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

Eating My Way Through Lagos Part II: Some Foods You Should Try In Lagos, Nigeria

Here is part one,  first of all. Second, devil really did not want y'all to see this post because I have been trying to write this for the LONGEST, and I mean THE longest time. Third, I am definitely not a food blogger if the quality of these pictures are anything to go by. Okay so on to the post. Have I mentioned that I am currently in Nigeria for my fieldwork? I probably have. Have I also said I need to post useful stuff on fieldwork? I probably have. Now, have I posted any of that? Nopee, because something is wrong with me. As with part one, I was determined to take as many pictures of food as I possibly could. Whereas the problem with the last one was taking pictures in front of people, the problem with this is finding the time to actually sit down to eat. Of course, none of these people paid me or anything so these are honest opinions. At least, I try to give a honest account to the extent that I can remember because this brain of mine is thinking of a LOT nowadays.

The above was from Sidewalk Lounge, where S's husband threw a surprise get together to celebrate her. The food was amazing and easily the best I have had in Lagos. Loved it! There was roasted corn, roasted plantains, chicken, turkey, asun, all manner of potatoes... a platter essentially. Yeah it was really good. Now, when I told E about this, she was very surprised because apparently she had a bad experience with the food when she went so that's interesting and noteworthy. As for me, I had great food, and great company. All in all, 'twas a great night.

Some more food from Sidewalk. Before


After
Okay so on to the next. The below was from Casper and Gambini's . I know, I know, it made the last list too. But if you remember, we didn't actually eat the last time. This time, we did. This time around, I specifically asked to not taste the sugar in the mojito and it did not disappoint at all. It was good. They also served some bread before the main course. I remember the food coming out really late, and then we waited an even longer while before the bill came. So note that. As for the food itself, I ordered a sandwich that was too cumbersome to eat and got pretty exhausting really quickly. My friend E had a suya lobster and that was nice. We also had calamaris as appetizers and yes that was really nice.
















It took a while to remember this next one, but I'm pretty sure it was from The Place. Again, we gotta do this, Lol: The Place is the name of the place. So this was, I think, a stir fry pasta with their asun. It was not very memorable, but frankly I don't think it was cooked with the intention to be. The Place is basically fast food at this point.



Okay the next is another fast food meal, I think. However, it was really GOOD. From Sweet Sensations or so. Okay it just occurred to me I have not been talking price. For the fast food options, they are pretty cheap affordable. The actual restaurants come with really hefty bills (I'm talking about N10,000 to N15,000 per person without alcohol). Speaking of which, in any currency, isn't that pricey for the services being rendered. I don't know but I know it is pricey for the average Nigerian. To give you a specific idea of what some of these Lagos restaurant, the sandwich from Casper and Gambini's cost probably about N8, 000 or so...for a measly sandwich lmao?  Still I don't believe the regular joe goes even to a fast food when they want to eat. There are cheaper "restaurants" or "buka" options that are really, really cheap. Anyway, enough of the sociocultural and money talk. So yes, this Ofada rice and stew from Sweet Sensation was truly good. It tasted authentic and had lots of meat too. What more can a girl ask for?





The next one is from a restaurant called Bungalow, where I went with my girliess, R and Z. Whew the initials of my friends are something, no? Lol. We had a good time here and certainly NOT because of the food. This food took FOREVER. ha. and When it finally came, it was very underwhelming. Who puts corn in jollof rice? Yuck. Okay, it was not tasteless or anything. It was just really unimpressive. R ordered a burger and My God, I have never seen a sadder looking burger. Actually I did see one, but story for another time.





Okay here is another fast food meal below. Chicken was nice. But rice? Not so much. Oh and it's from somewhere called Chicken Republic, which is apropos.


Now, onto street food hohoho. I don't know how to review suya. I just know Suya can be disastrous or it can be exceptionally good. This one was the latter. Whatever you do, do not go to Lagos without having Suya. Well, except you're vegan or vegetarian, then ignore. The rest of you, make sure you eat Suya if ever in Lagos. You will not regret it. Suya is basically meat, a special kind of roasted/grilled meat with a special kind of pepper. I don't know how to describe Suya so just eat it jare.



Puff puff is another street food you should have. Unfortunately these ones below were not good. They were too thick and then I don't know what monster decided to add pepper to puff puff. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE should there be pepper in puff puff. And I can tell you for free that my people (*cough Yorubas cough*) are probably responsible for this travesty.






This next one I want to talk about is Cafe Neo, not because of the food but because of everything else. A nice coffee shop where you can work in peace and solitude? Yes, please! I was quite impressed to have such a cool sport in Las Gidi. (Oh gosh, remember when we called it Las Gidi. That is sooo 2008). They have various branches in Lagos. And I really really liked the idea of the place. I should also mention, that the coffee and other beverages are REALLY good. Like exceptionally good. The only annoying aspect was that their website boasted of several food options when in reality, they did not have most of them. That was very disappointing. I also suspect this happened because the branch I went was not on the Island.




And there you have it, part II of my food chronicles from Lagos. There certainly will be a part III. Though I should mention, being the terrible food blogger that I am, I keep forgetting to take pictures. Ugh.

I hope you enjoy this. And if you are not Nigerian, I hope you get to visit Lagos someday. A city us Lagosians love to hate, but also incredibly love.

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) Meet men who have taken their wives' last names.

2.) My goodness, it's been too long since I did one of these. I don't even remember how to do this anymore.

3.)  A few things you have lived long enough to know.

4.) I recently started getting these moles on my face and neck, and I can't even begin to describe how annoying they are. Turns out, they are hereditary. Why do you have to inherit something you have no say about and you don't want?

5.) Every black woman needs to watch this empowering speech Angela Basset gave as she accepts the Icon Award at Black Girls Rock 2019.

6.) Why Impostor Syndrome is every woman's weapon.

7.) My God,  I have been writing three posts for weeks and I just have not gotten to posting them. Wow.

8.) Our jobs/professional lives have very clear markers and measures of success. How do you measure success and progress in your personal life even if it's remained largely the same (probably stagnant) for years?

9.) I don't have an answer to that. I'm just posing the question, so I can hear your own thoughts too.

Book of the Month: Everything Here is Beautiful

Come hell or high water, I will post the book of the month for September. Yes, yes I will. The book of this month is a novel by Mira T. Lee, which I completed in three days. I am very reluctant to include this fact because sometimes the invisible competition about how long it takes to complete a book that people engage in is not my cup of tea. But this one was special circumstance, and little things like me telling myself I must finish a book and actually finishing it reminds me that if I put my mind to something, then I can most likely accomplish that thing. And I think same goes for most people too; this is of course with reason. Do NOT build castles in the air.



Inspiration over. Everything Here is Beautiful is a story about the relentless bond of two sisters and how they cope with one's struggle with mental illness. In some sense, when you read the book, you will agree though only one person has the mental illness, both of them suffer tremendously. These two sisters are daughters of a  Chinese Immigrant, and because of this we see the role of many poignant themes all through. The most interesting thing about it though is how two sisters born of the same parents can be so different. One sister, Miranda is calm, responsible, has a steady career and marriage. The younger one though (and in real life, it is ALWAYS the younger ones lol) is more headstrong, more of a free spirit, lives life on her own terms, and unfortunately has to deal with mental illness. In fact when we meet her, she is married to a "one-armed Russian Jew". Yup. The pattern and relapse of her crisis shapes both her relationship with her sister and the entire book. Through this book, we see the dynamics of mental illness; its effect on the family and its destructive powers.

"Later, I would be told I had a twenty percent chance of maintaining a full-time job, a twenty-five percent chance of living independently, a forty percent chance of attempting suicide, a ten percent chance of succeeding. I was twenty-six years old."

I'm going to be honest that what sold me on this book was that it was about sisters. That was enough for me. I love anything that celebrates the ferocious and beautiful bond and love of siblings. But I wasn't expecting this type of book. Now, I did not like this book at first. Perhaps because I was rushing but it felt rushed, and I did not like the pace. At some point, it seemed like the author was rambling. This might also be because she told the story from different points of view. By itself, this was actually a genius idea; you know I love this idea.  But still...it just felt like she was trying to get some parts of the story over with. And some of these parts she really could have done away with. There was a lot lot of quotidian events. Like okay, they had dinner and so? But isn't that what a great story is about? The ability to narrate the seemingly ordinary in a way that makes you feel a part of their lives. I also never felt like a part of any of these characters, and this is not because Lee did not painstakingly narrate the ordeals of mental illness; she did. I just could not break through.

Okay Ife if you did not like this book, why is it the Book of the Month?

Because it truly is an amazing book. The themes she explores, the author, and the story. In the last few pages of the book, I actually cried. And a book that gets me to cry is one helluva book. It's heart-wrenching; tells an unusual love story filled with passion, pain, forgiveness. It is insightful, and incredibly complex. What's not to love?

In addition, there was not great attempt to paint characters as either good or bad. In real life human beings are more complex than that binary classification. Sometimes, we are good and kind and forgiving. Other times, not so much. I think you will learn a LOT about mental illness, and the more we can learn about that, the better we can all be.

So anyway check it out, and let me know whether you enjoy it.

Love,

I

A Sunday Ramble On Being Carefree, Being Anxious, And Being Gifted

I'm inspired to just come here and ramble. Is that not what a blog is for? This is not even a planned post, and I have several of those lined up. I just felt like rambling today. Plus it's been a while I did one of these. I'm currently in Nigeria for field research for my dissertation. Normally, I would not want to say this publicly but no effs to give right now. I'm a not-so-silent fan of mizadventures of mizchif's blog, and I just read her last post and I'm full of admiration of how authentically she is living her life. I'm almost envious.  I mean, she is truly livin' her best life. I have certainly not attained that level of living authentically and free with no bother. But I am really getting there. I'm certainly better than say, earlier this year, or last year. When I was younger, a teenager, I was THERE. I literally did not care about anything or anyone. As I have grown older however, and with more to lose, I have relaxed in that I now care way too much. Yeah, gotta lose that. For you, what does living your best life mean? Because I know for sure mine would look nothing like mizchif's at all. The key though is being unapologetically you; not living for others, however you define that.



I have to say that it still matters that I am kind, that I have empathy, and that I have love in my heart. However, I must first love myself and fill myself. Because of that, I am learning to love people from afar. I am learning that when someone shows me who they are, I best listen. No hard feelings. No anger. No hate. Just go. For many people, I would rather love them from afar.  If you feel this way about certain homo sapiens in your life, I want you to know it does not mean you have not forgiven a person, and it does not mean you do not have Jesus in you. It means you have enough Jesus in you to flee temptation. Fin.

I say this all to say in the words of  our internet Auntie, Chimamanda, I am striving to no longer desire likability; to not twist myself into shapes so that some people like me. 

There are people who dislike you because you do not dislike yourself. - Chimamanda Adichie

I have been so anxious about my work more recently; so so anxious. I have to mention that this is a very frequent occurrence. Another thing you should be mindful of should you want to ahem go into academia. Anyway, yes anxious. So so anxious. When you really evaluate it,  on the one hand, it's hard to pinpoint a root-cause of work-related anxiety; on the other hand, somewhere beneath it all is a terrifying fear of failure. This is of course maddening.  So for this current season I find myself, the word of God impressed upon my heart is,

even though the fig tree have no blossoms
and there are no grapes on the vines
even though the olive crop fails
and the fields lie empty and barren
even though the flocks die in the fields
and the cattle barns are empty
yet I will REJOICE in the Lord
I will be joyful in the God of my Salvation - Habakkuk 3:17-18

Basically, no matter what happens, I will choose rejoicing. It takes another level of growth and spiritual maturity to be grateful even when things are not smooth. There is a whole other peace you experience when you know even if trouble comes, God is still good. God is still gracious. God is still kind. Now all I ask is if trouble comes, God should grant me the grace and peace to endure. It's like someone said on Instagram: she no longer prays not to go through hard times, but she has learnt to embrace suffering.  And that now just prays for peace and grace to navigate whatever comes her way. Amen? Amen. So all those emails that terrify me, I will still choose to rejoice. Come rain, come sunshine, I will choose to rejoice.

A recent caption on the blog's Instagram. Yes, we now have Instagram oh. Have you FOLLOWED? Modern Cedar Squadies, where you at? Followwwwww. Hahaha. Okay on that post, I mentioned how lethargic I have been regarding blogging. In my defense, if you ever experienced a day in my life, you would wonder where on earth I find the time for hobbies like blogging. Now normally, I would stop blogging altogether instead of being so inconsistent. But then, surprisingly this comes so easy for me, you know. Yeah writing does. I never quite admitted it to myself, but after recently coming up with a poem to post on the blog in literally five minutes, I realized wow this is quite...easy? Not that writing is easy (duh! if it were, I would have tons of books), but I mean compared to most other things I do, this—blogging  and its variants—come quite easy. I thought it must be a gift then, and even if it isn't, it really makes me feel good. So why stop? Also, remember we are about doing what we truly love. Again, normally I would never "brag" about being "good" at something. I don't think I have ever even admitted to myself about being good at anything, but again Berry Dakara posted about giving yourself a compliment. And that is something I never do. So yeah I gave myself a compliment by admitting that I have a "thing" which may or may not be a gift, but which I love and I'm pretty good at. So consistent or not, audience or not, I will keep doing it.

So consider all of these today: be more authentic and carefree; lose the toxic people in your life; choose only those who choose you; choose to rejoice no matter what comes your way; and compliment yourself. I implore you to imbibe these if at all possible.

Love,

I

P.S: Happy birthday Auntie Chimamanda!

Does God Lie or Does He Change His Mind?

A few weeks ago I read about Hezekiah and his prayer to God, and it really wasn't my first time reading about the story but I felt like I got a newer interpretation that day. When he was ill, God sent Isaiah to let him know he would die. Like it would be for most people, this was devastating news for Hezekiah and he was so sad, one could say it sent him into a downward spiral. He cried, turned his face to his wall and prayed to the Lord:

Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and I have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you?

He said, while he broke down and wept bitterly.

Picture: by my photographer sister


Now because God's heart tugs when we are  sad, and because he is a compassionate and merciful God, He actually listened to Hezekiah. God told Hezekiah [through Isaiah] that He had heard his prayer and seen his tears.

Note: God sees you, no matter how matter it doesn't feel like it. He sees you.

So God decided to add fifteen years to Hezekiah's life. Doesn't it bring you immense joy and relief to know that God sees our tears, our worries, and our concerns? I had this sitting in draft for  a long while (more than a month), but these past few days made me remember it again and boy, do I need this reminder? While Hezekiah was praying and praising God after the good news, something else stood out for me. And by the way, God did send a sign that he would keep his promise. He always does that. But yes, what stood out for me was that even though that sickness and the planned death were the will of God, it didn't stop Hezekiah from asking for a miracle.

But what could I say?
For he himself sent this sickness

A lot of times, when we think a challenge is from God with an intent to discipline us or just as a part of his will, we are reluctant to say God let this cup pass over me. Meanwhile, even Jesus [the actual messiah], as He approached death (to fulfill his greatest mission) asked God to please let the cup pass over Him. In an old post,  in explaining what faith can look like in action, I also talked about how we shouldn't always resign to well if Gods wants it to happen, well then it will. I think sometimes, we NEED shameless persistence. We must never be afraid of asking God for a miracle, no matter how radical it looks.



And yes, I know, "God does not change his mind like the son of man". That is of course in the Bible Ha! Except it did seem like God changed his mind in the Hezekiah case, doesn't it? It's amazing. I love to say there is a mystery to God that we don't know. The truth is if anyone thinks they know God from the beginning to the end, if people act like they have ALL the authority on God, they are either lying or it's some form of sheer hubris, or both. The greatness of God is so vast that we just do not know the entirety of God and I don't care how many times you read the bible from cover to cover. I, of course agree with the verse that says that God is not a liar neither does he change his mind. But to paraphrase Steven Furtick, God may not change his mind, but we ourselves evolve in how we see God. So it's not God that "evolves" as people like to say, it's that we do.

When non-Christians are rightfully worried about some of the rhetorics in the Bible like slavery, subjugation of women, and so on; Christians attempt to refute this by saying times and contexts have change. The non-Christians in turn challenge us again that if God does not change his mind then he must be the same God who condoned slavery (all of this is wrong by the way, but we are not here to talk about this). The truth is this God sent His son for salvation so our relationship is beyond laws. The same ways Christians are notorious for spouting a few verses as it suits them, non-Christians also love to spout a few Bible verses with the intention of judging all Christians by a few problematic ones. I think if you want to critique a thing, then at least know it. And knowing it is not merely regurgitating a few popular phrases.

I digress.

The point being, do not be afraid to go before him, to plead for mercy. And know, always KNOW that at His core, He is a good good father. And you and I are loved by Him.

Love,

I

Friday Reflections

1.) It has been so long since I did one of these, huh?

2.) Okay let's get into it. This is one of the saddest stories ever. And here's his wife's version.

3.) When puffpuff makes it to New York Times.

4.) More seriously, read  Yetunde Komolafe's post on the New York Times on 10 essential Nigeria Cuisines. More than food, it actually tells a tale of being Nigerian and our dynamic relationship with food.

5.) As someone very interested in food (how else can you define an obsession with food Instagram accounts?), I loved it. HOWEVER, I gotta say, some of those things pictured were very questionable. For instance, THAT is not the Agege Bread I know. But A for effort?

6.) Watch this video on the magic of not giving a f***. I really want to take this approach and God knows if I have to watch this video once every day to get it into my thick skull, I will.

7.) When Burna Boy won the BET award for best international act, and he was nowhere to be found, his mother walked majestically to the stage and accepted it on his behalf. I half expected to find you know, a mom, which we did. However she is more: an articulate, brilliant momager. Turns out she is no slouch herself: read more on her.

8.) Remember that shoddy journalism on Aziz Ansari's bad behavior. Here is an expose on the rise (?) and fall of that publication.  Chileee the manner of misbehavior that went on there is jarring and disgusting. That place itself needed a full investigation on workplace sexual abuse and just impropriety. What is wrong with  young folks?

9.) Meghan Markle interviews Michelle Obama.

10.) Read about this man who was bedridden for 11 years and then...invented a surgery that cured himself.

11.) Why 30 is not the new 20

12.) This beautiful story of childbirth.


Book of the Month: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This book is ah-mazing! I had heard a lot about it so I was very excited to dig in, and I'm excited to tell you that it surpasses the hype for sure. Homegoing is a historical fiction novel by a Ghanaian-American author, Yaa Gyasi. First of all, it has a unique attribute: each chapter follows a different descendant of an Asante woman named Maame. We start with her two daughters, half-sisters Effi and Esi who are separated by fate and never actually met each other. Effi marries James Collins, the British governor in charge of Cape Coast Castle, whereas her half-sister, Esi is held captive in the dungeons below where Effi lived. Thereafter, each chapter follows their children and following generations: such that each chapter is narrated from the perspective of a descendant of either Effi or Esi, representing each generation.



The book opens in mid eighteenth century, when slave trade was at its peak up to the present day. So in following these descendants, the author explores a variety of very important themes like exportation of slaves from Africa, introduction of cacao as a crop in Ghana, and segregation and racism in America. These are very heavy themes and I think the author handles them excellently. Somehow, Gyasi narrates a a very familiar story of slavery and oppression in an unfamiliar style of personal triumphs and failures. The book is extremely ambitious, but also clearly lays out the place and participation of Africans in the slave trade.

This book is extraordinary in so many ways and I was in awe of how she thought about such a brilliant idea for a novel. But even beyond this, the way she tells the story draws you to the intricacies of these characters. In some way, you follow each character and get to witness the fate that life brings them, and particularly how they handle it. And if you squint, their main ancestors are the similar thread across many generations.

There are some critiques of the book that mention how the unique style makes it hard to follow through. I can see how someone would think that, but in the front of the book is a nice family tree which she drew, and I found myself turning back there a lot so I could know who I was about to read about. For me, the one downside was that we didn't get to know each character enough. They each seemed to have such complex backgrounds and stories, and she writes them so well that you want to know more about this person and what makes them tick or what makes them make certain decisions, and just as fast as you start to learn about them, you have to let them go. In that sense, a lot of the stories just did not feel complete. I guess the implication of this is that our ancestors have more effects on us than we think? I don't know. The most amazing part is that this book truly personifies the quote, "we are our ancestors wildest dreams".

Before now, I used to not pay a lot of mind to my ancestors/progenitors. I mean yes, grandparents, and great grandparents, but I have never been curious enough to want to go beyond that. I have the luxury and privilege of knowing where I am exactly from so I guess ancestry does not matter as much to me. I always joke that people (ahem our white counterparts) spend so much time learning about ancestors that were probably terrible people lol. Anyway, this book created a renewed sense of curiosity in me to know my earlier progenitors. Where did it start? Who were they? Heck, am I related the random stranger on the road somehow? I will never know.

Each character from each chapter could be a book on its own. And if that's what Gyasi spends her entire career doing (maybe making a series of some sort with each book based on each character), she would retire successful. I suspect she is much more ambitious than that though and too creative for that. But yeah, that was my problem, I wanted more.

Don't get me wrong, there were some things wrong with the book, as there is no perfect piece of art. But the narration, the dialogue, the symbolism were astute, with each just suitable with whatever generation we found ourselves. The facts of the themes, and the immense research that must have be conducted to produce this body of work must not be underrated.

I hope you read it, and when you do, let me know what you think about it.

Love,

I

Seven Differences Between Getting a PhD and Going to Medical School

As I mentioned in a now deleted post, I'm currently getting a PhD. It's something I never used to like to talk about on this blog, and really in real life too. But more recently, and mostly inspired by the amazing Ijeoma Kola, I've been more inclined to talk about my experiences. The main reason is because over the course of my own journey, I've had sooo many questions and not enough people to ask. I usually sometimes resort to Google but frankly most questions go unanswered and I just figure stuff out as I go. Not to mention, there is sooo much to say about academia and while I can't quite go all in yet because ahem, I'm not fully anonymous, I can at least be a resource person, right?

So I thought to create a [grad school and academia] series addressing such questions, and this will mostly be for black girls like me or someone that belongs to a minority group (So really anyone that isn't white) as academia was not created for us.  And if you have any question, feel free to ask. Especially if you're just about to start (you need to know what you are getting into before you begin, please). That's not to say if you are white, you can't read any of this; certainly not, but you might not relate to any of what I say. And for my non-academia friends and readers, don't worry,  I will still be blogging about regular life stuff and all. This is definitely not a academic blog (yuck). Plus who knows, you may be able to apply some of these principles to your life too. I'm excited about this, yay!

the view from my sister's apartment is breathtaking

Now on to the very first post in the series. Last week was my sister's White Coat Ceremony for medical school (Yay! Still so hyped). Anyway, all through the event, I noticed some things about medical school that differ extensively from grad school (getting your PhD), and thought about writing about those differences. Now of course, substantively, they are vastly different. An MD is a medical degree and medical students are being trained to become physicians. On the other hand, a PhD can be obtained in a vast array of fields: from the humanities to STEM fields, you can get a PhD in numerous degrees. In a nutshell, a PhD from a reputable program (not those online nonsense, sorry if you're a recipient of one of those!) is mainly research. In the U.S., after taking a few years of classes, taking comprehensive exams, defending a qualifier, defending a dissertation proposal, giving your sanity, giving your kidney, giving your eyes, giving your heart and your liver (kidding for the last four points, or am I?!), you are expected to produce original research and contribute to your field. So in that sense, of course they differ. But I'm talking of something else, and you'll see below. Here goes:

1.) Collegiality: There seems to be a more collegial atmosphere among medical students. I think they are more likely to support each other and work together as colleagues than grad students are. By its nature, a PhD is very isolating and so it's less likely that grad students are close friends. There is also the fact that the entry classes of medical programs are notoriously larger than PhD programs. At most, a PhD cohort might be, what, 30? And it's usually less than that, with some cohorts having only 5 students. Meanwhile, MD cohorts can be as large as 200. So of course, there is more opportunity for nurturing friendships in medical school. Interestingly, I think in both, it can be cutthroat with too much competition among students, so this depends largely on context and school. Also PhD programs have a lot of attrition rates: fifty percent of doctoral students leave without finishing. Medical schools on the other hand, have an attrition rate of about 5%. I'm not saying collegiality solves anything, I'm saying there is something medical schools are doing that PhD programs aren't.

2.) Concern for students' wellbeing: my family and I were somewhat late for my sister's White Coat Ceremony. Right as we were walking in, the person giving a speech (might have been their dean?) was imploring new medical students to not only focus on school and academics. He said they needed to diversify their time; that if they like movies, they must keep watching films; if it's writing; if it's art; if it's getting manicures and pedicures; that they needed to still exercise; eat well; whatever it was they liked to do, they must do, otherwise they would be on a fast track to burning out. I was so impressed that someone that high up on the food chain showed concern for the most basic welfare of their students. But is it really basic though? The problem is, in academia, it's the opposite. No one cares about your life outside of your dissertation and publishing, or if they do, they never show it. In fact, the trope is that if you are not doing work for 80 hours a week, you are doing it wrong and you are already a failure. It is expected that getting the PhD should consume your entire life. Case in point: there are soooo many medical students and doctors who blog or who are social media influencers. They always have this picture perfect life on Instagram and perfectly curated timelines on Instagram. I used to always wonder how the hell these women have the time to even post. I sometimes forget I even have an Instagram account. I struggle to even keep up on this blog or to focus on my numerous other hobbies. It's not that medical students/doctors are not busy (they take some of the toughest tests and exams in the world), it's that they prioritize doing fun stuff. They prioritize doing things that bring them joy. That is basically nonexistent in academia.

3.) Work life balance: given my last point, it is no surprise a lot of people in medicine talk a lot about the need for achieving a work-life balance. I don't want it to look like I'm romanticizing the medicine profession because I'm not, but at least they are having the conversation. You see a lot of mamas in medicine (there is literally a hashtag like this that exists!) struggling, but trying nonetheless to achieve some semblance of balance. In academia, there is  literally an active discussion to keep you from having kids either in grad school or even when you're on the tenure track. In fact, if you mention not wanting to do something work related because it might be detrimental to your family, they look at you like you're crazy. This recently happened to me. It's like how dare you? And no one really takes you seriously if you are factoring your romantic life or family life into a work decision in grad school. But I have read about medical students who chose resident spots based on where their partners can live or where is close to their family. In fact, they know they need the support system. My sister's school had a completely separate orientation for families, because they believe the support system in necessary. The dean of student affairs personally told my family that we needed to support my sister. No on cares about that in academia. And the truth is we will never be better doctors without our families. I could never have survived these past grueling years without my family. I know this without a doubt.

5). Your identity: by this I mean, the idea that you are more than a doctor. Basically, the sense that there is more to you than what you do; than being a doctor. This is  somewhat related to the above too. I find that it looks like many medical doctors try to be more than doctors.  In academia, there is a weird fixation on the PhD itself. A lot of grad students have their identities wrapped around getting a PhD. Because of this, failure is often personal since it is hard to disentangle who you are from what you do. This thing is so destructive.

6.) Duration of study: This part is tricky. Yes, a medical degree takes four years, whereas a PhD can take anywhere from 4 to 10 years in the United States, with an average of 8 years. This means getting a PhD can translate to losing a lot of opportunity to build wealth, save for retirement, and well live a good life, only to graduate and not get a job because there are no jobs in academia. However,  while a medical degree is just 4 years technically, their training usually takes longer, depending on the field. Residency can take anywhere from 3 to maybe even 7 years. But the different is, once you finish your  medical degree, I believe Residents actually earn a salary, albeit not much. And of course, when they are done, you earn a whole lot to cover for lost years. So go figure.

7.) Support: there is an inherent kindness I noticed, either among medical students or between medical students and their teachers, which was surprising because I had always heard of lots of bullying in medicine. But it's worse in academia: the hazing, just because; the caustic, toxic way of providing  feedback is so prevalent, it's worrisome.  Due to some of the aforementioned problems, it is no surprise we have an alarming rate of suicide among graduate students.

Okay I know I said seven, but I will give one bonus, which is ranking. When it comes to prestige of medical schools, I do not think it matters so much. In other words, I can't imagine a medical doctor not getting hired because they did not go to Harvard Medical School. As long as you go to a good medical school (that is accredited, this should be needless to say but hey, you never know), you will be fine. A PhD on the other hand, erm rankings matter A LOT. Whether your school is top 15 or top 20 might determine where you end up post-PhD. This is particularly important if you want a job in academia. You have to pay real attention to which type of school you go.

So that's it...for NOW. The truth is a lot of this depends on individual contexts, personal circumstances, and your program. I don't think this should sway your decision to go for one instead of the other haha.  I mean deciding to go for either is a huge decision by itself, but these were just some differences I noticed. What about you, ever noticed any difference I missed here? Or did I overstate anything here? In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or anything you want me to address in this series.


Love,

I

Life is Meaningless but How to Live Your Best Life Anyway

There is a video by Patricia Bright, where she talks about how she spent 40,000 British Pounds on frivolities and things that really don't matter at all, and how she has learnt her lesson. That's not exactly why I'm writing this post, but it seems like a good preface for this post and what I'm about to blog about. P.S: Spend your money on whatever you like. That's your business haha.

Around the same time I watched that video, I was reading Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a book of the bible written by King Solomon. If there is one thing we all know about Solomon, it's his wisdom. He was the dude God gave a blank check and told him to ask for anything, and my guy asked for wisdom. Not money, not wealth, not cars. Just wisdom. So God gave him all of that in abundance.  When you are royalty, and rich, and wise, you know you would always have something to say. Boy, did Solomon have a lot to say in Ecclesiastes? But honestly all of it is so practical and relatable to real life. I decided to write about it. Maybe perhaps some of them can be imparted upon you.



You know how we always feel like life can be really repetitive and mundane. Well, Solomon addresses this in Ecclesiastes. This sole thing has caused people a lot of sadness. Solomon really wanted folks to understand that that's exactly life. That life truly has no meaning. Generations come and go, but the earth does not really change.

the sun rises
the sun sets
then hurries around to rise again
the wind blows south and then turns north
around and around it goes, blowing in circles
rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full
then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out
again to the sea

He continues on to say everything is wearisome, even beyond description. History just repeats itself and nothing is new under the sun. I don't know about you, but this provides some relief. I think we can often be very tunnel visioned, and I hate to trivialize anyone's problem. However, we are notorious for often thinking our problems are the worst and we are the only ones going through challenges in life. Meanwhile a.) people are going through worse, and b.) no matter how bad it is, it has happened to someone before.

This man was the wisest ever, but he didn't stop there. He sought out even more knowledge than you can imagine, and then learned it's all meaningless. At first, this might come across as hopeless, but it's not. What it should do is provide some humility.

Then he said, aight, it's time to chase pleasure. Now, if there is one thing you need to know about Solomon, it's that he epitomized enjoyment. He was the original Minister of Enjoyment. The man liked the finer things of life and was not very timid about it. He had about 700 wives, and a few hundred concubines. To put it simply, my guy overdid it. All that being said, surely we can all agree he is a trusted voice when it comes to enjoyment, because been there done that. Amright? No? Okay. He built HUGE homes for himself. He planted beautiful vineyards and filled them with all kinds of fruit trees. He even built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate his flourishing groves. He bought slaves (side eye). He owned large flocks and herd, MORE than any of the kings before him. He had silver, gold, he hired singers, and had everything a man could desire.  Anything he wanted, he would take. And his wisdom never failed him. Yes, I am right. No one personified enjoyment like King Solomon. Yet this man looked at all of it—all  of what he worked incredibly hard to accomplish, and he described them as meaningless, like chasing the wind. It's shocking that this same man referred to everything as "boring". But should't that tell you all you need to know about material things?

The unattractive truth is that, success and prosperity do not last long. All human accomplishments will one day disappear and if people actually lived with this on their minds, they will experience more peace. Because without this knowledge, you are left chasing after the next big thing. Happiness then, becomes something you always seem to pursue but can never quite attain. Because you have attached it to the next promotion, the next raise, the bigger house, the bigger and finer car, the nicer wrist watch, and yes  the newer iPhone model. But Solomon's main goal in Ecclesiastes was to  demonstrate that earthly possessions and accomplishments can be very meaningless. I don't think Solomon meant to say don't enjoy life. That would be hypocritical coming from him. I think he meant to say the opposite—enjoy life. I think he was saying, in reality we need much less than we think to enjoy life and have a good life.

The "chase" of the next high is why many people feel restless and unsatisfied. An inability or unwillingness to enjoy what you have is why even when you can afford the finer things of life, your inexplicable restlessness would further create bigger holes in your heart, so to speak. People seek to feel this empty hollow in so many ways. You can party from sun up till sun down, date the dateable and undateable, be on social media 24/7 without blinking, pour your misery on someone else as much as you like, buy the most expensive car, have all the power you can amass, and still be in great despair. Because those are the wrong things to fill that hollow with. So many people are tired and unfulfilled and wonder what life even means. I'm convinced life is meaningless without something more divine than the aforementioned. For me, that's God. Without God, life is meaningless. And even if you don't agree with me regarding God, surely you must know that using things to fill that restlessness and despair you feel is not helping. Chasing popularity, fame, prestige is  really a a waste of time. Money and wealth will never bring this happiness.

While writing this post, I randomly stumbled on this post about how this man sort of suddenly became a millionaire. He also reiterates the fact that once you have your basic needs met, the fallacy that hitting millions would somehow make your life complete is just that: a fallacy. if anything it reveals the emptiness even more. An emptiness that buying a Lamborghini or buying a a purse worth $16, 000  (Christ Jesus! what is wrong with you people?) would not solve. Sorry, I had to judge for a second. Moving on. This is why it is never worth it to give up your "integrity, dignity, humanity to gain all kinds of money all to have it do more harm than good." Sure, all that money is good and worthwhile but it rarely solves everything. If you don't believe me, then surely you will believe an actual millionaire. And of course, this does not apply to someone struggling to feed their children or to clothe their kids, or to take care of their sick family. Because in the life of someone like that, money would absofreakinglutely change EVERYTHING.

Knowing how useless most things are, isn't it beneficial to think about what you consider worthwhile? The implication of Solomon's words is that we invest our time, energy, and money in what we value, what we consider worthwhile. In some sense, everything Mark Manson said in his book—to spend your time on only what is truly important and immediate—has been said in the bible. Of course Manson may not be  a Christian and probably doesn't know that part.

In essence Solomon implores us  to enjoy life. To not worry too about things. In the end, it all matters so little so don't be so consumed with chasing happiness. Solomon tried that after all, and found how useless they all are since he found no self-worth or fulfillment in any of these, and I know so many people can relate to this. The one thing I feel Ecclesiastes teaches us is to not get worked up over things at all. Life ain't that serious. which is why Solomon recommends there is nothing  better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.

So go ahead
eat your food with joy
and drink your wine with a happy heart
for God approves of this

I love those words. This is especially for my Christian brothers and sisters. We think a life for God is one that is miserable. Scratch that, Christian dudes are the most notorious for thinking to be a Christian is to weird, have no sense of fashion, or to be incredibly corny. Please no.  Dress up nicely, eat good food, laugh, party, celebrate and rejoice with your loved ones. What you should not do is to let these consume you so much that you can't do without all of it.

There is a lot to obviously unpack in Ecclesiastes, that I can't quite fit into one blogpost. Solomon also asks one of my biggest questions as a Christian and person of faith: how can there be so much injustice in the world if God's plan is perfect? How can there be so much evil?  The truth though, as this and other passages in the Bible say is that, God does NOT ignore injustice (no matter how much it looks like it). He will bring an end to it at his appointed time. And best believe there is a time for everything under heaven. There is a time to rise up in anger against that injustice around you. There is a time to chill and be quiet.

What makes all these even more staggering and powerful is that they come from a man who had it all.  When you feel burnt out, when you have many unanswered questions, remember that someone as profound as Solomon felt all that too. I gotta tell you, no matter what you believe, you have to know that wisdom is accepting there is a mystery to this world we will never understand. And sometimes, it's okay to bask in that ignorance.

Love,
I

P.S: Thanks to my sister who somehow remembered that it's been SIX years since I started blogging. Maybe I should write something on that. Or maybe not: no wisdom to impart here. What people would want to hear is how to make money through blogging, and sorry hun, but I can't tell you that because I don't know how. In any case, HURRAY to this blog, you, the reader (thanks!), and me.


On Love, Relationships, Dating, and Marriage: Why You Really Should Never Settle For Less

When you are an unmarried woman in your late twenties, you get a lot of unsolicited advice on love, marriage, and relationships. If we are being honest, if you are an unmarried woman of any age, you do get a lot of unsolicited advice on what's causing you to be so single, as if being single is a disease. When you are an unmarried woman, and if by some misfortune you are an unmarried Nigerian woman who is supposed to be married but isn't, it's a double whammy. This is interesting because a lot of Nigerian marriages are not exactly the most alluring situation that a person should want or desire. I mean, for the most part many of the wives are glorified slaves in makeshift roommate situations they call marriages (through no fault of theirs of course). But I understand that the fastest way to get some modicum of respect in Nigeria is to at least be married. Otherwise, you are not respected in your own house. But also landlords would not allow you rent their houses. People would think you have no "covering", and yes I have heard people tell me that even their friends would preface the simplest stuff with, well you're not married, so you don't understand. Fortunately for me, although I am technically an unmarried Nigerian woman, I don't have to experience most of the above listed things because I have the privilege to also be an unmarried American woman. I don't live in a society that pressures me to get married, and frankly American women are marrying later than usual. It still does not mean that unmarried American women do not get unsolicited advice from people, worrying about why they are sooo unmarried. Let me say that whether or not this concern comes from a good place does not eradicate the fact that asking why someone is so single can come across as  sounding like to be single is to have the plague.

Go out more

Put yourself out there

Your standards are too high

But you never know, he could be the one (said about the most basic guy).

A more polite  bunch of questions I tend to ask my unmarried friends is, how is the dating life? Is marriage something you're interested in? I also make sure to never ever suggest that they just are not doing enough to combat singleness. Yuck.



To marry someone is to be tethered to that person for the rest of your life. Even when you carefully make this decision, the chances of making a wrong one are still incredibly high. Human beings suck. They are unreliable. They are angry. They are badly behaved. They suck. Still a lot of us want to marry. Nay, a lot of us need to marry. We have the unfortunate luck to have been created to desire companionship. It's primal. Beyond that however, many of us need the financial strength that comes from combining your assets (or debt) with someone else's. We need to couple up. That's okay. What is not okay is to lose yourself in the process.

When I was younger, I always wondered how a couple could get divorced even when there had been no infidelity. Now I know better. Now, I know there are so many reasons to decide that you would rather die than remain married to a toxic person. This is why before even getting to the marriage stage, make sure that  no matter the advice people give you, no matter the cajoling, if you do not feel like dating a person or marrying them, do not do it. Even if your wedding is next week, do not do it. Our instincts are powerful. In Lade Tawak's newsletter this week, she mentioned a powerful essay in The Paris Review that inspired this post. The autobiographical essay by a writer and professor tells a story of the events that transpire in the author's life shortly after breaking her engagement. It also gives us a glimpse into what life was like in said relationship. Spoiler alert: it was terrible. When you read that essay, you will first agree that some people are really terrible human beings. But you'll also see how easy it is for you to lose yourself. We always think we are doing too much when we desire what we want. We don't want to hurt people, or offend them. As a woman, it is so easy to give up on standards and values that matter to you. It is so easy to convince yourself that you're overthinking it when in fact this person is treating you like trash: the truth is if you find yourself crying all the time; if you have to wonder if the person you're with loves you; if your boyfriend sleeps with your mutual friend or frankly with anyone other than you, don't be pressured into acting like it's fine so he thinks you're cool, it is not fine.

It's incredibly easy to allow people mold you into what you are not, especially if like me you have strong opinions about life and people living in it. If you are also very unlike me and have no strong opinions about anything, do not let anyone bully you into being what you are not: an opinionated, strong-willed person. Whatever you desire in a life partner is what you should demand. The double whammy of being a woman and an African (or black or person of color etc.), I realize, is that we are always afraid of being too much. Our white counterparts never are. When my Uncle recently asked me why I stopped blogging or why I sort of reduced the intensity of my blog's voice, I said I worried about being too much. I said I didn't want to be that person either among friends or on cyberspace. I didn't want to make people uncomfortable. This is BS.  The same way it is BS to cower or compromise on what you desire in a life partner, like respect, love, honor. In a lot of African homes, women are groomed for men. Maybe not explicitly, but on days you didn't do your chores or maybe didn't do it well, you're told "is that how you will behave when you're in your husband's house?" I know men were never told this. So a lot of what you do can be a result from how you're socially conditioned. If you're too bookish, if you like a good political argument, a tiny part of you starts to wonder if that would discourage a potential husband. If you don't like certain things, you start to wonder how that would seem to the man you are supposed to marry.

If you are unmarried (I am deliberate with using the term unmarried), make a list of the most important values to you. Does he have to share the same religion? Does he have to be diligent in that religion? Is it okay that you are feminist but your romantic partner thinks women don't matter? Is he a card carrying Republican who thinks black people make too much noise about "racial issues" and voted for Trump, but you are a pro-choice liberal feminist who thinks AOC is too moderate? Now that makes for a good storyline in a movie, but you won't work in real life. These shared values, lifestyle, principles are what matters, more than whether he is from a particular country or the color of his or her skin, interestingly. Of course, their background plays into aforementioned factors. And even if a person shares all of the exact values as you do, and looks exceedingly great on paper, but you just either do not find them attractive or perhaps there is just something missing, do not let people around you bully you into dating/marrying them anyway. Listen to counsel sure, but most counsel on marriage is more about getting you coupled up by all means than about a genuine concern for your romantic life.

You can extend these principles to friendships too. My father always says (I can literally start any piece of writing with my father always says or my mother always says because they literally always say haha) a friendship that is not mutual is not friendship. I am reevaluating my own relationships, and while I always struggle with trying to live as Jesus would and trying not to be too selfish,  I have started to create too much allowances for people. Yet people are fairly predictable. If you bend you back, they WILL ride against it. I think my father said that too. So yes, be a little selfish. If someone only calls on you when they need you, sometimes, don't answer them. If you think someone is treating you like trash, they probably are. And they can gaslight you from now till next year, It doesn't change the fact that they are mistreating you. This goes especially for women. Even if you are old and grey, do not let anyone blackmail you: treating you terribly but rewarding you with the promise of marriage to keep you hanging. There are so many men on God's green earth, you will find another.

And never ever be afraid or ashamed to say you desire love. That you need love. That you want love. And don't be afraid to want to be loved a particular way. If you can be loved by the Almighty God in the most glorious way, then you don't deserve mediocre love.

This is a long way to say for something so complicated, relationships can also be fairly straightforward and predictable. You are worthy of a great love, don't settle for less than that.

Love,

I

P.S: I think I'm really, really back to blogging. I say this a lot but I'm ready to take this seriously so watch this space, and follow the blog on Instagram. Lots and lots of contents coming your way :-) Especially long form, life essays like this one (this would be really awkward if you hated this or hate long essays haha but yes, let me know if your style is more short and simple and we can do that too!).

Book of the Month: Trevor Noah's Born a Crime

I like to think that I have read a lot of books in this life. But hands down, my favorite memoir has to be Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. I talk a good game about all the books of the month I write about  here, but I'm very excited about this one. Of course I always knew Trevor Noah as a comedian.  I have watched clips of his show here and there. I even went to the taping of his show in New York and had a great time. I always knew him as a brilliant, articulate, and funny person. I also knew he wrote a book but never really got around to it, and frankly, I don't think I heard so much about it from people. Truth is,  nothing could have prepared me for this book.



Interestingly, I randomly bought it at an Amtrak station store while visiting home. I had just finished a grueling presentation and by extension, I was having a terrible day, and was looking around the store while I waited for my parents to come pick me up at the station, and bam I saw it. Meanwhile two nights before, my siblings and I went to New York for his show. So when I saw it at the store, I thought hey, this guy was funny, perhaps his book will be too. TRUST ME when I say, it IS. This book is funny, enlightening, educating, hilarious, and has so much depth. At some point, I had to ask how a book can make you laugh so much and also make you cry a little.



In telling his life's story, Trevor Noah explores various themes of his life while growing up in South Africa. As a child of a white man and a black woman, his very conception was already a crime. I think the brilliance of the book also comes from the fact that although it seems like Trevor Noah was telling his story, he was really telling the story of a phenomenal woman—his  mother. Trevor Noah is a fantastic storyteller. Everyone says Michelle Obama's Becoming was something and I haven't read it yet; I don't really like reading or even consuming any form of entertainment when it's all a rave. I like to take my time to digest it. The point being it will be hard expecting any memoir to trump Noah's.

As usual, I will mention some things that stuck out without revealing too much about the book because this is really a book I want you to read. I say this a lot, but I truly always mean it. I really liked how his mom taught him about women, and also about how to be a man. She told him that he had to learn to respect women and treat women right, and that a man is not a man because of how much he earns. This was especially necessary because as Trevor himself mentions, he never really grew up around men per se, and ahem his step father was not the exemplary father any person should have. There was something about his mom, and by something I mean, she was outright amazing in her perception of the society, her fierceness, and her values. Who am I kidding, their relationship might be the best part of this book.

Something else I really learnt was noticing cycles of abuse; really, abuse in any form. You would understand this better if you read the book. One thing is common, abusers are always nice. They laugh with you, they are charming until they are not. Until something extremely trivial causes a switch to go off and that's it. Because there is always that "good time" that lasts pretty long, the abuse continues to escalate and victims are more likely to suffer. In Trevor's words, "it is sporadic enough that you would think it would not happen again, but it is also frequent enough that you never forget it is possible," and there lies the danger of an abuser. So you see how after an incident, you fight them. Maybe you even go a while without talking to them, then later, you casually say hi and then there is a joke here and there, and slowly life goes back to usual, until they strike again. And knowing typical abusers, they always will.  Another thing is common: lots of societies do not do enough to protect vulnerable women and it's unfortunate.

Interestingly, though a victim of poverty, abuse, apartheid, and injustice, and many more things that would make a person give up, Trevor Noah tells his story in such a way that you do not feel pity for him.  What you are left feeling is complete admiration. That someone could endure all that and still make something for himself is amazing. But he doesn't have the hubris or arrogance that tells people that all you have to do is work hard to be successful. He understands how systems can be designed to harm specific groups of people. I guess you chalk it up to growing up in Apartheid South Africa, no? Either way, this is not a memoir you will forget soon, and as Refinery29 describes:

"This isn't your average comic-writes-a-memoir: it's a unique look at a man who is a product of his culture—and  a nuanced look at a part of the world whose people have known dark times easily pushed aside."

When you do read this, definitely let me know how you think!

Love,

I

Why The U.S. Women's Soccer Team is the Best Sports Team Ever and Why They Deserve Equal Pay

Yaaaass.

The FIFA World Cup Finals was just recently concluded. By recently, I mean less than an hour ago (as of writing this). And yes, the USA won Lol. Of course, I was rooting for them so I am very happy. Apart from my own bias as an American, the team is quite an exceptional one. Ordinarily, that's all fine and dandy. Of course, you should be great at what you do, what's the big deal yada yada. But what makes this win even all the more amazing is that members of the team, especially the great Megan Rapinoe, are quite the political activists. Like their coach said, they are great players, but even better human beings.

The thing is, these women have been fighting for equal pay for a while. The unfortunate irony is that the mediocre men in the U.S. men's team get paid more the women's team despite the blatant superior performance the women always display. This is the fourth time America is winning the World Cup, and the second consecutive win for this team, but the men's team has NEVER won and they don't even play as well. Yet they are paid better than the women. Now, there is in fact an inherent sexist approach to sports. Women's sport generally get less acclaim than the male sports no matter the quality of the actual game. I mean, the men's competition is the "World Cup" but the women's is the "Women's World Cup" as though to imply that the actual and original World Cup is the men's. If they were given the same weight, then the men's World Cup would be called: "Men's World Cup".



People always argue for unequal pay in soccer by saying women's sports get less viewership than men's  and chalk it all up to economics and a sound business model. False. The US men's team do not get as much views as the women's. According to the Wall Street Journal, from 2016 through 2018, the U.S. women's games pulled in $50.8 million in revenue compared with $49.9 million for the men. Not to mention, the same people who complain that women's teams don't get as much viewership are the same folks who refuse to watch. Such people dismiss women's sports simply because women are the ones playing. Such chauvinistic, myopic, and ignorant tropes hurt the quest for gender equality overall,  but also specifically hurts pay equality. The fact that we are still fighting for equal pay in 2019 is heartbreaking and another reason why should all be feminists.



See, I always say if you are going to fight, you better be excellent. This team has reinforced that idea for me. They have embodied the idea that sometimes [because we live in an unfair world], you have to demand what you have earned; what you deserve. You can't just take what's handed to you, you gotta get up, and you gotta PUSH back. They refused to accept defeat. And even in this final game, after they had scored twice, they refused to relax, they kept working hard. That's the spirit. In that, I saw diligence and relentlessness (is this even a word?). They are not just asking for more for the sake of it (although even that is not always wrong), but these girls armed themselves with preparation and excellence. They knew their shit.







And that's exactly how you fight. That's how you respond to critics. They have faced so much criticisms. First, it was that they celebrated too hard after beating Thailand, 13-1. Then it was that they are arrogant. Then it was HOW Alex Morgan celebrated after a historic goal against England when she mimed sipping tea. No matter what they did, it was one thing or another. People wanted them to cower, to apologize. But it was as if these girls knew their worth. You have to be extra ballsy to sue your employer before the World Cup.  They knew the burden this placed on them. But in the words of Alex Morgan, "having success gives us the platform to fight for equality". Now, the team is already capitalizing on this success. ESPN has agreed to televise 14 of the league's matches this season; 55 players on the World Cup rosters play in the leagues. Budweiser also announced a multi-year partnership agreement with the NWSL. The equal pay suit is headed for mediation. Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is how you win. 

This World Cup was historic in other ways. According to Time Magazine, in Britain, England's semi-final match against America had 11.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in Great Britain this year. France's quarterfinal game against the U.S. had 10.7million viewers and was the most watched broadcast of the year in France too. In Brazil, 35.2 million people watch and that was the highest ever audience for a women's world cup game. 








These girls don't even deserve equal pay with the mediocre's men's team, they deserve MORE. And let's face it, a team that gets me interested in soccer is one that has earned every single coin. SO PAY them.

"In the last three games of the World Cup, the U.S. faced an ascendant French power on home soil, England, a team that won a tune-up tournament in the United States earlier this year, and in Sunday's final, the  reigning European champion, the Netherlands." - Sean Gregory

The U.S. beat them all.

Now, Megan Rapinoe. That woman is a legend on her own. She is really the one I knew beforehand because all her activism, that has gone beyond fighting for her own identity to protesting injustice against black people. She's a good leader, she's an inspiring person, and if all of that don't mean jack, well, she is exceedingly great at what she does. And I am always here for that. She was awarded the golden boot AND golden ball. From reading more about her and her story (particularly her complicated relationship with her brother whom she shouted out/wished a happy birthday during her post-win interview today), I am learning grit and determination.




It is sooo good to be on the winning team, I tell ya. I am very proud of them, and it's been a lot of fun watching them play and represent us at this tournament. They are the actual world champions. My overall greatest lesson from this is, whatever you do; whatever your hands finds to do, be excellent at it; be great at it;  be best at it.

Love,

I