Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Good Deed, Also the Bad and the Ugly

Good Deed

Margaret Anderson, the Persuasion Coach, sent me this story about a good deed by Delta – see what they did to help out the stranded Nigerian soccer team get to Rio in time for their first match!

Given the airline’s misfortunes of the last week, I thought I should post it.

Delta Airlines Rescues Stranded Nigerian Olympic Team Free of Charge

Then There is Bad News

Just a few days ago I thought Nigeria was finally over the hill, polio-free. That would have made all of Africa free of the crippling disease. They were about to celebrate two years without incident, and hoped to complete the required third year.

But I read in The Atlantic that two new cases were reported. Both showed paralysis, which doesn’t occur in all instances. This makes the authorities suspect there are probably others around, not yet reported.

These are in the far northeastern part of the country where Boko Haram is still a threat and has made vaccinating children extremely difficult, even impossible.

Boko Haram area

Active area of Boko Haram and camps, a few months ago

Even though the army has secured some towns and people are beginning to return to their homes, many people are still in camps. Not all roads and residential areas are safe.

In addition, part of the population of the northeast are Fulani nomads, never easy to vaccinate.

The author ends on a slightly positive note: “Nigeria must now wait at least until the summer of 2019 to receive a polio-free certification. Yet even with Thursday’s setback, the country has made remarkable progress overall: As recently as four years ago, half of all wild polio cases worldwide originated in Nigeria.”

More Bad News, With Hope? 

BBC reported on August 14 that Boko Haram has released a video showing about 50 of the kidnapped Chibok girls.

The Boko Haram militant says the girls will never be released until the captured Boko Haram fighters are returned. The Nigerian government has said it is in consultation with the militants.

The video includes an interview, which BBC calls “staged,” with one of the captives. She says her name is Maida Yakubu. She asks parents to appeal to the government.

Martin Patience, the BBC reporter, says, “Maida’s mother, Esther, is one of several parents of Chibok girls who recently published open letters to their daughters detailing the pain they feel at their children’s absence and their hopes for the future.”

BBC Hausa service spoke with the father of one of the girls. He said, “The fact is we are overwhelmed with a feeling of depression. It’s like being beaten and being stopped from crying. You helplessly watch your daughter but there is nothing you can do. It’s a real heartache.”

I can barely imagine the pain he and the other parents are going through.

And the Ugly?

Nigerian land snails

Nigerian land snails can be 8 inches long! I think they’re ugly; what do you think?

Snails! Nigerian land snails, to be specific. You can find their scientific name in the Wikipedia article. I’ll give you the Igbo name – ejuna! They are regarded as a delicacy by many Nigerians.

My husband, for one, thinks they are fabulous! He tells me that he and all his siblings loved the snails. But his father detested them.

So his mother would cook them when his father would go away for a couple of days and then clear away all the evidence!

I haven’t yet had the nerve to try this dish, but I’m making a public commitment here to do so in Nigeria this Christmas!

Cooked snails.

Cooked snails, ready to enjoy!

Please give me your suggestions on where to buy! I’m not going to cook them, just sample in a restaurant, fast-food, or road-side spot.

And while I was looking for info to share with you about these creatures, I found this story from two years ago. Sixty seven snails were found in someone’s luggage! I had to laugh at the article which is accompanied by a recipe for how to cook them, just in case you can get some and want to try!

Dickens and Unitarians

Jennifer Munro

Jennifer Munro, this morning’s speaker at The Unitarian Church in Westport

At our Unitarian Church this morning Jennifer Munro gave the reflection, “Mr. Dickens, Social Activist.” She described his rather difficult childhood and how he came to his sense of social justice. She described his work to raise awareness of social ills. He also became a Unitarian, she said.

She referenced A Christmas Carol several times, quoting Scrooge and leading us to his transformation when he learned sympathy and empathy. We were able to join her in Tiny Tim’s final words. I believe they were, “God bless us, everyone!”


Charles Dickens

She asked us to read together Edward Everett Hale’s affirmation reminding us we all can do something positive in the world even if we can’t write like Dickens.

Then I came home and found the perfect opportunity to pass on the message. See if you agree:

  • I read a post on LinkedIn in my Returned Peace Corps group.

    Matt said, “Why do we keep saying, ‘The Youth are the Future?’ The youth – we – are here!”

    He offered several suggestions that young people can follow to start making a difference today! His first? Volunteer in a soup kitchen near you! Simple.

    I commented, “I love your suggestions, Matt. Great ideas for all of us. As we said at my Unitarian Church this morning, quoting Edward Everett Hale,

    “I am only one But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. Ejuna! They are quite good. Back in 1962, when I was in Nigeria, I visited my boyfriend’s sister’s family where we had a lovely dinner. The main course was snails…. very large snails. I had never imagined that snails could be that big. I assume that the delicacy I was served were the land snails you mention.
    Good luck with your Christmas venture and thanks for your blog, which I enjoy.

    • Oh, yes, they were the same! You didn’t say if you enjoyed eating them. I had forgotten that you were in Nigeria. You weren’t Peace Corps, were you?

      • Actually, I did enjoy the ejuna. I only wish I had the recipe for you to try at Christmas! By the way, I loved the story about the suitcase full of land snails.
        I was in Nigeria as part of Crossroads Africa in 1962. We were extremely fortunate to be in Ikenne with Tai and Sheila Solarin at the Mayflower School which is still going strong today, 60 years after they founded it.
        It was at Mayflower, through Crossroads, that I met Oyekan Owomoyela, and had the opportunity to feast on ejuna when he and I were guests at his sister’s home. I almost think she lived in Enugu. We were travelling when he visited her and took me with him. Oyekan came to this country not long after our time with Crossroads. Over the years, he wrote a number of books including “Yoruba Trickster Tales’; “History of Twentieth Century African Literature”; “The Columbia Guide to West African Literature in English since 1945” and “Yoruba Proverbs” a treasury of more than 5,000 proverbs he collected over 40 years which included those bestowed on him by William and Berta Bascom. Oyekan and I remained friends over the years. He and his wife were about to move from Lincoln, Nebraska to a house they purchased close to me here in Northern NYState when he died suddenly in 2007. I would have enjoyed having him nearby. Who knows? Perhaps I would have had another opportunity to dine on ejuna! I’ll have to ask his widow, Joan, whether she has any recipes for ejuna. She moved here right after his death and is still here so I’ll can check with her next time I see her.
        Many thanks to you for reminding me of ejuna and my experiences in Nigeria. I look forward to the next installment of your blog, as always.

        • Thank you, Martha Lee, for sharing your story about your friend and ejuna! Your comments sent me off to read a brief bio of Oyekan Owomoyela. He was certainly a prolific writer and promoter of African literature.

  2. I had a chuckle at the story about your mother-in-law cooking snails while hubby was away from home and then clearing the evidence. Reminded me of a stunt my dad pulled. He invited the whole family over to eat. He had made some fried seafood tidbits for hors d’oeuvre, and some gumbo. After we had all eaten and enjoyed the meal, he asked us to guess what kind of seafood was in the two dishes. Answer: squid. He wanted to prove to us that squid was good to eat, but he had to disguise it so we wouldn’t be prejudiced by knowing what it was before we tasted it. Thanks for sharing about the snails. It helped to balance the not so good news on other topics, for which I am concerned and sorry.
    Thanks also for reminding me that Charles Dickens was a Unitarian. There is a passage from A Christmas Carol I often reflect on. After the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the people buying groceries for their Xmas dinner, then, the shops and stalls closing and all retiring to their feasts:
    “Spirit,”said Scrooge, after a moment’s thought, “I wonder you, of all beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people’s opportunities of innocent enjoyment.”
    “I!” cried the Spirit.
    “You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh day, often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,” said Scrooge. “Wouldn’t you?”
    “I!” cried the Spirit.
    “You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day?” said Scrooge. “And it comes to the same thing.”
    “I seek!” exclaimed the Spirit
    “Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family?” Said Scrooge.
    “There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit,”who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”
    One can see why he would turn to a less conventional religion like Unitarianism, and one can guess why this passage of dialogue is rarely, if ever, included in dramatizations of A Christmas Carol.

    • Indeed! I don’t recall that passage from A Christmas Carol at all. But I haven’t read it for many years. Thanks for the story about your dad’s disguising the squid so you wouldn’t be prejudiced against it!