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 😦

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 😦

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 🙂

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 🙂

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

 

A 2015 recap of sorts, and other things

Until a few weeks ago, I had thought 2014 was my worst year ever, but in reality, it was only the last quarter that was horrible, the rest of the year was quite fine and fun. I wonder what factors people consider when they measure whether a year was ‘great’ or not: Goals achieved? Fun had? Horrible things and frustration kept to a minimum? I personally consider how well things went as a whole, how well I was able to navigate unexpected twists and turns, how much fun (travel, friends, maybe work) I had, etc.

2013 remains my best year so far, though. I travelled to so many new places and experienced lots of new things, was always financially okay (never buoyant but never broke), didn’t have to worry about work because I was in school, met and rolled with interesting people. So. fun. Also, I can say I really didn’t like 2014 at the end because the twists and turns were a bit too much for me.

Dec 2014 – Mar 2015

I’m happy that my problems began to resolve themselves between December and January, though. I visited Nigeria and had fun, had interviews and got a new job, I could pay my rent – this became a big deal at some point because I was broke and jobless – and moved to Amsterdam. Company bought me a new laptop and it was so fun to be working remotely, AND then I got a new client for my side hustle, which doubled my work load but it was good to be making extra money, however little.

I had a nevus in my left eye (which was there for ~11 years), I had it checked out (because I’m getting older and need to start caring about my appearance) and got scheduled for surgery to remove it.

I took a road trip to Luxembourg with my friends, and we went through Liege (Belgium), slept in Metz (France), and on our way back, had lunch in Trier (Germany). I was especially happy to take this trip because I was scheduled to move back to Nigeria after surgery and I wanted to take 1 or 2 more trips. This was it (because after this, I got broke again and there were no more trips till I left).

Apr – Jun

Living in Amsterdam was nice because I was right in the centre, near Dam Square, and it was such a good feeling to be able to walk to all the nice places (instead of having to take the tram, for example). That said, my lodgings in the centre were temporary and lasted 1 month, after which I moved again, this time to a very kind friend’s house. This friend is my person of the year 2015, because she gave up her bed for me and slept on her couch for the 3-4 months I stayed in her house and if it weren’t for her, I’d have had to move back to Nigeria sooner and broker than I’d planned, or put up in a rubbish-but-cheap apartment. She cooked for me once in a while, tried to get me to have a social life, and basically made me feel at home in her house. She also insists this wasn’t a problem at all, but she’s the type of person who likes her space and doesn’t quite like ‘invasion’, so doing this was a sacrifice of sorts, I’m sure. I hope I can be this gracious to someone in the future (or at least have enough money to rent the person a flat of their own -_-).

I finally had eye surgery, and the best part? My insurance covered it. I had to go for routine checkups and what not afterwards, which was why I was still in NL.

I lost my still-new job at some point towards the end of March. Reason? I was hired as a Product Manager but they changed strategy and didn’t quite need a full time PM any more, so it was too expensive to keep me on. Fine. In any case I had been casually reading about things, and at this point I started to think that if I was going to move back to Nigeria, maybe I’d be better off learning and specializing in UX Design because that seemed more useful, with more quantifiable benefits in the current Nigerian environment.

For UX Design, I paid for a web-based 3-month course that gave me tools and tips and taught me lots stuff that might have taken me more time to figure out. I didn’t quite finish the course though – I got so busy at one point that I started skipping classes, and then catching up was difficult after a while. Or maybe I was just scared, because I caught up on everything but the Javascript (JS) portion.

Aside: To be honest, JS looks hard and scary but when has that ever stopped anyone? I feel like this is one thing I should conquer in 2016, BUT am I going to use it for anything? Like, it’s good to know it so I can write some code once in a while, and so I can parse through code someone else has written without feeling like I’m reading Klingon, BUT in my daily life, is it necessary? I’m the sort of UX designer who likes to use visual, drag-and-drop tools to prototype my designs, so I’m a bit torn. I think I only want to learn JS so I can cross it off the list of things I ‘know’.

Moving on, I started looking for work as a UX designer. I discovered new tools and was using them to practice UX/Web design, and then I was working on my side-hustles almost full time. I don’t think I ever applied to any UXD jobs though, and I think it’s because I lacked confidence in my abilities. Instead, I’d admire the job postings, decide I don’t have the experience they’re looking for and need to practice some more, and then go and apply for the customer service jobs. Sigh.

This has gotten too long so I’m breaking it up. Part II is here.

Money, Thanksgiving, Soul Train Music Awards

I’ve never quite understood why among my group of friends, I always seem to be the only one (visibly) bothered by money. Maybe I process things differently, but when someone invites me to a random thing, like brunch, I have to think about it. And whereas (I think) most people who pause to think are trying to see if the invitation fits their schedule, I’m thinking about whether my account balance is padded enough, and if the experience is worth it. I’m ALWAYS here for new experiences, and I don’t mind being a bit broke for a while because I spent my money travelling to a new country, for example. Thankfully, I’ve never had to be extremely broke, because my daddy is too kind. However, I need time to mull things over, to see if I’m flush enough or if I can spare a few coins – and it’s not like I have a budget. I don’t think budgets work for me as such, so once I get money I just move 20-60% into a savings account because I usually don’t know if I’m going to be able to save anything next month. Why am I not sure? Because my life is unstable. In one month, I might have to travel like 5 times, and when you consider that flight tickets cost €70-120, consider that I have to factor in costs of transportation in these cities, consider food, etc., you might appreciate why I have to save in advance. Also, I’m looking for a house and my parameters are really stringent so I have to save for what I want. Then I need a new computer. Etc etc. Sigh.

{Break in transmission: I’m watching the Soul Train Awards on BET and Erica Campbell (one half of the Mary-Mary duo) is on. It’s very interesting to see how black people can turn spiritual in an instant, and this right now, this might as well be a church service or church concert. Tasha Cobbs is on now. Babyface was being honored earlier and they played some of the songs he wrote, with the artistes. BoysIIMen featured then, and that was the best bit of things for me because they sang End of the Road and I got really nostalgic. My goodness, I love Janelle Monae’s voice. I’ve been trying to get rid of the nasal tinge to mine and now I think I want to sound like her; only problem is everyone who knows me will look at me askance like “have you come down with a cold? You’ve had this cold for months now though”. R-Kelly has come on now to sing Step in the Name of Love and I’m dancing along because nostalgia, but I’m also making a weird face because I just remembered this article I read recently. That also just made me think about how the media shapes our perceptions and influences our behaviour. Hmm. Eyyy he just started singing Ignition Remix and I remember how my best friend in high school loved that song.}

Right, so we started with how I seem to be the only one who doesn’t outwardly worry about money. I don’t know how to pretend, so I usually just say how broke I am. I think I’m poor 😦 and I wish I could just not worry and spend all the money. I need more hustles. And more stability. Oh well.

How was Thanksgiving weekend for you? I liked the hashtag #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies – another insight into the lives of black Americans, seeing as I’ve never lived among them and all I know is from TV and maybe books. I’m grateful for my parents who have done their utmost best to raise us, and I’m a bit happy that I’ve come to see them as human beings who have emotions and are just trying to live their best lives, rather than just ‘parents’. I’m thankful for my edges, because they’re full and don’t look like they’ve been ‘snatched’. Thankful for red wine (which I used to hate) and cider, because those are awesome. Thankful for self improvement, and love. Thankful for relative comfort, and for my career because my current job is almost the literal illustration of “life comes at you fast”. I’m learning a lot though, and hopefully not falling on my face too many times – AND I get to work from home 🙂

I have work to do and a work phone call to make at 10pm (perks of working from home, eh?), so I’m gonna go now.

A bientot.