Sunday, July 31, 2005
Finally, my very first real newspaper article and It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. As strange as it sounds, writing for a newspaper has always been my biggest 'journalism' phobia. I mean, who reads newspapers these days, and why would I want to sit in front of a computer, typing away about something I probably don't give a jumping jelly fish about. I'ld prefer to write for a magazine or write feature articles but the reality and the bottomline is you have to know how to write, and what better place to get that hands on writing experinece that from a good old 'around-the-neighbourhood' local newspaper. As I have toiled to get my other foot in the door in the broadcasting field, it has always been at the back of my mind that 'babe, you may want to reconsider to survive.' That, along with wanting to boost my portfolio, enrich my experience, improve my journalistic abilities and broaden my professional scope were the things led me to seek this internship at the Chapel Hill Herald. The first two weeks have not been spectacular, in fact I find myself in a hurry up and wait situation. I am sure it will get better and more exciting with time, and as soon as everyone returns from summer vacation. Meanwhile, I am really excited about being published that I am having a 'serendipitous' moment reading the article online. I hope when I get back from Atlanta I will be able to get a hard copy that I can use for my soon to be created 'newspaper clippings' book, which I should have started a long time ago, considering all the random daily Tarheel Letters to the Editor that I have written in the past. Speaking of the the DTH, I deserve a slap and a knock on the head for not even attempting to write for them or any other publication on campus. BIG MISTAKE! I guess it was the whole 'snob the print department' attitude that us kids in Carolina Week had, plus the DTH was always getting into trouble and getting dissed because of huge editorial blunders and misinformation. But it's a 'student newspaper', a practice medium, so things like that were bound to happen. As for the other publications, I just couldn't find a niche so I tried revamping the OASIS Newsletter (Tenesa) but I was too bogged down with my final year that that didn't work out, even though we had articles, templates and some money. However and fortunately, some of the younger/junior student journalists in training have been able to make it happen and hopefully it will develop from just a newsletter to an actual monthly on campus. But back to my point, if you are trying to become 'any type' of journalist, or just interested in it, DO write for a publication of some sort, even if you absolutely hate it. Newspaper writing is the foundation of the profession and knowing how to write is the most important tool of the trade. If you cannot get an internship, read newspapers and get an Associate Press Handbook and teach yourself the techniques. Even though it's been at the back of my mind, I don't know why I never made an attempt at getting an internship at one of the two local papers, because it wasn't that difficult at all. May be it was easier because I already had experience, but how much more difficult could it have really been. I should not have second guessed myself at all and seized the opportunities that were available to me. Now I am retracing my steps, connecting the dots and plugging up the drain, and I will pay off eventually, even though I'm only getting like $2 per inch published... Gas and make-up money....HA! HA!
Friday, July 29, 2005
Were iru-oma Gi lekwasi Eze-nwanyi ayi (Look Upon our Queen with favor)
I love Queen Elizabeth and all, but why does the 'Igbo Book of Prayers and Hymnals' have a special prayer for her. Just in case you were wondering, yes I can also read, write and sing in Igbo(I cannot sing in English, I sound like William Hung). But back to the topic, I understand prayers for our leaders and all, but a special prayer and litany for the Queen, 45 years after colonialism is quite baffling. I guess they have not bothered to update the book. Speaking of the Queen and colonial days, I don't know what she did back then but many old women, especially Ibos always seem to be worried about her. One of my grand aunts (she is really my mom's oldest sister, but she is very elderly so we call her grand ma) who lives in the village was always so concerned about the Queen and the Queen mother, and how much stress and embarrassment the children were bringing the aging royalties. I guess she is fond of her because there's this dust smitten black and white picture of her late husband who was a doctor and botanist (no, not a Gardner), in his white robe shaking the Queen during her trip to Nigeria in 1956. I doubt that frame has moved from that spot since her husband's death. I don't blame the woman for being fascinated with the Queen, I am fascinated by her too. She's such a doll of a granny and many of her 'subjects' of the same age group sort of identify with her. I am sure they, like I, take it personal when people say they want the monarchy gone. Are they out of their minds? What's the world without kings and queens, princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, Castles and Palaces? It would just be a world full of ordinary people and wanna-be royalties typeof the Hollywood and politics stock. A world without royal scandals and gossip, means more face time for Paris Hilton and reality show winners. And do you know how many people could potentially join the poverty line if the Daily Mirror et al should go under. I hate to imagine it in the first place. So I guess 'queenie' does need a litany of prayers after all, and with the way Ibo women can wail and cry mountain moving and ocean drying prayers, I'm sure she'll be aight. Anyhow, this book is interesting, I am going to brush up on my Igbo, by reading some of the passages and prayers, as in since I cannot learn French, I might as well perfect my own language. God forbids, but you never know which third worlders and ethnic group will be in vogue. In the nineties it was Hispanics, now it's the Arabs and Pakistanis, you just never know these days.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
So if the white is too bright wear some sunglasses and bear with me while I sort the thing out.
You turn on the television and it's the same thing, they go on and on and on, and you keep tuning in, soaking in all the information. You are hoping for the best outcome and imagining the worst of the situation, which could actually be the reality. Lately we have been inundated with coverage on missing women that have filled the air waves through cable news and the evening news. Watching these reports, one would think the only people worth kidnapping are Caucasian women and girls and most recently Hispanic children. In fact I have become very cynical about these roprts of missing women and also very afraid that if I go missing(Tufia!God forbids) would there be any 'real' effort to find me or would the people who care about me become frustrated that they resort to only praying, passing out fliers and forwading emails with my pictures. I hope not, in fact the whole of ECOMOG Paramilitary forces better come looking for me and the Nigerian government had better provide the ransom money that the kidnappers ask for.
For the past two months, we have all watched the drama unfold in Aruba in the case of the missing Alabama teenager Natalie Holloway. At first two local black men were accused and jailed then a few days later a local judge's son and his friends are arrested. Apparently they were the last ones to see Natalie and know what happened to her.
Then in April we had the case of the crazy Georgia 'Runaway Bride', Jennifer Wilbanks, who wasted government time and money with her stupid stunt. The most annoying thing is that she was quick to claim she was kidnapped by a minority. But what happened after that, 'ol'girl' becomes a celebrity, gets a book deal and I hear a Lifetime movie is in the works. All she got for that was a slap on the wrist.
In the past we have had the case of Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart and all these other girls and women. Not one case that hase been put in the spotlight is that of a minority woman, yet there are case of them every day. As in forget it if you are male, let alone a minority male. Before any investigation is opened in your case, the mountain would have gone to Mecca to meet Mohammed by then. The amazing thing is that many of these cases dealing with minority women, especially teenage black girls are discarded as runaway cases. Though many of them are, there are several in the mix that actually involve foul play and many of them go unnoticed.
Working in the media, it is hard not to be moved by the calls that we get about missing people, but if the police does not initiate alerting the media, you can be rest assured that it will not make it on the nightly news. Depending on how much resources are accessible by the families, and the pressure they can put on the police department, the chances that the case would be assigned to any one more than a patrol officer are very unlikely.
Which makes me wonder, how then do police determine what cases to push and what cases to dump? How come all the cases have similar profiles? Don't men get kidnapped?
Latoyia has been missing for about 10 days, and her case is only coming to light today. It is not even getting much air play despite the fact that she is pregnant, which is a very 'sexy' angle. I don't know how affluent or not the family is, but looking from her picture, she looks 'clean' and she is beautiful (almost looks like Ashanti), so what is it?
It's plain and simple, RACE.
(Below is an article from the July 2005 edition of Essence Magazine that profiles the case of 24 yr old Tamika Huston of South Carolina who's been missing since May 2004)
Monday, July 25, 2005
Finally, my last and extra point brings me to the one topic that I hate to discuss, Religion. It is a difficult subject and I have to admit that it does bring order into your life by giving you a routine and most of all hope that things will get better. Webster dictionary uses the words commitment, devotion and observance in its discription of the word religion. It goes on to further describe it as a personal set or institutionalized system of attitudes, beliefs, and practices. This screams order and you can see its manifestation in the lives of many hard working and successful people. Setting time aside to go to places of worship, reading holy-books, fasting, meditating or even taking a walk to appreciate nature routinely and 'religiously' is key to maintaining a sound and orderly state of mind. I am not saying 'get religious', absolutely not, because in my opinion, being religious is the reason the world is in chaos today. Terrorism, the Intifada, the Crusade, Slavery and the near annihilation of Native Americans all have their roots in religion. But if being religious is your forte, by all means be the best and the most humanely religious 'non-fanatic' for lack of a better word. I prefer to use the word 'Spirituality',which is when you draw elements from your beliefs and values, whether moral or religious. For example, being loving, kind, caring and humane are not just religious values, they are life's values. Just as displayed on the Oprah Show, 'Remembering Your Spirit', knowing and acknowledging the fact that a greater being placed you on this earth for a purpose has nothing to do with religion. You can be spiritual with your diet(no junk or fattening foods), your dressing (strictly pure cotton and no sweat shops), your language (being positive and speaking words of blessing), volunteering with the needy and so many other ways. You can draw inspiration from the lives other people have led, like Jesus, Mandela, Ghandi, Malcolm or Martin. Spirituality is about finding a connection on your own, something that provides inner peace and tranquility, something that you can reflect upon that allows you to make sense of your existence and the crazy world out there. Reading self-help books, listening to mellow music, lighting up candles and turning off all unnatural lights, meditating on words from religious books, on poetry and reflecting on life in general (ever tried looking at yourself in the mirror to see how intricately you were molded) are other beautiful ways to connect spiritually. Ideally I would rather gather in the nude, round a bon-fire fueled by marijuana bushes, playing banjos, congas and tambourines, making crowns from daisies, singing and dancing entracingly to Kumbayah. But then again people will begin to think I have gone mad.
I am sure by now you probably want to know who my pastor is, but a few Sunday's ago, he talked about the subject of our credit. It is so true that this country is such that you have to borrow and owe before you can get ahead. To an extent it is good, because you can go to school without worrying about your tuition until after you have completed your education. But as is my case, there are no guarantees that the degree you borrowed thousands of money for would translate imeediately into a well paying job to meet those financial obligations. Then you sink deeper and deeper into depth when it comes time to buy a car, a house, because they are approving you left and right for credit. If you haven't already fallen in to the red zone, be careful and ensure that your credit stays on the good side. If you are in the red zone, make an effort to settle those bills and have it reported to the credit bureau so that you can get credit too for paying up. Most importantly, keep income coming in, one way or the other, to the best of your abilities, because when you have a huge balance in your bank account, the chances for stress and worry become less likely. There is nothing like financial security.
PURGE YOUR PURSES
Ok bag ladies, you know yourselves, what in the world are you carrying in that big burlap sac you call a hand bag? I am sure if we looked in some of those bags, you'ld find dead rodents. I carry everything in my bag just incase I find myself somewhere I am not supposed to be in. I don't know if you watch Sesame Street, but remember when Oscar the Grouch pulls all sorts of things from his trash can... that's exactly what many bags are like. It would'nt hurt to clean out your 'daily' purse once a week, like on the weekends when you change up for the daintier one. I know, it can be really hard to keep a clean purse especially if you are always on the go, so I won't be too hard about this one. But please try for the sake of keeping up appearances. Just imagine, if a guy looked into you bag, what would he find? Used tissue, crushed cookies, bubble gum wrappers, those other embarassing things...you know...they start with 'T' and 'C'. Whatever he finds can make a difference in what kind of impression he, or anyone for that matter, has of you. So get a-cleaning.
Yes i do this too, we all do. You see bills and you are like what the hell do these foolish people want and you toss it on the counter and don't attend to it. You may not have the money to pay for it at the moment, but just don't let them sit, because they start to pile up and clutter your space. Keep the most recent bills and get rid of the old ones. Get a shredder to protect yourself from identity theft and if you must keep records get a filing system of some sort. Even an empty box where you toss them into will do, rather than have them littered around the house. It is so funny how people who give advice are the worst culprits. Luckily, I can escape because I just moved this week and I feel it's another beginning towards more organization, so i'll be taking my own advice.
KEEP YOUR CAR CLEAN
If you cannot clean it your self, let some one else clean it for you. A dirty car is an obvious sign of a chemically imbalanced mental state, just as is with your home, room and kitchen, especially when you don't have kids. And yes people make excuses for their dirty cars because they are busy, have children, are medical students and what have you. I refuse to buy that because you can't be too busy to be clean. When I was growing up, there were five of us and our neighbors kids packed into my mom’s brown station wagon pretty much everyday, but as old and raggedy as our ‘pea-jotu’ 504 (also known as ‘Helicopter’ because it had chronic exhaust pipe problems and sounded like one) looked, it was always clean both inside and out. I know i am sounding like a hypocrite because I too am a very guilty of this. Looking back, my attitude towards the state of my cars clearly spelled ‘issues.’ My first car, ‘Rosie’ the red 92 Honda Accord is where it all began. I hated the car because it was red, a stick shift, rather old for a graduation present and I ended up teaching myself how to drive it two months after it was purchased. Then as days passed, it was just one problem after the other, the AC, the check engine light, me forgeting to fill up on gas and getting stranded on the road. From someone in the apartment complex randomly smashing the backlights, to it rolling into a tree on a very windy night, missing a house by a few meters. Maintenance was eating through my pockets so there was no way I could value it, so I rarely cleaned or washed the thing. Eventually someone rammed into me and killed ‘Rosie’ and I got ‘Ebony’, a black 95 Civic. Ebony was just different, firstly because I bought it with my boyfriend, when he had just bought his own accord; his was the ‘Big-Poppa Honda’ and mine was the ‘Baby-Momma Honda’(lol). It never gave me any problem and I was comfortable in it emotionally despite the fact that it did not have AC. I always kept ‘Ebby’ clean by washing her myself either at home or at the coin-carwash. I had peace of mind, could dress very well, get in and pose a little and when I wrecked her, I was distraught, I still am because she has been irreplaceable. Then came ‘Leila’ the 94 Accord I got from a crooked used car sales man from Jordan. Right from the point of sale, the car was trouble. I had it for only three months, but it gave me a life’s worth of trouble. First, it was an emergency car that I had to buy within the week of the accident because of work, then I was very uncomfortable with having to make car-payments, then the car had all sorts of mechanical problems and I hadn't even cleaned or washed the car yet. In fact I felt it was a piece of scarp that I just needed to get me to and fro and boy was I right, because I found out it was a salvaged vehicle that had been rebuilt and the information was never disclosed to me in the first instance. And the stupid manhad to audacity to be racist on me when I confronted him, he forgot I was from the thrid world too, Nigeria for that matter, we wrote the manual on obtaining by trickery. I took it back and collected some of my money and used it to buy ‘Grace’ a gray 92 Mazda Protégé from my roommate, which by the grace of God, I plan to keep until I decide it is time for fresh ‘dream-wheels’. These issues going on became evident in the way I handled the different cars, and how clean I kept them and it is the same for many other people. They have marital problems and use their cars as an escape, probably eating and sleeping in it. You have untrained and bad mannered children, and it is evident just by looking in your car. If you cannot keep a small confined environment that is the car clean, organized and mechanically functioning, then how can you manage a home or even your life? Your car is the second most important material possession to most working class people, next to your shelter, so why not treat it that way. Just as seen on the Oprah Show, when you unclutter a space or an area where you spend so much time in, your life also starts becoming uncluttered; you can breath and think better and not feel choked up by the mess and drwoning in it.
DISCOVER A HOBBY AND EXERCISE
Setting time aside to do something that you are pasisonate about or burning off in the gym takes your mind off chaos. Things like penning your thoughts in a journal, painting, learning another language, ice skating, yoga, cycling, reading a book in the sun by the poolside or just taking a walk in park. Something you will enjoy that will bring serenity to your person and relief you of stress. When you have a hobby that you do religiously, it helps you manage and utilize time, which is a key step to orderliness. If you didn’t know, the more time you spend doing things, the less of a couch potato you become. You know when to tune in, like when Oprah, America’s Next Top Model and Desperate Housewives, is on and tune out when Super Nanny comes on. Look at it as exercising both mind, body and spirit
OWN A PET OR PLANT
The article suggests to take your dog on a long walk, but I think it goes beyond that. We once had several cats growing up, but pussu, pussycat, busu and kitty-kitty were not quite pets. To us they were as good as animals of burden whose reasons for existing in our house was to kill all the rats that ate through sacks of rice, beans and stockfish. They were cute when they were kittens but when they grew older, they were just too bold for their own good and would jump from the floor to the dining table to steal my one piece of meat in my bowl of soup and scratch me at the same time. Whenever this happens, you can forget any hopes of getting another piece of meat. This is why I cannot stand cats. I have also had run-ins with a pet monkey, parrots, and pigeons and not to mention snakes and dogs. All of which have long stories to accompany them. I usually don’t do pets, but one of old roommates broke me in with her menopausal beagle that was controllable. My new roommate has a Great Dane and I don’t know how that’s going to work out. I’ll eventually own some toy-dogs and may be bunny rabbits because they are so cute and cuddly, but how do I expect to be responsible for them if I am not responsible for other things. My former roommate, Singto owned a rat-like animal called a gerbil named Ayo. Last Hurricane season, she left it in my care because the power was out, and I decided to spend the night at home since I had been at work most of the night. The windows were rattling, the wind was whistling, poor Ayo was scratching at his cage and dumb little me thought he was frightened by the hurricane. Overcome with compassion and concern, I let the creature out of the cage and into this ‘roller-ball-thingy’ that he runs around the house in. Why did I wake up the next morning to find the roller ball lid on the floor and the roller-ball empty with Ayo, gone! I was sad and searched the whole house and lay food around to bait it. I know my roommate was upset, but it was a ‘rat’ so she could not dignifingly express her anger publicly over it. Till today, we don’t know what happened to the hamster and have not seen any remains; funny enough everyone thinks I killed it and even used it for ritual (lol). Des on the other hand owned plants and every now and then I took the responsibility of watering them. I nearly killed them by putting too much water or not watering them at all for a while. I changed the water in one Chinese bamboo-like plant that produces it’s own fungi food that stinks up the water. Once again, trying to be a good plant keeper, I changed the water and the plant nearly starved to death. My point is that resposibilty develops from taking ownership to something, and owning a living being can teach you a lot about life and organization. It is like having children, or pretending to do so. People who have kids may not be as organized, but when it comes to anything relating to their children, you see a different side of them. You don't have to go out and adopt a child or pet, own something that you can take care of and be responsible for. A living thing is of value to you, will give you a routine and allow you appreciate life and nature. It can also lead you towards finding spirituality when you think of it as part of our divine duty to have dominion over the creatures of this earth. As human beings, we are the ordained care-takers of our environment and it is a huge responsibility. Perhaps, the most important one yet, and if we continue to over look it, the more chaos we may continue to have. Now that does not mean that you should go to Africa and bring back a lion or Gorilla from your Safari trip to Kenya and say you are trying to save them from extinction. No! you aint no Crocodile Hunter. That's just plain suicide for you and Christmas meat for them. May be this will put it in perspective; imagine if God was careless with us and was not responsible enough to keep ours hearts pumping and our physical state in order, do you think you will be reading this. Am I making sense?
Friday, July 22, 2005
I read an article in the Carolina Woman magazine this past week that got me thinking. It was nothing in depth, just 7 key points to look and feel like you have got you act together. Honestly, I needed to see that because there were some things that just had 'Adaure', flashing in red next to them. At 25, I feel I am facing a quarter life crisis and I am sure there are many others like myself out there. It seems like everything is just falling apart and you have absolutely no control. Reading this article sort of gave me a 'eureka moment', and pointed out ways to start taking little steps that will yield in to larger results. I have modified the points a bit to reflect other things and aspects of my life that I have identified as the trouble spots. They might also sound familiar to you, because you may also be battling those same problems. Thinking about them, they seem so small and unimportant, but frankly they make a lot of sense and will be useful to anyone who cares to apply them. Chances are if I start putting these to practice in addition to other points I have learned about through my experiences, listening to sermons and testimonies in church, and of course watching Oprah, I'm certain there will become a visible difference in my outlook on life.
MAKING YOUR BED: When I was younger, my mother and 'Uncle Sam' would always scream, 'As you lay your bed so shall you lie.' Some times I thought they were indirectly cursing me and I would begrudgingly go and make my bed to avoid any wrath. Gosh did I hate making the bed and I still do. Back then I shared a bed with my siblings and since I was the oldest, I felt it was the job of the younger ones. To make matters worse, and just to show you that my feminism did not begin when I came to America, it always seemed like I was the one always sent to make the bed and clean the room, while my brothers played soccer or watched TV.
Now that I am older, I see the wisdom in that profigurativelytibely speakinliterarilyrarily. You probably are wondering if I made my bed this morning. The answer to that is NO, I did not make my bed this morning. The excuse, I am moving and just did laundry, so my bed consists of my African wrappers over the mattress and pillows. This is a huge indication of a chaotic and disorganized existence that is obviously reflected in other areas of my life. The article in the magazine says to make your beds in the morning, but cleanliness is next to Godliness. Making it whenever it is messy, and religiously is the key. It does not indicate obsession or paranoia, but orderliness, which if carried out religiously, will place your mind in an orderly state as well. I have a friend who makes her bed like it is some golden jewel. Each time she does, I just want to get on the bed and scatter it. But I have begun to appreciate how meticulous she is when making her bed, that I too have become infected. Plus a nicely made bed makes your room look presentable and is quite inviting...sleep-wise you dirty minds.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Do I look like a Hooker?
The strangest thing happened this morning and considering I live in a twisted bubble of my own, i am not sure if i should be flattered or offended. Actually, i am more offended than flattered, because there are less crass ways of telling a woman she has your pants on fire.
My roommate Desmina posted her furniture for sale and this randy hell's angel looking man was interested, she sent him to the house and asked me to show him the couch. The man cam and i guess i distracted him from paying attention to the couch that he came to buy. He was just looking at it like the couch was diseased, mean while i am trying to sell the damn couch by telling him how and where it was bought and who owned it and for how long. Then he was like the fabric is kinda faded so he'll have to think about it. I was like ok, think about it quickly because we will be sending it to charity on Friday. He was like ok, he'll call and let us know. Then he was like 'You wanna make some cash yourself?'. Clueless and dumbfreaking me, I had my Shirley Temple smile and i was like 'What do you mean?' and he winked and bit his lower lip saying, 'You know what I mean, some sex.' My eyes popped out of my head and shot straight for the door and the nearest weapon looking thing, which was a broken umbrella and I was like 'No thanks.' Meanwhile, i am stealthedly walking towards the door and fluffing the couch just incase he had any ideas to go run and lock the door. Then he was like, 'Ok just thought I'ld ask.' In my head, I am thinking, 'what a question to ask, idiot man biko buy the couch or gerrout.' Then he headed towards the door and was like I hope i did not offend you, and I was like 'You did but goodbye.' At that moment, i locked and BOLTED the door and screamed on top of my head. So disgusting, what the heck did he take me for and what did i look like to him. Then again, thinking of it now, i should have engaged him longer just to find out how much he was trying to pay, what worth he was placing on me and what kinda se he was asking for, just for kicks, but seeing as i was alone at home, my safety was more important than the laughs i would get from that conversation. I mean he could have just asked me if i had a boyfriend and he would have sent the same message, but to come outrightly and ask me for SEX? As in may 'Amadioha break his head ten times'...Foolish man. I never envisioned something like this ever happening to me, i have been hit on by both men and women, but never offered money for sex. So the question to you guys is how would you feel if that happened to you? Would you feel flattered or insulted? Perhaps that was just an ignorant person's way of telling you you were hot or you ain't good for nothing else? And what would you do in that situation had escalated? Lord knows this has shaken my 'innocence', this will have me thinking if every man who is looking at me is thinking about me in those terms or really cares about what i have to say. May be if i wasn't wearing this stupid lingerie looking tank tops they have these days, i would have looked like a regular Jane Smith. But would that have made a difference?
Saturday, July 16, 2005
I was like 'UH...OMG'.... came 'THIS' close to destroying my car, and the funny thing is that it all happened in a split second. I began to thank God and cast away the evil spirits of dumbness that overcame me for that short period. Sometimes, I just cannot explain somethings, may be in a previous life I was a ditzy blonde because 'that's so Jessica' and i am sure there will be others...trust me.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Only God knows what went down between superstar Brad Pitt and his wife that led to their divorce, but all I can say is God don’t like ugly. Our darling Brad caught meningitis this week while he was in Ethiopia with his new leading lady Angelina Jolie. We Nigerians would call her husband snatcher, but that would be judging her. Now we all know Jolie herself hasn’t had the ‘cleanest’ list of shack buddies. A good example is Billy Bob-Thornton, who looks like he just came out of a trailer-park trashcan. I mean somebody was bound to get some kind of disease. The funny thing is that folks in the media are all quick to mention the fact that ol’boy was in ‘Africa’ when he got sick. ‘OOOhh…’ that scary disease infested place where every one gets sick. Abeg!! That stuff originated right here in the U.S., with all the kissing and kicking it people seem to casually engage themselves in. Not that we don’t have meningitis or anything, but every time something like this happens, it is always made to look as if being in Africa was the main culprit. May be a fan on Jennifer’s did some ‘things’ on her behalf, you just never know. But meningitis and all, I am sure there are people who would still love to kiss Mr. Pitt, unfortunately for him; I just took my name off that list.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Since the events of September the 11th and the ongoing war on Al-Qaeda and global terrorism, I have always felt disconnected. Some days I ask myself what all the hoopla is about, after all don't people die from terrorism every day in places like Israel and Palestine? Aren't drug companies helping to kill aids sufferers in Africa by not making drugs cheaper? Isn't the war in Iraq further aggravating the situation and jeopardizing the lives of soldiers? Why is does this one event in America have to be everyone’s problem, an African problem, or a Nigerian problem for that matter? Aren't we ourselves casualties of American: Western bloc and Eastern bloc politics. In fact, on that day, 9-11, I broke my routine by not turning on my 'tuned-to-CNN' TV, and so I walked on to campus oblivious to the fact that the world as I knew it had been changed forever. Even when I found out what happened, watched it 'LIVE' and even saw one of my classmates fall to the ground when the plane hit the second tower where his brother was, it still did not gel for me. It wasn't until I could not reach my aunt in NY that I began to panic.
My reaction, then was not because I did not care or was being in humane, it was more because I had no connection to identify with. And so the very first thing I did was look for any name that was remotely Nigerian when the list of victims came out. There were a few, and some African looking name, but there were no faces to place to the names. I don't know if it is just me, but every time some thing like this happens, that's terror related, the first thing I think or say is 'I hope no Nigerians were affected.' Not saying that other people are not important, but I have to look out for my own people. With no one to identify with, when I did show emotion, it seemed rather vague, with no personality. I was just crying for humanity, crying for 'the innocent', crying for Joe Schmoe and Jane Doe, whose deaths may not have meant any thing to me if they had not been the casualties of violence perpetuated by twisted minds in the name of religion. That aside, I never felt more American or more human than in the days following the attacks, despite struggling with the notion of feeling like a perpetrator, because I of course, am not truly in every sense of it American.
Even though I wore t-shirts that bore the flag, my voice was not very American so to speak. Sure I have a blue passport, but I bleed green and my perspective is that of a foreigner looking in. Today, and much of this week, I believe I have made that connection. Ironically, if not ideally, it happened on the day I arrived America, 8 years ago. At first when the bombings in London happened, I was not sure what angle to write about. Once again I sought a list of victims and the missing, and found articles splashed around with a name that was all but familiar; one I’ve heard on television and seen in news papers, especially when it came to Nigerian politics.
Unfortunately, and politically speaking, perhaps fortunately, Nigerians now have a face to remember when they hear about terrorism and the ill acts of Islamic fundamentalists. Unfortunately, it had to be the face of 26-year-old Anthony Fatayi-Williams: a handsome young man, full of life and promises. One who had a vision and was definitely doing his parents and countrymen proud. As shallow as it may sound, seeing his picture, I thought to myself that the curse alone that Osama will get form Nigerian girls might even surpass whatever punishment the U.S military could serve him. I mean, in these day and age when eligible, well-suited Nigerian bachelors are scarce, why did it have to be the bus that he was riding, that some half brained idiot decided to bomb. Not that another bus should have been bombed, then again this is my 'shallow' side talking. I was actually hoping and believing in God that Anthony is in a coma in some hospital and no dead. To make the situation even more painful, adding insult to the injury and making it personal for 'many Nigerians' is the fact that he is the first and only son of his mother. He is also from one of the notable families in the country, whose forefather played a major role in our countries history. Although I didn't know the gentleman, I know a few people who did, and perhaps have more right to pour out their souls than I do. But seeing pictures of his mother, Mrs. Fatayi-Williams, a top Nigerian oil executive and socialite, splashed across news websites; humbled and weeping, sent a very strong message to me that didn't just come with goose bumps. This terrorism thing keeps inching closer and closer and closer... who next and where next? At some point we just cannot go on with life as usual, as our leaders are touting, not with things like this happening.
Life as usual in the face of such evil as this, is showing we have become desensitized. We have become the 'casualties' John Pepper Clark writes about in his poem of the same title that don't show remorse for their fellow man's plight and are no better than the terrorists themselves. That we too place no worth on the dead and can deal with these tragedies as it comes. No, we cannot go on, Life cannot go on like this. It cannot 'ever' be 'same as usual', not after AIDS, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Oklahoma, Columbine, 9-11, Madrid, Iraq, Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia, Sarajevo, Chechnya, Afghanistan and definitely not after London's 7-7. We have to watch your backs, you just never know where or when next these wastes of human space will strike next, all I have to say it that may you and I not be near by, because they have absolutely no regard for life. None whatsoever. We should all begin to ask what version of the Holy Book the have because things are just not jiving at all.
What I find really interesting about this situation is the fact that this face is just no ordinary face. This is an elite by all standards, whose tragic death has turned him into a 'celebrity' for lack of a better word, just like those rape and assault victims in whose names laws are passed and societies are changed. We Nigerians like to associate peoples' importance by the family they come from and the Fatayi-Williams family is no ordinary family; they are among the list of movers and shakers, so to speak, in Nigeria, socially and politically. That is why this story is getting much more media attention than that of any other Nigerian affected in these acts of terrorism. The irony is that if this was just some lowly average-obi-musa-or-seun we may not have heard or read much of it. It's an unfortunate incident that I believe is bound to and should change and challenge us as Nigerians, particularly the youth. It only takes one person's sacrifice to bring about a change in attitude and make people take a stand. Perhaps now therein lies an opportunity for the government to let Nigerians know that terrorism is real and the threat is drawing closer to home.
Nigerians face a greater threat now that our president is in the forefront of policy changing issues involving the Western nations and Africa. When you start hearing of familiar names being caught in the cross fire then it is time to re-access and wonder if the next time it happens whether it will be someone you actually know. May be those fundamentalists who sympathize with Osama will think again and realize that Osama doesn't give a rat’s hoot about them or Islam. May be they'll see that Sharia is not the best form of politics, may be then we'll all see that religioous fanatcism has no place in society, may be we'll begin to demand our government take responsibilty in ensuring our day to day lives are safe, 'in the country'. My be they'll listen to this mother's cry and see all other mothers who have cried over their sons and daughters killed by trigger happy police officers, corrupt leaders and quake doctors. May be this is the wake up call many of us need.
As I once wrote in a poem, " I sit and ponder the clock ticks and I wonder/ when will it all end/ the hate, the rejection the anger/ the anguish the misconceptions and oh yes the miscommunication. / When will it all end/ When will happiness replace bitterness/ laughing replace crying/ Peace replace war/ When will food replace hunger? / When, when, when I ask/ When will it all end?May Anthony's soul rest in peace and may the Almighty grant his family and others who are suffering because of the atrocious events in London, the comfort and understanding they need to go through this hard time. As for Osama and his cronies, you can run from NATO and the US military and their laser guided missiles and bombs, but you can' hide from God and the wrath of his judgment, and he don't be playing now, just ask Lucifer.
Below is an article culled form ThisDay on www.allafrica.com
Mr. Anthony Fatayi-Williams, grandson of former Chief Justice of the Federation, the late Atanda Fatayi Williams, believed to be among those caught in the London bus bomb blast last Thursday, was still missing as at press time early this morning.
This comes on the heels of the revelation that another Nigerian, Ms Ojara Ikeagwu, has also been declared missing in the wake of the terror blast.
THIS DAY Checks, however, revealed that his father, Dr. Alan Fatayi Williams, a Lagos based medical practitioner and his mother, Marie (younger sister of Chief Tom Ikimi and a senior executive of ELFTOTAL Petroleum) are in London leading the search efforts. The duo were said to have spoken to the London police authorities several times yesterday.
According to family sources, Anthony, a young oil engineering executive who works for AMEC, in Central London, had earlier called his office from the underground station, saying there was trouble and commotion and that he was running late.
He was also said to have suggested that because of the situation, he would probably get on the bus and find his way to work.
Anthony, 26, from Lagos but living in north west London, according to his friends, was in the Camden area of north London when he made another phone call at 8.41am last Thursday, before boarding a train heading towards central London. It is not clear from which train station he called his office.
Many believe he may have been on the ill-fated Bus 30 which was later hit by bombs and in which 13 people were confirmed dead with several others injured.
No one has heard from Anthony since but his family and friends are still hopeful that he may have been injured and is not in a position to communicate.
Search teams led by medical practitioner friends of his father, Alan and friends of the young and likable Anthony are searching all London hospitals where the wounded have been taken.
According to agency reports, fashion industry worker, Rajeet Sahni, 22, from St. Johns Wood, north west London, took a colour photo of Anthony, his close friend, to the scene of the blast in his desperate bid to find him.
He said: "Anthony is just such a fun, cool guy. We want to know if anyone has seen him in the area.
"We have tried every hospital in London well into the early hours, making hundreds of phone calls and want to hear from anyone who has seen him, particularly any survivors from the number 30 bus."
Meanwhile, another Nigerian, a woman, Ojara Ikeagwu, 57, is also believed to have been lost to the London bomb blasts. The married mother-of-three, Ikeagwu from Luton has been missing since the explosions.
Ikeagwu, a social worker, was last seen that Thursday morning setting off to Kings Cross. From there she was going to Hounslow on the Piccadilly line tube when the explosions occured.
According to one of her relations who gave an account of when and how the Nigerian was seen last Thursday morning, "she caught her usual train into King's Cross on her way to Hounslow where she is a social worker - and would have taken a Picadilly Line Tube to get there."
Sunday, July 10, 2005
All I Really Need is that little Black Dress, a pair of Shoes and a matching Purse
In church on Sunday, the sermon was quite interesting and peculiar. The pastor was talking about the financial devourers and the things that impede people's progress, leaving them in a state of constantly being broke. He sounded a lot like Suze Orman or Dr. Phil, only this time with an African accent. The things he pointed out rang true, but one thing that stuck was when he talked about spending habits; the 'BOGOF' syndrome (buy one get one free) and impulse spending. It got me thinking about women in general, including myself, and how this sermon could easily have gone into one ear and out the other. Really, do you think it will take one sermon to prevent any of the ladies in the pews from shopping for the seasons A-list must haves? Absolutely not! Most women are shopperholic and fashion zombies, even though most will deny it. One day it's name brand this, name brand that, another it's knock-off versus original. Yesterday it was tweed and boucle, today it's gauchos, bohemian skirts and anything that blings. Lord knows what it'll be tomorrow, burlap sacks?
We just can't get enough of it, we get an adrenaline rush when we see something that looks hot on the mannequinn. We want to try it on and pray it fits right. Our eyes light up when we see a markdown from $150 to $19.99....i'll take three please. We see our friends in something that looks really nice and flattering and we want to have it too even though it may not look as good on us. Our friends other hand won't be too pleased we have the same outfit as they. Not to forget those '& Co. Plc.' a la 'aso-ebi' outfits you see at Nigerian weddings and events. I can understand husband and wife or family members, but the whole town? Haba!Chill abeg. Getting around that is even more of a hassle because of peer pressure and the bid to make a fashion statement. As shallow as it seems, God forbids that you show up in the same exact style, shoes and bags. As in, we all know we bought the fabric from the same lace dealer but dang why did you have to go to my tailor and steal my stayle too.(Now for those of you wondering why Des and I were wearing the same shade of blue...it was truly coincedental, we don't live together anymore therefore co-ordination is imposisble).
Shopping is like a ritual and as someone put it to me in a bid to justify what i considered an overpriced purchase, it makes one feel good about oneself. That is true, you do feel good about new things, new clothes, new shoes etc. Just yesterday, i felt 'really' good after i bought this really cute bohemian/indian inspired pink dress, that'll go so well with the gold shoes i am about to buy for this wedding that i'm in. I have already pictured myself in it and i feel really 'good' because i know i'll be looking hot in that outfit, just gotta find a place to wear it to.
But isn't that sad, we attach 'happiness' and 'goodness' to material things, we have to justify our irresponsibility with such poor excuses that have everything to do with prioritizing and even self esteem. These devourers come in the disguise of the mall and we run wantonly into its mouth as though it's a shrine where the offering is our finances; masticated, digested and spat out in the form of credit card bills and the reality of the account balance. Further enslaving ourselves to a degenerative cyclical system that lacks prosperity.
The message in the sermon is not that we should not spend at all, but that spending foolishly whether you can afford it or not is destructive. Spend only because you need some thing, not because you can or because you want to have it. The latter being the challenge because as humans it is natural to want. It's the same way I want the new Mercedes S500, Oprah's hairdresser and Naomi Campbell's body...oops! bad examples, not even in my wildest dreams can I have those, not right now at least.
Unfortunately, wanting and spending to fulfil those wants, are devourers that are here to stay and we must learn to live with them and control them. We may also choose to nurture and accommodate them by working harder and increasing our purchasing power to remain looking fly. Another option, a rather though one, is to just ignore it all together by denying yourself those luxuries, living (temporarily) like a pauper and investing that money in yourself in the form of saving. This way, you accelerate your financial prosperity and enhance your quality of life. Just as pastor said in his sermon, money does make the world go round and many things we do revolve around building credit and spending, but we can only win the battle if we don't allow these to control our lives. Rather we should seek happiness and fulfilment in other ways which do not involve the exchange of money and depleting finances.
LIVE-8, G-8 and Debt Relief
No matter how much help you try to give people in need, it is never enough and they are never satisfied that sometimes it makes one not want to help at all. the kind of help that is meant to go towards alleviating poverty and AIDS in Africa, there is always something to complain about and several people, including the Africans complaining. It happens every time. One day it’s the American government is not giving enough funding to Africa even after the Bush administration pledged to double the level of aid to the continent to $8.6 billion by 2010, provide $15 billion to combat the AIDS pandemic and spend $1.2 billion on the malaria scourge. Many forget there leaders, who are supposed to custodians of the national cake, own bank accounts which can buy over two countries, pay the debt of a third and still have change to spare. We even do it to our own leaders who are making an effort to combat corruption and facilitate economic reform. I can go on and on about the things that we Africans complain about, even though we are the ones who are being helped. It makes one wonder if the saying, “a beggar has no choice,” still holds water. Is it that the Africans are mere ingrates who do not appreciate the generosity displayed by these philanthropists in the western hemisphere or that there are fundamental errors of judgment in the approach taken by these goodwill ambassadors.
As much as I appreciate their genuine compassion displayed in their charity works, the donations that both governments and celebrities make to the cause, I do not appreciate the blankets of insults that are heaped upon the continents people in the process. Take as an example the just concluded Live-8 music concert organized by rock star Bob Geldof (truth be told, I never heard of him until talks of the concert), U2 front man Bono and the director of Four Weddings and Funeral. This concert was held in eight countries that make up the G-8; it would coincide with the beginning of the G-8 summit being held in Scotland. The purpose of the concert was to call people across the world to lend their voice to the call for debt relief, more aid and better trade policies for the world’s poorest countries, of which a third of them are in Africa. This was a noble effort but it was tainted by the fact that African artistes were not involved or billed to perform in the first instance. The reason, I either read or heard listening to commentaries on radio and television, was that African musicians would not attract an audience. What bullocks! I don’t know who or what gave that impression. It is like saying to the family of your bride-to-be that they cannot keep up appearance and therefore they are not invited to the wedding; that is grounds to reject any bride-price, cattle or kegs of palm-wine that have been exchanged. According to CNN, the concert in Johannesburg and a small one in southwest England, which featured African artistes, were not even in the original rundown. It wasn’t until people began to raise questions, and started talking about the fact that the people for whom the concert was set up, were missing from the star-studded line up did they rush to organize those. It is because of attitudes like this; the lack of mutual respect, that all the complaining and the seeming appearance of ungratefulness exists, not because we do not appreciate good measure. Sometimes it gets so infuriating, that I say ‘to damnation with your money, we can do it ourselves’, but that would be adamant pride speaking. Africa’s problem is a global one, one of global, if not western making; therefore it must be solved by global effort. However, we should not be rubbished in the process. It is bad enough that leaders have been reduced to beggars, gallivanting from one G-8 country to another, some rightfully to correct mistakes of past leaders while others shamelessly asking for one concession after another and diverting the generated funds to personal investments. The least we can have as a people is a dignity that is intact.
Speaking on debt relief, I think it is one of the most pro-active things that the western governments have done. I would hope they would take it a step further by changing economic policies towards the continent. It is one thing to cancel debt, but if there are no means to generate funds bolster and create a progressive economy or strengthen African currencies, the effort is futile. It remains to be seen what will come of this, it would be foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity to revamp the continent economically.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
“Oh my God! You would not believe what just happened.”
Nearly every phone conversation begins in that manner; overtly exaggerated with the most dramatic and theatrical effects in forms of wild facial expressions, delirious speaking patterns, frenziedly blinking eyes, hands that go haywire, and totally freaking out. Put on mute, one could pass for an air traffic controller high on cheap drugs ‘ecstasy’. As deranged as it sounds, this is the way I, and many self-proclaimed and closeted drama-queens process and relay information about on-going life events and experiences. We come equipped with expert analysis, behavioral assessments and intelligent hypotheses on suppositional situations that could in effect be based on fact or are emotionally driven garbage concocted in our heads.
Many are quick to say drama queens overreact to minor problems and situation; in fact that’s the disappointing description on an online version of the dictionary. It is highly appalling that such an eloquent, dare I say vividly imaginative culture of women should be so insolently reduced to such a pitiful definition. Breaking a finger nail, growing a pimple the night before a big party, getting a B instead of an A on a semester long research paper and not to mention having a bad hair day are not minor problems. These are major earth shaking catastrophic events of cosmic and seismographic magnitudes that require not just the Marines, but the Queer Eye Fab Five and Joan Rivers to be sent in to assess and possibly find a solution for the situation. This is by no means an overreaction; such situations need as much reaction as possible.
As is best defined by reactions from the audience, where did this anatomical and physiological deviance from normalcy originate. Is it from watching too much daytime soap opera, teenybopper sit-coms and movies or an addiction to Oprah’s talk show; for the less sophisticated of us, Ricky Lake and Jerry Springer. Why is there a need to always have or create so much drama in ones life and shouldn’t all that have ended in high-school, and College for the late bloomers?
The reality is that life in itself is an unscripted drama. If you are religious, you could say that God is the ultimate playwright in this drama, and if that is the consensus, I must add that He is one heck of a writer. William Shakespeare once wrote, “Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon a stage and is heard no more, it’s a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I don’t know that I entirely agree with the idiot and nothing part but he couldn’t be more right. And when he writes that "all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages,” he hits it right on the money. Life, looking in from the outside is like a play, filled with story lines, of romance, suspense and tragedy, of fortunes and misfortunes we sometimes wish would or would not end. From experience, there is always an attentive audience, that is living vicariously through the chaos and willing to listen to you dramatize and colorfully paint a picturesque of a well-worn act, that appears freshly written every time.
I have never met a drama queen like myself who doesn’t like to have editorial control over her life. Certainly we may blow things out of proportion just a little bit or embellish for effect but this is not done by choice, but rather by necessity. We must protect our kind because we are becoming an endangered species. We love the shining moments in our scripted and perhaps well-rehearsed larger than life melodramatic scenes that could rival Tinsel Town. We get a thrill from looking at things from the big picture, the bigger the drama, the better our day, and in some honesty our self-esteem. If we don’t look at that big picture and assess possible scenarios, chances are we would sink big time, into an abyss of depression, sociopathy or humiliation when confronted with the unscripted reality. Then the dreaded self-criticism, that pathetic hind-sight-is-knowledge proverb, that nagging conscience in the form of a little voice in your head, usually that of your fellow drama-queen co-writer/producer girlfriend saying ‘I told you so’ come to haunt you. Not even normal people want to get to that point. So in essence, what I am saying here is that with out drama queens, we would all be leading the most boring lives; watching sugar ants discoing across the kitchen counter would be the highlight of people’s social life. So when next you see a sister in distress and having a critical drama-queen, not to be mistaken with diva, curtain up moment, pay attention and give her an audience, after which, a standing ovation and a bouquet of flowers or two French-pecks should follow for an awesome performance, even if it was just because a roach scurried across the kitchen floor. To all my fellow drama-queens, a word of encouragement; always put on your best performance for you never know who’s watching. Could be that Hollywood director looking to cast you in his next flick, giving you that big-break a rare gem like you deserves.
Finally, I'm able to write the last installment of this series, which should have been ready like last year. With working full time at trying to find a job as a reporter, working a part-time job that has me tied down like it's a full time job but without the pay and benefits. Then, a second job as a receptionist, several illusive hobbies that include painting, writing, traveling and dreaming up business plans and strategy for making fast money to clear up my debt and pay tuition for when I eventually go to graduate school. Volunteering as a guinea pig for research studies, going to church every week, and trying to secure my 'life insurance' and by that I mean a husband. An upcoming internship at a local newspaper and contemplating getting a gig at the MAC or Origins make-up counter at Belk’s for the fun of it, and of course to pay the bills, it is no wonder I can't meet some deadlines.
Why don't I have a fat bank account like some of these talent less celebrities, why can't I just buy a ticket to Tahiti and party with the islanders, why do I have to be tied down to a career just to succeed; slaving round the clock and still no guarantees for the future, first because of scumbags and scoundrels like Osama Bin Laden and then because the government is taking a good chunk of my hard earned money that I’ve sweated and broken nails for, to fund it’s escapades in Iraq. And did I mention those school loan collectors calling and sounding like they are really concerned about you. Asking how things are going with you like they really care, or can solve your problem. They only know how to become counselors and attentive listeners when you miss a payment. If I could only be married to Chris Heinz, John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry's son, I’d become the Ketchup-princess and would spend all my time campaigning for the democrats, and sponsoring senate bills and legislature like Oprah. I might just even have a slight chance to run for president of the United State. Can I even be the third wife to Nigeria’s Eleganza King, the plastic millionaire himself? Ok that sounds rather gross and desperate; I would have picked Donald Trump but he can neither understand or appreciate an African woman in her lace Iro-and-Buba, Million Stone Georges, and geles of damask quality nor can he ‘komole’(key it down) to ‘Ijo-Shina’ at the many road-blocking ‘Owambe’ shindigs that I’ll be throwing with his money. If only I could just win the mega-million dollar lottery, you probably would never see any articles from me ever again instead I would be gracing the pages of the likes of People Magazine, US Weekly, Ovation or even Times Magazine. I might even decide to join the happy-go-lucky liberal-leftist of Chapel Hill protesting the war on Iraq, the G-8 countries, holding up ‘Support Roe v Wade’ and ‘Legalize Marijuana' signs while smoking a blunt myself. Better yet, I would build a mansion in my village, water bore-hole is yesterday’s news; I would build a water plant in the village mission-square, Evian and Deer Park will become ‘Uzo-Iyi Spring Water’ or ‘Oguta Lake Water. Can I get debt relief too?
Money is certainly not every thing, but one would be foolish not to agree that no matter where you go, money and wealth do indeed make the world go round. You can’t achieve them without first being smart, making sacrifices, taking risks and being persistent with the choices you make. The case may be different if you share the same bed with Lady Luck or you are a blood relative of Mr. Tortoise the trickster. Now I am not endorsing 419 or any means of obtaining by trick. Those means don’t constitute smartness but a risk they certainly are, a foolish one at that and mere thievery that could lead you to jail when you get caught, but a risk all the same that could lead to fortune and affluence.
Although you can make it anywhere in the world if you try hard, there is no question that America is definitely the land of opportunity, and there are certain career and degree choices that are much more possible and viable than in Nigeria and other countries and vice-versa. However it would be foolish to think that everyone is cut out to survive in this cutthroat society. That is why it is important for people planning to make that move to America, to ensure they are employable and their career interests or hobbies will be fulfilling as well as lucrative.
The good thing about many Nigerian families is that from a very young age children are labeled with certain career picks and are molded towards that. Many youngsters are driven to ambition because of this and ensure they become what their parents have envisioned. This could be a motivating and positive way to give children a direction in life, it could also be detrimental to them as individuals, prevent them from discovering and tapping into other talents and attributes they may possess. It could even set them up for a huge disappointments and self-criticism, self-destruction and ultimately suicide if they don’t measure up to expectations. That aside, it is better to drill usefulness into kids than for them to waste oxygen and precious human space by having no future ambition.
While growing up, everyone, especially my dad, always told me I talked and argued too much so I would be the lawyer. I was always teased with the name ‘lawyer nwelekebe’ which is Ibo sarcasm to describe inexperience, immaturity and foolishness. They also acknowledged the fact that I commanded attention, was good at writing and very good at mimicking movie stars, but they brushed all that aside saying I’ll grow out of it. I personally nursed the idea of being on television whether as a journalist, (my role models were Oprah Winfrey and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour) or an actress; an idea my parents felt wasn’t very practical or realistic in a country like Nigeria where journalists were thrown in jail and actors at times rarely command respect or make money. In fact, the idea alone was frustrating for my dad, who sat me down and really asked me to reconsider my career choice and study law instead. With that in mind I decided if I stayed in Nigeria I would become a lawyer but if I study abroad I would be a journalist and writer, the latter of which I did as a broadcast journalism major and drama minor. Somewhere in between, and this is a true story, I wanted to be a zoologist, anthropologist, archaeologist, historian, botanist, a catholic nun, a professor, a philanthropist and an ambassador. I am sure I also had President of Nigeria or the United States on the list somewhere. You can say I had issues, but I can say that I am a normal child because some children of today don’t even give you ‘foolish’ answers that don’t exist, like ‘astronomist’ instead they say they want to be a rappers and video-girls.
The idea is to at least have an ambition, a goal, albeit realistic ones. I have come across many obstacles in my chosen career, that range from my hair style, to the way I talk; one news director who critiqued my tape once told me that I sounded like a Jamaican with a bad English accent that would be unpleasant to the ears, another told me I talked from one side of my mouth. Many even say my career choice is unreasonable and unrealistic because I am an African woman with nappy hair and an accent. They are not wrong by their assessment, but that is a risk that I am willing to take. It may work for me, in fact, it will work for me, but it may not be the same for everybody. Just because everyone is a nurse or works for Wachovia and Accenture does not mean that you should all run to flood nursing or business schools without truly assessing whether that’s the right profession for you. Research and ask questions and get answers from reliable sources and seek out mentors before you leap into a life long career commitment.
It is true that you should not limit your abilities, but be certain that you have genuine passion for the career you pick and that you are not in it solely for its lucrative ness, chasing the dollar can burn one out someday. You also want a career that will advance your intellect because the mind is a great thing to waste. Also ensure that your career or job aspiration will not diminish your quality of life and will bring about self-enhancement.
In conclusion, I would like to share some words of wisdom that I wrote into my journal, from ‘Reader’s Digest’ Quotable Quotes. The first is from Oprah Winfrey, “Doing your best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next.” This is my daily bread and you know everything ‘O’ says is literarily gospel. No matter how challenging the circumstances are, remember to stay true to your goals and principles and always keep you eyes on the prize. Your work is your resume and it will speak for you so you must do it well. The second is by writer and poet Erica Jong, who said, “If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” Choosing a career like many other things in life is a risk; life itself is a risk. The confidence you have in yourself and your abilities, bolstered by the strength in the knowledge that you have already acquired, will make you brazen enough to take on any risk. Not only because you are investing in yourself, your future, your family and but even in the futures of many people you don’t know about yet, but are destined to bless someday through your success.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
By Adaure Achumba
Just the other day, I was chatting online with my younger sister who is twenty going on thirty-five. I had had a conversation with her the day before when she made some revelations that got me seeing red. Like the typical drama queen that I am, I was absolutely stunned and discombobulated and as a big sister, quite concerned. I began to think to myself; perhaps I’ve been away from home too long. At that moment, I felt like a parent who’d abandoned her children: a father who wasn’t there to be a role model for his sons and a mother unable to guide her daughters properly into dignified womanhood. The ‘kids’ have gone through kindergarten, basketball games and school plays and I missed it all. They’ve gone through high school and puberty, through break ups and major slip-ups and I wasn’t there to display wisdom and integrity. Now, in college the girls change boyfriends with every hairstyle, the boys, girlfriends with every shirt, or worse yet, every bottle of deodorant. They are all grown up and where the hell I was when all this happened, definitely not at home.
Further into the conversation, my sister confesses to me that she has a major crush on one of our neighbors. Apparently she’d been fantasizing about him and creating these stories in her head that she uses to humor herself. This would have been easy to swallow had the guy been two or three years older than her. But that would make this story irrelevant and uninteresting. Here’s the real kicker, this guy is like forty years older than her and is my friend. Ok, may be that’s a bit exaggerated, he’s just ten years older than her and we talk every now and then, but indulge me here for a second and stay focused as I try to drive my point. Anyways, in a mother-to-daughter moment, I assume, she reveals her interest to our mother. Typically, when a Nigerian mother hears from her teenage daughter that she likes a man, one would expect the initial reaction would be a slap or a knock, a few loving words of abuses and extra daily assigned chores to make sure the daughter doesn’t have time to perambulate the neighborhood scooping out the object of her desire. But not in my sweet mother’s case, not only did the cane, which she used to design my back when I was young, take a vacation, she said, “He comes from a good family and if he can take care of you, go ahead.” Ok, hello? Is it just me or have the aliens landed. What have they done with my mother or is it the water, can somebody tell me what is going on? Like snap out of it woman, something is wrong with that picture. I do agree our neighbor, Mr. X is from a good family and would make a great boyfriend or husband, but why is the criteria for my sister to pursue a man dependent on if he can take care of her. As much as I love my mother to death, her attempt to straddle between ultra conservatism and neo-liberalism, unbeknownst to her, makes her the perfect subject for my commentaries.
Who and what really determines who can take care of whom? Many Nigerians are quick to attribute that to the male gender and his bread winning status, which in this case is exactly what my mother was referring to. In a perfect world, we would all be carefree millionaires lazing around on the sunny white sandy beaches of islands off the coast of Africa sipping on coconut juice. We’ll leave all the chores to maids and housekeepers, let the managers worry about the number of zeros in bank account, while the accountant figures out the expense bills, donations to charity and how to evade taxes. Unfortunately we live in an imperfect world where not all fingers and toes are equal, therefore people have to strategize, analyze and compromise when it comes to the quest for matrimonial bliss. Financial security, it seems, trumps all other qualifiers, including happiness. There is a mind set that money can solve all problems and even bring happiness; that if we can acquire material things; the latest traditional grabs, quality custom jewelry, matching alligator skin shoes and purses, the newest, dare I say biggest cars, everything else will follow. To some extent and certainly for some people this holds true. I mean more money and good fortune can literally change some ones life. It is the difference between living in an urban cesspool and sub-urban tranquility. In some cases it may be a temporary fix, a charade, but at that very moment in life it brings some level of satisfaction and self-gratification; being able to live at will the glitzy, glamorous, socialite life without much ado, except about what to wear and where to go. This is ideally what we all assume is the actual picture; if only one could be a fly on the wall to know what really goes on behind the pretty glossed up image people portray. But when it comes to the bottom line, the nitty-gritty, the pith and the crux of the matter, happiness cannot be bought or acquired through strategies. If you don't believe me, grab a few of those Nigerian movies; they're based on true-life stories.
My mother's comments would ordinarily have had my flaming liberal feminist radar going haywire, only because such statements appear to foster complacency and 'de-prioritizing' priorities. But one would have to ask, if our male counterparts, their mothers and fathers, talk the same way to them. The answer is, and undoubtedly, an unequivocal YES. I was at a forum organized by singles in my church and amazingly the requirements many of the gentlemen presented where not surprising but they raised my primary question, 'Who really takes care of whom?' Based on their desires, you would have thought they wanted to marry their mothers. From cooking deliciously tantalizing meals, being non-argumentative and agreeable (what I consider not having an opinion) to picking up after them, catering to all their needs and those of their family members and all the children they desire to have. In a worse case scenario, add senior wives and their children. What in the world, last time I checked the better half was called 'wife' not 'house-maid'. My deduction from the conversation is that men are really the ones who 'do' want and perhaps need to be taken care of. But if that is the case, which it seems, why is the statement, 'if he can take care of you', instead of 'if you can take care of him' or better yet 'can you take care of each other'.
Author Anthony Robbins once wrote, "Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they're trying to find someone who's going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take." Robbins hits it right on the money. Why do we base or relationships on what we can get, in this case 'care’. I am not saying the original statement my mother posed is wrong, absolutely not. It is important for a woman to know if her partner can and will take care of her, both emotionally and materially. Notice how I place emotional satisfaction ahead of material satisfaction. My issue is that we tend to and have been trained to think about the material aspect of happiness before we consider the emotional side. Our men ponder about beauty, whether she can cook, clean and do cartwheels in the bedroom, before they inquire or think about character while some of our women focus on how deep the pockets are or will get etcetera. Both seeming to forget about love, attraction, ambition, compatibility and eventual happiness. The latter which can only be achieved through choices we make in all aspects of our lives, what and how much we give 'of' ourselves, rather than what we take and keep 'for' ourselves. But His Highness the Dalai Lama writes, "We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others' actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others' activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others." So is it wrong then to strategize, considering that by default our lives depend on other people. To ensure that the relationships you build right now, could lead to bliss, regardless of what the ulterior motives are. Should the shrewd Machiavellian doctrine, where 'the end justifies the means' becomes the dictum. Could it be possible then that perhaps, mother, in her wisdom, that's based on experience, is right in her view?
Monday, July 04, 2005
“Natures Healthy Fast Foods”
by Adaure Achumba
Dietary deficiency is a major cause of deaths in developing countries including Nigeria. It is often associated with poverty and increases the bodies’ susceptibility to diseases and illnesses. Unfortunately many Nigerians are out of touch with what they eat, and perhaps rightly so. I mean who has time to calculate how many calories or grams of sugar are contained in a mound of akpu or eba, or how much iron is in a bowl of Edika-Ikong soup.
In fact do such calculations even exist in such foods and even if they do, who really thinks about high cholesterol and fat content of foods when one is tired and hungry, and not to mention struggling to make ends meet, if not out right poor. Your are probably more worried about staining your tie with the chain from the Ogbono you’re racing through at a near-by buka, or, with the sleeves of your shirt or end of your wrapper, carefully making sure the phlegm from your nose doesn’t make its way to your mouth while you slurp that hot Isi-Ewu pepper-soup, than you are with how many pounds you’ve just gained swallowing one ball of Iyan. Most of all who really cares about pounds, calories and cholesterols, it is not like Nigerians are obese and have food in abundance to abuse. Well you should care, and so should everyone who wants to live a healthy life, especially young people, who have the opportunity and hindsight to prevent having to worry or deal with these issues in the future.
Thanks to erosion, drought, soil degeneration and depletion, our foods often lack the necessary nutrients our bodies need to maintain a balanced and healthful diet. Even the ‘comfort’ foods or culture-oriented foods we eat all the time, that seem healthy, may not be. Therefore we need to be more health-conscious and know what kinds of foods are needed as supplements to replace those lost nutrients as well as the kinds of foods we ought to eat less of or totally avoid.
Super Foods are one of many health-oriented food groups that we should make a conscious effort to have abundantly in our diets. These are nutritionally dense and concentrated foods which when eaten in their natural state supply vitamins, minerals, micro-nutrients and other nutrient density missing from food products.
Super Foods are mostly green, fresh foods filled with natural energy from the Sun and Earth, and in their very substance require almost nothing for digestion and assimilation. They are also high in protein, low in fat and calories, and when not processed and carefully blended together, possess a natural clean "sweetness" that’s just enough to satisfy our sweet tooth. Eating Super Foods also helps prevent and reverse aging and chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart diseases and glaucoma.
Below is a list of common Super Foods, their servings and what they do for your body. Like all foods, you must wash and prepare them hygienically, especially because these are fresh (salt or vinegar is highly recommended). This is by no means a medical dietary prescription but rather a well-researched guide for your quest for a healthful diet. However, you should always consult your doctor regularly, or a dietician if you have that luxury.
Carrots and Carotenoids: 2 carrots every other day provide enough beta-carotene to reduce stroke risk by half for men who already have symptoms of heart disease Carotenoids absorb dangerous particles, have the potential to stimulate the immune system and are toxic to tumor cells. Carotenoids can be found in green and orange fruits and vegetables.
Fresh Peppers: The heat source in peppers, capsaicin, is an antioxidant which contains blood thinning properties to prevent strokes, lowers cholesterol. It also protects DNA against carcinogens and may stimulate release of "natural high" chemicals, endorphins.
Spinach and Leafy Vegetables: Contains vitamins A and C, folic acid and magnesium which help control cancer, reduces heart disease and stroke risk, blocks free radicals and may help prevent osteoporosis. Lettuce and cabbage all have an active ingredient called “indoles” which have been proven to be protective against cancer. Pumpkin leaves, Bitter-leaf and Aloe Vera, when used properly or under medical supervision are also medicinal. These vegetables are able to increase the body’s production of important protective enzymes.
Edible/ Medicinal Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms contain beta-glucan and have been shown to boost heart health, lower the risk of cancer, promote immune function, ward off viruses, bacteria, and fungi. They also reduce inflammation, combat allergies, help balance blood sugar levels, and support the body's detoxification mechanisms.
Tomatoes: Lycopene is found abundant in tomatoes and tomato products and may help reduce some cancer and heart disease. Lycopene is an antioxidant more potent than vitamin C. It stimulates immune function and may slow degenerative diseases. A Harvard study shows there is evidence that lycopene can prevent prostate cancer, a disease that is rampant among black people.
Paw-Paws and Pineapples: These contain high amounts of enzymes that help combat everything from autoimmune diseases, allergies, and cancer. It is also helpful in diets of people living with AIDS.
Mangoes and Citrus Fruits: Fruits like oranges, lime, mangoes and avocadoes are rich in bioflavonoids that aid the immune system. They contain vitamin C, which helps your body fight lung, cervical, esophagus & stomach cancers.
Bananas: Rich in magnesium, potassium and slowly absorbed sugars. Good source of pectin (a soluble fiber). Prevents radical swings in blood sugar and helps protect circulatory system.
Garlic: This helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It contains chemicals capable of destroying cancer cells. Garlic has been found to stimulate natural protection against tumor cells, is toxic to invading pathogens and is harmless to normal, healthy cells. Some studies suggest that garlic inhibits the development and progression of breast, colon, stomach, esophagus, prostate and skin cancers in test tubes and in animals. Other studies also showed that garlic exhibits antibiotic and antifungal effects. Bulbs like Onions and turnips are also healthy.
Legumes and Beans: Beans and bean products are high in protein and complex carbohydrates. They contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, phytochemicals and protease inhibitors that may help prevent cancer. These foods have a unique ability to envelop tumor cells and prevent their growth.
Soya-Beans and Soy-based products: These lower "bad" LDL cholesterol levels in bloodstream, which reduces heart disease risk. Studies have shown that people who eat soy products regularly have reduced risk or lower rates of breast, prostate, colon, lung, rectal and stomach cancers reduce blood clotting, plaque formation. They also help prevent osteoporosis and bone loss. The isoflavones contained in soy products are an alternative way to control menopausal symptoms.
Fish: Fish and Fish products like Salmon and cod-liver oil contain omega-3 oils that fight heart disease. Individuals at risk for coronary heart disease benefit from the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil. They also contain calcium, magnesium, protein, B-vitamins, lower triglycerides and minimize any potentially adverse effects due to environmental pollutants. You can lower the bad type of cholesterol (LDL - low density lipoprotein) and increase the good type of cholesterol (HDL - high density lipoprotein) by altering your diet. LDL is responsible for clogging blood vessels and HDL helps to send the LDL to the liver where it is "destroyed". It is best to have higher level of HDL and less LDL in your blood.
Black or Green Tea: Green tea contains polyphenols, which give tea its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants may help protect our body from free radical damage and may reduce heart disease, cancer and stroke risk. Green tea is best because it is not heavily processed, but Black tea is an alternative if green tea is unavailable.
Eggs: Eggs are rich in folate, vitamin B12, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The yolks are a good source of antioxidant lutein as well. Eggs are a nutritious food, but should be eaten in moderation to avoid the build up of ’bad cholesterols.’
Ginger: A common spice known for its "stimulating carminative" property throughout the world. It can be cooked in hot dish for its pungent flavor, eaten raw, or marinated with vinegar. It promotes gastrointestinal circulation, and is useful in treating nausea, motion sickness and vomiting. Pregnant women must consult their doctors and should avoid taking excessive dose of ginger to deal with morning sickness because of the possibility of its inhibition of testosterone binding in the fetus although no evidence from any studies that such an effect is possible.
Other Super foods are Fresh Milk, Non-fat Yogurt, turkey breast, Red Wine, berries, oats, fiber-foods like wheat, corn, millets and other seafood.
Facts and information gathered from www.healthcastle.com, www.cancercenter.com the Food and Drug administration www.fda.gov, and the US Department of Agriculture, www.usda.gov.
To Have or Not to Have Your Big Fat African Family
In many cultures, especially those of Africa, the number of children a man has and the size of his family is his wealth and also shows his manly prowess, especially if he has very strong sons and beautiful daughters. In Islam, Moslems are allowed to marry as many wives as they can afford and many religions encourage their followers to multiply and fill the earth. Many who migrate to the United States come here in hopes of starting a new ‘American’ family or strive to achieve the American dream with their family, be it nuclear or extended.
Starting or relocating a family can be a very difficult bittersweet choice. This brings us to another category of Nigerian immigrants who are keen on having as many American citizens a kids and giving their teenage children better education than is provided back home. A saying goes, ‘Children are insurance for old age,’ let me just put it like this, ‘Nicon Cares’, and by that I mean invest in a good life insurance and retirement plan because if you plan to live in America, there are no guarantees that your children/insurance plan will readily be at your financial beck and call as it is in Nigeria for many.
After turning 24 in March, I’ve realized getting older isn’t the hardest trauma a woman has to deal with in life; a mother, aunts and a grandmother constantly nagging about how they’re not getting any younger and would like to pour some Pears Baby Powder on their neck is probably more traumatic (Igbo folks out there can feel me on this). Although that’s a rather colorful anecdote, I have heard several stories and seen enough Nigerian movies that deal with this issue to come to the conclusion that this menacing desire for our parents to have grand-children has become an obstruction to the realization of our many other goals and desires. As young people of the X and Y generation we must put our foot down and resist the pressure to succumb to the perplexing nightmares filled with baby’s coos.
When I was young and foolish, or so I was told, I joked about wanting to have only 2 children. After seeing so many young women go through motherhood without family or friends for support, I am dead serious about that now. Other reasons for this are I absolutely dread having a bulging gut for that long, being fat and children can be downright mean, stupid and annoying. I’ll save that gist for another article. If my spouse and parents insist on more children, I’ve decided on adopting furry children i.e. miniature dogs: a Chihuahua and a Yorkshire terrier who I plan to name Chi-Chi and Eze. Seriously ya’ll, it is that deep and now I hear my mother saying, “Tufia!”
Bringing up children is the most important job anyone can undertake and it isn’t a task to be taken lightly as the choice to become a parent is a huge responsibility that can make or break another or several lives. Putting things into perspective, consider being young, perhaps naïve, in a new society and being very pregnant. You have neither your mother nor ‘big aunt’ to help you walk the ropes of motherhood and pretty much have to learn on your own by trial or error. Add to that the fact that you still have to get your education, and for many that means a Master’s degree and a Phd, as well as hold down 2 jobs or work long shifts to make ends meet. These are just a few of the many obstacles that migrant new parents have to face when starting their family in the U.S.
Pregnancy, as we all know, is considered the most difficult stage in the process of starting a family and I haven’t even started talking of the bouts of morning sickness, the backaches and the eventual pains of labor. Maybe I wasn’t observant back in Nigeria, but while women of other races glow and look their best during this stage, my African sisters here in America look like they’ve carried the Cross of Calvary through Hurricane Isabel, and that alone has been very discouraging for me. Sometimes I wonder what they would look like if they had to pound yam and fetch water from the stream everyday. By the way, I hear that such strenuous activities actually help the cervix dilate for easier delivery and that I find very questionable. Pregnancy is also difficult because of the emotional and sometimes social stress it puts on the womenfolk. Many pregnant Nigerian women go through that because they may not be under the constant and watchful eyes of a dear relative, like her mother or aunt, particularly after the child has been born. This is why a number of people seek to bring their mothers over to America, so that they can help with raising their children.
Having made several observations on the issue of having and raising a family, I have come to the conclusion that although America is ideal, it isn’t the best place to realize that dream of a Big Fat African Family. I see many African families with as many as 5 to 6 school-age children and one more in the ‘oven’ and I begin to calculate how much money goes in towards daycare, extracurricular activities, or how expensive their weekly groceries are. It would be a different case if one or both of the parents had well-paying jobs and a big bank account. However, not many are this fortunate and it may make no difference how rich these folks are because they still have to pay for college if their kids don’t get a merit or athletics based scholarship. This is where it’s going to hurt more, especially if the parents were not wise enough to start a college fund for their kids when they were still in diapers. In my opinion, and I am sure some would agree, one would be better off just having kids here in the States, ship them off to their grandparents or relatives in Nigeria under the well conceived pretext of ‘learning their culture’ and bring them back to attend high school in time to qualify for college scholarships. That might be a drastic measure but it could be the key to the problem of many kids not knowing their culture and identity. Another choice, which has become a trend, or should I say phenomenon, is to give birth to your babies in America, that way they are citizens and all that would stand between them and living in the US is a ticket, regardless of when such a choice is made. People who opt for this option need to do their research properly as the rules are changing with regards to allowing pregnant women procure visas to the U.S.
Raising a family full of pre-teens and teenagers is probably a better deal and a lot more fun. A good example of this would be my friend’s family, The Alabis, who moved to the US in 1997. This is a Christian family of 7 children, the eldest is about 23 and the youngest is about 9 or 10. There used to be a dog, but the mutt was too Nigerian for their neighbors, i.e. aggressive and always barking at people, so they had to kill it. Anytime I visit the Alabis for one holiday or the other, their home is so reminiscent of being in Nigeria. Everybody has their own chores and cooking schedule if applicable. Mrs. Alabi only cooks stews and soups on mostly Sundays and sometimes she throws in some fried rice depending on the kind of weekend it was. The bigger kids do the grocery shopping, drive their siblings around and pretty much help regulate the other kids. For nearly a year or two they hosted 3 of their teenage cousins who relocated from Nigeria, putting the number at 10 and when I tell you that was a Big Fat Family, you best believe it. The boys were always clowning and the girls were always gisting and it was always so loud and noisy with folks laughing at dry jokes and juicy gossip. Sometimes I wondered how their mom slept through all the noise and was never cranky. The Alabis were and are so much fun to be around that when I was still roasting in the dorms, the Alabi home was the joint, in fact, I would rather stay back in Chapel Hill on a holiday just to spend it with them, than to go back to my boring home city of Charlotte. Mr. Alabi is a successful business man who lives and works in Nigeria and visits at least four times a year while his wife is registered nurse in the US who is in a high income bracket. Their children are very smart, two have already graduated from college while two remain, all on some sort of merit-based scholarship. Now imagine‘Papa Bom-Boy’ (security guard/factory worker) or ‘Mama Ejima’(house wife/ twin babies manufacturer) and the 10 children they’ve had in only 6 years of marriage, still searching for a female or a male child as the case may be. I don’t need to tell you how difficult and possibly miserable life will be for them as they try to achieve the American dream.
These days when so many in their early to mid-twenties are jumping the broom and getting married, or thinking about it, it’s important to know ahead of time what kind of family you plan to have, especially if you foresee a future living in America. Think of raising a family as a second career you know you can’t afford to fail, just as you would in a professional field. With that in mind, perhaps the choices of what kind of family you wish to have and how or where you wish to raise them would be made with little difficulty and a better life-management plan.