Work has brought me to the capital of Nigeria – Abuja. Abuja immediately brings to mind two places – Houston with its wide highways, (always being widened further) tail-gating drivers, high humidty and the necessity of driving between any two locations or risk being stared at for being wierd (if they don’t just run you over); and Milton Keynes which, when I was growing up there, was a mass of building sites, roundabouts and pretty much zero sense if it being a place. Add to that a smattering of Africa – impromptu restaraunts between building plots, people hawking out of containers carried on their heads, and a distinct lack of electricity where and when you really need it. There you have Abuja.
I’m setting up the IT part of the new office here. That’s where the electricity outage really gets in the way. Computers and networks and internet connections all need electricity. This part of town only gets electricity during night-time hours, despite it being part of the city that only has offices, government ministries and banks. So the place hums with the sound of a hundred and fifty generators. Except for our building. I’m told the generator here blew a gasket. I thought that was something they only said in cartoons.
This morning when I arrived, there were lights in the foyer. I thought this might turn into a super productive day, but as the lift reached the sixth floor, everything went dark – we’d caught the last five minutes of electricity from the power company. After levering the lift door open I tried to figure out what to do with the rest of the day. The network cabling is 90% done (need electricity to check it actually works). The partitioners are 60% done (need electricity to cut a hole in the frame so we can pass network cables). The internet connection people were due in this morning, but we won’t be online without electricity. How frustrating.
Luckily I am able to connect with my battery powered laptop to some unsuspecting soul’s wireless network. Which lets me check my email and see what is going on in the world. I also got to work on a proper scaled floor plan of the office with the down time.
This time last week I was in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Freetown is a different kind of place altogether. It is more humid than Abuja, and electricity is only on two or three hours a month. This is made up for by fantastic seafood and the fact that everyone has a generator running all the time.
I quickly managed to infect my flash disk with a boot sector virus, which seemed to wipe out all my data. This seemed to happen by leaving the flash drive plugged in while rebooting someone else’s computer. I had to format the drive to get rid of the virus. I didn’t have time to disinfect the computer that infected my drive. Boot sector viruses are tricky to fix. Annoyingly, Symantec Corporate Edition does not provide the facility for this. Yet another point against this increasingly pointless bit of software.
Asides from this, the office in Freetown was remarkably straight forward. The fears of trojan horses and ferocious levels of file sharing proved to be unfounded. The explanation for the slow internet connection I was supposed to sort out seems to be high expectations from the users of the connection. Satellite always feels a bit slow because of the latency. Having a shared downlink also means the speed is not consistant.
Outside of office work, I managed to spend a morning on the beach in Freetown. There were maybe thirty energetic football matches going on along the beach. I stopped at a bar for a couple of beers to watch the world go by. I ate a rather unripe mango which was carefully cut into tear of segments, and sprinkled with salt and curry powder. Not sure how I felt about that – it wasn’t unpleasant, but surely not the best way to enjoy mango. Maybe unripe mango though – it wasn’t quite the season.
Lynda, the country rep in Sierra Leone took me to a beautiful restaurant about an hours drive out of town, where I ate two lobsters.
It was a fantastic setting – see attached 360 degree “virtual reality” panorama. The lobsters were very delicious.
For my weekend in Abuja, I went mountain biking with the country rep and some friends who kindly lent me a bike. It was exhaustingly hot – we only covered about 8 miles in two and a bit hours. Was nice riding across streams, and getting lost amongst ravines. I wish Yuki and I had taken bikes to Tanzania now – it would have been great for exploring offroad around where we were living.
So a week left. Hopefully I can get everything done, as I can’t handle being here for another weekend, nice as it was. Abuja has nothing happening at all. Really dead and dull. I hope the electricity comes soon.