Friday 30 January 2015

Clara's Travel Tales: The Bookworm Edition

For my first post for the 15-for-15 challenge, I thought I'd write about the mishap that almost befell me two weekends ago.

The "Alakoba" Book
As I may have mentioned a few hundred times on this blog, I LOVE reading. This has unfortunately got me into trouble many times, but today we're going to focus on those of the Ajala kind.

I once missed my flight to Stockholm although I was on-time and already checked in, because I was focused on the book I had with me. I remember the airline attendant looking at me bizarrely, once she noticed that I had been sitting next to the counter all along,  and asking me how I could possibly have missed all the announcements calling for me. She sha looked upon my innocent baby-face, felt sorry for me and booked me onto the next flight, free of charge.  I knew I was lucky that day, and since then have been very vigilant about reading in airports. That is until 2 weeks ago, Friday the 16th of January to be precise...

I was scheduled to spend the weekend in Vienna with T whom I hadn't seen since just after Christmas, and was really looking forward to leaving Brussels for a few days. So as a bona fide OCD-er, I made sure that I was at the airport on time and at the gate at least 1hour before boarding was meant to commence.

However, in spite of my best efforts, I got bored and pulled out the interesting but not-so-well-written book I had been trying to finish. And that my dears was when the bookworm demon struck! I started reading, and got so into it that I didn't notice the time passing, hear the announcements for boarding, or even see people around me moving. As in I was gone! I was far far away in India, Delhi where the story was taking place.  By the special grace of a God that said I would see T that weekend, I felt a pain in my neck, looked up and noticed that the area around me was empty. Panicking slightly, I looked around, saw a line forming just ahead, and kia kia joined it.

Imagine my surprise when the airline attendant told me that, that flight was headed for Warsaw in Poland. Olorun lo yo mi, I could have ended up on the other side of Europe! The man sha saw my confusion, took pity on me and directed me to my own gate which was just behind me. There, I was lucky enough to meet another kind attendant who checked my documents quickly and literally ran down with me to the plane. I was the very last person to board, and had to do the walk of shame down to my seat. Still thank the gods of long distance relationships who were up there, looking out for T and I.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Mein Erster Post auf Deutsch/First Post in German!

Heute mache ich ein "post" auf Deutsch wie ich am Montag versprochen habe. Ich bin eigentlich in der Arbeit, in ein sehr langweilig Treffen, also ich entschied mich das zu schreiben...

Am Samstag gehe ich nach Paris meine freundinnen zu besuchen, weil seit November habe ich nicht ihnen gesehen. Ich werde schmackhaft Japanisch Essen essen, um mein lieblingstadt herumgehen, und gerade einen schönen Wochenende haben! Die nur schlecht ding ist dass ich mit dem Bus muss fahren. Wie üblich, habe ich nicht meine Zug-Ticket gekauft früh, also es zu teuer war...sowieso, jetzt ich den Bus muss nehmen. Auch unglücklicherweise, wird es das ganze Wochenende regen :(
Sonst, ich freue mich sehr gern!

Today I'm doing a post in German as I promised on Monday. I'm actually at work, in a very boring meeting, so I decided to write this...

On Saturday I am going to Paris to visit my friends, because since November, I have not seen them. I'll eat delicious Japanese food, walk around my favourite city, and just have a nice weekend! The only bad thing is that I have to take the bus. As usual, I did not buy my train ticket early, so it was too expensive...anyway now I have to take the bus. Also, unfortunately, it will rain all weekend :(
Apart from that, I am very happy!

Monday 26 January 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

With the kind of week I've had since Monday,  I knew I obviously wasn't going to be able to do everything on the list.  At the beginning of the week, I listened a lot to the radio, wrote the first draft of my weekly email and did some very unmotivated grammar studying. In spite of this however, by Thursday, I realised that I was in danger of falling behind and failing to achieve my goals. So basically between Thursday evening and Sunday night I worked really hard to try to get every task ticked off, but it was too little, too late. As our naija people like to say, body no be leather....

Anyway on to this week's review.

Au Revoir and Lass uns gehen are both German! 
  1. Done! I literally spent hours listening to the radio this week. I found a couple of new stations - Bayern 2, B5 aktuell and Deutschlandfunk. These are talk stations and they have a lot of culture/news/documentaries, just the way I prefer my radio. I listened even when I was poorly, since it requires no energy or effort. I particularly enjoyed the kindermagazin which was very easy for me to follow. As for BRF(the Belgian German station), I have kept it because although I have no internet access on my phone, I'm able listen to it on my walk to work. As a result of this I've discovered 2 songs which I really like (and 3 others by British singers!). I've downloaded the lyrics, bought the songs and been singing along all weekend ;)
  2.  Kind of done. Cathy cancelled and I felt rubbish so I didn't re-schedule. However, I met Hanna on Friday for almost 3 hours. We are similar and get along, so it's easy to chat/laugh the time away. I spoke a lot more German this time, and we were both very pleased with my progress. On Thursday, I also did a sort of conversation practice with J from Ibibio Girl (with her husband in the background, helping).
  3. Done! I wrote another email to MIL, and even I could see and feel the improvement. The words seemed to flow naturally out of me, and I only really had to look up 2 words. When I corrected it with my conversation exchange partner, I realised it was of course full of errors, but I felt encouraged because it was already so much better than the first email. And most importantly my MIL said she understood everything! I also completely got the reply she wrote me and did not need to use the dictionary once :)
  4. Not done. I read/practised the lyrics from the two songs above, and read a couple of lines of a book by Franz Kafka. Honestly though, I was very unmotivated for this task so I'm hoping for inspiration this week.
  5. Done...ish! I did my one chapter, but it was only to fulfil all righteousness. I can't even remember what I studied :(
  6. Not done. I think I must have practised a total of 4times on both apps this week.
Last week was a mixed bag, but I guess that's normal with language learning...I'm hoping this week will be more successful sha. Oh and I'm planning to do a short post next week in German, with the English translation obviously ;)

Sunday 25 January 2015

Snowday in Brussels

One of the things I like so far about Brussels is the fact that it snows regularly, at least when compared to Gravesend in England where I come from. And, as someone who like to think of herself as artsy, the pretty snow allows me to indulge my artistic side. I took these pictures with my phone and didn't edit them at all, so I am pleased with how they've turned out. I already shared a couple of them on instagram, but I got the idea from Ibibio Girl to also share them here. Click to see them full-sized...and enjoy!


Saturday 24 January 2015

Funny Happenings...

So my baby sister, hereafter known (in the words of our brother, as the "dirty little rasta" of the family), was allocated this as her university email address T.A419. Abeg blogfam, do you think this is a coincidence, abi na just him papa people wey follow am reach administrator's office? ;) Answers on a postcard please. As for me, I'm on nights this weekend, so I'm off to sleep work!

Ein schoenes Wochenende/Have a fantastic weekend.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!

On Tuesday, being sick/missing my mum's cooking and craving Nigerian food led me to joining Nairaland, a Nigerian community online. I created an account and put up a post asking people for suggestions on where one could find naija food in Brussels. Almost immediately I started getting lots of  emails, none of them responding to my question, but all asking how to get a visa to Belgium. I replied a lot of them, telling them that I had no clue about immigration issues but in spite of this, received quite a few life résumés, with people telling me their stories. I began to feel really bad about being so useless at helping, so I deleted my profile. However, just before that, I got an email from someone who's problem seemed straightforward and easy enough to resolve. It was from a guy in Dubai who wanted to come to Brussels next September for his Masters; he just needed someone to pay in the application fee of 50€ for him. Since the whole thing seemed above board, I agreed to help. 

He sent me the money via Western Union yesterday, and I did the wahala to go out in the cold to collect it.  When it came to paying the fee, I asked him to come online (whatsapp) because I was worried about making a mistake and wanted to be able to double-check every detail with him. From the payment point of view, everything went smoothly, but we had to wait to get a confirmation from the University and/or my bank that the money had gone through. It was during this waiting period that the bobo realised that he needed a girlfriend! He started asking me some strange questions and as I could see what direction he was headed in, I quickly cut him short by telling him that I HAD A BOYFRIEND. 

My people, the man no gree free me o. He started going on about how the good ones are always taken, how he just needs to get here and I would fall in love with him and so know all that bullshit that men sometimes think girls like to hear. I was like thank you but NO! He sha kept going on, even talking about divine meeting gan. Me, I was like God forbid bad thing! Then he started boasting about how he's gone out with lots of white girls but as his parents would never accept them, he'd decided to come home to someone who would know his culture. I just yimued and asked him wetin concern agbero with overload? All that history was none of my business! Eventually sha, he asked and I  answered him truthfully, saying that no I wasn't with a Nigerian. However I also told him that I did not choose my partner (or friends) based on the colour of their skin but on their character...that's when he started saying loads of stupid stereotypical crap. Trying not to be too rude, I told him off mildly, and he took that as an invitation to start sending me pictures. One of him being and I quote, "a hot nigga," another with one of his "white" girlfriends who was actually Filippina I think. At that point I realised that I was chatting with an idiot, and was just waiting eagerly for him to confirm that the transaction had gone through before blocking him. All the while he continued "trying to woo me" by denigrating non-nigerians, talking about how we'd be married by the end of the year and how our meeting was divine intervention. Me I sha told him bluntly that I rejected his claims IJN, and that as soon as I recieved confirmation, I'd block and delete him sharpish. As if he didn't have ears, he then started asking me for me pics! I was like no, never. I don't know you and as I said, I have a boyfriend and this is purely me doing you a kindness. He kept insisting and even asked me to give him back his photos. I was like na me send you? Pictures that I deleted almost immediately! My phone's memory is not limitless so I can't afford to keep rubbish on it. 

Anyway long story short, I told him that he was beginning to sound like a broken disc and asked him to change the subject. I started asking him about his studies and other things, and that my friends is how the conversation fizzled out. No longer willing to wait for the confirmation, I decided to just block him and delete his number. A bit harsh I know, but abeg the guy was just so inconsiderate. You ask a stranger for a favour like this, then you start adding other errands (he got me to call the school sef) and then as if you haven't abused of their kindness enough, you decide that you'd like to break up their happy relationship and ruin their life into the bargain. Stupid alakoba! My favourite cousin used to call this kind of people "awon aye, a nirun lahon." Everyone always says I'm too trusting, and maybe it's true, but I've just learnt another unfortunate careful who you help.

Thursday 22 January 2015

This Was The Week That Was...

I started this week in Vienna on Sunday, before packing my luggage and doing the long 8-9hour journey back to Brussels. This is because as a poor nurse, I have to go via Slovakia, flying Brussels-Bratislava then getting the bus from the to Vienna central (currently accepting donations to the Ajala fund, thank you!). Anyway on the flight back, I started to feel fluey and a bit ill, but I still went to work the next day because Tuesdays are basically 4hour meeting days with only 3hours of actual work. This was a very bad idea, as the lack of rest meant I felt even worse on Wednesday, but I again went to work because I found out we were short-staffed that morning from colleagues being ill and I enjoy going to class with the kids. Let's just say that was a terrible decision. 

Fluey on the way to work yesterday

Now as I've mentioned a few times, I work in children's psychiatry with half of our kids being autistic and the other half being psychotic. Well one of the autistic kids (our calmest, normally) decided to kick off and it was beyond crazy to see the violence and strength in this little 11year old girl. She completely wrecked the classroom; smashing all the breakables, aiming mugs and glass cup at our heads etc. My colleague and I tried to calm her down, and protect her from hurting herself but for some reason she decided to go for me. I got kicked about a million times on my shins, scratched all over my face, spat at and had my glasses almost broken. Already feeling fragile from the flu/migraine, I just broke down and cried. The spit on the face was what tipped me over the edge, I think...I felt so helpless! 

Had about 10 of these tiny scratches all over

Here at last!
I always write my name/year and the giver in my books.

After my horrible day, I got home to find a package from Nitty Gritty! It was "Antonyms of a Mirage" by Atilola Moronfolu. I had seen this when it first came out and really wanted to get the book, but never got round to it. Anyway I won it in a giveaway earlier this year and have been eagerly awaiting it's delivery.  I was starting to get worried, but as they say everything happens for a reason. I think the postal gods knew that I needed to save this special delivery for a day when I'd require extra cheering up. So thanks to Ibhade of Nitty Gritty, the US and Belgian postal services, I went to bed a happy bunny last night.

Today I'm off work, because my manager wanted me to stay home and rest. See, this is why I love my job in spite of the sometimes crazy days!

Monday 19 January 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

I worked really hard this last week to try and maintain my language learning rhythm even though work was crazy and I was exhausted most of the time. I just knew that as soon as I let myself slide, that would be the beginning of the end, so I'm glad to say I was able to overcome the hump. I managed to do everything on the list, in spite of the busy week I had...I am so very proud of myself indeed!

Anyway on to this week's review.

  1. Done! They play a lot of English songs, which is starting to annoy me, but I've started making sure that I listen on the hour when they say the news. Half of the time I have no clue what they're on about, but every once in a while I get a snippet of information. One of my exchange partners, sent me a load of Youtube videos with German music, and T played me an easy rap song which I could sing along to, yesterday. So I'm definitely working on the listening.
  2. Done too! I met Cathy on Wednesday for about 2 hours and then Hanna on Friday also for 2 hours. We're still speaking a lot of English at the moment, and it's beginning to bother me a bit, but my goal this week is to up the German. I had a short German conversation with my MIL yesterday too. It was on the phone, and only for about 2minutes before we switched to English, but as they say, every little helps!
  3. Kind of done. Although I didn't write any long pieces, I actually did A LOT of German writing this last week. I sent lots of texts/whatsapp messages/comments/etc., all in German. I figured this is just as important since those are the skills you need in real life. The best thing about this kind of writing is that I get responses almost immediately, forcing me to more spontaneous and intuitive with my writing. No more re-reading the message 100 times!
  4. Done! I read the children's book above, and I enjoyed/completely understood it. I recently discovered a website by a German children's author who has so kindly made his out of print books available for download free of charge. I will be alternating between this and the newspapers.
  5. Done! I did only one chapter this week because I was super tired, but I tried to ensure that I absorbed the lesson thoroughly. 
  6. Done! And I've recently added exercises by Deutsch Akademie to the mix, as it has a lot more grammar. I do exercises on either of the apps, as soon as I've got a few minutes free.
Verdict? All in all, a very successful week. Onwards and upwards!

Sunday 18 January 2015

The 15-for-15 Challenge: Introductory Post

Last year, Janyl Benyl started something called the 14-for-14 challenge. It is on again, but this year's edition is the 15-for-15 challenge, where each participant is meant to put up 15 blog posts on a theme of their choice.

Well I like travelling, and I almost always have something interesting/strange happen to me on my travels. So I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone, by participating in the challenge and also sharing my weird and wonderful travel stories. This is just the introductory post, so there will be another one before the end of January, and then one every month from now until December. I have decided to name the series "Clara's travel tales" and I'm really looking forward to writing about/reliving my time on the road.

Have a lovely weekend...the rest of it anyway!

Monday 12 January 2015

Revised Weekly Language Goals: Review

I have had to to re-evaluate my goals this week because I realised that my learning efforts so far have been uncoordinated, chaotic, and a bit haphazard. I had been using too many different resources, and because of this wasn't really making progress. It felt as if I was doing a lot in some areas but not enough in others.  The thing is I don't have a lot of time to mess about if I'm to attain C1 by the 1st of October... So in order to resolve this problem, I decided to streamline things and make the learning process more efficient. The plan is to concentrate from now on, on using a few good resources instead of any- and everything. It's been only a few days, but since making this decision I've noticed that I have more structure to my learning, and I'm basically able to practise all the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Anyway on to this week's review.
  1. Done! I only listen for about 15mins each time, but I can already see some progress in my oral comprehension. It's also helping me remember vocabulary and teaching me how to construct sentences.
  2. Done too! I met Cathy on Thursday for about 2 hours and again on Friday. She's sweet but firm which is what I need. We're speaking a lot of English at the moment, but that's normal for the beginning. The great thing about this is that I'm motivated to  work even harder because I don't want to be embarrassed each time I see her.  Plus I can get a real feel for the language/learn "street" German since she's a native speaker.
  3. Kind of Done! I'm in the process of writing a short email to my MIL. I already have most of it written down, so it should be done by tomorrow (I'm writing this post on Sunday morning). I finished the email and sent it off later in the evening. The good news is that she appears to have understood everything and she replied only a few hours later.
  4. Only thing I haven't done yet, because I only added this to the list of goals last night at work. I am going to try to look for a short text tonight that I can read before the deadline expires. Done! I read an article in B.Z. Berlin, about late Xmas deliveries. I use Google play news-stand and have added three German newspapers to my library. To be completely honest, I didn't understand everything, still I was happy because I got the general gist.
  5. Done! I raced through 2 chapters yesterday and I could easily have done a third, but I decided not to because I really want to spend time absorbing each lesson before moving on to the next topic. I mean I only have 24 chapters to do, so 1 a week is really more than enough, especially as I want what I'm learning to actually stick.
  6. Done! I started this all over again, because I felt like I had forgotten some of what I learnt before the holidays. Now my learning is more fluid and efficient, since I do little but often.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

The Versatile Award

This is my second time of getting tagged, and the third of writing this kind of post, so I realise it may be becoming a bit repetitive. However, I really enjoy getting to know my online "friends" better, and absolutely love discovering new blogs/reading material, so I'm glad whenever I get tagged. Anyway here are a few more facts about me, we can all thank the lovely Ibibiogirl (who by the way has introduced me to so many cool blogs) for that ;)
The rules are simple. *Show gratitude to the blogger who selected you. *select 15 blogs that you have recently discovered. *share 7 things about yourself.

Here we go...

  1. I'm a hustler, and I come from a family of hustlers. I have been working since I was 17, and have tried my hand at a wide variety of jobs including nannying, fruit-picking and even working as a nurses' aide at a male-only prison with high-profile inmates.
  2. I  studied chemical engineering before deciding that I wanted to become a nurse. Well you can imagine how that went down with my dad.
  3. I love fruit and veg, and will choose them over chocolates and/or any other snack, every single time. I really enjoy discovering and trying previously unknown varieties and I always almost love them too....that is except for artichoke hearts which are vile!
  4. My great-grandma was an Edo princess who lived until well past the age of 100. I didn't see her often, but we loved each other very much and she used to sing my oriki (ancestral praises) in Bini. I guess that's why I'm determined to learn the language before I die.
  5. I’m lucky to have participated in two exchange programs. One in Sweden, while I was studying engineering, and the other in Bangladesh during my nursing degree. I loved both, but particularly enjoyed the second one because I was 100% immersed in the local culture. I shared a dorm-room with 4 other student nurses, wore saris to theatre/the wards and on special occasions, and salwar kameezes everyday. I ate and loved the very spicy food, and learnt a bit of Bengali which I've since forgotten. The biggest thing for me though was learning about the culture of the Chakma and other indigenous people who lived in the area where I was (a minority ethnic group). They look so different from your "typical" Bangladeshi!
  6. I have what some might term "OCD tendencies." Personally, I don't think it's pathological at all, I'm just a bit organised that's all ;)
  7. I'm writing wrote this on a ferry somewhere on the English channel, between France and England.

My recently and not so recently discovered 15 blogs are:

Monday 5 January 2015

Weekly Language Goals: Review

I didn't manage to do everything on the list this week because I was travelling again...story of my life. I however managed to do quite a bit of work, as well as find another valuable resource thanks to Shahidah (

Anyways on to the review.
  1. Not done, I replaced this with work on the new site
  2. Done!
  3. Done too, more or less!
  4. Kind of done. I basically revised a lot of the words from before and added a few others
  5. Not done, due to lack of opportunities. I have contacted and set up appointments with a few language partners though. Should be starting the exchange later this week
So not great, but not particularly bad either. I'm really looking forward to meeting my 4 partners and figuring out if we click...I still remember my French exchange partner with whom I became great friends. Hoping for something similar again.

Friday 2 January 2015

(try!)To-do List 2015/Review of 2013 Resolutions

Increase Exercise

  • Take train to work, and walk (4 x 15 minutes) each day. 
(Failed on this one. My new goal is to walk  2x15mins a day. I started when I moved to Brussels and so far, so good)
  • Abandon metro; always cycle within Paris. (Failed, and no longer valid)
Health and Diet
  • Complete ban on caffeine and fizzy drinks. Minimise junk food consumption.
  • Increase intake of water, fruit and vegetables. Practise quasi-vegetarianism  
  • Increase fitness, heart-rate and muscle tone 
  • Get rid of acne
(Failed on all counts, renewed for 2015. Will start this when I get back home to Brussels after I have had the chance to fully enjoy my dear mama's cooking #longerthroattinz ;) )

  • Stay in touch; contact at least 4 friends abroad, each week
  • Spend more time making and developing Parisian Brussels friendships
(Achieved, more or less. Renewed for 2015) 
"Self Improvement"
  • Start Spanish classes
  • Take a least one course in a subject that interests me; law, philosophy, Yoruba literature, history...
  • Restart violin lessons
(Failed on all counts, goals not renewed for 2015) 
  • Gain ability to converse in Italian  
(Done! New goal is to learn German, I hope to have achieved a level C1 at least by December 2015)
  • Use time wisely and improve punctuality
  • Read more books by Nigerian/African authors
  • Go dancing, to the opera/cinema, sightseeing etc. Be cheesy, have fun! 
(Done, done, done! Continue with these)
  • Manage money well, save 2000€  
(Achieved thankfully, as I later needed this for big expenses such as my flat's deposit in Brussels. Slight change this year, the goal is to deal with my student loans. I hope to pay back at least 6000€)
  • Blog at least 52 times
  • Sing with the choir this summer
  • Start process of getting driving license
(Failed on all counts, goals not renewed for 2015)  
I didn't make any resolutions in 2014, as I wanted to focus on achieving 2013's goals. I'm hoping to do an evaluation of how many of these I manage to achieve by the end of the year. I'm really optimistic at the moment, but come December we'll see how well I've done... ;)

That Awkward Moment When You...

...realise you're no longer a hip, savvy Londoner!

I arrived in London at 4.45am yesterday and had some trouble topping up my oyster card (bus pass for my non-Londoners), so I decided to just get the bus and pay with cash as it was really early and the bus stop was deserted. Imagine my surprise when I was informed that "cash is no longer valid tender on TFL buses." So flustered was I, that I launched into French with the driver who looked at me weirdly and motioned for me to get on, for free. Apparently they changed the system about 5 months ago...thank God for kind drivers sha.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Happy New Year!

Eku Odun Tuntun...
Bonne Année...
Buon Anno...
Frohes Neues Jahr!!!!!