Friday, 28 December 2012

Poem: A dream of little fingers.

The night comes with it gloom
Brings dreams of my outstretched arms,
That long to touch, to hold,
To brush a forlorn tear.
To skate, to fuss with tiny little frocks.
So gentle yet firm to coax
Four restless feet to rest.

Where eyes yet gleam with dwindling light
And eager ears sharply spike
To soft whispering delight
Which tell of made up places,
Adventure and sidestepped traces.
Though arduous unrehearsed
Before frivole deserves
The strained tale often serves
For want of cherub rest.
Softly cuddled in their nests
Giggling eruptions happily turned
To hushed tranquil breaths.
The sound of a dismal hoot
The faintest evening chirps
The close of day affirms.

I hover yet a moment
A mother's heart appeased
That reverie regarding captures
Sleeping babies warmly tucked
With dampening of dark ringlets
Draws blows of affectioned draught.
Though sweet but painfully ladden
The dream reality gets
It spurs the heart to hasten
To fly from idle pacing.
And yet to solace seek,
where little fingers peek.

~  Mabedie ~

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Food: Healthier options for milk in my diet

Today's post is about milk. I love milk and all it's dairy forms. I love to drink it straight up, shakes, hot and cold cereals, creamy sauces, ice cream, yogurt, cheese in Strombolis and on pizza... oh my goodness pizza, butter and cheese in potato-au-gratin and other casseroles, cheese on pasta dishes, butter on toast, cream cheese on toasted bagels and one of my all time favourites - cheese in tuna melt sandwiches (called a tuna toastie in the UK)... whatever you call them, these are some of the yummiest foods!

Let me give you a bit of background info before I get to the point. I was a picky eater as a child and in some ways I still am now. One of the things that my mom had a difficult time getting me to eat was meat. I just wouldn't eat it. At first I wanted to, but I couldn't. Meat is generally very tough in Cameroon. I can't go into too many reasons why meat in Cameroon is tougher. I understand that the livestock we farm are probably different breeds from those farmed in Western countries and elsewhere. Also, most animals except for pigs, are almost totally free range, goats and sheep are usually tethered in fields, chickens and ducks scavenge for their own food and cattle are transported over great distances on foot.

We do cook meat to death, with the exception of fish. Beef, poultry, pork, mutton, veal and all the other game meats. We also eat parts of meat that are very tough or chewy, like the skin, joints, entrails, bones and tough muscle cuts. As a child, I often found it very difficult to tackle a piece of beef that was part skin, part muscle, part bone and a whole lot part ligament! It was more like work for me, so I started giving away my beef to anyone who wanted it. Chicken, I could handle if it was not fried. The typical Cameroonian fried chicken can be like chewing on some very spicy piece of plastic! At parties I would stick to doughnuts and chin-chin. Game meat is usually some wild animal that has been caught in an animal trap or shot by a hunter. Most of the villagers who hunt wild game are unable to preserve the meat for any length of time so they either have to sell it right away, or they try to preserve it by a process of smoke drying the meat. Very often, when meat is smoke dried, it becomes tougher and requires a much longer cooking time than normal and sometimes it will still be a little on the tough side. The other problem I encountered with smoke dried game is that the meat is usually on the verge of spoiling, or parts of it are totally inedible (or should I say "shouldn't" be eaten, since people eat it regardless). A picky eater pays attention to minute details about food. Things other people don't notice at all. I could and still can smell the gaminess in a bowl of soup and even when I was very hungry, I'd settle for bread and butter over anything that had to do with game meat.

Now in my 30s,  I don't like most meats except for chicken and some lean pork. Over the years, my main source of protein has been milk and other dairy products, beans (red kidney beans and bean sprouts), nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, peanuts), and seeds (egusi) here and there.

The point of my post today is that I developed an intolerance for lactose in my teens and this has made it a little more difficult to maintain a high protein intake. Interestingly, I didn't figure out what the problem was until I turned 20. The problem is more noticeable if I ingest dairy products in large quantities, but they are sometimes very significant even with just a splash of milk in a cup of tea. I found out recently that a close friend of mine has also developed an intolerance for lactose in her 30s.

Though some children are born lactose intolerant and have to substitute dairy milk and even breast milk for fortified soy milk right away, most people who do eventually develop lactose intolerance do so from around the age of eleven years and up. This is very common in countries where dairy is not a staple in the diet of adults. Overtime, the body just stops producing the enzyme responsible for digesting the lactose sugar that is found in milk and other dairy. Some of the symptoms experienced include nausea, painful cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence. This condition can be very difficult on the body, and inconvenient for normal daily function. There is no set age for when a person can develop it. I noticed it at the age of 20, my friend, 34 and other people I know first noticed it in their 40s and 50s. If you experience any or all of the symptoms and you have done a diet elimination test for lactose intolerance, you should speak to your doctor to make sure that something else is not the matter with you, then you should do research on healthy alternatives for dairy products.

In the past, I have substituted most dairy for lactose free versions and I keep a bottle of super lactase enzyme pills in my handbag for when I eat out and can not get a lactose-free substitute. The pills don't always work, so I'm usually taking a gamble each time I give in to a non-lactose free dairy craving! I've also had to find other sources of probiotics such as acidophilus pills because I can not comfortable eat yogurt

Recently (the last 3-4 months), I seem to have developed a bad case of adult acne with persistent eczema and a slight touch of vitiligo (still to be confirmed by a doctor)! I've had to up my game on make up to hide the scars and dark spots left one on top of the other, the dry patches and the speckles of whitening skin! It has been horrendous! The skin on my face seemed to have opened it's own excessive oil factory (I may or may not be exaggerating)! 

I read a long time ago that dairy may have some influence on acne and other skin problems. I never paid any attention because it was never a problem for me before, but at this point, I have totally panicked and have decided to completely go off dairy... at least until I can get a handle on the situation with my skin. I plan to see a doctor about what appears to be vitiligo and or eczema. I sure hope it is treatable because I really hate having to wear a lot of makeup. 

I've started drinking a glass of water with one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon organic honey, every morning and evening. This on it's own seems to have worked wonders on the acne, but I'm still keen on eliminating anything that might be acting as a trigger for skin blemishes in general.

For anyone who loves the taste of milk and is looking for a substitute either because of lactose intolerance, acne or any other health reasons, two tasty alternatives include soy milk and coconut milk. They are easy to find in the refrigerated dairy isle or the long life milk isle in most grocery stores. Other alternatives I've tried include almond milk and rice milk. I seriously did not like either of these two. I found their flavours and textures too overwhelming and somewhat odd. My brain kept saying "what's that? It's not milk"! I'm still weening myself off the taste of real milk and so far it hasn't been too difficult with soy and coconut milk. Will do a post on vitiligo, or whatever these other strange skin changes are that I'm going through as soon as I see a doctor. Hope this was helpful to someone.

Left to right: Soy milk (comes in a sweetened or an unsweetened option) and Coconut milk.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Movie controversy: Django Unchained

Django Unchained is an American western movie which is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino and is scheduled to be released in most North American cinemas tomorrow, December 25th 2012. The central characters are Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. 

The movie seems to have generated some controversial reactions due to the fact that it is primarily a comedy 
built around the central theme of slavery. Some people seem to have the opinion that slavery in North 
America was too serious a reality to be trivialized in one of Tarantino's "spaghetti westerns". Here's a trailer 
of the movie:

Here is a response from Spike Lee:

He also twittered further ‘American slavery was not a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It was a holocaust. My ancestors are slaves. Stolen from Africa. I will honor them.’ 

I haven't thought much about whether or not this movie is appropriate as a comedy given its very serious central theme. I just know that I want to see it because I've never seen a western which was politically correct on the particular theme of slavery. It will be interesting to see if Tarantino can succeed in pulling off his usual satirical stunts in favour of ridiculing racism as it existed in that time and space. I believe that this satire can hit a nerve with present day racism and encourage people to talk about it more and hopefully adopt a more progressive stand on the issue of race. It's a difficult job, but someone has put his neck out to do it and I applaud that. So, I'm going to see it, then I can criticize it for what it did or didn't do, unless of course, I'm stuck under a rock in Cameroon or somewhere equally limiting!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Movie: Last Chance Harvey

One of my great loves is cinema. My favourite movie genre is drama. epic dramas, period dramas, decade dramas, ethnocultural dramas, animated dramas, sci-fi dramas, romantic dramas; the list is almost endless and it's always just drama in the end! A good movie is almost as stimulating and entertaining as a good book. Watching them is one of the best ways of escaping into, learning about and just simply experiencing the existence of other people. People one may never get to meet, in places and in circumstances one may never get to experience, and ultimately acquiring knowledge one may or may not get to use, but nonetheless growing by learning.

Today, I watched the movie Last Chance Harvey, on BBC iplayer. It is a romantic drama about a middle-aged American composer, who goes to London to attend his estranged daughter's wedding. While in London, he bumps into a lovely British woman, then fate, chance and destiny begin a little dramatic tango!

It's interesting to find how much I felt connected to both of the central characters of the movie. The man, Harvey (Dustin Hoffman), is a brilliant music composer who has settled into a modest career as a jingles composer and as he has gotten older, his work has become come and more under-appreciated in favour of that of his younger colleagues who are not necessarily as brilliant. He is disconnected from his daughter, ex-wife (who has remarried) and friends of the family. He has become the outsider who does not fit in with the glamorous and successful American expatriate community in London and worst of all, his ex-wife's husband has taken his place as father to his own daughter.

The female central character, Kate (Emma Thompson), is a forty-something year old  single woman who's life revolves around her job at the airport, providing customer services and taking surveys at the airport; her lonely/reclusive  mother and her writing class. She seems to have all but given up on the drama of dating when Harvey appears.

I'm not going to narrate the entire plot because firstly, I'm lousy at narration and secondly, the movie is a worthwhile watch and I have provided a link at the bottom of this post. The drama in the story is mainly emotional. It's about being assertive and getting what is rightfully yours. It's about making the decision to walk away from people and situations where one feels under-appreciated. It's also about letting yourself take a chance at love because everyone deserves the happiness and inspiration that can come from a partner.

What I took from this dramatization:

1. Stand up for yourself when it matters most. You might ruffle a few feathers, but you will gain the respect you deserve.

2. Analyse yourself and how you interact with your family. People are often the bad guys they appear because they are simply responding to us. Checking yourself gives you the opportunity to be humble, redress past faults and salvage relationships with family.

3. Let yourself be inspired positively and make a positive effort when a chance at happiness presents itself.

Here is a link to the movie. I hope someone else enjoys it as much as I did. If not, at least it will be a good afternoon distraction. The acting is brilliant, btw!

Last Chance Harvey

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sightseeing: Borough Market

Sunny and dry days in London are days to be out soaking in the sights. I went to Borough market yesterday, at London Bridge. It reminded me of the outdoor market at Birmingham city centre, but it has more of the Christmas market feel to it, with many stalls where food is being prepared and people queuing/standing in line with their hands in their pockets, waiting their turn to grab a bite of something to eat. It is a whole lot busier than any market I've been to in Birmingham. Standing still is a bad idea! Brits have a tendency to bump into people and I find that I spend a lot of energy trying to avoid being bumped into when I'm standing still in crowds. It's easier to tolerate being in a crowd if I just keep moving. I met up with a friend and we headed to The George Inn, a historic pub on Borough High Street, for a sit-down chat over drinks.

Roof of Borough market with The Shard in view.

Christmas decor

The most varied selection of mushrooms I've ever seen.

What I can do with these in some pepper soup!

Paella looking good!

The poultry stand. Looking at hanging pheasants and partridges.

"Chococake"(2 year old Nahdia would probably exclaim thus)!

Yes, indeedy!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Letting go of fear...

I am a planner. I organize most things I'm going to do in sequences, then I execute them in order of importance firstly, then I consider convenience secondly. I'm not the most organised person, but I get a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when every thing goes according to plan and I've tucked away another task or activity. Planning seems like the most natural thing to me. I have an idea of what the outcome will be and I shoot for it. Being spontaneous to me means planning a few steps and then letting go to chance.

Planning seems a rather responsible way of approaching important processes in life. By important here I mean decisions and processes that can have long-term life-altering effects. When the risk of failure threatens to have a huge impact on aspects of our lives that we consider valuable. Socioeconomic status, health/well-being, family/peer relationships and self-satisfaction... are some considerations which rank high when we make decisions on and plan important life processes. In my opinion, the ultimate consideration is self-satisfaction. We do pretty much every thing in an attempt to become a little more satisfied with ourselves and our lives everyday, or maybe just attempt to maintain whatever satisfaction we already have. We also hold family/peer relationships in high esteem and our self-satisfaction often comes from feeling that we fit in well in our fish bowl world.

Amid the planning and considering, is the fear of failure. Failure is a state of mind that I'm very familiar with. That is all it is, a state of mind, the way we choose to see life. It comes from wanting self-satisfaction and over simplifying the options that can deliver it. It comes from planning for and wanting only one thing. Like a child in a toy store who only wants a particular toy which just happens to be sold out, thinking I will die if I don't get it. It comes from failing to see the endless possibilities that are still there all around me. It comes from wanting to conform to what looks good on the outside first, hoping it will make me feel good on the inside. It comes from just plain old fear!

I think we only fail when we get something we judge is not as good as what we set out to get. We judge our own failures and condemn our own selves to dissatisfaction. We wallow in self-pity and drag down the spirits of others around us. I'm so guilty of staging my own pity parties regularly! I know it comes from thinking that my socioeconomic status is that of a helpless child who needs rescuing every time I fail at something. It also comes from early and ongoing influences from such party organizers who handed out guilt trips as souvenirs!

I've had a few years to think about why I have been so dissatisfied with life. Is it really true that I am unlucky? Is it really true that my personality sets me up for rare successes in life? Are my principles based on unattainable motivations? I think I've answered these questions sufficiently.

I know that I am very lucky. I am healthy and generally a happy person. Sufficiently intelligent and eager to learn. Talented enough to see flaws in the things I create with my mind and my hands. Able to show love and compassion where it is needed. I have an incredible family and friends that I didn't have to do anything to get. I am immensely lucky!

I know that my personality sets me up to succeed in those areas of life where I derive the most self-satisfaction. The people I get along with are the types of people I would like to have in my life, so my personality inadvertently regulates the ideal conditions in my fish bowl world.

Are my principles based on unattainable motivations? Yes and no. I have to ask further what are my life's motivations? Are they things I want for myself or are they things other people think I should want for myself? I've recently started putting my foot down... a lot! Standing up for what I believe even when I know the way I'm going about it is highly unpopular (Tact is not one of my strong points). Standing my ground because I know there is value in what I bring to the table, even if it is only compassion, sincerity, loyalty, and dedication. Refusing to conform to the idea that I do not deserve a little more effort and thoughtfulness because I am only an African woman without a large bank account. Not settling for shadows created by others, but rather standing in my own limelight, even if it is only a dim one. So yes, my principles are based on attainable motivations as long as I can keep reevaluating what it is that I want for myself, and opening my mind to a wider range of possibilities.

I have a feeling that my self-satisfaction will come ultimately when I can live without compromising my principles to the extent that they no longer exist. When I don't have to be someone else to be somebody, and when what comes out of my life dedication is a reward for what I put in. I think I can achieve these if I can be brave with my life. If I can focus on what's important to me. If I can learn to let go of the fear of failure. If I keep reminding myself that it's only in the way I choose to see life, then there really is no failure in life, only lessons from experiences.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Eating for my afflictions

Body barometers are what I have for hands and feet. I either have very poor circulation or a deficiency of  some sort because I have the coldest hands and feet on anyone I know. Almost every time I shake someone's hand, they usually do a mock shiver and exclaim "wow, cold hand", to which I apologize even though I can't help it. Apart from it causing me to deliver a cold jolt for a first impression, I'm also usually on the extreme side of general discomfort and some pain in the colder months of the year and even in summer both indoors and outdoors. If anyone else has this problem, please leave me a comment as to what's up with this particular condition.

I usually know it's a really cold day outside when I wake up and I can't feel the big and index toes on my right foot! If I already feel like this indoors, I know it will be torture going outside and walking anywhere for more than 15 minutes. Warm shoes  don't help at all. Socks and gloves might help if they actually generate their own heat instead of preventing the loss of heat.

It's been suggested that I don't have enough fat deposits to help keep my body warm, but I know this is not true because my BMI is normal, I am not the least bit under weight for my height, I do not exercise (planning to adjust this very soon) and I eat... a great deal sometimes, which means I'm not lean! I have my own personal store of fat, just not in obvious places! So, I'm personally ruling out the BMI factor. Another theory is that since I consume a large amount of sugary foods, precisely; ice cream, cookies, biscuits, pastries, cakes and jams; I may have a high fungal infestation which in turn is responsible for the poor circulation to my extremities. I don't know, but I feel that this might be true. The high sugar consumption over the years has to manifest somehow!

In relation to this thought, I've recently decided to reduce my sugar intake. I'm not cutting it out completely because I like life sweet! I've stopped buying the items from the list above, except jam. Also, I had planned to buy a box of Cinnabons (which I have located on google maps) at some point before the year ends, so I'm still going to eat that! I've also started drinking a glass of water with a tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar (I'm still looking for the unfiltered kind) and a teaspoon of honey, every morning and evening. I'm really hoping this helps with my cold extremities, as well as other afflictions such as adult acne (this one is fairly new and getting worse, part of the reason why I'm not taking pictures of myself these days).

Today it was nice and sunny for about 4 hours (that's pretty good for the UK), but Winter has finally settled upon us, as today's temperature high was aroun43°F/6°C. My comfort zone is usually 15°C and up! On a day like this, I try to eat a lot of warm and gooey things. I had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I thought about making a bowl of very spicy chicken noodle soup for lunch,  but decided on some chicken thighs, grilled in garlic and herbs, a leafy salad with a small chopped apple served with honey mustard dressing, and a buttered crusty roll. For dinner, it's going to be Corn-chaff with smoked fish, left over from yesterday. It is a simple dish made from corn and beans, that is very common in anglophone Cameroon. I used frozen sweetcorn and canned red kidney beans. The original recipe is made with palm oil and dried crayfish, but I substitute the oil with sunflower seed oil, and I don't use dried crayfish in this particular dish. Here's a link to another Cameroonian blogger who just totally kills(in a good way) corn-chaff! My recipe has chopped tomatoes and onions, ginger and garlic, a large scotch bonnet, smoke dried fish (bones taken out), a Knorr cube (chicken broth), salt, black pepper, and sunflower seed oil.

Oatmeal with coconut milk, topped with raisin bran cereal.

A bowl of leafy greens with 1 small royal gala apple, chopped. 2 chicken thighs and 1 flat crusty roll, buttered.

With my hand in the picture for size

A bowl of corn-chaff

Thursday, 22 November 2012

French Toast for breakfast.

Feeling completely drained and a bit quizzy! For the past two months I really have not been eating very healthily. Not that I'm particularly a healthy eater really, but I think I used to have a regimen that suited me. I pretty much eat everything I like. In moderation... somewhat! But recently, I've been taking a packet of custard cream biscuits to bed with me... pretty much every night... the double packs! That's not moderation. I knew it was bad for me but I kept thinking "this is bound to stop eventually". It finally did stop with some conscious effort. Almost a week now. Probably the reason why I feel quizzed-out inside.

My eating habits have been greatly influenced by pregnancy diets. The overall principle of which is eating often and making each bite count for something nutritionally. Each time I was pregnant, food was constantly on my mind, but I never really craved anything in particular... except for chicken enchiladas from Taco Bell. At the end of each meal, I knew I was going to eat anything that was available by the time I got hungry again in about an hour, so I planned ahead and made sure most of what I ate was high in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. I even eat broccoli, which I absolutely hate! So now I eat string/green beans and mangoes for the health benefits even though I hate them too.

I realized that getting high glycemic carbs and fat into ones diet is fairly easy and often, the foods that are super high in fats and carbs have very little of anything else. I love chips/crisps (I had to fight this one out a few times with my older daughter who used to have a British Brummy accent) as much as everyone else, but I don't eat them simply because they are very low on the nutrient grade. This goes for every other comfort food... except of course chocolate! Now whatever is in that is good for my spirit!

This morning I thought "French toast", because I've had it with oatmeal every morning! I chose to make it with two slices of low glycemic wheat bread, two large free-range eggs from happy chickens :-), semi-skimmed milk, a quarter teaspoon of 'half spoon' sugar, olive oil margarine and some vanilla extract.

Served with strawberry jam, half a sliced banana, and a cup of semi-skimmed lactofree mocca (happily back on coffee)! The apple I will eat between now and lunch :-)
Wheat bread does not taste very good if one is not used to eating it, but it is high in fiber and minerals, low glycemic, taking longer to digest and keeping one feeling "fuller for longer" (borrowing a Marks & Spencer tagline). Eggs are high in protein as well as essential vitamins and minerals. I always buy "free-range" because I'm against animal cruelty. I only use 'half spoon' sugar because it tastes like sugar, just sweet. Honey tastes like honey, syrup tastes like syrup, brown sugar tastes like brown sugar, and they are all still high in sugar. 'Half spoon' sugar on the other hand, is half sugar and half sweetener, but it only tastes like sugar, sweet. I've been told that using sweeteners increases one's craving for sugary foods, but right now, I just want to use less sugar without having to get used to the taste of sugar substitutes. I use semi-skimmed lactose free milk because I'm lactose intolerant and whole milk is really very high in fat content. Incidentally, I love foods with milk in them like stroganoffs and cream sauces. I use lactose free milk even when I cook for other people, that way no one goes home bloated thinking it had something to do with my cooking :-)

So today, I had a pick-me-up breakfast and tomorrow, oatmeal will be back in the bowl!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Natural haircare: A minimalist attitude.

I decided to go natural and stopped chemically straightening my hair a little bit over a year ago. I did not come to this decision in an effort to be healthier, though I had grown weary of the burns, scabs and ensuing itching that the chemical straighteners were causing to my scalp. I had simply tired of the perpetually straight and rather limp hair on my head that did not retain any of the curls that I occasionally attempted to put back into it. I then realized that I had no idea what my natural texture looked like. After a cousin of mine transitioned successfully from relaxed to natural texture, I researched further and stumbled upon a large archive of videos on, dedicated to transitioning, caring for and styling natural African textured hair.This is the first time I have worn my natural texture of hair for more than one year since nursery school. I have six sisters and we all got our hair cut like boys, once at the beginning of the school year, and then again after the Christmas holidays. It was cut down to about 0.3 inches short or shorter! This hair cut was part of the uniform requirement for all school girls in our part of the country. This haircut was always administered by our dad. I don't know what it is about hair that gets some women emotionally attached to it, because it is interesting to note that I was the only one who shed tears over the loss of my head of curls at the age of seven (six and seven are the earliest ages when I can vividly remember childhood). Anyway, because of this haircut, and my subsequent attempts at emulating what was considered fashionable in the 90s, I had no idea and went ahead, straightening without giving it a second thought.

Sporadically, during long holidays as a teenager and through out adulthood, a span of about 22 years... yes I'm that old (almost 37); I had worn my hair chemically straightened by a process of applying a relaxer cream to the new hair growth every 8 weeks. When you do this for nearly 25 years, you tend to become an expert in the process and in hair-care products. Getting it done professionally costs a pretty penny, an average of $60 a pop! I did it myself for the most part. I also tried various hair-care products, constantly changing them to find the ones that worked best. What I learned over time is simply this; you can't change how you are naturally. You can, however, cause a lot of damage to your physical and emotional self while trying. Contrary to the general perception of people who know me, I do not have thick hair. Honest truth! I just have hair that is not as tightly curled as is expected. Because of this texture, my hair tends to look fuller, detangles easily, and is generally easier to manage. 

I became a young adult in the late 90s. The whole reason for chemically straightening was firstly, to have an easily manageable head of hair, and secondly, to easily achieve the popular styles I saw in magazines and on other women on the streets. Generally, beauty products are marketed in such a way as to create a hedonistic appeal, but more importantly they almost always exaggerate the results they promise. This I've learned after using most of the popular/salon/expensive/for-African-hair/add-shine/increase-volume/stop-breakage/stimulate-follicles branded products! They won't perform any miracles, but they will deplete your bank account unnecessarily, if you keep buying them. What I've ultimately learned is simply to keep my hair clean and moisturized, and that is easily done with the cheapest shampoos and conditioners on the shelf.  So, when I go to my local chemist/drug-store to buy products, I first browse the store brands which are usually the cheapest. I've watched a lot of natural hair care videos and I'm always struck by the amount of products women slatter on to their tresses. I'm still learning how to take care of my natural hair but I realise that this particular practice just boils down to personal preference.

I can say that I have a minimalist attitude towards purchasing hair-care products. The most expensive product I have bought so far, is the Tiana Extra Virgin Coconut oil, which was on sale for £11 at the time at Holland and Barrett. I've had it for more than a year now and I still have some left, despite the fact that I have used it to cook Jellof rice twice! I recently switched to Holland & Barrett's Perfectly Pure Coconut Oil(store brand), which was on sale for £7.99. This means I don't have to come out the pocket for a major hair-care purchase till next year! That makes me feel really good and I can feel less guilty about splurging somewhere else!
Products I like: Olive oil cream, Tiana extra virgin coconut oil.
Products I no longer use:
Aussie Miracle Hair Insurance leave-in conditioner.
Olive oil cream moisturiser. 

I did experience a little bit of the hair-care obsession with products recently. I got two tubes of leave-in conditioner. I had been thinking about replacing the olive oil cream, but I'm usually too keen about price and smell to buy any of the popular products. I've now stopped using the Aussie Miracle Hair Insurance Leave-in conditioner because I don't like the lingering smell which appears to be more overpowering than my perfume! I came across the Naked Style range of products, formulated for naturally curly hair. They are keen to market their products as being "97% natural", and  "silicone free". The tube of Gorgeous Curls promises to be a "curl taming cream" with "botanical ingredients" which "help to define and add lustre to curls". My my! The tube of Little Miracle leave-In conditioner offers "Shea butter and Argan oil", to "repair and protect dry hair against heat styling and breakage". 

My recent splurge.
The words used to present these products make them irresistible to anyone browsing for products for natural hair. Though I know this, I was hooked. I stood there holding one tube in each hand and looking from one to the other for a good long while. I sniffed both of them and was pleasantly surprised with the mild smell of summer berries from one, and that of almond nuts from the other. I think I stood there a little too long, because I noticed the store security guy lurking around the aisle near me, acting like he'd lost something! Oh well, I went ahead and got them both. I tried the Gorgeous Curls leave-in a few days ago and I'm pleased with the added moisture in my hair now. My texture is pretty much the same and that's expected. The smell is only a very faint strawberry.
My new routine products.
My new hair-care regime is made up almost entirely on store brand products. The results are not much different and I'm satisfied that I'm getting what I want for very little money. Gorgeous Curls for £4.19, Coconut & Almond shampoo for £1.29, Coconut & Almond conditioner for £1.29, and pure coconut oil for £7.99. A total of £14.77, and here are the results, three days into a two strand twist-out. Just about the same quality plus more moisture, for a lot less money.

I can say that I am happy with my natural hair. There are those days when I wish it was as easy to manage as straightened hair, but what I would gain in ease would be lost in beauty. At least, that is how I like to think of it! I`m adjusting to some surprising reactions to it, mainly that of fascination with how it looks. Sometimes I quite like the attention and other times I wish it were a much more common sight and people wouldn't stare so much. My most enduring challenge seems to be how to wear it to job interviews and maintain focus on my personality, submerged as I seem sometimes under all that hair!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

First steps in the London area

I've finally moved from Birmingham to the London borough of Merton, specifically Wimbledon. I really love it so far. It has not been anything like I imagined. I was dreading the move just a little because everyone knows I'm scared of big cities. I was going to write about something totally different today but it appears I should get this out of the way. I get disoriented by the hustle and bustle and intimidated by all the confidently striding people in big cities. Even more significantly, I realise now that I have never gotten over my fear of crossing busy streets. There is a reason why I have this mild phobia. I think it's mild because it doesn't actually stop me from going about my business. It just means I get a little tense and act jerky... like running across the road at exactly the wrong moment!

I grew up in a small village with one main road running through it. It was a somewhat busy road because back then in the 80s, it was the only way to get from the main town of Kumba, to the General Hospital and the government offices. Like most Cameroonian semi-urban settlements, most villages kind of spring up along busy main roads which act as the lifeline of the settlement. Formally, most rural settlements sprang up along rivers, streams, lakes, coastlines and, usually navigable bodies of water. Today thanks to busy roads, villages look nothing like the typical hurdle of huts in a forest clearing or on the plains. Villages are now the beginnings of urban towns and cities with rows of houses spring up along busy roads.

When I was little in Kumba Town, drivers acted like they owned the road, and were entitled to drive fast, running everything and everyone over! The usual victims were dogs, goats, and chickens, but occasionally,  a child or an adult would get run over by a speeding yellow taxi-cab, a "clando" (unmarked clandestine taxi-cab) or a private vehicle. When this happened, the driver would almost always immediately go on the defensive, and act like the pedestrian had just jumped into the road from nowhere. If it was a child, they always tried to insinuation that the child had been playing in the road. If the child was not badly hurt, he/she would probably get the beating of their life for trying to mess up everyone's day! If the child was badly hurt, then who was right depended on how forceful the child's family was about the matter. The driver was usually required to transport the child to the hospital (this is the General Hospital Road we're on at the moment), and pay the hospital bill. Apart from this, I don't think people usually got the police involved in these sorts of matters. I think it became more complicated if someone died, and even then, most often, there would usually be an out-of-court settlement, probably in a customary court (local traditional court). In my head, the road belongs to drivers who are often reckless, and I have to watch my back as a pedestrian!

I completely forgot about this fear until a few years ago when I moved to the UK and couldn't afford a car. Suddenly, I became a pedestrian in a city. Despite my fear, Birmingham was manageable. In fact, now that I think of it, apart from the six months when I lived in Edgbaston and had to cross the road at a roundabout, navigate an underpass and then cross two busy double lane streets to catch the bus to work, my stay in Birmingham was almost stress free, owing to where I lived for the most part.

My second challenge in a big city, is public transportation. I only learned how to catch the bus about two years ago. Before I did that, I thoroughly learned most of the streets on foot within the city centre. I remember taking the bus for the very first time in Washington DC and getting lost. The thing about taking the bus is you have to at least have an idea of where you are going so you can ask the driver to let you off at the right stop. You also have to catch a bus that is going in the direction you want to go. On this very first time of taking the bus, I was on my way to a shopping mall with a family acquaintance and we both got lost because we didn't have a clue where this mall was located. I can't remember how we got home. That was a long time ago, but I'm none the wiser about this big city routine... catching the bus.
My first trip to the library was to print out my CV. 
The local mall.

Wimbledon station from across the street
Wimbledon station at around 10am on Monday morning. 

Being able to cross busy streets safely is an integral part of living in a big city.
These help if one pays attention

Having a bit of control in the matter.

So far, I've taken the bus once from Wimbledon Broadway, to Colliers Wood tube station. I can do this easily now because I have already walked thirty minutes towards different directions in and around the area. Taking the tube, the train or the tram is quite easy because there are line maps to plan the trip. To me, taking the bus is like a journey into the unknown! I'm not afraid of speaking to strangers or asking for directions. That is not the real reason why I'm afraid of getting lost. It is the reliability of the directions given that I am wary of! I have found myself walking around Birmingham for two whole hours asking for directions despite the fact that some of the directions were given by a policeman! It is just frustrating. I have also been lost for more than twelve hours in Yaounde at night, and had to rely on the benevolence of complete strangers who provided me a safe place to rest my head until they could get me to a police station in the morning. I was a teenager then and when word about it got back to my cousins and uncles, they dismissed it and instead made up stories about my going missing deliberately... out having fun. The things people think I get up to sometimes. Hopefully, that misconception has been clarified today. I got lost in a big city.

Wimbledon Theatre at the bottom of Broadway

I guess my main problems boil down to simply being afraid of being run over and dying... or just being really embarrassed if I don't die right away! The fear of finding myself in the frustrated situation of being lost in a place where the majority of people are clueless. Wimbledon turns out to be quite laid back. Not many people seem to be hurrying anywhere and there are many mothers with strollers. The shops are predominantly Argos, Mothercare, Gap Kids, H&M Childrens, Next and Debenhams. The Library is filled with mother/toddler groups. Broadway is a somewhat busy street with double lanes and I have to remind myself that I don't have to run across when the walking man turns green. The green walking man is my friend!

I will have to get a new phone on which I can access some sort of trip planner. But first things first. I need to get a job and re-establish the security and flexibility that comes from having a steady income. Once that happens, I'm getting all the gadgets I need to conquer other areas of London and overcome my fears/insecurities about big cities once and for all. For now, I've got my Oyster Card and I know how to use it.

Oyster card and travel map.


Friday, 14 September 2012

Excited about moving again

I've been very excited recently since I finally decided to move away from Birmingham. I've have a lot of time to think about it and I'm absolutely sure now that it is time to move on. On the one hand I feel sad because Birmingham had become my home and I feel very patriotic about the city, the sights and the general atmosphere. I also feel sad because I have not had a permanent home since I left home (Kumba, Cameroon ) nearly 17 years ago. I have moved from one neighbourhood to another, one town to another, one state to another and one country to the other. My moves have been 6 to 12 month intervals and a couple of years in the case of moving states or countries. I am sad I will be leaving all the familiarity of Birmingham streets behind. I wonder if anyone will notice as I've become part of the view myself, traipsing through the centre shopping and sightseeing.

On the other hand I'm really happy and at peace with my decision to move on. This is why I'm excited. I'm looking forward to learning new things, meeting new people and finding a new routine. I'm so excited that I have not been sleeping well and I think I haven't been feeding myself much either.

I'm moving to London county at the end of this month. I am also planning a holiday to Cameroon once I'm settled in. This will be a new opportunity to redefine my life again. New aspirations, new goals, new challenges, the feeling of being a fish out of water again may not be so predominant this time.

This new turn of events has inspired me to buckle down and get this blog started. It's been long overdue and I am happy this move is finally on the way. I have loads of pictures of Birmingham and the surrounding area and will put them up when I do a nostalgia post.

This morning I woke up with a headache, probably from not being able to sleep much. Probably because I did my weekly haircare routine yesterday. I've been getting lots of compliments  since I decide to go completely natural when I stopped relaxing my hair last year. Hair is an emotional subject with African women and I hope to share some interesting tid-bits as my journey with my new look progresses. I will try not to bore you too much with it. I did a photo journal which I shared with friends on Facebook. Will put it up eventually.
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