Tuesday, February 15, 2011
My current job is quite demanding of my time. I work 56 hours a week. I work Monday through Saturday, every week of the year, unless I am on leave or there’s a public holiday, like we are blessed with this week. Unfortunately, when I tell this to my friends and family, it doesn’t sink in. What does sink in is that they are hearing from me a lot less than usual. Working 56 hours a week is taxing both mentally and physically for me. When I get home in the evenings I am exhausted from being up since 5:30, working all day, and closing at 6pm. I eat, run and errand or two and then it’s time to get to sleep in order to do it all over again in the morning. My goal bedtime each night is 9pm. So this gives me only 3 hours from close of business to eat, do what I need to do, and get ready for the next day. This includes grocery shopping, exercise, talking or emailing friends and family. This scheduling is demanding and exhausting.
When I explain to people my hours, they say, wow, oh my god, but then later on they will still complain that I am not calling enough, texting enough, writing enough, yet, I barely have time to eat, breathe, or think, let alone return calls and visit with everyone. I have to be very choosy how I spend my time now. I even work until 1pm on Saturdays. If you get a moment of my time, you are truly blessed, and possibly one of my chosen people.
I am still trying to get used to the demanding hours and get a schedule going. I am trying to work out more which is not happening yet. I hope this week it starts to become more part of my routine than it has been.
So to all of you who have been critical and harsh to me, I am trying my best. Right now, I am trying to take care of myself. My priorities for 2011 is taking care of me, trying to learn to live alone, be more healthy, work on my relationship, and create some security in my world, this includes working hard at my job. So again, all of you who have been expecting more of me and been critical, give me a break or get used to being on the backburner. This may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you, but I am just being honest. I have been getting a lot of criticism lately and I am taking it in stride but sometimes it has a negative affect on me as well. Right now, I need as much positivity in my life as possible. I need a good attitude to get through my long workdays. Living alone and being so alone is very new to me and not easy. I don’t do well living alone on my own. I get very lonely. I am very lonely these days but I have to get used to it because it’s almost impossible for me to spend lots of time with others and take care of everything I need to and get to sleep on time. On the nights that I have my different weekly events I almost never get home before 10 and in bed before 11. This throws off my schedule and I am dragging the next day.
My goal is to have a good breakfast daily. I have bought tickets to eat at the canteen. Breakfast is from 6am-6:45am. I have only made it there once. I have not even ever had time to eat just cereal in my house before I run across the parking lot to work. Not once. So I am not lying when I say I have no time for myself. I truly don’t. It’s already the middle of February and I am wondering where the first month and a half of the year has gone. I have barely been touching on my goals of the year as well. However, working is helping me become more secure and that’s one of my goals this year. I do not feel guilty for taking care of me. I have spent most of my life taking care and focusing on others. This year is about me; Learning from my old mistakes and moving forward.
So when you start working a job that you must work 6 days a week and 10 hour days from 7am to 6pm and manage to make time for everyone then you can give me some lessons but until then, give a girl a break...
Yesterday, while RoRo and I were sitting in the Clubhaus something suddenly struck me. As I am somewhat accustomed to now, I am used to being surrounded by white people. This is strange in Nigeria for obvious reasons, as Nigeria is an African country afterall. But nonetheless, with my new job comes new things and experiences. I am one of four Americans working here but one of several thousand some expatriate employees. In my office there’s a good mix of Nigerians, Germans, Filipinos, and myself, the one American. But overall, the company is heavily German. And many of these German men are married to Nigerian woman. However, not many of them go to the clubhaus or live where I do in Utako life camp. So back to my story. As Roro and I were playing on Ayo in the clubhaus and eating our brunch (which was quite lovely mind you) it dawned on me as I looked around at the beautiful landscape, the pool, the tables, and the staff dressed in nice uniforms that this was probably what the Colonialists life in Africa, India, and elsewhere was like. I was both disgusted with myself and amused at the same time. It was interesting because life never felt like this in Yola, even though it’s really no different than here. But yes, I am experiencing what colonialism felt like in the modern age. Now, from someone who studied African history this is kind of interesting but at the same time I find it revolting that I am feeding into this system. However, in Nigeria, it’s almost impossible to break free of such a thing. It’s impossible to break free from the ‘oga’ syndrome and I don’t think I will be the catalyst to change things and Nigerians (wealthy and average alike) feed into the ‘oga’ syndrome just as much as I do.
There are certain things I must do to keep myself safe at a time like this in Nigeria. We are rapidly approaching an election that most likely the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan will undoubtedly win. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is not something I am really willing to discuss but nonetheless, this is causing some instability even here in the capital of Abuja. I have travelled alone all throughout Nigeria by road, but that was more because I had no choice but too, but in the future, if I can avoid it, I will, at all costs. Most likely I will not chance travelling by bus ever again, especially not alone without a Nigerian present. However, with a Nigerian or RoRo present, I am not quite sure I will ever risk something like that again, especially in the South. Life is too precious and in Nigeria things can change and attitudes can flare without notice. When something happens and white face is present, no matter how smiley and nice she is, things can go awry quickly and I am often the blame of whatever the issue at hand is. So I will no longer do things like travel alone in a bus in the South of Nigeria. I try not using cabs in Abuja as well, especially alone at night. I do not find life in Nigeria to be scary or unsafe at all. But that doesn’t mean I should not take precautions. Just because nothing serious has ever happened to me in my two years does not mean it won’t. The reason nothing has happened yet is because I do take precautions. I have to make very different decisions for myself than when RoRo is around and with me. When he’s here I have much more freedom than if I am alone.
In December I lived quite freely in Abuja and it was honestly a little too freely. It wasn’t safe. In some circumstances I did not have much choice, but I am being much more cautious now. Especially since I have moved into the housing compound and working for my company. There are expectations one must follow while being an employee of this company and people have an attitude towards the company I work for as well. So this makes me a little lonely and a little more restrained than I was but I know it’s for good reasons and better that I take more caution. However, this does not mean I don’t want to or plan to travel to places that are a little more risky, but when I do that I will do so with caution, preparation, and planning.
However, back to my main story. As much as I am disgusted by this new colonialist life I am currently living, it is bringing me security, and a lifestyle I desire. Also, the company I am working for is also providing work and employment for 40,000+ Nigerians with good salaries and benefits. I know they are making better living wages than those working for AUN and that matters. They are also treated better. That’s why when you walk into an office and you are greeted with smiles, it’s because the employees here are much happier.
And it is like living in a Graham Greene novel here as well. We have major characters around here as well both expats and Nigerians. Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on a wall in some offices or houses.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Last night it rained like the dickens in Abuja. It was the first rain of the season. It rained the night before in Port Harcourt. When I got to work on Friday morning around 6:45 am Papa said to me, ‘are you ready for the rain?’ I said, ‘rain? But it’s only February! It’s not going to rain today.’
Well, much to my surprise I saw the clouds building up when I was on my way to the supermarket at Lifecamp. My co-worker was telling me that when he was in Port Harcourt the night before it rained there. I was shocked. In Yola, we never saw rain before April and even then it was only a light sprinkle.
I went to the supermarket and it was packed. Afterwards I went to the clubhouse and was debating if I should swim or not because the clouds looked really bad and it was lightning in the distance. But after I had already ordered a coke and was feeling the humidity and heat, I decided, I already dressed to swim, I better go and do it! So I told the waiter to take back my coke, asked for my food to go and took my very first swim in the lifecamp pool. The water was cold but not too bad. The pool and my swim were both fantastic. I didn’t swim too long because my goal was to make the 7:30pm shuttle. But my waiter forgot to put in my order and low and behold I missed the 7:30 shuttle and didn’t even swim long because I was afraid of missing the shuttle home. But in the end, it was a good thing I didn’t swim longer because when the rain started coming down it came down in buckets and sheets. It was completely pouring rain outside. They had to rearrange seating at the clubhaus so there wasn’t rain getting on people’s tables and food. So I sat for another hour in the clubhaus watching the storm. The roads were flooded when my shuttle finally arrived and cars were stalled all over the place. There was a large lightning and thunder show as well. It was quite the spectacle. I have a feeling we are going to get lots of rain this year. I need to find my rain coat and buy an umbrella soon. I am hoping the rain will blow all the harmattan away. It’s been making me quite miserable.
So I am now officially a working woman. Yes, I was a working in December and at the beginning of the January as well. But now, it’s official. I am a working woman, with a home of my own, a LONG work week, and trying to create a routine and new life here in Abuja. Working 6 days a week and 56 hours is not easy. It’s been a slight challenge getting used to structure. The thing I longed for so long I now have, structure. However, 56 hours of it and jetlag from travelling to the states and back has done me in. I have had the intention of going to breakfast at the canteen since last week. It was only today, one week later that I have succeeded. Breakfast is from 6-6:45am and work begins at 7am. So in order to do breakfast I have to be up by at least 5:30 and leave by 6ish to go and eat. However, I haven’t been able to drag myself out of bed before 6, not once this week until today, SATURDAY of all days, I get up at 5:23am.
However, my job is treating me well and I am enjoying my work and new co-workers, new surroundings and more. Life in Abuja is a pleasant surprise that I never expected one year ago. The last year life has brought me several surprises. All of them slightly unexpected, all of them good. All of the changes have not been easy to make or accept at first, but in the end, I am realizing they are all blessings and changes for the better. I am learning to live alone, learning to make better choices and decisions in life, learning a new language, learning more about my spirituality, and I might even go as far as to say, I’m growing up!
Being called ‘fat’ in Nigeria is nothing new too me. Labaran used to call me fat all the time in Yola. Nowadays, my two Nigerian female co-workers call me fat all the time. This upsets me for many reasons.
- Americans hate being called fat.
- Almost every American woman I know is extremely self-conscious with her weight.
- I am currently not fat. I have lost 50 lbs in the last year. I am currently the same weight I was in 6th grade and am extremely proud of this. In my opinion, I am looking damn good!
- My female co-workers are much larger than me.
So I have come to realize that to Nigerians if you are not stick thin (which many of the white women who come to Nigeria are for some reason) they assume you are fat or to them you are ‘fat.’ They have no idea what this does to ones psyche. It’s horrendous coming from the American culture and where we are all consumed with weight and body image. By the way, too most people, in this modern age in Nigeria, fat is not a good thing. So I am constantly defending my weight and body to others and I hate it. It upsets me especially because I feel like I have been looking so good lately. Also, I think they think women with curves are ‘fat’ to them. So they assume white women should have no shape and definitely no bum whatsoever.
Anyway, I digress. I need to learn to not let it get to me and to stop eating the candy that my co-workers love to set on my desk to share with everyone so I don’t become ‘fat’ again and then they’ll be telling the truth...