Hi guys!! I am so excited about December – I can’t even keep calm. It has been a very busy period at work but that has not made my excitement about December wane one bit! But before we get into December matters, let me do a quick recap of my November.
Going on a digital detox. I took most of the month of November off social media (yup, second digital detox for the year) and it felt so good. On some days, I felt a little left out of whatever was happening on Instagram, especially the celebrity weddings that happened (you know I love LOVE *insert dreamy eyes*) but on most days, I was just content with living the simple life with Whatsapp, lol. The jury is still out on whether Whatsapp should be considered social media but until the jury decides, I will be sitting quietly on my ‘Whatsapp-is-just-SMS-on-steroids’ lane 😊
Meeting Sir Richard Branson! Yes!!!!! I met The Original Virgin Oga in person and even though I took a picture, it still feels like a dream.
I was chatting with a friend in the lobby of a hotel and just saw Sir Branson walk past casually. At first, I thought I was ‘seeing double’ because he was alone and I did not see any hefty bodyguards or security personnel hovering around the area. He was just taking a break from his dinner and going to the bathroom – no fanfare, no paparazzi. Although we waved ‘Hello’ to him on his way to the bathroom, we spent some time debating if we should/could ask for a picture with him. We asked nicely and he obliged us!!!!!!!
I wish I had engaged him a bit more in some light conversation (not sure if he would have had my time sef) but it would have been great to just hear him spill wisdom in his British accent, lol.
What makes this interesting is that I had received 2 of his motivational videos via Whatsapp earlier that week and I had spent some time reflecting on the content of the messages so he was in my consciousness. Bumping into him ‘by chance’ that evening did not feel like a random coincidence.
Moral of the story: Be very deliberate about the things you allow into your mind and consciousness. You become what you think. You attract what you think. I don’t know how else to say this but it is so true and it has been proven time and time again.
Seeing John Legend in concert: Continuing in the theme of seeing famous people, I also got to attend a John Legend concert in Johannesburg. Wow! John Legend is truly amazing. He is a fantastic performer and his voice is rich, silk and goosebumps-inducing. He performed for 2 solid hours and kept the whole crowd engaged. Of course, he did his usual move of getting a girl from the crowd on stage and then serenading her. Oh boy, the girl almost passed out from excitement, hahaha. And to end the show, there was no shame in the game as we all raised our hands/phones while singing ‘All of Me’ like it was a worship song, lol.
Officially learning how to edit videos and vlog: On my trip to Zimbabwe a few weekends back (yes, I went to Zimbabwe when Mugabe was still President), I was unable to do my IG stories because of the digital detox so I decided to take short videos of my trip and do a short vlog on the entire experience. Doing the research about what tools/apps to use for my amateur movie launched me into the deep world of multimedia and video editing and honestly, I know this is not my current calling in life. I am happy to be in front of the camera trying to speak phonetics (hahaha) but all the gymnastics that happens in the production, post-production etc are still well above my paygrade for now. I promise to push through and finish this particular ‘vlogpost’ (what is the video equivalent of a blogpost?) which I will share with you all shortly.
Doing my last adrenaline-rush activity for the year (or ever!!): 2017 was definitely the year of adrenaline for me. I went zip-lining in March, skydiving in April and now, I just went gorge-swinging. Up until a month ago, I had never heard of gorge-swinging but it is essentially the older brother of bungee-jumping. There is no need to talk too much about this one. You will see the video on the vlog 😊
p.s – the scarf on my head was to make sure the wig didn’t fall off, hahahahaha!
Finding the ‘30 billion’ that Davido has been singing about. I found it plus some extra change for the road, hahahahaha.
No moral of the story here. I am just excited to announce that I am now a billionaire! Yaaay! Hahahahahaha.
Note: That bill is no longer legal tender in Zimbabwe and was worth only $1. Please o, don’t come looking for me, lol.
Alright now – December is upon us and I am very excited to announce the Kemi’s Christmas giveaway scheduled to run from the 1st – 24th of December.
I announced this on Instagram a few days ago and the comments on that post were HILARIOUS!!! I think the most hilarious response to the giveaway announcement had to be from Mama Kemi. She called me and told me that she is not interested in any of the gifts in the giveaway but she was creating her own gift category and I had to make sure she was the one who won it. I was just weak, hahahahaha.
So why this giveaway? First, we all know that the essence of Christmas is giving – God gave us His Son, Jesus and so the best way to celebrate is by giving. Secondly, in my last post, I told you all how Ofe (my cousin) was such a big giver and since her relocation to heaven, her legacy of giving relentlessly has been top of mind for me. I had been thinking about what/how to give and once I made the decision to spend this Christmas in Lagos, I knew that my December travel fund was to be put to good use.
The original plan for the giveaway was to gift 12 of my favorite things (ranging from boli/grilled plantain & fish to an all-expense paid international trip) to one of my Nigerian Instagram readers/followers, every 2nd day between the 1st and 24th of December. However, since the announcement, a few more people have reached out to me to say they want to donate gifts to the giveaway. Isn’t that just beautiful? Now, we are up to about 18 gifts which will be won EVERY DAY from the 1st of December!!! I am hoping we get to 24/25 gifts and end with a bang on Christmas day! BOOM!!! Or maybe even have gifts every day till the very end of the year – now that would be EPIC!!!!!!
The giveaway is being hosted on Instagram and to participate/qualify to win, you have to follow me (so that you can actually see the different gifts every day), follow the specific vendor for the gift you want to win and like the post announcing the gift you want to win. That’s all. Everyday winners will be randomly selected from the list of folks who like the post and follow the vendor. SIMPLE!
You don’t need to repost, you don’t need to create a hashtag, you don’t need to comment, you don’t need to beg all your friends and family to like your comment (it is not a popularity contest). All you gotta do is, Follow the vendor, Like the post and Pray to God for favour so that your name is randomly selected. I can only imagine how many prayer requests are sent up to heaven now– thank God He has capacity to listen to all of us at the same time, hahahaha.
That’s all for now folks! I encourage you to look for ways to give and be a blessing to people around you, no matter how small, because ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’.
Hugs and Christmas cheers,
p.s – Look out for the vlog on my trip to Victoria Falls – coming soon to a YouTube screen near you 😊
Hi guys! Thanks for the overwhelming response to my last post – WOW! I looked at the number of views and I was just humbled. Thank you for making vulnerability easier and for sharing your own stories of growth in the comments section. Another BIG FAT THANK YOU for all the birthday wishes, prayers, calls and messages. God bless you.
*long emotional post alert*
Hmm, on to this post. I won’t lie, I am really struggling to put my thoughts together. I had been so excited to share about my trip to New York (and to the U.K right after) as I mentioned in my last post. However, while on this trip, I got some super painful news about the passing away of my beloved cousin/big sister who I actually saw on this trip and that definitely changed everything.
You know, before this time, I had never lost a very close relative/friend/loved one (Father Lord, I thank You again for the gift of life for me and all my loved ones). Apart from my grandparents, I have never really lost anyone close to me, so this one hit HARD. I think what made it even harder was that I had seen her just 9 days before she passed on. In fact, her last Instagram post was the picture we took where she was thanking me for surprising her and making her year.
As you can see from the picture, she was in perfect health, all smiles and PERFECT! So imagine my shock when I got that WhatsApp call while at a train station in London. I did not know when I crumbled to the floor and wept. I just sat there on the floor and cried and cried and cried and cried until my chest could not take it anymore.
After sitting on the floor for a while and getting only a few weird stares (London people know how to mind their business, lol), my bum started aching and I realized I needed to go home. By this time, I was aware enough to know that I had lost my sense of coordination and could not trust that I would remember the correct train stop, so I just gave myself some brain as we say in Nigerian parlance, temporarily forgot about the British Pound to Nigerian Naira exchange rate and ordered an Uber. And for the rest of the trip, I kept taking Uber rides because I was just drained and did not have the energy for London’s ‘change train line thrice, switch buses twice and walk for 10minutes’ way of life just to get to one destination.
I had some grand plans for the rest of the trip, but I was too broken to execute. I was mentally planning a birthday photoshoot, some shopping for the shoot, some exotic dinner, visit a few people, see a play at the West End, blah blah blah but everything (except food) just seemed bland and bleh. I was not in the mood for anything – I just wanted to lie in bed, eat and cry all day.
But God gave strength!
Once I got back to Nigeria, I went straight into admin mode and started organizing stuff. I wrote the biography, collated tributes, attended to guests at the house, formed as much activity as possible, and kind of put off the reality of it all until the day of the burial. And then I WEPT again.
But God gave even more strength!!
My cousin ‘Ofe’ (our pet name for Ifeoluwa Onasile-Odusanya) lived a rich, full and victorious 38 years. We shared a room for about 3 years before she relocated to the U.S. to be with her lover-husband (I usually referred to him as Uncle Honey). I was even her maid of honor at her wedding. We had so many dance parties in our room and when we started laughing about something, it was a riot! She was so full of life! Ofe was also the one who forced me to start wearing more color (I cannot explain my love for black and Mama Kemi does not understand it either) – after harassing me endlessly, she started buying me colored brooches just to help my matter, lol.
And because I know Ofe would have wanted me to do this, I will share some of the lessons I have learnt over the past couple of weeks, from my trip and the time since she relocated to heaven.
+ Giving is the joy of life: As I collated Ofe’s tributes (all 50+ of them), I fell in love with her all over again. The testimonies were the same – she was a giver, she was selfless, she was so generous and always went out of her way to give and give and give. She gave of her time, her love, her warmth, gifts, card, and so much more. She gave to family, friends and colleagues. She gave to the young and the old. She was a GIVER! Everyone in the house had something she had given to them – earrings, a bag, shoes, etc. I still have brooches, some shoes and a tunic she got from a medical trip to India. Like who goes to the hospital and buys something for you on their way back? It made me ask myself, ‘Oluwakemi, how much of a giver are you?’ Do we only give to people who give us back in return? How many lives are we really touching beyond our immediate family? How many people will thank God for your existence?
+ Don’t pass up on any opportunity to show/tell people you love them. My trip to see Ofe in Maryland was quite random and unplanned, but I told myself I could not possibly be 90 minutes away in D.C and not see her. The morning I went to see her, I got only 3 hours of sleep (I was actually finishing the last blogpost – putting pictures, etc), woke up super early to drive to Maryland to hug her and get back to D.C in time to get my 1230 train back to New York. Sounds exhausting, right? It felt exhausting on that day but I definitely would not have it any other way now! Can you imagine how painful it would have been to know I was so close but too lazy to be the last relative from Nigeria that saw her? I would have wept blood! I probably would not have forgiven myself for a long time.
I literally had to drag her out of church (thankfully, she was not ministering in the choir that morning) to catch up quickly, take photos in the car park, smother her with kisses, and promise that I would be back to visit her properly. She was soooooo surprised and just kept shouting, ‘Kemi, you this child and all your waka waka. Is this you I am seeing just like that?’ Well, this is one waka waka I am most grateful for!
Sometimes it will not be convenient, but do all you can, whenever you can, to let your loved ones know just how much you love them. Seize the moment to show love, or as the fancier ones amongst us say, “Carpe Diem, no matter how short. The 15mins I spent with Ofe in the parking lot that Sunday morning are priceless.
+ At the end of the day, everyone in Nigeria is your family friend a.k.a we are all 1-2 degrees of separation apart. I cannot count the number of my friends/acquaintances that DM’d me after I put up Ofe’s picture on IG & Whatsapp, telling me they knew her. From the various churches she attended, her secondary school, her university, some choir somewhere, etc.
I even went to see a friend of mine and his family before heading back to Nigeria and in the middle of consoling me, he went to IG to see the picture and screamed, ‘Oh my goodness, Ife is my sister from church in Abuja!’ Apparently, they were in the same department back then and were quite close. I’m like ‘UHN!!”. Some folks in my fitness group also knew her from church in Maryland. And the testimonies about her are all consistently the same!
I have told you before, the world is shrinking! Someone cannot afford to be badly behaved in this world o!
+ Don’t take yourself too seriously, find ways to make yourself laugh. On this trip, there were a few moments where I cracked myself up big time!
Trying to shoot another music video for Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind at the top of the Empire State Building was hilarious! My music video director (Jennifer of Life) was playing the song via her airpods and somehow both of us did not realize that the sound was not going to miraculously be heard in the video. Imagine how silly I looked just dancing to no music, lol.
Music video or not, the views from the top of the Empire State Building were quite lovely.
The worst has to be the wedding guest photo-shoot I did in Bradford. Hahahahahaha. I was attending the wedding ceremony of my study partner and buddy from business school, Yoel (aka Yo-Yo) in this quaint little town in the U.K; somewhere 3 hours away from London by train.
The ceremony was scheduled to start at 3pm and given that we were far from the city, there was not much to do. After working out, styling my hair and generally faffing around, I still had more than enough spare time before the ceremony started. So what did I do? I did a photoshoot similar to what they do for brides, lol. As I was taking the photos, I was laughing and shaking my head wondering how I even thought to do such a thing. Lol. Don’t judge me guys, blame it on boredom, lol.
I also had a lot of rib-cracking moments while reading Trevor Noah’s ‘Born a Crime’ during this trip. Trevor Noah is not well, lol. I would be on the train and be giggling to myself. Sometimes, I would literally laugh out loud. Given that I had just spent a few months working in South Africa, it was such an enlightening read and helped me understand the social construct of the country a little more. I absolutely enjoyed reading it and it made me smile and laugh a lot.
+ Time with people, not things, create the best memories – On this trip, it was less about being a tourist and more about being a friend (going to places that have a high concentration of Nigerians does this to me, lol). I spent most of my time reconnecting and catching up with some of my old friends and also meting up with some of my new online friends. I hardly had any meals alone – catch-ups were structured around mealtimes (breakfast, pre-lunch, lunch, pre-dinner, dinner, post-dinner drinks, etc) and I absolutely enjoyed spending time with these lovely people. I am not sure when next I will see these folks in person, but until then, technology (WhatsApp, IG and Facetime) will serve its useful purposes. Apologies to anyone (also known as Ms Shalom) I dragged on my walking/shopping runs – God bless you for your patience with me, lol.
+ Give kindness (and reply your DMs, lol), it will come back to you. Back in March, a beautiful young lady called Abi slid into my DM (sorry folks, not all DM sliders are boys, lol) to get some information about Tanzania as she had an upcoming work trip. I responded happily and even offered to give her my Tanzania tour guide’s contact. It cost me nothing but time, but I did not mind at all. She had a great time in Zanzibar and everyone was happy.
Fast forward to when I was going to New York, I completely forgot that Abi lived there. However when I posted a pic from NY, she messaged me again and offered to hang with me and show me around. I took her up on the offer and planned to spend my last day in NY with her. This last day coincided with the day my beloved bank’s systems decided to crash. Oh boy, see me sweating at the check-out counter of the store when I realized my cards (Naira and USD denominated) were not working. Internet/mobile banking was not working either. I was royally stuck!
Guess who bailed me out and gave me cash to run my last minute errands (plus taxi fare to the airport)? Abi!!! I also had a fabulous time hanging with her – she was my personal hotspot, tour guide, navigator and photographer for the day. Thanks, Abi! God bless you babes.
I am sure with this one story of mine, I have been able to convince you that your seemingly tiny seeds of kindness will pay off sometime. It might not even be for you directly but trust me, the good Lord does not forget.
Bonus tip: When going abroad, please go with different bank cards (and some cash) – only Jesus is 100% dependable in this life!
+ When in Rome, dress like the Romans. When in New York, wear face caps. When in London, wear trench coats, lol. I am not sure how I came up with this but I know that the ‘hip-hop hurray’ spirit came upon me when I was in New York and I wore a face cap every day when I was there.
Once I got to the U.K, wearing a face cap just did not feel right. Even wearing a bomber jacket felt weird, and I switched to a trench coat, lol. Don’t ask me why, I am still trying to figure it out. If you have any deep explanations, please share with me in the comments section.
+ The Fam in ‘FitFam’ can mean something more. On the trip, I also had the good fortune of meeting up with some of the lovely ladies I had connected with on the fitness group I belong to (http://www.aprillaugh.co.uk/). Sometimes it’s hard to believe I had only met this people on WhatsApp as they have grown to be such solid friends and family in some instances. It was an absolute delight to meet them in person and to give them real physical hugs! It felt like pen-pals meeting for the first time – so exciting!
By the way, it has been one year since I embarked on my fitness/lifestyle change journey and it’s been absolutely rewarding. I am stronger, more confident and definitely healthier. My clothes fit better and I sleep better now. I no longer spend money on Spanx or have terrible breakouts on my face (I know my dermatologist misses me, lol).
Puff-puff, dodo and chocolate cake are still problems in my life but I am much more controlled about how much of them I eat now. It’s a journey and I remain committed to it.
+ We all deal with grief very differently. While some of my cousins lost their appetites and could not eat, I went on an eating-spree o! *covers face* Gosh! I ATE! For national peace and security (especially after I have just written about fitfam), I will not post pictures or list out all the things I ate. Let’s just say I ate a LOT of things. Period! I had to do a 3-day detox to help me get out of my eating spree and I think it worked. Pheew! Back on track now – Amen!
During the burial, some of us cried, some of us did not. That did not mean the criers loved Ofe more than the non-criers. Her niece hung up the phone on anyone who told her to be strong or asked her to stop crying. Crying is part of the healing process for some of us, and it is okay to allow us to cry. It is not the time for motivational quotes, thank you. What is most important is we are there for each other through tough periods.
That said, I discovered that some people may decide to give you space, not because they don’t love you or want to be there for you, but really because that is how they deal with their own grief and so they automatically expect that it is the same for you. I think a simple ‘how do you want me to support you through this?’ conversation can help all the parties involved live happily ever after. 🙂
I earnestly pray that we don’t experience loss earlier than we ought to, but knowing that it has happened for some of us and will happen eventually to others, I also pray for God’s strength, grace and comfort for everyone who is grieving the loss/relocation of a loved one.
To end this post, here is a particular Scripture that I have held on to during this period.
Ife Oluwa kii shi (The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases)
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
His merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They are created new every morning.
The Lord can always be trusted to show mercy each and every morning.
How great and beyond measure is Your Faithfulness!
Deep in my heart I say,
“The Lord is all I need, I can depend on Him.
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over)
He’s all I’ve got left.”
Lamentations 3:22-24 (MSG, AMP, CEV)
Have you ever lost a loved one? How did you cope? How do you cope? How do you deal? What Scriptures do you turn to for strength? Please share with us!
Tight bear hugs,
p.s Ofe’s relocation to heaven put me in a very sober reflective mood for my 30th birthday so there was no ginger for party or turn-up of any sort. Maybe I will celebrate the first anniversary of my 30th birthday, just maybe.
That said, I am still accepting gifts o!! My home and office are open all year round to receive gifts, lol.
Hey yo, hey yo! Whaddup my peeps? How‘s it going? Been a long minute, yeah? ( hope the inner Amerciana I am trying to channel is coming through? Lol)
It’s always a pleasure to be able to come hang with you guys here and share my musings, lessons and adventures. Can you believe it’s been a whole year since I started the blog??? It’s just amazing how time flies (especially when you’ve taken a loan, lol).
On a serious note though, I cannot say THANK YOU enough to everyone who has been a part of this journey. It has truly been an amazing journey for me because this is the first time in my adult life that I have deliberately put myself out there. I am usually very discreet and coded with my personal life on social media but the journey so far has been extremely rewarding. (maybe it’s time to start making money from this o). I don’t want to repeat the same shout-out I gave on IG the day after the actual ‘blog-o-versary’ (I was so caught up in work on the actual day that I completely forgot. It was my sister-girl “Adrenaline” who reminded me – thank God for fantastic encouragers 🙂 ) but to everyone who has been involved in this blog matter in one way or another – THANK YOU! ESE PUPO! DAALU! NAGODE! UWESE! MEDASI! ASANTE SANA! MERCI BEAUCOUP! OBRIGADO! DANKE!
p.s. I am writing this post on a super bumpy train ride from New York to Washington D.C (the story of the adventures on this train ride will come in the next blogpost). The ‘shaky shaky’ vibrations of this train are worse than when driving on 3rd Mainland Bridge after the road has been scraped! I am so tempted to just sleep instead (I must have told you how I am one of those people who can sleep in/on a moving automobile – including motorcycles, lol) but September must not pass without a post. Amen somebody?
(Editor’s note (yes now, I am an editor, lol)- apologies that this post is coming a few days later than planned – blame it on holiday behavior.)
Okay, back to the matter! As I reflected on what I was going to share this month, one of my personal consultants reminded me of the various ‘growth’ journeys I have been on over the last few months. When it seems like you are on a roll and something comes along to burst your bubble, there are generally 2 ways to react – get defensive and blame everyone/everything else or accept the challenge and grow from it. I am sure you all know what the default response is for most of us.
In May, I got some very tough feedback at work and I was crushed! I mean, I was supposed to be a high-performing manager leading teams to victory on all our projects, coaching and apprenticing my team members and being generally awesome.
Err, not quite 100%! My team members had given some feedback that initially did not make sense to me. The shock I experienced was similar to the shock you get when you’re blowing a balloon and someone sneaks up on you with a needle and boom, your balloon bursts in your face.
I secretly blamed the system, blamed the universe, blamed my village people, blamed everything and everybody ‘blame-able’ and after that, I cried a river or two (with Justin Timberlake singing his hit single in my head, lol). Mehn, the thing pained me o! After my initial denial and attempts to justify, I finally asked myself, “what if they are right? What would it take to turn this around?” It was then and only then I began one of my growth journeys to becoming a more inspiring leader/manager. It felt like I had to bake and eat my humble pie at the same time.
As if God wanted to even stretch me further, He got me assigned to a new project in South Africa 2 weeks after I got the feedback. I had not done any work in South Africa before that and I remember thinking ‘this is surely a setup for failure’. It was difficult enough that I had to work on the feedback, then I got transferred to work with a team of people I had never worked with, on a topic I had never worked on, in a country I had never worked in, and to make it even ‘more worst’, right in the middle of the South African winter!
I had such a rocky start on that project. Jesus! I definitely contemplated giving up a few times. But I stuck to it and opened my heart to receive the feedback and make the adjustments that were required. It was HARD!!!! There were times I thought (and knew) I was right and folks were just being unnecessarily difficult but I would still pipe low and ask them ‘so what can I do differently to improve this situation?’ and then call on Jesus to take the wheel while I tried to listen as calmly as possible, lol. In the wise words of MI Abaga, ‘me sef I be human being too!’
Over the months we spent together as a team, I grew, oh I grew! I learnt how to listen without preempting. I learnt how to really dig deep and understand the underlying beliefs/values of each person on my team. I learnt how to engage with each person as an individual and adapt to their styles (I wonder how people with plenty children do this successfully!) I learnt how to be super observant and perceptive to the mood/temperature in the team room. I learnt how to accept when I am wrong and resist the temptation to explain it away. I learnt how to facilitate difficult conversations. I learnt just how big the room for improvement is and how we must never stop growing and seeking improvement, even in our personalities and behaviors. I met a new me – a better me.
Moral of the story: You are not a tree so you can change – even trees still grow. Even though it is easy to make excuses and say ‘this is just how I am’ or ‘this is my style – take it or leave it’, how about challenging yourself to find new ways to do things? Even Jesus calls us to be transformed with the renewing of our minds. Embrace your growth challenge, the rewards are outstanding. Switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
I was not the only one that grew, the entire team grew and our performance & team dynamics improved significantly. We had risen above the initial fiction and had truly become an exceptional team. To celebrate the awesomeness of our team, we all decided to take a weekend trip to Durban and instead of staying in separate hotel rooms, we agreed to stay together in holiday homes instead and actually live as a family. Instead of going clubbing, we decided to have a house party where we cooked, played games and just chilled together. It was beautiful! One of our holiday homes had an indoor pond with some exotic looking catfish. If that pond was in Nigeria, it would have been the hottest ‘point-and-kill’ spot ever liveth! Hehehehehe.
Side note – the holiday homes in Durban (especially in Zimbali resort) are worth fasting/praying/working hard for (not to die for o! If I die, how will I enjoy it?). They are great for large groups, destination celebrations and just unplugging from the hustle and bustle of big cities. I’d love to go back there soon.
Johannesburg was not only work, work work, work, work, work. Once the weather got warmer, I started going out more. I know I need to work on overcoming my winter blues but that is a growth journey for another year, lol. I hung out with my INSEAD peeps, met/re-met some fabulous people (the incredible Westcliff girls i.e Aissata & Amanda, Madam Dorcas who is one of my travel blogging role models and Modupe from my CU days, just to mention a few), participated in my first charity walk (and got a medal for finishing in good time, yaaaay!), attended some events and shows (Kakadu the Musical, King Kong the Musical, the Voice Nigeria live shows, etc), kicked off my East African invasion to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and so much more.
Moral of the story: Don’t pause your life because you are ‘growing’ or going through a challenging period. Live! Enjoy the happy moments – they will give you energy/renewal for the hard work of growth you need to do.
During this difficult period, I also ensured that I stayed connected to my core circle of support. I did not completely isolate myself because I was ‘going through’. I remember one late night I could not sleep and decided to watch a movie to pass time. I got to an emotional scene in the movie and started crying along with the lead actress (as per standard procedure, lol). However, when the scene ended, I could not stop crying. In fact, I started sobbing. I knew these tears were not about the movie anymore but about all the things I was going through. After sobbing for almost 2 hours, I took a bathroom break (yeah, bodily functions don’t stop for sadness o, lol) and then looked at my phone and saw a message from a dear friend of mine.
I replied and he could sense something was wrong from my tone. He called me and I just continued my crying. He listened to me as I went on and on and on and just allowed me vent. When I was done, he encouraged me and persuaded me to go to bed. He kept checking up on me and reassuring me that I would be fine. My bestie also caught me during one of my crying conventions and stayed on the phone with me until I had calmed down (opelope* whatsapp calls, lol). It was very comforting to have my close friends be strong for me when I was a hot mess. They also reminded me of all the other challenges I had overcome and that I would get over this period too. It’s amazing how we forget all our previous victories when we are in the heat of the battle.
Morals of the story: Find and keep your circle of support- you are going to need them to get through the tough times. You should also be available to them when they need you to be strong for them.
Also, crying can be truly therapeutic. Big boys and girls cry too. No shame in tears – it is part of the recovery process.
So yeah, it has been an incredible past couple of months learning and growing and trying to become a better version of myself. It has not been the most comfortable ride but growing pains are not supposed to be comfortable. I am thankful that I got the feedback and the chance to grow – imagine thinking you are superstar and then finding out too late in the game that you did not quite make the cut. Feedback is painful but it is the only way we can truly be challenged to make changes and grow.
As I gradually approach the last days of my 20s, I look back with truckloads of gratitude for everything – failures, successes, the challenges, the tough times, the sweet times, the happy and not-so-happy moments and I am most thankful to be alive to even be able to reflect. My life has not all been a song and a dance but I love my journey and where God has brought me to. If it had not been for the Lord, chai!!! That said, I think I am arriving at my next decade stronger, wiser and better.
What is the most difficult piece of feedback you have ever gotten? How did you react? Is there some work you need to be doing to become a better version of yourself? Feel free to share with me and the rest of this fabulous community (working on making this a reality o!) in the comments section below.
p.s – I know I said my next trip was supposed to be to a place with lots of water. I got my visa to Zimbabwe to see the magnificent Victoria Falls but the weekend I planned to go ended up being the same weekend my team and I went to Durban. But I still have my Zimbabwe visa and will definitely make my way there soon. For now, it’s wedding season and I have a couple lined up across the world over the next few weeks. There is also my New York JJC experience currently happening as well! Exciting times are here! Hehehehehehe.
p.p.s – should I even bother releasing a birthday wish list? Will you people allow God use you to bless me? Lol.
Hello people!!! How are you doing? It’s been about a week since I returned from Rwanda and I am yet to get over the entire experience. One of the good things about capturing memories on my trips is that they keep me entertained until the next adventure. I regularly look at pictures from past trips and find myself giggling when I remember the backstories of some of those photos.
Now, that was fun! I didn’t even know people actually watched instastories (shout-out to my IG family for all the love and the hilarious comments, lol). I received a lot of positive feedback and a few prompts to start a video-blog and consider going on TV! Who knows? I just might start ‘vlogging’. I never thought I’d do instastories but I did it and it was fun (slight work but fun still). So my new MO is ‘never say never’.
So, Rwanda was my 3rd stop in my current East African exploration (read Kenya post here and Uganda post here). I had been thinking about visiting Rwanda since January when I saw that NaijaNomads was planning a trip there later in the year.
I inquired about the trip and even started saving for it, but between work schedules and some other life happenings, I was unable to make it. However, when I wrote the first blogpost in the East African invasion series, I mentioned that I was also looking to visit Rwanda and Burundi and asked folks to hola at me if they were planning to travel there as well.
This is how I got a message in my FB inbox from an old friend, saying she was going to be in Rwanda for a while and she would be happy to host me. This is someone I had not seen or even spoken to since we graduated from university 10 years ago (yes, I am that old now) and she essentially offered me free accommodation and love in Kigali.
Moral of the story: Open your mouth and declare what you want. As Papa Oyedepo says, ‘a closed mouth is a closed destiny’. If I did not put it out there that I was looking to travel to Rwanda, there is no way I would have gotten an offer to be hosted!
Also, check your DMs on Instagram and Twitter! Check your inbox on Facebook. Check your inbox on LinkedIn (I am particularly bad at this, but I am working on it now. I have set weekly reminders to check messages). Make sure you don’t just read and ‘waka pass’, ensure that you respond too.
Moving on, a 1-week holiday from work fell on me, literally, and I was at a loss about what to do. I didn’t want to stay at home and have to deal with PHCN and generators and all that fun stuff, so I started thinking about affordable places I could travel to. 9-to-5 folks, you don’t know how blessed you are to be able to go somewhere that provides power (to charge your phone batteries at least, lol), air-conditioning, fast internet and more, every day.
You all know my relationship with visas, so the first criteria in deciding where to go was that it had to be a place that offered visas on arrival, or at most, had e-visa applications with quick processing times. Rwanda was an easy choice – there is a direct flight there and many alternative routes through Kenya and Ethiopia, plus the visa is even cheaper at $30 than Kenya and Uganda’s $50 visas. The best part is that you don’t even have to fill a form! It’s like visa application heaven 🙂
Moral of the story: If you are serious about travelling, it is best to keep a separate savings account dedicated to travel. It was easy for me to buy the ticket to Rwanda from my travel fund. You want to be able to take advantage of good opportunities whenever they come your way. I know I have missed out of a few flight ticket deals just because the money was not complete. That said, please do not borrow money to travel. I know the memories are priceless and the lessons you learn on the trip can be said to be assets, but I don’t think it is ideal to borrow to travel.
I had read Naija Nomads’ excellent article about the trip to Rwanda so I kinda had a clue about what to expect. However, Rwanda is better experienced than read about. It is a beautiful, small country that holds many lessons in nation-building, unity, efficiency, hospitality, simplicity, excellence, integrity and so much more. Apart from the brilliant points that Naija Nomads made in the article above, I made a few interesting observations on this trip.
My visit to the genocide memorial made me realize that even though it is important to curate history, we should not get stuck in it and refuse to move on and rebuild. Rwanda is really many shades of amazing, and although things are not all perfect (nothing is perfect anywhere in the world, really), they are getting a LOT of things right. I am no political analyst, but I suspect that part of the remarkable progress they have made can be attributed to the stability in leadership that they have had (think Lagos). It takes time to really make lasting change & sustainable growth and development in any institution – organizations and nations.
Building is not enough, having a strong maintenance culture is everything. The speed with which repairs are done in Rwanda is amazing. Trees that are knocked down get replaced within 24 hours. Little breaks in the roads are fixed ASAP. No wonder I was unable to find ONE pothole in this country, not even on the long drive to Gisenyi. Not ONE! I didn’t think it was possible in Africa, but Rwanda has shown me otherwise. We need a strong and agile maintenance culture to preserve our infrastructure. This trip was almost like an excursion for me – I went to some unusual spots to learn more about the economy of the country. I kept doing mental benchmarks with Nigeria (e.g., comparing their Special Economic zone with our own Lekki Free Trade zone).
Even though I am not a big fan of road trips (I think some of the near-misses I have had travelling within Nigeria might have scarred me a little), I had a good time driving 3 hours out to explore Gisenyi, home to Lake Kivu and border town with Democratic Republic of Congo (which I could not enter because I forgot to take my passport along, sigh).
I think I am going to start exploring multiple cities in the African countries I visit, going forward. The capital cities are cool and useful for learning history, but I find the most of the beauty lies outside these cities. Also, if you really want to disconnect and spend time with yourself, going out of the city is a great idea. Half of the time, the wifi in these out-of-town hotels doesn’t work in the rooms, so you have to spend all day sitting in the hotel lobby just to be able to hang out on Instagram, lol. By the time your back hurts, no one will advise you before you go to your room and read a book, or sleep, or pray to God, or write in your journal, or something.
And oh yeah, road trips are also great for reading (if you don’t keep falling asleep like me). I was one of those kids who fell asleep once they got into a moving vehicle, even if it was only for a 10-minute drive.
Unlike Kenya and Uganda, there is no traffic in Rwanda!!!! I thought it was an East African thing but Rwanda proved me wrong, again.
I realized that I did not exactly fancy gorillas that much, lol. When I heard the cost of the gorilla trek (about $1,500), I was shocked! I decided that it would be more beneficial for me to satisfy my gorilla curiosity through Discovery channel and National Geographic for now. Maybe when I have $30billion in my ‘akant’, I will be back for the gorilla trek. Don’t get me wrong, I have only heard fabulous things about the gorilla trek, but the Ijebu in me could not justify the cost, for now. (Ijebus are people from a tribe in Ogun State, South-West Nigeria, and they are generally thought to be very enterprising and conservative with money)
I found the HQ of ‘nkan mbe’ (nkan mbe is a local TV show that highlights mysterious happenings) in Kigali – my tour of the Presidential Palace museum just left me speechless. The VIP python (see day 2’s video for more details about this presidential “pet”), the location of the plane crash on April 6th, the ‘interesting’ rooms inside the palace itself, all seemed like stuff out of an episode of nkan mbe.
En-route the Presidential Palace Museum
Nigerian music is EVERYWHERE, and it seems our biggest exports are Wizkid, P-Square, Davido and Tekno. East Africans seems to be completely smitten by Tekno – I saw his face on numerous posters across the city and I remember how my tour guide in Tanzania last year had all of Tekno’s songs on his phone. The most interesting part is how they sing out all the words in the song including the vernacular portions like they know exactly what it means, lol. This reminds me of all the American songs I have bastardized in the name of singing along, lol. The intro to Jennifer Lopez and Jarule’s hit song “I am real” has to be the best example. Apparently J-Lo said ‘R-U-L-E’ and not ‘are you ready’ as we all believed growing up, hahahaha.
Our music is not our only export – some of our leading indigenous banks also have a strong pan-African presence. I always get always very excited when I see Nigerian brands abroad. not sure why.
I have also found my magic formula for not coming back from a vacation needing another vacation. I spent the first day (day 0) resting and reading, started my tourist waka on day 1 and continued into day 2, spent most of day 3 chilling – reading and getting pampered at the spa, drove out of the city on day 4, explored Gisenyi & rested for most of the evening, and then returned to base by mid-day on day 5 which gave me enough time to unpack, prepare for the work week and wake up pumped on Monday, ready to take on the week. Going hard every single day of vacation will leave you exhausted and in need of a holiday immediately after you return. I think it’s important to pace yourself and organize your trip like a sandwich – take it easy, go hard and take it easy again.
My time in Rwanda was amazing and super inspiring. It gave me renewed hope for Nigeria, hope that we can and will be great again. I returned very refreshed and energized (almost too energized sef, as I went to work on Monday with dancing in my feet).
It would be impossible for me to wrap up this post without talking about the amazing hospitality that Fergie showed me in Rwanda. She took such good care of me, my goodness! If she was a guy, I would have said this was all a plot to get me to marry her. She was extra extra kind, taking me everywhere, checking up on me when she was out, trying to stuff me with food (and then taking me to the gym to burn it all off, lol), struggling with me to pay for dinner, making a ginger, lemon and honey infusion for me when she heard me coughing at night (I suspect she was also trying to ensure I didn’t disturb her sleep on subsequent nights, lol) and just generally being an AMAZING hostess.
The warmth and kindness she showed me was really overwhelming (similar to how God loves us first even when we have not done anything good/useful for Him) and I cannot wait to pay it forward. Thank you Fergie, you have taught me next-level hospitality and I pray that God honors and multiplies your seed of kindness towards me.
Guys, let’s be kind to one another – it is a gift that keeps giving.
Love and kindness,
p.s I am already plotting the next adventure and it’s going to be something involving a lot of water :-). I just need prayers for visa favour. Amen!
p.p.s – The hustle to get videos into this post was REAL. Watch out world, I am about to become a YouTube ninja!
Hi guys, it’s good to be back. I guess it’s not quite a surprise that the best place for me to write my posts are on a plane. Yup! It seems to be one of the few places where I can enjoy the much-needed solitude required to write from my heart. I remember the very first article I wrote (the one on Japan that got published on Bella Naija) was also written on my phone’s notepad on the flight from Tokyo to Paris. My annual thanksgiving letters also happen to be written on flights. This time around, I am jamming to Ycee’s ‘too much juice, too much sauce’ track and hoping it will ‘ginger’ me to spill all the juice from Uganda in this post.
It is quite interesting that I wrote about ‘frolleagues’ (colleagues that become friends) in my last post, and then the wedding I flew to Uganda to attend happened to be that of a frolleague. I think my next post will be about money so that, you know, maybe 30 billion can fall on me 🙂
So I spent 3 days in Uganda a few weeks back and although it wasn’t my usual touristy trip, it was such a beautiful weekend celebrating love Kingdom-style. Before attending this wedding, I did not quite have a clear idea of what I wanted my wedding day to look like. Not sure I have said this here before but I have never really had daydreams about my wedding – what my dress would look like, what my ring would look like, what the colors of the day would be, etc. Never. After this wedding though, the picture is getting clearer – Halleluyah!!!
I flew in on Friday morning on yet another red-eye flight that left at 3am!!! I know I said I wasn’t going to take such crazy flights anymore but that was my only option to ensure I got to Kampala in time for the traditional wedding. After all the wahala, my connecting flight from Kigali to Entebbe was delayed so I got into town a bit later than planned.
p.s there is no airport in Kampala, so I had to fly into Entebbe and do a road trip to Kampala. That road trip is a story for another day. The short version of the story is that it felt like I was driving from Lagos to Osun State 🙂 #dazall.
Anyway, by the time I landed, my hair was a HOT mess! I think the air on that Rwandair flight was different because even though I know airplanes don’t work well with my weaves, I looked like a proper village girl by the time I landed. The ‘bob’ of my weave had become ‘flick out’ and it wasn’t looking funky at all. So in my usual style, I was chatting up the driver and casually told him about how I needed to get to the salon at the resort to get my hair touched up before heading to the traditional wedding and then he casually says to me ‘oh sister, there is no salon at the resort’. See gobe! (Davido’s spirit has really fallen on me o, lol). I panicked for like 5 mins and after asking the poor guy like 5 times ‘how can this resort not have a salon?’ I realized his answer wouldn’t make a difference, lol. So I quickly switched to problem-solving mode and told him to stop at any mall/shopping center on our way to the resort. Thankfully, we found one and my hair was restored to its original pre-flight glory. Now I was finally ready to take on Uganda, hahaha.
Moral of the lesson: Don’t be a snob. Talk to your driver- he/she has more information than you do, and trust me, you need all the information you can get as a JJC in a new city/country.
We got to the beautiful resort after a loooooong drive that was made longer because of traffic. I think that heavy traffic spirit is an East African thing. If I thought I had seen the worst in Kenya, Uganda taught me a fresh lesson. I got to the resort, showered, changed quickly to a basic white dress, put on some red lipstick (red lipstick makes everything look fancy sha!) and got on the road for another 2.5 hours to get to location of the traditional wedding. I had gotten a traditional outfit made and was planning to change at the venue, but by the time I got there, it was so late and the lady with my outfit said there was no point changing anymore. Chai, the thing pained me o, so I made sure I still wore the dress the next morning and took some pictures before actually dressing up for the white wedding ceremony. Desperate times, lol. It was such a beautiful outfit and I was quite bummed that I didn’t get to rock it for the traditional wedding. I am hoping I get another opportunity to wear it soon. Costume party, anyone? East African themed party, anyone? International outfits themed party, anyone? Please invite me o – I already have my outfit ready, hahaha.
Anyway, since I got to the event quite late, I only managed to catch the end of the ceremony. Ugandan culture is VERY different from Nigerian culture and it was just beautiful to witness the traditional ceremony.
First, there’s less partying and more talking. We Lagosians (the groom was Nigerian) were itching to dance and jolly but they didn’t send us o, lol. All the key members of the bride’s family were given a chance to speak. I wasn’t there but I heard her father’s speech about her was very moving. He talked about her core values and how she’s principled and smart and how her faith in God is her source and firm foundation. I am not sure I’ve heard any Nigerian parent speak about their children in public in such glowing terms. At least, not at any weddings. The DJ and the MC/comedian/alaga won’t even let the microphone get to mummy or daddy in the first place, pheew! The closest you can get is when you repeat after the Alaga “my bumbum, my bumbum”, Oh that’s one particular Alaga, okay I move on 🙂
The bride’s aunties took the microphone, gave the bride gifts and talked about the significance of each gift. The uncles too said their own. There were Ugandan traditional dances every now and then but it was mainly speeches and prayers.
The bride’s parents prayed and prophesied over them. I remember her Dad prophesying leadership, service and greatness on them, not the usual wealth and prosperity. Think about that for a moment – leadership, service and greatness. What a legacy to pass on to your children. *Selah*
Oh by the way, the bride and groom did not sit together throughout the ceremony. She sat center stage with her maidens, the groom and his boys sat somewhere at the back, while his parents sat in front. Apparently, in Ugandan culture, it is the groom’s father that they marry the girl to. The bride’s dad however said they were balancing culture and faith and giving the bride to the groom (because they are to cleave to one another and become one) but under the guidance of his parents.
After the bride changed to her Nigerian outfit and her and the groom danced in, there was a whole gift exchange session. Her sisters –in-law welcomed her to the family by giving gifts to her and her family members and then, she then handed out gifts individually to all her in-laws. Her parents-in-law, brothers and sisters-in-law, her in-law’s in-laws and all the families/older folks who came with groom’s people. She gave them gifts one after the other. This is very different from the Yoruba culture where they put all the gifts/food stuff together and leave it to the bride’s family to share at the end of the traditional ceremony. It was nice to see the bride slightly curtsying for her in-laws even though they don’t kneel for elders in Uganda. The cultural infusion was just beautiful.
I was completely exhausted from the travel and went straight to sleep after another long drive back to the resort. All our plans of having a chill evening catching up and blah blah flew out of the window. I really needed my beauty sleep because the next day was going to be another marathon.
The white wedding was beautiful beyond words. It was not too different from how it’s done in Lagos except that 2 of the couple’s siblings got to read 2 passages of Scripture and we sang lots of hymns. When they were taking their vows, instead of just responding by saying ‘I do’, the bride said ‘of course I do. I definitely will’. Her excitement about her husband was just unbelievable and beautiful. *holds heart*
After the joining was over, we had a cocktail (which was very welcome because some of us had eaten very little at breakfast in the name of ‘suck belle, make dress fine’, lol) and then went to sit awaiting the arrival of the couple.
There was no dancing in for mummy and daddy o, lol. It wasn’t about them, the ceremony was really about the couple. The couple danced in (their song was “Lagos to Kampala” by Runtown ft. Wizkid) and then took their seats with their bridal party up on stage. Then the speeches started, AGAIN! All the bride’s close friends spoke. Then the groom’s close friends. Then all the bride’s siblings. Then the groom’s siblings (although l think they didn’t have energy so they nominated their oldest one to speak on their behalf). Then the bride’s parents. Then the groom’s parents. The parents essentially preached to us and gave advice and prayed and prophesied to the couple and the friends. The groom’s mum almost did an altar call sef. She charged us (friends of the couple) to cultivate a close intimate relationship with God because that’s all that matters.
By this time, Lagos party people were ready to just slit their wrists, lol. More speeches? Oh no, kuku kee us, hahaha!
The bride and the groom cut their cake (there was no paparazzi or fireworks o!), had their first dance to Nosa’s “Always on my mind” and then they gave their thank you speeches. The bride said thank you to everyone individually and mentioned that she’s grateful for having a mother-in-law that’s just like her mother so she’s not worried about moving to Lagos forever. Then she turned to her husband and mehn, by the time she was done, we had run out of tissues. The way she spoke to him and about him was beautiful – you could hear how genuine the love was and how happy she was to be his wife. She was unashamedly declaring her love for him in front of all her loved ones and as she said, their love won’t end here on earth so they both will continue to live for Christ so they can both go to heaven together. *sniffs* I love Holy love.
The groom also spoke and thanked his family and his in-laws and prayed that the purpose of their union will be fulfilled. I loved how he celebrated his in-laws especially when he said they need to package and sell whatever it is they used to raise such a strong godly woman like his wife. *dreamy eyes*
I am sure heaven was pleased about this wedding, as God took center-stage and was glorified every step of the way.
I think we danced for only about 30mins and then the ceremony was over. About an hour after, there was a separate after-party event for the people who needed to dance, lol. The ceremony was so different. Usually in Nigeria, we dance /party more and only the best man (or whoever is giving the toast) and the groom get to speak. Here, it was the reverse. It was lots of meaningful speeches. I guess the Ugandans are used to it as they listened attentively while all the speeches were being rendered. The Nigerian side, on the other hand, was buzzing with activity and side discussions. Our attention span is super short, smh. The MC didn’t even do plenty work apart from announcing who was coming up next to speak. If to say na Naija wedding, the MC would have to be thinking of jokes to use to engage the crowd, lol.
We partied till morning and I spent Sunday just chilling (and catching up on all the work I ignored on Friday). Some folks went white water rafting (we all know this Ijebu girl is not usually great in water, lol), some others went visiting the source of the Nile, museums and other touristy sites. Although I was unable to really explore Uganda as a tourist (you know what this means, I HAVE TO GO BACK!!!!), I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Uganda.
There were so many points of light for me during this short stay in UG. It was a beautiful weekend – a vivid reminder that true love exists and that we should not get cynical about love. The bride moved to Lagos in 2015 without knowing anyone in the city and look at God – He sorted her out so nicely with a mighty good man.
It reminded me that I can still have butterflies at my age and that love can still be beautiful and exciting and thrilling. The speeches by the couple’s friends made me wonder what my friends would say about me and made me check if I’ve really been the best friend I can be. The bride’s cousin who was in charge of logistics (airport transfers and all the ground transport between the different locations) is the most selfless person I have ever met. He went without sleep for days ensuring that all the guests were picked up at the airport on time and without delays. He was patient with all of us and ensured everything went hitch-free. I jokingly referred to him as our fairy godmother, because he had answers to all our questions and sorted out every issue anyone of us encountered. Again, I was inspired to be that selfless for my people.
All in all, I am the one richer in soul and spirit for attending this wedding. Instead of invading Uganda, I think Uganda invaded me and opened up my heart to a different expression of love. I am usually not this mushy but I can’t help myself this time 🙂
Uganda, I will be back soon. For now, let me go and start preparing my wedding speech. That microphone must not pass me by on my wedding day, lol.
Hi guys!!!! ‘O to jo meta, oooo’ (a.k.a it’s been a while). How are you doing? Keeping well? You already know I missed you, really, I did.
First, a big shout-out to the people who DM’ed me to ask/harass me about the next post. I know this might sound cheesy, but it feels so good to be wanted. 🙂 Thanks guys! I love being able to share my adventures with you and I appreciate all your comments and feedback. It has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you, thank you thank you!!!
Ever since my trip to Tanzania last year, I have been secretly desiring an East African invasion for 2017. So to kick things off, I was in Kenya last weekend, and I had an amazing time. It was not my first time in Nairobi (last time I was there was in 2011), but it felt like the first time all over again. I am all for revisiting places these days, because I believe there are always new things to explore and new perspective to be gained. Remember I said I was trying to be more deliberate about my travels going forward, so this trip was more about rekindling friendships and less about sightseeing. As I reflected on the beautiful time I had with the folks I spent time with in Nairobi, I realized that I met all of them (except for one) in the course of work. Yes, you read that right – WORK!
You see, we typically spend a lot of our time/life at work and one of the ‘perks’ not stated on our employment offers is the lasting, beneficial friendships that we can build, cultivate and keep with our colleagues or clients. That’s not to ignore the fact that we also meet some ‘blessedly’ difficult people at work. *shudders*. Anyway, Nairobi was an eye-opener to the blessings of friends that I had picked up over the course of my career.
Stop 1: Mr FS and Ms DAO – my souvenir-brother and sister from my time in Tunisia. I met them while on a project in 2013 and it was friendship at first sight. Mr F instantly adopted me as his baby sister, and I guess I was Ms D’s side-kick, lol. I spent a good number of my weekends with them and the memories of our weekend away in Sousse celebrating Mr F’s wedding anniversary remain fresh in my mind to date. I had not seen Mr F since I left Tunis in 2013 so it was such a delight to spend time with him and hear about all the progress he has been making. I didn’t get to spend as much time with Ms D (I promise to make it up to you girl – I promise) but we still managed to catch-up over loud, almost deafening music at Kiza.
Stop 2: Ms AN!!! My sister-girl from way back in 2011 when I joined the Firm. Our friendship started in Lagos and has now relocated to Nairobi. In reality though, our friendship now resides on the streets of WhatsApp – this is where we play catch-u, so it was really good seeing her again. Her couch in Lekki played host to me several times, and now that she’s moved back to Nairobi, her hosting skills seem to have gone up 10 notches. She cooked up a storm for me in the name of Saturday dinner and in exchange, I did the dishes – fair, right? I just wanted to ensure that she doesn’t think twice about hosting me again, lol. Just securing my accommodation for next time :-). After wolfing down the food, having serious conversations about work/life, and laughing till our ribs ached, we put on Naija music and started dancing. We had a house party all by ourselves. It was such a LIT evening. I left her place sometime after midnight – more than 5 hours after I arrived.
Stop 3: Ms LA – my business school senior who I only met in 2015. She was such a gracious hostess – she sorted me out big time and organized the cab that took me on my Saturday morning touristy ‘waka’; she also negotiated an unbelievable fare for me and on Sunday, took me to the salon to get groomed (I think she just had mercy on me and helped me fix my bushy eyebrows and chipped nail polish situation), and she stuffed me with some yummy Chinese food before I left for the airport, all in a bid to make sure I didn’t get tempted to eat in-flight food, lol.
Stop 4: Ms AOO!!! The fierce lioness of Kenya. She is definitely going to be President of Kenya someday, take my word for it. I met her at work circa 2012/2013 when she transferred from the Minneapolis office to spend a year in Nigeria. I think it was one of those ‘love on the dance floor’ type of connections. We both LOVE to dance. Interestingly, she was the one who made me write my first blogpost ever – it was an article for the McKinsey Women blog and she nominated me to continue to take over her spot when she was leaving the Firm. I think I managed to do 3 or 4 blog posts over about 18 months before I gave up. Look at me now, I have written 10 blog posts in less than a year. Wow! We have more capacity than we think we do.
We had breakfast on Sunday morning (notice how a lot of these meet-ups were over food? I am convinced that relationships get strengthened over meals. I have not done the research yet but I am sure this is part of the mystery of the communion) and then we went to church together. I thought it was only at the clubs/parties that Nigerian music had taken over. Wrong! All the praise/worship songs in church were the same as the ones sung in church back home in Nigeria! The only difference was that the people were not as extra in their dancing, hahaha. There was no shoki, no shakitibobo, no azonto, just some good ol’ clapping and regular dancing unto the Lord.
Stop 5: Ms FA. This was a bonus surprise. We literally crossed paths at the airport. She landed less than an hour before I took off. I love airport meet-ups! I really can’t explain why but I do. Maybe because it is better to pass time talking to someone you know than just people-watching or struggling with airport wifi, lol.
Beyond having an amazing friendship-full weekend that left my heart bubbling over, I had some other interesting experiences on this trip.
Red-eye flights: These are not the easiest flights to be on. All these flights that take off at odd times like 12:55am are just painful. You can’t nap for fear of missing the flight and the airport seats and plane seats are too uncomfortable to get any decent sleep. Note to self: Never again! (Except of course it is completely unavoidable)
Traffic: The traffic in Nairobi is special. Goodness! It took about 90mins to get from the airport to the hotel, which was only about 20km away. This is a shorter distance compared to driving from Lagos International Airport to Victoria Island (~ 25km ) but the drive felt like we were going double the distance. I slept through the trip sha (remember I had just gotten off a red-eye flight so I was exhausted). I thought that was going to be my last ‘go-slow’ experience but I was sooo wrong. There is traffic almost EVERYWHERE in Nairobi. Inexplicable traffic!! At least in Lagos, you will see the broken down car/truck that’s causing the traffic or the wedding event centre whose guests decided to park on the road. Not so in Nairobi, no reason, no cause. One of my friends said the traffic is spiritual. I agree! Kai, after spending a good chunk of my Saturday afternoon in traffic, I agree that Nairobi traffic beats Lagos traffic, hands down! Lagos 1, Nairobi 0. 🙂
Tourism: Kenyans have cracked this tourism business, end-to-end! I give it to them. To start with, their $50 visa-on-arrival make them a preferred destination for everyone. No one really likes to fill visa application forms and queue at embassies to beg for visas. Once you are in, there is a variety of activities you can engage in, depending on your preferences are – explore wildlife (either on a safari, at national parks or at some of the specific animal parks) or shop till you drop at the different local markets; eat to your heart’s fill or go tea/coffee tasting; or just drive out of town to go hang out with the Masai people. I had very limited time for sightseeing (only Saturday morning) so I chose to go to the Giraffe Centre and the Elephant Orphanage. I naturally have a phobia for animals (blame it on the dog that chased me around my friend’s compound when I was about 7/8) and so, being in such proximity to these animals was, errrr, initially uncomfortable. But I got into the swing of things and started enjoying feeding the giraffes. At some point, I think I got too comfortable, lol.
The Elephant orphanage was an experience. It is open to visitors only between 11am – 12noon daily, and the queue to get in was looooong. It was one of the few times I have seen ‘oyinbo’ people rush for stuff, lol. That Nairobi traffic spirit also found its way to this queue, sigh. We essentially gathered to watch the baby elephants come out to eat. They feed them like babies, literally – with a milk through a feeding bottle. It was so cute to watch.
I was also fascinated by how the baby elephants enjoyed rolling in sand and getting dirty. Isn’t this how human babies also like to play in sand and get dirty? I think I must have eaten a fair share of sand as a toddler, lol. When it was time for them to go back to their nurseries, there was no resistance. They left in a single orderly file. I am sure some of us need to go and learn that skill from the baby elephants, lol.
On my way out of the orphanage, I met a masai guy and we did the usual jump. That was fun! Not sure I nailed the jump but yeah, whatever, lol.
Uber drama/why you must have a functional phone: Hmm, that’s how my uber broke down on my way to FS’s house o! See panic!!! I jumped out of the car and sharply called FS on my Nigerian phone (for once, I didn’t mind the cost) to come and get me from where the car broke down. All sorts of random thoughts ran through my head, especially as okadas (motorbikes) riding past slowed down to talk to the driver in languages I could not understand. Thank God for safety o!
Other random observations:
1) All the road-side corn sellers were men! Although I saw women selling other things on the road, I did not see any woman selling roasted corn. I guess corn is a ‘guy-thing’.
2) Eh ehn, I forgot my sunglasses and was hoping I would find someone selling Ray Bans in traffic – no joy! I trust my Lagos brothers, they would have sorted me out sharp-sharp.
3) Kenyans LOVE bananas! There were bananas everywhere – at every junction, street corner, kiosk, etc. I figure this is how foreigners are surprised by how many orange sellers hang out on the streets of Lagos.
4) I was surprised at how everyone described distances between places in kilometers, (similar to how it is done in the West). I had always thought it was a Western thing but it seems its only folks in Nigeria that describe distances between two places in minutes. Or am I on my own on this one? Am I the only one that still gets confused when people are describing the size of a room – 25 by 34 square foot? I guess it’s not too late to learn distances and dimensions *shrug*
Next stop in the East African invasion is Uganda. I will be attending another colleague-friend’s wedding and I can’t wait to see if they will have small chops, lol. Trust me, I will come and tell you all about it! I also have Rwanda and Burundi on my radar. Let’s see how much of East Africa we can cover over the next few months.
If you are planning trips to any of these spots, hola at your girl. We might just be able to sync schedules or bump into each other at the airport, at the very least.
That said, let me end by thanking God for the blessings of fantastic colleagues that have no time for office rivalry but rather have become friends/sisters. I am deeply grateful! Do you have colleagues-turned-friends you are grateful for? Froleagues ???!!! Nice word, Oxford dictionary please take note. Hehehehe. Do share in the comments section.
May day, May day! Lol. Okay, that’s me just being an alarmist. I have missed you guys so much! I took some time off social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc). It was a well-needed break, to be honest. I know I am not a daily poster on Instagram but to be honest, I spend a LOT of time being a low-key stalker, lol. At least, I am the kind of stalker that actually likes pictures and leaves comments, instead of just doing waka pass, hahahaha. Seriously though, I realized how much time-share social media has in my life, and I decided to go on a detox. A few people asked if I deleted the app from my phone – nopes! It was right next to WhatsApp (speaking of WhatsApp, does that count as social media as well?) and I saw it several times a day. I guess I was also trying to teach myself some lessons in will-power and self-discipline. Maybe now I can actually look past the dessert section of menus or still look and choose the fruit salad, hehehehe. No further words on this desserts matter. *lips sealed*. That said, I apologize for all the messages I missed. I will respond shortly. Thanks for your kind understanding 🙂
Sooooo, while I was away, a lot of things happened! I took my first helicopter ride (thank God the Abuja airport has been reopened, yaay!), I visited Cape Town for the first time (more on that later in this post) and I finally went sky-diving!!!!! Yup, I did it guys. *insert loudest scream here*
I told only a few people about my plan to go skydiving, mainly because I wanted to be accountable to some people and make sure I didn’t chicken out last minute, but also because I didn’t want anyone trying to talk me out of it. I already had many excuses, I didn’t need any extra discouraging comments. Of course, I only told Mama Kemi AFTER the fact, and even then, I broke the news to her in person when I got back to Lagos. I was just casually showing her pictures from my trip and then, boom! I showed her the pictures and videos of me jumping and flying (yup, that’s what I call it). She actually took it much better than I expected! God bless our mamas. Funny enough, on the day I jumped, I sent her pictures of me in my harness just before I got on the plane, but I am sure she had no clue what it was I was about to do.
After I went zip-lining in Singapore, the caption on my IG post was something about that being a rehearsal for sky-diving. Little did I know that it was going to happen barely a month after.
I had been planning an Easter trip to Morocco with some of my close friends but sometime in March, based on logistics (I have been looking for a legit way to use that phrase, lol), I was unable to go on that trip. I had a work commitment come up and I had to prioritize getting the visa for that over getting the Moroccan visa. I also looked at my bank accounts, and frankly, I could not afford the trip right after the Singapore one. It was painful but I had to cut my coat accordingly to my cloth. I hope I get the opportunity to go on an all-girls trip really soon (between weddings, pregnancies and babies, Jesus take the wheel!)
Anyway, since I had to go to South Africa for work the week after Easter, I figured I could make lemonades out of the ‘no-Morocco’ lemons I had been given (I am on quotable quotes roll on this post, lol). I decided to take 2 days off work (Easter Tuesday and Wednesday), get to South Africa a little early (thank God the ticket prices were the same regardless of the dates) and go on a low-budget vacation to Cape Town. I managed to buy a cheap ticket from Johannesburg to Cape Town and used my hotel points to book a decent hotel (see why you need to get on all those loyalty programs ASAP?). The Lord is good!
I really wanted to chill on this trip – eat, sleep and read. I ate a lot, slept okay and read a bit too. As I was travelling alone, I didn’t have sufficient motivation to always get dressed to go and sit in a restaurant alone, and because I was on a budget, hotel room service was not an option. So UberEATS was my saving grace on this trip. I could still eat great food, at an affordable price without moving an inch – okay, I had to go down to the hotel reception to pick up my order- but yeah, you get the point. Long live Uber!
I got to spend time with old friends based in South Africa. Danielle from my YALI days and of course my darling business school buddies – Ofentse and Lakheni. I also attended a braai (South-African barbeque party) which Lakheni’s family was hosting but forgot to take pictures because the food was so good *covers face*
I had only 3 touristy things I wanted to do in Cape Town – visit Robben Island (popularly known as the political prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration, visit Table Mountain (one of the 7 wonders of the world) and go skydiving.
I was completely subdued by the Robben Island experience, I managed to take only one picture there. It was such an emotional and enlightening experience. I got to know about some of the unsung heroes of the apartheid struggle – Robert Sobukwe and Walter Sisulu – just to mention a few. It gave me a fresh appreciation of what it means to lead from the sidelines or from the background. This whole concept of leadership from the side is something I am exploring now and maybe I will write about it one day when it has been fully crystallized in my mind. I have renewed respect for South Africans and the redemptive process of forgiveness that they are going through. I pray that the healing and reconciliation continues and is perfected very soon. Amen!
Table Mountain was a view and a half! God is GREAT! God is an incredibly talented designer! Wow! Cameras cannot really do justice to the breathtaking beauty of Table Mountain. Before you ask, yes, I took the cable car up the mountain. Maybe if I had more time, I would have hiked up. I think even if I had more time, I would have still taken the cable car up, lol. Table Mountain photo credits go to the lovely Ms Tayo who I reconnected with at the wedding I low-key gatecrashed on Easter Monday in Cape Town.
Don’t judge me, I was a legitimate +1, lol. Being a +1 (a.k.a hand bag, a.k.a I only know the person who invited me, a.k.a I actually don’t know the bride or groom personally) made me realize that the major thing I enjoy about weddings (apart from the small chops) is being able to share in the joy of seeing my friends FINALLY beginning their journey to forever. So yeah, you probably won’t catch me at a wedding where I don’t know the bride or groom personally again, lol. That said, the scenery at these wine estates and vineyards in Cape Town are just gorgeous. I finally understand/see why Cape Town is a destination wedding favorite for Nigerian couples.
I won’t bother giving a motivational speech about my skydiving experience because my big uncle, Will Smith has already done that here. Nevertheless, I will try to describe how I felt with before, during and after the jump.
The day before, I was all cool and calm about it. However I didn’t sleep much the night before and I was awake and ready by the time my pickup arrived at 7am. By the way, I chose the skydiving company on the recommendation of one of my brothers who had jumped there a few weeks before. I would never do such a risky thing without major research o!
When I arrived, I was still cool as I signed the forms (they make you fill and sign a 4-page form which in summary means ‘you are on your own’, lol), and listened to the briefing. Things got real when they suggested that I go up with the first pair of divers, hehehe. I politely declined and said I’d rather wait for another pair of people to jump first. Between the time when that first pair went up and when I finally went up, I visited the bathroom like 3 times. Lol. The queasy feeling in my stomach was real. It was the same queasy feeling I got in my tummy as a little child whenever I had done something wrong and was awaiting the return of my parents to come and execute judgment upon me.
Gosh, I was afraid! I kept thinking ‘who sent me message oooo?’ As they say, delay is not denial. It was finally my turn to go up, I was the last person and there was no hiding place for me. I tried to act cool again for the camera, wore my harness, got on the truck and headed to the airplane.
As part of my coping mechanism, I did a few quirky things to make me feel better – I put on my batman t-shirt (don’t ask me, it made perfect sense to me at the time) and I wore my brightest red lipstick (I figured if I’m going to fly, it would be good to do it pretty, lol). I also did a little dance just as we were about to get on the plane (see full video of the jump here) and got someone to write ‘JESUS ROCKS’ on my palms. Silly things but they definitely made me feel more confident about what I was going to do. I mean, if I was going down, it had to be with Jesus o! 🙂
Going up was cool, the view was so magnificent, I found myself humming the hymn ‘O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hands have made…then sings my soul my Saviour Lord to thee, HOW GREAT THOU ART!’ It got colder as the plane went higher and higher (and we all know my relationship with cold) so I was so grateful I had worn my INSEAD jumper as well. When my tandem handed me the goggles to wear and start shifting towards the door of the plane, I knew it was over. My soundtrack changed from ‘how great thou art’ to ‘heaven is my home’, lol. I died like 5 times already. I kept thinking ‘what if’. I said my last prayers for like the 20th time and just waited. It was shame that did not allow me chicken out. My tandem didn’t even bother counting for me, he just jumped! The mighty rushing wind that greeted me as we jumped out was intense. I looked down and the worst kind of fear I have ever felt gripped my heart. There was really no turning back.
Then I remembered the money I paid for the pictures and videos and quickly started smiling, lol. An Ijebu girl is an Ijebu girl whether on land or in the air, hahahaha. Seriously though, after the terror I felt for the first 10 seconds of the free fall, I spread out my arms and started flying. I felt so free, so light, so at peace. I didn’t want it to end. I actually loved flying!
This is what fear looks like – it involves a lot of teeth and nose, lol
And then in the middle of this blissful flight, one crazy thought came to my mind ‘what if the parachute refuses to engage?’ Jesus! Why won’t these crazy fearful thoughts leave me alone and just let me be great? Thankfully, the parachute cooperated when it was time and I thoroughly enjoyed floating around, taking in the view and gisting with my tandem. I asked how many times he jumped in a day and what he enjoyed most about it. Can you imagine? We had a full blown conversation floating in the air! Amazing!
Landing back on earth (see me sounding like an astronaut that went to Mars or Venus, lol) was such an anti-climax mehn. The familiar suddenly became boring and I would have really liked to be in the air for much longer. Not sure I wanted to jump out of a plane again but I definitely wanted to hang out floating in the air again. Maybe in a hot-air balloon or something. All in all, it was an AMAZING experience! I felt very fulfilled about achieving this goal after a few years of toying with the idea and quite proud of myself for being able to face my fears and ‘do it afraid’. I did it shaking, I did almost peeing on myself, but I did it anyway! If I listened to all the reasonable reasons for why I should not have jumped, it would still be a wish/dream I might never have realized. Now I am hoping to transfer this same daring ‘risk-taking’ drive and energy to other areas of my life, and just dare to achieve some other goals I have set for myself.
Don’t get it twisted, the doubt will come, the ‘what-if’ questions will pop up, the nay-sayers will give counsel, the fear will envelope your heart at different times on the journey, but you just have to take that leap of faith and trust that God will not let your parachute fail and let you crash. He’s got you!
Here’s to being daring and doing things afraid this month of May and for the rest of our lives! Remember, God’s got you!!!
Oh Singapore, I really really love you. I spent 6 days in Singapore – you would think that after all my mouth, I was going to relocate there, lol. Those 6 days have to be the most activity-packed days of my life, so far. Pheeew! Of the 6 days, I had only 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) to be a tourist, so the real title of this post should be something like ‘how to explore Singapore in 48 hours’.
I realized that in my former post, I did not disclose the purpose of my travel to Singapore. Well, I went there on a spiritual retreat to attend a conference called Kingdom Invasion. After I completed my project 30 by 30 (30 countries before 30), it seemed like the next logical goal would be 40 by 40 or something fancy like that. However, that didn’t excite me as much. Instead, my new goal was to become more purposeful about my travels. I have a coach who spends ALL of his vacation days attending events (conferences, seminars, revival calls, etc) centered on God’s Kingdom and how to manifest His presence here on earth as it is in heaven. Instead of just envying him and calling him #goals, I decided I would start attending at least one of such events every year. And so late last year, I signed up for Kingdom Invasion as my first trip for 2017.
Kingdom Invasion is an annual event beyond church or denominational lines. It was 4 days of teachings and impartations about how to fulfil the portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says ‘thy Kingdom, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ It had over 1,000 delegates from about 40 countries and teachings led by 5 amazing teachers – Bill Johnson (Head Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. If you are into gospel music, you probably know Bethel music well); Heidi Baker (an American missionary sent to Africa who actually lives in Mozambique and is taking the gospel of Jesus to most remote parts of Africa), Lou Engel (a firebrand man of prayer and fasting who is constantly rocking back and forth while standing or sitting, and is leading the prayer revival in the US) ; Ed Silvoso (the pioneer of the message of city and national transformation through the gospel and author of the book ‘Anointed for Business’ which reveals God’s mind and practical ways through which your job or business can be your ministry) and Shawn Bolz (Word of Knowledge minister who has demystified what it means to hear God and how we can translate God’s voice in our day-to-day lives). The time I spent there was absolutely life-transforming and I am excited about the practical manifestation of all I learnt and got during the conference. My biggest takeaway was a deeper revelation of the crazy, unrelenting, unbelievable, border-line ridiculous LOVE that God has for all of us. *goosebumps*. I definitely fell in love with Jesus ALL OVER AGAIN!!
To crown it all, I attended the Friday night worship session with Bethel Music’s finest – Brian Johnson, Amanda Cook and some other amazing worship leaders. Whooooosh! That was amazing.
So, I was done with the conference on Friday night and my flight back to Nigeria was on Sunday night. I had 2 options – just sleep in and take it easy or go hard and max out on being a tourist for those 2 days. I am sure you know what option I went for, lol. Sleep is important but yeah, I figured I could sleep on my flights back home. No food or movies, just sleep.
Over the course of the week (specifically during the conference’s break sessions when I had time to daydream, lol), I started making a list of 10 must-do activities in Singapore.
1. Spend the day at Sentosa Island – includes visit to Universal Studios, beach bumming and some physical activities
2. Eat chilli crab (which is the Singaporean local delicacy)
3. Visit Chinatown and Little India
4. Visit the Botanical Garden
5. Catch the sunset and amazing view of the city at Marina Bay Sands
6. Visit the Gardens by the Bay
7. Visit the zoo during the day or go on the Night Safari
8. Take a long walk on Orchard street (you may choose to shop or not)
9. Extra for Kemi: Attend service at Joseph Prince’s church
10. Extra for Kemi: Visit the INSEAD Singapore campus to get closure, lol
Around mid-day on Saturday after having my first sleep-in for the whole week, I set out to tick off most of the activities on that list in the 34 hours I had before heading to the airport on Sunday night. The cool thing about Singapore is that because it’s a single city-state, everywhere in the country is within a 45-60mins drive range. This meant I did not have to worry about going out of town or missing out on some major attractions due to location. So I thought to myself, ‘Kemi, this your plan is kinda feasible’ 🙂
Good people, I am proud to announce that I managed to accomplish 60% of my target. When people start using percentages, you know they are trying to sound more profound than is necessary, lol. Okay, okay, I managed to tick off 6 of the 10 things on my list, and I even got to hang out with 2 of my favorite girls from business school.
Sentosa Island was a lot of fun! Too much to do, jeez. I managed to get a picture in front of Universal Studios, lol. There was no time to actually go inside to explore and get on all the crazy rides. You need a whole day to do Universal Studios justice. However, I got my adrenaline rush from ziplining at the MegaZip Adventure Park at a nearby beach also on Sentosa Island. I figured I could still visit the other Universal Studio theme parks in the U.S and in Japan (I will take any excuse to go back to Japan, lol).
The night safari was also beautiful. So many animals, all well-behaved roaming freely and staying in their lanes. For the first time in my life, I saw zebras (fun fact: zebras are actually black with white stripes), elephants, hyenas, monkeys, hippopotamuses, rhinos, lions, and giraffes. I even saw a tiger!! The tiger was the only animal that was kept behind a wire fence. I guess they must have realized that tigers can’t mind their business, lol. It was so dark and flash photography was prohibited so the pictures didn’t come out great. So sorry, no pictures from the night safari. You should just go there yourself to behold the breathtaking beauty of a night-time zoo.
I was torn between going to the Botanical Gardens and the Gardens by the Bay, but I chose to spend time with my friends at Ce La Vie (the restaurant at the 57th floor of Marina Bay Sands); catching the sunset and just being satisfied with taking pictures of the Gardens by the Bay from the rooftop. I love plants and gardens but it’s not that deep, really! Lol. I promise you, the view from the Ce La Vie was just as gorgeous.
For me, the 3 most striking things about Singapore are how green the city is, how many malls they have and how much food is available.
Greenery: Singapore is like Dubai with more greenery. Singapore reminded me so much of Dubai. Apparently, Dubai got their inspiration for the building their city from Singapore. There are trees and plants EVERYWHERE! It’s almost ridiculous. I got tired of taking pictures of the scenery, because it was like taking pictures of the clouds. Duh, clouds are everywhere so there is nothing unusual about it. That’s exactly how plants and trees and vegetation are everywhere in Singapore.
Malls: I thought Dubai had malls until I got to Singapore. Singapore is the winner o! There are malls EVERYWHERE. Infact, at every metro station, there is a mall. There is a whole network of malls connected by underground tunnels and bridges. It’s almost confusing, lol. And you have every imaginable shop in those malls. You need a lot of willpower or no cash to resist the shopping temptation in Singapore. Good luck!
Food: There is a wide variety of good food in Singapore. Eating out is like a national sport. I remember my classmates in business school saying it was cheaper to eat out than to do groceries and cook at home in Singapore. During the course of my stay, I ate all sorts – Indian, French, Chinese, Japanese American, Asian fusion etc. There are a lot of food courts and hookah centres everywhere you go. You can never ever starve in Singapore. Food is cheap, fast and tasty! After having such a great time with food all week, I had to make sure my last meal in Singapore was epic and memorable. I had the the black pepper crab (thanks for the recommendation Jumoke G) and it was hard work! Epic, memorable and plenty of work. De-shelling and extracting ‘meat’ from the crab was work. At some point, I got so tired, put the tools they gave me aside and just started using my hand, lol. Thank God for good friends like Shaivi who rescued me and started de-shelling for me. I think you burn all the calories from the meal by just working through it. All the same, it was quite an enjoyable experience. I genuinely believe there is a business opportunity to sell de-shelled chilli crab to lazy people.
On my flight back home (when I wasn’t sleeping and hopefully, not snoring), I was reflecting on how Singapore has ZERO natural resources but managed to turn their nothing into a country that is the hub of trade in Southeast Asia.Their efficiency is great, everywhere is clean but Japan is still my personal winner. They are also very open to foreigners, although (as usual), I did not run into many black people. When I got back to Lagos, I was tempted to begin to whine and complain about everything that wasn’t working BUT I remembered my decision to go on a negativity fast (as inspired by Heidi Baker) and instead, started to focus on the things that are working. The airport is looking better, the wait times on the queues are shorter, the A/Cs are working well, there are fewer touts hanging around the airport these days and things are getting more efficient. And to make things even better, Mama Kemi offered me a delicious hot meal of amala, ewedu, gbegiri and plenty pieces of meat when I got home. Mama Kemi for President!!!!
I must confess, it was hard to leave Singapore. The time was too short, I didn’t spend enough time there and I feel like I did not get the chance to be fully immersed in their culture. So I have to go back, yaaay!
Doing a negativity fast in Singapore was super easy since everything works, but to be honest, it hasn’t been as easy in Nigeria. However, I shall not relent. Anyone want to join me on this negativity fast? We can do this till the end of April. No negative talk about anyone, anything, no complaining about Nigeria, no whining about talented drivers in traffic, no cursing politicians and all that. Just positivity and optimism all day, every day. Deal?
Here’s to good vibes, positivity and joy all the way!
p.s – please don’t try to do this crazy 48-hour vacation. My feet are not smiling at me now.
Hello people!!! I know it has been too long, I am so sorry for my silence. Let’s just blame it on Mr Work. Or maybe not. I sincerely apologize for being MIA. That said, I have mad respect for people who work full time and blog full time as well. Shout out to rockstars like KacheeTee who make it look so easy. I had to DM her to ask if she had quit her job to blog full time, lol. I love her style and her commitment. I only got to know about her blog when she featured me on her blog, and now, she is my place of escape in the middle of a hectic day. And no, she didn’t pay for this plug, lol. I am just blown away by how she is able to do it ALL! Now that I am done crushing and famzing, let me tell you what I have been up to (apart from taking some nice professional pictures, he he)
I FINALLY got my Singapore visa this week!!!!!!!!!!!!! Remember it was on my wish list of countries to visit and I am so glad I am one step closer to getting there. But there is a backstory to the “finally’ part of getting this Singapore visa. As I filled the form (like the visa application form filling champ that I am, lol), everything was going great until I got to the last section where they ask all sorts of questions – are you a criminal, have you ever been deported, are you planning to elope, etc. Usually, I breeze through that section and just tick ‘No’, ‘No’, all the way. But not this time. When I got to the question about if I had been denied a Singapore visa before, time froze for a few seconds and then I ticked ‘Yes’. Feel free to grab some popcorn now, lol.
Flashback to 2014, when I was applying to business school. Pause. I know I still owe you the full story on that project, I promise to get to it soon. Unpause. When I was applying to INSEAD, I chose the Singapore campus because I really really really wanted to live in Singpaore. I became fascinated by Singapore in 2007 when I read the book ‘From Third World to First’ written by the man who led Singapore’s incredible transformation journey – Lee Kuan Yew. In less than 40 years, Singapore leaped from a third world country with poverty, bitter history, divisive colonialism and other usual relics of colonial rule (does any of these sound familiar?), to a first world, super developed country that is the envy of nations – they have one of the best airlines in the world, one of the best airports in the world, one of the busiest trade ports in the world, and definitely, one of the cleanest and most organized societies in the world. Fun fact: chewing gum is illegal in Singapore. I could not understand how they were able to make the same leap that Nigeria needs to make in one generation, and I figured if I went there to see for myself, live in their midst, immerse myself in their culture and understand their mindsets and thinking, then maybe, just maybe, that spirit of excellent transformation could come upon me too, and I would come back home to contribute my quota to helping Nigeria take her rightful place. How’s that for a noble reason to want to live in Singapore?
However, that my Singaporean dream was cut short by an email I received on 25th November 2014 telling me that my student visa application had been rejected. Ehn? Rejected ke? How? Why? What did I do wrong? I checked my application again – I completed every field correctly – what could have gone wrong? Instead of feeling sad, I went straight into problem-solving mode and asked if I could appeal the decision. They said yes and so I started writing this great appeal letter.
See me trying so hard to explain myself, telling them I was a good, debt-free, tax-paying citizen of Nigeria who had no plans of breaking any laws in Singapore. I photocopied all the visas I had ever been granted, with the entry and exit stamps to prove I was a good tourist who never overstayed my visas and therefore would not overstay my visa in Singapore. I attached every document attachable. I even considered getting a letter from my Pastor, telling them I was a good child of God. Hahahaha. Now it is funny, but at that time, it was not, *straight face*.
While I was writing this letter of appeal, one of my senior friends called in a favour with the Singaporean Consular to Nigeria and explained my situation. The guy got personally involved with my appeal which gave me some hope. After all of this, you would think the appeal would be granted. Nopes! It was rejected again! This time they didn’t even follow up with a phone call as was done the first time. It was at this point I concluded that it was not my time to go to Singapore yet. I had done everything humanly and spiritually possible (I prayed and prayed and prayed. I even tried blackmailing God by fasting and crying, lol) to no avail.
I was devastated for like 2 weeks. That Christmas holiday was not fun. Can you imagine going back to the office in January after they’ve done send-forth party for you? Haha! I was already receiving alumni emails, but in January, I showed in the office like ‘Guess who’s back?!?!?!’
Eventually, I had to defer my admission and change campuses – this is how I ended up in France. I have to admit that it all worked out for my good. You see, Prophet Isaiah knew what he was talking about when he said ‘God’s way and thoughts are better and higher than our ways and thoughts’ (Isaiah 55 vs 9). As I reflect on that experience, I realize that it was good that things did not go according to my plan. The extra 6 months I spent at work helped me grow professionally (which helped my transition back to work less challenging), helped me raise more funds for school (this is how God saved me from having to set up a ‘Gofundme’ page halfway through the school year), gave me the chance to travel to Mauritius for the office retreat (I would have missed it for the second time), and so much more. I strongly believe that I went to school at the right time – I had a great year in school, travelled a lot and by God’s grace, got selected to be valedictorian by my fantastic classmates. I am not sure all that would have happened if I had gone earlier. Steve Jobs did not lie when he said ‘you can only connect the dots backwards’.
I think part of my coping mechanism during this period was also remembering that I had gone through a similar experience when I was trying to go to the US for my undergraduate studies. I was denied my America visa (I spoke about it briefly in the valedictory speech), I wept all the way from the embassy in Victoria Island to my house in Ogba (that’s like 2 hours of crying in traffic), shook it off after a few days and then resumed the application process to go to Covenant University. I boldly say that the values instilled me in while at Covenant University have contributed greatly into shaping me into the woman and young professional that I am today. It all worked out for my good!
So next time things are not going according to your very well-laid plans, don’t despair. Just trust that it will all work out for your good according to God’s excellent plan. His plans and thoughts towards us are only for good, always for good. So trust! It is not easy when you are going through, but at the end, I promise you, it will end in praise, in rejoicing and in joy!
Have you ever had any rejections, disappointments or delays that eventually worked out for your good? Please share in the comments section. I am looking forward to reading your stories and testimonies.
p.s – I will definitely write about Singpaore and share whatever lessons I learnt there when I return. I am hoping that I am more inspired and ‘mind-blown’ than I was when I went to Japan about a year ago (see Japan story here)
p.p.s _ I need to read Lee Kuan Yew’s book again. I think it will help fan the embers of hope I have for my beloved Nigeria. Nigeria, you will be great – you have no choice.
My first travel hack for 2017 is here, yaaaay! But first, Happy New Year folks! It’s not too late for that now, right? I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and New Year celebration. What did you get up to? Did you find ways to show love to other people outside your immediate circle of friends and family? Did you write your thanksgiving list or letter? Did you remember to be mindful of all the amazing things that happened for you in 2016? Did you remember to say ‘thank you’ to the people that rocked your year and came through for you? Did you remember to reflect and (try to) plan for 2017?
I switched things up this time and had a truly green Christmas. I eventually decided to go with the staycation option and it was great! How come nobody told me that being a couch potato was so much fun? Hahahaha. I won’t lie – I had a little travel envy, especially when I was stalking folks on social media, but I had a truly refreshing holiday. I spent a lot of with time with my family – even went to see The Wedding Party movie with my mum (risky move? I know!!) , visited family and friends, tried working out frequently to burn off all that Christmas indulgence and managed to finish reading a book. I also attended weddings (and used them as photo opportunities, lol), connected with my IJGBs (I Just Got Backs – this is the Nigerian slang used to refer to Nigerians who live abroad and visit home only for holidays), attended a vision board/goal setting party/event (not every time play, sometimes serious), and finally, attended the Bez Live concert which was phenomenal – Bez is an amazing performer. Bez Live will be in Abuja on 18th of February, so make sure you attend if you are in that corner of Nigeria.
My best part of the concert was when Bez’s big sister, Lydia Idakula-Sobogun, mounted the stage and led an impromptu worship session as a way of inviting God to come and handle all the technical glitches that were threatening the greatness and success of the concert. Would you believe that after that, the sounds and lights remained stable till the end of the show??!!?? See God o! Wow! He is interested in EVERY single detail of our lives, and would never watch us being disgraced or put to shame. Ask Bez!
Okay, moving on to 2017. I know a lot of us are already busy living out the great plans and dreams we have outlined for the year. Did you remember to include your travel/recreation goals? You did not?? Really? After all this time we have spent together? Really?Anyway, if you are not sure if you want travel goals or how to achieve the travel goals you have set, this post is for you.
Now, to my go-to travel hack for 2017 – last week, 2 of my friends (yes, I am ‘famzing’) who are leading Nigeria-based travel entrepreneurs & tour guides– Social Prefect and Naija Nomads decided to make travel life easier for all of us by releasing their 2017 travel calendars – whooooop!!!! These awesome people have simplified the travel process for us, and all you have to do is pay up and show up. You don’t have to think too much, or do extensive research (try to find hotels and tour guides in these strange places) or wonder how to even get there in the first place. You don’t have to do anything, well apart from pay and show up!
I was beyond excited when I saw their Instagram posts and I have already started plotting which one of the trips I would love to join. Rwanda is definitely calling my name and I plan to answer it well.
I absolutely love these calendars because it gives me enough time to plan – aka save money and get time off work – ahead of the trips. There is something for singles, something for couples (hello Valentine) and something for the ‘it’s complicated’ folks too, lol. There is something for the South-West Nigeria lovers, something for the Eastern Nigeria lovers and something for the Northern Nigeria lovers. There are day trips and full weekend trips. There is even something for the Africa lovers too! There is something for everyone! Can you see/read how excited I am?
If you need more information, kindly follow Social Prefect Tours and Naija Nomads on Instagram, or contact them through their respective websites. There are also other awesome travel entrepreneurs and tour guides that have amazing adventures up their sleeves this year. Check out Unravelling Nigeria, Abuja-based Globe Jaunters, Eat Tech Travel, – these are some of my many travel crushes on Instagram 🙂
So, what about you? Which of these trips do you plan to attend? What are your other travel goals for the year? Please share in the comments section below, and maybe we might all end up on the same trip soon. Now that would be super cool!!!
Here’s to achieving ALL our goals (travel and otherwise) this year!