WordPress 104… In Search of Content

in search of content

When I wake up, I do not panic. I turn around and enjoy the darkness. I capture my enjoyment of it—the silence, my breathing, and tracing the bizarre shapes floating on the ceiling—in long lazy stretches. But too quickly, it slips through my fingers like water in cupped hands.

Pop! And my brain takes over. It is 1 a.m. on Friday and I don’t have a post for Sunday, which is when I update my blog.

My idea book is filled with words, phrases, whole paragraphs even, written when inspiration caught me mid-cooking, mid-vacuuming, mid-driving, mid-praying, and mid-listening-to-the-C.E.O.-at-the-company-meeting. Each spree ends with the acronym T.B.D.L. (to be developed later). Words that I imagined would bring me fame, have lain there, on hiatus, waiting to be developed later.

This small exercise book is a contradiction of who I am, for I am as organised as the T that begins my name. However, here, my words begin inside the margin and jump the lines, leaping over the light blue boundaries that would suffocate my creativity. I recognise the frenzy of inspiration and the rush of words tumbling from my mind, in my illegible handwriting.

As I scan through, in the glow of my bedside lamp, nothing I read seizes my attention. I cannot strike the balance between what I want to write and what I think my readers want to read, so I power my laptop. If I read other blogs, perhaps I will find it.

Browsing is an apt term for what I do. Channel surfing paints a truer picture. I join the millions who roam the internet foraging for content. Too much choice is a bad thing. It can leave you undernourished instead of well-fed. Skimming headlines, clicking links, scanning blocks of text, skimming headlines again, I am a victim of “content anorexia”. I eat, but I do not digest, never able to hold anything down.

After a while, I see the word diaspora. It is spelt with a capital D in the middle of a sentence, a straight line and a curve that scream my name. Something doesn’t feel right. The pieces come together. Aha, I have spelt diaspora with a small d on my blog.

My weakness shows when my strength is magnified. It is painful to watch. Perfectionism drives me to find the post on my blog. Perfectionism drives me to start a Google search. Too much choice is a bad thing. I cannot cover the 3,647,400 results, which Google search engines deliver in 0.29 seconds, but I can try.

Diaspora from the Greek, meaning scattering, dispersion…. Diaspora, often initial capital letter….  Spell check the word diaspora on our website…. the body of Jews living in countries outside Israel…. African diaspora… the slave trade and its effects…. Diaspora cultures … the dispersion of communities throughout the world. The diaspora of English into several mutually incomprehensible languages…. The Polish diaspora amounts to 40 million… How to say diaspora in Swahili…

When my alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m., I think about three things:

 

One, that this is the alarm before the real alarm. It is the alarm that I “snooze” while I attempt a half-sleep, punctuated by thoughts of the real alarm.

Two, that I was right. I had spelt diaspora correctly with a small d, which was suitable for my context. This small victory does not bring elation.

Three, that I do not yet have a blog post for Sunday.

 

My eyelids now feel as though cement bags were dropped on them. And adrenaline departs from me in waves, rousing pain in my limbs. I know much more about diaspora than I ever intended to know. In secondary school, a teacher once said that no knowledge is ever wasted. What will I do with all this information I gathered about diaspora, information that is already fading away, slipping as I am, under my sheets?

The real alarm buzzes at 6:15 a.m., and I “dismiss” it without thinking, for nature exacts her pound of flesh.

When I wake up again, I panic. Light streams through the blinds and I know I need a miracle. 7:05 a.m., in the shower. 7:13 a.m., dressed. I have never put on make-up in the train, but there is always a first time. My black bag is big enough to hold my life, so I toss the things I need and the things I think I will need inside, and because I cannot remember if I brushed my teeth, I fling in my toothbrush and toothpaste for good measure.

7:19 a.m., I begin the sprint. I see a man walking his dog, shoulders hunched up, chin half-buried inside his coat, in contrast, my coat is open, its tails flapping in the wind. And for once the cold is my friend.

7:23 a.m., I stumble into the bus. So, what if people are staring at me? When I flop into my seat, I drink in gulps of air and think, Usain Bolt ain’t got nothing on me; no, nothing, except age! Up diaspora!

 

wordpress 104 in search of content

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Image title: cartoon couple 04 vector

Original image URL: http://all-free-download.com/free-vector/vector-cartoon/cartoon_couple_04_vector_181443.html

Image credit: Center Spiral Notebook by Tom Kuhlmann http://community.articulate.com/downloads/p/667.aspx#

image designs: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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By God’s Grace

scams upon scammers

Religion divides; religion unites. Its symbols are seen everywhere here. In the big southern cities, churches clamour for prominence with their dizzying signboards on busy and quiet streets. While the western world wants to send God packing, we have him firmly entrenched in our society.

Having watched God’s role shrink in the west, I embraced his omnipresence back home. But my joy at luxuriating in unabashed religious freedom was marred by incident after incident with religious-sounding people.

Religious clichés form a huge umbrella where strange bedfellows meet. Christian choruses drip from the sweet mouths of juju practitioners and Holy-Ghost-power-wielding herbalists advertise their solutions in the newspapers. But it is in the language of everyday people that these clichés find unbridled expression, so much so that a simple yes or no response is as elusive as constant power supply.

In a culture where speeches are padded with verbosity and our elder’s words are peppered with flowery proverbs, perhaps it is fitting that our words are wrapped in religious foil and by God’s grace is the heavy-duty foil that covers every situation under our sun!

When I queried my handyman for a firm work commitment, he kept dodging under the grace of God. “By God’s grace I will come and do the work on Thursday.”

When I persisted, in exasperation he declared, “Madam, I will come on Thursday, God willing!”

Then he beamed like a monkey atop a tree that had escaped the canines of a hungry lion, daring me to challenge the will of God.

That he did not show on the said Thursday is symptomatic of a national ulcer.

Civil servants show up at work by believing and trusting God.

Political parties garner votes by the will of God.

The mechanic will fix your car by the grace of God.

Senators, stupefied by the challenges facing their constituents, hold press conferences where they proclaim, “It is only the grace of God that can save Nigeria!”

Like soap that glides through wet hands, we use religion to evade the grasp of accountability time after time. From Aso Rock to Ajegunle, religion is courted, invoked, and brandished as if it is a determinant of GDP and as if, according to Karl Marx, it is the opium of the people!

power of God bus

At the mall, a young man selling CDs from his début album politely accosted me. Recognising a fellow struggling artist hustling for survival, I decided to purchase one.

“What kind of music is this?”

“By God’s special grace, Christian music.”

I nearly walked away, but I kept hope alive. “Are you sure?”

“Of course madam,” he replied without hesitation, “what else would I record?”

“Look I want to encourage you. I’ll give you N300 anyway, what kind of music is this?”

I guess he must have thought that I imagined that he was born yesterday—a whole him—a scammer of scammers. Looking pained, he told of how other buyers had commended his efforts. He painted a picture of struggle and survival, in which the grace of God and the will of God had converged to give him a testimony, proving that no condition is permanent. Moved, I overlooked the shabby packaging and paid for the CD.

Later, I played the CD in my car. I strained my ears through the poor sound quality to make out the lyrics. The chorus rang:

 

Naija is where we are

Naija is where we belong

Naija is where we will die

 

My lips curved slightly as realisation shone through my eyes, of course it was a Christian song!

Since productivity hinges on how God is wielding his grace, I have come to certain conclusions about my day.

Will I go to work today? Ah, it’s in God’s hands.

Will I eat lunch during break? Yes, God willing.

Will I take a pee after lunch? Believing and trusting God.

And finally, can I draft a concluding paragraph for this blog post? By God’s grace!

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

 

Photo credit: dan mogford / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dansflickr/272385799/
Title: scams upon scammers

Photo credit: MikeBlyth / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blyth/152662733/
Title: Power of God bus (Chi Boy)

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Who Will Tell Me Sorry?

who will tell me sorry

Time stood still.

After she said, “Mummy I bumped my head against the window.”

Then moved slowly like a ticking bomb, tick-tock, tick-tock.

One irritated child, another crying child, an unhappy mother, and a grim-faced driver rode from Ikeja to Victoria Island. I wielded the power to change the sombre atmosphere in the car—one sentence, “Sorry, let me take a look at it,” was the magic wand that could banish sorrow to a faraway land.

Instead, I sat tight-lipped like a woman whose husband had asked, “What is the matter now?” after forgetting her birthday. The word sorry had become as precious to me as Silas Marner’s gold was to him. I did not have any more sorry to spare.

Our day had started innocently enough. The children wanted to visit The Fun Place, and I acquiesced. Undaunted by traffic, their incessant chatter filled the car before they succumbed to the go-slow and dozed off. They woke up just as we approached Opebi and bounced gently in their seats to the rhythm of their melodious voices.

So what went wrong? Nothing. Nothing really, except that from the moment they woke up, they had been running in my direction in ardent search for those precious words.

“Mummy, I stubbed my toe as I was coming down the stairs,” one complained and looked at me as if I conspired with the builder to build steep steps.

“Oh sorry dear, come closer, let me take a look.”

Then I gave the toe a gentle rub to soothe the pain. The pacified child retrieved his toe, announced that he felt better, and disappeared. As the day wore on, both kids took turns to seek this cure-all for life’s little mishaps.

“Mummy, I fell down.”

“Sorry, ….”

“Mummy, I bit my tongue.”

“Sorry, ….”

“Mummy, I cut my arm.”

“Sorry, ….”

“Mummy, my sister won’t play with me, the sun won’t shine, the dog won’t bark, the flowers won’t grow, there’s no light, there’s no water,” and on and on, and on and on.

To these and their array of mounting complaints, I have learnt to either feign concern or inject a sufficient amount of compassion in my voice, as I give an appropriate response by rote while multi-tasking!

It was the same story at The Fun Place. I opened my novel, read one paragraph and then said sorry. A little sorry here, a little sorry there. I read another paragraph before tales of being pushed and hit, tales of being unfairly treated, and tales of falling down, assaulted my ears. A big sorry here, a big sorry there, and in all, I had read four paragraphs of my novel by the time we determined to leave.

I eased into the car, looking forward to closing my eyes and dreaming of my bed. I wiped apple juice from my hands, mildly irritated by my sticky fingers, and dusted popcorn off my jeans. The gaping pothole that rocked the car from side to side, had caused everyone and everything to shift position, including my mood.

It was at this precarious time that my daughter pouted, “Mummy I bumped my head against the window.”

I folded my arms and pursed my lips.

It was time to count to fifty, but I would not.

I sighed.

Who will tell me sorry? Did I not also bump my head against the car window? Had I not also stubbed my toe last night in the NEPA-induced darkness? I had muttered, “ow,” rubbed my toe myself, and continued with life.

Who will tell me sorry for the fact that I could not stretch my monthly chop money to cover the whole month due to inflation?

Who will tell me sorry for my car shaft, which needed replacement because the road to my house had become a river?

I sighed.

No, I did not think I had any free sorry to dole out. Let her tell herself sorry for a change!

Her cries slowed to a whimper. A quick glance confirmed my suspicion—her eyelids were drooping in preparation for sleep. Something stirred within me. I reached out and caressed her head, “Sorry darling, does it feel better?”

She sagged against her seat belt, a contended smile barely breaking through tired lips, as everyone else visibly relaxed.

So, who will tell me sorry?

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

image design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

I am Not Looking For Love, I am Going to Work

not looking for love
It began yesterday at the government office, which was saturated with immigrants whose anxious stares alternated between the digital display boards and their tickets, a square piece of paper with a number printed on it. At the sound of the beep, everyone looked at their ticket, and then the display boards. Some sighed. Some continued talking. Others continued sleeping. One person rose to meet an official walled in by glass on the other side of the counter.

My wait was shortened by an acquaintance with whom I chatted until our conversation lulled to a comfortable stop.

“Excuse me, it seems you are from Nigeria.” A tall man sitting a few spaces away from my acquaintance smiled at her.

“No, I am not.”

“Ah, but I thought—”

“I am from Democratic Republic of Congo.”

With her thick Igbo accent, she delivered her last words with a finality that inspired no argument from the man. He fanned himself, and then pretended to read his letter from the belastingdienst.

Because I am slow to change the expression on my face, she saw it. The disbelief. The wonder. The perplexity.

“Don’t mind the idiot. If not for dis yeye tax people, where e for come see me? See as e dey talk as if e be my mate. E nor see im type?” she whispered for my benefit and his.

I nodded like her co-conspirator, as though I had been dissing guys for the last ten years. What else could I do?

Determined to be a better person, this incident is hovering at the back of my mind when a young man approaches me today as I wait for my tram.

“Hello, are you from Nigeria?”

Surely there must be a better opening line? I give nothing away as I nod and he introduces himself. I tell him my name.

“Ah, Timi. Timilehin? You are Yoruba?”

“I am Nigerian.”

“I know, from whose part?”

“We have left Nigeria. Let’s pretend ethnicity does not matter. I am a Nigerian; that is enough.”

He looks at me as though the sky has descended on my head and I am unaware. Undeterred, he forges on in pidgin English. I respond in proper English.

He ditches Pidgin in favour of a kind of English that is interspersed with incorrect tenses and Dutch words. This is a cross some of us bear. The effect of speaking Dutch with non-native proficiency is the tendency to forget English words and to adjust our tenses automatically to match the wrong grammar of English-speaking Dutch people.

I am aware of every mistake he makes. Like the freckles on my neighbour’s face, they are many.

“I saw you at this tramhalte iedere dag, I mean, every day. Are you going to work?”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

I tell him. And then I help him because he seems lost, “I haven’t seen you before?”

“I know, but I am seeing you. You are very mooi, beautiful.”

I take in his overalls. He does not look like Idris Elba in Tyler Perry’s Daddy Loves His Girls, but this is real life.

“Thank you, where do you work?”

He talks about his work, links that conversation to how long he has been in The Netherlands—fifteen years, and then ties it to his goals and dreams like a neat bow at the end of a string.

My eyes do not wander from his face while he speaks. But my mind does. I wonder if he can read, understand, discuss, and comment on my blog intelligently.

Then there is silence. The wind dies. The leaves sleep. The seagulls take their leave. It is just me and him. And the silence. Without my help, he stews in it for a while—scratching his chin, brushing dirt from his overalls, staring at something behind me—before he says, “I must goes to my work place. Can I have your number?”

“For what?” Honest words spill out before I can reel them in. What else do we have to say to each other?

I wan know you.”

I do not know why I did what I did next. Guilt—over what? My resolution to be a better person? Pity? Maybe, my thoughts had roamed to how he must have been eyeing me, calculating his approach. Religious fervour? Hardly.

“I would like to invite you to my church.” I fumble in my bag for the flyers the preacher says we should carry around for opportune moments, moments like this one I suppose.

He looks at me as though The Rapture has occurred and I am unaware.

“Ah, ah! Won’t you know me first before inviting me to your church? I already goes to church.”

It is as if he knows. That I am not very good at this. That church is a cop-out. That it is too late to tell him I am from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That I do not have the heart to tell him he will not understand my blog, and therefore not understand me. He pounces on me like a wounded lion, as if to say, “This is for every man you ever dissed!”

“That’s the problem with you Nigerian girls! Church, church, church! Your mates don marry, you still dey here! Oya go and marry your God!”

He jumps on his bicycle in one swift motion and pedals away.

It is rare that I cannot express myself with words. But I am not writing a dissertation. This is life. This does not call for intellectual prowess.

I imagine that in a few moments, his bicycle chain would jam, forcing him to stop. I imagine him kneeling on the earth, humiliated, rattling the chains, while I watch from the elevated platform of my tram stop. Then the words that abandoned me would force their way out of my mouth, “I am not looking for love, I am going to work!”’

Nothing I imagine happens. He continues to ride and does not look back. But a curious thing happens. As I look, it is not him getting smaller in the distance, it is me!

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.