy's bicycle was stolen from his yard in the Šančiai district of Kaunas

As part of my ramping up to get out of bed routine every morning, I check WhatsApp. A bad habit I know. But I think it helps to keep me from snoozing my alarm for another cycle. This morning, one of the first messages I saw was from a group that I and Kennedy, a fellow Digital Explorer are in. My heart might have skipped a beat the moment I absorbed his message.

This is where my own bicycle sleeps in Kaunas; by the entrance to my apartment building
Instantly, the picture that you see above appeared in my mind. That's my bicycle, and every day, I park it outside, close to the entrance of the apartment block where I live, close to the city centre of Kaunas. It is secured only with the bike-lock which came along with the bicycle when it was handed as a gift to me by my colleague and buddy, Mindaugas in late 2019.

L - R, then background: Mindaugas, Hafiz; their colleagues

I was overwhelmed by a sudden but fleeting fear that a band of bicycle thieves had swept through town last night and that like Kennedy's, my bike must have also fallen victim. I felt the urge to quickly go check that my bicycle was still in place in front of the apartment but my laziness made sure that instead of doing that, I opted for the option to ask Kennedy if his bicycle had been chained down when he had it stolen. It surely wasn't worth the 0.5 calories it would cost me to go down one flight of stairs from my flat to go check that I still had a bicycle before I confirmed whether or not Kennedy's fate had been due to his lack of basic care in making sure his bicycle is not easy picking.

I felt some relief a couple of hours later when I read a WhatsApp reply from Kennedy that indeed, his bicycle was not chained up when he left it outside last night. Indeed, his bicycle was easy picking and that is the primary reason why it was stolen. "Yay, I have no new thing to worry about", my subconscious declared with the victory of knowing that no new vaccination needed to be invented today!

I am fundraising to get Kennedy a new bike as summer is on the way and he will surely need it for all the exploring that is ahead of him. Click here to support this brotherly cause

The story of the theft of Kennedy's bicycle is one that is particularly important for me because, for me, it's an important source of information to update my belief about my environment. "I feel really safe"; that was one of the first things I said when asked about my first impressions of Kaunas two months after my arrival in the city, in an interview with the media arm of the Kaunas city municipality. Even though I'm not the one whose bicycle was stolen this time, for me, this single incidence will make it less likely that I'll repeat that statement again if asked how I feel about living in Kaunas.

Of course, I still feel safe. Just a tad bit less safe than I felt that four months ago when I granted an interview to KaunasIN. My apartment is in a building right by one of the larger and busier streets in Kaunas, yet it's got nothing of the semblance of a fence. To enter the building (of which once you're in, all you need to get into my safe space is give a nice sturdy flying-kick to my wooden door), all you need do is open a transparent glass door with metal frames. There's an electronic keypad lock by the door which is meant to keep the door locked, but it stopped working several months ago and entrance to the building is now free for all. I guess the main reason that I haven't complained about this security vulnerability is the same thing, I still feel safe (partly due to the fact that I actually desperately want to feel safe here).

I feel safe. But I think that this would be less surprising to you after I tell you that since I came to Kaunas, I've not seen a burglary proof on any window in a residential or business building. Yes. In case that electronic lock starts working, don't fret much - if you've got your eyes on my goods. All you'd need-do is scale the "pseudo-balcony" behind my bedroom windows and again, give what?... You guessed it, ... a sturdy flying-kick to those metal-framed glass windows and in you are, into my bedroom. My goods are yours for the taking.

Because I'm opportunistic about sharing details from my life, I think that now is a perfect time to talk about the fact that I actually have an experiment that has been running since shortly after I got my own bicycle from Mindaugas. This experiment is designed to help calibrate my safety-meter for Kaunas. Here's how it goes:

THE DETACHABLE BICYCLE-LIGHT PAIR EXPERIMENT


The lights look just like this. (Source: Amazon.com)
I bought a pair of flashing bicycle lights for my bicycle: a white one that goes in-front and a red one placed at the back, along the rod holding up the seat. Each of these lights is peculiar in that it is attached to the bicycle by a clip-on which is designed into the body of the light. This means that it's very easy for any passerby to detach any of these lights and walk away with it.

The pair of lights cost me around 5 or 6 Euros but I thought that a small enough token to sacrifice for the sake of true knowledge. I really value true knowledge because growing up has taught me that everyone sees things through different lenses and that taking advice from people at face value about any subject matter at all without any allowance for yourself to test the claims safely can be quite, limiting.

So, apart from the first couple of days after I bought these lights and affixed them to my bicycle, I never detach them from the bicycle when I park it in-front-of my apartment building. Even when I ride the bicycle out and have to park it in a public place that has much more human traffic than the front of my apartment, I only detach the lights in the rare situation that I feel like the parking area has a heavy footfall and increases the chances that I will lose my bicycle lights.

Again, this experiment is so important for me because every morning that I come out of the apartment exit and find that the bicycle lights survived the perilous night is a morning that my preferred (and naive) belief that my environment in Kaunas is safe, loses some of its fictitiousness.
The results of my detachable bicycle-light experiment (so far) are astonishing! (at least for me). After over four months of leaving my bicycle in several public places in Kaunas (chained-down, of course), with two flashy detachable lights, actually, one of the lights has been stolen: the red one in the rear of the bicycle. If my memory and observation serve me right, this theft was performed right at the spot where I park my bicycle at home: under the porch that holds the door which I use to access my apartment building entrance.

I still feel safe though, as I've been waiting ever since then for the other half of the light pair to be stolen as well, so I can just get another pair and once again, become a fully-compliant night bicycle rider in the Republic of Lithuania. When I do that, you can be sure that I'll be apt to detach these lights every time I'm leaving my bicycle outside for an extended period of time.

Back to Kennedy's bicycle, I feel really sorry for him. If I were in his shoes, I know how much new suffering it would mean for me to start doing small errands on my feet again; and I don't say that lightly. As far as I know, he might consider reporting the theft to the local police and is seeking some advice from some locals on how to approach the situation. Can't wait to see how that unfolds and I really hope that somehow, he gets the bicycle back. Cos' I know how important of a possession it was to him. Kennedy is in love with the outdoors.
Read More

19 January 2020

Hafiz Adewuyi

Travelling by bus in Kaunas, Lithuania - a Nigerian's perspective

Troleibusas Kaune snieguotą dieną (Trolleybus in Kaunas on a snowy day)
I have found it to be super convenient to travel around Kaunas by bus since I arrived Lithuania in October 2019. My office is a 10-minute walk away from my house, so I don't have to use any vehicle for my daily commute. However, whenever I am travelling farther from home than my office or the nearby Kaunas Akropolis mall, I usually opt to take a bus.


One working day in my second week in Kaunas, a member of Afriko came over to my office to hand me my Kaunas bus card which was preloaded with 5 Euros. The bus card has a wallet which can be loaded with money for buying bus tickets. Also, each bus card is tied to an individual passenger account which can be accessed through through the Kaunas public transport website. Via the website, the card wallet can be loaded, period-based subscription tickets can be purchased, the wallet balance and travel history can be checked among other things.

Kaunas public transport account online dashboard


The night I dumped my Kaunas bus card for a Žiogas eBus-ticket profile

Not long after I got my Kaunas bus card, I took my first bus trip in Kaunas to only God remembers where. One evening, when I had almost used up the initial 5 € on my bus card, I recharged the card at the Narvesen retail shop in the Kaunas bus station. The cashier took my bus card from me and in three seconds, the transaction was done. I was a bit worried though when she gave me a slip of paper and referred to it as a ticket. I feared that I might have bought a 5 € paper ticket instead of having my card wallet loaded with that amount. However, when I took a moment to sit and login to my online account, I discovered that contrary to my fears, I now had 5 € more in my Kaunas bus wallet.

Another evening in early November 2019, I was about to get on my way back from an appointment in another part of Kaunas where I had traveled to by bus. I checked my online bus account and saw that I had only 70 cents left - just enough money for a one-off bus trip. However, I had noticed from my previous bus trips that sometimes, it takes a few minutes for the balance of the bus card to synchronize to the online account. So I feared that I might actually not have enough money to take a bus trip back home.

Fortunately, there was an IKI retail shop close to my location. I walked into the store and asked a uniformed staffer who was busy with some shelf arrangement to confirm if I could reload my Kaunas bus card in that store. "Unfortunately, you cannot do that here", she said. Disappointed, I walked back out of the store onto a sidewalk inside the same 'prematurely' dark Tuesday evening where I had stood earlier while checking my online bus account.

Žiogas: Kaunas bus tickets mobile app

After taking a few moments to contemplate my next steps, I remembered that Eglė, my main contact at Afriko had mentioned on the Digital Explorers Lithuanian culture training day that we could use a mobile app: Žiogas to buy bus tickets. I went on to download the Žiogas app from the Play store to my Tecno Android phone and loaded it with 3.5 € - enough money for 5 trips. Ever since that evening, I have abandoned the Kaunas bus card in my wardrobe on a shelf on my home wardrobe, as the convenience of funding the Žiogas app outstrips that of the bus card. 

Thinking about it, I can actually also fund my bus card wallet online. But ever since I tried to do that and abandoned the payment, the button for online funding of my bus card has disappeared from my profile on the website. Apparently I need to complete that payment which I have no easy way of finding my way to ever again.

One thing I quickly noticed about the Žiogas app which I liked was that it actually adds up the amounts of your one-off bus tickets in a calendar month until it's up to the price of a monthly bus pass, after which all your subsequent trips will be free. I like this because it actually removes the incentive to buy a monthly pass upfront at no extra cost. Sweet deal!

I don't take a lot of bus trips in Kaunas so I've never spent up to 28 € for one-off tickets in a month


Cross section of your typical bus trip in Kaunas

1. Planning your Kaunastic bus trip

A bus trip in Kaunas always starts in the mind and then proceeds to your phone or computer. If you have never been to a place in Kaunas, days ahead, you would consult Google maps and apply some considerations to the different routes that are applicable for the intended arrival date+time:
  • How long does it take to walk to the target bus-stop?
  • How long is the trip for?
  • How long is the walk from the target bus-stop to my final destination?
  • What side of the road is the bus-station on; will you have to cross the road on your way to/from the source/destination bus-stop?
  • Is the destination close enough and the roads level enough for you to cycle in sub-10 degrees Celsius weather?
Based on a combination those considerations, you would then make a mental note of your preferred route and if the search was done on a PC, send the route as a push notification or text message to your phone.

2. Waiting for your Kaunastic bus

The next step is to remember to get yourself out of the house or office early enough to reach the bus-station at least, 5 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Yes. Even though the buses are more often than not, either right on time or at most, 1 or 2 minutes late, it has happened a few times when you reached the bus stop just a few seconds short of catching the bus, even though you were 1.50 minutes early according to the schedule on the maps.

Enough of you for a minute. My most frequent bus stations to leave from in Kaunas are:
  • S. Daukanto gatve - the closest stop to work at TransUnion, Zalgiris arena; howbeit a long 7-minute walk away
  • Kaunakiemio gatve - a paltry 2-minute walk away from home; the closest stop to home
  • Geležinkelio tiltas: This is a 5-minute walk away from home; the second closest stop to home
Except for once in a blue moon, you often have to walk between 3 and 10 minutes from your departure point to the nearest bus stop. Once there, you step under the bus stop shelter in the hopes that they do something to reduce the effect on the cold wind on your real temperature feel while you await the bus. You would consider sitting on the chair in the shade but a look at them suggests that it's been a while since anyone bothered to clean it. 

So you stand in wait, hoping that the data in Google maps is accurate and that your wait this evening is not in vain. Sometimes, your paranoia would drive you to open Trafi (another bus mobile app which also has local bus routes) and confirm that the suggested route matches that on Google maps - the one that told you to come to this stop in the first place.

Your first impression of waiting for a bus in Kaunas is cold hands. Those few seconds of bringing out your phone to cross-reference your bus route on Trafi often cost some precious body heat from your poorly circulated hands.

3. Getting on board your Kaunastic bus

With up to a 2-minute error rate, your bus will arrive at the bus stop right on time. It always fills you with relief; seeing the bus approach from the distance. Even after 4 months, you have not been able to do away with your fear that the schedule might change because for example, the bus broke down at the previous stop.

As the bus slows down to let alighting and boarding passengers do their thing, you divert your attention to the Žiogas sticker close to the front door on the right side of the bus. While waiting, you had taken a moment to open the Žiogas app. The Žiogas sticker displays a 3-digit code and a QR code, either of which can be entered or scanned respectively into the Žiogas app on your phone. 

As it takes some time to scan a QR code and people typically hurry into the bus, you memorize the bus code at a glance of the sticker and enter it into Žiogas at the same time as you step onto the bus. By the time you're passing by the driver's cabin, your one-off ticket is ready for inspection. You turn your phone screen around and show it briefly to the driver through his tall cabin window - if they are paying any attention and not just staring straight ahead.

Most times, the Kaunastic driver seems not to care about your in-app e-ticket. You never used to display your ticket to the driver until that one time when you had the driver request to see your ticket after you'd breezed through him to a seat right behind him. During that trip, you read the instructions poster in the bus and learned from it your obligation as a passenger to display your ticket to the driver while boarding.

[Picture of Žiogas bus sticker with QR code]

The boarding process is a little different if you're using a Kaunas bus card. In that case, there is no ticket to show to the driver. Instead, you would simply have to tap your bus card against one of the yellow NFC scanners on the bus: right by the driver's cabin or near the back of the bus. This was the case for me in my first several weeks in Kaunas before I ditched my card for Žiogas.

[Picture of Kaunas bus NFC card reader]

After ensuring that you are not a freeloader on the current bus, the next priority is to find yourself a good spot for the rest of the trip. As it appears that the people of Lithuania generally love their personal space, your ideal seat is a vacant two-seater and that is what you try to spot initially. If that is not available, the next option is to find a seat next to a person who based on mental heuristics, is least likely to be flustered by having you seat beside them.

If I could guess, I would say that a friendly face/welcoming aura is the most important factor in this calculation. Which in your opinion is not so easy to come by. Your understanding of a friendly face is... far fetched from what generally obtains in this new home of yours. Or maybe you're just paranoid; still have not recovered from the culture shock.

4. Riding on a Kaunas city bus

The seats are pretty comfortable; wide enough for an average person to sit comfortably. Also, while not all the seats have a lot of leg room for vertically gifted folks like yourself, it's easy to find that kind of seat on any bus that is not much more than half full - which is often the case in Kaunas judging by your bus trips so far. 

The most crowded bus that I myself have boarded since my arrival in Lithuania last October was in Vilnius last Friday on my way back from a Digital explorers Deep Learning training at the Vilnius Tech Park. The bus travelling towards the Vilnius Stotis stop was so full that it felt like I was in an Oshodi Molue all over again. However, after 4 or 5 stops, the crowding reduced and I was able to find myself a seat.

Most of the bus trips that you take are 30 minutes long - or more or less. Anywhere that is not that far away by bus is likely better reached on foot or by bicycle. During these short bus trips, you would spend your time doing one of three things:
  • Taking in the faces of the people around you, hoping not to catch anyone's eye because someone might find that creepy?
  • If the bus trip is up to 30 minutes long, you might pop out a physical book to occupy your mind and make you look smart to absolutely no one
  • Sometimes you also enjoy looking out the window to get a better sense of your new city
Knowing that all of these are activities that you quite enjoy, I dare to say that many an intra-city bus trip in Kaunas passes too quickly for you.

5. Alighting from a Kaunas city bus

But as an adult, you've got to do what you've got to do. You noticed from your first couple of bus trips that passengers would move from their seat to a standing position close to one of the two exit doors of the regular sized Kaunas bus/trolleybus. At first, you thought, "Why the rush? Why not just wait till the bus arrives at your target stop, then walk briskly from your seat to the exit?". However you stopped asking this question and just learned to follow suit after that time when the driver opened the door at your target stop and closed it almost immediately before you reached the exit door. Just before opening the doors, he must have seen from his camera and/or convex mirror view that no one was standing at the door to alight.

As you always have Google maps navigation on during your Kaunas city bus trips, the voice would prompt you one or two stops before your final stop to prepare to alight which is really useful as there is the thin chance that you get carried away reading a book and also not hear the stop announcement since you always have your ears blocked with headphones.

Ears covered with headphones on a Kaunas city bus


That one time I encountered passenger control in Kaunas

In the "getting on board" section of this article, you might have noticed that there is easy opportunity to be a freeloader on a bus trip in Kaunas. 

First, if you're using a bus card, you have total justification to enter through the back door after which you have the choice to tap (or not) your card against the reader as there is no official on the bus to get you to do that. Even if you are using the Žiogas app, the driver more often than not looks like they don’t care to see your e-ticket or if they do, do not scrutinize it. Hence, even if you are going through the front door, you can choose to just walk past the driver's cabin if you notice that the driver is not intent on the queue of passengers streaming through the front door.

The white passenger-control bus has "Keleivių kontrolė" written in blue just above the window. The red bus (taking off) has just been checked for freeloaders
The Kaunas city bus transport company's response to the ever-present risk of freeloaders is a system known as Passenger control - Keleivių kontrolė. This is a group of uniformed officials who drive in a labelled minibus between bus stations, conducting random checks on the passengers of buses/trolleybuses that stop at whatever bus station they happen to be at. 

To be found on a bus without a valid ticket or e-ticket is to be liable to pay a fine of up to 30 Euros. Despite this control measure, it is pretty clear to see that the Kaunas bus transport operation is relying mostly on the propensity of the commuter to do what is right. I have been in Kaunas for 16 weeks now and in all that time - after at least 20 bus trips - I've had only one encounter with passenger control officials. 

If someone is really intent on freeloading, it is pretty easy because they could simply keep watch from the window and buy an e-ticket as soon as they spot a passenger control bus at the next stop which is rarely. Every other time - most of the time, they actually get the chance to travel for free. But I guess that's not how Kaunas people do, so this trust based system works just fine. In Kaunas, I have encountered several instances of public systems that betray an assumption of trust on the public, but my impression of this unfamiliar reality deserves an article of its own.

My cold-room experience on an old Kaunastic Trolleybus

An old Kaunas trolley bus - KaunasIn
Two weeks ago, on the way back from an appointment in another part of Kaunas, I took bus 14 from the Pakraščio g. stop to the S. Daukanto g. stop where I had parked my bicycle when leaving home base a couple of hours earlier. From the street art on the trolley bus, I could tell that it was an old bus, perhaps one of those that had been in an exhibition in Kaunas in late 2019.

After settling into the bus, I removed my gloves and unzipped my jacket as I am wont to do when I step into a newer model Kaunas bus/trolleybus - whose internal temperature is always conducive for that. However, after sitting for a few minutes in this case, I realized that instead of getting warmer, I was actually feeling colder! Well, the moment I realized this, I promptly jumped back into my warm clothing (winter jacket and woolen gloves).

Inside an old Kaunas bus with a cold interior temperature

My Vilnius bus trips compared to Kaunas bus trips

Two Saturdays ago, I traveled from Kaunas to Vilnius by train for a Digital Explorers machine learning training. From the Stotis bus stop (right outside the Vilnius train station), I had boarded a bus to Sauletekis Valley Science and Technology park - training center. A few things about this bus trip were different from the typical one in Kaunas.

For one, the mobile app for buying tickets in Vilnius is Trafi (versus Žiogas in Kaunas) - I had first learned of this difference from Emmanuel (a fellow Digital explorer who lives and works in Vilnius) during one of our training sessions in Kaunas. The Trafi wallet operates quite differently from the Žiogas one in that while you have to buy one or multiple one-off tickets (or other types of longer-period tickets) in Trafi while paying, Žiogas allows you to fund your wallet with any amount and buy tickets only when you're checking in to a bus. Hence, while you can have a one-off ticket that is not attached to any bus in Trafi, all one-off Žiogas tickets are attached to a single bus number.

Another major difference between the Vilnius and Kaunas mobile bus e-tickets is that while for Kaunas, a one-off ticket is valid for a single trip irrespective of how long it is, the Vilnius one is only valid for either 30 minutes or 60 minutes. This means that as a passenger, one needs to do the added trouble of mapping the expected length of their trip to a ticket that covers for that period; if they are not a dishonest freeloader that is.
Read More

9 December 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

By hook or by crook, you will achieve this goal on your own


Just a minute ago, while folding the clothes from my weekend laundry, I found myself thinking about an upcoming Christmas party being organized by a couple of fellow Digital Explorers who live together in a big Kaunas city center flat, just five minutes drive away from mine.

I received communication from the organizers this evening that each of the 11 (or 12 😪) Digital Explorers currently in Lithuania will be contributing 15 Euros to fund the party. It's not a lot of money, but also I would not call it a pittance. In fact, we had one or two explorers protesting that the price tag for the party was a little steep.

Anyway, my idle mind lapsed into gear F (frugal) mode and its first quest was to justify my parting with 15 Euros for a plate of Jollof rice and fried meat. Not much to my surprise, my mind's answer at the end of that quest was that a secondary reward for me would be to have a granular view into how the funds for the party will be spent. 

Not because I suspect that the funds (which as a whole, cannot solve any significant financial problem for any Digital explorer) will be misappropriated, but because standing in one corner of my living room tonight, my mind had already created a beautiful picture of an article through which I open-source Christmas house-party planning information. I dreamed of how majestic the article would be if I could make it just as juicy (detailed) as this beautiful creation from the stables of Paystack where they shared their journey of setting up billboards in Lagos, Nigeria for the first time.

The next thing I thought was, "yes, before I send my contribution for that party, I will demand that the organizers ensure that they keep all the receipts and take out the time to share all line items with the rest of us once the budget is closed". After a few seconds though, I spotted the folly of this idea. It isn't hard for me to imagine how approaching my goal this way can easily lead to conflict when one or two of the organizers feels disrespected by concluding that the reason for my request is that I suspect that funds might be misappropriated. 

This one time, I feel lucky to be an over-thinker (I was last reminded of this part of my nature last Thursday by my date at the Ten Walls and the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra concert in Zalgiris arena, Kaunas). Apart from feeling insulted, I understand that it can be difficult to remain meticulous when you have a lot to handle, which would definitely be the case for the party's organizers the moment they start to shop for the party. I was not optimistic that any of the organizers would be stoked to take on the 'pointless' responsibility of storing up receipts and extracting line items from each of them. After all, we are all contributing the same amount of money.

Again, without prompting me, my mind switched to gear H (humane) and quickly revealed to me that there is a natural and guaranteed conflict-free way for me to achieve my goal of having bird's eye view of the financial planning of this party. 

"Easy, just let them know you would like to assist with the planning of the party. That way, you can have access to the receipts without ruffling any feathers. Win-win. Also, new experience as you have never planned a party in your life and you definitely need to take more social initiatives in this dreary life of yours".

PROBLEM SOLVED

---

Finally, my mind went to gear N (nostalgia), taking me back to one hot Lagos afternoon in 2015. At the time, I was a software developer at Fidelity Bank head office and I was having a chat with Nnanna (my manager) in his office. It was about some work milestone which I was struggling to reach because I was having trouble enlisting the necessary help of another team in the bank (probably the really difficult to work with systems administration team).

I was there to have him intervene on the matter as an oga-at-the-top, as I had faced a bit of resistance in trying to get the team to grant me my wish. However, he insisted that the responsibility of getting the systems admin. team to grant me my request falls solely on me this time.

The phrase which stays with me from that interaction with Nnanna and often replays in my head when I ponder how I handle many a difficult situation in my life these days is: 

"Whether it is that you will go and fight with them or whether you want to make friends with them to achieve this goal, it is entirely up to you. All I know is that you must get this done and I will not step in to help you".

For that particular difficult situation at my work, even though I can't remember the specific details or even how the issue was finally resolved, I know instinctively that I chose to take the friendly, rather than aggressive approach in getting the systems admin. team to help me out. Most likely because I was sure that even if by some sheer stroke of luck (I had zero authority over anyone in systems admin. and also did not consider myself capable of intimidating anyone), I had managed to achieve my goal in a violent way, it was not a sustainable way to work. It would poison me as well as the victims (or perhaps, just me the perpetrator) without commensurate reward.

Looking back, I realize how a lot of my philosophy today is built strongly on that foundation of seeking first to solve problems amicably. Of being willing to risk having my plug take advantage of my appearing to be at their mercy, instead of demanding my well-deserved way to a desired goal. Of not coming to the table floating on a cloud of entitlement, even if as a matter of fact, I am entitled to receive a certain favor from a person.
Read More

21 November 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

My favorite feature on Revolut: Request payment

Two Saturdays ago, I and three other fellow Digital Explorers took a Bolt cab together to a 'friend''s birthday party. I was the one who requested the ride, so at the end of the ride, a payment of €6.8 was deducted from my Revolut virtual card (which I now use for all online/in-app payments since I arrived in Lithuania). As we made our way towards the party house, I vocally broadcasted the total ride cost to the other explorers, as well as the per-head cost: €1.7.

Now, refunding me was pretty straightforward for everyone. Upon arrival in Lithuania, we had each opened a Revolut account. This was one of the few viable options for us, as we had found out (shortly before arrival) that to open an account with a Lithuanian bank with our class of visa, we would have to pay upwards of €100 to the bank (as account opening fee, not as account opening balance). On the other hand, it is completely free to open a fully-fledged European bank account with Revolut. Besides, Revolut lets you send money in a few simple steps to any other Revolut user anywhere in the world, as long as you have their phone number or there are somewhere nearby.

Because I really like money, know how easy it is for someone to forget a debt so insignificant and also, how wary I am of reaching out in person to remind someone to repay a debt (especially peanuts like €1.7), I became uneasy when 10 minutes into the event, not one of the explorers had sent me a refund.

By this time, every one else had settled either into playing the PES 2019 soccer game, being an enthusiastic spectator, doing jackshit on their phone or enjoying some of the treats at the birthday party. It was surely a bad time now to remind my micro-debtors to send my money (lest they forget all about it by the end of the day). At some point, I remembered the "Request payment" feature of Revolut which I had noticed many times before while using the "Send payment" feature.


Without further ado, I opened my Revolut app and sent e-invoices of €1.7 to each one of my three debtors, using a simple three-step process (Select contact => Enter amount => Request payment). There are two optional steps also (see picture below): you can add a description (narration) and a GIF!!!

Fancy how my mind won't let go of Bolt's old name: Taxify

The fact that you can add a GIF to a transaction is what I consider the icing on the cake of Revolut's peer-to-peer payment suite. In the case of requesting payment, for me, being able to add a GIF to a repayment request presents an unmatchable opportunity to introduce some humor, which mitigates the tension that can often surround financial exchanges such as the topic one.

While at it, I also requested payment from Abib* who had requested me to help buy him Aboniki balm and a tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly, shortly before leaving Lagos for Kaunas (he left Lagos for Kaunas a week before me). It was at least, 6 hours already since I had delivered the package to Abib and sent him the payment details (my Nigerian bank account) on WhatsApp, yet a quick check at the party revealed that the payment (however insignificant: ₦1100) was yet to be made. I kindly converted the payment to Euros at 400:1 and sent Abib a payment request on Revolut.

By the end of the day, I had received my 4 payments (3 from fellow Bolters, one from Abib), all without saying a single word to any of my debtors. Soft life 💯! There is no parallel universe but I would put a stake on the chance that at least, one of these 4 people would have needed me to remind them about their debt at least once within the next few days to not totally forget about it. I hope you see now, why I am stoked enough by this feature to spend 2 irredeemable hours of my mediocre life writing about it?

Interestingly, after the "Request payment" transactions had been finalized, Revolut automatically reminded me (through an in-app popup) of the "Split bill" feature - which would have significantly shortened the process of requesting refunds from my 3 co-Bolters. The Revolut "Split bill" feature allows me to select a single transaction from my Revolut debit history and split the amount between myself and any number of Revolut users in my address book.

Split a bill with other Revolut users


In recent days, I cannot help but think back home to Nigeria and how this kind of feature is long overdue, at least for the mobile banking app of many of the country's commercial banks. While I am not ignorant of the challenges to adoption that having 23 commercial banks with mobile apps which are for all practical purposes, isolated from one another, a "Request payment" feature would still be really handy for small groups which are by formulation, a cluster of a single bank's customers. Think a group of Access bank staff turned fine-dining/drinking buddies or a nuclear family that is loyal to GTBank.

Writing this story also reminds me of my not-so-long-ago days at Carbon when similar peer-to-peer payments were an almost daily occurrence between me and my colleagues. One of us would make a payment for some product or service on behalf of several others and we would simply have to settle him/her with a refund to his/her Carbon wallet.

Every so often, when I made a payment on behalf of Titi*, I usually would have to remind him in person at least, once and at the worst, up to two times, before I received a refund. In the period in-between two consecutive reminders, I would severally waive the instinct to remind Titi of his debt, telling myself: "Come on! You earn so much more than ₦700 - and probably Titi -, so you can easily waive this change. Abeg, let it go". Unarguably, my life would have been much easier back then if the Carbon app (which is a great app actually) had allowed me to request payment and/or split a bill, just like I can with Revolut. In addition, it would have spared me having to watch Titi vocally beat up himself for being so forgetful, whenever I reminded him of a debt, like 3 weeks after the fact.

* Name was changed for anonymity as I did not inform any of these persons before mentioning them in my story. IOW, be intentional in how you treat a writer, as you never know when you will end up as the subject of a story that the whole world can read. And they needn't be as discreet as I am being here 🦊.
Read More

17 November 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

Kaunas city municipality waste sorting guide - English

Two days ago (Friday), one day to the end of my sixth week in Kaunas, I observed with mild irritation the cluttered nature of my kitchen counter. The feeling was enough to drive me to do something about it this time. I started to pick up the items on the counter, one after the other, putting each one in its designated place. A few of the items on the counter were waste: paper towels, empty milk cartons and the likes.

In the process of deciding what to do with the empty milk cartons, my mind wandered back to my first major grocery shopping trip in Lithuania. A day after I arrived in Lithuania's capital city - Vilnius - Monika (a Lithuanian buddy) had graciously reached out to me and offered to be my grocery shopping guide. The grocery trip happened on my third evening in Kaunas, and the destination was the Maxima XXX store in the Kaunas Akropolis.

During that trip, when it was time to buy waste bags, I got to know that Monika - my human shopping guide - shared my affection for the environment and its conservation. The moment I reached for the default black bag that I am used to, she asked if we had waste recycling bins back at my apartment. As far as I had seen, the biggest trash can in my flat had only one compartment. Besides, it was only my second day in the apartment, so I had yet to walk around my apartment block to know where the garbage bins stood.

Seeing that I was struggling to answer her question, she quickly excused herself, saying it was fine if I got the regular bag for now and came back for the recycling color-coded bags when I was well-settled in. "As a makeshift, you can get the green, bio-degradable plastic bags for now, which are way better for the environment than the black ones", she advised. I agreed.

A roll of green eco-friendly (tautology?) garbage bags

This Friday, while decluttering my kitchen counter, I decided that it's about time I started doing my bit on this recycling thing. A few weeks ago during a walk round the block, I had spotted the regular garbage bins as well as the three large and brightly-colored bins in the area behind my apartment block. "No more obstacles now, apart from getting the color-coded garbage bags".

Kaunas municipality waste recycling bins on Kaunakiemio street, Centras, Kaunas
L-R: Green - Glass, Yellow - Plastics and metals, Blue: Papers and cardboards
Right away, a wrote a new to-do item into my small notepad to get waste recycling bags on my next visit to the grocery store. The next day though, before I could do that, I figured that I could simply use some of the plastic and paper bags which I have accumulated from different shopping trips. Each time any of the bags for the recyclables was full, I would simply transfer its contents into the appropriate municipality recycling bin, and re-use the same bag for as long as it holds.

The next and final step was to be sure I was sorting my waste correctly. The stickers on each of the recycling bins display some textual instructions for what was items are allowed and prohibited. Unfortunately, the text is in Lithuanian and I'm still at the beginning of my journey in learning the basics of the language.

Logically, I went online to find Kaunas waste sorting instructions. My search led me, first, to a webpage belonging to - what I assume is - the biggest waste-management company in Kaunas (Kauno Švara). There, I found 4 nice infographic flyers, with image and text instructions on what does and what doesn't fall into each of the four categories of waste: Glass (Stiklas), Plastics and Metals (Plastmase), Paper and cardboard (Popierius/Kartonas) and General household waste (Mišrios Komunalinės Atliekos).

While the images on the Kauno Švara infographics were useful in helping me realize my culpability for gross-misconduct in my recent waste-sorting activities at the office which has indoor recycling bins (I had been putting used paper towels into the Paper and cardboard section of the bin), the infographic text, again, was not of much use to me as it was also in Lithuanian.

Hence, I continued my search for waste sorting guides in Kaunas which did not take long to lead me to a PDF file containing the same sorting instructions on the Kaunas municipality recycling bins and on the Kauno Švara infographics, again in Lithuanian 😁. This was a huge step forward though, as it is not much of a hassle to copy text from a PDF into Google translate. I decided that after translating the Kaunas waste sorting PDF guide for myself, it would be useful to make the English version public as well. Ergo, here we are!

Here's the link to the English version of the Kaunas city municipality waste sorting guide, which I translated from Lithuanian to English with immense help from Google Translate. Hopefully, in the near future, one or two fellow tree-hugging, English-speaking foreigners in Kaunas find this useful.
Read More

3 November 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

Halloween-themed night out at Lost Escape room, Kaunas

As Halloween approached, Edvinas (the Lithuanian buddy who has earned himself the title of social prefect for the Digital Explorers' buddy group) suggested that we attend a scary escape room in the spirit of the season. In the course of the next few days, I and four other explorers/buddies signed up to join Edvinas at 9pm on the Friday after Halloween on a trip to a Kaunas escape room which he had learned was English-speaker compatible 😁.

There was no reason to say no really, as apart from being new here, I also live alone in my flat. Hence, I'll say yes to almost every opportunity to socialize and spend leisure time with other people. The only cases where I would be prone to saying no are when the event interferes with my night's sleep and the activity is not something I'm sure to find exciting. Also, it was a public holiday - All Saints Day and I did not exactly have other plans for that day.

On Friday evening, after spending some time chit-chatting at Kennedy's place, I and the rest of the crew were ferried in two batches to the rather creepy (isolated and dark) location of Lost Escape, Kaunas in Laura's red salon car. In less than five minutes, I and the other people in the first batch arrived the building; the only light coming out of it being from a window on the topmost floor where a young man stood alone. Earlier at Kennedy's place, we had joked about how many back home might consider us insane for voluntarily inserting ourselves into a horror-movie scene. "After all the Oyinbo horror movies you've watched, you still haven't learned anything"?

We climbed three flights of stairs to the topmost floor of the building where the young man who had been at the window welcomed us from behind the lobby desk where he stood. While going up the stairs, Edvinas showed us the door to the Pjūklas (Saw movie themed) escape room which was the one that we'd selected (it fit the scariness bill).

Source: Lost Escape Kaunas website

As we waited for Laura and the second batch to arrive the comfy reception room, the reception guy asked to know which of the 4 available escape rooms that we'd selected. On hearing "Pjūklas", he went on to ask if any of us had been in an escape room before. Out of the six of us, only Laura and Edvinas (the two Lithuanians in the group) had ever been to one. Solving an escape room was a first time thing for any of us Digital explorers - who comprised the rest of the group.

The attendant went on to advise us to reconsider our choice of Pjūklas as it happens to be the most difficult room. It made sense that as a group which has 4 out of 6 members as escape-room noobs, we do not choose the most difficult room. After a short consultation between each other, we decided to go for the ancient-Egypt themed "Faraono Prakeiksmas" (Pharaoh's curse) room instead.

A few minutes to 21:00, shortly after the arrival of the second batch (and us watching another group celebrate their escape from the most difficult Pjūklas room in only 63 minutes), we were invited to a closed room for a briefing by the attendant. He gave us a few tips and basic information which include:
  • the time limit of 60 minutes
  • not to brute force our way through any obstacle
  • every clue/key that we needed being within eye level 
  • how to identify escape room artefacts that are not to be touched
  • how to opt-out of the challenge
The briefing took less than 5 minutes and then in we went into the Pharaoh's cursed tomb. This is the part where I go into every detail of our progression through the several sections of this room. Except that I am experienced enough to know how easily that can be interpreted as a contemptible move, both by the Lost Escape establishment and for other people looking to buy this experience in the future.

L-R: Defeated Explorer Mofe, Buddy Laura, Buddy Edvinas, Explorer Hafiz, Explorer Kennedy and Explorer Godsman
It is sad to say though that despite our best efforts, my group of 6 lost what was meant to be the easiest escape room of the lot. We managed to finish in 71 minutes (instead of the designated 60). And I doubt that we would have made it out of the room in even twice that amount of time without the - at least 6 - hints we received from an invisible voice in the room. 

Of course, to keep us challenged, these hints came only at the times when it was obvious from our lack of progress for minutes at a time that we had hit a bottleneck. It would be nice to know the percentage of groups that actually manage to escape from the Faraono Prakeiksmas room with absolutely no hints. The hints from the hidden voice ranged from it asking us to direct attention to something in particular, to letting us know that we needed to be accurate with a specific puzzle we had struggled with for like 5 minutes.

As the final exit of the escape room popped open, indicating our losing escape, we were welcomed back to the real world by a young lady who had apparently taken over from the guy who led us in. She led us back into the escape room to take a few questions from us after which she offered to take a group picture of us in the section of the escape room where we were stuck the longest.

With the rest of the group in seemingly high spirits from the adventure we all just mutually experienced, I left the escape room feeling rather incompetent and deflated as I couldn't help but ruminate over how useless I was to my group in the escape room. Looking in, I guess my disappointment stems from me expecting that many of the ideas to decode the puzzles in the room would come from me. Unfortunately, that did not happen as save for one or two minor ideas, my main contribution to the group was as a mere artefact transporter 😔😢😔.

Even in hindsight, I don't see how I could have arrived at the breakthrough ideas in the record time (if ever) that some members of the group did. Reminds me of how getting into university made me realize that I'm not as absolutely smart as previous stages of education had made me believe.

What my visit to the Kaunas Lost Escape room did to my ego

Around 22:30, as Laura drove our group of 6 away from the creepy area that the Lost Escape building calls home, past the nearby cemetery which looked ethereally beautiful in the dark and cold night (the graves had been adorned with thousands of candles by the ones left behind in the spirit of the Lithuanian All Saints Day), we considered taking a walk through the cemetery to wrap up our Friday night. While I and a few other members of the group were up for it, for Laura, this was too much of a creepy thing to do in the dead of night, so she generously drove us right past the cemetery 😭 and on to each of our homes.
Read More

10 October 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

From Lagos to Kaunas

I'm writing this one from a living room, in a one- (or two-) bedroom flat which lies along on Karaliaus Mindaugo avenue, Kaunas Lithuania. I'm sat behind a stark white four-seater dining table that is right below a chandelier whose white light beautifully illuminates the keys of my silver-painted HP laptop. It's been nearly 4 hours since I closed from work today and I'm feeling cheerful, positive, happy, grateful, privileged, blessed. Right now, there are no negative feelings in here.

This living room that I write from is the one which if all goes as planned, will be my abode for the next 11 months. It is hands down the best living space (by multiple indices) that I've ever lived in since I started paying rent in late 2016. And arguably the best overall space I've ever lived in since I was born (definitely top 2 though). I moved in here last weekend: Saturday. Since then, there's been no power outage in my flat.

Digital Explorers advert from the daily TechCabal newsletter

I've come a long way to be here, 7000+ km if you draw a sort-of-straight line between Lagos and Kaunas. It's a journey which all started serendipitously in early March 2019, when I learned about Digital Explorers from the daily TechCabal newsletter. At the time, I was over my then job at Access Bank and was eager for the next thing already. The first time I noticed the Digital explorers advert, I opened the link to the website, read about the program and found my way to the application form. The form looked intimidating though: about 20 questions and on top of that, I had to submit a video of me talking about myself. I can imagine that I started filling the form; with all the basic details about myself and then I must have stopped at the "Why do you want to be a part of the Digital explorers program" question. Difficult question, you'll agree? Looks too much to me like one whose answer is most likely to make or break your application. Nonetheless, I left the Chrome tab open.

Around the same period, even though I didn't complete the Digital explorers application myself, I made sure to inform a few colleagues of mine at the Access Bank head office: budding developers who were looking for opportunities to accelerate their programming skills. As chance would have it, one of them: Bayo actually followed through and completed this application.

April 1, 2019: the day that applications were closing for the first-ever track of the Digital explorers program, I got into an office corridor chat with Bayo. That was when he told me that he had actually completed his application. Remembering that one of the reasons I didn't complete my application was that I had to record a video 🙍‍♂️, I asked Bayo for how he'd crossed that hurdle. He explained that he had not uploaded the video as the application had requested. However, he was ready to send the video when Digital explorers got back to let him know that the video was missing from his application - who's to know if that’s the only reason that he didn't move past the application stage?

Not having much to do at work that day - I'd actually already dropped a resignation notice at Access Bank, I decided to go through with it; if Bayo can do it, why can't I? And so was it that I soon made my way that fateful Monday afternoon to the loo of the staff recreation centre to record myself talking about my career and my motivation for applying to be a Digital explorer. In another one or two hours, I had submitted my application and that came with a tinge of fulfilment.

Less than 24 hours later, I received an email with a link to a Codility coding challenge which I had to complete. If I remember correctly, I had a perfect score and I finished in good time. In other words, the test was not a tough one for me - who knows, maybe it's because I've been programming professionally for almost 7 years now. Within the next two weeks, I had completed a motivation and personality interview over a phone call with a member of the Afriko team (Afriko is the Lithuanian company leading the Digital explorers program). One week after the phone interview, I was invited to the final step of the program: a week-long training and hackathon program in Abuja Nigeria, happening in the second week of May 2019.

Interestingly, when this invite came, I was less than one week away from resuming as a software engineer at Carbon. For that reason, it was impractical for me to request time off to attend the Abuja Digital Explorers event. How would it sound that I was just three weeks into a job, still learning the ropes and then I'm requesting for a whole week off of work? First, I valued the opportunity to work at Carbon quite highly. Also, one of my highest values at this time of my life is honesty (it's actually because it's hard to think up lies and I'm mentally lazy), so going the route of lying about why I could not be at work for a whole week was not an option for me.

My response to the invite from Digital explorers was first of all tentative, then after I had discussed with my manager about me wanting to try out this opportunity to work abroad, I decided not to take time off work to attend the Abuja event. "Abroad work opportunity will come when I become even more adept at what I do through my job at Carbon", I consoled myself. However, the strong, personable and empathetic people of Afriko would not have it and they ensured that I attended the program, even if only for the last day. "The trip from Lagos to Abuja is an all-expense-paid one", they said. I had nothing to lose, so I said yes and flew to Abuja after work on May 10, 2019, for a jolly weekend of mixing with an ambitious crop of Nigerian techies and sleeping two nights in a room that is much nicer than my Lagos one at the time. Since I was aware that my chances of getting a job offer from a Lithuanian company after the program were slightly reduced as I was not able to participate in most of the week-long program, my main mission in Abuja was to chillax big time; mini-vacation if you will.

Just as I had expected, at the end of the hackathon Saturday (May 11, 2019), none of the companies who had representatives in Abuja had offered to interview me. I resigned myself to one more night of blissful sleep in a nice big Abuja hotel room and promised myself to double-down on my new Carbon job so I'd be better prepared to grab the next desirable abroad-work opportunity that I found.

Roughly one month after the Abuja hackathon - when I had absolutely no more hopes of becoming a Digital explorer, I got an email from an Afriko person. Receiving that email made my day. I remember jumping up from my office chair and telling my colleague Precious that I had just received an email that has made my day. This was before 8:00 in Lagos and I felt fulfilled enough to not do any other work for that day. Of course, my employer would have begged to differ, so as you would expect, I stayed back at work.

The email said that I had been invited for an interview for next week Tuesday by a hiring Manager at TransUnion Baltics. I confirmed my availability for the proposed time and went ahead to prepare for the interview. I went to the company website, read enough to get a sense of what they are all about - I was interested. Afterwards, I compiled a few questions that I would like to ask the panel during the interview.

Because the interview was on a weekday morning, I asked a friend to let me use his office for the interview. My plan was to complete the interview - which based on schedule would eat at most, one hour deep into my workday and then head to my office. My interview with three members of the engineering team at TransUnion went well, even though I couldn't place a bet on that I would proceed to the next stage. I made a few oversights in the live coding session and I didn’t even finish the tasks in the allotted time. I considered it a positive sign though that the hiring manager took his time to explain to me what it was like to work at his company and in his team after I had asked one or two of the plenty questions that I had prepared beforehand.

Roughly a week after the interview, I got an offer letter to join the TransUnion Baltics as a Senior Software Engineer 😭😭😭. After a bit of back and forth, I accepted the offer and well, here we are.


Welcome to Lithuania picture - Vilnius Airport

Tomorrow (Friday) marks the start of my second week in Lithuania. I am a pacesetter and I would love it to be that at the end of this journey, my company is happy to hire many more willing people from Nigeria who want to explore their world through working abroad. I am an ambassador for millions of talented humans back home with inadequate opportunities and I will be keeping some doors closed if I mess up this opportunity. Hopefully, I don't get carried away and I am able to keep that active in my subconscious throughout my time in Lithuania. Also, I am in for a year-long adventurous time in this beautiful and cold Baltic country. Care to come along?
-
Ačiū

---

PS

Do you have any questions for me related to the subject of this article? Ask quickly, anonymously if you want, by clicking here.
Read More

25 August 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

Why I don't blog as often as I would love to

Can you even imagine that I stepped out of the middle of writing another blog post to write this one? I have problems 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️.

Well, I'm writing this because it just happens that writing this happens to feel more exciting, and easier than the one I was on. And this says a whole lot about why most of my articles end up as drafts that will never get revisited by me or anyone else.

Comment which of these articles (if any) that you're eager to read


A lot of times when I get the idea to write an article, it's because I had something of a light-bulb moment where it feels like the best idea in the world right now is to execute that writing idea. Usually, it's due to a memory I recalled, something I just experienced or any other such trigger that leads to me feeling excited about sharing an idea/experience.

When I get such an urge to write an article, depending on where I am or what I'm doing, I would do one of these things:

  • write a draft
  • synthesize the outline of the article in my head
  • just shelve the idea for the ensuing weekend or 
  • if the universe aligns (which is rarely), actual bang out the article on the spot (like this one).
Except in the last instance where I have the opportunity to write the article at the moment when the article idea was born, the chance of my article idea seeing the light of day is less than 1%. Even in that scenario, a lot of times, before I'm halfway through, I either get bored or distracted by something irrelevant. In either case, I always find a way to tell myself that I would be back to complete the article. One of the greatest lies ever told I wonder how I still manage to believe it, given how many times I've told it to myself.

As you might expect, the next time I get the urge to - or decide to - write, the idea in the spotlight is entirely different and going back to continue an article I was writing even just last weekend feels like utter grunt work. It literally feels like: "who's the idiot that dared to imagine that this was a good thing to write"?

Two weekends ago, I started to write an article about a day in my life at Carbon - my current workplace. I had drafted the article and cranked out at least 500 words. However, I had to leave it at some point because it was looking like a rather long one and I felt deserving of a break for the good work done so far. Since then, I've not even as much as opened it to see how far I've gone. At this moment, I have a little more than zero interest in seeing that article completed, the opposite of how I was feeling when I jumped on it two weeks ago.

All that having been said, I guess one tip that might work for me is to direct energy towards simpler article ideas like this one. I'm an explainer, so that means I tend to spare no words in going into as much detail as I think contributes to the comprehension and readability of my article. That, of course, translates to articles that - for a short-attention-span human like me - are long enough to be challenging to finish in one sitting.

Besides that, since all of my distractions are on the internet, it can be useful to make the first draft on a good offline editor - I tend to prefer writing in the blogger WYSIWYG editor because it feels like it increases the chances that I'll get to publish the article. Editing, which might need some internet research and image-sourcing can then be done online.

Blogger WYSIWYG editor

Another thing that comes to mind as a way to improve my completion rate is to enforce a rule that all new article ideas go into a backlog and will not get executed until I complete articles already in the queue. Now, that might sound straightforward but I fear that it might be a death spell to my writing career because I just might never be able to summon up the will to ramp up on an old draft. I know it's an irrational fear though, since most times, it actually takes just a few minutes of labouring to get into the rhythm and resurrect the emotions that were behind an old draft.

--------
ASIDE: While editing this article, I came upon an incomplete sentence (in the previous paragraph) and I found that hilarious. Every time I'm writing an article, it happens to me that in the middle of constructing a sentence, the content of the next sentence would drop straight into my mind and that would feel so much more compelling at the moment that I have to stop the current sentence midway to pen down the next sentence just so I would not forget. I'm curious as to how common this phenomenon is amongst writers.
--------

The best outcome for this article is that fellow writers who can relate to this completion challenge can read this and share me some tips that I can actually use which will increase my completion rate.

Now, I would go right back to try to complete the now boring article I started writing yesterday morning - before my day took an unproductive plunge - but I want to sleep. Let's see how early tomorrow morning works. I really need to find a rhythm for my non-work activities again - writing is close to the top - because I feel unsatisfied about the fact that of recent, I tend to spend all my free time only on self-gratifying and consumptive activities.
Read More

2 August 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

Lagos-based Toyota Corrola salon car goes into retirement

Recently, I read a blog post that I wrote in 2013. For me, apart from being a nostalgic and entertaining read, it made me remember the days when my writing was not all serious and targeted. I used to write just because I got a creative impulse and I thought it'd be interesting to put that to use. I was writing for myself and in a sense, the writing was an end in and of itself.

Along the line though, perhaps triggered by the success of some people around me in commercializing blogs, my attention gradually shifted to stuff like page visits and page rank. I became particularly interested in the potential reach of my writings, more than my enjoyment of writing as a hobby. Ever since then, most article ideas that flow through my head get discarded because "this doesn't help anyone else" or "no one is going to be interested in this".

With that mindset, my writing became less and less frequent, because of the sheer stress involved in the filtering process. Most times, by the time I'm done thinking about how to present an idea in the way most beneficial to the supposedly reading public, I've already lost the zeal to write it.

This evening, while I was doing a few dishes, my eyes picked up the sheen of my car under the dim compound lighting through the kitchen window. Seeing the car shine gave me joy in that I can lay total claim to such a beautiful object. I think the reason that I actually took notice was that it had actually been a while since I'd seen the car shine that way. Yes, until this past weekend, the car had not gotten a wash for at least, one month 😳😳😳.

In the few seconds that followed that moment, a few thoughts followed. How happy I was when I first lay my eyes on that car 3 years ago. I also considered how little use the thing now gets used since I moved within 4 miles of my workplace in June. And of course, at that moment, the idea for this article was born. And to my surprise, my helpful article filter allowed it to pass. Surely, the filtration process has relaxed since I read that 2013 article.

I'm excited about this development because it just might mean that I'll be able to achieve better consistency in my writing. I don't know if I've ever said it publicly but I feel a burning desire to blog consistently. To make it clear, this desire does not exist to fulfil an end which consistently blogging is bound to lead me to. No. Blogging, which in the style that I do, generally means documenting my own experiences in a way that is freely and widely accessible to other people is in itself, an end for me.

-------------

My Green Toyota Corolla in a fine Lekki house
My car went into retirement in the last week of June 2019. This coincides with my relocating to a house which is 4 kilometres closer to my workplace than my previous place. The location of the new house means that I can get a Keke directly from the front of my house to the front of my workplace for 200 Naira (55 cents). On realizing this, I think it would have been silly for me on many levels to still keep driving my car to work on the regular.

Level 1: Transportation cost

My Toyota Corolla car is fuel economical. Hence, between my old place and my workplace, I used to spend between 500 and 600 Naira on petrol per day, which when you add the benefit of comfort of privacy you get in a car versus a Keke, it can't really be said to be expensive. That is until you remember that every day, yours sincerely had to shell out 360 Naira every day to pass through the Lekki Admiralty toll plaza. That takes my former daily transportation costs up to 900 Naira; more than twice what it now costs me for my daily work commute.

Level 2: Car maintenance

Beyond the running costings for using a car being more on a day-to-day basis, there's also the fact that the more use a car gets, the more frequently it has to be maintained. These days, I drive my car only on Saturdays and Sundays, mostly within my neighbourhood. In numbers, this means that my car now gets 71% more rest than it used to in the days when I drove it to work every day. Now, if that's not retirement, please tell me what is.

In terms of cost, using my car less than one-third the time that I used to means that instead of servicing it three or four times a year, I can now do that just once or if I'm being generous (or paranoid) twice a year. Similarly, the unexpected faults that tend to rear their heads every once in a while, leading to unanticipated spending are less likely to occur due to reduce wear and tear on the car.

Finally, if I was driving to work every day from my current house, I would be driving the car through some not-so-level roads. Every single day! That would take away a few more points from my well-maintained car scorecard.

Level 3: Commuting time

Beyond being a car spoiler, the poor state of the roads in the Lekki-VI alternative route (they're actually not that bad but I hate to drive on anything other than a paved road) between home and work means that a car can't be driven any much faster than a Keke can. The roads are quite bumpy, right from around Newmarket (Akiogun) road in Lekki until you get to Ligali Ayorinde street in VI.

Of course, the commuting time takes a leap at rush hour times. Again, at such times, I'd rather not be stuck in my car wasting away in traffic that I could breeze through using a Keke or Okada. When I used to drive to work every day, I regularly had to wait at the office till at least, 8 PM for rush-hour traffic to ease out enough to be tolerable for me.

However, since I started taking Keke to work with my car parked at home, I've been regularly leaving my work for home between 5 and 6 pm. In the worst traffic situations on my route, Kekes still manage to get through much faster than any car can. Also, if it's a total standstill, I'm free to walk or bike my way out of such before joining a Keke that has gone past the traffic.

Having said all that, I hereby wish my car a happy retirement.

PS

I think this article is lame. But what's wrong with being lame? Whenever I'm hesitant to do something because I might be seen as lame, I like to encourage myself by reminding myself that lameness is actually a positive trait in that it gives other people a reason to laugh. Hence, in as much as I manage to take the mockery light-heartedly, my lameness actually has a net positive effect in the world, so long as it does not involve directly causing damage to someone or something.
Read More

24 June 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

I took a GBoat from Lekki to Victoria Island last Monday. Here's how it went

Shameless admission: I stole the format for the title of this article from the first review of GBoat (at least according to Google). I'm trying to be the second review and also, I hope to have my article appear on the first page when anyone in Nigeria searches for GBoat.

---------------

Gossy's giveaway tweet for GBoat Nigeria

After stumbling on a tweet from Gossy that was offering giving a free GBoat ride and drinks on Friday, I decided to be an early adopter by booking a Lekki to Victoria Island (V.I.) trip for the next Monday's work commute. What's the worst that could happen? It costs only 200 Naira. I don't know if I've ever looked forward to Monday morning like I did throughout the ensuing weekend. I shared my excitement via my Whatsapp statuses and before Monday, 4 of my contacts requested that they'd love to know how it goes. So here I am fulfilling that wish for all of them and hopefully, many other people.

My first GBoat booking. 7:00 on a Monday morning

I got to the jetty at 6:55 on Monday, barely five minutes before departure, even though the ticket e-mail had said to be at departure point 15 minutes ahead. I had to take an okada from Ikate roundabout bus-stop in Lekki all the way to the junction of Wole Olateju crescent and Admiralty way after waiting to no avail for a bus that would drop me at Lekki Phase 1 gate for about 5 minutes.

6:49 on Admiralty way; Luka couldn't go fast enough

I paid off the Okada guy (Luka - I know his name because I paid him via bank transfer) and hurried towards Marcopolo restaurant which is right in front of the jetty. Since it was that early, I had to explain to the gateman that I had a ride for 7 a.m. that morning before he allowed me to make my way around to the back. "By this time?", he'd said after I explained to him. Obviously, he was not aware of the arrangement. On getting to the jetty, there was no boat in sight. Also, the only humans in sight were some 'staffs' of Kingfisher restaurant who were fast asleep under the waterfront shed.

Kingfisher restaurant, Lekki

My thinking was that the booking website contained the wrong departure location. I thought that might be the case because in the pulse.ng article, the departure point was Pavilion Jetty, Lekki. So I consulted the ticket email that I got from "Lagos boats" after my booking to see if this might be the case. To my relief, the departure point on the ticket was also Kingfisher, Lekki. This surely was not my mistake.

I waited around for at most, 2 minutes before accepting that alas, I had to follow the boring route to work that morning. As I walked back towards the Marcopolo exit, I couldn't help but stew in anger. Just as I walked through the Marcopolo gate though, I heard my phone ring. It was Gossy, the founder of "Lagos boats". On the call, he confirmed my availability for the trip. I told him I was at the jetty already, after which he let me know the boat would be there shortly.

Back at the jetty, at 7:12, I saw a boat pull into the jetty. As soon as the driver was within earshot, I confirmed from him that it was a GBoat. So, las las, rush-hour traffic is not my portion this morning. He took about 4 minutes to dock the boat at the jetty, right after which he beckoned me to come through. The jetty gate was locked though, so I couldn't go through. Village people

GBoat boat approaching the Kingfisher Lekki Jetty

As soon as I told the GBoat driver about the locked gate, he had a conversation with the gateman guy who had let him in, of which that one just clear him, telling him the person with the jetty keys was not on duty 😱. Next, the driver made a call, after which he told me that feedback was on the way from the person on the other end of the line.

The GBoat driver making a call on my behalf for the gate to be unlocked
Not 5 minutes after that, Gossy arrived. Likely, he's the one the driver had been talking with over the phone. After we exchanged pleasantries, he told me that the person with the key was on the way. By now, it was at least, 7:30 and I feared I'd not make it to my office on time that morning. However, he allayed my fears by sharing the detail that the ride takes between 5 and 8 minutes. While waiting for the key-guy, we talked about different topics like:

  • my price sensitivity and how I might not be able to keep up if the GBoat fare increases
  • how the waterways in Lagos have a mixture of fresh and salt water and how these can be distinguished by the wave pattern on the surface (flat vs. rough)
  • the cost of importing a boat from Dubai and the boat he's building
After waiting for another 8 minutes, Gossy decided that we'd go through the gate. Cool!!! 😄. He led the way, and I followed as soon as he was over the gate. I mounted the boat right after him too and within a minute, off we went. Departure was at 7:42. I know because Gossy asked me to check the time so I'd know how long the trip takes.

What to say now about the ride? It went fast, really faster, faster than I wanted. I also enjoyed the fact that I had enough personal space to myself since it was just me, Gossy and the boat driver on board. During the ride, I busied myself with taking pictures and videos and in hindsight, I think that took away some enjoyment of the experience for me. We arrived at Paradise Jetty in V.I. at 7:50 (8-minutes after departure from Lekki).

I and Gossy; happy about takeoff I guess




The GBoat arrives at the Paradise Jetty, Victoria Island

Something beautiful about how the rays bounce off of these buildings, opposite the Paradise Jetty

The entrance of Paradise Jetty, Victoria Island

The walk from Paradise Jetty to Kofo Abayomi junction where I got a Keke Napep to drop me at work is a short one

Right now, it's 2:38 a.m. on Monday and my next GBoat ride is less than 5 hours away (7:35). Except there's something particularly striking, I'll keep my phone and its accompanying camera in my pocket and just enjoy the ride through my eyes and skin. My body tends to protest and pay deaf ears to alarm clocks when I get less than 5 hours of sleep though. Hopefully, that does not happen today because I don't want to miss my GBoat ride 🙏. That sure won't be a good way to start a week.
Read More