Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nigerians and the American Dream

Students in schools all over America are often asked to write about the American dream means to them. We are taught that traditionally, the description of the "American dream" was having a nice little house with a white-picket fence, a good job, a spouse, 2.5 kids and a dog. These days, people often describe it as having the freedom to be who you want to be and the opportunities to get there. People who came from poor backgrounds and go on to achieve greatness are said to have achieved the American dream. From grass to grace, as Tuface would say.

A big part of the American dream is having the freedom to live your life the way you want to. If you want to go to school: go. If you want to work all the time at the local grocery store and save all your money for a car: do it. If you like to drive through streets and pick up things that people put on their curb as trash: you're free to do so.  If you want to pack up and move to California after you graduate high school to try and become the next biggest thing to hit the screens: go right ahead and try. The American dream says that you can make it.

When it comes to higher education, the American dream tells you to study what you love; work hard and you can eventually get to where you want to be. Whether you want to be a world-renowned artist, a doctor, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the sky is the limit. I totally agree. I believe that whatever someone wants to do, they can to it if they are determined.

Many Nigerians who are the first generation of their family in the United States do not understand the American dream. For them, the decision to come to America was to provide a better way of life. Their definition of a better life: more money. This is somewhat understandable. Feeling a sense of responsibility to the family left behind in Nigeria, these people want to enter a field that will pay them very well so that they can help. They often go to school for medicine, health sciences, engineering and law: fields that are known to be high-paying. They force try to get their children to study these fields as well. There's nothing wrong with advising people what career path to take. And there's nothing wrong with taking that advice if you have no ideas on what you want to do. But when a young person has a burning passion to do something, I think they should be given an opportunity to try. Assuming that someone is not going to be successful in life because they didn't study medicine is silly. It's unfortunate when parents force their children to study something they aren't interested in. It has bred and epidemic that I like to call the "Nigerian Nurse Syndrome".

So many young Nigerian and African females (at least that I've met) are all going to school to be nurses. It's hard to tell whether they decided to do this because they have a genuine interest in the field, they have come to believe that it's the only way to make it, or they've been forced into it. And so many African women find themselves in various levels of the nursing field because of it's flexibility and the income it generates. This is understandable. The problem is that dreams are often abandoned as people pursue money. The result is usually an unsatisfying life. I personally know of a woman who spent over 15 years pursuing a nursing degree while working as a nurse's aide. After many unsuccessful attempts, she is finally going back to school for what she wanted to do in the first place: fashion. How did she get in the nursing loop in the first place? Her husband convinced her to study nursing when they first got married because she could make good money, work flexible hours and not put the kids in daycare, blah, blah, blah.... She reluctanly agreed. Who knows where she would be now if she would have stuck to her original plan.....

All I'm saying is that everything happens for a reason. It's not an accident that people have certain skills, talents, and abilities; they are God-given. These natural talents are good indicators of what a person would excel in, if proper care is given to training and development. I think that Nigerians, especially older ones, should embrace this portion of the American dream and be more optomistic of what their children can accomplish if given a chance.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Movies and More

When it comes to Naija movies, funny ones are my favorite. I'm not too fond of the ones where someone does juju to have power over another or where someone poisons a person they're angry with and kills them. One time I watched a movie where a woman was cheating on her husband and poisoned him so that she could be free to live with her lover. As the her husband was dying from the poison, he started reminding his wife of how much he loved her and the woman was so sorry for her actions. The man of course died. I can't tell you how angry I was after watching that movie!!! Lol.... The movies where a man or woman fakes love to steal money from their lover are very annoying. And I especially hate the ones where things go from bad to worse and end on a bitter note (the overall summary of many of these movies). I guess growing up in America and seeing movies where things usually ended up good in the end has spoiled me. I like movies where thigs end up good, or at least where the good outweighs the bad.

I was thrilled when, almost two years ago, I stumbled across the higly popular "Osuofia in London." If you're not familiar with the movie, it tells the hilarious tale of Osuofia, a villager, who goes to London to collect an inheritance his late brother left him. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. If you just type the title in Youtube, the whole video lineup will come up. Otherwise, here's the link to the first clip. The main actor's name is Nkem Owoh and any movie with him is usually funny. I stayed up until 4 'o' clock in the morning watching this the first time, laughing through most of it.
(Left) Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme (Right0
My favorie actors to watch though, are Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme. Though small in stature, the duo are both grown men. A quick Google search wil reveal a wealth of information on the two and how they met. In movies, they often play the role of mouthy, mischevious boys. I can always get a good laugh from any movie they're in. From Lagos Boys, to Onye Obioma, to Awilo Sharp Sharp (where they played a small role) I've never been disappointed.

A few weeks after I came back from Haiti I found myself watching one of their movies and I was struck by something....

To me, Osita Iheme really looks like Alton, a  little boy from an orphanage in Port au Prince that I can't forget. Take a look:

In the span of only a few days, that little boy really grew on me. I still find myself thinking about him and everytime I do, I say a prayer for him. It's funny because Alton, about 5 or 6 years old, acted like a little man when I first met him. He walked around telling the other little kids what to do and wouldn't let me carry him. But by the end of my stay in Haiti, he clinged to me and whined everytime I tried to put him down.I still remember one moment when I was playing with him. I was holding him, and I said "Alton, mwen bebe," which means "Alton, my baby," translated from the Haitian Creole. He replied "Oui," (pronounced: we) the word for 'yes' in French and in Haitian Creole, which is based on French. My heart aches everytime I think of that.  I pray for his well-being and that of the other kids at the orphanage and I'd really like to see him again and be able to really help him... Maybe even adopt........? Time will tell   : )

At an orphanage in Port au Prince.
 I'm squatted, holding Alton.