There were days when we grew hips and tended to our hair, mostly because we were cautious for our bodies, not for the rightful reasons but for the luxury of growing up, becoming a girl fully aware of the attraction we hold on boys. It was like melted wax, a light bubbling along the lines of teenage years, exuberance that soon run out. Because as we grew, realities began to set in. we worry for things like what we should eat and bother about eating too much oil that causes pimples. Somehow I feel strange when I birth any intruder on my face because I rarely invite them. It is safe and pleasing to say I have a pimple free life unlike others I know. I hardly get any and when I do, it appears like a marked dot in the middle of the ocean. It bothers me because I suddenly feelstrange. I want to get it off. Somehow a stubborn one always persisted for as long as it pleases.
I wonder to myself, if you fuss so much about just one pimple that stands odd on your face. How would you cope if they came in batches or how do you expect others to feel? Frankly speaking, that should be none of my concern. I care about my body and as much as I do hope others should do so to, it really does not fall in my niche of concern. Maybe if we have some kind of mutual connection because when it comes to body matters, many dispositions are involved.
” No nah, it is just like a game” was my reply when I told someone I played the Texas lottery.
Many people are of the disposition that playing the lottery is tantamount to gambling but that one no concern me oh. Not when money is involved and don’t even give me that crap about the how the love of money is the root of evil. Ye all just like to deceive yaselves and throw things out of context. So if I decIde to particIpate in a lottery game and I win a million bucks, would you say I was gambling or just plain luck? if I give you half of the money, would you take it or let it be? You decide pal.
Besides, there are genuine reasons for setting up this game. For instance, some of the scratch offs were created to cater for schools and veterans. The Texas A and M one dollar scratch off ticket is one fine example. I do not know all the details but I do know we are all playing this game and everyone wants to hit the jackpot!
Let me tell you what happened, remember, I didn’t come here to play, in as much as I have to watch, learn and take my steps one at a time, I am here to milk on the long run, no dulling.
So I played the Texas lottery where I worked about four to five times and I won between 1 dollar to 5 dollars. The highest I ever won in the past was 25 dollars from a 5 dollar scratch off ticket. Call me gambler, your own free thought ticket.
There is this particular lady with “good hands,” anytime she buys a ticket, she always win. Not small money oh, from 20 dollars to 150 dollars on a 5 dollar scratch off ( I know ye all thinking the money is small but haba calm down, you gave 5 dollars and won a hundred? common, don’t be a wide mouth! ) There is this other man that even plays bigger sums, he plays a 50 dollar scratch off and sometimes loses and he still keeps buying. I do not know how some people keep losing and keep buying, not me oh. I am buying just to win please. But on some days, he had good wins.
I was proud of this woman, yes. She wins all the time. I asked her how she manages to know what ticket would win abi she be winch? she says she just chooses anyone she fancy. Ah! you must choose one for me then, me too I want to be a winner. She said no problem. She buys more ticket, told me she needed the receipt, something unusual of her, then handed me a 5 dollar scratch off and the receipt. ” That’s for you” she says. ehn, I was full of thanks. I was excted that oh my goodness, what if I win 1 million from this hand blessed from heaven.
Hehhehehe I waited till noon, scratched off the ticket and frowned that the winning numbers didn’t match, then my eye caught something, I had hit a triple 7 according to the ticket, whatever amount is on the number is tripled and there was a 50 on it. I freaking won 150 dollars from a 5 dollar scratch off that I didn’t even buy. Holy cow! oh my…. I was flabbergasted. hehehehhehe I went happily to the cashier to cash out my money and he told me it was not a winner, my eyes were like “see no dey follow me play rough play oh” but then he said he was joking and was equally excited for me. I was only too happy to share my story to him. Yes keh.
They said we should be humble in the days of small beginnings, here i am, I am humble as shii by being too shocked to realize I just won 150 dollars without working my ass off. Me that I am broke like kinikan. If ye be broke here, oga ya on your own mehn. No Iya Basira, I will pay you later.
Hehheheh maybe you don’t know what that feels like. If someone walks up to you in America and dashes you 50 dollars, note that the holy spirit sent him ‘cos nothing is for free.
So I have 150 dollars in my hands now and I still cannot believe it. Who wants to buy anything, tell me what you want now, heheheheh
And tell me if I should not play more.
Don’t worry, I already bought the 5 dollar lone star combo. I must win by fire by force. Say Amen!
They say America is the land of milk and honey, oh not that it bothered me. Soon enough, it would really bother me when I begin to starve myself. Yuck, my tongue has refused to yield to American food, I mean who does what they did to palm oil? My sweet scented palm oil! What was the thing the guy who made foreign palm oil put in it again? Carotenes? That shii made my tongue
twerk! So I ran 200 miles, yes African store was that far, to the store and bought myself correct palm oil. Organic!
The first time I tasted it, my eyes rolled in my head and I couldn’t bring myself to eat the food.
So from my little arrival hints, I bring you another journal episodes of my new abode.
Six foods I hate in America.
Plantain: No wonder it is on top the list. How can I hate plantain in America? Plantain that I never could do
without in Naija. Back in school, it was either plantain or no food that day. If the plantain wasn’t ready at the cafeteria, I would wait for it, monitor till it was ready before I purchase my food. To the extent that I was
known as the lady who waits for plantain at all cost. One of the guys at my second best cafeteria in school then would even top up my plantain. If six pieces were 20 Naira, I would have a double of it.
Now I am here and I can’t even eat plantain in peace let alone fry one. First of all, I forgot there was electric cooker and most of the time, I burnt food a lot. Who would blame me, I was using the cooking time frame I normally set when cooking on stove for it. It made me remember when i started using gas, Oh lord! the food and pot burnt together! But that’s not the case with plantain oh. The first time I wanted to eat plantain, I was excited as usual and set out to fry, to my horror, it got burnt and the taste was unpalatable. I saw that the oil was fighting war with the plantain on the frying pan as I frustratingly turned this way and that way so it could come out right, but no, the plantain just refused. On the second frying occasion, it got sticky and burnt and looked ugly. Mehn it was like I never knew how to fry plantain but I refused to accept. I mean, we know how these things work, deep frying and shit, even if a plantain ends up sticky and stuff, we know how it turns out but not this one.
That’s not all, I tasted it and I was like plwesse what’s
this? Is this plantain? Terrible. It was nothing like my sweet yummy plantain I ate back home.
After concluding that I had finally lost it on how to fry plantain in this place, I was surprised when one day at church a friend and I were talking and we managed to broach the frying plantain topic and she said, “everything just looks so silly, I would be frying plantain like I don’t know how to fry at all” and there that’s it, I made my point.
I thought I was the only one waging war with plantain oh, I concluded that American plantain is wack or the place we frequently bought the plantain is wack and their plantain too is wack. Shey?
But my saving grace came, we bought some fresh robust looking plantain and I fried them, oh lord it came out beautifully and I grinned. It tasted better but never like my Nigerian plantain.
Rice: ( sits down and smh ) is rice not supposed to be easy and general food for all, no headaches? Maybe it is the product oh but I don’t know what these people did to this rice that anytime I am cooking, it would start foaming on top and sides of the pot like soap, and owing to the weather, when the foamy thing dries up on the pot, it becomes ugly looking and hard to wash off. I hated the sight of boiling my rice and seeing that stuff, I always clean it up immediately. Did I tell you that no matter how you pour vegetable oil in it, it would still foam and stain the whole place and they said no need to wash the rice. Whew, I miss home rice already. Not like I have any choice as long as the rice comes out good on my tongue, rice constitute a half and quarter of my meal potions so who am I to complain of any foam thing
Fruits: *claps hands together* To eat fruits is a problem
for me here, I don’t know whether it is the preservative or whatever concoction these fruits where planted with that upsets my tongue or the look of it. Take banana from a glance, *laughs in Spanish* how can banana look so fresh and sumptuous yet it’s not easy to eat? I will explain. You see how when you buy a banana and you settle down to eat with sweet groundnut? ( oh don’t even let me start on groundnut, *cries* nothing to write home about, one dry thing like what I don’t know. Once my friend said when someone from Nigeria brought groundnuts from home, his taste buds rebelled with him, how could he served them the best groundnuts last after all these years?)
So as I was saying, you peel the banana in one smooth way, taking the body down in threes and working your way down its flesh with your teeth. Not the banana here, you peel banana and it’s like you are fighting. It would refuse to tear away smoothly, you will tug at it and end up messing it, especially when it has become soft at the top. See how fresh the banana looks but the enthusiasm to eat is lost once you start? Even the organic ones too.
Oranges are weird here, normally oranges are round, small, smooth yellowish balls. Once I went to the store to get oranges and I couldn’t decipher if it was an orange or a tangerine! The tangerine is as big as the orange. I don’t even understand this fruit here. Don’t let me start on the taste.
Berries are supposed to be those lovely tasty round balls right? Well, I had a taste of some good ones but when I went to a Chinese restaurant and saw the berries that was served there. I fainted, big ugly things.
Cucumber is so weird I often forget to eat it, it ends up rotten. Anytime I see it at the store, I do minimini mani mor. I am even scared to break open the coconut I bought since the past two years lest I regret it. I can’t eat fruits in peace. I think the fruits I enjoyed are watermelon, the real berries and cantaloupe; that’s like green pawpaw.
Vegetables: Imagine me cooking vegetables and getting frustrated. I used to cook sweet vegetables garnished with orisirisi, plenty assorted. Imagine the horror when I settled to cook veggies with so much happiness that after, I would settle myself to a bowl of Amala and hot assorted, well garnished veggies only to be disappointed! Where did they get these veggies from? Prior to cooking, cutting the veggies was like tugging at a rope that would refuse to come off. It was hard because it was slippery, even in the pot, it was slippery, outside the pot , on a plate, slippery and the taste- just funny!
How can I explain to you that since I came, I haven’t eaten correct vegetables. Recently things got better, I ate one vegetable like that. Oh how glad I was, cutting it was even fun, the normal way you cut vegetables like slices not the one I would be pursuing to cut.
Chicken: I cannot emphasize how tired I am of eating soft chicken that looks like chewing soft eba. The chicken here has no struggle. Boil it only for two seconds and you are good to go, the things they inject in this chicken, only the grace of God can save one’s physical health because I don’t understand how chicken can be so soft like what I don’t know? Where I come from, chicken is king and it has this peculiar rich taste and smell once it lands on your tongue, even your tommy would welcome the king. Here, the chicken is their meat, eating it everyday is tiring and a bore. Maybe that’s whats makes them bloat or puffed up, I try to avoid chicken. Even roasting the chicken looks funny and tastes horrible to me. Sometimes I eat mostly fish( after struggle to pick a particular one at the store) meat or shaki, the inners, I am always very careful of these things. I hate whatever it was rubbed or preserved in.
Milk: Oh my! Where do I want to start from? They said the milk here is nutritious bla bla and those ones we take back home is full of dietary problems but me don’t mind oh. Bring back my peak milk! The day I tried to use the watery, not sweetened milk to drink garri (thank God there is garri ooh) I regretted it. I was like, please! The only thing that I use this milk for is to take cereal, this honey made cheerios, it sweetens the dull taste of the milk. And I also use it to take Milo ( thank God there is Milo oh) the choco drink comes out fine with that milk. But to drink that milk alone? Never! I knew my drinking garri escapades would turn out victorious when I saw peak powdered milk at African store but it was short lived when I did the garri process: milk, sugar, groundnuts. That peak milk taste wasn’t just there! Something was missing in that mix up, was it the milk or the groundnuts or the garri? I thought they wrote ijebu garri on it so what’ s the problem?
And I wondered, is there a different way these producers made products in different countries or what is this now?
The other day, I wanted to eat noodles and I am like, this would be good but no, it wasn’t good, it was like amoeba was dancing inside me or like I was swallowing human head, I had to throw it away. I later bought indomie noodles at the African store but ladies and gentlemen, the Nigerian indomie noodles and American indomie noodles are not brothers, they are distant cousins.
There are other food choices I am still getting used to, while some are ravishing enough to be eaten, others look as awful as it tastes and the particular smell
associated with some food turns me off. I am tired of not eating fresh food like back home, even the tomatoes is a problem, too pretty to be true. The tin tomato is worse. My jollof rice was just a joke. How can tomato
lasts for days inside the fridge and not soften? It’s a lie, I refuse to believe, the preservatives or injection in it must be strong and that makes it condemned by me because I want fresh! I rarely come across a soft tomato, back home you can’t save tomato for weeks without it turning to a pulp or become soft. Even the pepper is big like, I have never seen big pepper like this ones before ooh. Cooking fried rice was a sin as everything came packaged, please who does that? Developed country, everything nice, easy and smooth but this is style style suffering, my taste buds are suffering and my hands cooketh but in vain! So I don’t get to chop the carrots and greens and stuffs and just pour it in but it still doesn’t look great or taste great. Or is it that I am missing something? Maybe I need to calm down and patiently look for a place to get my food choice and preferences. Is there any? Or maybe I should get used to it but the question is, will my taste buds agree?
I may have considered snacking but I love my stomach, plenty sweet things doesn’t always sit right inside me so I try to avoid them.
Eating for me is terrible and I am still trying to find out what works. For now, I eat only the obvious, rice, bread, spaghetti etc.
It’s like my whole eating routine is upside down and I am on the verge of eating disorder. Thank goodness for African store by the way else, rice and the likes is already growing on my head.
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When I walked through beautiful Dubai airport, (jeez…from the tarmac to the airport itself was like from Yaba to Unilag, even farther) and made my way to Dallas Fort Worth, they termed my luggage agriculture because I carried one ghana must go bag. You see at MMA, Muritala Airport, my bags over weighed, only the 350 naira turned 800naira ghana must go bag helped my condition. So when I wheeled my bags looking bone faced after a long flight, the black check out security guy smiled at me. I smiled back. I know, Nigerian, he smelt me.
“I eat fufu” he told me later in his American accent. “Oh that’s great” I replied excitedly in my Nigerian accent.
“What’s this?” He searched my ghana must go bag, bringing out some items amidst some books and clothes. He didn’t even eye my other luggage.
“Oh that’s garri.. ( I took garri with me, even with Lassa fever, garri that kan for that matter, iyalaya lassa fever).
“Yea, that’s iru” “That’s egusi”
I even took dried ugu. He nodded and smiled while closing the bag “You cook?” I nodded in the affirmative. “Oh I saw books, you are a reader, I like you already”
I smiled and nodded even though I knew I wouldn’t be reading my new books anytime soon.
“You are too young to know how to cook” And my mind went like chisos!
How old do you think I am? 16?
I bade him goodbye and stepped my feet in America for the first time, breathing the American air. There was no enthusiasm, i was not feeling myself, everything seemed normal, it even looked like I was still at home because I did not see the fuss, the pomp and pageantry, the welcome to America, land of milk and honey thing. I did not see anything. Maybe later, time told me but I knew I was not seeing anything at that moment.
I was just not excited, perhaps the air hostess who contemplated whether to smile at me when passengers were getting off the plane and i looked blankly and uninterested could testify.
And the two white guys that sat beside me in the second plane were way too amused to understand when i rejected the hostess’ servings. Emirates had a way of killing you with food, the menu was endless. And of course, with food my tongue had never tasted nor liked.
I admit I was fascinated and inquisitive on the first plane and the food was quite alright and I relaxed because the plane was not full of people unlike the second one. I was still not buying it. Even the air hostesses could tell, the guy who was en route Dubai with his brother and who collected my email was excited that I was heading to America and he himself could tell I was not. Everybody seemed excited but I wasn’t, it felt like a normal trip.
Now, as the car passed by and I looked out the window stupefied, i knew there would be more stories to tell.
Stories and observations that would later amuse, irritate and upset me. Later, few weeks in America, I would ponder and write on these scenes because it reminded me of the security guy at the airport who thought I was too young to know how to cook.
For instance, at church, the nine year old with her American accent and dabbling mouth walks up to me to familiarize. That was after another 11 year old came to greet me in that childish exuberance.
“Hello” she said, patting my braids in fascination, it was black and white.
“Say good morning, what is hello?”
The nine year old asked, ” how old are you?”
I chuckled, i didn’t answer. Such audacity but then, this ain’t Nigeria. The other day I called one coconut head and he started to cry. I just laughed.
Another playful boy had joined us and he blurted out my age. My baby brother, the one I could have given birth to before being relegated as mom number two. Hahaha.
“Oh my God, you look 18!” Nine year old shouted and a grin spread across my face.
Now I was going to partly ghost write a book. I paused the audio recorder on my phone while the client checked her notes.
My hair was all tucked in, I was with a face cap. What was I thinking when I followed my boss to the conference hall? This is not Nigeria, suit and stuff. The client was wearing boots and trouser, Nah… it’s pants. Nigeria calls it trouser just as cray fish is shrimp and gum is glue. These words and spellings i learnt more as my days would stretch.
So I am casual, i looked like a piece of broom except for the usual feminine assets, the face cap betrayed me. She turned and asked, ” how old are you?” I told her. “Oh my God, you look 18!” ” I get that a lot ” I replied indifferently.
I pondered on my mind, maybe I need to wear Aso oke like my church members and tie gele so everyone can stop telling me I look 18 and gimme small respect without intruding questions.
Of course, i would not know these things would happen until i encountered them as days roll into weeks and into months. But as i was picked from the airport that moment and i watched the roads and saw the houses and the calmness of the streets, i pondered on how living the American life would be. Then i noticed everywhere was too dead and i may probably not survive. So i asked, “the road is scanty, where is everybody?”