Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reminiscing Christmas traditions

Hey BlogFam,
So Christmas day has come and gone but the season of jolly goodness is yet to expire...well 2 more days. All the long months of preparation, shopping, cooking, wrapping presents, work parties, Santa Claus visits for the kids, months of peace for the parents when the Santa Claus threat worked: (the ‘if you don’t behave Santa wont fill your stocking).

A couple of days before Xmas, I was visiting with my friend and her family. Amidst dinner preparations she squeezed in some Christmas baking. There was the mince pies which is quite easy to make. I’ve blogged about my love for mincepies before. She was also preparing ingredients for the traditional Xmas cake which she planned to bake overnight (8hrs). This included soaking the dried fruits - which make up 75% of the cake batter - in brandy at least 12hrs before use (she soaked hers for 12 minutes). She confessed that traditionally the Xmas cake is baked months before Xmas..infact sometimes a year before!! I called her modified recipe the 'time waits for no-one Xmas cake' recipe. 

She was also going to make Xmas puddings the next day, this was the traditional Xmas dessert. She said that the Christmas menu was a tradition handed down to her by her gran which she hoped to hand down to her daughters. The eldest daughter had been summarily summoned to the kitchen to help mix the batter :). 
                         The pudding is so rich in alcohol that it is usually ignited before serving.
Other food in the traditional Xmas menu are the roast turkey/geese eaten with vegatbles, brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce, rich nutty stuffing, tiny sausages wrapped in bacon (pigs in a blanket) and hot gravy.

In the midst of the stories, she asks me what Christmas traditions we have in Nigeria. Hmmmm.

First off, I thought of the traditions we had in common which includes the activities that occur in the weeks before Xmas – the carol services (songs are sang in English and in local dialects, the exchange of cards, end of year work parties/xmas parties, nativity plays in schools, putting up of Xmas trees and decorations (while homes vie to have the best decorations  in the West, in Nigeria the competition is left to commercial offices).

Then I remembered those particular to us.
Shopping for new dresses and shoes. Most kids in Nigeria are guaranteed two new outfits at Christmas time. the one worn on Christmas and New Year days respectively. Many a Christmas eve I would be found late in the evening in the market with my big sister trying to find news that fit my too long feet. There was no leaving of that market for me till i get my shoe!!
Travelling: Christmas isnt complete without travelling in Nigeria. The people of the Eastern part of Nigeria - where I come from - have a long standing tradition of spending the Xmas holidays in their home towns. We are the most travelled Nigerian tribe (anecdotally it is said that if you get to any town in Nigeria and you don’t find an Igbo person there ..then you should flee cos that town is a ghost town). So for the Ibos, the Xmas holidays is the time when all the sons and daughters in diaspora come back home. To reunite with kith and kin and peers. To flaunt new tokens of success (cars, phones, newly built mansions, etc). It is also a sort of coming out period for the single men and ladies. You know I aint lying :).

Red Christmas - While my western friend dreams of a white Christmas, we have a cold, dusty red one. Red from the wind blowing up the clayey soil which is found in the Eastern parts of Nigeria. After the long travel  down to the village 3-9 hrs depending on what part of Nigeria you are coming from, vehicles usually have a thick layer of red dust. The passengers rarely escape this dust coating even if your windows were wound up during the drive. Somehow it just filters in. The green foliage also turn red cause of the dust. White outfits are only worn by the brave. Dusting the house? A twice daily affair. The cold dry air also ensures that lip balms and Vaseline intensive cream are constant companions during the Xmas Season. 

The Food: Rice is a staple food in Nigeria eaten in most homes at least every other day..yet there is something special about Xmas rice. Be it jollof or fried or rice and stew. It always magically tastes nicer.
There is also a lot of meat eaten during the festivities. Families may buy a cow or share it with another family, goats (sorry NGIP), chicken and more recently turkeys are present at tables. Well fried or stewed.
Drinks were in abundance. Fizzy Coca brands, Juice, Malt drinks Wine, Beer. As a kid, it was only during Xmas you had unlimited access to drinks from the fridge and freezer.

Church: Midnight mass is usually wonderful. Most times the actual mass is over around 11pm, but cause it isn’t midnight yet, the congregation chill in church singing hymns and choruses to welcome the baby Jesus at midnight.

Fireworks: Come 1st of December, people start buying their stash of fireworks for the Xmas. Proper firework displays while common in cities like Lagos, are still a rarity in the villages cos of safety issues, handling and the expense. What is commonly found is the banger which isnt exactly safer. A description of Salute shells in Wikipedia here fits what we call knockout : A shell intended to produce a loud report rather than a visual effect. 
My favourite was the sparklers. Anyway the bangers get their 2 minutes of fame from 10pm Xmas eve reaching a crescendo at midnight (Xmas day). Then dangerous part begins - the throwing. The thrower usually strikes the cylindrical shells against a matchbox and throws them as far as possible from him/herself but the naughtier revellers deliberately threw them at people’s feet. Or worse bodies. Their usual victims were those returning from Xmas midnight service. The air becomes rent with bangs, screaming girls and running feet. It was crazy, dangerous and ..... fun. I doubt that those who have burn scars will agree with me.

Entertainment: There are traditional marriages to attend, the launch of a new dance by particular women/men groups, Churches also hold their bazaar and harvest sales then too cause they are guaranteed to make money off their 'August visitors'. 
Up to a decade ago, Masquerades were also part and parcel of the Xmas celebrations. The masks were usually worn by a particular sect/family. Some masquerades danced for money, some just wanted to display their costume. Some (ie. Nwaulaga) flogs anybody who dares to stand in his presence. Fleeing from Nwaulaga was the bane of my childhood existence during the Xmas holidays. I got flogged twice :(

Little Terrors: The most interesting thing about Xmas day is that I rarely dined at home. Rather I'd dress up in my new fineries and together with my cousins, start a busy day of personal fundraising (gbaara m christmas) - the best part of Xmas!!
Its like this, on Xmas day, I dress up in my new finery and with my group of friends (usually cousins) we visit our Aunties, Uncles, Family friends, etc. At each house the Ma and Pa "Uh oh" over how much we’ve grown since they last saw us, ask after our parents and even give us some message to relay back to them (no cellphone dem days!). The ever ubiquitous rice is served, fizzy drinks, biscuits. The richer families also served chin-chin and cake. After eating, we thank them prettily and signal our intention to leave, at which the father/mother of the house hands out money to us kids. Over the years (7yrs-13yrs) we knew the homes who cooked the best rice, gave the best financial reward or who entertained least.
My mom was the chin-chin and cake type entertainer (not cause we were rich..she just felt it was less messy). She was also known for giving out brand new Naira notes to her little guests (notes deliberately obtained from the bank prior to travel).

In retrospect, we must have been little terrors, unrelenting in our gbaara m christmas quest, accosting our older single cousins at pubs, along the road until they gave in and dipped into their wallet. For the guys it was best to harass them when they had their friends with them. 
At the end of the day, heaving from exertion and too much food, my cousins and I will climb atop the roof of this uncompleted house in the compound to share our loot. Woot! Woot!

I remember that those days our parents rarely asked us where we were going to or when we'll be back - we were 8yr olds!! Curfews cease to exist in the village. I guess they were safe in the knowledge that we were surrounded by kith and kin. I'd come back home at 12 midnight and my dad doesn’t raise an eyebrow assuming I was at my cousins. Well, I was usually :p                                                                  

The Xmas eating, drinking and fundraising continues till the New year. By the 2nd of January, like magic the village empties as people return to the cities whence they came. By the 5th day, the villages become ghost towns again inhabited by the aged and retirees.

Christmas celebrations have changed in the last decade. The food and church service remain the same but visitations are greatly reduced with kids properly chaperoned (the spate of kidnappings in villages and an increased belief in juju/voodoo amongst Christian folk isnt helping matters). Many families don’t even travel home for Xmas any more becos of beliefs that something evil might befall them cos of scheming/jealous kith and kin. The masquerades are also a thing of the past as Christian societies deemed them demonic and urged for their ban. 
A shame really.  

My family still travels home for Xmas. Dad is a die-hard traditionalist who has never spent the Xmas holiday outside his hometown, to please him, we the kids have to keep making that effort to come home for Xmas. Nowadays I too, like my mom, fill my purse with mint naira notes to give out to my younger cousins :) 

In the end, be it roast turkey and pudding or Jollof rice or Tortellini in brodo (Italy), la reveillon (France), Hogmanay(Scotland) …the key ingredients of the Christmas celebrations around the world are Christ, love and sharing. I pray we never loose sight of that.

May Charity, Hope and Love make their home in your heart this New Year!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In which I get a proposal

I got this love letter this morning:

To my darling Ginger,

You are the sugar in my tea, the baby wen dey make my heart beat pu pu pu. If I no fit tell you korokoro eye make I put am in writing you this letter.
I look you every day you walk through our yard. Na wa ooh my  tongue dey always hang out. So now that you know will you marry me? I will make a good husband and you the mother of our plenty children. I see you have the back for it.

Your handsome loving man(husband)

Chidioke  Bigman*

Always look back when I dey whistle to call you na

Toinlicious, what do you have to say?

#Update on Kat

The late Kat actually left a suicide note in which she bid adieu to her family and friends and all who have met and loved her. She tried to explain that she has always had this darkness engulfing her and had tried so hard to escape it but couldn’t and at this point was unable to fight it anymore. I guess this is depression with a capital D!
I will still reiterate this ‘May her soul now find the peace that eluded her on earth, Amen. And may we be better shepherds Amen. And if you can..try and think generous thoughts  about her.

Some of the contents of Michael Jackson’s home sold at an auction raked in over $1,000,000. Three times their original cost. Apart from inflation, I trust that his die fans will be willing to fork over their last savings to get their hands on his bits and pieces!
Wonder if this is to settle his debts or because the family are digging for gold.
Anyway, me I want his wig!!! I'm sure its Peruvian.

RIP Kim Jong IL
This hasn’t been a good year for sit-tight leaders (sadhappyface) But while I was expecting dancing in the streets .. like what happened when Abacha died, I saw a nation in deep mourning for Kim Jong.
Emotions so intensely expressed that it had me rotflol. Believe me I was almost ready to bet with a friend that these were professional mourners hired to make     the guy look good. You see I had bought into the Western media’s propaganda which told me the deceased was a tyrant and reviled by his people who were in bondage. Maybe he was but his people ‘adored’ him in spite of his excesses it seems or like someone commented “I think the people are genuinely in mourning. He is their religion”.
I think the face of the guy with a red scarf was photo-shopped
I think my second shocker was seeing such intense emotion on East Asian faces. Korea and neighbours China and Japan are known to have deadpan expressions. So it was just strange to see men and women dancing and throwing themselves on the ground ‘African stylee’. #StereotypeFail.
As for the successor to the North Korean throne, Jong-un, can he please lay off the doughnuts plss.


A group of unemployed local musicians in South Africa have joined forces to release a Christmas single, entitled ‘Yes we do,’ in response to the Bob Geldof inspired Band Aid song, ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ Speaking at the launch of their song, the composer and singer Boomtown Gundane praised Geldof’s relentless quest for an answer and said they hoped their collaboration would free the Irishman and his friends to start looking for solutions to new and more important questions.

“Like, Do they know about climate change in America? Or did Kim Jong-il have time to write down the abort codes for the nukes before he died? (very important question I must say lol).
He said despite the poverty and hunger that had inspired Geldof and his friends to create the song back in 1984, Africans had developed their own ways to remember Christmas.

‘Just because we don’t have Boney M or Christmas advertising in September doesn’t mean we are oblivious to it,’ said Gundane. Proceeds will go towards teaching discipline, literacy and contraception at British schools. Touche Gundane!! LOL.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

RivieraHandbags Giveaway

Hey BlogFam,

Here’s me advertising a giveaway hosted by Riviera Hand bags named after the lovely English Riviera, the hometown of the maker.
They have a most delightful collection of bags. With categories like wild, passionately pink, evening, fun, everyday, office there is definitely a bag for everybody and any season

What do you have to do to get one? Well, if we all got a dollar for our tweets and retweets I’m sure we’ll be smiling to the bank J

So here’s your chance to let twitter work for you!

Follow Rivierahandbags on twitter here
Retweet their giveaway tweets to enter the draw.
The winner gets to select a bag of your own choice!!!! How cool is that?

Start following and tweeting nooow!!

Giveaway ends Dec 24th (look what Santa e-mailed me!)
Errr. Its restricted to UK residents. Sorry.

Like Rivierahandbags on Facebook here

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You were f**king perfect to me

I coerced my girlfriend to attend the Doctors' Xmas Ball yesterday. So I could tag along and maybe meet some cute doctors, who knows lol

Well, they were certainly respectable cute-looking young doctors. They also came with significant others hanging on their arms. What is it with Brits and marrying early? I swear some of them didn’t look like they had celebrated their 25th birthday and they had been married for 3 years.

Jat introduced me to her group and I got on brilliantly with the Zimbabwean chic by my side. Like the pea soup appetiser was so bland that simultaneously we looked up from the first sip and screamed ‘Argghh SALT!!!’. Then when the salt shaker was passed to us, it came with a single pin-sized hole. What’s that?? It would take forever to get a pinch out. So I pulled the bottom off and we salted to our heart’s content #teamAfrica.

The roast potato with gravy, steak and ham plus the cheesecake desert more than made up for the bland appetizer. Yum yum.

Then the DJ set up his gig and it was Dance! Dance!

I was itching to dance but the Docs on my table were just sitting and tapping fingers. What’s that??
So I took the hand of the male doc nearest to me. ‘hey I want to dance and I need a partner…lol. Not that my 6 inch heel let me do much damage to the dance floor but I tried. At a point Tat and I had to get together to do some afro-flavored boot-shaking…ok, not like I had the booty but you understand..

Finally at about 11.30pm I reminded Jat she had a husband and 
As we waited for Tat to get her coat so we could all leave together, (Jat had volunteered to take her home), one of J’s colleague/friend, a petite brunette, Kat came over to chat. She had this little black dress on with a tutu-like ruffles at the hem. I told her her dress was pretty. She teased Jat about her bootylicious behind. Jat did some booty gyrations specially for her with Kat and I giggling and asking her to donate some to the less privileged.
As we said goodbye Jat warned her to take it easy with the alcohol so she won’t be hungover at work the next day. She laughed and said she’ll try.

It was a great outing and subsequently I have been in a good mood most of today. All that dancing and exercising and socializing really does good to the heart.

But I am sad now.

Jat came back from work a couple of hours ago looking most harassed.
She said ‘Guess what?
Kat is dead.
What!!! How??!!

It appears Nat, Kat’s friend had told Jat earlier that Kat has been AWOL all day. Not picking her phone too. None of their mutual friends had also heard from her.
So Nat decides that after their seminar that she’ll call the porter to check Kat’s room or something. Just in case.

They went to her room in the doctors quarters. The porter unlocked the door with the spare key and pushed open the door but found it difficult cause -  there was a hanging body leaning against it.


And the friend went into hysterics. They said Kat was still in the short black gown. And her body quite stiff, so she must have been dead for a long time.

Nobody knows why she decided to escape her life.

They say she had had a recent breakup with her boyfriend. Who had left her for her friend. (What is it with guys????). She hadn’t been coping well with the breakup coupled with a family history of depression. But she had also been looking forward to spending some time with her mom and jnr sister during the Xmas break.

I wonder if all the lovey dovey xmasy couples in the house yesterday could have tripped her off? Or maybe a combo of alcohol and anti-depressive drugs. Or the stress of being a young doctor. Or a combination of the above or something else entirely.
It’s heartbreaking.
This is the nearest I have come to suicide and it’s scary that someone laughing and dancing 12 hrs ago could think she wasn’t loved enough.

Jat wonders about the mom….who must have been preparing for a family reunion at Xmas but will now be planning a funeral.
Plus the guilt. ‘Was it something I said/did?’. ‘Maybe if I had called her last night, this morning, maybe maybe I could have talked her out of it etc etc.

So many fragile souls out there; dear God bless them and make them strong in the face of challenges. Help us too to be better shepherds. Amen.

p.s. Post title was borrowed from Pink's track of same name. Do pardon my French.

Monday, December 12, 2011

This is Oyiboland - Where 70 is the new 40

Ginger: Hi Doc. How was your day today?
Doctor Z: Busy and funny too. The youngest patient i saw came to complain about her Mom who lives with her. She said her Mom was driving her bonkers.
The joke - She is 72. Her mom is 94.

If you go to the bus station at off peak periods (between 10am-1pm), the white brigade as I fondly call them make up the majority of passengers. The men in their black or brown coats; the ladies well powdered in their sweaters, pleated skirts and Clark shoes. The women remind me so much of my mom. Now I understand some of her 'odd' habits which seemed so out of place while growing up: Mom was a sweater and pleated skirt, hair in curlers, lipstick, tea and biscuits-in-all-weathers type. I guess those were habits picked when she was in the UK that never wore off.
I always have a big smile when I meet the White Brigade. They are usually a very friendly are not careful and a talkative gets you in his/her clutches, you might find it hard to extricate yourself.  But more than that..they make aging something to look forward to. They have lived 70+years on earth. You want to sit at their feet and hear their adventures.
 I am also filled with admiration sometimes. When I see that old man struggling to take that next step with his walker. I smile at the effort he makes to stay alive. I smile at the government, the society that allows them to age gracefully. S/he has his pensioner bus tickets that allows him ride free, S/he has disabled parking if needed. S/he has homes with basic amenities that are helpful as bones get stiffer (running taps, showers, microwaves, waist length gas cookers, washing machines). And when s/he is tired she can move on to a home (subsidised by the govt or paid for in full). Care work is a popular job among immigrants but it also represents the importance the society places on making them live as independently and gracefully as possible.

The Nigerian consensus has always been that Western society do not take care of their old like we do etc etc. Surely we have all heard the horrible stories of aged men/women who were dead for over 4 days in their apartment before their frozen bodies were discovered or of parents in Care homes who never get visited by their kids. And we would say, 'that could never happen in Nigeria'. 'Neighbours would have checked in on her, infact there's no way s/he would have been on her own cos one of the kids would have taken her into her home' etc etc.
But I wished to look at this from a different angle. As much as i admire our sense of community in Nigeria, I've also come to appreciate the independence I see among the elderly here, and wonder at some of the things we take for granted back home...that our mothers will drop their personal schedules to come babysit, wash and cook for 'OUR' families even in cold wintry UK/US.

Don't we have parents who want to spend their old age enjoying the new phase of their life/marriage after raising 7 kids? Maybe they want to travel together, start a new hobby, join a social club etc. Knotchocolates even blogged about 'over 60s getting it on' and if you've ever visited Blog mom's page, you'd know age is nothing but a number but in Nigeria we tend to think our parents - esp moms, become asexual by 60.
While the majority don't mind becoming occupational grannys i am writing for the sake of those who prefer to see their kids and family thrice in a year not 345 days a year. i think we kids should try and be a bit more understanding and stop laying the guilt or worse...refuse to care for them (money matters) cause she is not fulfilling her 'grandma' quota.
Babysitting sadly is the least of the problems the aged face. Some are abandoned by their kids. forgotten, mistreated, labelled witches/wizards, left to beg for food. For some their kids thither over paying for their healthcare and/or necessary surgeries and are left to die alone.
And how about the absence of running water, electricity, kerosene stoves which make it nigh impossible for an aged person to be independent. Really sad.

Have you had to deal with elderly parents, relatives or friends. What thoughts about aging did it inspire in you?

p.s. My maternal grandma spent the last 20 yrs (75-95)of her life with us. She and her only kid my mom had their ups and downs but it was mostly peaceful co-habiting. On the other hand, in retrospect I think we her grandkids tolerated her mostly..and found her amusing at best.
p.p.s. Maybe I find it easy to wag my finger cos I am not expecting babysitting duties from my mom. In her hay days her 'omugwo' visits to my siblings never lasted for more than 10 days cause she was working. Now she is definitely too old for that kinda stress. Yeah I know I am on my own #notscared.

omugwo - is a tradition amongst Eastern Nigerians wherein the maternal grandma comes to help her daughter care for the newborn grandchild. Her visit has precedence cause mothers are expected  to be more helpful to their daughters than a mother-in-law.
In Western Nigeria, the paternal grandma's visit has more precedence since the child belongs to the family.
Visits can be as short as a week or as long as 6months :(

p.p.s Shoutout to my new followers. I can't believe I've finally passed the 100 followers mark (dances a jig!)
Also thank you for all the comments in the last post. That post was a bit personal though i didnt let on :). Well, lets see....

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mixed Blessings

Is Marriage for White People?  That's the title of a book written by a Stanford law professor  Ralph Richard Banks (an African American married to an African American - I like how he puts that out before the haters start questioning his right to make such a proclamation). Alas I am yet to read the book but from the reviews I have read here, here and here it was all heart, backed by personal narratives and data. 

His question is 'In an economy where women are thriving and desirable black men are scarce, why do black women stay loyal to black men to their detriment?'
These include:
  • large numbers of professional black women being rotated by the 'few' college educated black men who gets to pick and choose who he wants to be with and even then he still has multiple sex partners
  • almost half of all black women have had an abortion, over twice the rate for white women; 
  • 2 black women graduate from college every year for every black male that graduates; 
  • black men out-marry (i.e., marry interracially) at over twice the rate of black women; 
  • there are two million more black women in America than black men; 
  • higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases when compared against other groups of women due to the high incidence of `man-sharing' that occurs among black women; 

And his solution well, suggestion is 'Black women should liberate themselves from the shackles of race and date outside the pool'.
I wholeheartedly agree with him though I wonder why we need a Stanford law professor to tell us that? What is it about marrying outside our races, tribes that scares black women? 
This isn't the first time I have read or listened to people write/talk about the dearth of eligible black men for black women in America and I used to wonder.. 'but there are other men?!!..Chinese, Indian, Africans, you haven't exhausted your options yet.

I have reframed this problem in our society. Kindly substitute Black women for Ibo, Yoruba and Hausa women and think about the Nigerian environment. Yes, that tribe thing. Maybe its not as pervasive as before but I do know I have single girlfriends who swear that they can never marry a non-igbo/non-Yoruba etc etc. 
Interestingly I think this outlook is more common to Ibo women than other tribes yet we are the ones who have a man-scarcity. College educated Ibo men are a minority compared to the majority who are secondary school leavers (though thriving businessmen). From what I have  observed/personal experiences, the Ibo men who are good income earning graduates tend to feel like they are 'something special'. Correct me if I am wrong. 
I used to think like 'Warrahell? Who said I can't fish across the River Niger' msheew.

So lets reason together, what are the fears of marrying outside our comfort zone be it - Race/Language/Geographical zone?

Off hand I can think of these few points: 

Culture. Someone from another race/tribe won't understand the basic parts of black/Igbo/Yoruba/Benin/Tiv life and culture. It may seem trivial at first especially if the dating/married mixed couple are living in a cosmopolitan city. then bang, one day you travel home with your hubby and like a chameleon he suddenly expects you to kneel down and serve him food and you wonder but 'he wasn't like that before'!

Different standards of beauty: For the inter-racial couple, she may feel like you are competing on a different standard of beauty. He is used to blondes/redheads/brunnetes with blue/green/hazel/gray eyes and long wavy hair, now he has you brown chocolate from your eyes, nipples to your happily nappy hair  which has not seen the sunlight in oinks because of permanent extensions). Same for the woman who has to exchange her ideal of Denzel W for a Ryan Reynolds.
(On a lighter note, I am yet to be toasted(chatted up) by a Briton. Infact it has become a mission for me. Silly I know, but I need affirmation that my beauty is universally accepted. lol).  

Food: She'd have to widen her cooking skills to accommodate what is cultural for the other person. Igbo girl learning to make ewedu/amala. Yoruba girl learning to make oha soup. Nigerian girl learning to make lamb casserole for her British hubby etc (Lucidlilith gives me great comfort that all food is acceptable so long as its cooked right).

Skin color. Yeah that is the simplest to overcome yet the most conspicuous reminder of the boundaries you have bridged in an inter-racial relationship. Even though love has blinded you the world wont let you forget as easily...i think and they may not be polite about it.

Religion: A change of religion maybe part of the bargain. Christian marrying Muslim, Muslim marrying Hindu, Vampire marrying Human (lolsssssss) etc. Blog mom Linda has blogged about her daughter who is married to an Iranian.  She (daughter) even converted to Islam; and she can speak Farsi (Iran's official language) and Arabic too. While stories like hers make me marvel at the power of love, on the other hand, it scares me shitless. 
Can I love a man that much to give up that much? Come on, I am already giving up my father's name, now I have to cleave to a new culture, language, food, religion.
What is husband giving up for me? (Maybe now I can understand why Edward was so reluctant to grant Bella her wish!)

So that's my first question....Is my fear above valid? If you are involved in a mixed marriage/relationship I'd like to know if such thoughts have crossed your minds and how you combated or resolved it.

Two..for my single and formally single readers, have you ever considered mixed relationships?

p.s. My elder sister said mixed marriages should only be considered if the man is from royal/rich family, hear! hear! Her logic is that people with money/status do not follow culture as strictly as those without so less burden for the wife. I don't know how true that

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


So I went Eurotripping by bus (ala the movie) in August.
 And it was wunderful although it didn’t seem like that at the beginning. 

First this trip was on the cheeappp. 
Secondly, my initial plan was to go for a conference in Italy between the 7th-10th of September but I found the the earliest visa appointment date I could get on the Italian Consular website was Sept 5th (and being Nigerian, you need to add 2 weeks to the normal processing time). So I decided to seek the warm embrace of the Netherlands and hightail it to Italy from there. My classmates had gone there earlier in the year and said it was fun.

I chose to apply for the visa thru the Netherland Consular office in Edinburgh (opportunity for some sightseeing too). 
Your tour guide - Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse palace, Scottish guy in skirts playing bag pipe,  that doll collection  looks like something from a horror movie, Ebony and Ivory (my tour partner)
For all my troubles Netherlands gave me a miserly 3 weeks ending on the 3rd of Sept so no Italy Conference still :(.
You might wonder why i chose to bus it? Initialy i thought it was cheaper (it wasn't!) then I thought driving would enable me appreciate the changing scenery through 4 Western European countries. 
It was supposed to be 12 hr journey (did I hear you say backache??) leaving London Victoria at 8.30 to get to Amsterdam at 8.00pm. Well, we got to Amsterdam at 1.30am. How you wonder? A 5 hr delay in Brussels!! The coach broke down and we had to wait about 3.5 hrs for the replacement then add rain and rush-hour traffic. What was most amazing was that nobody shouted at the driver or complained (you know how we do it in Naija). It was all civilized and understanding. even those who were missing connecting flights. Passengers played with their phones, got up at intervals to stretch their legs, cheerfully gisting with the driver. smh.
My seat mate Tom, a handsome dutch-English budding actor kept me from tearing my hair as we compared cultures and foods.
By the time we arrived at Amstel Station, Amsterdam at 1.30am, the trains had stopped so I couldn’t get to Amsterdam central where my paid hotel accommodation was waiting. Well, I could have taken a taxi but remember I was on a vermicelli thin budget here.
So I sat it out on the comfy leather seats at the bus station
A few inches and that chair would have made a mighty fine bed!
I had 'great' company (not!) in the form of a stout Hungarian-Spanish drunk man Leon, who was trying to solicit me for sex (offered me 50 Euros). Alas he knew little English and I knew no Spanish so it made for an interesting conversation 
Leon: me like you. Gibberish, see money. Me give you. go hotel.
Ginger: You -me no no no –with vigorous hand gesticulations. 
I was miffed cos when I threw him off he went over to this old buxomy woman who can’t be a day under 55. And there I was thinking he was mesmerized by my hawtness, drunk or not.

Morning couldn’t come fast enough. I went to the ladies, cleaned up, changed to jeggings, brushed my teeth and wandered into the city for a mini sight seeing tour.
And I fell in love.
Amsterdam is such a pretty city. You know those ceramic dream like buildings you find on display shelves? It seems they are modeled on Amsterdam buildings. After boring old British houses I loved the rusticity of Amsterdam: the canals, the cruise boats, the bicycles!! Everyone and their mom rode bicycles. I really need to learn how to use that contraption. Its sexy and healthy exercise.
There was something 'Open Sesamish' about the opening and closing of this portion of road. It opens to allow boats pass. 
The Dutch were also a friendly lot. A lot of strangers saying hi and flashing genuine smiles. Within 2 hours of ambling about the streets I had made 4 acquitances who tried to convince me to extend my stay.
Then my phone battery went caput and I couldn’t take any pictures. What!! My new friends directed me to this Coffee shop Popeye to get a drink and get my phone charged. And my eyes really popped. Get a look at their list. Yep It was an authentic weed shop. Even the brownies could get you high.
Nevertheless it was a particularly cosy and friendly shop. I was even invited to share the peace pipe on the house. No can do!! I had this imagery of me being so high that I forget to go back to UK.
Take a look at that Price list and the colorful names for different hemp cultures
The ‘coffee shops’ finally explained why most people in this town were happy. They were all prolly walking in a weed haze.I would def visit Popeye again if I ever go to Amsterdam (not for the weed o!).
I didn't get to see the Redlight district.  I had asked the lovely lady at Popeye to gimme directions to the district which she did grinning from ear to ear - she found my embarrassment amusing cause I'd whispered the question into her ear. I must have missed my way cos I never found the street and I wasn’t ready to ask passersby.
I got to visit a Cheese shop. Went away with Goat cheese. Second pix is one of the ubiquitous tour boats littering the Canals
By 15.30pm I was at the station waiting for my train to Aachen, Germany which was 2.5 hrs away. Prof had invited me to see his much boasted of Aachen.
I was awed. Maybe it was cos I had this idea of a sterile military Nazi Germany. It was thus a surprise to find this picturesque town. You could also feel the energy and the affluence. Unlike Britain where it is now common to find boarded-up shops and buildings falling on their ears, I could not smell the recession here.
*I also saw Aachen’s red light district which compensated for Amsterdam.

Sight seeing
Buildings: Something old, something new. The roundish structure  is a public bath
Street view: Germans love dining out. Note the time 8.30pm
More street views: the multi-people statue is supposed to depict  people involved in bribery, you can see the exchange of gifts :), Pix 2 is a picturesque bus stop.
 Prof wanted to take me to the Carolus theme park for spas, a newly opened theme park, and an animal park. You can guess the one I was really excited about.
St Francis of Assisi (Patron Saint of Vets), Kangaroo, Flamingo, Zebras, Scottish Highland Cow. No pictures pls!
Did I mention German efficiency? Buses arrive at bus stops at least 2 mins before scheduled time then wait. Hello Britain. I also noticed that passengers could get in through the bus’ side entrance. You only go through the front if you need to get a ticket. I’m sure you can see the loophole in that. But there was a strong deterrent: 40 Euros fine if you get caught.
Students get to buy a transport ticket (200 Euros) at the beginning of the school year which covers all train journeys and bus trips within most major cities in Germany. What a bargain! When I think of how much I have spent on transport in the UK…smh.

I went shopping by myself on Monday. I got Printen for my friends, (a biscuit Aachen is famous for). A shopping decision I regret cause the biscuits taste errmmmm funny. Prof says it’s an acquired taste..well he should have warned me. I was so embarrassed I didn’t give it to the friends I bought it for cause I felt they will judge my poor taste. Sigh.

I did wish I had lotsa money to shop with. Ah well, another time.
Home again home again jiggety jog, this time by Eurostar (train). 2hrs and I was back in London. Never again Eurolines!!
Durham market place

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rate your University Experience

So sometime in July I volunteered to work as a student rep during my school's Open day. An event set aside by a University to showcase its facilities to prospective students, while for the potential student, it is an opportunity to have a feel of the school's academic environment and general ambience.

I had been watching all the preparatory activities with a cynical eye. First cos it reminded me that my days in Durham university were numbered (by July I was done with my final exams), secondly it reminded me again that universities in the West have become education factories and thirdly I was waiting to see the white-wash my university will get up to (remember how the roads and sidewalks get whitewashed in Nigeria when a dignitary/governor/president visits?) lol.

I had only had a virtual open day before I arrived at Durham. To be honest the concept of open day was lost to me. It isn't a common event with Nigerian Universities (I hadn't visited UI prior to penning it down in my JAMB form). I only knew it was a top university and that most of my friends from secondary school were heading there. I also knew I didn't want to attend a university in the East (well, the only one I would have deigned to attend was UNN and I would probably have been married by now or so my eldest Sis moans.). 

Anyway somehow in a moment of madness, I squealed my love for my DU on the application form and was invited to join the Open day team. Our job was to welcome parents and students, hand them goodie bags and maps, give directions to seminar venues, answer questions about our own experience and praise the school to high heavens. 

On the D-day, the only whitewash was the weather. It was a bright warm summer day, and DU practically beamed a welcome. Quite opposite to our usual dreary weather. 
Parents and kids came in droves. I noticed how parents of African origin made a beeline for me immediately they walked into the hall. Some families came with the family dog. One mom was a bit taken aback when i asked what course the dog was planning to take, then she caught the joke and started laughing.
One elderly woman with her grand daughter in tow, told me she was an alumnus, so also her daughter and her husband and now their child - her grand daughter. I thought it was sweet.
I remember one dad asking me what the entertainment was like in Durham. Are the pubs alright? Do you have clubs, parties, sports facilities or is it all about academics. lol. I cod just imagine a Nigerian dad asking that....not.
Not everyone liked what we had on offer. Some parents criticised our library ..that it was old fashioned...'Durham still uses books??!' "So so and so university's library is practically virtual. no need for old and musty-smelling books" o__O. 
A number weren't impressed by our historic castles and colleges. My beloved college (originally built in 1846) was called 'olde worlde' by a sneering  father. No vex.

I came away from the open day with a deeper appreciation. Open days are very vital for a school. any school. Students are the life-blood of schools not the other way round. Schools NEED their BRAINS, their BRAWN and their MONEY. Hence they need to attract the best who will contribute to new knowledge, new records in sports and become credible ambassadors. They also need their money to help run the school. And this is what motivates the school to keep improving and exceeding expectations. 

I also left with an appreciation of the importance of parents attending open days with their kids. When you send your child away to a school - be it boarding school or University, it is important for you to have a feel of what their future learning environment will be like; the classes, the chairs, the accommodation, the toilets, the fun/sports facilities. I believe the challenge of parents and students visiting keeps the school on its toes.

Lastly, it is an opportunity for the staff of the university and current students (eg. Me) to re-evaluate why they chose this particular school. You can only truly convince another person to share your zest for your university if you truly believe it. Well, unless you are a good liar salesperson.
I was actually surprised at the positively passionate answers I gave to questions like 'what do you like about Durham University', 'what has been your experience as an international student', 'Was it value for your money' cause it wasn't practised.
I read somewhere that Universities have 3 principal, direct functions: In the 1st place they teach; 2ndly they accumulate great stores of acquired and systematized knowledge in the form of books and collections; 3rdly they investigate or in other words they seek to push out a little beyond the present limits of knowledge and learning year after year, day after day, some new truth. They are teachers, storehouses and searchers for truth.

Durham University satisfied on all three 100%. 
I feel most Nigerian Universities nowadays would satisfy 90% of the first stipulation. 40% of the second and 5% of the third.   

What has been your University experience?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Much Ado about Reality TV

Happy November, People!

So this past month I’ve become an avid TV viewer, from Nickjnr to PressTV to Reality TV.... the bane of the new millennium. Seriously, how do we justify this watching of other people’s intimate life...boring other people if we consider the likes of 'The only way is Essex' and 'Made in Chelsea'. There’s something voyeuristic about it. and I don’t think its healthy.

Anyway let me bore y'all with my observations of some of them. Pls chime in with your observations too.

CNN/BBC: Its amusing to note that the news is all about ‘what’s happening in Libya, Syria, Africa meanwhile your own backyard is on fire. Yeah I ‘m talking about BBC and CNN downplaying the Anti-capitalist youth movements in America and the UK, the brutality and use of excessive force by the police while screaming about happenings on the other side of the world. Talk of Two facedness. It seems Ukraine and Italy civilians have also joined the protest in their respective countries. On an aside, Nigerian youths how far? 

NTA (Nigeria's national TV): Sigh. I don't know where to start. The news is as stale as the audio,  background, presenters ....except Ifeanyi Okafor. I miss the hay days of Yinka Craig, Sienne Razaq, Hauwa etc.

X-factor: I love music. I love the concept of discovering new talent. Susan Boyle was my inspiration for 2009. But, when I see teenage/barely out of their teens Xfactor hopefuls whining on and on with kohl streaking down their face about 'how this is what they’ve dreamt of all their life'….I feel like slapping the taste outta of their ambition-less mouths.

I know viewers think he is the joke for 2011, but I like Johnny Robinson. He has an amazing voice and is funny to boot. Frankie on the other hand needs a comb…I can’t tell you how much I hate his hair. And the tight jeans. And the make up. That he is still there while Sophie Habibas (sue me, i know the spelling is wrong) is out indicates the demography of X factor voters: Dumb females who need the police to confiscate their hand sets for texting under hormonal influence!

 Still on X-factor – I think the US Xfactor Judges are a more credible bunch than the UK. I dont know what Simon was thinking when he picked that diva bunch (Gary and Louis included). Kelly you are my girl and I totally agree that what Louis and Tulisa did to MishaB was uncool (Heck MishaB has now been branded a bully by the internet which is unfair in a competition which can be won or lost based on the voting public's fickle perception); but you going into super diva mode and abandoning your charges didn't help either.

Kiddie's TV: I watched several episodes of Ben 10 for the first and last time. My conclusion: Ben 10 is over rated and totally inappropriate for 2-8yr olds who alarmingly are the most enthusiastic about it.

I like Nick Jnr programmes…my favourites are Olivia(she's such a fashionista) and Peppa Pig. I hum Peppa pig’s theme song in my head sometimes. I don’t mind Fireman Sam too. I love the fact that one of the characters Mike Molly or something has an inter-racial marriage. We’ve come a long way!

Big Brother: Who agrees with me that BB has lost its raison d’etre? The producers are determined to milk it for all its worth though and they keep adding annoying twists. Eg if you've been watching BB UK, you'll agree with me that bringing Jem, Faye’s sister into the house just ruined the game for Faye and Aaron which was unfair. I mean I understand the protective big sister bit, but Jem should have understood there was a prize to be won and kept her meddling opinions to herself. 

I love Two and a half men. More like I used to love Two and a half men till they ousted Tiger blood Charlie and replaced him with Lamb blood Ashton. Dear Ashton! What Demi Moore sees in that young man I don’t know. Maybe I am mistaken. Hope so.

The Bachelor: The females who parade themselves in The Bachelor have set back the campaign of feminists by 50 years. How can someone’s sole ambition be 'to be patted and fondled and picked out like a prize cow in a farmer’s market'?

The Bachelor has also confirmed the belief of 'rent a bride consultants' like Patti Stinger; that rich men love their women blonde, biddable, giggly and pretty... just like Carrianne. For those who thought Layla should have been picked, when she told Gavin that she has a mind of her own she sealed her fate.
And as for the homely Latvian girl (she was booted off earlier) who confessed to Gavin that she's been keeping her virginity for 'The One'..Wowsa!! Darling, virginity is not considered a price by the English. When the Bachelor is an Arab Sheikh, apply again.

But despite my dislike for all that The Bachelor stood for, when Gavin choose Carrianne in the end, despite her rumored bad behavior and that dreadful squeaky voice etc I was forced to accept that when a man falls in lust/love, he is blind to all faults....mostly. I had initially thought Gavin was being too wishy washy, but looking back now, if i am to believe his confession of love to Carianne was not scripted by the Producers, then its likely Gavin had chosen her from the beginning and the eliminations only helped him confirm his choice, do you get me? Or maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic.

Who is sick of TV?


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