Monthly Archives: June 2014

To Whom It May Concern

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Writing 101, Day Fourteen: To Whom It May Concern
Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.

Flipping to page 29 of my book “God’fessions: Daily confessions of God’s word and promises over your life”, the first word that hits me is ISAIAH! Now that’s a dicey one as I’m wondering what will I say to Isaiah, which Isaiah? And then I remember an Isaiah I knew but didn’t know, one I met but didn’t meet. You must think me confused. Wait till you read about him then you will understand the Isaiah that was and is.

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Dear Isaiah,
I’m not sure you would approve of my calling you by your name and neither do I. But for the sake of intrigue, suffer it to be so now; now I sound like I’m preaching, don’t I?

I’ve been meaning to tell you so many stories and fill you in on my updates and what’s been going on in my world, but you seem too far to listen. Do I pen down those thoughts or make a call? Who will deliver this letter when I’m done? Oh, the few complexities of life and one more reason to live on and that is the joy of solving these kinds of mysteries. Did you know I love puzzles, enjoy watching thrillers and reading books whose end is difficult to grasp?

You were not there when I got married, when I had my first child or my second. You were not there when I was growing up too. Hmmm! And it just occurred to me that you weren’t there when I was born either. Where were you, I ask no one in particular, no one but you.

It’s been a very long while I heard from you…actually, I have never heard from you. But I suspect that you peep through daddy, reflecting another of your nature through Uncle Rich and another aspect in Mma Uju. Uncle Sam, Auntie Rose aren’t left out. I didn’t mention Auntie Mmayen because she came to visit and stay with you. Hope you still recognise her. She’s all grown now and has grandchildren you haven’t met too!

So much has happened in all our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly but in all we are grateful for every new day and the opportunity to reflect a part of you Isaiah our grandfather we never met! RIP.

Your grand-daughter,
Iman

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Happy Christmas – the Eket way!

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Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy Christmas!
Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
Feel free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.
Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

I’m excited just remembering what Christmas meant to us. You are right to request that I talk about my childhood experience as Christmas is no longer what it used to be. No one goes to the village so much like then.

In the 70s, 80s and mid-90s whenever it was December, I always looked forward to the holiday as that meant new clothes and shoes, fancy hats and hair do, plenty of gifts, visits to cousins (you hadn’t seen in a long while), masquerade displays and of course Food! Food!! Food!!! Correct Rice and Stew plus Ekpang Nkukwo and Afang soup with foo foo. Yummy! 🙂

Rice & Stew

Rice & Stew

Ekpang Nkukwo

Ekpang Nkukwo

Afang Soup

Afang Soup

We didn’t care much about weight gain when it came to the food or decorum when it got to the point of being chased by a Masquerade. You had better run or else you would either be beaten with their whip or harassed/detained, while they sang some silly songs and expect you to bail yourself out by dropping some coins in their bowl.

It all starts with plenty packing and re-packing to be sure you had your favourite clothes in the box and then a really long journey from Port-Harcourt to Eket. Back then daddy would drive very slowly (with plenty respect for other road users) and being a Safety-conscious person we always arrived the village in the night…no matter when we left the city. But always in time to meet the evening Carol service in church and old friends too.

Christmas Day itself began a bit too early as we had to cook different dishes (the ones mentioned above and more) and prepare for the influx of persons that would come to visit their family members that had come in from the City. Of course when on such visits, they didn’t expect to go back hungry or empty-handed. Food and money had to exchange hands. Christmas back then was a time to spend and spend and return broke. Now people are wiser…giving only to the point where they can afford.

After the first batch of early morning visitors, we would go for Church Service and return to hot steaming plates of Rice and Stew…with intimidating chicken on it. You had other options to add to your consumption or choose from, but we only ate a dish because we had other plans and that included visiting. Hmmm…there were soft drinks to go round too for the children; while the grown-ups drank alcohol and some palmy or Palm Wine (some local drink from the Palm tree usually whitish).During this period, there wasn’t a home you visited that didn’t have food to offer you and the beauty of Christmas was in your ability to eat almost everywhere you went and still have space in your stomach for the next Auntie’s house!

The Masquerades usually don’t show up on December 25th but on the 26th so we are already aware and prepared to either avoid their paths, stay indoors and watch from our veranda or brave up and face any ‘consequence’ we met on our way out. An easy route of escape was going out with a male cousin who resides in the village. They normally would know who was behind the mask and stand in to prevent you from being ‘flogged’ or harassed.

Masquerade

Masquerade

A group of Masquerades

A group of Masquerades

Beyond the food and Masquerade was the feeling of togetherness and warmth this season brought and that was a high point too…and a childhood I sometimes miss!

The Red Sweater

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Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View
A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.
Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

Mark:Red Sweater
Feeling his side pockets to be sure it was there; a simple 18 carat diamond piece. “Today is the day,” he mutters and tugs his jacket closer to himself, while clamping onto her hand…so warmly yet a tad too tightly. “Too much has slipped through my hands in my bid to make my life better; I’m not letting Susan go. And if going for another bout of rehabilitation just to keep us together, I am willing.” With these thoughts running through his mind, he looks up to meet her gazing straight into his face with concern burrowing into her face. Mark smiled at her.

Then he saw it…letting go of her hand suddenly, a memory replays.

That fine sunny morning, Venus had pleaded that they go to the beach. “The holiday by the seaside is no fun, if your feet are not in the sand or the shoreline.” She preached like she did every morning.

“Honey, you know I don’t enjoy the water like you, I’ve got a phobia for it and it is called Aqua phobia” they both chorused and laughed at each other. But he loved her too much to let that silly fear he brought upon himself stand in the way of their fun.

At the beach, she did all the swimming, while he watched and read. One of the times he looked up, he saw a child by the edge of the shore and before he could gather his thoughts, she was gone – swept further into the sea by the rushing tide. Venus saw it too and jumped back into the sea against the strong currents she swam but it took both she and the child in Red sweater away.

He wailed like he always did whenever he saw a Red sweater. And he hadn’t told Susan about his past relationship and loss yet.

Susan:
Susan was shocked at the sudden show of outburst and change in emotion Mark displayed; from a smile to wailing bitterly. What could have brought this on she questioned with her looks as she reached out to touch him and bring him out of that place he had journeyed.

“Is there something you would like to share with me?” she enquired. She had heard in the neighbourhood some tales but Mark never spoke about anything that had to do with his past.

Probably that’s his long lost mum; and she started at the old lady with silver-coloured hair. Maybe he remembers his Red sweater from childhood. “People can be funny you know crying over all manner of silly things,” she mused to herself.

Mrs. Bennet:
As she had always done for the past 20 years, ever since Richie left home for some foreign missions in Liberia. Seated amidst all the lush green, with trees swaying to the music in the wind; she whistled softly to herself a joyful tune. One of the tunes she used to sing as he lay weary from work at the Railway Station. Occasionally, she sighs as she remembers how he would turn and mutter in his sleep about the untidiness of some of the coaches, but then there wasn’t much he could do about it. That manager just won’t listen! “I should change my job”, he thought to himself in dreamland and suddenly, he hears her sweet voice calling him back from that place of despair. He returns to the land of sweet dreams and succumbs to peaceful sleep though his body racked with pain.

Today on her favourite bench in the park, (the one positioned nearer to the flowing stream paved with interlocked stones) made of cold steel, a reminder of the harshness of the world round about her in the midst of such beauty. She knits the Red sweater slowly. “I wonder how many more of these I would have to knit before he comes home”, she soliloquizes, “perhaps they would come with him.”

© Frances Kelvin Otung June 2014. All rights reserved.

Death to Adverbs

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Writing 101, Day Eight: Death to Adverbs
Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.

I would love to go to the Park or a public place at that, but I’m at work and as such do not have the luxury of such free time. I calculated how to write today’s challenge and it seemed there was no way out of this one.

And as I pondered over my predicament – files everywhere beckoning. Illumination and ambience battle with the chill in a space set for 4. Stroking to calm the rising hairs at the nape of my neck, today feels different. Sweetly fragranced our space; I reach for my shawl. The room temperature is always too cold for me. But the atmosphere was no longer welcoming. My attention was drawn outside and as I watched, the bright light-blue skies darkened from one hue to the next. And with each hue, the greens disappeared. I looked at the car lot underneath my windows (where I often got inspired when bored just by seeing the colourful array of different cars) and they all seem to have been colour splashed with grey tones!

“What is going on?” Waz asked no one in particular as he took in the scenario below.

“Wow”, Cybel gushes, with excitement jumping out of her pores, reflected in the springs aimed at getting a full view. “I love this weather!” Smiling, click, click her shutters hold still the moment capturing it forever.

I sat surrounded with gloom; I must have been transported to the grey-colour party. My chair held me down in its grip as I minded my work looking untouched by their reactions. The clouds go from 7am to 5pm and 12 midnight right before my eyes in less than 3 minutes!      14227267349_afd16bf9b9_t

He smiles, bares his dark teeth and as he laughs lightning strikes! I cower.

“I’ve only just started,” the dark clouds seem to say and it began to pour. From a cup, it went straight to raining cats, dogs and buffaloes. The more he laughed, the more it got dark and darker and rained and the colder I became. What a scene to behold on a day you wished for the sun!

© Frances Kelvin Otung June 2014. All rights reserved.

Oti

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I don’t know why, but God just keeps blessing me with people with similar names. Most people feel enriched by the bulk of money in their account, or their ability to reel out verbose words to the discomfort and confusion of their listeners and many other reasons. But my wealth beyond my love for books mostly resides in people. By that I mean my relationships and the ability to keep them alive (on both ends) despite all our struggles during the process.

He comes at you as simple and easy to work with…an ex-colleague once called me “an eager beaver” that I was always ready to help but I think that description fits him aptly. His willingness to answer every plea for help makes you wonder if his clock reads 48 hours rather than the 24 that others have. And being a ‘November’ person, passion becomes him. This same passion transcends his work, his relationship with friends and family to his love for God! Whilst others chase after what young men love, he chases the Giver and like the Bible says, those things chase and overtake him. This in no way mean that he is without them, but the good stays and the rubbish continues to where it belongs (the bin).

Like I told you earlier, I studied him from afar and wasn’t disappointed when we became friends only more enlightened that this easy-to-be-with person studied some uptight course like Law! He should have been a painter …but then that accounts for his inability to explore colours. Don’t get me wrong, I have met lawyers that make the colour wheel seem bland (like Glowreeyah and Udiilaw). He will sue me when he reads this but I have a few lawyers too to plea my defence. For an always serious-looking person, the passion that diffuses when he’s talking about his favourite team ‘Arsenal’ is overwhelming. His belief in his team is like a marriage bond…for better for worse, in sickness and health kind of thingy. Here is one place we are on different time zones as I am forever hollering for Manchester United (even when I can’t list 5 of its team members)…my choice is based on association by marriage. 🙂

It’s not always been a jolly ride between us…a few brushes with the law (that’s my law by the way) and I’m so not talking to him despite his well-executed defence but like all good friendship, those ‘fights’ don’t last a day. I sometimes worry why a word you rarely find in his dictionary is ‘No’; but he says ‘as long as he can handle it, it is okay’. Okay!!? Have I talked about his love for love? It must be a November-thing but he is totally committed to what and who he loves. He is a rare find and a friend indeed.

A Lovers’ Tiff

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Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take
Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.

Tugging at her shoes as she pulls them off with more energy than necessary, ‘I’m upset with you!’

Continuing nonchalantly browsing on his phone, he pretends not to hear her. ‘I’m sure she calm down if I don’t utter a word,’ he says to himself keeping up with the pretence.

‘Baby, I said (she emphasises) I’m upset with you’, this time staring at him with eyes blazing hot from anger.

He reaches to touch her hands. She snatches it away. Pulling himself forward, he begins to massage her shoulder and breathe gently down her ears. Thinking to himself this usually works. Shrugging him off sharply Valerie gets up from the bed. Strolls two steps away from him and with her back against the wall, the words just tumble out as the tears drop without stop.

‘How dare you! How dare you, play your usual games on me after what you just did? Of all the girls in the world Henry it had to be my baby sister!’ she sobbed loudly.

‘Honey,’ he stammers ‘we were just chatting and there’s nothing more to it or can’t I talk with your sister anymore?’

‘Liar,’ she interjects. ‘Hold it there young man and why am I even listening to you?! She exclaimed incredulously. With that she picks a flowery blouse from the arm chair, her pair of jeans from the dresser, some dresses that were in the wardrobe. Bending over him to reach for her jewelleries that lay on the other side of the bed, he grabs her enfolding her into a hug. She beats at him with everything she had gathered initially, screaming at the top of her lungs to be set free.

‘I can’t take this anymore, no matter how hard I try, you just won’t stop! From one lady to the other?! I’ve had enough.’

Usually given to much speech, it seems Henry’s oratory prowess failed him that cold windy day. Valerie had been good to him, having sustained him through the traumatic period he crashed his car, lost his job and was practically a wife. For him, that was the problem, as he needed to explore a bit! But how do you push away such a kind-hearted person he battled with the thoughts.

Based on this need, he had decided to ‘chase’ her sister so as to put her off and it worked. But watching her hurt deeply was too much for him to bear. ‘Don’t go,’ he pleaded, ‘Please forgive me.’

© Frances Kelvin Otung 2014. All rights reserved.

Otibhor

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Otibhor

Writing 101, Day Six: A Character-Building Experience
Today, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014. In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study

Writing about people is usually a walk in the park for me, because on all first meetings, I ‘study’ you unintentionally. Probably because I’m a communicator, I try to understand why people behave the way they do by silently studying them. Meaning, I don’t start out with a grand plan to do so but by default, it happens.

We didn’t begin by talking to each other. At first meeting with me, the usual report I get is “she’s so uptight; with a straight face…I wonder if she ever smiles!” I’m glad to confess that I have maintained my first meeting assessment for years now. Not intentionally though, but like people say, “everyone is entitled to their opinion”. So I let you form yours and enjoy the mystery about me later; which includes she’s so warm, loving, stubborn *wink*, etc. Our initial contact was only on a need-to-know basis and according to her (she told me this later), that she had made up her mind to confront me about my not-so-nice look but I guess every time she met me, her liver failed (like we say in Nigeria) meaning she lost the boldness. LOL.

With chocolate coloured skin tone, kinky natural African hair (like mine…I think seeing hers made me grow mine), great smile, pretty eyes and demure personality …she’s a lady at first glance. Her ladylike attributes transcends her personality to her dressing and I think that’s where it stops. As I practically have to ‘force’ her to add a bit of colour or make-up to her face daily.

Her love for work and ensuring she observes laid down rules of the organisation is worth emulating…being with me brings out the other part of her (which I know is in there somewhere) a really naughty person that can break the rules while keeping an innocent face all together. Not that I’m saying I’m naughty, but I hate being so uptight all the time as the world has enough stress to go round already. Don’t tell her I said this ok…promise?

It is easy to tell when someone loves to explore…you can see it in their choice and combination of colours, the mix they throw into their culinary skills. She’s very good at baking too but has to be pushed to bake and when she does, the taste and final outcome is simply heavenly…yum, yum (her son ‘Sammie’ says when he is eating something he likes). That’s the feedback you elicit eating one of her concoctions.

Don’t be deceived to think she’s all ladylike and a pushover because she stands her ground well on matters she’s convinced about. But with me, I simply keep pushing the buttons till she stomps off (probably planning to ‘deal’ with me later) leaving me to have a good laugh behind her back. And despite all the occasional macho she shows, I can tell she has a heart that really loves to a fault and is tender especially if she loves you. She’s bore my pain alone, prayed about it, cried to her hubby over it and smiled at me the next day just so I’m reminded that there’s a rainbow after the storm, a light at the end of the tunnel and a friend that understands.

She can really be a mummy sometimes for someone her young age. It shows in her care for her son, Sammie and her Prince. I have come to know that this part of her is not a front she puts up just for looking-good sake. But an intrinsic part of her life more like something woven into the fabric of her life. She does it to her family members and other friends too. I’m not sure what our being together means to her (as in its’ depth) but she’s simply Otibhor (pronounced ‘oh-tea-war’) my colleague and now friend/sister.

© Frances Kelvin Otung 2014. All rights reserved.