Saying Yes to Nigeria [3]

Our National Pastime

In his essay on exile in The Guardian, Ngugi wa Thiong’o writes:

Exile is more than separation: it is longing for home, exaggerating its virtues with every encounter with inconvenience.

I do not think I exaggerated the virtues of ‘home’ but I know people who did; people who began or ended sentences using two words, back home, nostalgia trailing their voice—ah the warmth of the sun back home, the friendliness of people back home, the sense of belonging back home, back home I used to …, and on and on.

I put up with whatever inconvenience being a minority in a foreign country brings, not forgetting that the country from which I came also has issues, in some respects, bigger issues. If the grass is greener on the side where you water it, then I did not want to waste my water. I watered my grass in The Netherlands and watered it some more.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s opening paragraph is instructive. He writes, “I never chose exile; it was forced on me.” But the heart plays tricks on even those who became ‘exiles’ by choice. When I arrived home, I discovered that I had managed to exaggerate some virtues and had forgotten about Our National Pastime

Read about it here.

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

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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Portraits of Motherhood [5]

motherhood

 

Kinky and Coily

Twice a term my daughter and I go through the drill—at the start of the term and just before the half-term break ends. She sits on a stool and we unravel unwilling braids. They tangle at every turn resulting in tugs and pulls. She scrunches her brows and lets out a yelp.

“Mummmyyyy! Not so hard! It really really hurts.”

I sigh and relax my hands taking some pressure off. We finally loosen the braids and then wash, condition, oil, and plait her hair in fat clumps, ready for the new braids or cornrows she will sport.

She touches her hair and asks, “My hair is long enough, why can’t I leave it to just flow down . . . all the way down to my back?”

“You know why.” I respond gently.

“Why?”

“Your hair is kinky and coily. If you leave it to air-dry without a plait, it will coil and shrink into an afro-ey puff that will tangle and be difficult to comb.”

As her brown eyes look into mine, I continue, “This is your hair, it is my hair too. It’s the beautiful and versatile hair that God gave us, and we will rock it and love it and share it with the world.”

About four years ago, I decided to wear my hair in its natural state instead of straightening it with relaxers because I wanted my afro to reflect who I am. I made the decision for my seven-year-old daughter also.

As she grows older, I want her to be proud of her hair and to experiment with different styles, textures, and colours and discover what works for her. So, I tell her about my days of perms, red hair, and many hair extensions. She laughs.

“What about you? Would you like a perm . . . so your hair can fall to your back and it doesn’t hurt so much to comb?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

She nods and I sigh in relief.

I like that she owns her hair and approves of my choice for her. When she is older, whatever she does with her hair is fine as far as she understands that externals do not define her.

Tamkara Adun@ naijaexpatinholland
Tamkara rocks her clogs expat style in the book, Dutched Up! with 27 other expats who share their perspectives on life in The Netherlands.

 

The Art of Pee

We were at the mall, and my daughter needed to pee. I took her to the public toilet, which was reasonably decent. I’d read that the risk of picking up germs from sitting on public toilet seats was low. I’d read that there are more bacteria on office keyboards than on public toilet seats. That dodgy information resides somewhere in my intellect, meanwhile, my heart moves me to act differently.

I lifted the toilet seat cover and tried to get her to squat. She pointed at the seat. I gave her a brief lecture on the dangers of actually sitting.

“Mummy, I can’t do it.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“I can’t.”

“Just bend . . .  like this . . .”

I squatted over the toilet to ensure a healthy distance between my thighs and the edge of the bowl, feeling and I suppose looking undignified, while my daughter watched and doubled over with laughter.

“Your turn!”

“Mmmmm—”

“What?”

“I don’t want to pee anymore.”

“You what!”

“I can hold it.”

I took a deep breath. When I opened the door, I was relieved to find that no one had been eavesdropping on our mother-daughter rite of passage.

Just as we were about to leave the mall, my daughter had the burning urge to pee again. Immediately, two damp circles stained the armpits of my blouse. To my chagrin, our training session ended with an empty bladder, a wet mother and a wet daughter.

At home, I tried to teach her the art of peeing in public toilets with marginal success. My instruction to pee before an outing was laced with undercurrents of meaning that her father and brother could not understand. For insurance, I carried paper toilet seat covers and antibacterial wipes. I learnt to defuse world war four by letting her innocent suggestion, “Why don’t you just clean the seat?” prevail. 

When I was a child, I played house and fed my children okro soup made by crushing hibiscus leaves and petals in an empty derica tin. I wanted to be a mom. Judging from appearances, my daughter also wants to be a mom. She bathes and dresses her dolls with patience that she does not reserve for herself. She dishes plastic eggs, bacon, and bread made in her Fisher Price deluxe kitchen, for them. Oh, the joys of motherhood await her!

Timi @livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

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.

Our National Pastime

football

Returning to live in Nigeria after nearly a decade away, the influence of another culture makes me observe life through a different set of lenses. Like a black face in a sea of white faces, our national pastime immediately stood out to me. In the past, this hobby did not elicit a raised eyebrow from me since it blends seamlessly with the landscape.

On the streets, behind magnificent edifices, under bridges, at the corner of dream castles, and even in front of crude, hand-painted signs that expressly forbid it, men and women, boys and girls, and goats and dogs all rollick in this pastime. I dare say that you or someone you know has been involved in it.

Being a showy people, we engage in this activity openly, without shame, and no thought of decorum. Have you guessed what it is? No, it is not football; it is urinating in public!

Urine pours like libation all across the land and there is no hallowed ground. Any gutter, wall, bush, or piece of land will do. Smart-looking men disembark tinted-glass Lexus jeeps mid-street to relieve themselves beside school-aged boys turned vendors. Women, though in the minority, refuse to be outdone. Whether standing astride, or crouching low with bunched-up skirts, they contribute their quota to this swelling, smelling river that threatens to overflow its banks.

Are people in such dire need that they cannot wait until they get to a toilet? Does a dearth of facilities fuel this activity?

I observed a security guard having a go on a neighbour’s fence, so I made enquiries about the gatehouse in front of the estate where he worked. There was a toilet and yes, there was running water.

Pray tell, what should I conclude? That old habits die-hard? That the satisfaction derived from relieving oneself in the open is out of proportion to that obtained in the confines of a cubicle? That borderline exhibitionism is pervasive? That, that … the, Do Not Urinate Here By Order-sign, which stands at attention in front of the fence, is an open invitation to do so?

by order

All this has given me a new perspective on handshaking. Fortunately or maybe unfortunately, hugs are more commonplace in my setting. Friends, however, remind me that worse things have not yet killed a man.

Sometime ago, my family and I were caught in traffic occasioned by the Lagos Carnival, for several hours. We missed the warnings about roadblocks thanks to our habit of predominantly watching foreign TV channels. Anyway, we killed time by enjoying a hot but decent view from a bridge on Lagos Island. The heat from the sun was momentarily diverted to my brain when my son asked to use the toilet. I calmly explained that there were no nearby facilities all the while crossing my fingers.

public toilets           lagos state carnival

After trying to contain his distress for a few moments, he approached me again and again and again. With no alternative in sight, I got off my high horse and encouraged him to just do it on the kerb by the bridge. Reminding me of my stand, he vehemently protested. Nature won the battle eventually, and I escorted him to a less conspicuous corner while eating my humble pie.

BY ORDER

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: alvez / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Original image URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alvez/4697340832/
Title: nigerianos

Photo credit: Darren Taylor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANigerian_fans_at_2009_World_Cup_qualifying_match.jpg

Photo credit: nova3web / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
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Title: Ghana 2008: Nigeria Vrs Cote d’Ivoire in Sekondi

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Title: Project Nigeria : Day 2 : The Law.

Photo credit: ©Ifeanyi Ukoha Facebook Timeline

Photo credit: Lagos State Government Carnival
http://www.lagoscarnival.com/galleries/index.html

 

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.