Diary of a House Husband – Algonquin – Day One

House-Husband

I don’t remember what the day looked like or what I wore, but I did remember having a backpack, yes, I had bought one in anticipation having read that I would need to buy a few bulky books. What I remembered that summer morning was the voice I would always remember – it went like this:

“I will now start the class”, the woman I was to later identify as Su Cheng Lee broke through the usual cacophony of students trying to settle down to a class. I must be the only student in class who has no idea what he was doing here. My first problem was how to log into the Algonquin database. I had been given a student number and a password and this was to be the key to my interactions with the school for the next two years. In other words, I was to be addressed by my name in class but officially, I was a number.

I settled my frame behind one of the 29 high-end Apple computers that was to serve as the major laboratory for IMD students. I was so nervous that for the first time, I could feel sweat greasing my palms. Within seconds, most of my mates, 90% of who are in their teens had settled to the fresh order, their computer screens bursting into life like a mid-day African sun slicing through a cloudy sky.

I literally begged one of my new mates for help me logging in. He obliged, but did it so fast; he left me pondering for a minute what had just happened. I mumbled gratitude but he was back on his own system to bother responding.

‘Open Dreamweaver’, the teacher ordered as I was still busy looking at her name on the whiteboard. Whatever happened to chalk and blackboards answered itself with this glossy and glittery board with dusters and markers hanging at the base. While I took in the detail, my mind instructed me to concentrate on classwork, so I jerked my thoughts off blackboards and back into the blank computer screen.

Dreamweaver’, my mouth silently pronounced the word.

‘What in heaven’s name is that’, I asked no one in particular?

Dreamweaver’, I repeated … over and over that I missed the next set of instructions, which appeared to be falling from the lips of this lanky woman like ripened mangoes swaying to the rhythm of the summer breeze. I was close to tears and for the first time, not only did the sweat in my palms increase, I was now close to tears.

‘Jesus in heaven, I am in the wrong class’, I told myself even as my mind asked me to concentrate assuring that there was no need to panic. ‘Everything would be all right,’ I reassured myself as I always do when everything else failed.

Hapless and helpless, I turned to another student for help finding this thing called Dreamweaver. He said something like checking the computer and launching the application. ‘Application’, I found myself repeating loudly.

‘Yes’, he said, eyeing me with mocked curiosity. I must have just landed from Mars.

Diary of a House Husband II – Going To School

Without a work permit, it would be out of character for me to seek employment here – even consultancy. So I opted to go to school. At first, I scouted through the big universities in Ottawa – Carleton, OttawaU and St. Paul’s. Everywhere I went, the demand was the same – Ask your old schools to send us their transcripts, they would say and warn – do not send us the transcript yourself as it will not be accepted! It’s like puncturing the balloon of my expectation even before it had inflated.

Not that I had anything to hide. I went to the University of Ilorin and did not buy my certificate from Oluwole. I wasn’t an A student, never had been, but I was also not the dullest in my class. I completed my studies in English and graduated with gyara courtesy of ASUU strikes.

What I knew from experience was that it is easier for the camel to pass through the proverbial eye of the needle than to retrieve transcripts from most Nigerian universities within the time limit that was being demanded. It is even worse trying to do so from several thousand of nautical kilometres away. Nigerian universities have no websites, and you cannot buy anything with a credit or debit card except of course you have an active account at home. We are as analogue as Adam was with Eve! Sorry to say we still are.

With City University in London where I graduated in International Journalism, I know that getting my transcripts is as simple as a taking a trip to the cyberspace, paying the mandatory £10, and then waiting for a week for the transcripts to make it down by surface mail. Maybe someday, our country will be part of the world, for now, let’s keep amusing ourselves that life started from here – it has not progressed a bit since Adam was chased out of the garden.

It was just a few weeks to September when this brain wave of going back to school took over my plan of redemption. So I spoke to some friends who advised me to check out colleges as polytechnics are called here. In frustration, I asked them to choose one for me and complete the process. On enquiry, I was told I would have to sit for an entrance examination in the absence of authenticated transcripts.

Nothing makes me happy like taking exams, I never lose sleep over examinations. It is the only thing in life that comes with a sure two-way ticket – you either pass or fail. I managed to discover the Woodroffe Avenue campus of Algonquin College where I was enrolled into the Interactive Multimedia Developer programme subject to passing my entrance exam. I had wanted social worker thinking I could learn enough to return to Nigeria with an experience to share. I had acted late and the waiting list for social worker programme was about 200. On this, Canada puts priority on its own citizens. I was a bloody foreigner.

For exams, I did not have to read anything. On D-Day, I just showed up with a pencil and eraser, sat in the hall, wrote my tests and was walking away when I was told to check back where I accredited. To my amazement, the results of my papers were handed to me – pronto!. By the time I reached home, I was being asked if I was taking my space on IMD. I answered in the affirmative. Up till now, I had not even as much as checked what IMD was, or what it entailed. I have always been a little pompous when it comes to studying. I thought IMD with media in-between must be the North American way of spelling journalism backwards. How stupid and wrong I was.

…to be continued.

Diary of a House-Husband – Getting Started

I knew that a day would come when I could reminisce on school days. Within the two years it lasted, not many people would know that I had more lows than highs. Twice, I withdrew from school and twice I re-enrolled myself back in.

The decision to go back to school was not an easy one. I had built castles in the air about what would be my role and place in Ottawa once I settled in. With years of experience in virtually all spheres of journalism, I even thought I had enough experience and qualification to be a teacher of the profession. But once I settled to the North American system, a few things began to strike me.

If North America invited you, be sure it would sacrifice whatever it has to make you comfortable. But, if you brought yourself, please be prepared to take what it offers you, and in case it offers you nothing, be prepared not to lose your cool. These were two lessons that would take me years to learn.

First, I did not set out to return to college after graduate school. The reasons why I did would emerge in a biography if I live to write one. You will find glimpses of that as this progresses.

I arrived Ottawa in 2010 with my two youngest kids – Abimbola and Dolapo, the oldest – Yemi having graduated was serving her country as mandated. Although it was Bola, my wife who was on official assignment in Canada, it would have been the height of ingratitude not to – tag along. We were hardly married a year in 1995 when she released me for a year-stint at the Journalists in Europe in Paris. Then, with two children to cater for and no income apart from my scholarship, she again let me go for the Masters in London.

Not being the best husband in the world, I have found in my partner a tower of strength, a friend, a companion and most times my other mother. Supporting her career was, in my consideration, a way of showing gratitude for all that sacrifice. So, I wound down my small but thriving media and public affairs consultancy and settled to become a ‘house-husband’.

Two, I consider it bad manners for a father to drop his teenage children into a differently dynamic culture conscious that their mom would be on a 24/7 job schedule. If you brought the kids here, you must do all you can to sustain them morally, physically and financially. My parents did that for me and asked nothing less than I pay it forward.

Staying at home 24/7 is a sentence that African men pride themselves of inflicting on their wives. I recommend that every man of conscience reverses the trend for one year in their lifetime and write about it. I believe it would make marriages last longer. Kudos to all men who have raised their own kids in these circumstances.With time, I became an irritable Dad and an unloving husband. Books bored me, so did tv, radio and the environment. No thanks to Canada’s snow, things got worse.

to be continued