Friday, March 31, 2006

And Time Moves On ...

We witnessed an influx of new corp members today at my NYSC CD day. I arrived at the local government area (LGA) office fairly early (9.15am is super-early for me. I typically get there for 10, but I'm trying to be a better corper.) To my shock, the compound was already filled with an inordinately large number of corpers. What was this??? I assumed that I would be one of the first to arrive. As I looked closer, I realised that I did not recognise most of these faces. Then it dawned on me that these were our 'baby corpers', as a colleague of mine refers to them.

Their uniforms still looked new and many wore expressions of anticipation (In fairness, though, the body language of an equal number seemed to say "What the hell is this bullshit that I have signed myself up for the next year. Hmmm, I wonder who I can pay to 'take care of things' for me?".)

What a difference a few months makes. I was once one of them. Last October when I attended my first CD day, I arrived at the LGA at 8am sharp as I had been directed to. I found a couple of corpers there before me sitting idly by the buildings. The door of the NYSC office was firmly SHUT. Okay, I thought, maybe they are running a little late. If only! The first staff member showed up at 9am and we eventually got started with a brief address by the zonal inspector at 10.30. I have since learnt that NYSC time is meant to be interpreted very loosely (add an hour and a half, at least, to whatever time you have been asked to show up anywhere).

Anyway, a few months on, I feel much the wiser with regards to the mysterious ways of the NYSC (and bureacracy in general). Today, we older corpers regarded our new colleagues with a mixture of slight derision and superiority borne of a few good months of experience. Not to worry, one day they will be like us!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Solar Eclipse

Like you haven't read your fill of posts and articles about the eclipse, here's another one to add to the mix.

I was really excited about it, even though I knew we would only see a partial eclipse here in Lagos. I thought amidst the useful information, were some 'sensitisation' messages with a lot to be desired. In Tuesday's This Day, the Information and National Orientation Minsister, Frank Nweke Jr., asked people not to look directly at the sun for the duration of the eclipse (good advice). He added that special glasses or other devices could be used to view the eclipse, neglecting to mention where one could these special glasses or what these other devices were (okay, yes I know - you could use bowls of buckets of water, for one). He also advised people to stay indoors for the duration of the eclipse. I'm sure that would not have increased the trepidation that many people were already feeling at this sure sign of impending doom in the least bit!!!!

Mrs. Toyin Saraki, first lady of Kwara state, in a great move gave away free solar glasses to students in her state.

I saw something of the eclipse. I was tripped by how dark it got and when I saw the moon partially cover the sun, I was awed beyond belief. How I would have loved to have been in the path of the total eclipse.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Still on Holiday

That is what I'm considering this break. The census was extended for two more days, so I return to work on Tuesday (tomorrow) :-(
Well, all good things .....

I have been super-productive over this last week or so. I am a big 'to-do' list-maker and I revel in knocking completed tasks off my lists. I think I have surpassed even my own expectations though. I have done a lot of work for the BAWo project, which will be starting soon, typed-up my notes from our last NYSC CD day meeting, watched a lot of TV (caught-up on music videos) and DVDs (I started season 1 of The Shield and am almost done with that. Planned on also watching my way through season 2, but that will have to wait for next weekend), read (not as much as I planned to, but still much more than I normally would).

I completed High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. One of the reviews on the back of the book promised that it would give an insight into how men think. Well, oddly enough, not so differently from women judging from this book. I also read Half a Life by V.S. Naipul. A very insightful book on the life of immigrants. I had many of those "OMG! Me too! I felt/thought/experienced that" moments, while reading this. I thought that the ending was very abrupt and wholely unsatisfying. I am not one of those readers who likes to be told everything and be presented with a nice, tidy ending but I hate it when the ending slams down on you from nowhere (the only way you know that you are approaching it is because the number of pages left to read is getting smaller). I am about to start The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood. I already consider her to be one of my favourite writers, even though I have only read two books by her (and one was non-fiction). So, I am looking forward to this with delicious anticipation.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Census Might Be Extended

What's this I hear that the census might be extended?

It's Saturday (the last day of the census) and I still have not been counted. Many of my friends have and so we started to worry that they somehow missed our house. My mother's friend, who lives a few streets from us, was counted yesterday and so on my mother's advice we drove down to her house to try and track down the enumerators and bring them to our house to count us. It does not work that way, as we later found out.

Each team of enumerators is given some streets to cover and they cannot deviate from this. I was impressed with how determined they were not to break this directive (the exception was with homeless people). Shamefully I admit that I am not used to seeing this kind of dedication to duty.

While we on the street speaking with the enumerators, a man drove up to ask if they knew why his street had not been counted yet. So, it's not just us. The houses on our side our street have yet to be counted too. I guess I can take some comfort in numbers.

I have to really hand it to the enumerators though. Aside from being determined to stick by the orders they had been given, they really had a tough job. Walking from house to house in the afternoon heat is not an easy thing to do and I really applaud them for it.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Still Not Been Counted

I don't know how the entire population of Lagos will be counted by the end of Saturday. The second day of the census came and went and we still haven't been counted. No one I know has either.

The exercise has apparently been beset with problems from the census enumerators not been paid, no transport to get to the people they are supposed to be counting, etc. Well, tomorrow's another day.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Vagina Monologues

I saw this last Thursday. There has been so much ado and excitement surrounding the Nigerian production and, never having seen any version of the VM, I was curious to see what all the hype was about.

My first thought was "Who’s going to leave work early on a weekday to make a 6pm showing of a play?" Could I have been more wrong? The Agip Hall at the MUSON Center was filled with many of Lagos’s who’s who, as well as us more ordinary folk.

The host assured us repeatedly that there was nothing shocking about what we were about to see, which only succeeded in getting me ready to be thoroughly scandalized.

For people who have never heard of the Vagina Monologues, (Under what rock have you been living for the last few years?), it is a series of monologues about the vagina and in some cases by the vagina. What would the vagina say if it could talk, what would it wear, what have been the experiences of vaginas (and their owners) in different parts of the globe (this included stories of rape, domestic violence, lesbianism and coming to love the vagina). The performances were wonderful all around, although I particularly enjoyed the monologues of Iretiola Doyle, Elvina Ibru (what a commanding presence she has), Omonor Imobhio, Joke Silva and Buki Ajayi.

The vagina celebration ended with an exquisitely eloquent exhortation by Joke Silva to reclaim the dreaded c-word - cunt. As beautiful as she made it sound, I still hate the word! I shudder to type it. And reading it (especially on my blog) is even worse! And that’s because I cannot get away from the venom and hate behind the word when it’s hurled at women as the worst possible kind of insult. The argument that words (or people, for that matter) only have power over you when you permit them to, and that by 'reclaiming' the word you take away the sting, is a common one. But I cannot agree with it. If a word was borne in hateful circumstances and its early and/or common uses are as such, then how can such a word become redeemed? How can you take it for your own and use it without feeling the hurt that it was meant to inflict? (Now, I’ve started wondering about the origins of the word.) I feel the same way about the word "nigger" and that’s why I would never ever use it.

The host’s assurances about the content of the play turned out to be highly unnecessary. For one thing, he was kinda, sorta right. There was nothing overly shocking (to me – I should add). I would have expected many Nigerians to take exception to some of the explicit language and descriptions, as well as to the reference to lesbianism, which brings me to my second point. The host was, I felt, preaching to the choir. I mean, you do have to be already somewhat interested in the subject matter or sufficiently open-minded to shell out money to see a play called "The Vagina Monologues." Definitely not every Nigerian is conservative by nature and would shy from frank sexual discussions, but I’m not sure that other groups of people would have come to see this play.

On reflection, it probably would have been more interesting to see it at the University of Lagos, where it was cheaper and would have attracted more diverse groups of people.

Census, at Last!!!!!!

For the last week or so, no one has been sure of exactly how this census was going to work. Do we stay at home and be counted, or what?

I'd been looking forward to this 4-day break for a very long time and assumed that Tuesday to Friday would be work-free days. Then we started to hear that this would not be so. This was followed closely by the "public holiday" versus "curfew" debates i.e. would Tue to Fri be public holidays (i.e. we don't go to work, but you can move around freely) or curfewed days (i.e. you still don't go to work, but then you can't leave the house either). I really didn't care either way, so long as I got to stay at home. Yes, I know! What a conscentious and hard worker I must be (not!). Well, actually I am, which is why I really wanted the break - to take care of all my other business.

Just 30 minutes before I left work yesterday, we still weren't sure, but decided that if the Lagos state governor is imposing curfews from Tuesday to Thursday, then we might as well not come to work.

I already know that the results of this census will not come close to an accurate representation of Nigeria's population. I know quite a few people who did leave their state of residence (despite numerous directives by the government not to do so) to spend the census 'holiday' in their states of origin. Worse still, are the people who have left the country altogether on vacation.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Blogs for African Women

This is a project I've been working on for a while now and which I am really excited about. It started from a post I made a few months ago about a mentoring project for bloggers, which I'm currently volunteering on. Sokari asked me to get in touch with her if I was really interested in setting-up something similar and, honestly, up to that point it had simply been one of those "Wouldn't it be nice if someone did this." - type thought. Since then, Sokari and I have been working on this together. So here it is, if you are interested or know someone who might be, please get in touch.

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Opportunity to Nurture Women Bloggers!

Are you a blogger interested in encouraging more people to blog? Do you enjoy working with young women?

Blogs for African Women (BAWo) is looking for mentors to participate in a project for young African women who are new to blogging, from early May to the end of July 2006. The project will initially target Nigerian students aged 10 to 13, but will later extend to the rest of Africa.

What is this project about?
BAWo is a project for African women who want to start blogging or who are new to blogging. The young bloggers will post each week on an assigned topic. They will also be expected to comment on each other’s posts as well as the mentors’.

What do you have to do?
• Each mentor is assigned a week to post. You will post once at the start of the week. Your post will provide the young bloggers with ideas and guidance for their own posts.
• You will comment on the young women’s posts.
• You are also encouraged to comment on the other mentors’ posts during their assigned weeks.

We will work with you to come up with suitable topics for the young women.

What qualities should a mentor have?
We welcome all bloggers who are culturally and gender sensitive and who are interested in working with young women. We particularly encourage African women bloggers to participate in this project.

Why this project?
Internet use in the African continent, although growing, is still fairly low due to many factors which discourage Africans from using the Internet and other Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as no or limited access to the Internet, erratic electricity supply, and low literacy levels. Women’s Internet use (and consequently blogging) continues to be very low. A cursory browse of the African blogosphere will show that male bloggers make up the majority of African bloggers, with many residing outside of the African continent.

While this project cannot remove many of the barriers to ICT use, it aims to introduce African women to blogging as a tool for self-expression within a nurturing environment, and in the long-run encourage an active engagement with technology.

The objectives of this project are:
• To encourage African women who want to start blogging and support those who recently started blogging
• To help balance gender disparity in blogging
• To encourage African women to report their own stories as an alternative to mainstream media
• To increase the amount of locally-relevant content available on the Internet
• To encourage a love for writing and reading
• To promote weblogs as a method of democratic expression
• To encourage more African women to think about how to incorporate other technology tools into their lives

What do you do next?
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or know someone who might be, please contact Ore at or Sokari at
Please write a few lines about yourself and your interest in this project, including your blog URL.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Crash vs. Brokeback

This is such old news (it's funny how what happened just a week and a half ago is already considered 'old' news).

I'm referring to the shock/horror/astonishment at Crash taking the Best Picture Oscar at last week's Academy Awards, when Brokeback Mountain had been widely expected to clinch that.

I've watched both films. I liked Crash okay, though I did not think it was as great a movie as it was made out to be. The publicity machine is an incredible thing! The cast appeared on every conceivable program in the States to promote their movie - and promote it they did. Droves of people flocked to see Crash.

I saw Brokeback Mountain recently and really, really liked it. I thought that the two lead characters were portrayed with such sensitivity and rawness. And, no, I don't know any gay cowboys.

Annie E. Proulx, writer of the short story on which the film was based, lets loose her anger over the Oscar upset in this Guardian article. Phew! If it's any comfort, it is common knowledge that the decision of who to give awards to - and this is not just about the Oscars - is frequently motivated by so much more than an excellent performance.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Looking Foward to Being Counted

Well, if the absolute truth be told, what I'm most excited about Census 2006 is having 4 legit days off work. I have so many tasks to knock off my to-do lists; books to read; DVDs to watch; sleep to catch-up on; crazy hairstyles to try; hours of aimless surfing to indulge in; podcasts to listen to; thinking to do; and pure, unadulterated lazing around to do. It just feels like life moves entirely too fast for me to accomplish all the things I want to, and I really, really need this break.

The best part of this census is that we have to stay at home (at least, I believe we do) and so I won't be tempted to go out and run errands.

My only grouse is that it starts from a Tuesday rather than a Monday. What is the point of that sole working day? Well, I won't be too much of an ingrate and look a gift horse in the mouth. Census 2006, I will take you anyhow you want to come!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Blogging & Grassroot Media

Ah! How I love to blog about blogging. The BBC site has a nice mini-overview of some tools that are popularly used in personal citizen journalism (a term I first heard in the blogging mentoring project I'm currently volunteering on). "Personal citizenship journalism" is all about an individual's ability to tell their own stories from their unique perspective.

Blogging, wikis and podcasting have become popular ways to create an online presence and share ideas with a cyber audience. While I have certainly been blogging and using Wikis for a while now, podcasting is an area that I am yet to venture in. Having just acquired an MP3 player, I am excited about subscribing to various podcasts. I won't be rushing to start my own online show just yet. It seems to me that if there is a technology which allows people to voice their opinions before a large audience, many people will tend to use it - whether they have something interesting to say or not. The line between what's relevant information and what is not appears to be ever-shrinking. Well, I suppose in this new era of citizen journalism, the all-important question is "What is the criteria for 'important' information and who gets to decide what is important to share?"

Some months ago, I posted some guidelines I found online for blogging. Today, I found this old article about bloggers who write about their work and even though I don't really blog about my work, I find many of the tips quite useful.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

2006 Orange Prize Long list Announced

On Monday, this year’s long list was announced at the London Book Fair. The Orange Prize for Fiction is awarded to a woman writer yearly for an outstanding book published in the UK in past year. While entries must be published in the UK, the authors must not necessarily be British. In 2003, Nigeria’s own Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was nominated for her book "Purple Hibiscus."

Since I tend to read according to my tastes and moods rather than following bestseller lists, I have not read any of the books on this year’s long list. Browsing the list every year, though, introduces me to authors who otherwise might not have surfaced on my literary radar. In the year, Chimamanda lost, I discovered Andrea Levy, who took the prize for her book "Small Island." Although I didn’t like the book much, I enjoyed her writing style and am drawn to the themes of her books. So, I will be checking some of her other work in the future.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Honouring African Women

This post is in honour of International Women's Day (March 8). Sokari and Mshairi had a great idea to have African women bloggers pay tribute to the African women who have been important to them. They will be doing a round-up of all the tributes on Global Voices Online sometime in the coming week.

In my life, I feel that I have been touched by so many great, wise and wonderful women -- from my mother, other family, women I've worked with and many great friends -- so it is very hard for me to pick just one woman to pay tribute to. For that reason, I decided not to select just one woman, but to celebrate ALL the women who have been significant in my life. I mean, I won't be writing about all of them here of course - I would be here until the next Women's Day. Instead, I am going to write about several women who have taught me a lot.

My mother obviously has been very important to me. She was my very first role model for what a woman (mother, wife, sister and friend) should be. Inspite of our differences of opinion on a variety of subjects, I have learnt so much from her and think that she will continue to be one of the most influential role models I have. She is an engineer (still a fairly rare job for a woman), a leader of (many) men, an entrepreneur, an amazing mother, who despite her frenetic schedule still manages to keep up with the minutiae of her family's life. While I really do not want to work the 'double shift', like she has done, in my future family life, she gives me great hope that with good managerial skills and lots of faith, anything is possible.

A Kenyan lady I worked with in Boston for a couple of years (I will call her Lady P) showed me a different life for an African woman than I was accustomed to. She lost her husband some years after they were married and was given the 'choice' to marry her late husband's brother or forfeit all her posessions (this included the home and farm she shared with her husband). She decided not to re-marry and was left to raise her 3 boys on her own. Her graduate education had been interrupted by her decision to get married, but she held on to her dream of completing her Master's program someday. This she did! When I met her, she had not only completed her Master's, but was nearing the end of her PhD. She eventually graduated when she about 58. I have not been in touch with Lady P for some years now, but I will always remember how she choose to make her own way in life and not follow the path already laid out for her by others.

Another woman who has blazed her own path in life is my best friend, Y. She has made some tough and difficult choices in life that I'm not sure that I would have been able to. But she serves as an inpiration for living life by your own rules. As an eldest child, I have the tendency to think about other people's needs a bit more than mine sometimes. I also tend to worry about being a 'good' role model. I'm trying to leave those anxieties behind and Y shows me how you CAN make good life choices, which also make you happy.

My sister is another woman I hold in great esteem and who has, and continues to teach me, many great lessons. She is unflinchingly honest and blunt with her opinions and advice. She is someone I can always count on to tell me the hard, cold and unpleasant truths that no one else will. At the same time, she dispenses her compliments with an equal measure of frankness. From her, I'm learning to be more upfront with my feelings: If I like it, I like it. If I don't, I will (try) not to make any bones about it.

I feel that I have been truly, truly blessed to have so many incredible women who have inspired me to be and to want to be more than I am. Now, I feel that it is my duty and responsibility to share some of what I'm learning with the other women in my life. Hopefully, this tribute is a start.