Lily Chronicles 3- Homes and Alleys

First, I really must apologise for going MIA on this blog practically all year long.

I’ve thought of this blog every single week and my heart yearns to post something but I somehow find that the months roll by and I still don’t.

Excuses won’t cut it, I OD’d on those already.

So, to every person who visited here and found the same old post(s) every time, I apologise for not coming through. Forgimme?{puppy eyes}. Thank you {bright smile}, I’ll try harder and do better, I promise.

Now, here’s an old story (purely fictional) about an unlikely beauty queen. Let’s just say Miss congeniality, is not an undercover cop, but a one-man rebel government this time around.

Catch up on and

And the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom -Anais Nin

The days keep counting, alternating between being exhilaratingly fast and frustratingly slow. The euphoria wears out, public attention wanes, there are new scandals, news piece and everybody is moving on but my life, my course is forever altered (or maybe I just got on course?).

Today, I got a call from Emayo, whom I fondly call ‘PG’. He is the Projects and Programmes director, so both letters P and G find a cozy home as acronyms of his job description. More accurately though, the acronym stands for ‘Parental Guidance’, my way of giving parents with little kids a heads up around him.
His language is vulgar and rated PG-13 at least, also, he is quite the lady’s man, and adult supervision (R-rating) is advised if your pretty, young daughter is going to be hanging out around him.
It drives him up the wall that I won’t quit my PG parade and as a way of payback, he calls me ‘Lil’. (Who on earth shortens the name ‘Lily’?!)

He calls and asks if I have gone through the slides he sent me and if I didn’t find the pictures too disturbing.

I almost let loose a guffaw.

Those pictures, to me, were like flipping through an album of my life, only they didn’t contain any picture of the past 12years that I’ve lived –outside of that kind of environment.

High definition pictures that depict the standard selling point of Africa- as many outside the continent know it. Poverty. Call me paranoid, but I think that is why PG chose this particular project for me, to make us look “good” to potential investors.

What an irony! We sell our worst stories to attract charity. The inspiring stories hardly gets a media once over, local innovations get booted to the curbs, SME’s sweat tears and blood, the political landscape is fraught with backward policies, violence and corruption but hey! who cares, right? So far we can attract international pity with our poignant stories of squalor and window dress our festering sores to look “good” for foreign investors.

I go over the slides again and smile sadly… there were shots of children playing on extensive fields of debris: If you look carefully enough, you will see the not so odd bodies of dead chickens, goats or dogs, at different stages of decay.
A child with an alarmingly distended tummy and a half eaten mango celebrating a swarm of flies paying homage to the bounty that she holds, stands on one part of the field.

There were pictures of Mothers – with teams of kids- in different states of undress, going about their daily chores with no self consciousness.

These particular photographs made me chuckle.

How these women would have their delicate sensibilities offended and talk haughtily about city girls and their trending barely-there dresses, when they practically would have on their undergarments and a shy piece of wrapper and go to the next street to fetch an errant child or pieces of firewood.

In this state, they would unabashedly greet male folks and smile warmly at strangers (this is a show of their hospitality and is not intended to be sensual).They watch the movies and see “modern” ladies with no social qualms as loose and a bad influence on their young daughters.

Slide after slide tells a story of domestic abuse, police brutality, environmental degradation, sad state of social infrastructure and dehumanization of epic proportions.

The town in consideration is not far from a mega city. It, infact produces a huge proportion of the food items supplied to the city, besides supplying it with cheap labour in form of teenagers and ambitious young adults.

Small towns like this one mostly has a distribution of the aging and the really young population- both dependents,as the work force migrates.

Everybody wants to go to the city and make something of their life. The drive is mostly from the stomach.

They operate a communal setting with likely tradition of jointly raising children. Your child could do something wrong three streets away and neighbors will already help you deal with him before you show up, you just thank the neighbors and promise the child additional hell when you get home. Vices such as lying, stealing et al are frowned upon. Hence,a rumbling tummy would more likely drive a youngster to child labour than to the neighbour’s (money jar) till.

To fix, to empower,to sensitize,to educate… this is to be my project. I smile. I am going home.

Home, not because I am from there, but because I can identify with their struggles and pains.

Home to me, is a distant but ruthless memory, which comes once for an annual visit… on the anniversary of my guardians’ demise.

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I cast a stone!

No, I did not cast something in stone, I cast a stone! I don’t know if its the first to be cast or not but please what was I thinking when I picked that well-rounded stone of condemnation and threw it at the already broken offender?

I cast a stone at a sister whom the king trusted me to help, encourage and strengthen. Wonder whom I momentarily thought i was defending: myself? my pious beliefs? The faith or the judge Himself? Did I even think at all? I remembered to rehash all the other wrongs that had been suffered in her hands and decided that I was having none of it. Not anymore.

I remembered her ‘sins’ but I did not remember my responsibility towards her. I had cooked up reasons to justify my actions but can any really make them justified?

I cast a stone at another after the order of David but this time, the man on the receiving end is not some arrogant, God-defying Philistine, even if he was, we are past the era of jungle justice, there is a righteous judge and He is not me.

From the very ground that bears the master’s writ I picked my weapon; because I didn’t trust in my arm’s carry through, I employed a sling for my stone, so you can call this premeditated and it wouldn’t be a lie.
Though my intention was not to knock him out, still, I aimed at his head. I saw vulnerability and took a shot.

I cast a stone at my own brother and others who are not members of our household saw the opportunity to cast theirs also. Even those who are, saw me do it and started fingering different sizes of stones. He was down already, must he be wiped out because of a mistake?

What was i thinking?! How could I have done this? I cast a stone… but enough! A moment more must not be wasted, my brother I must help up in love, my sister’s pains I must share in understanding. I must tend to their wounds! Another stone that I can help must not land on them, for their Father forgave and justified them, why should I condemn them? Why should I judge, when I make my own stone-worthy mistakes and lean on His grace?

I cast a stone but even I have been forgiven for that slip up and now I go on to accept Love’s extended hand, forgive myself and move on…casting a stone no more!

Lily Chronicles 2 (The Diary of a Rebel Beauty Queen)

It has been a week since I ascended the unseen throne of beauty queens. The past week was a giant blur of press conferences, interviews, photo shoots, meetings and carefully chosen public appearances. I feel exhausted. More from having my life planned and patterned by a bunch of so called professionals, than from the energy I have expended on these activities.

After weeks of training, practices and what nots, my shoulders still ache from being suddenly beaten from a perfect slouch to a broad square -in a bid to stand and sit straight at all times. Every now and again I feel like giving them respite by hunching them a little like I used to. It does not matter now that the social etiquettes drilled into us during camp seemed a bit far fetched to me then, because with each day that passes, my movements and lady-like mannerisms flow a lot more naturally.
You should have seen me when it all started, my movements were jerky and forced. Whoever says becoming a lady was an easy job?

Every dawn of day, a team of beauty ‘specialists’ is deployed to my room to ensure that I look like a million dollars; all bright and alluring. My face has come under the most attack from them as they form a coalition to wash it, cleanse it (apparently there is a world of difference between those two actions), brush it, dust it, pinch it, powder it, paint it, blush it and seal it (sigh). To think that I traded 11months of a splash of water on my face, chapstick and a dab of cologne for this!

You are probably thinking I am being ungrateful, many girls will practically give an arm to be here (isn’t it ironical that they wouldn’t crown them without that arm?). Quite a few peps and opportunities come with this platform I have been given.
Well, that is the ideal situation.
But the reality is, there are lots of under handed politicking and high priced greed going on behind the flowered drapes and attractive grins.

Infuriatingly,the pageant management discusses me like am not there. Everthing we do is (calculatively) for show. According to them, if it’s not high profile, it may not attract a lot of media attention; if it does not attract media attention, it does not get on the schedule and if it’s not on the schedule, it’s not worth pursuing.
Now, something as mundane as visiting with my family has to be on the schedule!
I mostly feel trapped as one in prison. Papers have been signed, so there’s little room for me to wiggle.

I hope the world knows, that though I may be the face, but the voice is theirs. Really, how come no one prepared me for this dark side of fame?

Already, the soft stories are pouring in. People want to make a few bucks even if they have to sell outright lies to get it; just as sad is the fact that very few want to buy the truth or go in search of it.

We would feed on anything (news), so far it has enough pull to distract us from the gnawing realities of our own lives.
Rather than walk through our differences or challenges to find their Achilles’ heels and shush the Lion’s roar, we would often deny or forsake them hoping they would grow wings and fly, but they just fester like gaping sores.
Then we point accusing fingers, hypocritically stoning the mirror for reflecting our images.

Were we not supposed to seek to buy the truth and not cheaply sell it off (in exchange for fleeting feel-good moments)?
Was that not the plan?

When did others’ mystery become comedy at our dinner tables? Whatever happened to ”all for one; one for all”?

Anyway, one week have I watched. One week have I learned. One week, I have observed individuals and tried to understand their motives. It’s been dreary playing their games their way. Dancing to their tunes is that much harder because they simply cannot hold a tune!
It’s time I took off the stilettos and got on my boxing gloves because whether it lasts one hour or one year, this right here, is the fight of my life.

Days that stay with us

Sometimes they start out like any other normal day; sometimes they just don’t. You wake up to the putrid smell of burning cotton/wires; the wail of loss from the neighbors’: the whimpering, muffled cry of your spouse, or worse still, an eerily quiet house mourning the crisp note of farewell on the table; the siren and flashing lights from the police cars; the dreaded call from a relative… and from that moment on everything loses its glitter.

That which used to tickle you becomes annoying, the sun would just not come out on time or it came too early; it either shines too bright or seems so shy, that it keeps hiding its smile behind the clouds. The once refreshing wind becomes biting and uninviting. Virtues lose their quiet beauty and vices take on interesting perspectives.

A steady descent into the grey low begins, the pit of your tummy is in perpetual turmoil and the pain in your heart will give no respite.

On the more permissive days, you could be the king of the rout and none would be wiser. The day would smoothly roll by, everything answering to the name you gave them until suddenly, suddenly, they wouldn’t.

You wonder how the world could be so calm when your world is out of order.

A few songs ago, everything was so clear, so simple. What happened? How come he left; she wants a divorce; he’s dead; she cheated; you lost someone precious; they laid you off; you’re a suspect; you lost all you’ve ever worked for…how come?

All you’ve ever believed gets challenged and all you’ve ever celebrated, shaken. You question reality; doubt the truth, judge justice and fairness seem like a fable.
You have a question or two for God (if He really exists) and hard as you try, hope seem to be nowhere around.

I have been there; I have tasted the rainbow of highs and witnessed the dreariness of not-so-high(s). The important thing is not to be so forgetful. When you are down, take ‘up’ with you, when all seem topsy-turvy with your world, hold on to memory of great days and the God who got you there.

The last thing you probably feel like is praise but give it to Him who is a master strategist. It doesn’t have to be a potential UK chartbuster kind of praise. Its sincerity is all that counts because the unchanging truth is that He Is with You through it all. You may not see Him; just trust Him enough to know that He will never leave an officer down.

It has little to do with your faithfulness (His faithfulness is not subject to yours) but it has a lot to do with your faith. God needs something to work with, and your faith (belief, trust) is it. Take up His word, encourage yourself, and take one day at a time- no rush.

This can’t possibly be the end.
The picture will get clearer and you will see that all things really do work together for the good of them that love God.

He loves you with His very life, the big question now is will you let Him show you?

Cruise Control

Telling you I’m tired does not make me weak. It connotes dependence. Sometimes I feel like I’m travelling the same road with the same view of endless rows of trees. Nothing changes, the wheels keep spinning, trees fleeing backwards while the road rises to meet the car.
The feeling is like going nowhere fast. Every mile in the journey like a new arrival point. Only on arriving, you have to depart again immediately; the journey has to go on. Going nowhere very fast you say?

That describes the jaunty ride with me in the driver’s seat. Everything has to make sense, everything has to be understood. If I don’t understand, then something is wrong.
Enter: Prevalent confusion and a scramble for answers- the jaunty ride with me in the driver’s seat you say?

The smooth ride with me riding shotgun: It gets you everywhere by dependence. Trust. I push my seat back, pull my Stetson over my eyes and take a leisurely nap. Oh the bliss! Like that, we roll through the deserts and the cities, pulling up every now and then to grab a bite at diners. When we run out of gas, my benefactor takes care of it. You would think I was taking advantage of him, but my caretaker would have it no other way. He whistles and hums and generally makes the ride memorable. Smooth ride, top down, me in the passenger’s seat, wind in my hair and giggles in my spirit you say?

Why do I feel like I always have to be in control? I know that my powers are limited and I can only be in one place at a time. Trying to manage everything all at once ultimately drives me up the wall. People have gone certifiable in that manner I dare say, many have become control freaks and their lives are no fun, many more are confused and frustrated…yes, frustrated and confused I say.

Hat in hand, I come to you dear caretaker, I have tried doing your job and I’ve fallen short. What you do with ease, I cannot, even with best of my abilities achieve. You gave up your life to do this Lord. Then, you gave a standing invitation- you said you’d take me up whenever I am ready to give up my struggles. Humbly and gladly, I accept your invite. Give me respite; take the wheel. Take the wheel I say, and take me to all the way to destiny.

Pass the Couverture

Chocolates. Everybody likes that melting velvetiness of it on their tongues. Chocolates are the best inventions since the ice cream. When it’s masterfully processed, crunchy or smooth, with cream or without, chocs are a winner any day- especially with the younger generation. It’s simply delightful when you can share this simple joy with someone else. There are few better memory makers, especially if shared over a few stories, laughter and love…there’s something about laughter…
To the more health conscious folks, this is not a funny matter. Chocolates are a no-no. The hazards it constitutes are not justified by the pleasure there derived. No sire. And if you’ve seen a clogged heart, a weight loss junkie or an obese person struggling against by-pass surgery, you just may change your mind, if not your tastes.

Couvertures are not just chocolates, and although my parole needs expansion (as I have not yet seen the world and tasted all the chocolate types there are), I daresay, chocolates with cocoa butter ain’t such a bummer. It looks good and it tastes better. So also is information. A juicy bit of news (true or untrue) is quite like chocolate, everybody wants some.

I have heard it called information transaction, but that is simply prettying up the ugliness of the word ‘gossip’. Glossed up right, the most uninteresting story can become a sensation in the flare of a nostril.

This social-network generation of ours is worse hit, as everybody is up on everybody else’ business. The ‘say it now’,‘what’s on your mind;’- twitter, facebook, MySpace, hi5, blogs, YouTube…pages have gotten us hyperactive in the virtual world. So much that we have been tagged the ‘twitter generation’.
When you exhaust thoughts on your personal life and opinions on general topics, you are pressured to keep on the flow, and you tend to turn on the faucets of gossip about other people’s lives or share outright lies. you share thoughts and information without thinking them through.

Many have been victims of the gravepine, homes have been broken by it, reputations have been tattered by it and in extreme cases, lives have been lost to it. Imagine, the raging inferno in someone else’s life started by an uncouth mouth; probably yours, in a bid to be the first to break or share an (unconfirmed) sensational piece of news.

Even if it was confirmed true, airing others’ dirty laundry doesn’t get rid of yours. Besides, the singular action says more about you, the sharer, than it does the subject of discourse. It tells everybody you are not to be trusted, and trust me, someday, you will wish that wasn’t so.

The short lived pleasure of breaking the news on someone else’ private affairs are accompanied by other painful backlashes that are better imagined.

As do most consequences, they hardly rear their ugly heads immediately, but rather wait it out until you think you are home dry. You cause someone pain, expect it back- in it’s mulitiplied, glorified form. It’s a simple principle. Call it Poetic Justice or Karma, I simply call it harvest. So watch what you sow as you will definitely come back areaping.

Save the world some misery: Next time you are tempted to pass on the ‘couverture’ on someone else, take a deep breathe and…DON’T!