The holy month of Ramadan is here. I pray this month is just not about fasting but also learning to be a better Muslim. I have so much to learn and yet get distracted by things that do not even matter!!
I worry that I am not setting the right example for my child. Sure, she sees me fasting and praying , but is it enough ? As a parent, it is such a big responsibility to pass on the right values and I feel kids learn most by observing . Seeing is believing.
I have grown up in a liberal enviroment yet with strong religious values. Ramadan was celebrated in a big way. Not big in terms of number of dishes on the table but spiritually. For instance, there was always someone dedicated to whom my mom sent an Iftar tray to . During the last 10 days of Ramadan , I would see both my parents silently praying and reading Quran in different corners of the house all night until Fajar and the regular things like charity and so on.
Now looking back , what I miss the most is when we all gathered near the TV at the time of Iftar dua and break fast together. My brother bringing samosas or something equally mouth watering on the way back from his office. The comfort of food, the banter and love for each other. What I wouldn’t give to have those times back. To have my parents healthier and younger.
This is the biggest ordeal of growing up. To see our loved ones age . No matter where you are and how comfortable you maybe, but seeing your loved ones getting older or sick and leaving for eternal abode takes a piece of you. I yearn to be a child again when I didn’t have to face this reality. Losing my dad , my mamoo( Uncle) and Khala (Aunt) in a year’s time , I feel a deep sense of loss each time I think about them, especially when I fly back home. I know it will never be the same again. But life goes on and you learn to cope with grief.
Now that I am a grown up, have my own family, it is my responsibility to make Ramadan as memorable as my parents did for me . Pass on the same values. And it is not easy. I pray that I have the strength and determination to make most of this blessed month and I carry it’s essence for the rest of the year . Ramadan Mubarak to all of you !
COVID -19 has turned the kitchen in many households into a very busy station . With time in your hands and inability to eat outside, it seems lot of people have taken cooking enthusiastically. And looking at all the food pictures on my fb feed, It seems I am perpetually hungry . For the sake of my physical and mental well being, I Need. To. Social. Distance from these upcoming chefs.
So far, I have defined three categories of chefs and each category has a different motive;
1) You cook because you have to. You need a home cooked meal for yourself and family. One pot dishes and shortcuts are always appreciated.
2) You cook because you love cooking. And it gives you inner joy to feed people around you. You are always on a hunt for new recipes and like to challenge your self creatively.
3) You are a Foodie. You cook because your cravings have reached a level that you just cannot control . You either make it or die craving . It is something that you cannot access it easily.
I belong to category 1 and 3. Being an expat in Nigeria and not having access to most of my favorite dishes even before COVID 19 , I reluctantly started making them . For eg; after not having a decent nan (flat bread) for 7-8 months , you do what is necessary and take the batter in your hand. As much as I love the comfort and health aspect of home cooked food, I miss popping into a bakery and grabbing some of my favorite things. I simply miss the ease of having what ever I want , when ever I want. 😦
I don’t think kitchen will ever be my Zen place but the foodie in me and inaccessibility to my favorite food will make me reluctantly learn everything .
So Corona reaches Africa. Who would had thought a pandemic would bring the whole world come together. Rich or poor, this virus has spared no one and we all are battling a common invisible enemy.
In Nigeria, the official lockdown starts in few days but we have been social distancing for some time. Today , I managed to go for a walk within the compound that we live in . And IT.FELT.GOOD. I think this routine might keep me going until things get better.
I am getting overwhelmed by the Corona messages on whatsap and facebook. So I am zoning them out and later skim through most of the messages. I just cannot talk about the looming threat on us 24/7. Lets just take it one day at a time. It’s not like we have any other choice , do we ?
Lets try Social media distancing for a while . Read and watch less depressing things. We have to keep our morale up for our family .
Karachi is going under lockdown. This is a much needed step and I wish it was taken atleast a week back. Our people despite the media outrage and government pleas are not understanding the gravity of the situation.
While I am stuck in another continent, experiencing the initial panic of Corona , I am worried about my family back home . My mom, in-laws , uncles and aunts who are in a very vulnerable age bracket. My heads screams at the stupidity of our nation who have been brazenly socializing in spite all the warnings, and then feeling helpless about the state of healthcare of our nation . How are we going to overcome it ? May Allah has mercy on us . That’s all I can say right now.
The worrying thing being stuck in Nigeria is what If I get it ? The health care here too is very fragile and being in an unknown land, the thought of getting treated here seems like being sent off to jail.
I am trying to trick my mind and think positive but I just needed to express how I am feeling right now. I guess I should watch some Friends and life will be good again . It always does.
To be born in a rich family is a privilege. Similarly, being born in a rich country is no different. However, one thing is constant regardless what your circumstances may be, the love for your mother and your motherland.
When people go to the foreign countries for better opportunities, it is easy to judge and believe you forgot your home country or love it any less. Trust me, no matter where you are , the love doesn’t go away. You get happy when your country prospers, sad when a tragedy strikes, frustrated when you see hopelessness and ecstatic when you win in any international sport. One experiences these extreme emotions only when there is a deep connection.
Small world is an annual charity event hosted by expats in Lagos. There are over 30 countries participating. The proceeds of this event go to charity. I had an opportunity to experience this event and was amazed by the patriotism of all the people there. Small World gives opportunity to expats to represent their countries , their culture and most importantly showcase their cuisine. There are live performances , music, overall a lively carnival which stretches all evening till around midnight.
Sampling food of countless countries and drinks is a sweet deal especially when it is for a good cause. So once you have bought the ticket to this event, everything inside is free which includes your food , drinks and entertainment. I can proudly say I tasted brownies of at least 3 countries 🙂 and they all tasted great . My personal favourite was an Israeli Chocolate dough like ball.
What really amazed me, is how my friends representing Pakistan worked tirelessly to put our best foot forward. They spent money , time, sweat and utter dedication to represent Pakistan in the best possible light. They prepared food for 100’s of people, decorations that they started preparing weeks in advance and organized everything from A-Z. Their generosity and hard work is commendable to say the least. And this goes for all the other nationalities as well. They were all proud ambassadors of their countries.
Small world (Established since 1996) is a great initiative to bring people together . It reminds us that we are all global citizens and how wonderful diversity can be. So if you are in town around this time next year, do come and show your support. You will not be disappointed.
Cravings and expat life goes hand in hand. We all have grown up with a certain style of food and flavors that we like and associate our memories with . Wherever we go , we try to find places that hits closest to home. So please don’t hate me if my taste buds don’t agree to your version of it.
We visited a desi restaurant this weekend and was quite happy to see samosa on the menu. Indian samosas have peas in it which I don’t like but being greedy, I had even made peace with that. After all beggars cannot be choosers!
So the samosa finally comes. It is hot and crispy from the outside and accompanied with a coriander chutney. Sigh, It is so instragram worthy!! So I am officially salivating inspite of the green peas which I am expecting inside.
So the big moment comes, I dip my crunchy samosa in the green chutney and take a bite. I taste potato and something else …. It is sweet… it is mushy…it is a RAISIN! I dropped the samosa like a hot potato. (Pun intended). Taking another bite was unimaginable. Almost like a betrayal to all the samosas I have ever eaten.
What I experienced then, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So next time you are causally snacking on a samosa or just grabbing it from a random bakery , please don’t take them for granted. It is a blessing denied to many.
Traffic in Lagos was always brutal . Unpredictable, lawless and chaotic . But for the past 2 weeks it seems to have reached hellish heights . Being a stay at home mom has always been the least rewarding roles, but now imagine a mother who spends nearly 4 hours doing school runs!!!
So what do you do all day ?
Me: I do school runs. Period.
Planning your activities around this insane traffic is a task on its own and you learn to be organized and not leave things for the last minute. Having lived in big cities all my life, I understand the concept of traffic hours but NO rules apply here. The traffic here has a beat of its own.
The middle class and lower get the worst deal out of this situation. They work all day, only to commute 2-3 hours back home , catch few hours of sleep and go back to work the next morning. Most of the domestic workers, leave as early as 3 or 4 am to make it to work on time. I don’t think most of them can even manage more than 5 hours of sleep. Some of them however do manage to share accommodation at a more central location to save time on commute, but for most, life is very very hard.
While the rich keep getting richer, there is no one to feel a common man’s pain. Public transportation and better infrastructure is desperately needed but there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
We have been living out of suitcases since Aug 2019. Though we have shifted to our own apartment but it is mostly empty
We have been living out of suitcases since Aug 2019. Though we have shifted to our own apartment but it is mostly empty. Meanwhile, we bought some essentials to get by until our shipment arrives, like a mattress , a three seater sofa and cooking utensils. And to be honest, it still feels like home . Which makes you realize the difference in need and want in its true sense.
So as it seems, the shipment will not reach us for another month. Apparently it is quite a tiresome process here . By the time the vessel docks and reaches you , it takes addition 3 weeks easily!! Things move a bit slow around here.
You know the best part of each relocation, at least for me is setting up the house. Filling each nook and corner with your touch and making it your own. This house is so much more spacious than our previous homes and so much brighter, so this time It will be fun to play around. I have moved three houses with the same furniture and in each house, the same stuff has looked totally different. Like seriously . I think the natural light plays a HUGE (Donald Trump style) part here . So when ever you look for your place, just do not see the layout, also check for the natural light, It does make a world of difference .
Important thing which I have learned while moving around is to keep it light. I don’t know where I will be after 5 years and what my house/apartment will be like . Invest in paintings and wall hangings if you may, at least that can go where you go but with the bulky stuff , keep it light. Not saying that you become a Japanese minimalistic but perhaps somewhere in between .
What is the single most important feature in your house ? Do share.
Living in a new country brings in new experiences and gives you insight to unique culture and norms. I have been observing things around me and thought I should share it with you .
One thing which you cannot ignore while living in Nigeria is the availability of booze , like everywhere! Be it at any grocery shop big or small, restaurant, coffee shop or even a street side hawker. I am only grateful that it is not available in school cafeterias. Needless to say, Nigerians like to have a good time! While doing groceries, I have struggled finding brands I am familiar with , but rest assured you will have no problem finding your choice of poison. The liquor aisle will be fully stocked with all possible choices. Here you will find street hawkers selling small bottles filled with some liquid. Initially I thought it may be some kind of massage oil , but later got to know otherwise.
Moving on to another interesting topic is how the Africans celebrate deaths The funerals are grand and festive and people wait months to a year to bury their loved ones. Funerals are basically a celebration of life as the spirits transitions from this world to another. It is also believed the soul will not rest in peace and unsettle the family in the household if not sent off properly. Families pitch in or take loans to perform the funeral rites. This itself puts a lot of stress financially and emotionally. In some cases, families sell their properties to have a funeral befitting the deceased. Ironically it can be said more importance is given to the dead than the living. Families unable to have proper send off are labeled poor and spoken ill of. The rich have rites which can easily last over a week . Families gather from far and wide and during this week long celebration, there is abundance of food, drinks and music. Regardless of class, a proper funeral is expected and it is not something which can be taken lightly. It is not surprising that this tradition is being capitalized and has turned into a lucrative industry.
You have not lived in Lagos unless you have experienced its’ crazy traffic. I was told prior moving to Lagos that law & order situation deteriorates during the month of December. As we move closer to Christmas and holidays , robberies tend to increase and generally you are supposed to be more careful of your movements. People come from other towns to shop and hence you will experience more traffic all month long. Things tend to improve as the year ends.
Life in Lagos can be as good or bad as you choose to make it . Yes, there are restrictions and frustrations for expats but there is also a silver lining to it like, professional growth, comfortable housing , domestic help and warm expat community. It is just how you choose to see it. Glass half full or empty.
Expat feedback on what to expect when you land in Nigeria
We have recently moved to Lagos recently and everyone we know is interested to know how is it like. Unfortunately, there is not much information on internet as you would like and whatever there is, you are better off not knowing.
I was among the fortunate ones who knew people living there and could be counted on for an honest feedback. So one thing which I was totally prepared for was the airport itself. Yes, this needs to be discussed! You need to be mentally prepared for it. The airport experience would be the worst part of your journey. The airport is dingy and gloomy. We were asked if we were carrying any new clothes??? Like is it a crime to carry them? And then they may ask for a token for their family. It is NOT a compulsion. You can politely ignore their request or simply say next time.
Once you have left the airport, the worst part of your journey is over. The city, to be honest is cleaner than I expected and there is greenery around, so it is pretty decent. It is a big, thriving city; it took us good 45 minutes to reach hotel with no traffic. The traffic jams are legendary here, so once you come you will know what timings to avoid traffic hour etc.
The city is expensive. I don’t think one could afford to stay in the island, (where all expats stay) and study in international schools if it is not covered by your company. Eating at restaurants is also expensive. Just don’t think that since you are in Nigeria, things will be cheaper. Your grocery bill is going to be more because you further add duty and margins to it.
The only thing which will be cheaper and a huge blessing here is domestic help. Be prepared to become Martha Stewart in the kitchen as you will end up eventually making things you crave as they are not easily available or it is just more convenient. You will also be planning your annual shopping in your travels. So you will not only become an expert cook but also super organized.
Now the silver lining to this, expat community is very welcoming here. These people will become your new family and you will make life long bonds with them. The weather is pleasant all year round and there are very nice options for housing. So these friends and your home will be where you meet and entertain mostly. Haven’t explored many dining out options, but will definitely share with you when I have tried them some.
The price gap between the rich and poor will sadden you and even more so when you know it is an oil rich country with so much potential. Like any new country, it will take a while to settle. More so, because of security restrictions. But keep an open mind, have a taste of adventure , who knows you might end up liking it.