Sunday, June 22, 2008

Same Script, Different Food

We sit together across a table
Me and you. And you. And you
The atmosphere is stuffy with all the pleasant formalities
Of people who enjoy each other’s company
And have spent time planning and cooking
So as to spend a little quality time together

Over a first course of tomato and mozzarella salad
We dip into a little light conversation
Who you’ve seen and how awful they look
We enquire about characters from previous dinner parties
Are they still pathetic?
We express shock that apparently intelligent people can be so misguided
And laugh out loud at the misfortunes of many
Who knew disability could be so funny?

A more meaty conversation accompanies the mains
As always, it’s religion or culture
A few half histories and plenty of misinformation later,
You joke about sacrificing animals in my church
And tell me the Bhurka started out as a fashion statement
Oh what bad teeth the English have
As usual I just smile and nod
And mmmhh and ahhh over our ‘wonderful meal’

Today, by desert, I realise with a burst of pride that I have made it almost to the finish
Without ever once joining in your fundamentally flawed debates
Or lying through my teeth about how good the food is
I giggle (unfortunately at the wrong point in the conversation) when I think to myself, that if someone enforced the saying, ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’
I would be surrounded by absolute, complete, blissful silence

Oh well, I look forward to next time
It’ll only be the same old script, hopefully just with better desert

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It was the Best of Times ...

‘It will be the best three years of your life’ … ‘the friends you make there will be friends you’ll have for life’.

My dad’s huge enthusiasm about university made it something I couldn’t wait to do. After all, he should know, he has like six degrees. I was very disappointed when I found out I didn’t get into Nottingham University and instead I would be going to Aberystwyth, a small university in Wales that I hadn’t heard of until a close family friend started there a year previously. It was little comfort that after writing it out so many times during the application process, I could at least spell it!

All my doubts flew far far away from the moment we started the picturesque drive on winding country roads and my excitement was uncontrollable when we stopped at a pub for lunch; one filled with several other students on their way to Aberystwyth.

I could talk about every single experience I went through at Aberystwyth but I have a full-time job and you probably have a life so I’ll just stick to the highlights but it would be accurate to say that it completely changed me. From the very first day, after my parents left and I was left alone in my larger than average room at one end of a noisy hallway filled with 35 girls, I became more me. I used to be pretty shy with people I didn’t know but I walked down from room to room saying hey to everyone and getting to know them as much as you possibly can in a 5 minute conversation. I had decided to study International Relations because I wanted to be a lawyer but I didn’t want to do a law degree because I heard it was boring. I knew nothing about International Politics; I didn’t even like watching the news, so there was a slight fear that while I might love uni life, I could hate my course. But I didn’t. I loved it. It was so interesting and so enlightening that even now, I read books that were part of the curriculum. It shaped the way I view the world, and made me much more aware of what goes on behind what we see on the news. I find international politics so fascinating that while I might never use my degree professionally, I would do it over again and I intend to study it further at some point just out of interest.

I also took part in an exchange program to Victoria, on Vancouver Island in Canada. I can’t pretend I was even slightly apprehensive about going across the world to a place where I knew literally one family, and they lived a 3 hour ferry ride away, but looking back, I recognize how bold it was. It was an amazing experience, one which fuelled the decision that I’d like to live in Canada one day, and one which left me with some amazing friends.

It’s funny when I think about how shy I used to be and how nervous I was on my second night out, playing the drinking game ‘I have never’ with second year students (wow, they seemed so worldly), eyes wide open while people took gulp after gulp to signify that they’d done things I hadn’t even heard people talk about before. I used to be more of a stay at home person and honestly, that first year in university, I must have gone out literally every night. It was just so much fun, making friends and getting to know each other, having crushes on boys, partying. I was having such a blast that I barely called home and completely lost touch with a lot of my old friends.

My sister came to the same university when I was in my second year and we had such a blast. She was a real party girl and she made my first year look tame but thanks to her, my second and third year lived up the precedent I set for myself in the first year.

I need to pay some respect to the town that undoubtedly had such a large part to play in all of this. Aberystwyth is a small town, it probably takes 45 minutes to walk from one end (any end) to another and it was a complete student town. There were only three happening clubs at any one time (including the union) but I believe it has the most bars per square mile than any other town in Wales. There were about 60 bars and we all knew which were good for which occasion. The Varsity on Tuesday for pound party before we all flocked en masse to Pier Pressure, the club everyone went to which was on a pier … The Cambrian for crazy cocktails and Scholars for a nice fire place in winter and comfy sofas. The Glen where we all went on Saturday nights and Academy, a surprisingly nice bar for Aber. Did I mention that it was a coastal town? This meant it wasn’t very cold in the winter although it was very windy and from March onwards, we literally spent our days on the beach or on the pier. While my fourth year doing my masters wasn’t as much fun as the first three, I got to accomplish a life long ambition of mine; live on the sea front. Believe me when I say that there is nothing better than going to sleep with the sound of turbulent waves crashing just outside your window and nothing distracts you from your revision as much as the sun streaming though the window and the sound of gentle waves lapping at the rock. I even saw dolphins once from my window. It was a magical place.

I made so many friends and got to know more people that I would have if my dad had let me come to London like I wanted to. Like I try and explain to people, in a big university, the people you see often are usually in lectures and only then if it’s a small lecture theatre. In Aberystwyth, if you sat next to someone in a lecture, chances are you’d see them out somewhere that very week, when this happens enough times with enough people, pretty soon you know practically everyone!

So I guess my father was right. I’m reluctant to call it the best three years of my life because I’m definite there will be several even better years ahead. But it’s definitely the best three years of my life so far.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Happy New Year!!!

Hey! I hope you all had an amazing Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year. I was in Birmingham for Christmas with the family and then in Lagos from the 27th for a two week holiday … I’m having an amazing time!

For the first time this year, it actually hit me just how much can happen in a year. I have friends who weren’t even engaged this time last year, and got married at the end of the year. I know other people who were with the person we all thought they would spend their lives with and they’d broken up by the end of the year. And I have a friend whose huge dream I was discussing with her at the beginning of last year and she was well on her way to achieving it mid way through the year and she’s now running her own very successful business. Basically, while a year might fly by, so much can happen and I’m really looking forward to it. For the first time, the significance of a new year hit me and the beginning of this year just feels for me like it is so full of potential and all I have to do is live it, and grab the many opportunities with both hands.

I’m excited about all the unexpected stuff that’ll happen to me this year but there are also some things I want to achieve this year!

  • This is the year that I’m getting my dream body. I want to lose about 25 pounds and this is the year I’m going to do it. I’m happy with what I look like at the moment (though I have put on a couple of pounds over Christmas and in Lagos) but it’s about having the best body I possibly can. Something I can look back on when I’m old and wrinkly and say to my grandchildren, ‘granny used to be H.O.T.T. HOT back in the day’. I joined weight watchers just before Christmas and I’ll take running even more seriously. I’m considering maybe giving a briefly weekly report on my blog after weigh-in every Wednesday. Anybody else feel like joining WW so we can do it together?

  • Blog a bit more regularly, and by regularly I mean at least once a month. Yeah yeah, I can hear the moans but that’s a start and I said AT LEAST that much so it could be more. Those of you that make it your life’s mission to inform me how long it’s been since I blogged last (ahem Buki, Noni), you officially have a case if I haven’t blogged in a month.

  • I want to give more to people less fortunate than I am. I want to give more time, more money, more thought, just more of everything I have to give. Some things really strike a cord with me like the Tsunami a few years ago or the article I wrote about in my last post, and for a few days I’m indignant and determined to do something because it reminds me how fortunate I am in comparison to a lot of others and for me, being so blessed comes with an obligation to help others. Over time though, I forget those feelings and don't do as much as I intended to so basically, I want to do more this year.

  • I need to find a way to organise my personal life better. I need time for myself but I know the time I should give to the people I care about suffers. I also have some people in my life who take up more time than they give back to me or anyone else and I feel I need to limit the time and effort I spend on these people – nothing drastic like cutting them out but just treating people according to the level of priority they hold in my life. I find the people that love me the most are often the people I don’t treat as well because I can get away with it because they’ll always love me but that’s just taking advantage of them and it’s stopping now!! They’re the people I should invest my time in because they’re the people I’ll still love a hundred years from now.

  • Read my bible more and get to know God better.

  • I’m already planning a few trips this year; Dublin, Paris, (Jamaica, Atlanta, Philadelphia, maybe San Fran all in one trip) and probably Lagos again at the end of the year so while I don’t think my holiday allowance and wallet will let me do much more this year, I want to start looking ahead to next years holidays too. I’m back on track with my mission to visit a new country every year!

  • Generally, I want to be better with money, specifically, I want to save £500. It’s not a lot but I have no savings at the moment and I think it’ll be a good start.

  • I want to be a bit naughtier in 2008 … not go crazy or anything but I’m so damn sensible! Chances are I won’t make any big mistakes – due to aforementioned sensibleness – but I want to be a bit crazier this year, maybe go skinny dipping, get really drunk, go away for a spontaneous weekend … that kind of thing.

  • I’d like to be consciously happier this year. When things are going well and I’m happy, I am going to stop and appreciate it and recognise how good it is. And when they’re not so good, I don’t want to just accept it. I will try to figure out what is wrong and what I can do to fix it.

So I think that's it ... I might add to this list throughout the year and maybe I'll do a review at the end of the year to see how much I achieved. Is there anything you want to acheive in 2008?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Women left for dead in the Congo

I read the most horrific article in US Glamour this weekend. It was a shocking, enlightening, amazingly well written article entitled 'Women left for dead and the man who's saving them'. It is about Dr. Denis Mukwege, who repairs women who have been the victims of brutal rape in the Congo. A country ravaged by war where rape is being used as a cheap and effective weapon of war. Not only are the women raped but they are raped in a very barbaric way, in front of their children, husbands and neighbours. They are also raped by many men at the same time and their vaginas are mutilated with guns and sticks. Dr. Mukwege says, ‘clearly these rapes are not done to satisfy any sexual desire but to destroy the soul. The whole family and community are broken.’ Below are two extracts from two women’s stories, they brought tears to my eyes.

Alfonsine is thin and poised, profoundly calm. She tells me she was walking through the forest when she encountered a lone soldier. ‘He followed me and then forced me to lie down. He said he would kill me. I struggled with him hard; It went on for a long time. Then he went for his rifle, pressed it on the outside of my vagina and shot his entire cartridge into me. I just heard the voice of bullets. My clothes were glued to me with blood. I passed out.'
Dr. Mukwege tells me, ‘I never saw such destruction. Her colon, bladder, vagina and rectum were basically gone. She had lost her mind. I was sure she wouldn’t make it. I rebuilt her bladder. Sometimes you don’t even know where you are going. There’s no map. I operated on her six times, and then I sent her to Ethiopia so they could heal the incontinence problem, and they did.'
‘I was in bed when I first met Dr. Mukwege’, Alfonsine says. He helped me spiritually. He showed me how many times God makes miracles.’
I look at Alfonsine’s petite body and imagine the scars beneath her humble white clothes. I listen carefully. I cannot detect a drop of bitterness or any desire for revenge. Instead her attention is fixed on transforming the future. She tells me with great pride, ‘I am now studying to be a nurse. My first choice is to work at Panzi. It was the nurses who nurtured me day after day, who loved me back into living. I feel like a big person in my community; I can do something for my people. Women must lead our country. They know the way’.

The next story is Nadine's.

‘I’m 29. I’m from the village of Nindja. Normally there was insecurity in our area, we would hide many nights in the bush. The soldiers found us there. They killed our village chief and his children. We were 50 women. I was with my three children and my older brother; they told him to have sex with me. He refused so they cut his head and he died.’
Nadine’s body is trembling. It is hard to believe that these words are coming out of a woman who is still alive and breathing. She told me how one of the soldiers forced her to drink his urine and eat his feces, how the soldiers killed 10 of her friends and then murdered her children: her four-year-old and two-year-old boys and her one-year-old girl. ‘They flung my baby’s body on the floor like she was garbage. One after another they raped me. From that, my vagina and anus were ripped apart’.
Incredibly, Nadine was the only one of the 50 women to escape. ‘When I got away from the soldiers, there was a man passing. He said, ‘what is that bad smell’? It was me; because of my wounds, I couldn’t control my urine or feces. I explained what had happened. The man wept right there. He and some others brought me to the Panzi hospital’.
She says, ‘when I got here I had no hope. But this hospital has helped me so much. Whenever I thought about what happened, I became mad. I believed I would lose my mind. I asked God to kill me. Dr. Mukwege told me: maybe God didn’t want me to lose my life.’
Nadine later told me the doctor was right. As she fled the slaughter, she says, she saw an infant lying on the ground next to her slain parents. Nadine rescued the girl; now having a girl to care for gives her a reason to keep going.

I was going to write about the impression this article made on me but I don’t think it is necessary. You’ll probably feel exactly the same way when you read this. I read this article at a time where I felt there were some issues in my life but this put them into such perspective. I’m guilty of forgetting how much suffering (and to what extent) is going on in the world around me and this makes me do two things which I’m incredibly ashamed of. I over-indulge myself in my own perceived problems so much so that I forget how amazing my life is, and how blessed I am. Second, I have become passive about what is going on in the world because I'm no longer faced with it on a daily basis. I need to know that I’m doing something to the best of my ability to make a difference in my own way. If you’re anything like me, please make more of an effort to make a difference in the world around you. It doesn’t have to be this cause, just anything that makes this world a slightly better place; there is so much room for improvement.

If you want to help this particular cause, you can:
- Write a letter addressed to His Excellency, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila Kabange; demand that he take action to stop the attacks on women. Send it to the U.N. Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, P.O. Box 3862, New York, NY 10163, and it will be delivered to Kabila.

- Donate money directly to Panzi hospital through Money donated to Panzi also goes to establish a City of Joy, a safe haven for the healed women, where they’ll learn to become political leaders.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I Want a Man Who...

This is probably the most personal post I've ever written but it's forced me to really think about what I want in a guy. It's funny because I've had to overcome a couple of personal prejudices to write this for example, the first time I have ever uttered the words 'I want a man' was in the title of this post. Please note that I'm not saying I want a boyfriend, only that I'm open to the possibility of one.
I've heard that it is a good idea to write a list, a list of qualities that you shouldn't compromise on. I've been wanting to do this since I saw it on Yellow Ibo Girl's blog (and I've stolen a couple of points from her) so here goes.

I want a man who (in no particular order) …

… is a good person. There isn't one word I can use to qualify this but he should be the type of person who is polite and respectful to everyone because he doesn't think of anybody as beneath him. The kind of person who does good things not because of what he will gain but because it is the right thing to do. The kind of guy who says please and thank you, who would do anything for the people he cares about, who people call when they feel they have no one else to call. I need him to be the kind of person that cares about injustices and events even though they don't affect his life

… I'm very attracted to

… is ambitious. I don't care what he does, just that he wants to be the best he can possibly be at it. I want somebody for whom mediocrity isn't an option

… smiles, often and easily

… sees the best in every situation and in every person …

... likes to be active and likes the outdoors. For whom summer means walking in parks and hiking and exploring the city

… loves to travel

… will try most things once, if it doesn't go against his principles

… has principles and morals and who will stand up for them to anyone, including me

… recognises my strengths and believes in me more than I believe in myself

… tells the truth even when it is the most difficult thing to do

… is witty, sarcastic and has a great sense of humour

… gets along with my brother

… my family and friends not just approve of but like too

… is very intelligent

… believes me when I say that it is over if he ever cheats on me, and has no intention of testing the theory

… is thoughtful. He doesn't have to be a full blown romantic - I can live without flowers on valentines day but little, well thought out gestures go a long way

... is generous in every way. Not just with material things but with his time and affection

... who genuinely respects me, values my opinions and feelings

... is clean and tidy

... is secure

... who adores everything about me

I'm pretty sure I'll add to this list in the future but I'll stop here for now ... know anyone that fits the bill? (Only kidding). I know I'm picky but trust me, I'm totally worth it ;p

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Nothing Worth Living For

Sorry I've been away for a while, and thanks for actually missing me. Truth, your comment was very funny and while I didn't make your challenge of updating before the 30th of September, it's only a couple (okay 4) days after.

Another apology for returning on a bit of a depressing note but this is the first time I've felt compelled to write in a while. I heard today from someone I used to work with that a man that also worked at the company commited suicide a couple of days ago. He hadn't come into work for two days and today, the MD got a call telling him that the man had thrown himself in front of a train. He was in the process of a divorce and when his wife had left him about 5 months ago, he didn't come into work for quite a few days and when someone managed to reach him, they heard the news. He came in a few days later having lost a couple of stone and while he was obviously upset, he was the same as he always was and did his job well.

Two things struck me when I heard the news today. The fact that you never know what someone is going through. The people who worked closely with him are crying and beating themselves up thinking that they should have realised something was wrong. But from what I can remember of him, there was honestly no way to tell. He was in his late forties or early fifties I would say. A tall, good looking older guy, and a bit of a flirt. He was witty, very posh and I remember bursting out laughing one day when I heard a conversation he was having with someone where he went '... and as I said to Judi Dench...'. He became a bit quieter after his divorce and it was no secret he wasn't handling it very well but I couldn't have been more shocked when I heard the news. I sincerely pray nobody reading this has ever thought of ending their lives, but if you have, please talk to someone about it, they'll give you some perspective and give you a reason to live, even if it's only because they don't want to have to live without you. A regular of a pub I used to work in when I was at uni also killed himself. He was young, handsome, very funny and very friendly. There was a bar maid who was totally in love with him because he was so charismatic and yet he was obviously dealing with things we couldn't see.

The other thing that struck me was that I couldn't imagine (although I literally tried) the feeling of having nothing to live for. That feeling that there is nothing good about life until he finally woke up one day so tired of it, and unable to face another day of living, he wrote a note and jumped in front of a train. I thank God that suicide has never ever crossed my mind and that there has not been a single second of any single day that I haven't had plenty to live for.

In theory, my feelings about people who commit suicide aren't favourable. When faced with it though, I just feel overwhelmingly sad. It feels like such a waste of a life.

I pray for the people who love him and I pray he finds peace.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

30 Things to do before you're 30 (MSN Lifestyle)

I saw this on a website and thought I'd share it. I used to have a list of things I wanted to do before I was 30 but I've lost it somehow. At some point in the future, I'll try and compile another list of things I want to do before I'm 30. Any suggestions? What do you want to do before you hit a certain age? I'd be very interested to know!

1. Go Travelling
2. Get Something Published
3. Watch the following films: Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Scarface, The Star Wars Trilogy (don't bother with the new ones), Godfather parts I and II, Psycho, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Trainspotting, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Top Gun, American Pie, Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Blade Runner, Kill Bill 1 & 2, City of God, The Deer Hunter, Se7en, Fight Club, Back to the Future, Alien and Aliens, Jaws, This Is Spinal Tap, Die Hard, Life of Brian, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Ferris Beuller's Day Off, Life is Beautiful, The Breakfast Club, Grosse Pointe Blank, Stand By Me, Chinatown, The Great Escape, The Outsiders
4. Live in London
5. Learn a 2nd Language
6. Run a marathon
7. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
8. Have Sex
9. Go to a music Festival
10. Try different foods
11. Get on the property ladder
12. Test yourself: Skydiving, abseiling, bungee jumping - never in a million years, you might think, but there are few better things for you than stepping out of your comfort zone and standing up to your fears. So whatever it is you think you can't do, we promise you'll feel proud of yourself after you've done it…
13. Visit Paris
14. Blow £500 in one night
15. Get a savings account.... and use it
16. Do something for charity
17. Get yourself on telly
18. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant
19. Quit your job
20. Go to a live sporting event
21. Have a weekend in New York
22. Read these books: The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Romeo and Juliet, the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, To Kill a Mockingbird, Brave New World, On the Road, Catch 22, Trainspotting, The Wasp Factory, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, Great Expectations, Tess of the D’Urbevilles, Treasure Island, The Beach, Cloud Atlas, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Ulysses, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time, Life of Pi, The Shining, The Handmaid’s Tale, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Shining, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, A Suitable Boy
23. Own a convertible
24. Buy something really expensive: When was the last time you really treated yourself? So long as you can absorb the damage, go crazy and spend at least one month's wages on something you really, really want
25. Buy wine worth more than £50
26. Sign up to facebook
27. Record your family history
28. Sing Karaoke
29. Have a complete health check
30. Climb a mountain

I've done 12 of the 30 things on this list and they include singing karaoke (one time decently, all the other times dismally), the greatest two weeks of my life in New York and experiencing the palpable magic of Paris. I have no interest whatsoever in owning a convertible or being on TV but there are 11 things on the list that I'd really like to do before I hit 30. Top of that list are owning property, running a marathon and I have always wanted to do a road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway. And I'm determined to read all the books on the list, watch all of the films and do some extreme sports wah hey!