A Long Way Gone: Introspection and Tears

a long way gone

The photo on the cover—a boy on a dirt trail, hair uncombed, mortar cartridge behind his neck, and a gun with a bayonet hanging from his shoulders drew me to Ishmael Beah’s book. The green flip-flop on his right foot, useless and slanting in the wrong direction, a testament of happier times, sealed my fate. Reading the blurb was a formality as was thumbing Steve Job’s biography, which I had intended to buy in the first place.

I paid for the book and went home.

I read the book through one heart-wrenching weekend, stopping occasionally for the weight of sorrow to lift. It did not.

Beah tells his story, in my view, without an agenda or an axe to grind. It is as though he says, “This is my story. Jump to conclusions if you want. Ask questions if you care.” He narrates about his experience as a boy soldier in Sierra Leone, a boy flung into the throes of a war that consumes his family.

His memory is photographic, capturing detail in a way that helps you journey with him. The picture of him wandering in the forest haunts me still.

I walked for two days straight without sleeping. I stopped only at streams to drink water. I felt as if somebody was after me. Often, my shadow would scare me and cause me to run for miles. Everything felt awkwardly brutal. Even the air seemed to want to attack me and break my neck. I knew I was hungry, but I didn’t have the appetite to eat or the strength to find food. I had passed through burnt villages where dead bodies of men, women, and children of all ages were scattered like leaves on the ground after a storm. Their eyes still showed fear, as if death hadn’t freed them from the madness that continued to unfold. I had seen heads cut off by machetes, smashed by cement bricks, and rivers filled with so much blood that the water had ceased flowing. Each time my mind replayed these scenes, I increased my pace. Sometimes I closed my eyes hard to avoid thinking, but the eye of my mind refused to be closed and continued to plague me with images. My body twitched with fear, and I became dizzy. I could see the leaves on the trees swaying, but I couldn’t feel the wind.1

Reading this book almost upended my theology. Why do bad things happen to innocent people? If God is real and good, why doesn’t he stop it? What about ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Bible?

I have not found intellectually satisfying answers. I do not need them to believe, I only need them for debate.

After I closed the book, it took many days for sadness to leave me.

Is war like the Terminator movie? Does the good guy leave the epic fighting scene—usually a dark warehouse with chainsaws, spikes, naked wires, and bottles—limping into the light with the beautiful woman he rescued clinging to his arm, while we cheer and wait for them to kiss?

No.

I recall a scene from Machine Gun Preacher, where an orphan boy tells his story to Sam Childers, which unlocks my tears afresh.

I remember my parents in my sleep. My father was big like you. They shot him. The rebels told me, “If I do not kill my mother, they would shoot my brother and me.” And so, I killed my mother. If we allow ourselves to be full of hate, then they’ve won. We must not let them take our hearts2.

War leaves casualties as J.P. Clark describes in his poem, The Casualties3 (selected lines below).

The casualties are not only those who are dead;
They are well out of it.
The casualties are not only those who are wounded,
Though they await burial by instalment.

The casualties are not only those who started
A fire and now cannot put it out. Thousands
Are burning that had no say in the matter.

The casualties are many, and a good number well
Outside the scenes of ravage and wreck;
They are the wandering minstrels who, beating on
The drums of the human heart, draw the world
Into a dance with rites it does not know

We fall,
All casualties of the war
Because we cannot hear each other speak,
Because eyes have ceased to see the face from the crowd,
Because whether we know or
Do not know the extent of wrong on all sides
We are characters now other than before
The war began,

I have many questions, fewer answers, but I am at peace in the world as long as I do not let them take my heart.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

1. Ishmael Beah, A Long way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (New York: Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007), 49.
http://www.alongwaygone.com

2. Machine Gun Preacher Movie.
http://www.machinegunpreacher.org/

3. J.P. Clark, The Casualties, Poems of Black Africa, ed. Soyinka Wole (London: Heinemann/AWS, 1975), 112.

 

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.

Affirmation: My Journey

affirmation

When I was little, school was easy and prizes came easily. My prizes brought me little joy, especially after my mother asked why I didn’t win them all, which was her way of spurring me on to greater heights. I lined my prizes and waited for my father’s praise. When he finally gave it, my life assumed colour and the monochrome of my existence ceased to be.

I think about it now, and wonder if it wasn’t crippling to let my enjoyment of life hang on someone’s approval. I was a child, I didn’t know better. You would think I’ve been cured, after all these years, but I’m not. I am not yet a black belt at life; I have only learnt to do life better.

Am I the only one with this disease?

Years ago, I met a young man at the behest of a mutual friend. He had written a story they both thought was good enough to submit for a competition. I was to look it over, you know, give some pointers.

From the start, sloppy errors that MS Word could have fixed littered his story. I read every line of the first six pages, displeasure turning the corners of my mouth down. In my review, I mentioned that he had a strong story to tell, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

He responded with accusations that stung, as if my review had attacked his person, not his work.

I should have sensed his vulnerability in the conversation we had at our first and only meeting, underneath the Chicago Bulls baseball cap he wore and his bravado words. When he placed the manuscript in my hands, I should have seen his heart. I should not have dismissed the way his hand shook so that a few sheets went sailing in the wind, as superstition.

He was not unlike the men in my life; men, who like a 5,000-piece puzzle, take weeks to unravel. Men with broad shoulders that absorb the weight of my fears and the problems of our world, and yet . . .

Anyway, if he wanted validation as a writer, why did he say, “Be brutal in your feedback, I want to get better.” His girlfriend was supposed to hold his hand and whatever else needed holding not me!

Nevertheless, the need to prove my niceness to a stranger ate my sleep. I replied and gave him concrete examples of what he could have written better, including how and why. Although he baited me to read the entire manuscript, saying that, the errors were only in the pages I had read, I declined for I was not that hungry.

That experience cost me a friend and a potential one. Seldom have I received a request for feedback that was not encroached upon by the need for affirmation. I hear it often in the defence people give in response to feedback.

Wise men pause when a woman asks, “How do I look?” Bombarded by images of beauty in the media that thrive on the insecurity that the media put there in the first place, she is asking for validation, not the whole truth. Happy is the man who gives it. Even my son knows that his answer to this question can mean the difference between his favourite take-out pizza and frozen pizza popped in the oven.

I used to dream of meeting someone special who anticipated my needs so I would not need to be weak and speak them. I now know people do not spend all day gazing at crystal balls to decipher what you need. Growth means that I untangle my web of feelings and answer these questions honestly.

Timi what do you need?

Who can give it to you?

Where is it safe to get it from?

Last week, I had a shitty day and if I am honest, I had set myself up to fail. I went to the one with whom I feel safe and recounted the day. Then I said, “Just for tonight, tell me I’m beautiful, tell me I’m smart. In the morning, you can tell me I’m full of crap.”

I am further along on my journey than when I began.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Image: http://pixabay.com/en/people-boy-thinking-child-28792

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.

Social Critics and the Human Face of Activism

Dennis Brutus poetry

This isn’t about Reuben Abati; it’s about you and me. He is just the ham in the sandwich, the one whose treachery, his becoming a mouthpiece for a government he once challenged, the spotlight’s beam has caught.

What makes a man leak from both sides of his mouth? I pondered this question and found it difficult to throw stones. Pebbles maybe, for I don’t want to excuse actions, but understand them.

So, I imagine that I am a writer with strong opinions who has nailed the art of persuading others with my words. My words are pregnant with love for my country, a sense of justice, and concern for the plight of the ordinary man. When published they give birth to a stream of followers whose voice I become.

This voice makes me a fly perching on the government’s egusi soup, small yet irritating. Knowing that spraying Shelltox is an overkill, the government places another bowl of soup on the table. Enter seduction: moving pleas from emissaries in babarigas and boubous, a call to arms for my country, not with an AK47, but with my words.

This seduction, more pleasurable than a woman’s fingers kneading coconut oil in my loins, causes my heart to race as visions of power, affluence, and a platform for greater influence fill my mind. Thoughts of Babangida’s offer to Tai Solarin surface. Does it matter? I know I will make a difference. I will no longer merely itemise our problems with lengthy editorials.

And so, I resume my new job in Aso Rock. The first thing that slaps me is the ineptitude of those I work with. The second is the indifference of those to whom I am accountable. All my lofty ideas, received with fist pumps, translated into memos that have been circulating in a hierarchical system that bemuses me, have reached the ceiling and died there.

In six months, only cosmetic changes like the framing and hanging of our work ethics in every office are visible. Money is changing hands, but mine are clean so far. I am preoccupied with change and our meeting minutes reflect this even if those that attend, now openly yawn.

Soon, I must sell a policy that smells like dead fish to the people whose voice I am or was; I am not sure for I am losing who I am or was. By this time, my children are in the best private school in Abuja, my wife has a thriving import business patronised by senator’s wives, and I have laid the foundation for my house in the village. My convictions have clashed with duty before, but this time, the stakes are higher.

I do what I must and then I read the outcry on social media. Haba! This longing for heroism, this cry for a saviour, did I put it in people’s heart? This search for credibility, is it because their lives are so untrue? At least, I answered the call. What about them? Useless people firing tweets in between replying emails in some god-forsaken cubicle!

I scratch my belly and the ten kilos I have gained causes it to wobble. I roll my tongue over canines that once drew blood, now blunt from lack of use. Look, I cannot sit on a pile of human praise anyway, such fickle things to base affirmation upon. Hands that tweeted me to the top show no mercy. I am a high-rise set to detonate. Before them, I crumble to the dust.

As elections draw near, I angle myself right. My loyalty may fetch a ministerial appointment. If not, I will offer media houses an exposé with names and lists. In the middle of the Twitter wars and Facebook debates, I will metamorphose into my old skin, a social crusader, a voice for all who forgive and forget.

The government needs human capital to build the Nigeria we dream of. When you are called, how will you serve?

 

I saw Reuben Abati once at a writing workshop where he was a keynote speaker. He must have delivered a good speech, I don’t recall. I remember that he was dark, average height, ordinary like you and me, yes, like you and me.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

The poem by the South African activist, Dennis Brutus, addresses the conflict between love for one’s country and love for a woman. In it, I see also the conflict between heroism and self-preservation. African Soulja reviewed the poem here

Reuben Abati: Journalist and Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Goodluck Jonathan (2011 –  ).

Egusi soup: Popular soup made with melon seeds.

Shelltox: Brand of insecticide.

Babarigas and boubous: Traditional clothing. Used here to denote a custom where elders cajole one’s hesitant feet into a course of action.

Ibrahim Babangida: Military dictator (1985 – 1993).

Tai Solarin: Deceased. Social critic and secular humanitarian. Served as chairman of the Babangida Administration’s People’s Bank, but later resigned in protest of corruption within the bank.

Aso Rock: The residence and office of the Nigerian President.

 

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.

Fire. Passion. Desire.

Fire Passion Desire

“It’s midnight.”

“I know.”

“I thought you said you were tired.”

“I am.”

“Come to bed.”

“Not yet. I have to finish this.”

When I finally stagger into bed at 4 a.m., I have a new definition for passion: the thing that keeps you awake while others sleep.

Is this passion?

I used to go to bed at midnight and then wake up at 3 a.m., to watch The Australian Open, while everyone else slept. I love loved tennis. I kept abreast of rankings; I rearranged players’ bios in my head. I tracked live scores on my iPhone during sermons on Sundays.

I put my definition to the test. I ask friends, “Does this mean I was passionate about tennis?”

“Nah, you are were passionate about Rafa Nadal’s biceps!”

Never mind my friends they are goofy like that.

 

I attended a meeting, where the speaker’s call rang true: we should be passionate about life. He didn’t tell us where to find passion, but I have a thought or two, and maybe you do too.

Passion- Origin

Middle English: from Old French, from late Latin passio(n-) (chiefly a term in Christian theology), from Latin pati ‘suffer’1.

Pati, to suffer. How true in the sense that we willingly suffer pain to gain the thing we love. But the word has evolved.

passion

Is passion duty?

I think of the nights in secondary school, when I read a small book called Calculations in Modern Chemistry—the bane of my fourteen-year-old existence. I couldn’t tell an atom from a molecule, those minuscule things unseen by the naked eye. Forged on I did, cramming formulas, until I decided I’d make my parents proud some other way.

“You want to drop chemistry from your electives? You won’t be able to study aeronautical engineering?” my teacher queried.

“Mmmm,” I replied, grateful that I would never speak of covalent bonds again.

Can Passion die?

“What happened to you?”

“I gave birth to the most beautiful boy in the world.”

“But . . . I don’t understand. You were going to go to LSE, you wanted to work for the World Bank—”

“When I cradled him in my arms; I can’t explain the feeling . . .”

“And now that you don’t anymore?”

“I don’t know, I mean, I have no desire . . .”

“Your degree?”

“Yeah, so what?”

Where does passion come from? Is it innate?

I stumbled on my love for writing, drawing, and music before I was eight. I experimented, my parents indulged. Books, art lessons, cassettes, and karaoke, kept me indoors and out of trouble, but I learnt they were not the path to wealth and security. So I chose another path, an acceptable one.

I remember watching planes land and take-off at the airport and the exhilaration that filled my young heart. Giant birds, what makes them fly, I wondered. Watching planes gives me a rush to this day. I know a little about lift and the law of motion. I know also that this thrill is not passion to study engineering. It is desire to fly and be free.

Passion is not the romantic word I once imagined it was. For me, it is natural ability honed by attention, repetition, focus, discipline, excellence, tenacity, and commitment. It grows, it dies, it resurrects, and it changes, as I evolve.

The desire to be a good mother, a loyal friend, a mentor, coach, teacher, the desire to tell stories, to influence lives, and to blaze trails have stayed. The how changes and control of the when slips from my hands when I clench my fist, but these desires, they are like liquid fire in my bones.

 

P.S. Aha! You thought this was some witty post about sex romance, so you kept reading waiting for the twist—gotcha! Maybe I like Rafa Nadal’s biceps, but that is a part-time obsession passion. What keeps you awake when the world sleeps?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

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.

1. Definition of passion at Oxford Dictionaries.com.  http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/passion

Happy New Love

An indiscretion. A small indiscretion.  A secret voiced. She buried her face in her hands. Then mustered courage to dial again. Things had started to go downhill after that night with Nengi.

“Who are you chatting with? What’s so funny?”

She had shown her the chat. That’s what friends do.

chat

Nengi and Soba giggled like little girls playing house.

“You like him?”

“Oh, he’s just a friend. We’ve been friends like forever–”

“But you like him?”

“Never really thought about it. Yeah . . . I think he likes me too.”

They giggled like little girls playing house. They had moved on to other important things like purple lipstick, Ankara tops, and fast food.

And then Nengi had told Ebiere. And Ebiere had told Ibinabo. And Ibinabo had told Sotonye. And Sotonye had told Miebi. And Miebi had told George. Like a Chinese whisper, by the time the story reached Karibi, she did not recognise the monster they had created.

“So you’re seeing someone else?”

Fear squeezed her heart as Karibi towered over her, three days later. His apartment had two rooms and no place to hide.

“No, you’ve got it all wrong.”

He whipped her with his words. Like a koboko, they left bruises in their wake. When he paused, they reverberated from the walls and lashed her from head to toe again.

Explanations followed. Mollifications came next. She stroked his ego until he purred. Then she brushed it, until it shone brighter than a brass plaque.

“I want you to cut off all contact with him.”

“Wh . . . what?”

“Three people can’t sleep on the same bed. I’ve never been comfortable with your closeness with  . . .”

“Dayo.”

“Whatever.”

Her wedding was three months away. Her friendship with Dayo had spanned twenty of her twenty-six years. The enormity of the files she would erase did not escape her. Her first bully. Her first Voltron, defender of her universe and her honour. Her first bicycle ride. Her first crush. Her first kiss. Her first relationship expert. Her first cigarette. Her first driving lesson. Her first interview. Her first job. Deleted.

Her marriage showed promise in the beginning before the accusations and jealous fits. He responded that way to her questions about his late nights, alcohol, and phone calls he would not answer in her presence. Then along came her baby girl and peace at last, peace brokered by her forbearance.

She was still in her pyjamas when war broke out. Every day, his rage churned like magma waiting to erupt. Two and a half years later, one black eye later, she closed the door quietly on that chapter of her life.

But fate is a wheel that seeks to make amends. Time is a bridge that links the dots of our lives. Nengi brought the news two days ago.

“You’ll never believe who I ran into today . . . Dayo!”

She was braiding Asikiya’s hair.

“Mummy, it’s too tight.”

She applied some hair lotion to the spot, “Better?”

“Soba, Soba, are you listening to me?”

“Yes I am. Please pass the beads.”

“Here, take. He looked sooo good and he’s doing well.”

She talked about school fees, house rent, and office politics, but Nengi wouldn’t let up.

“Do you want his number? No? Okay, his card is on the table.”

“Throw it in the bin.”

“What?”

“Throw it in the bin.”

After two days of wondering if Dayo had asked about her, if he wore a wedding ring, if, if, if, she dug in the bin through banana peel, slimy cereal, hair extensions, and day-old amala, to solve the riddle of her sleepless nights.

Would he forgive her four-year silence? He’d once told her that she was the only one who could listen to his silence—silent road trips to nowhere that she had not endured but enjoyed. However, her silence had been cruel. She had turned off the light and ripped the socket from the wall.

0-8-0-3-4-5-5-5-0-4

“Hello?”

Her heat beat so fast she thought her ears would explode.

“Hello?”

“Soba . . . Soba, is that you?”

She began to weep.

***

Dedicated to you.

Because your heart was broken. Because we ate popcorn and cried as we watched Dear John, and cheered as we watched Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Because even though we said good riddance to bad rubbish, your heart betrayed you with longing. Because at night you groped for a touch that you forgot was no longer there and when you remembered, you circled your pillow instead.

To all those who loved but had to let go of love, Happy New Love.

***

While we’re all in top gear shooting for the moon and beyond this new year, I’m mindful that our relationships can trip us on the way. Healthy relationships whether platonic or romantic, are a solid base for take-off, don’t you agree?

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2014

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.

Of Resolutions, Past and Present

of resolutions, past & present

Reflections and resolutions now seem so cliché, I struggle to write this post. Rummaging in the attic, I find a box of old clothes. Each item of clothing held a promise for the future that’s been realised. I hold up a pair jeans, faded and torn at the knees, and press my face into a light pink summer dress. I marvel at how much the kids have grown for it depicts how far along I have come. The past may hold treasures, still remembered but the future is bound in hope, in belief and in the knowledge that with life, all things are possible1.

2012 seemed like such a dismal year for me that come 2013, I had only one mantra: be happy and move forward. 2012 had been a tough year for me that I left formulating 2013 New Year resolutions to the brave and mighty. I knew about goal setting and other jargon like accelerate performance and maximise results, having taught others these principles, yet I dared not articulate hope on paper.

Careful not to rumple the blanket of snow around me, I placed my feet in the footprints ahead as I walked home. Although it was early 2013, several doors had already closed in my face, some loud, others quiet; all resounded with foreboding. I told myself, “No matter what happens, move forward.” All men fail, not all men rise. If I didn’t like the tempo of the skipping rope to nowhere (self-doubt held one end and if-onlys the other), I could jump out. Speed wasn’t priority, movement was. Crawl, limp, walk, run, anything, as long as I kept moving forward.

I tried to be happy, but happiness is a moving target. My challenge was to find something upon which to anchor my happiness. Many suitors paraded before me. Things and more things. People and their foibles. Relationships and their contradictions. In living for something bigger than myself, I moored my ship. A legacy is something that will outlive me, so I gave my best always. I started writing again. Once a week. I made my commitment public, you held me accountable.

Since I had subconsciously translated my mantra into goals, I had to track progress. Success has several indices. I failed on many of them until I realised I must define my own. No one in his right mind expected me to be the next Bill Gates, but everyone expected me to finally get the hang of Windows 8 and stop whining.

Although I have surpassed my bar, success has no finish line. After we cross the tape, and the applause dies, euphoria will leave a day too soon. The world throws today’s headline in the garbage bin tomorrow. I have stopped waiting for that thing to happen before I live. I move forward, I forward march.

Here are three things that helped me on my way.

Define your boundaries and internalise them by rehearsing often, for we are not as strong as we think we are. Two words: be principled.

Cut off unhealthy relationships. A clean snip with a sharp blade worked for me. A saw leaves jagged edges and many wounds. Two words: follow champions

Don’t give unsolicited advice and your relationships will have less drama. If asked, discern the real need: affirmation or feedback. Two words: shut up.

2014? I dare to articulate hope. I will give more, need less, laugh again, forget quick, dream big, in other words, take lemons, make life, and then jump for joy!

Do you make New Year resolutions or write your goals, or do you let the wind carry you where it will?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

1. Quote from KitchenButterfly, “The ‘Forgotten’ Groundnut Pyramids of Nigeria.  http://www.kitchenbutterfly.com/2013/08/08/the-forgotten-groundnut-pyramids-of-nigeria/

 

Image credits: http://www.pixabay.com

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.

The Benevolent Dictator Theory

You’ve done it and I’ve done it too—huddled with friends and turned a debate on which way Nigeria into a prayer meeting. The kind of prayer meeting where one person declares, “Only God can save Nigeria!” and the others inwardly chorus amen. Weep no more; the Messiah we’re hoping for could be closer than we think…

The Chronicles of Chill

When people gather to discuss the future of Nigeria, the consensus is usually 2-pronged. The first is that the brand of democracy we have now clearly is not working. The second is that we are probably screwed if we don’t address our fundamental deficiencies. The third (yes, I know I said two) is that we need a benevolent dictator to set us right.

The mind that proposes a benevolent dictator has probably considered that  returning to military rule would not be a bad option, given how slowly we have moved since 1999. However, that is not a thought that we are allowed to entertain, as constitutional law jingoists insist on drumming it into our heads that “the worst civilian regime is better than the best military rule”.

I think we can agree that the evidence suggests to the contrary. The world’s oldest democracies are in the middle of economic…

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Naija in My Blood

naija

A lot has been written about hazards such as driving in Lagos and on Nigerian roads. I do not mean to flog the issue, but it was this very thing that revealed some needed home truths.

You see, I am not one to allow my blood pressure levels rise over a little thing like another driver cutting into my lane without permission. The lack of simple courtesies that supply grease for smooth driving relations leaves me unruffled. Watching other tense drivers gripping their steering wheels for dear life as they struggle not to be outmaneuvered, provides witty relief from the unending traffic.

These hooligans—both the ones in black suits and the ones sooted from the ash heap of life—have shown me that aggression is the normal way of life here. The proximity of Lagos to the serene breeze from the Atlantic has done nothing to cool the pepper that burns in their veins.

On the roads, tempers edge dangerously close to boiling point, so, loud arguments and disputes settled with fistfights are not uncommon. No wonder I gave up eating pepper long ago, cucumber is more my style. But, I was soon to discover that the cherry does not fall far from the tree.

NAIJA

Nigeria, a place we all call home

Anger that constant simmering over decades of rape

Independence, a cherished hope; the impetus to rise again at 4 a.m.

Jaded after half    a century of promises unfulfilled

Affection, a feeling that continually binds us to the Motherland

Two weeks ago, my driver was going nose to nose with another vehicle. Normally, I would have cautioned him and asked him to yield to the yeye driver, but that day was different. Whether it was the roaring inflation or soaring unemployment, I cannot tell. It may have been the cumulative effect of bumping my head against the car window as my driver navigated one pothole-ridden street after another. Perhaps it was the sinking feeling that yet another con artist promising much and delivering little had swindled me. Whatever, I was tired of being a fool. My redundant aggressive genes surfaced. “Do not give him any chance,” I warned.

Both their countenances showed strong determination. A mad rush of blood had made the veins visible on their hands and temples, a sign that neither wanted to lose this race for survival. As my driver and I struggled to gain supremacy, he from behind the wheel, and me a cheerleading accomplice from the owner’s corner, the inevitable happened.

An ugly screeching sound rent the air as metal kissed metal. I had a taste of nauseating reality as the beat of the ancient talking drums in my head ceased. My driver jumped out, his rage fuelled by the sudden remembrance of his N5, 000 accident-free monthly bonus.

As he sparred with the other driver, I realized that their loud voices were a mere whisper in the buzz of a Lagos that never pauses. My car had finally been baptized with the telltale marks around the fender that speaks of a skirmish or two in traffic. After both drivers traded sufficient insults, they unanimously agreed that the scratches were not worth coming to blows over.

Rhetorical questions swirled in my mind as I tried to make sense of what had just happened. What was it that made my blood boil? How could I have Naijanized so fast?

Back home, my resourceful driver applied a little brake fluid to the scratches and the car looked almost as good as new. I guess it was a little insurance to secure his bonus. It reminded me of the shoddy patch jobs on our roads that are exposed by heavy rains. Yes, Lagos is getting greener on the outside, but true redemption must go beyond skin-deep.

As for me, years on foreign soil only camouflaged my leopard’s spots. The power of Naija, as the large billboards scream, can never be underestimated.

Pride Power Naija

Yeye: a derogatory term used for an annoying person, thing, or situation.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: author- Darwinek
Title: Flag-map of Nigeria
Page URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFlag-map_of_Nigeria.svg
Image design: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: e.r.w.i.n. / Foter / CC BY-NC
Title: PRIDE POWER NAIJA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eherrera/4950205845/
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Reinventing Hope

Nigeria-Elekoe Beach

Fifty-three years ago, Nigeria became independent of British rule. Since then, OFN, Green Revolution, MAMSER, Better Life for Rural Women, SAP, WAI, SFEM, Deregulation, June 12th, Privatisation, and The Seven Point Agenda, among others, have come and gone. They made their mark in the sands of our collective consciousness and then disappeared into the bottom half of the national hourglass. But, we have remained like a palm tree, flexible in the wind.

Although we are lacerated by stereotypes, propagated from within and without, and although bloody sweat drips from our brows as we bake the national cake, we have always found ways to sustain hope, to restore hope, and to reinvent hope as we grease the wheels of the nation’s locomotive.

In my post, In the Beginning God Created Nigeria, I wrote:

 It is true that the Nigerian landscape offers many reasons for sober contemplation, but within the dim picture, I found moments of patriotic pride, quiet amusement, and downright hilarity.  Glimpses of our heydays managed to peek through ominous clouds, an indication that lost causes can be found

I found a lost cause. I found hope one grey morning when rain fell at a steady pace.

A man struggled to open his umbrella as he stepped out of his car. Holding the yeye umbrella that refused to fully unfold above his head, he hurried into a building. Ten minutes later, he braved the rain with his spoilt umbrella and rushed to his car. Once inside, he flung the black umbrella in the middle of the road. It tumbled, unfolded properly, and gaped at the sky. He drove off, leaving a water receptacle and a trap waiting to bite other motorists.

Soon after, another man walked by. He looked left then right, and then left again before running to the middle of the road to snatch the umbrella. He closed it and set it neatly on the pavement.

Curious, I invited him into our office for a chat.

“Why did you pick up the umbrella?”

“Because it can cause accident.”

I didn’t need to ask because his shoes, shaved at the heels and curling to heaven in front, revealed the answer. But I asked anyway, “Is your car parked around here?

He laughed. We both laughed.

I nor get car.”

We both laughed again.

“Then why did you….”

He shrugged his shoulders, “It can cause accident. Some drivers will not see on time.”

“Wow. Not many people will do what you did….”

He shrugged his shoulders again, “Make I begin go.”

“Hold on. Let me find something for you. We need more people like you in this country.”

“For what? Wetin I do? Please keep your money.”

“I just want to give you something to show appreciation. If more people were like you, this country will change.”

“No need. Make I begin go.”

When he stepped outside, he gauged the drizzle with the back of his palm, shut his umbrella, and kept walking.

Little hinges swing huge doors.  Change will elude us as long as we only point fingers. When I look for a dustbin to dispose of the empty Mr Biggs take-away pack instead of dumping it on the road, change will come. When I wait in traffic instead of turning the pavement to a fast lane, change will come.

Light a candle of hope with me. Share your encounter with a Nigerian whether in Washington or Aba or Ogbomosho or Manchester, which defied the stereotype that we have come to know. Surely, for Nigeria, the future is still pregnant.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Photo credit: Zuorio / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Title: Nigeria – Elekoe Beach

Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zuorio/282076831/

 

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Perfect Strangers

Perfect Strangers

That awkward moment when you step into the lift with the colleague you see in the corridor, at the coffee machine, at lunch, and because neither of you acknowledges the other, one of you takes up elevator-door-staring while the other fiddles with a smart phone.

That awkward moment when standing in the lift, each one pretending that the other does not exist, pretending that there isn’t a world where you both coexist, the lift jerks to a stop and the light goes out.

That awkward moment when phones act as torches and your fingers touch as you both reach for the alarm button, apologise and laugh self-consciously, and then make the same mistake again because neither of you can decide who should go first.

That awkward moment when you know you’ve spent too many nights watching Criminal Minds and Crime Scene Investigation, because in the dim light, your colleague looks like Frankenstein’s monster and you expect a switchblade to suddenly appear.

That awkward moment when crisis forces both of you to skip introductions and attempt chitchat that lacks the finesse of children forging new friendships, to manage the silence which otherwise would stretch to infinity.

That awkward moment when like a steam train your chitchat sputters to an unsteady start so you ask, “How’s work in legal?” And silence follows because your colleague responds, “Fine and where do you work?” making you aware that in this game of show me yours and I’ll show you mine, you’ve just been outwitted.

That awkward moment when anger that you mask, masks the hurt you feel because there are no perks in being treated like a wallflower, unnoticed by someone with whom you share 5000 square footage in a twelve-storey office building.

That awkward moment when your colleague clears his throat and admits that he’s seen you over at finance but wasn’t sure as he’d also seen you in sales. His words placed like a winning serve, are honest words that deserve your applause.

That awkward moment when you confirm what you’ve always known: you are not claustrophobic. Trapped for ten minutes in a lift, with a stranger, you have not begun to pull your hair. Instead, you have discovered things about yourself that you can now define.

That awkward moment when the fluorescent bulb flickers to life causing you to blink, but not filling you with relief. You see your colleague as the lift ascends and wonder why you never thought to greet each other in bright, wide, open spaces, as if either of you would lose points for being the first to say hello.

That awkward moment when the lift slows and tings as the display stops at number seven and you look at your colleague, nod and then smile because words would get in the way of the silence that you have both come to accept. A dysfunction in technology has made your world not only smaller but also richer.

That awkward moment when you realise independence is not all its hyped up to be. Although you have been striving for independence all along, interdependence—the union of independent minds in mutually beneficial harmony—is the greater prize.

That awkward moment happened to me.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

image credit: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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Naija Movie Night

naija movie night

I am at The Palms Shopping Mall, Lagos, buying popcorn and a drink before I proceed to the cinema theatre.  My popcorn, a warm mixture of sugar, salt, and butter, sends my taste buds to heaven with every crunch. This is the preamble to a wonderful evening.

Friendly and professional staff check our tickets and wave us in. We make our way to the last row at the top of the theatre, a vantage spot for viewing pleasure, and sit mid-row. The easy banter of friends, shuffling feet, and polite excuse-mes, set the mood in the theatre before the lights go out.

Panic erupts from my left side. Stampede follows.

“ Rat! Rat! Big rat!”

We scamper in a radius of confusion. Questions hang like clothes left to dry in the sun: “Where?” “Did you see it?” Eventually we regroup at our row. Some people brave the popcorn-littered floor and the “invisible” rats to collect their belongings, while others take our places. My popcorn sits intact in its paper carton, but I decide to donate it to the rats.

We settle for another row of seats. Governor Fashola’s message hits home. Kate Henshaw tells us to park our cars at home and ride the BRT buses like her. Funke Akindele tells us to pay our taxes so green Lagos can extend beyond Alausa.  Eko o ni baje o.

The movie begins. It is fast-paced. I like it. Soon, a bluish light amplified by the darkness, irritates my vision. It emits from the row in front of us. Ping, silence, ping; a BlackBerry in motion. It must be important. Ping, ping, ping. Maybe her mother is dying. Silence at last, but the light keeps harassing my eyes. I ignore the luminescence the way I ignore a stubborn particle in my eye that refuses to leave after a thousand blinks.

A phone rings from the row above us—someone who forgot about silent mode. I commiserate inwardly. My phone has rung at inopportune moments too, like laughter at a funeral service. I imagine him quickly switching off his phone and apologising.

“Tunde! My man, I dey Palms.”

A relaxed conversation ensues, as if he is sitting in his living room drinking Guinness Stout with his mates. I wait for the reprimand that surely must come. Instead, another phone rings from a row several levels below us.

Quiet resumes as the movie draws us into a web of suspense. The actors are clueless. People shout hints so the actors can hear them. I am not perturbed enough to proffer solutions. Don’t they know that the leading actor never dies?

The action scene over, calm replaces the excitement of moments before. A holy hush descends as both the leading actor and all of us recover. A baby’s cry pierces the quiet, followed by a mother’s insistent, “Sssh, sssh!” A baby in the cinema? What were the mother and father thinking? What were the staff at the entrance not thinking?

I expect the Occupy Baby movement to arise. I am not disappointed.

Madam, abeg give de pickin breast!”

Not long after, the baby’s cry teeters to a stop.

I give up watching the movie on the screen. Real life offers colours and sounds that Technicolor and Dolby Surround cannot match. The sporadic flash of cellphone cameras blinds me. Babies protest against the ludicrousness of being in the cinema theatre. Cell phones ring in programmed sequence, one after another, as when you snooze your alarm, it startles you out of sleep fifteen minutes later. I drown in the conversations and debates floating up from below and drifting down nonchalantly from above.

How can I describe the cooing in sync when the leading actor achieves a milestone? This is it. He typifies our lives, the relief that washes over us when we cross difficult hurdles. It is a Kodak moment. We coo without cue, a sound so tender, goose bumps chase prejudice away. The fantasy that we came to revel in for ninety minutes is over. We applaud, burying our irritation underneath a shared experience.

Outside, my friends apologise for the people’s behaviour. I ponder their apology. Dutch people do not apologise for being Dutch. French people do not apologise for being French. English people do not apologise for being English.

I take their advice and return the next morning to watch the film in peace. The theatre is empty save for about ten other people. A man slips into the seat next to mine.

In the dark, confidence buoys his voice, “Wetin dey happen? Wetin de man talk?”

I smile, “Make you come watch for night; dem dey show de pidgin version for night.

I watch movies in the morning. Then I return in the night to watch the same movies again because I cannot get enough of the beauty, the diversity, and the insanity that is Nigeria.

naija movie morning

©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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design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Grow Up Mikey

boy amateur boxer by Lisa Runnels

The walls have remained the same—off-white walls with the imprint of dirty fingers near the doors. It is five long years since I was in my parent’s home. I mull over my last conversation with you. Sitting across from me at the restaurant, the table shook when you banged it, rattling our glasses, your rage exposing your fragile heart. I did not speak then, but I will speak now. Mikey, this is my story and it could be yours too.

My parents are not responsible for all the problems in my life. Ha! It is true that in a moment of anger, my mum flung her high-heeled peep-toes at me. But for crying out loud, I ducked with the agility of a teenage athlete, and enjoyed the small victory of seeing for a second, the remorse on her face when her shoe hit the wall and rebounded with the broken heel coming in second place. She has paid enough, and the statute of limitations has run its course.

And what if my dad never said, “I love you,” and never attended any prize-giving ceremony where I stood on the podium looking and hoping, from primary school through secondary school and up till my graduation from university? So, he didn’t know how good I was at Scrabble and how deftly I could steal two-hundred-pound notes while playing Monopoly?

For goodness sake, he put a roof over our heads, we ate until our little stomachs protruded like a ball, and our summer dresses, which caught the wind and ballooned when we twirled, had pink flower petals and yellow butterfly patterns. He spelled L.O.V.E. in a different way, and I refuse to let my juvenile fantasies of challenging his authority in a boxing ring follow me into my twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties.

So your parents expressed their frustration at your (“un”)reasonableness by acting as though you would not amount to much, swearing with their nostrils flared and their breath coming in gasps. Did they not spend time correcting you so you would amount to much, and when they realised that a life sentence in jail for killing you was not worth the trouble, hired the services of a private tutor? Let it go. Grow up and stop holding a grudge.

Do not tell a shrink the stories that you should reserve for your grandchildren and write the shrink a fat cheque afterwards as if you had twenty-five hours in your day and as if you do not have bills to pay.

Dad and mum, you are officially off the hook. My mistakes are my own, born of foolish choices. The things you forgot to warn me about, I could have found out. All those times when we sat (you on the red armchair and I on the cream sofa), and I wondered who taught you to lecture, pretending to listen, so you could congratulate yourself for passing on great wisdom, I should have paid attention to the pain in your voice brought on by the memory of bitter experience. I could have asked and you would have told me more, so much more.

My mistakes are my own. Despite all you did to set me up for a good life, I chose the life that brought me pain, that brought you pain, that brought us pain. I do not blame you and you should not blame you. We have life, we have hope, we have faith, and we have love. You could not buy the sun even if the central bank printed more notes.

Enough already! Everybody stop crying; say, “Cheese,” and face the camera!

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: ©Lisa Runnels/www.pixabay.com (used with permission)

http://pixabay.com/en/boy-amatuer-boxer-fight-sport-72370/

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Open Letter to Akpos

Akpos does it again

Dear Akpos,

You do not know me. I am a Nigerian living in the diaspora. I know you unlike my friend who continues to speak funéh after we have left the office. Even Nigerians in Antarctica have heard of you, so great is your renown like Britain’s legendary Mr. Bean. As you yab Nigerians living abroad temper your jokes with mercy because after six months in oyinbo land, we forget that we went to Burukutu Primary School and Agbaridion Secondary School—the winter makes us talk through our noses and freezes brain function.

Since 2012 when I started reading your jokes on BBM and Facebook and Twitter, I have become more convinced that no condition is permanent. The way that you have metamorphosed and become as entrenched in our national consciousness as surely as Nollywood is synonymous to Nigeria is “amazing”. As you increase, may all those elements that want to take us down as a nation decrease!

Talking about BlackBerry, every day, I receive several Akpos jokes on BBM. The coloured text informs me that it is a yet another viral broadcast message. I know that a response beyond LOL is oversabi; however, I cannot restrain myself. I punch my screen to reply and let the sender know that I was the one who sent him the joke first; after all, I am not a goat regurgitating cud!

Akpos, I take God beg you, stop “doing it again and again” because:

One Akpos a day keeps the doctor away

Two Akpos a day chases the blues away

Three Akpos a day causes temporary amnesia

Four Akpos a day is like mosquito bite, sweet to scratch until you bleed

Five Akpos a day is like eating dodo every day; e no go tey before you shout, “Ekaette, na only plantain dey house?”

In spite of this, I want to thank you for the great work you are doing in Nigeria. These days, it seems as if you are the only one working hard to make us forget our problems. Can you imagine that Nigeria was ranked 20th saddest country in the world on the 2013 Legatum Prosperity Index? Dem dey craze? Even if oil reserves finish, we go laugh. Make dem flare gas troway, we go still laugh. Akpos, don’t mind them jare. If they had met you, we would not have had such a low ranking.

I still do not know who you are Akpos. Everywhere I turn, I see another Akpos, so tey I have headache that only Paracetamol from India can cure. On Facebook, I found: Original Akpos, Akpos The Comedian, Akpos, Akpos (The Comedian), and Akpos Jokes. Space will not allow me list the number of Akposes I found on Twitter and the spin-offs from your vast business empire: Akpos apps for BlackBerry, Akpos android apps on Google Play, Akpos jokes from the Ovi store, and so on.

This proliferation of your brand reminds me of when my mother started Pure Water business. Before we could finish tying all the cellophane bags of our Pure Water, three of our neighbours had sunk their own boreholes and started calling out on the street, “Buy Pure Water, original Pure Water!” Akpos, your enemies shall never succeed! We are counting the days till you go hammer and your Hummer go land.

I will stop here before your eye begin close like newborn pickin. By now you for don release another five hundred jokes.

BTBY               (be the best you)

LLNP               (long life & prosperity)

OHGSL            (Our Hummer go soon land)

BNFKU           (Boko Haram no fit kidnap us)

PIND               (peace in Niger Delta)

PFE                  (pray for EFCC)

LKH                 (love, kisses & hugs)

TGBTG,          (to God be the glory)

Timi

So what do you think? Does Akpos symbolise something deeper about our national psyche—perhaps a variant of the freedom songs sung by oppressed people through the centuries? Or is Akpos a platform to show that Naija’s got talent, comic relief, pure and simple?

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Image Credits:

Cartoon by Mike Asuquo: http://asukwo.blogspot.com

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.

My Mum the Superhero

Awesome mum

My mum is a woman ahead of her time. Living in a society and a day when having male children was the ultimate sign of fertility and the highest compliment a wife could pay her husband, she did not wring her hands and weep in the maternity ward year after year in quest for a boy child. No, after three girls, she dulled her ears to the murmurs. She dedicated her life to being the best thing that came out of Sapele and poured herself into her daughters so we could be all and more than any male child could ever be.

three daughters

My mum is big-hearted. She stretched the meaning of nuclear family until it extended to include people with whom we shared no blood connection. As a result, we grew up with more cousins, aunts, and uncles than most. Her seeds of kindness have matured and we are recognised and rewarded for being the children of Aunty Gina.

My mum is beautiful. From her I learnt that I too am beautiful. Whenever people called me little Gina, my heart welled with pride. I wore her oversize clothes and shoes, and opened her trinket box to deck myself with her jewellery. Then I sat on her dressing table and put on her make-up. When I looked at the mirror, I no longer saw a gawky child. I saw my mum, my beautiful mum.

mom is beautiful

My mum is a planner. If we had to travel, she would sneak into our rooms at 4 a.m., six hours before we needed to leave, and drag our luggage to the veranda where the sleepy-eyed chauffeur would be waiting to put them in the trunk of the car. She would wake us up at 5 a.m. and cajole us to get ready, hollering our names, pulling the bed covers, and yanking our pillows. How we idled away the five hours until departure time is an unsolved mystery. Today, I pack like a pro and my luggage is at the door five hours before I need to leave my house.

wake up now

My mum is a believer. She told me the sky is the limit; to reach for my dreams, to never give up, to believe in myself, and to believe I could do anything. Yes, I could be anything; as long as I was a doctor or lawyer first, fulfilling her cherished dream. I watched her walk in uncharted territory and bounce back from setbacks. Ever the optimist, even now, she asks, “Timi, do you know what is beyond the sky?”

reach for sky

My mom is an entrepreneur. She has a heap of white play sand in front of her home to tempt the grandchildren into getting dirty and saturating their hair with sand. While we grimace she claps with glee the whiter their hair gets. She encourages them to play in her white sand and repay her when they are older by buying her Land Cruisers and Range Rovers. Although I have tried to explain to the grandkids that they are mortgaging their future by accumulating car debts, they cannot resist the heap of play sand in front of grandma’s house.

playing in sand

My mom is a prayer warrior. She called me recently.

Mom: I hear you started writing on the internet.

Me: Yes.

Mom: Why?

Me (thinking): Well, I’ve always loved writing… it’s a global platform to display my writing and not only reach, but also engage wider audiences. I hope to inspire, entertain, and inform. I want to—

Mom (interrupting): After all that grammar, how much are they paying you?

Me (pausing): Em, nothing.

Mom (after a while): Did you quit your job?

Me: No.

Mom: Good. I will pray for you.

My mum is a supporter, my avid fan. She asked my sister to print my blog posts for her to read. Will she read them? I don’t know, but I know she will make at least four hundred copies. She will paste a few copies on the gate that leads to her home and on her front door. She will litter her living room with several copies and carry the rest in her big bag, evangelising everywhere she goes, “Google Timi, she’s on the internet!” Finally at night she’ll bring one of the copies from her bag and look, and look, and look.

It’s mother’s day in The Netherlands. Happy Mother’s Day mums! Look at you; appreciate how far you’ve come. Honour a woman who has nurtured you. Tell her, she’s your superhero!

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Image Credits:

Awesome Mom by Shad Fox: www.creationswap.com

Disco gal by Robot: www.vectorstock.com

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-European retro pattern background vector 2 by www.zcool.com.cn

-Sun background vector 2 by www.zcool.com.cn

-Beautiful sky theme vector by www.zcool.com.cn

Girls Three by Spike: http://www.clker.com/

Pink 2 Frame author: / inky2010 Glossy Transparent Frames: http://all-free-download.com

All other people illustrations, animes, avatars and vectors by Microsoft

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.

A Day in Tolerance

a day in tolerance

It is a sunny Friday; half the working population of The Netherlands has the day off. I board the train with ease. Potential Bestfriend is in the cabin. We nod and smile at each other. We ride the same train every morning. We have come a long way, from eye contact, to nods, and now toothed smiles.

The seats are arranged in clusters of four, two sets of seats facing each other. I choose a cluster diagonally opposite from Potential Bestfriend. I sit by the window so I can look at life along the way, and then I create an island. I toss my coat on the seats opposite me and drop my bag on the seat beside me. I litter my island with my iPad, BlackBerry, earphones, and two books. Sometime on this journey, each will receive my attention.

More people enter the cabin.

Mevrouw?” The man looks at my bag and then me, a universal sign language.

I scan the cabin. There are other seats available, I tell him with my eyes. He waits. I make a big production of putting my iPad, BlackBerry, earphones, and two books in my bag. I flash him an apologetic smile that means, the two seats opposite me are empty, can’t you sit there?  He meets my smile with his—if you want your personal space, go buy your own train.

I keep my cool. These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

The ride from Den Haag to Leiden is twelve minutes. Regular Joe fusses and fumbles, and twists and bends to make himself and his enormous rucksack comfortable. His shoulder grazes mine. His elbow jabs me and His hips brush against mine.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

He moves his enormous rucksack several times in an attempt to balance it. Heaven alone knows what’s in it. The rough edge bumps my leg and tugs at my pantyhose. I shift my leg. I open my mouth and then close it.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

“Station Leiden,” the announcement comes through the loudspeakers.

The cabin fills up. Young Generation approaches my cluster. He looks at me and I nod. He folds my coat before he takes the window seat directly opposite me. He isolates himself from the world with his Beats by Dr Dre headphones.

Regular Joe digs around in his enormous rucksack. Like a magician on stage, voilà, he produces a banana. He eats it while my empty stomach convulses. The Conjuror aka Regular Joe dips his hands in his rucksack again. Out comes a boiled egg. He cracks the eggshell against the armrest and peels it. He leans over me, brushing against me, to reach the small dustbin under the window. I get ready to push him to outer space, but stop.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

The combination of boiled egg and banana is too much for me. A fart escapes before I can hold it in and release it slowly so it will not smell. Regular Joe sniffs like an Alsatian guard dog and wrinkles his nose. I look at Young Generation and speak his language. I roll my eyes the way my son rolled his eyes at the Converse shop after he picked a red pair of All Stars and I suggested a neutral black. Young generation winks at me, and smiles knowingly at Regular Joe. Oh yes, this fart will not be attributed to me.

A belch, a wipe of his mouth with the back of his hands, and then the Conjuror dips his hands in his enormous rucksack yet again. Voilà, strawberry yogurt! He twists the cap open and sucks. It is an angry sound, payback sound. He kicks my left foot. His apology is unconvincing. The last time I slapped someone, my hand hurt for days. I am ready to take another chance.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

Dames en heren, over enkele minuten: station Amsterdam-Schiphol.”

I sigh in relief. With a rucksack as big as Texas, Regular Joe must be heading for Outer Mongolia. But, he does not get off the train; rather he takes advantage of the empty seat in front of him and stretches his leg. Hands clasped on stomach, he dozes and snores softly.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

We approach Amsterdam Zuid, a busy commercial hub. Most travellers exit here. Does Regular Joe have a job? Maybe at a smoothie factory—think banana, boiled egg, and strawberry yogurt. Before I finish debating whether to wake him up, he opens his eyes, looks at the display monitor, and turns to his left side, brushing my hips, again.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

Young Generation waves goodbye.

The cabin is almost empty. In seven minutes, we will arrive at Duivendrecht. Flinging my bag on my shoulder, I consider kicking the rucksack, since Regular Joe is drooling in his sleep. I do not. Instead, I attempt to cross the Himalayas mountain range.

By an act of divine intervention, I find myself on the aisle. Potential Bestfriend smiles as we make our way to the doors. At Duivendrecht, she takes the escalator to the metro stop, while I take the steps to platform eight.

I reflect on the forty-two minute train ride. The selfishness of Regular Joe—how dare he sit next to me and what about the human heads buried in his enormous rucksack? The banana, boiled egg, and strawberry yogurt combo he designed to provoke a fart and embarrass me. His dozing drool, his irritating snore, and his constant attempt to tap current, the nincompoop, he stretched my tolerance level, but I prevailed.

As I congratulate myself, I see a hungry and tired young man who boarded a train seeking food, rest, and relief. I realize with horror, I am the person that the preacher talked about. Quick, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek!

So, what’s your tolerance meter reading these days? Share, I promise not to judge…

photo

©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.

Image credits: all people illustrations, animes, avatars, vectors by Microsoft

Background: lovely pink and gray card design by VisionMates in backgrounds/wallpaper http://www.vecteezy.com/backgrounds-wallpaper/47521-lovely-pink-and-gray-card-design

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

WordPress 102… No Pressure

woman biting nails with anxiety

It’s the night before the public launch of my blog. Bright lights cause me to blink. Hear me talking; you’d think I’m a superstar. I am, at least my mum thinks so. I’m sure your mum thinks you’re a superstar too. I’m standing in front of the mirror chanting, “No pressure Timi, no pressure. You are a high achiever who leverages her skills to increase the company’s bottom line. You can do this girl!” Okay, I’m not standing in front of my mirror literally. It just felt good to write it.

Pep talks, I seem to be giving myself a lot these days. To grow is to expand and if all we do is what we know, we’d never grow. Challenges stretch us to use what we have, discover what we didn’t know we had, and invent what we don’t have. A challenge can be our invitation card to opportunity. Livelytwist is where I discover if the sky has limits and what lies beyond it.

I don’t know anyone who has never been insecure. Does that make us weak or does that make us human? I think about an incident many years ago in primary school. I was one of the honour students. My class was to stage a play and our teacher was casting for parts. She called me upstage to take the leading lady’s role.

I trembled as I made my way to the front of the class, hitting my thigh against a desk on the way. I collected the script from her and faced the class. Twenty-four pairs of eyes looked on. I focused on the first line of the script. I swallowed. Twenty-four pairs of eyes looked on. It didn’t help that the leading man who stood across from me, was a chubby boy that I had a childish crush on.

When twenty-four lips parted in laughter, I managed to maintain a semblance of dignity. My teacher walked up to me.

“Come on Timi, read it.”

I found my voice at last.

“I can’t.”

I cannot adequately describe the disappointment in her eyes. It was worse than the laughter that crisscrossed the room, which rose to a crescendo and then fell to a hush before rising again to an invisible conductor’s baton. Was she disappointed because she had misjudged the capabilities of her top student? She tried to mask the annoyance and impatience in her voice when she asked me to return to my seat, but I heard it. I felt it. Shame trailed me as I limped to my seat. Once there, I did not cry. I don’t know why I did not cry. I was supposed to cry.

Fast forward thirty years later, and I can talk in front of almost any crowd. I cannot remember when last my mouth locked like the jaws of a spanner.

That’s what I’m thinking of as questions scream in my head—will people read my blog? Will they like it? Can I sustain it? What if I can’t write a post week after week? However, knowing that I’ve overcome past challenges silences the questions. I know that fast forward a few months, I’ll still be writing and you’ll still be reading.

No pressure Timi, no pressure.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: Fear-filled woman biting her nails with anxiety by Microsoft

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.

WordPress 101

wordpress 101 (2)

So, I listened. Isn’t that what democracy is all about—a blog of the people, by the people, and for the people? I googled, how to start a blog. WordPress. It seemed easy enough.

First, I had to choose a name for my blog. You know how when you want to set up an email account, you choose a username, then a few seconds later you’re told it’s already taken? Well that’s what happened to me for forty-five minutes. What can I say? I am a late bloomer. I mean, like everyone was on Facebook before me. My sister convinced me to join. For a long time I had only two friends, my sister and my other sister. What did it matter, I was on Facebook. Phew! I ticked it off my list of things to do in 2008.

Thursday night, I burnt the midnight oil. The result? My sister said, “Don’t worry, it’s content that counts; I’ve seen worse. Huh? As if she doesn’t know me. Come Friday, I slugged away again—nothing but the best for you my readers.

I typed the name of my blog in a fancy font. I am a graphic designer wannabe. When my mum stopped my art classes and encouraged me to study something serious, I followed in my dad’s footsteps. I studied economics and worked in a bank. I liked the upfront salary payment in January, but when they told me to bring  N600 million deposit… well let’s just say I wished I had continued with my art classes!

Where was I? Right, the fonts. I chose this cool font and saw the preview. Brilliant I thought. Then I saw the message that lets you know if it’s too good to be true, it probably is:

“This font is part of a custom design. Upgrade now for $30 and make your blog look and feel the way you want.” (My paraphrase)

I’ll be passing my offering plate y’all. Thirty dollars; did I wake up to write this post because of $30? Yes and no. Listen, when I began, I was told it was free. These hidden charges, they come and bite you when you least expect it. The true cost of buying that cheap product is the amount you will spend on maintenance later. Keep reading because the offering plate will get to you. After all, WordPress developers have to eat.

I’m still busy slugging away at the computer and reading WordPress tutorials. I can’t complain. In my résumé, I say I’m a life-long learner who enjoys surmounting challenges. I can see how all this will look when I rewrite my résumé:

A high achiever who leverages her skills to increase the company’s bottom line

2013 – set up WordPress blog independently

Abi, you wan try?

Okay, you’ve been reading and wondering when you’ll get to the funny part, smiling a little as you read along, but frowning and quickly skipping past the offering bit. You were scrolling down the news feed on Facebook and your face lit up when you saw my post. Like seriously, you don’t expect me to be funny all the time? Is my name Ali Baba? Please put your offering in the offering plate jo!

I won’t bother you with the $99 for further customization or the $18 yearly fee to secure my domain name. Forget that I even mentioned the $30. This is all I ask, put your energy where your mouth was when you nudged me to start this blog. Copy your wonderful comments from Facebook and paste them here. Then ask your mother, father, sister, brother, and dog to leave a comment. And oh, all of you should follow the blog. Amen.

You know, I may not have taken the plunge if you didn’t push. I thank you for your support and encouragement.

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: Man wearing glasses with confused look on his face by Microsoft

Word cloud: Tagxedo

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.

On Getting Older

I am getting older and I do not mind. I have embraced my age. I do not want to be a tottering teenager again, watching my father scrutinize my list of provisions and wondering what his response “okay, I’ve seen it,” means.

I am pragmatic. A few years ago, I folded my wedding gown and put it in my bottom box. It seems like a small thing now, but it was not at the time. My dream of slimming down enough to wear my wedding dress after life and children, died that day—I embraced the truth about getting older and weight. I have a sister who can probably still fit into her wedding dress; she distorts my theory. Are we not sisters, from the same mother, no less? Why did she have to have all the slim genes? I digress; this is about getting older! All my highs and lows have made me the woman I am and am becoming. Yes, I embrace my age. It is the greying that I have not fully understood.

When a few years ago I asked my hairdresser for a shampoo to tackle the dandruff that caused the persistent itching in the middle of my hair, she told me that dandruff was not the culprit. “You have so much grey hair there; that’s what causes the itching.” Information overload (amebo); who asked her?

Nevertheless, when I got home, I parted my crown of glory in the middle. And there, standing tall like irokos, streaks of lightning amid my black sky. I pulled a handful, twirling them around my fingers. When and how did they get there? Thankfully, they did not march forward from their hideaway; however, their strategy to gain new territory caught me unawares. Stealthy warriors, overnight, they appeared at the hairline around my temples. Aha, my hairdresser styled my hair with side parting and we won that war. The last time I was in the salon, we struggled to decide which “side” to part the hair. “We will soon have to resort to centre-parting,” she said after grave contemplation.

When the first few grey strands appeared on my eyebrows, my tweezers came to the rescue. And so it was that I was plucking a strand or two from my eyebrows the Saturday before Easter, when I saw it. Grey hair had sprung up in places I did not know they would or could grow—in crevices that my mother did not tell me about! But this? Haba! How far? A grey eyelash? You’ve got to be kidding!

I moved my mirror to catch the natural light from the sun. There it was—not ashamed of standing out in the row of black and as long as its fellow lashes. Is this what it means to get older? Accepting with equanimity the things you can’t control? I went to the shops to find a solution.  I smiled when I saw jet-black mascara. Who knew that black had different shades? I am older, and I will change the things I can, one grey eyelash at a time!

shades of black

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

images ©Timi Yeseibo 2013; photography: Sam Bird & Timi Yeseibo

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.