Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

The strong, sweet smell of well brewed coffee and muffins in a chilly atmosphere is one of the first things you encounter when stepping out of London’s Heathrow airport on arrival. The hurried ambiance is intensified by the sound of marching feet and silent bag trolleys trailing an array of different colored people heading everywhere imaginable. The pace is quick and everyone minds their business, but you still get the feeling of being welcome.

There might not be that friendly drag of extended greeting or horns blaring down the street with the ever present call of street hawkers that epitomizes Lagos life and makes home what it is, but there is drama of a different sort by a people of a different culture. Almost everyone is holding Styrofoam cups filled with star bucks coffee, or hot chocolate and almost everyone has a bag, be it a trolley or knapsack. It’s a society where men wear suit jackets over shirts and blue jeans to work, and old women truck around in Addidas canvas to no raised eyebrows.

You might not meet someone who’s ready to chat about the weather and the current political issues on the bus or in the underground trains. You will however encounter people ready to stop and give you accurate directions or point out how to get to where you’re going if they know or politely tell you who to ask if they don’t. There is no time for chit chat, and everything runs with clockwork precision. The people are not sociable, and their ingrained work ethics and life habits make them bother on being curt, and somewhat aloof.

So I was deeply astounded, when a complete stranger parked her car and stopped to help me drag four travelling bags down one end of a parking garage to the other with a genuine smile and unfounded enthusiasm. She then proceeded to help me load them in the elevator in an unhurried manner. I do know she had things to do, but it wasn’t too much for her to stop for five minutes  to give a hand.

It took me by complete surprise when an elderly man, graying at the temples, offered me the last seat in a coach on the underground train one day. I didn’t want to take it because our own culture mandates respect for the elderly, but this elder was wearing his shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the ends tucked in faded jeans over a nice pair of boots. He carried a knapsack on his back, but I was sure he was in his fifties. Truth be told, there is a dying breed of people with authentic compassion and pure etiquette. However, I still find them in Britain.

One day aboard a United Airways airline in Atlanta Georgia bound for Lagos, Nigeria, I struggled to push my hand luggage into the over head cabinet above my seat. After a couple minutes of arranging and rearranging and turning the bag to get it to fit so I could shut the door, I finally did it. Just before taking my seat, I looked around and saw myself surrounded by many gentlemen seated in their seats, talking to each other or flipping through the magazines stuffed in the pockets of the airline’ seats’ back-rests and I wondered very, very briefly, why none of them had gotten up to help me. I found myself unconsciously recalling a similar situation on a plane bound for an European country from London. I had my small bag ready to place in the cabinet when a young white man promptly snatched the bag from my hands and slipped it into the cabinet for me. He smiled cheerfully as I said my thanks and continued down the aisle, searching for his seat.

It is appalling, that Nigerians will rush into a line and push each other out of the way in order to get in first. It doesn’t matter, that the airline has reserved a seat for them that practically has their names written on it. It doesn’t matter that the item they are queuing up for will be enough for everyone. There is this ‘me first’ ideology swathed in the ‘scarcity mentality’. And everybody rushes for everything.

I have been in waiting rooms, where men were seated and women were standing. I have had to give up my seat so an elderly man wouldn’t wait on his feet. Forget sounding biased, but some men don’t even help other men. My husband and I were at the bottom of a staircase in an underground station in London one day and we were going home from a shopping outing. An European I do not know from Adam, reached from behind, slipped his fingers in mine and ran up the stairs with my bags. I ran after him, wondering if he was trying to make off with them, but he paused at the top and handed them back to me. My husband, who was lifting two heavy bags, was propositioned by a guy around his age who also offered to help him. But being the typical macho man, he refused. The point is, people were ready to help.

I will not say that we do not have gentlemen in Lagos but they are a rare breed, an endangered species and we must, should, be alarmed.

While waiting at the Ojodu branch of the Federal Road Safety office for the issuing of the new driver’s license, I saw a young Nigerian man give up his seat for a heavily pregnant woman. There were other men present, but he was the only one who offered. I could not resist the urge to say thank you to him. I do not know the woman, but she could have been a friend, or a sister. Back in the day, children washed cars for free or struggled to help push a faulty one to start. Today, a tip is a bribe given upfront, and hardly will anyone offer help without a tip.

Chivalry has been kidnapped by selfishness and ignorance. Etiquette has abandoned our society and left us with a nation full of people who no longer care for themselves. No one is prepared to be inconvenienced for the good of others and in the light of armed robbery, kidnapping and swindling hoodlums, it is understandable that people will be hesitant to offer or receive help from strangers.

We must however, rescue our society from these bad ideals. Our sons must be taught to respect women and hold open the car doors for them. Our daughters, taught to wear kindness in their hair and clothe themselves with ready hands and willing smiles. Children must be taught to give up their seats for the elderly and say their “Please and Thank you”. If there is anything we should emulate from the Europeans, it is the art of being gracious, cordial and polite to one another.

We have a rich cultural heritage of mutual respect that is slowly being eroded by the mix that comes with western civilization. But there are still a few things we can imbibe. So in a crowded room with few seats, will the real gentlemen please stand up?

 

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Top 10 female “F” words.

Posted: September 10, 2012 in Reflections
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A lot of the words that apply to the Feminine gender or are commonly found in our vocabulary as women influence our lives, shape our thoughts and choices & affect our sense of wellbeing and self esteem. Those words interestingly begin with the letter ‘F’ just like the word ‘Female’ and to a large extent are what women talk about every day.

Fat – The very thing every woman either struggles with, embraces or conquers. No woman wants to be labeled ‘Fat’ & even the slimmest super model thinks somewhere inside her lies a fat woman. Maintaining the right weight goes a long way to shape one’s choice of clothes, social lifestyle and even one’s health as a woman. Being fit and healthy involves maintaining the right weight and ensuring that one’s heart is working efficiently enough to enable one carry out all the activities of the day with as little fatigue as possible. Practical fitness and diet routines that can be fitted into the day along with every other thing the mum does, is a way out of the battle of the bulge.

Fitness – The working mum probably has more reasons to be fit and healthy than other members of the population. The nature of what she does daily requires a combination of strength, agility, alertness and perfect health. Sometimes the task of juggling a successful career with running the home front and being there for her husband & children leaves very little time for a much needed fitness routine. But the culture has changed and more women are seeking out ways to ensure they stay healthy and stay fit. Ensuring that one’s day is filled with physically exerting activities like walking, stair climbing, dancing, sex or one form of sporting activity at least thirty minutes to an hour a day is a great way to maintain fitness.

Food – We cook it, buy it, store it and we are around it most of the time. A woman needs to understand that food is meant to be a source of nourishment for her body to function properly. We often eat without thinking, at home, parties or social gatherings. We need to inculcate the culture of asking ourselves before we eat- ‘Will this give me the nutrients my body really needs or am I just satisfying my hunger? Am I eating because my body needs it or am I eating to fill up some other inner need or desire?’ This helps prevent needless binging and regulates the calorie intake that contributes to overall weight gain. A little extra pre planning & effort are also required by a woman to enable her ensure that she and her family are getting the right nutrition from the food they eat.

Feelings – Women generally operate daily based on how they feel. Our moods control how we eat, when we eat, how much we eat and whether we decide to exercise or not. In watching your weight as a woman, you need to learn to master your moods and feelings and refuse to let them control your life.

Friendships – We women are relationship oriented and we fare better in groups and with other women. The kind of company we keep reflects our social status, our value systems, and our character and also helps in achieving or attaining our life goals. In wanting to lose /maintain weight, surrounding yourself with likeminded individuals goes a long way to help. It’s amazing that your perception of your size changes depending on the circle of people around you. The same person who seems small amongst other big women will look &feel bigger amongst slimmer or thinner women.

Fun –Humans generally gravitate to whatever is fun and gives them a good feeling inside. As women we must constantly strive to make everything we do fun including our attempts to keep in shape. Find a fun aerobic class, have fun with your spouse in the bedroom, enjoy running around or strolling with your children. Fun signifies something that is alive and active and brings out the laughter in you. Having fun is significantly tied to living longer & also contrary to popular opinions, not necessarily related to eating, all the time. Fun, laughter and joy release endorphins (natural pain killers) and other feel good hormones that ensure you live longer.

Fear– The fear of looking old and unattractive, the fear of losing your hubby to someone else, fear of not being able to control your weight, most often fears are unfounded and should be done away with because they lead to needless anxiety and worry which in turn have negative effects on your outlook to life, your health& your emotional and physical wellbeing. Women need to be strong, courageous and avoid fears.

Faith – In this part of the world a large percentage of women trust God with their lives yet they lack the power and courage to change their lives because their inner thinking and spoken words reflect a lack of faith. Faith is a necessary tool for anything to succeed, even when it comes to little things in our lives like keeping our figure. A little positive attitude makes the job easier.

Fight– Life is usually a battle because the human body literarily hates exerting itself. Things don’t just happen, as women we need to fight to keep our jobs &homes running smoothly and fight to keep fit. Having a fighting spirit is key to leading a full &rewarding life. Looking trim and feeling good happens when we work at it and fight the spirit of laziness.

Flexibility – Having a flexible schedule ensures a woman gets everything she needs to do, done daily including finding the time for a fitness routine or time to rejuvenate herself. Flexibility in her joints and bones helps ward off early onset of arthritis and keeps her looking youthful.

The twenty first century woman, definitely uses a lot of these words from time to time but the key is to understand and study how they affect us and the decisions we make daily, paying attention to them as we perform our daily activities and strive to keep ourselves together for the benefits of our spouses and our children.

Like little children

Posted: May 21, 2012 in Reflections

I have a three year old daughter who is sometimes cute, kind, sweet, innocent and cuddly and I just want to hug her. Sometimes she is clingy, noisy, and rude and throws a tantrum when she doesn’t get her way.  There are days when she’s tearful for no reason at all while on other days there is this burst of energy and excitement that I fail to comprehend. My daughter sings at the top of her voice as she marches around the house banging bits of broken toys and empty containers together totally making a joyful noise unto the Lord. She runs from her bedroom when she hears my voice in the hallway or at the door when I come in from an outing and I’m thinking how long that distance must be when you are that age because it’s so much faster to run. Little arms wrap round my neck and milk white teeth melt my heart on most days, yet mischievous smiles and sullen frowns are common on others. The simple joy of being alive; lies in her laughter and I’m forced to learn to relax when dancing round in crazy circles as we both recite a nursery rhyme.

Sometimes life winds me up and I end up yelling at my daughter even when I don’t mean to. I can’t help but think of all the impossible things I still have to do before the day ends. Life is so much simpler when you are a child. The only basic worry is how to spend the twenty four hours in the day and the basic need is food.  My daughter is angry with me when I spank her or refuse her a treat as punishment for being naughty. But it’s never for more than a moment, for the anger is forgotten and the next minute she is back enfolded in my arms seeking comfort from some scary thing or loving arms to rock to sleep in. It’s in these moments of life that I realize there is nothing God loves more than a child.

God expects us to receive His kingdom much as a child would, his promise to come back for us much as a child waiting for a parent after school would. He gave us children to help us learn to live. He pointed them out to us to teach us how to love. Their trust is amazingly without reservation and they are unable to bear a grudge. I often smile when I hold my daughter after I’ve scolded her; she reminds me of whom God expects me to be. I just can’t help but love her and that is exactly how God views me.