Lessons Learnt from Learning a New Skill- Mentorship

 

rubik's cube

Photo Courtesy: Amazon.co.uk

I always wanted to know how to solve a Rubik’s cube. Watching my siblings and you-tube folks solve it so quickly made it look easy. I don’t know about you but one thing I have noticed with trying to learn a skill is that we tend to deceive ourselves that it would be an easy journey- may be it’s optimism or just sheer ignorance, but we do lie to ourselves a lot.

To learn a skill however we need to be brutally honest with ourselves. This means accepting that the task ahead of us would take time and commitment. It is never a walk in the park learning anything new.

The past few weeks have taught me that the learning experience doesn’t have to be so daunting or boring if the learner has a Mentor.

My mentor for this skill was my sister, she taught me how to solve the Rubik’s cube in 4 weeks. Just to be clear, it’s wasn’t easy. There are so many methods for solving a Rubik’s cube. She taught me using the Layer Method (you can learn about it here).

Her technique was different and unique because I didn’t have to memorise the algorithms, she turned each algorithm into a story, so all I had to do was to remember the story and off I fixed each layer of the cube (after several failed attempts).

Having a Mentor helps you learn a skill  a lot faster than you usually would because you are essentially walking in the footsteps of someone who has knowledge and experience in the skill you are about to learn. So you are made aware of potential pitfalls, so that when you do encounter them you can jump over each challenge

Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”. 

Not every Mentor might be as effective as my sister but the words of Benjamin Franklin stand true. Your Mentor has to engage you in the skill and cannot just force his/her ideas on you without watching you try it out- that’s the only way you to learn!

A Mentor must be adaptable and ready to listen to your difficulties. I remember the first week I started out, my Mentor would give me a task and watch me twist and turn the cube just so she could point out my errors. This was so helpful because I was involved in this skill right from the start, hence, I learned each stage faster.

You might wonder, how can one choose a Mentor? Some people naturally have their mentors available to them-it could be their sibling (like in my case) or a parent, or a friend who wants to help them learn a skill. If we are to choose our Mentors however, it goes without saying that we want to go for people who are knowledgeable in that skill and know how to teach it.

We also need to choose Mentors that know us well. Solving the Rubik’s cube was fun and less stressful for me because my Mentor was a sibling who knew me well and knew I would learn the algorithms faster with stories. When choosing a Mentor, it is important to look  for Mentors who have similar personalities with us, or personalities that are relatable, that makes it easier to take on board their suggestions.

Learning a new skill is not always that simple especially when learning it alone via help guides or online tutorials, because the author of these resources may not always explain things in a way that would be easy for us to learn. However, with a well suited Mentor by our side we can learn our new skill in less time and find the learning experience more enjoyable.

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Driving in Lagos

Someone once told me that if you can drive in Lagos, you can drive anywhere else in the world. For a long time I believed those words because it is only logical that if you can do something in the hardest or toughest conditions, you can do it when things are easier. In the past few weeks I have decided to re-evaluate whether this is true. 

What makes driving in Lagos truly challenging is quite complex and difficult to explain. One reason I say this is the fact that there are too many cars and not enough roads; hence most of your driving experience is spent in traffic (‘go slow’), and I have to say that driving in traffic is an art. It is a story of near misses and dodging of  potholes, danfos (commercial busses) , and broken down vehicles. It is one of patience when there is grid-lock and gruesome aggression when the traffic eases up. 

There is also the competing modes of transport. In some parts of Lagos okadas (motorcycles), kekes (Nigerian rickshaws) commercially  operate simultaneously as well as danfos, let us not forget the occasional bicycle rider. What this means is that the average Lagos Motorist has a lot to pay attention to; you can not make sharp turns or fail to horn or use your pointer( “traffigator”), You have to communicate effectively with your lights to not only other private cars but other road users (pedestrians inclusive) to avoid accidents.

There is also the number of trucks in Lagos. For a long time, I remember avoiding roads that had too many big trucks and tankers. I soon realised that the only way to avoid them was to move out of Lagos; they are everywhere. The hardest part about driving next to an average 7.5 tonne truck in Lagos is the ‘road-bullying’. These truck drivers are in a mad rush and will do anything to get you out of the way. With a lot of horning you can overcome your fear and overtake a truck (but please don’t overtake them on a bend).

For the most part driving in Lagos is tough, however just because you can drive in Lagos does not make you a better driver, in contrast I think you become a horrible driver. The driving environment in Lagos does not foster good driving habits, such as, waiting at a zebra crossing, or giving way for traffic on the left. It is almost impossible to observe any of these traffic paradigms because of the fear of causing an accident when you slow down suddenly or the simple fact that there is just too much traffic to slow down any further.

Driving in Lagos is no guarantee that driving anywhere else will be easier, for the most part it is harder to drive else where because there is a lot more to driving than just competing for space, road raging and horning!lagos-traffic

Sincere

It is the first day of the month and she is feeling really positive, so she set out as usual by herself looking for money

she was only nine, but she had mastered the trade quite well. She will stand at the road side and wait for the traffic lights to turn red.That was how her mother did. ‘Just watch the cars, aim for the shinny ones’ she’ll say.

Amina saw the lights turn yellow then red and she made her way to the first car, it was a shinny red car, she walked to the drivers side trying to peer into it. She found that making eye contact often helped, on this occasion however she was nervous because this car had tinted windows.

‘Please give me some money, I don’t have any money, Please, Please’ she spoke to the Driver leaning against the car, she was sure he could see her. She could see her reflection on the window; her brown curly hair flying wildly from an old pony tail, her top was torn at the sleeves, and her face was covered in filth.

The driver moved forward, he was trying to get her off his car.

She stepped back spontaneously and walked away, ‘what a waste of time’ she thought. She  looked at the next car, it was an old raggedy van. The driver seemed old and poor, she could not decide whether it was worth the effort begging this man. She looked back at the traffic light and saw that she only had about 30 seconds till it turned green. So she gave the van a chance, ‘please give me some…’ the driver stopped her mid way into her chant and threw two green notes at her. There were twenty Naira notes. She jumped at them like a hungry dog. ‘Thank you sir’ she said with excitement in her voice. ‘God bless madam and the family’ she kept thanking him as he drove off.

In that moment Amina learned a weird lesson, it was not about the car as mother had taught her, but it was about whether the giver was sincere or not.

————————————————————————–

This is a response to today’s one-word prompt ‘sincere’, make sure you participate before the day runs out.

Time will tell

Tick tock tick tock.

Seconds turn into minutes,

Minutes into hours,

Hours into days.

Waiting- Just waiting for inspiration.

Waiting for the motivation.

Waiting for the kick.

It is hot and humid, my brain is fried.

I must meet the deadline, so I try. 

First draft, not good enough,

Second, too quirky,

Third… May be I’m not that blocked.

I’m going to write about this. Write about now. Write about how I feel.

Write about how hard it is to write when you’re time bound. 

Pour out my thoughts just hoping for some order. 

Waiting, believing my writer’s block will be over. 

But with things like this I know; only Time will tell

National meal

So yesterday someone asked me, ‘what is the national meal of your country?’ To be honest I did not understand the question. It was not that it was my first time of being asked this trick question the problem was that it was the first time I had began to think about the political and social implication of what I said next.

Coming from Western Africa, Nigeria precisely there are a range of different cuisines. I dare say the number of dishes number into triple digits. What most people don’t realise is that it is such a huge country with various ethnic group and tribes and some meals are tribe-specific.
So going back to answer the question ‘what is the national meal of your country?’ I’m not sure what my response should be. Should I say it is Egusi soup and pounded yam*- surely it is not every Nigerian who would agree with me, those from Lagos might be happy with that but what about those from Kano or Warri.

What I have observed though is that in as much as there is such a variety of delicacies, there are a few delicacies that resound in parties and events that no one can say with full certainty what tribe they come from. The meal jollof rice for example is a staple food served generally in every Nigerian party. However, I would be wrong to say it is Nigerian because I have noticed that it is eaten across West Africa and beyond. History further reveals that jollof rice has its origin in Senegal as it was named after the Wolof people who loved to make stewed rice.

The question though is, Can I be reasonably politically correct if I said jollof# is the national food of Nigeria? On the surface I might be correct to say that but upon closer examination I wouldn’t. Looking at the definition of ‘National food’, Wikipedia reveals that ‘it is a meal or snack that is indigenous to a particular group or country’. So for example I could say Sunday roast is England’s national food but I would be wrong to say it is fish and chips (don’t freak out!). Even though fish and chips is a long held friday English traditional meal it is of Italian decent and so would not fall within the definition of a national meal. What this means basically is that I would also be wrong by extension to say that jollof rice is Nigeria’s national meal since it’s origins are not Nigerian.

The question I should thus be asking is ‘does Nigeria have a national meal?’ I would say No. The correct answer would have to be that Nigeria has regional meals.

Do you agree with me? I agree this is a controversial subject and I would love your take on this. Feel free to drop me a comment in the box underneath. If you are not Nigerian I would love you to share the national meals (if there really is one) of of your country. Don’t forget to like and reblog!

Key:
*Marshed yam and stewed green vegetables in mellon seeds
# jollof is used interchangeably with jollof rice

Jollof rice I made this a couple of months ago. This is jollof rice and chicken, garnished with cucumbers and tomatoes

Jollof rice
I made this a couple of months ago. This is jollof rice and chicken, garnished with cucumbers and tomatoes

Egusi soup Picture courtsey: lohiscreations.com It captures Egusi soup and pounded yam. Usually eating in separate plates- But I thought this presentation was creative

Egusi soup
Picture courtsey: lohiscreations.com
It captures Egusi soup and pounded yam. Usually eating in separate plates- But I thought this presentation was creative

Stalking

It was 6am. She did not need  to check her phone’s clock. Andrea could hear the shuffle from next door, and knew that her brother was about to make his way downstairs through his bedroom window. A ritual he seemed to do each morning for over a month. She heard his window open, followed by his perfect landing. Each morning, he left home and returned twenty minutes later in the same way. No one seemed to notice Peter’s absence, except her. Today she decided to find out what he was up to. 

Andrea was not sure why her older brother left the house each morning at the same time, but she felt it had something to do with the bullies at school, since it began about the same time. Peter was 16 and one of the tallest in his year- it crushed Andrea watching her big brother getting punched by the boys in his year. She knew she should have done something about it but she couldn’t- it all happened too quickly. Since then Andrea had hated herself for not standing up for her big brother and so felt personally responsible for his welfare.

Like the past mornings she watched Peter pick up his back pack and run through the driveway carefully concealing himself under the shadows of the building.

Andrea knew the only way she could help her brother was to follow him. She had tried a week ago to talk about it, but he grew more distant and upset. She did not want to tell Mum because she wanted to be sure she knew what she was talking about. As if rationalising why she had to follow Peter, Andrea spent the next minute convincing herself as she pushed her window up, she was afraid of heights and only realised then how high the duplex was, so shut the window. She made her way downstairs as quietly as possible through the back door. She ran to the front of the house facing the street. She could not find Peter ‘I wasn’t fast enough’ she thought. She walked a hundred yards up the street and instinctively took the lane on the right as if heading towards the city. That was when she spotted the green jumper and the black bag pack. She ran after Peter who was walking at a much faster pace. As she closed the distance between them she noticed that Peter had not once turned around- they were only two metres apart, and she was sure she had made enough noise for her brother to know he was being followed. 

Peter had made so many turns already that Andrea knew it would be a bad idea to go back home alone without getting lost. Andrea observed Peter’s demeanour and she realised something was not right. She was convinced it was her brother- this was his jumper and his back pack, however his gait was weird. He seemed to be slowing down and staggering. Something was not right. She  summoned up the courage and finally called at him, ‘Peter, where are you going?’

He stopped walking, as she attempted to touch him, he began walking even faster now, not once turning. Andrea felt for her phone to call her mum, but there was no network service. So she ran after him. 

‘Peter. Stop!’ Andrea reached for his arm like a little girl trying to get her father’s attention.

Peter stopped walking, but did not turn to look at Andrea.

‘Listen, whatever is happening to you I can help you’ Andrea still had her hand on his arm, and tried to get a better look at Peter. 

His eyes were unblinking and stoned. He refused to look at her.

‘Peter, let’s go home’ she said, trying to get him to look at her. ‘Home is that way’ She pointed in the opposite direction.

He suddenly pushed her aside and kept walking, not looking at her.

Andrea watched as Peter walked away, but she was not sure if she should still keep going.

Andrea and her family had just moved into the neighbourhood, she had no idea where she was, and for some reason her phone was not working. 

She ran after Peter as he made his way into a dirt path now. There were no buildings at this part of town just bare land, and make-shift homes. Andrea tried to remain calm, and maintained a hundred yards from her brother. He stopped at one of the shanty structures and took out a parcel from his back pack and turned in her direction, as if heading back.

She watched Peter’s expression, there was nothing to see, he looked trance-like, almost as if he was sleep walking. He strolled past her, not once acknowledging her existence and walked on the same path he had come from. Andrea followed her brother home. She watched him climb up into his window.

The kitchen light came on just as Andrea made for the backdoor.

‘Who is out there?’ Andrea heard the fear in her mother’s voice. ‘My word, what happened to you? Where are you coming from?’ 

Trying to calm herself down, Andrea uttered the first expression in her mouth, ‘It’s Peter, I think he sleep walks every morning’.

 

 

She sat on the chair just facing the window sill, it was the first time she had sat there- in this position. Usually she was never up this early to see the sun giving off this amazing colour- it was a bit like twilight but it wasn’t. In all her years of living in this house it was the first time she noticed the plants on the porch, how they blossomed recovering from the  morning due. She remembered when Edna insisted on planting them but she had been to busy to argue, she longed for the days when things were back to normal when she got flowers from strangers and felt loved. All alone she sat on the porch with regret wishing for a different life, where she appreciated things more, where she was not so busy…

“What are you doing up so early?”

She stared at him and noticed just how old Brian had become. The wrinkle across his forehead was apparent and his eyes were dark and baggy apparently from insomnia.

“I couldn’t sleep. I just realised the sun rose from this part of the house”

Brian was not one who cared much about nature, she knew he wanted her to go back in to the house. But she was stubborn and was prepared to start a fight if he uttered those words.