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Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Ugly Taste of Racial Profiling



I've seen it. I've heard of it. I've even experienced it. I've shared in other people's experiences. But this one was different. This one shook to my core for weeks. This one took something away from me. My security.

I'll recount the experience below. Once this happened, I thought I was making a big deal out if and tried to make jokes about it. But it haunted me at night. I could see it clear as day in my dreams. I told my sister Susan, and she said I had to at least report to my supervisor. I still thought perhaps I was being silly. The next day, I told my boss and he said I wasn't overreacting and that the incident needed to be reported immediately. We told our office manager (a woman) who immediately validated fears I hadn't allowed to surface. She told me she understood that I probably felt unsafe since I'm a woman, that I wouldn't get in trouble for reporting the incident as it is the right thing to do, and that we can't ignore the fact that he was trying to intimidate me.

As soon as those words came out of her mouth, I started to cry. I finally let it hit me. Anything could have happened to me and no one would have known. My path is in the woods. I would ordinarily be happy to see security but how can I be happy again? The scenarios finally began to play and I immediately had a pounding headache. I completed an incident report that day (which is what I'll put below), we filed it with the head of security since my encounter was with a security staff and I went home to try to breathe. The next day, the Director issued an apology and stated that he had found the person responsible. He also stated that there would training sessions for his staff to better handle situations.

Here's my experience...

On March 30th 2015 between 4:30 and 5 p.m., I was walking home from work as I usually have for the last 4 years. On crossing the street, I noticed security’s jeep coming down the hill and signaling to turn left on to the road I was on. I moved to the farthest left of the road to allow the car turn in, but noticed that the car kept going straight down. I didn't think anything of this and kept on walking home.
A few minutes later, I stopped to take a breath and look around. It was then I discovered security driving up the hill (extremely quiet if not, I would have heard the car or felt the vibration on the road) and two other people (Caucasians) running up the hill. I turned around, kept walking to the side of the road to make space for the vehicle. The driver drove up to me and the following conversation ensued:
Security: Ma’am do you work here?
Me: Here where? The University? Yes
Security: Let me see your ID
Me: I don’t have it with me
Security: Where are you going?
Me: I’m going home. There are apartments at the top of the hill (pointing in the direction of buildings).
Security: I know there are the water things up there.
Me: Yes. But if you drive up to the top, you’ll see the buildings.
Security: I've never seen anyone walk here.
Me: There are two people running (pointing to them). They could be running home.
Security: It doesn't matter (reaches for notepad and pen on the passenger’s side). What is your name?
Me: (at this point the runners have run past the car) is that really necessary?
Security: (didn't respond)
I felt unsettled by the questioning and since I couldn't see anyone else coming up or going down the hill, I started to walk home. I was afraid to look for my cell phone because I didn't want to risk missing something in the process. I walked as fast as I could and looked back when I got to the top of the hill hoping I wouldn't see the car anymore. But I did and that made me feel more frightened. I didn't breathe properly nor feel safe again until I was inside my apartment.
Other encounters with security have included them offering me a ride to campus during bad weather and casual hellos. This is the second time I've been approached by security about walking. The first time, I was asked if I worked at the University and where. On answering, he said OK and kept driving. This the first time I felt unsafe in the path. It felt as though I was being intimidated by him. I have always viewed my path as safe because it is patrolled by security and I’m a female walking by myself.
While I'm extremely grateful that this isn't the worst it could have been I was also amazed at how greatly affected I was by the situation. It probably doesn't help that this is all the news is full of these days so it's very hard for one's mind not to wander. I had also just seen the "Scandal" episode addressing racial profiling and that had left me cold and scared (I haven't been able to watch another episode). I also saw the episode of "Being Mary Jane" in which because of a driving spot, she was called a Black B****. She responded "Really? Can't I just be a b****?" When she got home, she sat down and cried. 
That feeling of what did I do to deserve this? Is what I battled for weeks. And walking to work again last Thursday, amidst heart palpitations, made me feel like I had just owned something big again. My independence and my freedom. It'll probably take longer for me not to have a coronary every time I see a security vehicle for fear that I might see that particular driver, but it'll happen. It has to happen.
Have a wonderful week devoid of stress.
Tonia
Image Source: Huffington Post

Monday, March 16, 2015

Nigerian Cinema Experience



Hey Bloggie, 

Going to the cinema in Nigeria was a must for me. When I went home the first time late last year, I begged harassed my sister to take me to the movies. "We have to go see a Nigerian film in the cinema together", "this will be a part of our bonding experience", were the words I kept repeating. Needless to say, she got tired. Score! 

After days of hassling her, we went to the Ikeja shopping mall on the Sunday before I left. If you haven’t been, the mall is quite big with different stores and restaurants. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to walk very nook and cranny of it. We don’t live in Ikeja and had already been to the island earlier to see the tailor. Ergo, there was no time to misbehave only time to go to the ticket counter. We saw “When Love Happens”. It's a really good movie. I'm really glad we went.

Now while the movie was playing, I wondered how the experience would be different from what I had grown accustomed to. This was also a question my sister had asked me several times (when I was constantly harassing her). To which I had answered with conviction that it had to be different. It just had to be. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm pleased to say I wasn't wrong!! I’m still dancing a jig at my victory.

First, let’s talk popcorn! If you’re Nigerian, you know that sweet popcorn we chased in primary school and probably other schools? The one we used break money to buy? Guguru and epa (popcorn and groundnut/peanut)? That’s what they sell there! As soon as I took my first mouthful, my mouth quickly transformed and said “yes! You have done me well young lady!” I probably ate the entire bag within the first twenty minutes. I usually don’t get theater popcorn because the salt and butter are just not my cup of tea. On the rare occasion that I do get theater popcorn, I’m either hungry, at the theater with little kids, with friends who want to share, or on a date. I’ll mindlessly eat the popcorn. But best believe there was no mindless eating of my Nigerian popcorn. I savored every mouthful and wanted more after the movie. My sister had to drag me to the door to remove further popcorn thoughts.  

Secondly, I talk during movies. No I’m not so loud that that you need to give me the evil eye and neither do you have to sit chairs away to avoid me. If there’s a part that shocks me or makes me go wow, I’ll more than likely be saying something to my companion. So when I was in room full of people and a scene from the movie required you to feel sorry for someone what happened? We all talked! It was as though a prior agreement had been made. We all prodded characters when we felt they needed it. Someone even yelled when there was a major screw up by a character. It was just great! All the inflections from everyone made the movie so much better because it obviously elicited the feelings that were meant to be elicited. I also need to add that when it was time to laugh, it was just pure belly laugh. No giggles and no side eye glances :).

 I obviously had a fantastic time and will pay more attention to differences in cultures that separate or unite strangers. Who would have thought the movies capable of such an effect! Have you had a similar experience? Please share :).

Here's a happy jam for you this week. I've noticed that with my schedule getting crazier and crazier, I can only post once a week for now. So I've chosen Sundays. When I get the chance however, I'll put as many as I can. I also need to update my antivirus (reason for not posting yesterday). 


Have a fabulous week,
Tonia

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Miss Independent




Hey Bloggie!

So weather-wise, we had a ton of ice yesterday. Silly me still came in to the office due to restlessness in the apartment. Well today, we had a blizzard! And you guessed it. I came to the office. Except today, I’m really glad I did. My lunch is part of the inspiration for this post. Getting home is another matter though. Sigh.

A few days ago, this conversation happened.

Guy: I feel ashamed that your friend got you groceries because as the guy in your life, that’s my duty.
Girl: You don’t have to feel ashamed. I didn't ask for groceries before my friend got me them. We’re just cool and usually do stuff like that out of habit.
Guy: Don’t tell me you’re one of those miss independent girls.

Break. Pause. Before I even tell you what her response was, let’s talk about this. Among the list of phrases I abhor, is definitely the “miss independent” one. In this instance, how is this girl’s response one of I’m too independent for you? By the way, what does that even mean? As humans, I thought we were all born independently.  Dependence in my opinion is learnt as we grow. It’s not what we gravitate towards. As children, we all strove to be able to do things for ourselves without our parents. Our parents celebrated every little step of independence we took. We then learnt that there were things we needed parents and others to do for us/assist us with. This is also the case when you go through school, work or embark on any singular task. You learn dependence and teamwork.

Why then is it that some men (and some women) believe in the notion that women are naturally dependent and learn independence??? If we independently obtained degrees, jobs, accolades, income and whatever else there is in the world and you as a man are well aware of these, shouldn't we instead be having conversations as partners? And learning to depend on each other? Instead of automatically depending on you because you've arrived in my life. One of my sisters and I were discussing along this line yesterday and we laughed at the notion of depending on every guy who had shown up in our lives (like they had expected us to). Do you know what sort of broken girl you would meet at that juncture?

Time and time again, I meet guys who immediately “feel” that I’m too independent and won't know how to take care of my husband. I in turn say, “I will take perfect care of my husband as long as he isn't you.” You might not agree, but I believe that dependence in a relationship should be earned as well as learnt by both partners. A man should be able to depend on his partner and likewise a woman.

I went to a talk this afternoon and the keynote shared her experience as a refugee 40 years ago. That time, she didn't have time to find any man to take care of her little siblings. She left Vietnam with them promising her parents that her siblings would go to school. She pushed herself and put them through school. Sacrificing her own education for them, she still was able to make a name for herself through sheer will and determination. Should striving to protect and better her siblings boil her down to the singular fact that she did this without a man? Or should it be celebrated for the good it has done?

This has let me rethink some traits I would like in my partner and myself. I always had some of these in the back of my head, but I should write them out as a reminder for later.

I want a man who is independent. One who cares very little about the dictates of society because they mean nothing in his personal life. I want a man I can trust to take care of my children if I need to take a trip/fall ill/leave this earth/just because. One who doesn't believe he should be rewarded for taking care of the children we both created and instead looks forward to doing so. One who doesn't believe that my opinions are worthless and is very interested in the progress of both our careers. One who helps me grow and smile. One I can trust to be there in the darkest times without hesitation and knows that I would do the same for him no questions asked. The list can be endless (or in addition to my dream man if I want to indulge my fantasy) but these should at least be at both our cores.

Obviously, not all men think this way about women. I know so many who see their wives as partners and who depend on their wives as much as their wives depend on them. For years, my brother has teased for always hanging with older married couples instead of single friends. But I believe there’s nothing better than listening and watching those who have done what you aspire to do in the future. Each couple friend I have is different and each has added something to my perspective. I know that my future partner might not immediately be what I want (and the same will apply for me too) but a willingness to grow together is more than enough. Meeting a man who is set in his ways while thinking plus hoping to change him is nothing short of ludicrous.

I’ll leave you with Fela's “Lady”, a controversial song at its best. A lot see it as sexist, some as sarcasm, some just leave confused. I leave it to you. Note, words don't start till 6:04 but you can enjoy the tunes :)



Oh and her response was “No I’m not one of those as you group them but I am independent.”

Have a great week,
Tonia

Sunday, March 1, 2015

H1-B Visa Process



Happy Sunday Bloggie!

The first day of March has been a little disappointing. Weather-wise that is. I was just getting happy that the nasty wind had gone and hopefully the snow on the ground would melt away also. Sadly, it snowed and sleeted all day today! My morning commute tomorrow is going to be very rough. Arrgh!!

As promised, here's the H1-B (immigrant worker) visa process and tips as best as I can. I'll start with things I wish someone had told me while in school.

  1. Start applying for jobs at the beginning of your final year. Latest, the start of your last semester. Time flies by so fast and the H1-B visa can be a long dance. You don't want to wait till the end and let panic set in. Trust me, this was my case. 
  2. When you get a job that agrees to sponsor your visa (Congratulations), ask around to see if your employer has done this process before. If they have, great news! If they haven't or haven't done it in a long time, you owe it to yourself to get familiar with the process. 
Here's the outline for the time and links to helpful websites and blogs that provided me all my information when I was in need of some. Here's the USCIS website with all the information about the process.

  1. You need to give yourself at least 3 months before your start date if you'll be working for a non-profit/university and so won't need the October 1st start date like others. 3 months might seem like too much, but if your employer is going to submit a prevailing wage determination to the Department of Labour, that could take anywhere from 6 weeks. Unfortunately, this part of the process cannot be expedited. Tip: If your job description is a little vague, make sure that your supervisor explains to very well to your HR. You can also look up position descriptions here, if that'll help in your explanation. Else, if it's wrong, your prevailing wage determination could come back too high because your HR put in the wrong job duties for you. 
  2. Make sure that you have the list of all required documents and photocopies of your original documents. Including all past OPT cards. 
  3. If your employer uses a lawyer, your situation just got easier. But make sure you're on top pf things. Keep a timeline because I have a couple of friends whose lawyers weren't really doing anything and just let time run out on them. No Bueno.
  4. When you get to the point of sending USCIS your documents, there are only two options for the visa. Either you'll be doing a change of status (i.e. you're current status is still valid and needs to be valid by the time your documents get to USCIS) or you'll be doing a consular notification (your status in the U.S. would have expired by the time your documents will get to USCIS or you're applying for this visa outside the U.S.). This is the point where time calculation becomes very important.
  5. If you are doing a consular notification, don't freak out! It just means you have to go to an embassy to get interviewed. As long as you have your documents and know what you're job is, you'll do awesome.
  6. If you'll be waiting for the October 1st start date but apply early enough and get your application approved, the cap-gap extension will apply to you and you can keep working with your OPT until your new start date. 
  7. If you'll be paying for the expedited process, this will only happen when your documents have gone to USCIS. This will guarantee that you get your response in 2 weeks. That cost is definitely worth it. 
All in all, this is a very straightforward process as long as you get lucky with your employer and only start on the right track. If not, you might get stuck in a rut and hopefully, you find a way out like me. Read about some of my experiences here.

You can check out these blogs/ sites. They are the ones I constantly checked during my process (I'll link them as I remember them).
Immihelp, Path2usa,

Of course, if at any point your have any question/concern that I haven't covered about the process here, please feel free to drop a message. Hopefully, I'll be able to help :).

Have an awesome week!!!
Tonia

Oh and even though February is gone, here's some love jam. I love me some Brymo. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lenten Season



Hello!

Ash Wednesday starts my favorite season!! Lent :). Mass today was really good (it usually is)! The priest challenged us all by asking us to go into meditation this season, asking not what we can give up, but what we can add to our lives. Do you need to meditate more? Do you need to talk less (because your words get you into trouble)? Do you need to show people around you that you care about them? And the list goes on. If there are areas in your life you believe need some addition, use this Lenten Season to add these. We also heard today, "it's not about eating fish. Try to do the Stations of the cross with your family as well."

The world is restless right now and the best we can do for ourselves and our little ones, is strive to make it better in whatever little ways we can. I hope that this Lenten Season and always, you'll do something to improve your life and someone else's.

I'll end with a quote I heard at mass, and my Lenten meditation song.

 

Have a good week,
Tonia

Oh and here are some ideas of things to give up/do: http://lifeteen.com/102-things-really-give-lent/ P.S. it contains humour as well :).

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine's 2015



Hey Bloggie!

Happy Valentine's Day!!! I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's. Be it that you special plans, spent it with family, or made a stranger/friend/frenemy feel a little love, I hope you had fun.

It was definitely colder this year than it was last year. We were in the negatives throughout the weekend (Brrr) and it looks like this will continue into tomorrow. When it gets super cold for some reason, my hot water doesn't run :(. This is when I'm really really glad I went to boarding school and have some serious survival skills. I should look into bugging maintenance about this. Unless of course someone else shares the same experience and knows why this is a thing. If you do, please let me know!

Here are this year's Valentine's songs. I hope you like them and that every day continues to be a celebration for you :). One is about first love becoming the only love (a story I'm always partial to) and the other is a woman so in love, she's not afraid to have twins for her man (a Yoruba saying) :D.




Have a great week and see you Wednesday,
Tonia

Oh and if you're not watching, you should watch the SNL 40th show. So far so good!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Happy 2015!!



Hey Bloggie!

Happy super belated New Year!! First post of the year :). My boss always says it takes twice the length of your vacation to fully recover. I never really bought into it until this vacation. Perhaps it's the sunshine versus winter blues, or family and activity versus way less activity or just getting back into the groove of work, I don't really know. But it has taken me a month to fully recover. So since I've skimped on a bunch of posts this month, I'll have to up my posting schedule for a little bit. I have quite a lot to talk about and opinions to seek. So I'm super excited.

It been quite the snowy and icy winter. Bostonians, my thoughts and prayers are with you especially since I see more snow in your forecast.

I just wanted to say hello today. Happy month of love also!! I'll have to go through to organize my new February jamz for every post this month.

Here's one of my new favorites. It just makes me smile oh so much. It's such a feel good love song. I hope you like Ed Sheeran :).


See you soon,
Tonia