On the train to Edinburgh

My preferred title for this post was “when did I stop taking the photos”. But I changed my mind because my moment of introspection and this write-up happened on a recent train journey from Wolverhampton/Birmingham to Edinburgh. On our trip to Birmingham, my daughter who loves taking photos kept showing me pictures of the landscape she had taken on her mobile phone. By the way, she takes really good pictures. So, it was easy to praise her efforts. However, my obligatory wonderment as she proudly showed me her work were interspersed with yawns and sighs of tiredness. The truth was I was exhausted and just wanted to catch up on some sleep on the train journey. My main worry was how to get the best sleeping position without a stiff neck at the same time. I worried little about the beauty my daughter was trying to capture.

On the journey back, she was at it again, taking shot after shot, trying different angles and as usual with some lovely results. She shared with me lots of photos of the sprawling countryside and wispy clouds. I saw that she had taken one solitary photo of me,  head bowed, in deep sleep. It struck me at that moment that a couple of train journeys ago, my daughter was me, captivated with capturing the fleeting beauty of natures’ grandeur on display as we journeyed on the road or rail. While I still love observing nature, my rather indifferent attitude to my erstwhile favourite pastime on trips made me pause and reflect – it made me think about life and living.

I wondered whether we stop to take notice of the moment when we stop noticing the small things in life which give us joy when we are caught up in the busyness of living.  

Life has been called a stage. It is also an adventure. The adventure in life is not always about the “big” moments. Many little moments are lost in the momentum of daily living.

As I penned my thoughts darkness shrouded the clouds. The rest of the journey to Edinburgh sails smoothly in a cabin infused with artificial light and silent commuters. Even my daughter had stopped taking pictures. For her, I suppose there is no fun in documenting the nightly canopy. She’s preoccupied with creating a plasticine figure. 

I still love to take photographs of my fleeting glimpse of the moods of the firmament. I hope to take more daylight photos during future journeys through beautiful countryside. I do not want to be overwhelmed to the extent that I would stop taking notice of the beauty around – the joys in the little moments. IMG_9537

There will be other journeys. But on that train back to Edinburgh, I still took a photo. At that moment, the scenery was not the main reason I took the photo. The photo symbolised an affirmation to myself that I paused to look at what was right there within my sights. It’s just a little moment in time – in life. There is always work that needs to be done. But, could or would you pause today to enjoy something you consider as life’s little gift?

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Dry January?

Cultural learning in everyday mundaneness is always amazing, at least to me as a curious learner in this interesting world we all share. But before I go on, happy January 2017!

I thought it was fitting to write about ‘dry January’, well, … in January.

I would not have considered this topic if not for recent conversations with two acquaintances; just your normal mundane conversation. These two acquaintances mentioned they were having a dry January. So what’s the story? Well, I was puzzled. ‘Dry January? I asked; mind you, with my expressive face! To cut the long story short, they explained that having a dry January means abstinence from alcohol in the month of January. So, I get the logic behind ‘dry January’. However, I also have another cultural frame of understanding which had led to my puzzlement.

In Nigeria, when you have a ‘dry month’ (this could be any month in the year), to the best of my knowledge, it means either one of two things; first, you could be engaging in dry fasting. This means abstaining from food and water for a period of time. This is also practised in the West. But fasting in Nigeria (for most, I would say) is a personal affair so people do not normally tell others that they are fasting. I mean, why would I need the information? Interestingly, people will likely tell you that they are having a ‘dry month’. This simply means that the person is ‘broke’ (as in, having completely run out of money). So, in conversation, it would be quite normal for someone to say that “the month is dry”. Curiously, January is normally the ‘dry month’ (or should I say the driest month, because any other month can be dry – depends on prevailing financial circumstances). In any case, most times, January is ‘dry’ because folks have spent too much money during Christmas and are waiting for the January paycheck. You will likely get that information from someone who might be trying to subtly request for your assistance!

Now that you understand where I am coming from, you should not be surprised when I was puzzled (that is, putting it mildly) when an acquaintance mentioned casually; ‘I am having a dry January’; I was not sure whether it was due to ‘fasting’ or just plain ‘broke’? And I was wondering, what was going on here! [mis] Communication, I’d say.

Both acquaintances talked about the amazing benefits of embarking on a dry January and the conversations flowed freely. Of course, it was an opportunity to share cultural interpretations of what we understood to mean ‘dry January’. It was cultural learning.

I get mildly amused when people do not ask questions so as not to appear ignorant. Questions are needed to get answers. In any case, I have not met anyone with all the world’s knowledge, not yet. Till, then, I have my knowledge and you have yours. We could choose to share and exchange ideas. I have had a lot of fun asking questions about cultural practices. I also enjoy sharing my cultural understanding with others. Surprise! Importantly, I try to do this with an open mind and engaging attitude. That works, most times. And even if the conversation goes awry, it still is what it is; an education.

Considering the discussion so far, and with reference to the context discussed here … I am still curious though, can one have a ‘dry January’ in July?

Image @ http://www.examiner.co.uk/lifestyle/health-family/samantha-robinson-end-dry-january-8517385




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An unexpected Christmas blog!

Christmas is a time again to indulge in the nostalgic memories of past Christmases filled with love and simplicity when there were not so many gifts, but the most delight was in catching up at a large gathering with members of my big extended family.

Do not get me wrong, I love the gifts! Christmas also gives me the opportunity to exchange gifts with loved ones. And it is perfectly timed to show some appreciation to people at the end of the year. This is all obvious.

But for some reason I do not understand, for the past few weeks, I have not been able to get the tune of a particular Christmas song out of my head: ‘Rudolph the red nosed reindeer’. Yeah, you can laugh! But do not blame me. I suppose that is normal at this time of the year when you are surrounded by the chimes and charm of Christmas time. In any case, I could be excused. After all, the song has over 53 million views on YouTube. Really, did you say? Yeah, really! I would only worry if I am still humming the song in February – and out of sheer mortification, I would not be sharing that with anyone!

So, I decided to read up the lyrics of the song, Rudolph. And I really like its simple message. Without boring you any further, a quick summary of the song which you likely know already is that it tells the story of being different. The song tells the story of a reindeer who was different because it had a shiny nose. As such, it was scorned and ostracised from the reindeer community. Until Santa came and found a purpose only Rudolph could serve.rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer

…On a foggy Christmas night, only Rudolph’s shiny nose could help to guide Santa’s way.

I bet you could not imagine I will be sharing Rudolph’s story. Seriously, I did not either. But then, many true gems are hidden sometimes where least expected. Hahaha!

In a world where being different is scorned, I find instructive, the decades-old story of Rudolph written by the American singer/songwriter, Gene Autry.

Also, I find a message of hope in this simple Christmas song. In my opinion, that ‘shiny nose’ different thing about someone is something about yourself that you cannot hide. It is in the full glare of the world, perhaps, colour, race, gender and other aspects of yourself stand out – a ‘shiny nose’!

I think a great lesson from the song is that when your ‘shiny-nose feature’ is scorned by those who see no value in it, be patient. Your harbinger of goodwill and cheer might be just around the corner.

In any case, my people in Nigeria use to say in pidgin English, ‘even if monkey no fine, him mama like am like that’, This means that though you see someone as ugly, his mother would still like him. I could dissect layers of meaning from that statement – but I won’t. For now.

Eventually, Rudolph got an elevated position with Santa and became a celebrity in reindeer kingdom. From the lines of the song, we do not know how he treated his erstwhile critics (I am pretty sure, poor Gene Autry did not consider my lengthy critical discourse of his joyful song also!). But as someone who likes happy endings, I would like to think Rudolph was happy at the end.

The main point I hope to pass on in this last post for 2016 is quite simple. Christmas time is a season of cheer and goodwill – do share some and take some.

During the course of the year, I have been cheered tremendously by your comments and readership. I hope you continue to enjoy reading my blog. And please do remember, it is free also to share! I look forward to 2017 when I shall resume writing in January.

Now, do excuse me. I have got clear my desk to meet key deadlines … and prepare for some singing over the holidays!

Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2017!

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Change, change, everywhere change!

To think that I had thought Brexit would be the biggest issue in the year 2016 affecting mobility, especially student mobility which is my area of research! My thoughts, elucidated in my last post was premature as the whole world knows now that beyond polls projections and the expectation of many (or most), Trump did triumph at the US presidential elections on November 8 2016.

Just like many in my field, I wonder what will happen to student mobility in the next few years as what can be described as popular political affirmations against globalisation enabled growth take the reins of power in the top two host destinations for international students, the US and the UK.

It is difficult to ignore all the news and gloom surrounding the clamour for change that seems to be pervading the world.

Last year, change was the slogan for the Nigerian elections. And change was delivered through the ballot by a populace who seemingly awoke from their electoral lethargy. They used their electoral mandate to put an anti-corruption champion in power in the place of a change-piccorrupt government. A year on after the change mandate was given the political and economic agenda are none clearer. The country is in depression. But the people believe in the survival of the people by the people, ploughing on in hope… one day, one day, things will be better! Baffling hope, but hope nonetheless.

Moving on from the woes of the big giant of the so-called third world. Then, Brexit. The clamour for change was not assuaged by the assurances of the political elite. Change happened overnight to the shock of a nation and the world. The only certainty about Brexit is that no one knows for sure how it will impact anything or everything. But it seems poised towards a change in the world order or at least the European interpretation of open borders. We cannot say for sure yet as the intricacies yet unfold – but it is still very much early days. In my field, there is much discussion going on. Of course, higher education needs stability, but dialogue can only ensue when there is some sort of direction – so we are still waiting.

I have nothing much again to add to the over-saturation of senses and sensibilities about the US elections. All news channels all over the world have been dominated by the that! Ironic that technology enabled global media has been used by anti-globalist to propagate the news about anything remotely related to the elections on every media channel for the past few weeks. I will spare both myself and everyone reading this post another post-mortem of the US elections. Did you just utter a sigh of relief? Of course! And by the way, for your thanks, you are welcome, anytime. Even more seriously, educators and educational researchers in American institutions are concerned about the one million international students in the country and the future prospects for prospective students. That also is a case of wait and see – as a native idiomatic expression says, “why die before you are dead?”. I think this means there is no use been scared to death of something that has not yet happened. But it must be said that most early prognosis seems dreary rather than hopeful.

In the midst of all the gloom in the world, I had a reason again to be thankful for my decision to study abroad. A few days ago one of my classmates at university in England and I got in contact again. Though we had not been in contact for almost four years, it was lovely to reminiscence about the good times we had with another friend who has moved back to China. We caught up with what we have been doing as well. Just like very good old friends. He had actually been reading my blog (and apparently likes it!). Importantly, our recent catch-up reminds me of one of the friendships I had forged in this country that has helped me to grow. I count it has part of my personal development. I believe I am better for it. I can preach it to the rooftops.

But everyone has to grow at their pace.

Now change is in the air. It is up for grabs by both the camps of the progressives and the predators. Sadly, the camps are fuzzy and the lines blurry. But let’s hope that the change we clamour for can respect the other – by the way, the categories of otherness is expanding and the change we’ll see is well, I do not know. Do you?

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A brief post on a big issue: Brexit

Since the historic June 23 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK, regardless of where you come from, it is impossible to be unaware of the debate and discussion around this monumental decision that is rippling through the political and economic world order. This also is an effect of globalisation whereby what happens in one region affects another. However, I am not a politician and this is not a post on politics. Rather, I am trying to link my thoughts in my last blog post to recent happenings related to the Brexit vote. Anecdotal accounts suggest that since Brexit happened, the passport of a particular EU country has become the most widely sought after. This and other accounts of the impact of Brexit dominate multiple sources of news; online, and text versions. You might have read some.world-passport

In the earlier days of the great uproar and uncertainty around Brexit (I am not implying that this is still not the case), it was interesting to hear the account of a man who during his short interview on the news expressed concern as he had not spent the required number of years need to qualify for permanent residence in Germany as a British citizen. This was perhaps due to fears about what might happen to the reciprocal open borders arrangement currently in place in the EU. The point I am however trying to make is that it seemed as though this person was considering his options… just in case…for an eventuality. But, we do not know if and when the event that would warrant a particular course of action would occur. So, what is the difference between the ‘just in case’ situation in my last post and in the scenario presented here? I do not for a single moment think there is a simple answer to this question. This is just one of the harder questions to mull in a complex 21st century global world which we all share; and where intended and unintended consequences of actions do not respect territorial borders. And I would think this behooves us at the very least, to dialogue.

The complexity I am trying to engage with in this post is totally beyond the scope of what I aim to discuss on my blog. But as Max Galka, noted recently, online discussions, if they go on long enough, nearly always are inevitably tied to the topic of immigration. Guilty! Can you blame us? The effects of globalisation and its implications for society including immigration are so far-reaching and hugely consequential. Also, you can find a map on immigration based on data from the UN Population by Max Galka here. It is interesting to have a visual representation of immigration that does not neatly fit into widely disseminated politicised versions.

There is so much to ruminate about the issue of immigration, with seemingly no consensus in sight for the moment. So, this will be my shortest post till date; perhaps brevity could be best when there is too much at stake…real lives of real people!

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‘Just in case’

The idea of writing this post emanated from a recent conversation with my friend. She mentioned how her American friend started processing a passport because of an impending visit to Canada. That’s cool. It is however not the point of the story. The point is that this American friend did not see a need to obtain a passport until there was a reason for doing so. In fact, the friend needed the passport for identification as a visa was not a required for the planned journey.

I found the conversation interesting as it allowed me to think about a situation where people would spend hard-earned money or borrowed funds to obtain their passports…’just in case’, they get an opportunity to travel out of the country. I believe it is great to be prepared in life for opportunities and to plan. But I am trying to discuss the idea of having a plan as well as a purpose. It makes sense to travel anywhere if you have a specific purpose – or perhaps not. Let me give an example. Some years back, I asked a young man the purpose for making a journey abroad, as there were a few opportunities to be explored in his country at that time versus a blind leap into the unknown, abroad. He however travelled out of the country without any cogent plans. In his words, ‘just in case…things turn out right over there’. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Eventually, this young man went back home to Nigeria, voluntarily. He is now employed in an international company. Perhaps, lesson learnt the hard way. Well, you learn life lessons by living it –  I think!

When I started writing this blog, it seemed clear in my mind that the two cases described above are different in the sense that the would-be-sojourner to Canada seemed to have a clear purposeful plan. The other person seemed to be a ‘just in case’ situation which could have turned out with dire consequence. And…this was supposed to be a simple blog post! But somewhere along the line, I started to think that I could have been entrapped by the fallacy of the ‘single story’ as explained by Chimamanda Adichie in a TED talk which has been viewed over 10 million times.

Chimamanda described the risk and the dangers of believing in a single story about a race or a nation…or a person. The point she made so eloquently is that each nation, or its core values have multiple stories. So the story of the young man I mentioned, who travelled abroad from and back to Nigeria may have other dimensions. The circumstance surrounding the two young men in the two different continents are so different. So after reflecting further, I realised that this post should not be just about these two stories. It is more about two circumstances at different points in time. After all, I have seen from experience that poverty is not unique to any nation – so also wealth, which is also not necessarily in terms of material things.

At the same time, I do not want to lose track of my initial thought; it is a strange situation that in times of peace in a country, some people travel out, just in case; making travel plans for a trip that may never happen.

BUT recent events opened my eyes to how the context in which I have described the idiom – ‘just in case’, is widely applicable to the human race! Details in my next post… It will be posted sooner than later – just in case, you were wondering…

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Immigration as human development

In recent times, it is difficult to ignore the dramatic increase in discourses on immigration! For the most part, the polarised discussions range from the perceived benefits of immigration to the threat of ‘uncontrolled’ migration. The issue of immigration is something I believe a lot of people have their personal (whether voiced or not) opinion about. From my experience, I believe migration is essential for human development. I pen my thoughts in this post to support my viewpoint.

From a personal development point of view, living in the UK has exposed me to different nationals and their customs. From my interactions with diverse nationals, I have learnt about different food, customs and stuff from real people – I could not have gotten this information on Google! I think getting to know about people dispels preconceived and unsubstantiated notions about a race or people of a nation which acts as a virile breeding space for fear, antagonism and ultimately fuels the illogicality of wars where distrust and destruction trumps attempts to try the path of understanding through respectful dialogue. This is not to say that attempts at understanding are always successful. At the same time knowing ‘the other’ at what I would call the humane level foster communication and acts as a bridge to cross what could be described as the chasm of ‘fearing’ who ‘they’ are exactly.

Living in Edinburgh has exposed me to people from different continents; North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and interestingly, I have met more people from different African countries in this European city than when I lived in Africa. With some, initial fleeting acquaintances have blossomed into friendship. As could be expected, time and other human limitations make it impossible to form too many friendships; but mostly useful dialogue with so many people. This is part of my human development made possible by living outside my country of origin.

Regardless of the country, there are many who would never leave their country of origin. And in such instances, arguably the potential of immigration as human development is given minimal attention. For example, immigration makes it possible for various cultures to be brought within the reach of some who might never travel outside their home country. This provides an opportunity to know about ‘others’. It is also an opportunity to see difference within the comfort of your ‘home turf’ and not feel threatened – I believe. And in a perfect world that would be the norm.

But I have to admit that certain experiences make me think sometimes that it is easier to find common points of discussion with those who like me have traveled around a bit. I think we share a certain affability which comes from recognising that we have been, or continue to be, strangers or immigrants in another person’s land. With human nature playing a big part in our disposition, this also is not always the case. But when such affable conversations happen -it is nice. Importantly, you can chose to have an opportunity to learn more about other people or remain comfortable in your ignorance. It is a choice to actively seek out opportunities to learn more about others! Seeking knowledge as part of human development is a personal responsibility. Ignorance is not an excuse.

However, the problem with immigration in my opinion stems from the fact that we still are not sure how to deal with the issue of globilisation. The global village crept surreptitiously upon the world order compartmentalised into nation states. Present discourse reflect the reified idea of a sense of heritage from a singular national boundary. Yet, well-intention boundaries are reminiscent of Robert Frost’s conundrum when he asked in Mending Walls;“what was I walling in or walling out”.1009greatwallofchina

From the simple and largely personal view I have shared, immigration can be seen as an avenue for human development. Immigration also has problems rooted in the enduring notion of nation states which is of course valid for world order and orderliness. The present state of affairs will continue to be discussed long after this post is shared. As indeed it should be.

Wherever and whenever possible, I look forward to new meaningful human experiences in this global world. This is part of my human development. Comments on how you see yourself living in a globalised world would be welcomed.

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