Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don't Wind Down in Lagos Traffic

I have many tales to tell on how this chick is fast becoming a Lagos city trotter oh! Yes, I've packed my bags and moved to Lagos, leaving my beloved capital city behind. I fretted about the move—erratic electricity, pollution and the traffic—not too exciting. But mmh, my people, I've realized that even though you take the girl outta of the hood, you can't take the hood out of the girl!

Last week Monday: My first time driving to work, and my second day driving in Lagos since I returned to Nigeria. I decide to take the Race course, TBS exit instead of the usual Federal Secretariat exit and get stuck in hold up on the exit ramp. I'm five minutes away from my office but in typical Lagos fashion it could take me 30 minutes before I pull into to our office lot. I'm antsy.

My windows are wound down just a tad bit. For some reason the A/C had been fogging up my windows since I left home, so I turned the air off so I could see where I was going. It was either that or risk an early morning head-on with a crazy Lagos motorists on Third Mainland bridge.No thanks, I'll pass.

The car is stuffy and I'm antsy. A young man saunters into view. 5'7', rubbery face, faded short-sleeve with a hardened swagger. My conscious mind says he looks normal enough.

My subconscious and my eyes think otherwise and they follow him. He walks in front of my bumper. Our eyes don't meet. He's studying oncoming traffic as he tries to cross Third Mainland. I draw my attention back to the traffic.

"Cross 3rd mainland to where?" my subconscious asks.

Too late. Mr. man swirls back and locks his eyes on me, hooking his fingers on my wound down window.

Kai! Girl, you're slacking on your Gidi skills, you should have known!

"Anti!" he glues his face to my driver's side window and whispers loudly—a real criminal mastermind!

"Anti, look here. Look here. See wetin I get here!"

Look ko, look ini. I face my front. Just like my teachers taught me. Ahn ahn, is it by force for me to look?

But not to seem too uncooperative, I ask, "What do you want?" I make sure I sound tough and icy, still without looking at him.

Mmmh, but I'm monitoring him with my side eye oh. And my side eye noticed that Mr. Man is reaching into his pocket for his "weapon".

It was in 2002 that this last happened and afternoon I grudgingly parted with my last N40 naira! I was stuck in traffic on Broad street in broad daylight and the guy didn't believe that was all the money I had and on me. After all here I was driving a small Japanese car without A/C. I had to literally open my hand bag and show him.

The real owner was here again for his money or is it cell phones they ask for these days?

"No follow me drive oh."

Nonsense. You get two heads abi?

I start to crush his fingers as I wind up the window. Quick, quick he comots his hand!

The traffic eases up and I move along.

Eko o ni baaje o!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Should I move back to Nigeria?

Question: I'm going back and forth on my moving back decision! I'm trying to decide if I should come back home to Nigeria or if I should go to the States to get my MBA or keep working to process my permanent residency/citizenship?

I think one of the first things you have to do is figure out what is important to YOU. That's what I've realized. Lots of folks were asking why I wanted to come home. I could have forced myself to subscribe to the American dream, but the truth is, at that moment and at that time, it wasn't MY dream.

MBA, NYSC or getting you foreign citizenship, only you can decide. Listen to your talents, hopes and observe which way your thoughts go. In my case in early 2007 I just found myself excited about Nigeria. It was almost obsessive and I couldn't decide if it was a passing phase of homesickness or a call to return home. So I decided to do youth service. Great option because it gave me a one year no-strings attached trial to decide if Nigeria was for me or not while I secured the certificate.

If you're anxious about returning to Nigeria, the best thing is to come for a short holiday--a situational analysis/test run/risk assessment of sorts! Pay attention to your reactions and feelings in the environment. Do you generally feel alive and at peace? Are you happy? Or are you restless, irritated
and uninspired?

Remember that whatever happens, the years will pass anyway. You can spend the next two years getting an MBA, or spend them working and processing your papers to become a citizen or resident of your current country, or you can spend them at home working/getting your NYSC while you explore the options here. All of these are exciting opportunities—they are all productive ways to spend the next few years and can lead to a promising future. But only you can decide which one is for you!

But if you follow your talents, skills and dreams, you can't go wrong. There'll be ups and downs, doubts and joys but because you're true to yourself, you'll find peace.

The only person you should compete with is yourself ;)

Monday, October 20, 2008

How is the crime rate in Nigeria now?

Question: What about the crime rate, do you think its increasing or decreasing?


I try not think about the crime rate in Nigeria because I don’t want to live in fear. Crime is the bane of city life anywhere, but Nigerian cities take it to a different level. I hear the stories of armed robbery in people’s homes, on the streets, in cars and even in the workplace and at restaurants—the tales all make me very afraid!

One particular day we were coming back from a function and driving along airport road around midnight and escaped robbers just by a hair—at least that’s what we believe. A car that was driving in front of us pulled over and the driver abruptly steps out as we approach. My mom tells my dad to step on it! As we get closer, the guy seems to be holding what looks like a pistol. Instinctively my mom yells “gun” and puts her head down. I follow suit. After we were at a safe distance, I look behind and notice that the few cars that were driving hehind us on the highway are no longer there. Too close for comfort. My folks get into a hilarious argument over whether my dad accelerated fast enough or not.

For at least 2 months after that, any time I was on a road at night, my heart would be in my mouth. I couldn't hold conversations in the car because my eyes would be busy scanning other cars or pedestrians for crooks-in-disguise.

One particular night, I was driving home, with my mom in the passenger seat. I saw a car blocking the highway and some wood in the middle of the road. I immediately stepped on my accelerator and veered to my right to avoid the obstructing car and flee what I believed was an armed robbery trap. The cars in front of me were slowing down, but I just thought them foolish drivers who I needed to bypass. It was until my mother cautioned me to slow down and avoid the accident did I come back to my senses. A car had run into one of the trees and spun back onto the highway.

Believe me, the real thief is fear. It will torment you if you don’t kill it. I think you have to decide that if you want to live in Nigeria, you will not be robbed of your peace. I also realize that in terms of personal security, there isn’t much one can do beyond what we’re already doing here. Homes are barricaded in estates, cars have alarms and trackers and we’re down right rude to strangers who are “asking for help.” Most private and public buildings have security personnel watching over the property but these guards are not armed, so they are no match for the armed robber. Sometimes it’s the gateman that even tips off the robbers! The truth is that “except the Lord watches over a house, the watchman watches in vain.”

So in answer to your question, because they say perception is reality, I’d say yes the crime rate is decreasing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Postings for foreign graduates

Question: I have heard as foreign graduates you get a chance of serving in Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt. I don’t know if that’s true or false, please confirm!

When you arrive at NYSC Headquarters in Abuja, you’ll be asked to fill out an NYSC application form for foreign graduates. On that form there’s a slot where you’re asked to fill in your 1st and 2nd choices of the states you would like to serve in. This option is not available on the forms for graduates from Nigerian universities. Foreign graduates receive consideration.

However, when you ask NYSC officials about the postings it seems like they’ve been instructed to say that concession is not given to anyone.All the foreign graduates I know got posted to the states they asked for.

For details on the documents you need to enlist for youth service check out the NYSC Website and this post.

I saw an ad in one of the dailies:
Pre-Registration for the 2008 November Batch C has begun. Obtain an eNYSC Scratch Card from NYSC state secretariats and Afribank Branches Nationwide. Cost: N250.

Visit www.nysc.gov.ng or enigeria.com.ng
Click on eRegistration then check for Pre-Registration.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When in Abuja...Rooftop Cafe @ the British Council


Hey people! What’s up? I was down south for two weeks but I’m back to my Abuja! People say there isn’t much entertainment in the capital city but I beg to differ. What better way to entertain myself than to eat? Yes, I love me some food. And I especially love eating out. Tell me you’re taking me out to eat and you’ve just gotten a friend for life or did I hear someone say an FFF (friend for food?) Heh heh.

Regardless of the food loving, my weight has refused to get the memo and trust my Naija peeps to comment freely on how I don’t eat and how I’ve lost weight. The former is false, the latter is true. But it’s all good—I expect that child bearing and/or hitting my 30s will take care of that.

So I want to post on some of the nicer places to eat out if you are in Abuja. That's a picture of the jumbo prawn dish that my friend tackled at the Rooftop CafĂ© at the British Council in Maitama. At that size, eating the prawn was like work but well worth it. Both our meals and drinks came up to about N6,000—Pricey in my opinion, but most of the continental restaurants in Abuja run at that price range. I recommend the British Council for its laid-back atmosphere and rooftop view of Abuja. You might take caution when ordering the T-bone steak. Mine was tough and chewy and I had to give up on it (normally, I CLEAR my plate). My partner-in-crime insisted I send it back to the kitchen, but it only came back hard and dry. Oh well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Passing out!

Okay, I must break this trend. What's up with blog links telling me it's been 4 weeks since I updated? You've all been on my mind, and so has PASSING OUT PARADE!

Yes, today is my last day as a corper. Halleluiah, halleluiah, halle---lui---yaaaaahhhhh! Thank You God. Mwah! I will officially retire the boots and khaki, which I love wearing and will terribly miss. I always feel like a celebrity as I strut down the streets in my uniform, with people hailing "corper!" "ajuwaya" as I feel cool with myself...yeah, that's me!

*sigh*

So what new? I've been wrapping up projects at work, considering new projects, trying to plan my down time for the rest of the month. It's been 14 months, and I still love living here I must say. And for that, I'm grateful Lord.

Techie-wise, I'm back on a Mac--haven't been on one since my college days and I've forgotten a lot of the shortcuts. But it seems like the Mac knows how to tackle slow and erratic wireless connections so I'm not complaining.

If you like working from your phone, I recommend Nokia's latest business phone, the E71. She's slimmer and prettier than the Blackberry and she's got a unique Nokia ring tone. My Naija people are always updating to the latest phones even before it hits the market-- regardless of the price or the high risk of theft! The E71 now goes for N85,000 at the Nokia store and about N70k at the GSM village. That's up from N53K when it first landed a month ago! Nigerians are phone crazy, I tell ya.

Speaking of cell phones, GSM provider, Celtel is now Zain. That's like their 4th change since Econet! I'm loving the Zain brand I must say. Hip, young and urban. Definitely in a better state to compete with MTN. Looking at their billboards and ads, they're doing a good job of interpreting the dark tones in their logo. But when it's all said and done, what we want is good service! Hey do they still show those funny Cingular AT&T dropped calls ads?
they started out as

Okay peeps, gotta run. Passing out parade is about to start! Have a fabulous day. Remember: one life to live, so live it up!

P.S In reference to the previous post, I earn 1 million naira a month...by faith! Ha ha, peeps I was jesting! But I claim it, seal it and grab it for myself. Afterall those people no get two heads, haba!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Getting a Job in Nigeria

Question: How do I get a good-paying job in Nigeria?
Reply: The unemployment situation in Nigeria can be scary. A single vacancy announcement can attract thousands of applicants. Just reading some of the comments below job posts on CareersNigeria will give you a taste of the desperate situation that our citizens are facing. However in response to the criticism that they receive, employers say that most applicants are not employable. Not because they aren’t bright or educated but because they lack employable skills. Obviously this is a touchy subject. Read more here.

But contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a grandaddy in the system before you get a good job in Nigeria. What is probably more true (and this is true anywhere in the world) is that networking will more likely get you an interview than just submitting an application cold.

The way I like to think about it is this: If a manager has to choose between several top notch candidates with similar qualifications, most likely, she will hire the applicant who came referred by an acquaintance. So like the career experts tell us—networking is very important. All but one of the job interviews I’ve ever been on (both in the States and Nigeria) came through my personal contacts—professors, old friends, even an HR manager who once interviewed me for a job I didn’t get. She had moved to another company and when I bumped into her again, she remembered me and eventually scheduled me for an interview in her new company—this time I got the job.

Most job ads (print or online) in naija ask seekers to put in applications online or email CVs (aka resumes) to the relevant department, but I think it's a good idea to find out if any of your family, friend or acquaintainces have contacts within the company you're eyeing.

If you are a well experienced expatriate, you can hope to be wooed by one of the Nigerian financial institutions, who will be willing to compensate you nicely. Check out Jobs in Nigeria Exhibition (JINE), it's a career fair for professionals living in North America who want to find jobs in Nigeria. The big spenders will be there. It has started already and will run until August 31 in different cities. Perhaps this is a good starting point if you want to get on a headhunter's list? Heh heh, sorry I couldn't resist that one.

See me spillng out advice like I have one ghen ghen job right? Well, I'll have you all know that my situation is by choice and not by condition. Don't mind the corper boots and N9, 000 ($76) monthly stipend. It's all a facade--my blogger alter-ego. I really earn N1 million a month as a...

Yes! that reminds me of the gist I wanted to give you people. I didn't know that there are actually folks in Nigeria who make N1million a month--paid employment. Ehn ehn? In this same Nigeria, where people corner me in the church parking lot to ask for N100 to go home!

But you know, I shouldn't be shocked. That's about 9,000 dollars a month and doctors and engineers in the west earn that easy-peasy. I guess it's the "million" that makes it sound very big...but N1 million paid employment is still shocking. In my mind, that kind of monthly salary is for the CEOs. But come to think of it, if I were working for one these longer throat banks as a marketer and bringing in 3 billion Naira a month as my target, they had better be paying me in millions! What do I look like, a mu mu?

So in answer to this question of getting fabulous jobs in Nigeria, I think it is very possible to secure a nice well-paying job in Nigeria (without connections). Jidaw.com is a good site with links to Nigerian-based jobs. If you are in the country this summer and scoping out the job market, buy The Guardian on Tuesdays and Thursdays--that's when they runs job ads. If you're considering a career change or an entrepreneurial opportunity, I recommend reading ""What Color is Your Parachute?" by Richard Bolles. It was one of the 7 books that I acquired at the NuMetro Media Stores. It has really helped me put things into perspective as I make decisions.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can I get a job in Nigeria without doing the NYSC?

Question: Can I get a job without doing the NYSC?

Reply: Yes you can. While some employers require that applicants have the NYSC certificate, others don’t require this. Not everyone gets called up for service immediately they get done with university. I have friends who got called up to serve 2-3 years after graduating, and by then they were already settled in good jobs. It’s best to find out from the potential employer what their requirements are. PricewaterhouseCoopers for instance is currently hiring graduates and they require NYSC. Some companies might have different requirements for foreign-graduates--it is best to call or contact them to find out.

Keep in mind that if you want to obtain a master’s degree in Nigeria or hold certain public offices you must have completed the NYSC or obtained an exemption certificate. In fact, I read it is a criminal offence to dodge NYSC (huh?). British-trained Hon. Dimeji Bankole came under this fire when he was to be sworn in as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. If you didn’t follow the whole Speaker/NYSC episode last November, I've linked some articles below:

Lack of NYSC haunts speaker

Did speaker dodge NYSC?

Speaker Responds(click to view certficate heh heh)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Can I survive in Nigeria?

Okay, I have to post this quick, before my Internet dies again! The next couple of posts are my responses to some questions that a reader asked. These are my own experiences, so please feel free to make your own contributions. Thanks!

Question: Can I survive on my own in Nigeria? I have my parents but basically I need to know what I am up against in case anything happens?

Reply: Yes, I believe you can survive on your own in Nigeria. The trick is to get acquainted with the system. Identify the challenges and take them on. For example, accommodation is a major challenge for most Nigerians. Here, landlords require one or two year’s payment upfront, so you should save up and plan where you will live before you arrive. If you prefer, you might want to start off by staying with folks, friends or family and then get your own place when you’re more comfortable with the terrain or have saved up enough money.

It might take a while to find a good place that is available and within your budget. We own a place in Lagos, but we had to look for one in Abuja and that took a couple of months. On the other hand, it took my colleague a week to find a place. Be wary of the agents (you kind of have to use them to find or rent out apartments). Even if the agent came highly referred, don’t give them cash in advance! Big no no. I know two friends who got swiped by agents who came referred. Only when you’re ready to sign the agreement should money change hands.

Plan for transportation because mobility can speed up or slow down your settling down process. If you’re going to do public transport, get familiar with the routes quickly. If you have a car you want to ship down, find out if the spare parts are available in Nigeria. Mechanics are keeping up with the times and they have diagnostic equipment to handle the newer car models.

It seems like cars are more expensive here in Nigeria than in the states, but by the time you add the cost of shipping a car down and customs clearance, the cost evens out. In the States, with technology like Carfax you can get the lowdown on a car’s history. With vehicles shipped into the country you just never know. Most people still buy cars cash down but Nigerian banks and automobile sellers now offer car loans to those who have good regular incomes.

Friday, July 11, 2008

There's fire on our mountain oh!

“Keep quiet, keep quiet!” the exam invigilator kept saying. The noise level in the examination room was rising and it was not an open book exam.
We were taking professional exams. Exams that will usher us into the path of leadership and management excellence in Nigeria. Yeah. Right.
The test takers paid no heed to the invigilator. Instead they urgently called out more questions and replied with louder answers, as if to do the deed before he lost his patience. Which he did:
I don’t want to hear any noise! If you have anything to say, write it down and pass it!”
Huh? What did you say?
The class erupted in incredulous chatter and chuckles. We had just received an open invitation to cheat from our invigilator.

There’s fire on the mountain
And nobody seems to be on the run
Oh there’s fire on the mountaintop
And no one is running*

It seems to me that the silent mantra in this great country of ours has become:
Do whatever you can, say what you must, by hook or by crook, just stay on top.
We cry foul at the man-know-man job market. But the truth is, if I owned my own business, I too would give preference to candidates I meet through acquaintances and friends; people who can be vouched for. What use do I have for an embellished resume or a graduate who bought rather than worked for his certificate?
But again I don’t blame the individual…I blame the system that breeds and protects the individual. What is scary is that we will reap what we sow.
*Back to my story…
So being the opportunistic lot that we are, a self-appointed class rep rose up in class the next day and announced that he and his seat mates decided it would be wise for everyone in the class to contribute some money to give to the invigilator…so that the day’s exams will go smoothly! “Just something small for her to use to buy Fanta you know, then she can use the change to credit her phone.”
Huh?
I thought (and hoped) they were joking, until one of them showed up to collect my contribution...

One day the river will overflow
And there’ll be no place for us to go
And we will run, run
Wishing we had put out the fire
*Fire on the Mountain—Asa/ Cobhams Asuquo

Monday, July 7, 2008

My 6 quirks

Nneoma tagged me. I don’t know if these are really quirky, but oh well, here goes:

1)I love to question people about their lives. It's like I'm on an interview or playing 21 questions because I keep the questions coming one after the other. It makes some people uncomfortable, while others love it. I like hearing people's stories...it's like reading a good book. I got away with it as a child since most kids can question you tire, but as I grew up it got me in trouble with my elders who felt that I was being nosy or rude. So I learnt to tone down on it...especially now that I'm back in Nigeria, but I always wonder what lies beneath...

2)I stare at them, coo over them and love cuddling them. I go ga-ga over babies. I might be in the middle of a serious conversation with you, but if I spot a cute baby…I’m instantly distracted, gazing and yearning to carry a stranger’s baby. Those wide stares, bobby heads and chubby fingers...they light my world any day. Just don’t ask me to tamper with their diapers !

3)I really don't like wearing sweaters, or any type of fabric that makes my skin crawl. Sweaters are elegant and keep you warmer than the cotton long sleeve, but for some reason sweaters make the hairs on my arm stand up, which makes me cold...and I usually choose comfort over style. They also make me sweat and I find the combination of sweat and cold yucky.

4)When I eat my meals, I don't drink water or any other liquid. It’s a habit from childhood. It’s not intentional and I didn’t know it was unusual until I’d sit down to eat with friends and they’d point out that I wasn’t drinking anything. Eating out has helped to cure me of this because they serve drinks first, but I finished eating 10 minutes ago and I am yet to drink anything, so excuse me while I get a glass of water!

Okay, I’m back…

5)I thrive on change and go out of my way to get variety. I get excited when my body lotion is about to finish because it means I get to try out a different brand. I get restless with routines so I look for ways to shake things up. I love different foods and almost never order anything twice from a menu. In Nairobi, Kenya, there’s a restaurant called Carnivore. For a flat price, they keep brining all sort of meat for you to eat until you signal for them to stop. I didn’t stop until I had tried it all: crocodile, giraffe, deer... sorry if you’re vegetarian and reading this ;)

6) I need humming sound to fall asleep. I think they call it white noise. A fan or a/c. It's soothing. Even if I have a cold, I'd rather suffer the blocked nose than face the silent room. However, I cannot fall asleep with the radio/tv/music on in the background...(future hubby take note!) Just a soft gentle hum. So what about when NEPA strikes at night and there's no appliance to lull me to sleep? I find myself awake and very alert to the strange sounds of the night.

Okay most of you have been tagged so I'll let you be. How have you guys been?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Geeky Love: Is it books that you will eat?!

When I first graduated from college, at the end of the 8-5 work drill, I often dashed to Barnes & Noble. Once inside the bookstore giant, my sister and I were like women in the heat of a clandestine affair: we'd part ways inside the store, find a book, grab a couch and enter our secret worlds until the 11p.m. closing time.

It was my mother who initiated this nerdy nose-in-book habit in all of us. Of course as 4-year-olds we were more interested in the pictures than the words of the Sesame Street storybooks she had subscribed to. We received at least 3 books a month, and thus began the obsession. By the time I was six, even though I could barely read, I couldn’t fall asleep at night unless I had a book tucked beside me.

One time, my mother caught my sister washing dishes and reading a novel at the same time. The book was too good to put down so my sis placed it behind the tap and continued washing. I thought it was genius—but my mother didn’t think so. She gave my poor sis a good whopping.
“Is it books that you will eat?” my mom used to say, or “Do you want your husband to send you back home because you can’t cook?!” Now, the second question used to baffle me. I couldn’t comprehend having a husband that would stress me, talk less send me packing because of something as trivial as *gasp* food. Nah, that would mess up the fairytale romance that held forte in my teenage mind. Even now, in my more skeptical twenties, I still don’t understand that question.

To my consolation, boarding house in Nigeria turned out to be one big book club! There were no computers, phones and certainly no boys to flirt with. So you gossiped, slept or read. Romance books were the craze. You knew how an M&B book would end, yet you’d keep reading one after the other, while you tell critics that such reading enriches your vocabulary. You however wrap the paperback with notebook paper, lest you reveal the not-so-innocent images on the cover.

Fast forward to the millennium. I discovered blogs on a slow day at work and started reading during my down time. At home, I shopped for books online. At an average of $15 per title, books will cut into your wallet. And don’t be fooled by those $1.39 used books on Amazon.com. My frugal self couldn’t resist them, and I bubbled with excitement as I added title after title to my online cart. Next thing I’d have spent 50 unbudgeted dollars!

Where are most of my books? In faraway America, because of a 50kg transatlantic baggage limit. I guess you can argue that my books aren’t really beloved since I didn’t pay the price to have them shipped. No, blame it on the airlines! We all know how unrealistic those limits are (well, a Nigerian woman knows) and we must not give in to such monopolistic manipulation!

Anyway, just when I thought my N9, 975 government. stipend had killed book buying, a true friend recently SPONSORED a shopping spree at the NuMetro Media store! I happily acquired 7 books that blissful evening. Aaah, where would we be without both our real and printed friends?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So you wanna drive in the City II

My people, so do you remember how intimidated I was on the roads when I first came back? Well no more. I’ve been baptized and transformed into a Nigerian driver. But I’m not proud of it. Before I used to look down on those impatient drivers who formed the extra lane and drove on the dirt lane to avoid traffic. Now I’ve become one of them! Yes, I know, shame on me.

But my true christening came last week Wednesday, on yet another CD day. I was stopped in traffic, trying to make a call to a fellow corper to tell her that teachers were on strike so she shouldn’t bother showing up for the weekly class we teach at a secondary school, but the networks were down.

Just at that moment, I spot 3 traffic policemen standing on a sidewalk ahead of me. The light turns green and I quickly drop the phone into my cup holder.

But it's too late. I’ve been spotted. Officer Eager struts out in front of me and with a triumphant look and authoritative finger, motions for me to pull over. I begin to slow down but then suddenly I spark. Go look for another young chick to prey on. I step on my accelerator and swerve to the right to avoid the officer. (Remember the James Bond move I learned here?). Officer Eager moves back in surprise. As I cruise past the trio, I muster up my fiercest scowl and with a dismissive wave of my hand, say “ahn, ahn, what is it now?!”

Na lie O! I was scared and half-expecting them to chase me down on their fancy cop bikes. See me begging the red light in front of me to change so I could step on my accelerator. But alas, my mean look must have worked because they just stared after me with amusement :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

After NYSC, what next?

So, I've been thinking about the next move. What next do I do with myself? Two-three months away from completing NYSC and several different options come to mind. Indulge me while I daydream. Shall I......get a job or start a business in Abuja, Lagos or wherever in this beloved country or...move to Berumda and lazy about in the sun,... no maybe teach English in Eastern Europe then ... join a missionary ship and evangelize the continents...or get married and become a full time mama in a small midwestern town in America? Oh yes, we must not forget grad school. A girlfriend is doing hers in Sweden for the adventure and their non-existent tuition. Exotic.

Get the degrees, land a job, bag a spouse, make babies and get the mortgage. Can't I just be a gorgeous princess? Then one day a dashing young man sweeps me off my feet and we travel the world for the rest of our lives? Only in my 20s and I'm already killing the fairytales. Why do we dream less as we grow older?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

2008 Batch B you're up!

The NYSC website is back up. Finally! So you can check out the timetable for the 2008 Batch B corpers. Registration for foreign-trained graduates runs from May 15 - August 10. Orientation
camp starts September 23rd. Word on the street is that the 2007 Batch B corpers (my set)will
be passing out either first or second week in August. Woohoo!

So if you're considering putting in for Batch B 2008, you've still got some time to pack your bags and come on over to the other side!

In the meantime, back in March, the NYSC teamed up with Afribank and the National
eGovernment Strategies
to faciliate online registration for youth corpers. Read more about it here. It's a very noble venture but at this moment is nothing more than ephizzy, as the registration website is missing in action (if you find it please send me the link). I have no idea why none of the press articles published the website address. I was hoping the online registration would enable Nigerians abroad to pre-register before stepping foot onshore. Let's hope they'll get that up and running for the 2009 set.

Just in case the official NYSC website disappears again, here is the 2008 Batch B timetable I copied from the site:

Registration of Foreign-trained graduates...15th May 2008 – 10th Aug 2008
Collection of Call-ups by Foreign trained graduates...18th - 22nd Sept 2008
Delivery of Call-up letters to Institutions...15th - 17th Sept 2008 2008
Batch B Orientation Course Starts on the..23rd Sept - 14th Oct 2008

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bloggers...Blog

Oooooh, I just heard that petrol tankers want to strike! Kai, and my fuel is very low, plus my folks are away for the weekend. So I’m gonna have to brave those queues by myself again. And I had planned to just chill this weekend, not spend it queuing up with disgruntled men.

Anyway, before I disappear for the weekend, a quick shout out to all you bloggers, especially the Americanas, and Briticos with ya high speed Internet--

I use Google reader to read most of your blogs because my internet connection is slow (by my own standards) and I can’t go from page to page loading your beautiful blog layouts. So far, I’ve subscribed to 42 blogs on my reader and it’s great—just like checking email.

BUT... I don’t always have new mail because y’all don’t update!

You will be blog hopping and surfing, saying UPDATE, UPDATE, on people’s blog, and leave ya own blogs untouched for ages.

Naijablog and ashes and dust, are the only frequent flyers on my list. The rest of… you know yourselves. You don’t know it, but we’re all watching you.

Judging by how many posts I’ve done in my almost one year of blogging, you know I’m a kettle calling the pot black.

But me, I repent. Thanks for your patience ;)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pre-relocation pains

Sitting on my dresser is a blank handmade card that I bought in the midst of pain-filled months. It reads:

“The most important thing is this: that at any time we are willing to give up who we are for who we could become.”- Charles Dubois

The events that led to my relocation from the States were confusing, painful and scary. In the span of a month, my job and relationships turned sour and I retreated into a shell. For the next 6 months, I just existed. Little interest in anything around me. Numb days gave way to numb nights. Sleep and books were my only respite. I was stuck in a ditch and I didn’t know what to do. But even worse, I didn’t want to do anything. My spirit just didn’t care anymore.

It was not a life threatening crises, not a relational crises, not a financial crises, but a deep, heart wrenching, identity crises. The fleeting nature of life shocked me and disillusion, touched on in this post, followed.

I wondered, what will I make of my life? Will I just die like that when my turn comes? Another face, another name bites the dust? Who do I want to be? Then I saw this card and asked myself: Am I willing to give up who I am to become that person I want to be? A simple barter exchange. Lose the old, get the new.

Another of my card reads:
“Progress always involves risk: you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.”—Frederick Wilcox

Yes, those months were difficult, but in hindsight, they were life-saving. Because I was forced to face the future and think about my life rather than just let it happen. If you are going through heartbreak, deep loss, confusion, disease, or emptiness right now—grieve, cry, pray or retreat, but don't miss the ray of hope that will come, because with it a new chapter of your life will follow.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Butt exposure



When I received my NYSC-supplied trousers, they were 3 sizes too big and dangled 2 inches off the ground. But I couldn’t be bothered with amendments so I held the trousers up with the belt they supplied and pulled up my green stripped socks to hide my skin. (I know, I really need to outgrow this "I don't care how I look "phase) You’d never have known my uniform was big unless you were passing by the day I was walking down a street in Wuse Zone 3 and my belt …gasp...unhooked itself. The yeye khaki raced for the ground, but I managed to catch it before it exposed my sacredness.

I guess you could say, I don’t hear word, because five months earlier during orientation camp, I stood up after a stimulating conversation on the parade ground and… Well, let’s just say I suspect my male friend caught a brief view of my pant but kindly pretended not to. That obviously wasn’t enough to scare me into re-fitting the trouser and jacket that I felt should have fit properly in the first place.

But seriously, what’s up with NYSC giving us uniforms without even a glance to see if it’s remotely close to our size? When collecting my uniform on camp, I felt like a kid standing on the lunch line, collecting a packed sandwich—without a choice of turkey or ham. They reach into their pile, pull out a uniform and hand it to you. But in fairness to them, collating and sorting 7-piece uniforms for more than 100,000 corpers, is not an easy feat. So the uniforms run big to leave room for amendments.

Naturally it means girls get uniforms that are too big while big guys get tight uniforms –very unflattering to their bellies I must say. Some men can’t wear their boots or sneakers because they’re too tight. My problem is the reverse: My boots are a size 43 and I wear a size 40. Some peeps swapped shoes, while most gave their uniforms to the tailors who were eagerly waiting to adjust uniforms at prices that would sew a new pair.

I tell ya, get 2,000 humans together in a facility with no facilities and it’s not just a 3-week orientation camp, but a job generator for at least 100 people willing to cater to the teeming corpers.

So after my parents teased and warned me about further butt exposure, I finally gave in to refitting. One is a shot of my NYSC Khaki trousers after the amendment. Still too short, I went to the market to look for fabric and got one custom made for my 35-inch inseam. Nice upgrade ey?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Working in America

Working in corporate America left me just a tad bit disillusioned. Don’t get me wrong O, the pay was great. I was making twice what I needed to be comfortable. In other words, after I paid tithe, rent, car loan, electricity, heat, phone and internet bill, fed the household and put 10% of my salary in my savings account, I still had half of my salary to play with. But its called disposable income for a reason —something always disposes you of your money. It could be something as minor as Sunday lunch at a Thai restaurant or the last $5 Tee in your size at Gap. On the other hand, it could be something major like a car breakdown, a trip to California or a friend in dire need.

The pay was great but my bubble burst when I realized that money comes, money goes, and all this while I was living someone else’s dream. I was dancing to the tune of expectations and assumptions and did not stop to check if the shoe fits. I didn't stop to see if it was to my taste, my style and true to my person. I just wanted it because it was the fad. It was practical and it was comfortable. But it was not me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why I love CD Days

I love Community Development days. It’s the only day I wear my corper gear, which I love wearing (seriously, I do. My friends tease me about this all the time). It’s also the only day I can explore the city and get into a little trouble. Take last week, on my way back from CD, a bus conductor wanted to chance me. Instead of the N20 change I was supposed to get, he extended N10. Eh? I didn’t touch it. The fare is usually N30, not N40. He nodded once as if to say, “bring it on.” The battle lines were drawn and I was FULLY up to the task ;)

What do I look like? A JJC, just because I’m in corper khaki?I didn’t get off the bus when we reached my stop. A nice man beside me tried to pacify me by giving me N20, but nope, didn’t take it.

I had been challenged to a fight, and wasn’t about to acquiesce. I got down from the bus, squeezed my face and told Mr. conductor and his driver (and my bus audience) that I ply that route every week for N30, not N40 as he claimed. So—give me my twenty naira change.

So there I was, holding up the bus—thoroughly embarrassed, yet too stubborn to back down. Besides, I was fueled by the passengers who were now rooting for me: “Conductor, shey na for N10 you dey behave like this?” (mind you the same thing could have been said of me, but hey I’m a fyne girl ;). Even his driver told him to oblige me. He refused, but unfortunately for him, he didn’t have a N10 note. “Oya find N10 give her now,” some fellow corpers at the back of bus jested at him. When he started asking around for a N10 note, I decided I had proven my point and told him to take N100 and give me N60 change. Maybe he didn’t understand the math or he decided that omode lo n se mi (I was being childish) and I’d held up his bus long enough, but he finally grumbled and gave me my N20.

Gbosa!

Monday, April 21, 2008

What I don’t miss about America

Ofcourse there's a flip side to every coin. So here goes:

· Fuel prices. Y’all can keep your $3 per gallon gas prices.

· Winter. Breathing out smoky breath is cool, but icy winds and slippery snow don’t go down well with me. Add the fact that I’m always cold because I can’t stand sweaters! Yuck. I itch just thinking about them. Grad school must be in the Caribbean, California or Texas.

· Automatic carwashes or those high powered hoses. Nothing gets your car cleaner than human hands, a rag and a bucket of water. And my hands prefer to pay other hands to do that which reminds me…

· Expensive labor. There’s no N50 vulcanizer or N1, 000 electrician in America, the land of do-it-yourself. You will pay through your nose for the simplest repair. It just propagates waste because it’s often wiser to buy a new item than fix an old one at such high a cost.

· T-Mobile surprise bills—If you’re on a family plan with chatty girls, you never know what your bill looks like until it’s due in two weeks! My all time highest? $400 (but come to think of it, I have friends who spend much more than this on monthly recharge cards in Nigeria.

· Calling customer service. Someone needs to tell those companies that we don’t like talking to automated voices and pressing O, then 1, then 5, then 7. JUST GIVE ME THE HUMAN!

· Being told: “Oh wow, you speak really good English!” I learned to just shut my mouth and smile in response to that one.

· HAIR SALONS! I could not get over paying $50 for retouching or $120 for braids or weavon. Hair that you will throway in 2-4 weeks! Me? I used to stretch styles for months so tey my sibs, friends and even my pastor used to beg me to loosen my hair.

·The IRS and the INS. Taxes and immigration...mmh, let me not say anything, they might be watching….

Friday, April 18, 2008

Things I miss about America

Okay, I know my peeps often wonder how I'm surviving my new environment--I am loving it here! But there are some things I've missed about my American life:

· Online Shopping! If you wear a size 2 or 20, a 35”inseam, and you’re not ready to drop $100
for a pair of pants, online shopping is the way to go! Plus, I love getting packages in the mail. (If you battle with Steve Urkel trousers, Alloy, Gap, Victoria Secret and Zara have you covered)

· Customer service. In America, the customer is always right; in Nigeria they will abuse you out of their shop.

· Constant electricity. It feels weird even writing this. To think that we still don’t have it 24/7 in 2008?! It breaks my heart.

· Cell phone minutes. My average American conversation: 20 minutes. My average Nigerian conversation: 2:20mins. Cell phone rates are still too expensive here in my opinion.

· The great American highways. Set the cruise control, pop in the CDs and you’re set for a road trip. No worries about pot holes, robbers, or brake-less trailers! Just the cut throat speeding ticket.

· Easy and cheap access to books. Like most bloggers, I have an incurable addiction to books.

· High speed internet! Not the Nigerian version of high speed.

· DriveThrus! Not a junk food junkie, but sometimes it don’t get better than a $3 lunch from Wendy’s (if you’ve never tried it, please do—chili, salad and burger, 99 cents each)

· And of course, my peeps! Kisses, hugs, sniffles, I’ll be over to visit soon!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I had totally forgotten about the Nigerian toaster…

When a woman is supposed to be parading with suitors, I am dodging a toaster. I haven’t had a toaster since I was a teenager running around with one of the estate bad boys. I was new to the ‘hood then and feeling the fine boy’s sweet mouth until my mother threatened to call the police the next time she sighted his jaga jaga head around our house.

But my dear men, at this age, a toaster is not cool. A young man who calls on you when he’s bored and feeds you lame lines in hopes of catching some fun—clichĂ©. We’ve been neighbors for six months (he’s a corper too) but his lines started recently when I was on my way to work. I was yielding for traffic at a bus stop, when he taps my window and gets into the car. We make small talk. Nothing unusual until he sends me a text later that night saying “Tanx 4 d ride baby I miss u and my heart desires and want u.” He follows up with a call because he wants to hear my voice before he sleeps and says he’ll call me first thing in the morning so he can wake up to my voice. Eh? Am I in a bad nollywood script?

I begin to screen his calls. But you can’t dodge your neighbor for long. He catches me one day and with our property wall between us, I tell him I didn’t like his text or his lines. With characteristic cockiness, he laughs it off as “just being friendly”, but quickly adds that being friendly can lead to something. I am feeling like a harassed 16 year old. So for now, I am playing hide and seek.

…and the Petrol Queue!

On Monday I drove into the petrol station at 7:20 a.m. feeling like a smart chick only to find smarter drivers already there. The queue was longer than I expected. My dearest dad with whom I drive to town with every morning was still at home. We were supposed to do this together but I didn’t want to be late to work. He’s an oga who can resume whenever. Me? Am at the other end of the hierarchy. I can always pull the corper card in the face of lateness, but I don’t like talking too much early in the morning. So I decided to get a head start, get fuel and return home to pick him up. I didn’t leave the station until two hours later. NYSC orientation camp introduced me to the culture of shunting but I didn’t know that cars also jump queues! Nobody is their brother’s keeper on a Nigerian petrol queue. Noborry.

So when my turn finally arrives at the pump, almost two hours later, the attendant fuels two bike drivers then turns to me and says: “anti, you go find one N200 for us oh!”After your slow crawling queue, the first thing that comes out of your month is a half-demanding, corrupted request for more of my money?

I put on my best agbero accent and tell him no oh! After all, he allowed the okada drivers to chance me! He apologizes and asks how much I will give him. I feel bad, but unfortunately I have no change and neither does my dad who is annoyed anyways and not in the mood to part with his money. I tell the fueler to stop short of the N3000 I’m buying and keep the change, but the attendant grumbles because I didn’t tell him sooner and they shove my 30 naira change in my face. Na wa! for your people.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Aje-butter’s guide to surviving NYSC orientation camp

In recognition of the 2008 Batch A corpers who will be reporting for orientation camp this March, here’s a snapshot of what to expect those first 3 weeks of your National Youth Service Corps scheme:

On registration day, come very early or very late. By early, I mean the night before. Late is a day or two after registration day. If you don’t heed this advice and like me, you waltz into Abuja’s Kubwa camp at 8:30 a.m. on the D-day, bring an umbrella because you’ll be standing in the sun for the next 10 hours. Also bring a bucket to sit on when the queue is at a 20-minute standstill (this bucket will also be useful for bathing for the next 3 weeks). If you’re a real butter chick, bring your own pillow to pad the bucket so it doesn’t hurt your bum.

If you’re standing outside the camp, ask your neighbor to save your spot on the queue so you can check out the movement at the front. Of course what you’re really doing is looking for a familiar face who will allow you jump the line. In camp, we call it shunting. When you find such a person, quickly thank your old neighbor for watching your stuff and upgrade yourself.

If this scenario doesn’t play out, form close ties with those around you because you don’t know if that guy with bad breath is the nephew to the Bwari Local government Chairman, who will soon send aides to whisk the guy to the front of the line—at which juncture you can claim your buddy ties and also upgrade yourself.

If you’re looking very butterish, a shady man might offer to move you off the streets and into the camp for 1, 000 naira. Say no for two reasons: if you’re going to shunt, use your brains and save your money for the camp’s mammy market. Second, there’ll be no saving face if the soldier at the gate sends you back with a good lashing!

Mentally prepare yourself. Registration will push you to the limit no matter how tush you are. It’s a 2-5 day affair of shoving, yelling, sweating and smelling all sorts of body odors. Be naughty or nonchalant, crafty or charming, whatever persona you chose to imbibe to get your way, remember to throw in a little courtesy to your fellow corpers.

Essentials to bring to NYSC camp:

-Small Bucket (unless you can carry a large one across a hundred feet)
-Dettol
-Ideally, you should bring a mattress and save yourself the horror of sleeping on the camp supplied ones, but they won’t allow it, so save yourself the stress and bring multiple blankets and bed sheets instead.
-Flashlight and extra batteries
-White T shirts, white shorts, white socks and white sneakers
-Vitamin C, aspirin and malaria drugs
-Laundry soap
-Toilet Roll
-Money to buy food and anything else you forget from the mammy market

If you manage risk well, bring these along:
Digital camera, iPod, your 90,000 naira cellphone

Contraband that you’ll have to surrender at the gate:
Boiling ring, iron, cutlery (don’t ask.)

Put all these (except the bucket) in a small duffel bag and bring a padlock for the duffel. Toilet facilities are shabby so unless you want to perfect the act of shot putting your waste, don’t bring milk, Cerelac, biscuit or anything that will accelerate your digestive processes.

How to Sign up for NYSC as a foreign-trained student

For those of you who are curious, I'll be posting some information on how to become an official khaki-wearing, government owned corper.

Update: The official NYSC website is now live and updated. Click here for the page listing requirements.

Take these original documents and several photocopies to the NYSC headquarters in Maitama, Abuja:
  • WAEC Certificate – They prefer the official waec- issued certificate, but this is only available five years after you take the exam. So if you don’t have it, just bring along your statement of results issued by your secondary school.
  • University transcript
  • University diploma
  • Birth certificate
  • Nigerian passport (what they’re after is the “seen on arrival” airport stamp)
  • 2 passport photographs ( actually, make 20 prints because you’ll use them for camp registration)

You have to submit all these in person. So be in the country several weeks prior to the call up date because there is a cut off date for submission. Batch A 2008 is getting called up next week. Batch B will be called up in September.

When you’re filling out the application form at the headquarters, there’s a slot to put your first and second choices of the state you prefer to serve. Nigerian students don’t have this option on their own forms, so even though you’re not guaranteed your choice, word on the streets is that foreign-trained students receive special consideration.

The call up letters will be ready a week or a few days before you’re supposed to report at orientation camp. To claim your call up letter and find out where you’ve been posted to, take your passport back to NYSC headquarters.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"V Monologues: The Nigerian Story" in Abuja

I watched the second showing of the V Monologues in Abuja on Friday and all I can say is: Ayaya yaya!Fantastic script, fantastic cast, fantastic acting.
It is a stunning production. With just a dozen seasoned actresses and a handful of men on drums, director Wole Oguntokun takes the internationally-renowned Vagina monologues and turns it into an accurate retelling and long overdue tribute to lives of millions of Nigerian women.
The script seamlessly tackles widowhood, rape, incest, domestic violence and female sexuality with depth and humor. In the opening scene, Kemi Akindoju's character fumes with both love and hate towards her incestuous daddy. In another, a misinformed, born-again woman (Omonor Imobhio) stops her first orgasm on her wedding night to cast out the"evil" sensations. A few scenes later, Tunde Aladese explains to her in-laws why she grabbed her husband's manhood--and threatens to do worse the next time around!
If feelings make you uncomfortable, there's no walking out or closing your ears against the intensity during this show. The in-your-face storytelling will find you either singing along with the characters, or frozen in stunned silence, or breaking into hysterical laughter and crazy applause.
The V monologues boldly captures the real life stories that go untold, unseen and unaddressed in the hearts of countless girls and women. To the writers, cast and director of V Monologues: The Nigerian Story, I say:
Well done. Encore. Encore! Where and when can I get a DVD?
For more details on the showings check out the director's blog, here

Monday, February 18, 2008

Police Wahala Part I

The other day, I ran a red light in Wuse II. Normally, I wouldn’t be caught doing such. See, me, I can be a serious efiko, goody goody kinda girl. Running red lights is a big no no in my world. But this particular day, I had been standing in that left lane turning for like 20 minutes! Moving one car at a time each time the light turned green for 2 seconds before turning red again.

So as the light turned from yellow to red, the car in front of me, a green Mercedes Benz E class dashed into the intersection, and I followed. Immediately I turned the corner, two police men stepped out from the sidewalk to block the green benz. The driver of the green benz twisted to the side and drove past the officer. In serious goody goody fashion I dared not try the same. I just pulled over quietly and stared ahead.

What is the process here, what are my rights? Is it like the States where I’m supposed to stay put with my seat belt tightly fastened or do I step out and ensue in a long conversation as to why I ran (or did not run) the red light? While pondering my next line of action, the officer taps on the passenger window and asks me to let him in. He pulls on my door handle and I hestitate. “Wait, does he have the right to step into my car without my consent?”

I unlock the doors and he gets comfortable in the car. He looks around my car then asks for my particulars. I hand it over. Everything is in order. So begins to explain that he stopped me because I ran the red light and it’s a traffic offense? (Really?!)

He asked me what I do. I’m a corper. I am shaking and irritated that they are sitting in my car. So what happens next? I ask. I have to go to the police station, pay about 10,000 naira fine, let my car sit there for a week before I can get it back. Why should my car sit there for a week after I go to the bank to pay the fine? I suspected foul play. His partner, a female officer sat at the back of my car without saying a word. Shaken but bullheaded, I decide to let them take me to the police station. Not one kobo would leave my pockets! Nada. Nil. Nope. I'm saying no to corruption!

Well, let’s see my oga first before going to the station, the male officer said.

Why can’t they give me a fine and I go pay it? Must they escort me to the station? Must they impound my car when I get there? But I didn’t know my rights and with all the human rights victimization stories I’ve heard about the Nigeria police, I didn’t want to be difficult about it. With both officers still in my car, I turned the corner to meet their boss. I started to call my dad but then disconnected it before I got nailed for making a phone call while driving.

Tanana. Tanana. My phone rang. It was my dad.

-Hi daddy.

-Why are you flashing me! My dad said in his usual, lively jesting manner

-Daddy. The police stopped me. I’m on my way to the station.

-What happened?

-I ran the red light. I say in my most submissive tone.

-How could you do such a thing?! You know how I feel about such things. How could you. Is the officer there? Let me speak to him!

I give the phone to the officer. He listens to my father, smiles, says yes sir and hands it back to me.

My dad says: Come to my office now. I’ve told the officer to follow you here. Now.

Ok, I know my father is the ultimate charmer, but how did he do that?!! One minute the officer is telling me to go the station, the next he’s following me to my territory.

Where is your father’s office? The officer asks.

I smile to myself.