That creamy crack…

Some of my earlier posts on this blog were stories I shared about my experiences going natural aka cutting off my relaxed hair,  aka coming off the creamy crack .

I haven’t shared much on my hair in recent posts but after many ups and downs, my hair has reached that awkward length where it’s too short to tie up and too long to look cute. I’ve found myself getting frustrated and considering relaxing my hair so, I decided to read the post below which I wrote (and never published) after a disastrous creamy crack relapse. Hopefully this will encourage me and those of you in a similar place to keep going. I’m not promising anything though…

crack
For now anyway…

– OCTOBER 2014 –

I messed up.

I was 7 months into my natural hair journey, when I noticed that my hair had developed a bad attitude problem. We were getting along just fine when one day I woke up, the honeymoon period was well and truly over and my hair had turned into a jerk! It was coarse, dry, brittle and rude. The only way that I could manipulate it (temporarily), was by massaging it with water and olive oil.

It no longer looked cute and short but rather like a mean looking tangled hedge. Lately, I’d noticed people no longer looked at me when they spoke to me but rather, at the attention seeking little hedge growing out of my head.
heish
So, after a particularly bad hair week,  I decided enough was enough and found myself at the hairdresser who used to look after my relaxed hair (schoolboy error no. 1).

“Oh wow, you cut your hair!” Dawn exclaimed a little too forced. I smiled politely. She ran her hand over my hair (over not through) and for a spilt second, I saw a flicker of panic on her face. But, she quickly composed herself. I chose to ignore this observation (error no. 2).

“So, what will you be having done today?”, Dawn asked.
Feeling a bit defeated, I explained that I was having a tough time managing my hair and that I wanted to condition it and make it more manageable. Immediately, she recommended a perm. She explained how a perm was a gentler treatment which would make my hair more manageable whilst also allowing it remain somewhat natural. Now, normally before I try a new product on my hair, I would research it to death. But on this rainy autumn morning, I didn’t feel like asking too many questions. I shrugged for her to go ahead (error no. 3). As soon as she started lacquering the cold paste onto my hair, I regretted it.

I felt the Ammonium Hydroxide, Ammonium Thioglycolate, Amodimethicone, Colorants, Fragrance, Polyquaternium-11, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer and Water (apparently) eating away at my hair like an acid. The smell burnt through my nostrils. It smelt like a strong concentration of hair remover.

Had I done my research, I would have found out that Perm aka “PERManent” contains 2 of the key ingredients found in hair removal creams. The thing is, I wasn’t actually trying to remove my hair!

Over the next 2 hours, my hair tossed and turned as it was stripped and tortured. My scalp tingled and my head started to spin until I felt dizzy and unwell – sympathy pains perhaps. It felt like my whole body had joined the protest. Eventually the riot subsided and my hair emerged broken down to a more docile version of its former self.

image
Example Natural hair before and after relaxer

I touched my softer “more manageable” hair  which looked more ridiculous than before and the 1st wave of regret hit me. I realised my hair had been a metaphorical child – perhaps a toddler going through his terrible twos and I’d given up on it (OK, a little dramatic – but I was upset lol!).

The 2nd wave hit as it occurred to me that although it seemed the whole “perm thing” had “happened” to me, subconsciously I’d orchestrated it on account of the upcoming conference which 300 of my colleagues would be attending. I guess on some level, I wanted to conform and look “normal”.

conf

It’s funny because for me, cutting my hair was never about going “natural”  in the technical term or proving a point to anyone. It was more about me experimenting with my God given afro hair and hopefully feeling comfortable in it. It was not something I had intended to do forever but on that Saturday morning, I knew I hadn’t done it long enough to reach whatever earth shattering objective I was trying to achieve.

3c873772166b10323c4727b87261d53b

The next morning, I made a call to get my hair braided. At the 2014 October Conference, I had long wavy braids. I got a couple of lovely compliments in contrast to the curious stares. Sadly it felt good.

4 months later, I cut off all the permed hair. Back to square one.

Cry my beloved country

I am proudly Zimbabwean born and proud to be a British citizen.

Over the last few weeks, I have found myself oscillating between fear, anger and sadness over the social justice and political situations in the two countries I love and belong to.

  

I’ve tried my best not to engage in the politics of it on social media but I’d be lying if I said I’ve not had a discussion or two (occasionally heated) with friends and family.

So, my question today is what does it look like to engage in the political and social justice issues around me in a way that lines up with the word of God. Here’s a summary of my thoughts:

 

  1. Passivity is not an option

The bible says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne…” In the book of Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a man who had been beaten by robbers and left for dead. Two men walked past him, both times choosing to look the other way. Finally a Good Samaritan walks by and stops to help the injured man.

The morale of the story from the mouth of Jesus was “Go and do likewise.” Desmond Tutu once said “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Now is the time to pick up your cross and go.

Riot police beat a cuffed man
  1. Watch your life.

There are many things we engage in which can feed an unhealthy thought life. For me, I’ve found that social media can be very unhelpful. Take the comments sections for example, a place so rife with conflict that people jokingly admit “I just came here to read the comments”. Although sometimes it seems like light-hearted entertainment, the comments section now seems to be a place where prejudices are born.

jackson-im-just-here-to-read-the-comments-72

1 Timothy 4:16 says “Watch your life and doctrine closely.” We need to make sure we’re not getting my daily devotion from the church of Facebook.

 

  1. Love never fails.

One of the great things about being a Christian is that God gives me his heart. Slowly but surely, He changes my heart and makes me see the world the way He does.

However, this transformation can be a very fragile as we wrestle with our own human hearts. What God intended to be a heart for justice can quickly turn to hate directed towards anyone who disagrees with us and we find ourselves behaving exactly the way the oppressor first did. 

We become self appointed Judges dealing verdicts and sentences, a job that belongs to God (and the courts) alone – no matter how heinous the crime is.

In these moments, we must remember what first moved our hearts.

Was it seeing your fellow countrymen struggling to make a living because the police take all their day’s earnings at yet another roadblock?

Was it seeing the Police taking another man’s life too easily, seemingly because of the colour of his skin? 

I believe these are all very admirable and worthy causes as long love remains the cornerstone of how we resolve them. Violence and hate is never the answer.

 

 

  1. Calling all Intercessors (that’s ALL Christians)

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world…”

Therefore no matter how it seems, we do not waste time fighting people. We fight our battles on our knees in prayer.

thisflagzw

Isaiah 62 6-7 says “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.

Intercessors your time has come – take your marks!

 

  1. The KING still reigns.

Despite all the turmoil, do not lose heart. God sees all and He cares. Amos 2 6-7 says

This is what the Lord says:

‘For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.”

AND, He PROMISES to restore…

Isaiah 51: 3-4

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations.

Look to the word for comfort and be still – He will make everything beautiful in its time.

 

butterflies_1200px

 

 

 

 

Chibok Chronicles – The Complete Series

Part One – The Letter
My stomach flipped with excitement as I read the letter for the 3rd, maybe 8th time that week.

Dearest Hauwa,

How are you? How are the preparations for your final exams going? I am doing well. I’m now in the 2nd year of my course at the American University of Nigeria. I’m finding Medicine very demanding but God willing, I qualify in 3 years. I’m working really hard in the hope of getting a job in Maiduguri. Maybe even a job in Abuja, who knows. In an ideal world I’d want to settle back home but with all trouble in Borno, perhaps the city would give a better life. I know all these things are a long way away but all the trouble in Borno brings them to the forefront of my mind. It consumes me and robs me of sleep at night. I pray for you everyday.

I’ll be coming home for Easter in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing you and the old gang from the village. It seems like yesterday when we were all in detention after the “incident” with Mrs. Joseph’s English breakfast tea! I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve missed you, and the rest of the gang of course.

Balarabe told me he saw you at the village when he visited a few weeks ago. He mentioned that your auntie Saraya was visiting from Lagos and he had had “the honour of rescuing the beautiful Hauwa Yahona from the manly duty of killing a chicken”. He is still a clown, even in med school! I would not recommend you spend too much time with him. I still suspect he was responsible for that actually quite cruel incident with Mrs. Joseph’s English breakfast tea. Only Balarabe would have used double the dose of those laxatives. That boy is bad juju I tell you!

I was thinking that on your last day, I could come for you at the boarding school. Perhaps I can help you to carry your suitcase home. It will give us a chance to talk alone. I hope that’s ok with you.

I’m counting the days.

Yours,
David (Welu)

I smiled to myself remembering how Joy had cackled with glee, her eyes twinkling with excitement as she had read the “scandal” that was David’s letter. “Eeeeeeee! Is this our David? Big ears David? David who was still wetting his bed up to Grade 4! Eeeeeeee, the Lord is mer-ci-ful!” she exclaimed erupting in laughter, this time with the girls in tow.

Happy girls

“Oh my yellow bone! Girls, the boy has been studying to be a Dr for 2 YEARS and now he has already married our Hauwa and they are living in Abuja”. She wiped the laughter tears from the corners of her eyes and linked her arm through mine. She pulled me in gently.
“Hauwa, David wants to carry your suitcase for you. You must be very careful he doesn’t break his arm with all those romance novels you carry around!” Joy looked up at me with a playful grin, her eyes twinkling warmly.
“Hey girls”, Naomi called out. “Maybe she can take some of the books out and read to him during their talk alone. That will lighten the load!” There was another burst of laughter. This time the rest of the dorm who were pretending to mind their own business joined in.

I kissed my teeth doing my best to look offended although secretly enjoying girls’ playful ribbing. I was pleased that Joy had also translated David’s somewhat cryptic and unexpected letter to be one of love interest.

Joy is my best friend. She is loud, caring, funny and has a good heart. She can always be relied upon to blurt out that inappropriate thought everyone is thinking but is too shy to say. If there was something salacious to be said, Joy would almost certainly spout it out (often unintentionally) and have everyone trapped in a complex mix of shock and the pure unadulterated laughter. Joy is also the smartest of my friends and has gotten straight A’s for the last 3 years.
She also knows the word like no other and can often be heard flicking the pages of her well-worn Bible during the early hours of the morning while the rest of the dorm gently snores.

Part Two – Mud Flavoured Funkaso

Despite being 2 years older than me, David has always been there. When we played house as children, I was always his wife and assumed this role by making him and our only child, Jojo the dog mud Funkaso cakes, with a sprinkle of sand for sugar. Jojo had been our son until Sagi, my baby brother was old enough to replace him. David had always enjoyed my muddy Funkaso. He would often show his appreciation by rubbing his belly the same way father did when mother made him Suya spicy kebabs with rice.

Vana

As we grew older, David assumed the role of a big brother. He walked me to and from school everyday, protecting me from other older boys, mainly Balarabe. I remember one time, Balarabe went through a phase of flipping girls’ dresses and actually managed to pursue his mischievous aims for quite some time. This was until the fateful day he had tried to flip my dress. David beat him up so thoroughly that he never tried it again!

However since I turned 16 last year, my relationship with David has changed into something I can’t quite understand. He avoids eye contact, hardly speaks to me and yet, he is still always there. For example, our families often attend each other’s celebrations and funerals. As my mother’s only daughter such gatherings are always a very stressful time for me. There is flour to be kneaded, vegetables to be chopped and Daddawa to be stewed. But, by far the most difficult task is the killing of the chicken. I am terrified at the thought of taking life, even that of a fairly insignificant and rather tasty chicken. My mother always insists, “Hauwa, you need to stop this silliness. You must learn to kill a chicken or else you’ll end up marrying a poor man and eat vegetables for the rest of your life! Your father and I are not paying 50,000 naira per term for you to marry a pauper”.

I’m tempted to take my chances. My stomach starts churning at the sound of Sagi my baby brother chasing his dinner, the chicken. The pursuit is often a dramatic one, which lifts the dust around the compound and has Sagi shrieking somewhat maniacally at the terrified chicken. Eventually, the bird succumbs to fatigue and Sagi pounces. With a huge triumphant grin on his face, Sagi presents the bird to me.

I feel its little heart beating fast in my hands. My own heart is often thumping pretty quickly too. I’ve come to believe that all living creatures have a 6th sense for death or impending doom. I can taste the bile rising up my throat as I pick up the blunt knife. It’s important that I place my foot firmly over its flapping panicked wings. If my foot shifts slightly, the wing often snaps during its struggle and rips through the chicken’s white fIesh, causing it to squawk in pain. Even worse, sometimes the chicken comes free and starts running around the compound headless, its broken wing hanging off awkwardly. At this point, I am heaving into the dish of hot water I had prepared for softening the bird’s quills, ready for plucking.

Huku

It is always in that moment before I have to make the cut that David turns up, as if from nowhere. He takes the bird and knife from my hands and swiftly kills the chicken. Despite the fact that David hardly speaks to me (in fact, he speaks to my friend Maryama much more than he does me), he’s always on time to rescue and protect me.

Two more days to go until David comes for me. I wonder what he’ll say. Perhaps he’ll ask me to be his girlfriend. It’s good that absence makes the heart grow fonder, lol!
Can you imagine it? David and Hauwa both studying at the American University of Nigeria. One doctor and one judge – what a match! I’m bubbling over with excitement. Just 2 more sleeps to go…

Part Three – 6th sense

Dear Diary,

Tomorrow is my final exam. I am one step closer to becoming The Honourable Miss Justice Yahona (maybe in 5 years or so I could be The Honourable MRS Justice Welu)! I feel a mixture of excitement and fear. I’ve been revising for my Physics exam all day and unfortunately my subconscious betrayed me because I found myself writing “David’s Law” instead of “Dalton’s Law” on my revision cards. As luck would have it, Joy spotted this and swiped the cards from my desk.

Unknown

“Girls! Come and see this!” she yelled waving the revision cards in the air whilst I tried in vain to retrieve them from her hand.

“Tomorrow we are going to be tested on Dr 2 YEARS David’s law!” she exclaimed displaying the cards. This had the girls roaring with laughter, providing some much needed comic relief, albeit at my expense. Only Maryama stood around looking a little tense. She’s been acting strange since the letter arrived.

It’s 8pm. I’ve already packed my suitcase and ironed my new blue dress, an early congratulations present from Mother. Naomi who is the fashionista in our group insisted I shave off my eyebrows and she’ll draw on more perfect ones for me in the morning. I hope David likes it.

dorm

The girls and I have said our prayers together, a ritual we recently introduced into our exam preparation routine. Today the mood during prayers was heavy. Perhaps everyone is anxious about the final exam – it is Physics after all. Maybe it’s the thought that our risk appears to have paid off. We may actually finish our High School education despite all the terrors we were warned of.

There is a lot of commotion in the neighbouring villages tonight. We can hear gunshots in the distance and they are closer than usual. The mood is still very heavy in the dorm. I feel increasingly fearful and I don’t know why.

Naomi is saying the army has entered the boarding school grounds and has come to rescue us. I’m concerned because we haven’t seen the teachers. The matron would normally be her….

Part Four – The cry of a mother’s broken heart
It’s been 516 days since I heard Sagi my little boy laugh from the depth of his gut. 516 days since Boko Haram took my precious daughter, Hauwa. 516 days since life lost it’s meaning.

The world has stopped going round in Chibok. The only thing that seems to be changing is my niece’s son Ishmael. Ishmael was born on the night the girls were taken from the boarding school. This simple fact has brought such bitterness to my heart.

Ishmael is a strong, happy & sociable baby. His chubby little arms reach out to me too often. His milky white eyes shine brightly. His dribbly mouth smiles broadly. All of this, as though to mock my pain. I know his little heart craves my affection and warmth but it’s too hard for me. Every time he adds a new gurgled word to his vocabulary or another tooth pushes its way out of his gummy mouth he reminds me of how much the world has moved on, despite the fact that my precious little girl is not yet home. If only he had been born one day earlier.
A day before Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group decided that my daughter was a sinner for wanting to be educated. “Western education is a sin”. That’s what Boko Haram means.

Boko-Haram

Today we attended another funeral. That makes 17 parents that we have buried since the girls were kidnapped. They say the cause of death varies. Some have died from blood pressure. Some have died of ulcers because they don’t eat. To me, they have all died of broken hearts. I myself am close to death. Despair calls me to my grave. Hope keeps me alive.

David used to come and visit and sit with me in silence. Sometimes he would kick the ball with Sagi like Hauwa used to do. He has stopped coming now and spends a lot of time with Maryama whenever he visits the village. Maryama is one of the lucky girls who escaped that night.

Joy Simon also escaped and returned home some months ago. When her mother saw her walking towards the compound, she let out a heart rendering shrill that brought the entire village out of their homes. She ran to her daughter and threw her arms around her. Sobbing uncontrollably, she repeatedly kissed her face “Oh my Lord. Oh my God. Thank you. Thank you Jesus”. I remember how Joy stood there, her face blank, her arms limp at her sides, tears rolling gently down her face.

I visited the Simon’s home 3, maybe 8 times the week Joy came home. I wanted to respect their time as a family but I am a desperate mother. I was desperate to find out where my Hauwa was. Was she safe? What kind of conditions were they living under? Had my precious daughter been harmed?

I was not the only mother who visited the Simon family frequently during that time. We were like hungry wolves in sheep’s clothes. We were desperate for information and dressed our sometimes ulterior motives in “supportive” food parcels and the occasional bottle of Coca-cola.

all cryin

Joy remained silent for a month although the piercing screams of her night terrors could be heard in still of the night. She hardly ate. When her mother made her light pepper soup and gently coaxed her to eat, she would stare into her bowl with tears streaming down her face. After much probing, one day she revealed that she had been raped 15 times by 15 men every one of the 96 days she had been in captivity.

sad women

From that day, I stopped visiting the Simon family. It was more information than my soul could bear. The village went into anguished mourning. More parents’ deaths came in the weeks that followed that revelation than we had seen since the abduction. At night, a choir of screams can now be heard throughout the village. Joy’s cries are the most distinct. Guttural, like an animal being led to slaughter.

 anguish

I have not been with my husband since that day. He is never in the house for more than 30 minutes in the day because if he sees me cry, he also breaks down in tears. When he comes home late at night, his breath smells of beer. Sometimes he tries to lie with me but when he pulls me to him, visions of these heartless savages hurting my little girl assault me. The eye of my mind holds me prisoner and forces me to re-enact the horrors Joy suffered, but with my Hauwa in her stead. I imagine her married with children she doesn’t love. I imagine her being given a knife and forced to slit the throats of Christians who are not willing to denounce their faith. ‘Oh God, my sweet baby couldn’t even kill a chicken’. My heart starts palpitating and I taste the bile rising up my throat. Eventually my throat opens up to release the little food I’ve eaten. I wail dry tears through the night and my husband sobs into his pillow. “I didn’t protect my little girl. I only had the one girl and I couldn’t even protect her”, he repeats this until his voice is hoarse. The effect of the beer eventually dulls his senses and he sleeps.

cd

I lie awake listening to my husband whimpering in his sleep. I try and regain control of the war that wages in my mind. I’m weak. I’m tired. I’m completely broken.

Why did I let her go for that final exam? We knew there was trouble.
If only I had nurtured her homely skills instead of her education, she would still be here.
David would have come back for her after his studies. He’s a good boy. He would have made such a fine husband for my precious flower. She could have been like my niece running after her chubby Ishmael.
Hauwa will try and be strong but I know her gentle spirit is in turmoil. Hauwa was such a loving and supportive girl. Why am I speaking of her in the past tense? She needs me to keep hoping. I am a failed mother.
I want to die. I wish Hauwa was dead. Oh what a terrible thing it is to want my own child to die! But if she was dead, then her anguish would be over.


amai

 “Oh God help me! This pain is too much. I can’t bear it anymore. Lord please make it stop. God please make the world care. Father this is my baby. My precious, precious 18-year-old baby. God please make Michelle Obama care again. Make her see our girls in the eyes of her own precious children. If they could find Osama Bin Laden, a single man or Saddam Hussein who was hiding in a hole underground, surely they can find our 219 girls. Oh God, move the hearts of our government. Move the hearts of the people of the world. 

Move the heart of the person reading this… This, the sound of my heart broke cry. Oh God, please make them care and bring back my little girl”.

lone mum 

“We need to know where these girls are. We need to. We really need to. For me the greatest pain is that I don’t feel my government did the best that it could do for these girls. The regret that I have in my spirit concerning this failure is so profound. Just the thought that this is because they are poor makes me even angrier because, education is what enables you to conqueror poverty
Oby Ezekwesili
AFTERWORD
Thanks for taking time to read this blog – I know it was a long one 🙂
My aspiration for this story was to bring the abduction of the Chibok girls to your hearts. I wanted share the typical life of one of the girls who was abducted – her boy crushes, her fears, annoying little brother and her friendship group. We all have that one friend like Joy! I wanted to let you into her hopes, her dreams and what she could have been.
Lastly I wanted to show you the aftermath – the brokenness, the violence, the violation of human rights, the mother’s heart, the religious persecution, the fear and the pain. Yes, 17 parents have died. Yes, one girl who escaped was raped 15 times by 15 men EVERYDAY. These are actual facts and the fact is, this wound can not heal until these girls are brought back home.
You and I have the power an obligation to do something about this – “Apathy and silence are the biggest accomplices to social injustice”. We need to shout about this until our politicians get so sick of hearing our voices that they are forced to act, if only to shut us up. 
Each of us have different gifts we can use to bring these girls back. What’s in your hand? Exodus 4:2

The cry of a mother’s broken heart – Part 4

It’s been 516 days since I heard Sagi my little boy laugh from the depth of his gut. 516 days since Boko Haram took my precious daughter, Hauwa. 516 days since life lost it’s meaning.

The world has stopped going round in Chibok. The only thing that seems to be changing is my niece’s son Ishmael. Ishmael was born on the night the girls were taken from the boarding school. This simple fact has brought such bitterness to my heart.

Ishmael is a strong, happy & sociable baby. His chubby little arms reach out to me too often. His milky white eyes shine brightly. His dribbly mouth smiles broadly. All of this, as though to mock my pain. I know his little heart craves my affection and warmth but it’s too hard for me. Every time he adds a new gurgled word to his vocabulary or another tooth pushes its way out of his gummy mouth he reminds me of how much the world has moved on, despite the fact that my precious little girl is not yet home. If only he had been born one day earlier.
A day before Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group decided that my daughter was a sinner for wanting to be educated. “Western education is a sin”. That’s what Boko Haram means.

Boko-Haram

Today we attended another funeral. That makes 17 parents that we have buried since the girls were kidnapped. They say the cause of death varies. Some have died from blood pressure. Some have died of ulcers because they don’t eat. To me, they have all died of broken hearts. I myself am close to death. Despair calls me to my grave. Hope keeps me alive.

David used to come and visit and sit with me in silence. Sometimes he would kick the ball with Sagi like Hauwa used to do. He has stopped coming now and spends a lot of time with Maryama whenever he visits the village. Maryama is one of the lucky girls who escaped that night.

Joy Simon also escaped and returned home some months ago. When her mother saw her walking towards the compound, she let out a heart rendering shrill that brought the entire village out of their homes. She ran to her daughter and threw her arms around her. Sobbing uncontrollably, she repeatedly kissed her face “Oh my Lord. Oh my God. Thank you. Thank you Jesus”. I remember how Joy stood there, her face blank, her arms limp at her sides, tears rolling gently down her face.

I visited the Simon’s home 3, maybe 8 times the week Joy came home. I wanted to respect their time as a family but I am a desperate mother. I was desperate to find out where my Hauwa was. Was she safe? What kind of conditions were they living under? Had my precious daughter been harmed?

I was not the only mother who visited the Simon family frequently during that time. We were like hungry wolves in sheep’s clothes. We were desperate for information and dressed our sometimes ulterior motives in “supportive” food parcels and the occasional bottle of Coca-cola.

all cryin

Joy remained silent for a month although the piercing screams of her night terrors could be heard in still of the night. She hardly ate. When her mother made her light pepper soup and gently coaxed her to eat, she would stare into her bowl with tears streaming down her face. After much probing, one day she revealed that she had been raped 15 times by 15 men every one of the 96 days she had been in captivity.

sad women

From that day, I stopped visiting the Simon family. It was more information than my soul could bear. The village went into anguished mourning. More parents’ deaths came in the weeks that followed that revelation than we had seen since the abduction. At night, a choir of screams can now be heard throughout the village. Joy’s cries are the most distinct. Guttural, like an animal being led to slaughter.

 anguish

I have not been with my husband since that day. He is never in the house for more than 30 minutes in the day because if he sees me cry, he also breaks down in tears. When he comes home late at night, his breath smells of beer. Sometimes he tries to lie with me but when he pulls me to him, visions of these heartless savages hurting my little girl assault me. The eye of my mind holds me prisoner and forces me to re-enact the horrors Joy suffered, but with my Hauwa in her stead. I imagine her married with children she doesn’t love. I imagine her being given a knife and forced to slit the throats of Christians who are not willing to denounce their faith. ‘Oh God, my sweet baby couldn’t even kill a chicken’. My heart starts palpitating and I taste the bile rising up my throat. Eventually my throat opens up to release the little food I’ve eaten. I wail dry tears through the night and my husband sobs into his pillow. “I didn’t protect my little girl. I only had the one girl and I couldn’t even protect her”, he repeats this until his voice is hoarse. The effect of the beer eventually dulls his senses and he sleeps.

cd

I lie awake listening to my husband whimpering in his sleep. I try and regain control of the war that wages in my mind. I’m weak. I’m tired. I’m completely broken.

Why did I let her go for that final exam? We knew there was trouble.
If only I had nurtured her homely skills instead of her education, she would still be here.
David would have come back for her after his studies. He’s a good boy. He would have made such a fine husband for my precious flower. She could have been like my niece running after her chubby Ishmael.
Hauwa will try and be strong but I know her gentle spirit is in turmoil. Hauwa was such a loving and supportive girl. Why am I speaking of her in the past tense? She needs me to keep hoping. I am a failed mother.
I want to die. I wish Hauwa was dead. Oh what a terrible thing it is to want my own child to die! But if she was dead, then her anguish would be over.


amai

 “Oh God help me! This pain is too much. I can’t bear it anymore. Lord please make it stop. God please make the world care. Father this is my baby. My precious, precious 18-year-old baby. God please make Michelle Obama care again. Make her see our girls in the eyes of her own precious children. If they could find Osama Bin Laden, a single man or Saddam Hussein who was hiding in a hole underground, surely they can find our 219 girls. Oh God, move the hearts of our government. Move the hearts of the people of the world. 

Move the heart of the person reading this… This, the sound of my heart broke cry. Oh God, please make them care and bring back my little girl”.

lone mum 

“We need to know where these girls are. We need to. We really need to. For me the greatest pain is that I don’t feel my government did the best that it could do for these girls. The regret that I have in my spirit concerning this failure is so profound. Just the thought that this is because they are poor makes me even angrier because, education is what enables you to conqueror poverty
Oby Ezekwesili
AFTERWORD
Thanks for taking time to read this blog – I know it was a long one 🙂
My aspiration for this story was to bring the abduction of the Chibok girls to your hearts. I wanted share the typical life of one of the girls who was abducted – her boy crushes, her fears, annoying little brother and her friendship group. We all have that one friend like Joy! I wanted to let you into her hopes, her dreams and what she could have been.
Lastly I wanted to show you the aftermath – the brokenness, the violence, the violation of human rights, the mother’s heart, the religious persecution, the fear and the pain. Yes, 17 parents have died. Yes, one girl who escaped was raped 15 times by 15 men EVERYDAY. These are actual facts and the fact is, this wound can not heal until these girls are brought back home.
You and I have the power an obligation to do something about this – “Apathy and silence are the biggest accomplices to social injustice”. We need to shout about this until our politicians get so sick of hearing our voices that they are forced to act, if only to shut us up. 
Each of us have different gifts we can use to bring these girls back. What’s in your hand? Exodus 4:2

6th sense – Part 3

Dear Diary,

Tomorrow is my final exam. I am one step closer to becoming The Honourable Miss Justice Yahona (In 5 years I could be The Honourable MRS Justice Welu)! I feel a mixture of excitement and fear. I’ve been revising for my Physics exam all day and unfortunately my subconscious betrayed me because I found myself writing “David’s Law” instead of “Dalton’s Law” on my revision cards. As luck would have it, Joy spotted this and swiped the cards from my desk.

Unknown

“Girls! Come and see this!” she yelled waving the revision cards in the air whilst I tried in vain to retrieve them from her hand.

“Tomorrow we are going to be tested on Dr 2 YEARS David’s law!” she exclaimed displaying the cards. This had the girls roaring with laughter, providing some much needed comic relief, albeit at my expense. Only Maryama stood around looking a little tense. She’s been acting strange since the letter arrived.

It’s 8pm. I’ve already packed my suitcase and ironed my new blue dress, an early congratulations present from Mother. Naomi who is the fashionista in our group insisted I shave off my eyebrows and she’ll draw on more perfect ones for me in the morning. I hope David likes it.

dorm

The girls and I have said our prayers together, a ritual we recently introduced into our exam preparation routine. Today the mood during prayers was heavy. Perhaps everyone is anxious about the final exam – it is Physics after all. Maybe it’s the thought that our risk appears to have paid off. We may actually finish our High School education despite all the terrors we were warned of.

There is a lot of commotion in the neighbouring villages tonight. We can hear gunshots in the distance and they are closer than usual. The mood is still very heavy in the dorm. I feel increasingly fearful and I don’t know why.

Naomi is saying the army has entered the boarding school grounds and has come to rescue us. I’m concerned because we haven’t seen the teachers. The matron would normally be her

Mud Funkaso Cakes – Part Two

Despite being 2 years older than me, David has always been there. When we played house as children, I was always his wife and assumed this role by making him and our only child, Jojo the dog mud Funkaso cakes, with a sprinkle of sand for sugar. Jojo had been our son until Sagi, my baby brother was old enough to replace him. David had always enjoyed my muddy Funkaso. He would often show his appreciation by rubbing his belly the same way father did when mother made him Suya spicy kebabs with rice.

Vana

As we grew older, David assumed the role of a big brother. He walked me to and from school everyday, protecting me from other older boys, mainly Balarabe. I remember one time, Balarabe went through a phase of flipping girls’ dresses and actually managed to pursue his mischievous aims for quite some time. This was until the fateful day he had tried to flip my dress. David beat him up so thoroughly that he never tried it again!

However since I turned 16 last year, my relationship with David has changed into something I can’t quite understand. He avoids eye contact, hardly speaks to me and yet, he is still always there. For example, our families often attend each other’s celebrations and funerals. As my mother’s only daughter such gatherings are always a very stressful time for me. There is flour to be kneaded, vegetables to be chopped and Daddawa to be stewed. But, by far the most difficult task is the killing of the chicken. I am terrified at the thought of taking life, even that of a fairly insignificant and rather tasty chicken. My mother always insists, “Hauwa, you need to stop this silliness. You must learn to kill a chicken or else you’ll end up marrying a poor man and eat vegetables for the rest of your life! Your father and I are not paying 50,000 naira per term for you to marry a pauper”.

I’m tempted to take my chances. My stomach starts churning at the sound of Sagi my baby brother chasing his dinner, the chicken. The pursuit is often a dramatic one, which lifts the dust around the compound and has Sagi shrieking somewhat maniacally at the terrified chicken. Eventually, the bird succumbs to fatigue and Sagi pounces. With a huge triumphant grin on his face, Sagi presents the bird to me.

I feel its little heart beating fast in my hands. My own heart is often thumping pretty quickly too. I’ve come to believe that all living creatures have a 6th sense for death or impending doom. I can taste the bile rising up my throat as I pick up the blunt knife. It’s important that I place my foot firmly over its flapping panicked wings. If my foot shifts slightly, the wing often snaps during its struggle and rips through the chicken’s white fIesh, causing it to squawk in pain. Even worse, sometimes the chicken comes free and starts running around the compound headless, its broken wing hanging off awkwardly. At this point, I am heaving into the dish of hot water I had prepared for softening the bird’s quills, ready for plucking.

Huku

It is always in that moment before I have to make the cut that David turns up, as if from nowhere. He takes the bird and knife from my hands and swiftly kills the chicken. Despite the fact that David hardly speaks to me (in fact, he speaks to my friend Maryama much more than he does me), he’s always on time to rescue and protect me.

Two more days to go until David comes for me. I wonder what he’ll say. Perhaps he’ll ask me to be his girlfriend. It’s good that absence makes the heart grow fonder, lol!
Can you imagine it? David and Hauwa both studying at the American University of Nigeria. One doctor and one judge – what a match! I’m bubbling over with excitement. Just 2 more sleeps to go…

The Letter – Part One

My stomach flipped with excitement as I read the letter for the 3rd, maybe 8th time that week.

Dearest Hauwa,

How are you? How are the preparations for your final exams going? I am doing well. I’m now in the 2nd year of my course at the American University of Nigeria. I’m finding Medicine very demanding but God willing, I qualify in 3 years. I’m working really hard in the hope of getting a job in Maiduguri. Maybe even a job in Abuja, who knows. In an ideal world I’d want to settle back home but with all trouble in Borno, perhaps the city would give a better life. I know all these things are a long way away but all the trouble in Borno brings them to the forefront of my mind. It consumes me and robs me of sleep at night. I pray for you everyday.

I’ll be coming home for Easter in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing you and the old gang from the village. It seems like yesterday when we were all in detention after the “incident” with Mrs. Joseph’s English breakfast tea! I’ve surprised myself with how much I’ve missed you, and the rest of the gang of course.

Balarabe told me he saw you at the village when he visited a few weeks ago. He mentioned that your auntie Saraya was visiting from Lagos and he had had “the honour of rescuing the beautiful Hauwa Yahona from the manly duty of killing a chicken”. He is still a clown, even in med school! I would not recommend you spend too much time with him. I still suspect he was responsible for that actually quite cruel incident with Mrs. Joseph’s English breakfast tea. Only Balarabe would have used double the dose of those laxatives. That boy is bad juju I tell you!

I was thinking that on your last day, I could come for you at the boarding school. Perhaps I can help you to carry your suitcase home. It will give us a chance to talk alone. I hope that’s ok with you.

I’m counting the days.

Yours,
David (Welu)

I smiled to myself remembering how Joy had cackled with glee, her eyes twinkling with excitement as she had read the “scandal” that was David’s letter. “Eeeeeeee! Is this our David? Big ears David? David who was still wetting his bed up to Grade 4! Eeeeeeee, the Lord is mer-ci-ful!” she exclaimed erupting in laughter, this time with the girls in tow.

Happy girls

“Oh my yellow bone! Girls, the boy has been studying to be a Dr for 2 YEARS and now he has already married our Hauwa and they are living in Abuja”. She wiped the laughter tears from the corners of her eyes and linked her arm through mine. She pulled me in gently.
“Hauwa, David wants to carry your suitcase for you. You must be very careful he doesn’t break his arm with all those romance novels you carry around!” Joy looked up at me with a playful grin, her eyes twinkling warmly.
“Hey girls”, Naomi called out. “Maybe she can take some of the books out and read to him during their talk alone. That will lighten the load!” There was another burst of laughter. This time the rest of the dorm who were pretending to mind their own business joined in.

I kissed my teeth doing my best to look offended although secretly enjoying girls’ playful ribbing. I was pleased that Joy had also translated David’s somewhat cryptic and unexpected letter to be one of love interest.

Joy is my best friend. She is loud, caring, funny and has a good heart. She can always be relied upon to blurt out that inappropriate thought everyone is thinking but is too shy to say. If there was something salacious to be said, Joy would almost certainly spout it out (often unintentionally) and have everyone trapped in a complex mix of shock and the pure unadulterated laughter. Joy is also the smartest of my friends and has gotten straight A’s for the last 3 years.
She also knows the word like no other and can often be heard flicking the pages of her well-worn Bible during the early hours of the morning while the rest of the dorm gently snores.

 I hope you enjoyed that :). Follow the blog to receive
an email notification when part 2 is available! 

The Single Issue

It happened on a Sunday, a week after my 31st birthday. I was at a friend’s wedding minding my own business and from NOWHERE I found myself sharing with the guests on my table (most of whom I’d only just met) that it didn’t bother me that I was 31 and single (huh?!). The worst part was, even I didn’t believe myself.
“I’m ok about it”. These were words I’d found myself saying a lot lately to reassure well intended family and friends who are concerned about my singleness. In the past, I’d said these words with the kind of ease that had the ability to quickly allay their fears and allow us to peacefully move onto more lighthearted conversation. In the past, I had meant every word.
However, on that fateful day in May, as I shared with the 3 deliriously happy couples how ok I was with my singleness, fear grabbed me by the throat, slammed me on the table and mercilessly strangled me. I choked and coughed. “No, I genuinely mean it”.
I spat and splattered. “I’m completely content with my life”.
I was drowning in envy and all around the table, the happy couples watched in horror gripping each other all the more tightly. Eventually, they couldn’t bear it any longer and someone threw me the lifebuoy of humiliation and they safely hauled me in. I was shocked, naked and drenched in their pity. Pity is the worst.
 
Later as I walked away from the wedding venue, I felt Him grip my hand more tightly “Jesus what happened back there? When did I stop being ok with my singleness?” I asked. “I do not want to be one of those 30 year olds”, I cried out close to tears. Turns out, I was a late bloomer and unlike many singles approaching the 30 year mark, 31 was my “eek” age! Thankfully, God is pretty cool and over the last few months, He has been showing me how to do life as a Christian single. I wanted to share this with you guys:
  1. Recognise the season you are in.
The bible says “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” Ecclesiastics 3:1. It’s important for us to recognize what season we are in. God is very intentional with the way He directs our lives. This means if I am fully committing my life to Jesus daily, then I believe I am exactly where He wants me, surrounded by the people He wants in my life. He is responsible for me and He knows what I need (see Matthew 6:25-34 and Genesis 2:18). What I now need to discern is why I am here with these specific people.
For me, I believe I am currently in a season of going deeper with God. I enjoy quiet times with Him and listen out for His voice. Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. This is also an important season for me to give of myself and love the people God has put in my life. God willing, there will come a time in my life, when parenting a howling toddler will supersede me spending half a day with my niece, eating too many lollies in one sitting and instilling The Word in her tender receptive heart. The very thought of this precious season drawing to a close is so bitter sweet, it makes me want to postpone the next season so I can soak in this for a little while longer.
What season are you in? What does God have in store for you here? One of my greatest fears is to miss what God is doing to refine my character because I ran ahead of Him in search of His blessings.
  1. Get ready
So I think we all agree that the Proverbs 31 woman is kinda special. Heck, even I could (almost) marry her! In this chapter, there are a lot of attributes of a Godly woman, many of which I don’t think are my calling – I refer to the dressmaking in vs 19! Now, I’m not sure I could ever be as perfect as she is, but there is a lot I’d love to learn from her. So, my character is under construction. I’m learning not to take myself too seriously and laugh more. I’m learning to be kinder, tidier, more generous and to be wise with my words. If I want God’s finest, then I too need to make sure my game is equally on point. There’s a lot in there to keep me very busy!
  1. Think Eternity
The cold truth is, not everyone who wants to get married will be married. It sucks – I know. However, James 4:14 says ours lives are like a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. We are only on earth for a teeny weeny while. So, if you end up living life as a spinster (or bachelor) with 10 cats, you will be a God-fearing cat lady/man (with an exceptionally sound mind). BUT, only for a little while. I know it sounds like you are being short changed but, I encourage you to dwell on those moments when you spend time with the Holy Spirit and you get to taste in this life what heaven will be like. Be of good courage 🙂 and learn to be content – Philippians 4:12-13
SOUND MINDED Cat Lady Starter Kit 😉
  1. Be still and know that He is God.
The thing is, despite the occasional woe is me moments, I know that no man can ever complete me. It is only in God’s presence that I am completely whole. Only His peace which surpasses all understanding has the flawless ability to engulf my fears completely. He promised to keep my mind in perfect peace because I love and trust him Isaiah 26:3.
 

Cecil the lion

“Tarisai mukati, shumba inoruma”.
“Tarisai mukati, shumba inoruma”.
This was a game I used to play as a little girl growing up in Zimbabwe. We would sit in a circle and sing this song which warned “Stay inside, the lion devours”. Meanwhile, another little girl playing the role of the lion, would prowl around the circle in search of a victim. Once “the lion” had decided on his prey, a chase would ensue invariably accompanied by the fear-laced squeals of little children playing in the African sun.
Although most of us had never seen a lion, it was very clear in our 6 year old minds that lions were dangerous and that this favourite childhood game would look very different in the wild.
I guess Walter Palmer and Theo Bronkhost knew this too when they lured Cecil out of the protected national park area and cruelly shot him probably hiding behind a bush like cowards, surreptitiously salivating at the thought of killing the king of jungle. It’s easy to feel powerful with a bow and arrow in your hand.
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As a Zimbabwean, 2 things have struck me about the story of Cecil the lion:
1. His name
Cecil is named after the Imperialist diamond digger Cecil John Rhodes who according to Wikipedia “was the founder of the southern African territory of Rhodesia” and therefore it was named after him… I won’t dwell on this too long but frankly, I didn’t realise we were still honouring him by naming lions after him.
2. The Outrage
The world is pretty mad about Cecil’s brutal murder. Jimmy Kimmel broke down on his TV show in front of an audience of 1 million. Richard Branson referred to the death of Cecil as tragic and senseless and Piers Morgan said “I’d love to go hunting for killer dentist Dr Walter Palmer, so I can stuff & mount him for MY office wall”. In summary, I think it’s fair to say the world is foaming at mouth about Cecil.
I must say, although it was moving to see the world so impassioned about matters to do with my country, the reality is, the average Zimbabwean doesn’t know who Cecil is or was. People I’ve spoken to are slightly bemused by the matter but on the whole, their world hasn’t stopped. University graduates are still selling mobile phone top-up cards on the streets of Harare, people are still cooking by fire during power cuts and those who can, are still buying (occasionally contaminated) tanks of water because the council water is scarce or unsafe.
As the old Shona proverb goes “Nhamo yemumwe, hairambirwe Sadza” which in essence means “Another man’s problems don’t stop me from eating my dinner“. In other words, life goes on.
If I had only $10 million, I’d buy 202 Zimbabwean lions, kill them and skin them. I’d give 1 skin to Itai Dzamara, the Zimbabwean political activist who mysteriously disappeared in March 2015 after speaking out about the country’s political environment. I’d give 200 skins to the 200 Chibok girls who were kidnapped whilst taking their end of year Physics exam by Boko Haram, the terrorist group in Nigeria. I’d give 1 skin to the nameless 2 year old  boy in Sierra Leone who is thought to have been the first person to contract and die of Ebola in the outbreak which started in 2014 and to date has taken over 10,000 lives.
Perhaps if these precious lives had like Cecil been clothed in the beautiful garments of a lion’s mane, they too would have been worth the hashtags, the media attention, the tears and ultimately the action.
Sincerely,
(One of ) Africa’s precious lioness’

Ransom paid in full.

paid-in-full v2

This week, I was reflecting on Jesus and the cross and it occurred to me that Jesus rose 3 WHOLE DAYS after being crucified. Potentially this means the cost of the cross is higher that we can even fathom. It occurred to me that Jesus may have gone to hell.
In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.
I’d like to suggest that Jesus was not afraid of being killed, although we know his death on the cross was a gruesome one.
When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane anticipating his death, he said in Mark 14:34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
As he prayed, he sweated blood from anxiety (Hematidrosis). He was absolutely terrified! As far as I can see, there is no mention of him going to heaven until after he rose. When he first met with Mary after he’d risen, he even says to her “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father…” John 20:17
It is only in Acts 1:9 that he ascends into Heaven before the disciples.
The good news is that Colossians 2:14 – 15 says “He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 Disarming the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.
There is a sense of a battle with rulers and authorities, perhaps after he died because as we know the rulers and authorities didn’t see the cross coming!!! Had they understood the implications of Jesus dying, they would have tried to preserve Jesus’ life! Instead, they were the ones who incited people to call for his blood and crucify him.
Revelations 1:18 says “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades“.
I must say from this verse, it sounds like Jesus went to hell and back. He even has the keys!
This is just a perspective that came to me. I know some argue that he told the thief next to him on the cross in Luke 23:43 that “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” therefore he went to heaven. Ultimately I believe that God is too big for us to fathom therefore we will only ever know in part.
Still, the thought of Jesus going to hell for my sake makes me all the more grateful for the cross.