The Institution

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I came, I ate and I conquered…a food fear.
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Helping the Help
3
A conversation I might never have
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I am not a Chelsea FC fan.
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How many do you (want to) have?
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I don’t like cigarettes…and I like to smoke!
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The end of the month
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The Smack of Love
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Do you know what today is?

I came, I ate and I conquered…a food fear.

              For crying out loud, I learned to bake from the Food network Channel. Thank you, Ina Garten! So much so that my girlfriend Muimui gave me serious and lengthy advice on beginning a baking business. I felt no fear when I started trying out some of Avartsy.com’s recipes which have since increased my recipe repertoire. In fact, by the time I came across another fabulous cook, Dunni Obata (dooneyskitchen.com), I had grown in confidence and adeptness in following cooking instructions on the internet! So why, why did the mere thought of cooking my very own traditional Owo soup and starch leave me frozen? For one, it is no mean feat to cook this soup. The intense arm cardio it requires calls for stamina and proper preparation. This soup is not for the fainthearted. Then there’s the ‘entering your hand’ syndrome. A phrase I have heard my mum and several relatives refer to when talking about this soup. In other words, if you didn’t have it in you to make the soup a success in terms of taste, consistency, look and smoothness, it didn’t enter your hand. Naturally, I was afraid to attempt this soup because of my fear of failing at it. What if it didn’t ‘enter my hand’? It didn’t taste right? Didn’t look right? Came out as one big blob of yellow, sticky mess? I didn’t want that to happen because I knew if I failed at it, I would feel utterly miserable. I would have let myself, my mother and, indeed, my people down. I believe I am supposed to be skilled at making the delicacies of my tribe, not just in eating or craving for them. I believe a good and true cook begins and perfects (even tweaks them to her/his own signature style) her/his very own traditional delicacies before mastering others. It seemed the other way around for me. The fact that my beau and T absolutely love this food combination should have been an incentive to make it. The fact that I have watched my sister –”more

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Helping the Help

By now we would have had a president – elect/governor -elect/whatever – elect, all things being equal. But no, we had to go and postpone the elections by six weeks (starting February 14) because of Boko Haram. With the security agencies stating they’d defeat the insurgent within that period. I’d like to optimistic about their claim but is it really possible to achieve that? Maybe. Already some good news of the security agencies winning the war are trickling. They’ve reclaimed some of the towns taken over by Boko Haram and have also killed some of their members. Then again, maybe not. Shekarau, the head of BH, declared in a new video recently that they’d disrupt the elections on March 28 and April 11 while children suicide – bombers are doing their thing in every public place they find. So unless the insurgents are totally destroyed, wiped out, chances are their reign of terror would continue unabated and even more at the end of six weeks. God help us in this country! To totally defeat BH. To conduct credible and successful elections. And to experience some semblance of peace after both events. Amen. In my last post, I mentioned once having a cleaner who came only on Saturdays. She didn’t last more than six months. Why? I couldn’t rely on her and she came in only once a week! In addition, I was distracting her from her earthly journey towards heaven which was invariably tied to her unreliability. How? I’ll let you know in a bit. When I was in search of a cleaner, I knew I would, most likely, be spared 75% of the drama that came with domestic helps. Even then, I was still wary. The horror stories were still…horror enough to question my decision and put me on my every guard should I go ahead with it. I wondered what she’d bring along with her — her attitude, her beliefs, her habits, her dress sense. Nevertheless, I put the word out to friends and family. I’d never confirm or deny my doubts if I didn’t make an attempt,”more

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A conversation I might never have

Last week I overheard my younger sister, Pru, on a telephone call. She is in town for a while and staying with us. ‘Good evening. How are you?’ … ‘What’s your name?’ … ‘Ok. Have you done this work before?’ … ‘How old were the children?’ … ‘Ok, Abigail. As you can see my children are younger, so you have to be patient with them. Once they get used to you, it will, hopefully, become easier to take of and manage them. You can always ask the other girls in the house for help until you find your feet. Ok? All right. I’ll speak to you tomorrow. Goodnight.’ Pru is in town without her children. She just finished talking to the new domestic help hired to take care of her children with her husband and mother – in- law closely monitoring. She’d call in often to check with them and the help for updates. I suppose she’d have preferred to interview the new hire face –to – face as well as approve of her but…here she is hoping this five – minute cell phone conversation and subsequent ones will prove that the hire was a good one and give her the peace she needs concerning the well-being of her children. What heartache! I tried hiring a help a few times, a few years ago. T was still less than a year old and my mum was leaving us after helping out and, I was ready to go back to work. A former boss made the necessary contacts and a 20 – something year old showed up at my doorstep, bags in hand. I never got to see her but my mum and my beau did. They interviewed her. My mum thought she was ok. My beau hedged and hawed. There she went, never to be heard of by us again. We settled for crèche – care for T and I juggled mother, wife and career somehow.  I did, however, get a cleaner who came in on Saturdays only. She lasted for about six months. Besides cleaning the house, she was”more

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I am not a Chelsea FC fan.

Really. I am not. I am only wearing this t-shirt because it looks good on me and goes with my skin tone. I am not even a football fan. The last time I sat down to see a full – length football match was the 1994 World Cup game between Nigeria and Bulgaria. It was one way to show my patriotism and I also wanted to get a feel of the ‘unifying bond’ that I heard football brings along with it. Believe me, I did not pay a kobo for this t – shirt. So how did I get here? Wearing this t-shirt and denying the club it represents? My beau is a sports fan. Tennis (table & lawn), cricket, golf, rugby, snooker, athletics, seasonal swimming…and football. He is the Chelsea fan. A true blue. Like all the other sports he’s interested in, he can talk extensively about football but, most especially, about Chelsea FC – its players, its playing, its highs & lows, its history and its managers. Not surprisingly, he loves Jose Mourinho. One of his first club t-shirts was a black and white creation with the inscription ‘Special One’ written behind. He was not an entirely happy man during the years Mourinho was away from Chelsea. My beau also had a lanyard and a scarf. Paraphernalia of the club that were things around his neck on the days Chelsea played and days they didn’t. His daughter, T, was first introduced to this passion of his days after she was born when he named her after the club. And I knew something wasn’t right when, a year after marriage, I could name all the players on the field and on the bench! Tufiakwa! Where did that come from? I don’t even like football! But, for a little less than 10 years, I have lived with a football enthusiast. That enthusiasm seems to be slowly rubbing off on me. I won’t let it! I have caught myself sitting through a few minutes of a game and listening to my beau’s praise or sudden burst of exclamation in anger at”more

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How many do you (want to) have?

I wanted five…or so I thought. Until that fateful long weekend I spent with my dad and two younger siblings sans my mum. After five days of cooking, cleaning and catering to everyone’s need (but mine), the number dropped to four. Until my neighbour’s three children spent 15 minutes with us. At the end of which my beau pulled me aside and asked: ‘How many did we say we’d have again?’ It became 3.5, if that number was possible to achieve. I was experiencing the law of diminishing parenthood. Until I finally had my first and, in the words of a close friend, couldn’t quite see clearly for months to come. When the second arrived, I could safely say I had gotten a hang of my role and responsibilities. Or had I? I don’t know. I learn, every day, on the job. Apparently, the unofficial number to have in Nigeria seems to be three for my generation. I cannot count how many times I have heard friends, family or acquaintances say: ‘I’m ready for my third child.’ ‘It’s time to have the third one.’ ‘This is the third and last one.’ Then again, I know couples whose third child was an accident. They aimed for two and landed at three. How did this odd number become the unspoken right one? Who made that decision? Does it have anything to do with setting up committees with an odd number member count so as to prevent an even number deadlock? But there are exceptions to this rule. Two male cousins each with five children…for now; one of whom cited the committee reason for having that number. My gal pal with ‘finally, the fifth and last one has arrived!’ My colleague and friend who terms herself as mother –in-Israel with her four children. All fitting perfectly with my mother’s ideal. ‘Four children is the government approved number’, she claims. Really? Seriously? I doubt that the government is aware of my existence, not to mention the fact that I’m married with children. Having grown up in a large family of ten (step siblings inclusive),”more

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I don’t like cigarettes…and I like to smoke!

Me: I’m an early bird, early riser, and wake – up – before- dawn kind of woman. Him: T has a pajamas top with the inscription: ‘I don’t do mornings.’ Now that aptly describes my beau. Me: That’s why I’m a dreamer. Everything’s so nice when I’m dreaming. Visions in my mind when I’m dreaming. I feel like dreaming all the time. I’m the dreamer. I love to build crystal clear, perfect castles in the air. A modern day Joseph-ine, that’s me. Him: He. Is. My. Reality. Check! Me: I hear a story and take it at face value. Him: Hears the same story…analysis, paralysis Me: I can plan one, two, six months ahead. Him: lastminute.com Do opposites attract? Or are men and women different because they’re supposed to be? Y’know, the Mars and Venus concept. My beau and I have had different life experiences which add up to make us whole, complete individuals. These experiences make us very different from each other in our approach to love and life. It is how we handle these differences that matter, not the differences themselves. That’s why I do the morning school run with the children. Me: I love to be prompt, on time, never late. Early, early, early. Him: African time specialist; he does a grand, fashionably late entrance quite well. Me: Old – fashioned, traditionalist, apply the rules, follow the process. Him: Operates in the new age. Rules were made to be broken. If not, why were they made in the first place? Me: I don’t  suffer fools gladly. Him: Gives second, third, even fourth chances with rope enough to voluntarily hang yourself by yourself. Me. ‘Organizer of the Year.’ I could win that award. I love things in their proper place, everything and everywhere arranged neatly, and the world’s at peace. Him: This trait of mine drives him up the wall! Not that he’s messy or anything like that but he doesn’t mind a little disarray here or there as long as it’s not unhealthy. We’re not like two magnets coming together. No. We’re more like puzzle pieces fitting:”more

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The end of the month

I’ve always said if I had a business, I’d call it ‘The 31st‘. It has a nice ring to it and would most likely rouse a bit of curiosity.  It would target salaried workers whom I was certain would have the funds to pay promptly for whatever I was offering. There’d be no need to ask countless times for payment or hear the usual ‘come today, come tomorrow‘ procrastination phrase of debtors. I don’t know how to ‘drag’ for my money. What a wicked thought! Lame too, now that I think more about it. Salaried workers are known to owe even when guaranteed monthly money is around the corner. I’m yet to open that business. Meanwhile, the CAC has the name in their records, waiting for whenever I’m ready. But August 31st is here and has been for longer that I have; it’s one of the reasons for wanting  to name a business after what it signifies. Yes, it’s another birthday for me, and I wanted to write something in remembrance of it.  Something to set in motion the plans for another new year for me.  Perhaps share memorable experiences about birthdays past or what I plan to do today and thereafter. Maybe review the list of milestones I should have reached at this stage and pat/scold myself accordingly. None of that is going to happen now. My beau lost a friend, Bosun, on Tuesday last week, to the recklessness of an armed robber.  Between the time he received the news (as well as the gory details of the incident) and attending the funeral rites a week later, he was quite a subdued man. He immersed himself in the organization of the impending event which only fuelled his sadness. He had known Bosun for a little less than five years but he always talked about him. Good things, always good things. Funny things too but always good things. I heard more of those that week. Then on the day of the funeral, I heard more from Bosun’s family and friends, and my beau let out all he had been holding”more

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The Smack of Love

First, she’d grab your ear and twist it. The pain from this made you bend forward and downwards, involuntarily, giving her uninterrupted access to your back where her elbow came crashing down, WWF – style, seconds later. One minute you were standing beside her, the next you were in a fighting ring prone on the floor; your ear ringing, your back on fire and birds circling your head. My eldest brother had a different approach. Pretty much consistent like his mother. Once, I described it to a friend and his remark was: ‘Sounds like someone who attended a federal secondary school.’ He did. And his was a unique brand imported from Federal Government College, Kano. One sharp, unexpected slap on one cheek began the process. Instinctively, you covered the stinging cheek with your hand. The second slap hits the next cheek before you get over the first. Of course, totally unexpected too, and stunning you with its impact. It is with shock that you cover the second cheek with your other hand and, depending on how strong you are, tears are either running down your cheeks or clouding your vision; your face downcast. The third and final slap tilts your face up (because it arrives from beneath your chin) forcing you to acknowledge this slap merchant or perhaps telling you to ‘keep your head up even when you feel like breaking down.’ The entire process unfolds with lightning speed, almost like a boko haram bomb attack – no sooner had it started than it ended, complete with its explosive results. By the time, my siblings and I became acquainted with the triple – slap technique, we wished we had three hands instead of the standard two. My father’s was no long thing; a backhanded slap was his signature style. He, long ago, stopped using a cane, belt or any other form of assistance to pass his message across. And like the Williams sisters‘ swing, his back hand was just as deft. The effect, however, was another ball game all together. All of these flashed through my mind as I watched”more

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Do you know what today is?

I haven’t slept properly in six years. Through no fault of mine, though. Then again, maybe it is. I decided to go down this route of companion and carer, consequently losing sight of what a good (night’s), sound sleep felt like. Meanwhile all around me, peaceful, uninterrupted, shut – eye take place. I hear the rhythmic rise and fall of it when I make certain, in the middle of the night, that one of my bedfellows is not kicking the other, unconsciously. Their snooze positions are comic material; think a labourer after a very hard day’s work. I’m a wide – eyed witness to it in the loud, broken – down- trucklike version from my beau which keeps me awake most times. And I can’t help stopping by some yellow -faced relative of mine, on my way to a late night bathroom run, as he sleeps sprawled on the sofa in the sitting room. He looks so serene in repose, and what the heck happened to his room? Enough sleep -dropping already. I didn’t sign up for this. And while I’m well aware of what this institution entails, I just don’t think lack of consistent, required, renewable, standard sleep hours is part of the parcel. And for only me. It takes two, you know. Of course, there have been good memories of less sleep times. Waiting for a new year to roll in quickly comes to mind. Keeping vigil over one of the children with a bit of a fever or a vomiting bout always provides space for long talks. Then just staying up because my beau’s working late or pushing bedtime further so that I could spend time with him without the children’s presence are part of our lives. I don’t mind any of these at all. They come with the institution’s territory. I just didn’t think my two – three hours max. snooze time at night would drag into this six – year drought I’m currently writing about. I thought it was a phase. Maybe I was wrong. One of my favourite supervisors once said, after grueling work”more

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