Of foreign accents and strangers visiting

I am certainly not the only 9-5er who wakes up most mornings, snoozes the alarm and spends minutes in bed contemplating how much I need a job. The past few mornings have been no different. It doesn’t help that the neighbour’s kids are on holidays, their voices disrupting my early morning musings, their childish excitement a reminder that I am now an adult with real responsibilities and a real career I have to face every morning. This morning their voices evoke childhood memories, leaving me nostalgic as I remember my own holidays as a child.

Most holidays were routine. A visit to or from our cousins. A visit to our Grandma’s. Then back home. Wake, eat, play, swim, eat, watch TV, sleep, repeat. One of those beautiful holiday afternoons, we had strangers visiting. They were so happy to see us, but we had no idea who these people were and our parents were not home. When they spoke, we didn’t understand diddly-squat so we did the next best thing; left them in the living room to watch the cartoon we had on. I gathered my sisters for an emergency meeting in our bedroom. There were no mobile phones in our day so reaching our parents was out of the question. At the end of the meeting, we came up with a strategy; sit and wait for Mommy to get home. Yeah, as if we had another option.

Our house had a peculiar design, with our bedroom window overlooking the living room. On the days when we were up to some mischief that window was a nuisance, giving us away each time our dad passed by our room. On the day the strangers visited however, this window became our best friend. My sisters and I huddled by the window, peeping through the frayed curtains at these people who looked a lot like us, but spoke in a language we couldn’t decipher. We could make out some English words, but this funee was nothing close to what we heard on TV.

“They are speaking like the people on TV”

“No they are not, the people on TV speak English and we understand them”

“They are Americans”

“But their mom speaks Tiv”

“No, they are from overseas or maybe abroad”

We argued back and forth.

I thought about the word overseas. Was this a country floating somewhere in the sky above us? When it rained, was it really the people overseas peeing on us? How long did it take to get there from Nigeria? What did the people there look like?

Oh the relief when we heard the horn of our mom’s car! We ran out excitedly to tell her about the strangers seated so comfortably in her living room. You should have seen the surprise on our faces when she hugged them, calling each person by name and exchanging pleasantries. It turned out these strangers were actually family visiting from Manchester.

The next few weeks of their stay were exciting times for us as kids. Having cousins from Manchester gave us bragging rights over our friends. It was a tad annoying that they were much older, and so we couldn’t take them out to play with our friends. This however didn’t stop us from interjecting every statement with “That reminds me of what my cousin from England did …” It did not matter if what was being said was totally unrelated or not. Brag we had to, and brag we did.

Their accent got easier on the ears as the days went by. We started to understand that buck’t was bucket and wo’ah was water. There was still a lot we could not construe, but nothing a little sign language couldn’t fix. On one occasion my cousin came to the kitchen asking for the dust’n. Oh the confusion on my sister’s face as she tried to understand what that meant! She looked at the plate in my cousin’s hand. On it was chicken, most of it eaten. Maybe this was meant to be trashed, but why were the bones still intact? It turned out dust’n was dustbin after all.

My neighbour’s kids have their cousins from America visiting this summer. Every morning I wake up to childish banter in a sing-song American accent, the kind that makes every statement seem like a question. Good morning? I’d have some plantain please?  It has obviously been an exciting holidays for the kids and I can’t help thinking their cousins’ visit will be a subject of many conversations with their friends when school resumes.

I used to have a colleague who spoke with what he thought was an American accent. This guy in question is Tiv and to the best of my knowledge schooled in Benue State, Nigeria all his life. This dude was always the loudest in the office, always had an opinion about everything, always wanted to be heard.  Whenever he got angry or excited though, the fake accent would take the back burner and he would sound like any Tiv guy on the streets of Katsina-ala, complete with misplaced L’s and R’s. The question of where he developed that foreign accent is beyond me. Maybe TV, maybe a visit to the American embassy, maybe a visit from his cousins too, who knows.

My neighbour’s visitors leave soon, and I feel like I have been a part of their holiday, shamelessly eavesdropping from the comfort of my living room. Agbaya behaviour, I know. I even noticed the kids have picked up some slang words and a bit of an American accent in the few weeks their cousins have been around. How long this new found accent will last is something  I am curious about. I’d be at the window of my  living room at the beginning of their next holidays, listening to know if the accent survived weeks of frustrating Nigerian boarding school.

 

 

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99 days for the bully…

I had this classmate in primary school, let’s call him Boy-Alinco. I joined his class when i was in Primary 3, and for the next two or three years, Boy-Alinco was the bane of my existence! This boy bullied me to no end.  Till date i have no idea why I was the candidate for his bullying. I was certainly not a threat to anyone as I was the poster-child for a good student; I stayed in my lane, minded my business and was up to no mischief.

Of course my poster-child status was dented whenever i got home. Backed by the confidence that I could always run to my dad or my elder brother, I was up to no good occasionally. Like the one time my friend Doofan and I poured ice-cold water on our neighbors through their bedroom window. In our defense, they started it! They lashed at us for playing at their window when they were trying to take a nap. Don’t ask me what we were doing behind their house in the first place. I mean, why didn’t they want to play when we wanted to play? But i digress.

Boy-Alinco was on my case from the moment I got to school until the last bell rang for the day. He did everything to make me miserable;  tore out pages from my notebooks for no apparent reason, stole my snacks, pulled at my hair (probably the reason the hair has refused to grow), poured the water in my bottle away just because. This happened day in, day out! I would cry my eyes out, and he would sit there laughing like a jackass and would threaten to do worse if I reported him to anyone. I remember his favorite threat “If you like tell Dondo (my elder brother), I will finish both of you with just my little finger.” Why I never reported him to the school authorities is something I still beat my self about.

I got to class one morning after the general assembly and found my brand new bag ripped apart with a blade! I wept. You see, my dad spared no expense when it came to our school supplies, so this was some really good bag. It was also my first day of using it and I was so hurt. I didn’t need a diviner to tell me who the culprit was. This time around I decided it was time to put an end to his antics. I remembered his favorite threat and had an epiphany; why not actually report this kid to my big bro?

The bullying ended abruptly, Boy-Alinco kept his distance one morning. And the next morning. And the next. And every other morning after that. I had no idea why, and welcomed his new attitude with skepticism. What if this was all a ploy to step up the bullying game? What if he decided to add physical assault to the menu?

Several weeks after the bag incidence, I was with my brother when he casually said ”Did I ever tell you I met Boy-Alinco one afternoon on his way to our estate? I beat the living daylights out of him and told him never to go close to you or your property again.” Aha! That explained it all. Needless to say I walked to school each morning after that  revelation with a new found spring in my step. Free at last!

As Nigerians celebrate children today, May 27th, there is increased awareness about the rights and protection of children. Protection against a violation of their rights. Protection against abuse. But I’d like to ask, who protects children against abuse from other children? Are the Boy-Alincos allowed to unleash harm and go scot-free simply because they are well, children? What happens to those who have no elder brothers to run to? What are we as parents and adults doing to help our kids stand up against bullying?

And since we are asking questions, why can’t the Federal Government simply declare every May 27th a bank holiday as well? Wait, it won’t be right to have a holiday on the 27th, work on the 28th and have another holiday on Democracy Day the 29th. Why can’t we just have the entire three days off? These are pertinent issues my administration will address when you guys vote me into power. Nigeria 2035. Sai Iember.

Happy Children’s day to me and every child at heart!

 

New Wife bants: The search for ‘Ponmo’

I have learnt in the past few months that for a newly-wed woman in Nigeria, feeding one’s husband is a matter of national importance. From the moment I said ‘I do’, conversations with all and sundry have been laced with this recurring question “Have you cooked for your husband?”  Phone calls that begin as work-related switch to “You should go home and cook for Oga” faster than I can spell my new surname. These humans around me lack boundaries.

I thought my Mom was the only person unperturbed by all the husband-feeding hubbub, as she had never mentioned it. I should have known this was unusual. The other day she called, and after beating about the bush she asked “So, what’s for dinner?” Innocent question right? No. I could sense her tone of voice. That same tone my parents use when they want to subtly drop a hint. The tone they use when they want to ask, without wanting to sound like they are putting you under pressure if you have started praying to God for a spouse. The same tone with which they asked me several years ago, if the friend I said I was coming home with after my graduation from University was a lady or a guy.

Nigerians are the founders of nosiness sha! You would think with our joint interest in what my husband eats they have plans to make a contribution or something. The next time I’m asked if I have cooked for my husband I will kuku call out the items on my market list, complete with prices and all. We might as well do a joint contribution and plan his meals together.

Anyway, I told my Mom what I was going to cook and she added, “with plenty fish and ponmo right?” Same tone.

That tone of voice that pushed me to market that afternoon in search of ponmo. You would think this is a simple task until you go to Utako market. One would think ponmo sellers would simply stay close to those selling meat, as common sense would have it. No, they rather hawk upandan making us look for them like pins in a haystack. I walked about till I could take it no more, got into the car and simply drove home. My dear mother wouldn’t be around to inspect the contents of my pot after all.

You see, I absolutely dislike going to the open market. I don’t know which irritates me more, the human traffic and consequent body contact that I have little control over, or all that randomness of market stalls. I think it’s the randomness. I can’t understand why a fishmonger’s stall is sandwiched between someone trading bathroom slippers and another person selling bleaching creams. Totally unrelated wares.

When I become President *clears throat*,  the first thing my administration will do will be to arrange market stalls according to wares. Ponmo sellers will be given a choice location right at the entrance to make life easier for newly weds like myself. At least i will have a manifesto that i can deliver when you guys vote me into power. Nigeria 2035. Sai Iember.

But till then, if I find your nose in my business with regards to this husband-feeding business, I will not so politely hand it back to you.


Donatus my Valentine

I used to have this toaster, let’s call him Donatus. I met him when I worked at a bank. He came in one busy Monday morning to cash a cheque and was tossed from one teller to another till he ended up at my desk. One minute into our conversation and I understood why no one wanted to attend to him. It was difficult communicating with him. The little English he knew was spoken in a thick Igbo accent and a mumbo-jumbo of tenses. I found out later that it was his first time in a bank.

I helped him fill out an account opening form and do all the necessary paper work so he could pay in the cheque, a painstaking process that took almost two hours. He asked for my phone number and I obliged. I didn’t think he was going to call anyway. I was wrong. He called later that evening to thank me for my help. He told me he was 34 years old, a bricklayer and was in his words, ‘finding wife wey dey like you’. That was the first of a myriad of phone calls, boring conversations and an awkward friendship of some sort.

Dona made it a point of duty to stop by my office everyday, bearing gifts of course. Typically it was biscuits and bottles of soda. Once he even brought okpa. My colleagues teased me all day. The attention was become embarrassing. Whenever I sighted Dona at the revolving door I did all I could to run away and hide till I was certain he was gone. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed. I had to plead with Dona to stop the visits and only come around when he needed to carry out a transaction. He obliged me, or so I thought. A few months passed by, Dona didn’t show up in the bank, and I forgot all about him.

It was Valentine’s Day 2014. There was the usual cheesiness in the air, everyone at work was wearing a touch of red and making turn-up plans. I never understood the hullabaloo that comes with February 14th, so I  was simply going about my business and making my own plans to turn-up in my bed when Dona showed up at my desk with an elderly lady. It was his mother. There was an introduction, mostly in Igbo. From the little I could decipher, he had told her we had plans to see my parents soon. Apparently I was engaged and I wasn’t even aware. I have never felt more embarrassed in my life!

Fast forward years later, and I obviously didn’t end up with Donatus. Oh, did I mention that he asked me in the presence of his mom to come spend the evening of Valentine’s with him? Don’t ask me how he pronounced Valentine’s, and please don’t ask me if I said yes.

It’s Valentine’s Day 2017. As usual there is the cheesiness in the air, people around me wearing a touch of red and making turn-up plans. In the past few days, social media has been agog with all things Valentine’s. Date ideas, meal ideas, even special Val’s day make-up ideas. I hail all entrepreneurs out there who have somehow found a way to cash in some money on this day. I will be like you guys soon, after all who writing epp?

I still don’t understand the hullabaloo that comes with this day but it’s cute watching people around try to out-do each other with displays of romantic love; wether real, imagined, to spite an ex or simply to garner likes on Facebook and the gram.

Maybe my stance on Val’s will change some day and I will join in all the fuss but till then I’m deeply content going through each day knowing I’m loved, no questions asked. Loved by God, loved by the Bestie, loved by family, loved by friends, loved by you my dear readers.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hey there beautiful!

My friend Janet has a beautiful 2 year old daughter, Ari, who is quite the diva! You know those little girls who are already aware from a tender age that they are pretty and act thus? Ari is the president of that association! Janet also has an older son and recently we were discussing motherhood (don’t ask me what i contributed to the discussion seeing I have zero experience yet). She told me she would like to have one more child, hopefully another boy. I asked why and she responded simply; “What if I have another girl and she isn’t as pretty as Ari? I wouldn’t like people comparing my daughters”

I forgot all about my conversation with Janet till this afternoon. I read a post on someone’s social media handle, was it FB or my preferred stalkers’ hub IG? I don’t remember. Anyway, it was an SOS cry from an artificially light-skinned lady (a.k.a skin-bleacher) asking a dermatologist for a remedy for her exposed green veins. I would usually skip such a post after the first two lines, but for some reason I took out some time to read her plea. The lady’s story is sad. She was the dark-skinned one amidst three sisters, and began bleaching her skin at a tender age to look like her sisters’ because she was always referred to as the ‘ugly one’.

Hers is the story of many Nigerian ladies. My friend Funmi visited for a few days, and everywhere we went to she would turn to me and say “IG it looks like we are the only dark-skinned ladies in this town.” On one of our outings during her visit, we ran into a school-mate we haven’t seen in several years. Amidst the hugs and exchange of pleasantries, Funmi blurts out “you grew fairer too”. I almost fainted in embarrassment. My friend’s mouth has zero-filter!

This compelling need to alter one’s God-given looks is an issue I think of often. It goes without saying that at the crux of this matter lies deep-seated insecurities, a quest for some sort of acceptance and the need to meet up with society’s definition of beautiful. In Secondary School we had a slang for these insecurities, IC, short for inferiority complex. There were the cool kids and then there were those with IC. I guess there was a third category of students like me, who were on neither side of the divide, simply refusing to conform. I certainly wasn’t a cool kid neither did I aspire to be one, but heaven forbid that I be found acting like one of those weirdos with IC that we always teased, even on the days when I had my fair share of insecurities. I remember how my fellow nonconformists and I would laugh whenever there was some silly display of IC- the occasional suicide attempts (I don’t know how anyone would think an overdose of paracetamol was potent enough to kill you. Try Valium), someone refusing to eat because she was told she’s not pretty or someone sobbing away in the bathroom because she wasn’t allowed to hang with the ‘it’ group. Maybe our laughter was a part of the problem, but I refuse to feel guilty.

It’s been several years after Secondary School, and I have continued to see displays of IC in several forms. It’s in the bottles of bleaching cream sitting on Amaka’s dressing table because she is surrounded by light-skinned friends who seem to get more attention from the men than she does. It’s in the millions of naira Yemi borrows yearly to travel, because her Instagram posts have to reflect her ‘Lagos big girl’ status. Heaven forbid that her social media page shows ‘checked into Ikorodu’ when her mates are checking into (insert exotic location). It’s in the abusive relationships Amina continues to endure because her sense of worth comes from being with a man. It is in the lies Cynthia told her dad about the alcoholic of a suitor she brought home because the much-coveted Mrs title will finally fill that inexplicable void in her heart. It’s in the edited photos Jackie continues to post on Instagram where her waist appears perfectly cinched, despite her flabby belly, because she has to keep up with the hashtags #momofthree and #slaying. It’s in the layers and layers of Bobrisky-ish makeup Adeola continues to slather on because she has to stay pretty.

Like I always ask, who defines beautiful? Is there an S.I unit for pretty? Is it in a particular skin tone, or a particular hairstyle? Is it in a cinched waist and a certain shape of nose? Why do we keep comparing ourselves with each other when truly God made each of us one of a kind. There was no mass-production at creation, Heaven isn’t China. What defines a woman’s sense of worth, who defines beautiful? Truly I think you’re as beautiful as you think you are!

 

What’s the size of your poop?

This morning I helped a friend mind her 3 year old daughter for a few hours. Let’s call the 3 year old Kay. She’s as cute as a button but as restless as they come. “I want this, I want that. Aunty this, Aunty that.”

“Aunty I want to poo”

I was drained from attending to her incessant demands, and I grudgingly carried her to the loo. I helped her get on the toilet seat and waited at the door.

“Let me know when you are done, Kay”

30 seconds later.

“Aunty I’m done, clean me up”

“Kay did you really poo?”

“Yes. I’m done, clean me up.”

I was certain she was just out to waste my time. We hadn’t been there long enough for any human to do the big one.

I was wrong.

The stench that welcomed me couldn’t have emanated from a 3 year old! I helped Kay get off the toilet seat and cleaned her up.

Wow! I did a double-take when i saw the size of her poop! The stench was bad, but nothing prepared me for the size. My eyes went from the loo to Kay, back to the loo and then to Kay again in sheer disbelief. Small madam skipped away happily humming ‘Old McDonald had a farm…’ oblivious of the damage she had done, while i watched her with new-found respect.

Church girl that i am, I walked away thinking of the scripture 1st John 4:4 “… greater is He who’s in you..” Who would’ve thought little Kay had something so ‘great’ in her? 🙂 Moments later i had forgotten about the incidence with Kay, but the scripture remained in my thoughts.

If you’re a Nigerian living in Nigeria, events in recent times are enough to leave you feeling anything but great. While you’re still recovering from the madness that has been the exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar, you’re slapped in the face with the hike in petrol prices and the accompanying hike in the value of everything else, except your paycheck of course. I went with the bestie to get his car tyre fixed, and the cost of inflating a tyre had gone up from N50 to N150. Yes, in Nigeria the cost of petrol somehow affects the cost of air.

Times like this have a way of making you second-guess yourself and ask questions, oftentimes rhetorical. Should i have remained on that job that was paying more even though i was being sexually harassed?  Should i have married serial-cheat, Mr X, who is wealthy and would’ve given me some much needed financial security? Would i ever build the financial muscle to start and grow that business? Would i ever give my kids that standard of living that i desire?

If you’re of God, then remember that “Greater is He who is in you!”  Don’t assess yourself merely by your physical ability. Don’t get caught up making plans in your own strength. Yes, you may get some results that way, but why not rely on the ability of the Greater One who lives in you? Why not rely on the size of your God? Don’t get caught up in worry, don’t despair. Events of the day may seem overwhelming but you’d be fine. You’re a thousand times bigger on the inside than you think. Greater is He who is in you!

 

 

 

When life takes a twist.

To be addicted to control is to be endlessly out of control

I woke up to this quote and it got me thinking.

I love to be in control of my actions and what goes on around me. It may not be as strong as an addiction, but I’ve often found myself going berserk simply because my day wasn’t going as planned, however slight the deviation. I can’t explain why it’s so important to me that things are done a certain way.

I cut my palm with a knife yesterday morning. It was a deep disgusting wound, I was bleeding heavily, but nothing was gonna stop me from finishing up the meal I had started preparing. My day had to go as planned, it had to be plan A and nothing else. After several minutes and several futile attempts to stop the bleeding, i decided to ‘borrow myself brain’ and go to a hospital to get the wound dressed.  The guy who attended to me instructed me to keep the palm away from water, and return in a few days for another dressing. It was like he just passed a jail sentence on me. What would happen to all the chores i had carefully planned out for the week? What would happen to my laundry? How would i cook?

The Bestie came to check on me after the incidence and offered to help out with laundry and finish up the cooking I had started. All I needed to do was sit back, relax and enjoy his kind gesture, but no, yours truly was upandan doling out instructions. I kept peeping over his shoulder to be sure he was doing things my way the right way, much to his annoyance of course.

I’m far from being a perfectionist, but i love having everything in place, and in a certain way. I’m learning daily though that things won’t always go “my way”. Some days all will go as planned, some days life will take a twist. Some days all will go as planned, some days a knife cut will truncate my plans and force me to explore other options .

My uncle tells a story of a married couple he used to live with. They are probably the most carefree people to walk this planet. Nothing was ever planned in their home. Chores weren’t a part of their vocabulary, the day’s events were usually left to happenstance. Nothing left them perturbed, their nonchalant approach to life was epic. On one occasion, my uncle went with the couple on a trip outside the country. On their return flight, there was some turbulence. It was nothing to worry about initially, but it grew worse with time, and after about 30 minutes all the passengers were thrown into full panic mode. All the passengers except this couple. The Mrs was fast asleep, and the Mr was happily munching away at his meal. My uncle was surprised at how calm the man was and turned to ask why he wasn’t scared. The Mr answered with a shrug, “Well, I don’t wanna die hungry” and went right back to his food. Don’t ask me if my uncle’s story is true. The validity of his stories have always been questionable. I think the couple took the word carefree to the extreme, but there’s something about their attitude that i admire. It will be refreshing to remain undisturbed when things are out of place.

I’m learning daily to adapt, keep a positive attitude and move on when life takes a twist. I’m learning daily that sometimes holding on too tightly to the reins will cause me to eventually lose the control i so desire. I’m learning daily that the only thing i can control all the time is my attitude.