Friday, April 28, 2006

Let's Talk Hair - For the Umpteenth Time

What do you know? I haven't posted in a while and what's the first new thing I blog about? Hair! I love trawling through the Internet for hair websites, especially natural hair sites. Even when I had permed hair, I was still very interested in hair care and that interest has remained through my nappy years.

I came across Let's Talk Hair, which is also the name of a natural hair care book. The site appears to be for people of African descent and includes a discussion board (which, from a cursory glance, does not appear to be very active). Nappturality recently upgraded their server and did some site re-design. It looks fab and I'm sure there are a lot of new functionality that I'm yet to discover. Another site that I've checked in the recent past for hair care was the ELLE Magazine website. What the hell was I thinking? I think there must be only white people in ELLE-World going by the photographs they post in their hair care section, because there are absolutely no people of colour.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nothing, nothing, nothing

You know when you want to blog, but there's nothing to write about? That's how it is with me right now. There are a lot of things going in my life at a sub-terranean level, but they are mostly things that have been going on for a while and so not really worth writing about.

Sometimes life feels so blah and so routine, and then at others there's so much happening. Guess this is just one of those boring phases.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Changing Face of Ikoyi

For the most part, I grew-up in Ikoyi. Although my family spent some early years in Surulere, Ikoyi is where I grew-up and although we don't live there anymore, it still feels like home. I remember telling my BFF (yes, we grown women still have them) that I plan on moving to Ikoyi when I get married. She thought that was so cute.

Now, there's a question of whether I will actually be able to afford to. Ikoyi is rapidly changing from the place I grew-up in. A lot of property is being bought-up, knocked down and converted into stylish condominiums. Great if you live in one, as many are gorgeous to look at and have luxuries like pools and gyms. In a discussion we had a few months ago, my brother expressed concerns that Ikoyi will over time become over-congested, since condos and luxury apartments means more people and consequently more stress on public amenities. This also means more traffic. Ikoyi, for now, is one of the few places where you can (for the most part) sail down the roads unencumbered by traffic. With more people and more cars, it's fairly certain that this will not last forever. I have heard some depressing predictions that Ikoyi will eventually degenerate into a slum area. With the prohibitively-high real estate costs, I seriously doubt that (and with my desire still to move there, I really hope not).

There seems to be little point in yearning for how things used to be, so it is important to think about the long term consequences of today's decisions and plan for them.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

What a Small City Lagos Is

I almost feel the claustrophobia setting in. Okay, not quite, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

I had an appointment at an oil company today. I was to pick up a package and had to wait in the reception area while it was being prepared for me. As I sat, many people passed through the reception on their way in or out of the office complex. I didn't realise just how many people I now know. This is amazing considering I just moved back last August and felt like I knew next to nobody (outside of my family and very old friends). In the 20 or so minutes in which I sat there, I felt like I either knew or recognised every other person who passed by. Some I had met at work, others I had just seen around town and one was an old family friend.

Now I understand how everyone seems to know each other or know of each other. When I was younger, I assumed that my parents were just incredibly popular people as they seemed to know everybody. Now I realise that, yes they are popular. LOL!!!! But, if you spend enough time in Lagos, you too will find yourself stopping every 5 minutes to greet people you know.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Back to My Twists

After wearing Ghana weaving for a while now, I'm scared by what appears to be my gradually weakening hairline. So this week, I went back to my regular twists. This is the first time in a long time that I'm doing my own twists too. I became quite lazy and got in the habit of having them done at a salon. Yes, the professionals twist my hair much faster than I do and they actually part my hair neatly (I never part my hair, I just grab sections of hair), but I love my twists all the same.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Letter to My Younger Self

This is Pilgrimage to Self's idea, after she saw it in the latest issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. I read it in there too and thought that it was such a cool idea.

*********** ************** ************** **************

My Dear Younger Self,

This is your older and (methinks) wiser self speaking. Listen up, as what I have to say will make a world of difference to you. Sigh..... but, remembering what I was like back then, you're probably not going to listen anyway, but still, here goes...........

There is so much that I would like to tell you, that I really don't know where to start from.

-- Okay, remember that things are never quite as do-or-die as they might seem. No, you will not absolutely die if you don't keep up with whatever fashion that everyone else is wearing. When you are older and look back on most of the in-clothes, you will cringe in shame. Arabian baggies!!!! My God, could there be anything less flattering on a young woman's body? I can tell you that is one fashion item that will not be coming back into style.

-- You were always really cool anyway and light years ahead of the pack. So what if no one recognised this but you? Don't fall in with everyone else. Do your own thing and do it with pride.

-- Keep-up with your love for reading, even when your life gets quite busy. Sneaking in a chapter here and there will ultimately be more rewarding than spending hours in front of the TV. No, Sweet Dreams, Sweet Valley High and Mills and Boons don't really count. However, you won't realise this until much later when you find that the perfect tall, dark and handsome guy with a perfect GPA, who is captain of the debate club, swim team, football team, glee club, who is also class president and all-round popular guy doesn't really exist. (Well, maybe he does, but not in Ore's World).

-- Never stop writing. It's so much harder to start again when you haven't written a thing in years.

-- Be confident in yourself and your abilities. I think this is the one thing that you should remember even if you forget everything else. You are so much smarter than you realise.

-- Don't hate on those pretty, popular and smart girls. Yes, I know how unfair it seems that one person could be so hugely blessed, but you are who you are and they are who they are. Each person is an individual and comes with their own unique set of gifts. Just because you haven't figured out what yours are yet, doesn't mean that they don't exist.

-- Live in the moment more! You always were a bit of a worrier. If only you could know that most of the things you agonised over worked themselves out in the end. Don't think so much about about how this decision will affect you in the next 10 years. Just jump in with both feet and go. Some opportunities once gone, are not coming round your way again. So grab life with both hands.

-- There will come a time when your hair will fall out in clumps and you are forced to shave the whole thing off. You will be very upset by this. A couple of years after that, a friend, A, will 'help' you take out your braids and end up chopping a huge section of your hair off the side of your head and AGAIN you are forced to shave off your hair. You will want to kill him, but remember that it will be you who has to go to jail, not him! The US government does not play - especially with non-Americans! Your hair will grow back and in a few years you will even be thinking about cutting it (voluntarily) again. So, don't sweat it.

-- Infact, if you forget the one thing that I told you to remember even if you forget all the other stuff, remember this - Don't sweat the small stuff.

Love, love, love, (x infinity)

Your Older Self xxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Hold Your Assumptions Lightly

I went to watch a movie tonight with a friend, and while we waited for the movie to start, we sat talking about different things. I can't remember what we were talking about when he said how he had to frequently remind himself to hold his assumptions lightly.

I was to recall this phrase when we went to see our movie, Pride and Prejudice. I am yet to read the book, but have seen several TV and movie adaptations - so much so that I feel like I have read the book. Personally, I've enjoyed all the screen adaptations that I have seen of Pride and Prejudice, but popular opinion seems to be that it is a 'woman's book'.

That is why seeing the gender ratio of the audience was the first big surprise to me. Almost as many men as women. Okay, I thought, the men let themselves be dragged to see this movie. Maybe so, maybe not. Then I was struck by how an English movie (an English period movie, at that) had managed to draw such a large crowd, in an era where American movies still reign supreme. I suppose I really shouldn't have been surprised. The movie was incredibly funny and the story highly compelling and very familiar to us Nigerians. A mother's steely resolve to marry off each of her five daughters (and to marry them off well, to suitable and well-placed partners no less!)

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Quest for the Perfect Hairstyle

The thing about not being at work is that I have a lot more time on my hands. And that often means more blogging. Today is Good Friday and I had looked forward to this holiday weekend, despite the fact that it kind of feels that we have been on holidays more than we have been at work recently.

I was itching to take out my latest Ghana braids (and believe me, "itching" is the right word). On the whole, I LOVE my hair. My hairline though, especially at my temples, has been my major concern. Years of being burnt by relaxers, plus the stress from frequent braiding has taken its toll on my hairline. Though quitting relaxers has certainly helped, the re-growth is not happening as fast as I would like. And now, my ever-increasing reliance on Ghana weaving as a style option has not helped.

Back in Boston, I wore my hair predominantly in twists, twist-outs, afro puffs and afros (relatively low-stress styles). Now, that I'm back home, I suppose I'm adapting to the more stylistically-conservative environment (although this is rapidly changing) as well as to the more formal dress codes of my current job. Another factor is the relatively cheap costs of getting your hair done here. That means that, unlike in Boston where I would have kept any hairstyle in for as long as I could aesthetically get away with it because I had to get good value for money, here in Lagos I can put tiny braids in and take them out two weeks later.

So, where does this all leave my hair? Well, my hairline is very much under siege and I need to find some other staple hairstyles.

Hand-Me-Down Heart

Still on my walk down memory lane. A colleague of mine introduced me to the store where she buys her cards (I needed some Easter cards and she said that her shop is cheaper than the one I normally go to). She was right, plus they had a much wider selection of cards.

We wandered to a different section of the shop, so that she could show me the Chinese cookbook, which she had recently purchased. Then, I saw it! Rows of Sweet Dreams, Sweet Valley High and books by Paula Danziger. Any girl who attended a Nigerian secondary school will undoubtedly be very familiar with the SD and SVH books. We sneaked reads of these books between classes, at break time and while we were supposed to be doing homework or studying. I remember the long queues for these books. The owners would assign positions to everyone who was dying to read the book with the serious and self-important air of a brain surgeon. And we would all remember who was supposed to be reading the book just before us, so that we could hurry them along. Paula Danziger was one of my favourite writers back then too, though I don't remember that her books had quite the cachet of the Sweet Dreams or Sweet Valley High series.

For old times sake, I bought two Sweet Dreams for my sister and I. I started Hand-Me-Down Heart this morning and finished it within an hour and a half. I won't bore you with the story, but I can assure you that the girl gets her guy at the end. The "does he like me, does he not like me?" drama is ended with a sweet and very romantic kiss at the end of the book. Everyone is happy - their respective familes are in total approval, her best friend also finds a boyfriend and blah, blah, blah and damn-blah! Now, I remember why I was such a fast reader back then. The stories were so uncomplicated. And with the series (SD, SWH, Mills & Boons and Harlequin) the story was a well-worn template in which the characters' names, locations and jobs changed, but everything else remained the same. Ahem..... so now I'm off to start on A Chance to Love.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Dear Old Alma Mater

I had cause to visit Queens College today for official reasons. Driving down to QC felt very strange. On one hand, I hadn't been to QC in a long while, but on the other I recalled the way back like I still make the journey everyday.

QC itself has changed a lot. New buildings have sprouted all over the compound to accomodate the population spike that the school experienced through much of the 1990s. I hear things have since stablised, but the end result is class sizes of about 100 girls per class. Compare this to the 45 to 50-odd girls we had in my time.

Revisiting places from my past always brings up wierdly-mixed emotions in me - combinations of nostalgia, disbelief (at how fast time has moved and just how much has changed in the intervening period), sadness (at how much older I'm getting and from an inexplicable feeling that I'll never again have so much fun in my life) and happiness (if I have great memories from that time). Luckily, I have wonderful memories of QC, but looking back, I wish I had a lot more fun than I did. (I wish this also when I remember my time at university and primary school too.) I always want to make the best of whatever experiences I've had - which is great! The result though is that I'm often very serious about the things I do and miss-out on a lot of fun that I could have had. Of course, said realisations only come afterwards. (That 20-20 hindsight is a muther!!!)

Now, how's this for a strange co-incidence. This very same day, my sister and I both received a text message about a ball being organised by and for QC old girls. AND I read about it in the latest issue of City People. It's billed as the event of the year. Tickets are, apparently, almost sold-out (at a modest =N=10,000 a pop). The ball is to be held next Saturday, but I'm just hearing about it TODAY????

Project Runway

I love to write about whatever I'm reading or watching at the moment. I'm also one of those people who can take away something from almost every experience.

I'm in the midst of watching the second season of Project Runway, which was yet another of my favourite shows from the States. When I first heard of the concept of another reality show, but this one about fashion designers competing against each other for some wonderful prize or the other, I immediately dismissed it as a ridiculously frivolous idea (Okay, helloooo! What was I thinking? Most reality TV would be considered as purely frivolous entertainment.)

Since I had recently acquired cable TV, my motto at the time was to watch everything at least once - just because I could. So I did......... and I LOVED it! From the first show I watched, I was completely hooked. The drama, the intrigue, the burning ambitions - it was incredibly riveting. And just like with America's Next Top Model, I learnt quite a bit about the fashion industry.

With clothes, I know what I like and what looks good on me. I also like to look different from everyone else and that means I like to add my own individual touches to anything I wear. It also means that I do not follow the latest trends. I abhor the sheep mentality that encourages rushing out to buy an item of clothing that has been deemed 'hot' or 'in' by the fashion powers that be. I hate anyone telling me what I should be wearing 'this season' and what favourite clothes of mine should be thrown out, because they are now considered to be the armpit of fashion this month.

However, watching Project Runway and seeing the careful thought that many of the designers put into their clothes makes me think that I need to experiment a bit more where my style is concerned. Being in Lagos will do that to you, in any case. Nigerians are extremely concerned about looking good and Lagos is considered by many to be THE trend-settling city. This can get a bit tiring after a while and, to my immense frustration, I am finding myself gradually getting sucked into the whole 'dressing-up just to go down the road' syndrome. But, I suppose it's infinitely more interesting than Boston where the (mostly freezing-cold) weather, as well as its reputation as a highly intellectual city means that any interest in clothing beyond the practical concerns of covering your nakedness and keeping warm tends to be viewed as extremely superficial.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Edible Woman

I just finished reading this book by Margaret Atwood and wanted to write something about it, but not quite sure what.

Of course, I enjoyed it as I knew I would. The story focuses on a young woman, Marian, who is "determinedly normal." She's recently graduated from university, is in a job she likes, is going out with a guy that most would consider a great catch and she believes that she's happy. Until her body literally starts rebelling against the path her life is taking.

First, she's signed-up for the mandatory pension plan at her office and that makes her start to think about how much she really likes her job. She'd always assumed that she liked it, but the truth was that it wasn't very challenging work and she had always had one eye on the door, ready to leave as soon as she could be bothered to make the move. Next, she and her boyfriend, Peter, become engaged and again she starts to question her feelings for him. In the course of their dating, she hadn't let herself think too much about where it was all headed. Until, in her mind, it became 'too late' and he proposed marriage to her. Her body starts to revolt by rejecting food. Marian finds herself unable to eat all the things that she once could. Eventually, she finds that can't eat anything at all and that's when she loses it and breaks off her engagement with Peter.

It was an interesting concept to me - the idea of our subconcious and our bodies rejecting decisions that we are making or not making (as in Marian's case). The idea of our bodies rebelling by rejecting food was also fascinating. The Edible Woman made me think about which decisions we make are really ours and which we just fall into because we don't plan or because we are following the 'normal' path in life. A lot of life is like that - you find yourself in certain circumstances, but aren't exactly sure how you got there or that you really wanted to be there, in the first place. People so often end up in jobs, marriages, friendships that they feel ambivalent about. It made me think about how, if we don't actively plan for our lives this is what happens, because not making decisions is still a decision.

A long, rambling post I know!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The New Handshake

I just came across this article in the NYT asking if the kiss is the new handshake. Not really one to keep track of trends here in Lagos or anywhere else really (afterall they are here today, gone tomorrow and back the day after), I notice that everyone is doing it, but I can't remember when it started or if it is a new thing.

It's most disconcerting for me as I never know what to do. I've always thought that in a male-female situation, men do the kissing. However, when I'm meeting another woman I'm stuck for what to do. If I'm quick to the draw, I usually go in for a hug, or a handshake if I'm meeting them for the first time. If they start to move in first, then I just watch what they are doing and try to follow their lead. But then, what is the rule for how many kisses? Most people do a kiss on each cheek; some just kiss on one cheek. Then I never know if I should do the kissing or simply offer-up my cheek to be kissed. My goodness! It's all so complicated. I think I'm sticking with my hugs and handshakes.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

But, Seriously!

I walked down to a restaurant down the road from my office for lunch today. The food there was excellent (as usual). Still blissed-out from my gastronomic encounter, I walked back to work.

When I had almost gotten to the gate of my office building, I noticed a Mercedes Benz 4X4 drive past me and then slowly stop a few yards ahead. Although I was almost certain I knew why the driver had pulled over, but hoping that I was wrong, I continued to walk on. Sure enough, as I drew-up alongside the car the guy inside called out to me. I sighed inwardly. Why couldn't I have been wrong about this? Why do some guys have to live up to women's worst expectations.

Leering quite openly at my ass, the guy said that he spotted me walking along the road. He "liked what he saw" and offered me a ride in his car. My God! Does that line normally work for him? Realising what he was after, I told him I wasn't interested and turned to walk on. He called me back saying that he wanted my number so that he could take me out (still stealing glances at my backside). I continued walking and eventually he left.

But seriously, do men think so little of women that they think we will drop at their feet with these really weak approaches? I can imagine that it must be daunting for a man when he sees a woman somewhere and wants to get to know her. But, humour, honesty and sincerity work for most of the women I know (myself included); sleazy lines soooo do not. And additional word of advice: checking out any body parts is strongly not advised.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Shield

One of my new favourite shows. If you have read any of my many posts about The Wire, you will know that I love my crime shows.

The Shield
is another one that I tried to get into in Boston and again here in Lagos on MNET (I'm not sure if they still show it). However, there was a whole backstory that was taking me too long to figure out. So, like I did with The Wire, I got my hands on the DVD and started from season 1.

Now, The Shield is not your average crime show where police=good and criminals=bad. The show is set in L.A., which is not known for its overly kind and helpful police. The Shield's Farmington district represents the dregs in this already scummy pond. Vic Mackie (the lead) leads the "Strike Team", which prides itself on keeping drug-crime down. They do this by working with local drug dealers. They sell them space (for their drug trade) and turn a blind eye to their activities. At the same time, the strike team gets tips from their 'tenants' on rival dealers, who they waste no time in arresting. Hmmm.... I like the show, because it offers a different perspective. Nothing is clear-cut, circumstances are messy and the police are, for the most part, all for justice but their decisions may not always reflect this.

I just looked at the site and saw that it's currently in its fifth season. I'm only half-way through the second. Well, I suppose I have something to look forward to. That and the third season of The Wire. :-)

Hair Styling for Tiny Tots

I was at the hairdresser's the other day and realised that there is a great market for hairdressers who specialise in making children's hair.

Maybe because it is located in a residential area, but the salon I go to now and then to get my hair braided, is frequented by many children who I assume live in the area. The girls are dropped off with their nannies or big sisters. Many of them come in with freshly washed and blow-dried hair, sit and wait their turn. When the hairdresser is ready for them, they clamber into the chair and that’s when the pain begins.

A few girls who come in have relaxed hair (incredible when you think that many of these girls are no more than 8 or 9), but most are still natural. I always feel so sorry for these poor girls, as I watch their hair tugged in all directions by women who probably haven’t had natural hair in years and can’t remember how to care for it (and that’s if they ever knew how to, in the first place). Most girls end up in tears. Those who have been in the game longer, wince and hold their screams in check. I remember very well what it was like to be that little girl and since I have been wearing my hair naturally for the last seven and a half years, I still know what it feels like.

Natural hair is not tough or 'hard' like many women seem to think it is. It does not need to have combs yanked through it in order to get rid of tangles. It especially does not need to be beaten into submission with relaxers (but to each their own, I guess). All it really needs is a lot of love and care (and a little goes a long way). I would suggest that anyone looking to go into a viable business area, open a hair salon for little girls. Make sure you have stylists who really know how to care for and style natural hair and who treat hair gently. Be sure that they love children. Have available lots of books for the girls to read and show fun, interesting and age-appropriate programs or films to hold their interest as they get their hair done. I guarantee it – you’ll be raking in money faster than you can spend it.

NYT Site Redesign

Mmmmmm. The New York Times has gone through a minor website redesign. It's a variation of the old layout, but the results are very striking. It's now much, much cleaner and easier on the eyes. I especially love the tabs at the top of the page.