For the love of Rain and Chai

While my friends are sweating buckets in Pakistan and Middle east, I cannot be more grateful for the weather in Nigeria. It is raining almost every day. Rain, cool winds and then a clear bright sky! And what I love the most, It doesn’t stay cloudy for long. So pretty much perfect weather.

Where I am coming from , it hardly rains . Summers are brutal and when it does somehow magically rains, we celebrate. And we celebrate the only we know how to celebrate. We eat . We instantly crave Pakoras (Fritters) and hot Chai. Rains and pakoras go together like salt and pepper in our local lingo. You say rain and I can bet within 2 mins someone will suggest pakoras.

Great weather is a blessing . It lifts and changes your mood. Like a big bear hug or a hot brownie with vanilla ice cream on the side. While we are in quarantine and feeling low, the weather is literally like a breath of fresh air. The rains here are expected to continue for the next two three months, so having deep fried pakoras might not be wise but a hot, strong cup of tea will definitely be my choice of poison.

Do you know that most DESI’s take their tea very seriously? Everyone likes it a specific way …I like mine strong, milk added towards the end and boiled some more , and then once the stove is switched off, cover the pot and let it sit for 3-4 mins for the flavours to really seep in. Making a perfect cup of tea can be a hit or miss. What is yours ?

Home away from home #CoronaDiaries

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.

Small World – Nigerian Expats give back

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.

Traffic Insanity in Lagos

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.

Exploring Life In Nigeria

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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.

The Americanah Dream

Some stories are just meant to entertain you, but then there are some that entertain you , educate you and also move you . This novel #Americanah is a complete package. I have recently moved to Lagos, and as an expat this book gave an interesting perspective into the struggles of the black people generally […]

 

Some stories are just meant to entertain you, but then there are some that entertain you , educate you and also move you . This novel #Americanah is a complete package.

I have recently moved to Lagos, and as an expat this book gave an interesting perspective into the struggles of the black people generally and a life in Nigeria. The book touches racism, complexities associated with dark skin and Afro hair , income disparity and harboring the American dream.

The life of a Black living outside Africa comes with its own set of struggles , frustrations , double standards and stereotypes. The grass is greener on the other side, and each Black experiences this while trying to make a living abroad. Each black carries the burden of the entire race. Being from Pakistan , I can understand the obsession with pale skin , but one must wonder how it feels that in order to be regarded beautiful , it is imperative to change oneself, to conform to the idea of beauty which does not come naturally to you. Be it fair skin or straight hair . It doesn’t help much when even the global black superstars such as Rihanna , BeyoncĂ© and Oprah have also conformed to skin bleaching and hair treatments.

I am an expat living in the bustling city of Lagos and I am simply amazed by how crazy expensive this city is . Each item you get elsewhere in the world , is more expensive here. And one wonders that the supermarkets and restaurants that one sees in the island* are only catered for the local elite and expats. If you are wondering which island I am referring to, the Island is simply an island within the city of Lagos connected by a bridge which separates the rich from the commoner. The rentals that one would expect to pay to live in one of the posh compounds within the island is equivalent to living in The Palms in Dubai, yes the same place where Oprah and The Beckhams have a water facing villa. So living in the island is a cocoon within Lagos which shields you from the harsher reality of the city.

This book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a must read and will make you more empathetic to the struggles of the Africans everywhere in the world.