Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Wannabe Grandparents

I was in the Hague a couple of weeks ago on an official trip and while there, I met up with a friend, A.R., whom I had not seen for several years. Since we last met, we've both gotten married, I-over two years ago, she-last December.
As we talked about mutual acquaintances and caught up on old gist, we somehow came to the issue of children and our parents. I would love to have kids eventually, but for now I am focusing on my career. A.R. on the other hand would prefer not to have children. She says she has enough nieces and nephews and it is unnecessary to bring another child into the world. She also says she feels incapable of loving a child like it should be loved. Fair enough. Although on my part I subscribe to the literal translation of the biblical injunction "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth....". Interesting though it is to analyze the different viewpoints of different people with respect to procreation, that is not the issue I want to explore in this post. This post is about our "grandparents wannabe" parents.

As A.R. and I continued to discuss about children and family, I asked her whether her parents had raised the topic yet. It turns out that not only has she received the proprietary lecture, her mother has taken to keeping track of her period and asking her monthly how she is feeling in order to determine whether they had “struck gold” that month. This monthly interview is driving her nuts, slowly.

My case on the other hand, is subtler. First of all, when I decided I wanted to get married, to someone who was not “suitable” from the viewpoint of my family (another day’s topic), my father was sure I was pregnant. Love ko o, love ni! Like my mother used to say, nowadays love wears contact lenses. The only way they could explain the desire of CK and I to marry as fast as we wanted to, was that I had to be pregnant. Since they could not get me to admit to being preggs before we got married, there were expectations of a “premature baby”. Several months after we got married, they realized that I had not “rushed" into marriage due to an unexpected pregnancy, the hints started coming.
A year after I got married, my cousin got married, and typical naija style nine months after the wedding, she had a baby girl. As I called excitedly to congratulate her on the new addition to the family, the first thing she said to me was “ in Jesus name, yours will be next”. Of course I said amen, not bothering to explain to her that we were trying to plan our family, that I am trying to settle down career wise. It would have been of no use, it would just have reiterated the idea that is fast becoming fixed on their minds that I have been brainwashed by living too long abroad.

Recently, I had the following conversation with my father.

Daddy: Is there anything you want to talk to me about?
Me: How do you mean that?
Daddy: What are you plans with respect to starting your own family?
Me: (thinking, "he has started again") we are taking our time and I am trying to settle down in my job
Daddy: Are you using anything?

Imagine my embarrassment- discussing contraceptives with my father! And it was more like an interrogation!

Daddy: I am just asking, so I can know how to pray – is it that you are having problems conceiving… you do know that you need to stop the pill several months before getting pregnant and take your vitamins to help your body recover…

See me see trouble o!
This is the same person who sent me an E-mail after our Nigeria trip that he “was so happy to see us, and is looking forward to being a Granddad any time we are ready, no pressure at all”. Those were his exact words. Tell me how this inquisition can be reconciled with those words.

Finally, the funny conversation of a dear friend of mine with his dad on a trip home:

His Father:
You are a good son to me and your wife is lovely. My only wish before I die is to see your child
My friend: Daddy, you are very lucky.
His Father: why do you say that?
My friend: Since we do not have any plans of starting a family in before five or six years time, that means you still have a long life ahead of you
His Father: aah!

I am sure his father promptly embarked on forty days prayer and fasting, because he recently told me that they are expecting their first child next year ;)

First they are obsessed with you getting married, then they want you to have children, only God know what comes after you eventually have children!!!!! I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of my friend's story, after the baby comes.
Does anyone have any similar funny experiences to share?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Suffering and smiling

I am in a very melancholic mood today, fueled by a lack of sleep, due to the fact that I am having to work night shifts for a while, as by the most recent tragedy in Nigeria's airspace. In a bid to raise my spirits, I have dug out one of the most apt(I can imagine some Nigerian women behaving this way!), if ridiculous videos which always makes me laugh. Enjoy.

Pushy Nigeria Mom

Mrs Omokorede sees Funmi's headmistress

Friday, October 27, 2006


Gele is the traditional headpiece of the Yoruba. A few months ago we had an office party, with an Ascot theme. I racked my brain trying to decide what type of hat I wanted to buy or make. I had the idea of making a papier-mache hat, but did not have enough time to do it. Okay, the real reason is that I used to feel creativity challenged, until I attended a course in September. This was all due to my Arts teacher in Secondary school, Mama, but that is a story for another day. Anyway, my sister-in-law suggested buying a plain hat and adding flowers or fruit to it. It was during this period of trying to stimulate my inexistent -as I thought at the time- creative juices that I went to Nigeria. It was a very short trip- barely five days. One of the reasons for this trip was a friend's wedding. Before hand I had arranged for the Gele and Fila to be bought for CK. and I. Fila is a male cap. As usual, on the wedding day, I had to get someone to tie my Gele for me. I can tie the normal cloth ones in one style, and I can usually tie the Aso-Oke ones, but I had never successfully tied "paper" or damask Geles. My Gele was superb, she tied it so fast and it stayed on all day.
The Office party was a week after we returned from our Nigeria trip. I still did not have a hat for the party and was toying with the idea of just going to the party normally dressed. " Why don't you tie a Gele?” CK asked. I bet nobody would have any hat as nice as yours at the party. At first I was inclined to scoff at his idea, but after thinking about it for I while, I decided it would have been a good idea if only I knew how to tie a Gele. Unfortunately for me, I do not know any Yoruba women and very few Nigerians in general where I live. If I were in London now, I could have my pick of people to tie the Gele for me. So I gave up the idea. But CK insisted that it couldn't be so hard could it-proves that he is a man, right? After window-shopping unsuccessfully for the perfect hat, I decided to try my hand at tying a Gele. I tried unsuccessfully to tie my Gele the whole weekend. Even CK also tried. It ended up looking really weird every time, nothing like all those nice pictures one sees. I looked like one of those mad women you see on Nollywood movies. I searched for ideas on the Internet, found mostly inadequate sites, meant in my opinion for unsuspecting African Americans out of their money. Here is one such site. Seriously, who would buy a head tying video? I got some tips from guys at the NVS. Someone sent me different websites, and I got this video from someone there. Check out all the different styles. And they make tying a Gele seem as simple as ABC.

So I spent my evenings for the next week playing this video over and over again trying unsuccessfully to grasp the technique. So I basically gave up…until the night before the party, when I decided to try again. I stayed till 12 before the mirror and finally managed to tie one, the golden Gele from my friends wedding, and using the same technique, I tied another one (which I had not even remembered I had)!!!!! I went to the party with my Gele, and everyone was like wow!!! I won second prize for the best hat, even though everyone says mine was the best and they just gave it to the wife of an Oga. But na them know. I am so happy that I tied my first Gele independently, and even won a one and a half litre bottle of champagne for it. The picture above is one of us on the podium parading our hats. As you can see, I'm contestant number 15.I am so proud of my Gele tying achievement. Agreed, none of the people there know what it should look like anyway, so I could have got away with tying anything. In any case, I feel like I have come of age as a Naija woman. Now, lets wait and see if I can repeat the feat next time I'm invited to a Nigerian party!!!!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Comportment 101

I sat watching with a bizarre mixture of fascination and shame as she carried out a very thorough grooming of first one foot and then the other. I was sitting in the departure lounge of CDG airport in France on my first trip back to Nigeria in several years and the subject of my study sat across from me. This lack of inhibition, to place your bare feet on your laps in the middle of one of the busiest airports in the world, pinching and poking between your toes to get out whatever stinking dirt particle is lodged there, got me thinking on one of the issues which bother me a lot - general rules of conduct, carriage and manners.

While the average Nigerian does not go about inspecting their feet in public, there are a lot of behavioural attitudes, which could prevent career success and which contribute to a generally bad opinion of Nigerians. Why does everyone have to listen to your conversation, how come other people can have quiet phone conversations, apart from us? I cannot count the number of times I and countless others have had to listen to a phone call from someone to their relatives in Nigeria. If you want to make a phone call, why not stay in the peace and quiet of your home, where you don’t have to shout above the sound of moving traffic? Why do we fidget and stand askew in our clothes as if they are ill fitting; wearing your clothes like you just started wearing clothes yesterday has nothing to do with not being educated does it? Men are especially at fault in this area. No one wants to see your singlet, and why do you walk like there is something wrong with the balance function of your ears. During my trip to Nigeria I went to Shoprite, just out of curiosity, and was greatly impressed by the building, the only thing was, my hand was itching to dress the maintenance staff properly. It’s not that difficult to tuck in one's shirt properly is it? Just the other day on my way into town, I saw a nicely dressed African woman walking along, talking to a friend and lifting up her blouse to play with her stomach. No one wants to see your top up and you stroking your bare stomach in public.
These are just little things that show refinement and which a lot of people lack. I was at an interview in England where there was another Nigeria guy. He boasted loudly about another interview where he had been the best, but where according to him "because of racism" a white guy had gotten the job instead of him. I had plenty of opportunity to observe him and came to the conclusion that I would not have hired him either, and it had nothing to do with racism. I do not claim to have been able to judge how good he was in his subject area, but I know I sure would not want him to represent my company. Even in an interview situation where people strive to put their best foot forward, he was loud. A poor command of the English language, not being able to use cutlery properly, talking with the mouth full, talking even more than the recruiter, sitting at a dinner table like in his sitting room at home, putting his feet up on the seat next to him, in a restaurant during an interview process, leaving the table before those that invited him.....no, I definitely would not have hired him. That is not to say that racism is not present in western society, it is, but sometimes we need to look deeper than racism to find the reason behind some of the problems we have integrating. A degree and a suit are not enough; there are also issues of comportment, which tend to influence the way people look at one.
Now, I expect that there will be a few people who will say that I have been brainwashed by living in Europe too long. I beg to disagree; I can still remember the dirty looks I got from my mother anytime I talked with a full mouth at the dining table. And that was while eating eba with my hands. I remember time and again the reprimand of our principal, at a girl’s secondary school in Abeokuta, to stop fidgeting. A lot of the rules of good behaviour are global, you do not need to be Oyinbo to be disgusted by people scratching their privates in public or picking their noses. Being courteous is a traditional value in our society, which is being erased. Some people emulate everything in their new surroundings, not remembering that unless you are lucky and belong to a very restricted circle and come from an affluent background, it is very likely that the people you have around you are not the best that society has to offer.
It is not enough to say we are Nigerians; that is how we are. In one’s quest to successfully and happily live in the Diaspora, good comportment can only be of help. For Nigeria as a nation, being more disciplined will only bring us forward as a people. Our pseudo- modernism, which discards the good in our traditional behavioural rules with the bad, is one of our greatest problems as a society in my opinion. We must also learn to sift the good out of the cocktail of "Oyinbo behaviour" which are so popular in Nigeria nowadays. For the younger generation, it is so not cool to wear "I shit in my pants jeans" (like my husband calls it) which are thrice your size.
If this article makes one less person scratch his crotch in public, I will feel like I have achieved something.
BLOG WATCH!!!! Don't forget to give credit if you borrow anything from this blog.