Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Riding the bus for a thousand blocks

I can understand why sometimes white people have alot of bad things to say about black people or more specifically black kids. I really do because I share some of the same sentinemnts mysel.

These African American offspring are some of the most ill mannered, disrespectful disruptive people you will ever encounter in a public space.

The law says, keep conversations to a mummer: no, we have to hear about the fact that you need to get your thirteen year old head subjected to a chiaruscuro of weaves.

The law says, no eating or drinking on the metro: but no, you come in with a dinner special from Dim Sum Amazing, with fried chicken and home made ice tea, masticating like your life depends on it and spitting the bones everywhere. And there is the oil on your hands that you rub on the seats.

The law says that if you have to listen to your electronics, you should use sound cancelling earphones: but no, I have to sit through eight stops of your horrible, monosyllabic, auto tuned horror that is the latest hip hop/ rap music. Music that I might add was written and produced by someone who thinks that you are too stupid to listen to anything else and so the lyrics do nothing to tax you besides a dumb repetition grammatically incorrect tenses and stereotype fueling messages.

I am not sure if this is a law but there should be one about showering or odors emanating from your person but no: you roll up on the metro smelling like a cross between an ash tray and the bottom of a trash can with femented animal waste. I think it is admirable that you want to kill flies and other air borne bacteria with what emanates from your person but you must remember there is a reason why when you spray insecticide, humans are asked not to be present sheer reasons of toxicity. Well, it is the same with your BO.

Sorry for the rant but sometimes, these kids are just plain embarassing. They knock into older people, even elderly people. Scream and shout and constitute a nuisance. And they think they are being cute or hood or whatever misguided idea they have of themselves.

To call them out is to risk humiliation as it can result in a shouting march or even worse, bodily harm. It is a problem because so far, these groups of kids have always been African American. I know there are white errant kids and even ill mannered kids from other races but so far, I have not had to endure their presence on the metro.

So disgraceful

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I ate a pomegranate

picture from here.
Yesterday, out of curiosity and a genuine desire to consume fruit, I bought and tried to consume a Pomegranate. An odd looking fruit with no clear indication as to how it should be eaten and nursing a paranoia from a disastrous experience from my first week in Architecture school and second week in the US, I was a bit skeptical about my choice of source for vitamin C but it was either buy apples (which I do not quite like), oranges (too sweet and they cannot be peeled like the specie that grows in my home country), pears (only like them when their skins are hard and crunchy) and grapes (which have taken a back seat since I discovered cherries.) All the other fruit were either unripe or I did not quite know what they were. I selected some bananas, three peaches and a pomegranate, paid and went home.
Why was I so cautious about this fruit and why was it so important that I eat it, in other words, conquer my aversion to it? I will have to take you back six years, to the late summer of 2004 when a fresh faced me, began the first week of my collegiate pursuit of an architecture degree and the class was given an assignment to both test our observe-and-record skills as well as the ability to indicate depth of material through shading techniques. Each student was required to select a fruit and make five drawings with five different types of pencil techniques: hatching, pointillism, cross hatching, staining etc. I had never been a strong fine artists but like everyone in class I had to do the project. I selected an orange and went to work.

The project required you to sketch the fruit whole, then take it apart and draw what you saw. So the end result would have been a sketch of a whole orange, half of an orange, the rind of the orange, the squeezed orange with pulp and seed and whatever else you felt you could come up with based on the fruit you had selected. Some classmates opted to let the fruit ripen and rot, thus indicating the different processes of its demise.

In any case, we had two weeks. In architecture school, we would present on Mondays and Fridays with the days in between usually for developing ideas or correcting errors based on a bad critique.

Sunday evening, ninety percent of the class is done. My submission looks as raggedy as the fruit I have subjected to all forms of artistic torture and I am moving around the studio observing other classmates at work and getting to know them. At this point, I know maybe three names in the entire class.

I stop at a classmates desk. He has chosen a pomegranate. I actually stop for two reasons, his drawing skills are waaaaaaaaayyyy above mine and I have never seen the fruit he is drawing before.
I ask, "What is this?"
He looks up a bit puzzled, then realizing it is me, he says "A pomegranate."
I look at the fruit. The skin is hard. It has on its inside, a dense network of seeds that are encased in a transparent skin of liquid, a bit like paw paw (or for Americans, papaya) seeds. It has no discernible fruity smell.
"How do you eat it?" I ask
He answers in a weary tone, as if to say, "why bug me now" and answers "well, you suck on the juice." He points at the seeds.
I look at what he is pointing at and still not understanding, I reach for one of the seeds, pick it up and I am about to say "what do you...", when I press it between my forefinger and thumb and disaster happens. Juice goes spurting everywhere...over his almost complete, impeccable project.
He goes ballistic.
I try to apologise. The class gathers. I am shaking. I know I cannot offer to do the work for him. It is not a model where I can build the frame or anything, it is an art project and that is tanamount to skill. Mine can in no way replicate his.
He is livid and cursing. If I was a guy, I am sure he would have hit me.
I am still apologising as best as I can. I am embarassed because the whole class is reacting like "How could she not know that the seeds have juice that STAIN". Another batch are explaining, "She ain't never seen one before. You know, she African."
So in one swell move, I am a destructive coon from an uncivilised jungle who does not know what anything is and causes trouble. I am sick to my stomach.
He storms off, the rest of the class goes back to what they are doing.
I go home. I am sad and scared. I don't want to be hated for a mistake
So I say a prayer and explain to God that He knows I would not do anything intentional to hurt someone's work. I say that I will try to get to class as early as possible before the professor gets there and that I will explain what has happened and ask that if there are any marks to be subtracted, that it be taken from my grades and not his.
I go to bed worried.
I cannot sleep.
For one reason or another, I am late to studio the next morning. Not seriously late, just enough that the professor has walked in. Immediately, the guy whose work I have ruined presents his case. I hurry over and try to interrupt, apologising and presenting my offer.
The professor listens. Looks at the project and then says, "I would have thought you were trying to use a staining technique to more accurately depict the color of the fruit..."
Then she takes a small sponge, rubs it against the rest of the fruit and begins to press it all over his boards.
Needless to say, I learnt a new technique. No one got punished and no one got marks subtracted. However, I was so scarred by the experience that for six years, I never touched another pomegranate till yesterday.
And even after I brought it home, I went on Youtube to research how it was to be eaten.
I found this

and this

I chose to follow the instructions in the second video.
Did I enjoy it? It was just one very weird fruit. After nearly hurting my cheek bones trying to get out as much juice as possible, i then faced the task of how to get the juice off the seeds without going through the five-week-blender-salad-alternative. I ended up spooning the seeds into a bowl, sucking on the juice and spitting out the seed shaft.
Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy too much work

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Isabel Briggs Myers/ Personality Indicator

Isabel Briggs Myers (October 18, 1897 – May 5, 1980)[1][2] was an American psychological theorist. She was co-creator, with her mother, of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). from here.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.[1]:1 from here

In any case, as part of an office-wide initiative to help us find out what kind of personalities we all were and how they affected how we perform; I and my co-workers sat through the 93 question questionnaire, after which some individual had the tedious task of trying to analyse us.

My results arrived today and I was classified: INTJ

What does that mean?

After analysing my responses to questions to determine a) where i like to focus my attention, b)the way I like to look at things c)the way I like to go about deciding things and d) how I like to deal with the outer people; it was discovered that:

I have an original mind and a great drive for implementing ideas and achieving goals. I quickly see pattens in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When committed, I organize a job and carry it through. I am skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance for myself as well as others.

I think that pretty much means I am awesome.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Liberian Widows Initiative

Simply by watching the video posted below, you can help raise funds for a worthy cause: The Liberian Widows Initiative. The couple in the video will be spending a year in Liberia working with the program, funds for which are being donated based on the number of views the video gets.

So just by watching it and inviting someone one else to click on it and do the same, you are helping to raise funds for people who really need it.

Visit the creators at the JUBILEE PROJECT if you would also like to sponsor directly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

69 days

The highlight of my day yesterday was the rescue of the trapped Chilean miners after a 69 day ordeal. Yes, I said 69 days. 69 days of being trapped in cramped, unsanitary and uninhabitable quarters, miles beneath the ground on which their frantic family members were standing on.

I remember when it first happened, I stumbled across the news because I am well, nosy. I remember I was getting dressed to go out and watching a live streaming broadcast of the news and the newscaster said something to the effect of "Work has started on the tunnel to reach the miners and bring them out. There were two possible points of entry" the camera pans as he points to two mountains," the current option will take about two months and the original choice would have been a 6 month drilling project."

I remember freezing. Two months! Six Months! What on earth was going on? I thought it was a simple case of sand falling in on a badly constructed mine shaft and all that needed to happen was for them to use dynamite to blast their way in and get them out. I was wrong.

69 days, these men huddled together, armed with sheer determination not to give up and the fervent prayers of their loved ones.

I wondered which one of them might have fought with his wife that morning before going to work and maybe in anger she had yelled, "Get out and don't come back!" and he too had retaliated with "Who wants to come back sef!!" Only for hours later to realise that he really couldn't and if something went worse, he never will.

Or maybe one of the men had a kid that had done something bad and the father had said, "When I get home from work, I will deal with this." and the child had prayed out of fear,"God, please don't let daddy come home tonight." Well, daddy did not come home for 69 nights, all of which you now stayed with another kind of fear.

Does make you wonder at the grace of divine love in your life. Why do some experiences happen to some and not to others?

Do you care? I don't. I am just happy that the ones that have happened to me, I could deal with.

And I am happy that the miners are home. My mother, when I told her, wondered if there might have been some psychological effects on the miners. We both were still grateful that they were still here; even the most sickly of them all.

Welcome home. Welcome home

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I am not a spectacular cook. I cook well and have been complemented enough times on my ability to raid the fridge and make something delicious. I cook because I love to eat and have sadly come to a realization: some time in the past five years of living in the US, food became my go-to pick-me-up

Two years into my collegiate career, things became very tough for me. A lot of things began to go wrong. Too many issues were beyond my control and I found myself crumpling under the burden. I have an aunt who in her own way tried to do her best to make right for me, the things that she could. One such thing was food. She always made sure that I had enough to eat. And so, I began to measure my level of personal well being by how much food I was eating. I could not afford to eat out but that was no problem as I always had enough food to make up.

I remember one Friday evening a couple years ago which could serve as a template for many others. As usual, I had put up for "pin-up" review, designs that were so predictably sub par--according to my professors-- that the reviewing jury took a considerable amount of time ripping into me. Choking back frustrated tears and weighed down by the foreboding knowledge that it did not matter what grades I got in other courses, my GPA was not climbing anywhere higher, I dragged my sorry self to my dorm room.

My suite mate was getting dressed to go clubbing and she proffered the perfunctory invitation. As usual, I declined. Girlfriends with whom I had hung out with as a freshman had slowly taken me off their social lists: a heavy academic workload coupled with my recluse-type behaviour meant that I was not honoring their invites and they too stopped asking; so that Friday, like all others, no one was looking for me to do anything.

My other classmates from architecture school called me to tell me they were going drinking. Our studio was split down the middle with half being budding alcoholics and the other half stepping that up to smoking weed. Each group usually retreated behind their individual comforts when stressed. Since I did none of those things, and could not afford to do anything else, I went into my room and closed the door.

Then I cried a bit. It sometimes helped.

Then halfway through blowing my nose, I realised that I needed to pee. I got up and headed for the bathroom I shared with my suite mate. As I walked out of my room, I caught sight of two plantains, sitting on top of our fridge. They were turning black. I told myself that I needed to fry them immediately lest they become so rotten that they could not be salvaged.

As I sat on the toilet bowl, I toyed with the idea of eating just plantains. As I washed my hands, I mentally browsed through the contents of my fridge. Twenty minutes later, the suite was filled with the smell of frying peppers and steaming rice with onions. Less than an hour later, I climbed on my bed with a tray laden with food and cold, sweet drinks. I was alternating between shoving my face with food and changing the channel when I caught my reflection in the mirror and froze. There was a slight, imbecilic smile on my face and for the brief moments, I had forgotten that I had been crying.

All it had taken to bring up my spirits was hot rice with fried fish stew, fried plantains washed down with cold soda. Food had become my comfort.

I think, after that, i became very cautious about how I saw food. Unfortunately, the system had been set in motion. Till now, I fight a daily battle not to mask/ bury my emotions with food. It does not matter what it is, as long as I am eating something.

A forty pound weight gain coupled with skin that has become a new colony base for acne have been just two of the repercussions. Lethargy, fatigue, join the list.

I am working on it. We all battle depression in different ways. I have used food. Others use even more destructive means. Talking about it was not an option at the time: no one would have understood and family would just have told me to go into prayer; which is fine but sometimes, you might feel so down that you cannot hear God speaking to you. And that is why God made professional mental health practitioners.

It is 10.56 pm. I am craving something to eat. I am not sad. Or depressed. Just hungry.

Friday, October 08, 2010


I attended a panel discussion yesterday of which one of the panelists was Cheryl Blair, wife to former England's Prime Minister, Tony Blair. I had no idea she would be there as I had only just heard about the event while mistakenly eavesdropping on the chatter of two ladies on the bus. It was to be a seminar on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs and as I am a budding entrepreneur, I excused myself for an hour from work and went to attend the event.

The panelists were 1) John Rwangombwa, The Minster for Finance and Economic Planning of Rwanda 2) Cheryl Blair, The Cheryl Blair Foundation for Women and 3) Leslie Lane, The Vice President of the Nike Foundation

A couple things struck me during the discussion. First of all, when Cheryl Blair was introduced, there was no mention of her spousal connections or how many children she had; which made me think of the last time I attended a Nigerian business professionals' event and someone thought it important to mention that all the speakers were married with children. I had had no idea that she was a lawyer. Her personal life was not important, only her personal achievements. I was impressed by that. I want to be measured by what I have done with my life and not whose last name I might or might not carry or how many children I am mother to.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala gave the opening remarks. Of the percentage of impoversished people in the world, women make up most of the numbers, she said, and she finds it incredible that constantly there has to be presentations to justify why women should be invested in. I have my own theories about that but I found the information fascinating. Because, I have indeed seen so many announcements of summits where women are lobbying to invite male dominated giovernments and financial mechanisms to invest in their women and communities. As one of the panelists later stated, 90% of a woman's revenue is pooled back into her family while for men it is 30-40%. Men in general, are thought to consider an investment in/ purchase of things to be better use of their resources than an investment in the women.

The third thing that touched me was when the Rwandan Minister said that his country has the highest number of women in political office in the world. And as such, there have been quite a few progressive, positive reforms in legislature and constitution to protect and develop women's rights which have in turn led to positive results for the country as more women were seeking education and aspiring for more with their lives than just marriage and children. However, the interesting thing is this would probably not have been possible if the 1994 genocide had not happened because as a result of the horrific deaths, most homes were left without male heads. So, it was imperative for the government to do something as now, most of their citizens were women and children; both of which had not historically been given rights and opportunities to empower themselves. So reforms were made for women to improve upon their economic potentials which then led to an increase in their overall life potential.

This made me think of one valuable lesson I have learned growing up as an Eckist: that nothing in life happens in a vacuum; it is up to you to deduce the reason and choose your reactions.

The genocide was a horrible part of history; as were all other acts of human violence on one another. The nation is still recovering but who was to think that in future years, its result would establish Rwanda as a nation that might very well be on its way to becoming the template for a modern African nation with regards to equality and human rights. Women's rights are human rights, you know.

Cheryl Blair then went on to share that she had just come from a bid opening chaired by Hilary Clinton on a project to bring to half of the world's 300 million women who have no access to technology, information and thus social leverage, a simple device some of us take for granted, called the cellphone or mobile phone. This was after it was realised through research that this was a $150 billion untapped market that telecommunications providers were ignoring in favor of their more western and more male dominated markets. Now, there is a bidding frenzy to participate in a project that will develop and encourage such services like mobile education, mobile banking, mobile marketing, mobile health care among a plethora of supporting services and industries. I was intrigued that it was only when a monetary incentive was dangled, did these firms step forward.

I am no fool. I know money or the lack of it makes the world go round. I also know that women are the best avanue for capacity building for every nation. If a woman is in control of her own life and her resources, she can plan if and when she does things be they be the more traditional actions like marriage and child bearing or even running a business to maintain her independence and financial contribution to her family and community. An educated and enlightened woman is an asset to every community she is in.

I know that I have been fortunate in life but also the quest for the opportunities to be fortunate has also been because my mother herself was educated and could encourage me to do so.

And so I march on, seeking ways to empower myself spiritually, financially, intellectually, emotionally and socially.

That is why I visit sites like Timbuktu Chronicles to learn of those who are doing similar things across the African continent.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Started Cycling Classes

My butt hurts terribly. I think I will switch to Kick Boxing or something.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

October 4th 2010

I am 26 years old....


A former work colleague of mine recently started working for an organisation called InterAction. It is a caolition of like minded non-profit organisations working on overlapping human interest issues around the world

A couple weeks ago, as part of the organisation's participation in and objectives to combat World Hunger, the employees were give the task of surviving on $28.00 for a week, which is what has been estimated is the amount of aid currently being disbursed in Haiti. So for a whole week, the employees only had twenty-eight dollars to survive upon.

When he told me this, I guess my reaction was not what he was expecting because I only blinked. Assuming I had not heard what he was talking about, he repeated the amount and I was still staring at him. I was not impressed.

Let me tell you why.

As much as I admire the motivations behind westerners' attempts to highlight a serious issue, one must realise that comparing living on $28/week in the city of Washington DC, USA and Port au Prince, Haiti like comparing oranges and coconuts. Not the same fruit group and thus not the same effects.

In Naira, Nigerian currency, $28 is about N4200 or theareabouts. I am really no longer sure what things cost in a city like Lagos but I think that someone who makes almost N5000 a month can possibly survive well. Not magnificently, but well.
Also, using DC as a template for the experiment is useless because the resources the city have to offer is not the same as the resources that Port Au Prince has to offer. Plus, the experiment was for only one week. If the participants had been asked to move out of their apartments and indeed live off $28/week, then I might have been a bit impressed. But not spending money for a week and going home to sleep in a comfortable apartment with a plasma flat screen is not what the devastated citizens of Haiti are experiencing.

I have lived off less than $28 for an extended period with no idea where sustenance would come from. So for me, the challenge was not a challenge because it was once my life.

Still, it brought whispers of sympathy from the audience that I was consisted of, as my friend explained what he had to do for a week. I just blinked.

But it does pose a question, how much is the least you have had to survive on?