Love Letters&Music Notes…

I sat in my room this evening and had a good laugh, a really good laugh because I heard a song that sent me racing down memory lane to a time when life was very much uncomplicated. Growing up, music was a very huge part of my life, it was an escape for me from all the craziness that was associated with puberty and the myriad of changes that kept happening to the teenage me.

I will get back to the music part in a short while, lets talk about the love letters shall we? Those letters were very sacred to me and I did all I could to keep them safe and away from any eyes but mine. I was fifteen and as far as I was concerned I was in love and I was on top of the world. My father was and is a no nonsense man, and so I knew the consequences that would befall me if he caught wind that I was receiving love letters from the boy next door, hence the elaborate schemes to receive and return said letters.

I was basking in my secret euphoria until my sister got mad at me one day and handed over my sacred stash of letters to my father. Oh the horror I felt when my father summoned me and asked me to explain every one of the letters he held in his hands. speechless did not begin to describe the way I felt that day and as far as I was concerned my life was over. It is safe to assume that I was thoroughly dealt with and as if that wasn’t enough, imagine my shame when my parents marched me over to the boy’s house to express their concern, it is safe to say that my letter writing days were quickly over. I have recently  made a mental note to remind my father of this incident the next time he asks me why I haven’t brought a suitor to him yet, who knows? the boy he scared away might have been the one, lol.

Now to the music notes, I was almost obsessed with music. This obsession began when my aunt would come home from the university and bring her small radio along with her numerous cassettes (I haven’t said or thought of the word cassette in a very long time) So, I would diligently sit with that radio, pencil in hand and rewind those tapes till I memorized every single song on them. Nothing gave me more joy than standing in front of that cracked mirror near the bathroom and singing at the top of my lungs. Blackie, Celine Dion, Raskimono, and Junior&Pretty were at that time, on the top on my repertoire.

As I grew older, I moved on to Plantashun Boyz, Styl Plus, Craig David and even Eminem. My friend Lizzy and I had special notes in which we wrote down every line and ad-lib of every song we loved, we were a force to be reckoned with. Thinking back now, If I had put as much effort into mathematics as I had put into memorizing all those songs maybe I wouldn’t have been so bad at it.

Many years have passed since my music note days in fact, my friend Lizzy is married and has a precious little boy now, but my love for music hasn’t dimmed one bit, now the love letters on the other hand, is any one really too old for a little romance?

When I was A Little Girl…

When I was a little girl, I thought I had a lot of problems. There were so many things I wanted to do and my mum just didn’t let me. She wouldn’t let me wear certain hairstyles and clothes, wouldn’t let me paint my nails or wear any makeup. I was so mad at her and I did not understand why she did not want me to look “cool”. Every time I brought it up, she would always tell me, :”Amara, there is time for everything. You will one day get tired of all these things you so desperately want.”  I’d roll my eyes at her and sulk away, telling myself that she knew not what she was saying.

Fast forward many years later, I have found that every thing my mum said was the truth. All the “grown up” things I so wanted to wear, and see and do have become so trivial, its hard to believe I once begged for the freedom to do them. The clothes and the shoes and the hairdos and the makeup have become the least of my worries these days. There are responsibilities in their stead now. There are bills to pay, grades to keep up, and a thousand of other things that I took for granted while I was a teenager.

I appreciate my mum and all the other grown ups in my life now more than ever, because for the life of me I cannot imagine how they juggle it all and stay sane.

My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.
Jodi Picoult

The “Oyinbo” Man and His Egusi Soup…

My people, what can I say? I know I have been away for a long time and I am sorry. I shall explain myself soon and allow you all to decide what do with me, but until then I think you really want to know what went down with this egusi soup.

So on this day, I was minding my business at work, willing time to move faster so I could get home and watch Empire, when a couple of people walked into the restaurant, a Nigerian and an American. I greeted them both and sat them at their respective tables. I handed the Nigerian a menu and as I was about to hand one to the American he smiled and said “no, I know what I want.” I was intrigued and I raised my pen prepared to write down an order of maybe curried chicken with some sautéed collard greens and all those things they like to eat, but to my utmost surprise, the man said he would like pounded yam, egusi soup and goat meat. I did not do a good job of hiding my expression of shock because he noticed and explained to me that he liked okra and ogbono as well, but he was in the mood for some spicy  egusi. Now, it is important to note that this guy, even with his accent pronounced egusi and ogbono to the best of his ability. I turned his order in and proceeded to the Nigerian.

When I got to the Nigerian, she was on the phone so I took a couple of steps backwards to give her some privacy but I could hear her conversation. “nnaa forget that man, oche na mu na ya bu ogbo?” were some of the key phrases I could catch. Eventually she finished with her call and I walked back over. She kept flipping the menu and asking me what was good on the it. It became a struggle for me not to laugh because her accent was a like a big bowl of soup. It had some Igbo in there, smithereens of old Britain and an American accent as well. She got to the list of soups and almost bit her tongue trying to not to pronounce the soups properly. Her: ogbo, ogb…, me: oh!, you mean ogbono soup? Yes we have it. I helped her stumble through the soups until she finally decided on jollof rice. It was with sheer self control that I made it to the kitchen before bursting out in to laughter. Why do Nigerians in the diaspora like to form? Anyway the egusi was ready and it was with joy that I watched this Oyinbo man wash his hands, and consume his food without leaving a scrap behind.

He commended the chef on the lovely meal, tipped generously and told me that he would be back. My Nigerian sister on the other hand, eventually gave up the struggle to use her fork and knife to eat her rice, and switched back to the spoon with which she was raised. She barely finished her meal, didn’t tip and sauntered away in her six inches.

What struck me and keeps striking me since I have been here is this. some of the Nigerians I meet,work so hard to leave their culture behind, to shed anything that associates them with home and act as though they have been Americans all their lives. I have even met a couple of them that have sworn never to return to the mother land again, even in death. Meanwhile some of these Americans are sincerely intrigued by our culture and want to know about us. When they come to eat, it’s almost lecture time because they want to know what tribe certain foods originated from, how we plant etc.

Nigeria will always be my home, its the root from where I sprouted, I don’t know why some of us are so eager to forget. Then again to each man his own.

“You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A village means that you are not alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the earth, there is something that belongs to you, waiting for you when you are not there.” –Casare Pavese

Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea..

In a couple of days the fate of Nigeria my beloved country, will be sealed for the next four or possibly eight years to come. I have religiously followed the news and all the current happenings in Nigeria as much as I can and of all the feelings I have felt about the happenings, the prevalent of them is fear. Fear because of the two top contenders, I think that we are indeed trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.

GEJ and GMB as they are fondly referred to, instill fear and uncertainty in me because left in their hands I know not where my beloved country is headed. Sadly there is a dearth of worthy contenders that can come forth, take this monstrosity that is corruption in Nigeria and decimate it for good. Where are our “future leaders” ??? since I was a child I have always been told that we were the leaders of tomorrow. Will tomorrow ever come? might the future leaders be lost in Nollywood? or the music industry? I know not.

Nigeria has robbed me of so many things, too numerous to mention. The joke that is our health system has robbed me of my father’s health. A simple surgery that would have helped him walk again was botched hence he cannot walk like he should, my grandma, two of my aunts, my pregnant friend and a couple of my close friends have been sent to their early graves because there is no such thing as speedy help in time of health emergencies/ accidents. Growing up, Nigeria robbed me and many other children both in my time and today of so many basic amenities that no child should be denied of. If the roads had been fixed like they ought to have been, I would not have had to waddle in still waters and often times mud on my way to school because it rained a day before.

I could go on and on about all the things that Nigeria has robbed me of, but can I really blame Nigeria? Nigeria is rich, really rich, wealthy in fact  she is just poorly led, poorly managed and so its no wonder she is what she is today. While its easy to blame our leaders and bemoan the fate that has befallen us, let us and by us I mean you and I, kindly accept our portion of the blame because we are Nigeria. You who sits on the BRT bus and decorates the floor of the buses  with gala and pure water packs, you who flings banana peels and used recharge cards from your moving car, you that sends off your under age child to go and hawk on major express ways, shall I remind those of you that haven’t paid your PHCN bills in years, and have no qualms with joining wires and tapping electric currents from street to street, or you that makes it a daily habit to dispose of oil and all sorts of garbage into the drainage? We are all to blame in one way or another. The change we so desperately seek can only start from our own little corners, the government cannot do everything for us.

Having said my piece, I sincerely feel that we are trapped between the two Gs, literally between the devil and the deep blue sea,  and all I can say at this point is let the best man win, as long as the girls come home, Naira becomes less of a joke that it is as of now, and the senseless killings stop, I will make my peace with who ever gets elected or reelected as the case may be.

“You must be the change that you wish to see in the world”.- Mahatma Gandhi

Rookie Tips From A JJC Like Me…Part2

I did promise to share my experiences as I slowly get the hang of things, so here I am again with my JJC chronicles. Nothing has changed much since my last post, I still miss my family like crazy but I am super thankful for technology…

There is a world of difference between my first degree and the one I am getting now, and after a couple of classes its dawning on me how different things are especially when it comes to the relationship between a professor and the students but that’s fine, better late than never right? I am here to learn, and learn I will.

So here are a few more experiences that I would love to share:

1) Not every cat or bird you see is evil: An average Nigerian is fairly skeptic what it comes to cats, and I am one of them, coupled with the fact that I have a father that attends MFM, (only a few people will get why this detail counts) you can imagine my fear when I was coming from school last night and  was greeted by a fat black cat! I almost threw my bag away in shock and fear, but I quickly composed myself when I saw a couple of kids calling the cat and rubbing its fur. I walked briskly upstairs while saying a quiet prayer and hoping I didn’t run into another one.

2) Dress according to the weather: During winter,recognize the fact that you come from a warmer climate and cover yourself in deference to the weather because failure to do so can result in health issues. I have since taken to wearing socks whether I am indoors or out.

3) Ask ask ask! I cannot stress this enough, especially when it comes to important issues, its wise to ask and get clarifications in grey areas, I am privileged to have a few people in my life that have been here longer and have had almost all the challenges that I am having now and luckily, they are always willing to answer my numerous questions.

An important aspect of all these experiences is the fact that they are opening up my mind and I must say that I am seeing things a lot differently than I used to. I will do my best to document these experiences and share them as I go.

Move to a new country and you will quickly see that visiting a place as a tourist, and actually moving there for good are two very different things…”- Tahir Shah

Starting Over…

Change is hard, a little painful too but at the end of the day, its all worth it. I started my year with a change, something I had worked toward, prayed toward and just plain wanted, but it cost me a great deal! For someone like me who is attached to my family, its been tough this past week. I know it might get tougher before it gets better but I am focused on the bigger picture and my support system is still firmly in place.

Let us see this new year as a clean slate, a fresh start, an opportunity to accomplish something that you have been putting off for a while now because really, how much longer do you plan to put it off for? Time waits for nobody and you are not an exception. Make each day count, clearly define your goals so that at the end of year, it wont just be another 365 days down the drain.

I have moved to the United States for school, and I will try to share some of my experiences and JJC moments with you all.

Make a decision to make 2015 count, Happy new year.