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Reflections of an African Woman


I was born in Nigeria, West Africa with the moon smiling at me. In fact, it was said by my granny that the man sitting inside the moon had a wide grin on his face as he looked down at me taking my first gulps of air and shrieking with zeal. He then placed series of gifts in my palms and I clutched them tenaciously. Those gifts must have become obvious in my life as years went by because everyone said I was kind, humble, gentle, intelligent, and beautiful.

As I grew up, I saw my destiny unfold: I went to the best schools, I made the best grades, and won prizes at school. In spite of my successes, I was as gentle as a lamb and very humble. I hardly argued with anyone at home or outside home. When I was not reading, I was sitting beside my mother, peeling unripe plantain for drying or husking egwusi – a local melon seed. Not that I liked egwusi soup, but then I didn’t like any type of food particularly.
        
    “I don’t know what to do to make her eat,” I remember my mother complaining to my aunt who was visiting from Imo state.

“Nne, come and tell Nne Nne what you want to eat,” my aunt said, drawing me close.

Placing my head on her shoulder, I replied, “I’m not hungry.” And that was the end of the matter as far as my stomach was concerned.

My mum knew that she could never tempt me to eat whenever I voiced that chorus. “You see, that’s why she’s so skinny. I can never get her to eat,” she said resignedly in Igbo.

“Don’t worry yourself. Children are all different. Whatever little she eats must be enough for her. You can see how healthy she looks.”

 I can remember my mum voicing her belaboured concern over my eating habit to friends and relatives at various times. I guess her worry was superficial. It was the natural worry of a mother; within her, I believe she knew I was okay.

My mother told me I was my father’s favourite.

“When you were born, your father bought me a new set of wrappers, blouses, head-gear and shoes - something he never did when I gave birth to your brothers and sisters,” said my mother with an endearing smile on her face. She continues, “Also, your father chose to name you after his mother, Zhara, whom he loved very much.” I was proud to be named after my grandmother who I am told was a courageous woman.

            Having been born just before mid-1960, I still remember the Nigerian Civil War vaguely. I remember being taken along with my siblings to my maternal grandmother’s hometown Arondizuogu in Imo State while my parents remained in Port Harcourt.

            I can still recall the times we saw airplanes flying over the village and everyone would run for shelter in the bushes around the Imo River. My maternal aunts who lived at Ikpatu and Okigwe occasionally came on short visits because it was unsafe to go far from home then. During those times, some white men and women came from time to time with assorted provisions ranging from milk, beverages, rice, biscuits to clothing. We lined up outside the CMS Church to collect our rations. Sometimes these things were dropped from the sky like manna from heaven.
         
 When the war was over, we were reunited with the rest of our family. I vividly remember that afternoon my father came from Port Harcourt and we were told we were going back home to Port Harcourt.

            It was in the year 1970 that I started primary one at the age of six. My elder sister and her friends treated me like a nuisance so I kept away from them. She only remembered to look for me when we were nearing home because she did not want our mother to scold her.

            Looking back now, I guess I was a tall featherweight and believe many smaller girls of the same age could easily lift me off my feet buy I never found out though. I generally avoided fighting with my mates no matter how much they goaded me. Whenever anyone threatened to “wait” for me after school, I would run to my brother’s class immediately the closing bell was rang and stick to him like glue and no one dared lay a finger on me.

**********


At home in Port Harcourt we attended church regularly. What I enjoyed at the church was the choir. They sang like angels. When they sang you thought of heaven. Other than that, I hardly followed the service.

“The sermon was just great,” my dad said keeping his eyes on the road as he maneuvered our Peugeot car out of the tight parking lot beside the church.

“Yes, it really challenged me to service,” my mum agreed.

“The pastor tells many stories. Are they all true?” my elder brother, Ikenna, asked.

“Of course yes. He wouldn’t tell lies on the pulpit,” my dad said giving him a disproving look.

“But they say some pastors exaggerate when preaching,” my eldest sister who was on holiday from boarding school said.

“You don’t have to listen to such remarks by people who dislike and castigate and disparage anything to do with God,” my mum said matter-of-factly.

We knew we were Christians. My brother went along to church grudgingly. My sisters sometimes appeared aloof. I for one felt an affinity with my creator and so was happy to seek Him.

I remember once when it was Lenten season and I was fasting along with my parents. My brother said he was not feeling well and was in no condition to fast. As I sat in the living room reading Janette Oke’s novel, Love’s Enduring Promise, Ikenna came to sit across from me with a tray bearing steaming plates of semovita and Egusi soup. The appetizing smell filled the room. I could smell the stock fish which had blended with the rest of the soup condiments. I didn’t like egwusi soup but I was hungry. You know how most food smell delicious when you’re hungry? I began to salivate and managed to force my eyes back to the printed letters.

“You want some chicken?” he asked, showing me a big drum.

“No, thanks.”

“Are you sure? What of fish? You know how tasty stingray is,” he said exhibiting a tempting chunk of fish.

I knew he was up to no good and wanted to say, ‘Get thee behind me Satan’ and ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’; but I controlled myself and instead asked nicely, “Shouldn’t you be eating in the dining area and on the dining table?”

Smiling mischievously, he said, “I prefer it here.”

“As you like,” I said and lay back on the couch turning away from him.

Luckily, he let me be.

My elder brother and I were one of a kind as my mum would say. We could predict and correctly interpret each other’s emotions and actions. Mum said that right from the day I was born and my brother set eyes on me, he loved me. Probably because I weighed less than three kilograms at birth and looked vulnerable so he felt protective of me.

My childhood was so smooth you would think nothing could go wrong. I had loving parents and siblings and our home was run as smoothly as oiled wheels. I was a happy kid and so were my siblings. I believed that one day I would meet my prince charming and we would live happily ever after with our children too.

But life at home did not prepare me for the stark realities of the outside world.


To be continued

A new season




It's been a few months since I last checked in. In that time, I have been completely focused on my teaching career. I started teaching at a different university and getting settled in took some time. In addition to adapting to the new environment, I was teaching three academic writing courses. Although I enjoy teaching writing and grading essays, these activities took up most of my time. With two of my classes examined and graded, I have some free time now.

Indeed, it has been a new season for me in several ways: meeting new students, new colleagues, teaching new courses, and learning new things along the way. As I write, I can picture my students smiling faces and I consider it such a privilege to be their professor.

Talking about seasons, "it is that wonderful time of the year". That song is playing in my head right now:) Christmas is in the air and it puts me in a festive mood. Wishing you all love, peace, and happiness.

Ciao :)

FAB

CHANGE IS ....


Change is constant. We see change in our environment, society, government, education, and individual lives. We experience change in our circumstances and know that it is a part of life. Change occurs in our finances, career, emotions, looks, health, lifestyle, relationships, and many other areas of life. 

Our reactions to change can range from excitement to trepidation. Change is exciting, scary, and many other things to many people. There are positive changes and there are negative changes. There are changes imposed by self and there are changes imposed by others and things. Either way, change is largely intimidating.

How then do we cope with change?

1.    Accept that change is a part of human existence
2.    Acknowledge your feelings about the change
3.    Have a positive attitude towards change and get rid of bitterness, anger
4.    Look for the light in the tunnel
5.    Know when to seek help from others
6.    Clarify the steps you need to follow to deal with the change
7.    Be diligent and disciplined enough to follow through
8.    Lift yourself up when you fall, and keep going
9.    Live a life of gratitude. There’s always something to be thankful for
10.  Give back. Think of ways the change can help you help others.

Be patient. Things will work out. Your best is yet to come!

Can you think of additional ways we can remove fear from and cope with change? Share with us!





Photo Credits: Arnould de Potesta de Tornaco photography. free theme for Windows. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-ca/windows/changing-seasons-download-theme

Hello Spring


It is always exciting to spring forward with daylight saving time which means more daylight, heralding the arrival of spring. Although spring 2015 officially begins tomorrow, the cherry blossoms and other early spring blooms make this time of year absolutely gorgeous. What are the things in your local environment in this global community that you are appreciative of?  


The first quarter of 2015 is gradually coming to a close. Are you living up to your New Year resolutions? Are you steadily working towards those SMART goals of yours? Every little step forward counts.

On the aside, smartwatch is the new buzz in the market.  Apple Watch launches on April 24. These smart watches have internet capabilities and allow the use of apps. It is a great technological advancement that has been in the offing for some time now. Would you like to get one? Do you already have one? What are your thoughts about smartwatch?

One thing I can say for sure is that the smartwatch will make examination invigilation around the world more difficult. This watch gives students who have the tendency to cheat another means to put their devious activity into action. Large class invigilators will have a herculean task catching culprits.

In spite of the cons associated with this new product, I have to say that the convenience and other advantages the product provides, make it a great product and I applaud the manufacturers.
What do you consider to be the pros and cons of smart watches?


Ways to Reduce Stress

Everyone has something to worry about but some choose not to engage in that negative behavior known as worrying. Anxiety is of no benefit to anyone. If you worry about what may happen tomorrow and it doesn't happen, you have worried in vain. Even if it does happen, you have to worry twice.

Here are some suggestions to help you worry less and live a stress-free life:

1. Take one day at a time.
2. Go to bed on time.
3. Get up on time so you can start the day in a relaxed manner.
4. Say 'No' to projects that won't fit into your time schedule, or that will compromise your mental health.
5. Delegate tasks to capable others.
6. Simplify and declutter your life. Maintain a work-life balance.
7. Know when to multitask and when not to. Multitasking does not always pay huge dividends.
8. Allow extra time to do things and to get to places.
9. Pace yourself. Spread out big changes and difficult projects over time; don't lump the hard things all together.
10.Pray
11. Separate worries from concerns. If a situation is a concern, find out what you should do about it and let go of the anxiety. If you can't do anything about a situation, forget it.
12. Live within your budget; save a little from each paycheck.
13. Have backup plans; an extra car key in your wallet, an extra house key buried in the garden, etc.
14. Have control over what you think and what you say. This piece of advice can prevent an enormous amount of trouble.
15. Do something for the kid in you everyday.
16. Learn to say 'No' without having to explain yourself every time you do.
17. Get enough rest.
18. Live a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy and exercising, Walking, for example, is scientifically known to reduce stress.
19. Get organized. Have a daily to-do list and follow it. Prioritizing helps eliminate stress. Big time!
20. Listen to a CD while driving that can help improve your quality of life.
21. Write down your thoughts and inspirations.
22. Every day, find time to be alone.
23. Engage in acts of kindness. It helps give you better perspective of things and there's joy in giving.
24. Make friends with positive people.
25. Delegate and/or seek help as much as you can.
26. Engage in lifelong learning. Start a new hobby. Read books.
27. Laugh.
28. Laugh some more!
29. Take your work seriously, but do not be so hard on yourself.
30. Develop a forgiving attitude (most people are doing the best they can).
31. Be kind to unkind people (they probably need it the most).
32. Talk less; listen more.
33. Adopt a lifestyle of humility and gratitude.
34. Slow down.
35. Remind yourself that you are not the general manager of the universe.
36. Every night before going to bed, think of one thing you're grateful for.

Here's to a stress-free life!

Happy New Year 2015

2015 is here and so are we. I give thanks with a grateful heart.

It's back to work for most of us. And many of us are focusing on our new year resolutions. Hope you accomplish all the good things you hope for this year. Keep focused and receive grace to succeed. Our best is yet to come!

Wishing y'all an amazing year 2015!

Doing what you need to do

Over the years, I have done many challenging things - even though I do not consider myself a very brave person. I feel blessed to be presented with the opportunities to take the risks. What is interesting is that I never saw those opportunities as risks per se; rather, I believed that they were stepping stones to a more accomplished life. It explains why I have absolutely no regrets in spite of some challenges I have encountered along the way.

Recently, I have made decisions to make some changes in some areas of my life. So, I have found myself taking a plunge when I don't know how it will all work out. What I know is that I am doing what is necessary and trusting God to grant me success.



Ever heard of this famous saying by Francis of Assisi?

       “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

This quote motivates me to never give up; rather to keep taking steps forward.

Is there something necessary that you have been putting off doing? It is time to take the plunge!

This is hoping you are enjoying this lovely autumn(fall) season!

Ciao







Hello Autumn


Hello autumn- background imageMy favourite season is officially here! ;)

Recently, I have been very busy with start of semester preparations and completion of a personal project. Everything is taking shape and I am more relaxed now. It's not to say that I haven't found time for leisure. I certainly have been able to do some of the things I enjoy doing. Also, I have excitedly been following the new television series that started this fall. We are happy that some of our favorites have made a come back too.

It is that time of year when the season gradually changes from summer to autumn (fall). In my opinion, it is the perfect time of year (in terms of the weather). There is a lot of rainfall, some sunshine, and other peaceful "in-betweens". The breathtaking scenery as trees change leaf colour from green to yellow, brown, golden or red.  I simply love it. I can't wait to take more autumn pictures in October and November.

The first draft of my second novel is nearly complete. What I initially thought was a completed first draft turned out to require further elaboration and that's almost finished. Then the tedious (but also exciting) part of an author's work will begin for me: editing/revising the entire manuscript. I haven't had much time for writing but I hope I am able to juggle it all more effectively henceforth.

What are you doing this fall besides working? Are you reading a great book or writing one?

Be sure to have fun whatever you're doing. Wishing you an awesome autumn!

Ciao :)

PreAutumn Excitement

This time of year is known for some exciting events: back-to-school activities, CFL gradually moving towards the end of season, NFL season take-off (the first game of the season was played today between Seattle and Green Bay), and of course the returning television shows. Five of my favourites are returning this month!In addition to the above, I can't wait for the trees to begin to change color and

glow, especially the maple leaves.The first day of the fall season - the Autumnal Equinox, when the length of night and day are approximately equal - is less than three weeks away. So while I expectantly wait for autumn to arrive, I will keep myself busy with work and play.

Here are some photos to remind you of the approach of fall (autumn).

What's your favourite season? Why?





'LAUGH TIME' : Why did the chicken cross the road?

Here is an adapted version of the chicken joke for your entertainment. Enjoy!

----------

RONALD FISHER: Why does it have to be a chicken? Why not a frog, turkey, or pig? We randomly try to a have chicken, frog, turkey and pig cross the road 10 times each. We then compare the mean number of times each animal crossed the road to determine if there's a difference in means.

SARAH PALIN: The chicken crossed the road because, gosh-darn it, he's a maverick!

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN McCAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

TONY BLAIR:
I agree with George.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a NEW CAR so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2010, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2010. This new platform is much more stable and will never reboot.

AUGUST MOBIUS: To get to the same side.

ISAAC NEWTON: Chickens at rest tend to stay at rest. Chickens in motion tend to cross the road.

WERNER HEISENBERG: We are not sure which side of the road the chicken was on, but it was moving very fast.

JERRY SEINFELD: Why does anyone cross a road? I mean, why doesn't anyone ever think to ask, "What the heck was this chicken doing walking all over the place anyway?"

AL GORE: I will fight for the chickens and I will not disappoint them. Did I mention that I invented roads?

KEN STARR: I intend to prove that the chicken crossed the road at the behest of the president of the United States of America in an effort to distract law enforcement officials and the American public from the criminal wrongdoing our highest elected official has been trying to cover up. As a result, the chicken is just another pawn in the president's ongoing and elaborate scheme to obstruct justice and undermine the rule of law. For that reason, my staff intends to offer the chicken unconditional immunity provided he cooperates fully with our investigation. Furthermore, the chicken will not be permitted to reach the other side of the road until our investigation and any Congressional follow-up investigations have been completed.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal a job from a decent, hardworking American.

DR. SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes! The chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed, I've not been told!

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: I envision a world where all chickens will be free to cross roads without having their motives called into question.

GRANDPA: In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Someone told us that the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

KARL MARX: It was a historical inevitability.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.

CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK: To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.

FOX MULDER: You saw it cross the road with your own eyes. How many more chickens have to cross before you believe it?

MACHIAVELLI: The point is that the chicken crossed the road. Who cares why? The end of crossing the road justifies whatever motive there was.

FREUD: The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road or did the road move beneath the chicken?

IMMANUEL KANT: The chicken was acting out of a sense of duty to cross the road, as chickens have traditionally crossed roads throughout history.

COLONEL SANDERS: I missed one?

RICHARD M. NIXON: The chicken did not cross the road. I repeat, the chicken did not cross the road. I don't know any chickens. I have never known any chickens.

JANOS von NEUMANN: The chicken is distributed probabilistically on all sides of the road until you observe it on your side.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its life long dream of crossing the road.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

DONALD RUMSFELD: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

ANDRE AMPERE: To keep up with current events.

ROBERT BOYLE: She had been under too much pressure at home.

JAMES WATT: It thought it would be a good way to let off steam.

THOMAS EDISON: She thought it would be an illuminating experience.

JEAN FOUCALT: It didn't. The rotation of the earth made it appear to cross.

KARL GAUSS: Because of the magnetic personality of the rooster on the other side.

GUSATV HERTZ: Lately, its been crossing with greater frequency.

GEORG OHM: There was more resistance on this side of the road.

ERWIN SCHRODINGER: Since the wording of the question implies the absence of an observer (else the fowl's motivation might easily be deduced), it is evident that the chicken simultaneously did and did not cross the road. In the face of this, any speculation as to the bird's purpose must be viewed as mere sophistry - and as such is beyond the bounds of this discussion.

JULIUS CAESAR:
It came, it saw, it crossed.

DARWIN:
Chickens, over great periods of time, have been naturally selected in such a way that they are now genetically positioned to cross roads.

NIGER DELTA MILITANTS:
The chicken only crossed to get her share of national cake

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION:
The chicken crossing will further spread Avian Flu to another unprepared country.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: "… and as we watch the lone chicken undertake this hazardous journey, we can only wonder at the awesome nature of this dangerous, yet necessary, migration. …"

THE ROCK (WWF):
If you saw me coming, you'd be crossing the road too!


Adapted from http://stat.fsu.edu/~chicken/webfiles/q.html and a few other sources

A Long Neglected Hobby

It is true that sometimes it is not that we have changed; rather, it is our priorities that have changed.

On a few occasions, I have found some old photos I didn't know were still in my possession. One of those photos showed the front of my house, lush with many varieties of plants in full bloom. Looking at that photo led me down memory lane: I reminisced about the great and not-so-great of some of those days gone by. The bottom line being that I am thankful for the progress made.

Since leaving Nigeria several years ago, I have longed, albeit unrealistically,for a house or apartment with lots of plants and flowers. It wasn't practical considering how we had moved from country to country before permanently relocating to Canada. Here in Canada, a couple of factors still mitigated against the actual realization of that goal. That was until very recently.

This spring, I started growing some plants again. Not much, but I am happy to have started again. Although I acknowledge the therapeutic value of gardening, I have to say that I am not so into elaborate gardening. Indoor plants and some outdoor plants are all it takes to keep me pleased in that area. So I am proud of and happy with what I have.

Here are some of the plants I have grown, mostly from seeds:
















Seeing by Observing



Although I have lived in this awesome country, Canada, for some years, it was through observation yesterday that I again came to an interesting, indisputable conclusion about Canadians. I have interacted with people of different cultures in many countries where I have worked. When I was teaching at the University of Botswana, I thought the people in Gaborone were the nicest, most laid back people it had been my good fortune to meet (and they are). That was until wanderlust(travel bug) had its way and I got moving again. This time, I became a developmental English instructor on  a beautiful South Pacific island. To my happy surprise, on that picturesque island lived the most friendly and laid back people I had met - besides, of course, the people of Botswana. Before I relocated to Canada, I already knew what to expect: Canadians are universally known for being friendly and polite. However, it is a notch better than you would think. The quality of patience in Canadians transcends the usual meaning of the word. I would like to think of it as long suffering, a virtue.


How did I arrive at this conclusion? It is by personal experience and observation. Generally speaking, it is absolutely true that in Canada people are really friendly and polite. The way the public reacts to challenges or difficulties is admirable. Yesterday, I was taking the Greyhound bus from Nanaimo to Victoria. It was my first time at the Nanaimo Ferry Terminal. It was a bit challenging finding my way around; so, I had to take a cab. I got there with sufficient time on my hands. I spent it standing by the rail, enjoying the ocean breeze, and watching speed boats go by. A few minutes before the bus was to leave, I reluctantly walked to the bus stop. There were many people waiting to take the greyhound bus and many of them either just got off the ferry from Vancouver or off another greyhound bus from Kelowna, Prince George, Kamloops, and Hope. They were exhausted. To cut to the chase: bus arrived nearly an hour behind schedule. Standing in the blistering heat and sun, no one complained. Some people sat on the floor. The few comments I heard were good natured. And because no one was complaining, the wait didn't seem so bad. When the bus finally arrived, no one complained or said anything disparaging to the driver. You would think he arrived on schedule. The driver apologized before the journey to Victoria began.

Time and time again, I have noticed how patient people are at bus stops, malls, clinics, etc. Yesterday was an eye opener as to how patient and polite Canadians really are. I could say the same of the people of Botswana, and the Marshalese; even though I never had these experiences in those places.

So, I have been privileged to live among beautiful, friendly, loving, and patient people in different continents: from Africa to the South Pacific to North America. It's indeed a blessing! I am still an island girl and happily so! :)



















What nice discoveries have you made through observing people, the environment, etc?



Summer: beautiful and bountiful. Wishing y'all a fantastic summer!



Inner Harbor


On the H2O Taxi


Can you see The Empress?



The water bus passing by :)

Lovely, eh?


Cool...









the Petting Zoo @ Beacon Hill Park







@ the rodeo