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.

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Multitasking

This is going to be a boring post.

I have 1 main job, 2 side jobs, 3 ‘hustles’ I’m trying to get off the ground, and 2 others that are still in my head. Thing is, ideas are very cheap and easy to come by, but execution isn’t. Everyone knows this, including me, so why am I still doing this to myself? It’s probably because I’m a loner, and I haven’t figured out a secret sauce to getting users or a community for a web product. I mean, I know the ground rules but actually putting myself out there to say “I made this, please use it because it could actually make your life easier, and also please leave feedback” is a bit scary – especially as no one knows me and we all know how clique-y people can be, so why should they agree to be early adopters for this product made by a person they’ve never heard of, let alone learned to trust? I’ve tested my ideas on my immediate circle and everyone agrees the ideas useful and in good niches, but I can’t seem to build followership, and I know I should hire someone but … wait, I was going to say I don’t have money but now I can sort of afford to pay someone part-time so I’m not sure what’s holding me back. Heh. Okay I know: when I first got these ideas, I didn’t have my main job which pays the most, so I was essentially a broke ass. In that state, of course I couldn’t afford to pay anyone so my brain got used to thinking I should (and better be able to) do everything by myself. To be honest, I can probably do things myself, but it’s easier and faster to hire a person to do it.

[And, to answer the question you’re probably asking: no, I can’t recruit my current friends and family as users because the platforms and products I’m trying to build are not targeted towards them, e.g. there’s one for caterers, and in my immediate circle, there isn’t a single caterer. Maybe I should stick to building things people in my immediate circle can use and pay for.]

I read something about a multi millionaire who spends his days sailing his boat. He doesn’t quite believe in cofounding, and doesn’t think every new business should be ‘viral’ a la Twitter or Uber, his own businesses are not viral in that sense, but they provide useful services at great quality and are spread out over different cities. I think that’s what I’m trying to achieve, but as a person who doesn’t have that much money to throw at a business (i.e. to hire people, rent space, etc), my options are a bit limited I have to tweak my methods to suit my constraints. It’s cool though, I like my comfort zone but I know you only grow when you step out of there.

I’m not sure how to combine growing these platforms with my main job and 2 side hustles, especially since I want to kick ass at everything. For now though, my method is to give one thing my undivided attention for a period, and then switch to the next, and the next. Fortunately for me, of the 6 things I do – or am trying to do – for a living, only about 2 or 3 require me to think, read and strategize a lot; the rest can be handled without much fuss. On the flip side, I usually put off the ones that don’t require a lot of thinking, because I’m tired and I’m like “that only takes 10 minutes, I can do it later”. Of course, later almost never comes. I need to be more efficient, and learn enough about myself to know (how to maximize) my most productive times.

I’ve also just remembered something Shonda Rhimes said and I’m pausing for a bit to think about whether there’s any point struggling. No, she’s not God, and I’m not a mother, but there’s some sense in it.

If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.

Sorry about the rambling, I was going to do a post about my current life and parallels with the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic, and I wanted that to be interesting but I got stuck halfway and decided to do this instead.

Have a lovely weekend, and Happy Halloween if you’re getting in costume!

À bientôt.

Settling in a new country: Food, Toiletries and Infrastructure

I moved back to Nigeria in July, and I have not been miserable yet. There have been a few frustrations, but for the most part, I’m okay. I suppose that’s a good thing, and I have to credit the positive changes that occurred in Nigeria during my absence AND my good fortune.

Food: When I lived in Nigeria some years ago, I think I used to eat bread for breakfast. Now, I’m older and try to eat healthier, and white bread makes me almost-nauseous. My new breakfast preference is granola, but apparently you can only find granola bars here, not the cereal version. You can find muesli, though (but ewww). I considered – and even attempted – making my own granola but can’t find maple syrup, honey is too sweet for me and I need a better oven. So, for now, I subsist on Kellogg’s Fruit n’ Fiber. It’s fine.
I’ve also been experimenting with all sorts of Nigerian food recipes, and none has gone wrong yet (except my burned granola, of course), so yay! I snack on yoghurt with fruit chunks, like when I lived in Finland – which makes me miss it more, by the way – and groundnuts (Virtues and Vision). Many times, I find cider (Savanna Dry or Stella Artois) when I go to the store, but when I don’t, I have to make do with beer (Heineken). I tried that thing called Star Radler recently, and, no. Just, no. Unfortunate that there isn’t a great wine store that I know of, but I’ll be happiest when I find one!

Toiletries: I’m detailing all this because I remember writing about how, when I move to a new city or country, my default-meter resets and I have to choose my default food combos, toiletries, etc afresh. I still have some cosmetic stuff left over, but I now use black soap (Dudu Osun) to shower. It’s fine because it’s supposedly all-natural, but it doesn’t leave my skin feeling silky smooth like my old default shower gel. Will try other things. Body lotion is the hardest thing to choose, and I currently use a Nivea lotion that claims to give you even skin tone (but we all know this doesn’t happen, at least not with Nivea). I miss my Sanex range. And I use sunscreen when I remember.
Roll-on was not difficult at all to choose, and if there’s one thing I missed about living in Nigeria, it was my easy access to Old Spice. Glad to say I’m back to using that.
One of the things that makes me want to tear my hair out is panty liners. I mean, you try some stuff before you settle on a variant that makes you happy, but in my trials (abroad), none has ever been as appallingly horrible as the box I bought last week. Goodness.

Infrastructure: The one thing that has improved in Nigeria is electricity. It’s almost-nearly constant, and even when it’s not, I have access to an inverter and a generator, both of which ensure that the fan and router never go off. Yay.
Internet access is 24/7, and it’s super fast, but there’s a data cap. That said, I think there’s something wrong with the way my internet juice runs out every month. With all my streaming in Europe, I doubt that I ever went beyond 20Gb/month, but now, I blink and 50Gb is gone. I don’t stream movies any more, so how on earth? Also, internet access is ridiculously expensive – I pay ~€180 for 50Gb – and sometimes, it gets spotty or even non-existent, supposedly because of some base station problem, then I have to call customer service but it’s almost-okay because calling my ISP is toll-free.
I can do pretty much all transactions without having to leave my house or touch cash now, and that’s very nice because I don’t like going anywhere or touching cash. Except when I try to make a payment and it doesn’t go through but the money leaves my account anyway, and then I have to go to the bank. FFS.
Spotify works for me here, as long as I use it in the browser – or rather, it was working and now it doesn’t work anymore. I currently own an Apple device though, so I can switch to Apple Music; and I think I’d be willing to pay the required €4.99/month when my trial runs out, but let’s see how that goes. Finally, I think Uber is one of the top 5 best things to happen to Lagos, Nigeria. I hope they branch out to Abuja and PH soon.

All in all, apart from the tiny frustrations which can add up to become really annoying and rob me of my peace of mind, I think I’m okay.

Happy end-of-September, good luck with next month!

À tout!

Luxembourg

I moved back to Nigeria. And I think I’ve lost my writing mojo. This has little to do with the rest of this post.

In March, on the weekend RUJ(A) got married, my friends and I took a road trip to Luxembourg, and it was such fun (even though I was nursing a cold and was often tired), I wish I could have squeezed in one more like it before moving back to Nigeria.

One of us now has a car (yay!), and we rented another one because there were 10 of us in total. Because of some errors or whatever, we didn’t get the rental car we wanted, we got a shiny silver Mercedes C-class that looked like it belonged to a drug dealer. It was so shiny, people would stop and stare everywhere we went. We went from Amsterdam to Eindhoven to Weert to pick up other friends, stopped at Maastricht to grab lunch, and stopped again in Liege, Belgium to rest a bit because, like me, the owner of the car I went in also had the sniffles.

We got into Luxembourg around 17:00, and walked around the city for about 2 hours, just taking it in and marvelling where appropriate. I remember needing to pee but the toilet was locked because it was late or something, and one of us met a friend she hadn’t seen in so many years, while we were walking on some bridge. How nice. Anyway, that was that, and off we went, to our hotel in Metz, France. We had to sleep in France because hotels in Luxembourg are (or were?) too expensive for us, and anyway it was an excuse to explore a bit of France. We had dinner in a nice restaurant, and I used my mother’s card to pay for mine – after which she sent me the sms debit alert from her bank, probably wondering if indeed, her daughter was still out and about at 23:00. Yes mother, that was me. After dinner, we thought we’d wander about a bit, and we ended up in a bar/club space that made me remember Aix en Provence *sniff* but I couldn’t stay long as I was super tired, neither could my friend, the driver-who-also-had-a-cold, so we drove back to the hotel and I slept off.

In the morning, we went looking for breakfast in the city centre. We ended up in some place that appeared to be the town square, and had regular French breakfast fare, croissants and tea and all such things – and then we decided to explore the city and the quaint shops, churches, etc. We spent a bit of time walking along a river, during which I discovered that apparently, swans are (or can be) terrified of geese, if the geese honk loud enough. Some people were feeding stale bread to swans, and the geese spotted this from about 500m away and started honking and moving en masse to the food-sharing location. I thought there’d be a scuffle, but no. The swans moved away, waited for the geese to eat their fill and leave, and then returned. And here I was, thinking that the bigger you are, the more feeding priority you get.

From Metz, we drove to Trier, Germany, for lunch. I don’t remember what I had, but I remember struggling to choose between pasta and standard German food, and I think I chose schnitzel. We wandered around before lunch too, but we couldn’t do too much because this was 17:00 on Sunday and everyone had to be at work on Monday, and Amsterdam was 4 -6 hours away. I was tired but happy, and I remember getting home around 23:00 and tumbling into bed.

That was my weekend in Luxembourg. There are pictures, which might be uploaded later, but because I’m lazy, maybe not.

I’ve just written this post because it’s August 31, the unofficial end of summer, and even though I’m in Nigeria where (at least weather-wise,) summer never ends, I feel some type of way not having gone on any ‘interesting’ trips this period – so I thought I’d cheer myself up by writing about the time this year when I did go somewhere. I miss Amsterdam, and Finland, and France, and cheap, easy travel. This feeling was a tad amplified by this post, but well, like the writer, I had a nice alternative summer in which I did other things, too.

For people who had a proper summer break and are resuming school or work or anything else, welcome back, and good luck with the rest of the year!

À tout!

Who are you? Where are you from?

Let’s pretend I posted this in March, shall we? Okay.

Yesterday, I was reading this, and while I usually read that column for entertainment, it got me thinking about myself: I was born in a city (Enugu), lived the first 10 years of my life there, and then moved to another city (Ogun – 600 km away) for school. I went to school there for the next 11 years (high school and university, obviously), only going back to the city of my birth for holidays. After I graduated, I (went to the city of my birth for holidays, and then) moved to another city (Abuja) entirely for work. I lived there for almost 2 years, and then I moved to France (Aix en Provence), Finland (Turku), and Netherlands (Tilburg, Terneuzen, The Hague, Amsterdam) over the next 2.5 years. So where am I from?

In Nigeria, when people ask where you’re from, they typically mean where your ancestors originated from. Where I live now, I don’t always know what they mean: Do they mean where I’ve lived the longest? The answer to that is ‘Ogun’, but it’s not pleasant to think I’ve lived in school the longest. Do they mean where I was born? Then that’s easy. Do they mean where I lived before coming to my present city? I don’t really know how to answer that then, because I can say where my family lives, but not quite sure where I ‘live(d)’ because there are so many answers. To answer “where are you from?” I usually say “Nigeria”, but when they ask “where in Nigeria?” then things get a bit complicated. I usually say “the East” and if they know enough about Nigeria to ask “are you from Abuja?”, then I say “yes I lived there before moving here”, same for Lagos (“I went to school in a town really close”). Meh. Once upon a time (or twice, but who’s counting), I answered “Finland”. Why? I had just moved to NL, had 3 huge suitcases and was struggling to put them all on the train before it left the station, and when I finally managed and was then looking for how to arrange the suitcases in an unobtrusive manner AND find a seat for the 2 hour trip, someone asked “where are you from?” The person asking was a brown-skinned person like me but I was too tired to even begin to think of nuance, so I said Finland.

Who am I? Ha. Nigerian. In Nigeria though, I’m not sure I’d say “Nigerian” in response to that question, but I’ve thought about it a bit and I really cannot say that there’s any single thing that I feel defines me, so: Nigerian. Person. Nuance is important, because an old man in the village who’s asking you that question is not expecting to hear “Product Manager”, he’s likely asking whose child you are. But for the purpose of this epistle I’m writing, I shall assume the person asking is like me: close to my age, lives in the big city, and has met me in a social-ish setting. I’d like to say I’m a Product Manager, but then I’ve only been that for a few months so I sort of feel fraudulent when I say it. ‘IT Professional’ seems very vague, sort of like ‘businessman’ and I feel very uncomfortable when I have to be vague – I’m a very black/white person. Okay, so maybe I’m a: Nigerian. Person. [Aspiring] Digital Product Manager [and the ‘aspiring’ is silent :D].

Sometimes, I envy people who have lived in 2 places or less all their lives, because they cannot be stumped by answers to these questions, I think. But meh.

In conclusion, I’m from Nigeria (Enugu/Abuja)/Finland depending on who’s asking and how quickly I want the conversation to end, and I am a Nigerian person who’s trying her best to be a kick-ass Product Manager. Some adjectives (e.g. respectful, sarcastic, etc) may apply, depending on who’s talking. Fin.

Who are you, though? Where are you from? Do those answers come easily to you or nah?

À tout!

February 2015: Jumble

This month, I started work at my new job. I felt productive the first couple of days and some, and then things got old really quickly. I found there was quite a bit I didn’t know, and in fact, I think my boss knows that, so he’s been extremely patient. But still, I feel like a fish out of water. Some days, there’s quite a bit to do and that’s when I’m most productive. On the days when there’s only one thing to do though, I get sluggish. I feel guilty about the lethargy I feel, of course, but I wonder if there’s something else I can do to get over it? There are quite a number of balls I’m juggling at the moment, but my employer is paying me to work 8 hours a day, so it would be dishonest to use that time to do other things. Sigh. Also, I’m more productive at night, apparently, and this is very bad because it means I work late and wake up early, but I also can’t sleep during the day because what if my employer or colleagues need to reach me?

Speaking of balls, I got a new social media management client the other day, so yay – and bye bye to my carefree weekends 🙂 Another ball I’m juggling is this crowdshipping experiment, in which if you need to send something from A-B, you can post on the platform, and someone who is going from A-B will respond. It’s still in ‘Beta’, so it’s not yet an app or anything, and I need suggestions on how to make it better, please. I especially need advice for the ‘How it works’ section – it’s way too long, and I’m not sure how to make it shorter and easier to read. Flow charts, maybe? How to make colorful ones, does anyone know?

I’m moving house today. I had the misfortune of choosing to sublet from a flighty (or crazy? he calls himself crazy) person, and now he’s decided to move, so I have to move too. He knows how annoying this is, so he’s offered to help me move my stuff to Amsterdam, in a Fiat Punto. I have a lot of stuff so I think we might need 2 trips. On the plus side though, it’s good that I’m moving to Amsterdam because the closer I am to Schiphol when the time comes to leave, the better for me. I shudder to even think about the cost of a cab from The Hague to Schiphol. I still haven’t packed, or done the things I’m supposed to do…I really hate moving, and I reckon I’m going to move at least 2 more times after this before I’m finally settled. Gah. Also, need to buy new suitcases, because the poorly trained humans – and it’s only because of my manners that I call them humans – at Murtala Muhammed airport made certain to break at least one part of my suitcase for every single time I passed through in December (total number was 5, I think). Well done, everyone.

I have to go now. Take a shower, stuff suitcases, trash stuff (and this is the annoying bit – always having to trash stuff to make space. Nobody will buy my old stuff because nobody is a size XS like me!), go sell my old Toshiba laptop (which has ‘shown me pepper’) and ancient Harman/Kardon speakers {Side bar: my office sent money for a new laptop, and as an experimenter, I chose an Asus 13″ ultrabook. Core i7, 128Gb SSD, inbuilt Bang & Olufsen speakers, etc. I chose this, for science. I’ve had it for about 1.5 weeks and it’s been lovely so far}. I need a new, portable, bluetooth speaker. I can’t afford JBL because, broke. Please help? Do you know any good – but inexpensive – ones that can be gotten in Europe?

Meanwhile, I’m going to Luxembourg next weekend!!!

Okay that’s it from me. I will miss this apartment – it’s the best I’ve lived in so far, but I’m grateful for the memories.

A tout!

January 2015: Job?

Hey, how are you? Are you happy? Are things going well with you?

This month has been, as Januaries are, very long. That’s just me stating the obvious as I try to think of what to write.

When I was going to Nigeria in December, I expected to be interviewed for a job in an investments company, because I had already begun the process of introducing self and sending CV. I got to Nigeria and called to say “I’m here, here’s my number, here are my travel plans so here’s the window we have to get this interview and other things sorted, k? Ta.” And then I went about my fun activities and waited for them to call. No call. I called a second time, and they said “we’ll call you soon”. Still nothing. Around December 26, I started to converse with myself, like “So, you’ve come to Nigeria and achieved a couple of things, but you’ll leave without a job offer, is it?” and then I scrolled through my contacts to see who could possibly help. I mean, they say “opportunities don’t float in the air, they’re tied to people”, right? I’m not the biggest networker (read: I’m not at all a networker), but I thought I better sit up and ‘take charge of my destiny’ (-_-). Well, as it turned out, the only person I contacted had 2 (TWO!) opportunities ‘tied’ to him, so yay. I sent my CV, told him about my travel plans, yadi yadi yah, and waited. I was supposed to leave Nigeria on January 6th. January 5th, someone called to say he wanted an interview that afternoon. I had the interview, and then a test, and he said he’d be in touch. January 6th, I left Nigeria early in the morning. Let me speak about my airport run for a minute.

My flight was supposed to be for 6:20am, and I left the house at a few minutes before 5:00am. I tried to check in online on the way there – because that’s exactly what I did when I was going to Nigeria: checked in on the train, on the way to Schiphol – but that didn’t work. How sway? Anyway, I got to the airport, they said I was late and could not be checked in, and that they don’t do online check-in. O.o Well, in buying my ticket(s), I had paid an extra €5-8 for such a time as this, so that I’d be able to reschedule with no major consequence to my bank balance. So, I asked how I could reschedule, since I was late. The man in charge said “you’re very rich, abi? Because that’s what I’m hearing. That you’re very rich”. I asked how exactly I implied that, but at that moment, a very Yoruba woman came up, she already knew she was late, so she started – I don’t know what word to use here – wailing, but sans tears. “Ah, e gba mi, I’m a studeeent, I dun haf money, e jo sah, I’m sorry”. I was very amused but I didn’t dare laugh, as I very much wanted to be on that flight if it was possible. Long story short, the man in charge agreed and our passports were scanned and we were checked in, etc. The moral of the story is that Nigerians in any position of power are likely to expect you to be obsequious. They will help you eventually, but first, you should beg. Stupid, because, if you’re going to help me anyway, why make me beg first? To validate your importance? LOL. Moving on…

I landed in Schiphol at 16:30 and switched SIM cards, whereupon I saw that I had voicemail. I listened, and it was from the second ‘opportunity’. Apparently, they had tried to call my Nigerian number but it was switched off, and being aware of my travel plans, deduced that I had left Nigeria, so they called my Dutch number. I called back the next day, we set up an interview date, and now, yours truly has a job and is moving back to Nigeria. (I’m on probation for 3 months though, but fingers crossed.) I’ll be working remotely for the first month (and a half, probably). The investment company from earlier? Oh, they also tried to call me the day I left, and, not reaching me, did not think to call my Dutch number. I know this because they asked my original contact to send me a message. I rolled my eyes so hard, because why didn’t they contact me before now? Oh, the person who was supposed to interview you was on vacation and no one knew. You don’t say. So why didn’t you contact me when you saw that there were delays? Was I supposed to wait indefinitely? Silence. Meh. #ByeFelicia

My new job starts on Monday, and I’ve been trying to learn all sorts of stuff that I need to know to succeed. Like, I’m really glad I got this job because I have zero experience but I’m prepared to learn and show them. I’ve learned that it’s not always important to cram information in your head, but you should know where to get the information when you need it. So I’m doing a bit of cramming and a bit of bookmarking, and a bit of experimentation (because, learn by doing). I’ve also not gotten to where I need to be because I’ve been supremely lazy. You know when my mates got jobs in the summer and then proceeded to travel and have ‘many funs’ on vacay? I couldn’t go on extended vacations because I was applying for jobs every single day. I was thinking “what if I get called for an interview and I’m away?” But lol, evidently, I needn’t have worried. Now I’m making up for that, somewhat.

Am I happier these days? Yes. Things on different fronts appear to be shaping up nicely, so can’t complain. New job is in a media company so promises to be lots of fun. Fingers crossed.