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

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.

Let the battle begin: Hard covers Versus ebooks

books

 

 

 

 

When I got the alert for this week’s writing challenge I grinned. I tried not to look too awkward because the alert had come in while conversing with a friend and I didn’t want to change the subject. So I put a pause on my trepidation (don’t ask me how) and I came back to write on it. So why am I so excited on writing about “the hard covers versus eBooks” debate? The truth is I just love books especially hard backs and let me just say I am an advocate for them. I find this debate very tricky because as much as I advocate for hard covers, most of my daily reading is from my phone! What is it with our love for hard backs and our less commitment to them? The answer is all too easy isn’t it? The internet and technology. Honestly speaking, having information in soft copies/eBooks is the fastest and most efficient medium of disseminating, assessing and consuming information. I mean when was the last time I picked up a newspaper? I don’t even remember because there is little or no need to. I could go on and on about the benefits of soft copies and ebooks without repeating a point. Sometimes I begin to second guess myself; are hard covers any good?

I got a hard copy of Chinua Achebe’s “There was a country” over the weekend and let me just say- it was a beautiful experience. I admired the hard back underneath the paper back, I ran my fingers through its thick pages and I finally smelt it- the fresh warm ink welcomed me to start reading. The font size was a tart too small but the experience with this beautiful hard back jolted me to read over a hundred pages in no time. What is it with hard copies though? There is this emotional attachment I dare say we form with hard covers than with ebooks or soft copies. It is such an episodic moment each time I read a hard cover that even when I forget the name of the book I never forget the colour! It is almost like our brains connect the information in the book with its physical characteristics and creates some strong emotional connection (I really should research on this), it is such a complex feeling with hard covers!

In summary I believe that an individual’s preference for ebooks and hard covers is mostly dependent on the individual himself, the genre of literature and of course the purpose of reading. Individuals differ a lot in terms of preferences, and from experience I have noticed that these preferences are contingent on the mood of the individual and other factors. So for instance, I might be in the mood to read a hard cover today because I am staying indoors but tomorrow I might be travelling and I wouldn’t want any extra item, so I might purchase an ebook. So with the individual factor, I think it is more an issue of convenience really.

Then there is the genre of literature. Personally, I prefer to read academic literature in hard copy than soft copy. For me,  if I have to memorise a lot of information at a time, there is no way I would want a lecture note for instance on my laptop or on my phone, I’ll rather have them in loose sheets and have a coloured pen handy for notes. So the genre or literature and the purpose of reading are much the same really. If I was reading for pleasure I might find myself at a cross road deciding how I want to read a book, but if I was perhaps reading for an exam I’ll definitely pick a hard cover over an ebook or a soft copy.

Bottom line, whether it is hard or soft copy you read, never forget a common but true fact: A good writer is one that reads.

If you enjoyed my take on the debate and would love to share in the conversation, feel free to comment and like this post. If you have a blog, you can write a post on this issue like I have done and share your link with me and DPchallenge

Writing Challenge: The Devil is in the details

Sitting on the marble cold step, I try to balance my laptop on one lap while reaching for my phone on the top step which contained the details of the writing challenge. I enjoy sitting on the middle of the three steps that lead into the living room. It is one of the only locations I find myself writing my best. One reason perhaps is because I can admire the living room area just in front of me. It is a rectangular room having paintings and sculptures hanging on each side of the wall graced with a huge red Persian rug in the middle and four leather couches on either sides of it. There is a huge brown clock hanging on the wall facing me, it is slightly higher than rest of the paintings. On the same side of the wall is an air condition and opposite it- where I sat is a white standing fan. The living room area was never warm provided one of those two was switched on.

I’m staring at my laptop screen and trying to type every detail from my visual focus, when I hear a mosquito. The buzzing gets louder with every second, and I get upset. “SWAT”. I missed. The buzzing continued. This insect was determined to derail my train of thoughts. I turned on the standing fan to ward it off. It worked! I sat back down to write some more, but I didn’t know what next to write.The clock kept ticking loudly.

The lights from the chandelier just above the rug suddenly seemed deem, I couldn’t tell whether it was the electricity or my eyes. Sleep was setting in and the fan wasn’t helping. I took my slipper off, and felt the cool floor with the sole of my feet; it woke me up a little. My right feet absently stepped on an object; it was small and hard. I picked it up with my toes. Holding it in my hands now, i could see It was the missing letter ‘d’ the kids had been looking for earlier in the day to complete a puzzle. I tucked it into my bag, hoping to give it to them tomorrow. I looked at the wall clock and decided my writing time was over. Then, I hit the ‘publish’ button .

about writing

Image

I know I said I’ll never write about writing, but  I have to bend my rules a little. I have spent close to a month bickering about not writing my best, and suddenly it just hit me. I spend longer  thinking up a plot to write a perfect story (which never comes out right) forgetting they are more things to write about than fiction. There are just too many things to talk about than ideas and imaginations; hence, I think I have wasted my time not documenting my thoughts about things around me.

On the issue of non-fiction versus fiction which is better, I really don’t know. I think the writer of the genre will decide for himself/herself which they prefer. For me, I used to think I was very good at making up stories and just telling them from raw imagination. But what good is making up a story that takes twice as long to create? Writing is all about passion. If you can’t find passion in writing, then your write ups would suck!  Passion is a weird feeling. It is waking up at 4am and writing in this stream of consciousness all that is in your heart. It is knowing you have the best plot on your first draft. It is smiling in your heart when your story is criticised by others. It is writing a story that makes you feel more confident.

It has been a while I have done passionate writing. These days I feel I write out of compulsion. Compulsive writing is simple because it is easier to settle for whatever story (regardless of the errors) just to get that guilty feeling off your chest. But what good is writing when you know it is below your standard.

From the little experience I have, I think writing takes time and commitment. It doesn’t happen in one day. It is more of an acquired skill that over time gets better through practise. The more you write-no matter how lame the topic- the better you express yourself on paper. So for me, I think I’ll do some non-fiction for a while and see how that goes.