Date Archives February 2016

Somewhere Up In The Clouds

Dear Grandpa,

I should have sent you this letter a few months ago but, I wanted it to be perfect. I didn’t want it to be like my last letter that you sent back with red markings, highlighting all my grammatical errors.

So I have worked on this letter with mummy, ‘’my Dictionary’’ and ‘’Brighter Grammar’’, I really hope this is better than the last one. Feel free to mark any of my errors still, I need the correction.

We were moving house mid last year when I came across an old stationery set you gave me. It has orange papers with green and purple petals flowers around the edges and matching orange envelopes, it is encased in a black and white, zebra-stripes styled folder and instantly, I had the bright idea to write you a letter using these materials, so I did.
I also found the first journal you ever gave me. Blue hard cover note book with cartoon drawn players, kicking footballs at angels that made it appear like they were going to jump out and hit you in the face.

You gave me this journal the summer I turned 12. I had just finished my first year in secondary school and spent the better part of our ‘’reading and writing’’ lessons lamenting about my dad; how he would rather watch football matches on the last Sunday of the month than come to visit me in boarding school, that I didn’t feel noticed or loved by him but I was glad mummy, Titi and Tolu cared enough to show up with treats of chocolate, pizza and juice, month in month out.

You listened attentively, understanding my need to talk and get the weight off my little shoulders. I have long since learnt to deal with my father and I have come to love and accept him. In learning to accept him I also realised I am a lot like him and on some days it scares me.
The day before all the grandchildren were due to leave, you gave me the journal with the football players and said these words to me ‘’ you enjoy irony in all the novels and poems we studied and I believe it should be immortalised.’’ We both laughed. You always had a mischievous act up your sleeves.

Like the story mummy and Uncle Demola told us about the time you got up in the dead of the night and stole the night guard’s bicycle and how you listened with a straight face in the morning, while he told tales about armed robbers making off with his bicycle. When he was finished you walk him to the garage and pointed his bicycle to him. They never finished the story. I always ask “so what happened?” and they would both look at me with a blank expression. I have this theory that they were both laughing too hard that the rest of the events had become a blur to them.

Mango season is fast approaching; but the mangoes here in Lagos don’t measure up to the ones at the back yard of the house in Ilorin. I am mapping out a visit with Mummy, Titi and Tolu that would fall right in the middle of mango season.

Please say hello to Grandma. Hope she is taking it easy with the shops? I am currently reading your copy of ‘’Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass’’ and you have underlined a number of lines and written in the margins of the book, which makes it easy to read. Mummy thinks I should get a new copy and enjoy the book myself and make my own markings. I don’t agree with her though, your insights have made the collection of poems enlightening for me.
Titi says he can’t wait for pap and honey when we visit. Tolu wants to talk about politics and economic trends while mummy is really excited for the down time. 
Finally happy 87th Birthday, God bless you and keep you till your 90th and beyond.
Your Grand Daughter,

                                                                                                                                                  Oreoluwa.

For The Love of Poetry

I have always loved poetry, because my mum read poems to my siblings and I when we were younger and my grandfather wrote a few in his many journals and on rear occasions he shared them with me.
I have tried my hands at poetry but I have long since accepted that I am not a good poet, that I am better appreciating the words of others and finding meaning in them. 
I love the fact that the words take me on different journeys, the words have the ability to help me explore emotional depths that I didn’t know I have and the multiple means that each sentence and each verse contains.
So I have decided to share with you 3 poems that are very important to me and I hope you enjoy them.
         Having a Coke with YouFrank O’Hara
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles
and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them
I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse
it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it


This poem is one of my best love poems, I must be drawn to it because of my love for coke and because it gives a realistic picture of love.
      
      The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
This is on the list because it is one of the first poems I learnt by heart for Literature in English class in secondary school. The hours I spent memorizing this poem gave me an appreciation of for the process of making decisions and sticking with those decisions.

In and Out of Time – Maya Angelou
The sun has come.
The mist has gone.
We see in the distance…
our long way home.
I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.
We have loved each other in and out of time.
When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun
and the first tree struggled up from the forest floor
I had always loved you more.
You freed your braids…
gave your hair to the breeze.
It hummed like a hive of honey bees.
I reached in the mass for the sweet honey comb there….
Mmmm…God how I love your hair.
You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance.
Lost, injured, hurt by chance
I screamed to the heavens….loudly screamed….
Trying to change our nightmares into dreams…
The sun has come.
The mist has gone.
We see in the distance our long way home.
I was always yours to have.
You were always mine.
We have loved each other in and out
in and out
in and out
of time.
This poem transports me to a place I would want to be and helps me find words to the love I hope to one day feel.

 I hope you enjoy and love these poems in your own way. 

Past,Present,Future

I recently reconnected with a friend from Secondary School Demilade; she is currently working with the Eagles H.O.P.E Foundation in the Human Resources Department. This is the last career path I expected Demilade to tread and she is so excited at the prospect of growing in this career path and making a difference.
And there is Kemi another secondary school friend who I haven’t spoken to in a few years. The last time we spoke she was graduating from Redeemers University with a degree in Accounting.
Lastly, there is me, I just qualified for membership with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. Beyond our shared Alma mater, we were all science students and I can’t help but marvel at how much we all veered from that path.
At an outing about two weeks ago, we touched based on this issue and we all agreed to blame it on the myth that ‘’Science Students are the most intelligent students’’.  Although this argument is true and may be the heart of the problem, there are a lot of unexplored variables.      
After my final exams in Junior Secondary School, I was given a form to fill out the courses that would help determine my career path and the general direction in which my life was headed.
I read over the instructions on the form and it didn’t help me in any way to decide what subjects to pick or the best combination of subjects that suits my personality. If I had been exposed to proper lectures and counselling I would have known that a dislike for Typewriting in Business Studies didn’t translate to a dislike for Social Science subjects or a dislike for every part of Integrated Science didn’t translate to a dislike for Science Subjects.
My mother, a trained guidance counsellor administered a placement test and tried to pick out subjects that best fit my personality and who I was at the time which in reality constituted some of the building blocks of who I am today. I trusted her judgment when she picked out a mix of Social Science and Art subjects for me, the mix contained more Social Science subjects than Arts subjects. We filled out the form and got my dad’s consenting signature.
My dad didn’t agree with my mum’s result but I believe he didn’t want to spend the holiday arguing about it so he went to fill out another form and I found myself stuck with Physics, Chemistry and Biology. He had dreams that I would become an Engineer. This brings me to my second problem parents imposing their idea of what and who they want their child to be. Take time to understand your child appreciate who they are and adjust your plans to fit their personality.
The subject I got an ‘’A’’ in every term was Economics which showed clearly my mum wasn’t off in her results and I would have struggled less and exceled more if I had gone down the path her results had suggested. The next subject I exceled at was Literature, I had a quick understanding of the poems we studied in class and an insight into the mind of the authors of the drama and prose texts we read in class. I also loved and exceled at Chemistry, the chemical bonds and I spoke the same language, I never saw myself as a chemist but I believe I loved the structure behind the subject, how everything followed set principles. Physics and Biology I disliked and just studied to pass, English I loved because of essay writing and the Mathematics I loved because of the steps involved in solving a given problem.
When I filled out my admission form for University it was a no brainer picking Economics, but there came the problem of the second choice and my Guidance Counsellor Secondary School suggested Accounting so I filled that in. It never crossed my mind that I would end up studying accounting. In a series of events that were beyond my control I found myself studying to become an accountant.
I remember looking at my course list for my first semester in University. The fear that consumed me before I walked up to the board was overwhelming, the fear slowly ebbed away as I saw each course and registered what each course would entail. So my first semester came with Principles of Accounting. In my first class I felt like fish out of water, I didn’t know what to expect and a tiny voice in my head kept telling me I would fail the course, it didn’t help that on my first test I got a 6 out of 10 and my lecturer felt the need to announce the scores to the whole class and pass really interesting comments in Yoruba on each student. That was first day I wished I skipped class in all my life.
With each passing semester I got the flow of the course and I began to realize that Accounting went beyond balancing the books and the different areas of business law, economics and management were mind blowing and eye opening.
On one of the long summers spent with my grandparents, my grandfather gave me my first journal and I haven’t stopped writing since then. I have evolved as a writer, changed styles and shopped for topics that interest me at different times. I take my writing seriously and also my career as an Accountant but trying to find a meeting point for both isn’t easy.
We are taught to choose and stick to one thing, never to try a group of things but over the last few months I have been introduced to a community of people who work at all the different things they are good at.
There is my friend Anthony, the Cake Engineer who bakes really good red velvet cupcakes and runs a start-up cake company but is a trained Chemical Engineer, he spends time developing new and more efficient cooling systems for the firm he works with, he believes he can conquer both worlds and his believe in himself is all that matters.   
There is Temi the Psychologist who runs her own foundation ‘’360 individual’’ and takes the most breath taking photos.
I never believed in labels. Science student, Art Student and the likes so if we are going to give yourself go on a journey of discovery before you assign labels and bear in mind that we are never just one thing. Explore all your different parts, try your hands at all the beautiful ideas that come to you in the dead of the night and don’t be afraid to live out all the parts that make up who you are.
Hello I am Oreoluwa; I am an Accountant, a Teacher and a Writer.  
   

1826

It was his turn to check in, I looked at his boxes, I am jealous of those boxes. I had thought of so many ways I could fold myself into the biggest one. Even if I could squeeze myself into the box, I wouldn’t get past security.
I watched the way they went through John’s luggage like he was a criminal. I don’t blame them though; this is only happening because of the international reputation of my country. I wish things could be different, lately I believe all my wishes fall on deaf ears.
This is way harder than I thought it would be. I remember the last time we talked about it. John was brave and optimistic; two of the many qualities I admire in him. He went on and on about the internet and how smart phones make communication faster and easier. ‘’It wouldn’t be the same’’ I wanted to say but the look in his eyes told me he already knew. On the up side, we were at an ice cream shop and ice cream always makes everything better.
Gallons of ice cream wouldn’t make me feel better today, he was walking towards me and I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I wanted to drink in his essence, I am not sure what that means but it feels appropriate considering the circumstance. ‘’Do you want to get something to eat?’’ he asked and my accounting mind kicked into gear immediately. We were at the airport and everything is always overpriced there, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about all the other things I could spend the money on.
‘’Or not’’ the sound of his voice brought my mind back to the events of the day. My friend always says you couldn’t take the accountant out of a person. I am sure my face had gone all tense the way it does when my accounting mind kicks in and in John’s usual fashion; I am sure he didn’t miss the change in my facial expression.
I need to make today memorable, not think of the price, I thought to myself. ‘’Or we could look for a place near the airport?” I said. I was making the moment more unbearable than it already was. ‘’I still have 4 hours before my flight leaves’’ he replied. I knew that, but I decided not to point it out. I gathered all the strength in me to sound enthusiastic ‘’we should leave the airport’’ I said. John agreed and held my hands very tightly in his as we made our way out of the airport. It was 6:30pm that Friday evening and the view provided a wonderful backdrop for a picture.
I liked the feel of my hand in his and most importantly how he’d learned to accept me because I know I am really difficult to understand and a tad dramatic. We walked for a while, we both refused to take the car. In our minds, we guessed that walking elongated the number of hours we had left with each other.
We arrived at a restaurant on Airport Road; it was quite, a good place to talk. John didn’t waste time he drove head first into the matter at hand.   ‘’ Have you given any thought to the suggestions I made?’’ John asked. I really didn’t know how to break it to him, I love him but planning my life around him, his actions and decisions wasn’t an option. I am allowed to be selfish and take decisions because they are the best choices for me and there is no self-help book that teaches you how to break such news to a person. ‘’I have thought about it but I still haven’t decided’’ I lied; sometimes lies were easier to handle than the truth. ‘’You would be the first to know when I have made up my mind’’ I was over compensating when I added that last part. I didn’t want him to see my lie. The journey to selflessness I am learning, is a long one and it starts with me taking that leap of faith to be selfless.
I have mastered the art of changing the topic of a conversation. I comfortably switch to lighter topics any time he tried to discuss the future. We talked about food, how he was going to miss having Eba and Vegetable soup and, an endless list of more mundane things.
The restaurant started to fill up, it was about 9:30 pm and some 45 minutes away from departure time. ‘’We should head back’’ John said. I picked up my hand bag and followed him without speaking. I noticed a couple as we walked out, and envied the fact that they had time to hold each other’s hands.
The traffic was building up and we made our way through the steaming cars in silence. Talking wasn’t important at this point. Everyone had said all there was to say. We had laid all our cards on the table and it was completely up to us how we decide to play the next hand.
I really didn’t want this to end but five years is such a long time to be apart and the length of time left no room for faith and where there is no faith there is always a truck load of doubt and fear. I wasn’t going beyond the doors into the departure lounge of the airport with him; I knew I couldn’t handle that. We already elongated the goodbye and I wasn’t ready to deal with the armed police men that guarded the doors. He knew what I was thinking, reached into his laptop bag and handed me a hard covered notebook. ‘’It would be really nice if you kept a journal, help you keep track and sort out your thoughts’’ John said. It was a thick black leather book that had capital letter ‘’T’’ engraved on it.
I collected it, and tucked it safely into my hand bag. He pulled me in for one final hug, kissed me goodbye and walked in. I was looking at his retreating figure for about half a minute, admiring the slight limp to his walk. He turned and waved again, I waved back and with that I turned to leave.
I couldn’t sit around missing him and wondering what day exactly in all the 1826 days he would call and tell me he met someone and give a long speech on how sorry he was and how life goes on for both of us. The speech would be good because he is exceptional when making speeches.
I walked around the airport, I thought again about my resolve, one cold hearted email in a few weeks and the following radio silence. It wasn’t one of my best ideas but, it would have to do.
Departure and arrival are not on the same floor at the airport but I found I had wandered on to the arrival floor; my legs were aching from all the walking so I rested on one of the rails. A bright eyed woman was next to me and I could see the excitement oozing from her.
She couldn’t contain herself as she turned and said to me ‘’I am waiting for John’’ it just had to be that name I thought to myself. ‘’I haven’t seen him in 5 years’’ she said and then, looking at her more closely,  she looked very much like me. ‘’It wasn’t easy’’ she said walking towards the gate. She turned mid-way in her walk and added ‘’have a little faith, it goes a long way.’’

I tried to find her in the sea of people but, her face had disappeared into the crowd. 
 Photo Credit: Mr Tobi Johnson.