Thursday, January 31, 2013

Things No One Tells You about the Motherland: Nigeria Edition

This is a post is from an email one of my best friends (requested to remain anonymous) who moved to Lagos last December, about a week or so after I travelled to Accra, sent earlier today. The similarities in our experiences are uncanny.

Where do I begin? So, since the last time I emailed y'all, I was in the process of looking for where to work. Well, I gots me a job y'all!!! Yay!! :) I work as an editor of a non-profit. We are in the process of revamping the site, so there is a lot of work to be done. This is my second week, and so far, things are going well. It's hard waking up in the morning, but my body is starting to adjust. I wake up at 5:45 (yes, in the AM, who would have thought that I would VOLUNTARILY get out of bed at that time), do my devotions and go running. I run for about 25 mins around my estate, and then come back home and get ready for work. I used to think that I would look crazy running around, but there are people going on walks, jogging, riding their bicycles...all at 6 am. It's quite relieving. I gotta work out y'all. All the fried and oily food I have been eating is not good.

My mum told me to be careful, because the house help takes some of their bosses' dogs out on walks. And these are not no small dogs. These are German shepherds, Alsatians...I even think I saw one of those dogs you use when you're going bobsledding in the snow! My  mum was saying that sometimes the house help may not be able to completely control the dogs, and they can just decide to break loose. That will be the day I run my fastest mile.

The first week at work was hard, I was falling asleep at my desk, had to keep myself busy on Instagram. But it's easier now.

The people are...interesting. There are about 5 women (myself included), and like 8 or 9 dudes. It's a special arrangement. My FIRST day, I was doing some editing work, and these two guys were talking, and one of them said, "Can you get on the I-net?" And I'm thinking, "HUH? Please don't let these people mean "Internet"..." And sure enough, they did. My stomach dropped. I was like, "y'all it's not hard. say it, IN-TER-NET. Just one more syllable." *sigh*...and there is this short bow-legged fellow chasing me. First of all, he's short (I'm 5'10 and some, and he's like 5'8..gone are the days when I will talk to people shorter than me. I canNOT), AAAAND he's bow-legged. C'mon now!!! It is NEVER that serious. He was one of the dudes who said "I-net", and for that I can not take him seriously.  

The first Friday I started working there, there was a fight. I'm thinking, people cannot behave themselves for a little bit longer huh?! It is a sad thing, I tell ya. One of the girls I work with (she schooled in the UK, and came to the States for college, just like me #kindredspirits), and we have gotten along quite well. She's a little more opinionated though. It's a good and bad thing, but we have somehow found a way to just be cool.

That is work. Unfortunately, because I haven't done my youth service (NYSC), I will be an "intern", and therefore will be earning peanuts. I was hoping to start my NYSC in March along with my cousin (I cannot suffer alone), but this next story will explain why I may have to wait, and why I feel like I gotta get outta this here country before I catch a case.

As a Nigerian who schooled abroad (they call us Foreign Students), I have to go to Abuja to register. So, I decided that now that I have my paperwork (or at least I thought I did), I can go and register and get this show on the road. I left for Abuja on Tuesday morning. 6:45 am flight, took us about an hour and some mins to get there.

Now, the NYSC rule states that you have to have the original AND the photocopy of allllll your documents. These documents include:

O-Level (GCSE, WAEC, etc) transcript AND diploma/certificate
First degree (Bachelors) transcript AND diploma
International passport (because I have time to make a fake passport...hisssssssss)
8 passport photographs...WHY DO THEY NEED EIGHT????? 

All these documents have to be photocopied because they need to "verify" that you didn't forge them. Nigerians are taking this 419 to another level.

Bear in mind that they do not ask for your A-Levels o, which makes no sense because surely I would have passed my O-levels to do my A-Levels, and to make it into university, but hey, that's just me.

So I go there with the things I have. My cousin had told me that the process was stupid, but I thought she was exaggerating. My brothers and sisters in Christ, I tell you, she was not lying. The moment you get into the compound, you have to sign in. When you get to the reception hall, you sign in again. No matter what floor you go on, at the top of the stairs (there are like 6 floors or something, these people are lucky that I like to work out, otherwise the stair-climbing thing would have made me VERY angry) you have to sign in again. All this in the space of 5 minutes!!!

After writing my name 3 times, I go to the mobilisation hall. This is where they process all your documents. There is one room for the students who schooled in Europe/America. They look at your paper work to make sure you have everything. Then you sign into a book (again), and they give you a form to fill in. Then you go to a room where another lady looks at your photocopies and staples them to your form. All this is one person's job. But two people are doing it. You know in church where they say we should "pray for Nigeria", I didn't fully understand what they meant. But now, my people, I have seen. My eyes have been opened. Y'all, we gotta pray for our people.

So, I'm hoping that it would be easy, breezy, and beautiful for me. I walk into the "Europe/America" room. and the lady was like, "where is your O-Level certificate?" I didn't have that, because it would have taken a month to get, which I didn't have. But I had my transcript with my grades, signed AND stamped by the school I took them in. The lady was like "nope, you have to have your certificate." At this point, I was ready to walk out. She now explained that she needed to see that I passed English and Math. Oh. My. Goodness. Never mind that it is on my transcript. I did Math for A-Level, I studied Mathematical Statistics for my Bachelor's. That's not enough for ya?!?!?!??! I got so frustrated. My mum tried to call people to see if they could help, but everyone was saying the same thing. And I did the one thing that I never thought I would do. In public, anyway.

I cried.

Y'all. I broke down. This country will do that to you. I couldn't help it. At this point, it was 4 p.m, I had been there since 9:30 a.m. Imagine, a tall girl, just shedding tears. I was more so mad at myself than anything. Why didn't I just leave earlier? Why did I have to take insults from people who don't know me?? More importantly, WHY ME??? 

Fine, I take a good part of the blame for it. I should have made sure that everything was good. But my mum and I had met an NYSC officer who had supposedly "mailed" my documents in advance. He didn't say anything about the documents being incomplete. It was a mess. A hot, sticky, long mess.

As I was walking out of the compound, some NYSC officers asked me why I was upset. I expressed my frustration, and they kept saying that "the rules are the rules". Which could be broken if you slide them a couple thousand naira. Which I REFUSED to do. So now, I have to pay  $200 to have my certificates couriered to me from the UK. Being an adult is just soooooo......UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I also have to have my Bachelor's transcript sent to me..they said I could have forged the one I showed them. LOL. These people will not kill me o. If all these documents get to me before the 12th of February, then I will be able to join my cousin in March. The Bachelor's will get to me before the 12th, but my O-Level certificates take 28 working days to process, and then maybe 1 or 2 days to have them sent to me from the UK. If not, I will just have to wait until the next batch in July. Until then, I will be "interning". I will do what I can, and after that, I just wait and see.

Which brings me to where I am now. I am so tired. This place is physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially draining. I think the only good thing is that I am spending A LOT of time with my family. Made me realize that no matter what is going on, I am blessed. I thank God everyday for the people He put in my life. I have never laughed so hard than when I am with these group of people. Blessed, I tell ya.

I am just taking it one day at a time. This morning, a lady I follow on Twitter, Heather Lindsey (follow her, she is ABSOLUTELY amazing @heatherllove, and she has this organization called Pinky Promise. Check out their website, and subscribe . She has these amazing emails she sends once a week, so inspiring and ALWAYS on time too) sent a mass email to her subscribers telling us to REST. Just rest in God's presence, and let God be God. It gave me chills because I  needed that reminder. You know, as humans, we always want to do everything in our own power. We forget that God is the One who controls EVERYTHING. And we have to rely on Him. All we need to do is pour out our hearts, and let Him do the rest. The number of times I tell God to just help me...I always feel like He's saying "Girrrl, you ask Me ONE more time, we gon have issues!!" But then I remember that he says we should CAST our cares on Him. Give it all. Lay it at His feet, and keep it moving. He's working behind the scenes. And in due His time...HE makes all things beautiful.

I'll have my Ghana version posted soon, look forward to the next #MosquitoClaps


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Help-Portrait Ghana

A group of Ghanaian photographers, led by Mawuli Sikanku, Nana Kwame & Teresa Menka, organized a volunteer, donate photograph session at Akuapem Tutu in Aburi, Ghana called Help-Portrait 2012. In partnership with the Trinity Home Academy Orphanage, Ghanaian photogs, yours truly included, took pictures for the hundreds of kids who were present. Ghanaian reggae rap sensation, Iwan was also present and gave the event some celebrity/media coverage.

The smiles the laughter and of course the sounds of numerous shutters from the Help-Portrait Ghana photogs who volunteered made last Christmas a special one for me.

The orphans were made-up and excited to be in front of the camera; everyone wants their beauty to be appreciated....

The amazing happened as the kids, most orphans, got comfortable in front of our cameras. I don't remember a more worthwhile cause to spend my December 24th at. Looking forward to the the Help-Portrait in whatever country I'm in on December 24th, 2013....

More pictures here: itake photos 1985 on Facebook


Monday, January 7, 2013

Forward in Unity, One Nation with Love

Before today, I'd given myself, this blog and Reporting Ghana's Presidency a self imposed hiatus on reporting on politics.

I love politics and as a political scientist (my 1st/college degree certifies my cred), it was one of the most difficult things to do but Ghana's political climate called for cooler heads than inadvertent fanning of disgruntled political flames.

During the elections with the Ghana Decides team, we were able to report on the elections from polling stations through to collating offices and the party headquarters of the respective parties. After the electoral commissioner announced the NDC as the winner, the divide in the country became very very apparent. Besides isolated incidents of violence on the streets of Accra by the opposing NPP supporters, the general sentiment among peace-seekers was for us not to incite the already disgruntled NPP. I hate to admit it, but most Ghanaians' Christmas celebrations were tampered down because of the uncertainty caused by the NPP and other political parties refusing to concede and accept the electoral commissions results. The matter has been sent to Ghana's Supreme court.

But the swearing-in of the president-elect H.E. John Mahama was still an august occasion. It was colorful, patriotic and the pride tens of thousands of Northerners, a region John Mahama is from, showed by driving 12+ hours to attend the occasion made it a joy to document on camera. The Ghana Decides coordinator trashed out on epic proportions (slang for did a terrible job at coordinating) and I ended up by myself most of the day and not having the assistance/feeling comfortable to record video. Then again, a picture shares 1000 words, so enjoy:

Foreign observers at the swearing-in ceremony

A packed Independence Square, Accra

Supporters of the the NDC & President-elect Mahama

Venue for the swearing-in: Independence Square, Accra

Supporters and fans of NDC

Abedi Pele, Former Football and FIFA Ambassador

Forward in Unity, One Nation with Love