What is worse than suffering?

Psst: I’ve moved. Visit me here http://streetsideconvos.com. Maybe the new blog will be for you. Maybe not.

I spent most of my childhood in a city that some people have called ‘particularly aggressive’ haha. Lagos is a very interesting city to be in. It brims with life and this undeniable sense of hustle which I already wrote about here.

Everywhere you go someone is fighting to stay alive. The young girl is hawking groundnuts and walking long distances on foot so she can get by TODAY. A loved one dies, we mourn and then we move on because we must still put food on the table and find a roof over our heads.

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Riding home in the keke napep. I prefer it to motorcycles lol

We don’t make excuses- we improvise instead. One day it was raining and I had to run an errand and I and my brother took a tricycle (keke napep) home. The tricycle rider had this improvised curtain thing that he threw over the sides of the tricycle so that he could still keep his business going even in the rain.

Life is so unpredictable so you have to be prepared- you have wake up earlier just incase there is traffic, it is flooded, or the roads are bad or something.

People are up as early as 4 or 5 to get to work because they want to beat traffic which is crazy in Lagos.

You go to the market, bargain for food, go to the gas station, buy diesel for your generator, turn it on and deal with the noise pollution because there is no power supply. By the time you come to the end of the day you are exhausted and ready to sleep and even then you may have to fight off mosquitoes if you didn’t spray an insect repellent or if you kept your doors open too late.

Get the picture?

Life is a struggle and that struggle is normal- nothing to complain about or blame anyone for.

You feel alive. You feel something and everyday feels new, and pregnant and promising and troublesome but fulfilling.

Then we come to North America or maybe another ‘developed’ country and struggle is not really something that is normal. You go through life pretty okay. Where your Nigerian counterpart would have to save money for months to pay cash for a house or a car, you just get a mortgage. Where someone else might be homeless if they lost their job, you could at least put it on the credit card for a while.

We become zombies. We can’t really say we are thriving but we are okay that’s for sure. Okay is worse than suffering. When you suffer you feel, and you activate that fighter in you. But when you are okay, anything that demands a little more out of you starts to seem like a chore and slowly your warrior instinct starts to die.

The instinct in us all for greatness and for survival is primal. Its raw and its intense and it can overcome anything.

Even in ‘developed countries’ everyone I have met who is truly fulfilled with their lives had a lot of fighting to do. They had to fight all the limiting beliefs and the resistance within, then they had to fight without- and stand up for themselves, stand up for their dreams and discipline themselves to get there.

So you can choose to be fooled by the illusion of comfort and numb down that warrior instinct in you but it is a dangerous place to be.

When you come to the end of your life how will you convince yourself that living a complacent life was the best of use of your time?

There are too many zombies in the world- thinking what others want them to think, living their life how ‘normal’ people live it, letting people talk them out of the future they came into this world to create.

But the instinct for greatness is in all of us and we must resist the complacency in our culture that keeps us too comfortable to act.

Feel the warrior instinct in you- the desire for more, the desperation, the zeal. Stop trying to numb it down, instead feed it. Guard it jealously and instead of discarding it from fear- TRUST that it will find expression. I think that is one of the noblest things to do with our brief lives.

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for- Oprah Winfrey”

On that note I leave with you the broadway version of Fela’s Zombie 🙂

Happy Monday.

Ps: Join the conversation by leaving a comment. Is your warrior instinct alive and well, dying, or on the way to coming alive again?

You are an expert. Here’s why

Earlier this year, I decided to live off my hard earned savings-  slow down, meet great people, take some time off to restrategize- relax, be flexible, travel and drop all the things I was holding onto to actually take the risk of trying out the ideas in my head.

After I realized my savings were reducing (like duh!) I still didn’t want the rigidity of a full time job so I decided to take part time tutoring as a source of extra income. I ended up tutoring a lot of Chinese people who were learning English as a second language as well as college students and high school kids. It turned out to be a great experience.

Along the line I decided to try my hands out at making similar content so I put out my course (https://www.udemy.com/become-excellent-at-analytical-writing/ ) and now my students are in the hundreds. While I still have a lot of work to do in getting the course out there, it was so encouraging to see the numbers increase and see that truly what I thought would be useful to others was indeed useful.

So what do I know about you that you don’t know? It is that your life experiences have made you an expert at something and you probably don’t even realize it.

So many times we are waiting for something to happen before we can live life. We are waiting to be more educated, be more experienced (whatever that means), more confident, more beautiful, etc.

Truly, when it comes to it, we are probably just afraid that we are not really enough. We are afraid of failure&rejection. We think that maybe if we can find more titles to mask our insecurity then we will be more confident to proceed in the direction of our dreams.

What you don’t realize is that you already have something that people want to know. You are probably taking yourself for granted thinking you have no value to add.

I don’t mean this post to motivate you. I mean it to be factual. You are an expert at something that other people don’t know and you are hiding it because you think everyone knows it already, or that you need even more experience.

What have you picked from your life’s experiences? Struggles? Lessons? Relationships? Share your gift today. There is always time to refine it. You cannot get experience without putting yourself out there and experiencing all life has to offer anyways.

Intercultural West African love: Ghana comes to Nigeria for Pelumi

This summer my really good friend got married. She is the first of my close friends in my age group that got married and so it was very special to me. It was also different because she was marrying outside of her country- to a Ghanaian, a few countries away from Nigeria.

Gifts from the groom to the bride's family. Those are yams all nicely tied up

Gifts from the groom to the bride’s family. Those are yams all nicely tied up

If you know anything about the two countries you know Nigerians and Ghanaians have a sort of sibling rivalry though they secretly love each other at the end of the day. (Ghanaians probably love us more though :P)

I went to Abuja for the wedding with my dad and younger brother who also had people to see in Abuja. We travelled by road so it was quite the journey- we left Lagos around 5 am and got to Abuja at night!

It was the perfect ending to my trip to Nigeria because I got to work on my non-profit, meet people old and new, and then party with the Aikins!

I enjoyed the traditional wedding because I don’t think I have ever been to one. Also, I am from Eastern Nigeria  (Igbo) and Pelumi is from Western Nigeria (Yoruba) so it was nice to see the differences in culture. A few that I noticed;

In Igbo traditional weddings,  the male elders of the family officiate, while in Yoruba weddings women officiate.

In Yoruba weddings, the girl’s family takes care of most of the traditional wedding since they are trying to make a statement about how well taken care of the girl was to the man that is taking her for a bride. In Igbo weddings, the groom plays a huge part since he has to prove that he can take care of his new bride.

Pictures speak better than words so check them out! I put mostly pictures from the traditional Yoruba wedding because I think that is something unique to the culture so it was worth sharing more of.

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Women from the bride’s family welcoming the groom’s family… with dancing of course!

 

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The groom’s family prostrating and kneeling to greet the girl’s parents. Males prostrate, females kneel as a sign of respect

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Jubilant groom dancing forward

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Eric explaining what he is here for and dropping some money in the bucket for the family

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The women of the family were having fun with him and issuing commands like asking him to stand at attention, etc

Receiving the blessings of her father

Receiving the blessings of her father

The bride dances into the venue

The bride dances into the venue

 

Mother daughter moment

Mother-daughter moment

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Showing she can take care of her husband

 

Eric showing he is strong enough for her

Bye Bye Nigeria

 

 

Hello Ghana

Hello Ghana

Happy couple

Happy couple

The drummer got some love and Naira for his hard work too.

The drummer got some love and Naira for his hard work too.

 

Church ceremony the next day- K-I-S-S-I-N-G

Church ceremony the next day- K-I-S-S-I-N-G

My story: How I started college at 14 and finished at 18 + YOU are a gift

Psst: I’ve moved. Visit me here http://streetsideconvos.com. Maybe the new blog will be for you. Maybe not

Did you know that you are a gift to this world?

Are you sharing your gift? How could you share it more?

In this video I share my story with you and help you understand why your story counts.

Watch it and when you are done leave me a comment telling me, what one thing will you do this week to share your gift?

Also who is your favourite student heading to college this year?

If you want to help them ace their college writing then you’d want to share this resource I created to help them.

I finished it this week and was so happy to finally have it out in time for them.

I hope you have an amazing new week.

Ps: This post was featured in the carnival of homeschooling. Check it out here.

Funny pick up lines, African time and other interesting scenarios in Naija. What’s a good Nigerian to do?

Psst: I’ve moved. Visit me here http://streetsideconvos.com. Maybe the new blog will be for you. Maybe not.

As you know by now I love my country. However I guess that allows me some leeway to poke fun at some of our issues too.

Today I had to run some errands which found me in an office. Fortunately I had a friend/ ‘aunty’ who used to work there so she connected me with her friend who helped make sure my documents would be safe and get to the right person on time.

The funny thing was that the first thing the uniformed men would ask you at the gate is ‘do you have someone inside’?

If you don’t you are basically at their mercy -they might toss your application about or even ‘lose’ it or ask you for bribes and you will definitely wait for hours. That was the experience of my friend and has been my family’s experience too.

I should also add that the ‘official’ at the entrance of the building who was supposed to be ensuring security told me,

‘Baby you are not going home tonight. You are looking take-away’.

Or something of the sort.

I was a bit taken aback that I think I made an exclamation of some sort and in the course of the conversation I don’t think he remembered to search my bag the second time.

So if the so-called security and armed officials can behave like that, the question is

What’s a good Nigerian girl to do?

Risk losing your file, money and time or let a friend help you follow things up which essentially makes you part of the problem especially for other people who do not ‘have someone inside’?

Which leads me to a funny observation.

Why do Nigerian men describe girls like food? ‘You are looking take-away’. I have heard of other funny ones like ‘I want you to be the mother of my unborn kids’. I heard it is supposed to be romantic but I think it sounds weird. I know ghanaian guys also call girls things like ‘rice’, ‘banana’ and ‘tom-tom’ so maybe its a (west) African thing?

Anyway back to my scenarios.

I was going to a birthday this weekend. My mum asked me to hurry so we would be on time but I was still washing my clothes so I told her not to worry that the party would not have started when we get there. That makes me part of the problem right?

We got to the 2pm party around 4pm and we were one of the first guests.

I guess the right thing to do would be to come by 2pm but the hall might not even have been set up.

I thought those were some paradoxes in Naija that make good food for thought…

So what does a good Nigerian do in those scenarios? Have you ever been described as food? Do you go early to parties?

Is the system the problem or the individuals? After all the system is made up of you and me. Most importantly- how would you go about making things different?

I really want to know so leave me a comment.

Good news:)

So when I was getting on the flight to Nigeria this summer, I had a ton of thoughts in my head.

One was the overwhelming sense of gratitude I had because of my friends that came, donated, helped me set up, clean up etc. I could not give them anything in return but they came on board because they loved me and really believed in my visImageion. The day I was leaving my friend who was still looking for a job came to my house and he helped me take my bags to the car and gave me a donation to our work. That moved me so much.

On the flight I found myself wondering, hmm where will I start? I hope I can deliver and especially because I didn’t have any big hookups I needed a lot of faith. I wanted Engage Africa Foundation to get coverage in the media, I wanted to find sponsors, I wanted to talk to groups of people, I wanted to raise the profile of the problem in Nigeria and get people thinking and acting etc.

Sometimes I actually wondered if I was naive especially when I got the first couple of rude responses. I did my fair share of crying and doubting too. LOL

I don’t understand the mysterious ways that life works out but I have found that a teeny little bit of faith has a weird way of moving mountains.

Guess what?

Last week we got a whole page in the most widely circulated Nigerian newspaper- The Nation Newspaper.

I went to an event that had a couple of seminars at the same time. I abruptly decided to leave the seminar I was in to check out another one when this lady Hannah stopped me. She was working in the media and asked me if I could spare my time to do a short voice recording telling her how I was liking the event.  I agreed and along the line she decided to interview me about my non-profit instead because she said was inspired by what we were doing. A few weeks later I get a whole page in a newspaper read by hundreds of thousands if not millions. I thought I was doing her a favour by stopping but she was actually my blessing in disguise.

You can read the article here.

Newspaper

That same week I got a call from the University of Waterloo that out of a lot of people they were considering they had chosen me to receive the Young alumni award for 2013 because they believe in our work and my future, thanks to my sister who nominated me.

That same week a contact finally worked out and I got a chance to go on a TV station- Silverbird Television to talk about noncommunicable diseases in Africa and what we are doing about it at Engage Africa Foundation.

Its crazy- you go from working so hard with no clue how everything will work out to boom!boom! boom! so much good news in a week.

I am happy and hopeful:)

Have faith in yourself and your dreams. When you believe in yourself you’ll find it funny that people actually start believing in you and you get to meet the most amazing people in the course of following your dream. It makes all the hard work, bad days, and tears worth it, trust me. I hope that this blog pushes you to actually take a step (no matter how wobbly) in the direction of giving your ideas a place in this world. It will be so worth it.

Ps: I have a video coming up and even a surprise gift for you 🙂 Stay tuned.

Forbes Africa gets behind the camera for a change.

I had the pleasure of chatting with these men at the WOWe Women of West Africa event last week. I sat down beside them, we started talking and ended up doing a video along the way 🙂

Chris is the managing editor of Forbes Africa and was one of the moderators for one of the sessions.He moved to South Africa a couple of years back and he is loving his work. He said he would do it even if he didn’t make a lot of money out of it. I thought Chris sounded like Richard Branson but I don’t think he took it as a compliment haha

Frederic is the head for their work in West Africa. He has been living in Lagos for a while- 5 years- if I remember clearly. He is excited about investing in emerging markets all over Africa and media work in Africa as well.

I should have asked them to share their experience of moving and living in Africa but it didn’t occur to me then. It would have been nice since they’ve seen Africa from a much more nuanced perspective than people looking from the outside in. Oh well, next time.

Watch to know them a bit better and get into their heads about life, success, passion, and making the world a better place. Also- when you get really successful and interviewed by Forbes Africa make sure you tell Chris and/or Frederic that you met them on streetsideconvos first:)

Don’t forget to leave me a comment, subscribe and come on over to twitter to continue the conversation 😉