“Land of our birth we pledge to thee.
Our love and toil in the years to be,
When we are grown and take our place,
As men and women with our race.”
- Stanza one, Cross River State Anthem.
I write, for this is the land of my birth.
I was born in Calabar. I grew up in what I would call the golden era of Calabar; when bikes were banned, cabs were introduced at really cheap prices, the city was kept clean and green without the waste disposal agency having to gather refuse in the mornings while people are trying to go to work and the Calabar Christmas festival started.
So, it saddens my heart what Calabar has become.
Cross River Urban Development Agency, the agency in charge of appropriate waste disposal now packs refuse in the morning between 7am and 9am, causing traffic that makes people end up late to appointments. The Calabar I knew has slowly died and has been replaced with a mere caricature of its former self.
Sometime between the ending of September and the middle of October, I took my wakaabout feet home, to my mother’s food and to Calabar, the land of my birth. I was expecting it to be my usual routine; hanging out with the bestie, having ice cream and the occasional lunch at a certain café, munching Hi Quality Bakery bread and pastries every other day and generally minding my business because it is the best thing to do when one is in this city. But I was mistaken. My friends were around, both those who live in Calabar and those who decided to visit Calabar. So, I had to do some “interesting” wakaabout and I discovered something.
I discovered that there are many ways to view a city, especially if you have lived in that city for so long. One of those ways is through the eyes of a tourist. I viewed Calabar, devoid of the Christmas festival excitement, from the eyes of a tourist who has been to many other cities. And I found Calabar wanting.
My first rude awakening was when I discovered that beyond eateries and bars and Marina Resort, it was really difficult for me to think of where to hang out with my friends, especially the out of town humans who had heard all about Calabar and wanted an amazing experience.
We ended up regulars at Suya Arcade in Bogobiri, munching really nice and cheap suya (cheap because we knew how to bargain. Trust me, you do not ever want to see me trying to get a better bargain, you will call me a “street girl”) and drinking beer in this bar that has a lot of patronage although the customer service is shitty because it is the only bar so close to Suya Arcade.
Then, there was the Marina Resort Wakaabout. Sincerely, I went there because I wanted to charge my phone. My area in Calabar has this special beef against electricity supply. We had brunch at La Tortuga Island and went to see a movie at the Film House branch at Marina Resort. After that we went for a boat ride to Twin Island, where there was really nothing much to see.
The next day, we decided we had to go to Tinapa. I had not set foot in Tinapa resort since 2013. And at that time, the shops in there were closing down. How was I to know that we were setting ourselves up for a boring start to the day? There was nothing to see except places with overgrown grass, a water park that was dysfunctional, sad shutdown shops, the sullen face of the gorilla statue holding the “NOLLYWOOD” sign and a functional hotel. We drove off, disappointed about Calabar and sad. We ended up back in Marina Resort. This time, we went into the slave trade museum with paintings and pictures that looked “poorly managed” because I could see signs of degradation on them. The day had its redeeming qualities though. We went to a karaoke bar and had the special pleasure of murdering beautiful songs. I murdered Adele’s Hello.
After that, we discovered the virtues of just sticking together and finding excuses to eat pizza or take alcohol.
Basically, Calabar became the city where fun came to die.
But! Do not despair if you are going to Calabar for the first time this Christmas. It is usually much more fun during the Christmas Festival month which starts today.
So, allow me the honor of welcoming you to the Calabar Christmas Festival Season. I shall be doing reviews of some of my favorite places in Calabar. These include hotels with standard beautiful rooms as cheap as 5,000 naira, places to get ice cream, get good food, places to club, have nice drinks, places to see and of course, places to avoid. There will also be giveaways from Wakaabout Chronicles. Follow the social media handles (@wakaaboutchroniclesbychinwendu on Instagram and Wakaabout Chronicles on Facebook), the giveaways will happen there. And if you would love to hang out with the Wakaabout Queen during the Carnival week, we can work something out.
Oya let the fun begin.