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The blogging sphere has crowded up very quickly in the past decade and it even looks like YouTube is taking over. Starting a blog in 2021 se...

Friday 28 July 2017

Africans in UK: More than meets the eye

There is always more to people than meets the eye. I just had a 30 minutes conversation with a very sweet African lady. Once again I was reminded to respect every one not because of their status but because they are human beings.

It was 6:30 pm. I was alone at the center where I had gone to read since morning. When I was leaving the house in the morning, I had taken two packs of food with me because I knew I would stay till late in the night. However, I wasn't feeling hungry so I didn't eat until then. So I brought out my Egusi (melon) soup and Ugali (maize meal) from the fridge, microwaved them and began to eat in the African style (with my hand).

Then the door squeaked open. I turned round to see who had entered. I smiled at her - the cleaner who comes daily around that time to clean the room and she is African. Usually when I see her, I greet her the Nigerian way, "Good evening", and we don't have any further conversation beyond that. She noticed what and how I was eating and asked, "Is that Garri?" "Yes", I replied. "No actually, it's maize flour". I was already about to finish eating. "Can I taste?" I was surprised she'd asked to, but I didn't hesitate. "Yeah. Sure." She was so excited, she washed her hands. "It's been a while I ate with my hands." "Is it chilly?" "Erm.. not really" "I like chilli". "You can have it all", I said, "I'm done". She grabbed the plate cheerfully, but I quickly reached back for it. "Not with the meat. I'll divide it", I said jocularly. So I divided the meat, giving her the bigger portion. "Every body loves meat", she remarked. "Is this egg?" "No", I replied, "it's melon seed. It's called Egusi." "Hmm. How do you make it?" Then I went on to describe the process and that for the Ugali.

"Where are you from? ", she quizzed.
"Which part?"
"Lagos. Well, I live in Lagos but I am from Anambra. I dunno if you know it. Where are you from?"
"South Africa"
I was quite surprised 'cause save for her ignorance about Egusi soup, she would have passed for a Nigerian by her looks.
"I'm eating Nigerian food!", she exclaimed.  "Do they sell it in the African market?"
 "Yes. But this one (referring to Ugali) is from Kenya".
"You are mean. You didn't even invite me. How can you be eating African food alone?"
I stammered, "I ... didn't know you... erm... especially 'cause I'm eating with my hand"

So we went about chatting and laughing, then she mentioned that she graduated last week. It was then it dawned on me that she might be more than just a cleaner.
"What did you study?", I probed.
"Masters?" I had gauged her age to be around the 40s
"No just BA but I'll soon be doing Masters"

Wow. Here was a woman I had seen severally and just assumed she was one of the migrants who found no choice but a cleaning job because they were uneducated. Guess what? She is a graduate of Psychology with a 2:1 from the University of Nottingham.

I remembered I had another plate of food (Jollof rice) and I asked her if she would love to have it. She was so excited. "Today is my lucky day". "I'm going to enjoy my work and just sleep when I go home".

That was how I had some laughter brought to my long studious day. Next time you see an African who speaks good English doing a menial job here in UK, don't be deceived. They just might be a professor.

©Radiant ~ July 2017
Click here to read my previous post - International student: Surviving the UK

Sunday 16 July 2017

International student: Surviving the UK

I do this student part time job at the University residential halls to keep body and soul together while on my Masters programme. I'm a catering assistant. Technically, I run the errands around the kitchen and dining areas - get the dining and servery ready for each meal, serve the students/clients, clear the plates, pans and pots of food, pass them through the dishwasher, stock them back in their shelves, clean the kitchen, dining and dishwasher, and so forth. 
Yes. That is what you have to do to survive the UK. Minimum wage jobs like factory work, care jobs at old peoples homes, catering jobs, temporal student jobs at the university, etc. In deed, a lot of migrants have to do these jobs either as permanent jobs or temp jobs while they write exams and qualify for more professional jobs. Any way, this catering job has taught me so much. 
1. That if you don't work, you shouldn't eat.
Pretty straightforward, isn't it? But we tend to have an entitlement mentality when we are in our own country. Government should create jobs for graduates. Government should give unemployment benefits. In Nigeria, health professionals and lecturers go on strike almost every year for increase in salary and expect to be paid while they are on strike. However, when you find yourself in a foreign country like the UK, where it is the survival of the fittest, and your bills are staring at you in the face, such that you have to take up even if it’s a menial job and live scrimply, you will understand that money doesn't grow on trees. You have to work by offering a service to earn a living. If you are not adding value to the society, you shouldn't expect anything from it. 
2. It helps you see a direct relationship between your work and your pay
You are being paid per hour worked, which means if you want more money, you work more hours. When we earn monthly salary back home, we don't really see the relationship between our work and our pay. We just feel we are entitled to some fixed amount of money at the end of every month, it doesn't matter if we performed well or not. So we abscond from work, we come late, leave early, loaf through work and open our hands for our cheques. It's none of our business how the business thrives or how our employer gets the money he pays us. He just must pay us our due. But when you are paid for every hour worked, and a machine monitors when you clock in and clock out, and you have supervisors who can't stand to see you idle, then you will understand how the work you do amounts to the pay you get at the end of the month. 
3. It teaches you what asking someone for money really means. 
It's very easy to say, "Daddy please give me 200,000 Naira" or "Uncle please give me 50,000 Naira". When you do this kind of work, you will understand that by saying that, you actually mean, "Daddy please work some hours for me". Well, it may not sound so pathetic with your dad because you feel, he is your father and it's therefore his duty to take care of you. That is right as long as you are a child, but as an adult who can work (notice I didn't say who has a job), you are no more his responsibility. How much less your uncle. Of course, there are some financial burdens that I might not be able to bear alone even as an adult and I have to ask my father or uncle for help, but this new work mentality helps me to appreciate their help even more and not just take it for granted. 

4. It also teaches you that if God doesn't bless you, you're done for. 
The system here in UK is such that one has to keep working to survive. Nothing is free. Almost everything is taxed - your car, your house, you pay to watch TV (can you imagine?) in your own house; your own TV. You have to pay for TV licence, not to talk of essentials viz. electricity, gas, water (you are not only paying for the water you are being supplied, but also for drainage of your waste water. Then people are put in bondage by their ability to obtain credit on almost everything even phone. Can you imagine that? I have to pay a portion of my salary every month because I acquired a phone. Phone not car! And people fall for these things, living in perpetual debt their entire life. So they keep toiling and toiling to make ends meet. Typical of the curse God placed on Adam, until they cry out to God like Jabez, "Oh that you will bless me indeed." Because you will see people that don't have to struggle as much. They are not lazy, they are adding value. The only difference between you and them is that their own efforts are multiplied a thousand times. Then you will know that it is only God that can bless a man without sorrow. 
These are the things I have learnt by sweating it out doing manual labour in the UK to meet living expenses while undergoing my Masters degree programme and I am grateful for them. Await more work stories. 
©Radiant ~ July 2017

What temporal jobs have you had to do sometime in your life and what lessons did you learn from them? Please share in the comments section below.