Like Curry and Thyme…

Hey guys!

How have you been? 

So I had an epiphany in the kitchen this evening, like I always do… I come from a large family, so we do a lot of cooking every weekend; my mum is in charge of the soups and I’m in charge of the stew. I’d been sick on and off this past few weeks and so while I was cooking today, I was quite tired and a bit distracted.

I honestly cannot count the pots of stew I have made in my life time, I can make stew in my sleep. So here I was this evening, drowsy, nursing a swollen eye and a throbbing head, standing over the cooker, making stew. 

I made a mental note of all the ingredients I would need and I thought I had it all, but as I turned off the heat, I realized that I had skipped curry and thyme. I was slightly alarmed because those ingredients are crucial to the way I like to make my stew. I had concluded in my head that I had botched the stew for this week, but boy! Was I wrong.

After a unanimous taste test by my brothers, the consensus was that the stew turned out to be amazing! Better than the last few they said. And here I was stressing out that I didn’t add curry and thyme.

Curry and thyme proved to be dispensable in my stew this week, and just like that, I figured that we can do without a lot of things that we think we need. It also reminded me of the time I went off social media for a while and I realized that I didn’t die! You see I used to be very attached to my phone and my social media accounts; but when I signed off for a while, my life went on! I actually had very deep, very meaningful conversations with my family and a few of my friends. I went out more often, and I took notice of the world I had been missing by burying my nose in my phone.

A lot of things we think we cannot function without, we often find ourselves doing just well without them. Toxic relationships, situationships, gadgets, you name it! When you try to do without them, you’ll be amazed how easy it will turn out to be, because just as my stew did just fine without curry and thyme, when you let go of some stuff, you will be just fine!…

Hello From The Other Side!…

Hello from the other side, literally! I am sitting in my old room, on my old bed writing this heartfelt post. A lot has happened since the last time I was here. The most monumental of them being that I moved back home for now; well, not really, I live in Nigeria once again. *mentally inserts “for now”* it took a lot to move my life around, to pack three years of my life into three suitcases but I did it! Amidst all the conflicting opinions and all the emotions and everything, I can sincerely say that I am glad to be home, there truly isn’t any place like home and all the minor inconveniences seem like a small price to pay.

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February 21st 4:35 pm, my flight touched down in Lagos. I had been staring at the window as soon as I was able to see the trees and houses gradually start to appear, and as they grew from tiny specs to fully formed images, it was all I could do not to cry. I promptly forgot all the tediousness that came with twelve straight hours of flying, the TERRIBLE food and three slices of fruit that Delta Airline served us, LOL. I forgot my snoring, drooling seatmate who by the way wasn’t so bad when he wasn’t snoring like a freight truck. I peeled myself away from the window, hastily removed my socks and my jacket, stashed my book, my scarf and my passport in my hand bag and mentally prepared myself for landing. Boom! We landed and as is the norm on almost every Nigerian flight, there was hearty applause for the pilot in gratitude for the smooth landing and loud sighs of relief, followed by copious choruses of “thank you Jesus”. I was oblivious to all of that, I only had one mission, get my suitcase and head to immigration, oh! And pee, as I hadn’t peed in fourteen hours and then some. (Don’t ask why)

Ah! the blast of humid, hot air that greets you as soon as you get off the aircraft, never disappoints. Nor does the instant itching and sense of mild disgust at the state of the airport, but all that though was tempered with the thought that in a few short hours my niece would be in my arms and the delicious eforiro and white rice my sister made for me specially would be in my belle. So who cared if the airport was as hot as hell? Or that the stench from the nearby toilets made my eyes water? Of that it took forever to find my luggage? Or that my mum was late to pick me up? All was forgotten as soon as I walked into my sister’s home and I saw my niece! Dear Lord is she gorgeous??? Shes the cutest little thing and I still cannot believe my tiny sister made a chunky baby like her, God is awesome! Really.

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So I am back home my people, and its almost like I never left. And all the preferential treatments I had been enjoying such as specially made meals, running the generator all night and making my brothers run all my errands are officially over because my “IJGB Status”- (I Just Got Back) has since expired and its back to jumping buses and fanning myself to sleep. Wouldn’t trade it for the intense loneliness in America though, never!

God knows I missed you guys but I am back now, for real! It was my birthday a few weeks ago and I just might do a post on that later.

“it don’t matter where we go, we always find our way back home…”- Andy Grammer

“Nothing is better than going home to family and eating good food and relaxing.”- Irina Shayk

 

Why I Won’t Give Up…

So my brothers and I have this inside joke, whenever I start to tell a story that they have heard a hundred times before, they start to sing “story of my life, searching for the right”…(I know, it’s only funny if you hear them sing it)

6:10 am; standing in front of my bathroom mirror, toothbrush in hand, trying to gather myself to start my day. My tooth was throbbing so hard I was very afraid to put the toothbrush in my mouth. So I stood there for a while, and then I did what children do when they are in pain, I called my mother. She cheered me up, told me to be a big girl, brush my teeth and get on with my day but before she hung up, she said; wait, let me tell you a story of why you should never give up, Insert music; ” story of my life”…

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December 1988, Olodi Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria. I had been sick for months, been admitted at LUTH for several months, I was not getting any better and the doctors gave up. They told my mum to take me home and let nature take its course. My fever was so high that my mother couldn’t sleep a wink, she had been up for days and she was exhausted but this particular day she was really tired and had to catch a quick nap. She had barely closed her eyes when she heard my cousin screaming for her, yelling at the top of her lungs because I had stopped breathing. My mum did not even look to see if it was true or not, her daughter was dying and she was terrified so she ran, she ran out the door into the street, wailing and crying for help, she was so overwhelmed and all she could do was cry.

I was convulsing again, and this time my jaws had locked up and my airway was completely blocked. Mama Chiago, one of our neighbors had heard my mum wailing and she ran into our house; she and my dad managed to pry my jaw open and administered medication to me. My parents weren’t even born again at the time, but my mum said she could remember my dad praying from the depths of his soul saying” Amarachukwu, you will not die! Not today, please God not today. It is safe to say that God answered that prayer because here I am today!

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My mother,my hero

My mum told me that after that day, I never had another seizure and I thrived and grew like I was supposed to. She recollects holding me for hours, looking at  my tired little face, bruised and battered from the efforts to pry my jaw open and just weeping and thanking God for sparing her little girl’s life. Amara, If God didn’t want you here, He would have taken you that day, you are here today for a reason. You went through that, you can go through anything! You see why the woman is my best friend? Anyway after we hung up, I braced myself, took a couple of pain pills, finally brushed my teeth and went about my day with a huge smile on my face. My tooth might ache like hell, my life might be going in the opposite direction from where I planned for it to go, 2016 might have been a whirlwind of tears and low moments; but I won’t give up! I have come too far from where I started from, God has been my God through all of it, and He didn’t bring me this far to leave me…

Don’t give up, not when the sun is just about to shine. 2017 will be our best year yet… ps: this is a heartfelt thank you to Mama Chiago, God bless you wherever you are today!

Fall seven times and stand up eight.”- Japanese Proverb

Friends In Unexpected Places…

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Tosin and yours truly…

This post is dedicated to my friend/honorary big sister/ gist partner Tosin aka sisto.

March 7 2011, I stood on the queue alongside hundreds of my fellow freshly minted corps members in Lagos state camp. The sun was exceptionally hot that day and the NYSC staff were taking their sweet time to pay us attention and appoint rooms to our tired selves. I didn’t serve with my original batch, so I literally knew no one in camp and I just stood by myself on the queue, my box behind me and my red bucket beside me. It was so so noisy and I wished fervently that I had my ipod with me but alas I left it in my mum’s car when she dropped me off.

Out of all the noise and clatter, I could make out a distinctive voice with some sort of accent and it inexplicably made me so mad, I found myself rolling my eyes and wondering what was wrong with her and her posse of friends. I finally turned back to look at her and there she was, in her navy blue top, black pants and oversized sun glasses. Well, her Ghana weaving is fine sha…I thought to myself. The NYSC officials deigned to attend to us and they started assigning rooms, and as the queue moved along and I noticed the random pattern of the assignment, I prayed fervently that she would not be in my room. I didn’t come to camp to make friends biko, and I honestly didn’t want to deal with her. I just wanted the compulsory three weeks to fly by so I could resume my job at the bank.

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The queue got crazy and I lost sight of her so I concentrated on looking for my room, the epic room 11 and I found it. I walked in and found my bunk, and as I was trying to focus on something else to drown out the voice of my bunk mate who was already talking my ear off, I saw her! Ahhhh why me? I thought to myself. I was determined to stay out of her way and mind my own business and besides I was trying to wrap my mind around how filthy the hostel was and how I was going to survive for three whole weeks here. That night, my red bucket, my bottle of dettol, my soap dish, my sponge and my towel mysteriously disappeared when I left the bathroom line briefly to charge my phone. I had to buy a whole new bathing paraphernalia the next day and I didn’t find it funny!

I managed to avoid Ms. Thing and her crew until one fateful morning on the parade ground. It must have been around 8am and as we stood waiting for the soldiers to tell us what to do, this girl walked by, fully made up! Powder, concealer, foundation, eye shadow, red lipstick, and false lashes to boot. I couldn’t comprehend why anyone in their right mind would wear all that make up for morning exercise. I looked around to see if I was the only one that found this situation amusing when my eyes met with hers and we simultaneously burst into laughter and we laughed till we almost cried. I walked up to her platoon and she said Hi, my name is Tosin and that was it! PS: we nicknamed the girl makeup chick and for the life of me I never knew her real name. From that moment, I forgot that I didn’t like her before and we spent almost every waking moment together in camp and frankly she made my camp experience bearable. I met some of the most amazing human beings I have ever known in that camp: Yemisi, Cee, Mide, Dr. Efosa, Jesse, Yetty, Tosin(boy), Cheekway, Skar and most importantly Ajay! These people were literally the best thing that happened to me, and they made my birthday celebration in camp the best one I have had till date! Thanks guys…

Tosin and I have been through so much together and sometimes when I think about I her I honestly can’t imagine my life without her and it occurs to me how I would have missed out on knowing such an amazing soul, so this is a heartfelt shout out to make up chick! My sisto is beautiful, smart, kind, a talented singer and event planner, and she makes my life brighter with her presence, I am super grateful for her and to my camp crew who I am still friends with till date, love you guys!

When I think about it, some of my closest friends were met in unexpected places, I met my loving friend Kemi on a BRT bus from Lekki, I met Sheila at Lekki bustop, My darling friend Emmanuel I met on the bus as well, and how can I forget Achalugo and Mfon whom I met from blogging? they have all been so good to me and it never ceases to amaze me how we just meet random people and they come into your life and just stay. I am truly blessed, and I hope this post made you smile, reach out to your friends today and tell them how grateful you are to have them in your life, I am deeply grateful for mine…

 “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” –William Butler Yeats

From A Father’s Heart…

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Every woman was once a little girl, and every little girl will grow to be a woman, and if her daddy or any father figure in her life, tells her these things, just maybe her road will be smoother.

  • You are a queen, you are a gift that God Himself so graciously gave to your mother and I and you are irreplaceable.
  • You are a strong woman, yes I know that you will face some hurdles across this road called life but God is on your side and I know that I will raise you to hold your head high and overcome.
  • You don’t require validation from other people to remember the queen that you are, you are precious in God’s eyes and He validates you, and that should always be enough for you. You are the daughter of the most high, a lioness who should not concern herself with the opinions of sheep.
  • I am proud of you today, and I will be all the days of my life. I will celebrate all your achievements and milestones, and I will pick you up when you fall. I will correct you in love and the fear of God and with the rod when needed. I will cheer you on with all my might because I believe in you more than you will ever know.
  • Purity is not overrated my love, keep yourself like the gift that you are. Wait to be unraveled by the one that God will send your way, my child do not cast your pearls to the swine, wait for the one who will love you the way God will teach him to.
  • Be quick to forgive, anger and bitterness is heavy and exhausting. Unhappiness will etch lines deep into your face even before age catches up with you. Smile my love for your smile makes the world a much brighter place.
  • Choose your friends wisely, because they play a large role in the woman you will become. Your mother and I can talk all we want but you won’t be our little girl forever and one day you will leave home and be by yourself, and when that time comes it is my earnest desire that you surround yourself with friends that will add meaning and color to your life.
  • You can do anything! Whatever dream or ambition you conceive in your heart you can achieve because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Your dreams are valid.
  • I will always be here for you as long as I live, to listen to you, to guide you and offer you counsel that will set you on the right track because you see my love, you are my full time job. Doesn’t matter how old you are or how many babies you have you will always be my little girl…

The power in spoken words is undeniable, to all the fathers and fathers to be who might be reading this, speak these words and many more into your baby girl’s life and watch her blossom. And to all the future mothers out there, myself included, may we marry men who will speak life into our daughters that they may know their worth and their value…

“Behind every great daughter is a truly amazing dad”
Anonymous

 

Home Sweet Home…

 

It must be love. The fact that you bothered to stop by today, despite my not so frequent postings, it must be love and I love you too!

Having said that, I just got back from my sister’s wedding in Nigeria and it was an adventure. The day before my trip, I literally couldn’t sleep. I don’t remember a time when I was that excited. I was actually sleepy but I remember getting up and making a cup of coffee because I wanted to be out the door to catch my flight to New York at dawn.

Eventually I made it to New York and then I got on my flight to Lagos, for someone who is always traumatized by flying, I could care less about the turbulence and the long dreary flight, only one thing mattered: I WAS GOING HOME! Finally we got to Lagos and I was actually quite impressed by the reception I got at the airport. For starters the ACs were up and running and the custom officers were brisk and quite professional. After a not so brief wait, my mum came to get me and the joy in my heart knew no bounds.  Words cannot describe the joy on my father’s face when I walked through the door, he literally couldn’t finish his breakfast afterwards because he had no clue I was coming home. Seeing my siblings that morning was one of the happiest moments I have ever had and to top off an already amazing morning, I ate the most luscious, delicious agege bread and akara and all was right with the world. Let me try as much as possible to summarize my three weeks at home in this one post.

NO LIGHT! Let me just be really honest and say I never thought I would be one of those people who complain so much when they come back home after spending a couple of years abroad. I love my country dearly but my poor body had a hard time adjusting to the stifling heat. I had just left intense cold and so I was genuinely distressed. This is a heartfelt shout out to my mother, for letting me run the generator even in the face of the fuel scarcity, you’re the real MVP mum!, and my friend Odogwu for giving me all that fuel as my birthday gift, (btw best birthday gift ever!)

FOOD! Ah!!! The food was awesome; I ate every single thing I had craved while I was away: sheri mango, udara, amala and efo, gala and lacasera, dry fish stew, roasted yam and plantains, I could go on and on. Sitting here writing this post, I am hungry all over again, the food just doesn’t taste the same over here.

FUEL SCARCITY! Throughout my stay, fuel was nowhere to be found and we had to resort to buying from the black market dealers. Safe to say it was a nightmare. Suddenly, every hike in price was linked to the fuel situation, transport fares went up, water, and even food. I went to buy dried fish from my customer and the following conversation ensued: “Me: madam, how much be your fish? Her: ah na 1,000 Naira oh, you know say dollar don go up and fuel no dey so fish don add money” I laughed but I had to buy the fish because she was my only option and I really wanted that fish.

The funniest thing that happened to me though, was when a guy tried to steal my phone and my wallet. I had gone to the mall with my friend to buy stuff for my sister’s bridal shower and this guy was just walking real close to me. At first it seemed like nothing and I kept on walking and talking until he started to literally bump into me.  In that instant, all the years of practice I have had protecting my handbag when I stop at Oshodi bus stop late at night  kicked in, and I clenched my wallet with my arm as hard I could, yelled at him and he quickly scurried away.

I had a very memorable trip and though it was short and I didn’t get to do so many things, I relished every single moment and leaving again was super hard. There really is no place like home, the camaraderie, the friendships and the sense of oneness is such that cannot be found in many places.

“There’s no place like home. And I do miss my home”- Malala Yousafzai

It Takes A Village…

 

It takes a village to raise a child, and I completely agree because it certainly took one to raise my siblings and I. So last night my friend and I went to the grocery store and while we were there, she wanted her little daughter to do something but the little girl refused and screamed so loud that she had heads turning in the store. My poor friend was so distraught as she tried to cajole her to keep quiet, and while she did this, a thought popped in my head, if this was back home, one stern glance from her or a smack on the derrière or even a remark from a complete stranger would have done the trick.

So this post is dedicated to the street that raised me. This street happens to be Sadiku Street, somewhere in Olodi Apapa, Lagos. I lived there from birth until I went off to the university. My mum did a pretty good job raising my siblings and I, matter of fact, my mum is a super human, but that is another post for another day. What I am trying to say is that she was a good mum but she worked so much that we saw very little of her. While she was raising five children, she had a full time job at the bank, a fabric business, and was running her Master’s Degree at the same time. In her absence though, the street stepped in and did an amazing job as well. The street consisted of all the mothers in my neighborhood, there were always there, always watching, and always ready to discipline now and report back to my mother later.

So basically, I didn’t have the luxury of doing a lot of the things my peers were doing or of getting into trouble, I was always on the straight and narrow, I couldn’t  even so much as slouch on my way back from school, one mother was sure to yell from a balcony or kiosk and remind me to walk upright. When my sister and I were much younger, it wasn’t weird for a mother on the street to stop us and inspect our homework on our way to school and to check that we had enough food in our back packs. One time, my little brother who is over 6 ft tall these days, annoyed me and I beat the crap out of him. Unbeknownst to me, I was being watched and my mother came from work and gave me a double measure of the beating I gave to my brother, without saying a word. That was the day I knew the streets had eyes, ears and a mouth!

This constant surveillance annoyed the heck of out me as a teenager but looking back at it now, I am super grateful these women stepped in and kept an eye on me and my siblings. It kept us in check, kept us from making stupid mistakes that might have altered the course of our lives today, I couldn’t glance or speak to a boy on the street without my mum getting a report on it, couldn’t detour on my way from school, couldn’t sneak any make up that wasn’t authorized by mother on my face. And it wasn’t just me, it was every kid on my street that experienced the same, even my mother did the same on the days she was home. Some Saturday mornings, it wasn’t uncommon to see all the mothers from the beginning of the street to the end of it casually gather right there in the middle of the street to have meetings that usually resulted in one child or another getting a good smacking later that day.

If I close my eyes I can almost see them, and although some of them have passed away, all the lessons they instilled in me are still very much with me. I am so thankful to God that all the kids on that street turned out well, every single one of us. Some are parents today, some doctors, all of us doing great things in our corners of the world. To all the mothers on Sadiku Street, Thank you!