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’.

 

 

Photo Challenge: “Between”

For this week’s photo challenge, I chose to capture my understanding of ‘Between’ with a picture of a lettuce, ham and bacon wrap. What I love the most about this picture is the fact that the sweet chili sauce sips from between the wrap.
One of the most difficult aspect of making a good wrap is having the right amount of sauce in there. Capturing the moment some of the sauce seeps out of the wrap might illustrate to me imperfection while to another a perfect yummy photo.
Sometimes the detail in between might be the right trigger to our understanding of a picture

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.

Time to De-clutter

tidy

My wardrobe is not the biggest in the world, but it is sure well over its capacity. Some of the clothes in it have been in there for over the last decade, some have only been worn once, others never. Let’s not even start with the shoes and bags! I feel guilty each time I bring a new item into the ‘collection’. If all my items were alive, I am sure I would have had to answer to some authority (thank goodness they’re not). Lots of people around the world have one time or the other felt this way, it might be right now as you are reading this article, or last year. But what did you do when you felt this way; did you ignore it, or in the words of my friend, did you give in to the voice saying, ‘you never know when these may come in handy? Perhaps you had a huge quarrel with someone because they called you the ‘H- word’, HOARDER.

The first time I encountered this word I was quite certain it did not apply to me, I mean how could it? There was just something negative about that word; this moral and medical element about it. I had weirdly connected ‘hoarding’ with another word ‘kleptomaniac’, I know it doesn’t really make sense why I made that connection, but I would tell you why. Hoarding refers to the accumulation of items, while Kleptomaniacs are those who take anything they see (in simple terms). So the connection I used to make was that hoarders become that way because they were Kleptomaniacs and were therefore bad, ill people. Hence, why I felt I couldn’t be a hoarder. Of course, two things were faulty with this thinking; one, I obviously didn’t understand the difference between Kleptomaniacs and Hoarders. Two, I had succeeded in logically excluding myself from a class of people I genuinely felt did not define me. Therein lay the problem- I was in denial.

For many hoarders, they only start feeling guilty when their wardrobes won’t shut, or when they cannot find the space to keep new items. Others have to be verbally assaulted by loved ones to get the message. The only way to ‘un-guilt’ is to admit you have a problem. Acceptance is the key to de-cluttering. What are you accepting though? That you have too many items or that there is something wrong with ‘the self’ that has these items? You guessed right, the latter. Only through self analyses can you understand why you have so many items. You can ask yourself, ‘when was the last time I went shopping? Did I really need to buy this item? How often have I used this item?’ The best way to overcome a habit is to question the habit. Many impulse buyers are often held captive to the lure to buy what they don’t need. What if you naturally think through anything you purchase, does this mean you cannot be a hoarder?

I looked up the origins of the word Hoarder and I was surprised with the search, it comes from a word that means to ‘treasure, valuable stock or store’. So the notion of this word comes along with it a connotation of ‘subjective priceless value’. In other words, it is possible for someone in a few years or month to acquire a skyscraper of items, provided it is of value to the person, regardless of whether it was pre-thought or not.

Is it possible for everything a hoarder has to be objectively valuable? How can a hoarder sieve through what is valuable and what isn’t when deciding what should be thrown away and what shouldn’t? To overcome this nature the first thing is to under-value the items held in esteem (this has to be the harshest thing I have ever said, but it is for the best). See things for what they are, not from your mind’s eye. Honestly, those items are tired of not being used, they want a new home, don’t deceive yourself that someday you will use them, you wouldn’t- You know it. Where is the time to wear all those dresses, to wear all those shoes, to clean all those items drenched in dust and cobwebs? Did I hear you say antique? Did I hear you say you are saving it for the next generation? Seriously, that’s your mind at work, rationalizing again. Try to rationalize differently- base it on fact not on untruth. Have/Can you really use all of these items regularly in the next year? To be fair, did you succeed in doing this in the last six months? You know the answer don’t you?

De-cluttering is hard work; I would advise anyone who intends to do this to set realistic goals, by sorting out all the items in stages. The hardest part about de-cluttering is not the physical work, it is the emotional task of ‘detachment’. Some items might have been given to us by people we love/d; thus each item is like a strand of memory. Think about it, if you have so many memories lying around your house or bedroom can you form fresh ones freely? At times, we just have to let go and move on. To de-clutter, the hoarder needs to detach any memory and stick to the goal in the list. One of the best ways of doing this is to use a time-plan. You could say, ‘I plan to take out any item I haven’t used in the last 6 months or 2 years’ (this all depends on the rate of acquisition) then take out any item that doesn’t fall in the list. Try and avoid making exceptions. The meaner and dispassionate you are toward the items the better you would be at de-cluttering.
Don’t get anyone to do this work for you (if you can manage). With a good plan you can succeed!

Today I look at my wardrobe and I smile. It not only shuts, but it makes a bang when I slam its doors. For the first time in years I notice its beautiful mahogany color, and even its inner mirror! Looking at this mirror, I see a happy sweaty faced girl looking at all the black bags around her, preparing to send them to where they would be needed. She doesn’t feel guilty anymore- her space is de-cluttered and so is her head, those cherished memories are settled where they belong.

*** The above article is not a professional manual for overcoming the psychological disorder of Compulsive Hoarding. It is only a mini-guide on dealing with the social problem of de-cluttering. The word ‘Hoarding’ was not intended to label or cause any form of anxiety.

Have you felt this way before, what did you do? Give us suggestions on more de-cluttering techniques .Feel free to LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE. And if you enjoy my write ups hit the ‘follow’ tab to receive updates on latest posts.

Much Ado about Hair

I recently completed Chimmanda Adiche’s new book Americannah and I must say it is the most down to earth book I have ever read . One of the issues she got me thinking about is the issue of hair versus identity.

The hair believe it or not is one of the most emotional part of our body. There is a direct relationship between our hair and our self image. Just a slight change to our hair- new hairstyle or haircut, our friends can tell the difference a mile away. I’m not quite sure why we tend to be so self conscious when we have something new on our hair. We tend to peek into any mirror we see (even reflections)just to remind us I guess, of what we look like. We tend to run our hands over the new hair more often than necessary. And we often find ourselves taking more pictures, compare them with older pictures, post some on Facebook and wait for comments virtually or physically.

If our hair is so crucial to our self image should anyone prescribe to us what hair we should have on? Well there sometimes tend to be an ‘argument’ among black women whether or not it is okay to have natural hair or weaves. In the end, these arguments tend to collapse in to preferences and orientations.

For #teamweaves or #teamperm they often believe that the quickest way possible to look good is what they want on their hair. They often don’t care so much about the cost of this decision. Looking good is all that matters. So there’s nothing wrong with putting chemicals in the hair if it will make it look good. There’s nothing wrong in rocking a 22inch Cambondian weave. Anything that looks good, they don’t mind having on. They often crown it all by saying, ‘I am not my hair’

The second end of the argument #teamnatural believe that the best thing to do is to give their hair a chance. So they are not worried about the texture or uncanniness… They pick up the challenge and work their hair. What I have often noticed however, is that #teamnatural (not on purpose) tend to be critical of others who don’t join in the movement. They obsess about hair- research about products and talk a lot about hair. You know how people obsess about food are called foodies, I call those who do the same to hair ‘hairist’. If u meet a real hairist you might just become one! Usually, #teamnatural women mostly have had bad experiences when they were in the other teams I mentioned and vowed to love their own hair.

So now you know a little about these two teams. What do you think? Is hair really a means of identity or it is just an accessory like clothes?

I would really appreciate your opinion.
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I never thought I’ll make it

It’s been two months since I got out, but I still remember those 21days clearly.
No, I’m not talking about prison or rehab, I’m talking about the NYSC(National Youth Service Corp) orientation camp. Part of the service* every graduate of Nigeria must render to their country. Basically, Nigerian graduates who intend working in Nigeria have to give back to the country by serving for a year. The first part of this whole program starts with the ‘dreaded’ orientation camp. It is usually the hardest part of the service year for many because for three weeks you have to live on a camp site with different people, eat differently, and change your entire lifestyle!

Before I set out for camp, I spent several weeks, may be months researching on survival techniques I would employ. I read a truck load of blogs, and asked a zillion questions. The response was always the same, “Don’t worry, you will do just fine”. A few might add, “when you get out you will be a stronger person.”

Growing up I heard all sorts of ‘camp stories’, to be honest, there were all negative. There were the gruesome stories of how soldiers punished Corpers* severely when they were caught breaking the law, stories of how some Corp members fainted during ‘endurance trek’, how difficult it was using the wash room because of its debilitated state and of course the most common were the shotput* adventures.
I think those years of listening to these tales were the formative stages of my ‘camp phobia’.

After picking up my posting letter*, the anxiety kicked in. I worried about whether I had bought every thing on my list , whether I had enough money, about who my roommates would be, about what i would eat…. The funniest thing however was that I didn’t look like a nervous wreck, I just became a lot more quiet as my boisterous thoughts ate me up.A few of my friends were posted to the same state as me, so we were excited that no matter how bad it got, we had each other.

I remember rolling my suitcase in to the premises and looking back at the gate and wondering if i would come out the same. The camp site for Lagos state isn’t much to take in, I was just too happy there were no bushes. The first thing i noticed however, was the big red dusty field on the right, it contrasted with the tarred roads within the compound. I would later find out that this is the location of ‘Mami market’.

Registration started an hour after we arrived, and i must confess it was exhausting. I think i made too many photocopies and too many passport pictures (talk about over preparation). After receiving my kit, I remember asking if it was over… lol.

My room was packed with so many bunk beds. I got a top bunk, that meant i had to vault myself up to my bed all the time as these bunks didn’t come with steps. For several days i couldn’t identify all my room mates. It was impossible. There were just too many of us. I only knew those on my side of the room.
I remember my first full day. It had been announced the previous day that the bugle would be blown by 4.30am, by 3am the next morning all the girls in my room were up. It was a frenzy! The bathrooms were in a state. There were minor arguments and the constant noisy chatter everywhere, you would think it was 3 in the afternoon.
It was drizzling that morning, and I was cold to my bones, the soldiers blew their super loud whistles at us as we made our way to the parade ground. The darkness was intense, I refused to believe my watch that it was morning. I could hear the crickets, feel the dew on my skin, the moon was big and bright, and the stars were twinkling! All I found myself asking was, what on earth was i doing outside at this time of the morning?
There was the meditation, the public address, physical training and man’o’war chants. It was annoying and tiring doing exercises so early in the morning. But after running round in circles and singing the most ridiculous songs… I didn’t feel tired anymore. What i found most interesting about these mornings was the gradual awareness of daylight, the fact that i could suddenly see everyone clearly noticing their sleepy eyes and raggedy whites…

They let us return back to the hostel before 8am and we were expected to come down again for drills. I hated drills. I hated the idea of marching under the sun for four bloody hours, I hated the constant thirst and tiredness. After three days, I began to doubt if I would survive it. I was down with a cold, and a cough that altered my voice. Evenings were the best. Those were the only times I really could socialize. There was Mami market- the only place you could buy ‘anything’ you wanted and get ‘any’ service you required. From photographers, to launders to tailors to restaurants… everyone was out to make money from us.
Mami market was most vibrant at night time. Most corpers came out to have a good time. Once there was good music, food and alcohol- it didn’t matter the location, corpers were determined to have fun. I remember the last days of camp, i wasn’t sure if i was imagining it, the parties grew bigger and louder. There were so many social events and activities that made camp fun during the final days. With each day i counted down to the day i would return home to my comfortable bed, to sleep as long as i could.

Now that i think about it, I really doubt I remembered to use any of the advise i received prior to camp… the only thing that kept me going was my Ipod and friends. My friends from my uni were totally awesome, don’t know how I would have coped without them. And my camp friends were so much fun also; there was always a reason to laugh.

The soldiers were not as evil as i anticipated, I didn’t have to do shotput and there was no endurance trek. In the end, there was nothing to be afraid of! My experience has taught me that ‘nothing’ is difficult, it only gets difficult when we believe ‘it’ is hard. It begins and ends with our perception! Would i want to go back and do those 21 days again? Most definitely No. My only advice to anyone going to do their service is, ‘Don’t sweat it! It’s not as bad as they say it is’

……………………………………………………………………………………
*service refers to the NYSC
*corpers/corp members are used interchangeably to mean Graduates who are currently doing their NYSC
*shotput is a popular term used to describe the act of crapping in a nylon bag and throwing it away. Done when toilet facilities are usually not available
*posting letter is a letter from NYSC indicating were you are required to serve.

Have you gone to camp yet? what was your experience? what do you make out of my story? Feel free to LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE. And if you enjoy my write ups hit the ‘follow’ tab to FOLLOW my blog and receive updates on latest posts.