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Friday, July 27, 2018

Blooming At Dawn (3)



Toronto – November, 2015


***
“Hi Stacy” Dolapo greeted as she picked her call.

“Hello Dolapo” Stacy’s pronunciation of her name sounded like Dolapoe instead of Dolakpor. ” My team & I have enjoyed getting to know you during the interviews and we would like to offer you the position”

“That’s awesome! Thanks Stacy! It’s been my pleasure meeting you guys as well. This is the best news ever!”

“Happy to hear that” Stacy laughed.

They talked details of the offer and start date. Dolapo didn’t bother to negotiate the salary – the offer seemed fair enough plus she was just happy at the opportunity to get busy.

Once she got off the phone, she dialed her mother to give her the good news.

“Mom?”

“My dear, bawo ni?” her mom sounded groggy.

Snap. She completely forgot about the time difference. It had to be about 10:30 PM in Lagos. Her parents were usually in bed at that time.

“I’m fine. I’m sorry I woke you. I just wanted to tell you – that interview I went for? I got the job”

“Halleluyah! Thank God! That is wonderful news. Congrats my dear”

“Thanks mum.” She heard a ruffling in the background and a muffled who is that? “Is dad awake?”

“Yes. Baba Dolapo, omo yin ti ri’se o. Come and talk to her”

“Uhn? She got it?”

“Yes, take the phone and talk to her.” Her mom sounded emotional and on the cusp of tears.

“That’s good news now, why are you spoiling mouth?”

“Oluwadolapo” He always used her full name.

“Yes daddy”

“Congrats my dear. Is it a good place?”

“Yes daddy. It’s a great opportunity.”

“Good, good. At least you’re starting to stand on your feet again.”

More sniffling from mom.

“Obinrin yi!” Dad snapped exasperatedly at mom. “Stop with the tears already. Is this something to cry about?”

“What? Can I not cry happy tears because my child is doing well? Give me my phone back jor.”

“Oluwadolapo, We will talk again tomorrow. Let me return the phone to your mother before she blows a gasket or blubbers all over the bed.” She could hear the teasing in his voice.

“You see how your father treats me abi?” Her mom jokingly complained. Dolapo smiled. Thirty years together and they were still cute.

“I’m Switzerland mom.”

“You are yoru father’s daughter. What else would you have said?” she scoffed.

“My dear, congrats again. It shall be well with you”

“Amen”

“You shall be favored always. May God Almighty cause His light to shine upon you. He will bless the works of your hand.” Every call with her mom always ended with prayers. They soothed her spirit.

Being the first of three children, she’d always been close to her parents, but more so her father. She knew they were still uneasy about her move but they respected her decision. Being firstborn was also one of the initial things she and James had bonded on when they first met.

****

Lagos – May, 2013

“Dunni, stop arguing with me! This stubbornness is exactly your problem. Whatever you’ve done to upset mom this time around, I don’t wanna know. Just fix it.” Dolapo listened as her younger sister ranted over the phone about how mom hated her and  how it was unfair that she always had to apologize, ergo the world is unfair.

Dolapo rolled her eyes. Dunni had more in common with their mom than either her and their last born, Debola. It was probably the reason they butted heads the most.

“Well, what do you expect? You’re the child, of course you have to apologize first. You’re never gonna win against her so just apologize already. I gotta go back to what I was doing. Bye!” She cut off Dunni mid protest and dropped her phone into her bag.

As she waited to complete her annual medical check up, she took in her surroundings. Rows of blue coated metal chairs sat empty in the sparsely populated waiting room of the hospital she sat in.  It obviously wasn’t a busy day for them, which she guessed was a good thing, although hospital administration might disagree. A nurse in a white gown sat at a desk in the corner taking vitals. The room was brightly lit from the fluorescent lights on the ceiling. The volume of  the TV mounted on the wall was turned low and she could barely make out what the presenter was saying.

“First born?” A masculine voice behind her inquired.

Dolapo turned, unsure if she was the one being addressed. Cute. That was her first thought when she saw him.

She turned her thumb in the direction of her chest. “Me?”

Really cute. That was her second thought at his smile.

“What gave me away?” She asked.

He shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the whole ‘do-as-I-say / small mummy’ thing you had going on there.”

“Ahh. That always blows my cover.” She feigned disappointment.

“Plus it takes one to know one” he added. He held out his hand for a handshake.

“Hi, I’m James. James Bond”

She snorted. “You don’t say”

From then on, friendship with him came easy.

Falling in love, inevitable.

One year and some later, she remained convinced that he was her forever one. They shared a lot of love, lots of laughs, disagreements were few and far in between. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

Till ‘J’ showed up.

When James had first expressed concern about the flowers, she’d teased him about being afraid of a little competition. He’d  scoffed at that one. As the flowers and calls continued, he grew increasingly concerned.

“Let’s go to the police”

“And say what? Someone’s sending me flowers and I don’t like it? They’re not going to do anything and you know it.” she’d argued.

“I don’t like this, Dee.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned in for a hug. She didn’t either.

When she’d found the single rose on her pillow, the the fear that gripped her was numbing. The thought that there could still be someone lurking in the house galvanized her into action. She grabbed the handbag she’d dropped in shock and got the hell out of dodge. She’d run halfway down her street before she realized she’d left her car behind.

James had rushed over to pick her up from the front of the supermarket she stood in front of and drove her to the police station to lodge a complaint. She knew there wasn’t going to be much help from that front when the officer had point blank asked her if she was not just overreacting to an eager suitor. After all, there was no crime in a young man admiring a pretty woman, he said.

“He came into my apartment!” she’d fairly screamed at him.

“Calm down, Aunty, don’t shout at me” the affronted officer had warned her. “This is a police station.”

“Yes we know.” James ground out angrily. “Are you not going to do anything? What if he hurts her?”

“See ehn, there’s not much we can do. Except you know who the person is and you can tell us his name.”

“Are you kidding me?” James hissed. They left the station angrily.

She stayed at James that night. Next day , while engrossed in work, she’d absentmindedly answered when her phone rang

“Hello.”

“The police, Bunny? Really? You shouldn’t have.”


 To be continued

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Blooming At Dawn (2)



Toronto, November 2015

“Your resume tells me that until a month ago, you lived in Nigeria. Is that correct?” Stacy, my interviewer asked with a curious expression on her face.

“That is correct.” Dolapo responded with a smile.

“So, what brings you to Toronto?” She asked.

“Interesting question that.” Dolapo gave a small laugh.

Even if it was cliche, the answer really was simple. She was running from her past.

But she couldn’t say that because it just screamed too much baggage. Sort of like when someone asks ‘how are you?’. You say ‘fine’ even if you’re not because people don’t really want to hear about your drama – especially when you’re asking them for a job.

So she smiled and gave the rehearsed response she readily handed out whenever she got asked why she moved to Canada.

“The opportunity to move here came up just at a point when I was looking for a new challenge and I thought why not? So, voila! Here I am!”. Dolapo finished with the animated flourish of someone who’d practiced her answer many times in front of the mirror.

She saw Dee sit up from her couch with a look of approval on her face. She gives Dolapo a thumbs up sign and says, “That’s the spirit Missy! Adventurous and super cool , that’s the vibe we want”. She  reclined again and pops another potato chip in her mouth.

Stacy nodded her head and smiled, as if in sync with Dee.

“That is so brave of you. And welcome to Canada! We are really nice people, much nicer than Americans, I tell you. I’m sure you’ll love it here – well, maybe not so much in winter though,” They both laugh.

An hour and a couple of questions later, the interview came to an end with a promise for feedback in a few days.

****

Brave.

Dolapo reflected on Stacy’s comment as she waited in the lobby for her taxi home. The Uber app showed that her driver was 6 minutes out. It was just after 3:30 PM  and the afternoon traffic was starting to build up. She found the rush outside comforting, the buzz reminded her of the vibrant city of Lagos – affectionately called Lasgidi by her people. She’d called it home for the past twenty eight years of her life.

Stacy was certainly not the first person to label her brave. She however did not feel brave for deciding to run halfway across the world because she could not face her guilt.

It’s not your fault. Their lips had said.

It’s your fault! Their eyes screamed.

No. She certainly was not feeling brave.

****

Lagos  – December 2014

“Hmm! You and this your secret admirer. I go love o” Dolapo’s colleague, Joke teased.

Dolapo stared at the bouquet of red roses sitting on her desk and wanted to scream. The soft floral scent was so sickening she felt bile rising in her throat.

“So, are you ever going to tell me who keeps sending you these flowers? You have been getting them every week for how many months now?" Joke probed.

Once every week for the past six months,  Dolapo silently responded. She did not care to admit it out loud. She reached for the card, although she already knew what it said.

I love you Bunny.

You’re mine alone.

All my Heart, J

J.

A freaking letter was all it took to rattle her to her core.

“It’s nobody,” she mumbled to Joke’s question.

She picked up the flowers and dumped them in the bin beside her desk. Knowing it was not beyond Joke to dive into the bin to feed her curiosity, she stuck the card in the pocket of her grey pants.

“I don’t know why you always waste the flowers. It’s a romantic gesture that a lot of girls would kill for.” Joke grumbled, a bit of envy leaking through her smiling facade.

“Well, the lot of girls are welcome to them” Dolapo snapped, giving Joke a look that said 'leave me alone' now.

“Whatever.” Joke retorted and turned to her laptop, typing away irritably.

When Dolapo had first received the flowers, she had thought they were from her boyfriend, James. After all, the card was signed ‘J’.

“What’s the occasion?” she’d asked when she called him

“Occasion? What do you mean?" he had sounded confused.

“You know. You sent me flowers at work. Not that I mind or anything but it’s not like you.” He had never been one for fluffy romantic gestures.

“What flowers? I didn’t send any flowers.”

“Come on. The card was signed ‘J’. As in J for James.” She rolled her eyes as if he could see her. “I should tell you though, you do not get points for being mysterious.” A thought occurred to her.

“Wait. This isn’t leading up to a proposal, is it?”

Whatever he was eating or drinking went down the wrong way. In between his coughing bout, he croaked out. “What proposal? I didn’t send any flowers!”

“Wow” she said dryly. “You really don’t wanna get married, do ya? I thought you were gonna expire just now”

Silence.

“Do you?” he asked.

She thought about it. She loved James and they’d been dating for about a year. But the thought of getting married freaked her out a bit. She was not sure why – her parents had a good marriage and she hoped to have one too someday. Just not now.

“You can breathe easy mister. I’m not ready.” she laughed. “But don’t get too comfortable, because I apparently have a secret admirer named J who sent me flowers”

She had never had a secret admirer before and the whole thing felt novel.

Then the phone calls started. “Hello Bunny” a raspy voice would say and then stay silent. All she would hear was breathing.

She had first been creeped out. Then she got angry.

The fear kicked in when she started getting the flowers at home. She’d gone into full blown panic mode when she came home one day and found a single rose placed on her pillow.

The bastard.

 To be continued



Friday, July 13, 2018

Blooming At Dawn (1)



Toronto – November 2015

Dolapo’s taxi sped along the streets of Toronto and she watched as the city passed by from her back seat  window view. It was a cold November day and the sun had taken the day off. At six degrees, it was cold enough to be called chilly but not freezing.

She cupped her mouth, blew on her palms and rubbed them together for warmth. Cold as she was, the small shiver that ran through her had nothing to do with the weather. She tried to shake her anxiety as she mentally ran through practice questions for the Business Analyst position she was on her way downtown to interview for. This wasn’t her first rodeo and she had been in a similar role before she’d resigned and moved to Toronto a month ago.

Thoughts of having left her life back home made her question herself for what seemed like the hundredth time since her big move.

“I hope you know what the heck you’re doing Dee. Moving here was a big deal. Like it-affects-the-rest-of-my-life kinda big deal.”

Dolapo could see Dee, her Inner Self roll her eyes and recline indolently on a couch as she popped a crisp salty potato chip into her mouth. Dee looked both exasperated and amused at being asked the same question for the umpteenth time. 

“Stop being so dramatic, Dolapo. It’s not such a big deal, it’s only a new life in a new country. How hard can it be, really?”

“Easy for you to say.” Dolapo mumbled under her breath.

The taxi  driver caught her eye in the rear view mirror and asked in a thick accent.

“Did you say something madam?”

Dolapo having watched many a Bollywood movies surmised he was originally from India. “No, nothing. Thanks” She smiled. He returned her smile and turned his focus back to navigating the city. He certainly wasn’t a chatty one and she was grateful for that.

The taxi rolled to a stop at a red light and her mind wandered off to another taxi ride in Lagos some months back. Just before she abruptly made the decision to move…..

****

It was a typical afternoon in Lagos, the sun high in the sky and the blistering heat just at  about thirty one degrees. The air conditioning in the taxi she was riding put up a halfhearted attempt at cooling the car but Dolapo soon gave up on it and rolled down the window to let in some breeze.Ugh. Big help, she’d sardonically thought as warm breeze  and dust blew in, lightly caressing her face and settling on her glossed up lips. She really should have gone with the matte lipstick, she’d fleetingly thought. 

As the taxi pulled to a stop at a red light, two teenage boys rushed towards them brandishing makeshift windshield wipers made of foam glued to a piece of rod and plastic bottles with punctured caps so they could spray soapy water from the bottle. They took positions on both sides of the taxi, preparing to wash the windshield. The taxi driver flicked a lever, making the wiper swish back and forth, a signal to the boys that their service was not required. Taking the hint, the boys lowered their tools and proceeded to the driver’s window. 

“Oga abeg, anything for your boys?” One of the boys pleaded with the driver in pidgin English.

In context, the whole exchange was never about service. The boys were street beggars. They both wore brown shorts and rubber slippers. One wore an orange t-shirt with inscriptions on the front that were too faded to make out. The other boy wore a plain brown singlet.

“Oga, we never chop today o” the boy in the brown singlet added.

The driver ignored them.

“Oga, abeg now, find something for your boys. God go bless you” the boy in the orange shirt pleaded again.

The taxi driver said nothing still. He started the ignition as the light turned green and geared to move.

The boy in the brown singlet took offense at being ignored and his face took on an insolent sneer.

“Oga, you’re too selfish, ah!”.

The boy then smeared the windshield with his  wiper, leaving behind a soapy mess before scuttling off with his companion. The taxi driver just shook his head and flicked the wiper lever to clear the mess as he drove away.

“Stupid boys.” He mumbled with a long suffering sigh of someone who’d had one too many of such encounters.

Indeed, it was such a typical day, reminiscent of the steady and regular rhythm of her life. But that was before her rhythm was broken and her life became an unfamiliar song that threatened to drown out her sanity.

****

“We’re here.” the taxi driver announced, jerking Dolapo out of her thoughts and snapping her back to reality. Dolapo smiled her thanks, slung her bag over her shoulder and stepped out of the car. The frigid November air hit her face, making her shiver despite the black coat she had on. She hurried into the tall reflective building that housed the consulting firm she was headed to for the interview. 


 By Miz Asa (courtesy naijastories.com)


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Ghana: The Tourists' Haven Next Door

Anomabo Beach Resort, Ghana 

Elmina Castle, Cape Coast, Ghana

  The West African countries of Ghana and Nigeria have an ongoing rivalry between them akin to that of siblings. From football, to politics, to entertainment, citizens of each country always want to demonstrate their superiority over the other, howbeit not in a hateful or biased manner. It is always more rants than facts.

 There have been several episodes of ‘social media wars’ or ‘Twitter Fights’ between citizens of both countries that leave us all clutching our stomachs with laughter. Through it all though, it is obvious that it is all love and sport.

Just like Nigeria, Ghana is rich in history, mineral resources, culture, tradition and places of interest to see and visit. 

Many Nigerians do not even know that in Ghana you have Hausa and Fulani speaking people like there are in Nigeria.

Cousins
Ghanians are like cousins to Nigerians. Visiting Ghana for a Nigerian is like visiting your cousins for holiday. There are lots you share in common, but somehow you all still do things differently.

Case in point, the jollof. When Nigerians visit Ghana there is an air of familiarity about the place, some lingo and slangs are commonly used, but their pidgin is still very confusing.

Food
Shitor. Banku. Waakye. Jollof. The list is endless really. Ghanian cuisine can be a joy to experience and even though the eternal battle over whose jollof is better still rages on, no Nigerian should visit Ghana without tasting the jollof. Ghanaian food is actually so popular in Nigeria that there are bukas and restaurants in Lagos dedicated to selling just Ghanaian meals. The most popular among them is Ghana High.

Shatta Wale
Shatta Wale is Ghana’s biggest music sensation at the moment. And only recently he has had a war of words with Nigerian pop artistes on social media.

As long as you are not one to take these things too seriously, visiting Ghana to see a Shatta Wale show should be on your list of things to do, at least that way you can see what the hype is about yourself and tell if he is as great as he says he really is.

Beaches
Ghana is blessed with such an impressive stretch of beach line. If you are tired of the Elegushi and Oniru beaches of Lagos, switch it up by exploring the coastline of Labadi and Kobrobite.

If you are enthusiastic about wildlife, visit the Cocoloco beach where you would find turtles and a large number of river birds.

Beach resorts in Ghana are beautiful and spending a night or more in one of them would greatly enrich your Ghana experience. Hospitality in Ghana is amazing with big establishments and Accra hotels offering top notch services to travellers.


Contributed by Caleb Olorunmaiye

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