Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ten Things Tuesday (02)

It’s another beautiful week! I’m glad for yet another opportunity to give thanks. You can find my last thankful post here.

Below are some of the things I’m thankful for!

  • P. had to return to his base last week and I’m grateful for the safe trip.

  • Late last year P. applied for post graduate studies at a university close to his base. He did it at the last possible minute just when the admissions were going to close. He called me last week and announced excitedly that his name was on the admission list! Halleluiah!

  • I have a personal list and on it I have the names of the expectant mothers known to me – friends, colleagues, friend’s friends, relatives, relative’s friends etc. If I heard you were pregnant, I’d put your name on the list and pray for you everyday. (hmm...hmm...(clearing my throat) em... no, much as I would love to sound like I’m sooo benevolent, I haven’t always done this, In fact I only just started this 2 weeks ago! lol!) Anyways, I started with 7 names and last week, one of them gave birth successfully without any complications. Mother and baby are doing great! Awesome!

  • I’m grateful that just a few days ago; I have added 2 more names to that list!

  • On Sunday, I went out and parked at a place that says “No Parking”. It’s funny that I didn’t see the sign and I just left the car and walked away. I was in a shop when some ladies started talking about cars being towed away – cars that were parked on the street where I parked! I bolted out of the place much to the surprise of everyone, with a prayer on my lips and ran straight to where I’d parked and my car was still there!! I’m thankful that my car was spared. I’ll definitely be more observant and careful next time!

  • I mentioned last week that I was to take an exam. Well that exam is to take place in an entirely different city from where I stay and somehow, with the help of a friend, provision has been made for me to be accommodated comfortably. Thank God!

  • For the past year or so I’ve been telling myself to join a cell group in church. You see, after we got married, I had to start attending P’s branch of the church. It’s a lot larger than where I was used to and somehow I found myself lost in the crowd. But I knew I had to get more involved in church. That was one of my resolutions this year and this past Sunday, I finally did!

  • Two things happened yesterday for which I am grateful. I was to get a ride home in a colleague’s car and he intended to just stop by a filling station to top up his fuel in anticipation of the traffic ahead. The filling stations around were either packed full – obstructing traffic, or not even selling at all! We drove all over the place looking for fuel (no thanks to independent marketers who didn’t want to sell at the stipulated =N=65/litre). Anyways, we left Victoria Island and our search took us to Lagos Island. It was getting late and the story was the same there too! Cars were all lined up at the pumps but no one was selling! Should we risk heading to the 3rd mainland bridge with what little fuel we had? What if there was traffic and we got stranded? We parked the car somewhere and set out on foot to find fuel. A Good Samaritan offered to give us 4-litres from his car but the hose wouldn’t just get into the tank! Humph! We thanked the guy and left in search of a filling station that would sell us 4-litres at any price. We really had to be on our way. Thankfully, not too far away, we found one and after a little scuffle at the pump, we got fuel!! It was such a relief and we were finally able to set for home 2 hrs after we originally started the journey. Thank God!

  • After we poured in the fuel, my colleague whose car it was had to check something under the hood of the car. He’d already lifted the bonnet when the car started rolling backwards!! I yelped and screamed for the other colleague in the front seat to slam on the brakes. He did just in time to avoid collision with an oncoming car behind us. Phew! That was a close one and I’m grateful nothing happened! I got home that night and went straight to bed! Lol!

  • Today, just like always, I’m grateful to be alive!!

So tell me, what are you thankful for?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Perspective: A Man Valued at $9.2 Billion Commits Suicide

I got this on one of my yahoogroups mails and I thought I should share it with us.

There's so much going on; with the world's financial system crumbling and little hope anywhere in the horizon but I ask myself, is any problem so bad that we have to take our own lives?

The pointers towards the end of the post ring true. If we find things to be grateful for even in the midst of seemingly insurmountable problems, then we are able to stay in perspective.

Distraught over massive financial losses incurred during the past year, Adolf Merckle scrawled a suicide note to his family and wandered out the door into a dark, wintry night. He made his way for the railway where he stood by the tracks and waited in the cold. Spotting the headlight of an oncoming railcar, he threw himself under the train and took leave of this world.
As tragic as the suicide was, it would not have received worldwide press apart from one shocking fact: Adolf Merckle was valued at 9.2 billion dollars, ranking 94th on Forbes 2008 list of the world’s richest persons.
It can be hard to fathom the extent of Mr. Merckle’s wealth, a billion dollars being such a staggering sum. Think of it this way, 9,000 people could each win a million dollars in the lottery, pool their money together, and still have less money than Mr. Merckle was worth. Or, the entire nation of Haiti (8.5 million people) could work for two and a half years without accumulating income equal to Mr. Merckle’s portfolio.
A family statement, issued after Mr. Merckle’s untimely death, read as follows: "The desperate situation of his companies, caused by the financial crisis, the uncertainties of the last few weeks and his powerlessness to act, broke the passionate family entrepreneur and he took his own life." Surely Mr. Merckle’s financial missteps and poor investment decisions must have been painful to stomach. Watching his business empire suffer had to have been difficult for a man of his status. Even so, Mr. Merckle had billions of dollars to his name. It’s astonishing to consider the monumental loss of perspective that led the German billionaire to take his own life.
As evidenced by the tragic case of Adolf Merckle, even the most prosperous individual is not immune to a descent into despair. With corporations cutting payrolls and the stock market on the downswing, many leaders face worrisome bottom lines, dwindling investment portfolios, or even unemployment. Many find themselves in the fight of their lives, struggling daily to gain a healthy perspective.

Two Pointers to Keep Perspective When Problems Persist

1) Gratitude
Leaders enter dangerous territory when they neglect to be grateful for what they have, and instead begin to fear losing what they’ve accumulated. The blessings of life surround everyone, but the person is rare who allows its simple benefits of life to fill his or her soul. Yet, the choice presents itself to anyone: accentuate the positives or dwell on the negatives.
Choosing to be grateful earns the greatest return in times of trouble. It’s virtually impossible to be overtaken by worry when a person has a heart of gratitude. For this reason, it pays to log a gratitude journal - each day, list three things in life for which you’re thankful. Don’t just jot them down; roll them over in your mind. Let them sink into your spirit. Chances are, the exercise will dramatically improve your perspective.

2) Selective Hearing
For leaders, denial isn’t an option. Bad news is preferable to no news in that information conveys important knowledge about the current reality. The wise stay apprised of the economic outlook and make decisions based upon incoming data. At times those decisions can be painful such as instituting a spending freeze or terminating the employment of a devoted worker. Nonetheless, leaders shoulder the load and do what must be done to move forward.
While leaders refuse to put their heads in the sand, they do have the wherewithal to unplug from negativity. At a certain point, a glut of the same dreary news damages the psyche. Leaders confront reality, but they stop short of wallowing in worry and despondence. They avoid doomsdayers and naysayers, preferring to fill their minds with hope and opportunity.

By Justin Pinkermah

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ten Things Tuesday (01)

I boarded the “Ten Things Tuesday” train with not a little help from aloted. She directed me back to the originator , Jill Brownstone and I have tried to follow her guidelines as much as possible.

I had already decided that this year I would be more thankful and what better way than to deliberately find 10 things to be grateful for each week?

NB: I know it’s Wednesday but I started writing this yesterday (Tuesday) but couldn’t post it.

Here goes..!

1 – Since P. and I got married, we’ve lived and worked in different cities and the longest amount of time we’ve ever stayed together in the same city is 2weeks at a time. However throughout the holidays up until now, we’ve spent 6weeks straight together! It’s been glorious and I am truly thankful for this.

2. I returned to work this year to find that my job description had changed. The head of my discipline had been moved to a management position and I was moved up to take his place as lead. Even though this promotion is yet to translate to increased benefits, I’m grateful to God for the opportunity it provides. Promotion does come only from God!

3. P.’s phone got stolen 2 days ago. An annoying and inconveniencing development but I’m grateful that even though his wallet was in the same pocket as his phone, it wasn’t taken. His wallet contains much more valuable stuff (apart from money) than the phone. Thank God.

4. I got a call from a close friend of mine yesterday. She and her husband have been trying to have a baby for quite a while now and she broke the good news to me – they’re expecting a baby! God is great!

5. This year for P. is supposed to be one of upgrading himself in his career by becoming a certified project management professional. Part of the process includes attending lectures and seminars which cost huge sums of money. He has got the opportunity to have most of this training done at no cost to him. Awesome!

6. This month’s daily devotion has been an exposé on faith and I am deeply thankful to God for His Word. How could I even live without it? Thank you!

7. Two days ago we were at my brother-in-law’s place and there was talk about a family that had just been thrown out of their house. Very touching and humbling but it made me even more grateful that we live in our own place. It’s still under construction but at least we have a roof over our heads and we never have to pay rent.

8. Just this morning I saw my name short listed to take a scholarship application exam. I am glad I made it through the first hurdle!

9. P. got paid yesterday for a job he’d done almost 5 months ago! It was an unexpected blessing. Thank you Lord!
10. I'm thankful that I am alive today!

So what are you thankful for?

I have been tagged by olufunke in the 2 truths, 1 lie meme. I'm still thinking it through. i should start on that soon enough!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Day I cried .....(4)

The funeral went well and some people said we should have had a thanksgiving service. For what? That my daddy died or that we successfully put him in the ground in the company of worms and all manner of creepy crawlies? Well it wasn’t my call, but if it was, there’d be no such thing as a thanksgiving service! There!

I’d become cold and unfeeling. I got angry easily and snapped at people a lot. If I ever caught my self laughing, I would chide myself. The worst part was that I lied to myself everyday. I lied that I didn’t need God. I could make it the rest of the way without His help. I lied that I didn’t miss our times of sweet fellowship, me and the Holy Spirit or the reassurance of knowing that I was loved by the Almighty. I lied that there was no longer anything to laugh about or any much of a reason to live. I lied that I enjoyed being hard and cold, that I didn’t miss the warmth of a joy-filled heart. I lied that I didn’t miss the celebrations of the triumph of faith; that God probably no longer care about me, so what’s the use? I lied to myself but secretly, I desperately hoped for a change.
There was a time I felt I’d gone too far and may never be able to return to the Saviour of my soul. I was afraid. The future looked dark. There was no hope. No light at the end of the tunnel. I mean I had actually accused God, the Almighty God, of killing my father! Who was I to accuse God of murder? I had definitely taken it too far!

6months later, I got the call-up letter for my NYSC posting to Sokoto. Sokoto was just perfect as it was as far away as I wanted to be from all that was familiar. Camp was great as I immersed myself into most of the activities. I met corpers who would do anything to get posted to the city and I wondered what the hassle was all about. I didn’t care where I was posted to. I was even ready to go the villages that shared boundaries with Niger Republic.

I guess God was being nice to me. I was sent to the state polytechnic where I was to lecture a few basic courses in Engineering. I was assigned to a room at the staff quarters and my room mate turned out to be a colleague from school. She was a batch ahead of me so the place was already set up nicely. I guess you could say I had it all easy – everything was in place to make my service year relatively comfortable. Could God have been working in the background? But I didn’t want Him to be nice to me! I needed a reason to stay angry with Him!

For the first few weeks, our room housed about 8 other corpers who were still either looking for proper placement or simply a place to sleep. The room was really large so it didn’t seem too crowded. One by one, our guests left as they got themselves settled. One evening, I returned to find our room empty. The last guest had left that morning. My original room mate was out of town and so for the first time since I moved in, I had the room all to myself. Not good.

Suddenly, a picture came to me as I sat in the quietness of the room.

I had just received a letter from a multinational oil servicing company congratulating me on my success in the first stage of their recruitment process and inviting me for an interview. Excitedly I ran to show it to daddy as he sat watching TV in the living room. His face lit up with a wide smile as he finished reading it and he promptly pulled me down onto his lap and gave me a huge hug! “That’s my Engineer! You haven’t even served yet and already they are calling for you!” I could see the pride on his face and my heart swelled with joy that I was the source of my father’s pride.

That was the first picture. Many others came to me in quick succession. Pictures of my father as he gave me a thumbs-up sign; taught me to change a flat tire; placed his hand on my forehead to pray for me when I was ill; drove me to campus on my first day and even hung around while I tried to be a ‘big girl’ and handle my registration myself…….on and on they came.

I tried real hard to stop them – the tears. But they wouldn’t be stopped. They gathered and blurred my vision. I refused to blink so as to prevent them from sliding down my cheeks but they didn’t need my help, they came pouring.

It was a quiet sob at first, even respectable. Just tears pouring from my eyes. I barely made a sound. But as I thought of the enormity of my loss those past 6months, I could no longer hold it in. I bawled unashamedly, like a lost child crying for his mommy. I slid to the floor from the chair I’d been sitting on. I wailed and rolled all over the floor. Secretly glad that no one was there to try to make me stop. I bawled. I wailed. I sobbed. I wept. I cried. I didn’t want to be comforted. I wanted to keep crying for ever and never stop.

I was never going to see my daddy again. He didn’t live to see me truly become the engineer he’d dreamed about. You see, I was the only daughter to follow in his professional footsteps. He was my hero. My mentor. My Pastor. My teacher. Never has a father had so great an influence on his child. I always wanted to be like daddy when I grew up. He was confident, fearless. I wanted to be like that too. He loved God with a passion. You could see it in his eyes, his lifestyle. He didn’t have the philosophy that older children would in turn help to raise their younger ones. He told us every day how all nine of us were his celebration and pride; It was a privilege to raise us and he was personally responsible for every one of us till we’d come of age. Because of him, I saw first hand how a man should treat his wife – with respect and honour. He showed us that as far as family hierarchy goes, mommy comes first and thereafter, the kids. That was never compromised for any child. I don’t know how they did it but even amongst us all, you couldn’t point at any one child and say that’s mommy’s favorite or daddy’s favorite. We were all treated equally and if anyone got any special treatment for any reason, then an explanation was given.

I have no idea how much time passed and much as I hated it, I couldn’t cry anymore. My head throbbed and I could feel that my entire face was swollen – as though it belonged to someone else. The room was dark. Night had fallen. I didn’t bother to get up. I just lay there and then I had the strangest sensation come over me. It was as though someone else was in the room with me but I was sure I was by myself. I felt warm inside, like someone had covered me with an invisible blanket. I quickly scrambled up to my feet and felt my way to the bed, flopped down on it and wrapped my arms around myself as though to ward off some chill. And there was that sensation again but this time, in addition to the feeling of having an invisible blanket wrapped around me, I felt there was another set of arms wrapped around mine.

I’m not one to often have ethereal experiences but if anything counted for one, this was definitely it! I could and still can not explain the feeling; it was both unsettling and comforting all at once. After a while, I stopped fighting it and lay on the bed curled up in a fetal position. As I slowly fell asleep, whether in my dream or in real life, I thought I heard the sound of some sweet melody.

I woke up the next day feeling very thirsty. I guess my throat was parched from all the howling the day before. Strangely too, I felt rather light. I sat up and scooted backwards till I was leaning against the wall. I raised my legs till I could place my chin on my knees while wrapping my arms around them. The tears came again but these weren’t borne of grief but of repentance. I was awash with God’s love for me afresh. He was telling me he still loved me; he never stopped even for one day. For the first time in 6months I prayed. I asked God to heal my heart and to help me make sense of it all. And he did. No, I did not have an epiphany that explained why my daddy had to die. I still don’t have those answers but God healed my heart and brought me back home again. I learned to trust Him again. I learned to build my faith again. I opened my heart again to the gift of life and found again that there was so much to live for. Daddy lived a good life and left a legacy now it’s left to us who are still here to make even much more of a difference in our world.

It’s been six years now and God has been faithful. Six years since “The day I cried” and I know I will never again cry like that.

A few months after, I ran into this poem that ‘ministered’ to me

I am standing upon the sea shore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
And starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and and strength.
I stand and watch until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud
Just where the sea and the sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says “There, she’s gone!”
Gone where?
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
As she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight
to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says
“There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
And other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
“Here she comes!”
And that is dying.


I dedicate these series to all who have ever lost anyone dear to them. The light of our loved ones lost will ever keep burning in our hearts!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The day I cried....(3)

It was really important to me that I not be late for work that afternoon. The madam whose children I tutored after school hours was quite particular about my time of arrival. It seemed as though she was always looking for a reason to cut my pay. She never did anyway but I didn’t want to dare her.

I was all dressed up and if I could just grab a bite to eat, I’d be out of the house in a few minutes. Just then the living room door opened and in came my mom looking all drained and exhausted. I felt so sorry for her ‘cause it was clear that daddy’s prolonged illness was beginning to take its toll on her. I took a few steps towards her but stopped when I saw the entourage of uncles and in-laws coming in behind her. This wasn’t right. Momsie always came home after a few days at the hospital to rest and take a change of clothes. Since when did she need these people to do that?

With her eyes downcast, mom passed by me without saying a word and into the children’s sitting room. Suddenly there was an air of foreboding gradually creeping around the entire house. She sat down and held her head in her hands while facing the floor. No one said anything but gradually the kids who were at home came out one by one. We knew something was up and it wasn’t good news!

“Hmm, hmm” one of the uncles started by clearing his throat. “We all know that when some things happen, we should never question God and...”

“Why are you going round in circles?” Momsie cut him off mid-sentence “Our daddy is dead!” She spat it out just like that. A scream escaped my sister’s lips, my brother bowed his head, I laughed derisively and my uncle continued to ramble. I didn’t hear what he was saying and frankly, I didn’t care.

I wish I could say I was shocked or that I was sad or that I wailed. I wasn’t and I didn’t. In fact, I was numb. I didn’t feel anything! Was this a joke or something?

The previous day, we were at the hospital to see daddy. It was a Sunday and I took an auntie there who didn’t know where the hospital was. Daddy looked terrible. He was so thin that you could actually count a few ribs. His feet were swollen and his eyes sunken. He looked gaunt and was so uncomfortable. I adjusted his bed several times before we found a position he could relax in. The doctors weren’t saying much but we really didn’t need them to. We all knew he was going to get better and return home in no time. This was our daddy. He taught us to have faith and our faith coupled with his would bring us through this one too. Just like always.

As I left the hospital that evening I waved at my father and like he always did, he gave me a thumbs-up sign albeit a weak one. He always did that. Like he was trying to say “Don’t worry, I’ve got this one too”. I had instructions from my mother to have my younger sister come to the hospital the next day to relieve her as she needed to run a few errands. I got home and delivered the message only for an uncle to come to the house as early as 6am to tell my sister not to bother going to the hospital as my dad had been transferred to another hospital more equipped to handle his case. We should have known.

By 7am another uncle came around and I remember thinking that he was trying too hard to make us laugh. I should have known. But why didn’t I? The day just gradually rolled by. Those who were going to work prepared and left, I didn’t have to be at work till later so I attended to some laundry, all the while, the 7am uncle kept going outside to take calls. It seemed strange but then he probably had some discreet business to attend to. Uh-Uh, he was disseminating the news of my father’s death, yet I had no clue! Not until that afternoon.

The uncle had concluded his ramble and we all sat there wondering what to do with ourselves. Suddenly, our auntie shows up and everything crumbles. My mother suddenly jumps up calling the auntie’s name and throwing her hands everywhere, wailing “He didn’t want to die, He didn’t want to die!”
Quickly all of us kids jump up all at the same time running towards her and holding her. That’s when the crying started. I begged mummy to stop crying as my auntie led her away into her bedroom but she didn’t. I still didn’t cry.

Of course work was cancelled for the day and even for the week. My concern seemed to be for other siblings who were yet to hear the news. Who would tell them? How would they react? They were free to cry but I hoped no one would do anything irrational. As far as I was concerned, I wasn’t going to give God the benefit of my tears. Not one drop!

That was one helluva long day. I sat in the main living room and watched as the visitors came trooping in. Most of them wailing. I remember feeling like slapping a few of them. Their faces were all contorted with wails that produced no tears and after 60 seconds or so of their ‘mock wail’, it was business as usual. “Can you give me water to drink?”
Water to drink? Water to drink? You are asking me if I can give you water to drink? My daddy just died!!

By the end of the day, all my siblings had heard and thankfully they all seemed to be taking it well. The entire week was filled with planning for the funeral and receiving yet more visitors. Some visitors just felt they had to say something and how that irked me!

“God knows best”
Oh yeah, He does eh? Is your dad still alive? Tell me that again when he dies.

“It is well”
Really? So why’s my mom in there taking drips and suffering from acute depression?

All the activities leading up to the funeral were a blur but I held this thought close to my heart. God and no one else killed my father. That was my conclusion.

Daddy had been seriously ill for close to 4months. His liver had been damaged. He was neither a drinker nor a smoker. He didn’t eat any fried foods or any such junk. He ate all the fruit and vegetables ever placed before him so what do you mean his liver has been damaged?

Ok, let’s say this is an attack from the devil, what would it take to get rid of it? Prayers? Faith? Fastings? Declaration of The Word? We did all that. We had faith! Not once have we ever asked for anything as a family in faith that did not eventually come. Our faith always worked! But not this time. So, God, you are to blame. You killed daddy and watched while we grieved, cried and wailed. Well, for your information God, if it’s my tears you want, You ain’t getting any of it!

That was how I packed all my theology in a big black box. Locked it up and threw away the keys. Yes I still went to church. To sneer at all those church folk who earnestly answered “Amen!” to the Pastor’s declaration “You shall not die….!”
Yeah right. That’s what they tell you and then you step out the door and…you end up like daddy.

I was so bitter in my heart. I carried around this coldness and heaviness. It was eating me whole! I was becoming some sort of a hard creature no longer the young woman who had had her whole life stretched before her, full of faith.

I was dying.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Calabar my Calabar!

If I mention the name David Diop, I guess most of us who have ever come accross it would identify him as that great poet who wrote the poem

"Africa my Africa!

Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannas Africa of whom my grandmother sings,

on the banks of the distant river....."

Well, my piece today is neither about David Diop nor his poem, rather, this piece is about "Calabar my Calabar!"

I couldn't resist putting that caption in green! Even though the official colours of the Crossriver State is "Blue-White-Blue", you can't help but think of the colour green as you find your way around that city.

I’d heard about the city from friends and colleagues and I was like “Yeah right!” Even before I left Lagos to be with my husband in Port Harcourt, the air waves were already being inundated by news and adverts of the Calabar Christmas Carnival – the brain child of Donald Duke and his wife several years ago.

I honestly didn’t go to Calabar for the carnival per se (we both had to be back in Lagos for the Christmas celebration with family), neither did I go to see the people or any such thing but my husband and I needed to get away for a few days and Calabar seemed to be the natural choice. The Obudu Ranch Resort was way out of our budget at the moment so it wasn’t an option. We were just going to go to Calabar, see the sights and return home.

And that’s exactly what we did. Only we came back a lot more inspired.

We got into the city at night and the Christmas lights on the street lights and roundabouts were truly beautiful. Tired from the 6-hour trip from PH, all we wanted to do was hit the sack. All other explorations would have to wait till the next day.

And early did we rise to face the next day. We stepped out of the hotel and I was immediately struck by the ‘laid-backed-ness’ – if there ever was such a word – of the people in the immediate vicinity considering it was a weekday. I mean these people didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all; didn’t they have jobs or businesses to attend to? It was a Tuesday and so it wasn’t like TGIF or anything. We walked down almost the entire length of the road – and it was a long one – but it was the same. You just got the feeling that life here was easy and free of hassles. While this may not be true for everyone in Calabar, it was a sure indication of the people’s general psyche.

Another thing that struck me was how clean the city was. I’d heard of this before but I’d always thought to myself how this was possible since you really couldn’t control the amount of waste generated by a city’s inhabitants especially in any Nigerian city. In Lagos for instance, anyone who’s been around for a while would bear me witness that things have changed a lot especially in the area of waste management. The government is doing a lot but you still find heaps of bad smelling garbage spilling over to the ground from the trash receptacles from time to time. Although they are usually cleared within a day or two, the stench around the site still lingers in the air. So in my mind, if they say Calabar is clean then it just means that the horrible smelling garbage is cleared a lot earlier and the stench isn’t quite as bad as the ones in Lagos. Right? Wrong!

My husband specifically pointed out to me that the streets had already been swept that morning but I wasn’t quite sure. Does it mean that the Highway Managers (as they are called in some parts of Lagos) did their work as early as 5am? Or worse still, did they sweep the streets while the city slept? What ever the case, when you got out of your house and onto the streets, you’d find that they’d already been swept! I saw several garbage receptacles but not once did I see one spilling over, nor covered with smoke marks and rust from having the garbage in them being burned, nor standing askew as though missing a wheel or two. Did they clear the garbage on an hourly basis perhaps? Or didn’t these Calabar people generate any waste at all?!

The streets are lined with trash baskets with an inscription “USE ME” pasted on them. Every once in a while as we walked by (Yes we did a lot of walking!), I would actually see someone use the basket! You would have to forgive me if I sound too unpatriotic but since when did we actually start using waste baskets on the streets? No, don’t get me wrong. P. and I have actually had arguments about why I always insist on bringing my ‘trash’ home. You see, for as far as I can remember, I just cannot for the life of me throw peels and wrappers of stuff I ate on a bus out the window and neither would I drop them on the floor of the bus. In his opinion, if I didn’t want to throw stuff out the window then just leave it on the floor of the bus but I just can’t! There’s always a separate nylon bag in which I put all my trash – banana peels, orange peels, gala wrappers, yoghurt packs – just name it and when I get home, I go straight to the dustbin and dump it. End of story! But we all know that a lot of people in Lagos throw stuff out the window with unbridled impunity right? Not in Calabar. There wasn’t a single ‘KAI’ official or other enforcement agency in sight but these people knew where all trash should go and that none of it should ever deliberately leave your hands and touch the floor. It was all integrated into their lifestyle.

So much has been said about the new crash helmet ('Element') law currently being enforced in Lagos and other parts of the country and I have seen all sorts. I’m sure the ‘Okada’ riders in Calabar would laugh if they ever saw what their counterparts in Lagos were doing to ‘fulfill’ the law. Every ‘Okada’ rider in Calabar has a proper crash helmet on his head at all times and if you refused to wear one then you could go find alternative transportation as he was not willing to take the risk of carrying an ‘unprotected’ passenger! There’s no special unit enforcing the use of the helmets, the people just knew that they should and they did!

We went to lots of beautiful places in and around the city of Calabar and I had an eerie feeling that the people were too good to be true. How did they come to have this kind of lifestyle?

We left Calabar not only refreshed but truly inspired! It is possible indeed to have a society governed by the simple rules of civility. An entire people could actually be influenced to the point that they have a common psyche for the common good. Already, I see it happening in Lagos but it is yet to pervade the very fabric of our society. I hope it won’t be long.

So the next time I see anything that makes me feel like we’re too far from an ideal society, I would bring out this picture and look at it again and again if only to remind myself of the possibilities that lie ahead. This picture of Calabar my Calabar!

Happy New Year!