Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Feminist Dating in a Patriarchal World

I listened to this hilarious podcast last night about a woman and her quest for 'the one'. I'm sure that we all read about women's dating travails on an almost daily basis, so what made this story so different? Well, the narrator was a feminist and many of the arguments she got into with her dates were so reminiscent of many of the fights I used to have. Growing up, I didn't have a clue what feminism was. In Nigeria, it was still referred to as "women's lib", and no, it wasn't all that long ago. I did know that I wanted an equitable partnership with my significant other, which is not the same as equal. Equal, to me denotes, that we would split all tasks evenly and that we would each give and take just as much as the other person. I don't think any relationship is equal in that sense. But, I wanted to be treated fairly and not accorded a certain status or roles because of my gender.

When you are getting to know someone (or perhaps I should say when I am getting to know someone), I want to find out what makes them tick as soon as possible to make sure that I am not wasting my time with someone who I would be utterly incompatible with. So invariably out comes the BS detector and the barrage of questions start. Would you want your wife to work? What are you looking for in a woman? Do you think that the woman should do all the housework? Really, and you expect her to hold down a full-time job? How? Do you plan on splitting the housework with your wife? Do you think that the man is the head of the household? Do you expect your girlfriend/wife to submit to you?
Yes, I know, talk about unsubtle.

Somehow, this police cell style interrogation never yielded really positive results. The guy would think I was crazy and I would think that he was a Neanderthal.

Overtime though, you tend to mellow out. It does not mean that you still do not hold your principles dear, but you are less judgemental about other peoples' questioning of them. The same thing happened with the story's narrator. She did find someone who wasn't threatened by her beliefs, but who wasn't afraid to challenge them either. They did have their occasional fighting matches, but no relationship is perfect.

Last night I was reading the new issue of Genevieve. One of the articles asks women what they want from life: marriage; career; both; neither? I don’t know if they just happened to pool a very unusual set of women. They all wanted both (and not just because of financially motivations either). Most wanted to get married at some point, but were cool if it didn’t happen. This was unusual for me to hear. The (still) common idea of Nigerian women is that they care very much about marriage, want it badly and, after a certain age, would pounce on a man, any man as long as he is still breathing, okay looking, has an okay job and all limbs intact. And although things are changing, I think this way of thinking still prevails. Understandably, I suppose, with society’s incredibly strong pressure towards 'traditional' norms like marriage and family.

So what to do when you do want to be with someone but have principles that you cannot compromise? Well, that’s a really difficult question to answer. Life is messy and complicated and frankly we all have to compromise at some point or the other. For me, I’m finding that chilling out a bit and seeing what someone has to offer without tearing apart their every word and action in order to reveal its hidden meaning works (and not to mention, kinder on my stress level).

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Youth Empowerment Forum for Digital Revolution

A forum for youths was organised in Lagos two weeks ago by Zenith Bank. The forum took place on the last day of CTO 2006, an annual event organised by the US Commercial Service Lagos. The event has become one of the most prominent computer fairs since its inception. I was able to attend the computer fair on one of the days. MUSON's Shell Hall was filled with stands for various vendors and service providers. It was quite impressive. You could also check your email at the My Netcom stand, after listening to their sales pitch no doubt.

The Youth Empowerment Forum for Digital Revolution was open for youths aged 13 to 25 and was Zenith's contribution to bridging the digital divide by exposing youths early on to ICTs (information & communication technology). Jim Ovia, the CEO of Zenith Bank, encouraged the youths present to become more familiar with technology and to learn how ICTs can be used to help grow businesses. Basically, "knowing technology can yield financial benefits", which is a smart way to motivate young people living in a developing country.

Read more about the youth forum.

Then, I read about a group of student entrepreneurs from the University of Lagos called iVEN (Innovative Entrepreneurs Network), who were the official CTO bloggers providing hourly coverage of each day's activities. They were apparently the toast of the media and all present. I haven't yet seen their blog for the CTO, but I was able to check out their own blog Unilag Faces.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sister, Relaxer is Not By Force...

What is this I read in last Sunday's This Day newspaper? The paper has a weekly hair column, which appears on Sundays called Hair Affair with Angel. Although, I tend to either disagree with much of what I read about hair care in Nigerian publications or have heard it so often that it's nothing new, I enjoy reading Angel's column. This title caught my attention and so I went on to read the article.

Angel starts off:
"There is no law that says your hair must be relaxed before it can be beautiful. You must bear in mind that most women do not hit 50 years with a full head of hair, and the reasons for this are many."
What?????? I am knocked slightly off balance from reading this in a Nigerian paper. Okay, perhaps I am being slightly un-generous, afterall I do see a few younger people going natural, but relaxed hair is still very much the norm.

She then goes on to outline some reasons for women losing their hair prematurely:

  • Some women have sensitive scalps or conditions like psoriasis or seborrhea which are exacerbated by relaxer applications

  • Naturally thin hair will be made even thinner with regular use of strong chemicals

  • Consistent stress and abuse will eventually make your hair pack-up shop and decide on go on a permanent holiday

  • As we grow older, our hair will naturally become thinner. Hormonal changes like those resulting from pregnancy and menopause also affect hair volume.

Angel goes on to say that locs and short cuts are not the only natural hair styling options (I was reeling from disbelief by the time I read this). However, the only other style option she mentions is braiding with hair extensions.

Overall, a good write-up and a much needed wake-up call for women with seriously thinning hair.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Youths Obey the Clarion Call - With Some Civility Please!!!!!

Just got back from my CD (community development day) a while ago. And like most weeks, I returned tired. Not physically, but mentally fatigued. Every week, the inability of Nigerians to do things in the simplest and most efficient manner amazes me. A biggie is forming queues. I think many people have either never heard of a queue or are vaguely familiar with the concept but find it incompatible with their very nature (or something.......).

Things like getting our CD cards signed each week would take a much shorter time if we were able to form queues and just bloody get on with it. Instead one line becomes two, as people not on it attempt to merge with the current line or form their own. The worst is when we try to form multiple lines in order to ....ahem..... "speed things up." People finagle their way in-between the 'lines' and before you know it, what we have is a sea of people with no beginning and no end. Woe betide you if you think (justifiably perhaps) that you are on the correct line and will get attended to in due course! My friend, you better wake-up and shine your eye. Getting anywhere involves much pushing (yourself forward as much as you can) and shoving (of others out of your way) and tough-talking (to limit the number of people who will seep into the 'line' just ahead of you).

Men, I don tire!!!

Today was supposed to be our monthly general CD (please don't ask me what this is and how it is different from our regular CD, for I would not be able to give you a straight or concise answer). Instead we were asked to come to City Hall (a seat of local government, which has fallen into a dire state of disrepair, btw) for a head-count . After struggling to get my name ticked off a list of my local government corpers, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. I had joined the line and been attended to in due course, unlike those shameless people attempting to infiltrate the line from the sides. However, I knew that there had to be more to the day. If what should be a simple experience can be transformed into an arduous and difficult one, surely NYSC would find a way to do it.

Sure they did! The real head-count started a couple of hours later. My local government area (LGA) showed itself to be the quintessence of uncouth behaviour (I was so ashamed). While other LGA corpers lined-up in a somewhat civilised manner (and this is good, because total civility does not exist - please let me know if you find it), my LGA was so unruly that several times the officials doing the count abandoned their post and took off. Of course, they were followed closely by corpers pleading with them. As soon as they set-up in a new location, much the same thing would happen again. And in so doing, we actually got a nice tour of the City Hall grounds.

Eventually, leaned up (or pinned) against a car, one of the officials was convinced to give us (yet) another chance. He did and finally I got counted. After much pushing, shoving and tough-talking of course, but now I know that to be par the course.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Quiet Night In

This weekend is shaping up to be a busy one for me. The great thing is that Monday is (yet another!!!) public holiday - Democracy Day. I had no idea about this one until my BFF mentioned it to me. This would have been a holiday (Memorial Day) weekend in the States too!

Tonight though, I am going to relax (once I get offline of-course :-) ). I have 3 magazines at the ready: my fave Essence (yes, I know, I know ..... I complain about it quite regularly, but I love it still); Black Beauty (a British hair and beauty mag. Not sure why I bought it, as it features mostly permed hairstyles) and Marie Claire (one of the few of the popular women's glossies that I can read).

The new issue of Essence features the beautiful and very talented actress Kimberly Elise on the cover. She seems to have been in every other film in the past year. I'm happy for her, because I think she's a very talented actress. For years, though, I wondered why she only got the 'crying women' roles. Seems like directors are sitting up and really taking notice of her now.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Back From the Brink

And indeed that's how I feel. These last few weeks have been extremely busy for me and the last week was an absolute killer. Lots of jam-packed days and late nights at work. At work we have been organising a career awareness day for secondary school students. That happened yesterday and went really, really well. The students seemed to enjoy all the talks and the film shows, and their teachers and guidance counsellors LOVED us for organising something like this. There were times that my boss didn’t think anyone would turn up, but I knew they would. I mean, it would be a rewarding experience and it was also FREE!!!! I always had a feeling that my work would somehow involve children or youths, and it certainly seems to be turning out that way.

This was the first event that I have ever really organised and it’s a weird feeling. For weeks, you are steadily and sometimes frenetically preparing for this one event. And then, it’s all over. The great thing is that now I have contact info for lots of souvenir makers, caterers, drinks suppliers and decorators. I know quite a few of the venues used in Lagos for hosting large crowds, their pros, cons and prices. I believe that I can whip-up another event within days if need be (wow, supremely confident me).

Over the weekend, I had a really bad cold. It's funny. I never fall ill. I only suffer from dire colds (okay, colds are an illness too, I realise). My colds totally knock me out and so I was literally in bed blowing my nose (and feeling very sorry for myself) all weekend long until my stomach ached from too much blowing. I had no desire or energy to do anything.

I did finish the book, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, that I was reading. I really enjoyed it. It was the first book I read by him and the narrative style was interesting. One incident just flowed into another in a very chatty style, like when you’re talking to a friend and your conversation just dances all over the place, but you still find your way back to the original topic or point you were trying to make. The seriousness of the subject matter (cloning) was belied by the very casual tone of the narrator. Maybe I’ll write more about it later.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rainy Season in Full Effect

It was always so funny when I was in England and in the States, and people would ask me how many seasons we had in Nigeria and I would answer "Two! Rainy season and dry season." And the temperature stays pretty much within the same range and we wear the same clothes all through the year.

Well, I always thought this was completely the case anyway. We have had some heavy rainfall over the last few weeks. This week, though, it's rained virtually everyday, and I guess we can say that the rainy season has truly begun. Minor inconveniences aside, I am loving it so far. What I don't like about the wet season: more mosquitoes; more traffic; I always want to be at home in bed; I feel very lethargic. What I love? The weather! I haven't sweated since last Friday.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Living Your Dreams

I was tired today at work and swore that I would come home and crash right into my bed. Of course, I had a sneaky feeling that things would not play out quite like that - least of all, because I'm a night person.

I was watching Today's Woman with Adesuwa Oyenokwe and felt compelled to write something about her. She's featured regularly in a lot of magazines and newspapers here, so I read about the wonderful work that she's been doing over the years in media and for empowering women (ok, that word is so over-used, I need to dig out my thesaraus and find suitable alternatives).

Her show this evening featured a young woman (I think her name is Bolanle Makanju) who ministers to young prostitutes. While some of the prostitutes are touched by her interest in them, many more regard her with scepticsm and try to take advantage of her kindness. Adesuwa pointed out that as a single 31-year old woman, her work was probably affecting her chances of getting married (sadly in Nigeria this is probably true). Bolanle was unperturbed and expressed a belief that things would happen as ordained by God.

Bolanle is so obviously doing something that matters to her. It might present some inconveniences in her life, but those appear to be nothing compared to the sense of fulfillment that her work gives her. And how many people can say the same? Going to a job that you might be indifferent to or even hate just because it's too hard to get out of that comfort zone is something that so many do.

Adesuwa Oyenokwe is another example of someone doing what she loves. And she has been at it for a long time with the meagre financial security that comes with a job at the National Television Authority (NTA). My sister, who worked with her for a while, talked about the exhorbitant fees independent producers have to pay to the TV stations (NTA is a big example) to buy air-time for their shows. To make things worse, the station reduces the show's advert time making it harder for them to pay for their air-time by selling advertising space. And then even worse, the station charges far less for their own advert spaces than they allow independent producers to charge for theirs. To me, it looks like they are saying that they don't want any shows on their network that aren't made by them, which is crazy. These other (non-NTA produced) shows like Today's Woman and New Dawn add so much diversity to a network that used to be in such stasis.

To persist in the struggle against what are obviously really didfficult working conditions is incredibly laudable. The work and achievements of women like Adesuwa O. and Funmi Iyanda are pretty well-known, but there are so many others like Bolanle Makanju whose work hasn't or will never garner so much attention. Yet they continue to pursue their passions.

Flooding in Massachusetts

Just read about the floods in my former 'hood, New England. While I was living in Boston, I thought that the weather in the north-eastern part of the US was comparatively 'safer' than the rest of the country. Sure we had unbelievably harsh winters (nothing compared to Canada though, as I later found out. I thought I had died and gone straight to a twilight zone version of hell). But snowstorms and blizzards aside, the rest of the year actually saw some really nice weather (balmy springs, lush summers and crispy autumns). And we didn't have tornadoes, typhoons, earthquakes or forest fires.

The flooding has badly affected the northern suburbs of Boston, as well as parts of the neighboring states of Maine and New Hampshire. It's also led to something many children love - no school!

I remember some really bad snowstorms that happened while I was still in Boston. I loved having 'snow days' when I could stay at home, curl up in front of the TV and eat up a storm in my warm and cosy apartment. I hated, hated, hated having to dig my car out of 4 feet of snow and clear out my driveway. This was one of the few times I bitterly regretted living alone. It also made me think about elderly people who lived alone and wonder how they coped.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Over 200 Die in Pipeline Fire

Over 200 people died in an explosion this morning in Ilado, an island about 30 miles east of Lagos. It was believed that the victims were siphoning fuel from a petrol pipeline when it exploded killing all the people within 20 metres.

Over the last few days, there has been a fuel scarcity with queues of cars forming outside many petrol stations. I wonder if fuel really was scarce, as it seemed that whenever I drove past a pretol station they seemed to be attending to customers. I wondered if it was just one of those rumours that spread and became 'fact' with people thinking that there really was a shortage. Anyway, it has since abated.

Read more: BBC, MSN

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Information Overload

I am seriously suffering from this. I wonder how people can manage to keep on top of all the things happening in the world. Yes, I know that it is easier than ever to get access to breaking news with 24-hour news stations and the Internet. Then of-course there are the more traditional media like newspapers and radios.

For me though, this choice is a big part of the problem. Having more sources of information (and channels where news can be disseminated rapidly and continuously) means MORE NEWS. More news to keep track of and it all moves so fast. Argh! This would be super-duper exciting if I had no job, but since I do I struggle to find the time to follow news items.

I probably get the most info on the Internet. I scan a few news sites and catch the jist of the story, but no time for in-depth reading and musing of the real issues. I download countless podcasts, but where's the time to listen to them? I get some news on the radio on my way to work, though I'm usually torn between that or listening to Dan Foster on Cool FM (I did find this quite cool morning news show on Star 101/103.something FM), and very occasionally from news programs on TV (I hardly watch TV these days, but try to while I'm getting ready for work). As for the time to read newspapers - forget it! Only on Sundays.

So the end result is that I'm constantly feeling like an ignoramus. Oh well, I'm doing my best, I really am. And I know more than a few people like me.

(Link to BBC story on how young people in 10 countries are getting their news)

Help! I've Been Blogged!

Most bloggers write about one or more aspects of their life. For some bloggers, their life is the main fodder for their posts. I could never get so intimate in such a public setting but I love to read the blogs of people who can. I read this article ('Help! I've Been Blogged!') on and I thought about all the blogs I've read chronicling the writers' dating or sex life. Oh, to be so bold.

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Dream Job

Another great challenge from Pilgrimage – this one on my ideal job. This is something that I think about often, so I looked forward to writing about this.

In my profile I write about two things that I really want to do: travel the world; and run an NGO devoted to empowering women and girls to use technology more. My ideal job would combine both.

I volunteered for a few Community Technology Centers (CTCs) in Boston. The first one I was at was based within a women’s shelter and I helped teach basic computer appreciation classes. I also provided assistance to the women and their kids on any problems they had using the computers in the lab (I learnt a lot). The CTC I volunteered with the longest had a more structured program of classes with a few hours where local residents could walk-in to use the labs. I taught several classes here and spent much more time there than I really needed to. The center staff became like an extended family, of sorts.

My CTC would offer a wide variety of classes from introduction to computers, using common software packages to more complex programming classes, learning to take apart computers and troubleshoot problems. I would probably also explore newer and interactive technologies like blogs, creating podcasts and other content for the web. Knowing how to use the technology is a small part of the big picture. Being able to correctly identify your needs and research your options in order to decide on the best tool for what you are tying to achieve is also very important. So, we would want to help develop more critical thinking skills too.

Of course, I would love to be RICH from doing this too, but development work is not really an area one would go in for money and I am somewhat cool with that. If I can make lots and lots of money from consultancy and training, that would be even better (well, this is my dream job, so let me go all the way).

I love to travel and so going around Nigeria and to other parts of the world to do consultancy work, present at conferences and on learning expeditions would be a great way to combine work and play. The best kind of travel is where I can put it on someone else’s tab. The lodgings would ideally be top-notch, but people who know me know that I am a (fairly) simple person with (fairly) simple needs.

The nature of NGO, training and consultancy work means that you cannot be chained to a desk all day, but have to get out and meet people. Even though I can be quite reserved, I really enjoy getting to meet and know people. I especially love getting out and about, so this aspect of my work would appeal to me very much.

In my dream job, I am THE boss and I don’t take crap from anyone. I make most of the decisions, but I have a trusted, knowledgeable and dedicated team of workers and advisers who I rely on for support, solid information and who I know will get their work done.

My time is my own to manage (pending important projects and deadlines of course), so I can plan more holidays and can be more flexible to accommodate important things that come-up in my family’s life.

I can wear whatever the hell I want and if I want to wear jeans everyday to work, then so be it! I can also wear my hair in whatever manner I choose. (Now, I’m getting really excited thinking about all this. I don’t know how I will do any work for the rest of the day.)

Writing about this was great for me. I think everybody should take some time out to write about their dream job, even if it’s on a piece of paper or in your journal and you choose not to share it with anyone.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Conservation Center

A friend of mine had mentioned that there was a conservation park in Lekki and since then I'd been dying to visit. I finally made it there today, in between the day's very heavy rainfalls. I figured that at least it wouldn't be too hot (one of my excuses in the past when I had almost made it there). My brother and I went together and driving through the gates brought back memories of Ghana's Aburi Botanical Gardens. I'm not sure why - they look nothing like each other. I guess it was the thought of nature unfettered.

The entrance fee is two hundred naira per adult and as we paid we scanned the long list of To-Dos and Not-To-Dos. My brother claimed that the list stated that we had to have a guide with us at all times. I wondered why. Hadn't the man at the entrance said that there were no wild animals that would "come for us"?

Just as we started on the trail, we saw a peacock - some might say one of nature's most beautiful creatures. I would not! I shuddered at the sight of it. I hate peacocks - please don't as me why. They may certainly boast beautifully-hued plummage, but they emit the most grating and ugly cawing sounds. Moving very swiftly on.

The trail wasn't too long (took us about 25 minutes to cover), but it was almost surreal walking in this jungle, which is so out-of place with the rest of my day-to-day Lagos. A wooden walkway runs the entire length of the trail and, at times, feels a bit rickety and unsafe. In some places, planks were missing, but I'm still here - safe and sound. The man at the entrance said that we might be able to see monkeys, antelopes, crocodiles, squirrels, snakes and lots of birds. Well, we heard some birds and saw one monkey sitting high-up on a tree branch with its long tail dangling beneath it and curled at the end like an umbrella handle. I couldn't tell you what type of monkey it was, but it was fairly small, with brown and white hair. Sadly, we didn't see any antelopes. And to our immense relief, we didn't see any crocodiles or snakes.

The trail loops through a part of the park and just as we returned to the start the sky opened-up and a deluge of rain poured down. It was great spending time with nature. It's funny how the 'bush' that I would have shunned in my younger days is now a source of much fascination and excitement.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Planning For The Weekend

I decided that I would start to actively plan my weekends, which is something that I've never really done. I just believe in seeing what pops-up and going with the flow (unless I have a few things that absolutely have to be taken care of). The typical result of this laissez-faire approach is that my weekends slip away with very little done.

So this weekend, I decided that NO, enough is enough! I hung out with a friend yesterday evening. We mostly just talked, which was a lot of fun (and talking is free). Today, aside from the gym, I attended a performance by the singer, Keziah Jones, at Jazzhole. I wish I could talk more about it, but I got there almost at the end (I guess when they said that the performance would start at 7pm, they really meant it). I liked his voice and thought that his music was different from a lot of the music that I hear on the radio. He terms it "Bluefunk."

I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, but it has to be something fun. I love my weekends, but they go by entirely too quickly for me.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Our Dear Police

It rained quite heavily a couple of days ago and, as was to be expected, the roads after the rainfall were almost perpetual gridlock. Driving under these circumstances is definitely not pleasant, as you painstakingly inch forward, jealously guarding any free space that opens up. When the car in front of you is too slow to move forward after the traffic starts to move, you blast your horn to remind him or her to get to stepping before any other drivers alongside your car get any funny ideas and try to muscle their way into your lane.

So, when you then see groups of people who obviously feel that they are way, way above the law (Oh wait! They are 'The Law'!), you get very pissed off. I cannot described how incensed I get when I see the police winding their way through the traffic accompanied by the shrieking sounds of their siren. Of-course, we poor drivers have to (reluctantly) move our cars as much to the sides of the road so that our dear 'boys in black' can make their way through. If it were all in the course of some very important work, I think we'd all begrudge them. But as it is, we all know that this is mostly never the case. Instead, it is a disgraceful misuse of power. That's why I get so angry when I see the policemen leaning out of their vehicle windows shaking their batons threateningly at other drivers. And when I see them barelling down the wrong side of the road, causing cars coming in the opposite (and right) direction to almost leap off the road in alarm, I literally want to throw rocks at all their heads.

It's so great knowing that we can count on our police for somethings. To throw more chaos onto already difficult driving conditions, "YES"! To serve and protect with integrity, "Please, don't make me laugh."