“Day I pounded yam” Chinese woman married to a yoruba man tells her interesting story…

Like many interracial marriages, Mrs Annie Odediran’s marriage has faced
opposition mainly from her family. A Malaysian-Chinese, Mrs Odediran,
an optometrist, is married to a retired Nigerian United Nations
Children’s Fund United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) staff member.
See excerpts from her interesting interview with Tribune:

Can  you let us into your background?
I’m  a Chinese  but grew up in Malaysia.  I’m from a non-Christian
home but there was a small population of Christians   there. Most were
Buddhists, so there were  many temples where idols were worshipped.
Buddhism is an ancient religion while Christianity was  regarded as
Western religion. I lost my mother as a teenager, my father therefore
took another wife. My father is a businessman  and   also runs  a big
farm, so we were quite comfortable. He  spent his money mainly on
educating us.
When did you get married?
That was  January 16,  1988.
How did you meet your spouse?
I became a Christian when I went to  Australia   in 1981 for my
A’Level studies.  In 1982,  I was in Brisbane, where I studied
Optometry  while he studied  Public Health Engineering. We both belonged
to Overseas Christian Fellowship (OCF) and  he was  the president. The
fellowship held its convention at the time we were rounding  off our
courses. We   were in the dining room and I wasn’t feeling fine, I
therefore asked him for a pain reliever which he gave me. That was the
first time we  held a close gaze. I felt a  strange feeling within me
and his  thought didn’t leave me.  It was same with   him. He later
told me his mind but what   got him confused was the fact that  he was
coming back to Nigeria  a week after. Since I have learnt to hear from
God, I prayed and He gave me Psalm 112 as a confirmation and then I knew
there was no going back. My profession was then  in great demand in
Brisbane. I therefore  got employed  immediately after graduating. We
thus  got in touch  through mails and phone calls.
Didn’t you entertain any fear marrying someone outside your country and continent?
God gave me   a word in Psalms 45 and   I held on to  this.  It was a
lot of stress because I didn’t have the support  of  my family. My
maternal grandmother on her part was concerned about the distance. The
Bible was what gave me comfort.
How did your family   receive the news?
I wrote my dad and asked, ‘Is it okay or alright if I marry a
non-Chinese and non-   white?’  I intentionally didn’t say African or
Nigerian. He replied ‘Please consider very well.’  He later  sent my
aunties to me in Brisbane to discourage me. My father was very
authoritative. He later came, asked me to resign and   come back to our
town,   Penang in Malaysia.  Back home, my   family members and
relatives kept on  trying to persuade me to let go of  the relationship.
They   made jest of   African   black skin and   said their lips were
thick and they were hungry.   They referred to my white skin as milk and
my husband as coffee. They also taunted me that no children of mine
would look like me.
What effect did this have on your relationship?
We were still getting in touch and my dad knew this. I sometimes
spoke with him on the phone. My dad never stopped or scolded me. My
father didn’t actually understand   English Language   and so didn’t
understand what I was saying.  I came to Nigeria in 1987 to   pay him a
visit.  I told everyone else  except my dad and stepmother. My husband
was then staying at   1004 in   Lagos.  It was  during this  visit that
he has  got a job with the United Nations Children’s Fund United
Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), after working for  some  few years
with the Lagos State government. We decided to get married, and  so we
prayed   about it and  God gave us middle of January, precisely January
16  the following year, as our wedding date.
What was your husband’s family reaction to his choice of you?
His father asked him if there was no other person  in Nigeria he
could marry.  I met   some of his siblings  and we were cautious in  the
way we related.
How did the wedding go?
We had it in our home  church in Penang. None of my family members
attended. My father bribed my  two sisters in New Zealand  with money so
as not to attend. Only my aunty and her four children attended and she
came  back the next day to the hotel where we stayed weeping that she
was scolded by other family members.
How long did it take your dad in particular to come to terms with your choice of husband?
I was writing him to give him update about us though he never
replied. Even while in Australia, he never replied my letters aside the
one I wrote on the choice of my husband. I actually never   experienced
the love of a father.  Two years after our wedding, I  travelled  home
and stayed in my uncle’s hotel. I   had our first child with me. My dad
also came in to see my uncle. On sighting me, he  avoided me. Again,
while on a visit to my sister in  Singapore, I tried to speak with him
on phone but he hung up. In  December 1993  which was  our  daughter’s
fifth  birthday,  the ice was finally broken.  He held a reception for
us and invited relatives.
How did your spouse and father relate?
They  shook hands  but couldn’t communicate because  as I said, my
father  didn’t   understand  English Language, but I remember that  my
husband helped  iron my father’s  shirts.
What were the things you found strange on getting   to Nigeria?
We were then living in Ketu in Lagos  and the way people run after
molue,  sell by the roadside,  irregular  power supply and having to
carry buckets to fetch water  due to  lack of  water supply, the sandy
paths and untarred  roads were somehow strange to me. But then, with the
kind of upbringing I had, I  could adapt to any situation. Another is
the family member issue. Being the first child, he had to bear the
responsibility of training his siblings and attend to some other needs
or demands of his family.
Where is your spouse from?
Odeyinka in Osun State.  His mother is from Apomu also in Osun State.
Have you ever been to these places?
Yes. We pay them visits and even take the children along. We also go to Gbongan, Ipetumodu and Ikire.
How easy was it learning Yoruba language?
I picked quite a bit like greetings especially. My husband taught me how to greet.  I did my shopping at Mile 2 market.
How did you  interact with the traders?
They call me their  husband (oko mi).  Some would help   bring the
stuffs   to me so that I could  make my choice.  I remember a female
trader got so  excited   during one of my shoppings  that she carried me
and  swung  me around.
What things  did you find interesting?
Partying and blocking of roads. Nigerians do a lot of dancing. In
Malaysia you don’t block the roads unless when  rituals are being
carried out   during a  burial ceremony.
 What were the things you learnt to do?
I learnt to prepare amala, eba, egusi and okro soups, among others.
What about backing of babies?
I didn’t do that because I’m not tall. Our help did that.
What is your favourite  Nigerian dish?
Moin moin and pap for breakfast and pounded yam with egusi soup for the other meals.
Can you pound yam?
I did it once but it was actually a little quantity. My husband later bought the pounding machine.
How will you describe a Nigerian man?
I won’t say a Nigerian man but a Christian man. Even though born
again, some   men have not removed their Nigerian mentality of dealing
with women. You shouldn’t treat your wife as a slave. It amazes me when
a man  or his wife  says ’my children’ or ‘my car’  and the like. In
marriage, you  no longer say  ‘yours’ or  ‘mine’ but ‘ours’.  A man who
has the understanding of what marriage entails runs his home in line
with the Bible culture and I thank God that through the different
Christian trainings we have had, my husband understands this.  He
protects me in many ways. For example,  If we are going to give his
parents money, I sometimes  sign the  cheque.
What thrills you about your spouse?
He’s   very caring and he displays   this nature   not only to his family members, but whoever comes his way.
What  other things did you discover about him?
He can also be angry and when he is, he looks stern and   wears that cold face.
Where do both of  you  differ?
He loves visiting  but   my life is a close-circuit one.
Do you consider your husband romantic?
We are very free with each other; free to express ourselves   and make each other to laugh. We  are friends to each other.
What has made your marriage work till date?
Openness, commitment, trust, humility, joint decision—even if you
don’t agree on an issue, you should exercise patience. But some husbands
will say, ‘how can I listen to my wife?’ We pray together   on issues
and  hear from God what steps to take.
Yours was a long distance relationship. Will you encourage your children to do same?
It wasn’t that easy, but then our case is different. We knew each
other physically before he came back to Nigeria. But I object to
internet friendship because it can be deceitful.
To what  extent are your children exposed to the Nigerian lifestyle?
They   know how to greet  in Yoruba language. When they were  young,
they sometimes attended occasions in Yoruba traditional outfits.
Do you also attend socials in the traditional wears?
I don’t like iro and buba because you have to  tie  the wrapper round you. I like it free like the Kaftan or boubou.


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