Monday, September 3, 2012

Moving Back to Nigeria for your NYSC?

Guess what I just stumbled upon? A published book for Nigerian graduates overseas who are thinking about returning to register for the NYSC. It's a survival guide called, "The Foreign Otondo," by Kemi Ogunniyi. 

When I was planning my move back to Nigeria in '07, there was absolutely no information in print or online (even the NYSC's website was non functional). So my dearest sweetest mother, bless her heart, had to go down to the NYSC headquarters to get the scoop on the requirements for signing up.

Still I didn't know what to expect at the orientation camp or during the course of the service year. After my ordeal at the orientation camp in October 2007, I wrote a blog post about the Aje Butter's guide to surviving orientation camp to fore warn incoming corpers about those first 3 weeks .

A number of things have definitely changed since I served. For instance, foreign graduates can no longer choose what state they want to serve in. Not good. The option to choose was definitely one of the factors that made my decision to move back easier!

Big kudos to the author for seeing a need and meeting it.  I haven't read it, but the cover looks great! I would definitely have bought a copy if such a guide was available back then - because mmhh....the NYSC experience can be quite the shocker!


Visit www.otondoguide.com for details on how to get your copy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sweet Baby Boy

I haven't abandoned my blog O. Yes, I still live in Nigeria. I'm still married and...now have a baby. How is everyone out there? I know it's been a couple of months...or more like one dozen.

I don't think I can ever give up my blog. I love to write. I love to share. I like knowing I have a place where I can trade stories.

As I type, my sweet little boy is sitting on my lap. I'm feeding him mashed potatoes, which he will only eat at his pace. A spoonful too soon and he presses his lips together and turns his face away.

When I was single, I always thought I knew the kind of mother I would be. Hehehe...Well I've surprised myself.

I've turned out to be the kind of mother who eats her baby's food. Two spoons for you. One for me. So I never really know how much the boy eats. (Cerelac, mashed potatoes, pureed apples - baby food is surprisingly delicious) or if he's had enough to eat.

I'm the kind of mother who breastfeeds exclusively for six months because the pediatrician recommends it's best for  baby, but then wishes she could continue even past six months because washing and warming baby bottles is a chore I definitely don't want to add to my schedule. Luckily I skipped the bottle step entirely because my son is now on to solid foods, plates and spoons. Yay!!!

As a single gal, I used to tsk tsk and shake my head when I see toddlers drinking fruit juice and sodas instead of water. Mmmm...I happen to be one of those mothers whose son has tasted coke, sprite, fanta, juice. But note, I say tasted not drank. When your baby is fussy, cranky and can't be pacified you try all sorts of distractions just for a few minutes of respite.  Thankfully my son prefers water over sugar drinks.

And lest I forget, he eats paper. Just this morning, my mom told me that he grabbed a paper bag beside him. Before she could retrieve it from him, he bit off a corner and swallowed the piece. I do not understand his affinity for paper. But I've turned out to be one of those mothers who when all else fails, hand her son a piece paper, just for a moment of peace...(it calms him down 90% of the time) then when I've caught my breath, I go after the gooey pieces he refuses to spit out.

Ah the joys of motherhood! 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pick a partner, Choose a career, Raise a child...when you're still clueless?

What does a 20-something year old know about picking a life partner?

How much foresight does an 18-year-old have to choose a life career?

What does a young 25-year-old mother know about raising a newborn?

Where does the 21-year-old recent graduate gain knowledge about how to invest all his disposable income?

By the time the importance of investment dawns on him, he's married with 2 children and his disposable income has become tied down by 16 years of paying school fees.

By the time you gain decades of life experience and wisdom to raise your children, you turn around to find out that your babies are adults -- telling you what their own take on life is.

By the time you're older and wise enough to want more than pretty lips and smooth words in a spouse, the dating pool has shrunk so much you fear that love might have passed you by in the haze of self-centered youthful exuberance.

And just when you pass your exams and receive admission into the Ivy leagues of medical schools, you stumble on your hidden talent and passion for fashion.

Ha ha ha. The joke is on us.

Have you noticed how we have to make the most crucial decisions of our lives during the most inexperienced years of our existence?

To think that I have to sow the seeds that I will reap during the rest of my life during the years when I have the least amount of experience and wisdom to do so!

By the time I'm 40, 50, the fruit of those seeds slowly begin to ripen. The previous 2 decades of work (or sloth) begin to show their results. Joy - if that fruit is sweet and juicy. If it's not? Pain and regret!

So I have come to the scary conclusion that I am clueless. I would be a fool to dive into this life pretending like I know what I'm doing. Pretending like I have the know-how, wisdom and knowledge to make generation shaping decisions. Decisions that are seemingly inconsequentially mine to make, yet they ripple down my bloodline long after my 80 - 90 years on earth.

God has a fantastic sense of humour (and infinite wisdom). Woe unto me if I dive into the beautiful adventure of life without basking in his ways, his word and his wisdom.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When last did you steal second base?

I think I've shared this quote before:
"You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first base" - Frederick B. Wilcox

At several points in my life, this has been my reality.

In my childhood I was soo timid that someone always had to push me off 1st base.

Take for example, Primary 4 - when my class teacher made me Class Prefect much to my horror. Never in a million years would I have raised my hand to respond to the call for interested Prefects. And for good reason. Even as a 9 year old I was quite self aware and knew that I just wasn't cut out for making enemies.

Me? Prefect? So that they'll be waiting for me in the bushes during break time because I'd written their names on the noise makers list? No thank you.

After 2 weeks, and only 2 names showed up on my noisemakers list, my class teacher impeached me without a fuss and found herself a more fearless leader. I was crushed but definitely more relieved to be relieved of my position.

Another first to second base incidence occurred several years later in secondary school. Once again, a teacher nominated me to become a Prefect -- again to my horror. This time, I couldn't worm my way out. She preached to me about how her mind was made up and how she felt I was up to the task.

And much to my surprise, I had a fantastic year in that role and learned a bit about my abilities, skills and talents.

About 4 years ago, I stood on first base again in a whole different ball game. I was a year out of college. But I was afraid to move because I didn't want to strike out on my way to second base. But time was running out. My student status was about to expire and I had to make a decision. And with the clock ticking loudly in my ear, I was once again pushed to make a run for it. So I did. I ran for second base without looking back.
Clinging to security is our natural instinct. Holding on to the bird in our hand while we look for two more in the bushes conventional wisdom.

But sooner or later, always sticking to conventional wisdom will lead to a conventional, boring life.

A life where "what-ifs" are neatly tucked away in the "later" folder. A life where if one doesn't seize the opportunities presented by transition, threats or tribulation, the "later" folder eventually becomes the "it's too late" folder.

And it's not just for the big things. It's also for the seemingly little things: Trying a new hairdresser, taking a different traffic route, saying 'hi' to an uninteresting stranger. Leaving first base to cleave to second.

I've noticed that some of my best gifts in life have come when I let go and just - hang mid air. Many times I've been pushed over the cliff by someone else. At other times, I don't see, yet discomfort or dissatisfaction cause me to leap because I know there just has to be a better place.

And most times, there has truly been a better place.

"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance" - Psalm 16

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Still in Nigeria - Why?

Lagos cracks me up. Seriously.

For 1 hour this evening I was stuck on Ikorodu road at Ojota. At some point, a kpangolo car behind me squashed my bumper, and the driver kept a straight face and pretended like nothing happened. ("Huh? Squash your car? It wasn't me!" Obviously the latest trick in town - pschew!)

We eventually inch along and next thing you know, a grown, healthy, fully formed area boggar (area boy/beggar) pounces on another go-slow resident and starts aggressively praying for the driver - staring him down with crazy gestures and emphatic facial expressions!

If you want to beg, biko beg, if you want to extort and threaten money out of people, then do that. Which one is this combo approach?

I was so thankful all my windows were up!

Oh and right in front of my car was an okada passenger cradling a live ram in his lap! The poor animal didn't even bother to lift its head or move a limb (on second thought, was that ram alive? It had better be!)

And the shocking thing about all this? No one bats an eyelid. Lagosians take it all in their stride, with stern forward facing faces.

The driver who the area bogger accosted didn't even glance in the guy's direction. Not once. It was his kind-hearted sister in the back who reached through the rear window to give the bogger a N100 note. Mr. bogger took the money (courteously and gratefully ofcourse), hurled a few more blessings at the car occupants and moved down the traffic lane to harass the next SUV with a window wound down.

I guess it's just another day in Las gidi ey?

Yeah. Whatever you say. Can someone tell me why I am still in this country?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Becoming a Mrs.

Can't believe it has been this long since I blogged. Hello is anyone out there? Not sure if anyone is still listening, but I won't stop writing...How are y'all doing?

Lots of great stuff have happened since I moved back to Nigeria. Most recently and significantly I got hitched to my knight in shinning armor! Wohoo!

It' s been a period of learning, loving and laughing. How does it feel to be married? It feels...natural. Like this is how I've always lived, even though we dated for just over a year. Perhaps it's because we've been best friends for several years?

I love waking up beside him everyday. No more agonizing good byes at the end of a fun-filled weekend and no more marathon phone calls. Since the wedding day, we've been asking ourselves "So we're really married?"

I was reading the book Saving your marriage before it starts months before we got married and one statement really stuck out to me: that marriage is a lifestyle - aka a way of living. You remain who you are - you've just chosen a different way of living out your life day-to-day. Where most of us get it wrong is when we expect the marriage to be the almighty solution that will save us or deliver us from all of life's woes.

The authors (Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott) say that the love, bliss and healing that we all look forward to enjoying in marriage comes. But it's a by product of a healthy marriage where two partners invest in each other. Not one where the partners are looking to just receive and receive. I certainly found the authors' advice practical before our wedding and now that I'm living in the lifestyle of marriage I certainly understand.

I bless God the Father and thank Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for leading me into all truth and for the gift of my husband. He is truly a gem. A man of honour. The Lord who knows you and who knows who you will become in the years ahead will only give you the best for a life partner.

Our path to the altar was a real journey which I'd love to share once our year-long honeymoon is over...ha ha ha.

Thanks for stopping by! Now back to the business of leaving, cleaving and loving...(wink wink)!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Marriage Talks 3: Mindset

My attitude towards marriage has slowly evolved through the years. As a bullied teenager, I often dreamed of my future husband and imagined the conversations we would have and the way he would make me feel. Marriage was still at least 10 years away, but I was sure that it would wipe away the pain and loneliness that haunted me back then.

In my late teens to early twenties, those daydreams fell to the background as I threw myself into the depths of books, American college life and…online shopping (well, more like browsing – I was a college student !). I wasn’t looking for Mr. Right; even though I wouldn’t have minded being found by him.  But I was conveniently preoccupied with exploring and spreading my newly-acquired adult wings.

Friends and classmates got engaged and I didn’t feel any stirrings. Once, my best friend called from Lagos to encourage me to take a closer look at the men around me. “ Isn’t there anyone you are interested in?” he asked? 

He had never heard any boyfriend tales from me and had specifically called to discuss my love life.
 
In return I told him that I wanted to focus on the season of life that I was in and assured him that God would send the right man at the right time But the concern in his voice stayed with me. “Did he have a point?” I later wondered. 

Truth was, I liked my single life the way it was. No drama, no pain, no heartbreak.  I was the feature attraction and I knew how to handle me. After all I had been living with myself for 21 years. Ten years before, I couldn’t wait to be married, and now that it was finally within reach, love, relationships and marriage had become an abstract concept.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Something is Lurking in the Dark

I was leaving my house at 6:20 a.m and for some reason, I decided to take the back door. Why? I kept asking myself, what if something happens? What will happen? I shot back at my fear.

As I get to the bottom of the back stairwell, I see a black shadow moving and realize there is a creature standing by the gate near the last step. I summon up courage and forge ahead vaguely thinking it's a cat.

I loop around to get to the last step when I suddenly see, running at top speed, and across my path a HUGE rat! It darts beneath the step I'm standing on.

I don' think.

I immediately long jump from the last step to the ground and begin to run blindly - screaming of course - all the way to the street.

I burst out laughing when I am safe on the street, but fear returns when I realize my phone is missing. Eh? I would rather leave the phone behind than go back and meet cat-rat. I have never seen a rat that big in my life. Isn’t that what they call bush meat?

I eventually talk myself into retrieving the phone from where it was waiting to be rescued (on the last step) and report the rat to all my colleagues in the office.

My boss laughed and asked if I would pass the back door in the pre-dawn morning again. Yes ke! How can a rat terrorize me in my own territory? (I haven’t passed the back stairwell that early in the morning since than sha), but I’ve seen the rat from the corner of my eyes twice when I’m passing the front.

My sweetie finds it all hilarious. He says the rat leaves for its workplace, Ratcom, when I leave for mine, that’s why we’re always jamming on the way, and he said it even has a name - Ojorat.

Can you imagine?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Eating Well in Nigeria

Why do I have to wait until I’m approaching 40 or when I’m pregnant with my first child to start paying attention to what I put into my mouth? We are truly what we eat. The first time I personally witnessed this was in 2003.

I had just moved to America and was a freshman in college. I was feeling a bit off so I decided to take advantage of the medical insurance and run blood tests to make sure I was okay.

Days later, the nurse was reading through my blood tests results and I noticed a particular column indicated red because it was about 200% more than the average level! I panicked and asked about it. She said it was good cholesterol - “you must eat a lot of fish right?” Mmmh, not anymore I told her and went on to explain how when I lived in Nigeria, I ate fish almost every night, and I’m not kidding - 5 out of 7 nights for about 1 year!

At first my sisters and I loved ithe round smoked fish in stew with rice, eba, beans. One whole fish to ourselves, yum! But after a while, we began to beef the fish: fish fish fish all the time. Ahn Ahn!

So you can imagine the irony when I found out that that very fish had kept me healthy and was still present in my blood even 3 months after I had stopped eating it!

We are truly what we eat.

So I’m trying to put quality items into my body now. To teach my body to crave the good stuff. It’s not been easy though because while America over processes its foods, over here we love to overcook and fry ours.

Some weeks ago, friends and colleagues kept telling me I was glowing and wondering what I was doing?! I had no idea what! It wasn’t until I had ended my fast did I realize that it probably had something to do with the lack of food! I had read somewhere that human beings over eat in general and that these days we put more toxins than nutrients into our bodies. But shouldn’t I be looking gaunt and miserable if I was skipping meals? I am still trying to figure that one out. I must glow again oh!

In the past few days, I have instituted 3 healthy to do’s on my list. Here’s a synopsis of how I’ve been faring:

#1: Say no to Coke - I haven’t bought a coke for the last 2 weeks, instead I’ve been drinking other beverages (Lucozade, Swepps heh heh I know it’s cheating) but my colleague gave me an ice chilled canned Coke today. I let it sit on my desk for an hour then… drank half a can before I chided myself and dumped the rest in my abandoned cup of water.

#2: Eat 1 piece of fruit a day – I had two apples for dinner yesterday because I was bored with the alternative: eba and vegetable. But for some reason, my stomach ran all night! Was my body having a reaction to the sudden infusion of healthiness?!

#3: Cut down on fried foods – I just finished eating boiled plantain and stew for dinner. I don’t fancy plantain in general, but I found the boiled taste a refreshing change.

#4: Take top quality supplements – Not the kind that adds more chemicals to your body. When I was fasting, I accompanied my evenings meals with a glass of water and vitamin C – perhaps that’s the secret behind the glow? Because our foods are so altered and overcooked, it often lacks the nutrients that our bodies need. If you’re an inconsistent eater like me (think feasting during the weekends and snacking during the week) supplements can make all the difference.

Am not doing too badly don’t you think? Oh and my cold is gone and the subsequent cough is finally breaking. Thanks for all your concern!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Nigerian Wedding Planning

My people, besides eloping, what do you think is the best way to pull of a small wedding reception in a culture that calls for large, loud and lavish weddings ?