How I Started Smelling Like A Native And Found My Purpose


I’m in the middle of the bush in south east Nigeria. Lying in bed staring at the ceiling with my arms over my head I catch a whiff of something completely human. Not acrid or putrid or rank, just very strong. And human. It takes me a second to realise that its me. I forgot what I smelled like, the I before deodorant, body spray and expensive french perfume.

Its not an unpleasant smell and people aren’t moving away from me or holding their noses but I am of course completely outraged!

“Smell? B.O.? Me keh?!! This is not acceptable!” screams my inner prima donna raised on Cosmo and Vogue.

But I’m in the middle of the bush in eastern Nigeria and I’ve run out of deodorant so whether I find it acceptable or not, whether its below minimum standards of civilisation or whether its an infringement of my fundamental human right to smell good is completely irrelevant right now.  I have to face the Beast! The Woman in the Mirror! Whose that smell?

I take a deeper whiff. I’m not used to it so its a bit of a shock. I expect it to be unpleasant because all my life I heard that body smells are unpleasant and should be masked with all the vigour of a military occupation. But its not unpleasant, it smells earthy like the first rains or nzu or freshly turned soil. I take another whiff. I like this smell.

Of course this smelly incident is just a metaphor for what happens when you hide the real you somewhere behind layers of civility, responsibility and respectability – like perfume and deodorant. You’re told you should be like this, not like that and so you come to hate and deny that other you that you hide behind plastic smiles and glazed eyes.

I had to smell myself, literally and figuratively, to find out who I really am and that I love the person that I am. And I had to be in the middle of the African bush and run out of deodorant to come to the realisation that –  THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to stop using deodorant or perfume. You don’t have to experience how I REALLY smell. Its very personal. Animals identify each other through smell you know. And some people smell so repulsive there should be a law against them. Their negative impact on me  motivates me to smell good more than Cosmo and Vogue – which I stopped reading long ago.

When I lost my job I lost more than just a job. I lost what I thought at the time as the purpose of my life – service through a distinguished career in the non profit sector. But truth is unless you are a rigid religionist or a fundamentalist your purpose can change and evolve. Just like you.

(Warning – repulsive or unpleasant BO could be a sign of ill health, bad diet or poor lifestyle)



Its Been A California Minute. How You Been?

Migration by P Fisayo
Migration by P Fisayo

Hi. Happy New Year. I’m back. Its been a California minute, as the yankees would say. How you been? How’s your family? What did you do for the holidays? Who did you spend it with? Did you have a great time? Or was it torture? Or somewhere in the middle? Would you like to share your experience? Tell me your holiday stories.

I just came back in time for Christmas with the family. You know I been on sabbatical for the past two years. Back in 2012 I took a months vacation. Read here. First real vacation in a long time. It felt so good I decided to take a year off and call it a sabbatical. I just wanted a year off, from work, from Nigeria, from responsibilities…a year to disengage.

I know a sabbatical is supposed to be like a working holiday. But I had to call it that because my puritanical work ethic would have balked at anything else. I didn’t do a stitch of work for the entire year. Unless you call writing work. I don’t get paid for it yet so I don’t. Maybe I should.

When I came back to Nigeria in January last year (read here) I thought my mid life crisis had burned itself out and I was ready to rejoin the Bedlam that is Nigeria. I was wrong and I ran away again. I said I was going for the summer but who stays six months for summer and comes back just before Christmas? Yeah, ok, Lesley does. I guess I had unfinished business.

Its been a good two years, an enlightening two years. When I left Nigeria I was still reeling from my experience with Oxfam GB (read here), the death of my father and recovering from a grave disease . I was burned out, deflated and exhausted. I also thought I could challenge my dismissal from Oxfam or at least some sort of compensation for the fall out but the UK Employment Bureau only handles domestic hires, and I found an English lawyer willing to file a a no win no fee criminal assault case a week before the statute of limitations kicked in. There just wasn’t enough time to file a charge she said.

It took a while but I realise that its all been for a greater purpose. I’ve had to review and reconsider what matters to me, what I want and whats important. And its not what I thought. I’ve changed. Again. I finally let go of that fruit I was clutching and found freedom.

This could get exciting! Lets go!