Archive - April 2018

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April in review: unusual weather conditions
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Oniovo: me ni ebe ai ta
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Oniovo: Aunty Betty
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Oniovo: diemu ode re?
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Oniovo: Cada
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Oniovo: Sibling Speak

April in review: unusual weather conditions

Dry spell. Another phrase to describe the last 30 days for me. My inspiration level to write was at an all- time low, like an abandoned dried out well. No form of stimulation worked out for me – tips for overcoming writer’s block, everyday prompts, noticing my surroundings more closely, change of scenario, etc. Nothing worked. I went from a banging first quarter to a parched desert traveler. If the Oniovo serie hadn’t been conceived, written and scheduled for posting every Sunday, I would have recorded zilch presence on my blog in April. And the plan was to feature other articles in addition to Oniovo, thus increasing and, indeed, exceeding my target monthly. I barely made it. What the heck happened?! How disappointing! Never again! Shaun T. jogged along smoothly, and I interjected a new routine towards the end of the month. It achieved what I hoped it would – variety – but also brought along with it some aches and weaknesses. Nothing the body won’t get used to in time. 9am – 5pm was humdrum too, and I began and stopped reading two e-books out of sheer boredom (or the zeitgeist of my month). Then got sucked into suspend mode for a while before James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty saved my un-reading mind. The reason for this drought is not far-fetched; it’s annual report season and I was engaged in financial editing (read: the most boring content I encounter annually) for most of April. The tedium and blandness of the material permeated my entire being and spilled to affect external factors as well. How do workers in this industry find their jobs fun and interesting? So April wasn’t exactly my month. Big deal. It’s just one of 12 months that didn’t go as planned. And it’s gone now with its unsavoury elements. Thankfully, never again, to return. May begins with a holiday to regroup, refocus and be intentional about the next 31 days. It’s the beginning of the most explosive, exciting months that would characterize the rest of my 2018. Yes!

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Oniovo: me ni ebe ai ta

“me na.” She’d croak quietly, firmly from her corner of the sitting room as Tg and Pru chased each other, with reckless abandon, around the place in whatever game they were engaged in.  With our maternal grandmother, we thought there were several issues:  The communication gap The conspiracy theory The paranoia The reportage In hindsight, it was just one –  the communication gap. She spoke and understood sparse English Language; our grasp of Urhobo was atrocious. Though her prolonged presence was tilting the scale of our native language acquisition slightly in our favour. This was odd because our parents rapped the linguistic constantly between each other, with our neighbours and friends of theirs of similar traditional leanings. To their credit, they often included us in the “die wo gwuolor? wo ka rio usi? wo ghe si ran ye” dialogue.  They made intentional efforts to improve upon our wispy grip on it. It probably didn’t collide with our willingness to progress on the technicalities, proverbs and pronunciations that was the Urhobo Language at the time. Even with the presence of one, two, three live – in tutors. This singular issue fueled many -a-misunderstanding between us and mama, as we called her. The communication imbalance meant we were constantly talking about her when, in fact, she was farthest from our conversations. The boys, migrating from the back at 6a.m. for morning prayers constituted the conspiracy theory and a plot of some sort. Her paranoia entailed hawk -like surveillance of us in the absence of our parents, and a full, unedited reportage at night of our activities, actions and perceived words upon their return. BOP reporting to CNN, joked Jnr one night. Two or three of us could be discussing about, say, the antics of a family friend who visited recently, and mama would interrupt with: “ Me ni ebe aiwa ta vre me ”. To our utmost shock. It was exhausting, for some of us. Others thought it was worth analyzing, and quelling whatever misgivings she harboured. Yet others saw it as one huge joke, something to guffaw about. At first, our mum”more

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Oniovo: Aunty Betty

She was your typical grandmother – friendly, motherly, sometimes sweet, old – fashioned, long -winded, nosy, annoying, traditional, etc.  Sharing our spacious compound with us – our immediate neighbours – were a grandparents’ couple. Another Urhobo pair in this largely Bini setting. Our step dad and them had been friends in another place and time before setting up their lives in Benin City. The man was the quiet one. A reed thin, wrinkled patriarch who spent a huge chunk of his retirement time staring at the flickering TV screen; the woman the voluble half of the two. A rather smallish, bespectacled female with energy quite unusual for a grandmother.  Their children were contemporaries of our much older siblings; it was their grandchildren (two of them specifically) who were closer in range to us the younger ones, and with whom we bonded (whenever they happened to be around). One or two of their maids became fast friends with Pru and Tg (siblings #9 & #10 respectively) due to the similarities in their ages.  However, most of the time, they were alone, and found companionship with our parents frequently. Well, more the woman than the man. To this end, we witnessed countless talkathons (in both English and Urhobo Languages) every time she was at it.  Her name was Aunty Betty. Or as Marie (sibling #7) referred to her. Quite a number of Aunty Betty’s sentences had the coordinating conjunction ‘but’ attached to them; our sister transformed it into a tag for her.  Wicked. Evil.  Three things stood her out for us – her maids, her talkathon and her accents (which switched effortlessly between Urhobo and British inflections).  From one of our room windows, we had an unobstructed view of the backend of our neighbour’s house – the choice setting for all the unfolding theatrics between madam and maid. Her high-  pitched voice hauling insults at them; her threats, released in rapid Urhobo, chasing them out of the house; or beating the older ones with an unsightly chunk of wood best suited for building a fire for commercial cooking. Even if one didn’t”more

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Oniovo: diemu ode re?

Whether by coincidence or like minds, the siblings from both sides of the blend had such cool names. Lloyd. Cy. Anthony. Marie. Pru. Those with traditional monikers were equally easy – on-the-tongue. Tg.Onos. Edirin. (Which was funny because we had encountered some seriously weird native names while growing up. Oteri. Okwuovoriole. Okukubribri. Otaighoaitana, etc) Nicknames were butter- melting in a pan. Dudu, Bibi. Then there was mine. Idolor. A wrecking ball of a name, and the tag of the sibling penning this serie. Hola! Encantada! For a long time, my name felt wrong. Raise your hands if you can identify with this feeling. Amongst my siblings’ signatures (read: easy, English noms), I felt short – changed in the moniker department. No, I couldn’t fully appreciate the significance of being named after my paternal grandmother.  Or even the depth of meaning my appellation carried. I was blinded by the contortions it forced the tongue and lips to undergo. Make it easy for me amongst my peers was all I cared about at the time. Couldn’t my parents have done better by me, namely…? It was complicated further by my nickname – a compound word made up of a term for an infant or a significant other, and something you shove your feet in for protection or fashion (Did you figure it out?). These two dogged my existence, relentlessly. Making me the reason for raised eyebrows and curious stares, and they didn’t seem like they were going anywhere soon.  So, I unleashed years of pent -up frustration in an entire article about my given name (Holler at me if you want to read it.) After which I found peace, pride even, at what I am called.   Now, back to the matter at hand.  English names, native ones and nicknames were all bestowed upon us, mainly, by our parents. There were others… Tg skipping from one chair to the other in the sitting rooms was sharply rebuked with juju priest! That strange title was replaced with Chinese or Yellow on good days.  Pru, practicing for a career in showbiz and commenting on”more

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Oniovo: Cada

To further cloak their mischief, siblings #9 and #10 developed their own language. It might have been a fallout from the one adopted by all of us…or not; it is difficult to say. For theirs was a combination of English Language and an unrecognized Linguistic. It started off in plain, simple terms even if it took a while for comprehension to set in for us older siblings. (Then again, wasn’t that the raison d’etre of it?) ‘He thinks!’ ‘He can!’ Often uttered in frustration or anger but devoid of complete expression, or so they made us believe. A while later, it expanded: ‘He thinks but he doesn’t know he cannot.’ They both knew exactly what they spewed forth, while the rest of us found it amusing and innovative. Not a lesson teacher of theirs though. And because he made a mountain out of a molehill, it became grounds for endless taunting for the poor man. It was a code between both of them that allowed for expression without glaring disrespect for whomever they addressed. Sometimes they spoke proper English but in slurred speech and mangled words only they could decipher. Afterwards, it descended into gibberish to the ear but, as always, made perfect sense to them, and names began to emerge: Cada – a multi – purpose word which stood for a number of things – a term of endearment, a name for either of them, also meant ‘cheeks’, etc. (In Spanish, ‘cada’ means ‘every’) Lumbo – referring to the butt Puntu –  this meant ‘nose’ Gidi –   a term for ‘fart’ Jaja –  no ties to King Jaja of Opobo, this described an attitude the siblings perceived unfavourable towards them. There was even a song and dance for it, the refrain being ‘don’t be jaja ja!’ Logo – something for our patriarch Beauty – a name for our matriarch Like our siblings’ language, a few of the terms have survived into their adulthood, the most enduring being ‘Cada’. One their respective children add innocently to their names – Aunty Cada, Uncle Cada. Now speaking of names…  

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Oniovo: Sibling Speak

It is difficult to say how the following words became part of our vocabulary. Blame it on the many influences around us then – music, films, people, books, slangs, etc.  All of them came together to evolve into a code we called our own.    Tight. Strangled. I’m almost done. Just this strangled part left. Look at the tight thing I want to iron! These twin words sufficed for size. Usually the tiny, minuscule or little kind in the context of the conversation. Occasionally it could be used for food. Here it refers to clothing.   Gauge. Standard. Like the set above, it is closely related to size but in food matters only. They denote the desired quantity as dictated by the intensity (or lack thereof) of hunger pangs battering the user. I said standard, standard! And you gave me gauge! Sorry. Erring party taking the plate away to adjust appropriately. Sometimes it was difficult telling the terms apart.   Bus stop. Unlike other words, this was inferred.  Occasionally it found its way into conversations but wasn’t as popular because it meant more to non-family members. Once again, the location of our house had everything to do with this word as it was smack in the middle of the city. One bus/taxi – ride brought you within walking or viewing range of it – depending on what area of town you were coming from. This meant many things to many of our friends and family. A shoe mishap, car malfunction, insufficient transport fare, a sudden attack of hunger, struck by abrupt, without- warning rainstorm and all the affected party thinks: If only I could get to their house, I’m sorted.   Housemanship. I got a job! Excited scream. I start Monday next week. Look of incredulity on brother’s face. That’s not going to happen. You haven’t done your housemanship yet. Housemanship – the time lapse between finishing secondary school and being admitted into the university. Contingent on your performances in the qualifying exams – SSCE, JAMB, etc – it could be short-lived (and you’re a lucky bugger) or lingering (your”more

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