I grew up in the oil city of warri and have been there all my life until very recently. We moved! I’ve never moved, ever! It’s always been the one house, same ol’ neighbors, bus-stops and friends, yet here I was, slapped with the sharp reality that was Portharcourt, another oil city.
Permit me to correct one misconception here, it’s not everyone living in oil rich cities that are rich. Back then, telling people I lived in warri raised many eyebrows that I wanted to slap down(lol) and many side comments of how we’d be swimming in money (I wish!) . It grew worse with moving to PH, I mean, we now live at the backwaters,the suburbs,the hinterlands, but a lot of people just find Portharcourt synonymous with oil money even if it’s engine oil you sell for a living. So, anyway, if you fall in love with me thinking you’re going to inherit some badass oil money and get connected to the people on top, me and you both would die of hunger (heh), I mean, see where living in ph couldn’t get me a job. In the same vein, just in case you fall in love with a boy because he stays in ph… *coughs*
Anyway, I digress. Portharcourt is a beautiful city, really beautiful, and I think what shocked me the most was the amount of people there. You see, where I lived in warri, you knew everyone, you grew up with the same folks, everyone knew when you had dinner and when your folks gave you a whooping. Portharcourt was different, crowded and busy and if you didn’t get the memo already, oh well..
So, as a warri girl, I cannot carry last. Despite growing up under lock and key, I mastered the routes and bus stops as quickly as I could. Now, I’d give you a few tips just incase you’re visiting Portharcourt or planning to relocate. Let’s call these, survival tips.
- CROSS THE ROADS LIKE A BADASS.
Portharcourt city is synonymous with traffic and almost everywhere is like this – blurry and fast. At first, I used to stand for a long time hoping the cars would maybe slow down and let pedestrians pass. Oh, well , let’s just say, now I know better. These days I stroll across the busy roads, more like – ‘if dem born you well, jam me’. Disclaimer right here, don’t try this at home, YOU WILL GET AN ACCIDENT! Crossing the roads is your first survival skill here, once you master this, you got the memo.
- WHEN IN DOUBT, TAKE THE BUS
Ah! The age long struggle – bus or taxi? This is my own analysis and subject to your discretion.
So, there are the mega buses, the type we call in anambra – Willie is working. Forgive me, I really don’t know the name of that bus but it looks Alot like the luxurious buses and in Portharcourt, they’re Alot cheaper , but at a price – your comfort. All the times I’ve seen the bus pass, it’s been overcrowded and I used to wonder if the passengers would somehow pour out of the Bus. Anyway, if you’re really low on cash and can stand heat and a mixture of assorted body smells, this is the bus for you. The coaster buses are cheaper too, they charge about 50ngn depending on your destination and are less crowded but they’re not very rampant in town and you don’t want to be standing for hours waiting for them. Next is the 14-seater which is what I take. It’s only comfortable when you meet the bus early. Once, I had the unfortunate misery of being the last passenger to get on and had to share a space with the conductor – Naturally, I’m a tolerant person and I have an almost inactive nose, but man, the smell was horrible, I almost fainted during the ride, it was horrible. Another time, I took a seat that almost fell out of the bus, the entire trip left me in perpetual fear, but like I said – it’s only comfortable when you meet the bus early. Other times, I’ve had quite comfortable seats in less crowded buses so if you must take the bus, avoid the empty ones and the ones full to the brim, it’s easy.
If you want comfort and less stops, then the taxi cab is for you. It’s comfortable as long as you avoid the front seat. I hurried to the front of the cab one day, hoping to enjoy the atmosphere in peace with enough breeze blowing me away from the chatter common with passengers at the back – why do people have conversations in public transport again? Now, imagine my shock when the driver told me to shift, for another passenger would be joining me. For the rest of the trip, the seat belt ejector was grinding into my already non existent ass. Suffice it to say, I no longer seat at the front. If you must take the cab, stay at the back. Oh! and please enter the one going to your location directly,don’t hope that you will tell the driver to go front small, they had once stopped me halfway and I had to trek to my destination, it was their final bus stop.
When in doubt, just take the bus, they go everywhere and you can tell the driver to go front small.
- ABEG HOLD CHANGE
Port Harcourt is too busy a place to be dragging change, these drivers are ruthless and they turned me to a 50 naira collector.
When leaving your house, please carry change, unless you’re ready to dash them your hard earned money – they either always never have change or just do it on purpose when you bring out a big denomination. I’ve once had a taxi driver marry me to a co-passenger and zoomed off, this is after driving me way past my stop in a bid to find change. First I had to dissolve my forced marriage and trek back to find bus – frustrating! Now, I just take my own change with me.
- PORT HARCOURT MALES ARE BOLD
I once went to Charge my phone in a shop at my street junction and was propositioned by almost all the guys there – they talked about guns and police activities, all acting like they’ve never seen a woman before. I was polite and declined when I could – before person go tear me slap. I ran as soon as my phone got charged. I guess, this is what our parents mean when they say phone will kill you one day, imagine going to charge your phone and never coming back – I cringe!
Then you have to deal with walking on the street and men of different flavors calling your attention and actually trying to touch you with their coarse palms – man, the perks of being a woman tho 😟. That’s why I always have my earpiece with me everywhere I go – please don’t talk to me – I Don’t like you, don’t call me fine girl – I am not fine.
Yesterday after work, I stopped by the shoemaker to mend a sandal. From pleasantries, he asked if I liked money. I said no. He replied, that he liked money, I applauded his choice and kept shut, watching him sew in silence. He rose his head again and asked me if I wanted to make money,that I should stay with him till night, that he has a room with AC and I will see plenty money, even one thousand naira. It was so funny, I couldn’t even feel insulted. I smiled and told him I was fine being broke. He insisted and I hurried him up, took my sandals and left – he didn’t even mend it well and I don’t know if that was on purpose, but I saw him again today, he recognized me and told me to bring the sandal so he’d sew it for free. I said thanks but I’ve already taken it home and it’s alright. He thought for a bit and said fine girl like you, so you no Wan chop my money? I have money, come let me show you money. I laughed and bade him goodbye, all the time, Runtown’s song was on repeat on my head
“And If she follow me go, na enjoyment go kill am o… “
All the shoemaker had was AC in his room and one thousand naira, enjoyment was not going to kill me.
- THERE’S NO MILK AND HONEY IN PH
Before I moved, I used to hear stories of how port Harcourt was similar to Lagos in everything, even job opportunities. I had a small stint in the labor market and believe me, if you’re still in school, please get a good degree or hang on to your connections, there are no jobs in Portharcourt. I should know, I went from place to place with my student cv – there are no jobs for students, this is not Lagos. If you manage to see a menial job, you’d be over worked and under paid – I didn’t even see a menial job that would take me. For the period, I was frustrated and wondered how the labor market would be, it put in me a new resolve to graduate with a badass CGPA because there are no jobs in the country. Daddy had to make some calls that put me in the office where I intern presently (I will post a review of my internship experience maybe next month).
I also used to hear of how Port harcourt people were swimming in money – they told me I would meet a lot of fine boys here – money I no see, fine boys I no see. I remember once, on my long trek, submitting CV from one office to another, I saw a boy drive past in a Jeep, he looked my age or a bit older. I Imagined if he stopped for the poor girl trekking under the hot sun, y’all would be seeing pre wedding pictures on Bella naija by now, but nah – money I no see, fine boys I no see, abi they didn’t see me.
Shey, I’m still giving you survival tips? If you’re looking for rich people, move to the GRA, Ada George, GRA Phase 2, salvation ministries and all those areas that scream rich, anything other than that, you’d end up like me – Broke and surviving in PH.
- PORT HARCOURT IS EXPENSIVE
If you don’t have money, forget it. Everything is double the price of what it is in regular cities. I used to get 4 oranges for 50 naija back in school,now, i get the same number for 100 naira – please I’m angry!
Today I wanted to buy shawarma, the price they charged was double what I used to get it for, back in school.
I am angry.