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 🙂

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!

A Collection Of Random Stuff Which, By Themselves, Are Too Brief To Be Considered Blog Posts III

  1. These days, I’ve been going through a … situationship. This situationship is a combination of about 3 different rubbish things. And I only mention it because not only does it suck, but my hands are also tied and I can’t do anything about it. Normally, there are things to be done about things like this, but I have already tried them and they’re not working. So I’m in limbo. Also sad, and apprehensive. I tell myself I should be baseline happy because I’m alive, and perhaps this face I’ve got on is my baseline-happiness-face. It doesn’t look *that* happy, though. I’m not American, but Thanksgiving was two days ago and many people who have appropriated <is that the right word?> this culture took to Twitter to say the things they were thankful for. Well, I’m thankful for life, for the fact that my family is alive and healthy, for constant electricity and for the fact that I currently live in a society where things just work. I will admit that it is a bit hard for me right now, to take my eyes off my problems (if only they’d get out of my face!) and concentrate on what good there is. But I am and will keep trying. You know how they say, that when you’re sad, you should go do what always makes you feel better/happy? I have no such activity or place or person or whatever. I do have lots of nice memories, but I need something to actually do. Meh. (Actually, I have something, but it’s a bit of an expensive activity, so, yeah.)
  2. Am I the only one who tries to read many books at the same time? That’s what I’m doing. I’ve got bookmarks in at least 7 books – one of which I’ve been struggling to finish since the summer of 2013. It’s supposed to be a Finnish classic and everyone knows how much I love Finland, that’s why I’ve been trying – as opposed to just dumping the book, as I did with Catcher in the Rye. It’s not that it’s boring as such, it’s just, it tells the story of people living a normal summer life interspersed with some high points here and there, and seemingly leading nowhere. Much like normal life. But the books I’ve read so far have always had climaxes, they’re never really about ‘normal’ life. I mean, my life is normal enough, and I suppose it’s a bit interesting to see what other people’s ‘normal’ summers look like, but for me, that really only works in real life. Not books. I’ll try again next year.
  3. About my nutrition: One of the best things about living alone and not being responsible for whether another person eats or not, is the fact that if you’re like me, you’re quite content with eating the same thing every day. I eat one mandarin and a bowl of oats for breakfast every single morning; brown bread, ham, cheese and milk for lunch, and then dinner varies. Dinner varies because sometimes I’m in this phase where I eat (baked) fries and chicken and veggies for weeks on end, then maybe I go into the phase where I eat fried rice for a bit. The fried rice phase isn’t sustainable though, because of all the vegetable-chopping involved. Sometimes it’s the spaghetti phase. Recently, it’s been the coconut rice phase. I got invited to a potluck thing and I decided to make coconut rice which turned out awesome, and it wasn’t that hard to make either. Bingo. Earlier this week, I made stew (after not making any in 1-2 years), and it was great. It was supposed to last me till maybe the end of next week, and this was going to be the rice/beans/anything + stew phase. Then this morning, while warming, I forgot it on the cooker, and it burnt. (Why I did not just put the darned thing in the fridge in the first instance, is what I don’t understand.) Anyway, this laziness is why I know I can never go back to living with family again, till I get married. No sir. This life, is *the* life.  An advantage of this sort of thing is, if you do it with enough dishes, you get very good at making them, and after the first two times you don’t have to have your computer with you in the kitchen, for recipes.
  4. About my hair: You can stop reading if your hair doesn’t look like one of these. Living with my kind of hair is, at the very least, an exercise in patience, but I have somehow learned how to get away with doing the least, by making compromises. I know that if I don’t stretch the hair by putting it in twists, braids, etc, then I am going to have knots and balls. I have accepted that. I’m not about to struggle to braid/twist my hair every night. I have also accepted that my hair will never meet my standards of neatness, and to compensate for this, I ensure that I tease it into a nice round shape, rather than let it look flat or otherwise uneven on one or more sides (as can be seen in the 4c photo in the link above). I can’t avoid detangling, because of course, I let my hair ‘roam free’ so there are more knots and balls than I care for. I hope though, that at some point in the future, someone comes up with a healthy product that really detangles your hair without additional need for fingers or a comb. I’ve accepted that I am very unlikely to ever be an experimenter with styles. I could use a bow here or a band there (on special occasions only), but I won’t ever be that person who does ‘30 days of different styles’. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Have a great weekend, à tout!

Time to Say My Goodbyes

Yes, the dreaded time has come. I really did not think I would fall in love with Finland the way I have, but well, here I am. I was really scared of the cold, because of the way it was described, but now I’ve been through it, and c’mon. There was no time that I felt really cold, none at all. Even with the weather at -11 degrees and lower, I was fine. Like they say, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes. I didn’t really like the fact that it used to get dark at 16:00 though. However, I’m happy to report that summer more than makes up for winter. Really. Like, it doesn’t get dark at all at night, it’s warm, everything is nice…I could go on and on. I’m really going to come back and live in Finland. People like to tell me that I’m probably enjoying it because I live in a student community, so there are like-minded people around me, etc..and that if I come back here to work, I will be bored senseless, because Finns aren’t necessarily the friendliest people on earth. Well, that’s exactly why I would fit right in. Who says I like to talk to people? Socializing once in a while is fine, but I really can’t handle constant parties and ‘hangouts’. Miss me with that.

As I was saying, Finland has been the most interesting part of my journey so far, and in my friend’s words, “I have no doubt that Netherlands would be the least exciting part of this your educational sojourn”. Sigh. I’m really going to try to keep an open mind, but it’s difficult to do that when you don’t even have a bathroom to yourself. Yes guys, I’m going to have to be sharing a bathroom, and you remember how dutch toilets look, yeah? *Shudder* However, I have to say that the Netherlands seems to have more job prospects and all, probably because of its proximity to the U.K and Germany; therefore it might be more practical for me to remain there. <Pep talk to myself:>It’s also not fair to judge a place before you’ve been there, how would you feel if people simply assumed you were a sad, tiny girl, simply because you never smile without cause?</Pep talk>

Of course packing is the biggest female dog there is. And of course I’ve acquired yet another suitcase. Excess luggage is basically my middle name at this point, there’s no need to pretend otherwise. I dread the journey ahead though, because it involves taxis, buses, trains, and the only one that doesn’t involve any stress, a plane. Sigh. Oh. You guys, I heard that since Mutallab pulled that stunt that year, Schiphol has been extra strict on Nigerians – because he basically passed through there with the bomb thing, undetected. I don’t want to laugh, I really don’t. Moving on…so I’m gonna miss my huge room and private bathroom and everything, and the awesome view from my window. On the bright side, I hear things are cheaper in NL, and the internet speed in my new house is supposedly fast. I’ve also been assured that my housemates are very nice people, we shall see. (I don’t care, I want Finland!)

By the way, I’ve been learning Dutch, but something happened today that made me stop and think: A couple of guys stopped me on the road to say hi, etc*, and they spoke to me in Finnish. After the greetings, which I responded to, my brain literally entered ‘flight mode’ and the only thing I could think of was “en puhuu suomea” Translation: I don’t speak Finnish.. So they continued in English, and well, moved on. After I left them, my brain started replaying the encounter and I started discovering that oh, I actually understood everything they said, because I knew all the words. But at the point where I should have showed understanding, my brain refused to function. Sigh. This is what was happening in France too…am I wasting my time learning Dutch? The Dutch speak excellent English, so there really might be no need. I’ll force myself though. I must have a second language that I’m fluent in.

*Note: this is weird, because Finnish people supposedly never talk to strangers on the road, unless there’s an emergency. This was no emergency

Finland!

Tuesday, 01.01.2013: Cheers to the new year bebe!

Today has me waking up at 6 am, after about 3 hours of sleep. I proceed to get ready and try to close all 3 pieces of my luggage. I’m no Hercules, so this takes up much of my time and has me (tearfully) having to leave many clothes, and all my cooking condiments behind. My travel bag and my clothes suitcase finally get closed, but the other one, let’s call him The Monster, he refuses to get closed. I am adamant about removing any other thing, so I leave it like that and begin the arduous process of carrying everything downstairs. I get downstairs and it’s raining, and the cab guy who’s supposed to come get me hasn’t arrived yet. There’s also no more money on my phone. My Chinese friends have already started walking under the rain, to the bus station (which is about 1 km away). I can’t even deal. I go to my friend’s building, because we planned to meet at 7.30, and she hasn’t contacted me yet, so I’m scared she has left me or something. Turns out she’s still asleep (jet lag, she just got in from Canada yesterday), LOL. This should be good. I go downstairs, to find my other friend, and I find her in the lobby, waiting for the taxi she already called. There’s no way we can join her, because we have loads of luggage, but she still has money on her phone, so she leaves it with me and I call a taxi (specially requesting for a car with a huge trunk), for me and my friend. We make it to the airport, and it’s time to check in. A little back story here, when I was buying my ticket, I read on the website that Lufthansa only allows you check in 1 piece of luggage, if you’re travelling within Europe. I already mentioned that I have 3 pieces, right? Now, for every extra piece, you pay 70 Euros, so I was fully prepared to pay 140 Euros. Time to check in however, the good Lord in heaven smiles on my friend and I, and the guy who is checking us in waives one piece of luggage apiece for us, and so I only have to pay 70 Euros. Whoop! The other friend (who lent me her phone) wasn’t so lucky, because she got there before us and she got checked in by a different guy, so she paid the full price. Bummer.

Anyway, we head to the departure lounge, and I decide to peruse the duty-free shops as usual, with no intentions of buying anything (I LOVE to window-shop, I have no idea why). My friend is hungry however, so I spot some macarons and we each decide to buy one pack. As an ignorant girl who has never bought anything at a duty-free shop, when the cashier asks me to show her my boarding pass, I go “oh, we have to show our boarding passes? I didn’t know that”, and she goes “yes of course, oooh, you’ve never traveled before…”. For some reason, this irks me and I retort with “yes, I have traveled before, I’ve just never bought anything at a duty-free shop, because you people are robbers”. Trash.

Frankfurt Airport: I get free internet for 30 minutes, yay! Chili con carne for lunch, but I get it after 2 hours, as I’m about to board the plane to Helsinki. This meal looks like palm-oil beans sha, but it doesn’t taste so bad. I begin to eat it as soon as I get to my seat, and I stop when I’m full and the plane is just beginning to taxi down the runway. I actually stopped because I was feeling weird about eating when no one else was.

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport: I start wearing all my winter stuff as soon as we touch down, because I don’t want to be caught unawares. Anyway, we have to wait a bit, to catch the bus to the city we will call home for the next 5 or more months. Free internet again, yay!

The bus ride to my new city lasts 3.5 hours. There aren’t many things worse than having to fly for about 7 hours in total, and then enter bus again, for another 3. After we arrive, we wait a few minutes for our tutor (not teacher o, this person is the one who is going to help us with stuff throughout our time here), who has collected our room keys for us prior to this time (because, in case you haven’t noticed, today is a public holiday). I finally make it to my room at about 10 pm, and begin to unpack, as I simply cannot sleep without arranging everything properly. My new room is twice the size of my room in France, and I even have a mini balcony and a mini corridor/hallway. Nice!

Err…the weather is cold, and carrying my portable heater from France was one of the best decisions I made. Here, I can continue to sleep with just my shorts and a tee shirt, no blankets.

One More

One more post before the clock strikes 12. Sorry I can’t put up the Spanish Steps post yet, because you see, I’m moving towards the North Pole tomorrow so I have to pack all my stuff. Packing is hard for me by the way, because I hate it, and I hate it because it makes my room disorderly, and I ALWAYS have trouble closing my box. This time around though, some things may just have to stay back, cos those boxes are not even trying to observe calm and close.

Went for lunch/dinner (it was between 4 and 5 pm) this evening, had some chicken filet, spaghetti with basil, and of course, cheese on top. For dessert, I had some tiramisu. Sorry I forgot to take pictures. Anyway, when it was time for me to pay my bill and leave, I handed them my card (of course I asked if I could use my card before settling down to eat), and it didn’t work. Hian. They tried it 2 or 3 more times, it just refused to work. Of course the problem was with their POS machine, but in my mind I was praying, just in case, that the problem wasn’t with my bank or card or something. Nigeria is too far away for me to start fighting with my bank over these things. Also, I had planned on withdrawing cash before traveling, so that I wouldn’t be strapped. Where would this cash have come from, if my card didn’t work? Ha. After all was said and done though, I had to walk across the road and withdraw cash to pay for my meal. The card worked this time *whew*.

Afterwards, I entered a shop on the main street, just to look around, as it is my last day in France. I was basically trying to enjoy the relatively warm weather before heading North where, as I said before, prayers for my warmth and safety would be needed. On my way out of the store, I stopped to say hello to a nice old man, and then as I was walking away, I felt a plop on my hand. It was bird poop. Tha heck? I have never been pooped on in my entire life! I usually refrain from walking under the trees that line the streets, but I looked up today on my way out, and saw that the trees were bare, so I assumed the darned birds had migrated for winter. For some reason, this made me so disconcerted that when my friend whom I haven’t seen in a while passed me and said hello and other things, I couldn’t even concentrate on what she was saying. Had to use a piece of paper to clean the yucky goo from my sleeve, and only then could I concentrate. Smh.

Sha, 2012 is over, like play like play. I’m too thankful for a lot of things that happened this year, one of which is the ability to literally tour the world. No matter how much I complain about the things I see around me (such as dog poop on the streets; keep your poop indoors people!), I am thankful for the opportunity to experience aspects of other cultures, I’m thankful that most of the things I learnt in school last semester are actually useful to me right now, and in the future. I’m thankful that even if we do not possess much, my folks are getting value for their money. Speaking of folks, I’m thankful for my family, I’m thankful for all the support, the weekly phone calls to make sure I’m alright, I mean, I’m supposed to be the one calling them, because it’s sort of cheaper from here, but no. They call me, they’re generous, they make me laugh, advice, pray for me, all across the Atlantic. Thank you. Ah, my fashionista little sister, who takes it upon herself to try and instruct me on what to do to look nice. I always attempt to resist her efforts, but I’m thankful. The little brother who likes to banter, LoL. Thanks for the laughs guys. Thankful for my forever playful dog, Stormie (hey baby!). I’m thankful for my friends too, I’ve never been the best friend anyone could have, but my friends have been amazing. Sometimes I’m too wrapped up in my issues to even care enough, but they’re still there, they still take time to check up on me, give advice, whatever it is that I need. Even with their limited income [I don’t have any millionaire friends yet (  ._.)], they call me. This is getting too mushy so I’ll stop. All of you know yourselves. Then there’s the one who calls me sweetness, even though God knows I’m more like bitterleaf (._. ). Thank you for ALL the support, for putting aside your issues to help me in every way possible, for being patient and being the bigger person when I’m misbehaving. This wouldn’t be complete without paying tribute to God, the one who knows me more than I know myself. Thank you for being faithful in my life and in the lives of my friends, thank you for providing, thank you for coming through in every aspect, thank you again and again.

I’m going to miss France though, my school, my quaint little room, the friends I made here, the guy at the cafeteria who used to scream ‘meatballs!’ every time he saw me, the others who used to crack jokes to make me laugh, most of the group mates I worked with, the members of staff who went out of their way to make me comfortable, the cheerful cleaning lady, the cute dude who always used to greet me with a smile and give up his seat for me on the bus (if it was too full and he was on it), the one who took it upon himself to teach me French, my real French teacher (thank you again, for the tickets to the wine tasting)…the list is endless. Thank you all, thank you. For everything, and for the memories.

*raises glass* Here’s to an awesome 2013, whatever ‘awesome’ means for each one of you.

Weekend 4

It’s a weekend, and there’s nothing interesting to do, apart from assignments. Ugh.
One day this week or last (I forget), I had salmon in the cafeteria, and I liked it, so I decided to try it out on my own (even though I had no idea what they did to make theirs look and taste the way it did). Bad move. I purchased it, and asked an Asian friend of mine how she eats hers, and she said she just eats it like that (a la sushi), with wasabi sauce. The one I bought was smoked (as usual, because I can’t read French I didn’t find out till I got home), so I decided I was going to fry it (Asian friend said I could, in butter). Long story short, it was too spicy (apparently they spiced it while smoking, so adding mine made it too much). And who fries smoked fish anyway? Smh. Smoked fish is for cooking soup abeg. That said, I crave onugbu and ora/oha soup. #sigh

I haven’t started traveling anywhere, my mates go to Monaco, Nimes, Nice, etc on weekends, meanwhile I’m here frying salmon 😦
Seriously though, I have to find a way of feeding in this town, since cooking is fast becoming a nightmare. I mean, why would the rice I cook in Nigeria behave any different from the one I cook here? Why would any cooking oil in the world smell and taste horrible, and taint the food I cook? I didn’t think that was possible, but here I am, tired of wasting food. Thank God for fries, sausage and ketchup (Heinz, as I have learnt to stick to what I know when in doubt. Before I go and buy soy sauce parading itself as ketchup).

Meanwhile, the days are getting colder, and I can’t seem to be able to keep warm at night. There’s a heater in my room, but the controls are not -I suppose they’re waiting till winter to turn it on. I seem to be the only one who is cold though, because I still see people parading about with tiny shorts and flimsy tops, early in the cold mornings. Oh well… All this gist means I have to start arranging myself for Finland. That place is the mother of cold regions, and she should be treated as one, else she will disguise your death as a heart attack. That’s very bad pun, I know – and I’m sorry.

Err.. While I still check on my blackberry everyday, I think my new phone is a cute little powerhouse. But it has started falling from my hands too. 😦