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New Immigrant Tales With Peter Ademu-Eteh: Learning Chinese

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dreamstime_m_23655550So this is one reason I came to York University. Back in Nigeria, it was amazing how our colleagues who went to school abroad got treated differently. There’s this accounting firm in the building where I worked in Abuja’s downtown (Central Business District). The entry qualification is that you got one of your degrees from a school abroad. In other words, it didn’t matter how smart you were in Nigeria, if you didn’t have a foreign degree there was NO way you were getting hired. At first I raved and ranted about how discriminatory this practice was; how it was contributing to the widening gap between the rich and poor, how it punished ordinary citizens like us for not being rich enough to afford the extra expense. But I also realized the company is not a public service company or a charity; it entered into business to maximize profits and give the owner something to smile about (and probably some money to spray to hide the fact they can’t dance. If you don’t understand that last one, see my last post.

I was very excited to get admitted. I was happy that I settled in nicely without any further incident. Well, except the one where I went shopping for house stuff. I took the bus to the Superstore where I bought pots, pans, knives, fruit, meat, rice… even some clothes. Because I couldn’t imagine a situation where I would drag myself out into the cold weather more than necessary. There I learnt another life lesson: Never believe the price you see on the shelf.

You see an item on the shelf, it says $10. It doesn’t seem very much until you convert it into Naira. As at January 2015 the Canadian dollar was exchanging for 145 Naira. you compare the price to the price back home and You think, hmmmmm this is not bad. So you buy some more $5 items and some $7 items. Then you try some $3 items. And maybe that $20 bag of rice is not so bad. Just 5000 Naira you think! The sad thing is that the shock of your life will slap you at the counter. Harmonized Sales Tax. In Ontario, that’s 13% of whatever taxable items you’re buying. So you may buy items worth $10 but the real price you’ll pay would be $13. Sadly, you don’t notice until you get to the counter. That’s what happened to me. I thought I was buying items worth $180… I ended up spending more than $200 that night. It was still doing me as if I spent only 200 Naira. Only for GTB to send me debit alert that I had spent almost 40,000 Naira. Chai! As that funny Instagram guy says, “my chhweeessttttt!!!”

I spent the first day on campus taking a walk around, trying to know what building was where. Of course the most important thing to me was the student centre (say hello to the food!) After that, The administration building. It was in trying to find all of these places that it hit me for the first time how developed the campus was. Buildings that would be too expensive for businesses in Abuja- those buildings housed art studios. Marvelous glass buildings everywhere, motivational posters down the hallway. There were even screens displaying emergency news about the weather, traffic and all that Jazz. My faculty sent me the curriculum for my classes a month ahead, and then when I let them know I had resumed, they sent the textbooks to my house. Just like that. No begging anybody, no praying that the bookstore director would be “on seat”. Nobody to bribe to get my name up the list. The school even still told us we’re free to book appointments if we have any questions about academics, the career path and all that. What a wawu…

I felt, yes Uncle Peter has reached the Obodo Oyibo now, time to flex! Time to collect first class that my “wicked” lecturers did not agree to give me!

But when my programme started I realized I had rushed into it.

In every class the lecturers always made us give introductions and tell a bit of our backgrounds. I was very happy that I wasn’t the one to start first. Because when everybody started talking, I realized I didn’t belong in that class. Some were former Attorneys-General of their states. Some worked with the government of India. Government of China. Government of the US. Ontario provincial Government. Some had worked with the United Nations for 15 years. Some were specialist cardiologists and Engineers! But there was this guy that stood out, Stan Benda. He had served in the Navy, had a phd in law, a phd in Chemistry, worked with the Department of Justice, and was currently lecturing in three universities! Looking at him, he couldn’t have been more than 50. I really don’t know how old he is today!

When It was my turn to introduce myself, I found it hard to just say “I was called to the Nigerian Bar last year and I have been working with a Senior Advocate of Nigeria”.

So I said something like this:

“I have a bit of experience with forensic accounting. For the last one year I worked with an external solicitor to the Nigerian Government where our primary area of focus was prosecuting International Money Laundering Cases. Sometimes those cases involved tracing funds up to $1b and it was in the course of my practice that I picked up an interest in Alternative Dispute Resolution. I found that even in criminal cases, settlements can be reached especially when the aggrieved party (the state) is much more interested in retrieving the funds rather than lengthy prosecution. One could find the method questionable but then what is Justice? Justice is restoring the aggrieved party to the status quo ante.”

I like to think it was a good introduction 😀

At the end of the class, the lecturer gave us the assigned readings for the next day. I said hello to some people (and in the process noticed that I was the youngest face in the whole class).

When I opened the reading material to prepare for the next class, I was shocked at the volume. About 200 pages to read before 9am!!! I tried my best oh- I read, read, and read. Ate food like an elephant. That night I slept at 1am and woke up at 6am because the train ride was about 1 hour 30 minutes (from my place to school). To my greatest surprise, I saw everyone looking fresh and sounding like they knew the entire material.
Which kind of magic is this one?

That’s when I realized that my undergraduate lecturers had deceived us about how “easy” it is to get good grades in foreign schools. I had always felt they didn’t need to work as hard as us in Nigeria because of all the access to the internet, friendly professors and faculty staff…but the first week of classes made me realize that because they had more resources, even more was expected from them than from us in Nigeria. There was this guy, Nick – maybe just 2 years older than me. He spoke fluent Mandarin (Chinese), grew up in Canada and went to school in the US. When they said we should form groups, We quickly glued to each other.

For the first month, I kept trying to reach Ms Amazing Girl (if you don’t remember, read part one here). She was still upset that I actually left Nigeria and so she refused to answer my calls or text messages. It was a hard time for me. I’ve always survived on spending quality time, and just a good conversation could relieve heap loads of stress. But I had to walk this road alone, apparently.

Oya be sad for me. Let’s kuku do a group crying session if you’re in the mood :'( :'( :'(

I noticed this Chinese girl in my class. Nafi. Her skin was so white it looked like she rubbed milk on her body before coming to class. Her hair was so dark it looked like she was dyeing it with charcoal and crude oil. And her eyes were like…. nna mehn let’s not even talk about it. See me trying to learn Chinese very fast! I wanted to say, “you’re beautiful” but it was too long. I asked Nick to help out and he tried but I wasn’t catching it. So I decided to just take it slowly and learn pronouns first. Me, You, Us, Them, We. One day I finally was able to learn “you have beautiful hair”

“Wo xihua ni de toufa”

FEEL ME EVERYBODY!!! FEEL MY CHINESE POWERS! HYYYYAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Tenkyu.

She laughed at me and corrected my pronunciation. But after that day, she smiled at me more and more. I noticed that every time we had a group task to perform and they said “you can choose your group members”, she would drag her chair and sit beside me. One day Nick asked me if I liked her. I was like, “ME? what????? I have a girl I like back in Nigeria”. He could see that I was forming, so he just tapped me and said

” I can tell she likes you. EVERYBODY in this class can”

SAY WHAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTT???????

I thought and thought about this prospect. She can’t speak English. I can’t speak Chinese. How would we communicate? Would she like a black guy? What about Ms Amazing Girl? It didn’t take me long to figure that Ms Amazing Girl was the one that stopped answering me. Is it my fault? Etc Etc. So I had no ethical issues 😀

Next, would she like a black guy? Well, there’s only one way to find out, right?

I could see no way around my language barrier, so I stuck to using google translate. I would type in English and then play the translation aloud, then copy whatever the person said. With that I started learning to say things like

“NI hao?” (how are you?)
“ni hen piaoliang” (you are beautiful)
“ni Chīle ma? (have you eaten)
“Wǒ méi chīguò” ( I haven’t eaten)
“Xièxiè” (thank you)
“Bù, xièxiè” (no, thank YOU/you’re welcome)

Nick could see I was now making an effort to get to know her and so every now and then he would lean in and tease us. She didn’t understand a lot of English, so she couldn’t tell. One time me and Nick were arguing about Rock Bands and she was somewhere around us so I called her in to ask if she listens to rock or metal music. She didn’t know what that meant, so I played her something from Nickelback (A Canadian band from somewhere around here). She smiled and said she liked it. Then I offered to send her some suggestions and maybe we would go to a concert together if we had time.

She gave me her number and said, yeah we should do that.

Oshey!

King Uncle Peter, Don Alejandro Del Castillo y Garcia, Commander of Men and Lord of Beasts, the Ogbunigwe, the Osisi na m’ego of Onitsha is about to strike like a thunder, a la Timaya, a la Tim Godfrey.

Just then, my phone buzzed.

Text from Ms Amazing Girl.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

My name is Peter. I am a professional talkative. I talk for money during the day (I’m a Lawyer) and a ninja musician at night. I live in Toronto where I work in the hope that one day I will become stupidly rich :-D I blog at http://ohpeter.com IG/Twitter @PeterPentecost

52 Comments

  1. Lailatu

    October 6, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Interesting read! So true about the “we were decieved into thinking it was easy getting good grades abroad” part.

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Oh yeah? do you have a story? 😀

    • "changing moniker"

      October 8, 2016 at 10:52 am

      I like this man……I’m searching for all your oast articles NOW…..you’re so funny!

  2. Bee

    October 6, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Very funny post….Lol!
    But how is Chinese girl able to understand lectures? I love Nickelback too, by the way…

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      That’s the thing oh… they took IELTS exams. They can write in English, maybe use a Chinese dictionary to understand better. But speaking may be a different thing entirely 🙂

      What’s your favourite NB song?

    • icasng

      October 6, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      You’ll be surprised that they do pass well.. Oftentimes they use translators during their private / personal studying. Had a few Chinese friends too couple of years back.

  3. Nuna

    October 6, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    LMAO

  4. Baby gurl

    October 6, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Peter is hilarious! Please write again sooner than later biko nu. True about getting good grades abroad being harder than we are made to believe. I saw shepe in 1st term. Nobody had to tell me to buckle up after that. Thank God I still ended up with my distinction lol

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Thank God oh! I almost died when I got a C in one class. My favourite course fa! See high blood pressure! And Yeah I will try to write more. Just that I’m at work 10am-8pm most days and by the time I reach I’m too tired to do anything except eat 🙂

  5. dshine

    October 6, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Haha you got me cracking, i think the program youre on is intense. I found it quite easy to pass here compared to Nigeria. I hope youve adapted to the brutal winter we have here. Nice read!

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      yeah dshine, I have adapted. It seems like every summer I keep thinking “when will winter come sef?” so I can start wearing my Sorrels again. I guess I love the squishy feel of calf-deep snow 😀

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      Some classes were unbelievably easy. If I graded my paper myself, I would give myself a C. But I had an A! And the one class I killed myself for – I ended up with a C. That may have been because I hinted that the lecturer was boring 😀 . But then he doesn’t know my exam number so there’s no way he’d have failed me on purpose.

      Some lecturers are like Naija lecturers -they want you to pour out whatever they taught you. Me on the other hand, as a stubborn boy, I will write what I understand.

  6. Chiemezie

    October 6, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Interesting read and very hilarious.

    About her Chinese part, I am kinda curious to understand how Chinese language sounds in your mouth. Very very curious.

    Amazing Girl, I like that…hope she is good still.

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      Oh definitely, I will make a video :D. Check my faceboook page soon. Facebook.com/realohpeter or my IG @peterpentecost 🙂

  7. Peter Ademu-Eteh

    October 6, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    HMM I’m still waiting for NaijaTalk and Deltageh to show their face on this thread

  8. love Adeyemi

    October 6, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Peter o. Thoroughly enjoyed this. I had the same experience. I cried one night ehn. It was 8pm, deadline was 12, I never reach anywhere. The expectations were too high but we survived. I’m forever grateful for the experience. All the best

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      To whom much is given, much is expected. if i learned anything from this programme, it’s probably the ability to manage time 🙂

  9. Omoté

    October 6, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Hilarious read! Going back to read all ur write-ups. Lol! I do hope you become stupidly rich!

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      OMG Omote!!!! Where have you been! I’ve been writing about you for years!!! Check out http://ohpeter.com/omo

      and when you’re done, find the little love notes I wrote you on my IG @peterpentecost
      Make sure you let me know it’s you! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. Rarebreed27

    October 6, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    This is so hilarious! Very nice read..true nothing really prepares you for the life out here-.for me it was those course work and papers you had to write with submission deadlines close to each other. Then hearing the Scottish lecturers – I just kukuma fixed my eyes to their lips, any attempt to take my eyes off means I won’t grasp a thing that’s said. Its alot better now though…Wow! Thank you for taking me back on memory lane …

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      Yes oh! Papers for everything. In my Arbitration class we had to write “journals”. 1500 words every week! Combining that with doing other classes that each require you to read more than 100 pages :'(

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      Anyhow you can oh, learn. We were lucky that they were uploading the video recordings to our online portal so even If i missed something, I could still get it later. Hang in there, bring our distinction back for us, se o gbo? I nugo?

  11. Selfless

    October 6, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    I can totally relate to the 13% tax rate. i relocated last year to Toronto and it kinda threw me off my feet. I was constantly doing the math in my head every time i was in a store. Its worse now as Forex is on another level. Good read. Write more articles.

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      Selfless to you I say, Pele. Don’t mind them. Why can they not include it in the label price so we just pay one hand? ehn? They’ll be deceiving somebody. Like that iphone 7 now. The shelf price is like $1100 but you’ll end up paying $1240. Nonsense 🙂

  12. Zarah A loves Peter

    October 6, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    OMG . Peter pls keep on writing
    You are amaze balls

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      Zarah Darling! You’re back! I tried to give you a shout but my editor removed it 🙁
      I will keep writing! You know where to find me!

  13. icasng

    October 6, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    My secret to looking fresh with the never ending cws and crazy deadlines: Drank lots and lots of coffee… then started working part-time @Starbucks and Costa…So free Coffee anytime any day..lol

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 6, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Haaaaaa!!!!!! so this is how they were always looking fresh! Why did I never try coffee? oh yes, because coffee makes me sleep like a sloth.

      The only coffee I could tolerate was Tim Hortons’ French Vanilla. And people tell me it’s not “REAL” coffee. I say they’re liars 🙂

  14. Tosin

    October 6, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    hen hao 🙂

  15. Princess

    October 6, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    I didn’t wAnt it end…… Write more on your blog plsss

  16. Lacey

    October 6, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    This is an excellent piece and overly hilarious! Studying in the US sef is worse! I saw myself as a guru who has studied in Europe and a scholar from Nigeria!My 2nd quarter in the US during my masters,I almost went into probation and all of us had to have brain scan after graduation! We took of , none of us agreed to do Ph.D. in that University!
    Up to English language sef is technical! Who technicality help. Like one of Economics Prof said , we should groom our kids to have their own profession in writing, the arts, even football sef, as the way technology is going ,most jobs wil be taken offer by Robots! But Lawyers in the US , Engineers ,The Medical field and IT is still spinning money here in the US. The most important is do what you love!

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 7, 2016 at 6:06 am

      Haha guru! The amount of mental stress is unbelievable. I was reading this study in the UK. So many undergrads are battling some form of mental illness or the other! Many people are just one assignment away from a nervous break down. Thank God you made it!

  17. Christy Onyeuche

    October 6, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Lol. Totally laughed my way through this. It made my day.Nice work Peter

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 7, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Chizurum is back! 🙂 🙂 Thank you for laughing!! 🙂 🙂 It means my Juju is working! 🙂 🙂

  18. LEM

    October 7, 2016 at 9:01 am

    LOL! Nice one Peter. I did an online UK Masters, but I can still relate to the stress involved in foreign degrees. I have friends that recently relocated to Toronto, one is even currently in York University doing an LLM, and they all have similar experiences.

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 7, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Yeah, na we carry our big head talk say we wan do masters 😀 😀 you can give your friend at York my email ( [email protected] ). Any way I can help out, I’ll be glad to!

  19. Taona

    October 7, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Kikkkkkkkk,

  20. Iyun

    October 7, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Lovely write-up… I enojyed it

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 7, 2016 at 5:36 pm

      Thank you Iyun. Hope you return soon! 🙂

  21. Omoté

    October 7, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Awwwww?! That was really deep! I’m pretty sure we’ve nvr met. Well, ur Omo n I do av two things in common; the fashion designing and having to spend an xtra year in school cos I fell in love and forgot why I was in school. Married now to a very wonderful man named Peter! Lol! So there’s already a bias! U’ve got one more faithful follower!?

    • "changing moniker"

      October 8, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Are you sure you’re not the one? Scratch the married part?
      His name is also Peter…

    • "changing moniker"

      October 8, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Oh, my! I commented before reading….,ah its not you o. God forbid bad thing!!!!

  22. Tru

    October 7, 2016 at 11:30 am

    ???? Whatever you do please never, EVER stop writing!!! ❤️❤️❤️?????????

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 7, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      Tru Dat!! I won’t stop, won’t stop, won’t stop 🙂

  23. Ninny

    October 7, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Hilarious piece Peter…waiting to see what Ms Amazing girl sent to you. loool

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 7, 2016 at 6:19 pm

      I’ll try not to keep you waiting too long Ninny

  24. Peter Ademu-Eteh

    October 7, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Yo everybody you can like gist with me oh. Me I like gist 😀 follow me on IG or Twitter, send me a DM 🙂

  25. jennietobbie

    October 7, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Peter, you have ruined my professional life this morning. I am laughing like a mad woman.

    Thank you so much for this because I thoroughly enjoyed it. Please, all I want from you is Ms Amazing Girl gist. I love the babe already!!! hahahaha

    FYI—I am the best blog STALKER ever. So, ohpeter.com is about to go down!! Wish you the best in Tdot.

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 7, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      Jennie stalk very well oh. Stalkers are very much appreciated! Leave a comment!
      Did I tell you I became friends with Ms Amazing Girl because of ohpeter.com ?
      And we don’t call it the T.dot any more. Now it’s just The Six/6ix 😀 ;D

  26. "changing moniker"

    October 8, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Peter….I’m half in love with you…
    Can I be Miss Amazing girl 2????

    • Peter Ademu-Eteh

      October 11, 2016 at 10:09 pm

      How can you be when you’re always changing your name ehn? Let’s Try Amazing Girl 99 because she’s everything from 1 to 98 🙂

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