It's been a while. I've been working, travelling, juggling motherhood with everything else on my plate, so it does happen that updating my blog takes a back seat sometimes. But I do miss having a journal, and I want to reignite that small but important aspect of my life. Actually, what I really miss, is writing in a diary, with a pen and having hours of time to myself to just scribble down my thoughts uninterrupted. But in this stage of life I'm in, time is such a luxury, so I'll have to make do with blogging once in a while. Hmmm.
I travelled to Nigeria in March and returned to the UK in August with my family. We were based in Port Harcourt for the four months, with a couple of trips to Lagos. I have to say that it was one very weird and eye-opening experience for many reasons. We are considering moving back sometime in the future, so this was a trip to "test the waters" and see what it would be like. But by the end of the trip, I returned to London with very mixed feelings.
Some aspects of the trip were funny. I experienced culture shock, as usual, even though I still went back to visit in 2012. Upon arriving, the simplest things struck me as different. Seeing people carrying lots of cash around to pay for goods. Seeing people immediately count any amount of cash you give to them. Seeing Nigerians everywhere I looked (living in multicultural London, you see such a variety of nationalities). Seeing the huge and very obvious gap between the rich and poor. And so on. But for my three year-old, it was very amusing to watch her adjusting to a very different life from what she knew. For example, the fist time the electricity went off, she came to me and started apologising. She thought I had turned off the TV because I was upset with her. I laughed and laughed and after trying to explain that "sometimes the light goes off in Nigeria", seeing her confused face just made me laugh some more. She saw a cockroach for the first time and asked me, "What animal is this?", more laughter. We took a walk down the street and saw some muddy gutters and she said "Mummy, look! There are puddles in the road." Oh dear.
Now, actually living in Nigeria was unsettling. I think, in the past when I went back for visits, I didn't fully immerse myself in the day-to-day things that people did, so that didn't affect me. Or maybe because I was usually only staying a few weeks, so it was just a case of "I'll be out of here soon" so I tended to overlook a lot of things. But after a while, certain things about Nigerian society become obvious. The police. Where do I start from? The terrible customer service. Again, legendary. The roads, the lack of constant electricity, and the simplest things that I used to take for granted. The government? Who? Sigh. The religious fanaticism that is simple unbelievable. The level of dishonesty. The terrible work ethic. Then, the culture. The culture! At some point, I began to wonder if I had really grown up in Nigeria. Or if I had changed so much, that Nigeria was now a foreign place to me. I actually started doing research, asking people lots of questions, and taking notes so that I could understand my own people again. In fact, I started watching Nollywood films everyday, because I wanted to know (or remember again) what was normal and acceptable in Nigerian society. And what I found was (mostly) not pretty. In fact, a lot of things were downright disturbing. For one, the immense pressure on Nigerian females to suppress themselves and fit into a mould of cultural expectations was quite alarming. I didn't understand it for a long time, why some of the ladies based in Nigeria that I interact with online had some weird ideas about relationships, marriage, sexuality, ambitions, etc. But after returning to Nigeria, I started to understand. Then, realising how much misogyny and patriarchy is so deeply rooted in normal day to day life, made me bristle. I wondered, how do women put up with this? How do they cope? How do they not question these things?
Case in point: I was watching a Yoruba Nollywood movie with my niece. One of the characters mentioned a proverb, "Omo to da, ti baba e ni, omo ti o da, ti iya re ni" which translates to "A good child belongs to the father, but a bad child belongs to the mother." Immediately I heard it, I was like "Why? WHY does the father get credit for a good child, and why does the mother get blame for a bad child? Aren't they jointly responsible for the upbringing of their children? Why doesn't the mother get any credit if the child turns out good? Or am I missing something here?" My niece tried to explain the proverb by saying that it means a woman has to do everything she can to make sure her child is not bad. But then, I argue, so what is the father doing? If a child is becoming bad, does he sit and fold his arms? That led to a long argument and discussion, and in the end, I realised that women in Nigeria have a very long way to go.
I could rant so much about so many other examples that I came across, but I wonder if it would make any difference. Maybe a little. Anyway I read an article on Sabi News by Joy Bewaji (click here to read) that sums up a lot of what I saw. The article is witty and funny but also very very sad. A year ago, I would have been naive enough to believe that she was exaggerating, but now I know better.
Well, the upside of going to Nigeria is that there is plenty of inspiration for crazy flash fiction stories (lol). Stuff that would strike people as unbelievable happen every day in Nigeria. You don't have to look far to see, hear or experience drama. So hopefully, when I need inspiration, I can dig into my Nigerian experience and come up with something. I'm hoping to publish another collection of flash fiction stories before the end of the year. Fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I've been busy working on Accomplish Press. We've completely redesigned the website and updated our publishing focus and services for writers. If you're interested in taking your ideas from inside your head to books reaching your audience, then check us out @ Accomplish Press. We can help make your publishing dreams come true. We're also co-hosting an event for writers in London in November, and I'll be sharing more details about that soon.
If you're still reading this blog post, thanks for staying with me. I appreciate it and I hope you'll leave a comment. Or two. Or come back again. Cheers and have a great weekend!