Preview of the 2014 Review

*strolls into empty abandoned movie theatre*

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

How many times do blog owners have to apologize for not being regular with their posts? If I thought last year was sparse for content on here, then 2014 was an absolute drought! Will I apologize? Yes. Will I make any excuses? No. Will I make any promises? Hahaha!!

We have finally reached the time in the year where we look back on the year. We have done this for 3 years now (this is the 4th edition) and the general feeling is that reading these true life stories is often the most moving personal experience of the blog year.

But, 19th Street shuts down on this address tonight. Tomorrow, we move to our permanent site. Stories.ng

I wish I could carry you all there to the Promised Land. But alas, in my migration I have to manually transport you all there. By road, by air, by water or by you subscribing on the new site.

There are plans for Stories.ng. I will share those when they are ripe. But for now? Get ready for the 2014 Guest Blog Review on Stories.ng.

Love you all. See you tomorrow by 9 am. On Stories.ng. 🙂

I Am Not Guilty

I’m struggling with a moral or ethical question. Yesterday I denied my friend in public and I don’t know how I could have done better. I never thought I’d be in the shoes of the biblical Peter who denied his Christ in his worst hour but here I am.

Yesterday Bolu burst into the exam hall one hour late, wearing his pyjamas bottom and a singlet. I could see him looking around wildly for me as he called out my name to vouch for his sanity as the invigilators and security tried to drag him away.

I told Bolu. I told Bolu to take it easy last night when he woke me up at 1 a.m. to ask me a projectile calculation question. I was so deep in sleep I even thought it was just 11 p.m. Only after the call ended did I see it was so late. And we were to be at the exam venue for accreditation by 7 a.m! I didn’t have credit to call him back so I went back to bed and fell asleep almost immediately.

When I’d sat down in my hall earlier that morning, I hadn’t even thought of Bolu until we were told to take our phones and bags to the front. I remembered he was the last person on my phone just 7 hours ago and it occurred to me to give him a call to check if he’d settled in his hall. I also realized I didn’t have any call credit or time to recharge online. I said a prayer for him and sat down on my assigned seat.

The test must have gone on for about an hour when suddenly there Bolu was at the door! Eyes bulging and rolling like an epileptic, veins twice the size of those on a footballer’s leg popping from his neck, his shrill intelligent voice shattering the peace of the exam environment like a crazed banshee. He was pleading and threatening alternately, fighting desperately to enter my hall. I could have spoken up for him but I found myself tongue-tied as he delivered a solid head butt to the main invigilator.

After the head butt was delivered, things went downhill quickly. The standby medical ambulance was called (apparently they were always on hand for mental breakdowns of students in exam hall situations). They were about to take Bolu away from the exam hall and away from his dreams. He pretended to calm down, explaining gently that he wasn’t mad, unable to keep his breathing or darting eyes under control.

Nobody listened to him. Other students in the hall were actually taking the opportunity of the distracted invigilators to exchange answer sheets and cross reference solutions. I couldn’t speak up for Bolu, I might have been punished for his violent head butt, or worse still, carted off to the psychiatric hospital along with him. After he was dragged away I struggled to focus on my remaining questions and finish the test.

Now I’m on my bed. I’m to leave town this morning back to our diploma school. Bolu and I were supposed to travel together to go complete our clearance but he’s locked away in the hospital. I don’t know how to bring myself to face him. What would I say to him? That I wrote the exam and it went well? That I saw him at my door and refused to stand up for his sanity? The alternative is to go complete my clearance quickly and start at my new school without ever seeing Bolu again. He would hate me yes but from outside the school, because he wasn’t able to get in. But how can I live with this on my conscience? What if he encounters one of my unborn children in the future and decides to initiate a generational vendetta?

I need your advice people. *sigh*

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Friends come and friends go,
but a true friend sticks by you like family.
(Prov. 18 vs. 24, The Message)

I Am Not Mad

Please tell my family to come get me out of this place! I’m in Ward 9 of the psychiatric hospital, Uselu and I’m terribly frustrated with my life at this point.

This all started three days ago when we were informed that direct entry students would have to write post-entrance exams just like the other intending freshmen. We had no prior warning and this was the first time we diploma holders were to be included in this silly exam. There were also no past questions to prepare with because of this.

I could not let my family down. I had failed the matriculation exam two years ago and opted for the diploma programme to pass the time while I tried again the next year. When I was given physics instead of my preferred mechanical engineering, I decided to just go ahead with the diploma, promising my parents I’d end all this back and forth this year, with a direct entry admission. So failing this test was unthinkable. I had to burn the midnight oil!

My first thoughts when I opened my eyes this morning were about how bright the sun was. Something was wrong. Surely it wasn’t afternoon when I slept off. What was today’s date? Was it not today I had my life changing exam? I couldn’t be bothered with brushing my teeth or bathing or changing clothes. I grabbed my exam slip and pen from my study table and ran out the door without bothering to check the time. By the angle of the sun, it must have been risen for about an hour!

I jumped on the first okada (motorcycle transport) available. I couldn’t wait for the passenger he’d just dropped to find the change to pay. I promised to pay her bill along with mine. Somewhere along the very bumpy road I realized I hadn’t taken any money with me. I decided to wait till I got to my destination before settling the rider. Somehow he didn’t buy my story of being late for an exam. He was seeing me on the university campus for the first time and to be fair to him, I must have looked slightly demented asking him to trust me to pay as soon as I had the cash.

Well, I ran off. He chased me. We turned a few heads as we ran zigzag through the student crowds. I could already see the success chances of my future toasting attempts going down the drain but it was a small price to pay to get to the hall in time. At a particularly sharp corner he grabbed hold of my pyjamas top. I wriggled out of it faster than Houdini would have and continued my race like a boy with a Bunsen burner to his butt.

Like the biblical wife of the Egyptian jailer, the bike rider gave up his chase and held on to my Josephic cloak, shouting threats of capturing me at the gate on my way out. I couldn’t be bothered. I just hoped whatever time I had left would be enough for the exam. Of course I couldn’t even remember what the bike man looked like and now that he’d stolen my pyjamas top, I had no intention of paying anything. He could sell the pyjamas top and settle my debt.

The silence on the exam corridors scared me. Everyone was so orderly and writing quietly. On getting to the exam hall, I overheard the invigilator say they had one more hour to go. One more hour?! Out of two hours for the paper I’d lost one hour already?! I burst into the classroom and begged for question papers and an answer sheet, brandishing my exam slip in the invigilator’s face (now that I think back, it must have been too close to his eyes for him to see).

He refused me entry. He said I was too late. I ignored him and went to the stack of question papers and answer sheets and grabbed my copy. I looked for a vacant desk and sat down immediately to begin writing. But they simply would not get out of my way. They came, overzealous security staff, snatching my paper and hustling me out, claiming I was mentally unstable. They didn’t even let me keep my exam slip.

I went looking for my friend Adebisi. I hoped she’d be able to clear my name and vouch for me. I remembered she was writing for Computer Science but when I got to her hall I couldn’t find her. I was hardly given a chance to. There was a big struggle at the door and before I knew it, the medical staff were rushing me to the psychiatric hospital.

I’ve been here for 10 hours. I want to go home and lick my wounds. I don’t know where my friend is and I don’t know what to tell my parents. I’m just tired and depressed. I don’t know what to do with my life at this point.

A cheerful disposition is good for your health;
gloom and doom leave you bone–tired.
(Prov. 17 vs. 22, The Message)

Ajala’s Travels

This year I had the chance to visit Europe with the wifey. It was more like an exploration visit to find a city we would love to visit again.

Paris was nice and cliche. I think everyone should go there see the fashion on the streets and the designer shops and climb the Eiffel tower and go on the River Siene. Still, the city was so touristy and almost too well planned.

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Rome had a lot of fine buildings but that was it. I don’t know how that city once ruled the world. Now the people there look so ordinary and all they’re left with are their impressive buildings and the Colosseum. Seeing the arena at the Colosseum was nice though. I didn’t know before then that the word arena was derived from the Latin for sand.

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I think our favorite city was Barcelona. The food was a bit closer to what we were used to! Meat! In abundance! Not like the small cubes of meat presented in other restaurants with the name Meat Special on the menu. If you see a Brazilian restaurant anywhere please empty your stomach and go in and pay whatever they ask you to pay. Eat whatever they set before you too. I had the chance to taste croc meat and it was just awesome. (Please it was just there, like roasted chicken).

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Why did we love Barcelona? We went on the guided bus tour. We went to the aquarium. We saw the Flamenco!!! The inhabitants of Barcelona didn’t speak much English. Even the helpers and staff in uniforms didn’t understand us much. Google maps was all over the place in Spanish. On one occasion we were on a high speed train out of the city when we realized that we must be going the wrong way. It was so funny because the maps were all finished and the other people in the train could communicate with us only using sign language. After lamenting the lack of English education in the country (very high level of unemployment in Spain) we laughed about it and consoled each other.

The level of depression in the country was a bit palpable. There were no fancy fashion exploits on the streets like we saw in Paris. We began to appreciate the value of football as a unifying beacon of hope for the country. Like Rome, Spain was truly a shadow of what we’d read it was. Still, when it was time to leave we found it difficult to drag ourselves away and promised we’d be back.

Traveling is good for the soul.

See y’all tomorrow people.

There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough;
look again––it leads straight to hell.
(Prov. 14 vs. 12, The Message)

Heart Robber

The lazy afternoon haze was suddenly electrified by the Mart alarm ringing loudly. It was not just the alarm sound (shoppers were used to it tripping off sometimes), but also the loud shouts of the security guard as he chased after the pretty girl trying to escape with a large shopping bag.

I’d spotted her at the self-checkout counter. I remembered her because of her green scarf and the fact that I wondered whether her goods weren’t above the limit to use the self-checkout machine. She’d carefully avoided eye contact but I could see she was beautiful from the few times she’d looked up. Now there she was, fleeing so desperately so as not to be caught. And she was running my way.

I had a momentary lull in my default thought pattern. If it were a middle aged man or I’d have tackled him to the ground or placed a solid shoulder in his path. But this was a lady, wearing glasses and heels, looking pretty and delicate but very determined. I’d never wrestled a lady before. Should I trip her off her high heels? Would her glasses not break if she fell and cause her injury?

I found myself tackling the guard to the ground instead. I just wanted the lady to escape and be grateful to me. I wasn’t really thinking about this plan. She hadn’t really noticed me. Where was I going to meet her again and ask her number? And what was going to be my opening line? “Hey I was the guy who rescued you the other day you were shoplifting”? Yeah right. My chivalry was totally senseless in the first few seconds of hindsight. I would even be made to pay for her crime with no romantic rewards.

To my surprise she stopped running when she saw I’d tackled him. She came back slowly while I was engaged in my little thankless scuffle and began to look closely at my face. Her return made our fight unnecessary and we both got up slowly. The guard asked for her shopping bag while I looked on, sullen, adjusting my jumper.

She rescued me much easier than I thought. She gave her bag to the officer and apologized for running out because she thought she was missing her flight. I did not know what to make of this. The item in question was a small toning cream which she promptly paid for and was done in no time. I sheepishly hung around until she came back out and saw me.

I offered to drop her at the bus stop and we left the mall together. We talked and the conversation got personal very quickly. We felt so comfortable around each other it felt like we were siblings. I was surprised that she had a Trinidad accent, just the second or third such person I’d ever met. When I told her it was my favorite accent in the world, she said the same about my Nigerian accent. She said it was rich and creamy, like a mocha. I was flattered and took to her instantly. We exchanged numbers and I dropped her off.

It wasn’t until later that evening I realized I couldn’t find my phone. My iPhone 5S! I had given it to her to type in her digits and she’d offered to fill in her name too since it was difficult to spell. I think I got so carried away I didn’t realize I was being robbed. My security lock on the phone had been bypassed in the process but the invasion of privacy was not my main concern. My disappointment was that I’d been scammed by a pretty thief, robbed not only of the Apple of my i’s but of my heart as well. Was I that gullible and easy?

Tracking my stolen phone wasn’t difficult. My first surprise was that the location of the phone on my tracking website remained relatively constant. It was either she wasn’t using the phone or she never went out. On the third day I couldn’t get an update on the phone’s location. I assumed the phone battery had died or worse, the phone had been jailbroken and sold.

In my panic I rushed to the address on the map. What I would do to her I wasn’t sure yet. Somehow this adorable thief was too pretty and innocent looking to be apprehended for stealing. How much did an iPhone cost anyway? I could wait a few months and get the iPhone 6 instead.

I pushed open the flat door after a few rings of the bell. I wasn’t prepared to wait all day for someone who might not even live there. The next surprise was how disorganized the sitting room was. Teddy bears, toy cars, clothes, bags, watches, shoes and even some hotel branded towels and curtains. I even saw an inflatable bed in the corner. Were all these items stolen? What was this? Where was Tricia the pretty thief?

She walked out of the kitchen wearing nothing but a green scarf, the green scarf, around her neck and white ear plug headphones. She didn’t look shocked to see me even. The whole scene was the opposite of what I’d normally do to a thief. I was supposed to be upset and raging and threatening, but here I was, embarrassed that I couldn’t keep my eyes off the delectable mounds of the well rounded pretty stranger thief.

She smiled at me and walked to a sofa next to the inflatable bed and sat down, crossing her legs and adjusting the scarf just enough to play over her nipples. It was obvious she did it more for my benefit and that she was pleased to see me. Perhaps if I didn’t look so shocked she’d have given me a hug in all her glorious nakedness. Alas, I’d lost that opportunity.

I began to stammer. Somehow I didn’t know how to bring up the subject of why I came. Why was it so hard? When I finally mumbled about a missing iPhone, she looked blank, like she’d never seen any such thing. She laughed and asked why I didn’t dial my number and ask for my phone. Then I realized why I couldn’t be angry at her. Secretly I wanted to meet her again, to know where she lived, to see her again and hear her lovely, milky voice.

I told her some story which none of us believed and she suggested we see a movie right there. After she cleared a space next to her naked bum on the seat for me, I began to feel overdressed. I acquiesced, looking for a socket to charge my phone before taking off my sweater and joining her rather awkwardly on the sofa.

We didn’t really pay attention to the movie. We continued our heart to heart talk as if we’d never taken a break. Somewhere along the line I asked her what she was doing with so many disjointed items in her house. Asking why she stole my precious phone seemed so outrageous at the time it was absurd in my mind. She said she didn’t really have a reason. She saw something, she liked it, she took it. She lived alone so everything I saw was hers. She had no friends and her family lived in the countryside. She didn’t have a steady job either. From time to time she’d visit the pawn shop after a house cleaning to exchange the items for money. She said she took the items from people surreptitiously because “people got mad when they saw me (her) collecting them.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry. I was dealing with a compulsive thief. Kleptomania was a sort of obsessive compulsive disorder. She just felt the world wasn’t arranged properly as long as the shiny items weren’t in her immediate possession. She didn’t even have taste. Gas lighters, match boxes, and fancy thumb drives lay jumbled with gold, jewel necklaces and wedding rings. It was obvious she placed no value on her acquired goods and that she never planned to use them. That was when it occurred to me why my internal justice system broke down around her. She felt no remorse. She wasn’t even sad that she couldn’t keep a job or close friends or that she lived alone. Apparently her dating life was in limbo too and she wasn’t really trying hard to correct that. She was comfortable between her jobless benefits and her pawn shop trips.

One of those times she threw her back and laughed loud I couldn’t help myself. I moved in to kiss her to shut her up. She responded tentatively at first and then passionately and hungrily. When I pulled back, there were questions in her eyes. I had the answers in mine. I would be her protector. I’d cover for her and explain to her future friends and victims. I’d return the items I could identify owners for. I would help her find a job without many opportunities to pick up valuable items carelessly thrown around.

I’d be her shadow of light and we would be Bonnie and Clyde, the good ones. I would steal her heart somehow for myself, like she’d stolen mine at the mall.

The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.
(Prov. 11 vs 25, The Message)

The Klorofyl City Mag Review

Should you read the latest edition of the free graphic e-magazine Klorofyl? I think you should.

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Klorofyl City Issue

I was worried when I was asked to write a review of the magazine because I thought I wouldn’t be critical enough. But now I fear I may not be accurate enough in highlighting its good points. Let’s just dive in anyway.

My first impression of the magazine was a mixed one. So many colours, so many pictures, so many contributors, so many things to see arranged in no particular order. I wasn’t sure I enjoyed being taken on a journey to an unknown destination by people I had never met or encountered in the artistic sense. But my curiosity was sparked and I could not stop flipping the virtual pages till I got to the credits at the end.

The articles are well written and edited (about twenty seven of them). Their most striking feature to me was the desire to communicate and not confuse. I’d be happy to see this in the hands of bored pre-teens nationwide but the medium of the magazine is not one easily accessible to kids (internet access is a problem even for adults here). The links at the table of contents take you to any of the articles or photo rooms you are immediately interested in. This feature I found very handy and thoughtful.

The pictures of Nigeria made me wonder how I had walked past these moments of greatness and significance everyday without taking note. Photography is no longer just a hobby for young people in Nigeria. It truly can be a window to the soul, as these photo shots showed. So if you have a great camera I hope you can be inspired to start taking photos of what you see around you. Who knows? These may be a valuable record for future generations of “the Nigeria of those days”.

The magazine has a Christian tilt, which is difficult to notice even if you’re used to Christian expressions. It would have been very possible to be preachy with the City theme, but when I finished reading I was unable to point to anything remotely religious or suggestive about Klo City.

I’d like to see the back page profiles of contributors removed in future editions of Klorofyl. They were repetitive (they appear at the articles and photo pages already) and implied a board of editors or contributors not open to additions from the public. I can think of no better place to welcome entries from  aspiring writers and photographers than on the credits page.

If I don’t stop here I’d fall into the category of the Nollywood film marketers who practically tell you the entire story before you have a chance to buy and see for yourself. Why would I want to do something so criminal?

When you read The Klorofyl City issue, think about the artist in you and the beauty in your city.

P.S. There are exactly five hundred words in this magazine review.