Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

Life comprises of rainstorms and rainbows, and this year was no different
Photo: Shayera
Wait, it’s December already?! I can’t believe the year is almost over. Where did the months go?

It’s that time of the year when one pauses to reflect, and I’m doing so with the help of the ‘tab list’ I wrote earlier this year. I’m delighted I achieved most of the outlined objectives in addition to taking on undertakings that weren’t on the list.

I’m impressed with my achievements this year vis a vis last year. For instance, I got around to reading Nigerian newspapers and perused more books than I did last year, focusing mostly on classic novels. I broke the record of 12 books I had set, reading a total of 14 books – 11 books more than I read last year. I completed The Art of War by Sun Tzu, read 48 Laws of Power, George Orwell’s 1984 (I wonder why it took me this long to discover this treasure), Fahrenheit 451 and Uncle Tom’s Cabin among others. And once more, I attempted reading Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, but my eyelids got the best of me. Maybe someday in the future, when my eyelids cooperate, I’d read it.

Furthermore, this year, I blogged more than ever. I hadn’t set out to do so, it just happened. I suppose it’s because I started writing short stories, the first of which was inspired by a conversation I had with an acquaintance. Admittedly, publishing my very first story was a little daunting as it was the first time I’d ever written one, so I didn’t know how it would be received. Nevertheless, I put on a brave face and clicked ‘publish’. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? To my surprise, there was a huge response in readership, which then emboldened me to write more short stories.

Another exciting and unplanned happening from this year was getting published in a major Nigerian newspaper as well as an online African magazine. Not only was I happy that I reached a larger audience, I was glad my articles received positive feedback and reviews. So lookout 2015, my writings just might appear in a much larger publication!

During the course of the year, I reviewed past blog entries from 2012 and 2013, and found some cringe-worthy writings – which, by the way, have long been reedited and rewritten. It wasn’t the content of the entries that was the source of my abashment, but the quality. In retrospect, however, those old entries were an indication that I’ve grown as a writer – and still growing.

Also included on my tab list was a paragraph about savings and investment. This year, I invested in myself by taking a course in journalism, which so far has proved to be a good decision. Furthermore, I’m glad I saved more than I did in the previous year.

Now to the part of the tab list I’m not very keen on writing about.

I wrote that I was going to practice meditation and work on being more patient. I can’t say I did OK on those two goals, and it wasn’t not for lack of trying. The problem was, even though they were at the back of my mind, I didn’t actively seek to challenge myself by tackling them head-on. This challenge is succinctly described in the following quote, “When you ask for patience, what you get is a line at the bank. In other words, life gives you the people, places and situations that are going to allow you, once and for all, to develop what it is you need.” Thus, if you ask for a virtue, then be prepared to do battle with its complementing vices. Seeking to meditate or asking for patience is one thing, doing the ground work is another. 

Lastly, seeing how successful I was in accomplishing my goals this year, I look forward to next year’s boxes of surprises. I can’t wait to start writing in the new 365 days book.

Here’s to a New Year filled with golden opportunities. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seafood Mélange

Bon Appetit
Photo: Shayera
Nonyem shuts the back door of the car, “Hey ladies.”

“Hey,” Chidera and Nkem reply simultaneously.

“Your perfume – is that Ange ou Démon?”  Chidera asks.

“Yes, it is. It’s my mom’s Christmas gift to me,” replies Nonyem.

“Nice. I love the fragrance. It’s one of my favorite.”

“Thanks.”

“I like it, too. So have we decided on where we should go for dinner?” asks Nkem as she reverses out of the gated compound.

“I’m craving some seafood. Should we do Ocean Basket?” suggests Nonyem.

“OK,” Chidera accedes.

“I hope there won’t be a crowd there,” says Nkem.

“Well, if there is a crowd we could try Yellow Chili or ---,” Chidera volunteers.

Nkem abruptly slams on her brakes in a bid to avoid ramming into the SUV ahead of her.

Shit! Stupid idiot didn’t even trafficate!” hollers Nkem. “If I had hit him now, he would have acted like it wasn’t his fault.”

“Don’t mind all these drivers who buy their licenses,” Chidera says. “I was at a round-about the other day when some guy almost hit my car trying to force his way in. And when I gestured my annoyance, he yelled ‘stranger’ at me. I don’t know if he meant it as an insult or if he was saying I should know as a Nigerian that basic traffic rules don’t apply here.”

Nonyem and Nkem burst out laughing.

“I think he meant it as an insult,” Nonyem says. “It’s only in Nigeria that turning on your hazard lights at an intersection means you’re driving straight on.”

“I know, right? It’s so silly. Some of these drivers aren’t cognizant of traffic rules and delude themselves into thinking they’re driving, when all they’re really doing is moving the car from point A to B,” Nkem says drily to the amusement of her friends.

Nkem changes the radio station and starts humming to John Legend’s All of Me. “Which reminds me, Dera, you didn’t finish that story about the wedding you attended last weekend.”

“Oh, the wedding was nothing to write home about. It was rowdy and full of politicians, considering it was the governor’s daughter that was getting hitched. There were a lot of protocols observed, and an unending stream of speeches made from anyone who deemed himself important. Let’s just say I’ll never attend such a high-profile wedding again – not even if the groom is my brother.”

“Isn’t it funny that all of the governor’s kids got married during his tenure?” It’s like they planned it so ‘daddy’ could throw them big weddings on the State’s account,” mocks Nonyem.

“I think what’s funny is that they all got married to the offsprings of politicians. If I’m not mistaken, his first two daughters married the sons of the governors of Enugu and Bayelsa state. His son and the last girl are married to senators’ children. This is what I call modern-day-arranged-marriages,” says Chidera.

“It amuses me that the political class thinks they’re building a political dynasty or solidifying their grip on power with these marriages, but they’re not - just ask the European monarchies how far they went with their political schemes. Sooner or later, the public is going to wake up from their slumber and demand their rights, then all these politicians ---,” Nonyem says.

“Easy,” Nonyem interjects gently as Nkem drives into a pothole.

Mtchew. I didn’t see that one. When will we be free of these potholes?” Nkem laments darkly.

“Hmm, you guys have it good in Lag o. You should see Port-Harcourt. It’s a mess, yet they keep saying the governor is trying. I say, how is he trying?” Chidera protests in a tone of displeasure. “He started his tenure by putting up pillars for a monorail, yet the roads are riddled with potholes every 0.5 meters. Now the monorail pillars stand tall and proud as a reminder of the wastefulness and ridiculousity of his administration.”

“Misplaced priorities,” concludes Nkem.

“Sounds like a vanity project,” Nonyem says.

“Yes, it would have been a vanity project if he’d completed it, but he didn’t. This is just sheer profligacy,” hisses Chidera. “And how was he even planning to run it without constant power supply?”

“Well, you know this country is in dire need of people who can put the horse before the cart,” quips Nkem before winding down her window to speak to a security man.

“Is there space there?”

“Yes, Ma,” replies the security man, who then proceeds to guide Nkem into a parking space.

“Should we sit upstairs?” Nonyem asks.

Chidera and Nkem nod in agreement.

Now seated, a toothy waiter appears and swiftly takes their order.

“What do you guys think of the protests in New York over the death of Eric Garner?” Chidera asks.

“I hope they can sustain it peacefully because justice wasn’t served. Did you see the video of the cop choking him to death? It looked like a snuff film,” Nonyem says, shaking her head. “Even talking about it sends a chill down my spine. People say cops should wear cameras and whatnot, but here’s an instance where there’s video evidence, and yet the grand jury decided it wasn’t enough to bring the case to trial.”

“I haven’t seen the video yet, but I hear the guy said, ‘I can’t breathe, 11 times, so why didn’t the cop release his grip? I understand the man had an imposing figure, however there could have been other ways to immobilize without asphyxiating him,” argues Nkem.

“And to think that he was just selling loose cigarettes,” Chidera ponders aloud. “In my opinion, the policeman should have simply given him a warning without any physical confrontation.”

“Yes,” agrees Nonyem. “It’s a pity it ended the way it did. I read homicide cases involving the police rarely go to trial, because prosecutors work closely with the police department and so are reluctant to try cops. In other words, prosecutors are on the horns of a dilemma - they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.”

“Then maybe such cases should be tried outside the area where they occurred. That way, the prosecutor isn’t beholden to the police department since its area of operation would be outside the prosecutor’s district,” suggests Nkem.

“Yeah, critics have suggested that as well as making the grand jury process transparent,” says Chidera, looking up at the waiter who was now setting a large platter on the table.

“Yummy!” Nonyem exclaims excitedly, rubbing her palms with glee.

“Bon appétit.”

“Thank you,” the trio choruses in reply before digging into their Christmas meal.