For Eloho: Grace and love above all else

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To a woman who is unashamed of Christ, whose love for God shines as bright as bright can be, who uses her life as a lesson to raise others up, who always has a kind word and a ready e-hug, whose ‘I love yous’ are from the depth of her heart, who is generous of spirit, has a great sense of humour and a laughter so rich it puts chocolate to shame, and lives the story of God’s stupendous grace above everything else.

Happy birthday Eloho, you’re the best of you at this very moment. I can’t wait to see your future bests. God bless you abundantly.

May you always be surrounded by the love you share so generously. You’re the most amazing thing that’s happened to me on Twitter. Shalom!

Eloho blogs at http://www.stupendousgrace.com

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My English Romance

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Hi guys. I’ll start with an apology. I’ve missed three days of this challenge. I’m at a writing workshop and the schedule is brutal, 8am to 6pm everyday. I knew I was going to be here when I started this challenge but I wasn’t expecting the ‘hecticity’.

This a piece from one of the assignments we had to do. Originally titled ‘My Relationship with the English Language’, I’ve edited it to reduce the length. It’s mostly true, but I want you to see if you can pick out the fictionalised bits. Goodluck.

 

When I was in JSS3, in the second term of the school year, I failed English Language. Even though 41% at the time was considered a pass mark, I chose to see it as an ‘F’ because I needed a reason. I needed a reason to hate Miss T, our English Teacher who dared fail me.

I was born in an army cantonment. The battalions were drawn from different parts of the country so the common language was ‘broken’ English. English was reserved for school and church. So my mother’s surprise was considerable when my first words were in proper English because everyone spoke ‘broken’ in the house. I don’t know what my first word was, but my first complete sentence was ‘you finished it,’ an indictment of my older ones who would always take bites from my food. For my sake – so as not to corrupt what she considered a good thing – my siblings were mandated to speak good English.

By the time I was three I could read The Queen Primer Book One. I could recognize what alphabets represented what sounds, so my ability to read wasn’t just because we were made to read the same passages over and over again. From The Queen Primer, I graduated to reading more mature books. My siblings were much older than I was so there were mostly senior secondary textbooks available in the house. My favourites were the English Language and Biology textbooks (the chapter on reproduction in Biology was very enlightening). There was also a medical dictionary that belonged to my eldest sister who was studying to be a nurse that I loved going through.

My first proper novel was Fatima’s New Dress when I was four. It was required reading for Nursery Two and my mother had gotten me a copy before school resumed. I can’t remember how but someone else had given me another one, so I had two copies. I would read one first and then read the other as if it was a different book entirely. Most kids my age at the time read picture books and fairytales and comics. I didn’t have access to all that. I read whatever I could find; newspaper scraps, magazines, old documents, school result sheets, billboards and the Bible.

Before Miss T, I never scored less that 90% on an English test or exam. While I didn’t quite grasp the technicalities of grammar and syntax, I knew instinctively what was right and what wasn’t.

Failing did not reduce my confidence. I was invincible when it came to English Language. Having in ‘A1’ in the Senior School Certificate Examination just made me all the more certain that I was a master of English. Until I left home for the university and for the first time was in an environment where people didn’t consider English their first language. Adjusting was difficult. More than anything I was interested in communication and I realized how tiny my language was. But my love for English and my sometime small mindedness would not let me learn any other language so I sought to perfect the one language I had. As I tried, I realized how impure it was. My language was a mixture of so many others.

I find now in retrospect that Miss T was right to fail me. Other teachers had been carried away by my seeming proficiency but she saw beyond my glamour to the lack I had: an actual grasp of the mechanics and small points of the language. I am back to learning, buying books on grammar and studying them diligently.

I am discovering my first language again.

Blame It

Blame it on the al al al al al alcohol

Blame it on the alcohol

I was going to write this as a humorous piece from the POV of a bottle of Hennessey, but this matter is way too serious and too close to home for that. It will be a short rant.

More than once, I’ve been hurt by people I care about and when the apology comes, there’s a ‘I was drinking’ in it. In effect, it wasn’t me, it was the alcohol. So, blame the alcohol for my cruelty or my stupidity.

I have a theory: alcohol only magnifies what you already are or are already feeling. So if you’re stupid, alcohol helps you be more stupid. If you’re cruel, alcohol only enhances you cruelty. I won’t even touch rape.

So, I have a rule: if you have a history of alcohol ‘making you do things,’ don’t drink. Please. Stay away from even palmy which according to a character in the movie October 1, “ees our local drink, ees not alcohol.”

ALCOHOL DOESN’T HURT PEOPLE. PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE.

Language is Home

Inspired by Chika Unigwe’s TedTalk

Tami stared at the painting on the wall, reds, blues, greens blurring into each other. No shapes, only splotches of colour that no matter how she looked, resembled a page from a child’s colouring book enlarged and framed. That was what she thought even though no one asked her opinion. But she would not say it even if they asked. It was a masterpiece.

The frame held a particular fascination for her. It was the only thing she understood. She imagined she could see the patterns of the wooden grains visible under the polished surface. In her mind she pictured where the axe would fall if she decided to use it for firewood. How the wood would split into two almost perfect halves, and the halves into smaller halves until they were small enough to feed a kitchen fire. But there was no need. A four burner gas stove served that purpose.

Spoon scraping plate, slurp, slurp, and she turned, her eyes not meeting those of mamma whose half lidded gaze focused with fierce concentration on her plate of ärtsoppa, a meal she had picked over Tani’s own specially prepared pepper soup, prepared with very little pepper because she knew how weak these oyibo’s people palate was. Still rejected.

Her eyes returned to the picture, trying to see what Andre and his art collecting friends saw. Avant-garde. Sensational. Genius. Words.

Her mother’s words would have been that the painting looked like something a goat had knocked paint cans over and then pissed on, explaining the streaks of faint aging yellow on the canvas.

Spoon scraping plate, slurp, slurp and her eyes were drawn to the left, Andre having the ärtsoppa as well because, “I can’t very well leave my mother to eat alone. You understand, dear, don’t you?” as he smiled at mamma, then said something to her, his tongue rolling out sj and tj sounds Tani failed to master no matter how she tried.

Tani stared at her plate. She was having the ärtsoppa as well. Mamma hadn’t blinked when she told Jonas in halting Swedish to give her a serving of same and put the pepper soup in the freezer. She had seen the hesitation in his eyes. He knew how many times the spoon had slipped out of her hand as she had stirred in the ingredients for her soup; she who had never as much as spilled a drop of water in the kitchen. She had offered him a taste, to make sure she had judged the pepper right so there would be no choking at the table, not wanting to repeat her jollof rice experience with Andre. No words passed between but she knew he knew.

“You don’t like the meal, dear?” Andre asked, wiping the corner of his mouth.

She stretched her lips, her cheeks bunching under the eye bags that had a story of their own.

“Of course, I do darling.”

She dipped her spoon into the plate, raised it to her lips and slurped.

How I Ate a Cockroach

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I have not had the pleasure of travelling to Asia or being on Fear Factor, so my cockroach eating experience happened right here in Nigeria.

I spent most of my formative years in Warri and was raised on Mama Put and fries. My mum realized early that my brother and I loved to eat junk, my brother especially; and what my brother wanted, he got. Also, we often wanted to eat different things; so once or twice a day she’d give us N50 to buy whatever.

Growing up, I had a dread of washing plates. We had this big pot that was rarely used, so I’d stash dirty plates and my mum would only know I hadn’t been washing plates when she couldn’t find anything to dish food into.

For this reason, instead of taking a plate with cover or a food flask to go and buy food, I’d go there and ask them to put the food (rice most times) in a nylon. It was not a strange request as most food sellers had a stack of ‘white’ nylon they used to sell food.

That day I went to buy rice and stew from the woman selling beside the abattoir. My regular customer, Mama Emeka usually closed early so once it was past six, this other woman got my patronage. I remember that day I had filched an extra N20 from my mum’s bag so I had N70 to spend. Of course it’d be on extra meat. I ordered N30 rice and two pieces of meat. I insisted the nylon be doubled as I had recently had an experience if stew leaking. The rice was hot.

That’s how I made my way home, got a cup of water and proceeded to enjoy my feast. First step was mixing up the rice and stew. I don’t know how to explain the process but I was a pro at it. Second was opening a hole at the tip of the rice cone. Third was pressing the cone gently so the rice came out of the hole. Fourth was eating the rice that came out in step three.

I like to eat. I am not one of those inspector people that will look at every spoonful of food under the microscope. Which is why when I felt something small enter my mouth, I was grateful for an extra piece of meat and chewed away. I don’t remember why but as I chewed something said, ‘Mary, look at what you are eating.’ So I looked and behold, there was the tail half of a cockroach at the open hole of my rice cone. My brain instantly made the connection that the ‘meat’ I was chewing was most likely the head half. It seems during step one; I had split the already softened-from-cooking cockroach into two.

I kept my cool and spat out everything in my mouth. I didn’t look. There was no need. Then I gently liberated my pieces of meat-the real ones-from the tainted rice and threw the rest of the food away.

And that is how I chewed, but didn’t swallow a cockroach.

 

How I Feel About The LIB/IP Debate

nostalgic words of future me

I’m Happy.

Because Linda Ikeji’s blog was finally taken down. I’m ecstatic, in fact, and here’s why…

I’m a writer. An actor. An artist. A photographer. I know the value of my creativity, I gain my daily bread from it. Sometimes, I offer my art for free, not because I consider it worthless, but because I choose to gift it. If someone took my freely given or paid for art and used it to their own gain in any way whatsoever, they are stealing from me.

I may not be able to identify my work that anyone may have stolen (and that’s only because I haven’t bothered to check), but I have more than a few friends who have been affected directly by plagiarism from online platforms and I stand solidly beside them every chance I get. I still remember @StNaija making a big big fuss when Ynaija took a…

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saʊnd

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When there are no sounds, no words, gestures and actions suddenly take on a new aspect. Tekeme realized this as she watched the figures on the tv, her mind replaying the scene of Bika running after her, his towel saved from falling by a desperately clutching hand, the stares of the hotel guests as she runs down the stairs, recognizing the man she was to marry by his naked butt, bribing the receptionist to give a spare key to his room so she could surprise her ‘husband’.

Her mind filtered the sound back in slowly.

“Baby, please. Tekeme, please. It’s not what you think at all. It’s not.” The laughter of the woman on the bed, the sound of her heels as she runs out the room and down the stairs, the whispers that greet the sight of a naked Bika running after her, the splash her car made as it fell into the hotel pool.

The sounds were memories, a feeling her deadened eardrums would never know again.

 

I missed two days of this Every Day in October Challenge. Sunday I was on the road, yesterday I was bloody tired. I will make it up. 

20 Random Facts About Me

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No I didn’t get tagged to do this. I read Toinlicious’ The 20s Tag and decided to take her advice and do one of my own. So, here goes twenty things.

  1. I love to read. My mum says at some point she had to defend me to people who said a child shouldn’t read so much. My tastes have gotten more refined over time (or that’s what I like to tell myself).
  2. I’m a huge fan of the book, I read e-books but I prefer having the book in my hand and flipping through the pages.
  3. I smell books.
  4. I listen a lot. Not much of talker, even with friends.
  5. I’m the opposite of a pack rat. I don’t keep things. Objects rarely hold sentimental value for me, so it’s easy for me to throw out stuff (non-book stuff). I prefer memories.
  6. My best friends from when I was a child have always been boys. I have close female friends, but the closest person at every point in time is always a guy.
  7. I spent much of my childhood and part of my teens believing I was going to wake up with a penis one day. I wasn’t a tomboy, I was a boy.
  8. I have very oily face and ears. Yes, ears.
  9. I love to eat beans; fried, boiled, moinmoin, akara but I can’t stand baked beans.
  10. I’m closer to my friends than family. I’m not friendly but I have been blessed with the most amazing friends; and I keep making new ones.
  11. I have a very vivid imagination.
  12. If I didn’t write I’d go crazy.
  13. I’d rather use the stairs than take an elevator or escalator.
  14. I had my first amusement park experience on my birthday this year.
  15. I love chocolate but I prefer not to eat chocolate cake or chocolate flavoured pastries. Choco milo is the way forward.
  16. I have (at last count, somebody fit don born again) 25 nieces and nephews (I feel it’s more sef).
  17. I think Chris de Burgh should be an angel.
  18. Right now, I’m crazy about The Living Years (Mike and the Mechanics).
  19. I enjoy travelling so much I would accompany my friends on rides just to move around.
  20. I can’t seem to add weight anywhere else but my hips and face. My deeper life can hold water. I checked.

That’s it. Twenty things about me. I’m a very precise person so I won’t add one for the road. 😀

 

The Right Why

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Her favourite word was ‘why’. She was used to the surprised smiles of strangers and the scoldings from her cousins when she asked a question over and over again in the way only five year olds know how.

But she never asked the dreaded question. The question everyone expected after every parents’ day or PTA meeting, or whenever there was a fathers’ thanksgiving in church.

“Ada’s daddy bought new shoes,” she would say with a sigh, and for a moment hearts would stop beating. “It’s pink with a white press button. Don’t you think it’s sad how Ada always loses her shoes? Such a baby and she’s even five and a half.” Or another day. “Ekpere said their daddy travelled to China for business,” her brow crinkled in concentration. “I wonder how he manages the Chinese vocabulary,” her brow clearing, difficult word said.

Her mother waited, believing she would one day ask why. She never did.

Half-moon

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“Your fists were a little bigger than my thumb when I got you. The grief of losing my first born to a sickness that forms little boils on the skin and burns the body up had not sunk in. No other child in the village had it, it came for my son. Only him. It came and in seven days it went with him. I did not cry. I sat in my hut, his body in my arms. That was when Nene came in with you. She took him and put you in my arms. Your eyes sparkled like dew on a newly opened leaf. You sucked your fist, your cheeks dimpling. I knew whose son you were; you had the half-moon on your cheek. When you cried I rocked you, yet you sniffled till I put a nipple in your mouth.

“The days flew by, days became moons and moons became harvests. Do you know your mother didn’t want you? She knew your father without knowing who he was. She let him lie with her for a string of corals. Nene tells me that she was struck with a sickness that had her bed ridden till her belly began to swell. Then the sickness disappeared. Her kin thought she had the forbidden. But her skin glowed and her breasts swelled. She sat at the crossroads for days cursing the stranger that had given her a child. All she remembered of him was the half-moon on his cheek.

“She would have eaten herbs to force you out if the old women had not warned her that your life was tied to hers. Her pains began the same day the men went to the fields to begin the harvest. As soon as you were born, she cast you aside as did all of her village. The child that had to be born was what the old women had called you. That harvest was the worst they ever had. Tubers brought up rotting. Animals disappeared from the forest, fishes from the river. So they sent men to find your father. And find him they did. The day they brought you here was the same day my son died. I have watched you grow into my husband, your father, long of limb and deep of voice. I wiped the snot from your nose and the dirt from your head. I prepared the sacrifice for your coming of age rituals. I cooked your favourite meal, spiced with pepper.”

The queen paused, taking the cold hand in hers.

“The poison had no taste. You, the child whose spirit killed my son will not take his place as king. The gods said you had to be born. The gods never said you had to live.”

 

I am a huge fan of The Devil’s Dictionary, so in addition to the regular posts I’ll be defining a word each day. You can suggest words in the comment box. Cheers

Death: The thing that kills you.