Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Weekly Language Goals

While in a boring meeting today, my mind wandered and I started thinking about how to achieve my goal of learning German in 9months. The more I thought about it, the more I became overwhelmed with the magnitude of the task ahead of me, until I remembered the article I read on bellanaija a few days ago. Apparently, it's been proven that writing down goals increases your chance of achieving them. So, following the advice from the article (as well as GNG's example), I decided write and break down my goal of learning German into smaller, achievable and measurable steps. Now I've got a bunch of objectives that I will try to attain weekly. Every Monday from now until the 1st of October 2015, I will evaluate my progress and see how much I've managed to achieve. If nothing else, at least it means that each week, there'll be a new post on the blog...

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Little Babel in my Head

So even though I'm far from being completely fluent in Italian, I decided to add another language to my repertoire.

I began preparing for this in the last week of November, by downloading Duolingo on my tablet, fishing out my books/CD (German in French, which I bought before leaving France), and finding a good site for Grammar etc. I then officially started the process on the 1st of December, giving myself 9 months in which to learn, and achieve the goal of being able to communicate effectively and confidently. An initial look at the language gave me the impression that it was logical, similar to English and familiar (from learning Swedish briefly a few years ago, sadly all gone now from lack of use). I therefore overconfidently thought I was going to have a very easy ride. However, I hadn't banked on getting interference from French, which also seems to have left its ravages on my poor brain.

The main problem (apart from declension, which is another issue entirely) is that I often think in French and so use French constructions for German sentences. A typical example would be use of the verb "to be," where the verb "to have" would have traditionally been more appropriate. Case in point, to state my age in French I would say "J'ai 30ans" (literally, I have 30years). However, in English and German the verb "to have" is replaced by the verb "to be" so we end up with "Ich bin 30 Jahre alt" or "Ich bin 30" which literally mean I am 30years old and I am 30 respectively. Intellectually, I know this, but I cannot seem to stop myself from mirroring the French phrase and saying "Ich habe 30 Jahre". 

As if this wasn't enough, my brain (perhaps cognizant of the fact that English and French are kind of forbidden), has decided to come up with a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of learning yet another language. I now sometimes find myself using Yoruba and Italian words to fill in the currently large gaps in my German vocabulary. I think my poor brain feels like a melange of languages is its only way of producing anything intelligible at the moment!

Still, I'm not one to give up...I'm hoping to achieve my goal in spite of the challenges, but I've decided to restart the count from the 1st of January after the holidays when I'll be less distracted and more able to dedicated myself to the hard work ahead of me. By the 1st of October 2015, I hope to be able to express myself clearly in German, and have reached level C1 (to be assessed objectively with a test from the Goethe institute). 

And my English? Also going down the drains it seems. Living, thinking and working almost exclusively in French has done a number on my brain. For example, whenever I do a long piece of writing I have to re-read it a few times, since I've realised that I sometimes forget to add the preposition "to" in English when using the infinitive form of verbs. This is a really silly mistake to make as a native English speaker, but a quick glance through a list of verbs in both languages reveals how this becomes possible (to have = avoir; to be = être; to do= faire and so on). In other news, I've also taken to writing English with French spellings, for example, ou for or, Décembre for December, familiarity as familiarité, accompany as accompagne, and my construction of English sentences is also unfortunately undergoing a change for the worse. I now say things like "he is more big than you" or "the car of the man" (to think I used to be so proud of my English language skills!). Worst of all, I've noticed that I'm gradually morphing into that obnoxious person who corrects others and gets irritated when I see/hear people using bad French :(

Anyway, over to you. Are you learning a new language? How that's going, and/or what impact does it have on your first (or second, third, etc.) language(s)?

With that, I say...A lovely weekend to all/Bon weekend/ Ein schoenes Wochenend!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Finally in the Cool Kid Club ;)

A few weeks ago, I got my first official nomination from the very lovely J of IbibioGirl, however, I have been really busy so it's taken me ages to get round to it. Still, in the words of the great Duru Adolphus, better late than never right?

 Anyways, the rules for the Sunflower award are as follows:
1) share 11 facts about yourself
2) answer questions set by the blogger who nominated you
3) nominate 11 bloggers
4) set 7 questions for your nominees.

Having recently done a post where I listed 20 unusual facts about me, I decided to take a leaf out of J's book and skip the first rule, mostly because it was really hard coming up with that list. Also, I feel like I need to keep some of my (as the French say) "mystere" ;)

So, here goes!

1) Is there any friend you haven’t spoken to in donkey years? Would you ring them if given the chance.
Yes, unfortunately :( I have moved quite a bit in my life, and everywhere I go I seem to make a few good friends, sadly, every time I leave I realise how hard it is to keep in touch with all them for long periods of time. The result is that I often end up with 2 or 3 really close ones who refuse to let me go (shout out to my sisters and those friends!). So yes, were I ever to be given the opportunity to reconnect with long-lost friends who once meant so much to me, I'd take up the chance in a heartbeat! 

2) What’s your thought on the Bill Cosby rape news
I really hope they're not true, but as a woman who was once a female child, I know that our societies will often trivalise/devalue the experiences of victims, as well as invalidate any stories that seem to hurt our "heroes." What this means is many people don't come out to share their stories until they're much older and/or have sought help. Still, I wasn't there and cannot judge, so I hope he's put through the justice system where he is either able to prove his innocence, or made to pay for his wicked acts.

3) Bookstore or library
Library, definitely! Having realised that it'd be no fun being a homeless, broke somebody, and that books neither warm you up nor fill your tummy, I decided to use and misuse all the libraries in any city I move to. Paying 7€ per year for example will always be cheaper than trying to buy books, for someone who reads as much as I do. I have been known to go through a book a day, during my holidays or quiet times...so yeah, thank God for libraries!

4) Fix it or get a replacement?
Fix it all the way! As a bona fide cheapskate, I'd rather fix something than replace it, unless of course it costs more money then replace it is. 

5) Damsel in distress or wonder woman?
Wonder woman toh bahd! People (including a certain Mr T) always look at me and think I'm some powerless little kini. I'm like don't do it o, you judge this book by it's cover at your own peril! I've always been fiercely independent, and even as a child was often detached from everyone/everything around me, living my life according to my rules and doing it all by my freaking self. I have never understood people (especially women) who are more  "damsels in distress" types. I'm like shebi I have a brain, two hands and two feet? Oya think and take action jare!

And that's it from me. I'm nominating Good Naija Girl, Myne Whitman, Duru, Berry and Natural Nigerian for the award, and my questions for those bloggers are:
  1. If you could learn a new langague which would it be? Why
  2. And if you could choose a city/country in which to live, which would it be and why?
  3. What are the Xmas traditions in your location/family?
  4. Few close friends or many not-as-close friends? Why?
  5. Procrastinator or just-do-it-er?
  6. Favourite book in the world, and why?
  7. 2014 in a nutshell? 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Tag, I'm It!

I've been seeing this tag around the blogosphere lately, and it seemed fun, so I decided to tag myself and do it in the spirit of YOLO and all that... ;)

Anyway here are 20 previously unknown facts about me.
  1. I am the oldest and smallest in my family.With 50kg for 161.5cm, it's easy to see how this is possible. I have always been quite small and can in fact remember my mum telling me that my twin siblings were each bigger than me at birth even though they were premature and I was full-term! I used to hate being so tiny, especially while I was in secondary school (end of adolescence and moving to England made me gain a lot of weight) since I felt I was often overlooked because of my stature, bookishness and late physical development. I love myself now though because people never ever believe me when I tell them my age :)
  2. I love writing and hope to get published at least once in my lifetime. 
  3. I am ambidextrous, but not naturally so. My left-handed cousin broke his arm when we were kids and seeing the trouble he had with using his other hand, I got worried about all the potential future accidents, and decided to put my girl guides' motto  into action. I taught myself slowly but surely to use my left hand. You can imagine how frustrating it was for my parents and everyone around to watch me take an excruciatingly long time to do anything (I realise now that I must have been a really weird child). Anyway I stuck to my guns and today my left hand and leg work almost as well as the right ones.
  4. I am a psychiatric nurse who stumbled across the speciality and who ADORES her job. I studied adult nursing in the UK, and there, I'm not allowed to work in psychiatry/paediatry/learning disabilities without further training. However, since I'm registered as a general nurse here in France and can work in every area, I decided to explore my options and luckily fell in love with psychiatry.
  5. I have a love-hate relationship with food. I really enjoy eating, but sometimes I am so unbothered and lazy, that i just go for hours even a few days with really eating. I will also not eat unless I am actually hungry. This is something that drives the boyfriend bonkers, since I will often refuse to eat one minute, only to stop everything and demand sustenance the next. He's all like "you said you weren't hungry 10minutes ago when we went past that restaurant!" The poor boy is getting used to it sha.
  6. I love going to the cinema and the opera (although the cost in Paris has killed that habit for me). Apart from these two things, I like sleeping and me time. I'm such a homebody and I really really really enjoy hanging out with my boyfriend, or being alone in my room :)
  7. I make friends easily, maybe too easily! People seem attracted to me for some reason, and we often become close friends very quickly. To my eternal shame however, I am bad at staying in touch (with both friends and family). It often seems like my life revolves around my current friendships, but then I move away, make new friends and forget the old ones. Luckily, I have the best friends in the world! People (including my siblings) who will write/call/prod me into keeping in touch and force me into remaining in their lives.
  8. I abhor prejudice/discrimination of any kind, and I have been known to end important friendships over racist/sexist/homophobic/religion-ist comments or jokes. However, in spite of my intolerance to intolerance, I realise I am far from perfect and an example of this was when I laughed at a racist joke about Germans on BBC radio 4. The boyfriend was appalled and I was so ashamed of myself :(
  9. I am a nomad. I enjoy travelling and have visited more countries than I can count. I have also lived in 5 countries (Nigeria, England, Sweden, Bangladesh, France) over the last 13 years, and I'm moving to the 6th in 5days.
  10. Going hand in hand with number nine, I enjoy learning languages. I currently speak 4 (English, Yoruba, French, Italian) but would like to get to 10 before die. German is next on my list, then I plan to spend the rest of my life on Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, Hausa and Edo.
  11. Linked to number ten is the fact that my English has really deteriorated recently. I've been known to forget words for things in English, translate literally from French to English, and speak the language using the French sentence structure. My anglophone friends and family sometimes look at me like I'm crazy, but my fellow multi-linguists get me immediately!
  12. I have a strange relationship with money. I love love love saving, and often hyperventilate when it seems like I've been overspending, only for me to check my account and realise I have hardly touched it. I however never mind spending on my siblings, boyfriend or on travelling. 
  13. And as incoherent as it may sound, I also sometimes have inexplicable bouts of spending urges where I buy useful/nice things that I don't particularly need. I just go out, look for 2-3 things and buy them while sticking to a set budget.
  14. I love reading. I read everything I can get my hands on including when I was little, lists, medical books, textbooks and the catholic bible. I haven't had the time to read that many books this year, yet I am currently on my 66th.
  15. While reading said catholic bible as an 8year old, I discovered a previously unknown type of  bible. It was different from what I knew, and I spent a lot of time reading all the stories in the  Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical books. Falling in love one with with one of the stories, I decided I'd name my future son after one of the uncommonly named (in Nigeria/England/Anglophone/Francophone world) heroes. I managed to get to adulthood with meeting only one person with that name in Sweden, yet 20years later, within the space of a few weeks my French friend used the name for her newborn, and I met T who has the same name! I was so bitter that I could no longer use it for my darling future son.
  16. I have banned myself from bookshops. I had to take this drastic step after I realised a huge chunk of my monthly budgeted spending money was going on books. Realising that my love for books was impinging on my love for ice-cream and my purchasing power, I made the rule and have more or less stuck to it.
  17. I collect postcards and books by foreign authors, particularly from countries where I have visited.
  18. I went to the circus for the first time in my life this weekend and I loved! I see more of it in my future.
  19. I love close-cropped hair and have had my hair this way for the majority of my life. My poor mum was happy to have a girl to dress up, so imagine her surprise/sadness when I asked to have my hair like daddy and kept it that way most of my childhood. I have also had natural hair more or less all my life. I tried to relax it for a year after moving to England, but I had no clue what to to with it. It was flat and lifeless! I sharply cut the thing and went back to my afro :)
  20. I am moving to Brussels in 5days and you might be able to tell that I'm a tad bit excited!!!!
Phew, that was much harder than I expected! Everyone made it seem so easy, but I really had to think of the things that others might consider interesting about me...

Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, 24 October 2014

So I Met The Parents Last Weekend...

It thankfully did not go like this!
After almost 2years of being together, many invitations, and one almost-visit, we finally bit the bullet and went to see T's parents. 

The whole thing started in a very inauspicious manner, beginning with the fact that we got our dates mixed up, with T and I booking different weekends off. Then I made a mistake when booking my return ticket, had to book another one and lost money because the original ticket was non-refundable. And to crown it all, the evening before T was supposed to leave (he was going one night before), we found that that there was an airline strike! At this point he asked me if we could cancel the trip, he said he could change his ticket and come to Paris, but I refused. Initially I felt that if we cancelled, it would take an act of God for me to ever try again. However, 10mins later, I started to hyperventilate a bit, and my superstitious side came out. What if this wasn't meant to be (at least at that time)? What if something bad happened to us on the journey? I mean you often hear of stories where people cancel their plans at the last minute and they end up being saved from horrible fates. I am usually one of the most rational people I know, so it was strange for me to have such weird thoughts! Luckily my friend (who was around at the time) and my mum (who I telephoned in a panic), together with T convinced me to get a grip and move on with the initial plan.

Why was I so stressed? It probably had to do with past experiences. So, let's step back in time (sorry, I'm an ex-avid nollywood viewer ;) )

You see I had done another meet the parents a few years ago with my then boyfriend's family, and the visit went rather poorly. They were Finnish (yes, I like my men foreign thank you very much!), and spoke practically no English. I spoke/still speak no Finnish, and the boyfriend who played squash professionally, had a tournament that weekend. Long story short, I was left alone with the family (parents, sister and godmother who had travelled down from another city!) most of the time, and so I did what I always do when stressed, whipped out my book and started reading. They initially tried to make conversation with me, but we found it too difficult to understand each other and things were becoming awkward really quickly, so I decided to save the situation by ignoring everyone and withdrawing into myself/my book. Not the most polite or elegant response I know, and you can imagine how that went down with them. In fact I can remember the boyfriend later asking me if I hated his family!

So with this kind of history behind me, I was more than a little hesitant to take the plunge this time round. Fortunately for me, things went really well. Beginning the visit with T's parents both ignoring my outstretched hand and giving me hugs as soon as they saw me, put me right at ease. The fact that they speak fairly good English and a bit of French (such a pleasant surprise!), and made A LOT of effort to communicate with me also helped a lot. Even though we were managing fine with the two languages and T translating from time to time, at one point, his dad went to find the German-English dictionary and the conversation really started to flow. They didn't seem to mind answering all the questions I fired at them, and even seemed to enjoy "gisting" with me. In fact most of the time I spent chatting with them, T was upstairs being antisocial in his room. On top of that, T's mum (and dad apparently, although he didn't cook while we were there) is a very good cook. I think I finished everything on my plate at each meal, and only complained to T later that I felt a bit greedy going back for seconds, thirds and fourths! And to top it all, they wouldn't let you lift a finger to help with anything. They kept repeating "you're on holiday, you should rest," so I listened to them and did :) . I slept, ate, went for walks and slept/ate some more. On the last day I woke up to find a hearty lunch packed for my journey home, with a second package containing the German "blackbread" I had mentioned liking so much. I was so touched by all the care and attention, and I actually began to see where my T gets his loving nature from.

The "problem" now is that T's mum (and dad) have invited me back several times. His mum kept telling me that I could come without him, and reminded me several times that Brussels is actually closer to them than Paris! She also tried to tempt me by saying we could do the Christmas markets together with T's sister and have a girls' weekend. I really am tempted to take her up on her offer because I genuinely enjoy talking to/hanging out with her, and I'd LOVE to see a traditional German Christmas market (they live in a small town), but I think it's a bit early especially with my move to Brussels, plus it might be weird explaining to T that I'm off to visit his parents without him....What to do?!

In other news, I told my mum every single detail about how things went that weekend, as soon as I got back to Paris and she became even more determined that T and I visit England very soon (she's invited us both, many times in the past). I'm sure it's because she'd like to reciprocate and show off her hosting skills too, although knowing my mum, she'll go above and beyond because this is like a competition now. Seriously, parents can be so funny sometimes. Although to be honest, I don't mind people competing to show me love hehe!

October Happenings

So on the 8th of October I resigned my job here in Paris. This is the story of what happened....

 Source
Our lease had expired at the end of July, and we weren't planning to renew it because as I mentioned in my last post, my sisters had returned/were planning to return home to England at the end of the summer. I knew that the flat would be too big and expensive for me to run alone, and conscious of the fact that I'd be more or less homeless after that, I began to revaluate my decision to continue living in Paris. So, while I didn't make any firm decisions immediately, I began to put out feelers and started applying for jobs in Brussels because I thought I could go over there and specialise in Psychiatric Nursing. In the meantime I stayed at a friend's rent-free for the whole of August with my two sisters (they were at their Italian house for the summer). Then moved into my Italian friend Lulu's place, for two months while our friend/her flatmate was in Mexico, since we had to vacate the other flat at the end of August.

Deciding to explore the study-option, I went to Brussels right at the beginning of September to sign up for the  specialist course. It was then I received a bombshell where I was told that even though I was registered to work as a nurse in Belgium, I could not study there without having my degree recognised as equivalent to a Belgian one! It is just my luck that Belgium is one of five countries that had decided to opt-out of the EU-wide mutual recognition of academic qualifications. Ridiculous as it may seem, I can work as a nurse, dealing with people's lives everyday, but I don't have the right to study in a classroom!

 How I felt...
I asked how long it would take to get the recognition, and it took another 3weeks for anyone to respond and tell me it would take 4-5months (school holidays excluded!), and 174€ to get that piece of paper. I quickly realised it was a dead-end and gave up on that dream, especially since I knew the course I wanted to do would be starting in October. I told myself that Paris would be my home for another couple of months at least, and I decided to re-start the process of house-hunting.

Now it is a well-known fact that flat-hunting in Paris can be hellish! This is because there is a huge shortage of accommodation within the city itself. Then there's the fact that French law tends to favour the tenant who is practically impossible to evict once they're in. So to protect themselves, landlords are often very slective and will ask for "dossiers" from prospective tenants with detailed personal and financial information including everything from your marital status to your blood-group (just kidding with that last one, although it wouldn't surprise me to hear they ask for it too O_O). They will also often want to see that you earn at least 3times the rent or at least that you have a guarantor who does. As a nurse and public servant, my salary was clearly never going to meet the requirement for many of the flats I wanted.

I initially tried to look for more affordable housing, but was having no luck, due mostly to the fact that I only started looking at the beginning of October as I was on holiday and travelling the whole of September. I then became so desperate that I considered living in the "banlieue" (outskirts of Paris), but soon gave up on that idea because I realised I'd be lonely and isolated since I work mostly nights and no longer have either my sisters or T around me. As a last resort, I called my hospital's social worker for help, maybe with allocating me one of the temporary rooms/studio flats available, but there again, French bureaucracy struck! She told me the flat was reserved ONLY for new recruits from the regions outside Ile de France (the region where Paris is located). In spite of the fact that 7rooms were available, that I told her I was a foreigner who would soon be on the streets, and that I only needed temporary accommodation, she remained adamant that I could not be allocated a room.

Current location and future neighbourhood!
At this point, I decided to give up and "do the prodigal son". I realised that I'd always be welcome at my parents house and to be honest, nursing jobs are a dime a dozen, so I knew I'd soon sort myself out. However, there's a final twist to the story. A few days after that, I got a phone call for a job in children's psychiatry! I love pedopsychiatry, but there are hardly ever any positions that open up because the teams are often keep the same in order to provide stability for the children. As it is, this is only a one year maternity replacement contract, but I'm glad all the same because it gives me very valuable experience and I once again have some sort of plan for the next year. So we're back to the original plan.... I am off to BRUSSELS in 7days!!!! Isn't it funny how life works? T leaves, and I arrive just after. Oh well, my only consolation is that at least Brussels-Vienna is not any further than Paris-Vienna.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

September So Far...

  • I have birthday presents still coming in three full weeks after the event. A special 30th birthday necklace is being made for me by my ex-colleagues, and I recently received a few other things...
 
 Churidar all the way from Chennai
(via Stockholm!)
 
Alabaster box and necklace from Volterra
(Tuscany)
  • I have been trying to improve my Italian, but to be honest, haven't really been practising my speaking skills with Lulu (my housemate). I however have been working hard on my listening and reading. Learning my fourth language in my third language is certainly, for want of a better word..."interesting."

    Thank God for French libraries!
    • Yesterday I had a small surprise dinner party thrown for me by friends who were either busy or away over the summer. Felt like such an idiot when they dimmed the lights and brought in an ice-cream "cake" with a candle and the number 30 on it. I actually looked round to find out whose birthday it was, only to realise it was all for me. I was so touched!
     Yet another birthday dinner :)

    September Travel Schedule!


    The plan is to visit 7-8 cities in about 20days, and I'm so very excited! The English part of the itinerary is not new to me, but all the other places are, so I'm going to spend the next couple of days obsessing over what to see/do/etc. For now, my plans are to ride the train quite a bit, have a thermal bath in Budapest, and really work on my Italian while I'm in Italy. Really looking forward to the whole trip because I worked very hard over the summer, plus I haven't had a proper holiday since Easter and apart from probably going to Cologne for a weekend in October, will not have another holiday until at least Christmas.

    Anxiously waiting for the 13th!

    Sunday, 17 August 2014

    30.


    On this, the morning of my 30th birthday, I feel the urge to write something on this blog which is after-all a journal of sorts. I want to be able to look back a few years from now, to be able know how I felt, what I was thinking about, dreaming of and hoping for, at this exact moment.

    30 is an especially poignant age for me, not least because I never thought I would attain this age due to the many events that happened in my childhood and early adulthood. Still, here I am. Alive, happy, successful, with a future full of possibilities and on the cusp of an exciting change....

    To whomever is responsible, I truly am grateful. Thank you.

    Eight Months Later


    It’s been almost nine months since my last post, and to be honest I thought about abandoning the blog, but the combination of Timi leaving a comment, and it being the auspicious occasion of my 30th...well here I am again.

    So what have I been up to since November 2013? Well in no particular order,


    • I chopped off all my hair, going from mid-back (stretched) to close-cropped.
    • I changed jobs. Twice. Once, because I got fed of commuting for over two hours each day, and the second time because I just couldn’t deal with the horrible atmosphere at the first job where I lasted only 3months.
    • I made lots of progress with my Italian. I go to the cinema/watch TV/listen to radio and can largely understand what is being said. I’ve also read my first two books entirely in Italian and have another two waiting to be read (one an early present, from Lulu my dear Italian friend).
    • I went to Brussels, and back to Bruges, with a friend in May. Then about 2weeks ago, went to Belgium for a staycation with the boyfriend, fitting in one day at the zoo (first time at a European zoo!) and one at the beach.
    • The boyfriend, who’s actually neither Kenyan nor called Hussien, ;) moved to Belgium last December for about 8months, which meant A LOT of travelling. Luckily my current job is flexible enough that I was basically able to live/shuffle between the two countries. Now he’s moving again, to Austria, which sadly means more "long-distancing," but more positively also means we can discover at least some of the eight bordering countries. 
    • I signed up for Instagram, in anticipation of all the travelling and new experiences I see in my future :)
    • My sisters decided to leave Paris this summer. The younger one is done with her gap year and will be leaving in 10days to take up her place at uni, while the older one, fed up of the city after about 5years has decided she wants to go home after her masters in September. I’ve decided I don’t want to be left behind, so I too am planning a move to Brussels for work and possibly further studies. Obviously lots of life changes and upheavals going on at the moment, especially since I have to look for a new job/flat/community etcetera. Luckily Belgian nurses’ registration is a relatively simple, if protracted process... Anyway this means that only 4years after graduating from uni, I am now a quadrilingual/tri-nationally registered (British-French-Belgian) nurse!
    • And well I turned 30 today. Happy birthday me ;)