Archive | February 2013

The Toughest Assignment Ever

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A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail inviting me to tour “the most elegant ship built in the last 50 years… OceaniaRiviera.”

My heart sank. I knew all about cruise ships from a tour I took a few years ago. Memories f that visit still haunt me: a fancy lunch, glasses of sparkling champagne, a waiter unfolding a crisp cloth napkin in my lap, great company.

From the sound of it, touring the Riviera —  a luxury ship with about 800 crewmembers — would be even more difficult. Surely, I thought, my editor wouldn’t be so cruel as to make me go. I was wrong.

“Do I get hazard pay?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said cheerfully, as though he were sending me to cover a centenarian’s birthday.

I considered calling in sick. I considered tricking a bystander into taking my place. I even considered turning in my press pass and moving back to Nigeria.

But deep down, I knew what I had to do. For a serious journalist, backing out is never an option.

The public needed to know about the five-star amenities in the most elegant cruise ship in the world. If I didn’t work up the courage to go inside and emerge to tell the story, who would?

Besides, if I didn’t sacrifice myself, another reporter would have to take my place. I couldn’t let that happen to my colleagues, even though I knew the assignment would be the toughest of my career.

 

The tour

On the morning of the tour, I put on my best shoes and skipped breakfast, suspecting that part of my onerous responsibilities would include sampling five-star cuisine prepared by internationally recognised chefs.

I walked to Wickhams Cay with a sinking feeling, hoping that I would be turned away at the gate. I longed to go back to the Beacon office and spend the day writing about politicians, phoning grumpy government officials, and copy editing articles.

Anything but touring a luxury cruise ship.

As I neared the vessel, the tourists coming off were cheerful and smiling — no doubt because they were escaping from the ship, I thought.

Along with tourism officials and other media representatives, I was greeted warmly by Karen Negron, the international representative of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas for the Caribbean.

I had no choice but to follow Ms. Negron on board the 1,200-passenger vessel, which had docked a few hours earlier.

When we got on board, we were issued identification cards and led to an elevator. It took us up several floors, passing paintings, sparkling chandeliers, sculptures, dazzling lights and smartly dressed crew. My head spun.

 

Spa, casino, bars

We stopped on Deck 15, which houses more of what I dreaded: the ship’s spa, tearoom, conference room, a casino and bars.

Passengers sign up to stay on board for as long as 10 days, according to Ms. Negron.

I shuddered. If I had to do that, I’d miss my own apartment, where mosquitoes whine in my ears all night and crickets chirp all day. And I’d probably go crazy from the abundance of hot water.

As we walked through the corridors, I quickly got flustered. I didn’t know where to look. Outside the windows, the view was stunning, but inside the walls were decorated with paintings by Latin American artists.

The ship resembled an art gallery on the sea — and in a way it is, Ms. Negron explained: cruisers can purchase the art on display, some of which was marked “Sold.”
I was barely able to keep my cool and take photographs of myself posing on the Riviera — just to prove what I had survived.

The tour also included a trip to the ship’s spa, where serene music played in the background as we walked through corridors lined with fountains and plants.

I longed for the dusty, broken fountain at the Sir Olva Georges Plaza, and the dirt and noise of Main Street, where I usually spend my days reporting.

 

Six-course meal

As Ms. Negron explained that the 15-deck vessel has 10 fine dining restaurants with menus from all over the world, I knew the worst was yet to come.

I cringed as she listed off their fancy names: Red Ginger, Toscana, La Reserve, Jacques, Waves.

More than anything, I wanted to return to my desk at the Beacon and eat my usual meal of Ramen noodles and a microwaved baked potato. But duty called.

Ms. Negron led us into a large dining room, where we were seated under a crystal chandelier. A Sri Lankan sommelier kept refilling our glasses with wine, and I had no choice but to keep drinking it: I knew the public needed to know exactly how it tasted.

Gourmet food followed. I endured one course after another: miso glazed seabass in den miso marinate, risotto all’aragosta — but in the spirit of journalistic restraint, I’ll stop short of describing all six courses so as not to disgust readers. I’ll just say that when we finally left the ship, I could barely walk.

Though the experience was painful, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment for having completed the most difficult assignment ever.

If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Customer Service and I.

Your product or service could suck but once you got excellent customer service as cover  up, you’ll have not only my money but my loyalty.

I’m disappointed right now. I just walked out of a hair salon.

So, I walked in, said hello to everyone but got no response. Well, that wasn’t why I walked out but that should have been good reason enough to leave.

I sat down there and noticed a lady blow drying her own hair. I sat there for close to three minutes. She didn’t say a single word to me but just continued with her weave.

There was only one lady under the dryer, so I asked her where the hair dresser had gone and she told me the lady doing the weave was the hair dresser.

I waited for another minute or so and nothing was said. No “Hi, can I help you?” or “Please, give me a minute.” Nada!

I simply carried my unimportant-customer self and walked out. I’m going to wait till my hair dresser is available. My hair isn’t that dirty for me to sit through people who disregard their customers. 

And some people sit there and wonder why they hardly have customers?

Well, I sure will be telling a whole lot of ladies about that salon and I won’t fail to dish out warnings about not visiting that salon. It’s the 21st century, customers may not have been right and may not have been first priority but in this day and age, you treat your customer like gold no matter how “insignificant” the service they require is.

Wait, let me even go back and check the name of the salon…

Yes, this has been a not-so-senseless post 😐

Red Snapper Awards

There’s neveImager a dull day at my office.  The place could be as quiet  as a graveyard and before you now it, as noisy as a kindergarten  play gound. As cheesy as this may sound, I really love  my coworkers.   Who else can I call my Chicken Sandwich other than Chrystall. Her cubicle is just right behind mine. I think she sees everything I do on my computer… She’s probably reading as I type.  Where else can I find someone to bully other than my office. Well, maybe bully isn’t the right word to use. It’s more like “talk into.” That’s where Eric comes in. He is the snack man. Eric can tell when you have snacks from a mile away.  Plus, you can always depend on him to pop up with snacks. Not just any snack but healthy snack.

For anyone who reallllllllly knows me, fashion isn’t one of the things I do well with. But when it comes to the office, I pretend to know a thing or two about fashion.  Meet Jason! I get to practice my male fashion ideas on him. I feel sorry for the dude. I get overbearingly annoying and I can see him boiling sometimes. At the end of the day, we just smile it off and look forward to the next “Jason fix your shoe lace.” lol …

Then you have the funny Todd, the  sort-of quiet Freeman. (I can’t say much about him… he is my editor. …lol)  Then the mother-figure Rebecca and the world’s best receptionist, Carol!

Wheeeh… This actually isn’t a post about my coworkers. This is more about me! YES! you got that right! vain me. 

So this morning during the weekly editorial meeting, the very creative and innovative Todd came up with a very brilliant idea. “The Red Snapper Award!”

Yep… The in house award will  sit on the desk of the reporter who submits great photos in time and  organizes them well. 

And guess who won the very first BVI Beacon Newspaper Red Snapper Award?  If you couldn’t tell by the photo, I won! and i have the red snapper hanging over my desk right now…(Eric, I’ve been watching you all day, take your eyes off my snapper.)

Now, the challenge is to win the award again next week.  Not only is the award an incentive but Todd said whoever wins it for four consecutive times  (more like whoever wins it for the entire month,) gets lunch from Vero’s Tasty Treats! (She cooks amazing curry. She’s located just five steps away from the office 🙂 )

The competition is on…I hope I can blog about the Red Snapper Award again soon. Bye! The Valentine’s Day champagne bottle is about to be popped. I don’t like Valentine’s Day much but i love champagne. bye….

Again, this has been another senseless post 🙂

I Want My Money Back!

I’m still mad…. Maybe more at myself…

So I was at a local Food Fair today. I love eating local and patronizing local vendors but goodness me, sometimes they go over board with their pricing.

I understand the cost of production bla bla bla…. but goodness…Well, let me just tell you guys what happened.

My Chicken sandwich and I, were at the Park and we needed something to eat. After watching a youtube video on some guy cooking salt fish, I had cravings for nothing else but salt fish.

When we got there, we browsed around for a bit and I saw a neighbor of mine whose family owns a restaurant. I felt this sought-of odd loyalty and felt I should patronize my neighbour.

Not a bad idea you’d think right? How wrong was I? I stood in front of that man’s stall for close to 10 minutes. I almost thought I was standing there begging for the food. Chrystall was smarter than I was, she walked away after the man totally ignored us when we tried to ask him when he was going to start serving.

Anyways, after my agonizing wait, i finally did get the salt fish but decided i wasn’t going to get all the sides it came with. When i went to pay, the guy told me my ill-looking, bland tasting meal was $15. I was in shock.  I have no problem paying that much money for food if i get great customer service and the food actually tastes good.

SMH…

Go Super Eagles!

Goal! 

I didn’t want the match oh. I’ve not watched football in a very long time. I don’t think i remember much about the game even. 

I peeked at Twitter this morning and noticed folks predicting the outcome of the Nigeria and Mali game that was scheduled to take place at some point during the day.

I had totally forgotten about the match. Not that I was going to watch it anyway. Few minutes later, tweets started coming in about the Super Eagles trashing the players from Mali. The patriotism from the Nigerians on my timeline was refreshing.

The tweets took me back about 15 years ago. Most of them praising the Super Eagles and of course, the very Nigerian thing to do: bad talking the players from Mali.

It’s been a while since i read such praises about our players. in the past say, five to six years, maybe even more, there’ve been nothing but insults and comments making fun of the Super Eagles. (Super Chickens was one of such names they were called.)

Well, the praises just took me back to when I was growing up in Nigeria. There’s was always this tension in the air when the Super Eagles played. The city stopped moving. There were hardly any vehicles on the streets, people were in their homes, gathered around mostly black and white televisions watching the guys all dressed up in green and white or white.

Everything came to a standstill. If your dad or mom was angry at you, that anger was forgiven…only for the duration of the match.

Every where would be as quite as a graveyard till the first goal arrived. Seriously, the entire community screamed/yelled “gooooallllll,” in unison when that happened. That was usually followed by a few kids running out of their homes into the streets. Then in a snap, everyone was in again, waiting on the next reason to shout. 

The football experience was almost always never complete without the men from the neighborhood who came to our living room to watch the game. Two in particular had the loudest mouth. Come to think of it, those guys all looked unfit to me i’m sure they couldn’t run half a mile without panting for hours. They would sit there pelting out insults and instructions at the television as though the players could actually hear them. (Well, of course, then as a child and a girl for that matter, no one expected to hear a word from me…)

If the team lost, the entire street appeared kind of gloomy and if they won, there was this cheer in the air. I remember when Nigeria played a game against Argentina in 1996…I think. It was the finals. Nigeria won the game which ended at about 2 a,m. the entire town had a ball. There were small parties all over, men in groups singing praises and all of that good stuff. Street gossip even had it that one guy danced around naked.

I remember Kanu Nwankwo, SUnday Olise, Okocha and Taribo West, being the stars of the game. 

Those were fun times and I miss those them. Maybe one day, I’ll be in Nigeria when there’s a football match. I long to re-live such memories.  I’ll like to scream “gooooooallllll,” once again.

Till then, Up Super Eagles! I hope they win the African Cup of Nations. It will give us Nigerians one reason to smile and celebrate as one people amidst all that’s going on.