THE SOOTHING BALM

“Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out” – Pam Allyn

I just checked my JAMB (Joint Admission Matriculation Board) examinations result. I was so sure I wouldn’t get anything below 250. Imagine my surprise when I saw 199, out of 400. Haba! This people are wicked o. Just in case you don’t know, anyone who plans to attend a Nigerian university must pass JAMB. This meant my hopes of going to the university that year was dashed. I began sobbing pitifully. I went outside the house, away from the pitiful stares of my parents and siblings to mourn my failure. After about 30 minutes of non-stop tears and mucus running down my nose, I suddenly came to a realization. The tears were just a waste. Immediately, I cleaned my eyes and stood up. What I did next might surprise you. I read. Yes, that’s right. I picked up a book and read. Just as Mason Cooley said, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are”, reading that night consoled me like liquor. There is something soothing about sitting outside, reading a good book just when the sun is setting, enjoying the cool breeze, without distractions (Ooops, I forgot the mosquitoes also take their dinner around that hour). Well, I stayed outside reading until I couldn’t see anymore and couldn’t ward off the mosquitoes any longer (although a few got a sip or two of my blood).

My love for books has always been a part of my existence. Ever since I can remember, books have always been a part of my life. Thank God for my parents, especially my dad who taught and encouraged me to read. Being a reader himself, the house was always filled with books. From spiritual, to motivational, self-help and biographies, there were books of all kinds around me. This was where I became sucked into the world of literature. Thanks to books like the adventures of Tom Sawyer (which I read and re-read until it tore) and other African literature books, my imagination was always kept busy and active. I can remember clearly that once our English text book for the term comes in, that same day, I would sit down with the book and finish reading every comprehension passage in it.
My parents told me that ever since I could read, I read everything and anything with words. From newspapers, to magazines and even manuals that come with appliances. There was never a time I didn’t read. This was where I fell in love with my long time love, Words.
You would think that I would have written lots of short stories during my childhood like everyone around me seemed to be doing at the time (including my closest cousin). Till today I can’t tell why I never thought or bothered to write stories in exercise books like most people did. I just knew that I was content in consuming the beautifully woven words of great writers like Cyprian Ekwensi, the author of Sugar girl, and Chinua Achebe. These beautiful words fascinated my young self (they still do) and they were so powerful to me. I was content with my books. I guess my parents found me easy to please. I knew that if I did well in school, my dad would buy me a book or two as reward and boy did I try my best to excel. I also remember in my primary school days that those who took the first, second and third positions in their respective classes were usually gifted with story books (I usually finished them that same day or by the second day). Those were moments to be treasured. I’m sure you can already guess by now that I failed woefully in mathematics. As much as I worked hard to be first in my class, I was always beaten to second place by the girl who did well in math.
Fast forward to twelve years later, I finally decided to try my hands at writing and I decided I quite liked it, almost more than reading. I realized that writing had a cathartic effect on me and allowed me to express myself freely without judgments. Reading helped me escape from the world, sometimes from reality and I am grateful I had that. But writing has given me much more, beyond what words can describe. Writing has given me a gift, an outlet and a passage. And to think there are a few who bother to read this blog amazes me.

Let me leave you with a few titles that have inspired me so far this year .

1. The Long Walk to Freedom: The autobiography of Nelson Mandela

2. The Traveler’s Gift – Andy Andrews

3. The Noticer – Andy Andrews

4. The Smart Money Woman – Arese Ugwu

5. The Manual of the Warrior of Light – Paulo Coelho

Please check these books out, I promise you won’t be sorry.

Graciella.

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STREET HAWKING: THE PAINS, GAINS AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

Survival of the fittest is a common mantra that rules the world, even the animal kingdom.
Many would go to the greatest lengths to ensure that they survive no matter how trying it may seem.

There is yet, one group of people who would defy the odds and go an extra mile to make life worth living.
For such people, they have only one option left – street hawking.

Street hawking is not for the faint hearted. Navigating through the maze of heavy traffic or walking a great distance to sell theirgoods to their buyers is no easy feat.
In sharp contrast to other bourgeois elements that sit often idly in the office andearn huge amounts of money, these street hawkers slave in the sun and battle for their lives while trying to earn a living.
This goes to show the abject poverty and desperation that pushes these hawkers so much so that sometimes, it becomes the family business. Each member of the family takes up different products to sell at different locations in the city to supplement the family’s income.

Children hawking
These children are made to hawk whatever sells while their mates are in school learning. Some of these children are fortunate if they are able to go to school in the morning and hawk in the afternoon. However, the unfortunate ones aren’t able to go to school, not because their parents don’t want them to go to school, but because it is unaffordable.
They look so pitiful with the trays on their heads displaying their wares, sweating and shouting at the top of their lungs to get the attention of people.
Sometimes, one sees these children having a close call (almost getting knocked down by a vehicle) and one can’t help but feel sorry for them.
Since they have to sell all their wares before going home especially when the product is perishable, they have to endure this gruesome task no matter how risky.

Sexual harassment of street hawkers
The young ladies among these hawkers suffer a much terrible fate than the children. Added to the risk of getting knocked down by a vehicle, they sometimes suffer sexual harassment in the hands of male customers.
On few occasions I have watched street touts sexually harass some of these ladies. Sometimes the manhandling ranges from grabbing them by the backside, fondling their boobs, or just holding them inappropriately.
One could see the look of apprehension on their faces when such happens but they feel helpless because these are some of the customers they desperately need. Since there is a stiff competition out there, they have to chuck it up. Only a few express their displeasure disregarding the consequences.

The sexual harassment is just a tip of the ice berg compared to what others face. Some of these hawkers usually don’t have houses to go to at night. As a result, they suffer an unknown fate every night when they seek shelter under bridges, in front of closed shops, or in uncompleted buildings.
These places of shelter are unsafe especially for the females. The unfortunate ones may be raped by drunks and psychopath night crawlers. Those ones who escape that, may be beaten or stolen from. This happens to both the male and female hawkers.
I won’t forget how I was passing through Accra market on Independence Day last year. That Sunday afternoon, I stumbled upon a shocking discovery. Shops weren’t open that day and I saw a makeshift tent someone had made in front of a shop. The person had used bed sheets to make this temporary abode to shield himself/ herself from the biting cold of the night.
I was stupefied at the sight and it brought home the fact that there are tons of people out there that didn’t have anywhere to live and those who live in their shops are better off.

Photo Credit: Google

The gains are remarkable: a date with destiny
Early in 2016, news went round about a bread seller in Nigeria, Olajumoke Orisaguna, who became a model. How did this happen? Simple! She was hawking her bread as usual and she stumbled onto a street photo shoot. Unknown to her, she had appeared in one of the pictures taken that day.
The pictures went viral on the internet and the photographer – Ty Bello had to look for this natural model everybody loved. Jumoke was located the next day and that began her modelling career. She became an internet sensation literally overnight.

The Future of Hawkers
Street hawkers are ordinary people who have not been dealt favourably by the hands of fate. They don’t do it because they enjoy it but because that is what they can do to survive.
Definitely, not all street hawkers will be as fortunate as Jumoke, but it helps if we don’t act cheap when buying things from them. Also, tipping them once in a while won’t hurt anyone.
Although, a few have argued that patronizing them only encourages them to continue their trade thus endangering their lives. Until a solution is provided for these ones, they will continue to do what they have to do to survive. For most of them, short of stealing, hawking is the option available to them. Just like Jumoke, “the bread seller”, they also have potentials to do great things if given the opportunity.
Let’s see how we can help these people in any little way we can. Simply by being sympathetic to their plight would help their case. A cold bottle of water or drink for a hawker in the sun will definitely put a smile on their face. Showing simple courtesy to them while purchasing makes them feel a little bit better. Telling them to keep the fifty naira change might just increase their chances of having lunch that day. You never can tell.

Rosario is dead

I was engrossed in the book the entire four hours it took me to devour every word Majgull Axelsson (the author) had written.
This documentary novel captivated me so for its enthralling tale coupled with the fact that it was true in every sense.
Centered around the 1980s in a small town in the Philippines, the neglect, extreme poverty and struggle to survive is horrendous. It is very sad reading what children have to suffer due to poverty. Is it the pain of being alone, the betrayal and abandonment of relatives, the fear of not knowing where the next meal will come from or going for weeks without a decent meal; the feeling of helplessness and desperation that drives one to the edge of doing almost anything just to get a meager meal in order not to starve to death. Yet I see a will to live, I see bravery and courage that even most adults lack, and I see tenacity in the face of adversity. Then there’s that glimmer of hope which sometimes flicker but remains deep down in them that they could survive.
9 year old Rosario Baluyot starts to fend for herself on the streets of Olongapo. At that tender age, she is exposed to sexual abuse unwillingly. Two years down the line she is exposed to a sex tourist who does unthinkable and unimaginable things to her that leaves her dead seven months later.
The perpetrator is eventually apprehended and brought to book. He is given a sentence of life imprisonment. Rosario’s death is vindicated. But what about the life that is cut short abysmally.
This is just one out of tens of thousands of poverty stricken children in the Philippines and millions of other underage children around the world who are exploited sexually in different forms, be it child labour, sexual abuse or child trafficking.
30 years after her death, sex tourism is still very rampant especially in third world countries. Another form of this inhumanity is trafficking which we see in most parts of the world. The question is, what is being done to correct this?
They say the first step to correcting a problem is admitting it. So let’s not deny the existence of sex tourism, human trafficking, child molestation and paedophilic acts in our environments. Rather let there be a concerted effort from the government, NGOs and citizens towards eliminating them. Children are meant to be protected not molested and abused;

#kikelomo #stopchildtrafficking #endtrafficking #stopsextourism.

Note: Even if you’re paying for it, it is still child molestation so long as they are underage.

Change

Hello everyone, I decided to avoid the whole new year, new me, new blog brouhaha this time around. I wanted to veer off the norm because I feel so strongly that this year will be different.

Forgive me for the long absence. I don’t have much to say, but I didn’t want to just start posting articles without any form of introduction or apologies for those who have been anxiously waiting.

Good news! The wait is finally over. Thank you for your patience. Please feel free to send an email if there’s a topic you would like me to write about, especially issues that are not really talked about by people but affects us regardless. My email address is graciousakande@yahoo.com

Cheers to an awesome year ahead!!!

Take the Plunge

Sometime ago, I wrote a piece about Fear and how it hinders us from pursuing our goals and becoming the best we can be.

I finally realised that I am still crippled by Fear. The fear of the unknown; fear of failure; the fear of uncertainties; of things not going according to plan, the fear of disappointing my parents; of not meeting up to their expectations; the fear of not even performing up to my potentials (like the parable of talents).

I have however realised that it is not about me relinquishing my fear before I can attain the height I want. It is about acknowledging the fear and taking a leap of faith inspite of my numerous fears. My ability to take risks despite my fear, venture into the unknown and pursue my passion with a sense of purpose, will surely take me to the pinnacle of success.

Who is ready to take the plunge with me?

One…Two… Ready… Let’s go!

See you at the top.

Trouble in paradise

“You good for nothing man, all you know how to do is to eat, sleep and watch TV all day”, she snapped angrily. This had been going on for weeks now and Jude was tired of the incessant quarrels he had almost everyday with his wife of two years. There was no longer a moment of peace in the home. Cynthia was just extremely on edge and easily irritable these past weeks. If he didn’t know better, he would have assumed that she was pregnant or on her period. However, he was pretty sure she already had her period at the beginning of the month, besides, they had stopped having sex for over six months now. Continue reading