Friday, December 29, 2006

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Book Readings

Just learnt about new book readings on Molara Woods blog.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will be reading from her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun

Quintessence, January 5, 4pm
Jazzhole, January 11, 5pm
Lagos State University (LASU), January 12, 10am
Bookworm, January 12, 5pm

Port Harcourt:
Novotel, January 6, 12.30pm

The British Council, Abuja, January 13

I still haven't finished reading it, although it's really good so far. Well, I have a free week ahead of me with lots of nothing to do. Yipeee!!!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Blogging Personality

I am currently reading through old blog posts and realising how much more open I was back then. I think it stemmed partly from the fact that for the first 4 months or so, I only received 1 or 2 comments, and that led me to believe that no one was reading my blog. Consequently, I wrote with a lot less inhibitions. Although I had sent the link out to so many friends when I left Boston, it seemed that no one was bothering to read it (and at the time, I didn't know how to check who was viewing my blog).

I wrote a lot more about feminism, about my dreams and ambitions, my personality - topics I haven't blogged about it a while. Maybe it's just a reflection of the things going on at the moment or the issues on my mind. I think there's probably a time factor too. I am probably less likely to start a detailed write-up on a subject if I don't have the time to write it as well as I would like. Perhaps there's also the realisation that this stuff is on the Internet, afterall!

Well, it's an interesting thing for me to note, nonetheless. I wonder how my personality comes across through my writing - or if it does. I wonder if other people find themselves increasingly more comfortable with expressing themselves to potentially thousands of people out there or if the gradual realisation of the magnitude of their audience slowly freezes them up?

At least, I'm glad that I'm still blogging. I wasn't sure it would last.

Time Person of the Year is YOU! Yes, You! No, Don't Turn Around ... it's You.

This year Time magazine has chosen us - the bloggers, podcasters, video-bloggers, amateur reviewers, would-be journalists - as its collective person of the year.

Funny, around this time last year or perhaps the start of the year, I posted something that the BBC had written about 2005 being the year of citizen journalism.

Time asks
Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

Well, if you put it like that..... Me, I guess. And hundreds of us out there. And what keeps us going? This is the million naira question. It's true that as soon as I get home (assuming I don't go to the gym after work), almost the first thing I do is to turn on my computer and I'm usually still there until I go to bed. I was actually starting to think that it's a very sad state of affairs and that I need to tear myself away from this damned computer. Well, thanks, Time for making me feel much better about myself.

No, seriously though. I'm not sure that I blog for any particularly 'honourable' reasons like wanting to portray Nigeria in a better light or to share my views on worthy topics like politics or economics. I simply enjoy writing about whatever's on my mind (be it 'worthy' or not). And I enjoy the feeling of community you develop with the people who read your blog and the people who write the blogs you visit.

Sometimes, though, I feel that a lot of these types of articles that you read (especially in publications like Time and Newsweek), which attempt to capture the zeitgeist of the times - in this case being, "I have a point of view and I want to share it with the whole world. And thank God for blogs, Flickr and all these wonderful web 2.0 technologies" can come across as just a tad over-effusive and catching the tail end of the trend. I remember reading some Technorati report a few weeks ago about how the number of new blogs being created daily was slowing down (inevitably) and how this is probably due to the novelty wearing off and the people who are most attracted to blogging already most likely own blogs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pipeline Blast Kills Hundreds in Lagos

It felt like it was not too long ago that I blogged about the last one. Now here is another incident. At least 200 people have died in a pipeline explosion in the Abule Egba part of Lagos state today as people siphoned fuel from a pipeline punctured by thieves.

The recent scarcity has seen scores of cars parked outside petrol stations for the last week. Even on Christmas Day, many were found at the petrol station hustling to buy some petrol.

Read more about the explosions on the BBC and MSNBC websites.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wishes for a Merry Christmas and Phenomenal 2007

The following is is a very popular quote by Theodore Roosevelt, but one that I wanted to share with everyone as we end the year and go into a new one. I hope that 2006 was a year in which you achieved many of your goals. If you didn't quite manage to knock off all the items on your To Do list, I hope that 2007 will bring you many new opportunities to do so.

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again... who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly... (Theodore Roosevelt)

This quote reminds me of many of the reasons I wanted to move back home. I definitely feel that people should be free to decide where they want to live and not derided for it. However, I did not want to be among those people who criticise but are not part of any solution. For me, I felt that my contributions would be more effective from home. For others, it may lie in a different path. So here's to a 2007 where we each discover what and how we can contribute to making Nigeria a better place to live. Oh, and have a merry Christmas too.

Wire Lovefest

I finally finished watching the 3rd season of The Wire. I don't have the time right now to write a full review.

Awards season has started in the States and it looks like it's going to be the same story in 2007 where The Wire and award nominations are concerned. The Golden Globe noms were announced some weeks ago and The Wire was absent again! Well, who cares about awards anyway (asks a thoroughly disgruntled fan)? We know that awards do not a great show make. And there has to be a solid reason why, despite low-ish viewership numbers, the show has four seasons under its belt with plans for a 5th season.

The Dec. 25 issue of Time gave props to the show in its annual Teddy Awards for "people who performed honourably as winners and losers in the public arena." Among the winners was David Simon, creator of The Wire, a show the articles's writer describes as "the finest piece of popular entertainment I've seen this century." High praise indeed. He goes on "Watching the show takes some effort; it's complicated, but every detail is delicious. It is, quite simply, the smartest show I've seen about the drama of public life, the corrosive cynicism of bureaucracies, the creativity and futility of the inner-city poor."

I think part of the appeal of the show is that you can take the plot out of Baltimore and transpose it to a host of other cities. The names would change but many of the issues remain the same: drugs; hopelessness; poverty; desperation; a corrupt and self-serving political class; weary and ill-equipped police; and citizens who think they have no power in fighting any societal ills and no choice than to look the other way.

Chaos at the Pumps

What a weekend it's been! I'm officially on another vacation - for two weeks this time. This time I plan to rest, read, watch movies and generally laze about (all the things I didn't do enough of the last time).

There's been a crazy week-long scramble to buy petrol. Is it fuel scarcity or is just panic buying? From the numbers of people queuing and sleeping at petrol stations, not many people know or care. I spent up to four and a half hours at a petrol station today with my brother. If I wasn't low on fuel and had places to go to over the next few days, I would not have bothered. I would have sat my butt at home and waited until this madness (inevitably) subsides.

Sitting there in the queue, I nearly wept for our country that is so rich in crude oil, but yet has its citizens in short supply of something that should be so readily available. The behaviour of many of the drivers, jumping the line and trying to be 'smarter' than the others was unbecoming, though very 'Nigerian'. As I moved further up the queue, I could see that the cars were being serviced at one pump, while a mass of people scrambled at the other pump to buy petrol in jerry cans. That pump was a mess of jostling bodies and shoving arms. It disturbed my super-organised self to see such unnecessary chaos, so I tried hard to focus more on the other (far more orderly) pump.

Alas, as the fighting got worse the attendants stopped selling petrol to cars and we waited to see if they would resume. Eventually I got tired of waiting and left. I'd already spent way too much of my day sweating profusely into my Sunday clothes and getting bitten by invisible sandflies. I got home to find that my mother had already organised some petrol to be bought for all the cars in the house. My sister who had (sensibly) waited it out at home, had her tank filled without breaking out into as much as a bead of sweat.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Wire Season 3 - Part I

I've started watching the 3rd season of The Wire. It started off a bit slowly, but it's been gradually gaining momentum - kind of like season 2. It's very good so far. I like Cutty aka Dennis so far. Brianna is a mother with a mission. Marlo is another new interesting character. I like seeing the new dynamics between Avon and String. You can see String' slowly going down.

I will blog more about it when I've watched the whole thing through.

The Lows of Winter

Denver residents dig out their carsThe state of Colorado has witnessed one of the worst blizzards in years. This was me two winters ago, digging out my barely visible car from under smooth, never-ending drifts of snow. I know we are not in 100% control of our futures, but I pray that will never be me again. I don't ever want to live in a cold city ever ever again.
Photo from: The NY Times

Christmas in Vegas

The NY Times has this article on Christmas in Las Vegas. There's a photo of the winter display in the Bellagio's conservatory, which my friends and I missed out on seeing when we visited. The little I could see looked incredible; a winter wonderland featuring life-sized polar bears all made out of carnations.

I am realising just how more enjoyable it is for me to read travel stories of places I have already visited.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dear Oh Dear, Essence

I was checking my email a few minutes ago when I came across one from Essence magazine. I'm a long-time reader of Essence, steadfastly buying the magazine even as its quality plummeted and then through their more recent efforts to take the magazine back to what I've heard described as its hey-day in the 1970s (why does it seem like the seventies were the hey-days for everything and everybody?).

Today's "News Alert" though was just hilarious. Essence does not send out alerts very often; these are usually reserved for news stories of significant interest and/or importance to its readers. So when I see them, I know they have something important to report.

Today's read: Diddy’s A Daddy! Kim Porter delivers twin baby girls.
Erm, excuse me?

Sean Combs and Kim Porter"A source close to the family confirms exclusively to Essence that the stork made two deliveries to hip-hop impresario Sean "Diddy" Combs and his long-time girlfriend Kim Porter. Porter, 36, at Mt. Sinai in New York City. The couple reportedly delivered a healthy set of twin baby girls, according to a source close to the couple.
(blah, blah, blah .............. yadda, yadda, yadda .........................)
Read more about the arrival of the twins on and stay with us as this story develops."
Delivered with all the urgency of some momentous piece of breaking news. For a split nanosecond I was bewildered at why I would care enough about P. Diddy to want a special email informing me of the birth of his twins, until I quickly remembered what a pop-culture obsessed world we live in.

BTW, I received another email informing me that the January issue is out and it looks great! Every January Essence features women over the age of 40 who have taken incredible care of themselves and look decades younger than they are. I literally have to pick my jaw off the floor when I read about 90-year old women who could pass for 40. I'm serious!!!!!!!!! This issue more than anything else inspires me to exercise, eat well, relax as much as I can and take good care of myself. I hope I can get my hands on this issue.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Problem with Blogger Beta

Okay, here's one. My Bloglines reader can no longer read new posts. I believe Adefunke and Pilgrimage to Self must have also switched to the beta, because I can't read their updates either. Now I have to take my lazy ass to the actual blog. Has anyone else encountered this problem and have you found a way around it?

PS: Okay, I figured it out. I unsubscribed from the feed and then subscribed again, duh!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

December the 18th

It was my birthday yesterday. I love my birthday. Aside from celebrating having made it to another year older and (ahem...) much, much wiser, I love that I was born in such a festive month like December. I also like that my birthday falls on an even-numbered day (a little idiosyncracy that I have). Now it turns out that there is another reason to celebrate. My cousin and his wife were blessed with a baby girl on my very same birthday. What a very smart girl to have the sense to pop out on her aunt's birthday. LOL!!!

It was a low-key day. I went to work (I personally think you shouldn't have to work on your birthday), got lots of phone calls, text messages and emails. My sister took me out to dinner in the evening. She planned on taking me to Bambudhha (sp?), where she said the food was excellent. However, it turns out that they are closed on Mondays and only open to special bookings (there was a party going on). We drove to Ikoyi towards Reeds, an Asian-fusion restaurant. I felt so out of the loop, btw. I don't think I've heard of this place. The traffic heading towards Awolowo Road was crazy, so we climbed on the bridge and headed back to VI. We eventually ended up at Pearl Garden. Pearl Garden has THE best Chinese food around (it used to be China Restaurant at Ikoyi Hotel, but alas they are no more).

All in all, a wonderful day! Now I'm eagerly awaiting my 2-week break from work. Already a lot of staff have left for their various holiday destinations, so the rest of us are in semi-holiday mood.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Hair

I received calls today from two different women who have done my hair in the past. After the greetings, both wanted to know what I was "doing for Christmas" i.e. what I plan on doing to my hair for Christmas. Co-incidentally, I had been thinking about the same thing over the last week.

Last year, a few months after just moving back home, I was introduced to the idea of Christmas Hair. This year, I wondered "Do I want to do anything to my hair?" I hate sitting for hours to get my hair done into a style that will not last more than a couple of weeks. Kinky twists look best on my natural hair and I have done that twice this year already. I know I spoke about making that my staple style, but now I think that's just boring (okay, probably no less boring than the afro puff I wear the rest of the time).

I know there are relatively few women with natural hair who choose not to wear it in locs or very short. But I'd really be interested in hearing how women with medium-long natural hair wear their hair (aside from extensions and weaves) especially when they are going out to a special event. Maybe I'll post some pics later if I find anything.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blogging For More than Fun

The Nigerian blogosphere has expanded exponentially in the last year. It's also seen its fair share of blog deaths. I understand. People get tired of blogging, the initial excitement fades away. There's no time. Internet access is costly and the speeds can be excrutiatingly slow. It can also be hard work thinking of topics to blog on regularly. I'll be the first to admit it. I don't have Internet access issues, but sometimes I stymied for things to talk about, or I just can't be bothered.

Most Nigerian blogs that I have seen appear to be for non-professional purposes i.e. individuals' informal or personal journal format. Are there any Nigerian companies that use blogs as a way of sharing information and getting feedback from their employees? Are there any professional development blogs? Any academic blogs? Any schools (private, most likely) where teachers incorporate the use of blogs in their teaching? I'm curious.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Voice For Ella

A Voice for Ella is tagged the Nigerian version of Cinderella. Wait, I just looked at the program and it's actually tagged "A modern adaptation of Cinderella" but it was described to me as a Nigerian version.

When I got to the MUSON, the lobby was filled with parents and their kids.

- Oh no! Please don't tell me this is going to be a kiddies affair.

Well, I needn't have worried. It was a lot of fun. The songs blended effortlessly with the rest of the play. You know when you watch musicals and can't wait for the song and dance routine to be over so that you can get on with the 'real' play? Well, it wasn't the case here. The dancing was also a lot of fun to watch. There were some problems with the sound system but I'm sure these will be resolved for future showings. People with children will especially enjoy this play.

Future showings are scheduled for December 17, 22, 23, 24 at 3pm and 6pm at the Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island.

A Tale of (In)Appropriate Email Use

One thing that used to really get my goat when I worked in the US was the frequent and (in my mind) overly-enthusiastic use of email. I must add that I had two different experiences working in two different jobs. In one job, email discussion was an extension of face-to-face and phone conversations. In the other, it was pretty much email all the way. And this was where the problems (for me) arose.

Much to the horror of some of my colleagues, I was in the habit of switching off my email client so that I could actually get some work done. I'd check periodically for urgent emails that required an immediate response and then log off again. I hate being interrupted in the middle of Very Important Work and besides, isn't this one of the top recommendations of time-management experts? I guess not everyone agreed with that particular piece of wisdom, because my phone would ring and a voice bristling with indignation would ask why I had not responded to x,y or z. After checking my email, I would see that they had sent it only ten minutes earlier (GRRRRR!!!!) and it was something that really could have waited (DOUBLE GRRRR!!!!). Why does everyone think that their issues come first with you?

Anyway, my situation these days is much the opposite. It's mostly face-to-face and phone discussions interspersed with emails, thanks to a string of unreliable ISPs and a still growing email culture in Nigeria's workforce. Just when I want to complain, I think back to the times when my colleague in the cubicle next to mine would send me an email asking if I wanted to go to lunch and then I am grateful that Nigerians are somewhat less into the personal space thing than Americans. However, where's that happy medium when you really need it?


Pilates is not at all popular in Nigeria. In my time here, I have searched for a gym that offered classes. Pilates lengthens and strengthens the body. It especially focuses on developing core strength (i.e. in your back and stomach area).

I tried it for the first time in 1999 and absolutely hated it. Infact, I think I fell asleep in the class. It was that boring. Fast-forward 3 or 4 years and I heard of so many celebrities who swore by Pilates. I don't have to do something just because a celebrity is doing it. However, most of them did have fabulous bodies. So, what the hell? I could at least give it a try.

I bought a tape of basic-level Pilates and worked out to it at home. I was intrigued and over the next few months, bought many more. Eventually I found a gym near my job that offered Pilates. By then I was hooked. Pilates does deliver what it offers, but you have to stick with it. It doesn't involve a lot of jumping around like Step or many forms of aerobic exercises, so you might feel like your body isn't really being exercised. Never fear! As you advance and move on to more advanced classes, the pace quickens and a session can leave you as breathless as an aerobic class. You also start to develop a lot of overall tone, especially in the stomach area.

So why this spiel? Well, today I finally found somewhere that does offer Pilates (Bodyworks in Ikoyi). Well, I actually discovered it two months ago, but the procastinator that I am, I only got around to trying it out today. I really enjoy Pilates and am so glad to have it back in my life.

Back to Work

Today was my first day back. All in all, it was pretty good. My desk was not piled celing high with memos, letters, to-do lists as I had feared. Instead, save for 1 or 2 files, it looked pretty much the same way I left it. Amazing!! I eased into the day, working on the less challenging tasks on this week's to-do list (I'm a big List Girl). All my colleagues commented on how well-rested I looked. Yes, I know I do. I only hope that in a few days I don't return to my pre-vac haggard looking self (ok, my situation was not quite so dire, but you know what I mean ..... ).

Well, one thing that gives me some hope is the knowledge that at the end of next week we close for TWO WEEKS for the Christmas and New Years holidays. I hope I'm not coming off as a lazy bum (I'm really quite hard working, I am) but, face it, who doesn't like time off? More time to read all the books I've bought this year and last (despite my determination to do otherwise), think about my life and where it's headed, talk on the phone, spend with family and friends and do something out of the ordinary.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Villa Paradiso, Miami

Miami was, for me, a more picturesque city with a Kodak scene around every corner, but ironically it was where I didn't really take any pictures. I kicked myself on the last day, but it was too late by then. I loved the guesthouse I stayed in - Villa Paradiso - and took loads of pictures of it.

Las Vegas IV

One of the quickie weddings that Las Vegas is known for. This was taken outside the chapel in the MGM Grand Hotel. Although the hotel attendant standing nearby said this was a real couple, the whole thing seemed staged for the benefit of passing tourists. Well, we went ahead and took pictures anyway.

Las Vegas III

The lobby of the Bellagio Hotel. You probably can't make out the mass of colors on the ceiling, but those were glass (or perhaps plastic) flowers in a multitude of colors. I loved it. The lobby also houses a flower conservatory, which is changed each season. The winter arrangement was being done when we were there.

The Luxor. There was a movie showing at there on the Mysteries of the Nile, which we wanted to see but never got around to.

The Mandalay Bay Hotel. One of the prettier hotels on the strip.

Las Vegas II

Las Vegas

This is part of the Las Vegas strip, where many of the hotels are. The strip is the new Vegas, as I was told by a shop attendant. She said old Vegas is more "honky tonk" (okay, I don't really know what that means .....) with a lot of cheap motels. Tourists don't visit old Vegas much.
I didn't visit the hotel in the distance - the Wynn - but it had the most gorgeous lighting arrangement on its grounds, which came on at night.

Gender & IT

Ethan Zuckerman blogs on gender and information technology. Zuckerman recently spoke with Nancy Hafkin (a pioneer in the study of gender and ICTs). Nancy Hafkin co-edited the book "Cinderella or Cyberella: Empowering Women in the Knowledge Society" with Sophia Huyer (also a researcher and speaker on international gender, science and technology issues).

This post makes for interesting reading for anyone who has wondered about women's use of ICTs and why it appears that more women aren't using and developing technology. Zuckerman points out how the issue of gender barriers to technology use has traditionally been neglected by ICT researchers. I have no doubt that this book by Nancy Hafkin (who I had the pleasure of meeting at a conference last year) will be a valuable contribution to the growing body of work in this area. I recently bought the book and can't wait to start reading it.

[NB: Additional reading on the Nancy Hafkin lecture from Zuckerman's colleague, Rebecca MacKinnon]

Friday, December 08, 2006

Take Back the Tech

This is coming so late, but better late than never. There's a wonderful online campaign going on at the moment using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to fight against violence against women (VAW). Take Back the Tech is organised by the Association for Progressive Communications, Women's Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP). For 16 Days (Nov 25 – Dec 10), participants are encouraged to employ ICTs for activism against VAW.

Each of the previous days of the campaign has featured different ways to get involved, from writing a haiku, sharing personal stories, sharing relevant bookmarked websites, to putting the campaign banners and icons on your site or blog and sending text messages to friends and family about VAW.

Read more about Take Back the Tech on their website and see how you can involved in the last few days.

Killing Time

I'm back in Lagos now and this jetlag thing is quite serious. It's 3:20 AM and I cannot sleep. Okay, perhaps that has absolutely nothing to do with jetlag and it's just my body's natural nocturnal habits coming to the fore now that they have the opportunity to do so (I don't start work 'till Monday).

Having nothing better to do, I took this quizz to determine my Dating Persona, which I found on Angela's blog. I had to laugh out loud when I read it. A lot of it is actually true, though I will of-course decline to mention which parts these are.

Free Online Dating

The Priss

Deliberate Brutal Love Dreamer (DBLDf)

Mature. Responsible. Aristocratic. Excuse me. The Priss.

Prisses are the smartest of all female types. You're highly perceptive, and confident in your judgements. You'd take brutal honesty over superficiality any time--your friends always know where they stand with you. You're completely unfake. Don't tell me that's not a word. You're also excellent at redirecting internal negative energy.

These facts indicate people are often intimidated by you. They also fall for you, hard. You have a distant, composed allure that many find irresistible. If only more of them lived up to your standards.

You were probably the last among your friends to have sex. And the first to pretend that you're pregnant. LOL. Though you're inclined to use sex as weapon, at least it's not as one of mass destruction. You're choosier than most about your partners. A supportive relationship is what you're really after. Whether you know it or not, you need something steady & long-term. And soothing.

ALWAYS AVOID: The Playboy, The Loverboy

CONSIDER: The Manchild

Read My Result

Take the Test

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Leaving Boston

Managed to squeeze in one more film before I leave Boston. I saw Casino Royale tonight. I have always been a big James Bond fan, which I know probably doesn't sit well with my feminist beliefs, but hey!

I enjoyed the movie a lot. I like action films with some degree of intelligence and coherence and, like many people, I was curious to see how Daniel Craig would fare as Bond, and I have to say that he did a really good job. Casino Royale was the first book in the James Bond series written by Ian Fleming, I believe. It was also the first televised book (a made-for-TV film shown in the States). In it James Bond falls in love, is betrayed (sorry, spolier for those who haven't seen it yet) and I suppose that betrayal intensifies his existing distrust of people. He remains, as M refers to him, a "blunt instrument" i.e. purpose is to carry out his duties by any means necessary.

The short walk from my friend's car to the cinema was brutal because of the wind. Yesterday we enjoyed a mild winter's day (in the mid 60s). Today the temperatures plummeted about 20 degrees south, but the fierce wind made it feel a lot colder. How did I manage to survive this cold for so many years? I guess it really is time for me to get back to the hot chaotic mess that is Lagos.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I really wanted to use this opportunity to see a lot of films, especially smaller, independent films that Nu Metro Cinemas is unlikely to show. I only saw two: The Queen, starring the divine Helen Mirren, who I was introduced to courtesy of BBC's Prime Suspect (yes, me and my crime shows); and Pedro Almodover's Volver. Funny, I have never been a particular fan of Penelope Cruz, but she was magnetic in this film. Volver explores the relationship between a mother and her daughters.

Hopefully, I can squeeze one more film into this trip.


Miami was fun. I'm back in Boston now, so it's already seeming far away. The difference between the two cities could not be more stark. Where Miami was warm (weather-wise and in terms of the ambience), Boston is cold (though not as cold as I was expecting - just in the mid 60s), dark and drab in comparison.

I stayed in South Beach on Collins Avenue, which is parallel to the famed Ocean Drive. And despite being so close, I did not get to the beach until the evening before I left. I was far from alone on the beach though. There were many people running, playing, walking their dogs (or more likely, carrying them) or just taking a stroll like me.

Like many people know, Miami has a huge Latino population with many people originating from Cuba. Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic minority population in the United States. In many cities, I would guess that Spanish is like a second language. In Boston certainly, many signs are written in both English and Spanish (well, ok on reflection, maybe not that many), so I was used to living in a fairly diverse city. However, Miami felt like a totally different country. I read in a letter written to the Miami Herald today that Miami represents what many American cities will look like in a few years. I know that I really like the city. Whenever I travel to a new place, I always think about whether I could see myself living there or not. Miami is a "yes", though admittedly I still know relatively little about it.

I'll try and post some pics later on, though I didn't take very many and didn't really do any touristy things. I just kind of walked around and shopped a little. I did see Hulk Hogan (apparently he lives there now). I also saw Tony Montana's (?) house from the movie Scarface.

Bebe Moore Campbell Passes On

I just found out that an author I really admire, Bebe Moore Campbell, passed away on Monday from complications of brain cancer.

I blogged about one of her books Sweet Summer: Growing Up With and Without My Dad a few months ago.

I really enjoyed reading her books. She was able to get into the skin of her characters so well that even when you despised a character, you still understood where they were coming from. She was also an extremely funny writer. Brothers and Sisters was the first of her books that I read. Set in LA just after the race riots of the 1990s, it made me think about race in a way that I guess I really had until them and also acknowledge that as much as I despise any sort of discrimination, I (like most other people) had my own prejudices.

Bebe Moore Campbell was also an ardent advocate for the mentally ill, especially among African-Americans. Her most recent book, 72 Hour Hold, focused on this theme. Like in the African-American community, there is also a lot of stigma towards mental illness and depression in Nigeria and I wish this weren't so. Mental illness is not always manifested in the 'crazy', dreadlocked vagabond mumbling to him or herself or threatening violence to passers-by. Many forms of depression are a lot more insidious and sneaky than that. While some people have a genetic pre-disposition to mental illness, in many people, it can be triggered by a devastating event.

I think many of us need to develop more awareness about mental health and learn to show more compassion to people suffering from mental illnesses.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Vac Continues

I haven't had internet access since last Thursday, but it has felt like forever. Our hotel in Las Vegas did not offer wireless connection. But then I did not have my laptop with me anyway, so same difference I guess. I just stumbled on an internet cafe here in Miami though, which is where I am blogging from now.

My vacation has been a lot of fun. I haven't done much lazing around and instead, I have spent a fair amount of time in airports and on planes. While I used to get really excited by flying when I was younger, now I often wish there were some way to step through a door and be transported to my destination instantaneously. Any journey is usually half the fun and so I try to take that approach and use the time to catch up on my reading. However, I am one of those people who cannot stay awake in a moving vehicle of any sort. On most flights I have taken in my life, I am usually dead to the world before we even take off. So, unfortunately I have not made as much progress with Half of a Yellow Sun as I would have liked.

Las Vegas, for those who haven't visited, is just like it appears on TV - loud, colourful and decadent (though, of course I didn't really experience that side of it). The main draws are the hotels and casinos, and each hotel tries to outshine the others in terms of eye-catching design. The Bellagio is a pretty simple design, but features water fountain shows every half-hour. The lobby is simply breath-taking with glass-cut flowers on the ceiling. The Bellagio also has a conservatory with flower arrangements that change each season. When we were there, staff were working on the winter arrangement. The Bellagio was my favourite and I want to stay there when next I visit.

The Wynn Hotel had a wonderful light display on its grounds - of course you only see this at night. Mandalay Bay and the MGM Grand just look so opulent. The Luxor is a pyramid, I think. We didn't get the chance to visit. The Venetian was where my friends and I saw The Phantom of the Opera and that was incredibly plush. What really took my breath away was the theatre, where we watched the show. I wonder if it was built specially for Phantom, because there is a part of the show when the chandalier comes crashing down almost onto the audience's heads.

Las Vegas was cold though. I was not expecting it to be quite so cold. However, I was just happy to be in the setting of another of my favourite shows, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. I know they shoot most of their scenes in Hollywood, but I was still half-hoping to run into members of the cast. Ah well!

I did see Hulk Hogan at the airport yesterday, while waiting for the shuttle. The lady manning the booth asked me if I saw who just walked past. What? Who? Where?, I thought. Then I saw him walking away and, well, Hulk Hogan is as distinctive from behind as he is from the front.

I'll write more about Miami tomorrow. I'm tired and it's a bit of a walk back to my hotel.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ed Burns on NPR

Oooh, look what I stumbled upon. Ed Burns talks about creating The Wire on the National Public Radio show Fresh Air. Anyone who knows anthing about me will know that this is one of my favourite shows. Now that I am in the land of real DSL, I will enjoy listening to this without any breaks.

Monday's show's guests were mother and daughter writers, Anita and Kiran Desai.

So The Wire is now in its fifth and final (sniff, sniff) season. Well, every good thing must come to an end - unless they want to drag a good tale out a bit too long, lose audience interest and be unceremoniously kicked off the air. Even though The Wire has been lauded by critics since its first season, it's never been a ratings puller but we Wire fans love it to death (and maybe even prefer it that way - we were the astute few who were able to catch onto a good thing).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Back in Boston

It's almost like I never left. Well, sort of and sort of not. I've fallen very easily into going to the places I used to. I've already been all over downtown. Today, I think I will take it easy with the shops and go and see a movie or two (oh, I'm saying "movie" already instead of "film").

The weather is quite cold, though on par for this time of the year. I've been told that the weather was really quite warm until I arrived. So I guess I brought the cold with me from Nigeria?

It's a little bit wierd taking the T instead of driving. There are several places I wanted to go, but which I need to drive to. Boston prides itself on having the first public transport system in the US, but it's really not that extensive. Boston the city is fairly well-served by the T, but if you live in the surrounding cities e.g. Cambridge, Sommerville, Malden, Newton, Watertown, etc you have to use the buses more. It's alright I suppose, though it's a killer waiting for the bus in the cold. Five minutes easily feels like fifteen. And that's when the bus comes when it's supposed to. okay, let's not go there. Happy thoughts only!

I have no idea what is showing in the cinemas here, so I'll check online and pick something to watch.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I'm looking forward to spending the day with friends. The airports will be crazy as people travel for the Thanksgiving holidays. As usual, there's the threat of a storm. My friend said that it's snowed every Thanksgiving that she can remember. I really have no recollection of this. Maybe I kept only the happy memories when I left.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Writer's Image

I attended a book reading yesterday by Abidemi Sanusi, author of Kemi's Journal. It was funny how people kept referring to her (accidentally, of course) as Kemi.

Anyway, an interesting question and answer session followed the reading. If I didn't know before just how difficult a writing profession is, I certainly am aware of it now. No, writing is not just about writing. Who would have thunk? No, you have to identify your target audience and in many cases produce the book your publisher thinks would appeal to them. It sounds like such incredibly hard work, not to mention potentially joy-killing. I suppose that is why it is so important to find a publisher whose vision is very closely aligned with yours, and such a publisher once found becomes tighter than family.

One issue that was much discussed was the role a writer's image plays in the success of their book. Bibi of Cassava Republic talked about how many publishers regard the writer's image as integral to the success of the book. I suppose this is very much a sign of the times. Writers go on book tours to promote their work now. I'm not sure what they did fifty years ago. I do know that growing up I frequently knew nothing about the writers of my favourite books. And it really didn't matter that much to me. Now, I obsessively Google the authors I like to find out every tiny detail about them. I admit that I am very curious about people and their stories, and having the tools with which to feed my curiousity only serves to feed this addiction.

But, if the Internet didn't exist and there was no Google and no celebrity-obsessed media culture such as we have now, I wonder if I would still care about a writer's image? In the long run, probably not that much. I would probably still want to know something about them, but it really wouldn't affect whether I read their books or not.

Years ago, some writers (particularly women) wrote under a pen-name. I suppose they had constructed images to feed to the public and I assume that even their publishers were unaware of their true identities. I know that this could not happen in today's world, where we have to know absolutely everything about the people we choose to invite into our lives. Writing used to be a profession where image didn't matter so much; the proof was in the manuscript, so to speak. Or at least that's what it's always seemed like to me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Registered at Last

Phew, I finally registered to vote. No one I know has, but I really needed to do it this week. Registration closes on November 30 according to all the public service announcements I’ve heard. It’s funny how all the PSAs tell you when the registration is taking place, but not where you can actually register. The INEC website is really no better. I found out the nearest location to my place of residence by asking around. Eventually my parents’ driver told me that he thought he saw some people registering by the Catholic church on Admiralty Way.

The process itself was very simple and straightforward (I was there all of 5 minutes). There was just one lady being registered when I got there. Maybe voting is really not a big deal to a lot of people (with our democratic track record, I could see why). Or, more likely, no one knows where the hell they are supposed to be registering. Okay, Lekki is a residential area, so maybe everyone is planning to do it over the weekend. BTW, you can register on Saturday and Sunday.

Anyway, one of the officials asks for your name, date of birth and occupation. She hands it to her colleague, who keys it into his handheld device. They take your photo. Your info and picture is printed out on a slip of paper. They fold this in two and are supposed to
laminate it for you (this will serve as your voter registration card), but I was told that I had to go and do it myself (Sigh! So nothing’s perfect).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I cannot wait to play around with my hair. This is one of the biggest reasons that I'm looking forward to some time-off work. I am going to try styles I don't know would fly at work. Well, if they look good, I will think about wearing them to the office.

Writer Tayari Jones has some nice photos of her many hairstyles. I really like her twist-outs.

Thank God! It's that Time of the Year!!

Nigerians work VERY hard and take very few vacations, or so it seems to me. You could be entitled to 6 weeks holiday in a year, but only take half of that. Or you could take the entire 6 weeks at one go because it’s easier to get approval once rather than spread your vacation time around (which I think ends up being such a waste because chances are high that you will get bored after the first 10 days). Or you could be that unlucky not to get any time off at all.

Last week we held the last of our youth workshops for the year. The last few months have been particularly tasking, because we have not only had two workshops to organise in as many months, but we still had our regular work to attend to. Right now, I am so tired. I wonder how people keep going for years without taking a break. I know that I couldn’t do it. Nor do I want to find out what it would be like.

I am leaving for a 3-week vacation next week and this week I’m pretty much marking time. Yes, I’m 'working', but it’s not at my usual high-octane level. I’m being very sedate this week and taking things very easy. I feel guilty for not putting in 110%, but guess I should be less selfish and let someone else be this week’s Energiser Bunny. In the meantime, I’ve reverted to my old style of 'working' from Boston. I work for 15 minutes and then surf for 20. It worked quite well then and ensured that my productivity was not adversely affected by the law of diminishing returns. Luckily for me, our internet service at work is working better than it has in a while and I discovered that there are recaps of Project Runway on Television Without Pity. Back to work!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Registering to Vote

I'd like to register as soon as I can and am wondering if anyone in the Lekki-Ajah axis has done this already. I checked the INEC website for a list of places to do this, but this information is not here yet (even though registration has started).

So who has registered?

Weekend Traffic

Work has been busy, busy, busy. We just held our last career workshop for this year, so we can breathe a little easy. Work goes on though and there's all the taking stock, writing of thank you letters that we do after each program.

Our program was held in Abuja and we had a blast! Can I say again just how peaceful Abuja is? The driving often leaves a lot to be desired, but it's nothing a Lagosian can't handle. It is actually possible to correctly estimate your travel times. The contrast was so obvious when I returned to Lagos. Yesterday, parts of two major roads in Victoria Island were blocked off. For people trying to get from VI to the Lekki-Ajah axis, it was a total nightmare because the two roads with closures (Ozumba Mbadiwe and Adetokunbo Ademola) were the most popular routes to get to Lekki Expressway. What bad planning. You would hope (though we know that this will never happen) that there would be some checking in on proposed closures to make sure that traffic choas does not ensue. But, what am I saying? Chaos is the norm here, so who cares, right?

I anticipated that there might be some bad traffic, but I just had to go out and get some yogurt. After getting stuck in total gridlock, I wasn't so sure that they were worth it. Anyway, I got home after spending just an hour and a half in the traffic. And I'm probably one of the luckier ones.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Trip to the Papers

We went on a courtesy call to another newspaper today. This was a paper with a slightly smaller circulation, but with its own niche audience. While we waited for the editors to get ready, we were taken on a mini-tour of the paper. We visited the press where the newspaper is printed. Call me a child, but I was giddy with excitement at seeing the papers roll off the press. The smoke and smell would take some getting used to - well, no actually I don't want to have to breathe in those noxious fumes everyday.

Next, we went to the newsroom. It was still early - about 11am (yes, many reporters work into the wee hours of the morning and so roll into work late the next day). Now, THAT sounds like my kind of job (though I suppose a deep interest and knowledge of current affairs would sort of be a pre-requisiste). Most of the staff in the newsroom appeared to be part of the production team. Some were typing in stories, while others worked on the layout and photos. Even though the room was near empty, I could easily picture the room filled with reporters talking, working on their articles and following unfolding news stories simultaneously. So exciting!!!!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

ADC Plane Crashes

Another plane crash and the fourth fatal one within the last year.

A Sokoto-bound ADC plane crashed shortly after take-off from the Abuja airport, killing about 104 people. There are believed to be 6 survivors. The flight manifest has not been released yet, but the Sultan of Sokoto and his son were among the victims.

On October 23, 2005, a Bellview Airlines plane crashed near Lagos killing all 117 passengers.

On December 10, 2005, a Sosoliso Airlines plane going from Abuja to Port Harcourt crashed, killing all 108 people on board. Many of the passengers were schoolchildren going home for the Christmas holidays.

In September 2006, 10 senior army commanders were killed when their military plane crashed.

In November 1996, an ADC plane crashed and killed all 146 people aboard the Boeing 727 as the pilot tried to avoid a head-on collision with another airplane.

The poor air safety record is something that Nigerians have had to live with for a long while, though this last year's crashes have created a growing sense of unease. Last night I read a BBC journalist's experience with engine problems on a local flight. The story was meant to highlight Nigerian's ability to laugh in the face of adversity. It was funny and sad at the same time. Nigerians may have been deemed the "happiest people in the world", but perhaps it's time we started facing our issues with a greater degree of seriousness and less laughter.

The Cost of Doing Good

One of the projects I oversee at work is a youth career initiative and this is easily my favourite part of my job. However, raising money to fund the program's activities has been tough. Since we are currently planning the last event for this year, money is most definitely on our mind and I have been thinking all week about how we can raise more money for the project. Reading Jeremy's blog, I realise that our predicament is far from uncommon. We have a program that we believe whole-heartedly to be worthwhile and cannot understand why it is not attracting more support.

During a courtesy visit to a national paper this week, we received a lot of encouragement for our work but the journalists easily identified why we appear to be having a hard time. Nigeria is so much about who you know and who knows you. They advised us to lean on personal contacts a lot more than we have been doing. This will enable us to reach the people who need to hear about our work and who have the resources to support us. They also advised partnering with the government to establish a more stable source of funding and effect wider-readching changes.

Ah, the government! I see the wisdom in their advice, but previous experiences reaching out to various government institutions has been tedious and fraught with multiple levels of bureaucracy. If anything, it has taught me patience, which I freely admit that I am lacking in.

How do non-profits and NGOs manage to sustain their work over a long period of time, aside from relying on the grants that come in every now and again? Work doesn't stop just because your grant has! So, how do they manage to raise enough money to keep going from day to day?

An Evening of Contemporary Nigerian Music

The annual MUSON (Musical Society of Nigeria) music and arts festival started this week. I remember attending some of the events in the festival last year and was so tripped by how quickly 2006 has zipped by. It'll be December before you know it (another birthday and another year older) and 2007 will come knocking. For some wierd reason, I prefer even numbered years to odd (what can I say? I guess we all have our little quirks).

Back to MUSON, the concert I attended on Friday night was a celebration of contemporary Nigerian music and featured Beautiful Nubia, Dafe Oghoghome and the African Liberation Band, Wura and Glorious Golden Voices. No, I hadn't heard of any of the performers before that night, but I still had a good time. The headline act was Beautiful Nubia and he apparently has a huge following (more so in Canada, where he was based until recently it appears). Although I enjoyed his music, I resisted buying a CD afterwards because it is never quite the same experience. There's so much to be said for live performances.

I was surprised that there were so many young people in the audience. MUSON events tend to be dominated by old fogies (apologies to the old fogies reading this).

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I have been following the 3rd season of Project Runway, via iTunes and hadn't yet watched the final two episodes. I found out who the previous season's winner was before-hand and I didn't want that to happen this time around, so I have been desperately avoiding all entertainment websites and blogs (yes, Angela, Seke told me that I had better add yours to my list of Blogs Not to Visit).

Anyway, I just watched it and can breathe a sigh of relief. No, my favourite contestants (Ulli and Micheal) did not win! But now I can surf without restraints.

I didn't really like Jeffery's collection, though I liked a lot of his work during the season. I cannot profess to be a real fashion expert (I know what I like, to be sure), but I agree with the judges' assessment that he is very innovative and takes risks. I felt bad for him when he was accused of not making his clothes by himself. I thought that the fact that he looked genuinely stunned by the accusation and did not spew out a stream of invectives (which would have been a more typical Jeffery reaction) was an indication that he was innocent. It was clear that the other designers felt intimidated by his collection - especially Laura.

BTW, his girlfriend's mohawk was very cute. Hmmmm, I wonder how I would look with one .....

Monday, October 16, 2006

Eating Out

I love to eat. I especially love to eat out - a passion acquired, I suppose, in my years away from home. I just discovered the blog, Boston Chomps, devoted to eating out in Boston (courtesy of The Boomer Chronicles). I visited a lot of restaurants while I lived in Boston, but there were still so many left undiscovered (maybe that was one of the sadder aspects of my leaving the city).

I can tell I'm going to have fun reading both blogs.

I Love My Job

I saw this on Nurse Ratched's Place and thought it was so cute. I am sure it totally describes the way most people feel about their jobs - NOT!

I Love My Job
By Dr. Seuss

I love my job, I love the pay!
I love it more and more each day.
I love my boss, he's the best!
I love his boss and all the rest!

I love my office and its location,I hate to have to go on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and grey, and piles of paper that grow each day.
I think my job is really swell,there's nothing else I love so well!
I love to work among my peers, I love their leers, and jeers and sneers.
I love my computer and its software.
I hug it often though it won't care. I love each program and every file.
I'd love them more if they worked a while.

I'm happy to be here. I am. I am.
I'm the happiest slave of the Firm I am.
I love this work, I love these chores.
I love the meetings with deadly bores.
I love my job - I'll say it again - I even love those friendly men.
Those friendly men who've come today,
In clean white coats to take me away!!!

Book Meme

Tagged by tuckergurl. I got this from Angela ages ago, but some memes are harder to do than others and even though I love reading, this is one of those that I had to think very hard about. Oh, my poor brain!

1. One book that changed your life?
Dont' you just hate it how you can think of answers to questions like this when no one is actually asking for your opinion, but when they do, you can't even recall the last thing you read?

Okay, contenders for this might be Martha Quest by Doris Lessing and So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. Well, I'm not sure that I can say that they changed my life, but they both had a big impact on me. Also, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume.
Well, I'll probably think of something to add to the list later.

2. One Book That You've Read More Than Once.
I haven't re-read a book in the last 10 years or so (no time), so this will have to be one of the books I read as a girl. Where do I start? All of the Mallory Towers and St. Clares' series by Enid Blyton. Infact, anything by Enid Blyton. Or Judy Blume or Paula Danziger. I loved the African Writers' Series and read and re-read many of the books, especially Welcome Home, Chijioke.

3. One Book That You'd Want On A Desert Island.
This would have to be something light-hearted and funny so that I could re-read it as many times as I wanted. Maybe one of the books in the William series by Richmal Crompton.

4. One Book That Made You Laugh.
See # 3. Ake by Wole Soyinka was also really funny.

5. One Book That Made You Cry.
Again, where do I start from? Recently I read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and that was very sad, but I don’t think it made me cry exactly.

Possibly A Fine Balance or So Long a Journey by Rohinton Mistry. His characters tend to get clobbered by an avalanche of misery like I have never seen before. Again, I can’t remember whether these actually made me cry or not.

6. One Book That You Wish You Had Written.
I remember really loving In the Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai and thinking that the writing was just so beautiful.

I really love dry, sarcastic wit a la Margaret Atwood (probably her essays more so than her books) and wish I could write that way. I would also love to write something like one of the William books (by Richmal Crompton).

Edited to Add: A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipul.

7. One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written.
It’s hard to say something like this about a writer’s work. Writing a book is hard work and sometimes books don’t turn out the way you had hoped they would. Also, writing is a skill that you are continually honing so what one might call a crappy book may really be helping the writer get to the next level of skill and experience.

Okay, I’m sure that by the time I post this, I would have thought of a really God-awful book.

8. One Book That You Are Reading Right Now.
Boaz Brown by Michelle Stimpson. It is a Christian romance. I have never read one before and it is one of the last things I ordered from Black Expressions (an African-American targeted book club). I was very curious to know what a Christian romance novel would be like. It has been interesting so far.

Before I started Boaz Brown, I started Persuasion by Jane Austen. The story caught my interest and I have never read a Jane Austen book. I thought that it was about time.

9. One Book That You Have Been Meaning To Read.
Hmmm, how much time do we have? I bought Vanity Fair by William Thackeray in March and have been waiting for my next vac to read it.

I haven’t read a Charles Dickens book as an adult and started Hard Times about four years ago. I picked it up because it was the slimmest of his books that I found. I still haven’t finished it, but the bit I read was very funny. After that, I want to move on to Great Expectations, a present from my brother who felt that I would enjoy it.

10. Tag five others that you would like to do this meme.
I don’t like to tag people. I feel that it is like passing on the pain, but I have to say that I really enjoyed doing this. I tag Everchange/Two, Ayoola, Pilgrimage, Adefunke, Black Looks and anyone else who wants to do it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Kiran Desai Wins Man Booker Prize

On Tuesday night, Kiran Desai was announced as the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize for her novel The Inheritance of Loss.

Kiran Desai also happens to be the daughter of one of my favourite writers, Anita Desai, so I'm happy for Kiran's win. I haven't read The Inheritance of Loss or her first novel Hullabaloo in the Guava Garden.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Sitting in Eko Hotel this afternoon, I felt like I could have been almost anywhere in the world, with the ethnic diversity represented in the people who sat round the pool. I was curious and wanted to go round talking to people there to find out what their stories were and what brought them to Nigeria.

There was a group of mostly Americans (going by their accents) sitting close to us. They were such a disparate group and I wondered whether they were exchange students, expatriates, tourists or part of the entourage of any of the artistes perfoming in the This Day concert. Nigeria is still not somewhere where I imagine people visit for fun. I think that it is still largely one of those countries that you visit for a specific reason - usually work-related - and not purely for pleasure. This is a belief borne from interactions with many foreigners living in Nigeria.

Two of the ladies in the group had natural hair. One wore hers in an afro and the other in a twist-out. I realised how much I miss wearing my own hair out. I have definitely been wearing my hair in more conservative styles over the last 9 months. If I don't step out of the box in which I am placing myself, I will find myself in a braids-only rut. Wait, didn't I blog about this dilemma already? Okay, time to do something about it.

Almost Star Sightings

I hung out at the Eko Hotel for a bit today. When we got there, we found the lobby filled with a lot of young people. My friend and I wondered what was going on. Anyway, we kept on moving to the poolside, where we sat for close to an hour with me in delicious-hot-chocolate nirvana (it is very hard to find hot chocolate in Lagos made the way I like it i.e. creamy, sweet and frothy).

Sometime after we sat down, it occured to me that the stars performing in This Day's Independence concert were probably staying at the Eko Hotel after all it is probably the best and well-known hotel in Lagos. When we were getting ready to pay and leave, we heard a lot of screaming coming from the lobby. My friend and I joked that Beyonce and Jay-Z were probably passing through the lobby. We were silent for a while as we realised that it could possibly be true. In that instant we both hurriedly packed up our stuff and walked as fast as we could towards the lobby (you know, in that walk-fast-while-trying-not-to-run way). Of course, by the time we got to the lobby there was no one to be seen, just excited teenagers peering into their camera phones. I heard someone say something about Missy.

As we walked to my car, my friend wondered why we should care if a celebrity was in the vicinity or not.

"Well, I guess because they are on TV" she offered. "And they appear so glamorous" I added. I felt quite ashamed that I should care at all. I mean what has Beyonce done for me lately?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Visit to the Garden City

There are bloggers who don't post for weeks and "it ain't no thing." I feel itchy (not to mention slightly guilty) when I haven't posted in a few days. Okay, make that a week.

I was in Port Harcourt this last week for work. One of the things that I appreciate most about my job is that I am getting to see some different parts of the country. Prior to my recent trips to PH, I'd gone years ago, while still in secondary school, to visit my BFF who was living there at the time. I remember it as being a rather quiet and clean city. My, what a difference a few years makes.

Port Harcourt was certainly a lot dirtier than I recollect from my teenage visits, but maybe then I really had no idea. Since it's currently rainy season and, like many Nigerian cities, PH lacks adequate drainage, dirty water pooled on the sides of the street making it virtually unpassable for pedestrians, unless they chose to wade in it (which they usually had to do since there was no alternative).

"Ha!" I would exclaim with derision whenever anyone told me about how bad Port Harcourt traffic is. Nothing could possibly beat Lagos go-slow. Well, PH traffic is definitely nowhere as bad as Lagos's, but it did manage to surpass my expectations.

Then of course, there was the 'restiveness' in the air (sorry to use such an over-used word), or maybe this was a result of my own prior expectations from all I had read about Port Harcourt. That there is a heavy police presence is undeniable and it feels very strange at first. I suppose after a while you cease to notice them much.

Having to fly into Owerri or Calabar is quite inconvenient. We flew into Owerri and made the approximately two-hour journey to PH. Despite the fact that the roads were quite bad, drivers still managed to speed down them miraculously avoiding falling down crater-like pot-holes.

The descriptor "Garden City" definitely conveys the wrong impression of what Port Harcourt is like, or maybe it harks back to long gone glory days.

Monday, September 25, 2006

As Different as Night and Morning

I took a quiz years ago to determine whether I was a Night Owl or Morning Lark (aka night person or morning person). I am aware that you don't need to take a quiz to know this, but it was the first time I'd even given the matter any thought.

The results of the quiz indicated that I was a Night Owl. It's true, I was and still kind of am, though there were some contradictions. I remember that back in university, I did my best analytical and problem-solving work from about 6AM to 2PM. This time was also best for writing essays. Any work accomplished after this time was icing on the cake. When it came to cramming (ahem....reading), I could do that anytime or as the situation demanded (e.g. last-minute studying for a test that I'd forgotten all about).

Starting my professional life coerced me into getting up hours before I was truly ready. I had to be up by a certain time (usually between 5.30 to 7AM) in order to get to the office by the time demanded by my employer. Initially this meant that I'd be in bed by 10.30PM. It wasn't long though before my night owl ways pushed my bedtime later and later until I was regularly hitting the sack (where did this expression come from, BTW?) by 2AM. Needless to say, I was NOT the most productive employee on these days and was no Little Miss Sunshine either (apologies to my much perkier colleagues, past and present).

This weekend, a late Saturday night up meant that I caught up on much-needed sleep on Sunday afternoon into the evening, and the result is that I'm now wide awake at 4.16AM with work to prepare for in a couple of hours. Should I even bother sleeping?

In my ideal world, employers would ask whether you were a morning or night person when they hire you, in order to set a schedule that is in sync with your most productive hours. See, I'm up now and could get so much work done. I could write letters, respond to emails, proof-read documents and work on proposals. I could sleep by 5AM, wake-up by 11AM and be in the office by 1PM. Sounds perfect to me! Employers, please take note.

A Woman Should .......

I tend to hate forwarded email. The chain forwards are the worst, especially the ones that try to guilt you into passing on the email to a bunch of friends with the threat that some little boy or girl will die if you don't (if this case, I must have contributed to the death of quite a few already ... and counting). There are very few forwards that I will actually appreciate and close friends and family usually know which ones I will like. Otherwise I tend to just hit "Delete" without even reading them.

Occasionally, when I'm in a more amiable mood I will read and enjoy even the forwards that I might have otherwise have hastily trashed. The following is one that I've received before and (I think) I actually liked okay:

A Woman Should Have ..

.... enough money within her control to move out and rent a place of her own even if she never wants to or needs to

.... something perfect to wear if the employer or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour (-- I'm not in the least bit a "Rules" woman, but a date arranged within an hour????)

.... a youth she's content to leave behind (-- And a sparkling future to look forward to)

.....a past juicy enough that she's looking forward to retelling it in her old age

.....a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra friend who always makes her laugh and one who lets her cry (-- It's even better when you find both qualities in one person)

.....a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family

.....eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems, and a recipe for a meal that will make her guests feel honored

.....a feeling of control over her destiny (-- Yes! Yes! Yes!) to fall in love without losing herself (-- Is this possible?) to quit a job, break up with a lover, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship

....when to try harder and when to walk away

...that she can't change the length of her calves, the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents

.....that her childhood may not have been perfect, but its over (-- Amen to this! Here's to being a grown-up)

....what she would and wouldn't do for love or more to live alone, even if she doesn't like it (-- Done this and totally loved it)

....whom she can trust, whom she can't, and why she shouldn't take it personally (-- Alas, a part of life)

....where to go - be it to her best friend's kitchen table, or a charming inn in the woods when her soul needs soothing

.... what she can and can't accomplish in a day, a month and a year (-- Contrary to popular opinion, women are not superheroes. We have our limits, you know.)

In Times of Stress

I cannot say enough how much I love working out. I have worked out almost consistently for the last 12 years, since I started university. There have been stretches of months when I barely broke a sweat, maybe due to a crazy schedule, and that's why I say I have been "almost" consistent. The rest of the time, I have managed to get some exercise at least twice a week though my ideal is 3 to 4 times a week. It's funny, exercise is one of those things that is very easy to get addicted to - the more you do it, the more you want to do it. And it's good for you!!!

The last few weeks have been very busy at work and also rather on the stressful side and working out has helped me hang on to my sanity. So this is a mini tribute to exercise. Gym, Pilates, Step, treadmill, exercise bike, Body Conditioning Class, iPod - where would I be without you?

Friday, September 22, 2006

What a Fright.

Okay, that was very strange.... My blog disappeared for a while there. The only times I check my blog are after posting, to read through and make corrections, and when I read other peoples' comments. Days can go by without me checking in, so it was such a huge shock yesterday to actually surf by and find that my blog was not there.

What is this white page that I keep getting? I thought scared as hell.

I back up my posts infrequently and suddenly the thought that I might possibly have lost all my recent posts filled me with such dread.

Anyway, as suddenly as it went away, my blog has returned. I just hope that this disappearing act does not become a regular part of life here at Blogger.

Just in case though, I'm going to back up my posts.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My Sunday of Culture

I made it to the Lagos Books & Arts Festival by the hairs of my chin, chinny chin chin (or however that goes). I was in Port Harcourt for the latter part of the week and so missed the interesting-sounding Friday sessions. On Saturday, I was catching up on much needed sleep. Ditto, Sunday morning and early afternoon. I finally got to the Museum grounds in Onikan, where the festival was being held around 5pm. I assumed that it would be over but decided to risk it anyway. There were still quite a few stands anyway. Booksellers, publishers, artists all displayed their wares. A panel discussion on 20 years after Africa's (first?) Nobel win was wrapping up. I'm sure it was a good discussion. Looking through the program, I saw that I had missed quite a lot of interesting sessions. Well, there's always next year.

I bought a locally-produced how-to VCD on baking and icing cakes. I don't know when on earth I will ever get around to watching it. Let's just hope that it's not money thrown down the drain. I bought a story book for my friend's daughter, because I don't think she has any Nigerian books (and we can't have her growing up thinking that only Caucasian children exist in books now, can we?).

After that, I went to look at the Positive Faces exhibition on at Terrakulture. It is a collection of photographs of HIV positive Nigerians, which will be on display until the 21st of September. There is still so much stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and so to see people (many of them young) who consented to have their pictures taken for this exhibition was amazing. Many of them now work in the area of HIV/AIDS advocacy and education and there were photographs showing some of them at work in their various communities. One young man in the collection said something along the lines of not feeling any stigma from people, because he doesn't let himself feel any stigma and because he feels quite positive about his life. It's such a lesson for anyone, I feel. Life is never going to be perfect, but our attitudes determine how we will deal with life's ups and downs, and in turn affects how people will view us. So, if you live your life boldly with little intention of setting-out to please other people, people will more or less accept your choices (yes, they may gossip and snipe but they will soon enough move on to someone else who seems more vulnerable and eager to please).

Back to the exhibition, it's nice to see art that isn't just pretty to look at but which also makes you think about a different aspect of life.


Again, it’s late at night (1.49AM, so technically it’s the wee hours of the morning) and I am still up. What happened to my ardent vow to be asleep by 11PM?

I really wanted to finish reading Communion: The Female Search for Love by bell hooks. I usually don't have time to read during the week and it seems that the time before I sleep is when I get most of my reading done these days, so I took the opportunity.

Communion has been an interesting book. I don’t think I read much about love – at least not much that critically examines women’s quest for love, in a very different way from the fluffy way that many women’s magazines do (though, admittedly, some women’s mags do some good write-ups too). The book has made me think about my ideas of love. It’s funny how when you are young you instinctively know what you want out of life. You know your likes and your dislikes. You may not be able to properly articulate why you feel the way you do, but still many of those feelings run deep.

I have always known that I wanted a partnership in which my significant other and I work together in harmony (I think that’s the best way to sum it up). That ideal never really changed as I grew older. It has only been recently, moving back home, that I have started to wonder if I am unrealistic in my expectations. The general consensus here seems to be that the woman will always do more. Accept it and move on. This acceptance will, at least, spur you on to find ways to cope with it i.e. hire nannies and house-helps, take on a less demanding job or be prepared not to work for a few years, etc.

To me, these are really not good enough because they don’t address the real issue, which is the underlying assumption that women should do more.

bell hooks says that It is a mark of the failure of feminist thinking to change the dominant patriarchal notion that in every relationship there is a dominant and a submissive party. It seemed that for a while, many feminists advocated a turning of the tables, so that women ruled the roosts over men. In many parts of Africa, that would be incredibly hard work and, to me, totally unnecessary. Working together in partnership should be the ideal that we strive for rather than a hierarchy with one person at the top and the other at the bottom.

Mutuality, like love itself, must come through work. Wise women know that the happiest, most fulfilling committed partnerships … are those in which mutuality is the core value, in which the spiritual growth and development of each individual matters.

Mutuality is a great word, by the way.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Old Versus New

Over the last few months, I have read a few articles about Japan's succession debate. Should the law be changed to allow a female ascend to the throne? To many people, I'm sure, the fact that we are still debating whether a woman is as qualified to lead as a man would be quite ludicrous especially in this day and age. To people who are from or who live in societies with strong, conservative cultures, this will be nothing new. We are used to hearing any variation of that old chestnut: Well, that's the tradition, or Tradition says that you have to ....... and tradition is tradition, or Tradition cannot be changed.

The older of the princes in the Royal Family, Crown Prince Naruhito, and his wife Princess Masako have one daughter. The younger Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko, until the birth of their son this week, had two daughters. The problem according to conservatives is what would have happened had the Emperor passed away and neither of his sons left make heirs. In all this, I felt especially bad for the Princesses Masako and Kiko, that they should go through such mental anguish for something that is largely out of your hands. Princess Masako, it has been reported, has been particularly affected by this custom, as well as the rigidity of Imperial Household.

Of course, not all women who live in countries where traditional customs are still strongly upheld are subject to this kind of treatment (it would be too simplistic to say that). However, in these kinds of societies, there is usually a very strong pull between the old and the new; the traditional way of doing things versus a more modern outlook. In Nigeria, though women are legally entitled to attend school and to work, many still have to balance these with the traditional roles of parenting and managing a household. Nigeria is a country in flux, and as such, there will always be friction between how things used to be and the direction that modernity (aka the Western world) dictates that things move (examples being more equitable distribution of parenting and house-work, as well as of work opportunities).

Okay, an off-topic addendum here: I have to say that sometimes I tire of writing about the same topics - fond as I am of talking about women and women's development issues. I wonder how it is that academics and activists do not develop 'cause fatigue'. Academics have to keep up their research of their speciality area and activists have to keep their cause in the spotlight order to push for change. Then when change starts to happen they have to keep reminding people of the issues, lest they forget and things slide back to the old status quo. I feel that if you are not introducing a new spin on a topic, then maybe it's best to let things rest for a while. But at the same time, talking about issues sometimes helps you discover and develop new viewpoints.

The Downward Spiral

Maybe I am just being unnecessarily pessimistic, but it seems that many things that start of promisingly in Nigeria eventually go south.

Take driving in Abuja, for instance. When I have visited in the past, I always marvelled about how sane the driving is - especially compared to Lagos. And it still is! But getting from point A to B in Abuja is increasingly becoming a heart-stopping experience. I've heard it attributed to the multitude of road works going on at the moment, which diverts the traffic to illogical and life-threatening routes. I was in ABJ this week and on our way to the Old Secretariat, some road construction led us to cut across a busy expressway and sail into oncoming traffic. Or maybe we just had a driver who loved to live on the edge. Either way, I can no longer shake my head at Lagos traffic and think "Well, all Nigerian drivers are not totally crazy. There are other parts of Nigeria, like Abuja, where people actually practice safe driving."

I still love being in Abuja though and when there I can feel myself immediately floating into a much calmer space.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Smallness of Lagos

Lagos is one of those places where it seems that everybody knows everyone else or at least they potentially know everybody through someone else they know. This is great if you want to immerse yourself in the social swing of things fairly quickly. It is not so great if you want to have some semblance of privacy. I cannot recount the number of times that it has turned out that I already know(ish) someone who I thought I was meeting for the first time. Or it turns out that I know their brother or sister or best friend or classmate. Then we start to connect the dots.

- OK, then you must have been at [so-and-so]'s Christmas party?

- Ah, yes oh! So that means that you must also know [insert name].

- Yes! Yes! I do! How do you know them?

- Hah!!! We have known each other for years. We practically grew up together. We are family friends!

Which brings me to that ubiquitous descriptor - "family friends." Anyone who you were forced to befriend as a child by dint of the fact that their parents knew your parents and you occasionally exchanged visits is termed a "family friend." Sometimes, if the relationship goes a bit deeper than that, then you can become "cousins."

I remember introducing an actual cousin of mine to a Ghanian friend back when I lived in England. He later asked me if the guy was really my cousin. Puzzled, I replied "Yes, of course."

"Well you never know with you Nigerians", he mused. "Everyone is your cousin."

But, back to this 2 degrees of separation between Lagos folks. It means that you really can't get away with anything. Any ill-advised thing that you do, say or wear will forever be remembered by someone somewhere, who will know your cousin's brother's friend's classmate's family friend.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

8th Lagos Book & Art Festival

Deji told me about this and I have been reading snippets about it in the papers in the last week or so. The Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) will be organising the 8th Lagos Book and Art Festival in the gardens of the National Museum, Onikan from September 14 to 17. It looks like it will be fun and a wonderful experience for all book and art lovers.

The CORA blog has the full schedule for the program.

The first day will feature the opening of the concurrent 2nd Lagos Comics & Cartoons Carnival, which should definitely be interesting.

Friday will feature a roundtable discussion titled What Do Women Write about the female narrative voice in Nigerian fiction. Damn! It's times like this that I miss my Friday CDs. Hmmmm, I feel a sick day coming on. LOL!!!!!

Hair Today! Gone Tomorrow!

LOL! Very bad play on words, I know. I'm not referring to my own hair either. I've had some kinky twist extensions in for the last 6 weeks, which I'm taking out. Six weeks is an eternity for me to, firstly, wear one style and, secondly, to have extensions in. I hate the feel of hair by the sides of my face (except during New England winters, of course). However, I love kinky twists. I adore big hair and my kinky twists definitely fall into this category. Also, they are the only type of extension style that last a while with my natural hair. With other styles, after two weeks in, I feel like I look like I've dragged my head through a series of very thick shrubs. Well, maybe I exaggerate.

I think this will become my staple style whenever I'm tired of wearing out my own hair. Speaking of which, although I've only had these twists in for 6 weeks, it seems like a lifetime ago that I wore out my own hair. Now, I think I'm beginning to fall prey to that condition that seems to afflict many Nigerian women, namely the Eternal Fake Hair Syndrome. I'm already wondering what extension style to do next and how I will deal with my own hair.

No, I must not become one of those women whose own hair never sees the light of day, who you wonder actually have any hair of their own, who actually start to lose their hair as a result of the constant fixing of this, that and the other.

So Long to "Fruit of the Lemon"

I keep wanting to say "Fruit of the Loom."

I feel bad because I rushed through it towards the end. You know when you just want to get through a book and start something potentially more exciting? That's how I felt. I liked the book okay, but I certainly didn't love it. Half of it was stories from the family's history told in flashback. I don't particularly like stories told in flashback. I tend to want to know about what's going on in the present, but if there is to be a historical tale, then let it be historical all the way. I don't know..... Those are just my preferences. Small Island also told many stories in flashback and I think that's partly why I wasn't so thrilled with it.

I like Andrea Levy's writing, but maybe I chose two books that were just too similar in style.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Visiting the Embassy

I went to the US embassy yesterday to renew my visa. I had a work visa while in the States, but since I don't work there anymore, I needed to apply for a visitor's visa. I had been meaning to go for a long while, but procrastination will get you (or, more accurately, get me) everytime.......

Anyway, so I went yesterday and found a much more efficient and less stressful process than in the years before. Don't get me wrong, the process of waiting to be interviewed by the consular officers and even the whole notion of having to go through it at all is still totally nerve-wracking for many. But at least you don't have to get to the embassy at 5:30AM for a 9:30AM appointment anymore, only to find that you are just one of a gazillion people given the same interview time.

No, my appointment was for 7:30 and I got there at 7:30 to find the very short line moving pretty speedily. It was once I had gotten inside and submitted my passport, completed application form and payment receipt that the tedious part began. I've never had the gift of patience and that was patently clear yesterday, as I shifted in my seat every five minutes, stretched my legs out, tucked them under the chair, only to unfold them seconds later. I tried to read my book, but would get distracted by the goings-on around me. I tried to watch TV, but the volume was too low and the hum in the waiting room too loud to really pay close attention. I would have drifted off to sleep, but my fear of missing my number when it was called kept me awake somehow.

The nerves or the fun (in a sadistic and a God-I'm-so-glad-that-is-not-me) way starts when your number is eventually called and you enter the inner sanctum, where the interviews take place.

All the applicants are close enough to hear the interviews as they take place and after waiting there a while, it becomes easy to see when the applicant is going to be denied. Some refusals appear suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, following an interview that appeared to have been proceeding along sedately enough. Others are lumbering train wrecks that are easy to spot a mile off.

For instance, the applicant has come with no financial statements showing how s/he will pay for their trip and support themselves while in the States. Some have no job or have been at the job for a very short time. Some have no evidence of strong ties to Nigeria (e.g. a business, property owned, etc) that would ensure their return back to Nigeria. Some have members of their nuclear family living in the States. Some have family members living in the US but failed to state this on their application form. And by far, one of the worst strikes against you would be overstaying Uncle Sam's welcome. I can totally understand that sometimes, for totally unexpected circumstances, you might have to stay longer than you thought, but when people overstay by several months but still expect to show up at the embassy and not have the officials question that, I really wonder......

One lady explained that the reason for her overstaying was due to a "medical condition" that she suffered after getting to the US.

- What was wrong with you, ma'am?, asked the consular officer.

- I was pregnant.

The consular officer almost suceeded in keeping a straight face.

- Ma'am, pregnancy is not a medical condition. Nevermind the fact that you are not supposed to go to the States to have your baby.

Then, there were those who made it through succesfully and yet you wonder how?

After being told that she could come and pick up her passport on Wednesday at 2PM, the woman went "I'm sorry?.

- I said that you could come and pick up your visa on Wednesday afternoon, the officer repeated.

Apparently that wasn't clear enough and so the officer repeated herself once again.

Ten bloody minutes later, we still saw the same lady, now standing by the guard, saying that she did not understand what was going on and asking what she was supposed to do now?

I could not figure out if she hadn't really understood (maybe it was the whiny American accent that threw her off) or if she was disingenuously trying to rub it in the faces of those of us still awaiting our turn.

The lady sitting next to me exclaimed impatiently "This stupid woman is still here! What is it that she can't understand?!!!!! Heh? Wo, if she doesn't want the visa, let someone else come and collect it for her."

At the end of the day, whether you get a visa or not is very often a crapshoot- sometimes you get lucky and then sometimes someone with all the same credentials as you and in identical circumstances applies and is denied. There appear to be a few basic things that would really help a visa application (ahem..... here's me sounding like an expert after a few hours sitting in the US embassy lounge).

  • Have travelled frequently outside Nigeria (and come back, of-course)

  • Take financial statements with a balance that will support the cost of your trip

  • Have some evidence of strong ties to Nigeria e.g. property, a business, etc.

  • Do not apply if you have been denied for a visa in the last few months, unless your circumstances have changed

  • It helps not to have nuclear family living in the US (especially if they are citizens or permanent residents).

  • It really, really, really helps not to have nuclear family who have absconded to the States i.e. overstayed, at large or never to be heard from again

  • If you do have family living in the US, by all means, don't lie about it

  • Infact, don't lie about anything. That all-knowing computer screen that the consular officers stare at will almost always provide info that will catch you out.
These are just tips borne out of my observations. They are, by no means, hard-and-fast rules, so please don't come after me if you apply and are told that "You do not qualify for a visa at this time."