Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Last Post for 2014....A Mish-Mash!

End of the Year
December was a very busy time for me, as I travelled a bit and then worked/hosted some guests over the Christmas period. I went to Vienna as usual in the first weekend, then Germany in the third weekend (met Jen from Ibibiogirl and visited T's family). Vicky, my Argentinian friend, arrived on Christmas eve and stayed until the 27th when Mr T got here. I was so tired from working full-time  and all the fun I had with Vicky waka dugbe-ing around Brussels, doing longer throat and eating all manner of mede-mede. Anyway by the time T got here, the temperature had really dropped and it even snowed sef, so we just stayed home and I slept a lot. He left yesterday, and I'm back to work today and tomorrow before packing my bags again and heading off, this time to mama Charlie's country (England for my non-naija readers).

My 2014 in Books
I started the year with Adichie's Americanah and it was definitely worth the hype for me. The issues that come with moving to a new country and finding yourself a "minority,"  the fight to affirm or (re)create your identity, doing the adjusting/adapting required, and merging your new culture with your home culture...these are all things that meant I recognised myself very strongly in Ifemelu and the other immigrants. On the other hand, I really didn't enjoy Taiye Selasi's Ghana Must Go. I had seen an interview of the author on RAI1, an Italian TV station, and was really impressed so I actually spent some of my Amazon vouchers on the book. Unfortunately, I was bitterly disappointed. I did not like her writing style one teensy bit.

I however liked Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowlands, Khaled Hosseini's And The Mountains Echoed, Swallow by Sefi Atta, A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif Unaccustomed Earth again by Jhumpa Lahiri, and Adaobi Nwaubani's I Do Not Come To You By Chance. Special mention goes to Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist, Rajaa Alsanea's Girls of Riyadh and Lola Shoneyin's The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives which I particularly loved. These books made me laugh out loud, literally  and I really enjoyed reading them. They were (in the words of T about me), "kleine aber feine!"  I also loved Christie Watson's Tiny Sunbirds, Faraway. She wrote about Nigeria in a way that was very realistic. Even though the story was sometimes sad, I felt a kind of connection with the Nigeria she described, it felt neither over- nor underdone... 

Of the 75 books I read this year, only about 12 were written by "white, mainstream" authors, and even then 11 of them talked about "others." "Atypical" situations, places and people, for example transracial adoption, immigrants and immigration, being an expatriate, being Amish, polygamy, Jewishness and the second world war etc. I am apparently attracted to and fascinated by difference and otherness...

Highlights and Lowlights
  • Travelling! I visited 6 countries and 10 cities/town. 
  • Moving houses 5 times between July and November. It was hectic, phew!
  • Putting up only15 blog posts (pitiful)
  • Improving my Italian, then abandoning it for German
  • Going to the seaside once this summer with T
  • Going to a European zoo for the first time (the other time was in India), and visiting the circus, also for the first time, thanks to the generosity of a dear friend
  • Turning 30. I had 3 birthday parties and got many wonderful presents. I especially love my churidar, my alabaster necklace and my Aya de Yopougon comic book.
  • Discovering a good naija restaurant in Paris, then moving. Now I have to find a new one here in Brussels :(
  • Drinking a million aperitivos whilst on holiday in Italy
  • Seeing my friend K after 8years
  • Having an amazing summer with my sisters and friend, while living in another friend's beautiful Parisian flat. I so want something similar when I grow up!
  • Getting my turn at the annual mummy-and-me-only holiday
  • Getting my current job

I am grateful for
  1. Life and health. I turned 30 this year and became a bona fide adult ;) And everyone in my entourage (family and friends) is alive and well.
  2. A wonderful summer. I had the best summer of my life this year with my sisters, a wonderful sister-friend and T.
  3. Christmas with Vicky, which meant I wasn't alone in a new city during the festivities.
  4. The online community of which I'm part. I feel like I have made so many new friends this year! I'm thankful that I discovered the blogs that made my 2014 interesting - Duru, GNG, IbibiogirlNigerian Scorpio, Berry and Pynk amongst many others.
  5. Journey mercies. Not one train/plane/road accident or incident in spite of the many many miles that I covered this year. Truly a miracle, if you think about it.
  6. The most uncomplicated cross-country move ever. My move to Brussels has been ridiculously coordinated and everything has fallen into place so easily...making friends, work, finding a flat and church, getting along with colleagues and even my day to day life!
  7. My job. I love it so so much! I enjoy the work because it's very different from everything I've known up until now. It is really challenging me as a nurse
  8. Progress with my finances. Thanks to nagging from T and him constantly telling me off for accruing unnecessary interest, I've increased my student loan repayments substantially and have started making serious inroads into paying back my debts, slowly but surely.
  9. My parents. They are finally starting to enjoy middle age, this season of their lives where all the children are more or less independent and there are no grand-kids yet. They're taking up travelling again and making plans to really enjoy each other.
  10. My family-in-law. I met them this year and it seems they love me as much as I love them. I even went there alone for a weekend and things went better than the first time when T was with me. I particularly love his mum because we're very similar (it's so uncanny!) and it feels like she's a friend. Everyone keeps telling me how lucky I am.
  11. My siblings. One sister finished her masters last October and did fantastically well; she got 18.99/20 and was valedictorian. She then basically gave her French university the middle finger salute by giving her speech in English. Yep, my sister is gangster like that ;) She now has a place at university for next September to do her PhD in law. My brother is doing amazing things and is going places with his new startup and little company. I feel like this year was a very important one for him in terms of making progress and knowing what direction to take the business. The baby sister loves her course this time round and has really settled into university. I'm thankful that she decided (and my parents insisted) early on that she "drop out" of  last year's hated course,  and take a gap year. She really grew up in the 9months she spent in Paris. As for her twin brother, he is also doing great at uni, working/playing hard and getting fantastic grades. My siblings are such superstars and for that I am grateful
  12. Mr T. This year has been difficult, with him moving to Brussels and then Vienna, but I think our relationship has become much stronger as a result of it. We've both had to make a lot of sacrifices this year in terms of time and money so we could see each other, and it really makes you ask yourself if you truly want to be with the other person.  I know now,  for sure that I love him and would go to the ends of the world to be with him. It's been 2years of ups and downs, but our relationship (and both of us!) has matured a lot. Like good wine, it just keeps getting better.
  13.  Favour wherever I go. People have always described me as someone who makes friends easily, but this is the first year I've actually noticed that it is true....for some unknown reason, people are drawn to me and want to be friends. I spent a lot of time thinking this year about why this is so, as well as trying to figure out what it is about me that attracts others. I'm certainly not the most intelligent/beautiful/cool/fashionable/whatever-attribute-you-like person in the world! In the end I figured it must be God's grace, some special dispensation, a particular blessing in my life, because I know for sure that I haven't done anything to deserve the undeserved and unreserved love that often comes my way.  I am just immensely grateful!

Weekly Language Goals: Review

I didn't manage to do anything on the list this week because I was too busy having fun ;) My friend Vicky visited over Xmas, and T came for 2days right after...more on that in another post. I'm off to England tomorrow too, so it's looking like not much German will be learnt over the next week either. Oh well, at least I know I'll be starting my conversation exchange in January.

Anyways on to the review, which will be very easy this week: 1-5, not done. See you in 2015!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Weekly Language Goals: Review

I didn't manage to do everything on the list this week because I was travelling, however I learnt so much from my boyfriend's mum who is a (great) primary school teacher. She was really patient and fun to learn from, and we laughed a lot! I kind of feel jealous of her kids at school....

Anyways on to the review.
  1. Done!
  2. Done as well!
  3. Practised 3times. Goal not reached, not enough time :(
  4. Learnt way more than 15words. I had already learnt about 30 before I went to Germany, where I learnt another one million words and more importantly, learnt the pronunciations. So done!
  5. Definitely achieved this goal from practising with my MIL
Not bad for the first week I guess. Onwards and upwards!

My Weekend in Pictures: Köln and Bad Münstereifel

St. Petersglocke, the largest of the 11 bells at the Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

 The Xmas market from the roof of the Cathedral

 The Xmas market or Weihnachtsmarkt

 Supercool toilet at the Café Reichard, glass door which becomes opaque and artsy when locked! I was lucky my FIL told me about it before I went in; some woman started peeing without locking the door (she just closed it),  and I had to mime to her that we could see her through the glass! 

Nativity story in progress. The story is told throughout Advent until the 24th when the final piece of the puzzle is added...baby Jesus enters the manger.

My Weekend in Pictures: Köln and Bad Münstereifel

 At the Schokolade Museum: Shrine of the Magi
Made entirely out of chocolate! 

 Finally met J of Ibibiogirl, so much laughter!

Taking a break as instructed...

 Around Cologne, walking along the Rhine

The Cologne Cathedral

Refuelling after all that walking and laughter with Jen Jen

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?