My Adjei Experience…

I live a very boring life. I don’t think I’m a boring person o… I just can’t afford to live the jet-setting, champagne-popping life that I think I am destined to live. My life is so uneventful that whenever I open my Uber app, before I type in the destination, only two addresses pop up; my church address and a friend’s office.

When there’s food at home, I can go days holed up in my room. Sometimes, to get fresh air and prove to my neighbours that I’m alive, I take an evening walk to one of the neighbourhood supermarkets where I am mistaken for a shop attendant and people ask me to help them find stuff. I have about four red t-shirts. Two of them are old and a bit worn so I use those for market runs, workouts and these long walks to the supermarket. Coincidentally, the supermarket staff also wear red t-shirts and that’s how I get tapped on the shoulder and asked where the powdered milk is.

Anyway, you know all the major life experiences right? The ones you’re expected to have in the course of your life;

  • Graduate.
  • Fall in love for the first, second or third time.
  • Publish your first book. Start your own company.
  • Get a chloroform-soaked towel, find a (single) man who gets your jokes and drag him down the alter.
  • Have said man’s babies. Celebrate babies’ birthdays, graduation ceremonies, etc

As amazing as these experiences are, they are planned. You only know they are amazing because other people have told you about them.

An adjei experience is one that you don’t plan for. It is unexpected because you’re too cool for shit like that to happen to you. You’re too cool, too careful, living safe with your Uber church address. But the adjei experience… because it is so unexpected you are not prepared for how powerful it is, and this makes it all the more unforgettable.

Happy Birthday Meeee!!!

It’s not even 12:00pm and this is already the bestest birthday ever! If you can’t reach me, I’m sorry… I ran away.

The past two and a half months, I’ve been in Warri. One morning I woke up, looked at my last packet of noodles and said to myself, “Surely, even the lowliest servant in my father’s house has much more to eat than this?”

We don’t have servants and I live in my mother’s house, but you get my drift. I conceded defeat, packed a tiny box and left Lagos back to Warri. Since I lost my job, I have struggled much more than I can publicly admit.

I enjoyed the peace and tranquility of Warri. Also, in my small area, because I haven’t really been home in ages, I’m kinda like a superstar. I walk by and people hail me…

Doctor! Welcome o!”

I nod and wave to them like a celeb.

How ya ozzband?”

E dey. We taink God”

My sister is the doctor. The ozzband is her husband, not mine. I don’t bother to correct them though. I just enjoy the hailing and pray in my heart that no one ever collapses from a stroke during one of my celeb doctor sightings. They’ll drag me to the scene, pushing through the crowd that has gathered round the poor stroke victim lying on the ground, writhing in pain.

Comot for road!! Make way… na doctor she be!”

How then will I explain that the stethoscope I hang round my neck is just a rubber necklace?

I wasn’t totally useless in Warri. One day, while I was eavesdropping on my mother’s conversation minding my business, sound waves from my mother’s conversation reached me and forcefully entered my ears. One of my neighbours was complaining about how hard it is to get good staff these days. So, later, I went over and introduced myself as an HR Professional… I even said it with a straight face and all.

The guy seemed skeptical at first. What do you know about recruitment? I spun some elaborate BS about jobs I’ve done in the past. He said ok, he’ll try me out. So I asked him a tonne of questions regarding the kind of staff he wanted. I think that gave him a bit more confidence. Then we shook hands and that was it.

My former MD used to talk about how he started his empire in a three bedroom flat. So I cleared out the small entrance in our house – a nice space where my mother (the millipede) keeps a gazillion pairs of shoes. There were also several big bags filled with Christian literature.

She’s a pastor millipede.

Anyway, I cleared that space, put a plastic table and two chairs, one standing fan and voila! Ngo Baby’s Recruitment Plc had kicked off. Maybe one day, I’ll write about the adventures of interviewing Warri people. Right now, I’m on a birthday vacation and this is supposed to be a very short post.

I left Warri a few days ago and although I will never admit it in public, I actually miss my mum and her silly Indian soap operas that are all shot in slow motion. I have decided to visit home more often… I’ll try.

I am happy today and I am so grateful for life! I was in such a terrible place this time last year. I thank God for the best siblings in the whole wide world. I don’t even have words… when I try and think of something to say to them, I well up. Thank you Nne, Wooolex!, Chip Chip and Gboo.

I am grateful for friends who cheer me on and applaud even the tiniest baby steps. I don’t know why, but they haven’t given up on me…

I should put up pictures, but I don’t want my enemies locating me via Google pics. Just know, it’s a beautiful place with a lovely beach and lots of seafood. I’m having fun. I took one backpack and my handbag & I regret it because I don’t need three-quarters of the shit I packed.

Sorry for the scatterednessity of this post.

Happy birthday Ngo!

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2:00pm Deadline…

In January, a few weeks after my sister’s wedding, my aunt called to tell me she gave someone my number and the person was going to call me. I asked, “What is he calling me for?”

She said, “Ehn… don’t worry. He will call you.”

Me, I like aunty. I trust aunty. Christmas in Warri, we shared a bottle of wine and had a long ass conversation about a lot of things, centred mostly around faith, money, career. I figured whoever was going to call would either be a potential employer or, worst case scenario, a pastor. So when the guy called about an hour later, I answered with my best “pastor voice”.

That call lasted only about a minute and it felt like an interview – Where do you stay in Lagos? Which church do you attend? I’ve never heard of it. Are you on Wuzzup? I had barely hung up when he messaged me on Whatsapp, requesting a full-length picture and a brief description of myself. I didn’t send a picture or describe myself. The rest of the evening, as he bombarded me with messages (‘it sims am disturbing u’, ‘wen ur lest busy let me no’), I came to the painful conclusion that;

  1. He was neither a pastor or an employer.
  2. The only punctuation mark this man has ever come across is the hyphen in his mother’s maiden name.
  3. Aunty does not like me as much as I thought. Either that, or she was being paid handsomely.

At night, after he sent the last message (Gd nyt. Slip tyt) I blocked him. It was mean, I know, but I just couldn’t deal.

    —————————————————————————————————

It’s good Friday. I’m in Warri for Easter, and aunty is in my house, demanding to know what went wrong with the guy. I’m wary of the fact that she will give him feedback so I choose my words very carefully. Also, I don’t trust her as much anymore, so I simply tell her that he came off as a bit too desperate for my liking.

Her eyes widen in shock. In her world, there’s no such thing as a desperate ‘oyel’ worker. She reminds me that time is no longer on my side, and then gives several examples of women, all friends of hers, who were smart enough to scheme their way into one man’s house. I like that kind of gist so at this point, she has my attention. One friend got pregnant, the other two just positioned themselves strategically. The last story sounded eerily like kidnapping where the girl seduced the guy, then showed up at his family’s doorstep days later, with her parents, to announce that their son had slept with her and would have to marry her.

She concludes each story with “If the man likes, he can carry all the women outside, she is now sha in her husband’s house with her children”.

I don’t want to end up sha being in someone’s house… that’s not the dream. I also want kids who will win spelling competitions, but I don’t say anything else so we just sit there in silence.

She asks, “Abi do you have someone you’re seeing?” and the question catches me completely off guard. “Is that the problem? You already have a boyfriend?”

I think of one guy living in a different state about 8/9 hours away, who complains that I don’t allow him breathe with my incessant phone calls. We haven’t spoken in two days because I haven’t called. I want to explain to her that it’s kind of complicated, that if I can just work on my trust issues, we wouldn’t fight so much and everything would be perfect, but I don’t think she will find the irony amusing. So I pocket my sermon on the concept of phone calls as a love language for a later date.

I say no, there’s no one.

That evening, the oil worker calls. His acting is worse than his spelling because he is “surprised aunty didn’t tell me that you’re in town”. This time we talk… he asks about past relationships, school, work, everything. Some of his own questions, I throw back at him. He talks about his now-married ex that he has never quite gotten over. She is his biggest regret, and he admits that he compares every girlfriend to her.

A part of me feels sorry for him. Maybe he’s still single because he’s daft and goes around warning prospective spouses that they will forever be compared to the ghost of his ex.

The next day, it’s raining heavily, but he insists on coming to see me straight from the office. We meet at the gate of my estate and I get in the car. He wants to go to my place, see my parents. I have visions of him knocking on my mother’s door at 2:00am because I didn’t respond to his “Gd nyt. Slip tyt” so I make him park in a random empty garage instead. I don’t need him knowing my house.

He’s much better looking in person than in his “Wuzzup” picture. He has a lovely smile. I start to feel a little self-conscious because he’s dressed up for our meeting. Me, I’m wearing my nicest flip-flops. We talk some more about his job. He’s casually mentioning the number of people who call him ‘oga’ in his office. He has a meeting in Denmark next week, from there he’ll head to Spain. In my mind, all I can think of is how he writes his official e-mails.

He talks about his mum who he loves dearly, but can’t visit too often because of work. I have a suggestion; why can’t she come visit you?

Das ezally why I need a woman in the house. If mumsi come, she need to ‘ave someone that will stay in the house with her and be cooking for her.”

Like me, he has trust issues and is scared to death of being lied to or cheated on. It’s the one thing we have in common and before long, we’re exchanging war stories… who cheated on us, and how we found out. In the end, I won. It’s the longest, most interesting conversation we’ve ever had. He’s happy, almost excited, because aunty has assured him that I am a good Christian girl who doesn’t want him for his money. He keeps exaggerating the “good girl” and I start feeling a tinge of guilt. Will he still think I’m such a good girl if I tell him about Jason, my faithful dildo?

Hours after he’s gone, I get an e-proposal… or is it a mobile proposal? He is certain that God wants to do something in our lives by joining the two of us before the end of the year. He promises to take care of me and provide for me. He has a flight to PH by 2:00pm the next day, so please can he get a response before then?

Decisions

The first man to ever call me an ‘ashawo’ was my father.
So if you ever see me expressing outrage over being called an ‘ashawo’ by a bus conductor, or bus driver, or roadside worker, just know that it’s fake outrage…

Mind you, I didn’t really start spoiling till I was in my twenties, so it didn’t make sense when he said it. I was 14/15 years old at the time and I wasn’t doing anything even remotely ashawo related. It was just one out of his colorful library of insults that flew out of his mouth with ease.

Afterwards, as she always did, mother would yinmu and say “Don’t mind him. Deep down, he really loves you”. I was young, so I could get by on that.

      _______________________________________________________________________

My sister is wedding, and we’re in the village. It’s the morning after we arrived and two grand uncles have called for the first of several family meetings. I see a number of unfamiliar faces. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them before. One is an electrician who rode in on a bicycle to do a repair job in the downstairs living room. He never makes it to the living room. His curiosity gets the better of him and he leans against a pillar by the patio, spanner & screw driver in hand, to watch the proceedings. Father begins his usual round of introductions.

He points to one brother, this is the UK trained chemical engineer. He points to the next brother, this is the UK trained mechanical engineer. Then to my sister, this is the medical doctor. He signals in my general direction, that one claims she read biochemistry. I haven’t seen her certificate till today. She is jobless in Lagos “na eme Igbo Igbo Igbo Igbo”… I don’t understand the exact words, but I don’t need to. People drop their heads in embarrassment so I know. I don’t know the Igbo word for prostitute, but it’s safe to assume that’s what he said. It’s the only way I’ve ever been described by him.

In my family, I’m the one with a temper. But I can’t get up and walk away, not this time. There’s a wedding to be had. Mother does the yinmu thing again, and tells everybody present that they shouldn’t mind him, “as you’re seeing him, he’s really happy to see them deep down”. She says something in Igbo about his heart jumping for joy at the sight of his kids. I turn to look at her and I can’t hide my irritation. Still, I don’t say anything or break her “yinmu-ing” nose, because there’s a wedding to be had.

One aunt speaks up. Leave this poor girl alone! She should’ve taken a cue from the rest of us and stayed quiet because now he’s gone into a long monologue and he’s giving points to support his ho’ theory. If she’s not a hoe, how is she surviving in Lagos with no job?

I’m sitting quietly, my chest hurts because I don’t want to cry. If I do, he wins. His people are nodding slightly in agreement. They have mouths to feed and children’s school fees to pay, so if he says his daughter is a ‘ho’, surely he must be right. They will nod now and corner me later to explain that although he says these things, he really loves me. Again, deep down.

Have I told you about my new church? It’s a new age church, one of those funky churches with hip sermons. We’re taught to rely heavily on the word of God so I’m sitting in the meeting, trying to remember scriptures from every I-am-fearfully-and-wonderfully-made sermon I’ve ever heard. The only thing that comes to mind is Sinach’s “I am who God says I am” song, but it’s not what I need to hear. I know I’m not a ho’… if I was, my mattress wouldn’t still be on the floor in my room a year after moving into my apartment. I would be able to afford a bigger place. I would have workout shoes that don’t need sewing every two or three months. I know I’m not a ho’.

Wedding discussion starts in full. I sit back, relax and internally, I breathe a sigh of relief. I’ve survived round one. Now he’s complaining about the pressure he’s under because of the wedding. He’s grateful to God that he will never have to go through this again. Someone reminds him about me. There is another daughter, there will be another wedding. He laughs and says that no man will marry this kind of person with such bad behavior, so he’s not worried.

That’s the one that makes me cry. The tears start and refuse to stop.

I don’t remember how the meeting ended. Everyone is leaving and he begins taunting me. He’s calling me “fatty bum bum” and “Fatima” and the men are laughing. I know how much weight I’ve put on. I don’t own a scale but the girl in the pharmacy near my house let’s me use theirs almost everyday, so I know.

After the meeting, I don’t eat or speak to anyone again till evening. My siblings understand to leave me alone. Even mother keeps her distance, but I know her well. She will wait a few weeks and then one day, she will find a way to say in the middle of a conversation with a friend (and to my hearing) that I am my father’s favourite child.

I’m in my thirties now though. I can no longer get by on that.

               _____________________________________________________________

It’s the morning of the wedding & we’re in our third and final meeting. By now, I’ve given up trying to hold back tears. Let him win. I’m counting the seconds till my sister does the wine dance so that I can go home.

Orji, Ngozi (MSc PhD Dr MBBS Consultant))

Good morning beautiful people…

Last week, my uncle called me. We’re not related by blood, but we’ve been family friends for a long time. I hadn’t heard from him in almost a year so when I saw his name pop up on my phone, I had to wipe my screen to make sure I was seeing clearly.

“Ngor! Hawayoo?”

“I’m fine thank you sir.” He’s at a weird age where he’s not so much older than us kids that we should be calling him uncle, but he’s also not our mate so we can’t call him by his first name. However, because he’s richer than God, we call him “sir”. In fact, if not for self control, we would’ve been adding “oga” in front of the “sir”.

“Your mother told me that they sacked you.” 

I hate that word ‘sack’, but uncle is not patient at all… there was no point going into a lengthy explanation about budget cuts and redundancy so I simply answered, “Yes sir”.

He said, “Sorry my dear. Don’t worry… do you know what you will do?”

At the sound of those words, my heart skipped several beats. I thought, Holy shit! I’m going to get a job in his billion Naira oil company!  He might create one useless position with plenty salary and insane benefits…

I would probably be the Head Crude Online Tester, like a sub-division of Quality Control. My job would be to look at online pictures of crude oil to make sure that whatever we drilled was the same colour. I would put in two or three years of hard work and retire before 40…

But then uncle killed my dreams of early retirement when he said, “You can start your own consulting firm. You have very good communication skills. Just print out business cards and schools can pay you to come and talk to their students about their college education. Then you can charge people 200,000 Naira for your services. I have a friend who is doing it and he’s making mad money.”

I was confused. “Sir, erm… please which services?”

“Consulting na! You don’t even need office. My friend doesn’t have office. He meets his clients in restaurants. He will look at their documents there and advice them on what they should do. And before he takes you on as a client, you will sign a document that says you cannot hold him responsible if you don’t get a visa. You see how he gets his cool money?”

That’s when it dawned on me what he was talking about. “Yes sir… very cool.”

In truth, I was heartbroken.

                                       Oil tester picture 2

With great fear and trembling, I told him that I don’t have knowledge of immigration laws and shit like that, and it’s something I’ll have to take time to learn. As I suspected he would, he went off on me. He said I’m lazy, and I don’t want to hustle, then he reminded me again how much money his friend is making.

My country people, how the hell am I supposed to answer ‘Consultant’ and start charging people 200,000 Naira to let me use them to learn work? I was horrified. Only Jehova knows how many holes this man must have drilled in his neighbour’s backyard in search of oil at the time he was learning work.

I remained quiet while he screamed. When he was tired, he said, “Ngozi? Are you hearing me? Design somtin… let them print cards for you. Do your research and let me know. I will support you fully.” I agreed to get back to him in a week’s time and the conversation ended.

Is it just me or do you guys agree that in Nigeria we’re obsessed with packaging? That’s why someone will buy/rent a building next to an existing supermarket, spend millions in aesthetics – tiles, paint, marble counter tops, big ACs – only to open shop & sell over priced pampers and Vaseline. And I suspect it will only get worse in this era of buy-Nigeria-to-grow-the-Naira.

Anyway, I’ve told you guys before that I don’t have a single business bone in my body… so maybe there are some trade tricks and secrets that I’m not getting. I won’t lie though, I briefly considered my uncle’s offer because, like he said, I can speak good English and I can fill forms… but I know my luck; one day one angry Benin man who paid me his life’s savings for a visa to Italy to visit his daughter will hold me responsible when he is denied visa. He will use the contract we both signed to tear me heavy slap.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Enjoy your weekend people…