Monday, 17 March 2008

What Do I Call This?

Why do white people ask weird questions. Okay this is what I do for a living. I work for an independent accreditation company here in London as a consultant. Like am fond of saying, consultant is an elaborate name to describe someone whose major repsonsibilty is compliance. So if you ever want to tender for a contract with any of the Local Authorities we look after, you come to me, I'll tell you what you need and make sure you have then at the time of application and move you on for vetting and my job is done.

While carrying out my duties I tend to speak to a lot of business owners. Dealing with them just made me realise how unwilling people are when it comes to parting with their money even if its going to bring them more business. They whinge and whinge about how they have to pay for something they've never paid before and the most irritating companies are ones who are in line to clinch a £10,000000 contract yet they don’t want to pay me a meagre £550 to make sure they are fully eligible to get it. The worst part of my day is when a company has failed health and safety checks. Chineke!

Anyway back to the weird question bit. I spoke to this guy today who wanted me to list him on the database of some Local Authorities. After I had dealt with his query then the questions started.

Businessman: So what does Ollay mean
Ollay: wealth
Businessman: Sorry?
Ollay: wealth you idiot (but the idiot bit was more of an aside)
Businessman: Oh nice, do you have a gap in your tooth as well?
Ollay: (Gobsmacked! what has a tooth gap got to do with wealth, unless am missing something here but I smiled) No
Businessman: Do you know Ollay means hello in Spanish
Ollay: So I've been told
Businessman: So basically you're Hello (and he mentioned my surname)
I laughed but didn’t find it funny. Just when I thought the worst was over
Businessman: How tall are you?
Ollay: Why do you ask?
Businessman: Just curious
Ollay: Okay 5"7
Businessman: (thinks) hmm... you're not that tall
Ollay: (Jesus! Like I need to be told. I need to get rid of him sharpish) Mr Businessman is there anything else you'd like me to help with (all business like)
Businessman: (Chuckled) No but just one more thing, do you have big eyes?

Now that was the last straw…I totally freaked out at this point and said "am sorry am unable to answer that question as I cant see its relevance to your business". Then he dropped the bombshell
Businessman: Am sorry that you feel uncomfortable but you see am blind and I just wanted to picture what you look like.

Now am perplexed as I didn’t know what to think. Should I believe him or not? But he did make me feel guilty cos I was kinda harsh on him. The problem though is how can the CEO of a door entry company be blind? How does he carry out his work? Does anyone regularly have to deal with weird questions like I seem to do everyday?

Sunday, 16 March 2008

The Lost Battle of Dieting.

I am sure am like every other girl out there. I worry about my waistline and feel guilty whenever I eat anything remotely unhealthy. Isn't the world a cruel place? Why is it that the food items that does your body good are the most expensive and worst tasting set of food available? Before I came to this country I didnt even know what my dress size was. I've heard about the gym but only thought of it as a place people who have too much money go to or where a girl in search of a mega rich Aristo go to. A trip down Excellence Hotel Ikeja on a Saturday and you will find all those beer bellied rich man sprinting away on the treadmill. How futile when by 6pm that same evening they are at Iya Rici's beer-palour drinking goat meat pepper-soup and Odeku.

Back to me, In Nigeria I eat what I want to eat and am never worried about my weight. In fact what pre-occupied my mind then was how I could have a bigger bum and boobs. I was never the stick thin neither was I yokozuna. Infact some people called me 'lepa-orobo' mainly because of my tiny waist but voluptuous hips. My stomach was taut like someone who does 120 crunches a day when in fact the only sport I did was a regular swimming every weekend. Even that wasn't done with the intent of keeping in shape.

Fast forward 5 years, I now know what a dress size is. My first shopping down Oxford Street was at Benettons where I went home with some size 10-12 clothes. In the land of plenty I developed an unhealthy craving for Doritos and for someone who had always liked biscuit I had loads of varieties to choose from. Then my waistline started to expand but I didnt see it. I sent photos of myself back to friends home and they say 'you've added weght'. Still I couldn't see until one day I went shopping and I noticed I had to buy a size 14...what had happened? I've always had big cheeks but now it looked I had golf ball stuffed into my mouth. I consoled myself that am big and beautiful and size 14 was hardly fat.

But the attention from guys started to dry up. No longer was I regarded to as sexy, they just say you're beautiful and that wasn't quite enough for an egoistic girl like me. My friends told me a few home truths about how different I looked now and in fact took the effort to send me a school magazine that had a picture of me as one of the hottest babes on campus. Dang! it was time to act.  I went shopping for a whole healthy range (weight watchers to be precise). I spent £140 in one go and in a week had thrown all of them in the bin. It wasn't just me. I couldn't stand all them yeye food abeg and went back to my pounded yam and egusi soup but knew I still had to do something. So I went shopping for diet tablets; Adios, Zotrim which  had no desired effect on me so I ditched them. 

It took a while for me to know that it was entirely futile trying to loose weight. My life now is different from the life of the girl in that magazine so embarking on the journey of yoyo dieting was a complete waste of time. Back then I used to go dancing from Thursday to Saturday and of cos my swimming every weekend and these activities were enough to burn off whatever fat I may have absorbed from eating ewa elepo. However in London, I try to go the gym which I pay £35 for and only managed to go 7 times in 3 months. I dont have friends to go out dancing with and even if I do where was the time? The little time I have left for myself is spent catching up on lost energy during the week in preparation for the following week. My life is home, school, work and back home and food is a major part of my daily activities.

However, one look around you and you get a constant reminder of why 'fat' has been criminalised so no matter how busy I am, I have to find time to embark on a permanent solution diet. Last year July I read up on all available journals on healthy dieting and through my gained knowledge I lost 17lbs. Yippee! that's a whole stone and 5 pounds and I went back to being a size 12, it was all worth it. Now am told am sexy again and some even say am smoking hot now that's what i want to hear... The down side to my new found figure is the guilt trip that accompanies every unhealthy food I ingest. My friend bought me a strawberry cheesecake today and I almost finished the whole lot. Now I feel so guilty about putting such bad food in my body that I've become suddenly unhappy. hence my reason for writing this. Mentally, am thinking how many calories have I added on to my body and how do I loose it. I've had to change my wardrobe and am so scared of going back to a size 14 and do a new set of shopping only to loose it again. This back and forth is what I dread but even I know that it is what am going to be beleaguered with for the rest of my life. Dieting is a lost battle so why even try?

Thursday, 13 March 2008

When Shall It All End?

I look forward when my trepidation about being at the airport will end. Its funny how I should tremble at the prospect of being in a airport after all trepidation is what innocent Iraqis feel when their beloved country is bombed every minute by both friend and foe and my situation is nothing compared to theirs. Well dont they say different strokes for different folk? I cling to it. 

There is a long queue of people; short, white, black, fat, thin, tall and there's me with that sullen face and heavy bag and a heart pounding so loud it jolts the person next to me. Gosh, its only a queue to passport control so what's my problem? My problem is my green passport. The fact that it makes me suffer some sort of discrimination that is not often meted out to holders of other coloured passports unless of course of you are of Pakistani origin or your name has something to do with Islam. In a world ruled by the likes of the powerful Americans, terrorism is only the senior brother to fraud and document falsification. 

I say am proud to be Nigerian only when the likes of Tuface wins MTV award or Samuel Peter wins the WBC heavy weight but most times I am ashamed to be Nigerian and dont find it particularly flattering when I have to flash my green passport at immigration control. In fact in the long queue I have to hide my passport until I get to the desk. Call it paranoia but I actually could save myself a lot of scornful looks by that single act. On getting to the desk, am asked all sorts of stupid questions they already have answers to as if they were waiting for you to just tell one lie and they send you packing. When they've been unsuccessful at ruffling your feathers they deliberately keep you waiting for God knows what. On one occasion they told me that they kept me waiting cos some idiots had falsified the Nigerian passport through the Nigerian Immigration Service and issued it to unknowing Nigerians. So they got a directive to check every passport to make sure its not one of the fake ones. I've had my passport 6 years prior to this time and one glance at how battered it is, you don't need some mind numbing experiment to tell that this passport is not one of the forged ones. Yet they made me wait 45 minutes after a long flight of 6 hours. You sit there shuffling your toes, biting the corner of your lips and people stare at you with that she's-a-criminal look plastered all over their faces.

And what's the cause of all this acrimony? I bet as Nigerians we all know so I dont need to go down that route. However my fifty cent is that before you falsify that document or embark upon fleecing people off their hard earned money, think of the millions of Nigerians whom you are criminalising in the process. There are Nigerians all over the world especially in the West who are doing great things but have minute media coverage but every so often the under hand antics of a few Nigerians get ample coverage. As we all know, bad news travel faster. I carry my cross as a Nigerian but indeed its a big burden upon my feeble back...

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

This Online Malarkey

Oh how I love the internet. Different people of varied colour, intellect and background, typing away, all trying to make their mark known. Some with pleasure and some with frustration venting their anger on the poor machine. Am a member of a Nigerian online community and this is the reason am writing today. I love using the forum and learning about other people's opinion about different subjects but boy! sometimes I log off seething. You come across all sorts of people. Recently a young girl of about 22 has become the object of my incessant anger. Apart from the fact that she is a multi-profiler (Oh yes another freedom the internet avails you; multiple personalities) she is also rude. Why do people feel that just because they are behind a computer screen they have to put all ethics beside? The fact that it is a Nigerian online community makes it even worse because from where we come from, younger people show a lot of respect for the older folks and just because you all have access to the internet does not make you all equal in intellect, age and otherwise. The frustrating thing about using such forums is that you cant reach out to wack the idiot across the face. Many a times I wish I could make my frustrations known by firing back at her but its all just going to turn into such a major mess so all I'm left with is to show her that I'm the bigger person by keeping quiet; let her wallow in all her stupidity. Perhaps more frustrating is the older folks in the house who suck up to her and let her get away with such belligerence.