Wednesday, April 29, 2009

First Night

Dear Readers,
I hope you enjoy this. A short story about the dangers of travel in Africa. In recent times the news has covered stories of sea pirates. Many of you probably can not imagine any of this. Here in America, I get to hop on the Greyhound with a carefree spirit. In Nigeria, every journey is at the risk of death.

We were finally allowed off the plane. The large Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 aircraft had brought us safely over 5200 miles, crossing the north Atlantic ocean with one stop in London. At this moment I was a long way away from America. I thanked the air hostesses for a pleasant ride as I passed them on my way to the exit at the back of the plane. They smiled, looking smart in their uniforms. They wore bright red knee-length pencil skirts with matching red jackets over a white open-necked blouse. Lovely silk red and mauve coloured scarves adorned their necks, reminding me of the Tie Rack that I loved to visit at London's international airports. They sold the most beautiful, colourful and soft scarves and ties that I ever saw. Just then I turned to descend the rickety retractable aircraft steps. Looking out of one of the oval windows after the plane had reached a full stop, I had watched the ground staff drive the steps to the plane and position it for the passengers to disembark. Halfway down, I paused on the tiny platform and looked around the tarmac. My gaze focused on the old airport building in the distance. A plain white multi-storied building, it was not very big compared to some of the major airports of the world. Surprisingly, to me anyway, it was modeled after Amsterdam's Schiphol international airport back in the late 1970s. Amsterdam's was, and still is, one of the largest and busiest of European airports, comparable to Heathrow, Frankfurt, Charles de Gaulle and Madrid. The design of Murtala Mohammed airport, located here in Ikeja-Lagos, is simple and the surroundings far from spectacular. It looked exactly as it had the last time I'd been here ... eight long years ago. Dad had taken two month's leave to enable us have a family vacation. That was the last time we were together as a family. Inhaling as deep a breath as I could, I perceived the thick humidity of Nigerian airspace. I was home. This was home ... the land of my peoples.

An old lady struggled above me with a large hand luggage and I turned to take it from her. How did she get this on the plane? I wondered how she was able to sneak it past the hostesses. I continued my climb down, now with two bags instead of one, until my feet touched the runway. Lucky for me, both bags were on rollers and I wheeled them towards the airport entrance. It was a long slow walk. Slow, only because I permitted the elderly stranger to set the pace lest she think I were fleeing with her bag. Finally, with half the passengers ahead of us and many still
scattered on the tarmac behind, we reached the airport building. I guess whoever is in charge of the airport deems it unnecessary to supply shuttle buses from the plane to the airport building. Perhaps he ought to visit other countries' airports to see how they provide conveniences for their passengers. I ought to give him a piece of my mind, I thought, but of course there's no way they'd have a suggestion box. They hadn't eight years ago.

I handed over the woman's bag and wished her well. In a heavy Yoruba dialect which I did not understand fully, she thanked me and rained down blessings upon me and my family for the kind act I had just displayed. I thanked her in her own language, Eshe Ma [thank you mama] being one of the few Yoruba words that I do know. We parted ways and I joined the queue for Nationals. It was a long long line. Standing there I overheard a security guy telling someone that the airport terminal's air conditioner had broken down since last week. The week before there had been an electrical fault that had just been restored yesterday. Imagine if I had arrived two days ago? The entire airport might have been in sheer darkness. Finally I got to the front of the line and was called to a booth. I handed over passport and landing card; they were passed on to another officer, standing behind the first, who stamped the passport before returning it to me. With not so much as a smile, I was dismissed and moved on. I turned left and paused at the head of the wide staircase. Looking down, there were people milling about like busy bumble bees. In the hot stuffy atmosphere, with archaic fans in motion, the noise of conversations and reunions seemed abnormally loud. All sorts of accents and languages could be heard. A lovely array of colour seen in the various traditional outfits
painted a pretty picture ... from attire typical of the northerners to styles associated with the mid-westerners. Long forgotten memories rushed through my head and swamped my senses. Wow, had time stood still in this part of the world? I got to the bottom of the staircase and hurried to grab a trolley. I was too late and no trolleys were left. Oh well. The heat became nauseating and in spite of the slow moving fans, I felt unwell. Sauntering over to the conveyor belt, I found a seat close by and sat down.

Forty minutes later people began getting agitated. Where are our bags? What in the world is going on? I was still seated. Some time later we heard an announcement that the bags had been sent to the wrong conveyor belt. We were asked to be patient and an apology was offered for any inconvenience. Before long, a whirring noise caught my attention. The belt had begun rolling and suitcases started to appear. Weary passengers gathered to wait for theirs, blocking my view in the process. Craning my neck, I monitored the belt until at last my suitcase surfaced. I dashed over and yanked off the brand new grey samsonite I bought a week ago, hurting my foot as I did so. The suitcase had landed hard on it. Putting the case on the trolley, I waited for the second piece of luggage. This one was a darker grey large duffle bag. I'd had it for a couple of years now. All done, I proceeded through customs with nothing to declare. Of course I was stopped and subjected to the routine of random checks. I could barely contain my irritation and snapped at the officer when he carelessly tried to shut the duffle and got the zip caught on the fabric. Breathing hard with a definite look of annoyance, I pulled away the bag and tried to fix the zip. Silently I dared him to ask me to hurry up. Huffing and puffing, he said nothing. I managed to zip up the bag and left.

I walked through the lanes and corridor until I was beyond the double doors. A deep breath escaped me as a wall of heat hit me. Crowds waited around anxiously for loved ones and other arrivals. Pushing my trolley ahead, I escaped the scene and strolled to the taxi park. Glancing at my favourite black leather watch, bought in Virginia for seventeen dollars once upon a time, the time showed ten-thirty. An old smallish man in a faded white up-and-down outfit, complete with cap, approached me: Madam, which side you dey go [m'am, where are you going]? I looked over, acknowledged him, then hesitated. I had planned to spend the night at one of the hotels I remembered from family travels. Instead I found myself saying: I wan go ABC; na how much [I'd like to go to the ABC bus terminal; how much is your fare]? He reached for the trolley and tried to push it for me. I said, na how much ... no push am oh, make we talk first [I asked how much; leave the trolley until we're agreed]. He stopped ... how much you wan pay [how much do you want to pay]? We began the age-old custom of bargaining (which I absolutely hate). Twenty minutes later, agreed on a fare, he pushed my trolley to his worn taxi while I followed. Baggage in the boot [trunk], I collapsed into the cab and he shut the door. The ride to the ABC bus [coach] terminal was not bad and I alighted with my things. I paid the old man who called out in parting, go well, hear [have a safe trip]! I made my way to the ticket counter. The place was crowded. I asked for a one-way ticket to Aba, a traders' town in Abia state, located in the southeast of the country. If you hurry you fit catch the bus wey dey leave now now [if you hurry you can catch the bus that is about to leave right now]. I paid, took the ticket and thanked the lady as I ran to catch the bus which was leaving now now.

An hour later, seated next to an old woman I waited for the bus to depart. I deliberately chose the seat because I had no energy to strike up conversation with the young guys on board and I figured the old lady would soon be asleep. This was the night bus and if we left by midnight, we should be in the east by tomorrow evening. I was a little nervous. Armed robberies were notorious on these night buses and on these routes for that matter since the thieves assume everyone to be a wealthy trader. My parents were actually home because they had retired some years back, and my baby brother was with them. They had no idea that I was on my way because this was a surprise visit. Only my sister in England knew. I got out my cell phone to switch the sim card to a local one. Then I sent my sister a text saying, all's well so far. Bus leaves any moment from now. Keep me in your prayers. Her response was so quick, safe trip & I'm praying for you. I muted the phone lest it attract attention and someone think I was loaded with money. I was very anxious.
No sooner had I put away the phone, the bus driver shut the door and made the routine announcements. We were on our way.

I ended up falling asleep before mama, the old woman next to me. She was headed to villa [village] to see her newborn grandson. Her daughter had been married eight years with no issue [child] and mama's excitement and joy at God's favour & kindness overwhelmed me. I drifted in and out of sleep, noting when we had left the outskirts of Lagos, and sending my sister periodic updates. Looking out at the pitch blackness, I imagined all sorts of shapes and things in the bushes along the roadside. We passed a row of little huts and kiosks with burning lanterns. Their occupants were selling bread, drinks, and other snacks to hungry travelers. My thoughts dwelled on how brave they are to be out this late selling stuff. Or, maybe, how desperate they are to make some money to feed the family. Some of the women had little babies strapped to their backs in wrappers. A hard life. Miles down the road, something lurched in my spirit ... premonition? The driver and conductor whispered amongst themselves. Those at the front seats strained ears to eavesdrop. Over a few minutes, information filtered to the back of the bus. Suspicious activity was occurring further down the road. People began standing up and peering through the windows. I did too. There was a car on fire a long way ahead, in the center of the road. Something was amiss.

I sent a text, sis pls pray, something's up. She replied, stay calm and let me know what's up. The whispers were no longer whispers. Everyone was awake and on maximum alert. All the vehicles ahead of us started reversing, backing up for miles in the dark. Did I mention that the roads are strewn with pot holes and no street lights? At the point where we were, damage to our side of the road necessitated that we cross the median and form a two-way traffic on the other side of the highway. The reversing drivers opened their windows and were shouting, go back, go back, na armed robbers oh, go back, go back. Besides the burning car which was closer now, I couldn't see the "armed robbers". Our bus driver had seen and heard enough. In high speed, he backed up the bus in a perfect straight line (except for dodging the vehicles behind us and the potholes) for over five miles until we reached a turn we had passed moments earlier. He navigated the turn expertly and the bus lurched on. All this while, we who stood at the windows were waving to all cars behind us to go back, mouthing armed robbers as if they could see us let alone our moving frightened lips in the blackness of the hour. Our driver was awesome. He knew this new road and assured us that we'd be alright.

We entered Edo state, crossing its capital Benin-City, and continued on to Delta. Passing a huge clearing where, during the day an open market would be in session as well as other petty traders' businesses, we happened upon the longest line of vehicles I ever saw. A queue of cars trying to head to Delta state was at least a mile long. No other cars were coming in the opposite direction. My pulse picked up and I felt faint. What now? Another text, wahala [trouble] for Benin. Reply: I had to text mom and dad to pray. You'll be fine. That was the end of my "surprise" visit home. A text came in from mom, are you alright. Your sister just woke us up with her text. Your father and I are praying. I returned my attention to the scene on the road. A luxury bus, not one of ABCs vehicles but it belonged to one of the smaller companies that plied the Lagos-Aba route,
had met with ill-fate. ABC and Chisco were the giants in this business which meant they were more expensive and more secure. They always travelled with one or two military escorts on board. All this while, our two soldiers had relocated from the back of the bus to the front to monitor things with the driver and bus conductor. Their guns, rifles to be exact [I think], were clearly visible hanging over their backs and ready for action. My silent prayers intensified. All the horror stories I had heard in the past popped into my awareness. I was prepared for the worst. Apart from all the vehicles parked on and off this major roadway, tension was palpable yet I forced myself to feel the safety in numbers.

People got out of vehicles to exchange information and update the newcomers on the situation as they saw it. One man in our vehicle learned that a couple of miles ahead, a group of robbers had waylaid that unfortunate coach, forcing out the passengers at gun point after collecting watches, jewelery and all monies they had on them. The passengers fled into the nearby bushes and hid for hours, praying that the thieves would leave. The thieves proceeded to ransack all the bags in the cabin as well as those stowed underneath in the bus' hold. Over two hours later they were still at it. Our bus driver decided we must continue. He was fearless and said he would speed past the robbers who were now busy inside the other bus taking what they could. By the time they would notice us, they'd not care to pursue. We all screamed in fear and outrage. Driver, you are going nowhere. Are you crazy? It be like say something dey affect your brain today ... you wan make we all die
[its like your head's not on straight, you want to get us all killed]. He ignored us, revved up his engine and before he could shut his door we all started running off the bus. If he wanted to drive into the armed robbers' lair, then he'd go it alone. He was forced to turn off the engine again. A long while later, the sound of police sirens broke into the din. Several police cars raced past us into the thick of it. Delta police to the rescue ... or were they from the Edo state side? No matter, there was hope after all. More than forty minutes passed ... one brave soul started his car and took off. Then another. Then another. Soon we realized that traffic from the opposite direction had started to trickle through. More cars drove on. We clambered back unto our bus and the driver followed suit. As the bus passed, I peered out the windows at the aftermath. The robbers were now gone and I saw a sight that I will never forget. The bus had been shot at ... all tires were flat, no doubt to prevent any attempt to get away. A hefty elderly woman emerged from behind a bush. Her clothes were torn and dirty and she had mud and leaves in her hair. She was shaking with emotion; eyes teary and wide with fright. Clothes and suitcases littered the roadside. Other folks came forth to where the bus stood. Some searched for missing shoes for their feet and gathered items they identified as theirs ... in my heart I cried. It was now after six thirty and the sun was just beginning to rise over Delta state. It would be a glorious day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

You must read this.

Did you know that almonds are seeds and not nuts?

Have you heard that 1 castor bean can kill a man (while 4 can kill a horse)?

Anyway, they are on the list of top 10 poisonous foods we love.
I knew about mushrooms (toadstools), rhubarb & puffer fish,
but not the others ... elderberry, cherries, potatoes, tomatoes, apples.
Excellent information.
Have a quick glance when you get a minute, by clicking on the link above.

Red Handbag

A lovely red handbag sitting on the rack at Goodwill.
I wonder about its journey thus far. How did it get there?
Well, this is my version of the story.

Jolie and Pierre had it all. Or so it seemed. Pierre was the director of a huge cruise line that had been established by his grandfather many years ago. His family originated from Nice where he'd had a happy childhood. He later moved to Norway with his mother and stepfather when he was eleven. He was there to finish high school and college, after which he returned to France for the first time since his parents' divorce. His father had remarried and his new family lived in Lyon. Anyway, Pierre Sr. never forgot his son and granted him a part of the family business. It took about nine months for Pierre Jr. to fully understand the workings of the company and then he was ready for his first real position. At the university he had studied Hotel Management and was an excellent chef. He loved to work on the boats, in the kitchens whenever he could. Years later, having had to rise through the ranks like everyone else, he made it to director. This was a large business with many directors and he was one of the junior directors. Grandfather had retired few years back but remained on the board. His father headed the main office in Paris. Young Pierre now lived in Morocco after falling in love with the people on his first cruise to the Mediterranean. That's where he'd met Jolie. They had spent a perfect week together and then he'd gone home to Oslo and she to Senegal. They'd kept in touch faithfully via telephone and internet, and snail mail too. She'd visited him twice during the six months that followed. He'd also met up with her in Dakar that Christmas and that's when they'd discussed marriage. It was obvious that Pierre was not your conventional type of guy but she loved him and wanted to be married to him.

Jolie was the last daughter of a wealthy farmer. Her six older siblings were established in their marital homes and careers all over Africa. Only one lived in Dakar; the others were scattered in Cote D'Ivoire, Guinee and Mozambique. She'd excelled in her graduate studies and her father's best friend, who happened to be her godfather, bought her a week-long cruise to the Mediterranean. It was the best time of her life and on top of that she'd met Pierre. Their's was a rocky marriage from the start. No church wedding. No honeymoon. No romance. But she loved him so much ... if only he knew. Well, God knew and that's all that mattered to her. He, God, was always there for her. She was prepared to suffer for love. Many people married for compatibility and made common sense decisions. In the past, she'd almost done that too - marry someone who was good and right for her - but then figured she'd wait and marry for love. Now that she had, a colleague asked her recently whether he should marry for love or for common sense. In an impulsive moment of truth, she blurted out: always think with your head and never your heart!

It was February 14th and Pierre had surprised her with a weekend trip to Paris. He'd bought her a gorgeous red leather handbag from an uptown boutique; it had cost a fortune. The bag was lovely. They had a great time and pleasant memories of ... the villa, the restaurants, the pier, the awesome elderly Italian couple they'd met and so much else. A month later, Jolie and Pierre had had a huge row and Jolie was fed up. She had left her home, her job, and her life to join Pierre. She wanted to be with him. He promised to take care of her and she believed him. She thought he loved her. Early on she was sure he did. Now she was not sure. No church wedding. No honeymoon. No romance. She had her doubts. While waiting to get a job, she tried to be the dutiful wife. All her efforts were in vain because Pierre always found fault in what she said, or thought or did. He had promised to give her a regular allowance to take care of her needs, and she had believed that too. Her friends had always called her gullible. For the first time, she agreed with them that she was. When she went anywhere with friends, she knew she stuck out and they knew something was wrong but Jolie wasn't talking. They could get nothing out of her except I'm fine; No, I don't need anything. I don't have any money on me. You all go ahead and buy- I'll get my stuff some other time. Well, after the row he still refused to live up to his promises. He had his own worldview on life and tried to be a dutiful husband in his own way, she supposed, but that did not change her reality. She packed a box of her most treasured or expensive possessions and sent it to Maurice who needed items for a thrift store. She wasn't looking for compensation because her daddy would always look after her. Only the other day, he'd asked if she needed some money for groceries and bills. Pride had made her decline and she'd said she would be alright.

Last night as she lay awake on the bed, Pierre snoring gently by her side, she remembered the red bag. It was amongst the items she'd given Maurice. Suddenly memories of the weekend in Paris flooded her consciousness. Slowly she began to cry. Her heart ached and the tears gushed forth as if a damn had been broken. She couldn't stop herself and tasted the salted tears on her lips. She cried for her life; for who she had been; for her dreams and her future; she cried for Pierre who was in his own unconventional world. She cried as she thought of everyone who had advised her and prayed with her before she made the commitment. She cried because she had believed God. An hour later her breathing became even and the gnawing in her heart became a dull ache. Her eyes grew dry and she crawled out of bed. She went to the living room and knelt down in prayer. Her knees had barely touched the floor when the phone rang. She rushed to answer it lest it wake Pierre. It was his mother. She heard the surprise in Jolie's voice and apologised for calling so late. I'll be in Morocco Thursday night and would like to spend time with you. I'd like to tell you a bit about Pierre's childhood, and to return the red handbag- I knew it was yours the moment I saw it on a rack at Goodwill.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hello Readers,
I hope you are all having a pleasant weekend so far. Here, the weather is glorious and today's high is 84 F. Pretty soon it might get unbearably hot because the nights are extremely warm already. I spent time in my garden with a wide-rimmed straw hat. There are so many mosquitoes and gnats in this part of the country. Gosh, so many that it triggers long-forgotten memories of the African Anopheles mosquito. Its sting sends one to bed with a high fever and chills. The last time I checked, at least a million people die from malaria every year. Thank God the Georgian mosquitoes are disease free. However, they leave their marks in the way of huge red and terribly itchy swellings of the skin. Many a night I have been up as a result of the itching. Anyway, this is a minor irritation and I was reminded earlier of Ecclesiastes' piece on time. A time to be born and a time to die ... I remember hearing or reading about the deaths of ...

Bernie Mac on August 9, 2008 at the age of 50. A well-known actor/comedian from Chicago's south side, he was said to have sarcoidosis and died from pneumonia complications.
Natasha Richardson on March 18, 2009 at the age of 45. A British actress (married to Liam Neeson), she died from an epidural hematoma following a ski accident.
Bea Arthur on April 25, 2009 at 86. One of the Golden Girls, she was a well-known witty actress from New York and passed away from cancer.
I feel saddened in spite of the fact that I knew not these people in real life. I connected to them only through the media. I feel the same way that I did years ago upon hearing of the deaths of Princess Diana and King Hussein of Jordan. People whom I perceived to be good people in their own worlds which were worlds away from mine. Life goes on ... it always does. May God comfort all grieving families because the pain or shock of loss never really goes away.

You all have a blessed evening and do remember to be thankful for your life and all that you've got (even if it doesn't seem like much right now).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dear Readers,
Please, this is a must read. Consider the questions for yourself before reading the articles.
Where does one draw the line between sense and nonsense? For believers in the bible, we know that God gave us a sound mind and reminds us to ask Him for wisdom when we need it. All these cases require one to investigate the soundness of mind of all involved. In addition, all should be mandated to pray for wisdom before petitioning for such. I have lots to say on the matter ... lol! Anyway, life shall never cease to amaze me.

Can plants be humiliated?

Should a doctor be prosecuted for refusing to participate in assisted suicide [in states where assisted suicide is legal]?

Petition to legally declare an ape as a person... a dangerous precedent or not?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


God's Beautiful Dwelling Place

The great thing about images of all types is the silence. Stillness. No need of words. Each image initiates different images in the minds of the different observers. Even in the same individual, one picture can draw out a myriad of varied thoughts and feelings. Photography can be an extremely emotional experience. It heals & relaxes. Revives & inspires. It allows me to feel the pulse of nature. The rhythm of the earth. To be almost in sync with creation and indirectly with the creator.

Being Still

How Things Grow

Touched By Colour


For now I just take photos, sample them and post on this blog. All your comments continue to be helpful. My future plan is to organize the pictures into themes and set them up as separate mini-collections. For example, my first experience is "Green" and I'll show it here. Like Brosreview articulated, I enjoy capturing animal life. It intrigues me. Their silence and the silent communication is palpable and intimate. I also appreciate nature's scenery and take lots of shots of trees, the sky, the sun and the moon. I find it peaceful and relaxing watching the clouds glide by or the sun disappearing for the night; waiting for the moon to show herself and the stars to sparkle as they fill the sky.

What do you think of these? The title is GREEN. Looking at trees I often meditate deeply about the million different shades of green that exist in nature. Then I consider all sorts of green. The color green; man-made mixtures versus nature's repertoire. Greens that we eat- vegetables. Going green- saving the planet; mother earth. Greener Bangalore's In Search of a Greener Tomorrow- his site is great. I also am fascinated by litter. How do people have the heart to toss a tin can or piece of paper unto the grass and leave it there? I came across various items thrown away or dropped by accident and never picked up. . .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hi all,
I haven't found my tortoise friend again yet, but I am hopeful that our paths shall cross again. Today I caught two turtles unawares; both were bigger than my tortoise friend and had paler shells that made for a great camouflage. This caused me to nearly miss them as they blended so well into the muddy banks of a drainage stream. I managed to see one through my lens before the both disappeared into the murky water- their habitat. They moved pretty fast considering the stereotype [as slow as a turtle; turtle speed].

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Never Knew ...

I don't think I ever heard of the word "ellipsis" [eclipse yes, even elliptical, but not ellipsis] and certainly never wondered if the 'three dots' had a name. I just use it in every other sentence in lieu of et cetera, wrongly so. I never knew 'the slash' had a proper name either - solidus. Solar system; solitaire; but solidus? How many times have I used miles/hour and worked on mathematical fractions over the years. Still I never heard the word solidus before. Truly, learning is lifelong.


Ellipses, which are never more than three points (...), indicate an omission in the text. Should an ellipsis fall at the end of a sentence there is no final full stop.

It can also be used to replace a line, sentence or paragraph of the text.

When placed at the beginning of the text, it is followed by a normal space.

When replacing one or more words in the middle of a sentence, it is preceded and followed by a normal space.

Continental practice also uses the ellipsis in the same way as the word ‘etc.’ is used in English. Avoid this -Lol.


The solidus, also known variously as an oblique stroke, a slash or a shilling stroke, is used for alternatives (and/or), to mean ‘per’ (km/day) and fractions (19/100). "

Friday, April 17, 2009

My World Through My Lens

Humble beginnings in the realm of images and pixels.
Basic yet I must start somewhere. In time I shall be able to create;
and display the pictures I see in my world in a more artistic manner.
But for now, the basics in Lilly's photography journey.
A journey through which she can explore her world and see it through the objective
lens of a camera. Exciting because I know I will see more than meets my eyes and learn more that will enhance my rudimentary artistic side and my life altogether. For instance, today I took a photo of a couple of rails on a train track. Looking at the picture later, I notice a broken green bottle between the rails. Wow! I say wow because, how come I didn't see the bottle when I was taking the shot? Was I too preoccupied with thoughts of a train happening upon me suddenly? On this infrequently used track, knowing that the train sounds a long loud warning horn... I never saw the bottle. I look forward to discovering great things during future walks/jogs/photo trails.

The Rainbow In The Garden

Dear Readers,
This is what I tried to describe in yesterday's post... my rainbow- the rainbow I saw in the water as I held a garden hose in my hand and watered the plants. Its funny that the image doesn't show the spray of water gushing forth in the afternoon sun. Its kinda kool! Anyway, I've started using my camera and hope to improve on my amateur photography skills. If anyone has any helpful tips for novices, feel free to comment. Your comments are always appreciated. Thanks.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tired, oh so tired.
Weary with eyes heavy and head aching.
Limbs lightweight and mind unfocused.
A drawn out yawn.
Another yawn followed by another...
I give up trying to concentrate as a third yawn causes neck muscles to tighten. Now a proper headache. Yawns become continuous and eyes water. I must get off to bed but lack the energy to move. I linger to catch the end of the news. CNN. It will be repeated over the coming days. News stories always are. So why do I fight the onset of sleep?Blissful sleep. Many insomniacs would give anything to be able to sleep. Am I ungrateful? Do I take sleep for granted? Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest for your soul. Oh yes, rest I need. Sweet peaceful rest. I remain listening to the news, but I do not hear it. Background noise. I am wasting my time. Time for bed, I must go. I bid you fare well and a pleasant night's sleep. Good night.

A Rainbow In My Garden

Dear Readers,
I had a unique experience this morning and thought to share it with you. I've had a good day so far. I woke early and refreshed and hungry. My husband took me out for breakfast which is always a nice treat for me. Earlier I had watched Joyce Meyer on television. I like listening to her because I learn a lot, and receive lots of encouragement to press on in this journey called life... No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made - Philippians 3v13-16. These words have greatly uplifted my spirits even as I write.

Later - it was such a warm day - I went to tend my garden. I transplanted some onions, did some mulching and watered the entire garden. As I held the green end of the long garden hose in my hand, a sudden brilliant gleam caught my eye. I stared until it came into clearer focus and noticed two parallel arches of colour in the stream of water. They were the the colours of the rainbow. They were two small rainbows; absolutely glorious! How awesome is that. How awesome is God. The rainbows reminded me of a song we used to sing in school... "red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue; I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too " Wow, I hadn't recalled that song in decades. Truly the rainbows were lovely, and they stayed with me until I finished watering the plants. I am reminded that beauty is everywhere. God's presence is everywhere.

A while later I decided to go ahead and clear another patch of ground as an extension for the young corn plants still in peat pots, but then I might consider it for the tomatoes. The rake got dislocated so I made do with the prungs of another old broken rake. I had just shoved a heap of leaves unto the pile when I let out a squeal. I ran across the yard, through the gate and out to the front of the house to call my husband who had been working on a boat trailer. Curious, he came to investigate what I'd seen. I'd seen the remains of what he calls a critter. It was the skeleton of an unfortunate squirrel (the only rodent I seem to like). Sad. No wonder I had perceived an awful rank smell the other day while I was working in that part of the yard.

Some days ago I was out running a familiar route when I passed something gleaming. I impulsively ran back to check it out. Guess what? I let out an exclamation of excitement. It was a tortoise. I was amazed. Its shell was at least ten inches long and its colour that of autumn hues. Of course I neither had my camera or my phone which has a camera feature. I was sorely disappointed. I wanted to pick it up and take it home but was unsure. If I'd had a bag I might have done it. At the same time I hesitated because I didn't know if it might be illegal and I sure didn't want any PETA women descending on me. I was torn. Should I take it and run or not? It just sat there. They are so slow that, had I run home to get a camera or a bag, I might have found it still there when I returned. Hmmm, I finally left it and ran on. Ever since I scout the woods each time I pass that way, hoping to find my tortoise friend. One day, perhaps our paths shall cross again. In NJ I had a similar experience when I stumbled upon wild rabbits along my jogging route at Branch Brook Park. I remain in awe of God's creation. He is awesome indeed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Snapshots Along Memory Lane

My sister [CathM] tagged me and its a challenge... 15 Influences. Name things that have impacted my life for better or worse. Everything seems to have affected me in some way & I believe nothing is mere accident or coincidence. Things happen for a reason whether we ever discover the reason or not. I digress... here is my list [with the lessons learned] in no particular order.

  1. My family. How I love my family. My parents and three siblings were the earliest and strongest influences on my life. Mine was a strict family, organized and no nonsense, with the best of intentions but not always the best of approaches to realize those intentions. My sister is a year older so I've never known life without her. My younger brother, by four years, has always been close to me even though we are very different in many ways. Then there's my baby brother, only ten years old, who has touched my life in amazing ways. How I love my family. THEY SHOWED ME THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION & HARD WORK, AND TO BE GENEROUS & GOOD TO PEOPLE.
  2. Boarding school. Mixed feelings. I first left home at 10 to attend a U.K. boarding school. First we were in Shropshire (my sister and I), then moved to Kent. Boarding school life added to what I got from home, strict discipline and no nonsense behaviour. I became mature & independent that young. My tender impressionable mind absorbed everything I was told (no room to question any of it) with dire consequences later in life. I've learned much how not to raise a child. Mixed feelings. IT TAUGHT ME INDEPENDENCE, ETIQUETTE & TO BE ARTICULATE.
  3. God. Ever present. I guess He was always there but my acknowledgment of His role in my life never surfaced to conscious levels. My family went to church every Sunday. In primary school I attended (Bible) Story Club every Monday and took Religious Knowledge as a subject. Boarding school mandated Religious Studies too and weekly Sunday Service. Then I survived college without ever entering a church... except the time Gina told me to go see a dead body laid for viewing at the chapel. It was when I transferred to Nigeria after second year of medical school that I began to contemplate God as a part of my life. I would live in Nigeria for the next 9 years- one of the most trying chapters of my life. Another most challenging time of my life is now... it began the first time I ever heard of a place called Hinesville. Ever present. HE SHOWS ME THAT I NEED SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN; TO KEEP ME GROUNDED.
  4. The 1980s. I'll forever love the '80s music.Those were my high school years (boarding school), a formative period in my development. The culture then, fashion, art, history, music, etc was all soaked in and has remained with me ever since. Oh sweet nostalgia as the memories come trickling out. I'll forever love the '80s music. I LEARNED THAT LIFE SHOULD BE FUN & MUSIC IS A WELCOME ESCAPE OR RETREAT.
  5. Water. The amazing energy of a turbulent sea. Growing up in Israel I have fond childhood memories of trips to Nahariya, Eilat, Lake Tiberias... walks along the shore, wading in the water, boat rides, fishing with family friends. I first learned to swim in Oswestry, England and remember swimming practices at the leisure center. Then it was a chore & not really something I enjoyed. In Kent the school had its own pool and my best friend, Helen, was drawn to water like fish; so I grew to love being in the water even if I still couldn't master the front crawl. I've experienced the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, the Atlantic Ocean while at Ghana's La Palm Hotel, the Caribbean Sea... Med school in Grenada was memorable. I went to lectures with my bathing suit under my clothes & as soon as we let out I was headed straight for the water. The lovely secluded beaches. One day a friend and I joined some fishermen out to sea. In the middle of the sea I climbed out of the boat to feel the power of the sea... a lone head bobbing on the water. In Cyprus I once stayed at a waterfront hotel. I stood on the balcony watching ferocious waves lash upon the beach while the storm raged all night. The amazing energy of a turbulent sea. LIFE IS UNDULATING- PEAKS WITH ENERGIES THAT REVIVE & NADIRS THAT CALMLY SOBER.
  6. Media. I don't know whether their good outweigh their bad. I was never skinny but I don't think I was fat as a child. At least not fat enough to be teased, not fat enough for my parents to be concerned and not fat enough to even worry about it. But I did worry. Obsessing about my weight began in high school, all thanks to fashion magazines like Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Elle; and television and music celebrities that reminded me that thin was in. After decades of tears and weight loss tactics, I have become less obsessed. Now the same media tells me to love myself as I am and focus on staying healthy while enjoying the simple pleasures of life... for me this includes the occasional chocolate-covered pretzel or peanut butter wafers. I don't know whether their good outweigh their bad. LEARN FROM BOTH GOOD & BAD- APPLY THE GOOD & AVOID THE BAD.
  7. Queen Latifah. She's great. She's not much older than me but subconsciously has helped to inspire me. I find her beautiful both inside and out. She radiates self confidence and inner strength. She is well spoken and accomplished too. She's great. BE YOUR BEST BECAUSE YOU MIGHT BE A ROLE MODEL FOR SOMEONE WITHOUT KNOWING.
  8. Janet Jackson. There's a gentleness to her that is becoming. A friend in high school adored her. Although I've never desired fame or been overtly inclined towards the arts per se, witnessing her life through the eyes of the media has taught me that everyone has struggles of some sort. However, when you stumble you don't have to fall. You can get back up and keep on going until you get to where you want to be. There's a gentleness to her that is becoming. BELIEVE IN YOUR DESTINY FOR YOU SHALL GET THERE.
  9. Kindness. A gift to give and receive. I saw my parents as generous and kind. I saw our family friends and other friends in our U.N. community in Israel the same way. Naively I thought all people were good. Somewhere, somehow, this translated my desire to be kind and help people into a desire to become a doctor. For the most part I was always treated with kindness and when I wasn't, I often perceived a good intention behind the act anyway. A gift to give and receive. BE KIND REGARDLESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
  10. Principle. An addiction. My father is a man of enviable principle. I grew up knowing that to be principled is a good quality. Yet our family was extreme. I became driven by, and mastered, principle, logic and common sense. If something doesn't make sense then I might get disoriented and vexed until it makes sense. Maybe that's why I excelled in Math, because I was born to figure things out? Now I see it as a weakness... an addiction according to Joyce Meyer, and I'm working hard to let it go. Things won't always make sense and having what the Americans call a melt down (I laugh anytime I hear this phrase; like a snowman by a fireplace or a popsicle in an oven) will never solve a problem. An addiction. ITS GOOD TO UNDERSTAND THINGS BUT DON'T LEAVE THE BIG PICTURE TO FOCUS ON THE TINY PIXELS.
  11. Physical Activity. Good health goes a long way. My father is a believer in exercise and used to play football [i.e. soccer]. He loved to walk and this is what got me into physical exercise. I ran many races in Elementary school and got into Athletics in Secondary school. I played sports because I enjoyed them, not because I was good... but I did win the 100meter sprints many a time. Over the years I've engaged in tennis, badminton, squash, ping pong, volleyball, netball, field hockey, rounders, swimming, and was on the crew team in college... but nowadays I mainly run/jog/walk and hit the gym & join group aerobics whenever I get a chance. Thanks to God, I've been a pretty healthy person. You can't buy good health. Good health goes a long way. DO YOUR PART TO BE HEALTHY & MAKE HEALTH A PRIORITY.
  12. My Husband. God's grace is sufficient. A recent addition to my life, my husband obviously had no influence in my life before now. However, in the last nine months he has affected me greatly and I wonder to what extent he shall continue to influence me in future? Will he ever be a strong influence in my life? It seems that sometimes we allow ourselves to be influenced while other times we just get influenced and its beyond our control. Hmmm... we've got to actively resist negative influence as we graciously accept the positive. God's grace is sufficient. DO RIGHT BECAUSE YOUR BEHAVIOUR INFLUENCES THOSE AROUND YOU.
  13. Culture. The Power of Culture. I was born in Congo (the People's Republic of) and believe that this Francophone culture has some yet unrealized influence on me. However, my family is Nigerian and their culture certainly runs through my veins. I grew up in the Middle East and was blessed by the Israeli and Arab ways of life... these cultures similarly have a definite thread running through every aspect of who I am. My years in the U.K. transformed me tremendously and college in the U.S. and Med school in Grenada further shaped and molded the clay that is me. Moving to Nigeria for 9 years and then working in Liberia added to who I became. Back in America since 2006 I am still growing as a result of the exciting and amazing influence of culture. The Power of Culture. LOVE ALL PEOPLES & EMBRACE ALL CULTURES.
  14. Dreams. Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true - Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens. I was an avid daydreamer. It was my favourite pasttime and I loved having nothing else to do because it afforded me time to slip into my dreamworld for a moment. I daydreamed so much that I thought it highly abnormal. I created so many stories in my head, led different lives, perfected plans to change the world and make it a better place; thought up ways to make others happy, planned a happy future; My dreams were never like goals or ambitions, just fantasies. Nevertheless I believe that dreams have a positive correlation with drive to succeed. Just like I blogged a piece on doodling, I might post something on dreams... both real dreams & daydreams. Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true - Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens. DREAMS CAN PREPARE YOU OR PROPEL YOU TO YOUR DESTINY.
  15. Experiences. The best teacher. Like I said ab initio, everything in life seems to have affected me in some manner, whether positively or negatively. The night a man broke into my apartment- a year later I still see his face. The night a mini-bus almost ran me over as I crossed a busy street. The night I walked home from a late shift at the hospital- so dark, no street lights, no cars about, and a torrential downpour typical of West African rainy season. The time I was caught in a violent wave on the sea that threw me unto the beach sparing me a violent end. The night I got a phonecall that my family had been invaded by armed robbers. The time I got the message that mom had been in an accident [she's still recovering]. Working at a mission hospital. Volunteering with UNV. Going to a food shelter. Meeting victims of child trafficking. Seeing seven dead bodies by the side of a road. Speaking with an uncle [family friend] before he died. Watching my grandmother die. The day I helped deliver my good friend's baby [they made sure I was on call]. The boy in the ward with Ameloblastoma- jaw tumor. While all that has happened to me has been significant, things that have affected others have also sometimes happened to me... lessons learned. The best teacher. USE YOUR EXPERIENCES & THOSE OF OTHERS TO BECOME A BETTER PERSON.
Alas, I've hit 15 influences so let me stop here lest I go on and on. It started as a challenge & turned out to be cathartic, therapeutic and liberating. Thanks my sister for tagging me. And thanks Linda S [whose page I shall visit again] for neither of you would have known that I needed this healing exercise when you got the "tag" ball rolling and sent it my way. Thanks readers for reading and I invite you all to try this Tag: 15 Influences.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dear Readers,

How motivated are you?

Did you know your genes play a role in determining your motivational state and triggers?

Well, I came across an interesting piece and thought to share it with you all. It is worth thinking about. So take a moment to find out what gets you motivated by clicking here. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to weather the storms of life! I'm on a quest for self discovery, spiritual growth and personal improvement... maybe this has something to do with my middle name - Ijeoma. It is an Igbo name (a Nigerian language) and means "Safe Journey". I always believed it means a safe journey through life! Well, I wish you all a safe journey too. Ijeoma!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

DRIVE CAREFULLY can never be overstated or overrated!

Although seemingly funny, these are serious.

The driver insisted on going to work in that weather...

With all due respect, I hope she retook the entire test...

Hmmm, almost got away...

Real lucky officer...

Years ago at work, I saw a ghastly photograph of a car accident; the young driver was completely gutted. He was found outside the car (thrown out I guess) while the intestines lay on the steering wheel inside the vehicle. Please always DRIVE CAREFULLY!
A Funny Thing

These past few weeks have had me overwhelmed (lots on my plate) and consequently a bit absent-minded. One day I read a sign that said ROC DR. ILL. For some reason something seemed amiss and I read it and re-read it many times. Dr. Ill? In a flash the traffic lights changed and our car took off. One last hurried look at the sign and I began to chuckle. It is amazing how sometimes we see what we want to see rather than what is actually before us! You'll not believe what the sign really said... it said ROC DRILL! Why on earth did my mind separate the word drill into dr ill. Does my being a doctor have anything to do with it... probably not. Just a tired ol' mind. Have a great weekend.