Saturday, 25 October 2014

Tag, I'm It!

Lately I've been seeing this tag around the blogosphere, 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 seven, 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 eight 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. 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.
  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 imagaine her surprise/sadness when I asked to have my hair like daddy and kept it that way most of my chidlhood. 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 about myself and the ways in which I could be thought of as being different....

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 ;)

    Saturday, 23 November 2013

    Travels

    The last time I blogged before my long break, I talked about going to Nigeria, Turkey and Belgium.  So anyways this is what I’ve been up to this year, travel-wise…

    I basically visited 3 countries over a four week period between April and May, starting with Nigeria where I went for my friend Dayo’s wedding. This was only my second time of attending a Nigerian wedding as an adult, and my first time of being involved in the process (I was the chief bridesmaid). The whole thing took place over three celebration-filled days and it was crazy! There were hundreds of people, tons of food and I discovered/learnt about so many new (to me) Nigerian traditions. The traditional marriage/engagement ceremony took place on the Friday, the church wedding on Saturday and the thanksgiving on the Sunday. Friday was really a hard day for me, because I was so busy that I didn’t have the time to eat, and I felt completely overwhelmed with the crowd of people, the noise and the general ambiance. At one point during the day I even broke down in tears, because in addition to the stress, I was helpfully shouted at a few times, because they felt I was inept as a bridesmaid. At almost 30years old, I had never been to such a ceremony and had certainly never participated, so I had no clue! 

    Still, so many great memories were created during that weekend. The traditional marriage/engagement ceremony was particularly interesting for me, because I got to see so many things. The bride, being a child of two cultures, decided to incorporate bits of each side of her into the day. Her mum’s family is from Lokoja (central Nigeria) and her dad is an Ikale from Ondo state (south) and it was nice to see the aspects of both cultures represented, including the beautiful “aso-oke” worn by the bride and groom, the ululating and traditional dances, and of course the wonderful calabash music. I got to eat lots of food that I hadn’t eaten in a long time – agbalumo, kunun, wara, suya, kilishi etc. 

    Agbalumo (African star apple)

    Kilishi (Spicy, peanut flavoured, sun-dried beef jerky )

    Wara (Cottage cheese/curd)

    We also travelled quite a bit between Ife, Okiti pupa, Ore, Ogun state, and I went shopping with my friend at the famous Balogun market in Lagos. This market is like Peckham on steroids (I never go to Peckham because I find it overwhelming!), it feels like there are millions of people pushing/shoving you, it's super noisy, crowded and I’m sure you can buy pretty much anything there. I ended up feeling dizzy and almost fainted a few times, but I was really proud of myself for surviving such a bona fide Nigerian experience particularly since I was just recovering from an accident and wearing a neck brace (story for another day!)...

    All in all, I really enjoyed my time in Nigeria, especially because I experienced/re-experienced so many things.  

    Next pit stop for me was Istanbul where I spent about 16hours. I had decided to fly Turkish airlines to Nigeria, even though it wasn’t the cheapest airline, because I heard that the company provides a free layover service for its clients. If your waiting time in Istanbul is more than 6hours, you get to choose between a hotel room and a tour of the city. I had just seen Argo (the Iranian revolution, Ben Affleck), which had some scenes shot in the Hagia Sophia, and was itching to go see the church. So I deliberately booked my return ticket to allow for a long layover and took full advantage of the almost 100% free trip - lunch, buses, entry fees and everything else was gratos, although I think I had to pay £10 for my visa (3month, multiple-entry for Brits). I made a few new friends, had lovely food and got to see so many wonderful places including the Blue mosque, Hippodrome, German fountain, Serpentine column, Obelisk of Thedosius, Hagia Sophia museum, Basilica cistern, Spice bazaar and New Mosque
    Spice bazaar (Site of my "beyoncé-ification")

    One really funny (slightly racist??!) thing did happen in Istanbul, and I still shake my head and giggle whenever I think about it. We had just arrived at the Spice bazaar, when there was a bit of commotion and people started shouting Beyoncé’s name. Feeling excited about seeing her (I wondered if she was touring like me haha!), I turned my head in all directions desperately trying to catch a glimpse but then I suddenly realised that all eyes were on me. I “was” Beyoncé!!! Flustered, embarrassed and slightly bemused, I ignored them and just kept walking. It was really weird because I look absolutely nothing like her, but it was such a memorable way to end my time in Istanbul. 

    One week after that, I was on my way to Bruges with friends on my first trip to Belgium. Bruges is such a quaint, picturesque, lovely little city, and we spent the first couple of days walking round the city, going to museums and eating delicious Belgian food. On the third day however, we decided to do a bike tour, cycling more than 50km from Bruges all the way into Holland. We took the scenic route along the canal, going through the beautiful villages of Sluis and Damme, where I saw the famous windmill. We stopped only briefly for photos and lunch, and I can tell you that by the end of the trip I could hardly walk.! Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience of a cycling holiday.
     Damme and its windmill 

    After that month, I felt like I really needed to recover and enjoy Paris. I haven’t really travelled much since then except to London for the unmissable Notting hill carnival in August, Kent to see my parents, and just this week to Utrecht for a friend’s PhD defense/party.

    Monday, 11 November 2013

    I'm Back and I'm Proud!

    It’s been almost exactly 9months since I last blogged. Looking back, I can see that this coincided with my becoming settled in my new relationship and life in Paris, in general. So much has happened since last year when I blogged more regularly, in that time I've made many friends from all around the globe, travelled loads, changed jobs twice and fallen firmly in love.

    I recently changed a few things in my life, and this has made me reconsider leaving the blogging community. I felt like I needed to document my new "journey."
    So anyway I'm back and hoping to stay for good, this time. 

    Monday, 18 February 2013

    Nigeria, Turkey, Belgium...

    ...all countries I will visit over the next couple of weeks. E.X.C.I.T.E.D!