An End-of-the-Year Note Plus the Most Popular Posts on the Blog in 2019

Hiya! And welcome back. An interesting irony is that if I blogged all year with the same consistency I have had this month of December, this blog would have been really productive. But it is what it is.

Everyone is currently doing end of the decade reviews. The interesting thing is, end-of-the-year reviews were cumbersome enough already, now imagine adding end-of-the-decade reviews on top of that, it's wild out there on Instagram. I don't want to be to so cynical as to discard these reviews altogether. I will say though, that they can be very ridiculous and narcissistic. You should therefore not feel any pressure to perform this review, especially not so publicly. Not everyone achieved something grand in the past decade. Hell, not everyone can remember the past decade accurately enough to make an assessment of it, you know. It is absolutely fine to want to move forward instead of taking stock especially if it hurts you. I always talk about the seductive nature of pessimism: this need to couch every aspect of the year as terrible or sad or woeful even though, for many people it was a mix of the good and the bad. Or at worst, it was mundane or normal. Normal is good. I love normal. Finally on this issue, time is a social construct (for real. I joke about this), but end of the year/decade/century, whatever, are mostly arbitrary boundaries human beings created.

So instead of another  review of my life, which I know you have absolutely no interest in, I decided to highlight the top ten most popular posts on this blog this year. I did not really blog this year. But I liked the pace with which I blogged. When I wrote here, it was only when I absolutely wanted to and I think that enthusiasm seeped through my words. It was never a chore. I liked that.  Otherwise, I have been writing in other places too. So I'm really glad and proud that I can confidently call myself a Writer now. It's always been one of my biggest joys/dreams/aspirations: to be a Writer.

Without anymore ado, here goes:

Cheers to 2020!


10.) The tenth most popular was How to Make Decisions When Your Faith Wavers. This, I think is very apropos for entering a new year. Because make no mistake, you faith will probably waver every now and then. What happens when it does? What happens when you don't know what to do next? When you don't know if you will fail (again) or if something is God's will for you? I talked about how to handle such challenges in that post.  I can definitely understand the appeal of this post. The interesting part of that post is that I desperately needed that post for myself at the time I wrote it.

9.) Number nine was pretty phenomenal for me too; it was On the Joy of Really Living. It changed the game for me, and it made me bolder to dream. Something about writing that (or actually realizing what I wrote) woke me up. I hope in this new year, you really live. I mean, relax, enjoy, eat, drink and be merry because the Bible tells me in Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 that's God's gift to us: to enjoy life. And to remember that whatever your hands find to do, do them well. I hope that you don't just exist but try your hardest to pursue your passions, your hobbies...I'm not talking about doing things just to make money off of them a la side hustles. I'm talking about sharing your gifts with the world and doing things because they make you happy. And if you don't yet have something you're passionate about in that sense, keep looking. You will find it.

8.) This was the second part of the Eating My Way Through Lagos series. I mean, it was about food... and in Lagos. Enough said. Don't forget, if it inspires you to visit Lagos, Nigeria or to visit any of those places mentioned. You should let me know, please!

7.) I'm so glad a Book of the Month was one of the most popular posts. This one was on the book, Woke Church. Again, not surprising at all. It's a phenomenal book, and could not be more important for the world we live in now.

6.) Sometimes I like to use this blog as a medium for ranting. So thank you for always indulging me ha. Cos y'all loved this: A Sunday Ramble on Being Carefree, Being Anxious, and Being Gifted. I gotta tell you a secret: I have this post permanently opened in my browser to remind me to live audaciously. I hope it inspires you to be bolder in 2020, to be more authentic, and to be a little bit more carefree. After the happenings around number 9's post, I was now able to admit certain things to myself, like compliment myself.

5.) This was quite recent haha. It was basically about how traveling and self-care are overrated. I was actually a bit worried I would step on toes with that post. Turns out, tons of people really agreed with me.

4.) Sigh. This one still breaks my heart. It is and will always be For Rachel. Heaven truly gained an amazing soul this year when Rachel Held Evans passed away. I did not even know her personally but I just wanted, needed to write something in her memory and to honor her. Plus I think I needed to grieve her too. She was so young. I'm glad the post resonated with many, both here and on Instagram.

3.) We are warming up now. I wrote about the BEST, most PROFOUND piece of entertainment I consumed this year: When They See Us. And to say people liked this post would be an understatement. Again, I'm truly glad I wrote when I felt like rather than writing...just because. If you haven't seen When They See Us, please watch it on Netflix

2.) The second most popular post on this blog this year was about love, relationships, dating, marriage, and why you should never settle for less. I rarely talk about love and romance on this blog because enough people do that. But once in a while, I like to share my truths. This was an extremely long post but it is becoming one of the most popular posts on the blog EVER. So maybe I should talk about that more? Nah. Lol. Another unconventional thing I do on this blog is to write what is heartfelt and not necessarily based on trends. I'm a purist in that sense.

1.) DRUMROLL!!!!!  Hahahaha. The most popular post this year and now among the most popular posts on the blog ever was my very first post on grad school and academia on this blog.  I wrote about the differences between getting a PhD and a Medical Degree. Wild. The popularity of this post is wild. For the longest time, I had been very careful and deliberate to separate my life in academia from my blog/online life. I had gone the extra mile to make sure I never even mentioned the fact that I was getting a PhD, much less talking about it. But I realized there was not enough information and honestly there are too few black girls doing this. So apart from wanting to share resources and tips,  I also wanted to be a little bit visible for others coming along, which took courage because I'm an in-her-shell type girl. I have not regretted the decision to share at all. And I will probably share more of that.

There we have it. The ten most popular posts of the year on this blog. I'm probably not going to blog more next year. I will however, truly write when I can and when it matters. Thank you so much for always hanging around despite how sporadically I post. Thank you for sharing this space with me, and for always reading. Please definitely stop by in the next year.

Happy new year! I truly wish for you in 2020, joy, goodness, and peace.




Love,

I

Food Chat: Cafe Lift in Philadelphia

Hiya! So as promised in this post, I'm back with more food posts. Since there is only so much restaurants I can visit myself, plus the more the merrier, right? Anyway so I will be talking to people about their food and restaurant experiences. I figured it's easier to ask people a couple of questions than have them commit to an entire post; ain't nobody got time for that. This way I can ask questions about their experience and then either narrate the rest myself (based on what they say) or just show you pictures. If you are interested in sharing about your food experiences, feel free to hit me up by the way. Make sure you have food pictures, though; not necessarily professional food pictures. And this can be from anywhere in this world, literally. I guess I should say "anywhere in this universe" not world, but you get the gist.

The first person is Abby, who had brunch somewhere in Philadelphia while traveling.



Hi there! Welcome. So tell us, where did you have this food in Philly, what restaurant?
Hi Ife. Thank you for having me. It was at Cafe Lift on N 13th street.

How did you hear about it? Or are you are frequent visitor there?
Nope. It was my very first time, and I found it by Googling, really. I just searched for a brunch place and it looked like the nicest option I found.

So... spill the beans (pun intended). What did you like about it?
The food, definitely! It was really nice and I was not disappointed. The ambience was also fantastic! There was something about the vibe, I'm not really sure how to describe it. Both inside and outside looked very nice. There was also parking available. It was a weekend so we didn't have to pay for parking. I had avocado toast with runny eggs and it was REALLY good. Someone else in my party had French toast and, another had pancakes. I'm pretty sure everyone was very satisfied with their food. So that was good. It was also very affordable, with meals ranging from $9 to $15 or thereabout. There was also  wide range of options on the menu.

What did you not like about it?
Hmm several things to be honest. First of all, the wait; it was just sooo long. I understand it was around noon on a Sunday, but honestly it was excessive. They first told us it was a 45-minute wait, which we were absolutely fine with. We tried to walk around and stuff, but every time we would return to ask, they kept saying it was not yet our turn. I mean, it was overcrowded so I saw their point, right? Still, it was a freezing November day and it became uncomfortable really fast. Ultimately we waited for one hour and thirty minutes before we got seated. The hosts were really gracious about it and nice, but I was over it at that point. By the time we sat down, they had run out of chocolate so most of the beverages we wanted were not available. No mocha or latte etc. Remember, we had been in the freezing weather so we really needed something hot. Then at some point there was a dirty glass cup on our table. Yeah that was a mess. And have I mentioned how crowded and NOISY it was?

Hmm that sounds stressful. Would you return though?
I don't know, really. I did like the food but I can't justify that wait time and that noise, whew.

Thanks Abby! 

Well there you have it folks: Cafe Lift in Philadelphia. If you are ever there, and can stand a long wait and crowd, perhaps, you would check it out? If you ever do, please let me know and send some pictures, of course! Haha. Now enjoy some more food pictures!







Love,

I

The Danger of Lying And More

Thanks to some random (and insignificant) happenings coupled with the kind of reflection that only happens at the end of the year, I have been thinking a lot about lying and its effects on interpersonal relationships, not to mention how hurtful it can be. I usually joke that the thing the white people hate being called the most (after racist) is "liar". But it's true; people flare up and turn red when you imply they just lied. But they lie anyway. Just like people are racist anyway. But petty lies have become even more irritating than usual. Why do people lie? Why are people so deceptive even when the circumstance does not warrant it? The thing about lying is that it is a breach of trust.  When you lie to someone, you are breaching their trust. In that sense, a person's trust can be likened to a brick or a rock that each lie chips off pieces from. This is why no matter how many apologies you give after being caught red handed in a lie, often times the trust can never be restored.



I think it irks me even more because I am a fairly straightforward person and I can be fiercely loyal too, and in a world where most people are anything but straightforward, you can see how maddening this is. I think this is why if you absolutely can, you should try not to lie to people that you care about. I'm not naive: there are some situations that warrant you lying, probably to protect the person you are lying to. I understand that. But most cases, people lie to save their own asses or to be manipulative or to take advantage of your friendship; not anything noble.

Just stop lying.

Or don't.

Whatever.

On a lighter note, Merry Christmas! I hope you had an amazing day? And if not, that's fine too. It mattered a lot to me to share on my Instagram, especially among all the very cute family pictures being posted (mine included 😁) that if yesterday was hard, know that it really is just a day. If you have a difficult relationship with your family, or perhaps you had to spend Christmas without a loved one, or you are going through a rough break-up, or any other form of hardship, you will survive. Honestly, it is just a day of the 365 in a year. I think we will be okay.

I was especially thinking about kids at the border detention centers covered in tinfoils and separated from their mommies and daddies, and the amount of hurt in their little hearts. I am hoping 2020 is the year that we do better for those kids, one way or another.



Oh yes, my holiday read is "Children of Blood and Bone". I just said on Instagram that while the author's art of storytelling is genius and she is of course a brilliant writer, something does not sit right with me: this is either because of the genre OR because you can tell she carefully crafted the book with the intention (or desire) that it would be made into a movie. Something just feels somehow...I can't be more specific because I don't know dammit Lol. But she is not just black, she is Nigerian, so yes we will be supporting her  hahaha.

How is it that I have blogged more in the month of December than the entire year hahaha?

Anyway, just in case I'm not back here before 2020 (!), have a great rest of the year.

Love,

I

Book of the Month: Some Books I Have Been Reading

Sooo. For some reason, I haven't talked about any book here  in a while even though I have actually been reading. I have no reasons for that. But I decided to share a bunch of books I have been reading for my own personal development.




1.) The first is called, "Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis" by Joan Bolker. I mean, you can't literally write your entire dissertation in fifteen minutes. Lol. Anyway, in this book she gives tips and advice on working your way through the dissertation writing process, from developing a working habit to choosing advisors and a committee; to getting started on writing; to your first draft and other tidbits. Spoiler alert: the key to writing efficiently and finishing in decent time is to write every single day. You can say this about most habits.

I learned a little while ago that consistency is actually a better goal to strive for than excellence or perfection. If you do something every single day, and I mean every single day without fail, you will inevitably be great at it. Take that approach with writing. Carve out time, sacred time for writing, where you do nothing but write. Not research, not edit, just write. So in that sense all of what the book addresses,  I already knew. In fact most things did not apply to me because I have passed those stages in my career. It's a great book nonetheless. But you can read all the books in this world about writing, and except you actually commit to these principles, you would be wasting everyone's time. So in a nutshell, I read the book not just because I am currently writing a dissertation myself (pray for me, y'all!) but also because I needed a reminder/refresher of some of what she talks about.

2.) The second is, "When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life" by David Burns. First things first, if you struggle with anxiety, you are not alone. Many people are suffering from various mental health challenges. Sometimes, I wonder if people are misdiagnosing themselves. Who knows really? I know for sure though that our mental health should be prioritized. And if you can't afford therapy or you are still trapped in shame because you are afraid of what people would think if you go to therapy or you just don't know what to expect in therapy, then get this book. If you want to get better, period. Everyone should read something like this book.

It provides you with ammunition to defeat any kind of anxiety, without conventional therapy or prescription drugs. My favorite aspect of the book is his assessment of  the inclination of medical providers to prescribe drugs for every darn thing. He teaches you 40 new anti-anxiety techniques. I gotta say you need time with this book because it is very detailed, and working through all the tools can honestly be tiring. I will say though that if you can, you should do them because they are very effective. He also gives home-works and asks you to fill in the gap etc. I will be honest, I didn't have that kind of time to work through all of it. I just didn't. So while I read it painstakingly, I certainly could have been more thorough.

Can this solve lifelong anxiety and/or other mental health challenges? Definitely. But I think I would still prefer sitting in front of a therapist while they work through issues with me. I would rather someone asks me all the questions. It's too much to do by yourself. And I say this as someone who is incredibly introspective. That said, if you flip towards the end of the book, he walks you through exactly how to use each technique; how to work your way from an upset feeling to getting better. It's a solid book that everyone should have and read. I was just lazy. Plus I think more generally, I read the book when I was in a good place mentally (thank God!). Had I read it when I was in a much worse condition, I am sure I would have done the work, for sure. I would say (disclaimer: I am NOT a medical professional) before using all manner of medication, at least try the techniques in a book like this. One interesting thing about this book is that he (an actual psychiatrist) admitted to the arbitrary nature of the diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders. He acknowledges that sometimes what psychiatrists call anxiety disorders are basically just normal feelings people have from time to time.  In fact, according to Burns, some medicines like Xanax make people completely dependent on them, so much that when you stop taking them, you experience withdrawal symptoms that heighten whatever initial problem you had. There is also a whole thing in the book where the author exposes drug companies that selectively publish studies and the bias in the literature that create false perception about the effectiveness of antidepressants. This is why I would caution against popping pills for the sake of. But heyyy, you do you. This is just me talking about a book and I do NOT HAVE A MEDICAL DEGREE, so what do I know?  And oh yeah, of course, brain diseases totally exist, not to mention serious psychiatry problems like schizophrenia, bipolar etc. I don't think there is a way around such ailments that does not involve medications.


3.) And finally, we have  "Discerning the Voice of God - Bible Study Book - Revised: How to Recognize When God Speaks" by Priscilla Shirer. This one is good for anyone committed to strengthening their relationship with God. I will admit that this book might come across like it's for mature Christians only. Because while I absolutely adore Priscilla Shirer, I do think she wrote this book with an assumption that her readers have attained a particular level of spirituality. If you are still really growing or if you are a new Christian, and you read this book with some of its instructions, it can easily become frustrating.

In her defense, I don't think there is a straightforward, simple enough book out there for all Christians about understanding God's voice. But ultimately, I really love that she acknowledges that understanding the heart of God is not about hearing a clear, audible voice. And though many Christians depict it like so, it is not always entirely true or at least not complete (I still do NOT think God told you what dress to wear to Church. Bite me). I also think that Christians should not live a frantic life, where they are constantly searching and searching for the voice of God and then getting frustrated when they hear nothing. Instead rest in knowing that God is always within you and will never forsake you. He is true to his word about leading you and allowing his will come to pass. I have actually spoken a lot about this on the blog: see knowing God's will for your life. Or what to do when you are waiting.  Or How to make decisions when your faith wavers. Interestingly, Priscilla does echo some of the sentiments in the posts I linked: yes sometimes you are not sure if it's God. Have faith anyway. Sometimes you have to work with exactly what God has placed in your hands right now and keep doing. And sometimes you have to just step out in faith and obey because you feel God is impressing it upon your heart to. All of these are never ever easy. Fear not, it's not all abstract. She does give some practical lists of things you can start doing at the moment to better understand God's will for your life.

Whew. Well. that's that.

Book of the month was quite busy this year so I hope to continue next year. What were your favorite books this year?

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) Luxury beliefs (Like luxury goods) are the latest status symbols for Americans. I agree with everything in that article except the point on White Privilege. Yeah white privilege is certainly a thing, fo sho.

2.) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on identity, feminism, and honest conversations.

3.) Celebrating Chimamanda. Chimamanda is actually a genius, and one of the most brilliant minds alive.

4.) Divorce lawyers give relationship advice.

5.) 100 people tell us their biggest regrets. A lot of that had to do with sex/relationships with the wrong persons. A close second had to do with education. What is my biggest regret? That is so absolute. I would say though one big regret I have definitely has more to do with education than with sex or relationships.

6.) For me if it no longer affects me, then it can not qualify as a regret. Simple.

7.) I just finished all five seasons of Jane the Virgin. Loved it! Some really corny parts but ultimately really lovely with its themes of family, love, passion, romance, and everything in between. For me, the strong connection between Jane, her mother, and her grandmother is what the folks at Gilmore Girls just couldn't nail with the two Lorelais.

8.) Check out this New Yorker profile of the show: "Jane the Virgin" is Not a Guilty Pleasure.

9.) Do you think a lot about getting more involved in your community? How are you doing this?

10.) The last Friday before Christmas. Are you taking time off work?

A Classic Christmas Playlist That Includes All Our Favorite Christmas Carols

♫It's the most wonderful time of the year...it's the hap-happiest time of the year♫ It's Christmas time! Haha. Christmas is my favorite holiday, which means it's my favorite time of the year. I love love it all. It's exactly one week to Christmas, can you believe it? I have been listening to Christmas songs every single day all month to get in the Christmas mood. I love it. It's a bit sad that I haven't been to a Christmas Carol in a while. But anyway, I thought to share some of my favorite Christmas melodies. They are mostly the classics that I'm sure you probably already know. But I love to get you in the Christmas spirit and cheer. So there is a link to each song for you to listen. In no particular order:

1.) Jingle Bells! Oh Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride on a one horse open sleigh




2.) Joy to the World! This is the OG version not the more recent covers, which mostly suck. Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeaaat, repeaaaat the sounding joy.

3.) I wanna wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS from the bottom of my heart. This number delights my heart, so yell out the chorus to get the most of it. It's Feliz Navidad!

4.) Good tidings we bring to you and your kin, we wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a happy New Year. If you guessed the title of this song is "We wish you a Merry Christmas", you'd be right.

5.) The next on the list is Silent Night. It speaks for itself, to be honest.

6.) Peace on earth and mercy mild...joyful all ye nations rise. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, glory to the newborn King!

7.) I knew every single word of this next one as a child, and boy was I proud of that? Haha. On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me... a partridge in a pear tree. And on the fifth day....yeah? yup a FIVE GOLDEN RINGS. Lol it's Twelve Days of Christmas.

8.) Mary's Boy Child.  For this one, I actually did not find the version I remember. And this was the closest I could get. Oops spoke too soon: here is the original version, which I prefer!

9.) Oh Holy Night. I have also two versions for this. Watch Hillsong Worship team perform it live here, and then Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard perform it here (this one starts at 1:30). I'm just gonna say Clay Aiken has RANGE!

Haaayy look, I finally wrote something simple and short. How's that for the perfect Christmas gift?

Merry Christmas people! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, happy holidays. Whether it's Christmas songs or movies or food, make sure you're doing something to get you in the Christmas spirit. Whatever you do, make sure you get in the celebratory mode, whatever that means to you.

Love,

I

How to Survive Long Layovers While Traveling Long Distance

Happy December! I love love Christmas so you know I'm one of the more excited folks. Please, again, stop harassing people about how it's the last month of the decade, yidi yada. Honestly, who cares? Time is a social construct. Lmao. Kidding. Seriously, do not put any unnecessary pressure on yourself because of arbritary timelines random strangers created.

oNlY oNe MoNtH lEfT iN tHe YeAr/DeCaDe

Okay and?

It is not helpful or logical because really nothing really changes because we cross over from one "decade" to another; or from one month to another. Just chill. Okay for real, I am trying to make this post as short  and lighthearted as possible given recent posts. So here goes.

Long stop overs are almost inevitable if you are traveling to Africa or Asia. You almost always have about 5 Hours stop in Europe, and if you're unlucky, it could be longer. Personally, I don't mind it. I know how shocking that is LOL, considering the fact that I just gave a recent spiel about traveling. However, I don't like being cooped up in a plane for too long. So I often welcome the opportunity to stop for a while before continuing along. Many people don't like it though. So here are suggestions on how to make it more bearable.

Somewhere in Heathrow, London (for what was not actually a layover)


1.)  Prepare your mind. Accept that you are going to be waiting for a while. Do not be in too much of a hurry. Also, don't bother checking the time every minute. You will only be doing yourself harm, because the minute you start doing that (no pun intended), that's when time starts to crawl. So once you deplane and get into the airport where you will be staying for 5 or 6 or sometimes 12 hours, just settle in and relax.

2.) Speaking of settling in. If you can afford it, then definitely stay in a lounge. It's sometimes hard to say what is or what is not expensive since I don't know y'all's pockets. But in European airports, which I am surprisingly more vast with than American airports (because I have never had to wait more than 5 hours in an American airport), lounges can go from about 70 Euros and above. The advantages of staying in a lounge are numerous. You can sleep comfortably without having to literally hug your hand luggage and other items for fear of theft or worse, some other nefarious activity. There is also food and of course, booze. But fret not, all of these are available in non-lounge parts of the airports too. So skip this step if it sounds ridiculous to pay that much for a flimsy lounge, which, bear in mind, for some lounges, you can only stay for three hours before your departure—again, this defeats the purpose. But before you knock it, still try it. You might be surprised.

Paris from the sky: much more amazing than a blurry iPhone camera could capture


3.) Sleep. Lounge or no lounge, you can still sleep during your layover. Position your belongings well enough that if someone touches them while you are sleeping, you would feel it and wake up. No one can sleep through someone dragging a small box from under your head, for instance. And because many planes (if you fly Economy) are not the most comfortable for sleeping, you are probably tired by the time you land. So catch up on sleep, if even for a couple of hours. Not to mention, some airports actually have sleep pods that allow you to get comfortable. Some people choose to sleep on the floor and goodness, I COULD NEVER. SO.MUCH.GERMS. Yikes lol.

4.) Now that you are up and rested. Depending on how long the layover is; it might almost be time to depart, in which case, adieu, safe journey! If you still have plenty hours left, keep reading. For some, this is the time to venture out of the airport to go take a look at the country they are in, especially if it's an interesting place like France or Italy or Greece. Bear in mind that this is risky. Anything could happen and then before you know it you missed your flight.  Some others choose to stay. Either way, freshen up, please. There is something about being locked in a plane for a few hours that makes even the best of us stink. So yeah, hopefully you packed some deodorants, hand sanitizers, and the likes. After which, this is the time I would advise that you read. Books, magazines, your personal mail that you have been planning on reading but never quite got the time to read, all those open tabs on you computer. When you are done reading, watch one or two episodes of your favorite show. Bear in mind again that for these, you have to have prepped before hand. This means stuffing your hand luggage with your favorite reading materials. It means downloading a couple of shows on Netflix or depending on how risk averse you are, watching with Airport wifi. If these options are unavailable you can try listening to music. Again, some airports actually have personal pods with a screen option, where you can watch shows the airline offers. So for instance, if Air France has an area for public lounging in Paris Charles de Gaulle (and they in fact do), then the mini-screens on each seat has all the entertainment options available on Air France flights.


Paris is beautiful and everything is so picturesque


5.) Sightsee/explore. Who says you only have to sightsee outside the airport? When you have read every single thing you packed, and watched about two episodes of your favorite show, it's time to walk around. Sitting too much while traveling can actually be harmful to your health. So walk the length and breath of your airport. Have breakfast or lunch, but sit in the restaurant while eating. MAKE SURE YOU EAT. Seriously, budget airport food money together with the rest of your travel expenses. You can't skimp on food. Eat well, and have a great dining experience; it's all part of the trip.  Get up and keep walking but do not lose sight of your gate; make a mental note to leave enough time to walk back to your boarding gate. There are TONS of stores in airports, window shop. And dream of when you will be able to walk into Gucci at the airport and by jackets, shoes, and purses. Or maybe you already can afford to, then by all means, shop.


6.) Okay so you have done all of the above and still have time? Journal. Pick up a pen or open your laptop and just write down literally anything you are thinking. ANYTHING. Write about what your life looks like now. What about your life are you thankful for? Write it. What part sucks? Write it. Have some introspection and think about where you think you are going with your life and wonder if you are even remotely on the right track. As you begin with these simple questions, it will begin to flow. It's a very good time to think and make decisions. Don't forget to make notes of ideas and thoughts that come to mind. If there is any benefit to traveling, this is it. The ability to be by yourself and sort of hang in between—not  home but not at your destination—makes  for good uninterrupted time to really think, and hear yourself think.


7.) So somehow, there is still more time to kill? Catch up on your work. I mean, whatever you do for a living. Maybe there is something you want to work on? Do it now. Some people like to shut down/off during vacations. I can't relate.

Honestly, before you know it, boarding has started for your next flight. So long layovers are definitely not the worst things in the world. The next time you have to have one, don't be bummed about it. Just make the best of it. I'm like an expert because I have had some really LONG layovers and never ever had a terrible experience. I mean, yeah there were sometimes I was just exhausted but mostly, it's never so bad.

Dang! Why can't I just write something short eh?

Anyway, what are your tips for surviving layovers or long trips in general? If I missed any, then please share in the comment.

Love,

I

For Carlos and Many Others Like Him

I have a couple of posts planned out, but I just had to take a break to write about this instead. I saw a very disturbing video, which among other things, is proof of the recent wave of poor leadership and governance we keep seeing at highest levels of government. Since it was quite a traumatizing video, I will not post it here. I will, however, attempt to describe what I saw in the video as best as I can, and then continue from there. The video shows how a sixteen year-old boy died of the flu at one of the border detention centers in America. Not only did this boy die in custody, this video contradicts earlier reports given by Border Patrol officials.

In the video, we see sixteen year old Carlos Hernandez Vasquez struggling on the floor in his border patrol holding cell. He is clearly writhing in pain and looks disoriented. He then walks to the bathroom, where he collapses by the toilet and remained motionless. Hours later (as we can see from the jump in the time on the screen), his cellmate finds him in the same position, still motionless. Immediately, his cellmate calls on an agent (or Physician Assistant as some are saying) who then determines Carlos has no pulse.

He passed away.

He was just sixteen.


Few months ago when this first happened, the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that he was found unresponsive in the morning during a welfare check. Obviously, that is not what the video shows. The video shows that his cellmate found him; a significant difference. Reports also allege they already knew he had Influenza, with a temperature of 103, and instead of being taken to the hospital, he was left there. He was left on the floor, alone, probably scared, and in pain. This poor baby (because a SIXTEEN year-old person is a BABY) was burning up and left with a tinfoil blanket and on a concrete floor. He was one of six migrant kids to have died while in custody. And to say I am heartbroken would be the biggest understatement of the year.



There is a lie we human beings, especially Americans love to tell ourselves: that human beings are inherently good and that there is "sooooo" much good in us as a collective, as a human race. That could not be further from the truth. Human beings are desperately wicked. And even the Bible confirms this. Because tell me, how have we so lost our humanity as to allow this manner of evil among us? What kind of a government [what kind of human beings] does this to children CHILDREN!!! The measure of a society can often be found it how it treats its young and its old; how it treats its most vulnerable. On both measures, we have failed. How can you leave children, not only separated from their parents, but left on concrete floors with tinfoil blankets? It is disgusting. It is inhumane. And by God, it is wicked.

You want facts, I will give you facts:
SIX children have died since December 2018 [when the 'zero tolerance' policy kicked off fully] after being detained by border agents. Approximately 69,550 unaccompanied children were detained, and the recent data tells us 3,900 children are still in custody. These children were torn away from their parents, with no hope of when next they will see their parents and/or guardians. Although migrant children have crossed the Southwestern border in large numbers during the past decade, NONE has ever died in federal custody until now; until this administration.

The video of Carlos dying might be the most  horrifying thing you would see this year. But maybe that would be so jarring, it would spur us to action.  Maybe it will make us shine light on this darkness.  Can you imagine his family having to see him die like that; having to watch him die on television. Let me say this again, YOU CANNOT JUST LEAVE PEOPLE TO DIE LIKE THAT.  No. no decent country, much less the United States of America should do that. And if this does not anger you? I don’t know what will. Heck, even traitors to their governments, even despots, and rapists, even pedophiles have gotten better treatment than these kids are getting.

I will do you one better: DOGS get better treatment than kids at the border detention centers are getting. I know for sure we WOULD NEVER TREAT ANIMALS like that. If a dog or a cat were being treated the way these kids are being treated, there would be fiery protests across the nation. Are they saying that dogs and cats matter more than brown and black lives? More than immigrants? I am so sick of this disregard for black and brown lives, and this blatant attempt to destroy us. Are we saying "the greatest country in the world" cannot afford mattresses for kids? Or is this just some deliberate attempt to be wicked? Help me understand.

When you think even more carefully about it, you will realize there is so much physical and emotional trauma that will result from this experience. Think for a second about the other kid that found Carlos dead. He is never going to be the same. These are God's children too. Or oh, did you think God's children are only caucasian? Because these people running along dangerous borders and fleeing wars and famine are legit children of God too, and most, if not all only do this because they want a better life. Is that such a bad thing?

Why have we no dignity? And HOW DARE YOU CALL YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN?  A follower of Christ?  And in good conscience support anybody who actually allowed this to happen? If you condone this type of behavior, and support the very people—broods of liars and thieves—that  permit this, I don't want to know you. Incase you haven't noticed I am very angry and distraught. And you should be too. The Bible talks a lot about injustice and God's intolerance of it. God emphasized the need to take care of the oppressed and the marginalized. God was big on welcoming foreigners and taking care of them. Yet people in today's world care more about an unborn fetus than those poor babies separated from their parents. This is a very dark stain on America's history. And history will never forget this.

Most times, to demonstrate this heinous behavior, people say, imagine yourself as a child being snatched and separated from your parents. Imagine the trauma, the separation anxiety. But I say, even as a fully formed adult, forcibly taking my parents from me without telling me when next I would see them would kill me. And then these people are doing it to KIDS. Children, for crying out loud! The people that are implementing these policies, how do they sleep at night? I mean, the Border Patrol officers? How do they go home to their own kids, their own families and sleep well at night?

Father forgive us for we have sinned. Because a country that allows this to happen has sinned gravely against God.

Whatever you do, and in whatever capacity, we can't let all of this nonsense continue. So next year, vote like your life depends on it because if you are black or brown, it might.  I started this post thinking about how helpless I am (and we all are) in situations like. The helplessness even brought me to tears.  But you know what? We are not entirely helpless. GET INVOLVED. Volunteer on campaigns, donate, whatever you do, make sure you are part of the solution. At your own slice of life, be fair, be kind, and always treat people with dignity. Me? I am going to do all I can including pray, to make sure  I am part of the solution.

I will end with Ayanna Pressley's words:
I am lifting up this story; I am lifting up Carlos Vasquez in the hopes that you will see the light and if you don't, we will bring the fire.

Love, and justice,

I

EATING MY WAY THROUGH LAGOS PART III: SOME FOODS YOU SHOULD TRY IN LAGOS, NIGERIA

Hello, and welcome to the third and final (for now) installment of the Lagos food series. The Lagos trip might be over, but the good news is it brought inspiration for something new.

I have held out for long enough. I'm finally doing it. Yes, I am adding a "food" category on this blog. There are so many food related things I want to talk about and I can hardly wait to begin. The good thing is I warned you here  that this blog is about a little bit of everything. Plus remember, we are all about doing things that we love, yeah? Every single thing. So that one decade from now, no one is pressuring you about how the decade is about to end and what do you have to show for it. Stop that, people lol.

Anyway, so I love food photography, which is basically just me taking pictures of my food and other people's food.  On Instagram, I noticed I was always posting food stuff and thought to embrace that even further. I have decided not to stop. So I will post more about it here or better still, feature other people's posts and reviews of food and restaurants on here. Woohoo! I want to say I will learn more on the art of food photography but that's not true; I probably won't. Lol. So my pictures will for sure be amateur iPhone pictures of food, if at all lol. There will also be interesting recipes perhaps once a month or once or year? Haha. This also means if you have a restaurant or food review or story from any part of the world and want to write about it, and you need somewhere to post it, hit me! Hahaha.

Anyway, on to the matter of the day. So one final post on food in Lagos, which I hope you enjoy. I either mistakenly deleted some pictures or I just don't have them anymore. I really wanted this to be about places in Lagos that are affordable and most people can buy from. I think to a large extent, the below are and if they are not, it's because most places in Lagos are actually expensive. Please remember, as with part II, that I will try to give my honest opinion as best as I remember. To be honest with you, recording the foods I ate plus the whole experience of going to a restaurant with an aim to not just have a good time, but record that good time sparked the interest of making it a whole thing on the blog. So I'm glad about that. Disclaimer 1: I don't think I am a foodie. At least, I don't think I have an eclectic/diverse enough taste to be called a foodie. Disclaimer 2: This will not be  really be restaurant reviews, I don't have the range for that haha.

Enough with the talking, enjoy!

First on the list is Yellow Chilli. I have eaten at Yellow Chilli before, the one at GRA. And I think it's generally good. At least I love the vibe there. This time around though, there was just something about it I didn't like. For the main course, I had stewed/peppered fish and fries. The fries, I believe needed more salt (but I like salt). The fish was just meh. My friend, E had plantains, Efo (vegetable stew), and shrimp (?). The Efo was really dope except it had no protein: no fish, no ponmo and other such stars of an Efo show. For the appetizer, I had goat meat pepper-soup and that was pretty amazing. E had peppered snails for appetizer; also really amazing!

Stewed fish and fries


Efo, plantain, shrimps (?)


Goat meat pepper soup
Peppered snail



An honorable mention is the coconut doughnut from Shoprite that was mentioned in part one. It is making a comeback because it's really good. Though I eventually became tired of it. So there is that.

Coconut doughnut

The travesty below was from TFC, and blegh. It is apparently called "native rice". They call it some other interesting name. And while it has the potential to be nice, it was drowned in oil. And we all know I hate food with excess oil.

Native Rice

And now to one of my favorite corners in Lagos, Cafe Neo. I did a LOT of dissertating at this coffee shop like I mentioned in part II. I really, really like the place. And bonus is their coffee/beverages are really good. The staff was also really great, which is a rare occurrence in Lagos.

iced mocha or some variant

Take two

Another honorable mention is the one and only Fanmilk SuperYogo that had been rescuing me since secondary school (high school) and is still apparently a life saver in Lagos traffic.

SuperYogo

For the next one, I am not going to say the name of the place because I am almost certain I made the wrong order. BUT see, I am a green smoothie aficionado, which just basically means every single day (except I am traveling), I have a green smoothie/juice. I also have a high tolerance for the most disgusting-looking green goop, BUT what you see below was honest-to-God the most disgusting green smoothie (or drink of any kind) that I ever had.

Yikes

Now on to sweeter things, literally. This gem from Hans and Rene (a self-proclaimed gelato place) was DELICIOUS.

gelato

I got the next photo from a fast food, but I'm not sure which: TFC or Sweet Sensation. Either way, it was pretty dope.

Yum!

Now we are moving on to a touchy subject: pizza. I love pizza as my Instagram would show you but I'm also somewhat of a pizza snob. And I can tell you MOST pizza in Lagos is trash. I will tell you this for free. But I always held out hope because everyone said Debonairs had pretty good pizza. Well, I finally tried Debonairs. It was ok. The toppings combination was lame and very restrictive. Overall, a B minus. Sorry. A good bonus was the ice cream though. It was great, but let's face it, you'd have to try really hard to make ice cream bad.

mediocre pizza

this vanilla swirl though...yum

On to the next: another sweet treat. This time froyo from Pinkberry. If I'm not mistaken, Pinkberry is an American company and we have it all over America. So you probably already know about this. In that sense, it's an honorary mention.

A lifesaver

Okay so now we have  food from a place called South Eatery and Social House; one bougie place in Victoria Island hahah. I have to say, as I think back to many of these places, it's not really the food that is memorable as much as the time spent with my loved ones, you know? In that sense, restaurants are more than just places to eat. They can be an ecosystem, a social chamber for love to thrive, right? Anyway, so yes, I ordered Jambalaya. Ermm...so it was not bad. But it also was not very good. I should mention, it was my first time having Jambalaya (a food native to Louisiana) so it's possible I just don't like Jambalaya. The jury is still out on this. My friends, R and Z had burgers and fries (it was called the Chicken Sammich) and I think they made better choices than me. Ignore the soggy looking fries, they were actually tasty.


Jambalaya


Chicken Sammich

Chapman

Now onto brunch!! I love brunching, again see Instagram haha. So I was excited to get brunch with my friend, E at Orchid Bistro. And let me tell you, my only regret is I had not visited this place earlier. I loved their food. I had waffles, and forget how weird it looks, it tasted really great. The restaurant was also truly a bistro. The ambience, the staff, everything was lovely. The only problem is it's literally tucked away on Isaac John St. and you can pass that road every single day without knowing such a place exists. When E and I got there, we thought we had the wrong address and were literally about turning back. It didn't help that it was raining that day. What the hell was all that rain about anyway? Ugh

Coffee

Waffles and some sad looking apples, Lol

Loved the ambience


Breakfast

E's meal


Our food

This is getting really long, but let's keep going. The next food is from a place in Lekki called Kohinoor. We all had pepper-soup. S had catfish pepper-soup with a side of plantain, E (a different E now LOL) and I had goat meat pepper-soup, with sides of plantains and fries, respectively. S's catfish pepper soup was HUMONGOUS. I mean, it was sorta scary haha. They didn't like their plantains, I remember that. Otherwise, everything was quite good. The ambience was really lovely...and edgy I think. There were motorbikes parked inside the place. And I think it doubled as  a lounge and restaurant.

Feasting

Or breaking bread as E calls it hahah

Pepper-soup, again

Catfish pepper-soup

Yum

Remember my previous frustrations with Ofada? Well, I finally had a great one. And it was basically someone selling close to E's house. Cheap and incredibly cheerful haha.

It was spicyyyyy

The next item is not a food and is mostly an honorable mention. I was with my cousins for most of this trip and every time I went out I would bring some sort of food/gift back for them. So at some point, my seven-year old cousin figured I always used to give him stuff and wanted to reciprocate, which he did in the most seven-year old way: he gave me his juice from his lunchbox. It was the sweetest. Haha

Packed with sugar and some vitamins? LOL

I cannot possibly write about food in Lagos without writing about Small Chops. I don't know how to describe it for my non-Nigerian audience. They are basically finger foods that are appropriately hyped, served in parties, sold after church and just all around fabulous. A decent Small Chops pack/dish/plate should have puff puff, samosa, spring rolls, and some grilled protein. Similar to Small Chops is Asun (grilled goat meat). Man, these are good stuff. E and I bought these after church at Daystar whenever we went. I love Jesus but I gotta say, one huge reason I followed E to this church for several Sundays was for these babies. No shame in my game. Haha.


Small Chops in all her glory

Asun.


And so with that, I round up this excruciatingly long post. Lagos is annoying for several reasons but food is not one of them.

Should I have divided this post into two parts? Probably. But we move.

If you read all the way, you are the real MVP. Too many long posts in a row so I will try my hardest that the next post on this blog is very short.

Thank you for reading, and if you ever try any of these, definitely let me know.

Love,

I

Much Ado About Traveling and The Danger of Self-Care in Our World

Bon voyage? Or nah?

Travel.

When I was much younger and did not travel as much as I now do, I used to list travel as a hobby. Surely, nothing can be as fanciful and luxurious as packing a tiny bit of your life into your suitcase, scurrying through crowded airports, getting on a plane and jetting away into God-knows-where? Then I grew up and found the answer to that. Only a few things are more horrible than leaving home at the crack of dawn or maybe ridiculously late at night to meet long lines at a check-in counter; then walking a few miles (depending on how stupidly large the airport is) to another ridiculously long line so some stranger can basically press your breasts to be sure that you do not plan on bombing a plane or hijacking it; then after surviving the horror that is TSA, you realize you are starving because you left home too early for a plane that does not leave until a few hours, but then again airport foods are overpriced if  at all you manage to find anything decent enough to be consumed (God save you if you are traveling out of Dulles); only to get on a plane where they honest to God serve the most disgusting piece of thing (called food) you have ever seen; and then you are trapped in what is basically a tube for some hours so much that your legs hurt and your skin is so dry, there are visible scales; then you land in another country but are too jet lagged to do anything, and when you finally get the chance to, your stomach hurts and your body just won't adapt to different climate; so you stay there miserable (but fake being happy, of course) for a couple of days; and it's time to do all of the above over again. Except this time you have to resume work the next day.

Whew.



I tell ya. Traveling is not all it's cut out to be. But that's not what you see online and on your Instagram timeline. You are told traveling is how you discover yourself. It's the next best thing since slice bread. In fact, it is now being touted as self-care. Hashtag self-care. Sigh. SELF MOTHERFREAKING CARE. Every single thing is a self care trope these days. And I worry that the capitalist and consumerist world we find ourselves in has somehow managed to curate the idea of self-care as something that you need to sink money into. When the truth could be entirely different. Maybe travel is overrated. And maybe sometimes self care is paying down your student loans [or other debt] instead of taking another trip where you spend more than half the time taking pictures to convince the rest of us that you really are having fun. I think it can be classist to sell traveling as this thing everyone has to do in their lives. Is it probably good to see other places and cultures? Yes, perhaps. But is travel the one true zenith of an accomplished and purposeful life? No. absolutely not. And whoever sells it as such to you is a liar.

I don't like to travel very much. Newsflash. Plane rides make me mad uncomfortable. I spend too much time worrying about safety and other shenanigans in the new place I am visiting, and it takes too long to adapt or revert to my normal whenever I return. Besides my own personal bias and dietary concerns about traveling, I genuinely think traveling can be overrated. Now would I stop traveling? Probably not. I accept and admit that traveling can be exciting and I love making memories with people I care about. But I will never make it my life's mission to "see the world" or "travel".  I will travel with people I care about if it means getting to spend time with and making memories with them, of course. People pose travel as this opportunity to learn grand things about yourself and the world. And I bet you, you can learn the same things in your room, on your bed on a rainy Saturday morning. Except this time, you would have saved yourself thousands of dollars and a few million bacteria. I don't think the act of travel has ever been a form of escape for me, and I don't think it should be for you either.

People say they yearn to learn about other people's cultures and experiences. Fair enough. Except most of y'all go to other people's countries, villages and never know how to properly behave. You crap on people's customs and call them bizarre the minute you find them different from you. If no one will tell you this, I will: going to a remote village for the sole purpose of your once-in-a-lifetime magical experience or some eat-pray-love crap is just...a tad selfish if we are being honest. Not to mention so many big cities have an underlying framework modeled so similarly that you might think you are having a de ja vu moment just walking down the road.

And let's face it, you are way too busy taking the perfect Instagram photo to learn anything about your destination. So while traveling is not a terrible thing, I need people who travel to get off their high horse and drop the sheer hubris that emboldens them to think because they have hopped from plane to plane, their life is better than others. The worst are those of you that have the guts to go to ANOTHER PERSON's place of dwelling, take a picture of it as a contrast to your designer clothings and USE THEM TO EXPLAIN WHY PEOPLE SHOULD BE THANKFUL BECAUSE AT LEAST THEY DON'T GET TO LIVE SO TERRIBLY. Please don't go on Instagram to celebrate  and take solace in the fact that your life is not as impoverished as those whose village you are in. And if you're white, I beg you with all things precious, do NOT...I repeat, do NOT take pictures with "poor, starving kids in Africa".

I was going to call the second part of the title, "the danger of self care in a consumerist and capitalist world" but it would have been too much of a mouthful. I think business enterprises have mastered the art of marketing their services and products, carefully parading them as self-care, because then it becomes a necessity, a requirement if you will, to a great life. When in reality, to truly have a good life you don't need most material things. Self-care has also become an indulgence; a carte blanche for recklessness and irresponsibility.

Traveling by itself is not what gives your life meaning and this is why I dislike the spiritual connotation attached to travel. If you can afford to, and you want to, then yes do it! But please do not travel and then make a post about how life altering it is. Because that's bullshit, and as someone who has been privileged to travel, I'm here to tell you not to fall for it.  You have been told traveling is a necessary investment you must make in yourself; depending on who you are, it probably isn't.

People brag about how travel has enlightened them and broadened their thinking, but all it takes is one conversation with people to see that they are still the same close-minded, ignorant person they were before packing their suitcases. I mean, what does finding yourself even mean? Seriously, humor me. Tell what what finding yourself means. Who you are is not a result of your mileage or one single experience; it's series of life events, memories, people, backgrounds, culture. You don't just wake up to find "yourself" on a 5 day trip to Belize. Traveling gives you another one of the million things that shape you. I would argue you are even more likely to "find yourself" in the mundane; in your normal; in  the midst of your routine.

I say all this not to demonstrate my hatred for traveling or visiting new places. Far from it; I don't hate visiting new places or traveling. On the contrary. I have a lot of traveling to do if I feel like (and can afford it), but what I will try hard not to do is sell it as the path to purpose or joy or happiness or worse, self-care.

Love,

I

P.S: I understand if you stopped reading halfway. Yikes this was long. Wuuttt. I did warn you about longer posts, didn't I?

P.P.S: To make up for this rant against travel, I shall write something on surving traveling or traveling efficiently, I promise.

P.P.P.S: If you are tempted to make this personal, get over yourself. I had absolutely no one in mind while writing this, I promise again.

P.P.P.P.S: Oh whatever, someone will for sure make this about them, I promise again, again. Hahaha. Enjoy loves!

Friday Reflections

1.) Have you read this recent post on how to conduct fieldwork for your research?

2.) Keep your goals to yourself. As someone who doesn't really like to talk about her goals, I quite agree with this TED Talk.

3.) An old schoolmate recently passed away, and I was really shocked. We all were. Normally, this sort of thing bothers me of course, but I was even sadder than I normally would be.

4.) I was (and I think we all were) utterly confused. But then I remembered our hope in Christ; I would like to say God reminded me of our hope in Christ...our hope for eternity...our joy despite sadness. My prayer is that God grants peace and comfort to her parents, family, and friend.

5.) Okay, is anyone else over the news? (whew started writing this more than three weeks ago, and yuppp, still OVER THE NEWS).

6.) Okay so, get this: Aja Newman checked into Mount Sinai's emergency room with a shoulder pain. Then a famous ER doctor sexually assaulted her.  A whole medical community and other gatekeepers worked to shut her down. Aja Newman won. This story is mind-blowing, powerful, and worth the read.

7.)  The truth is, David Newman would never have stopped if not for the bravery of Aja Newman (yes, a BLACK woman once again saves the day). That woman is what you call a bad ass, a fighter, and hella fierce.

8.) This brought tears to my eyes. And now I'm thinking of all the impactful and kind human beings I have been fortunate to cross paths with.

9.) The five stages of taking  a public shit. Lmao. Besides sharing that post, I also wanted to highlight the blog and (blogger) behind it. She's really creative! Oh also, maybe I should be randomly sharing blogs I like.

10.) Should I be including a fun (or not), interesting, random photo from the week in Friday Reflections? Hmmm. Thinking about this. In the meantime, check out the Instagram page, I always post a Friday dessert to get you yearning for sweet treats haha.

What Exactly is Fieldwork and How Do I Get Started on My Dissertation Field Research

Ho ho ho, back with another Grad School and Academia series post. I hope they are not becoming too frequent? It's just harder to write about something else, considering what is taking front row in my life now. *drumroll* You did not guess it right Lol. But yes, I am currently conducting field research in what Americans like to call, Africa. Yes, I'm in Africa Lmao. I'm kidding, I am in Nigeria for fieldwork for my research. This post might have several different parts that, depending on how lazy/busy I am, will be posted over the next few weeks (hopefully, not years). Don't worry as you will see in the forthcoming posts, fieldwork is not for the fainthearted oh.

Ibadan, Nigeria

I realized this might be confusing for a lot of people so I will do my best to explain. Depending on your field of work, this is especially in the Social Sciences, but if your work focuses on a region outside of America, there is a huge chance there is no data available for the research you want to conduct. In this case, you would have to visit the country or countries you are studying. In my case, I am lucky enough to be studying my home country (there will be a post on pros and cons of this idea, by the way). Field work, therefore, is collecting data outside of your office or laboratory or the library. This means, field work can be a Zoologist going to the zoo. Or a Botanist going out to study plants. Even people studying Americans also do fieldwork: could be heading out to study prisoners, or cops, or firemen, or Congressmen. But that's boring, let's talk about the more exciting aspects, shall we?

Yes, going out of the country.

University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Now that we have that out of the way, fieldwork varies a LOT. A Whole LOT. And I think that if you are not careful, you can waste a whole lot of time doing fieldwork. it is one of those things that is so amorphous, it can truly never end. So the best thing is to set a date for yourself, a deadline if you will. Because I have seen people conduct fieldwork for two years. And of course in this time-wasting category, I exclude ethnographers. Unlike the rest of us, ethnographers seek to be embedded in a society, to observe and study a way of life by becoming a part of that way of life. I have serious critiques of some ethnographic work, but that's not why we are here today lol.  But be careful, lest it's the tenth year of your phd and you still don't have a dissertation.

Fieldwork can also entail collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, like I am doing. (So ask me questions, guys. If you have any, just shoot me an email. Er...no please SEND me an email. You can never know with Americans, ahem). So with this in mind and coupled with LIMITED funding (cos y'all know in academia, it's always limited), I had/have a game-plan: I am determined to not waste my time. It's really that simple. Everything boils back to maximizing the amount of time I have. I am not saying my specific duration because I don't want you witches monitoring me (I didn't even know whether to post this after I had already left). But yes, generally, fieldwork ranges in duration. Last year, I had a short preliminary field work for one month. Some do more like 6 months to one year. Some do less, like 3 months to 4 months. so it depends on your work and your plan. Now, how can you even get started on your field research? Well, keep reading.

Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Nigeria.

1.) Go back to your proposal. I reckon you had or are currently writing one? You must pass and defend one before they even allow you proceed to fieldwork, no? So what did you say you would do in that? Keep in mind that things change when you get to the field. But the more details you can have at the proposal stage, the better for you cos then you can hit the ground running. In your proposal you also probably have explained how exactly you plan on collecting data. Since I am in the Social Sciences, I will give example from the Social Sciences. So for instance, you might need to observe certain groups of people. You might need to interview some key informants. Or perhaps, it's a focus group? Alternatively, it could be archival data that is only available in an obscure library in southeastern Zimbabwe. Or it could be surveys of citizens of that country. Or data from the government. It could be a  myriad of things. It could also be a combination of various methods. As much as you can, explain how you intend to obtain data to test the hypotheses you put forward. I realize this point can be particularly helpful if you are just about writing your proposal. So again, should you have any questions, ask away!

2.) Reach out to people beforehand: now if you are going to be interviewing people, you definitely need to reach out to people in the place you are going, telling them about your work and the fact that you will be coming over for your research. Even if you are not interviewing, and perhaps all you need to do is participant observation, you still need to reach out to folks. In fact, it might be prudent to be affiliated with an organization. The institutional back up can be incredibly helpful. All you have to do is reach out to one person, explaining who you are and what you do. It's a simple enough template saying, you are xyx, a Ph.D candidate at xyz, studying zyx....and so on. Be precise, be concise, and in many cases people respond very well. Not everyone will, but someone will. If you need institutional affiliation, keep reading below but know that you need to have reached out to them even earlier.

An exciting townhall meeting!

3.) Leverage your connections: you might be wondering where on earth you would find someone to reach out to in middle of nowhere, Romania. But you would be surprised. First of all, what works have been done on Romania? Surely, someone before you has gone there for field research. Email them. I found lots of my contacts by cold emailing (yup! worked like magic for me). But I also found some by chit chatting my friends who do work completely different from mine, telling them what I do and where I'm going. And a little oh wow I know this other person who does xyz, and bam it snowballs from there. Do not ever underestimate the power of the connections you have built so far in life. And don't be shy about talking about your work. While in the field, I desperately (emphasis on DESPERATELY) needed something that could make or break my work. I was at my wits' end when I messaged someone who is kind of a personal shero to me, but who I have only met once at a conference. I sent an email to her, half expecting she would be too busy being a badass to respond. By the time I woke up the next day (a SUNDAY), she had responded. And the person she connected me to helped me tremendously. This was after weeks of worrying that my whole plans were coming crumbling since I could not find a solution.  I will NEVER forget her kindness. So talk about your work, and email.

4.) Ask your advisors and professors for help: if you have tried cold emailing, and leveraging your own connections, and nothing bites or you still don't have enough for where you are going, then it's time to pull in the big dogs. For my preliminary trip, I was really shy about cold emailing people. I did not want to be a bother (NONSENSE) so I reached out to my advisor, and he reached out to someone who reached out to someone who was very helpful. So of course talk to professors who do similar works to what you do. Of course, be prepared, not all professors will be helpful. Some do not really like to "share" connections. So don't take the no or the silence personal. However, your advisor probably will and if they don't, honey, we are dealing with a way bigger problem here. Let's talk in camera. By my second time around, I had wisened up and sent emails to any and everybody that could even remotely help. And for the most part, everyone was incredibly kind and helpful. Except for a few jerks here and there. But who cares about those?

5.) Social media: thank God for this thing. If all else above fails, go to TWITTER. Okay so this is dicey because you can't just go one day and then bam find what you are looking for. It takes a systematic and continuous use of it. Follow the right people and just keep on. You can even be incognito, but follow some people whose tweets you like and whose works and reputation you respect. Something would lead to something and then, you would find they could be of help. Tweet at them!

6.) Calculate cost: okay this should probably be at the top, but you need to count your cost. You really need to figure out a very good estimate of what this trip would cost. Ideally, you should have this figured out a year before so you can apply for funding opportunities. Field research is expensive for various reasons; one of which is plans change, and sometimes what you bargained for changes. So set realistic expectations of how much you will need. And apply for funding opportunities like your life depends on it. Because it kinda does.

7.) Figure out housing and other logistical aspects: where will you live? How will you get around? How do you plan on keeping safe?  Please and please, please make sure your safety is paramount. Please. No research is worth your life. To do this, you need to have been in proper communications with someone on ground that can be trusted. This is another reason that institutional affiliations are prudent. You also need to understand you are a visitor where you are, you have to respect their customs and way of life. I mention this because there is often a sheer hubris among researchers that makes them feel like their research trumps all and everything. It doesn't. If in that village or town, they don't allow recorders, then don't record. If interviewing political officers is wrong, then don't do it or at least don't be so blatant about it. I also want to say as a researcher doing field research, ask yourself how you plan to give back to this community that is contributing monumentally to your research. Don't just take and take and then leave them worse than they were. Give something back, in some form.

All of these seem like a good starting point for field research. In subsequent post in this series, we will talk about other things like the day-to-day aspects of field work, where to do your field research and so on. This was incredibly lengthy, but bear with me, a lot of things needed explanation. As always if there are questions, let me know. I am not an expert (not even close since I am still learning a lot and asking questions myself) but I can share what worked/works for me and together we can be great lmao.

Love, and some adventure,

I