Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nigeria At 50 - Day 13 "Complicated. But....."

Nigeria at 50 - day 12  Flygirl

I have always known that my country's issues, challenges and problems are multi-faceted but nothing brought it home to me like my experience at the FRSC (Federal Road Safety Corps) office at Ojodu, Lagos, recently.

The first time I got my drivers' license, it was through my instructor at the driving school I was attending at the time. He told me how much it would cost, I gave him the money and in less than three days, I had my drivers' license. No stress, no hassles.

On my birthday this year, my license expired and I proceeded to go get a renewal.
I had envisaged that the process was probably going to be a very tedious one and I was prepared to go through the rigour. However, the officers I met seemed to have other plans. From the gate, the first officer (Let's call him Officer-1) was quite friendly and he pointed me in the general direction of the license office. He said I needed to check for my name in their database first and if it was not found then I needed to begin the process of requesting for a fresh license since my old one was not the 'original'.

I approached the building I believed 'Officer-1' had directed me to and just to be sure, I approached Officer-2 who sent me right back in the direction from which I had come.
"No, no, no, go to that green building first" he says.
I squint and follow the direction of his outstretched arm and even though I could not see any 'green' building, I set off in that direction. I got to the front of a small building, the green paint on it now almost white and since there was a crowd there, I approached Officer-3,

"Please I would like to renew my license but no body has been able to give me clear directions".

"Oh, okay, follow me" she says and we walk right back towards the direction Officer-1 had initially pointed out only we stopped halfway to stand under a shed where car safety accessories were sold.

Officer-3 punches some numbers on her phone and barks into it,

"Meet me under the shed. Hurry up, a customer is waiting!". In less than five minutes a young man approaches us and Officer-3 says, "Madam please follow him. He will help you". And that was it. Officer-3 walks away and I follow Agent-1 who leads me to a spacious reception office and asks me to relax.

To cut a long story short, Agent-1 does everything for me, after I had paid his quoted amount and hands me a photocopy of my filled-out application form with instructions to return the next day around 1pm to have my photograph taken.

Here's where it begins to get interesting.

I returned the next day and Agent-1 led me to the license office. There was a queue that extended a few yards from the entrance and Agent-1 asked me to stand behind the last person on it. A few minutes later, Boss-1 comes out barking at those of us on the queue.

"What are you people doing here?! Eh?! Where is your tally? What is your number?!"

I quickly deduced that ALL of us on the queue were there illegally. I quietly left the queue so that I would not be embarassed.

"If one of those small boys told you to stand on this queue, you are wasting your time o! They have no power to influence things here! None at all. So please leave this place!".
Boss-1 was still barking even as I walked away in search of Agent-1. 

Agent-1 assured me that there was absolutely no problem and asked me to wait some distance away. He did not tell me how long I was to wait but he promised that it would work out. I began to feel uneasy when I realized that Boss-1 was trying to ensure that things were done properly and orderly. From my vantage position, I watched as licensees were herded from a conference room in a building several yards away to the license office. They all had tally numbers. Apparently, a good number of them had been there as early as 7am and most of them said they'd been waiting for their photographing appointment for several months!

While I sat on a bench pondering my presence there without an appointment, the person sitting next to me tapped my shoulder "Madam, dem dey call you". Agent-1 nodded me towards an officer at the entrance who asked me to hurry inside, along with about eight others, and take a seat. We were the 'shunters'. Boss-1 had gone into his office probably patting himself on the back for being very efficient. Boss-2 was in the lobby 'continuing' with what Boss-1 had started, only this time, Boss-2 was allowing some 'special' licensees to go straight inside to have their photographs taken while the rest of us sat on rows of benches awaiting our turn. But who was I to complain? I was shunting as well!

After about two hours, Boss-1 appears again and since the people on the last row could not produce their tallies, he sent them out and called for a younger officer (Officer-4) to go bring in the last set of licensees from the conference room.
"The last set should be numbers 420 to 445 right?" Boss-1 asks Officer-4. Shaking his head and poring over sheets of papers spread out on a counter at one corner of the room, Officer-4 replies
"Sir, we are still at number 289 sir."
There was an incredulous look on Boss-1's face. "But we were at 275 before I went into my office 2 hours ago!". Officer-4 was staring at his shoes as though he was clueless.
Boss-1 skimmed the faces seated on the benches as though he could somehow point out the shunters. You could see just how frustrated and exasperated he was.
Boss-2 barked "Next!" and then it was my turn to go inside. The time was 5pm.

That day at the FRSC office painted for me a clear picture of just how complicated Nigeria's issues are . Even though someone at the head feels like it is his responsibility to make things work and is indeed doing his best, there are other seemingly inconsequential elements foiling his attempts!
It showed me that even though it takes one man to make a difference, it will take the rest of us to sustain that difference and make it a way of life.
I could have insisted on getting an appointment and refusing to shunt but I didn't and that makes me culpable too. I could stand and point accusing fingers but I must first look inwards and be the change I want to see.

Okay, so it is complicated BUT, it is not all bad.

I got a taste of how efficient and effective the Nigerian Police Force could be and it sparked some hope in me.

I was on my way to work one morning around 5.30am. I needed to pick up a colleague of mine at Estate bus-stop just under the pedestrian bridge. There were many danfo buses struggling  to find a place to park so they could 'shadow' passengers and I knew well enough to drive some meters ahead of them to park. Everything seemed clear and so I turned into a space just after the bridge where BRT buses would normally exit the bus-stop. Just as I was clearing off the road there was a huge "Gboa!". A danfo bus had rammed into my side towards the rear on the passenger's side, taking my tail lights with it as it sped off. Everything happened so suddenly that I didn't know just how to react. I came out of the car and several by-standers yelled at me "Madam! You no go pursue am?!"
Pursue who? To where?
The damage was bad and when I saw that my tail lights were gone, I just started crying. I felt helpless. Not only were my tail lights expensive, it was the third time I was being bashed in the last 6months!

Suddenly bright lights flooded the area and sirens came on. It was the RRS team parked a short distance away. "Madam, please clear well." one of the officers said to me as they jumped into their vehicle.
They had seen the whole thing  and apparently, the danfo driver was  trying to run away after being accosted by one of the officers for double parking. I just happened to be turning in at precisely that same time.

About  40minutes later, the RRS team returned and one of the officers brought the danfo driver to me holding him by the collar. I almost laughed in relief. The officer advised me to take the case to the nearest police station if I felt we could not come to a suitable agreement. They handed me the documents for the danfo which they had collected from the driver just in case he was planning to run away.
I was amazed at how professional the police men were acting. I was still trying to calculate how much 'egunje' I would have to part with but they simply nodded when I thanked them for their help, turned around, got into their vehicle and drove away. Maybe to go help another citizen.

I felt so pleased that I was lenient with the crazy driver making him pay for the body work of the car while I took care of the tail lights.
That was the first time I got the chance to see the NPF in another light - better light and I kept thinking, there is still HOPE!
It is possible for things to change in Naija. Not all the apples in this basket are rotten!

To view the next in these series please visit -
 Nigeria at 50 - day 14 LamikayTy 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Golden Age"

'Tis been 50years and the road has been quite long, join us as we celebrate Nigeria's Golden Age at oluSimeon on 1st October, 2010.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Little Nene

"When I look at you all I see is hands and legs!"

Those are the words with which I often teased Nene.

Nene towers at a whooping 5'10" and since her slim, lanky frame and young body hardly had any flesh on it, anyone seeing her for the first time was bound to notice her hands and legs first. She turned sixteen last October and I have missed her angelic face and innocent demeanour since I moved out of my former neighbourhood two years ago.

Nene is dark skinned and unusually tall for her age but she carries her frame well. She's rather laid back and not quite as talkative as most girls of her peergroup.

Abigail, Nene's aunty is a friend of mine from church. She has lived with Nene's parents since her secondary school days until recently when she had to go away to University. They live in the same neighbourhood as my parents and that was how I came to meet and know Nene. The two of them often took evening strolls together and since our house was in their path, they often stopped by for a chat. Nene would stand at a respectful distance away from the two of us while we chatted but I often drew her into our conversations. She was shy at first but in the course of time she loosened up and became freer with me. Free enough indeed that she often came to visit with me all by herself.

It did not matter that I was older than her by almost 14 years, I quickly found that Nene and I could spend a long time talking about almost anything. Nevermind that I was answering her questions half the time. She had an inquisitive mind that girl and I found it rather refreshing to have a sweet thing like herself ask me questions and listen earnestly while I answered as though I was one of the ancients possessing an inexorable store of wisdom.

The way she carried herself often made people think she was older than she really was but her naivety and innocence often gave away the fact that she was still a child. A child that was in the process of becoming a woman.

Nene became a woman all too quickly. Her innocence has been tainted and I dare say lost, for only a few months ago I got news that Nene was expecting a baby. Yes, Nene who herself had barely left her childhood behind is about to become a mother. Before the end of next month, her baby would have arrived.**
By the time this sad news reached me, Nene was already six months pregnant. I was also told that her mother only found out when she was five months gone.

What kind of a mother is that? I am sure you would wonder. But after hearing from Abigail, who is Nene's mother's sister, my questions fell silent on my lips.

Nene had passed her JAMB exams and there was just one more hurdle to cross before she could gain entrance into the Abia State University. She had done all that was necessary to register for her post-JAMB screening test and now all she had to do was study in preparation for it. She often went to the library at the community school nearby to study but most of the time she stayed at home.

Nene is the first of five children and according to her mother, Nene was the kind of daughter every mother prayed for. She had a strong sense of responsibility and she looked after her younger ones well. She hardly ever put a foot wrong but even if she did, it didn't take much to place her on the right path again.

Mama Nene has a shop where she sells staple food items at the community market a few streets from the house so it was easy for her to quickly come home to cook the meals and receive the kids as they returned home from school. Since Nene left secondary school however, this became unnecessary because Nene always had food ready for her siblings when they came home and she generally had the home front under control.

She hardly kept any friends so when Nene informed her mother that she would like to join the youth fellowship of their church she readily agreed. Her parents felt that it was healthy for her to mix up with young people of the same age in a morally sound atmosphere as would be expected from a church.

It was in church that Nene met Pascal. They became good friends and since he was also getting ready to take JAMB, they often studied together. Mama Nene had seen them together twice and on both occassions, Pascal was seeing Nene home from church. Nothing seemed to be amiss so no questions were asked.

The date for her post-JAMB screening exam came and Nene went to write the exam. Her parents suggested that she should go to the village to stay for a while with her grandma who needed some company. Nene stayed with grandma for three and a half months before returning to Lagos.
The Nene that returned from Abia state seemed visibly changed. Her face shone unusually and she had added a considerable amount of weight. She laughed whenever anyone pointed out this obvious fact saying that her grandma pumped her with too much food.

Mama Nene was rather pleased that her daughter had put on some flesh something she had been trying to do for her for a long time. The slight bulge of Nene's abdomen went unnoticed.

Upon her return, Nene threw herself into church activities more than ever before. She often left the house early in the morning and returned when it was quite dark. Mama Nene began to complain because Nene began to leave undone her house chores and her siblings without a proper meal.

Abigail failed to tell me exactly how it all went down but at five months surely it was becoming increasingly difficult for Nene to hide her bump.Her parents found out and cries of woe could be heard from their apartment that morning.Nene confirmed that Pascal was responsible and immediately Papa Nene, his fury very evident, dashed out of the house with a matchete, he was headed straight for Pascal's parents house, Nene and Mama Nene in tow.

Pascal denied ever having anything to do with Nene but Nene insisted that he was responsible. Nene and her parents returned to their apartment determined to hide their shame. That same night, Pascal and his parents came to see Papa Nene full of apologies. Their son had confessed saying he denied Nene out of fear. Pascal had also just turned sixteen. They were both evidently children and Papa Pascal wanted to know what Papa Nene wanted them to do.

It was that same night that Nene opened up to her mother. Her father didn't even want to look at her face let alone hear her voice.

Pascal had often come to the house so that they could both study. Nene swore that it was only once that they had sex. When Abigail said this, I told her that I believed Nene. She said her mother did too.
It happened two weeks before she left for Abia for her exam.
She started suspecting that she was pregnant when it seemed that her period was taking too long in coming. She usually did not take note of the dates but when she was half way through the second month, she was sure that she was pregnant. She often violently threw up most of what she ate and her grandma took her to a nearby chemist to procure malaria drugs.

She called Pascal to inform him of her status and after blubbering at first that they were in trouble he promised to send her some money so she could terminate it. How he came by the money, Nene did not know but in less than five days, Pascal had sent her fifteen thousand naira.

Scared and alone, Nene went into the city to look for clinics where she could have an abortion. All three of them said the same thing. "It is too late. If you abort the baby now, you might die."
She cried and cried her heart out and was scared to return to Lagos. But she did and used church as a cover to hide the pregnancy.She had neither spoken to or seen Pascal until that morning when he denied her before both their families. Nene had told Pascal that morning that she never wanted to see him again.

By the time her narrative was over, Nene and her mother were in tears.

Mama Nene looked at her baby and felt so sorry that she had gone through all that alone. She felt ashamed that she hadn't been more observant.She saw as if for the first time how her daughter had changed. Not physically, even though that was obvious but she saw that Nene had somehow grown up in the space of a few months. There was a maturity about her, an invisble halo of strength, the kind that could only have come from carrying such a heavy burden alone. From private suffering.

Mama Nene also felt sorry for herself. That at barely forty years of age, she would be a grandmother. If the circumstances had been different, she might have even felt some pride. How was she going to tell her neighbours and her fellow market women when the baby arrived, that the baby she was caring for belonged to her young unwed daughter?

The crying was over and both women began to make plans for the baby. Nene had gone too long without ante-natal care and that was a good place to start. The doctor said that mother and child were fine but Nene did not understand why her mother suddenly burst out in tears in the middle of one of the classes. The head nurse had to politely ask her to leave. She did the same thing for three consecutive classes and Nene had to ask her mother not to bother accompanying her anymore.

Mama Nene became a shadow of herself and Papa Nene grew increasingly furious everytime he laid his eyes on his daughter. He slapped her once when she served his food. He said the plates were not properly aligned in the food tray. Nene had never taken notice of the plate alignment all her years of serving her father until then.

Soon arrangements were made and Nene was to go stay with her dad's sister, Pamela on the other side of town. They could not risk the entire neighbourhood finding out about their secret. Tongues had already started wagging but they were mere rumours. No need giving them any more substantiating evidence.

As Mama Nene turned to say her good-byes after dropping Nene off at Auntie Pamela's place, Nene held her mother's hands and with tears brimming in her eyes, she said...

"Mummy, I know I have disappointed you and daddy. I am ashamed of myself. I see the way you have become so sad and depressed because of me. Mummy please do not worry yourself sick, if you died of stress or hypertension, what will I do?
Even though I am paying the price for my mistake now, I promise you ma that I will still be the woman I was born to be. If you will just help me in taking care of this child, I will go to school and pick up the thread of my life from where I left it. I will still make you and daddy proud. God has forgiven me. Mummy please forgive me too and give me your blessings".

They held each other and cried while Nene's auntie looked on with sympathy. Mama Nene told Abigail later that night while she narrated the story that she was touched by her daughter's speech.So touched indeed that for the first time she felt that the situation was not that hopeless. That there was a huge possibility thats something good could come out of all of this.

My vision was blurred with the tears that filled my eyes as Abigail concluded her narrative. I was touched with the feeling of Nene's heavy burden. I cried also because I wondered if there was nothing I could have said to her during all those hours we spent talking that would have turned her away from the path she eventually took. I felt I had not been emphatic enough to warn her about little games young people play that could change their lives for ever. It angered me that the boy in question could conveniently stand apart from it all while Nene took the entire brunt of their mistake. My pillow was wet with my tears that night. Sleep eluded me.

My Nene, my little Nene has been forced to grow up in this manner because of a few minutes of indiscretion.Somehow, I too felt that all hope was not lost for her.If I had had the chance to see her before she was shipped off,I would have told her the very same words she said to her mother. That the story of her life need not end here but out of all this shame, she could rise again and become the woman she was born to be.

I guess I would just wait and see how it all plays out. Please join me in saying a prayer for Nene.

** -- I started working on this post last month.

PS: I just confirmed that Nene had her beautiful baby girl a few days ago.
Pascal's family took care of all the hospital bills and they're paying a stipend monthly for the upkeep of the baby.
Mama Nene has insisted on caring for the child herself.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is just a short note to wish everyone a Happy Valentine's day!

Let's make the extra effort to put a smile on someone's face today and spread the joy all around.

Let your love show and let everyone know that love is one of the few things that we get more of by giving it away.

Happy Valentine!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lost in America III

My feet were beginning to hurt and the cold was biting the tips of my fingers and toes. I was getting hungry and I badly needed to drink some water.
One by one, the true inhabitants of Downtown Houston started coming out. Several homeless people were setting up their cardboard homes for the night.

I saw a group of young boys laughing raucously and passing a lit cigarette (might have been weed or crack) around. They were mostly black. I'm not sure why but for the first time that night, I became really afraid.

I thought of calling Steve but I felt that he already had his hands full with Isabel's illness.Even if I did get to find a telephone, I had no idea what his number was! There was no way to contact him or anyone else for that matter. I had left my little diary in my other handbag.

I knew for a fact that I was lost and alone. That's when the tears came.

There I was, a full grown woman, thousands of miles away from home, hopelessly lost in America. I cried quietly to myself, occasionally letting out a groan when there was no one else close by. I cried because I was angry with myself. I cried because I was afraid. I cried because I felt so stupid and silly at the same time.

Most of the shops and eateries were beginning to close further reducing my chances of getting help.
Up ahead, I saw a concrete bench and beside it a lone lamp post. I judged it safe enough so I went over and sat down. My teeth were beginning to chatter. My jacket was proving to be no match for the cold. There was a numbness in my toes and I wished I'd worn more comfortable shoes. I held my head in my hands marveling at my mind for being so blank at a time like that.

I do not remember now what it was exactly that caught my attention.

Across the street from me, there was this huge woman. She was talking to a smallish man but they were the least of my problems at the time otherwise, I'd have spared them 2 minutes wondering at their relationship and shaking my head at the vast difference between their sizes.

At that particular point in time, the woman started laughing. I looked up and at the same time I saw an old lady walking her dog. The lady was passing in front of the 'mis-matched' couple at just the point when the huge woman doubled over and let out a loud laugh."Buhahahaha!"
The smallish man must have been saying something funny because the woman just kept on letting out loud deep bellied laughs. She spooked the dog which took off suddenly jerking her owner after her.

It was funny to watch the old lady being nearly dragged by her dog. Funny enough to make the smallish man join the huge woman as their bodies were wracked with great feats of laughter. The huge woman was laughing so hard that she nearly lost her balance and had to support herself by holding on to a sign post.

I caught myself smiling and somehow that reminded me that I hadn't yet sent up a prayer for help. I looked up and said a really short prayer. It was short because I had barely completed my sentence when my eyes caught something.

It was the sign post. The same one that the huge woman was holding on to for support. How come I hadn't seen it before?
My brows furrowed as I squinted, looking intently at the words on the sign post. And then I started smiling as I mentally slapped my forehead, as if to say, "You stupid girl!".
Without thinking, I got up from where I'd perched on the concrete bench and crossed the street. The huge woman was trying to catch her breath but I judged she would live. I looked up at the street sign, it was pointing to a street that turned off the street I was standing on and sure enough, it said "Congress St."

Hah! Congress street! Thank you Jesus! I'd been so intent on finding 'Fannin Street' that I'd completely forgotten all about Congress Street. The Metro lady had said my 008 bus would pick me up at the corner of Fannin & Congress

but I one-sidedly stuck to the word 'Fannin'. I had been walking several streets parallel to Fannin all along!

The bus driver wasn't wrong in the general direction to which he had pointed. It would have helped if he had specifically asked me to go two streets further. Sure enough, as I walked along Congress, I got to a stop sign and there was the METROrail train approaching. I was too tired to mentally slap my forehead again. After the train passed, I crossed the street and there was Fannin staring me right in the face!

It had been nearly two hours since I had braced my self and taken that first step. Two hours of being lost, tortured by the cold. As I sat on one of the benches provided at the bust-stop, I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time.
It wasn't long before my 008 bus arrived. It was a huge relief to find it warm and inviting. My body needed some thawing out.

I walked home from the bus-stop, slowly counting my steps. My mind was blank again, this time I guessed it was blank from relief.

I heard my name. I looked up and there was a man running towards me. There was no fear. I knew it was Steve. I didn't run towards him but I increased my pace. I had never been so glad to see anyone in my life. I let him hold me for a few minutes before I pulled away and we walked home in silence.

At the front door, I pulled out a hanky from my jacket pocket and handed it to Steve. It was still damp from wiping the tears from my face.
I said "Hold it".
He had a question on his face but he held it anyway.
"Feel the dampness?" I continued.
He nodded.
"Those are the tears I cried tonight"
There was a look of concern on his face which quickly gave way to a smile.That one sided smile of his. I smiled back and then we both started laughing. It was laughter born of sweet relief. It sure felt nice to be home again!

PS: - Steve had gone to look for me at the bus stop 4 times already. That was his fifth time after which he'd planned to call the police.

- Isabel had food poisoning, according to the doctors. They were not sure if it was the Ice Cream or something else.
She was allowed to come home three days later but she didn't return to work until after one week.

- I threw my Ice Cream away. Thanks but No, Thanks!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lost in America II

I had ordered some stuff on-line and just as I was about to check out, I was given two options of either having my stuff shipped to me or going to pick them
up at the nearest store.

Selecting the shipping option meant that I had to wait for at least 2 days to get them. "Why wait?" I thought to myself, "When I can get them today from the store?"

That was how the decision was made. Emboldened by the fact that I had found my way to work that morning all by myself with almost no hassles at all, I set out early from the office.

Little did I know that the problems I had encountered whilst trying to find the store was small compared to what I was about to face afterwards.

At the store,the attendant was a nice, young, bespectacled lady but she wasn't the person I had hoped would attend to me.

You see, I had called earlier before leaving the office, to confirm that I was headed to the right store and that they indeed had my package ready.

It was an interesting conversation.

A chirpy voice was at the other end of the line.

"Good morning, My Stuff Stores, how may I help you?"

I told her what my call was about and gave her details of my online transaction so she could confirm it.

She politely asked me to hold and after a few seconds she told me everything was in order and that I could come in anytime to pick up my stuff.

I thanked her and was about to end the call when she said

"Er, madam, may I ask a personal question?"

Out of sheer curiousity and with only a second's pause, I said "Go ahead"

She continued a bit tentatively "What part of Nigeria are you from?"

Her question caught me off guard. It was not so much the personal nature but the specificity of it. I mean, Americans would usually ask you, "What country do you come from?". And in an attempt to buttress their meaning they'll go on " it Jamaica, Africa, the Bahamas....?". As far as they are concerned, Africa is just one large piece of land and regardless of its size, it is classified in their minds as a single country rather than the awesome continent that it is.

With a quizzical look on my face, my reply was more question than statement "Imo State?"

To my astonishment, the breezy American accent quickly changed into a flawless Nigerian one.

"Ah! What part of Imo state?"

I told her and she exclaimed in Igbo "Nwannem Nwanyi!" - My sister!.
She said she could tell by my name, that I was Igbo. It turned out that our respective villages shared boundaries. There was an excited ring to her voice as she continued speaking, her sentences punctuated with Igbo words. We spent all of 3minutes talking as if we were long lost friends.

In that short time, I learned that she'd come to America 2 years before to study but her parents could no longer send her money so she had to get a job.
She said I shouldn't mind her American accent, that she had to take special lessons to perfect it otherwise she would never have got that job. The store didn't want to have their customers chased away by a Nigerian-sounding customer care agent.

Suddenly, she was all professional again, the accent was back and she apologized that her shift ended in 30minutes otherwise she would have loved to meet me.
And that was it,the call ended. No numbers were exchanged, there were no promises of future contact and there was definitely no talk of a meet up somewhere or anywhere for that matter.
As I gingerly placed the phone back into its cradle, I couldn't help but wonder if I had just dreamed the entire conversation up!

The store attendant handed me my package and I was tempted to ask her about a Nigerian lady that worked at the store but whose shift ended at one O'clock.
I didn't, instead I asked if I could use their phone to call the Metro and get directions for my way home. She obliged.

The call was a short one and the directions sounded reasonably easy to follow. I was to take the 66 from the nearest bustop to Downtown Transit Station, from there I was to take the METROrail that would stop me at the corner of Fannin and Congress at that stop, I'd take the 008 home! I wrote down the directions dutifully, thanked the attendant cheerily and I was on my way!

It wasn't long before the 66 came and I hopped on it. We had driven for a while before it occurred to me that I didn't check to see whether the bus was headed TO Downtown or FROM Downtown. The buses often had a sign saying 'South Bound' or 'North Bound' but I never was one who understood bearings so I often asked if the bus was headed towards a particular area or away from it. I spent a few more minutes arguing with myself if it was best to ask a fellow
passenger or the driver himself. Finally, I worked up courage and went to the driver.

He stopped me at the next stop with a sorry look on his face. I had been on the wrong bus! I was supposed to be heading the other way. He was nice though as he explained that I needed to cross over to the other side of the road and I was not to worry, the next bus would arrive in 10minutes. I thanked him and watched as the bus turned the corner and disappeared.

I wanted to slap myself! I stood at that bus- stop for another 20minutes before the real 66 arrived. This time, I was sure to ask the driver "Down Town?".
I waited to see him nod before I slid my ticket into the machine and boarded. I watched as the nightfall quickly descended but I wasn't worried,I knew that getting to DownTown was half-way home.

The Transit Station was the last stop so everyone disembarked, I made sure I was last in line so I could talk to the driver. I asked him where I could board METROrail and he pointed to an arbitrary location towards his left hand side. I followed the motion of his hand squinting as I did just to make sure I saw what I should see. There was no sign of a train so I looked at him with a question in my eyes and he kept pointing in that direction mumbling to himself as he did.

I thanked him and disembarked.

Perhaps I needed to walk over there to see exactly what he was pointing at. I crossed the street thinking to myself that the road was exceptionally wide but for the life of me I couldn't find any tracks let alone the train! I looked back at where the bus had been but it was no longer there and eerily there were no longer any buses parked at the station.

I looked up the road to my left hand side and down the road to my right hand side but it was all smoothly paved, no train track in sight!
I looked at my wristwatch, it was already a few minutes past 7pm. It was January and the weather was quite chilly. It was dark and the streets were quickly emptying. The working population were finding their way home, boarding park-and-ride buses.

And then I had a great idea. It seemed like a great one at the time anyway. I was simply going to walk! Afterall, the Downtown METROrail only served certain streets within the downtown area. Surely the street I sought could not be that far.

I pulled my head warmer down over my ears, raised the collar of my jacket, stuck my hands in the jacket pocket and I took the first step. My confidence level was at an all time high.

"I can do this!"

Everytime I got to a junction, I stopped to read the street name on the sign post before continuing. I had passed about four streets when I thought it wise to ask someone.
I did and he said, "oh, Fannin's just 5 or 6 blocks from here".
I smiled at him, grateful that I was actually headed in the right direction. Eight streets after, I began to question my understanding of the term 'block'. Didn't the distance between 2 streets represent one block?

I was pondering this thought when a man appeared, from no where it seemed, and lunged at me. I shrieked and jumped; my heart in my mouth. My shriek scared him too and he quickly backed away.
He turned out to be a homeless man who was trying to ask me for a few cents. I'd heard of America's homeless people and I was meeting my first one. He wore dirty clothes and his hair which stuck out in clumps from under the hood of his jacket looked like it had been smeared with mud. I pulled my bag closer to my chest, increased my strides and kept walking.

I walked and walked and walked and walked. I still hadn't found a sign that said Fannin. By then it began to occur to me that I'd made a very big mistake.

My confidence faltered.

Friday, January 1, 2010


This is just a short note to wish Blogville a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

2009 was a truly beautiful year for me and you guys helped make my time here both exciting and worthwhile.

The future is already here, and those things we thought we would accomplish in the 'future', we can actually begin to accomplish right now! It's the beginning of another decade. Let's make it count for something.

I pray that 2010 will be for all of us a year of greater fulfilment and accomplishments. Amen!

Once again,