Thursday, December 13, 2007

In Zanzibar

Finally! I have been wanting to visit this island for years and finally I made it. There's so much to share that I don't know where to start from. I also don't have the time to do it, especially since I am blogging from a cyber cafe located in the post office. Internet access here is cheaper than Lagos (1US for an hour). It's also kind of fast.

Although Zanzibar is really an archipelago (group of islands), the main island where I am, Unguja, also called Zanzibar. It's a predominantly islamic island. And for such a small place, there's a surprising amount to do. However, because it has such a ladi-back and olde worlde ambience, you don't feel guilty if you decide to do nothing and laze around all day.

Yesterday my friend, Funke, and I went on the spice tour, which is almost obligatory to do when you get here, seeing that Zanzibar's spices are some of their biggest exports (if not the biggest). Today I went snorkelling for the first time ever!!! I'll write more abou that later. It was also my first time swimming in open waters and I was taken aback by how salty the ocean water was. It's one of those things that I know, but was still very surprised by just how salty it tasted. The plan was to swim with the dolphins resident in the waters off the Zanzibar coast, but they were apparently not feeling very friendly today. I was still able to see a family of about 8 dolphins swimming some yards away from me. The guide said that we were out farther than we should be, as people don't normally have to go that far out to see the dolphins. Anyway, I was happy enough.

My time is up now, so I'll write more when I can.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

nGOmobile Competition: 8 More Days!!

nGOmobile is a text message-based competition aimed exclusively and unashamedly at grassroots non-profit organisations working for positive social and environmental change throughout the developing world. NGOs from developing countries are invited to submit a short proposal outlining how text messaging could make their job easier.

Deadline is December 14, so get those proposals in if you're interested. Check the website for more info.

Monday, December 03, 2007

7 Wierd Things About Me

Tagged by Tayo and accused of being too serious.

I don't know what wierd things I can list here. Growing up I was considered wierd anyway, but here goes .....

1. I love to drive (though Lagos traffic makes me insane with impatience). When I was younger I envied my parents' drivers for their good fortune of spending the entire day gallivanting all over Lagos. As I was being dropped off at school for my daily 6-hour 'imprisonment', I thought how much I would rather be a driver instead.

2. I can be quite chatty when I feel like it.

3. While I love to travel, sometimes the thrill of getting away can be far more enjoyable than actually arriving at my destination.

4. Although I tend to have strong opinions about quite a number of things, I am also able to see both sides of an argument. It can be fun but also maddening (to me and the person I'm arguing with).

5. I love, love, LOVE my birthday. I get very excited when it's approaching (cough, cough, it's coming soon - on the 18th of this month) and I am on a high for the entire month. I feel that people should not have to work on their birthdays.

6. I love rice (well, people who know me are aware of this already). I can eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday of the week and not get tired of it.

7. I really don't what else to mention here ..... I've never been drunk. Is that wierd? Hmmm, probably not, if you know me. I like reading and learning new things, but I HATE it when people recount every minute detail when relating a story to me. It's like I ask them what a film was about. Thirty minutes LATER the have only covered a quarter of the film. I'll keep my advice brief: "Stay sharp and straight to the point."

Thank God, I made it through. Now, it's your turn. I'm tagging Ayoola (but of course), Nneoma, Adefunke, Mysterious Meander, Pilgrimage to Self, Tuckergurl, and Gbenga Sesan.

If you've been tagged with this already. Ah well, what can I say? Practise makes perfect.

Here are the rules
1) Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog
2) Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs
4) Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

Chika Unigwe Book Reading

'Tis officially the season to be jolly (what with it being December now and all .....). Here's news of an upcoming book reading, courtesy of Wordsbody.

Chika Unigwe reads from her debut novel, The Phoenix (published in Dutch in 2005 as 'De Feniks'). The West African edition of the book is published by Kachifo and the book readings will be held on:

  • Saturday December 8 - The Jazzhole, 168 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos @ 4pm

  • Friday December 14 - Quintessence, Falomo Shopping Centre, Ikoyi @ 5pm

  • Saturday December 15 - Bookworm, Eko Hotel Shopping Complex, Ajose Adeogun Street, Victoria Island, Lagos @ 2pm

Thursday, November 29, 2007

South African Airport Crime Syndicates

My friend sent me this news story about the so-called 'airport syndicate' operating in Johannesburg. The deal is that visitors to the city are trailed from the airport and attacked usually at the entrance to their hotel or place of residence. The immigration and customs staff at the aiport are believed to work hand-in-hand with the robbers, who later way-lay the unsuspecting victims.

These robbers target certain nationalities - Nigerians included - who they know will be carrying huge sums of money on them.

So if the authorities know so much about this crime syndicate, why are these robberies still happening?

CMPC vs. OLPC

Intel has supplied its Classmate PC (CMPC) to students in an Abuja secondary, as part of its World Ahead programme, an initiative designed to "bring technology to people around the world."

According to the school's technical manager, Mr. Dennis Etsuke, "The pilot project consists of 280 computers, 8 teacher laptops, digital content, Wimax for internet access, and a repository where we can view content offline." Impressive, given that a generator was also installed so that the school could actually power the laptops.

Check out the photos.

In March this year, another Abuja area school was signed-up to participate in the One Laptop Per Child initiative, the brainchild of Nicholas Negroponte, MIT's Media Lab co-founder.

Although both iniatives have roughly similar objectives of helping to bridge the digital divide, there of course has been a less than harmonious working relationship. Negroponte accused Intel of developing the CMPC because the OLPC computer uses an AMD processor, which is the rival technology to the Intel chip.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Anti-Virus Software Choices

I'm in the market for a new anti-virus software. Any recommendations? Saw this interesting post by Chxta outlining pros and cons from his pov of some popular anti-virus packages. I'm looking to move away from Nortons.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Black Looks' Carnival Against Violence Against Women

Sokari of Black Looks is organising a Carnival Against Violence Against Women. To participate, write a post on anything from "a personal story, images, thoughts, a link anything that highlights and informs violence against women." Complete a form from her blog or email her to notify her of your post. That's it! It's as easy as 1-2-3. It's so easy that I must remember to do it.

She also reminds us that the 16 days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which will run from November 25th to December 10th will incorporate the following:

November 25th: The International Day Against Violence Against Women
November 29th: International Women Human Rights Defenders Day
December 1st: World Aids Day
December 10th: International Human Rights Day

The Lagos Book & Art Festival (LABAF 2007)

I forgot to write about the 2007 edition of the Lagos Book & Art Festival. It ran from a Friday through to Sunday (Nov 9-11), but I was only able to go on Saturday.

It was held at the National Theatre, I suppose in part to showcase a national treasure that has been at the centre of much hoopla this year, stemming from the government's intention to sell it.

I haven't been to the National Theatre since secondary school and although I hear about events being held there once in a blue moon, I didn't seriously think that it was somewhere that people still used. I suppose my decision to attend the festival was partly out of curiousity to see this great landmark of old (well, aside from the fact that I attended last year and was looking forward to it anyway).

I'm quite ashamed to say that I got lost both getting there AND leaving (well, at least when I was leaving it was dark and so I had somewhat of a valid excuse). The time actually spent there was quite enjoyable. I easily located the part of the theatre being used for the festival from the crowd of cars parked outside and people milling around.

I got there during the final session of the day - a panel discussion entitled Writing in - Tales from the Diaspora, which (according to the program) featured Ayo Arigbabu, Henry Akubuiro, Toni Kan, Chuks Ohai, Tolu Ogunlesi. Also participating were Wole Oguntokun and Chude Jideonwo, who moderated.

The discussion flowed from musings on what defines writing as Nigerian; who was a Nigerian writer; which writers of Nigerian heritage could be said to be 'writing in' and who were writing 'authentically Nigerian'; what the hell made for 'authentic' Nigerian writing anway; and at the end of the day did all this matter? In response to the last question, which was posed by a member of the audience, the writer Toni Kan quipped that afterall that was what they had been brought together to debate.

I visited the few stalls that had not yet packed their wares up and bought two books that I know that I will not read for at least a year. After the day's proceedings wrapped-up, I spent some time chit-chatting with participants and guests alike outside and met two bloggers. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by me.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Taking Back the Tech

Alright, the 16-day VAW (violence against women) campaign starts tomorrow (Nov 25) and ends on Dec 10.

The Take Back the Tech website has many ideas of things to do protest VAW and could be as simple as blogging about it, sharing a story, sending SMS's or including a tagline in your emails.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Learning About Living - For Youths

I'm always interests in ways that ICTs (information and communication technologies) can impact people's every day lives. So, it was some fascination that I read about the Living project, two informational services for young people launched yesterday in Abuja (nevermind the slightly sensational headline).

One of the services is MyQuestion, which will enable young people to ask questions about reproductive health through text messages, online or using a telephone hotline. The second service is the competition, MyAnswer, where young people have the opportunity of winning prizes by answering a monthly question.

The initiative aims to provide a comfortable and safe forum where Nigerian youths can learn about sexual health and related issues affecting adolescents. Check www.learningaboutliving.com for more information.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Idris Elba Interview

Interesting Idris Elba interview on African Loft.

Cell Phones & E-advocacy

I spoke with Mary Joyce earlier this year. She was in Lagos for a few days looking into electronic means of participating in the democratic process. She was particularly interested in the use of mobile phones for elecronic or e-advocacy i.e. participating in the political process through electronic/technology tools e.g. to share information, lobby the government, protest. She talks about this in her interview on CafeBabel.com. You can download a copy of her report on mobile phone use for e-advocacy here.

The Helon Habila Book Reading

I attended the Helon Habila book reading this evening at Silverbird's Nu Metro bookstore. Or rather, I caught the tail-end of the Q and A. I sat the very back next to a crowd of people poring over the books on the shelf, deciding which ones to buy. Since I missed so much, of course I cannot do a blow-by-blow of the event. I haven't read either of Mr. Habila's books either, so I cannot write about them. However I purchased Waiting for an Angel, which the author signed and I look forward to the day when I will read it.

It felt like a long time since I'd been to a reading (could the last one have been Chimamanda's in January?). It was fun to sit in the midst of books, with people who like to read books and listen to people talk about books. In the brief time I was there, Helon Habila responded to all the audience questions with a quiet confidence (I think that's my favourite type of confidence. Hmmm, but 'quiet' as opposed to what? Showy confidence? Loud confidence? Does that even make any sense?).

I like the fact that he admitted that he likes books based on how interesting they are. He does not pay too much attention to genres. When a lady in the audience mentioned that she loved Coetzee's Disgrace (I think. I couldn't catch the author or the title), while her friend hated it and asked for his thoughts on the book (it felt almost like she was asking him to settle a disagreement between she and her friend), he politely shared his belief that what people like boils down to individual taste and preference. In short, we like what we like.

How I Became Drunk with IT, By Whizzkid

I meant to catch you all up on what I've been up to in the last couple of weeks (okay, I'll tell you right now - work, work, work), but I'm too tired right now to write creatively, so I'll just post this Gbenga Sesan interview.

I met Gbenga F2F (that's "face-to-face" for you non-Internet heads aka "people who actually have a life") for the first time this January in Uganda. Since then, I've hit him for all sorts of ICT4D and NGO advice (it is a testament to his amiable character that he continues to share his knowledge and experience with me happily and without cost). I was telling him that I read a profile on him in the latest issue of Genevieve magazine. He was unaware of this. I complained that all the articles I read about him could pass for duplicates of each other. I certainly never learnt anything new about him in any of them. It was then he pointed me to this Sun article, which I just got around to reading. Interesting to learn something new about Mr. Sesan. Good to see that not all papers are photocopying each other's work.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tech Repair

I remember when my iPods stopped working. It felt like my life was crashing down all around me. So dramatic I know. Luckily for me, Superior Technologies (they have store for Apple products at the Civic Centre and another one in Dolphin Estate) came to the rescue.

This New York Times article mentions some sites that can help you fix your broken down gadgets.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

C&H Quotes for the Day

My Calvin and Hobbes quotes for the day:

The only skills I have the patience to learn are those that have no real application in life.

I suppose if we couldn't laugh at things that don't make sense, we couldn't react to a lot of life.

The Anti-Fashionista

Was reading today's This Day Style and found someone who has some of my attitudes towards fashion.

Yinka Osobu, who owns CMC Interriors (a furniture manufacturing company) bluntly proclaimed, in a magazine devoted to style and fasion, no less, that she does not look forward to dressing up. She doesn't own a single pair of high heel shows and her Timberland boots and sandals are the most expensive items of clothing that she owns. She hardly goes out to balls and formal events, because she worries too much about how she will look and in the end cannot be bothered to make the effort. (The main photograph at the start of the interview was totally gorgeous, btw).

Although I am not quite so utilitarian as Mrs. Osobu appears from her interview, I have a very practical outlook to my personal style. Yes, it must look good but it must be comfortable and totally fit the occasion. Not for the me all the endless primping and fussing. I can get ready in 10 minutes and I kid you not. It's good to know that in such an image-conscious society, there are a few of us who could care less (okay, who care a bit but not too, too much. LOL!).

Timeless

Sade

I'm watching some videos of Sade's and I am struck by how timeless all the videos look. Even the clothes that Sade wears don't scream "Help! Stuck in the 1980s!" I want that look!

As it is, I look at some of my old pictures and wonder what the hell I thought I was wearing. Luckily, I never crested the fashion wave too much - I believed too much in trying to discover my own style. My hair always looked really good though (yes, I am saying so myself!).

The Evolution of a Blog

I met up with a friend yesterday and we spent an afternoon discussing many, many things. We are both bloggers and at some point, the conversation turned to our blogs. He commented on how I never discuss any personal things on my blog. I responded that was intentional. I had decided on starting the blog that I would not reveal too many details about my self on my blog. He also commented on how serious I come across in my blog. Hmmm, okay that was not intentional but maybe the fact that I try to steer clear of writing anything that I consider too personal is to blame for that.

Over time though, I have been blogging less. I also visit other blogs much less than I used to. As for commenting on my blog or on others, I definitely do that much, much less than ever. I've noticed that unless you write about controversial issues or things that a lot of people would find interesting, you would naturally get less comments. A blog also needs to be nurtured i.e. posting regularly (the ideal is daily; several times a day if you manage it), responding to peoples' comments on your blog and visiting and commenting on other peoples' blogs.

Alas, alas, life gets in the way sometimes, especially as the initial excitement dies down. This year has seen the demise of many blogs, as the authors move on to other interests. Naijablog is a rare example of a blog that has sustained a consistency of posts since its inception. I wonder how Jeremy manages it. Maybe I'll develop the discipline for that someday.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Stockholm Challenge 2008

"The Stockholm Challenge 2008 programme features six category awards for ICT for development projects and a chance to win the prestigious Stockholm Challenge Trophies. The prize ceremony in the City Hall will take place during Challenge Week from May 18 - 22, 2008. An extended programme of workshops, conference, study visits and social gatherings will bring together the most inspiring ICT entrepreneurs, researchers and students from all over the world to share experiences and knowledge." Read more ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Call for Proposals: 11th AWID International Forum on Women's Rights and Development

AWID (Association for Women's Rights and Development) is calling for proposals for its next international forum, which is to be held from November 14-17, 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa.

The theme for next year's conference is the power of movements i.e. "what people without access to power cannot accomplish alone, they can accomplish together through collective action." At the conference women's right activists from around the world will gather to debate and strategize about how to build stronger women's movements globally.

I've been trying to go since they held the conference in 2002 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Maybe I will be able to attend next year.

To read about how you can submit a proposal, visit www.awid.org/forum08.

Quote for the Day

My Calvin and Hobbes quote for the day on Facebook: "I'm learning real skills that I can apply throughout the rest of my life... Procrastinating and rationalizing."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Unleashing the '80s

I used to be a serious TV addict back in the day. I had my favourite shows – at least one a day – which ensured that for at least an hour a day (more likely for 3, 4, 5 hours) I would be found glued to the television. Over the last 2 years though, I have barely watched any TV. However one of my "must-catch" shows is Unleash the '80s, which comes up on Silverbird TV every Sunday night at 11.15 (I’m really showing my age here but whatever. It's also a great way to start a new week).

I don’t know how the show’s producers manage to find all those old videos, but each week promises for me a treasure trove of "oldies but goodies." Last week, they featured Anita Baker’s Same Ole’ Love and a song that I used to love called You’re my number 1, which turned out to be by a British singer called Princess. It is hilarious watching these videos, many of which now appear extremely cheesy and which comprise of little more than the artiste singing into the camera. It’s a rare '80s video that does not look dated in today’s era of sleek, highly polished and in some cases near pornographic visual displays. Maybe that’s a good thing though, because the earnestness of these artistes, with their belief in and love for their music really shines through.

......

Saw that part of the stretch of Lekki Expressway (very close to the new Addax HQ) has been cleared of all the traders. Maybe it happened a while ago but I just noticed it yesterday. There’s a lot of land-filling going on there. I wonder if there is going to be yet another behemoth of a building is going to be erected there causing even more traffic on the road and cancelling out any benefits of the ongoing road expansion.

Maybe it’ll be a pleasant surprise instead – like a waterside park. Somehow I doubt it.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Take Back the Tech

Last year, APC WNSP (Association for Progressive Communications - Women's Networking Support Programme) started the Take Back the Tech initiative aimed at bringing light to the problem of online violence against women and helping people take a stand against it.

As this year's 16 Days of Activism - November 25 to December 10- against violence against women (VAW) approaches, the Take Back the Tech team is soliciting for ideas for the campaign. Last year's actions included sharing stories and experiences related to VAW, celebrating sheroes, making statements on radio, online (through avatars, icons and email signatures/taglines) and sharing bookmarked websites. Visit the site to learn more.

Also note that November 29th is the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day and December 10 is International Human Rights Day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

David Simon Profile

My brother pointed me to this profile in The New Yorker magazine of David Simon, the creator of The Wire. It's a long juicy read and I have only finished the first page. I thought before I defer reading it to a more suitable time and eventually forget about it, where better to 'bookmark' it than my very own blog?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Doris Lessing Wins the Nobel Prize

Just read on Wordsbody that Doris Lessing has been awarded this year's Nobel prize for Literature. Doris Lessing is my favourite writer so I am very pleased to hear this. I had actually just started reading one of her classics, The Summer Before the Dark last week. Her writing has always spoken to me in a way that no other writer has.

Links:
Wordsbody
BBC News
The Guardian

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What do I watch next?



Frivolous post ahoy! I haven't written about my favourite shows in a while, possibly because I didn't have anything new to watch.

Last year, I bought seasons 1 and 2 of Homicide: Life on the Street, which was one of my favourite shows back in the day. I only got around to watching the DVDs this year. On my recent vacation, I bought season 3, which to my intense pleasure was 6 DVDs long. It was to my utter amazement this afternoon to realise that I was on the last disc. How did I get through the entire season so quickly? The addictive plots and wonderful writing undoubtedly have a big role to play in that.

Already in mourning and wondering what I would do after I completed the season, I went online to check on the other seasons. Not only did I see that all season 1 through to 7 are available, I discovered on Amazon.com that the 4th season of my fav, fav, fav show, The Wire will be released on DVD on December 4. Fans of this blog (cough, cough ....), okay regular readers will already know about my love for The Wire and all crime shows. To say that I was ecstatic is a monumental understatement. Now, I know what I want for Christmas and my birthday.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Building Some Discipline

I was telling a friend over the weekend how I had a lot of personal work that I needed to do, but how I seemed to lack the time and space at home to do it. I mentioned that I was considering checking into a hotel for a weekend so that I could get it all done.

My friend burst out in deafening laughter.

- Hehn? You have definitely hit the rock bottom of excuses. If you have so much money to waste, please come and invest in my company.

I protested that I really needed to focus on my work and how I couldn't do it at home.

- Come on, Ore! You just need to be more disciplined.

As I mulled over that startlingly simple but incisive piece of advice, he was still chortling away.

- Check into a hotel indeed!!

Why does it seem sometimes that my focus and discipline comes in ebbs and flows? When I tell people that I really think I would love to be a lady of luxury and do nothing all day, they tell me that I'd be bored out of my mind. But I think I can manage enough focus and discipline to do a good job of that.

The Traffic

Argh! The traffic in Lagos has been so bad. My journey between home and work normally takes about half an hour (and when you consider the physical distance, it shouldn't even take that). Now, if I spend just an hour, I should consider myself extremely lucky. I am far from being the only one suffering from the multiple roadwork taking place all over the city. Everyone I know is complaining. The road expansion work on Lekki Expressway is billed to last 36 months, I think, so we have quite a ways to go.

It's been Bye Bye Gym, as I don't have the energy to work out after battling through traffic, competing with other cars for valuable road space, inching forward in the gridlock and praying that my car does not get scratched or scrapped by okadas and other cars.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

9th Lagos Book and Art Festival

I got this a little while ago about the 9th Lagos Book and Art Festival.

Theme: Literacy As Democracy Dividend
Date: November 9 - 11, 2007
Venue: National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos

Arthouse Parties
- Opening Reception - 50 Years Of Things Fall Apart, 10 AM, Friday, November 9, 2007. Groundbreaking ceremony for the series of worldwide anniversary events for Africa's greatest novel-starting January 2008.
- Book Presentation - A Voyage Around Wole Soyinka, by Gerd Meuer, 11AM, Friday, November 9, 2007

Colloqium: 12 Noon, Friday, November 9, 2007
Theme: Constructing a Nation: 40 Years after the first shot in Biafra
Reviews, readings and discussions of novels, drama and non-fiction works including Ekwensi's Divided We Stand, Chimamanda Adichie's Half Of A Yellow Sun, Dulue Mbachu's War Games, Olusegun Obasanjo's My Command, Eddie Iroh's Toads Of War, Chukwuemeka Ike's Sunset At Dawn and Rasheed Gbadamosi's Echoes From The Lagoon.

International Dialogue: 2.30 PM, Friday, November 9, 2007
Theme: Challenges of Liberal Democracy In Africa, William Mervin Gumede, author of Thabo Mbeki and The Battle For The Soul of the ANC spars with Dare Babarinsa, author of House Of War

Panel Discussion : 12 Noon, Saturday, November 10, 2007
Theme: Mending the Damage: Literature and the Niger Delta
A panel discussion on Literatures borne out of the Niger Delta crisis. Discussants include Oronto Douglas (Where Vultures Feast), Ken Wiwa (In the Shadow Of A Saint), Ahmed Yerima (Hard Ground), Nicholas Shaxson (Poisoned Wells), and Kaine Agary (Yellow Yellow)

Arthouse Parties - Part 2: 2 - 3 PM, Saturday, November 10,2007
Music, Wine and Dance For Fatai Rolling Dollar at 80, Bruce Onobrakpeya at 75, Femi Asekun at 75, Tunde Oloyede at 60, Yemi Ogunbiyi at 60.
Bandstand: Fata Rolling Dollar, Seyi Solagbade, Adunni Nefretiti

Symposium: 3 PM, Saturday, November 10, 2007
Theme: Writing In: Tales from the Diaspora
The emerging Nigerian literature outside the borders of Nigeria Features discussions of Segun Afolabi's Caine award winning short story Monday Morning, Biyi Bandele's The Street, Chimamanda Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck, Diana Evans' 26A, Helen Oyeyemi's Icarus Girl and Diran Adebayo's Some Kind Of Black

Art Stampede: 2 PM, Sunday, November 11, 2007
The Myth and Realities Of A Golden Age Of Book Reading
Chair: Uncle Steve Rhodes
Panelists: Rasheed Gbadamosi, *Mobolaji Adenubi, *Akin Adesokan, *Dulue Mbachu
(* Not yet confirmed)

From: Toyin Akinosho, Secretary, Committee For Relevant Art (CORA)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

ICT Journalist - Brenda Zulu

Brenda Zulu is a journalist who writes on ICT (information and communication technologies), especially with how it relates to African women.

I like to read her blog whenever I can. She has made a number of recent posts about last month's Digital Citizen Indaba conference, which explored digital media and Internet technologies and their place in Africa. The interviews make for interesting reading.

Monday, October 01, 2007

nGOmobile: Taking Mobile Technology to the Grassroots

Comp time! I received an email from Ken Banks, the founder of the FrontlineSMS system was used to monitor last April's elections.

This time, he's spearheading nGOmobile, a text message-based competition aimed at grassroots non-profit organisations working for positive social and environmental change throughout the developing world.

From the website:
The competition wants to encourage NGOs to think more about how mobile technology could be applied in their work.

NGOs from developing countries are invited to submit a short proposal outlining how text messaging could make their job easier.


The competition closes on the 14th of December 2007. Check the website for info on how to apply.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Battle of the Sexes

I don't seem to write as often as I used to. Ah, I guess it's just cycles in my life. This is one of those busy periods, which will hopefully be followed by an extremely chilled-out couple of months.

I breezed through some of the Sunday papers this afternoon and the Battle of the Sexes column in Guardian's Life magazine caught my eye. The first time I saw it, I just thought "What the hell?"

Basically each week the column poses a question to a group of young men and women (most of them seem to be in university, which might partially explain the high level of inane responses). Men respond, I suppose giving the "male" perspective, while the women respond with the "female" perspective.

First off, I hate, hate, hate things that pitch men against women. It's totally unnecessary and pointless. Secondly, the questions are always incendiary, leading to usually ignorant statements and generalisations. Today's topic questioned whether we really live in a man's world.

Some choice responses from the men include:

"Who wants to compete that it's a man's world. Women are just tools in our hands. They occupy a loop hole that wasn't meant to be there in the first place....."

"If the women have a world, it's certainly underneath the men. Apart from there, I don't see any other space for them in the world."

"It's a man's world, no doubt. We rule in all ramifications and after we're all made and done, we buy up a woman. Well, they call it dowry but in its orginal truth, we just buy them to keep company."

some of the women had this to say:
"The woman is wiser, smarter and more intelligent; plus we've got 'bottom power'"


"Take a look at the world and tell me who you think rules. No musical video makes sense if no babe shakes her buddy (I guess supposed to read 'booty')."

I suppose it's supposed to be a light-hearted debate between the sexes, but the ignorance and chauvinism behind many of the statements (and sorry to say it, but especially the men's) makes it hard to chuckle over. Instead I'm hissing non-stop until I get tired and flip the page.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

All in a Weekend's Work

This weekend I have been reminded why I use computers for so long. For a few months now, I've known that I needed to get a new laptop because mine had become excrutiatingly slow. I didn't feel that it was really worth buying more memory for it, especially since it had so many cracks in that people gasped whenever I brought it out in public.

Setting-up a new laptop with all the programs and settings of my old one, while sometimes fun, is not always something I look forward to. This time turned out not to be too painful though. I transferred all my files from my external hard-drive, which I used to back-up my old laptop. I connected my Netcom modem to my my new laptop and my settings were retrieved and I was online in an instant. That meant I could get on with downloading Firefox. I was pleased.

Then I opened iTunes to see all my music displayed, but to my incredible horror, NONE of my playlists!!! This was a travesty. I could not imagine spending hours re-creating the playlists that I had lovingly and thoughtfully put together over several months. In this day and age, there had to be an easier way, I thought. I searched online for possible solutions. On various discussion boards and websites, I found long-winded suggestions. One proposed exporting the source iTunes library as an XML file, replacing the file paths in the XML file with the destination paths, and deleting redundant files. Too long and tedious! There has to be an easier way. Some suggested using your iPod as a hard drive to move all the files. This made sense, but I already had an external drive so why would I want to use my iPod as one.

When I figured it out, it was so easy and obvious. I had moved all my music files from my external hard drive to my new laptop. However on my old laptop, the files were in the My Music folder. On the external drive they were kept in My Documents. By simply moving the files into the corresponding My Music file on my new computer, all my playlists were kept intact.

The next thing I had to tackle was my bookmarks. I love to bookmark and I have so many. I don't really use any of the social bookmarking tools out there - amazing given how I love to track bits of knowledge. I discovered a Firefox add-on that allows you to transfer your bookmarks to a server and synchronise these bookmarks on multiple computers. Lovely! I had problems synching from my old laptop and nearly pulled my hair out figuring what was wrong, until I realised that it was my highly effective (read: annoying) anti-virus software, Norton. Once I switched it off, I was able to upload my bookmarks, after which I switched Norton back on again.

Ah, I can sigh in relief. This was certainly a productive weekend.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ore in La-La Land

It's definitely nice to be back. A good break leaves you feeling very well rested and ready for more work. Monday was so deceiving. There were no ceiling-high piles of papers on my desk and all seemed to have gone really smoothly while I was out. By Tuesday, forget it! I was snowed under like I typically am. I cannot even complain. As one just returning from a vacation, the thinking is that I would have loads of energy and be raring to go. I think I need another break. Better still, during my next vacation I think I will stay at home and sleep.

Los Angeles was really great. It was my second time visiting. This time I stayed with my friend Funke. She has a really cute apartment in a city?/suburb? of LA called Torrance. There's nothing really special about Torrance, just that it's about 20 minutes from downtown LA (with no traffic). It's also clean and peaceful, which I liked.

The traffic in LA is legendary. I thought NOTHING can be as bad as Lagos traffic and truly LA traffic is nothing like Lagos. Lagos roads are narrow and over-congested. LA freeways are wide and over-congested. Everyone it seems owns a car. Almost no one takes public transport. Everyone drives everywhere - even to a place that is 5 minutes down the road! The freeway typically has 4 lanes: 1 car-pool lane i.e. for cars with more than 1 person inside; the other 3 lanes are for everyone else i.e. for people driving by themselves. Would you believe that with all this space, the usual scenario is that all 3 lanes are chock-full of cars for as far as the eye can see while the car-pool lane is near empty. Those Angelenos love their cars!

My flight into LA arrived late and it took me even longer to clear through immigration, so naturally I expected Funke to be out waiting by the time I got out. I was even half-expecting to see her waving a "Welcome to LA, Ore!" sign. I should be so lucky! The girl wasn't even there when I got out. I switched on my phone and called her. After hurried greetings, she told me that she couldn't find the terminal.

- "What terminal are you at?", she asked.

- How the hell would I know? "Errrr.. arrivals?"

-"I've been looking for the British Airways terminal and driving around and around."

- Okay, whatever! Just get here soon!

Then she checked "What airport are you at?"

Little butterflies of panic started fluttering in my belly.

- LAX. Why? How many airports are there in LA?

- "Like 3! Phew! Okay, I'm at LAX too."

I bought the September issue of Essence magazine (with Jill Scott on the cover) and settled down to read it. Funke got there soon enough. It was great to see her. From the way she'd been going on about how much weight she had put on since moving to the States, I thought she'd be fat, but the girl wasn't exaggerating when she said that she has been seriously working out.

We caught-up on the drive to her apartment. By the time we got to her house I was pretty tired. By the next day however, I was totally wiped out. I couldn't believe it! I planned on going out to get my nails done but it was so hot that I decided to wait until the sun went down a little first. In the meantime, I swanned on the couch watching cable and eating. I found that I just couldn't stop eating or sleeping. When Funke got back from work, she found me in much the same position that she'd left me - on the couch. I managed to drag myself out for dinner. However the next day, the fatigue lingered on.

"What's going on? Why am I so tired?" Well, figuring that I couldn't spend my entire time in LA prostrated on the couch, I hauled my ass (literally) to Hollywood Boulevard.

I probably should have rented a car, but I wanted a laid-back vacation. To get downtown I took a cab. It had always seemed to me that people in LA don't take cabs as frequently as people in New York take cabs. Aside from the fact that everyone in LA owns a car, the traffic means that you are stuck in the cab for a while and the meter keeps ticking away.

Hollywood Boulevard was somewhat of a let-down - kind of less shiny and glamorous than I was expecting. Of course, you do get to see (and walk all over) the famed Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I took a bus tour, which took me down the rest of the Boulevard, into Beverly Hills (through Rodeo Drive), past Paramount and CBS Studios (where many favourite TV shows are filmed). The tour-bus recording (nope, nothing as exotic as an actual tour guide on these buses) pointed out places featured in some famous movies; we also got to see some famous hotels, some famous designer shops; some famous ..... well, you get the idea.

As physically tired (and I guess jet-lagged as I was), I dozed off on the bus. It wasn't a boring tour! I did say that I was tired! And besides, being on a moving vehicle does that to me. I'm actually amazed that I stayed awake for almost the whole thing.

I was slightly worried about driving. After having had to get used to manic Lagos driving, I was anxious about driving in a sane environment. I took the bull by the horns and drove Funke's car to the mall one afternoon and was pleasantly surprised. I only cut-off 1 driver. Her shocked expression quickly reminded me that I wasn't in Lagos anymore.

Okay, this post is getting too long and I don't like overly long posts. Will continue the story of Ore in La-La Land later in another post.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back Home!

Today was my first day back at work after my much-needed vacation. It was great! It's amazing how a good break can fill you with so much energy. I had started feeling very lethargic (not to mention exhausted) for a minute there. I woke-up this morning well before my alarm went off and was very excited to be returning to work.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Vacation

I'm enjoying a vacation at the moment. I decided to visit a friend in Los Angeles. I have been here once some years ago, but wanted to check it out again.

The flight here was so long. Yes, I knew that in theory, but experiencing it was another thing entirely. From Lagos to London was okay. That's a fairly short flight (6 hours) and it was night-time, so I slept.

From London to LA was 10 hours. The in-flight entertainment was not working for the first two hours or so. It took me a while to realise when it started working, because the crew member who was working on it (Tim) had made several announcements about it already, re: how he was working on it, what he was planning on doing next, etc. At a point he said in an anguished voice, "I am sure that you are so tired of hearing my voice by now. I will just keep working on it and when it starts to work, you should see it on your screens."

Ten hours in a plane is no mean feat and I kind of under-estimated just how long that journey is. Plus, how disorientating. After traveling for about 24 hours (including time from my house to the airport in Lagos, wait and flight times and finally to my friend's house in LA), it was only about 3PM on Sunday (in Pacific time). I called home and it was Monday already. I have been pretty tired - more than I thought I would be after all I am no traveling novice. It's 4:34AM (Tuesday) here and I am wide-awake. I can see that if I don't force myself to sleep and wake-up at regular times, I could be recovering all week from the flight and time difference (then of course, about the same time I fly back to my familiar time-zone and will have to re-adjust).

Jill Scott is Back



Jill Scott is releasing a new album at the end of next month. Apparently she released one earlier this year - Collaborations. My God! Where have I been that I didn't hear about it? I'm such a big Jill Scott fan and at a point in time I would have made sure that I had the album as soon as it came out. Well, I guess things change and priorities along with them.

Jill's on the cover of the September issue of Essence. Her hair is different. Apparently she has it for a Tyler Perry film she's shooting. Although she looks beautiful as usual, I'm not crazy about the style. Writer, Terry McMillan, who interviews Jill for the magazine states bluntly that she doesn't like it either. I was surprised to read that. It doesn't go with the normal fawning over the celebrities that we see in Essence interviews (having said that, the rest of the interview is par to the course).

Patrick Awuah of Ashesi University

There have been many links posted on many blogs to speeches from last June's TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Global Conference held in Arusha, Tanzania. I was sent this link a few week by Natasha Dantzig, one of the conference staff.

It features Patrick Awuah, co-founder of Ashesi University, small liberal arts college whose mission is to educate leaders of integrity and competence for Africa.

Awuah moved back to Ghana after living in the US for about 10 years to set-up the university. In the video, he talks about his belief that leadership is a major problem in Africa and how today's young people are trained will make all the difference in the continent's future. Ashesi University sets out to do that, offering "a liberal arts education, steeped in critical thinking, idealism, and public service, which is the only way to produce quick-thinking, ethical adults" (from Awuah's bio).

Aside from a focus on ethics and leadership, in the video, Awuah touches on the uncritical mindeset brought about by the rote-learning style of education common on the continent. Having spent time with a group of very intelligent secondary school students and seeing how rote-learning stifles creativity, I feel very strongly about incorporating methods that stimulate critical thinking.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Travails of Banking

I had to go to the bank today to withdraw some money. Now I really hate going to the bank. Perhaps "hate" is a strong word to describe my feelings. Maybe "detest intensely" might work better.

Alright, so I intensely detest having to go to the bank for anything. When I first moved back home, my first choice of bank to open an account with was GTB. However, as I considered the lack of parking spaces in most of the GTB branches on the island, I decided to look around for a bank that had ample parking spaces. I would not recommend using this as a criteria for selecting a bank, by the way, but it worked for me back then. Or so I thought.

I chose Standard Trust, which was near my home and had a lovely wide open space in front of its premises. It also had very few customers (either a very bad sign or an indication that the staff were deathly efficient), a fact attested to by the near-empty banking hall. Great! A bank where I won't have to hover around looking for somewhere to park and where I will be attended to quickly. What more could one ask for in a bank?

Well, unfortunately for me, Standard Trust became subsumed into United Bank for Africa (UBA), a behemoth of a bank that lumbers along in much the same fashion that you would expect of such a big (and old) organisation. Efficiency does not appear to be a watchword of the bank with simple processes taking forever (I just received my e-banking log-on details after first signing-up for it a year ago).

I've since opened an account with a much newer and efficient bank, but still retain my UBA account. So I still have cause to go to UBA from time to time - albeit as infrequently as I can manage it. So I got there this morning at 8AM so that I could do my business as quickly as possible and leave. I met some fellow customers waiting for the opening of the iron grill. Minutes passed but yet we continued to wait. More customers arrived and hissed loudly on seeing the still shut bank. Some more came and decided to wait outside in the early morning sunshine or in their cars.

"Ah, but it's past 8 now!" one woman exclaimed in dismay.

FINALLY, the UBA staff deigned to open their doors. We heard the keys jingling in the lock and the grill was pulled up. As we trooped in, one of the customers muttered "This is the WRONG bank!". At times like this, I could not agree more. When I asked one of the ladies behind the counter why it took so long for the bank to open, she just smiled in that coy way that people will do when they have absolutely no excuses. I told her that the street was filled with banks and we could just as easily go off to one of their competitors.

"We are very sorry. We will attend to you shortly. We are just getting the money." She gestured to a corner table from where the cashiers fork-lifting arm-loads of tightly-bound wads of cash.

And would you believe that after all that, as another cashier attended to me he looked up at me and apologised that my withdrawal was taking a little while. "Our system is slow."

Lord have mercy! This is truly the WRONG bank.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When the Light is Here to Stay

Being away for the summer camp (and largely away from TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet) over the last week put me in relative isolation from what's been going on. My feeling of coming out of some kind of seclusion was heightened with the realisation that PHCN/NEPA really seems intent on improving its performance.

Over the last 2 or 3 weeks, we've had electricity most of the time. Whereas the old pattern was for PHCN to give us up to 15 minutes of light a day maybe twice a day, with the rest of the day spent in pre-historic like conditions. Now, we have light almost all day. I am so used to returning home from work to no light that it can be slightly unnerving to always have light. Where giving the gateman the key to get diesel to fill-up the generator was a daily occurence, I cannot remember the last time he reminded me that the generator needed diesel.

I discussed it briefly with my mum and she was equally as perturbed. We both wondered if all was well at NEPA.

Don't misunderstand me and think that I am actually complaining about the current state of things. No, no! It's just that when you have been used to coping with certain situations, you need to re-adjust when the situation changes. I just hope that very soon we will not have to return to the dark old days.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Past Week

It's been such a long time! I hate it that a lot of my recent posts have started off that way. Well, so there are some valid reasons.

My company organised a careers retreat for senior secondary school students last week. For 1 week, I slept in dorms like I was in school again. Okay, I was never actually a boarder when I was in secondary school and this was a pretty nice school by most standards. The boys and girls' common rooms had air-conditioners and a TV with DVD players for the students. The dormitories and dining rooms also had ACs, so we were living quite well.

I don't often get to spend time with young people of the SS1 - 3 age, so it was an interesting refresher of how things were back in the day. At night, I'd be kept up late by the never-ending chattering of the girls. They talked about school, school-work, clothes, parents and boys (well, perhaps that is somewhat similar to what a lot of grown women I know talk about).

In the morning, it was quite hard work to herd the girls to morning exercises. While the girls would struggle to get up at 7 am and eventually schlep out of the school grounds for a run/walk, the boys would have been up apparently since 6 playing football.

The students represented some of the smartest science students in the state and it was very awe-inspiring to be around them. They were outspoken and ferociously intelligent and asked extremely incisive questions of the speakers who came to talk to them about careers. Although I am, in some cases, (ahem) almost twice their age I felt in some ways quite humbled by them. I wish I hard worked harder at school and had more confidence in my abilities. I loved how they viewed life as an open book, with so many pages yet to be written on - in short, filled with unlimited possibilities and a lifetime of adventures. I frequently have to remind myself to look at my life in the same way.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's Been 2 Years Already

Almost forgot. Today is my 2nd blogiversary. It's been 2 quick years since I started blogging. I say 'quick' because obviously I can't believe that so much time has passed by. I will always say that the great thing about blogging or any form of journaling is the record you have of the time gone by. So often it may seem like we haven't been up to much, until we see a record of what we have actually done. It's great!

A year ago today I wondered what the coming year would bring me. Well, it turned out that it was more about trying to squeeze time to blog amidst the busyness of life than it was about creating any literary fireworks. Well, here's to an interesting 3rd year.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Jero Plays

Yesterday the Season of Wole Soyinka came to an astounding close with The Jero Plays, which was two plays in one, The Trials of Brother Jero and Jero's Metamorphosis. I'd never read nor seen either performed and totally enjoyed it. A friend told me that it was his least favourite play because it satirizes Christianity. Indeed it did. But perhaps not so much Christianity, but the slavish devotion and unquestioning loyalty that many display towards their spiritual celebrities. The celebrity in this set of plays is the fraudster masquerading as a man of God, Brother Jero.

The play was nicely adapted to modern times and referenced many incidents in Nigerian current affairs. It zinged with wit. One thing that never fails to amaze me about certain books or plays I have read that comment on the societies of their times (Jane Austen comes to mind) is how even though they might have been written so many years ago, many of the observations are still so relevant and on point today. At several junctures throughout the play the lady behind me would exclaim to her friends "You mean that Wole Soyinka noticed all this back then?", or "So all this was happening back then!" There's truly nothing new under the sun I guess.

I attended the 6pm show and the hall - very unlike the first week - was bursting to capacity. Even before the show started, hordes of people thronged outside the hall waiting to get in. And this wasn't a music concert. Unbelievable!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ken Banks Interview

In the 6th of his African Digerati interview series, Hash of White African interviews Ken Banks. Ken has done a lot of work in the use of mobile technologies to address social problems.

It's an interesting read.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wireless Networking Training

I've been seeing some interesting technology and social development-related workshops, grant and competition opportunities lately and have been meaning to post some of them up. This one looks totally fun. Although I am not really techie (hardcore techie people would say that I am NOT AT ALL techie), I love to take things apart and attempt to put them back together (I usually end up staring dismally at the parts wondering what went wrong). I love to scrutinise lines of code and figure out what's going on. I loved borrowing other people's code for web pages I used to develop, because that instantly made my site look (and hopefully work) a lot better. Maybe the word to describe people like me is 'techno-dilettante' or perhaps ordinary 'dilettante' would do just fine.

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

One Village Foundation-Ghana in partnership with Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing and WirelessGhana.com are implementing a 10- day Wireless Training as part of a series of emerging technology sessions. This training will be a point of convergence for at least 50 personnel from
the IT Community in Ghana and the West African Sub-region.

Topics covered will include Introduction to Wireless Networking; Setting up and Configuring Wireless Local Area Network (LAN); Building Local Routers & Introduction of WiFi Devices (USB, PCMC, etc.); Installing Open Source Software; Network Securities; and Bandwidth / Internet Link Optimization.

Looks totally fun!

Read more for further information.

Lately

I feel like I've neglected this blog a little bit lately. And it's not like there aren't things to blog about either. At work these days, I'm really, well..... working my little butt off - as I SHOULD be, I hasten to add. I'm trying to make sure I get enough sleep. I tend to sacrifice my sleep when I feel I have other more important things to do. Unfortunately, I can no longer survive on 4 hours sleep. It shows on my face and everyone at work comments on how tired I look. These are not statements that my vain side takes very kindly too, so for the sake of looking good the next day, blogging, catching up on emails and other 'non-essential' (read: non-work related) activities are shoved to the weekend. Alas, the weekend also comes with its own stuff to do.

I haven't forgotten about that meme, Tayari. I will do it!

Vacation Time

I've booked my leave. I'm so excited. I don't even know what I'm going to do with it yet, but that really doesn't matter at the moment. In fact, trying to figure out what I'm going to do with it is a big part of the fun.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Season Goes On

Was at TerraKulture on Sunday for lunch and it was such a beehive of activity. I wasn't able to attend the day's play Camwood on the Leaves in the ongoing Wole Soyinka season (I will be there unfailingly for this week's play).

I have to say that I was really pleased to observe the numbers of people streaming in to see the play. Wole mentioned that attendance had picked up and I noticed a huge billboard right by Silverbird Galleria (great location for it), in addition to the radio ads.

In the time I was there, people came into the restaurant for lunch or to hang-out before proceeding to the hall for the show.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tagged

Oh, Tayari tagged me for a meme. It's been a long while since I last completed a meme. I know I've been tagged 1 or 2 times in the last few months and was not able to do it. This one looks easy, so I'll do it. Of course, not now - being the eternal procrastinator that I am :-) ...........

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Life as I See It

My friend Y moved to England over the weekend with her family. She has her reasons for moving and while I will miss her, I also understand.

That has got me thinking about life and setting goals for yourself. Being in school was exciting, because I was constantly learning new things, meeting new people and being challenged in a myriad of ways. Starting work was somewhat similar, but after a few years I think that, like with a lot of people, stasis sets in. Even in the best of jobs where you are regularly taking on new responsibilities, the other aspects of life can get somewhat routine. So it's home, work, home, work, home, work. And then some social engagement on Saturday and church on Sunday.

Then you have to take into account the other peculiarities of life in your particular location. Here in Lagos, it's horrible traffic, hardly any electricity, bad roads, noise, pollution and chaos. Sometimes, it makes me sit and wonder Is this it? Is this it for the rest of my life?"

I posed this question to my friend M some years ago and she responded matter-of-factly "I'm afraid so. This is it!" That answer was too dreary for me to even contemplate at the time and so I chose to believe that there had to be something more.

So, fast-forward a few years later, and life is not quite so grey. Occasionally some exciting events puncture the monotonous blanket of life. And I realise that I need to continually set goals. Once I've achieved those (Lord! I make it sound so easy), I make some new ones. For the most part though, there is a sometimes stifling sameness to my day-to-day life and I long to do something that will throw the whole damned comfortable routine out of kilter. Sometimes I want to pick up to another continent and start all over again and experience the excitement and scariness of adapting to a new life. Sometimes I simply want to take a vacation. Or read a book. Or do something I've never done before. Or meet someone who is totally different from everyone else I know.

Life is what you make of it, or so they say. So, what do I want to make of my life now?

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Open Architecture Challenge competition

Recieved this from a mailing list I belong to.

The Open Architecture Challenge is an open international design competition challenges the industry professionals and others to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to improve living conditions around the world. The Challenge organisers believe creating sustainable and replicable solutions can bring about social and economic change within the community and in the world.

This year's challenge will focus on the design and construction of technology centers or telecentres that will help a broad cross-section of a community realize greater educational, social and business opportunities via the Internet.

Visit Telecentre.org for more information.

Friday, July 06, 2007

True Love Celebrates Nigerian Women Bloggers

True Love West Africa did a great piece on Nigerian bloggers in which they profiled 5 Nigerian women bloggers: Bella Naija, Mona, Adaure, Bimby Lads and Taurean Minx. It's good to see the Nigerian blogosphere getting some recognition in the Nigerian press. Although there is a lot written about blogging, much of it is by the Western media or occasionally by the press of some other African countries.

Go to Bella Naija's blog to read the articles online.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Season of Soyinka

There's a Wole Soyinka tribute going on at Terra Kulture in honour of the noble laureate's 73rd birthday. All through the month of July, there will be a stage adaptation of a Wole Soyinka play. The tribute entitled A Season of Soyinka started yesterday with a play - the only one not written by Wole Soyinka - called Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?.

The play, written by Wole Oguntokun, is a sharp and witty look at the Abacha regime, which satirises real-life characters and events. The eponymous hero never makes an appearance, although there are many references to him. The mention of his name always provokes a strong reaction from the characters, whether it is one of fear, admiration or dislike.

I went in not knowing what the play would be about and loved that I really enjoyed it. It was a shame though that there were so few people at the show that I attended. I've become keenly aware that the arts are generally considered to be a luxury and a priviledge to be enjoyed mostly by the elite. However, there are so many art events that I have attended that didn't cost the earth or were (even better) free. For instance, I went to the Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA)'s annual book and arts fair last year, which was free. Terra Kulture also has exhibitions on and these are free too.

For many artists who I have spoken to, financial gain - while necessary - tends to be far less important than the process of expressing themselves through their art and finding an appreciative audience. Therefore, it must be tough to pour so much passion into works that do not reach as many people as they could. Or perhaps I am wrong. I have also heard some artists say that even if no one read their books, listened to their music or saw their artwork, they would keep on producing them nevertheless because they have stories inside them that they need to tell.

Anyway, A Season of Soyinka continues at Terra Kulture every Sunday this month with 2 shows at 3PM and 6PM. You missed one great play, so please try and check out some of the others.

July 8: The Lion and the Jewel
Directed by Tunji Sotimirin

July 15: Death and the King's Horseman
Directed by Segun Adefila

July 22: Camwood on the Leaves
Directed by Lekan Balogun

July 29: The Jero Plays
Directed by Wole Oguntokun

The Naked Truth

One of the things I was seriously worried about when I moved back home was that I would put on a lot of weight and become a big FAT mama. I would be walking less and driving around a lot more. I would be eating less healthily; I knew for a fact that I would indulge myself in all my favourite starchy and oily foods. I only hoped that I would not indulge myself too much. I also knew that chances were that I would hit the gym less, after all who wants to sit in traffic for perhaps an hour to and then fro just to spend the same hour working out? Not me, I didn’t think.

Well, I have become somewhat used to the traffic (I still hate it with a vengeance, but what can you do?). I have found a gym that works for me. However, I am not as slim as I used to be. While I am yet to become the enormous woman that I thought I might be, the weight has crept on all the same. For a start, I am definitely partaking of a lot more of the types of food that would make most dieticians keel over in shock. Never having been so keen on eating fruits or vegetables to start off with, I am definitely eating even less now (This is sheer laziness on my part. I find the washing and peeling that goes with eating fruits simply too bothersome). The hours added to my drive by going to the gym have become a huge disincentive to going (especially now in the rainy season and having to deal with the ever-worsening roads).

Despite it all though, I think I have done fairly well with my fitness regime – well, perhaps "well" is not an entirely accurate way to describe my efforts; more like "could have been worse." Anyway, my clothes (mostly) fit me and when I encounter some discomfort, I can typically explain it away with "Well, everyone knows (cough, cough) that ankara shrinks when you first wash it"; "It was time to throw out that outfit anyway"; "The label did say that it might shrink when washed." You get the generally idea. It was the clothes shrinking and not my girth expanding. And I lived quite happily in this state of bliss, until I recently went for a work-related meeting one day at an oil company and ran into an ex-corper friend of mine who works there now.

After the greetings he beheld me with a critical eye and commented, "Wow! You have really added weight oh!"

I barely held my disbelief in check.

- "What???", I exclaimed.
- "Yes, oh! You are much bigger than you were during service year."

I was staggered that someone would offer a (totally!!) unsolicited and potentially crushing review of one’s appearance in such a cavalier manner. Didn’t he realize that this bit of news could drive some women to low self-esteem and an eating disorder? (I will admit that I am given to occasional bouts of melodrama).

He continued, "You better be careful or else you will just become bigger and bigger until one day you look at yourself in the mirror and see that you’ve just become so fat."

I thanked him for his concern with a sarcasm that I know was totally missed. I later retold the story to my friends and sister and we laughed about it. I really should thank him because I think I needed that reality check. 'Good enough' isn’t working for me as well as I would like to think.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Labour Strike Goes On

For now it seems like neither parties are giving way, so it appears that the strike will go on for some time. The government conceded a N5 decrease in the price of petrol, while the labour unions want the price reverted to the original N65. The increase in VAT from 5% to 10% has been suspended by the government, while the unions want it cancelled permanently.

While many people have not been going to work since Wednesday, some others (who have fuel in their cars or can afford the exhorbitant transport costs) have been. In my office, a handful made it in on Wednesday and even less yesterday. Eventually I had to check in with my manager to see if there was any point people coming in for the rest of the strike. He said with all the difficulties in getting to work, not to bother until the strike was called off.

So today I enjoyed my first full day from my 'strike holiday.' I got up early to go for a walk. I've always envied those people I see walking or running around the estate as I made my way to work in the mornings. Now, I had the opportunity to join them. I met a friend from NYSC as I turned into the street adjacent to mine and together we walked almost to the gate.

I realised that this was a God-sent opportunity to read all those books on my shelves that I have been dying to get started on. I started with Further Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes (I will start with the light stuff and move on to heavier stuff). I dozed off at some point and when I did wake up, I tried to watch TV. So many channels and still there's nothing to watch!

In the afternoon, my brother and I went out to get a few things. We ended up at The Palms shopping mall. From the car park and the activity inside the place, you'd be hard-pressed to believe that there was any kind of strike going on. The mall was filled with people shopping, browsing, watching movies and hanging out. It felt like just another public holiday. My brother gnashed his teeth and muttered incredulously "So this is how we strike?" Well, I guess if people can't go to work, they must do something else ..... The shops must be raking it in.

Back outside, the streets were near empty save for a couple of petrol stations which had queues of cars parked outside in anticipation of whenever they would start selling, which didn't look like anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the black marketers are having a field day. From what should be the new price of petrol of N70 for a litre, the going price is roughly N300 per litre. To describe the situation as scandalous and shameless robbery doesn't even begin to do justice, but as with all things here, people will put all concerns aside and buy if being mobile is a priority to them and if they can afford it.

As the strike goes on, the word is that essential services e.g. electricity and water providers will also go on strike. With our dear PHCN, let's face it, I don't think most people would know the difference between them being on strike and them 'working.' In the last week, we've had public power supply in my house for a grand total of about 20 minutes each day. So please!!!!!! To quote Beyonce, To the left, to the left! The water corporation going on strike is another thing entirely. Having no water for baths, to wash dishes, or clothes, to flush your toilets is not fun. That is a situation that I pray does not happen.

Read:
All Africa: Strike - FG, Labour Meeting Deadlocked
BBC News: Nigeria Srike Talks in Deadlock
Guardian: Strike Continues: Labour May Shut Essential Services

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Snippet

It's funny (funny = strange not funny = ha ha) the things that people unconsciously imbibe from their environment.

I have the TV on and caught the end of a show on NTA a few minutes ago (I think it was a lifestyle or health show). The presenter (woman) had a guest (man) on who was talking (I think) about couples managing their home. He urges men not to treat their wives like housegirls or servants and reminds them that women need love too.

As the presenter wraps up the show, she re-iterates that men need to take care of their wives adding that "They are not just housegirls and servants."

Not just? Hmmm, thanks for that.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is one of my favourite sites. I used to visit it everyday at one point and then kind of forgot about it as my life went off in a different direction.

I recommend it for anyone thinking about graduate school, though you'll probably find that it's biased towards doctoral students. I especially like the Careers page, which features articles by graduate students, people working in academia or contemplating such a move.

I read this essay by a recent PhD grad who was torn between pursuing an academic career and (his true love) life as a journalist and writer. It would probably speak to anyone similarly torn between life in industry and academia.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And the Rain Means More Traffic

Rainy season means many things to me: dirty cars, cool weather, careful driving, mosquitoes, lethargy and TRAFFIC!!!!!

You would think that the increased traffic on the roads would be as a result of drivers moving slowly and cautiously on the wet roads or as a result of poor visbility (during heavy rain fall for instance). Yes, it can be as a result of many - or all - of these things. It could - and usually is - also a consequence of the yawning potholes to be found on many Lagos roads. I can't speak for many other parts of the country, but since I ply these Lagos streets daily, I can talk about those.

That most Lagos roads are in a constant state of disrepair is no news at all. However, is it me or is the traffic this year worse than it was last year? It probably gets worse with each passing year and our tolerance level just increases along with it, making the difference barely imperceptible.

The Lekki-Epe Expressway is a prime example of potholes and chasms leading to unbelievable build-up of traffic. The section of the road near the Chevron roundabout is the source of particularly bad hold-up. There are at least two separate places where the road has been dug up or sliced into (for goodness knows what!!!!!!). After said work was done, the interruptions were left to deteriorate into gullies, which with the rain have become rivers that must be floated across or descended into (if you do not drive a van or SUV). And the situation looks set to worsen as the population of people living in the Lekki-Ajah axis rises. Let's not mention the on-going work to widen the roads, which in all fairness are intended to bring eventual relief but are right now a major pain the ass.

I feel frustrated that so much time is wasted sitting in traffic that is in large part caused by something that can be fixed (bad roads). Solving the other causes for the traffic (too many people on too few roads) needs some serious thinking and planning. I hope Lagos state's new administration will be up to the task (well, let's be optimistic), because there is a lot of work to be done. That the previous state government could be so uncaring of the welfare of its people is totally beyond me.

Meanwhile, and perhaps showing me to be an utter malcontent, I saw this article on the BBC site about how Lagos is the party capital of Africa.

Chinua Achebe Wins the Man Booker Prize

Thank you, Obyno, for letting me know about this. I had blogged about the nominations a couple of months ago.

The Man Booker Prize is a biennial event awarded to a write for a body of work. Achebe is the second winner of the prize.

This is the second win of a prominent literary award by a Nigerian writer in as many weeks. The Nigerian literary scene is seeing such a revival at the moment and wins like this will hopefully serve to encourage aspiring writers (and I know more than a handful myself).

Read:
BBC: Nigerian author wins Booker honour
Man Booker: Press Release

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

June 12

... is the day 14 years ago that the elections in which M.K.O. Abiola was widely reported to have won were cancelled. It's also the day my paternal grandfather died. Last year marked the 30th year anniversary of his death and the entire fam trooped off to Abeokuta for a lecture that was held in his honour. Not only did I learn a lot more about my grandfather who I never really knew, I loved seeing (almost) all of my cousins again. We hardly ever get to see each other, much less at the same time so it was good to catch-up and generally indulge in idle chit-chat. I have a photograph that we all took and I like looking at it and seeing how much we have all matured over the years. It was fun times!

What To Write and What Not to Write

I was reading one of the articles about Chimamanda Adichie's Orange Prize win last week and a section caught my eye caught my eye.

Literary editor of Nigeria's Weekly Trust, Odoh Okonyedo:
"As the new leading light in this Biafra renaissance, the task on the table of Adichie is to clarify what Biafra is about, rather than her newest nostalgic and superficial romance," Mr Okonyedo told the BBC News website.

While Ms Adichie says she wanted to write a story about love during the war, Mr Okonyedo feels she should have tackled the subject more seriously.

And I ask Why? Why should she not tell the story that she wants to? I feel that I can understand the thinking that certain people, by virtue of their education, position, wealth, connections or plain good fortune, should contribute positively to society. However, sometimes so many expectations are placed at the feet of some that it is tantamount to a shifting of responsibility. In many cases, it is simply placing burdens that the person in question simply is not interested in shouldering.

In this particular case, I don't see why Ms. Adichie shouldn't write about whatever she damn well pleases. Writing is hard enough without having to take into consideration what other people expect to read from you.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Chimamanda Wins the Orange Prize

I have been itching to post this news all day, but Internet access at work was down until I left (Jeremy and Molara have blogged about this already).

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie last night won the Orange Prize for her exceptional book Half of a Yellow Sun. The Orange Prize is awarded yearly to an exceptional book published in the past year by a woman writer.

A few years ago my brother gave me Chimamanda's first book Purple Hibiscus for my birthday. I devoured it in a few days and scoured the Internet for her short stories. I read the short story also entitled Half of a Yellow Sun, which I enjoyed so much that I started to await the publication of the book with much bated breath. When I finally got my copy of Half of a Yellow Sun, I took in the size and balked slightly. I have difficulty finishing books these days, much less big books with 'serious' themes.

"A book about war? I'm not so sure ......" were my thoughts.

I needn't have worried. Half of a Yellow Sun was as much a story of this set of people who lived through the Biafran War as it was about the war itself. I'd love to say that I finished it at a sitting, unfortunately I can't say that (a result of my own easily distracted mind and growing inability to sit still and read). However, I finished it in what was a short time for me.

Prizes are not necessarily a sign of a great writer, but it's wonderful when a writer who is widely acknowledged to be exceptionally talented and skilled wins one.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fuel Crisis

Life is certainly never dull in Nigeria; I'll say that one thing. Also, sometimes when I write about some things that are happening, it feels like a deja vu. We are in the middle of a fuel shortage (yes, again oh!!!). While some papers report that it's due to a last-second increase in petrol from N65 per litre to N75, it seems that there is petrol but petrol stations are choosing not to sell (well, isn't this typical of many past incidences of fuel scarcity anyway?) Tanker drivers are on strike in reaction to a task force set-up by Obasanjo's administration to clear roadsides of vehicles parked without proper authorisation.

I hope that this is all resolved soon. I was down to an almost empty tank this morning as I drove to work. Fortunately, I was able to get some petrol this afternoon and you know that I will be economising like a mad woman. My trips will be strictly from home to work and back again, until this scarcity is over.

Read more:
The Guardian
Business Day

Changing Perceptions of African Business Women through Blogging

There's an article on African Path about roadblocks that African business women face. The author, Benin Mwangi, identifies 3 main challenges, which include property laws that make it more difficult for women to own property, family responsibilities, and perceptions of African women that might make it difficult to secure capital.

Mwangi looks at blogs as a platform for raising awareness of issues that African business women face. He zones in on women bloggers being at the forefront of changing perceptions of African women and lists some bloggers who he feels have been doing a great job at this. Read more on African Path ......

The Internet Today

This Internet connection is so patchy and so slow. It's the same old story whenever it rains, nevermind the fact that traffic in the afternoon already slows down to a baby's crawl compared to the other times of the day (wait, many babies actually move quite quickly compared to what we have here ...). I click on a link and maybe I'll get to the page I want, or maybe I won't. Overall though, this is much better than the service provider we used before.

At home, I use My Netcom Africa and after initial problems of long down-times, their service has very rapidly improved. The times when I used to call their customer service line to complain and report problems are now a thing of a past.

Monday, June 04, 2007

An Interview with the White African

There's a great interview on African Path with Hash of the White African blog. His blog explores technology issues, especially within an African context. In this interview he discusses blogging in Africa: impact, challenges facing African bloggers; and how these can be surmounted and blogging by more people encouraged.

Rainy Days & Mondays

Remember my post a couple of weeks ago about how much I detest rainy days and Mondays? Well, here's another one. Luckily for me, it wasn't raining when I had to get out of bed. That would have been almost unbearable. It is raining how though, raining like it hasn't rained in months.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

How do you read when you just can't focus?

I finished a book I'd been reading for the past 2 months or so this evening. Okay, I feel so ashamed. I still do not think of myself as a slow reader, but as I was telling a friend, just slightly distracted. My attention span has shrunk to the size of a fly. Honestly, it's become a real problem. Completing books is the least of my problems - at least, I tend to have the luxury of time and can take as much as I need to finish the book. Listening to instructions is another thing entirely! After the first sentence, my mind has wandered to Timbuktu and back. Out of embarrasment, I tend to pretend I got the whole jist of what the other person was saying and nod in an off-handed manner. A lot of times, I can figure out what I need to. When I can't, I sometimes try to pass it off like they didn't explain it properly the first time around. LOL!!

So, I finished Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I really want to start Barbara Sher's What do I do when I want to do everything? (yet, another problem of mine, and one that I suspect is closely linked to my difficulty in focusing). However, someone lent me a biography of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison, so I think out of courtesy, I should read that one next so that I can finish and return it before the end of the year.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Many Uses of the Mobile Phone

Sokari has an interesting post on her blog about an ongoing workshop organised by Fahamu that brought together African organisations currently involved in social justice and advocacy projects, which are using mobile phone technology.

Day 1 featured presentations on the Frontline sms Software used recently to monitor the Nigerian elections; the use of mobile phones in a rural agricultural project in Uganda along with radio broadcasts; community based organisations of women in Kenya using mobile phone technology in three specific areas: women and property, women leadership and government, resource livelihood.

It's incredible to know how the mobile phone that many of us take for granted can be such a powerful tool. I first started to realise its full potential after I moved back home. Where access to the Internet could be scarce and expensive, communication by GSM was always an easier (and cheaper) option. I could text friends even when I could not get to a computer connected to the Internet, or in the very likely event that there was 'no NEPA.'

Check out Sokari's blog to read more.

Addition: White African wrote-up on the meeting on his blog.

Time for a Trim

I had a lovely long weekend. It kicked off with a great meeting with some incredible, opinionated and highly intelligent women (plus one lone male)! It was a focus group for True Love magazine, which I was invited to participate in. TL wanted to get feedback on how it's been doing, what its readers like, what we don't and what we would like to see more of. It was held at Pearl Garden, which just happens to be one of my favourite restaurants and one which I can't afford to eat at as much as I would like (that would be every other day).

I'll write more about the focus group later (it's 8 minutes to shut-down time here at work) and I like to beat the traffic as much as I possibly can. One thing I did say was that TL's hair page needs to focus more on natural hair (nevermind that the current issue discusses hair care for locs). Yes, it's perhaps a selfish request, but I know there are many other nappies out there who sometimes need a clue on some funky new styles.

I was checking out some photos of the writer, Tayari Jones - she also has natural hair- and seeing her healthy twist out reminded me that it's been ages since my last trim (yes, natural hair also requires regular trims). I think I'll do that when I get home.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Here Come More Holidays

Oh, I love this country! We have a 2-day public holiday next week. Monday and Tuesday! Hand-over to our next government happens in Abuja on Tuesday. Oh, what shall I do with my unexpected holiday?

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Namesake on Film

I went to see The Namesake a few weeks ago - or many, many weeks ago probably more like.

I have been looking forward to this ever since I heard that Mira Nair was bringing the book to film. I loved the book and hoped that the film would be even half as good. I like a lot of Mira Nair's films, but sometimes they can be a bit hit or miss for me. Monsoon Wedding has been her biggest hit to date and definitely a crow-pleaser. If you want something less middle-of-the-road, you should see Salaam Bombay, which explores the lives of some Mumbai street children.

The Namesake is not a big book, but it packs in a lot and spans 2 continents and several decades. As a result, Mira Nair had to leave out a lot. It still leaves a good film with a solid story, but having read the book probably gave me some degree more understanding than I might have otherwise had. The original story is set in the Boston area, while the film moves the tale to New York. This really doesn't impact the story in anyway. I loved the book because it dealt with issues of feeling culturally at sea. At the time, I felt very much the same way too. I think most people who have lived in cultures outside of their own could relate very well to the book. Hell! Sometimes, we can even feel adrift in our own country.

i think many people wrongly asessed this film as "Just another Indian movie" i.e. a Bollywood film, which it certainly isn't. Consequently, when I went to see the film there couldn't have been more than 20 of us in the hall with my friend and I being the only black people. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, shedding bucket-loads of tears and admiring Tabu's beauty.

How Much Fun Can You Squeeze into 1 Day?

I took the day off and am so excited. I've been needing some time off for a while and this day could not have come at a better time. I've just come off a few particularly hectic weeks. I'm looking at decongesting my life and letting go of the things that I really don't have to do.

Today has started off brilliantly. I was stirred in the early hours of the morning by the angry sounds of thunder and the rain pouring down in torrents.

Perfect! I thought. There's nothing better than having nasty weather outside when you don't have to be anywhere. It's even better when it's a Monday. There's a song by The Carpenters called Rainy Days and Mondays in which Karen Carpenter sings about her intense dislike for rainy days and Mondays. I love that song!

To my disappointment, I still woke-up around 6AM and haven't been able to go back to sleep. So I rolled around in bed until I couldn't take it anymore. I finished watching the film I started yesterday, The Lion in Winter. I really like Katherine Hepburn and will watch virtually anything with her in it. It was funny seeing the very young Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton.

I daren't admit it, but I'm already a little bored. Hmmmm, no I will find another film to watch. My sister just bought Mahoganey with Diana Ross. I think I'll watch that.

Friday, May 18, 2007

When is a blog not a blog?

.... Or when has a blogger lost the right to call themselves one? Such questions have been running through my head in the last week or so. I feel like it's been ages since I last blogged, though in reality it has been just about 2 weeks - which is some blogger's average length of time between posts. Life is mostly made-up of mundane routines and sometimes there's simply nothing to write about. Well, no, I did want to write about the film The Namesake, which I went to see goodness knows how many weeks ago, but I just haven't been able to muster any energy for anything remotely creative. I'm focusing instead on catching-up on sleep.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ore Visits an Art Gallery

Yesterday a friend invited me to an art exhibition at Didi Museum. I promised that I would stop by if I could. I love art, though I don't know much about it. Like most lay people would say "I just know what I like!".

I got there and signed-in at the reception. The guy manning the desk asked me if I was an artist.

- No! Not at all!, I responded.

- Really? You look like an artist.

I laughed.

- What does an artist look like?

- Like you!

Alrighty then!

The main exhibition room was pretty bare aside from the gorgeous paintings, the artist and a handful of reporters. I would say that there were about 7 news people and my friend and I. I can't remember if this was the opening day or not. I guess it must have been if the reporters were there. But do people not attend art shows? Or perhaps there wasn't wide publicity for the event, afterall I wouldn't have known about it had my friend (who incidentally is also an artist) invited me.

As I was getting ready to leave, a reporter inquired if she could ask me a few questions about the exhibition. Panic time! Because, like I said, I know zero about art. The camera man turned his lens on me and beads of sweat started to gather at my brow as the reporter started asking her questions.

- What do I think about the exhibition?

- Mmmm.. The paintings are absolutely beauiful.

- What do you like about the artist's work?

- I love his use of colour and how he portrays movement. I like how his work is open to interpretation. You can't look at each painting and say "This is what the artist is trying to depict." (My brother later told me that the word I was struggling to find was "abstract." I knew that!)

- How do you think the arts movement has progressed in Nigeria over the last few years?

Haba! Does this woman think that I am an art critic?????

- I think that there it's actually been quite vibrant over the years and there has always been a core group of people who appreciate art. However, it doesn't always seem to have gotten the attention that it should have. I remember going to art exhibitions with my family when I was much younger and that there were always a lot of people in attendance. I don't remember that there were a lot of places to view art though. So, I think that the arts movement in Nigeria has always been very strong but contained to a small group of people.

- Okay, so how do you compare that to art in Nigeria now?

My God, lady! Let this be the last hard question you ask me.

- Hmmm, well, I think there is now a wider appreciation for the arts. Yes, there have always been supporters of the arts, but I think it's gathered more speed and recognition now. For instance, there are more places that you can go to view art. Aside from here [Didi Museum], you have Nike Art Gallery and Terrakulture.

If there were some other questions, I honestly cannot remember them, or I have blocked them out. LOL!

Afterwards, I 'confessed' that I didn't know much about art (like that wasn't already so obvious).

- Really? But you did so well. You knew about colour and movement.

I felt like a 3-year old who had been patted on the head for going potty solo for the first time (Wait! Is 3 years old even the right age to potty-train? Okay, so I'm rather clueless about babies too!). I guess making people feel better about their lack of knowledge and incoherent ramblings must be an important part of her job. I asked her what station she worked for. She replied "Galaxy."

Thank the good Lord! I don't think anybody watches that station anyway.