Sunday 25 September 2011
So yours truly is going to sit down or stand and read some passages from my novel to an audience that will consist of at least my editor, her friend, my mum and my dad. I didn't put it up earlier because I couldn't find an internet link. There was only had a PDF document that I had to send via email. But now I have the link, so anyone interested may register and drop in. It's free. There will be light refreshment before I proceed. All details are here. Shout out to Kings College for being so kind. I'm glad I go to a uni where they support students in all their extra curricular endeavours.
Saturday 24 September 2011
I saw my first dead body in Lagos. I think I was 6. It was a man. If he had been alive, people would probably have called him a mad man. He had dreadlocks, matted and reddish brown from the sun. He was dressed in a long, grey, shirt rag. His body was beginning to swell on the side of the road. His mouth was open; a white paste spilled out of his lips.
We were on the way to school. My car zoomed past the sight, barely slowing down. I asked the driver what happened? He said the man had probably been run over while trying to cross the express at night. It was the military that had done it. He was certain. I could believe it.I always saw the soldiers zooming at fatal speeds in their black vans. If you got in their way, they could come down and flog you with their whips. Or if it was night and they were drunk, they would just run you over. I could imagine that they had not bothered to stop when they saw the man they had hit was just a mad man.
That was the Lagos I saw when I was growing up. Now Babatunde Raji Fashola (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) and Governor of the state I call home, is asking us to see a new Lagos. Like a pastor in church, he is asking us to speak what we want to see. O ye of little faith, speak what you want to see. The voice in the first clip says, "I see a Lagos where I can wake up by 7am after a good night's rest. Get to my train station by 7.30am, travel in comfort enjoying the beautiful scenery."
Like Sarah, I laughed when I heard what the man in this clip was seeing. The thought of someone in Lagos who lives on the mainland waking up at 7am and being on time for work seemed so preposterous that all I could do was laugh. O me of little faith. I had sat too long in third mainland bridge traffic to believe. Yet I am not so cynical that I cannot join my fellow Lagosians in this act of seeing a new Lagos. So here are the things I see in Lagos in the next few years. It may be a dream but the dreamers are often the most realistic of us all.
- I see a Lagos where there are no children swilling dirty soapy water over my car windscreen because they are all in school and the facilities provided for them there are world class.
- I see a Lagos where former agberos have acquired skills and gained employment . They are now pillars of their community, stressing the importance of education.
- I see a Lagos where affordable housing is made available for the millions living in shanty town conditions.
- I see a Lagos where graduates come out of university and face reasonable competition when looking for work.
That's the Lagos I see.
To find out more about the I see Lagos project, click here.
Wednesday 21 September 2011
Clapham only to return to North London. The queue was long when I got there. Too long for an event that started at 7.30. I saw some of my friends. We had randomly come to the same event. They all had tickets. I wanted to run to the front and tell the guys to save one for me o. I came from North London. You will pay my transport here.
In the end there were tickets for everyone. The venue was quite large. When we were all inside it was full but more people could have fitted inside. If it was an event in Nigeria, I would have shown the organisers how to arrange the chairs to increase capacity. As it was, the Okoro Lagosian in me tried to calculate how much Bookslam made.
First poem of the night went to the host, a poet whose name I do not recall, though some of his lyrics have stuck in my head. The poem was called Invisible Kisses. I won't try and reproduce his wraps here but they were good sha.
Next up was a poet called Inua Ellams. I've seen him perform before. He came to my Uni for a performance. I went because the poster said he'd done a show at the National and I'm into brand names like that. He was good at Kings but better yesterday. Lighting really makes a difference. When the crowd is dark, I think performers have more liver. He had an excellent poem about about domestic violence. There was a particularly graphic image. A drop of blood fell into the victim's cup of coffee. There's a tinge of bathos when I paraphrase it but it was very powerful in his words.
And then we had Ms. Adichie. She's loomed large in my mind since I was a child. I was 0 years of age when Ben Okri won the Booker with the Famished Road. Between that and Purple Hibiscus there were no Nigerian writers people all over the world were making noise about, except the usual suspects: Achebe, Soyinka, Achebe, Soyinka. So of course when Chimamanda stepped on the scene, how could you say you were a Nigerian and an aspiring writer and not know of her. And have an opinion on which novel was better, Purple Hibiscus or Half of a Yellow Sun. And have family members ask, ''So you want to be the next Chimamanda?" when you said you wanted to be a writer.
The short story she read was excellent. It was called Quality Street. I was able to follow every word she said. Don't underestimate the skill required to speak in a Nigerian accent and still convey your words with clarity to an audience that is not solely African. I have my first reading next month.
I went to speak to her afterwards. She was cool. It's an oft used adjective but its the most apt I can think of. She chatted to people normally, like a naija. You know how my people like to hear our people keeping it real. There was no authorial distance. She signed everyone's book, heard a hundred people say how much they loved her books and took each compliment graciously. She was cool. I'm glad I went.
Wednesday 7 September 2011
So my friend moved to France to do a Masters. Only one day in, her blackberry status had changed at least five times. I asked her to send me an email. What I got was so funny I've decided to post it here. The next voice you hear will be hers.
France is funny!!! I'm loving it...so far. Grenoble is really pretty- very different to what I expected, but a good kind of different ;-). I like my accommodation and public transport is really good. I haven't met many people yet but uni starts this week....
The people here are very funny. I will need to get used to the bluntness. I think I am too used to forced british politeness.
Even the beggars on the street don't take nonsense. One came up to me the other day while I was waiting for the tram and told me exactly how much she wanted from me.
She said, "Give me €2" , pointing at my bag.
I didn't have that much change and was a bit put off so I shook my head, she would would not leave, she encroached even more into my personal space and brought out a form with a list of signatures of other people who had given her €2 or more! So that she would leave me alone, I counted out €1 in coins and gave her, she was not too happy and after waiting for a few more seconds she eventually moved on. This was my first day here!
And today I went to the transport office to get a transport card. While I was on the very long queue, a woman behind me appointed herself queue jumping monitor and walked all the way from the back to fish out someone who she thought was jumping the queue. It turns out they had only gone to stand beside their friend in front. Then another one bellowed at one lady who was just crossing over to the other side. I thought this was a bit much and stood there staring in disgust until the lady in front of me turned back and supported her, basically saying that she was right to want to defend her position on the queue. Then they looked at me for a sign of agreement. I could only laugh. Then one lady suddenly decided to improve upon the system they had going in the office and started "helping" the cashiers by telling people when it was time to go up to the desks. Then the cashier basically said the equivalent of "Hey woman! Whats your stress!" In my mind I was thinking "Yeee! They are going to fight" but everybody just carried on as normal.
And church yesterday was a similar story. Service was mostly in English and it was very nice but also funny. There was one lady who kept shouting out lines that she thought the pastor omitted in the middle of the sermon! I was so confused. There was also another guy who was told by someone in the audience to hurry up with his speech! Then we all had lunch and after, we were basically ordered, and I'm not joking, "clear your plates and cups!", "put them in the bin!", "drop a donation", "shake off the crumbs off your table cloth!", "sit down", "don't just stand around chatting and drinking, help with moving the chairs!" Then finally, they handed brooms out. Oya sweep!
This is a big change from my London church where they beg us to go and eat cake and drink coffee. I don't know which extreme I prefer.
I can't say I wasn't warned about French bluntness...but I need to get used to it. I'm still at that stage where I'm finding everything very amusing.
Chibundu speaking again. I have a request for you my readers. I've noticed that some of the people who read this blog come from places as diverse as Thailand. My friend's email has given me an idea for a series. If any of you are foreigners in your country of residence and would be kind enough to send me an email detailing your experiences that would be nice. My email is email@example.com
Saturday 3 September 2011
Screaaaaaaaaaaaaaam! Ok, I know there's no cover, but there's a blurb. Oh my gosh! You can now pre-order my book on Amazon. I've been screaming all day.
We thank God. :)
Oh, click here for the link.
Friday 2 September 2011
Of late people have been showing me a lot of love. I've gotten some very nice emails, people have said nice things about me, some people who I've never met have read articles about me and come up to me and said well done. It can get to ones head. Prov. 27:21 says, 'The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.' My father is someone who gets many compliments. People say nice things about him to his face, people say nice things about him behind his back, people generally say nice things about him. He always responds, 'We thank God.'
"Doctor that sermon you preached was very good."
"We thank God."
"Doctor, congrats on your new car."
"We thank God."
"Daddy, thank you for paying our school fees."
"We really thank God."
It's an attitude that I want to characterize my life. There's nothing good I have that is not from God. There is nothing bad in my life that has not been turned into good because of God. I used to think it was a little naff to say we thank God every time someone paid me a compliment, especially when they weren't a Christian. But now as I'm a little older, I begin to realise, who else will I thank? People email me, asking how I got a publisher like Faber? As if I had anything to do with it. Others have put in more work than me, others are more qualified than I am, others write better than I do but God was the one that gave me favour. Promotion comes neither from the east, nor the west, it comes from Heaven so the thanks must go there.
Thursday 1 September 2011
Blessing used to be able to walk to The Little Acorns school because her mother lived in a shack on a property that was not her own. One day, the owner of the property decided he wanted to use it and so he drove all his tenants away. Blessing now comes to school on an okada which she also shares with, Peace. It looks a little like the lower image when they go home.
The acorns eat well when they are at school.
They often ask for seconds. The proprietress thinks that for many, this is the only square meal they will get.
The foundation is run by sponsorship. It costs 120,000 Naira to sponsor a child for a year. That comes to almost 500 pounds per annum. The sponsors take a real interest in their acorns. They are sent report cards and photographs every half term. Many sponsors ask for children with specific traits.
Meet Aliyah. Her sponsor, being a pretty woman, naturally wanted a pretty girl. I couldn't decide on what photo of Aliyah to put. She's very photogenic, like her sponsor.
Other sponsors have asked for sharp children. A sponsor who used to be a teacher asked for a bright child and was given Moyo.
I wonder what she was thinking when this picture was taken. She's only 3. Sarah, lower image, is another sharp one. Some people choose to sponsor an acorn because they want a different child. One sponsor specifically asked to have a Hausa girl. She was given Fatima. Fatima is not the only child whose father is a maiguard. Peter's father is also a gateman. In fact, Peter's father is my landlord's gateman.
I saw him going to school some mornings while I was in Nigeria. He did not look like his father was a gateman. He looked like his father was the owner of the house he stepped out of. That's the vision behind the Little Acorns School Foundation. To provide these children with a standard and quality of education to rival any private primary school in Lagos. On T.V, they tell you that just 5 pounds a month can educate a child in Africa. Well the proprietor of the acorns wants to give them better than 5 pounds a month because she thinks the future of Nigeria is worth more than that. Just to feed the 20 acorns (10 boys, 10 girls) costs 60,000 Naira a month. Their uniforms were all bought in England. One sponsor has remarked that the children don't look like they are from lower income families.
The acorns really like school. I'm not just saying that because my mother started the foundation. One acorn called Hafiz, used to cry whenever the school day ended and his guardian came to pick him up.
The child on the left is Hafiz. The one on the right is Mr. Boss's acorn.
A birthday at the L.A.E.F.
To read the L.A.E.F mission statement, click here.
To contact the L.A.E.F you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.