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Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Parents are the first educators of life skills for adolescents but this is usually not the case because for a lot of reasons like religion, social and cultural constraints parents are somewhat shy of discussing sexuality issues with their children and wards at home. In these days of information technology and uncensored viewing of electronic materials, the adolescent of today is bombarded with all kinds of information. This leaves the child with the wrong information processing ability. Adolescence is the transition period between total social economic dependence to relative adult independence. It is a period fraught with confusion. A poorly informed parent is a risk to the adolescent who thus sources for his information from other (just as risky) sources sometimes resulting in devastating consequences for parent, government and society.

It is thus necessary to conduct 'refresher courses' for parents on the needs to educate their wards and children on sexuality issues.
Alarming messages or strictures do not always have the intended effect.
According to the World Health Organization the youth is a person within the age of 10- 19 while the National Adolescent Health Policy classifies as between the age 10-24.
Communication in its simple terms is the process by which people exchange information or express their thoughts and feelings. It is thus really a two way process of information exchange. This exchange can be verbal, active, impassive or non-verbal. We communicate constantly. It is part of our everyday life. From us to the receiver. We have a constant two-way exchange. Now we want to look not just at this means of communication, we also are considering the role of youths in using these communications strategies to effect behavioral change. That sounds like quite a mouthful! The youth today unlike the youth of yesterday has come quite under a lot of pressures. He is bombarded at every turn with a variety of information format that he needs to be careful on the things he needs to process the information he receives.

What determines the behavior of a person, his beliefs and drives his ambitions and dreams?

These issues also concern youth as all we have mentioned also affects them. Parents are the first socializing agents for a child until his consciousness is awakened to a level that he can process other forms of information format. So the parent is the first communication contact. The success or otherwise of that experience tend to color the negotiating and discerning ability of the child.

Apart from the immediate family circle the youth contends with these other factors to process information, which affects his behavior.

1. The Print media
They as information agents are sources of information for youth and can have negative influences in their presentation of issues and goals.
2. Electronic Media comprises the radio and television. Though the radio depends on the imagination of the listener to carry its more subtle messages across the more glamorous sister has an immediacy and believability that can influence the mores and concepts of a youth
3. The Internet today is a veritable minefield of information and carries the awesome potential of widening the horizon of the youth to heights or depths beyond his own imagination.
Interpersonal channels like your mother, sister, pastor, friends, teachers or even youth centers carry some intimacy and engender some level of trust but may not necessarily be the best channel for accurate and precise information! Youth talk more freely amongst themselves but are also veritable containers of misinformation, myths and inaccurate information sometimes.
Since communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, it is important to appreciate its importance as a means of behavioral change.

What are the issues we must look at and how can we improve or change them?
What does a youth want?
How does he negotiate his relationships?
How accurate is his information?
Which information channels does he use and trust?
How can he effect change in his information processing?
Relationships and risky behavior patterns.

When puberty sets in, a young person goes through a change that is bewildering and confusing to him/her. Former innocent relationships assume a proportion that can loom large and frightening. Negotiating these relationships becomes very important. A child who had been easy going suddenly becomes taciturn, moody, belligerent sometimes and suffers mood swings.

There are so many different pressures that hamper youth. The most readily recognizable pressure is peer pressure but there are other subtle pressure exerted through the media. For example, adverts that extol the virtues of certain drinks do not help the youth to keep his focus. Concepts that endanger his sexual health when he is confronted with skimpily clad ladies or muscle bound males become pressure points of misplaced value and do hamper healthy growth.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Journey

Fehintola was excited when she could confirm she was pregnant. She wondered if she was expected to go over to Numen Yeye. But Ayo asked her to wait saying if she was expected there the young witch would have come to visit. She gasped at his irreverence but he only laughed and tweaked her ears. His closest to expressing affection. The trips to the stream started. Most mornings they would have the path to themselves, sometimes they could meet one or two farmers along the path. On those trips Ayo would answer for her if they greeted her and he would watch the path ahead. She continued going to her church.

The prayer warriors there wanted to spend the day in the church premises because it was seen as dangerous for a pregnant woman to walk the streets at high noon. It was precaution against spirit children who had habit of chasing the genuine children out and taking the place of their place. She was determined to do everything she was asked to do
The dreams started simply enough. It tended to follow the same pattern. She would find herself in a great hall and listen to very beautiful music. Then she would wander into a garden. The garden always had a flowing stream running through it. The first time she had the dream she wondered if she ought to share it with Ayo but then she was embarrassed as she had nothing to say except her feeling of peace each morning, but she noticed that her husband would look at her and shake his head as if he was contemplating saying something.

The next thing was she had become really calm. She became friendlier with her mate and she would sit for hours staring into space her thoughts far away. There was a glow of happiness and peace about her. She rarely lost her temper and would just smile. One night in her dream she met a very young beautiful lady in flowing white dress and they chatted for a long time. She was however frustrated in the morning when she could not recall what the conversation was about. She still attended church and spent time there because in the tradition and culture of her race she had to avoid walking around at mid-day or high noon so she would not attract the attention of the spirit children. One day in the church she was tired and decided to go to the garden and take some air hoping she would be revived by the fresh air. She sat on one of the hard benches when she noticed she had company. It was a young pretty girl dressed in the robes of a prophet. She smiled at the girl assuming she was one of the young prayer warriors. The girl looked at her and smiled and Fehintola patted the seat next to her invitingly.
“It is a hot day isn’t it?”
The girl smiled and nodded a yes but said little thereafter just cupped her head in her hands and stared out.
Fehintola watched the girl and asked if she was there with her parents as she mentally tried to determine if she had seen the girl before. There was a grace and ease about the young prophetess that intrigues her. She was probably just about ten or so but carried herself with ease and did not act like a gawky young girl at all and had some kind of dignity in such a young person that Fehintola felt at ease.
She started to talk about her pregnancy to the girl, speaking about what she dreamed she could do when the baby arrived. She chatted and the girl smiled, touched her hand and gave her a smile saying she should not worry. “You are worried sometimes that your mate’s son will be the head of the house right?”
Fehintola stared almost transfixed.
How?... then swallowed, Lord even her private thoughts were open for all to see she thought in some chagrin. She didn’t know how the young prophetess could have read such very private thoughts.
“Actually all I am concerned about is that I should have a healthy child so that I would not have shame”
“If you do as you are told you would have a healthy child, and Ayo‘s son is not coming yet” the girl said very firmly.
Fehintola’s heart jumped and goose bumps walked all over her. She shivered suddenly and looked at the girl in awe. This must a very powerful prophetess
The girl stood up and gave her a sunny smile. “I have to go now, I will see you around”
Fehintola stared and requested to know the girl’s name.
“My name is Imole Ife.”
“It is a beautiful name.”
“You will remember it”?
“Of course I will remember, it is a unique name, the light of love”
“I am sure we will meet again” and she left.

In her next dream, she met a young girl who she found sitting pensively on the bench by the stream and they smiled in recognition at each other. She followed the girl to the stream and they had a picnic. They picked flowers and took it to the great hall where the girl taught her how to arrange flowers. She was shown different types of flowers. She was in an enchanted world, happy and relaxed. They returned to the great Hall and she was entranced by the sheer play of lights that filled the Hall. She had a sense of expectation, just like everyone else in the hall. It was full and everyone was gaily dressed. She stared at the guests, not recognizing any one of them but feeling quite at home. Then from the distance, music started, slowly at first and then it swelled to a melody of such beauty that she recognized the tune and sang along with the rest. Strangely, the scene changed and she was by a great waterfall and the water was sheer in clarity almost like it was living, and then from the sprays, her friend the young girl came out laughing and invited her into the cascading waters telling her it was healing water and she would be safe. She obeyed and followed the girl into the crashing foaming water. She felt like a weight lifted from her shoulders and suddenly laughed happy to be in the water. Her friend led her out of the water.
“One more trip I think” her friend said looking her over critically as you would assess a patient.
Fehintola nodded in agreement.

Then she opened her eyes. For a long time she still held the vestiges of the dream. Not understanding at all. She had a sensing that she was expected to learn something, her thoughts jumped “I am being treated for something like I have a disease” Ayo came in and she wondered if she should tell him about the dream. She shook her head and silently got ready for her trip to the stream. They walked the forest path silently. For some reason she sensed that her husband was changing slowly towards her. No, it was not something she felt alarmed about. She noticed that he would come into her room and just sit there for hours. He was never good at stating his feelings but this was different. Silence was some kind of conversation. He rarely wanted to make love but even that was no longer a source of pain. She felt she was suspended in some half way world where she lived. Her pregnancy was not showing yet but she was beginning to glow. Her skin felt soft and most times she had a smile.

Her young mate seemed to want to be friends and gradually from stilted conversations they had started reaching out to each other. Ajide was respectful and wanted to do everything to please. It was odd because she had assumed she was going to have a hard time with her junior wife, in her culture all the wives of Ayo would be referred to as her wives, since she was the oldest wife. The junior wives must also see her as their husband as she had right to determine who could share his bed. It was amusing and painful as Ajide was handed over to her, so she had a junior wife now, not one she married or had even wanted to marry. Tradition and culture had made that easy for both of them. The women knew that it was in the nature of the African man to have several wives. Her mate was a Muslim who went to the mosque regularly. Ayo was not of any fixed religion she had discovered few months after they had eloped from home together. He had an irreverent attitude to any form of religion and she used to wonder if that wasn’t the reason for her problem. He never took religion seriously. He hardly went to church and would stare at her in amusement each time she had attempted to make him be consistent at church services. He also did not like the prophets and would call them scammers of the spirit. At first she had being alarmed that Ayo was going to be besotted as to change and become a Muslim but nothing had happened.

They returned to the house and she went to get breakfast ready when there was a knock on the door. Curious she went to open the door, Yeye”s priestess stood at the doorway smiling at her a bowl of water in calabash in her hands. She was startled but asked the young woman to come in.
“Yeye brings greetings”
Fehintola smiled her response and brought out a chair for her to sit. The young woman handed her the calabash bowl and said she was to have her bath with the water.
“Just pour it over your body after you have had the bath and do not towel just allow it to dry off on your body.” The priestess said as she watched Fehintola a smile in her eyes.

Fehintola took the bowl and was about to place it on a stool when her hand was held stopping the movement. The priestess said she was to carry out that instruction right now and the calabash bowl must not touch the ground. “In fact I will hold the bowl of water for you until you are ready to pour it over yourself. Don’t worry we will need to return to the stream and no one will see you, nor will anyone here notice you have gone until you return” Holding her by the hand the priestess smiled and Fehintola’s heart almost gave way when she felt herself passing through bands of light os so many different hues. Everything paled into oblivion even as saw, and felt the lights going through her and also felt someone holding her hand as they seemed to move at great soundless speed. Everything and everybody seemed to have paled into the background and then she was in the gardens and making her swift way to the stream. It looked familiar to her. At the stream, she felt herself dipped into the water. She emerged onto the bank of the stream and saw the outstretched bowl of water which was poured over her. She shook her head and used her hands to wipe out the water from her eyes and was shocked to find herself back in the room still about to make breakfast. She was stunned. She looked round in complete bewilderment. Ayo walked in and stared at her.
“What is the matter”? He asked.
“Did you see her”? She asked looking round and behind her husband.
Her husband looked round as well and was puzzled, “Did someone come to the room?”
Fehintola abruptly went to the bed, closed her eyes and shivered.
“Don’t you think you should have toweled yourself before coming out of the bathroom? You are dripping wet on the floor and on the bed.”
She looked up, opened her mouth and then closed it. She shook her head and in a quiet voice she asked if her husband if she could skip preparing any food. She wanted to be alone.

Fehintola prayed all day, really confused, but a longing to understand the threads came slowly alive in her and she supplicated as we watched and joined her in prayer that she might understand the threads of help that lies above her and for that matter all other human beings. There was little we could do; we had helped her to hold the bridge. I wanted to help her untangle some of the threads she had knotted wrongly, but I could only do that if she allowed me. The clouds of ignorance that hovered could only be cleared from within.

Fehintola still went to church and after a few days, she seemed to have forgotten her strange experience. Still went to the stream and for some weeks she did not have her dreams of the great hall and gardens. She started her ante natal and hope flickered in her heart and she found herself most times taking long walks when the heat of the day was down. She would walk for an hour and never felt tired. Some days she would simply sit in the church courtyard just watching the ebb and flow of worshippers as they came to see the prophet. Life seemed to have settled into a pattern. She did not see the young prophet and assumed she may have been taken to a boarding house. She never did find out who her parents were though. Fehintola was a naturally shy women and had a gentle smile but really found comfort in solitude.

When her pregnancy was about half way she had the dream again. Back in the great hall, there seemed to be a lot of great preparations going on. A lot of the ladies in the hall smiled at her and greeted her with a lot of old gentleness. She had become very familiar with them but she waited to see her young friend. A lady came to her and told her not to worry that her friend will be along presently. So she sat in one of the great chairs by the entrance wanting to catch a glimpse of the Queen. From the look of the preparations it appeared that it was the Queen who was been expected. She asked a lady what was going. The lady curtsied to her and she was very surprised. The lady told her that the queen was traveling and so they were making everything to get things ready. She looked round and wondered what was keeping her friend away when she saw Imole emerge in very beautiful flowing dress. She smiles and waved. Something about her friend now looked familiar just as her friend turned and waved to her and she held her breath, it was the same Imole she had chatted with in the church! Imole waved at her and asked her to come close.

“Hello, you look very lovely” Fehintola complimented her young friend trying very hard to act normal, she really could not take in the facts she was seeing. Who really is she? But Imole only smiled and with a graceful nod of her head, “The queen is traveling and you will not see me for sometime, but I will always look for you”
Fehintola only nodded they held hands as music sounded in the distance indicating that the arrival of the queen was imminent. Her young friend took her to the exit door and sent her on her way waving promising that they will meet soon. She walked out of the great Hall into bright lights, and she woke up. Her baby kicked for the first time and she held her stomach in wonder.

Through bands of waving light
And boundaries of the Rose
I descend the mists
Wrapped in light veils
I left my home again, my home of extra ordinary beauty, of streams that gurgle with musical notes and forests that are wrapped in the glory of the color of service, the whispering winds, and laughing sun, from valleys of shimmering lakes I am led into swirling bands of light as I pick cloaks of my choosing falling further and further down, like a white cloud of softest hue escorted by friends, we serve together the Rose and I start a mission again into matter to learn and serve and hopefully point the way home. I leave my friends at the bridge but take the thoughts of their help and guide with me across into matter as I become human again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stolen dreams

When I came home for the holidays, I looked forward to seeing Lucas.You know holidays in the villages are something special especially for those of us who claim to be educated or were regarded as ‘alakowe’ by our country cousins. It was a time to strut and be haughty with the village folk. Add the fact that I spoke English more naturally and understood very little Yoruba I was regarded as something special. I had watched with girlish amusement as the boys made a rush for me when I got home. My mother was nervous. We were growing apart and both worried about what to do. I was feeling stressed about her concern for my health.

Dad had insisted it was time I got to know my roots as a Yoruba girl and be friendlier with my grandmother, his mother that is, but it appears he was going to lose that battle as I had taken one look at her and shaken my head. I went up the stairs, into the bedroom and refused to emerge until someone called me to come down for dinner. That was another things. Dinner was at five! I stared at them like they were from another planet. I had been used to dinner at the decent hour of seven or eight who ever heard of having your evening meal at five I had grumbled as I watched in horror the children gathered round a big mortar containing pounded yam. The younger wives then poured steaming vegetable soup over it and all the young children in the house descended on the mortar. I simply stared and waited for my food. My grandmother rolled out and stared at me as I stared at the others dipping their hands and eating the food from the mortar! I was horrified. She asked me if I was feeling so arrogant that I did not want to eat.

I stared at her and looked at the horde round the mortar and asked her if she expected me to eat with them. She was angry and bellowed at me. I simply walked away and spent the night without dinner. I did not like her, I made it obvious and she did not bother to show her distaste for me too. My father was amused. This angered his mother who said I was too free as a female and too pert for her liking besides she frowned at my open preference for the company of boys and predicted I was heading for early marriage. So the last time I came home for the holidays I had met Lucas. Dark, small and with all the dreams of a young brave he offered me his cardigan when he sensed I was chilled by the cold harmattan wind. We would seat and chat for long periods. He would insist on speaking English, picking his words carefully and in soft tones.

It was good he could speak English well because I would have been stumped for peer conversation as most of my peers in the village only spoke my dialect which was not even regulation Yoruba.
Now on this trip there was no Lucas and I was lonely so I made friends with Olaiya a young cousin of mine and her English was atrocious, besides she was more interested in boys than she let on to her parents. This evening she came to me, her eyes round and unblinking as she solemnly told me she might not be going back to school. I was scandalized and demanded why she would not go to school. She said since she was a girl her parents felt she had learnt enough, they did not want to waste their investment.

What did they mean waste I asked completely puzzled. Well she replied in a matter of fact voice, she was going to learn a trade so she could be married off and start having babies. I was outraged and took the very first opportunity I had to talk to my maternal grandmother. We all call her Yeye and amongst other things, she was the High priestess of our village. She had been the only one I could really relate to. Yeye , beautiful one tooth Yeye would smiles at me and tell me stories in her soft voice making me feel safe. So I asked her why things were like that and was it wrong to dream? Still cracking melon seeds she gave me a long look then smiled. She asked if I meant Lucas, I stared at her I did not even know she had known about Lucas, so I grinned and said I meant dreams generally. She looked at me and I suddenly knew she did not see me or was she really thinking of me as spoke.

“The problem is you are not to dream. The reasons are simple. You are too late. You should be thinking of dying. The cessation of all feelings. That might be nice if all that you need is to forget you ever met him. If all the cessation would mean he never existed and they never stood at the sidewalk and laughed at your attempt at dignity as you watched them and your heart was pierced. Might be nice to stop dreaming if you were seventy and decrepit with all the worries of the world. But how could they demand a cake after they had taken the flour from you and given you vinegar to add as the oil to the buns of life you thought you had prepared? How could they imagine you will chew on nails while you had planned to eat lentils and wash it down with the fresh spring of hope? These maggots who walked the horizon of your dreams in tattered clothes of broken promises? They stood as chants in your dreams and their cackles kept the promises of a better day at bay. They called themselves the ones who will midwife tomorrow but they killed it and hung its carcass around their masses of shrunken necks evidence of their stolen promises. I am afraid to walk the streets at day, hemmed in by the dangers of their siren, the bedlam of their shouts, not dead but I am on first name basis with Hell. I am a member of the human race but dammed by the excruciating inability to see into the dawn and expect the sun to rise. Not because it won’t, but simply by my geographical location the prognosis of its promise for me is better imagined than anticipated. I am a member of the human race, but the color of my skin also has darkened my dreams from my fellow brothers who make merchandise of my dreams
So why dream? I have waited 50 years to give birth to a pregnancy at ten and the skeleton of the dead baby has refused to be buried? They have bowls of rotten promises and have negotiated my future across to my neighbors. There is nothing left in the kitchen. Father went to the farm and only harvested the stringy yams. It is cheaper to die and the burial is more expensive than the corpse. Why dream when all the children do is watch you closely and in their hungry eyes you see not their hopes for the future but their anticipation for your demise.

Don’t start a chant of hopelessness it only takes longer for the dawn to come. The sum total of life is not the quality of the meals you shared with the best of them, but in the quality of love you have garnered from creation and the garment of experience you have sewn. It is so easy to give up, even the shining sun might tell you a tale of two of its many struggles to gather enough heat to garner enough radiance from the glory of life and in fulfillment of the laws return it in manifold gratitude to all that was created. It is the only way it exists.
When life’s troubles becomes a howl that rises deep in your throat and comes out in snarl, take another breath, look to the ant, steeped upon and smashed and never considered, but necessary in the tapestry of the loom of life. The softer option is to moan and rant, it is good for the lungs of your soul for we must breathe the good the bad and the unseemly so we might sieve from the muck the shinning nuggets of life’s real lessons. Not all the gold of Fort Knox, nor all the jewels of the crown will bring you the lasting benefits for the working manual. Remember, even the dinosaurs, great Sango, the god of thunder, and his wife Oya the goddess of the Niger are today history.

Yesterday’s cup is stale, and we sip indifferently from all the opportunities. Hate is nice and is really the softer option but like a dark cloud it blocks out the sun and blocks out the chance to see love in the pain. For it is better to shine your spirit than to fill your belly and you know, the sun will come up again tomorrow.

There was silence and I turned to give her a look. She had not really been the woman talking but from the hills came chimes of sheerest sound and I distinctly heard the rush of the stream. Lights came on and I suddenly longed to be home. My home, the halls the bells and the stream. The banding lights came again then gradually faded and I was back in the sticks and mud of the humans.