2018 in review

Last year I said I wanted to resume my travel adventures in 2018, but that didn’t happen. I went to Toronto in June and had a good time, but that was it. Well I did pass through Mali and Abidjan on the way back because Air France cancelled the flight to Lagos and gave us the option of going the next day or rerouting through another country, and we chose the latter because the Yotel at CDG was closed for repairs. So that doesn’t count as a visit, but we stopped in Abidjan long enough to see that they have better manners and are more organized than their Nigerian counterparts.

Having visited European countries before now, I think that what Canada lacks in authentic cultural history, it makes up for in sheer volume. What that means is whereas it would take me on average, 2 hours to go through a museum in a European city, in Toronto it would have taken ~6 hours [I only spent 2 because that’s how much time I budgeted]. And by ‘authentic cultural history’ I mean… in Europe you could see castles, art history artefacts, etc for a particular city dating back to the 15th century, but for obvious reasons there’s nothing that goes that far back in all the places we visited in Toronto, so they just pack in a lot of stuff from places around the world, not just Canada. Same with the zoo, it took us the whole day to get around to all the exhibitions.

Earlier in the year, I had started to think I don’t want to do UX Design anymore. I’ve tried it on, it’s a skill that will hopefully never leave me, but career-wise, I’ve taken it as far as I want to for now. After Canada, I did some introspection and decided if I was going to work there in the future, I’d need a little more experience in something else: Product Management. This is what I wanted to do before I got into UX Design, but with my background, I don’t believe it would have been a smooth transition if I didn’t do UX first. Anyway, one has gotten a lot more familiar with the tech space since then, so I thought it was time to try again. I applied to 2 great companies, got into the better one :D, then packed my bags and moved to Lagos.

In moving to and settling in Lagos, the money we’ve spent in the past 2 months has me REELING, and we’re not even done yet. Please make it stop. I don’t even like my house [because I keep comparing the building and landscaping to where we used to live in PH] but it was the best of all the options we saw in the period we were looking so hey. Wish we could sublet and not have to live there.

Work is fine, as it usually is in the beginning. It’s challenging and stretching me, and there’s room for growth, so I’m quite happy with it. I’ve been fortunate to almost always work with smart, good people, and this place is no exception, thank goodness. My temporary flat is on Admiralty Way, a 5 minute walk from Beer Barn and other lovely places to eat and get merry, and a 5 minute drive from work + there’s never traffic on my current route, so I’m thankful. I earn enough on a regular basis to maintain my current standard of living, thank God for that – we still need a bit more money to attain the standards I have in my head though lol. I learned this year that I’m quite tired of trying to think about what to do for a 2nd stream of income – not because I don’t want extra money, but because very few things in my life have come to me by striving. The things I struggled and jumped through hoops for pretty much never materialized, but the ones that came through were basically as a result of me being present and indicating interest – nothing more.

I read a lot more this year than last, because I became acquainted with a library in Port Harcourt. Going to the library became my self care practice, and my morning routine became as follows: wake up > eat fruits > drink vanilla tea + read 1 chapter of a fiction book + 1 chapter of a non-fiction book > begin the day properly. It was nice, and I miss it.

Not sure what I specifically want for the new year, except that I want to be proud of myself. I’m proud of how well I managed and maintained my mental and physical health in 2018, and I’d like to continue doing more of that in 2019. I also want to be excellent at work, and nurture good relationships in a way that feels authentic/realistic for me. Something else I want to try doing is setting monthly achievable goals, and writing down good things that happen each week so I can keep track.

Thank you for reading this and for being in my life, and cheers to 2019!

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2017 in review

I got married last year, and it all happened so quickly I’m amazed we were able to pull it off. No, I wasn’t pregnant. And then in December 2016, I quit my job in Kano and moved to Port Harcourt.

In moving, I really thought I was going to relax for a bit then get another job but I got a rude awakening when my interviews weren’t leading to offers. I’d get all the way through a 6-step process and then, silence. Or I’d be rejected outright (which is honestly better than false hope). To be fair, maybe I was punching above my weight, i.e. instead of looking for local opportunities,* I was applying for remote jobs in the US – which means I was competing with thousands of people around the globe for the same position and well, I guess I now know where I stand?

So the first half of 2017 was me applying to jobs and being annoyed that I wasn’t getting them. In the meantime I was (and still am) getting consulting gigs without applying or marketing myself so that was neat. In the second half I stopped applying and focused on existing client work, and now I’m not sure whether to continue down this path or start applying again or do something else entirely. I mean, my current setup is great but for a while now I’ve been feeling like I’m supposed to be preparing for something. I don’t know that I possess an accurate ‘gut instinct’ like everyone else (one time I felt uneasy about getting on a RyanAir flight so I missed the flight and bought a BA ticket instead but nothing happened. The RyanAir flight went well and I lost money lol) but regardless, I’ve been taking courses, acquiring more skills, etc. Can’t go wrong with any of that.

When people ask “how is marriage treating you?” I wonder what they expect to hear. For the most part, it isn’t that different from when we were dating, except that we now wear rings and when we visit our parents, are expected to spend the night together (I cannot imagine the hell that would have been raised if we ever attempted that while dating). We don’t have kids yet, so active division of labor is mostly restricted to the kitchen where we take turns cooking. Speaking of kids, some people are hoping we have twins, and I laugh because who is going to take care of TWO babies at the same time? I’m not interested in live-in help and in any case can you just imagine the horror of trying to soothe 2 babies who wake up at night? Then as they grow, having to navigate public spaces with toddlers who know how to throw tantrums? I’m not the one.

We went to Zanzibar just before our anniversary and everything was so lovely and now I dream of maintaining a summer home in Stone Town. I wanted to visit Cotonou during Christmas but was too lazy to plan the trip (plus flights during this period are so unpredictable I’m glad I stayed back) so maybe in January? Random: after all these years, I still miss Finland and I’ll forever be glad I got to live there for a brief period. And for whatever reason, I still don’t think Port Harcourt is the city where I’m going to settle down. It feels like a brief part of my journey, like Kano and Den Haag and all the others and maybe this ties into the feeling I’ve been having of preparing for something else? We’ll see.

2017 was for learning and intellectual exploration, and I hope in 2018 I can resume my travel adventures. I like to experience things differently, learn about the cultural history of places and people I visit, etc – so here’s to more of that. Another random thing: I read certain books as anthropology. So for example, someone gave me a Yoruba cookbook published in the 1930s and as I thumbed through the recipes I could just imagine how the women lived, how they shopped, what was available, etc. Now I’m reading Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and I wonder how … never mind you get the point. Also you know what, this year I enjoyed living as a broke woman of leisure but in 2018 I want my earnings to correspond with the standard of living I have in my head. The amount of money I need to make that happen has my stomach in knots but my parents keep admonishing me to “stop thinking small”, so… we move. I have made plans and I will see to them ūüôā

Thank you for reading, and cheers to 2018!

 

*Most sensible opportunities in this town are for roles that are suited to oil and gas companies.

Settling In

I think I’ve settled into life in Kano, but haven’t fully adjusted yet. I go to work in a (company) carpool, so I don’t have to use the keke napeps and be sweaty when I get to the office, and I come back the same way. I’m friends with a couple of expats (one of whom left this past weekend, and that’s sad because he is a fun person, but the silver lining is he’ll send me Shito¬†very soon so yay) and I’ve taken to hanging out at their house whenever I’m not at mine because theirs has basic amenities (such as a dispenser, a couch and dining table, etc) which mine doesn’t have, and they feed me very often so I don’t have to cook.

We (some 3 expats, 2 Nigerians, and I) have gone on a couple of ‘adventurous’ trips to places in Kano. The first was a place called Tiga lake, which is where Kano State has constructed a dam. There’s a hotel on the premises but it’s closed for renovation – and what this means is that there’s currently no place to buy food around. There’s also a lot of cow/horse shit around. Anyway, we got on a speedboat and went around the lake, found a nice, small, picture-friendly rocky island. Then we went ‘hiking’ to the top of the rocky plateau surrounding the lake, took some more pictures and rowed back to ‘shore’. If this was a more sensible country, Tiga Lake would look nice and be made a bit more attractive to tourists, but here we are. It was fun though, and we bought cheap foodstuff (onions, watermelons, etc) on the way back.

The next weekend, we went to a place¬†called Minjibir Resort, which is quite developed (by a private citizen of course) and colorful. There are rooms to sleep (no unmarried couples can be admitted though, and proof of marriage has to be a certificate, not just the ring on your fingers), play areas for children, fancy vintage trains and cars that you can actually ride in, a golf course, a track, bicycles, animals (ostriches, tortoises, parrots, rabbits, ducks, geese), swimming pool (one for men and children to swim in for free; another for women, but that one has to be paid for. It will be aeons before gender equality becomes a thing here, I think). More importantly, they have FOOD. The food options were either fried rice + chicken or chicken + chips, so we ordered¬†and had to wait a long time (they were peeling and cutting the potatoes by hand), but it was delicious when it arrived and did not make me sick, so yay. After eating, we took more pictures and went to ride bikes. The bikes looked good from afar, but upon closer inspection, we found that many of them had flat tires, seats were useless, etc. This poor maintenance culture thing, sigh. They fixed the bikes though, and we rode around the golf course, twice. My thighs were burning the next day ūüė¶

Nigerians can be hellish to live with. [Aside: When I first moved in, there was some excitement about finally having a girl in the flat, because girls are supposed to cook and this girl will cook for them. LOL. I don’t cook often and when I do, I like to share (sometimes), but you opening your mouth to inform me of your expectations only¬†means that when I do cook, I shan’t offer you any.]¬†So, we have stewards who come everyday (including Saturdays, excluding public holidays) to clean up our rooms and the kitchen. They can do your laundry too, for a small fee. I grew up having housekeepers around the house, but we (children) were also made to clean up after ourselves, so forgive me for thinking that’s how everyone else was raised. My flatmates will warm soup and palm oil from the soup will spill and cover the base of the microwave, and they’ll leave it like that and go their merry way. No consideration for whoever might need to use the microwave after them. When I need to use it (because perhaps I need to warm a croissant* and I don’t care to marinate it in ogbono-flavored palm oil before eating it) and I grumble and clean it, you hear comments like “you’re doing the work of the cleaners”. Excuse me, but if you think cleaning up after yourself and being considerate of others is the work of stewards, you’re a fucking idiot. Oh and, I don’t mind people using my stuff, but please clean it up and return it immediately after use because I might want to use it too. It’s part of being considerate, and that’s what I do on the rare occasion that I use people’s stuff. My flatmates and their visitors don’t seem to have gotten this memo though. I’d want to use my tumbler (I have just one) and it’s either missing or dirty. My fork is missing, and it’s just a fork, but this is annoying. I try to ignore these things and not say anything so that I’m not a pain in the ass, but I also feel like I grew up with one set of rules and these people grew up with another and now I don’t know how to adjust. Sigh. I have my own bathroom though, THANK GOD FOR THAT!

 

 

*The store near my house makes the best croissants, seriously! I need to buy their baker a drink. They’re are so expensive though, at N400 per croissant ūüė¶

Quick Update

I got the job in Kano, yay! One of the things I remember from before receiving my offer letter is having to negotiate my salary. So, you go to school where they teach you about negotiations and how the outcome of such things is supposed to be a win-win situation for both parties. Well, Nigeria is a jungle so it doesn’t quite work – in the sense that the other party is (or appears to be) trying to get an outcome that’s only favorable to them. Anyway, I got a job. As a UX Designer, which is what I want. Yay.

[Aside: I seem to have gotten interesting UX Design side projects, but getting a project is only half of it. Getting paid is the other (often more uncertain) half, and as I mentioned earlier, Nigeria is a jungle so one has to be careful with ensuring they get paid. My latest method is to bill per project instead of per hour, break projects into phases and send invoices at the end of every phase. There also has to be a 20-50% down payment to begin with. )

I haven’t been around the city much, but I will say that the move here is the easiest¬†I’ve ever done, because I had the space to¬†leave a lot of stuff behind and only carry the most important ones. I didn’t have to struggle too much to close my suitcases – of which there were only 2 – one big, one small. What I saw on the drive from the Kano airport to my house reminded me of Isale Eko (even though I have never been to Isale Eko :/), but with Hausa names on buildings instead of Yoruba ones. The most common public transport mode is keke napep (tricycles), but I don’t like to ride in them that much because they’re so open, Kano is super hot at about 40 degrees (what wouldn’t I give to be in Finland right now?), and dusty too. Abeg.

I live in one of the company apartments, for which I pay N40,000/month. Not bad, considering this covers furnishing, 24/7 power, and fast internet. I’m not complaining at all (okay I’m complaining small, the furnishing leaves something to be desired but I’ve told myself the theme of my room is ‘rustic’, and the furniture matches that aesthetic). Lunch is a pain in the ass for me, because there’s no cafeteria or provision for food at work, the only places I can go without fearing food poisoning are really far, I don’t have a car, and this trip is just generally unproductive. For the most part, I’ve been eating Indomie (made in the microwave by some women at work) but can’t eat it any more because it’s messing with my body (blood pressure is through the roof, stomach is bloated, all sorts of rubbish).

So yeah, blood pressure is a bit problematic and now I have to cut salt/sodium from my diet. Recently discovered a no salt, no msg seasoning blend¬†called Mrs Dash and I don’t know why things like this aren’t commonly found in Nigeria. I need easy, inexpensive access to good, healthy stuff! This coming week, I’m looking into easy, low sodium recipes I can make to take to work.

That’s it for now, cheers to the long weekend!

Crimes & Misdemeanors: Not a recap

I don’t recall what prompted this, perhaps it was something I saw on TV but yesterday I found myself attempting to binge-watch Woody Allen’s best movies. The first one I saw (which I was aware was a Woody Allen movie) was Blue Jasmine, about 1 year ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being [that Blue Jasmine was] such a successful introduction to WA’s movies and knowing that he’s a critically acclaimed film maker, I thought binging on his other movies might be a fun way to spend the weekend.

I haven’t forgotten the article(s?) I read about his history of sexual assault, and the fact that I’m still wanting to view his work means I have accepted that it is possible to be utterly disgusted by a human being but also enjoy his work. I think though, that for me, this is only possible if the person is as far removed from me as possible. So if WA was related to me, or even a friend of a friend, then I don’t think I’d be able to.

Yesterday, I kicked off my WA-movie-binge-watching with¬†Crimes & Misdemeanors, and I watched it in bits, each time I took a break from work. I’ve been very busy, you guys, and I’m happy because the busyness is in User Experience design which I¬†really need lots of experience in so I’m grateful for whatever I get. Oh, I don’t know if I mentioned but I have another blog now, in which I talk about UX – related stuff. It’s hosted on Ghost (which I like) but I might move it to Medium (because Medium is free).

So, Crimes and Misdemeanors, which I finished today (Friday): It’s mostly about some (65-ish year-old) dude who’s cheating on his wife with a former(?) air hostess who he met on a flight, blah blah. He’s broken things off with the mistress – actually, no, the mistress has finally realized he was selling her dreams that were never going to come true – and now she’s trying to call and write his wife to inform [his wife] that “your husband is a liar and a cheat”. The man desperately tries to prevent her from doing so, while realizing that he’s fucked up and could lose everything. In the end, he has her killed but gets really squeamish, feels guilty and acts out, but then nothing happens to him, i.e. the murder isn’t traced back to him and he feels like this shouldn’t be happening, he should be punished somehow. But, the crisis has lifted, he’s no longer in danger of losing everything, and in time he becomes his normal self again.

I enjoyed the movie, because the story and cinematography were good, but also because it reminded me of how fucked up life is: you could do all the things you’re ‘supposed to’, and things would still turn out badly. What do you do then? In the same vein, you could literally be the scum of the earth and find that your luck seems never ending. What to do when you’re doing all the right things but it seems the rug is pulled from under your feet every time, and at the same time you can see scum thriving? I can’t answer that because I’m not a life coach, but my options would be to try and find my happy place, keep trying (working smarter, improving, whatever), and keep the poem referenced here in mind.

I think I’ll watch Hannah and friends (or sisters?) next. Cheers to the freaking weekend!

Kaleidoscope/The Guest House

I’ve been a Coldplay fan since my undergrad days, and this evening I’ve been listening to their newest album and getting some UX design work done. [It’s interesting that I was struggling with a particularly knotty problem and getting frustrated, but as soon as I put in earphones and started listening, I solved the problem. Heh. Anyway.]

My first favourite song on the album was Adventure of a Lifetime¬†when I listened in December, but now it’s Hymn for the Weekend, followed very closely by Fun. Those are all nice, upbeat songs, but Kaleidoscope caught my attention this evening. It’s pretty much a voice reading some words to a poem by Rumi (a 13th century Persian poet), and a sampling of Barack Obama singing ‘Amazing Grace’ at the end, but today’s listen made me go¬†look for the original poem. Now I want to frame the words and hang on my wall, but which version?

Here’s Coldplay’s version:

Kaleidoscope

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all!
Be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent as a guide

I like that it’s short and simple, and¬†it appears to be a more eloquent version of “everything happens for a reason” [but does it? Does it really? I’ve never been one to be grateful for ALL my struggles, because I’m yet to see the point in any of the things I’ve suffered through. If I’m grateful for anything, it’s for the fact that my struggles so far have been relatively mild e.g. I haven’t lost a family member or limb].

And here’s Rumi’s version:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Rumi’s original poem goes deeper in the exhortation to accept the good and bad with equal enthusiasm, but as a Nigerian who was brought up pentecostal and has been taught to reject and pray against the possibility of shame and sorrow, I don’t know. I mean, I see the point, and I hope that when I’m faced with unpalatable circumstances, I can carry on gracefully (while frantically praying for relief, because how can I not?) But,¬†based on my upbringing, I somehow feel that if I resolve today to meet any future uninvited guests [of sorrow and shame] at the door with a smile, then I’m inviting them into my life sooner than I’d like.

I’m framing Coldplay’s version then. And countering the arrival of shame and sorrow by telling myself positive things everyday -_-

Today is Carnaval/Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday/Laiskiainen, and I miss Terneuzen and the friends I made there. I remember going to a tiny Belgian village one weekend around this period in 2014, for the end of Carnaval. It was SO colorful and fun, and everything. I miss Finland today too, for the sledging.

I made wonderful¬†pancakes earlier this evening and scarfed them along¬†with creamy custard, while watching Along Came A Spider. Pancakes partly to remember my friends and colleagues in Terneuzen [we used to make lots of crepes and sit around watching TV and chatting shit], and partly because Shrove Tuesday is pancake day.¬†I stuffed my face so much, I couldn’t move for like 30 minutes after. Je ne regrette rien.

Still on the topic, what are you giving up for Lent? This year, I’m working on giving up anger, and perhaps this public declaration will serve as an invitation to annoying situations, but I’m hoping that by the end of Easter, I’d be used to dealing with things without getting angry all the time. Here’s to handling things with grace and a smile.

Doei¬†ūüôā

A 2015 recap of sorts, and other things II

I chronicled the first half of my 2015¬†here, and it was too long so I decided to post in 2 bits. Here’s the other bit.

Jul – Sept

I moved back with no job in sight but many entrepreneurial ideas (because what else could I really do?). I have friends though, who sent my CV around and about 4 days after I got back, I got a job and my boss is my type of person, and I’m quite well-paid, so yay! My entrepreneurial ideas are now dusty though, but that’s fine for now.

Because I was broke and wasn’t sure where I was going to live when I got back, I made arrangements to go stay with the bf for a while. Even when I got a job, there were some delays with the project I was supposed to handle and I had to work remotely while that got sorted, so I was still living with the bf. That was good for us in a way, because it’s like suddenly being around each other all the time after years of long-distance. It also meant¬†having to fly to Lagos every time either/both of my parents announced their presence, because of course I couldn’t tell them I was perching with the bf, they thought I lived with a friend in Lagos.

Aside: This friend’s house used to be my default place to stay in Lagos but she had gotten tired of the place because it wasn’t in the best location and then some dynamics in the house itself were annoying, so she ¬†moved to a better location with better ‘dynamics’. The only snag was I couldn’t ‘move’ with her. My folks already knew about this friend but at the time I was coming back, I couldn’t tell them she’d moved because then they’d have been extra curious about where I was supposed to be living.

Oct – Dec

I travelled quite some between July and November, but for reasons too long to get into right now, my project got cancelled. So now I was and am still hanging in the balance (because I don’t have a signed contract, only a verbal, good-faith one) but working and getting paid every month.

I interviewed for a UX Design job in Kano though, and I’m hoping that comes through so that I can have a contract and my own house – even though I’m looking at houses in Lagos in case Kano doesn’t pan out. If it does though, I hope my present boss can keep me on as a remote freelancer (i.e. I want to turn his projects into my side hustle) because somehow I’m sure I’d be able to handle the load, as long as I’m still allowed to define the amount and kind of work I want to do. Fingers crossed ūüôā

I’m in a pretty good place now, and I’m thankful that things are going relatively okay. I don’t have much money but I’m not destitute and reliant on my folks to subsidize my life. I had 10 goals this year, and I think I accomplished about 5.5 of them. I’m still very thankful, and hopeful for a better 2016.

I’m thankful for my family, and my boyfriend, and friends, and ALL the patience and support I’ve gotten. I’m thankful for safe travels and smooth plane rides (I really hate turbulence and my stomach drops every time there’s a bump). Thankful for relative financial ease in this last quarter, and my mother’s cooking. For good health all-round, and that there were no deaths in my immediate circle this year. For the great things that happened and are happening in the lives of ‘my people’.

In 2016 I’d like to grow as a UX Designer, by taking on more design projects in a structured environment (and I think the Kano job is the perfect avenue for me but let’s see how that goes), and I’d like to try my hand at a new UX-related blog which I’ll talk about if I do. I also want 2016 to be more fun than 2013 was, so I’d like to travel to new places (but also save money and make investments, and I wonder how I’ll pull that one off), meet interesting people, get a car, implement at least one of my entrepreneurial ideas for passive income, and kick ass at my job. Maybe I can also FINALLY learn to play the violin too.

For some inexplicable reason, the phrase “stay hungry, stay foolish” just popped into my head. I’ve just googled and seen that it’s a quote by Steve Jobs, and also the title of a book. Well, I hope that’s what I do in 2016 but not in the literal sense because it’s a very bad idea for one to literally remain without nourishment and/or wisdom.

Happy Holidays! x