Thursday, 25 October 2007

Tafia Hankili!

The title of this blog entry means 'drive carefully' in Hausa. I was shouting it at the Okada drivers as they rode passed us on the road safety rally. It was a roaring succes. We got some band drums from our school so we made lots of noise. We got lots of organisations involved and it went really well. We only had 6 days to prepare and we did it! Just goes to show what you can achieve if you work at a team!

The rest of the time my work counterpart and I have been preparing for our Global Citizenship Day. This is a day where we facilitate a days learning about a topic on the Global Citizenship Framework. We chose education and we talked about lots of things such as the challenges facing education in Africa. We had lots of interesting debates - one of which was to do with flogging. The day went well and we gave the team lots of drama based exercises which made the day more fun and the learning more interesting. I'm glad it's over!! It was a lot of stress preparing everything what with everything else we are doing.

On Tuesday night there was an epic storm. I absolutely love them! The thunder seems to thump right at your bones and the sky is completely illuminated by the lightning. Everywhere is lit up - you just can't imagine it! The rain pelts down as if all the lakes in Africa are being emptied from the clouds. Even though the sky is alive and hectic there are still little fire flies hovering around. It really is absolutely magical. I feel likie a child watching at our bedroom window.

We have actually started our research with Edu link. I think it will be ok. I am however frustrated that I can't ask people more questions. We have come across families who are looking after orphans. I want to know how these children are orphaned as I think it's important to establish. Some of the time we were asking these orphans questions. I felt terrible. We were only filling in a questionnaire, then leaving again. Their eyes were full of hope as if we were going to help them. I'm thinking of setting up a play group or some sort of football club for them. Even an idea like this takes so much time to plan. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things I have set myself to do. I can but try!

I initiated setting up a school council as the National High School. We have our first meeting tomorrow. I can't wait! I know it will be a challenge as the senior children think they have power over the juniors and often flog them. I will have to emphasize that they are all equal and have to remain so for the duration of the meeting. The members of the council were all fairly elected and I just hope it's a success.

It is Dianes Birthday on Saturday and we're having a big party. It will be nice to relax as a team and hopefully meet some new people. I have finally found an internet cafe which has air conditioning, no power cuts and a fase connection! Can you believe it??

Until next week! xxx

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Lets try again!

I was in an internet cafe for about 3 hours yesterday trying to use the net. We experienced a record 7 power cuts while I was there! I huffed and puffed so much that they gave me a free hallf an hour!

Ive had a good week and yet again lots has happened. I cant punctuate properly as im using a very weird keyboard. Last thursday at the school im working at I witnessed children as young as 4 being caned, or flogged as its called here. They were flogged for being late - some 3 times across the palm of the hand with a cane and some 3 times across the back of the legs. I was horrified. Even though I know there are far worse things happening in the world, it was still very shocking to witness. I hope to convince the principal by the time I leave here that there are better more effective punishments in use. Even though the kids are flogged, they continue to be late everyday! I know I must be sensitive in the way I go about it, and Im being careful. I will keep you up to date on my progress!

Thursday and Friday were a religious holiday here so we had the time off work. It was Sala- the end of Ramadan. It was one of the team members Birthdays so we had a bit of a party where there was much dancing and persperation! We spent Friday doing nothing - surprise surprise! We had a barbeque in the evening which was nice then were forced to go to a party. Now, call me a party pooper, but we were all tired, sober,hot and bothered. We were then karted off to a golf club in the middle of nowhere where the electricity wasnt on because someone was ironing!! They put the worst music on so loud we couldnt hear a thing, gave us all a carton of 5 alive and made us dance for about 2 hours. We were also expected to mingle with the important community members. I made an effort to do this and met some Senator or other who wasnt even based in Lafia. It was a bit shambolic. The bus even ran out of petrol after it had dropped a few of us off home! Ahh Nigeria! You gotta love it!

Work on the research project is progressing rather slowly and were in the school again tomorrow starting our counselling. I hope the students actually come, but Im not convinced of it! Were also holding a community action day about road safety on saturday which were hoping will attract a big crowd. Wer marching along the main road and we managed t get 30 police men to patrol. This was all thanks to my cheecky charm with the chief of police! We had a rather nice religious debate in which he told me I was the first person hed ever met who didnt believe in God! It was rather amusing! The team were surprised I had the guts to do it, but the chief was quite a cool dude.

Anyway, apologies for the lack of apostrophes, but I cant figure out where they are on this blinkingf key board! I wil post again next week after the community action day with hopefully a good report about it.

Lots of love xxxx

Monday, 8 October 2007

Markets and Mayhem!

I just had to pay for an extra half an hour in the cafe, as an hour is not enough for me to do everything. I must stop moaning about the internet as it takes to much time!

It was lovely to speak to mum and Dad this weekend. It is such a wonderful thing this technology business! Thanks also to everyone who's emailed - I somtimes don't have enough time to reply to everyone, but I will eventually!

Well, since thursday I started my work at the school. The principal forgot we were coming, but it didn't matter much. We were shown around all the classes and I as met by amazed stares (that happens a lot being white). We went to some of the junior classes who were asking Seun, my work counterpart, 'does she like Nigeria?', 'where is she from'! I said 'don't be afraid to talk to me!!'. It was rather amusing. More amusing was my map of the UK!

Anyway, there are lots of ideas floating about. We want to do a talent competition with some of the other schools and we've managed to get the local tv network involved with the help of another gx volunteer who's working there. I really hope we can make it happen because I think it's something that may happen every year after we leave if we make it good enough!We also want to start a peer counselling service and my other gx friend sam, who's working with the Red Cross is helping us with that. So all in all, there's lots to get my teeth stuck into!

Diane and I went to the market on Saturday, and it's not an experience I want to repeat. I was greeted with hostile stares (and a few nice smiles) and many taunts. We are used to hearing the words 'oyebo' which means 'white', but we're told people don't mean any offence. The markets are full of tat, and none of the genuine African craft I would like to buy. Somehow, we managed to wander into the butchers area and I was almost sick everywhere. The smell was very intense. There were all sorts of meat displayed on nothing more than wooden desks. There was everything from stomach to brain covered with flies and onsale. There were whole cow heads on the floor covered in blood and I was tryng so hard not to look up and be sick!! Now I can see why they have to cook their meat until it's like rubber!

On a brighter note my counterpart had brought some Nigerian material with her so we could get some clothes made. We picked them up yesterday and they look wicked! I can't wait to go out in them - a white girl, wearing a helmet and Nigerian clothes will oficially make me the town freak!!

The 'Okada's - i.e. bikes (sorry if I've already mentioned that!) aren't bad. However, the GX volunteers are the only people in the whole city who wear helmets. We therefore get more attention than we normally would by just being white! It's rather amusing! They don't go very fast, but the fumes they pump out are extremely bad for the environment. But, how can these people be expected to care about the planet, when they struggle to putfood on the table.

We're hoping to go and visit a waterfal near by, which is apparently the 3rd biggest in the world! It will be nice to get out of Lafia, as there's not much to do at all. We have to be in before dark, and if there's no electricity, it's bed by 8:30! We are all getting a bit bored, so I'm hoping to organise a quiz for everyone.

It's still hot, I've caught the and I ate something last night that resembled pounded poo and diorreah! It didn't taste half as bad as it looked, but I won't be having it again!


Thursday, 4 October 2007


Hello again! This internet page just took about 10 minutes to load and that's 10 minutes I'm paying for!! Anyway, it's been a busy few days. We went to a local football match for free, but lets just say the football wasn't premier league style! Anyway, our side won and it was a great experience. Monday was Nigerian Independence day and we experienced the Nigerian way - SLOW!! We went to the Stadium to March past the Governor of the State along with other Non-Government organisations. We got there at 8am, and we waited until 11:30 to March in the blazing heat! It seems that Nigerians take the phrase 'being fashionably late' to the extreme!! We were only 5 minutes marching - waste of time. Then in the afternoon we visited a hospital with the first lady. It was a total shambles. There were about 40 people rushing around trying to get in photos and noone really cared. I got really angry. We are hoping to go back and visit the childrens ward for a longer period as it was another waste of time. Anything official here is mind numbingly slow and ceremonial and very frustrating!

Anyway, enough moaning! I started one of my 2 work placements today. We have a huge task to do. We are starting a project which wants to establuish how many vulnerable children there are living in a certain area of Lafia. Once this research is done, we hope tomeet the basic needs of the most vulnerable. Our job is to start the ball rolling and complete a framework by which other volunteers will work. The program will still only just be starting by the time we leave, but at least we will have helped to set it all up. The guy we are working with is very passionate and I hope we can really help with it all. I start work at the school tomorrow, so I will be able to say more about that next time.

I really love my host family and I feel as volunteers we are making them closer. Most evenings we play some of the games we have learned as a team with them and we have a great laugh together - mama even joins in and she's 61! She was dancing around the dining room last night shaking her booty! It was so funny! Her grand children are 10 aqnd 11 and so lovely. They like the game 'Boomchikaboom' which I will teach you all when I get home.

We have some new friends in our room with whiskars and long tails - yep we have mice!!!! They don't come near me because of my mosquito net, but I can hear them scuttling about!

My counterpart had Malaria for a few days, but she's ok now after a few injections. It's not such a big deal over here as once it's diagnosed, treatment is swift. I was very worried, but it was all ok in the end. We are getting on very well and laugh a lot together!

There are probably things I have missed out, but I only have 3 minutes left so i shall have to go!

Love Abs xxxxxxx