Monday, February 28, 2011

Growing Up Naija

I don’t come from a rich home. As children, we never really got what we wanted but we always had what we needed. My father was doctor but was never very lucky in his profession. There were never enough patients coming through and too many left without paying their bills. Yet my siblings and I were still lucky and more privileged than most. We didn’t have to bathe outdoors like our many counterparts that we passed by on our way to school; covered in suds, and quickly scooping up water from a bucket with their hands or a colorful plastic cup. We never had to join the long water lines, jerry can in hand ready to collect the tap water flowing out of a neighborhood pump. My father said that he never wanted to see his children balancing containers of water on their heads or pushing them in wheelbarrows yet I still envy the skill it takes to do such.

My tender-hearted father and I.

Yes, we were fortunate. But there were days when I didn’t have lunch in school, were I would enviously eye my classmates as their parents brought food for them. My stomach would rumble and complain so much that a fallen biscuit would be snatched up quickly and discreetly by my eager hands. There were days when my siblings and I couldn’t wait for our birthdays because it meant that crates of mineral (soda) would be bought and my sister and I would make the last bottle of Pepsi last but pouring it into a cup and sipping it up from teaspoons. There were nights when I would be unable to sleep because NEPA( Electricity company) had taken the light once more and I was determined to hunt down every last mosquito that had escaped the wisps of the burning mosquito coil.
I was never jealous of my better off friends, living in their duplex homes with their glass dining tables, extravagant parlors decorated with thick curtains and detailed embroidery.  My father’s bungalow will always be huge to me. Patchy and old but everything had a glow to it. Our couches had huge rips in it where our cats had scratched, our wall unit filled with little figurines and crystal glasses of a lifestyle once lived groaned and sagged with age, our once white lace curtains usually washed once a year were light brown due to the harmattan dust blown in through the mosquito netting. The kitchen floor left the soles of bare feet black and weevils were always in our rice, ants always floating in our palm oil and eager cockroaches left eggs in our refrigerator and occasionally fell to their doom in the freezer.  The kerosene stove which left all our pots blackened was next to the gas stove which was usually used for special occasions.

My sister dancing with a family friend. Wall unit behind.

My father again, lace curtains behind.

But this was my home. I would spend hours laying on those couches watching television, accompanied every now and then by a huddle of sleepy kittens or an attention deprived cat as animals were never denied in my childhood. The old wall unit held treasures that I played with; little china sets, a doll made out of corn husk, an Aladdin lamp, a collectable London guard doll that always left its case, adventures were held there. The lace curtains had detailed patterns to them and could transform to white fluffs when washed. The kitchen was a constant. My father and I would hold cooking sessions there, he would create his special cabbage stew and I would be the first to present him with breakfast which he rarely ate. He would joke that the ants in our palm oil served as extra protein, the rice weevils could easily be picked out and I ignored deceased roaches as I scooped the frost from the freezer which my friend Chioma and threw it at one another imagining that we were in a snowball fight like the ones we had seen on T.V and read in books. Little did I know that years later I would call from the States and tell her that snow was very much like the frost we had played with in my home. We hadn’t missed out on much.

Me back in early 05.

(I’ll talk about Aba another time)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Okada Riding

Now if you grew up Naija propa, you have ridden an okada countless times. And you have liked it.  I know some of you were banned from it by your parents so no be your fault. As for me, na different story.
Here is an old one I wrote about Okada riding a while back.

A true Nigerian is not afraid of all those okada accident stories. Abeg, as far as I am concerned, they do not exist! If you tell your non-Nigerian friends that you used to get on a motocycle to move about, please be sure to describe what it looks like before they start thinking you were on a Harley.There is usually a cluster of them waiting at a junction, looking something...well exactly like this if in larger clusters.
Here is a guide on how to pick your okada driver carefully:

1. Do not go for the ones calling you (for the girls). Don’t answer to,”Bebi!”, “Ay! Fine gal!” and the young ones who give what they are convinced is a charming smile.

2. Head for the quiet one (usually old) who is absentmindedly polishing the dullness of his machine. Be sure to ask how much first because they will cheeeeeat you! “Ha! Na 50 naira oh! I no say where you get 20 from!” And they will WAIT for you to go find the other 30. They just might walk into your house if you take too long. So haggle on a price my dear. Remember, this is Nigeria, you NEVER pay the asking price for anything!
Okada drivers know how to get EVERYWHERE! Just give them a number. If you have the same travel routine, that absentminded okada man will recognize you and will EXPECT you to walk up to him. An okada can fit many many people so share with your friends! There is no limit!
Now, not all okadas will just be sitting on the road for you. To hail down one you must stick out your hand and look the man dead in the eye. If it is early in the morning, just stand there and look miserable. Maintain eye contact. The okada is fast and sometimes the driver will think that he is in an action movie with his deep corner turns that will leave you concerned for your safety. Just enjoy the wind in your face my friend! If it is raining, hide behind the driver because the raindrops will feel like constant and painful stings.
Signs of a regular okada rider? A nice circular scar on your calf. For the ladies, be careful on getting on okada in a skirt ooooh! A panty shot will be the delight and talk among the drivers for an hour or more. Wait for the driver to tilt the machine and hike up your skirt.There is a certain facial expression that goes with the hiking of a skirt but that’s a different story.
If you have never been on one, remove yourself from house fast fast and find one. 

They will be waiting for you.

Yagazie Emezi: Aba to Albuquerque

I didn't grow up in a big city. I was born and raised in Aba, Abia State. My village is Umuechokwu in Old Umuahia. I don't come from a rich home but my parents worked hard to send me to a private school. I grew up running around barefoot, sucking mango seeds dry and pretending there were fairies in the flowers I held.

My mother is Malaysian and my father is Nigerian. I am an Igbo Aba gal. The uglies of my past did not tint the beauty of my childhood, like the way the harmattan wind smelt during the 6am walks to school, the sour odor of the person next to you on the bus, the dipping movement of the dragon fly during the rainy season, my father's smile; straight teeth but slightly stained, the sweat my classmates and I shared when standing tightly packed together during the morning assembly.

We are all homesick. Everywhere we go, we get a whiff of home and we inhale. Sucking in the air, hoping it will take us back to that moment in time when we could touch aroma. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico now. I haven't seen my father in six years and I miss Nigeria.

With a double major in Cultural Anthropology and Africana Studies, I have expanded on my passions, read on upwards my dears.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

About THIS

Let me tell YOU where I come from.
I come from a place where minds never die and black lips never lie
A place where it is crucial to remember your elder's faces
Because where I come from, respect actually gets me places.

I come from the land built by spirits and superstitions.
The soil is soiled with the colors of our pride and bloodshed
So our sweat is red and our tears never fall the right side down
Because our world is never the right side up

I am tired of crying for my people.
My name is Yagazie Ledi Francisca Emezi
Daughter of Ochiaga 1 of Old Umuahia
And you can't even begin to imagine where I come from.

Welcome to the backyard of a Hungry Aba Gal, a place for the homesick and the lost.