Tag Archives: London

Am I Light-Skinned?

I understand the title of this post probably looks ridiculous but it’s a genuine question I’ve asked myself since moving to Nigeria. Here’s why:

I was born and bred in beautiful Barnet, North London. Unfortunately, some of the characters I came across were not as pleasant as my home-town. I vividly remember being called a Paki by loud-mouthed idiots that were not brave enough to leave the cars they hurled racist words from and say it to my face. My Pakistani friend at university didn’t believe me when I later told him about this because let’s face it, you would have to be more foolish than a fool to call a black person a Pakistani.

Being racist is stupid — no doubt about it. Some racists, like the ones I unfortunately encountered growing up, reserved that special type of foolishness that still amazes me. I read an interesting article today about the secret double life of Nicky Crane — a gay neo-Nazi that organised and participated in many unprovoked violent attacks in London against ethnic minorities. In a television interview in 1992 Crane said,

“Adolf Hitler was my God…He was sort of like my Fuhrer, my leader. And everything I done was, like, for Adolf Hitler.”

During Adolf Hitler’s regime, historians say 50,000 homosexuals were branded criminals and degenerates and as many as 15,000 died in concentration camps. Like I said, being racist is stupid.

20131205-173859.jpgYet, despite the confusion displayed by the people mistaking me for being from South Asia, I was very aware that I was black. I went to a secondary school with few black people and I don’t remember anyone ever saying anything about the shade of my skin colour. Black was black. Even when I moved to a new secondary school with lots more black people, black people’s skin shade was hardly brought up in discussions.

I’m the darkest in my family so I didn’t for a second ever consider myself fair-skinned. I remember years ago meeting my little sister near school and my friend saw her and said,

“Man, your sister is so pretty! She’s so light! What the hell happened to you?!”

I kid you not.

So, you should by now understand why I’m confused about this recently new notion that I’m light-skinned.

Since moving back to Nigeria a few months ago, I’ve been hearing left, right and centre things along the line of:

Kai, you’re so fair!
Yellow pawpaw!
Afin (Yoruba for albino)

Me?

While waiting for my colleague to get money from the cash machine yesterday, a lady approached me and asked me to stand in the shade. My other colleague with me said that if she was in the sun without me, the lady wouldn’t tell her to move to the shade. She said the only reason the lady was concerned was because of my skin colour! I remember constantly being told in a previous job here in Nigeria to stop making calls under the sun and move to the shade before I turn dark…again, I kid you not.

I’m forever telling people that I don’t care what colour I am. I like when I get tanned because my skin looks fresher and more golden. I can not imagine what would possess me to ever think about damaging my skin just to make it lighter. I told another colleague (check out her blog here) the title of this post and asked if she thought I should include the fact that I don’t bleach my skin at all. She said the first thing everyone reading in Nigeria would say is that I probably do bleach! Argh!

I’m still surprised when I’m called light-skinned because I’ve never seen myself as anything but black. I’m obsessed with my skin being smooth, not the shade. So although I’ve asked you if I’m light-skinned in the title, the truth is, I don’t actually care. Do you?

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Why I’m Glad to be Back in Nigeria.

If you read my last post you’ll probably find the title of this one ironic. Two months ago I happily left Nigeria thinking I’d only return once my family there complained I hadn’t visited in years. Yet, here I am – back where I almost vowed never to be again.

Most of the people closest to me have asked me why I’m crazy enough to want to be back. I had just settled afresh into life in London and it felt so good being around my family and friends. Despite feeling adamant I was ready to plant my roots in London for good, I found opportunities (well they sort of somehow found me), pulling me right back to this troubled West African land.

When I asked myself why I was leaving again, I was disappointed to find that it wasn’t because of a natural pull towards my motherland, or the belief I was needed in Nigeria to make it a better place. It just isn’t that deep. I’m back because of an opportunity that’s arisen. If a great opportunity came up in Syria I would probably move there because I just don’t love my homeland or any land enough to forgo a new opportunity just because it’s out of my comfort zone.

I understand that this way of thinking isn’t for everyone but neither is my profession. Right now I have the energy to travel around the world and learn new things while I’m at it. I don’t have baggage in my life to complicate my passion for travelling so I can’t think of a valid reason to avoid beginning a new life away from home, if there’s a chance it will make me, a better me…

Here’s the thing with a new experience, it can be daunting and sometimes feel really uncomfortable but the really important things happen outside of your comfort zone. Someone once told me when I was getting nervous about moving to New York that I would really find out who Enô is while I was away. Being stripped of the influence friends and family have over you will do that to you – make you really find yourself. Sounds super corny but its true.

I found this note. Can’t remember where but it really made me smile:

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Couldn’t have put it better myself. The title of this post perhaps should have been, “Why I’m glad to be relocating.” Nigeria might not have been my first choice but my new job is. I can’t wait to share what I’ll be doing with you but until then, wish me luck. In Nigeria, delays in job start-dates are unfortunately common.

Be adventurous, see the world and learn something new.

Why I’m Glad I left Nigeria

*SPOILER ALERT* Contrary to what the title of this post suggests, you’re not about to read a country-bashing entry.

This time last year I was in a state of utter confusion. I was living in New York and loving it – had made great friends, had a cool place and really loved my job. However, I also knew if I didn’t get my ass out of America in a months time, I’d probably have immigration folk sending me back on a one-way (never to return) ticket to England!

Leaving far too many belongings behind, (thought I’d be back in a jiffy) I left to London excited scared of what the future had up its sleeve for me. I desperately wanted to return to New York ASAP but evidently Mr. Future had a different idea.

I spent most of my days watching daytime television, chatting with my sister and playing with my nephews. I freelanced writing stories for an American news startup for a few hours a day but still felt totally jobless. It was time for change and Nigeria seemed the best place for that change.

If you read the post I wrote just before I left London for Nigeria to start my new job, you’ll see that deciding to relocate was not an easy decision to make. I had to say goodbye to my family and friends (and constant electricity) with the hope that I would have an amazing adventure without getting kidnapped!

My eight months in Nigeria was definitely the craziest period in my life! There were days where I was ready to throw in the towel but then there were also days that I truly felt moving out there was the best decision my dad I had ever made! At work I was pushed to achieve and encouraged to be as creative as I could. Despite the many challenges any journalist or even worker will inevitably face working in Nigeria, my confidence, skills and wisdom definitely rose. Nigeria has a way of forcing you to be decisive, slightly aggressive and most importantly, street-smart – areas I definitely had room for improvement in.

Nevertheless serious events in my Motherland really made me homesick and ready to leave. I was still prepared to stay after the fuel subsidy crisis but the mother of all disasters occurred after. Exactly three months ago I lost someone incredibly dear to my heart. He wasn’t killed by the car crash he was in but by incompetence, mismanagement, negligence and greed. The same killers that were responsible for the Dana Air crash that took place a few days ago.

In this day and age, a patient in Nigeria with serious injuries could face not being attended to until morning if they were injured at night. Someone with internal bleeding could be sent to another hospital because the hospital is ill-equipped and doesn’t have blood. In short, many Nigerian hospitals suck so God help anyone who gets a serious injury there…

Perhaps if I hadn’t experienced my loss, I wouldn’t have been able to fully comprehend why many Nigerians on my Twitter timeline tweeted such bitter anti-government/anti-Nigerian establishment tweets like these:

“@Austinokonakpan: We have given them reasons to ground Dana but who can help us suspend this terrible leadership in Nigeria?”

“@Steve_eko: 4get about d national flag, if most politicians fly their greed at half mast for just 1 second we’ll have a better country”

“@omojuwa: How many times have you been driven in a Lagos bus where you suspected the driver was “managing” the brakes? #Nigeria”

“@Mekus_Mekus: Pls FG suspend DANA and jail all the Indian owners”

The fact is, there is sooooooo much work to be done in Nigeria. More than I’m prepared to wait for, which is why I’m (sadly) happy to not be there any more. I’m someone who gets incredibly frustrated by the lack of good governance I see in the world and thus find it difficult to live where I see the result of bad governance daily. When I lived in New York I actually tried to stop reading articles about UK politics shortly after David Cameron became Prime Minister. I was sure his party’s changes would grind my gears so I decided to be a wise monkey (similar to my attitude towards watching Nigeria’s football team).

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Things did get bad and I only managed to abstain from UK political articles for a day or so anyway! I could follow what was going on but from a distance. A bad attitude? Definitely. Alas, I found myself exactly a year after the general election booking my flight back to London. Perhaps frustration can be deemed a virtue when it motivates one to fight for positive action? I think that’s Nigeria’s saving-grace – the people’s frustration. It is what makes them take to the streets and demand for change….So although I’m glad to be away from the fight for now, I’m sure (if I know myself well) I’ll at some point want to be back fighting. Not a physical fight but the good fight I like to believe I can have via my reporting.

So as usual, this post has been incredibly therapeutic as I have come to realise exactly why I’m glad I left Nigeria — I’m a big baby not ready to “fight”. Since I said goodbye to the greatest man I knew, Nigeria stopped feeling like home. I lost the one person that made me feel confident in my decision to move there in the first place… Perhaps one day Nigeria will again feel like home but for now I’m happy to be in my other home – London.

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