July 5, 2015

Bigger than Basketball Girls Camp

More information here

JULY 17-18


AGES 11-17





Hosted by Tolu Omotola: Nigerian National Team Member, Current Int’l Pro Player, Former Division I Standout Guest speaker: Ron Cavenall, Sandora Irvin Adaora Elonu, former Texas A&M player, 3 year international player & many more!


African Time

"It's time to go to school!" "It's time for work daddy." "It's time to go to church!"

Onyekachi is a stickler for time, she always has been. Her nickname was "Clock" growing up, she'd annoy everybody in the house when she went around banging on bedroom doors, screaming at the top of her lungs every morning reminding her family what time it is. Weekday mornings at 5am, or Sunday mornings at 7 o'clock for the 9am mass at St. Ebenezer's. Precocious little girl she was, a walking alarm clock. Her nickname was her badge of honor, at the end every school year she received an award in front of the school assembly for Most Punctual Student. “Clock!” her big brothers would tease, "let me see your award na” they’d say in pidgin English. Her mother kept all her awards and handed them all to her when she was on her way to the U.S for the university.

"What is C.P.T?" Onyekachi asked one day as she booked an assignment to shoot a lovely Louisiana couple’s wedding anniversary. This would be the first for her, coming out of Photography school, she finally landed a paying gig. “Colored People Time!” laughed Louisa. “You know we don’t ever get to a party on time! It’s in our DNA. If the party invite says nine o’clock, just come at twelve and you’d be right on time.” “Amongst Africans it’s called 'African time'” Onyeka mused. She couldn’t remember where the unlearning happened. She went from throwing a tantrum and going on hunger strike the year she lost the Most Punctual Student award to another student in Primary Six, to just accepting African time—concept of accepting tardiness or lateness to scheduled events by Africans. She threw a house warming party last year and printed 3 o’clock on the invite when she intended to have her party kick-off at seven.

One day however was different. She booked a high profile gig in Dallas, about four hours away from her residence in Houston, Texas; a lavish gala for Nigeria’s high society women, event to start 9pm on a Saturday. It was Friday at 5pm, her mechanic just informed her, her car will not be ready for tomorrow, unfortunately, the oxygen sensor did not come in on time, it’s taking so long because she wanted to save on an after market brand. “Are you sure Oscar?” she pleaded. This isn’t good, this gig is not paying some chicken change, besides, if she wins this client over with this first gig, she can count on a steady income from referrals alone, that means she can finally open photo studio and stop renting equipment, or paying anyone commission for her referrals.

"Ginika I'm finished! I don't have a car to go to Dallas. You know the Exquisite Women's Gala is tomorrow?"
"Yes I know." Ginika said over the phone. "Mechanic still not done with the car?"
"Nooo, last week it was break pads, the other time it was battery, I am so tired of this car!"
"Well you've given it five years and two hundred and fifty thousand miles. Maybe it's time for a new car."
"Ha!" Onyeka mused. "This car was very reliable until last year o, it's like when these things happen, they happen all at once. Honda makes very good cars you know. Hopefully this will be the last problem for a while."
"Or hopefully, Exquisite Women will be your lottery ticket, so you can replace that car."
"That too!" They both laugh. "On a more serious note, I'm in trouble. How am I supposed to get to Dallas now? This is so last minute—"
"Wait! I know for sure Ms. Olabi is going to that gala tomorrow, you should see her at my shop talking about it like it was the Met."
"She would not miss it now! I hate to go with her though, she's too loud, her and her madam friends."
"Real thick madam, or is it Lagos exports? 'Look at my Loowie vuton, Lexus Jeep.' As if those people care they blow 5K on a piece of hand bag?"
Onyeka hissed "Is this my only option?"
"Well it's either that or you can take the Mega Bus. I know Ms. Olabo very well, she listens to me, it's like I remind her of a sister she never had."
"Oya now, work your magic! Please let me know soon I beg."
"No problem my sister."

It's 9pm Onyeka waits impatiently for a call that seems to never come. Ginika calls exactly at 9:15pm. "Ms. Olabi has agreed to take you along, she said you must be at her house at 11:30am they plan on leaving at 12."
"Ah ah now! Why so early? I have a birthday party to shoot at Stooges tonight, I will not be able to sleep."
"My sister, you have to manage, I think she said something about going in a van with other people, maybe her madam friends."
"Oh that! This should be interesting, maybe she should leave at 9am then to make sure she picks every body up on time." 
"I know right? Well good luck with them tomorrow." Ginika gives Onyeka Ms. Olabi's number, instructs her to call at 9am to confirm arrangements.

"Hello is this Ms. Olabi?"
"Yes Onyeka, how are you?" 
After acquainting themselves over the phone, Ms. Olabi warns Onyeka to ensure she'd make it to her residence on time, confirms they plan on leaving at 12pm sharp. It was 9am, Onyeka made quick breakfast—frosted flakes, dashed in the shower. She returned from her night gig at 6am. She had been unable to sleep in anticipation. This could be her big break. Exquisite Sisters, Dallas is well known in the Diaspora, made of wives of elected Nigerian officials, women with burgeoning companies, rich philanthropists. This year the focus is on "Bring Back Our Girls," a charity organization.

11am, Onyeka is waiting on her Uber driver who arrived exactly on 11:10 on the dot, according to the GPS the ride is exactly 20mins. She hops in the car with her backpack full of camera gear and off she went. She arrived at Ms. Olabi's gate at 11:35am dialed the provided security code and was at her front door. For someone who had to leave at 12pm, there's a lot going on in the kitchen, the women— three of them seemed busy moving back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. Onyeka noticed a number of food coolers on and around the dinning table next to the kitchen. The women all communicated and laughed in their native Nigerian language originating in the west. As they walked by her in the sitting room, Onyeka discerned a twinge of unfriendliness, underlaying the half smiles displayed when they made eye contact. The women might have "just come" last week or they can't speak a word of English. One thing is sure: they could use a class in proper etiquette when hosting visitors.

"Would you like some Jollof rice?" One of the women approached Onyeka in the living room with a disposable plastic container held tipped over with seasoned red rice in it, the container must be the mixing spatula. "No thank you." Onyeka replied with half a smile. She was antsy, it was 1:30pm and there's no real urgency displayed by the women of the house. By the looks of it, they won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
"Are you okay madam?" A lanky gentleman on a couch opposite of hers asked, he must have noticed her uneasiness. "I'm sorry, I thought we were leaving at 12, what's the hold up?"
"We are waiting for the driver with the van, he should be here soon."
"Okay? I wish I was told that a head of time, I was told to be ready by 11:30 today, I haven't slept since last night. It would be nice to know this ahead of time to plan accordingly."
"The driver will be here soon, you know, it's is better to get there safe than late."
What? Onyeka left that nonsense alone. The house—large enough to host a community meeting was becoming too small for her. The women continued to pace back and forth the house, in deep conversation that alienates visitors, pacing between the kitchen and other parts of the house, they didn't seem to care she was there at all. A 60-inch flat screen on the entertainment wall streamed the latest hits by African musicians on YouTube.

"Would you like something to drink?" She noticed the man again holding up a bottle of water and a can orange Fanta. She almost forgot he was still sitting across from her, engrossed in her worries. He must have noticed how increasingly uncomfortable she had become. "No thank you," she replied simply, politely. With that she decided to step outside for some fresh air... and to take out her frustrations out on someone. "I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm in the middle of nowhere and these women are too cavalier for my own liking, didn't you tell me they were living at 12?"
"My sister Ms. Olabi was adamant o! Chei! These women! If I had known I wouldn't have let you ride with her. I know you haven't slept. Let me talk to her for you." Ginika hangs up the phone and calls back 10 mins later. "Go and give Ms. Olabi your phone, she's not picking my calls. If she doesn't talk to me now, then she can find another tailor to tolerate her demanding, indecisive and needy behind. I swear to you when this woman is in my shop, I have to give her at least two hours, she comes with all the latest fabrics he managed to find in Dubai, then won't have a clue what to do with all of them, for someone who knows nothing about design, she spends time arguing with me about why she can't have a dress like Angelina Jolie's with a thigh high split or why I cannot give a 56 year old woman with a body like michelin man a midriff. After much fighting and wasting my time, she turns around and tells me I'm the best tailor in the city of Houston. I appreciate her clientele but she can go to hell."

By the time Ginika finished her sentence, Onyeka was standing in front of Ms. Olabi. "Phone for you," Onyeka sits across from her on the dining table where she converses with the other women. "Halo Ginika...yes we are waiting on the driver...yes we will be leaving soon...ah ah now, we won't be late, we should be leaving by the next hour...mmhmm...bye." Onyeka thought it peculiar and amusing how Ms. Olabi's demeanor changed from that of a roaring lion to a Siamese cat. She wondered if Ginika has something on the woman that goes beyond dress making. Particularly amusing was overhearing their conversation. Ginika called her a celebrity that needs at least 4 hours of beauty rest before getting ready for the event, to Ms. Olabi, she is a celebrity photographer and blogger.

At 4:30pm, some middle aged gentlemen arrive in a crossover SUV, it has three rows of seats, would fit eight people uncomfortably. They all begin to load the vehicle and talking amongst themselves in their native language. "Have you put your bags in the car?" Ms. Olabi asked. Oh? Guess that's my que. "I will bring my bag." Onyeka meticulously places her backpack in the corner of the trunk, making sure nothing ends up on top of it during the drive to Dallas. This was going to be a very uncomfortable ride, she's assigned a seat in the back, the optional third row that folds down for more space when not in use, she's seated behind by the rear window next to two others. There was no leg room.
African Time is a film by Kelechi Eke, addresses tardiness among Africans. More info here.
The vehicle makes stops along the way to Dallas, rest stops, switch drivers, one stop at an employer—a taxi cab service. Please save me! Onyeka sends a text to Ginika. They go back and forth. At least you're now on your way, it'd be over soon, I'm so sorry. Onyeka was beyond exhausted, couldn't wait to get out of her nightmare. The consolation: she'd sleep well in her reserved hotel room much later.
"Can you shift?" A heavy-set woman next to her asked in a thick Nigerian accent for her to squeeze herself further into the corner. As thin-boned as she is she could probably manage half a seat, she could imagine the woman thinking that. "I'm sorry, but I have nowhere to shift." Onyeka directs the woman's glance to her corner. "Can you move your leg please?" Clearly irritated, she demanded the woman to confine her self exactly on her seat and to stop trying get into her personal space, she could miss a few meals. Almost immediately, she recanted from that thought.

Five hours later, they finally arrive at the venue's parking lot, they were thirty minutes late. Not enough time to check into her hotel room. She'd have to get right to work. Onyeka was dumbfounded. By the time they finally let her out of the vehicle, a load lifted off her body. The whole group, all eight of them stared as she simply stepped out and picked up her backpack. "Thank you" she said simply and disappeared into the venue.