25 October 2006

Car Pooling

As is the case with adjusting to new surroundings, I am having a lot of 'Eureka' moments. The other day I discovered that my office has a shuttle service between its numerous locations in the Houston area. Goodie! Taking the shuttle drastically reduces my waiting and walking times and now that the cold is settling in that is a real blessing. I took the shuttle for the first time last week thursday. The only downside I see is that I now get on the bus at a rather crowded stop. I got in line and proceeded to wait for the bus like me felow commuters. It never ceases to amaze me, the way people over here organise themselves. Whether you are driving or waiting on the bus or waiting to be served at the store/restaurant/hospital, forming a queue is like second nature, and it is never a bother to wait your turn to be served. Even getting off the bus. The other day I had dozed off on my ride home and i woke up to find the bus had stopped moving. I turned to the lady seated next to me and asked if we had arrived at the park and ride. Yes we have she replied. I was about to ask why aren't people getting off when I realised this was a bus in Houston not the BA flight to Nigeria where people would have already begun to unload their stuff from the overhead cabins while the pilot is still trying to land the plane!

So I am waiting in line at the bus-stop, enjoying the crisp air and marveling at the ant like orderliness of my surroundings when a black Porsche Cayenne pulls up. 'I wonder how this car drives' I muse, I make a mental note to check it out on the Internet. The passenger window comes down and the guy driving leans in and shouts out a bus number, actually the number of the bus I am waiting on. Ewo! So dis na how dem dey do sole in America? Correct last chance be dis o! Dem go dey see people catch well well o, me sef if no be say I don see sample for nija I for don jump enter moto. tey tey! JJC, (this is my serious side talking from days of experince watching law & order, csi, etc) no be inside town like this in broad daylight where witness boku na im dem dey do sole (you know say oyinbo sabi gbeborun), na for heavily wooded area where half naked women choose to jog! Seriously, what I just witnessed was carpooling in action. Houston has a BRT system using a designated lane called the HOV. (I hope say I no yarn dust) The Metro buses as well as people car pooling with 2 or more occupants get to ride on it. What this guy was doing was trying to make up the number of passengers riding with him so he can wizz down I-10 instead of queuing forever in traffic. While on that subject, I had heard a lot about the famous 'Houston traffic'. I guess what I have seen so far is rough for US standards, but coming from Lagos Nigeria, this traffic na childs play. Traffic wey dey move? Na real bonus be dat. If this was what I had to face in Nigeria, Lord knows I for dey sleep my house till day break, watch cartoons instead of running out at 5:30 am. Which reminds me, how far with our attempts to start up a BRT system in Lagos? I had never ridden on one, and I along with many others couldn't really see how it would work. Until recently I wondered at the reasoning behind designating the innermost lane the BRT service lane instead of the outermost lane. I felt the outermost lane made the most sense, for ease of dropping off passengers, etc. Now I see that the whole purpose is to move people between two points as quickly as possible in the case of Lagos move them between the island and mainland. Say I am going to work in VI and I live in Magodo. I get on the bus at the 7-Up Transit Centre and get off at the Bar Beach Transit Centre from where I will take a taxi or a white bus (local transport within VI) to my final destination. There is also the issue of transit centres. I didn't see any going up while I was in Lagos, anyone know if there are visible plans that they are gonig up? I remember when the roads had just been marked and the whole BRT issue was hot on everyones lips. A lot of people (myself included) where all open to its introduction provided that it would actually function even though we couldn't really understand how it would. Now that I have actauly used one omo its a really good idea. I do regret that I am unable to totally enjoy the benefits of being ferried to work. I get motion sick, so the one and a half to two hours I spend riding everyday is wasted, I can't catch up on my reading! :-(

23 October 2006

Snip Snip

I cut my locks on Saturday.

I had begun to tire of them, and I also itched to run a comb trough my hair. I wondered at the timing of my actions this morning as I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the train to arrive. Shouldn't I have kept them to keep my head warm during the winter? I asked my self as my teeth chattered away. 'Thats what caps are for silly' replied my sensible side. Now I have a mini afro which I have tucked away under a wig. I plan to get may hair braided though, but first I will rock my wig into the ground!

Reading 0 - 4 Arsenal

Did you see my boys school Reading? Awesome! (my oga don infect me) The Henry goal quick but e still no quick reach Babangida's opener (40 secs) against South Africa at the Africa Nations Cup in 2000 now that was sweet!

Match Report soccernet.com

Match Report arsenal.com

21 October 2006

My office building isn't exactly in the heart of downtown so when it comes to lunch there aren't too many options. I usually just get a sandwich from the cafeteria, and I mut say I never knew two slices of bread could be so filling, usually thats all I need to get me through the day. Day before yesterday I decided to try something new, I brought lunch from home. Lunch comprised of jollof rice and fried catfish which we bought from a nija store the day before. The food was actually supposed to my lunch/dinner but as usual I was stuffed from one sandwich lunch; a chicken salad sandwich and the only logical thing to do was to have it for lunch the next day. I must admit prior to this time I had never eaten fried catfish. To me catfish is something to be eaten boiled for no more than 15 mins, either in pepper soup or in a very hot (peppery) thin stew eaten with freshly boiled rice. I really enjoyed my lunch, and totting an extra bag to and from work wasn't as much as an ordeal as I had earlier imagined. Infact the whole experience was such a hit for me, I considered doing it again the very next day. Alas some confusion as to how I was going to get to work distracted me and I forgot. At about 10:30 I got an email from my boss; an invitation for lunch. I said a silent prayer of thanks fo forgeting my lunch as I replied that I would be available. At 11:15 we all gathered in the lobby (9 of us in total) then we carpooled to pappadeaux, a cajun restaurant like 2 miles from my office. We then proceeded on a 3 hr lunch (wetin concern me, i dey bill dem dey go). I have learned that the nicer looking an oyinbo dish is, the more likely it is to be totally tasteless so I approched the whole ordering business with a lot of seriousness. At the end of the day, I deided to have rice and shrimp stew (shrimp etoufee) and it was really good, so good I finished my serving. My last mouthful threatened to spoil my whole experience though, I don't quite know how to describe it in english, in yoruba I would say 'Ede yen npa okuta' (translation suggestions welcome). I think the shrimp wasn't properly cleaned cos it was sandy to the crunch. On a good day I would have promptly spat it out, but I am out with my project manager and there is the issue of exending my contract so I said a small prayer and swallowed. Well I am happy to report that I am very okay as I write this thankully. As I wiped my mouth (daintily) and laid my napkin aside, I heard someone mention dessert. Dessert ke! I was stuffed. When the dessert tray arrived however I couldn't resist the vanilla cheesecake (ole) I did try my best, but I couldn't do more than half. Back at my desk I wondered how I was going to manage to keep awake till 4:30 when I will be able to legally escape. Apparently no be only me dey suffer from the effects of lunch, and hour after we returned my supervisor was like he was off for the day and I was free to leave if I wanted to. There is a God kia I carried my bag I didn't even take the shuttle downtown, I walked to the train stop I was that full I needed the excercise.

16 October 2006

Breast Cancer Awareness

As the week ended I despaired, I was yet to find a place to move to. I had begun to reconcile myself to another week at the hotel (chei all my money throway) when I got a call from my friends, 'we are coming to pick you and we won't take no for an answer, you are coming with us!' So thats how I moved once again, to the suburbs. My new commute is 55min by bus and train as opposed to the initial 10-15 mins by leg. I do miss living so close to work, my new commute however does involve some walking so I still get the excercise in. Riding the bus has been a lot of fun, on Monday I saw a very interesting photo op, and I really wished I owned a camera. As my train pulled up to the stop I looked out of the window and saw this ... appariation! After about 30 secs I was able to tell that it was not a giant jellyfish but a human and female all dressed in pink. From the top of her head to the soles of her feet, pink and monogrammed with the pink ribbon. I am assuming she is dressed like this since October is cancer awareness month. I must confess I cannot recall the last time I did a self breast exam and after hearing the stats for women of color and breast cancer I really should pay more attention. The lady in pink seems to be looking for something, I guess thats why I initially mistook her for a jelly fish, with each foray into the pockets of her numerous bags she sent various items of pink flying in the air; scarf, hat, sunglasses, iPod, etc. What can she be searching for so frantically? I wondered as I inched closer to the window. I feel the train shudder, 'find it find it' I pleaded as I stared hard at her, mortified at my voyeurism. Suddenly she stops and from the depths of pink pulls out ... a pack of cigarettes!!! I watched in disbelief as she lit up and took a really long drag, you know the type, the 'gosh I can't believe I haven't had a smoke in 15 mins' type. Imagine! She made for a really interesting diversion on my commute that morning sha, I am not sure if a picture would have adequately captured the scene sha, more like a short movie. Anyways I have scheduled a breast exam in my monthly routine.

03 October 2006

The Healthy I

How I wish my curent living arrangements could last forever! Going to work is such a joy, my office is 10-15 mins away depending on if I am strolling or doing a brisk walk. I feel so healthy already! Plus today I found a shortcut; cutting the distance I walk to work in half! I think Mapquest should add a pedestrian route panner to their application, would have discovered this route a lot earlier (24hrs!) Work is great, the project I will be working on is really cool, however its taking a while to get all my work tools, I hope I will be able to fully start work in another day or so. I am currently looking for a place to stay thats more appropriate, i.e. cheaper. I am actually looking for a furnished 1 bed apartment. I have been to see a couple of places but the suitable ones are not furnished and the furnished ones have undesirable attachments i.e. roomates!

01 October 2006

The Hungry I

So last night after taking care of the esentials, i.e. calling everyone, getting setup on the Internet (o so crucial) I am realise I was starving and there wasn't a crumb of food to eat in the whole room! Yepa! I am seriously thinking that the meal I urned down when my friend picked me up at the airport was a really bad idea. I need to get something to eat and do some grocery shopping. I call the front desk, yes there are several gocery stores in the neigbourhood, could they call me a cab? How much would it cost I ask, about $7-8 each way she replies. $16 for a cab? Thanks fo the info, no to the cab. Lets see if I can't order the groceries online. Alas I can't, what to do, I call the Atlanta branch of my support group (OIA). 'Madam, $16 for cab fare is not bad considering your circumstance, make a list and call a cab!' So I call one. It arrives, I get in say hello and the accent was all too familiar. 'Are you Nigerian?' Yes I am he replies 'Same here, I am Yoruba'. 'Bawo ni' he replies and off we go, gisting all the way. I keep an eye on the road incase he decides to make any unecessary detours (thank goodness for Mapquest) in 3 mins we arrive at the store. 'Here is my number, call me when you are done, how long will you be?' 'About an hour' I reply while asking myself what can I possibly be buying for an hour?

I walk through the doors and immediately feel very overwhelmed. Kia I call OIA. 'Hep me o!' She is such a darling she kept me company while I shopped. While picking up tomato sauce to make pasta, I realise a very vital fact - I do not have Knorr/Maggi! What a huge error! I should have taken some withe me when I left Dallas!!! Horrors, will this meal be eatable? Relax says OIA, look for beef or chicken bullion from Knorr, that should do it. After much fumbling about, I swallow my pride and ask for help. I don't know whats there to be ashamed/self consious about o! Thats how I spent 20 mins looking for bread which was right under my nose. Anyway I finally get all I need, and I spent almost 2 hours in the store! I will attribute that to 1. not askng for help, and 2. forgetting my shopping list at home! As I pushed my groaning cart to the register I fear for the bill. It was a lot less than I had thought it would be, many thanks to OIA who passed on valuable tips (buy store brand items). I ring up my cab and load up my purchases. I noticed on the ride back that the meter was off. The cab driver is admonishing me to make sure I marry a Yoruba Nigeria male (I thought I left Princess in Nigeria?), and also to look before I leap. Its easier for a man to recover from a bad marriage than it is for a woman he says. We get to my stop and I bring out my wallet. 'Aburo ma se wahala' (my dear don't worry) I thank him for the ride and he tells me to call him anytime I need a ride. For sure I will. Sometime towards the end of my shopping trip(precisely after locating the beef bullion), OIA's phone started making signs that it could not survive this 2hr conversation. We agree it would be bes to let the phone charge for a bit. It took 3 trips to get my purchases up to my room (why on earth did I take an upstairs room in a walk-up) after putting everything away and getting settld in for the night, I realise I still haven't eaten and I am not up to cooking anything tonight. Of course I call OIA. Order out for something then, pizza? Pizza it is (so much for not eating rubbish). The phone starts beeping again. I realise I really should let the poor girl go, her husband will soon be home, it would not be fair on him to return home to a fagged out wife. My pizza arrives and I devour it with relish. So whats on TV, imagine, no HBO! (Ore has gotten me hooked on 'The Wire') a well, I will survive.

I moved, again

Well its a temporary move which I pray becomes permanent. I got a job, a real one! I start tomorrow, it all happened so fast. (I can't believe I just said that!)

Monday the 25th I got a call from a recruiter; 'I saw your resume on dice, you look like a perfect fit for a position I have here in the Houston area' without taking break from the season premier of CSI that I was watching online, I go through the standard drill, 'are you willing to relocate?', 'how much will you expect the position to pay?', 'will you be available for a phone interview?' etc etc. I am really engrossed in what I am watching. All of a sudden I realise I am taking down a name and number to call at 2pm CST for a phone interview the next day. I quickly hit the pause button and try to get back into the phone call I was having which was with hindsight a lot more important than what happened to Catherine (she woke up in a hotel room alone and naked with apparently no memory of the precceding event!). Alas it was a bit too late, my party had dropped the phone and I was a bit confused; was I to expect a call from a guy at 2 pm or was I to call him? Luckily the recruiter sends me an email so I was able to call him and clarify things. Yes the gentleman would be expecting my call at 2pm on tuesday the 26th. That sounded a bit strange to me, me initiating the phone call and all. I however went ahead and marked my calender accordingly.

Tuesday arrives and I had forgotten about the interview, thank goodness I had set an alarm on my phone! I call the guy and the interview went well in my opinion the technical part that is. It seemed to me that the fact that all my experience was in Nigeria was causing a stumbling block for him. 'Another one bits the dust' I think as I we end the interview. I call the recruiter and leave a message for him as per the interview, of course I tell him it went well. The recruiter calls me on wednesday morning and asks how it went (apparently he hasn't spoken with the client)again I tell him it went well. He says he will speak with the client and let me know. 30 min later he calls back, 'you're in' he says. I can hardly believe it, thats it, 3 months of waiting and waiting and just like that I have a job, and a decent one at that? I am amazed that I managed to remain coherent for the rest of the call. I immediately call Princess. She was over the moon. After our conversation, I began to think about the last 2 days, you mean thats it? Just like that I will finally begin to get the US experience the lack of which seemed to be the reason why I had remained in the unmeployed market for so long? A friend pointed out that 3 months was not a long time to be unemployed, considering the fact that I had just moved to the US and all of that. While I might agree with him career/education-wise I have always had it smooth and the past 3 months for me was very enlightening. For sure it has taught me to better appreciate what I had taken for granted for the past 5 yrs; the fact that I had employment.

So first I was estatic, then thoughtful, then I began to panic, where will I live, how will I get to and from work??? At this point I will like to thank the members of my support team (you guys know who you are). I have made many a phone call to them in the past 4 days asking advice, venting, etc etc and they have been really there for me. Finally I was able to work out temporary living arrangements, an extended stay hotel close to my new office. Next step get a cheap ticket at such short notice and get a pickup from the airport. The Houston chapter of my support team really came through for me, picking me up and taking me to my accomodation picks ranked by cost. High on my list was a place I found on craiglists.com which was cheap but turned out to be in a not to safe part of town. Athough I have survived the Lagos area boy, I am not about to put his Houston cousin to the test. Even if I had wanted to stay, my friend was giving me the 'I hope you are not planning to stay here' look. Kia we load ourselves back in the car and we go to the second place on my list. Aha, much better. Its in a safer neigbourhood and in good proximity to my office (0.7 mi) and there is no fear of me gaining any more weight from eating rubbish, I have a kitchenette so I can cook. My friend drops me off, and I call my people to let them know I got in okay. Its a nice feeling to be making progress again. The plan is to stay here for a week while I continue to scour local property listings in the area looking for something more appropriate, i.e. cheaper, preferably a one bedroom furnished apartment I can rent on a monthly basis. Later today I plan to take a test walk to my new office, I was glad to note that there is a Metro stop very close by for a ride into and out of downtown. I don't think 3/4 of a mile is too much to walk on a daily basis anyhow I will keep you posted on that.

Charlton Athletic 1 - 2 Arsenal

All the usual suspects agree that the 2nd Van Persie goal is a good contender for the goal of the season. Wenger described it as the goal of a lifetime. I really can't wait to see it, the Arsenal website hasn't put it up yet. Anyways this is our fifth win in a row across board, we are really looking good in the tables; we are leading our group in the champions league, and just a win away from getting in the top five in the premiership. On a related note, we seem to have a game in hand, anyone know who we will be playing? I pray we continue with our form. I must say that the upcoming international week break gives me some concern, messing up with our rythmn and all of that, but I pray we will be able to sustain form through it and after it.

Match Report soccernet.com

Match Report arsenal.com