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THE CHILDISH LOOK

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There’s something about the way a baby looks at people that’s different. Perhaps its something to do with the fact that for the first year or so they have a fairly limited vocabulary, and their eyes are the window through which they gain their first perceptions of life.

When an adult makes eye contact with another one it is accompanied with years of visual experience, holding on tightly to various insecurities, expectations, stereotypes and prejudices.

As an adult it can often be an overwhelming experience, sitting in a subway surrounded by absolute strangers who all seem to be whispering to themselves “look around but don’t make eye contact for too long”. You can feel the tension in the air when ascending in an elevator as each individual struggles to bear with the agonising 2 minute silence that goes with the journey. Yet seemlessly a baby in the same vicinity finds an exciting avenue for exploration, moving from face to face, oblivious to the awkward vibes that the strangers bodies silently portray.

When a baby is happy to see someone it is evident in its eyes. There is no element of hypocricy or pretence when its eyes light up in recognition. There is no eagerness to please or willingness to satisfy any obligated pleasantries; all that can be seen is genuine excitement.

When a baby looks at someone it can see more than most adults. It carefully analyses each element of a persons face, able to determine if this is a friend or a foe. It maintains a constant stare, paying no attention to the invasion of privacy because it lives by different rules. Innocent rules; rules that allow it to feel no societal pressure of any kind, as it navigates its way through the environment, each day slowly being corrupted by experience.

As the baby grows it begins to learn that certain looks are unacceptable. He begins to see that each look carries with it a specific meaning, capable of being understood or misinterpreted.

So he learns how to look again. He learns to see things the way everyone else see things, and now he chooses his looks carefully.

He notices that how he looks can be the difference between getting something or losing out. He is forced to fix up, look sharp and never cross the road without looking both ways.

His childish look has gone. Facial hair and wrinkles have now become a permanent part of the equation, as he struggles to take pride in his appearance. When he looks in the mirror the person he sees staring back is barely a reflection of his youth. With his old age he has been forced to learn that looks will change, meanings may change; and above all, looks can be deceiving.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in TRUTH

 

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NIGERIAN TRANSPORT vs TRANSPORT IN ENGLAND

Nigerian motorcycle

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“Falomo! Falomo! Enter with your ten ten naira no change o!”. The adventure begins with the call of the bus conductor. A Nigerian version of tarzan appears, but no, he isn’t hanging on to a tree; he’s hanging on the side of a bus.

Elbows, punches and jabs follow as passengers scramble amongst themselves to find a seat – Health and Safety is unavailable to comment.

The move from A to B is characterized by constant shouts as the driver goes from stop to stop; conductor perched and skillfully negotiating bus fares from half way outside the vehicle.

If you’re lucky you might get a Christian evangelist who preaches an entire sermon during the journey, and ofcourse he never forgets to take an offering. The work of God na still work, as they say.

If you’re unlucky though, you might board what is commonly known as “one chance”, where everyone on the bus is a robber, apart from you. Not the most exciting transportational experience.

But ofcourse, there are indeed more exhilarating means of transport in Nigeria. In fact there is one means that has become a subject of legend, and the stories of its escapades will no doubt be passed on from generation to generation, as it makes its way through Nigerian streets, eager to pave its way through history. It is a mode of movement that needs no introduction. A thing of wonder, mystery and tongue twisting fascination; the one, the only, “okada”.

I kid you not when I say all that one has to do is step outside, blow an extreemly loud and vigorous kiss, and the okada will magically appear to request for your destination.

The ride itself is like a journey through time. There is no gap too small or road too narrow. No puddle too large, or storm too cold. Its not a bird, its not a plane; it is, an okada.

For those who may be unfamiliar with this creature, it is more commonly known in other parts of the world as a “motorcycle”, but Nigerians know its much more than that; as it cuts through traffic jams, one way roads and “side walks” that barely exist.

The more conservative Nigerians would rather take a taxi; crossing their fingers in the hope that the car windows can actually be wound down.

The cost of the journey itself is never about the standard price, that’s why every Nigerian has become astute in negotiation techniques.

The passenger states his destination: “I dey go Surulere”

The taxi driver responds: “How much you wan pay?”

Passenger: “Make I give you 1,000”

Taxi driver: “1,000 naira to reach surulere? Petrol don dey cost now o! Oya bring 5,000 make I carry you go”

Passenger: “5,000 naira ke, my money no reach that one o; I fit give you 1,500”

Taxi driver: “Ok just put 200 Naira on top make we dey go”

The passenger accepts and the negotiation is complete – the journey proceeds.

Transport is one of those subjects that graphically demonstrates how far apart England is from Nigeria. In England the bus driver and conductor are one and the same, and he is fortunate enough to spend the entire journey sitting down, rather than suspended in mid-air.

Electronic monitors spell out each stop, so the driver has a chance to save his voice for more useful conversation. Payments can be made on or off the bus and are not subject to negotiation; and passengers can press a bell without needing to shout “Owa!” as an indication that the bus has reached their stop.

Transportation options in England aren’t limited to roads, as they are in Nigeria. Trains and tubes are a popular means as well, running on tracks above and underneath the ground. “Rush hour” as they call it is a time when the English get more in touch with their Nigerian side; pushing, shoving and kicking because each person needs to be at a more important place than the next.

One might think that the level of automation the English have would create a fool-proof system; but the truth is millions are lost each year as machines have more of a say than humans.

Taxi drivers rely on “meters” to give them an accurate price quotation, but ofcourse these devices pay no attention to traffic and deliberatly long routes. Ticket machines provide convenience but offer no help in calculating the cheapest course. Oyster cards issue no reminders to “touch in” and “touch out”, but they are eager to charge fees for suspicion of foul play.

I often wonder which society has the better end of the transportation stick. A disorganised system that provides drama, adventure and human interaction; or an organised system that provides structure, coldness and dialogues with gadgets.

In my view as long as i can get from A to B, that’s good enough for me.

P.S. England could do with some Okada’s. 🙂

 

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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in TRUTH

 

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NIGERIAN EDUCATION vs EDUCATION IN ENGLAND

Graduates walk in

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As a result of the parents I had I was priviledged enough to receive a substancial education in both England and Nigeria.

I was a student in what was allegedly one of the top 5 secondary schools in England, and my Nigerian counter parts spared no cost either. So on a level, I would say I have caught somewhat of a glimpse of the best that both countries have to offer, as far as education is concerned.

Truth be told. There really is no comparison.

In Nigeria the best schools can boast of having constant electricity, the internet and computer labs; perhaps on a sports day they would even take a group to go swimming. The classrooms would be about 20 students large, and they would occasionally have a french teacher that’s actually french.

The best of England though presents a whole other world.

Each student is given their own study room, equipped with a computer and the internet. The boarding house consists of tv rooms, games rooms as well as a private garden. The facilities include fully furnished design and technology labs, sports fields, sports halls, gyms, shooting ranges, basketball courts, tennis courts, astro turfs, athletics track -need I say more. Maids clean the rooms, making sure the laundry is washed, ironed and neatly folded the following morning. Cooks make 2 course meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner – even providing tea and biscuits during the day, along with a fruit bowl that never goes empty at night.

Coming from a nigerian perspective, this is more like a holiday resort than a school.

Looking back I sometimes ask myself if all these amenities truly made a significant difference to my learning ability; perhaps.

One thing I do know is that on a fundamental level, Nigerians really do not know how to educate.

It doesn’t take a long time spent in a Nigerian school to recognise that all that is tested in students is their ability to “cram”.

The students with the highest grades are those that are able to regurgitate word for word what is written in the prescribed text book. It doesn’t matter if they understand it, the important thing to prove is that they actually read the book.

It is therefore not surprising that in Nigeria you can find mechanics that can’t fix cars, electricians that don’t know anything about wiring, and graduates with IT degrees that are barely familiar with computers. This is ofcourse assuming that the student even wrote the exam himself, as opposed to paying someone else to write it for him; a pretty common practice.

In England education is based on finding out how well a student can “apply” what he has learnt. In fact a student that only manages to quote the text word for word would be lucky to escape with a pass.

This fundamental difference in approach is what seperates a student that is able to learn and create, as opposed to read and recite.

Interestingly, Nigerians that have been educated in their system for a while seem to excel when put in an English environment. Perhaps the combination of learning how to retain information in Nigeria and progressing on to learn how to disect the info in England is what fuels this trend.

Even though the English are equipped with countless facilities and the right educational techniques, the youth in general are not really interested in being taught. Going out and getting pissed is a far more attractive option.

The government pays for their education, yet most look forward to reaching the age where they can finally make the independent decision to drop out.

By contrast Nigerians give education an extreemly high regard. An academic certificate of any kind is glorified to an overwhelming degree. I might even go as far as to say that there are few things a Nigerian child can do to please their parents more than coming back home with a degree. Those that aren’t in school are not out by choice, but quite simply because their parents can’t afford it.

Its one of those paradoxes of life where you have a country that has everything but doesn’t appreciate it, compared with a country that has nothing and would do anything for it.

Nigeria simply doesn’t have the facilities needed to put what they learn into practice. A successful university has been reduced to one where the students may actually graduate on time.  As much as it would be fulfilling to say better days are still to come, the reality is the priviledged few that are able to make a change, would rather send their kids abroad than do something about it.

It would be an interesing experiment to swap the citizens of both countries. Perhaps it would give the English a better sense of appreciation; and it would give Nigerians the chance to put what they read into practice.

 

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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in TRUTH

 

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NIGERIAN WOMEN vs WOMEN IN ENGLAND

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It is almost an impossible challenge to attempt to describe a Nigerian woman without a sudden sense of fear gripping my fingers.

Even though there are only words in front of me, I can’t help but see hundreds of Nigerian female faces staring down at me too; their eyes shouting “oya talk now!”, daring me to say something that they might not like to hear.

As I nervously proceed I am reminded of the level of aggression that Nigerian women seem to have. They carry with them an unmissable attitude that only be accurately described with the phrase “you know the p”.

They are an extreemly expressive breed. Their emotions are worn distinctly on their faces, and they are never too shy to let you know exactly what they think.

An arguement with a Nigerian woman is a memorable experience.  With vigourous sucking of teeth and rapid tongue movements they are capable of cutting the proudest man down to size, regardless of if the scene is a wedding or a funeral.

They are extreemly opinionated, ready to argue their cause in a single volatile breath. Strong willed, and with an ambitious mind set. Refusing to be taken advantage of by anyone or any situation.

A Nigerian woman is a woman that you would rather have on your side, than against you.

English women are a much softer species. The power of words cuts deep into their sensitive hearts, because they hold on so dearly to what other people think of them.

Their love of all things cosmetic has made them more superficial than most; eagerly latching on to the hypnotic allure that celebrities provide.

They are always up for a laugh and spontaneous activities that involve adventure, entertainment, and the occasional abuse of a barely legal substance.

Women of England are very submissive, which is not to say they lack an opinion, but they are less willing to get into a battle to prove their stance. Their traditional mindset enables them to have a high tolerance for insensitive men, and men being men often abuse this vulnurable trait. Nevertheless they are overwhelmingly affectionate, making the most of every opportunity to kiss, stroke or caress their significant other, totally blocking out the external world and living only in the “moment”.

Nigerian and English women are truly quite different from each other, certainly in the general sense. I’m sorry to say though that when it comes to men both societies seem to have the wrong idea about relationships. A Nigerian woman primarily wants a man who has some form of “status” in society. Money and the things it brings are very much at the center of their romantic mindset; the bigger the gifts the more love they show to their partner. The English have a much clearer perspective on the internal attributes of love, but they often settle for less in the short term, hanging on to the hope that over time the things they don’t like will somehow change for the better.

Its true. Its much easier to notice the negative attributes of people, and pay no attention to whatever positivity lies within; but often much can be learnt when we are able to see things for what they are.

Nigerian women need to learn that the extent of their love cannot be based on the size of a paycheck. They need to embrace a bit of the softness that the English posses, because patience is indeed a virtue. The English need to develop a better sense of who they are. If self esteem is limited to what others say and do, they are in for a rocky ride through life.

Describing a woman of any culture is a difficult task. For my own safety i must emphasise that my perceptions are limited to my own experience of both societies. On an individual level i have met many exceptions to the general rule, and if you are reading this right now and you know who i am, then you are most certainly that exception.

*WINK*

 

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Posted by on August 4, 2011 in TRUTH

 

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NIGERIAN BELIEFS vs BELIEFS IN ENGLAND

church

Haven’t you heard? Nobody ever dies of natural causes in Nigeria. In fact the most common form of death is as a result of a spiritual curse sent by a spiteful relative in a village.

Nigerians are without a doubt amongst the most superstitious of all cultures. Regardless of their diversity, education or orientation, almost every significant occurrence is attributed to a spiritual entity.

When a Nigerian’s business is going well, “God is in control”. When they are sick, “the devil is a liar”. When they are angry with someone, “God will punish them!”. I can almost confidently say that there are no Nigerians that do not profess some belief, religion or the other –  whether or not they put their beliefs into practice, is a completely different story.

England on paper is supposedly a Christian country. The reality though is that most in practice are atheists or agnostics. A Nigerian would consider this mind set to be an abomination, and as a result they can be very prejudical towards anyone who does not believe that there is a God.

The English belief system is based on principles that are rigid and practical, so in essence i would say that in England, they believe in the law and science. Everything requires a logical explanation. If it cannot be proven or rationally explained then it isn’t really worth considering. Life within the context of belief is about working hard, avoiding the wrong side of the law, and hanging on to the faith that Apple will release its newest product sooner rather than later.

Despite the fact that most of England has a somewhat blatant disregard for the concept of a God, they are very open, respectful and accomodating of other peoples beliefs, and as a society they accept the fact that everyone has the right to choose their faith. Interestingly this approach should surely belong to the culture that recognizes God, but this really isn’t the case when it comes to Nigeria.

A defining difference between the beliefs of Nigerians and the beliefs in England is that the English actually put what they believe in to practice.

On a Sunday morning in Nigeria you are likely to find everyone nicely dressed up heading off to a church somewhere. On that morning faith is at its highest, accompanied with prayers, songs and an inspirational message about monetary blessings. On the way home and during the rest of the week this religious perspective is completely forgotten, and is instead replaced with a new belief system; one where you have faith that “everybody is about to cheat you, so you need to do the cheating first”.

By contrast the English may not go religously to church, but on a general level they place a higher regard for integrity, honesty and commitment to humanitarian causes. Most Sunday mornings are spent at home with their famlies, slowly recovering from the binge that took place the night before. Their values don’t spontaneously change based on the fear of a cruel world, though with cameras on every other road it probably helps to be a bit more trusting.

As far as the beliefs from both countries go, what can be learnt?

Nigerians are in danger of never truly understanding why they believe what they believe. The level of hypocrisy in the society is directly linked to the fact that its people are “born into” religion; as opposed to making a deliberate choice for themselves. Their unquestioned faith blinds them from seeing that good and bad things can happen without the involvement of God or the devil. Losing a job does not necessarily mean that God is angry, neither does getting an “A” in an exam mean that God is on their side. The English recognise that losing a job is usually as a result of indolence; and getting an A in school is as a result of hard work.

On the flip side England is in danger of never finding God in the situations where he is actually present. Their skepticism of all things spiritual keeps them from recognising that life is sometimes more than what meets the eye. Not everything can be conclusively explained through a man with a white lab coat and a medical degree.

Combining the psychology of both worlds would certainly be evidence of growth. Nigerians need a belief system that is not blasphemous to question, and they should respect the fact that spirituality is a lifestyle rather than an identity used  to complete the religious section on a job application. The English for all their openess need to recognise that science too is in fact a religion; and though it boasts of a logical approach, its focus pays very little attention to understanding the spiritual dimensions of life.

If logic was applied to spirituality, we may be surprised to discover that one does not need to be chosen in the place of the other.

 

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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in TRUTH

 

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STUPID LIAR – By: Hamidat Popoola

Girl

Image by Per Ola Wiberg ~ Powi via Flickr

I trudged down the road. Waiting for people is so annoying. She should have gotten here ages ago. Do you know what my pet peeve is? When people lie. Of course, I have lied before and I will still lie, but I hate it when people tell unnecessary lies. She texted me saying she was five minutes away. 30 minutes had gone by since that text and she still wasn’t here. She had already wasted an hour of my time prior the text. Why raise my hopes and crush them? Stupid liar.

I kept walking, formulating in my head what I was going to say to her when I finally saw her. She would get it and I wasn’t going to listen to her apology or silly stories. She always had an excuse. I couldn’t wait to hear the new creative one. Stupid liar.

I pretended like I hate going to my friends because they were so dainty and girly. Psssh. Truth be told, I hate walking. I just didn’t have much of a choice half of the time.

She was supposed to meet me outside my house. One of my houses. I had quickly hurried from my other house to this one cause it was closer to her. Me being a good friend. Pity she couldn’t do the same and consider that I was standing outside in the sun. Although she would probably counter that and ask why I didn’t go back inside when I didn’t see her. She didn’t after all beg me to stay outside in the sun. But she had said she was five minutes away! Stupid liar.

I was almost at her house now and I still didn’t see any sign of her. My phone beeped to notify me of yet another text message. I wasn’t going to read this one either. I wasn’t ready to hear her tale of the day. I bet she would just be leaving her house. Probably eating in the kitchen, laughing at how easily she had led me on. Stupid liar.

The gateman let me in. He knew me quite well. I burst into the kitchen ready to scream ‘A-ha!’ but she wasn’t there. ‘Hello?’ I called. Her mother came down. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked why I was there. Why, to see your daughter you silly woman, I responded…mostly in my head. She looked surprised and said the words that changed everything ‘But she’s at your house’. I argued with her that it couldn’t be. I just left my house. ‘Ahn ahn. I said she is at your house darling. I dropped her outside the gate myself. The house at Oniru? You said that is where you were for the weekend’.

THEN, it clicked.

I ran out of the kitchen faster than the air in the room. I could faintly hear her calling after me. She was in my Oniru house. Crap. I thought I told her the Lekki house. Damn, I didn’t have an Oniru house. I didn’t even have a Lekki house. Scrap that, I didn’t even have a house! I lived in a face-me-i-face-you apartment in Mushin. I had taken different buses just to get to the ‘Lekki house’ before she did and wait outside before she got a chance to knock on the gate and my cover would be blown.

THE TEXT MESSAGES!

I looked at my phone as I ran away from her house. The first text read ‘I’m outside your gate. Come out’.

Then ‘Later you’ll say I wasted your time, come out now. I don’t have credit to call’.

Then ‘I think your gateman is foolish. He is saying he doesn’t know you and I should get away from here’.

Then ‘Who the hell are you?’

I was a 16 year-old girl who lived in Mushin. I met this girl when I had saved enough to go to the Silverbird Galleria. I was standing next to her at the ice cream joint at Barcelos when we started talking. She liked my top. I had stolen it from the line at the back of the compound where someone had spread their clothes. She just assumed I was rich, I didn’t tell her I was. I just played along. It was nice to have a rich friend. I gave her different addresses, claiming my father had different houses just to make sure she didn’t return to the same place too often and discover the truth.

All that hustle. Gone.

She knew the truth now and I doubt she would want to be my friend anymore. You know the moment when you wonder what the point of everything was? Yeah that.

I was the stupid liar.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in CREATIVITY

 

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MARVIN’S ROOM – By: Hamidat Popoola

Room Sphere

We were in like. Sometime ago.

Seems like it never happened now if you ask me though. The animosity, the negativity. You probably treat me worse than my worst enemy.

I’m not a big fan of questions. So when you ask me when I ask you what went wrong what I think went wrong, you stall me. Prevent us from talking about the real issue at hand because we spend that time arguing about how you should know me well enough to not return my question with a question. But that was you though. You loved to aggravate me.

Don’t.

It isn’t okay. The way we yell, insult each other like we weren’t once sharing kisses, counting stars, holding hands and doing those things lovers used to do. And now when I see you around, I act like you are some stranger I just ran into.

We should have worked out. We didn’t. And that’s okay.

I can accept that you looked me straight in the eye and lied to me about what you wanted. I can accept that you forgot key dates in my life and tried to make up for it with withering flowers and guilt-tasting chocolates. I can accept that ‘it is who you are’ and ‘you are doing the best you can’. I can accept all of that.

What I cannot accept is you changing ‘who you are’ for some other girl. Treating some other girl like some immortal that fell out the womb of Aphrodite. I remember you used to love arguing with me and sometimes it made us laugh, and other times it made me cry. But I see how you stay mute when she speaks. Listen to her every word, nod your head and make her feel like she’s the one. You never did that with me. I cannot accept that.

Are you listening to me right now?        

You don’t have to feel sorry for me. Don’t tell me what it is about her that compels you to be a better person. You always did have an excuse for everything. It was impressive until it started to affect me. No, don’t say you still love me. We cannot work this out. Loyalty was never your finest trait. She’ll be mad just like I was when I walked in on you declaring love for your ex-lover and calling me a rebound. Remember that?

Since you picked up I know she’s not around.

This isn’t me being bitter. I have admitted to myself what I refused to for a long time. We were not meant to work. I don’t want you. At all.

Seeing you love another has hit home a lot of points that I was unwilling scared to face.

I know you still think about the times that we had.

I look at her and think of what it is about her that makes her more of your type than I am. And then I realized that this isn’t about her and neither is it about me. Its all you. And I don’t blame her for loving you. Even a rock would crack at the words you effortlessly reel out. I’m glad you took the wool off. If I’m not good enough for you, then you cannot be good enough for me.

I’m just saying you could do better.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in TRUTH

 

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