Wednesday, 30 November 2011

day 10 in nigeria - in balance

got home last night after a 2½ hour journey from a market, weirdly exhausted, so this one's a day late (not that it makes any difference, given i won't be posting them until i get back anyway).

so, yesterday was one of my favourite days - it involved a trip to yaba market with my cousin, and with 4 hours on the road, that included a lot of road-side sight-seeing.

highlights included:
- wheelbarrows piled high with melons, yam, and sugarcane

- a number of cars (for some reason, i noted particularly some type of peugeot and a nissan sunny bluebird, which was once our family car) stuffed to the windows in the backseat and the boot with massive bunches of green bananas

- amazing feats of balancing - people in the marketplaces carrying all sorts on their heads, often without the needs for hands to steady them.  masses of stuff - huge baskets of peppers and tomatoes, big 'ghana-must-go's (the big shopping bags) full of only god knows what, a row of cushions (seriously) - everything!

- passengered-up okadas, one on which i swear the guy at the back had a baby goat across his lap…

- motorbikes and cars crossing the central boundary of the roads to make u-turns; a massive trailer truck, which i'm pretty sure didn't actually intend to cross the central reserve, strewn across the road, luckily not overturned, but resulting in a huge go-slow both ways

- an escaped goat, from one of the roadside goat areas.  ok - very poor explanation - in some places, beside the road, there are loads of troughs, surrounded by masses of goats for sale; as far as i can tell, they're not actually tied up, though i may be wrong on that count.  whatever the case, this particular goat had decided to make a run for it, and managed to make it safely across the 4 lanes of traffic, followed closely by its owner.  everyone in the bus erupted into laughter, especially when (as far as we could tell) the goat ended up jumping into a wheelbarrow it encountered on the other side

- incredible grin-inducing feats of balancing

- a pair of young-looking school kids crossing the busy roads, one holding on to the rucksack straps of the other

- a massive congregation praying maghrib under a pedestrian overpass, with one guy balancing on a bench, and me thinking 'wow, so that really happens'

- a man slouched, arms crossed, against his broken down car, pushed into the high grass at the side of the road, just waiting

- driving that managed to be simultaneously terrifying and exciting - like watching formula one from the passenger seat, racing cars replaced by motorcycles, normal cars, minibuses, big buses, and huge trucks. oh yeah, and pedestrians

- death-defying hawkers, who sell their wares along the roadside, and often, in the road, weaving between vehicles, running to keep up with their customers, keeping an eye and ear out for potential sales

- and did i mention, superbly spectacular feats of balancing?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

day 9 in nigeria - buying bread

I took three of my favourite pictures today - the first two were of each of the little boys, Uthman & Sultan, who rent the house next door to my grandma's.  Our family owns the house, which seems to be a common thing - for houses/bungalows to be built as semi-detached, as it were, and then for one of those to be rented out, while the family uses the other one.  I was sat outside, using the last of the daylight to type example questions, when Sultan, the littlest (about 2), walked past, and me and my cousin (another one) noticed that he seemed to be wearing make-up.  His aunt had made him and his little brother up - I always find it quite hilarious how older siblings and parents do that to little boys, make them up and dress them in girls' clothes, but would probably not think it so cute if he turned up dressed like that in about 15 years' time (though perhaps I underestimate them).  Uthman, the older brother (about 7 or 8) approached us with his hands over his face, but eventually agreed to let me take his picture two.  I love both their expressions, and how they contrast with the makeup and how little they both are.

The third photo is one of my cousin, sat reading exam questions by torchlight, as the electricity had just gone off (for about the fourth time - it's been pretty messed up today).  I like the light and shadows in that one.

This afternoon has been mainly spent typing (sigh), whilst listening to another of the Field Negro Guide to the Arts & Cultiure podcasts, and later Mashrou' Leila, Silence 4 and Manic Street Preachers.  But earlier in the day, I actually escaped the house, and went to a local market with my mum and aunt.  We bought a load of random stuff, pako (chewing sticks), barra (no idea what it is - some kind of bitter vegetable with medicinal properties), ori (shea butter - a whole massive lump (about ⅔ the size of a football) for N1,300 (about £4.50) and some ankara (a type of printed material) for headties.  It was really haggle-central, with my mum and aunt both really going to town - with some of the traders it was like good-humoured sparring, but there were some people who were clearly just like 'this is the price - take it or leave it', which is fair enough - I can't deal with the intricacies of bartering - offer too low a price, they think you're taking the mick, too high, and you show you've no idea what you're doing.  So basically, I just leave it to the experts, and only get involved when they're about to walk away from something I really want to buy.
I really wish I could have taken some photos in the market, but it wasn't a very relaxed visit, and by the time we were through, I was too loaded down with stuff to even think about getting my camera out.

I was left home alone (again) for the afternoon, so decided to strike out on my own to buy bread.  There are places in the market places where you can buy bread, but generally, the best (freshest) loaves are from the women who carry them around on giant wooden trays with legs.  I thought I saw a bread-woman out of the window, grabbed my money, and ran out - it actually turned out to be wishful thinking.  But then I spotted a woman further up the road - and set out after her.  To avoid looking like a total freak running after her in the street, I had to just stride purposefully, and hope she'd be slowed down by what she had on her head.  It worked, and I bought a loaf of bread, quite probably grinning inanely the whole time.  Bread and stew for lunch, and bread and Bournvita ('tea') for dinner (it's pretty much been carb city since I've been here) - hmmm.

Anyways, the lights have just all gone out for about the 5th time today (apparently the workers of NEPA are on strike - personally, I think they're just mucking about with the switches), so I'll take that as a hint to call it a night (though this is doing wonders for my touch-typing…).  Until the light returns.

ps - discovery that has most tickled me today: there is a bus-stop in Lagos called 'Tom Jones. Brilliant.

Monday, 28 November 2011

day 8 in nigeria - elastic ties

i had intended to write about family today - how amazing it is to be close to people i so rarely get to see and seldom interact with when i'm not here, and that wonder of how, with certain family members, there will always be that connection, no matter how long or far apart you are.


it's 10.20pm, and my mum and aunt aren't back from town yet.  and you're probably thinking, well, hell, they're not children, and and 10.20 at night isn't exactly late.  but that's in london time.  or maybe even in nigeria time, if you are from round here, and so are familiar with the place (i guess just as this time of night in south london feels fine to me, while i know many people not from there who are terrified at the mere thought of being out on our mean streets after sundown - all those hooded youths, with their patois…).  but the thing is, as much is this may feel like home in some ways, i'm not from round here - i don't know the area that well, i don't know how safe it is for them to be out at this time of night on public transport, and most of all, i don't have any way to contact them to find out where they are/how long they'll be/if they're ok.  for the past couple hours, i've contemplated going round to the neighbours to ask to borrow their phone - just a 10 second call would stop my imagination going into overdrive (too late) and allow me to avoid freaking out.

for the first time today, i actually got a little homesick (and that's quite a big thing - i normally never get homesick for london, much as i love the place).  i was listening to podcasts - an adam & joe one from last year's camden crawl, and then the brilliant w. kamau bell chatting to aamer rahman (from the australian comedy duo, fear of a brown planet') and then ava vidal (from the british comedy non-duo, ava vidal).  these podcasts ( from w. kamau bell & vernon reid's 'the field negro guide to arts and culture' - which are amazing - check them out) were from the end of the edinburgh festival, and touch on, amongst other things, the london riots, race and comedy, and some differences in the american and british comedy world.  and for some reason, listening to these guys made me really miss london, and little conveniences like being able to just google something/someone, or logging into facebook to chat to friends or twitter to post about something or other.  and i miss being able to go out on my own.  i guess it's this last that's the most pressing, really, feeling stuck in the house if there's no-one around to get out of it with, partly because i don't know the local area, partly because it's not really the kind of place you just wander about aimlessly on your own.  so i guess i'm getting a bit of cabin fever - it seems a real shame to come all this way to spend so many hours stuck indoors, with the only other option being going stock-shopping with my ma. (by the way, just as i got to the middle of this paragraph, they knocked on the door - there'd been hold ups coming out of town).  that said, this time next week, i'll probably already be complaining about having no time to spend indoors, just doing what i want. (though at least i won't have been roped into typing up exam question papers, which is what a lot of today has been spent doing..!). 

that said, just three full days left here now (we leave on saturday), and that is making me feel kind of sad too.  as i started with, there's something so brilliant about being 'home', reconnecting with family.  i've grown up often away from any extended family - apart from my mum's mum, who lived with us in london for a few years, i never really knew any of my grandparents (the only times i saw them being on my infrequent trips to nigeria).  aside from a few cousins, most of our family lives either out here, or in the states.  as such, i've never really grown up knowing family that well.  but whenever we come out, there's always a warm welcome, and it feels very natural to share space and time with aunts, uncles and cousins, picking up on things as though there hadn't been a 5 year gap between meetings.  and the love, and expression of care, is just so lovely - just little things - one cousin giving us one of the chickens he rears, another coming over with pineapples and plantain, my uncle turning up last night with a bunch of bananas, and so many of them taking time out just to come over, to come chat, to come share a little of their life with the londoners before we disappear off again.  and even though i do have loads of amazing and wonderful friends, so many live far away also, and despite all the things i have to look forward to once i'm back in london, i will miss being part of a big family - not wanting them there all the time, but knowing they could be there if i wanted or needed them to be.  i'll miss that a lot.

hmmm - after my rather self-indulgent blog, a couple (well, a triple) of cool things to redress the balance:

- the stars - last night i went out to meet my uncle at the gate, to get the bananas he'd brought over. on my way back in, i stopped and stared up at the sky.  i forgot how many more stars you can see out here.  it must have been pretty funny for anyone looking out, to see me stood there, wrapper trailing and mouth agape, a sort of half-smile dopily slung across my face.  luckily, everyone else was asleep, so there was no-one there to witness me looking like a kid who just discovered the night sky for the first time.

- cutting a melon - i don't particularly like melon - it has just enough taste to put me off, and not quite enough to make up for its existence. so, given that i never eat melon, i've never actually cut one.  i did tonight for the first time, slicing one up for my mum, aunt and cousin after their long day out.  it was the most satisfying thing to cut up *ever*  the blade sliced through with just the right amount of resistance, and a perfect shirring with each slice.  seriously, i might take up eating water melon, just to have that perfect satisfaction of slicing it up (or maybe just take to offering it to all guests that come round.

- thinking in yoruba - i've found since i've gotten here, i've started thinking in yoruba, and sometimes having difficulty thinking of the right word in english for something that has no quite right equivalent, but can be said so perfectly in yoruba.  this happens anyway in london, but it's become even more so here.  i like it. good work, mind.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

plan for actually, finally taking charge and breaking out of the self-destructive cycle*

(*snappy title, i know!)

so. i just chatted to a friend about what i wrote about last night.  and about the new years' resolutions i made in january - whether i'd actually stuck to them or not.  we concluded that i had managed some (definitely done more photography and more writing, spent more time with friends, and learnt some stuff), a few i've sort of worked on (i'm a bit better at rationalising and actually believing my rationalising of my negative self-speak. a bit.), and some have just been a total fail (getting more sleep...going out less...erm, yeah, right).

so, following on from my ground-breaking realisation that i actually need to take some action to stop this pretty blatantly destructive pattern of self-imposed sleep depravation, and all of the emotional issues that seem to be, if not resultant, at least somehow related to it, we came up with a bit of an action plan - three specific goals that i'll be putting into practice starting from tonight.
unfortunately, i've forgotten what one of them is... did i mention that memory was something i struggle with?!

anyways, the plan (as far as i can recall) is as follows:

1) sleep - aim for getting to bed by midnight, and absolute latest 1am - at least 6 hours' sleep a night - will include not staying online beyond 10pm... (obviously, except for tonight)

2) investigate and apply methods to address mood swings and anxiety:
  • keep a 'food, mood and sleep' diary - my memory is questionable at best, so having something to refer to will hopefully help to see if there are any patterns linking these three things
  • get a health check (blood tests etc) - my friend mentioned that this is always a good idea, as changes in mood and also messed up sleeping patterns can have thier roots in something physical. hopefully not in this case, though.
  • investigate counselling, and actually get a referral - i mean, really actually do this. i have no problem with going for counselling per se - i want to become a counsellor, it'd be pretty weird if i had a problem with it.  my only worry is finding someone who i trust to understand me - i would have a real problem both opening up and allowing myself to be helped by someone who i don't feel gets where i'm coming from
3) this is the one i've forgotten (z, help me out!).  it may have been linked to working on overcoming the negative voice in my head that peppers my interactions with unhelpful and irrational self-talk.  using the methods often suggested (ie testing the reality of those thoughts, considering alternative explanations, and thinking of alternatives), combined with improved sleep patterns, i'm hoping my moods will be more stable, and so i'll be better equipped to challenge my own negative thinking.

oh yes - and then there were the day notes - but that is for another post, i think.

right, it's getting late, so i'd best be off.  i'm feeling hopeful, at the moment, like i can actually make this happen. the day started off a bit emotionally fraught, but has improved since i got to scotland.

just before i go, i want to shout out to some friends who have been mega awesome and supportive today - you all know who you are - i appreciate you huge amounts.

and now, to sleep.

day 7 in nigeria - soft core

i think the fact that the highlight of today (apart from watching 'away we go', finally - absolutely loved it/fell in love with the leads - jessica, if you didn't like this movie, please never tell me!) was washing clothes demonstrates quite easily the non-event that it was.  which wasn't a bad thing - i'm just not used to a holiday where i actually get time to sit around not really doing anything…

the clothes washing was by hand.  so i'm squatted in the bathroom, thrashing at underwear, thinking i'm hard core as, even as my arms, hands and thighs all start to ache after about ten minutes, while outside, a family friend beats dirty bedsheets, skirt suits, and iro & bubo into spotless submission.

the weather decided this evening that it hadn't been quite hot enough yet, and i'm sat writing this, sans fan (sans power), in a pool of sweat quite deep enough to swim in.  i think it's melted my brain, so perhaps it's time to call it a night.  i'm still not sleeping  much, but that's no reason not to go lay there, and doze for about 8 hours. plus, broken sleep produces the weirdest dreams…

Saturday, 26 November 2011

sleeplessness, social anxiety, and moods that swing

it's 1.35.  a.m.  my eyes feel grainy, and all day, the right one has been twitching.  i am so tired, i kept dozing off during a conversation with my best friend earlier this evening, and my head aches, especially my ears. and there goes my right eye again.

over the past week, i've averaged about 4-5 hours of sleep per night. this after coming back from two weeks in nigeria during which i regularly had rather broken nights of sleep, and the journey back overnight, during which i only slept for about an hour, between paris and london.

i know i need sleep. and i will, soon. but i just needed to at least start this.

anyone that knows me knows that the above is quite a regular pattern - i may go through periods where i start going to bed at a more normal time (say around midnight, relatively early by my standards), and get enough sleep.  but gradually, i will start slipping back into this mode - staying up later and later, my body and mind tired beyond belief, but not going to bed anyways.  and it's not insomnia - aside from a few very short bouts of this, i've never had a problem actually getting to sleep.  the problem rests more in actually going to bed - the ultimate and most pointless of all procrastinations.

i've heard it said this could signify a fear of sleep.  or maybe of missing something.  the latter, maybe, the former, i really doubt. i love sleep, when i actually do it.

i sometimes wonder what i would be like if i slept enough.  i've read enough on the matter to know that prolonged sleep deprivation can and does have a number of adverse effects on health, both mental and physical.  my memory has always been bad, but got increasingly worse over the past years.  my attention flits - watching me work is probably a master class in self-distraction.
sitting here tonight, thinking about something i mentioned to a friend earlier, i had one of my slow-dawning realisations.
since i was at uni, i have noticed a tendency towards mood swings.  though i've read up on them (well, at an internet level), i've never really been sure if they are the normal degree, or warrant worrying over.  all i know is that any time i'm more than a little happy one day, it is guaranteed that within the next day or two, my mood will swing low, often spurred by nothing at all.  it's something i complain about to close friends off and on, but have never really done anything further about.

these mood swings are often perpetuated by, and/or themselves perpetuate a degree of social anxiety that i have.  and by this, i don't (just) mean being shy.  which i am - incredibly so.  a fact often disbelieved, given my generally outgoing nature.  the fact is, the anxiety manifests not necessarily in the way i present myself in public, but what is running through my mind, generally before and after events and interactions, and sometimes even during.
i find that, as soon as i feel a little low, negative thinking prevails.  of course everyone has negative thoughts, and irrational ones also.  but the degree to which mine run, and the lack of any real cause to prompt them, is a regular difficulty for me.
conversations with friends are later picked over - did i say something stupid? something that might have annoyed them?  something i really shouldn't have?  any plan to meet new people, especially in groups, becomes an event in hyper-worry about how they will view me, what they will think of me - my predictions are generally not positive ones, and though 99% of the time, these doom-laden prophecies of mine are disproved by the general loveliness or at least amicability of these people, this neither prevents the dissection after the meeting, in which i manage to forget all the positive feedback, and concentrate on negatives that generally didn't actually, really exist - wondering if i came across as too argumentative, too timid, too loud, somewhat disagreeable or stupid or whatever else springs to mind in the post-evaluation process; nor does a positive experience mean that next time, i won't have all the same negative prophecies again, even as my rational self recalls that it all turned out ok in the end.

sitting here thinking tonight, i decided that the coming year will be the one i tackle these issues - the sleep, the anxiety, and the fluctuating moods.  i do believe they're all at least a little linked.  and i do believe as well that, though i've complained about them, talked to friends about them, pondered them and researched them, i've never actually decided to take the time out to actively do anything about them. 

tackling the sleep issue seems, for me, both the most potentially doable, but also one that i know i've tried and failed at so many times. it's also the one that i think holds the key, at least to a degree, to the other two.
staying in will need to become my new going out, and each time i miss a gig or show, i will need to remind myself why i'm doing it - i can't spend the rest of my life getting miserable each time i've been happy (to the extent that i actually worry if i get in 'too' good a mood).  and when i'm rested, and emotionally stable, then i'm better able to deal with the anxieties that prevail over all my relationships, that have me feeling things are going bad, even when they're good, or that if they have not yet, they soon will be, and that have me viewing myself so poorly through the eyes of others, projecting my insecurities onto them and translating it into negative reactions that don't exist.

this is the first time i've ever really written about this in any way publicly.  partly i was inspired by a number of friends and acquaintances who speak and write candidly about their own issues of mental health.  in particular, reading (and recognising bits of myself in bits of) the poet harry giles' blog post made me determined to write my own, when the right time came.  partly, i really think this needs to not be something strange or shameful in any way, and the more people talk about mental health, the less it will be so.  finally, i guess it's just that time of the night when things come out that maybe in the day, supposed right-mindedness might pull down the shutters of censorship.

day 6 in nigeria - sunday

day started well - best sleep since i've been here (am i obsessed with sleep?) - perhaps linked to the fact that, though i slept on a mat on the floor, it was in a room on my own, that didn't depend on a fan to not be stiflingly hot.  i recommend these conditions, with a comfortable bed seemingly an optional extra.

very long car journey + hottest day since i've arrived = queasy lack of appreciation of the passing scenery.  which was a shame, as there was a fair bit to observe - houses on stilts, with access via wooden pathways, reminding me of crazy gym at school; hills covered in a network of troughs, goats lined up around each, waiting to be sold; the market places with their inescapable smell of freshly peeled oranges, the sight of tomatoes stacked in formation, and the sounds - bus drivers picking up passengers, calling out their destinations ('oshodi, oshodi, oshodi, o' 'mile 12' 'ketu'), hawkers offering 'gala', 'pure water', and various other food stuffs, as well as handkerchiefs, newspapers, and all sorts, running to keep abreast of the cars, the proper definition of drive throughs.

the house in lagos road welcomed us back, but i missed alagbado - surprisingly, as i'd been almost reluctant to go beforehand (the journey, not knowing anyone out there, not realising we were going to an almost fully functional place).

the evening brought a visit from our regular tailor, who measured me up, and took a load of material that should come back on friday as a few tops and a new dress - beats clothes shopping hands down.  it also brought my uncle, on a quest best left undiscussed, but which has left me reflecting on autonomy and independence of actions, on the balance between compromise and self-interest. (this is perhaps a little more eloquent than actual fact - in reality, it left me fuming, but, such is my life when it comes to relatives and this m question).

i'm off to bed now, hoping our lack of insect spray tonight won't result in too many interesting itchy bumps by the morning.  looking forward to hopefully getting out a bit more over the next 5 days, seeing a little more before it's time to head back to the ordinary.

Friday, 25 November 2011

day 5 in nigeria - in the house of my father

A few years before he died, my dad bought some land in nigeria, in an area called alagbado - a few hours' drive north of ikorodu, where my mum's family is based.  i don't know why he chose this area, not somewhere closer to the city, or at least closer to where his family is here.  but he did.  he intended to build a home for us out here, but wasn't able to before he died 6½ years ago.  one thing i learnt, growing up first generation in london, with parents with both feet still firmly planted in nigeria - they always want to go back home, but doing it remotely takes an age, especially as other things take over.

so along with other things, my mum inherited my dad's dream, to build a family house out here for all of us - partly for us to have somewhere of our own to stay when we visit, but partly in that eternal hope that one day at least one of us (me and my siblings) will want to move 'back home'.

today i came to the house for the first time in almost 6 years.  the last time i saw it, it was still at the foundation stage, as far as i can remember.  coming through the gates, i saw the place my mum refers to, to me and my siblings, as 'your house'.  i don't know what i was expecting, exactly, but in my mind, i think i still imagined it to be a dusty building site, rods sticking out of the ground, and blocks piled up, waiting to be used.  instead, there was a beautiful low building, with a warm red roof, just sitting, waiting for us.

inside was finished, but still bore the signs of the builders - everywhere full of dust and splashes of paint and cement.  we spent a good couple of hours cleaning - thrashing each room with long traditional brooms, endless buckets of omo-foamed water, and more elbow grease than i ever could have believed i possessed.  the neighbours (actually tenants, living in the other half of the semi-detached house) came over to help - they were amazing, and stuck with us until we could walk barefoot across each newly shiny tiled floor.

i walked through the house in semi-darkness, some lights not yet installed, others just not working, and felt like a little kid, exploring some new found treasure, delighted by things like the kitchen's walk-in store cupboard, the smaller bedroom's en suite, and just how shiny the floors are.  and i imagined how happy my dad would have been to be here, to see this.  and i can't wait to get back to london to tell him about it.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

day 4 in nigeria - go slow

today has been the epitome of total chilled-out-ness.  which was nice - for me, given i had nothing really to achieve - not so great for people trying to be productive. it was also jumaat prayer. which was also good. but now it's gone 11pm, and there's still a plumber in our house.  whilst it's nice that he's sorting out the taps, so that we don't have to keep carrying water from one room to another, i would just rather he goes home, and comes back another day to finish.  he's been here at least 5 hours. which is just ridiculous.  if i were him, i would no longer be doing my best work.  i get the impression he's feeling the same way.

the day started before 7 am. again. with lots of waking up in the night. again.  at one point, i found myself just sat up in bed, staring at the full moon.  and also wishing the rooster around our way would learn when dawn is, and stick to crowing then.  it's going to be weird if this whole getting up early business actually becomes a habit - my body won't know what's hit it.  it could be quite an interesting change, though, becoming like a regular diurnal person.  though, to be honest, i doubt there'll ever be anything either regular or diurnal about me, so no real worries there.

weirdly, i am kind of getting used to the rhythms of life here (or at least, my holiday version of it) - up just after first light, and making the most of the (relative) cool of the morning.  feeding and talking to the two chickens in the back, doing a little cleaning, having a cold bucket bath, and being open for visitors by 9am (this morning, my uncle and the latest suitor - the less said about that, the better. suffice to say, my objections kind of fell on deaf ears). 

my mum and aunt disappeared at about 8am, off to the offices of NEPA (national electrical power authority) - well, now called 'power holding company of nigeria, limited' which doesn't have the same ring, nor memories of cries of 'ah - nepa!' when the light (electricity) gets taken, and 'up nepa' when it comes back.  they spent a few hours there yesterday, in what sounded like a semi-kafkaesque quest to sort out electricity for my mum's school, including being informed they'd been sent bills which it later turned out had never even been created, and being told they needed to come back to speak to 'the senior media manager'..?  their trip today was a bit shorter, and a little more productive, but the saga is still ongoing.

jumaat prayer was at a mosque a 5 minute walk from the house.  for various reasons, i've kind of fallen out of going to our local mosque at home over the past couple of years, and i do miss certain bits of being part of that community.  there can be something really uplifting and comforting about taking part in communal prayer, so it's been nice to be able to experience that since i've been here, with family frequently around.  today, there was the added extra of the mosque, which is just this small hall, very simple but kind of beautiful with its plain tiled floor, and cool pale walls.

the afternoon involved a load of people coming round to fix various electronic things (again, for the school) and me falling asleep (catch up for the past few nights, i reckon) and waking up to the sound of the plumber (who has just now finally, left) hammering the bathroom wall, and my cousin (another one) here with her youngest son.  it's felt like a whole 'nother day again since the evening.  total go slow.

late last night, i heard the sound of some sort of procession outside - i looked out to see a group of boys and young men passing by the front of the house, carrying lighters, lanterns, and every so often, letting off what looked like blowtorches.  i grabbed my camera, and my cousin took me out to follow what turned out to be something called 'candle-night'.  whenever one of the local 'street boys' dies, the rest  have this procession to commemorate, carrying lights, chanting, and every so often letting off flames from canisters of 'fleet' (insecticide).  it was slightly raucous, but fitting, somehow, to mark the death of someone still so young - very much 'rage against the dying of the light' - and fascinating to see from the outside.

tomorrow we head to alagbado - the place where my father's house is (he brought the land years before he died, and my mum has had the house built/finished, and now expanded, since he's been gone, so that we have somewhere fully of our own.  mixed feelings about that.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

day 3 in nigeria - we all have days like this

i woke up scowling this morning, and have only just about stopped (it's about midday now). my bad mood persists, though. i woke up before 7am - or rather, was woken up by my mum who decided we needed to get up and clean (first reason for the day's mood, perhaps?).  being made to get up and clean the house at 7am when i'm supposedly on holiday, after a third night of little sleep (once again, combination of the heat, and sharing a bed with my mum).

second reason for foul mood - the other day, my uncle came home with these truly horrible mouse traps - they are basically mini mats of glue - the mice are attracted on to them by some scent thing, and then stick to it.  they're the most horrendous things you can imagine - i walked into the living room this morning to find two mice, stuck and struggling to get off.  and that's it - they'll just stay and struggle there until they starve to death, or give themselves a heart attack from pulling, or just curl up and give up the will to live when they realise there's no point in doing anything else.  i guess one of the things that's increased my bad mood around that particular thing is being angry at myself for not making more of a case against them, or maybe sabotaging them somehow (i didn't even think of that until now).  but that's it - when he gets back, i'm going to show him his handy work, and ask him to never bring those things here ever again. jeez.

third reason - being informed that my (other) uncle was still bringing the guy (that was supposed to come yesterday).  and they actually turned up today. they've just left.  i didn't allow it to be uncomfortable, because i basically spent the whole time between the kitchen and my room, listening to gnarls barkley and flight of the conchords, polite when i had to interact, but underneath brimming baleful belligerence.  i had a chance to talk to my mum very briefly, and tell her how irritated i was by the whole situation, and then to tell my uncle, very politely, but as honestly as possible, that 1) with regards to this particular guy, i was a bit surprised that he would just bring along someone who he knows very little about (i said it a little more forthrightly to my mum), and 2) i didn't see the point in him introducing me to guys here, when i have no intention to ever reside in nigeria long-term (yes, i did use the word 'reside').  His replies? 1) 'i'll bring someone else tomorrow, that i know better'; 2)"maybe they'll want to travel"…  d'aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!
i've spent the past 11 years having to put up with this, falling foul of parents/various 'mosque uncles/aunties'/other people for 'not giving it a go', being 'too fussy', or, my favourite, 'waiting for mr perfect' whenever i have the audacity to tell them i don't particularly want to meet the latest suitor, or deciding after meeting them that we're not compatible.  and on it goes.

as for this guy? turned out he's an insurance executive and looks about the same age as my baby brother (as far as we were able to ascertain - what with my uncle going by his cv, given that he doesn't actually know - he's 26… 26..?).  he seemed like a nice enough guy - but then again, so do most people on first meeting.  saying goodbye to him and my uncle was one of my highlights of the day.
insurance executive. tch!
- - - - - - -

about 7pm - have just had an argument with my mum about the mouse traps (and yes, i do realise more and more this whole entry is making me sound like a 14 year-old… deal with it).  my cousin came round earlier, and i asked him to get rid of them.  he got rid of the mice, but brought back the traps. idiot. i told him i didn't want them in this house anymore. so he left them outside the door.  more fool me for not getting rid of them while i had the chance.
 when my mum got back, she noticed they were missing - she asked who got rid of the mice, and then asked where the traps were.  when i told her how i felt about them, and suggested instead we do something a little more practical and less cruel - i don't know, like block the gap under the kitchen door.  i was told i always have unrealistic solutions.  admittedly, my suggestion of a cat yesterday wasn't necessarily likely to be possible, given we don't live here, but then, blocking the gap under the door is quite possibly the polar opposite of unrealistic.  given that my aunt said there's a welder just up the road and we can speak to him in the morning, i'd go so far as to say it definitely falls within the realms of a real thing that could indeed possibly occur.
- - - - -

8pm - had semi-calmer discussion with my mum. result - we're getting the welder in. i've closed the traps (well actually, got my cousin to close them, disgusting things that they are). everyone's happy (well, as long as my mum doesn't find out the traps are closed…)

tomorrow will resume normal service i hope (i.e. less petulant teenage-type angst, more level-headed adult-type observation… maybe).  plans to leave the house again (after, of course, the suitor visit - oh, how i laughed when i joked about being married off when i came over), and maybe actually see a bit more of town.  can't believe it'll be friday already - no more slow time for me.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

day 2 in nigeria - live by the horn, drive by the horn

I left the house today, for the first time since I arrived.  A stone mason from Ibadan came down to talk business with my Mum - she's expanding the school she's built here, building on new plots of land not far from the original school.

Driving in Nigeria is… a consummate skill (is that a tautology?).  There is no room for timidity or poor technique, because if you display either, there is a great possibility you will die.  I have much respect for anyone that commandeers a vehicle on the roads of Lagos - and cannot fathom people who seem perfectly happy to put their lives into the hands of okada (the small motorcycles that act as taxis) which flit in and out of other traffic, often with the bags carried by the passengers brushing the trucks, buses and cars that they zoom between.  And yet, perhaps because of the difficulty of manoeuvring the roads (at least, in the areas in and around Ikorodu, where my Mum's family all live), from what I can see at least, there seems to be a whole lot less road rage.  When you're busy trying to find a safe path around all the holes and ridges that make up bits of the road, you've not got time to stop and swear at anyone that jumps in ahead of you.  Impatience is reserved for people that are too slow - like I said, you can't afford to be driving like a learner on these roads.  And everywhere you go by road, the sound of every vehicle's horn sounds almost the whole time - as a warning to pedestrians in tight spots, when turning into or out of a junction, when you're over-taking, when you're passing a bus being loaded up with passengers, when you're backing out of your compound onto the road etc etc.  Again, it's very rarely used as it is in London - just for the sake of signalling annoyance, or just for being an idiot (e.g. blaring horns when you're in a hold up - what is the point - as my mum would say: 'you want to fly?').

I saw my first cockroach of the trip yesterday.  It was just emerging from the kitchen's walk-in store room.  Luckily I didn't spy it till after my mission in there to get some container or other.  I have a serious phobia of cockroaches.  I mean, serious.  Anyone who's seen my behaviour around moths or butterflies - that is nothing compared to this.  I once smashed the tiles in our kitchen with a hammer, killing the tiniest cockroach.  Another time, one touched my hand - I nearly broke said hand whacking it against the cupboard.  My feelings towards them verge on the hysterical - I can't even bear to look at pictures of them in books, talk less touch them.  Sharing a house with them is one of the only few things I've never been able to adapt to out here.  Intermittent electricity? Yeah, you get used to that very quickly, and it's not as much of a hassle as you might imagine.  One hour journeys that take about three times as long?  Again, something you just learn to accommodate, and not bother to freak out about - a good time to catch up on reading, correspondence, and new music.  But the house-invading cockroaches - eugh!  Trips to the toilet take doubly long, as I check the place over throughly each time, making sure none are going to corner me once it's too late to get out.  This is especially fun at night when there's no electricity - thank you, torch.  And once I've seen one, I start seeing them everywhere - even when they're not.  Eugh - just the sight of those antennas, even just the thought of them, makes my skin crawl.  I was thinking earlier today, it would have been a real shame for Indianna Jones if I was the woman that had to put my hand in that hatch full of bugs and insects to pull the switch to stop the room crushing him - he totally would have died in there.  I'd have been full of remorse, but there'd have been no way I could have just grit my teeth and let anything crawl on me - eugh!

Anyways, in a turn up for the books, and one of the times when Nigerian timing worked in my favour, my uncle called earlier in the day to postpone the meeting he'd arranged today.  Shame.

I went to visit my Mum's school today - more on this another time.  It was cool to see these little kids there, all eager and and attentive, though they seemed to be learning stuff that looked really hard for such small people (I'm sure in primary school, I never learnt that water was 'tasteless, formless and odourless' - it was just wet, and fun to splash with.).  And after the school, I got to chase and recapture a few of my cousin's chicks, which kept escaping from the barn they live in, and then being really confused as to how to get back in.  I could totally be a chicken-chasing farmer.

Seeing the ram slaughtered yesterday, I was struck again by this luxury of remove that most meat eaters in the UK have from where their succulent steaks or juicy drumsticks come from.  I once had a friend who said she couldn't bear the sight of raw meat, because it reminded her too much of what it actually used tp be.  Whereas I reckon if you're going to eat meat, you should at the very least acknowledge that you're eating dead animals.  Going a step further, I'd say that everyone that eats meat should see at least one animal slaughtered - perhaps that could be one way to persuade people to eat meat a little less often, or at least be a little more thoughtful in their carnivorous consumption.

Anyways.  I'm finishing this in the dark - the generator's off, and so is the electricity.  For the first time, I've just realised how quiet it is outside at night.  I can hear crickets, and very little else.  I could get used to going to bed surrounded by silence.  So, even intermittent electricity has its upsides.

Monday, 21 November 2011

day 1 in nigeria

So, while i was away in nigeria, i vaguely decided to keep a sort of record of my time there. it's not a proper blog, definitely not a travel-log, and at times reads like a 12 year old's diary - ah well. i plan to post a new entry each day. and once i get sorted, there'll be photos.
- - - - -

Since getting home,

I have learnt to value water and respect heat to the proper extent,
I have slept fitfully, 3 of us to a bed, full grown
and learnt that sleep really can be an enjoyable alternative wakefulness
I have become relaxed in dressing, learnt the ridiculousness of vests and socks, the superfluousness of sleeves,
tights have been replaced by a silky sheen of perspiration,
and I have become used to feeling its trickle down my temple, or edging over a nostril
I befriended the goat in our compound, untied it so it could roam and nose and butt in the hour before I saw its throat cut, and family and hired cooks cut and cleaned it, preparing the Eid feast
I have considered kidnapping the coolest, cutest baby known to woman, one of the many children of one of my many cousins, whose many names mainly elude me
and I have not bothered to pretend to remember when asked the faces of those whose owners i barely knew before
I have started to feel at home
- - - - - -

I've only been up 4 hours (or maybe 5 - there are no clocks around, and my watch has been stuffed in my hand luggage since last night) but it feels like a whole day has passed.  I'm only just knowing the meaning of time passing slowly.

Last night I fell asleep to the sounds of James Blake (mainly 'a case of you' and 'I never learnt to share'), and Mashrou' Leila (mainly 'shim el yasmine'), overlaid by the gentle thud and whir of the ceiling fan. When I went to bed, I was the only one in it.  I woke up confused in the night - I knew I was sharing the bed with my mum, but couldn't figure out who the figure in the middle was.  i was too sleepy to put my glasses on or even think about it too much, and too tired to figure if it was real or part of a vague half-waking dream.  When I visited Tunisia a few years ago, the first couple of nights in our apartment, I had what I guess now were night terrors - lying in bed, paralysed, and seeing someone stood at the door of the room, just watching me (though there was, of course, never anyone there).  This didn't feel scary like that, but it could have just as easily been my imagination.
- - - - -

Twenty to seven. The sun's gone down, and the party participants have mainly departed - teachers from my mum's school here, various members of my dad's side of the family.  outside, the olopo is packing up her giant pots, and some of my younger cousins are sweeping with long packed brooms. i'm sat in the darkness of the living room - we had electricity this morning, but it went off mid-afternoon. at least we got some.  hopefully it'll come back on sometime soon, so we can have the fan on to go  to sleep.  actually, a cousin's just turned on the generator - the lights flicker, but at least we can see, and the fan does its work just as well.

I've not felt this relaxed in ages, nor quite so unobligated.  i'm quite amazed that i've not felt more withdrawal symptoms for the internet.  i guess the bits that i miss (basically being in touch with certain people, and knowing what's going on) are just about equally balanced out by the bits that i really don't (being able to work remotely - i know if i had internet connection, i would have logged into work at least once today; and knowing what's going on - sometimes it's nice to not hear the latest horrible headlines, to be blissfully ignorant, even if only for a few days).

And seeing family - it's been a good reunion - again, this lack of obligation.  So i've spent bits of the day outside with people, other bits inside, either doing stuff, or nothing much at all, but throughout, for the most part, have been left to my own devices.  I haven't been to Nigeria for 5½ years.  It's weird to meet kids whose existence I wasn't even aware of, to meet others who are now adults, who were still smaller than me when i last saw them.  It's been nice to be welcomed but also not to be made too much of a fuss over - like i've been away from home quite a while, and it's nice to have me back, but no need to treat me weird.
- - - - -

Ah - should have known there couldn't be a gathering of family without the M question coming up.  My uncle apparently asked my mum how things were with regards to me having met someone, and rather than telling him she was sure i'd be fine, she has apparently agreed to me being introduced to some guy tomorrow. Ach!!  She's just told me this - i've gone from being blissfully unencumbered to scowlingly irritated in a stroke - always nice to have no say whatsoever in this!  She's working on the premise of 'well, you never know'.  I'm working on the premise of 'oh, i don't know, over ten years' worth of 'introductions' means i can make a pretty good guess'.  Damn it. 
- - - - -

I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings...

Monday, 7 November 2011

Dr Nawal Al Saadawi at Occupy LSX - videos

Here are the videos of Nawal Al Saadawi at the Occupy LSX camp a couple of weeks ago.  There are a couple of interviews, and a few clips of Dr Nawal talking to the camp.  It was a brilliant, inspiring occassion, and I just wish I'd got the videos out sooner.

First interview - "I feel I am in Tahrir Square - I feel we are in one world - I feel this is a global revolution...We have the same goal"

Second interview, with the Guardian - "we have to be one, we have to be one"

"Tahrir Square everywhere!"

Slightly circular discussion with a tourist - 'election can be a deception - we have to decide when the election can come... we, the revolution"

Address to the camp on the steps of St Paul's - "the struggle is global ... we live in one world...we are together...we have to fight world"