J is for Jump and Pass

This recent electricity wahala in my neighborhood is a son-of-a female dog,  but on the bright side I’m forced to spend some more time outdoors, away from my recluse AC life.

This evening my husband and I took a walk around the area. Architects that we both are, every building was scrutinized. The houses within our estate have low fences so it’s easy to see the house with mismatched wall paint, the house where the kitchen has been converted to another bedroom (don’t ask how we knew), and the one where the owner has decided he has no need for sunlight thereby mounting a humongous carport that occupies the entire outdoor area.

Hubz: This man’s cars must be very special to warrant such a carport.
Me: I wonder what their alternative source of vitamin D is seeing as they’ve shut off the entire sun.

We pass another house with rows and rows of pines and masquerade plants that make it impossible to see the building.

Me: Hehe, these people think they are building the walls of Jericho with all these plant fortifications. As if that’s not enough they now have a ‘BEWARE OF DOGS’ sign.
Hubz: As if anyone needs a ‘BEWARE OF DOGS’ sign to actually beware of dogs. Won’t common sense tell you run when you hear dogs barking?
Me: 😂

Then we get to this area where the houses are so unkempt. Trash strewn everywhere except in the bins where they belong, water from questionable sources draining onto the road. I hide my irritation and jump the puddles of water, literally ‘jumping and passing’ any lurking diseases, Naija style. Z can’t contain his irritation and spits.

Me: What’s with this poverty mindset that makes some Nigerians leave their houses so untidy?

Z spits again in irritation.

Me: Z, but you can’t just be spitting anyhow because you’re irritated.
Hubz: I’m not doing it intentionally. I think it’s just my body’s way of rejecting poverty.
Me: 😂😂 let’s go home abeg.

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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.

 

 

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!

No, I.G is not my real name…

Away from the daily depreciation of the Naira, Dasukigate and other pressing issues, it’s amazing how the Germans in my office pronounce my name better than most Nigerians. After one or two attempts, they get it and it sticks. I tell a fellow Nigerian my name and the usual response is; “Don’t you have an English name?”. No I don’t, I don’t even have a middle name. No, Joy isn’t my middle name, it’s the meaning of my name. No I don’t know why the name starts with 2 consecutive vowels, ask an Ian that also. No, it’s not pronounced the way it is spelled. No, I don’t know what Gavar means, I doubt that my dad does. Yes, it’s a Nigerian name.

I grew up in Benue thinking Iember was a common name till I got sent off to University in Zaria, Northern Nigeria. Then the ‘murder’ of my name began. I cringed whenever an attendance list was called out during classes. Anytime it got to the name before mine, my classmates would prepare for a bout of laughter. I got called everything from Lemba to Lambey. I can’t fathom why the ‘I’ was always replaced with an L. I got tired of correcting people, and made do with being called I.G. Maybe that would explain why I went from the noisy naughty person i was in secondary school to somewhat of a recluse in university. I hated social situations where I’d have to introduce myself. I hated the questions that followed whenever I said my name. My friend Tola told everyone who cared to listen that I was from Congo. Very silly girl, that Tola. 8 years later and I left Zaria with an MSc certificate that reads ‘Lember Cava’ instead of ‘Iember Gavar’. How this error came about is simply beyond me. Thank God for court affidavits.

I lived and worked in Lagos for a bit after university. It was there that I heard for the first time that my name sounded exotic. Lagosians and their love for the term exotic though… That’s a topic for another day. I remember going for a job interview while I was there and the interviewer told me when my name was given to him, he expected a Dutch guy. I laughed at his ‘joke’, but what I really wanted to say was “Sorry dude, Tiv babe coming your way.”

Tiv names and their funny spellings though. My friend Zainab has this Tiv neighbor, Kwaghter pronounced Kwaa-tay, or something close to that. Zainab got home one day and met a note from her neighbor. She immediately called Kwaghter over the phone with so much urgency in her voice that Kwaghter started to panic.

“Hello, Kwaghter!” 
“Hi Zainab. Is everything alright? You sound worried. Did you get my note?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m calling.”
Pause
“Hello, Zainab are you still there?”
“Yes. Your name  has G.H.T in the spelling!?  Kwaghter, why in God’s name are there three consecutive consonants in your name!?” 

No, it wasn’t the note that bothered my dear friend. I doubt that she even read the note. It was the spelling of Kwaghter’s name that was the issue. I’m surrounded by dramatic friends. I truly am.

Away from my dramatic friend, i wonder if my name really is so difficult to pronounce. I understand if you get it wrong when it’s written down, but if i say it out, by all means please make an effort to pronounce it instead of asking cynical fulani questions especially when you’re as much Nigerian as i am. We can’t all be Bose or Mary or Emmanuel or Ada or Halima.

Anyhoo, this is part rant and part shout out to my fellow Nigerians who like me may never find their names on a coke bottle with not-so-common names. We love our names all the same.

Of ghosts of erstwhile lovers (1)

I’ve always been your easygoing girl-next-door kinda girl. Lazy some say, but let’s just say I have a wide comfort zone ; ). One of the perks of being laid-back was that i never really had the drive to pick a fight or be mistrustful of other people. I found those things energy-draining. Whenever people made statements like ‘don’t trust anyone’, I felt they came from another planet.
Fast-forward almost three decades into her life, and your girl-next-door has ‘hired’ a friend to help investigate her new ‘love interest’. When did I become this person that gets a panic attack because someone saw someone in her man’s car? Hey, before you judge me, let me give you a background story.
The first blow life dealt me in the area of trust was subtle but numbing. It was sometime in 2011, during my NYSC. Orientation camp was thick with ‘relationship fever’. Every girl wanted a boyfriend. Single girls, married girls alike. For the guys, it seemed they all had a common goal; to get in between as many thighs as possible in the three weeks that camp lasted. As for me, I wanted no part in all that frenzy, I hated every minute of camp! I couldn’t get past the dirty toilets, the boring lectures, the endless military-style marching, oh the endless marching! And don’t even get me started on the ‘illiterate graduates’. Grammatical errors flew left, right, centre like missiles during a war. What sort of graduates are our Nigerian Universities churning out? My heart bleeds for our education system. But I digress.
How I met this guy on camp, I honestly do not remember. Was he in my platoon? Did I randomly bump into him? Did I see him with a book and ask to look at it? It seems my brain simply refused to store that memory. Anyway let’s call him Johnny. He came around and warmed his way into my heart. Suddenly camp didn’t seem so bad after all. I even started to catch the relationship bug, but I had a criteria any potential ‘camp boyfriend’ must meet; it’s either he schooled abroad or he had a Masters degree. Why? Just because.
Johnny schooled in Malaysia, so even with his not-so-good English laced with misplaced Ls and Rs, I entertained his presence. We remained friends even after camp, and started to date a few months after we met. I wasn’t in love with him, but his persistence won me over. My instinct told me I had no business dating him, but I always told myself I was single and bored, so I stood to lose nothing. Little did I know i was setting myself up for the seed of mistrust to be sown in my life. I should have listened.
Things went well with Johnny. There were occasional dates and visits. I went with him to his church most Sundays. After every service I would throw a tantrum on our way home, but the next Sunday, yours truly will get dressed again and wait for Johnny to come pick her up. You see, it was a few months to the 2011 general elections and I found services in Johnny’s church rather political. Every service felt like being present at the manifesto of a political party. In retrospect I wonder if my tantrums were justified. But once again I digress.
My cousins and friends liked Johnny. It was hard not to like him, with his calm endearing nature and all. I never really nursed thoughts of him being ‘the one’, but I got very comfortable with him. Comfortable until a certain name ‘Joyce’ started appearing too frequently on his phone. Comfortable until I noticed his phone was always on silent mode when I was around. Comfortable until I noticed Johnny’s phone that usually lay carelessly around his living room was now always hidden in his pocket. I decided to do some investigation on his Facebook profile, and I was able to match the name to a face. I confronted him, and was told some cock-and-bull story. Naive as I was, I believed him.
I got to work early one beautiful Wednesday morning and decided to browse through my Facebook page while I waited for my colleagues to arrive. The first thing I saw on my timeline were photos Johnny had put up of himself and Joyce hand in hand, with that smirk typical of new lovers plastered on their faces. Wow, i certainly didn’t see that coming. STRIKE ONE!
I moved on after Johnny, met and fell in love with this amazing guy, Uzo. He was the perfect gentleman, mature, and did I mention tall, dark and handsome? We had our little disagreements of course, but these were nothing to be compared to the good times. It should have been the perfect relationship. Perfect if I wasn’t constantly nursing the fear that someday Uzo would pull a ‘Johnny’ on me. Uzo handled my mistrust with a lot of maturity, and we got along fine till I got a job elsewhere and had to move to a new location. Neither of us put in enough effort to make our long-distance relationship work, and we eventually drifted apart.
I moved on with my life, new city, new job, new toasters; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the dude that dealt me STRIKE TWO! He belonged in a category of his own. Let’s call him Abel. Ah, where do I start from with this one!?
Our meeting was boy meets girl at the bus stop, they connect instantly, share a cab, and then…
To be continued… una too like gist
DISCLAIMER: This may or may not be fiction…