Passion & Professionalism

I took this grainy picture on my way to work this morning. It is the picture of a traffic warden, popularly known as “Yellow Fever” because of the colour of the uniforms they wear.

These people are employed to control traffic within the city. And they are a fixture in any Nigerian city.

I don’t know whether or not we should continue to have them on our streets; that is not the focus of this discussion.

My discussion is on how they go about their jobs.

I personally think that this must be one of the most menial jobs on earth and when you see some of them at work, you just know it. The entire body language screams, “I hate my job!”

And who can blame them?

But there’s another set of “yellow fever Policemen.” These are the ones that intrigue, inspire and motivate. They don’t just control traffic; they entertain. They dance, spin, roll and slide. They are such a delight on the roads that many of them have received tips and applause from motorists and bystanders. A few of them have even received National awards in the past.

Yet it’s the same job, same pay.

The difference is attitude. One set approach the job with contempt for self and opportunity; the other set approaches with gratitude for the chance to work and earn a living. And when you can approach your work with a great attitude, you find creative ways to make it fun.

Attitude.

That’s the magic. It may not be the best job in the world but you can be the best at it. The battle over self is a bigger one than any other; win that and you can win any other.

So which kind of yellow fever are you?

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Sunday book review: Promises on Sand

I’m no poet. I do not deceive myself that I am Rupi Kaur. I am not. But I love poetry. Sometimes, I dabble into poetry; a few lines here, a few lines there.

So when I see a poet who is focused and passionate about their poetry, I sit up and take notice.

I saw such a one recently.

Her name is Amina Aboje. She is a poet; and her collection of poetry is a poetry lovers’ delight any day.

I got a copy of her book, Promises on Sand, a few weeks back and my poetry life has never been the same.

The book contains a rich and varied collection of poems on every contemporary subject you can think of.

Promises on sand is not a book you read and discard, it is a book that takes pride of place on your bookshelf so that you can whip it out often and refresh yourself.

Amina takes us through love notes, political discussions, dealing with grief, social issues, etc.

This is Amina’s first book but I can already tell it will not be her last!

Happy Mothers Day! 

Today is Mother’s Day  in the US and since I’m in the US right now, I want to celebrate some amazing women that have mothered me here.

Top on the list is my beautiful sister, Francisca Ehikhuemen. From the moment I arrived in the US, I knew I was home. She has loved me and welcomed me with open arms. I have eaten what I want and done what I wish without feeling even a twinge of apprehension. Who does that?

Happy Mother’s Day Ma’am. I want you to know that your love and warmth has not gone unnoticed by Heaven. Your proper day of celebration is coming. The Lord will perfect all that concerns you. Nations will rise and call you blessed and you will reap the fruits of your labour.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Other women here have loved me too. Hannah Ezekiel went out of her to take me out and pamper me for a whole day! Warri sister like no other, African Mama with no apologies. I celebrate you and pray that God will wipe away every tear and restore everything the enemy has taken from you!

My high school sister, May Olusola has always been a blessing and we spent a beautiful evening together  catching up on old times. The Chinese dinner we shared will not be forgotten in a hurry. May all your motherhood dreams come true my dear sister.

Maureen Erere Ibe had never met me in real life and what she did shocked me to my roots. She drove forty five minutes with her kids to come see me and spent a lot of time with me which  I found most heartwarming. I would have been grateful if she had left it at that but she didn’t; she picked me up on a different occasion and took me to her home. I was not prepared for a sleep over but she would have none of it. She took me shopping, for lunch, breakfast the following day, and generally all over the place. Maureen, thank you for giving me that look into the typical life of a Texas mother. Your lovely kids and beautiful dog added so much colour to my stay and the sacrifice of your husband driving over an hour out of his way to take me home will not be forgotten in a hurry. Happy Mother’s Day beautiful sister.

My trip to Illinois was the icing on my cake. A woman who had never met me, married to a school mate, did so much to make me feel welcome that my heart is still pumping from the experience. I choose to write about her separately.

My sister of many years, Helen Black has been nothing but a blessing and I celebrate you. God bless you good.

Happy Mother’s Day to all these lovely women and many more who have brought me to where I am today. Our day of celebration is coming, but for today we are grateful for the joy of motherhood.

My Warri Chronicles 6. Warri Taxi

The Warri in which I grew up did not have this contraption they call keke napep or Marwa. It did not even have the one we call ‘okada’ (by the way, when will Igbinedion rescue that name from shame and disgrace?)

The thing that Warri had for transportation was the taxi cab. And if you are thinking of Uber, then sorry for you! In Warri we don’t do things like that.

The Warri taxi was old from the day of manufacture. It was usually ‘Datsun’ model if memory serves me right. New taxis in Warri were unheard of; why person go come take new ‘shasis’ moto take do taizi na? shuo! Na wa for you oh! (we will speak the Warri language soon, not today though).

The doors of the cab were attached by something that did not exist in real life. The drivers wore shirts that were either torn on one side or T-shirts that were permanently askew from too many washings, and the last wash was before the man became a taxi driver may years ago.

If you were not careful boarding or alighting from the Warri taxi, your dress, or at least some part of it, would remain in the taxi as souvenir to its cutting ability. And if any part of it touched your skin, you were guaranteed a cut that would earn you a tetanus infection in other cities. Not in Warri though. Our skins were made of tough material. In the Warri taxi, it is ‘2 for front, 4 for back.’
Although I seem to remember a time when it was different?

Then the taxis began to reduce in quantity and it was difficult to get around; especially if you had to go to the market. But in Warri, everything is an opportunity. Some smart guy came up with the idea of pick vans as passenger transport vehicles.
The route I recall was the one to Igbudu market. The pickups were as old and rickety as the taxi cabs, or older? The back was lined with a few benches and the people-usually women-would sit like they would in church waiting for a sermon, smelly body against smelly body.

Some passengers would face forward and others would face the place they were coming from; noisy, smelly, shaky, but it was a means of transportation.

It would shake its occupants all over the place at its own pace which was often at the whim of the driver.
At every bus stop, you would hear, “dropping dey, oh.” Until everyone got to wherever they wanted to go. Then they would rescue their limbs and waists from the cramped space and find their way home.

I don’t recall ever entering any of those things myself; but I trekked. In my Warri, trekking was often a means of transport and it was no big deal.

We shall talk about trekking another day…make una manage dis one first.

#warrichronicles #mywarri #BornToWriteWell #ElsieWrite#IAmAWriterByChoice

My Warri Chronicles 5. Market matters

Ogbe Ijoh market was right on the beach beside the Atlantic Ocean…or whatever the name of that body of water is…in other places, it would be said that the market is on the beach, but not in my Warri.

The market was on a large stretch of sand, so the Warri man…or woman…gave it an appropriate name; it was known as Sand Sand market.

I kid you not.

We had sand sand market in Warri, and it was where you got the best, straight-from-the-ocean seafood. The other place where seafood was in abundance was Pesu market, quite far from my end of town so, we did not go there often, but it was a good place to get some kinds of fish used for preparing some Ijaw or Urhobo delicacy.

Then there was McIver market. Or was it spelt Makaiva? I don’t know, and I doubt if the market women cared about the spelling. I never could tell the difference between Pesu and McIver…still can’t actually.

Ibo market was right in front of the St. Andrews Anglican Cathedral which was “our church.” And where I would marry decades later. The area around Ibo market could easily be referred to as the CBD of Warri in those days. The post office was in the same neighbourhood, alongside some other important government establishments that my memory is pushing away. I think P&T offices (Nitel) was in the same area.

Ibo market was where you bought fabrics for school uniforms, trousers, shirts and other “oyinbo” stuff like leather shoes, bags, etc etc. By its name, you knew immediately it had a high population of Ibo traders. It was not a particularly big market, in fact, it was more a combination of street shops, but it was a bustling place. And it served its purpose.

Everything in Warri served a purpose; the markets more so. To an outsider, Warri was a disorganized and disorderly place, but not true. Warri was one of the most organized cities I ever lived in. You just needed to understand the organogram.

Warri! One of your girls dey remember you!

#WarriChronicles #WarriNoDeyCarryLast #HomeTowns

My Warri chronicles. 4. Let’s go to the market.

Warri markets were like everything else in Warri; they had character. There were several serving the bustling metropolis. And every neighborhood had its own markets.

For Okumagba layout, there was Polokor market and Igbudu. There was also Karien street market for emergency purchases.

Serving Okumagaba estate was Okere market, which was actually the major market for the Okere-Ugborikoko community. It was an “Itsekiri” market. You could get all sorts of produce from the hinterlands of Itsekiri in Okere market.

The market was located on a major road, Esisi road, which swept from Ugborikoko to GRA and as was usual with Nigerian markets, would very often spill into the road, and motorists had to be careful not to drive over the wares displayed daringly by the roadside. Ajamimogha road cut through the centre of the market and extended all the way to the Olu’s Palace area. Okere was mostly for food stuff and groceries.

But there were two markets that fascinated me to no end.

One was Igbudu market. It was rumored that anything you could not buy from Igbudu market did not exist. Igbudu was huge, and one could easily get lost in its labyrinthine interiors. Igbudu had boutiques selling everything imaginable, as well as meat shops displaying freshly slaughtered cattle and everything in between. As I write this I can almost see the fresh looking tomatoes we used to buy from Igbudu market.

The other market I found fascinating was the one known simply as Main market. Main market was the market for more upscale goods, like gold jewelry, coral beads and exotic wrappers and laces. It was to Main market you went if you were planning a wedding and needed to buy uniforms (Aso-ebi). Main market was where you saw market women so gorgeously attired you needed courage to ask, “how much?” We did not go to main market often enough for my liking but I loved those trips.

Main market was on the major road in Warri, the Warri/Sapele road, which we shall talk about another day. It flowed into another market behind; this other market extended all the way to the seaside and this was where you got the freshest, biggest and tastiest shrimps, seafood crabs and exotic seafood. It was known as Ogbe-Ijoh market…to be continued.

#warrichronicles #warrinodeycarrylast #mywarri #Elsiewrite #BornToWriteWell #IAmAWriterByChoice