Saturday, July 31, 2010
Well in Nigeria it is very different. No matter how many people you walk by from Point A to Point B you are expected to say the appropriate greeting (Good morning! if it’s the morning, Good afternoon! if it is after noon, etc.) and very often you will get a “How are you today?” and it’s a question that merits stopping and actually engaging in a conversation about how you are really doing. Sometimes those conversations are relatively quick, but sometimes they are longer. It’s very hard to be in a hurry here. If you don’t do the appropriate formalities then people think poorly of you and you get to be known as a “bad person” and basically no one wants to have anything to do with you. That is usually, especially for me especially, that is the worst path to take. In as social environment as this you need to have people think well of you. Once you get to be familiar with someone it then becomes “Good Morning Aunty!” or “Good morning Uncle!” or sometimes using someone’s name, though that greeting is usually from me because I still find it uncomfortable to call some people Uncle or Aunty.
Right now I am still in the “get familiar” stage so if I am with L or F (which is often) in addition to greeting I am also introduced. Usually short “This is Lindsay. She is a PhD student from the US who is here to do some research. She will be with us for 5 months. You will see her around the University a lot.” And then usually some small chit-chat. Repeat this about 30-50 times in a day and you might have an inkling of my day-to-day life right now.
Friday, July 30, 2010
I was kind of wondering why they had an Israeli connection, being that we are in Africa and Israel seems like an awful long way to travel for internet. I didn't know if there was some secret Israeli business cohort living in Benin that I didn't know about. So one day I casually inquire as to why we have an Israeli connection/everything is in Hebrew. The person I asked looks at me with complete seriousness and says "Oh it's because we source the internet from Egypt." WHAT? Most random answer ever that still makes no sense on multiple levels. But one thing I've learned working in Nigeria is that sometimes it's best to not further inquire because it A. usually gets you no where anyway and probably even farther from the logical answer you are looking for and B. involves you in a very long conversation that you probably don't want to have, especially when you go back to point A. So I just said "Oh, ok" like that answer made complete sense. Right.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Nothing in Africa follows ANY code, much less when it comes to safety and sense. I spend an inordinate amount of time pausing and thinking "Is electrical current pulsing through my body or am I just having a weird moment?" Usually it's the former. Obviously it isn't a major shock (or I'd be dead or seriously injured) but I definitely have felt tingling throughout my body on more occasions than I can count. Not that I am an electrician, or really know anything about electricity at all, but having heard my BIL and stepdad talking enough I think that most of the time the "electrician" (or whoever randomly installed the said electrical source, definitely non-union) has forget to ground it. After a while you get to know which outlets will shock you and/or the little tricks you have to do to avoid the shock, e.g. plug it in when the switch is off.
Anyway I'm off to try and make my hair stand on end. Ta-ta!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I thought that today I'd go to the University and "hang out" e.g. get some work done on my laptop, put myself out there as someone who is working but a part of the University community. One of the first ideas I came up with was to head to the library and park myself there and observe and be observed. Sounds simple right? Students use the library, presumably, so I'd see them and they'd see me!
Well apparently that was my first mistake.
I mention to F that I'd like to go to the library and if he could just point me in the right direction I'd be happy to wander over. Well he grabs someone who was walking by (whom he knew) and said "S please take Lindsay to the library and introduce her to the Head Librarian." Ok, no biggie. Always good to have a formal introduction. So we head to the library and head to his office. After S introduces me to his secretary and explains why I am here she goes into the Librarian's office to tell him I'm here and what I want. He calls me in and I sit down. We talk a little bit about why I'm here generally at the University and why I am here at the library. He doesn't seem to understand the concept of "hanging out" (even though I expressed it differently, because I would rarely if ever use that term here) and tells me that they do not have very many public health resources available but I am welcome to check out whatever I find interesting. He said normally he would request a letter from the President's Office to allow me to be in the library (how's that for formal?) but since he saw me at the Staff Development Training and S brought me over on behalf of the President he will assume I already have his permission. Whew. Then he tells me he is a very busy man and will not have time to be available for my needs so he is going to call the Reading Room Librarian. Thank you so much sir.
The Reading Room Librarian comes to fetch me and we go down to his office. It takes about 10 minutes of discussion for him to understand what I actually want from him (really, nothing. Just a place to "hang out!"). First he tells me I can use his private office. No, that wouldn't give me exposure. Then he tells me that discussions are not allowed in the library. Ok, that's fine. I won't have any discussions, I'll just park it and work. But he doesn't seem to think that is a great idea. He asks if I have fliers that he can pass out so people know why I'm here and they can direct people to me. Um, no, that's a little formal and I'm not quite at the stage where I want to speak with anyone specific. I just want to HANG OUT, BE SEEN, and OBSERVE! I was trying to explain the concept of "just being seen" but it took a while for him to either understand what I was really looking for or to believe that is really all I wanted. Finally he seemed to either give in or give up and brought me to the "Digital Room" which is like their computer lab in the library. Great, fine. I can get some work done. The only downside is that it is tucked back in the office area and has only 6 computers and they don't allow flash drives to be used. Sigh. The person in charge of the Digital Room however is very nice and says he can scan my flash drive (for viruses) and make an exception for me. Super. Then he realizes I have my laptop with me and says he can give me a cord so I can hook my laptop up directly. Even better.
So here I am. Only one other person has come in the room, but at least I am blogging and getting some other stuff done. It's always funny when you have these unintended cultural mix-ups/confusion. There are always things I am expecting and know I will have to work through, but sometimes they come up and bite you unintentionally and since I'm a good sport and used to this sort of thing it usually turns out fine and just gives me a good story. But for those of you who are less experienced traveling internationally, just a lesson for you to think about if you should travel abroad and find yourself in a similar situation!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
After playing for a while I went back to my room to "rest and refresh" (and wash pee off my foot). I then had dinner with Father John & the seminarian who has been staying with him. After that we went to the chapel to finish up night time prayers with the kids. Then it was time for bed. At 8:30pm. I know how to live I'm telling you.
But that's ok, I read for a while before falling asleep because I had to get up at 5:15 am because I had to make it to 6 am mass! Definitely a different lifestyle. After mass we had breakfast and watched the Catholic network on tv and the driver came to fetch me at 1o. I was back in Benin by noon and have been hanging out all day!
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Yeah, so there is a light. And then there is a place on the wall where one might find a switch. But instead of a standard wall switch there is a giant (I would estimate about 20 feet long) cord that has a button on the end of it and that is the light switch. It's totally weird! And again, it's totally weird, but I totally don't mind because if you look close you will see that it is draped across my bed which would indicate that at night when I am laying in bed reading I can conveniently hit the button while lying there saving me a trip across the dark room where I could either trip and fall or get attacked by monsters. Totally.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
We had our last day of staff development training today. It was very interesting overall but I'm glad it's over. My butt is seriously hurting from sitting in plastic chairs for hours at a time (as well as my overall anxiety level of sitting in them!) so I'm glad I won't have to do that anymore. I learned a lot about the University and the general campus environment which is of course very helpful to my work.
I'm not sure what I'm going to do tomorrow since the training ended a day early. I want to try and get to the market and get some small craft items to send with Father John to the US for the fundraising event for the foundation. Other than that, I will hopefully take it easy and get some work done. I will be in Uromi all weekend visiting Father John & the children at the home, which is always fun and should be nice. The M's driver will take me on Saturday and Father John will arrange for transport back to Benin on Sunday. I'm sure I will attend mass with the children on Sunday as they have a chapel on the grounds. Hopefully I will get to check out some of the clinics or at least meet with some of the people who have been working hard the past year keeping our clinics running.
I have a few short posts coming up soon, but I'm not sure I'll finish them tonight. Stay posted!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Millions, if not billions, of plastic chairs exist across the continent just lying in wait ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims. In only two and a half days of orientation/development training at the University it’s claimed 5 victims. One minute you are sitting quietly, the next minute the legs are giving way and if you are lucky you can jump up to avoid the bumps, bruises and scrapes that are awaiting your fall, but no one escapes the embarrassment and shame of the broken and twisted chair. I myself have been a victim twice in my life, but thankfully I have avoided it thus far in my stay. I’m sure I will fall into its trap again before my 5 months is over. I do not look forward to the day but know it is only right around the corner waiting… resting low like a lion ready to pounce.
We started to watch it and it was showing the tribal African family running around in loin cloths and drinking water off of leaves and I said to O “You know that’s how most Americans think Africans live.” He looked at me and said “Get real.” I said, “No for real.” He looked back at me and said “What a joke.” And then some kids ran across the screen with bare butts and I said “What? You don’t go to school dressed like that?” He cracked up and said “No. I would get in so much trouble.” Sadly the CD was busted and we didn’t get to watch much more. Then we went on to the new Karate Kid. Yippee for me.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Here's a view from the door of my room (excuse the mess):
Here's the view from the opposite wall:
Here is my bathroom:
This guest house is called the "glass house." I'm not really sure why. There are 6 rooms in the guest house. I'm in Room #1. Because I'm #1 obviously.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Now I have to interject to say that the majority of church I've attended in my life has been Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic (until my family stopped attending in my early teens) and I actually have a high proportion of friends who are Catholic (total coincidence). I have attended other churches, but not many, and never an Evangelical Pentecostal church. If you've ever been to a Catholic Church service then you've basically been to them all. Catholic Church, for those who don't know, basically have the same format everywhere in the world. Even the few services I have attended in Nigeria have been basically the same. There is a little variation here or there but basically you do the same thing and it takes an hour. You sit and listen, sing a few solemn hymns and take communion. So when L said 2.5 to 4 hours I was a little shocked.
I headed back over to my room in the compound next door; one of the staff (A, one of the house women/nanny to baby F) accompanied me since it was late and dark. However, apparently the lightbulbs in the common area of the guest house were missing or not working so it was really dark over there. I didn't care because I was just ready to collapse into bed. I told A that the light in my bathroom was also burned out thinking that it would be helpful for her to know since they would be arranging for the common area bulbs to be replaced. She was very concerned about it even though I assured her it was fine. About 10 minutes later A, T (another house woman/baby F's nanny), and O (one of the M's adopted children) came to fetch me. I said I was ok with it, but if it were an issue of "comfort" on the M's part then I would come back over. They insisted that L was not comfortable with me being over there with not much light. So back over to their house I went, which was fine.
When my alarm went off I couldn't believe it. I slept like a rock, but felt like a bulldozer had rolled over me. Jet lag caught up with me! I knew once I got up I'd be ok. So I pulled myself out of bed and headed back over to my room to shower. Yesterday when I took a shower I had assumed that they'd just turned the water heater on, but this morning I realized it had been on all night and it still wasn't hot. Luckily the ground water stays close to the surface so it wasn't freezing, and the cool water helped to wake me up. L had said that native outfits were appropriate for church so I got the chance to wear one of my outfits that I had made earlier this year but haven't yet had the chance to wear. I grabbed some toast and drank a whole bottle of water (I was feeling dehydrated from my day of travel) and we were off to church!
It was kind of cool getting to ride with L because again, since she & F are the heads of the church she of course gets special treatment. We had a front row parking space and got special seats in the church.
Speaking of the church, it is BIG. I think L said that it seats 5,000, but as of lately attendance had been down. If I had to estimate (and I'm pretty horrible at estimating) there were probably 1,500 people in attendance today. We were sitting in some special section in the very back row. The only bad part is that it was also a walkway for people running around behind the scenes so it was a lot of wiggling to let people through. A man who came to visit the house yesterday apparently thought this was not appropriate for me and put 2 chairs pretty much in the middle of the aisle in-between the special section and the choir/band section and told me I should sit there. Slightly mortifying since we were already elevated above the rest of the church and now I was pretty much sitting by myself. I was later joined by the children's pastor but for a while it was just me!
So the first 40 minutes were some solid rocking out singing. I'm telling you, this church GETS DOWN. The only bad part is that I had no idea what they were singing and it was pretty hard to hear what the leader pastors were saying in the microphone so I was pretty lost. It wouldn't have been too bad except I was now sitting in an exposed area. I'm sure I'll catch on though. After the rocking out part then there were some short messages and speeches from other pastors. Then there was some more singing but the choir and band did most of that. Then it was time for the "main preacher" to speak. Which this week happened to be F! So F talked about the purpose of prayer...and at one point he was talking about it being a conversation with a friend, and that friend is Jesus (or God) and since you wouldn't shout nonsense at a friend you shouldn't shout nonsense to God. After that I think everyone was unsure with how to pray and worship. This was the only time that there was a similarity to the Catholic Church! It was pretty quiet while everyone was trying to absorb F's message and decide how to act on it. He later reassured them that he didn't mean they couldn't rejoice openly but to remember the conversation aspect of prayer. Pretty funny.
I was feeling pretty jet lagged the whole time and it was pretty warm so I was struggling to stay awake at a few points. When my seat mate joined me he helped make sure I stayed awake! At one point he elbowed me pretty hard which was funny. The other thing is that the only bible I have is a Catholic study bible and I didn't realize it but it's labeled "Catholic Study Bible" on all sides of it. At one point he looks over and says "Why do you have a Catholic bible?" and I explained that I was Catholic (a half-truth). He said "Oh, I see." I told him I didn't mind going to different churches and that basically the text was the same, just paraphrased a little different. L told me after we got home that he came down to talk to her at one point and said "We need to get her a real bible." Ahahahahahaha. L said "It IS a real bible, just a different version!" So I think my plan is working: if I confuse them about my beliefs they won't ask me too much about religion and my religious views!
After church we went back to the main house to prepare lunch. Apparently afternoon lunch on Sunday is the biggest meal of the week. All of F's family members congregate to enjoy time together. Various other people also come over and everyone eats and chats and spends time together. We had a nice lunch and got to do a lot of talking. Right now it's after lunch and since people are working on my room I can't really take a nap so I thought I'd squeeze in a quick blog (which actually turned out to be longer than I thought!). We are getting ready to go to a baby-naming ceremony so I'm sure I'll have more to write about later!
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Anyway, after a morning of stress and tears I arrived at the airport around 10:30 am. Had to pay excess luggage fees for one of my bags...I just couldn't fit 5 months of my life into 100 lbs. so I had to go to 70 in one of my bags. Most expensive $150 I ever spent. Also, Mercy told me on Thursday I had to bring an extra bag with medicine for Uromi. Just when I thought I was out of the smuggling business I was forced back in! Of course since it was for the Foundation I didn't have to pay the $200 extra bag fee out of my pocket.
After I checked in I went to have brunch at Patachou. I love Patachou and thought it was fitting for my last meal! Then, surprise of all surprises, my bestie Josh came and surprised me with a visit! It was nice to take my mind off of being sad about leaving, because with Josh, there's no talk about emotions. This is why I love him.
I got through security no problemo, boarded and flew to New York (JFK). I only had an hour layover so I hustled to my gate and called Ange. We boarded shortly after that and we were on our way to Nigeria. In the past we stopped in Dakar and let people off (but we didn't get off the plane) but apparently they've changed the flight because we didn't stop. The flight was right around 12 hours. The other awesome thing was that the flight was only half full so I could spread out a little bit and not have to sit by anyone!
I ended up watching 3 movies and getting about 4 hours of sleep. I watched Date Night (so funny), Invictus (unexpectedly awesome), Valentine's Day (pretty good). I don't know what motivated me to watch Invictus...as I usually don't like movies that revolve around sports, but I'm so glad I did. I think my main motivation for watching it is because I love Nelson Mandela & I love Morgan Freeman. And I think South Africa's history is really interesting. Now that is a sports movie that I can get behind. That is what sports should be about. If you haven't seen it of course you have no idea what I'm talking about, but trust me, it's more about Mandela & his coming to power than about sports as a topic. I highly recommend it.
We arrived in Abuja around 9:30 am. I had tried all week to see if I could find someone in Abuja to purchase my flight to Benin in advance and to have Naira ready for me. I could not find anyone to save my life. I was pretty sure I would be fine doing it all by myself, but my American-ness was paranoid that I could not purchase a ticket for a flight 3 hours after I landed. Luckily I didn't have anything to worry about. I had some Naira left over from last year and I used that to buy a SIM card & minutes for my phone. I then checked in with L to make sure she hadn't found anyone to help me in Abuja, went to the Money Changing Station, switched some money, went and bought my ticket, checked in, went back to pay for my excess luggage, and waited for a while until I could board.
I slept the entire 45 minute flight from Abuja to Benin. I got off and got my luggage and had a very enthusiastic welcome from L and some American guests she's been housing. The 2 females are recent graduates in nursing who have been here for 5 weeks shadowing in the M's hospital and the male is here as a full time University student. He is familiar with them because he attends L's father's church in the US. They are very nice and helped me to feel at home.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't tell you that a Nigerian popstar was on my flight. I, of course, did not recognize him BUT I did know who he was when L told me. She said "Hey, some Nigerian singer was on your flight! When he walked out all the younger people were screaming 'D'Banj!!!'" And I actually know who D'Banj is! If you've ever been in my car you've probably heard "I love that booty" which is by him. Brush with fame and I didn't even know!
After we left the airport we went straight to the M's compound. They are housing me in one of their guest houses which is very nice. I took a shower and came over to the main house to hang out. Shortly after coming over everyone left with F to go somewhere. I decided to take it easy and do some emailing and such. After about an hour everyone came back and we chatted, ate, and then got into a fierce game of Monopoly, much to my delight! No one at home ever wants to play so when they asked if I wanted to I was thrilled! It ended up lasting FOREVER because the kids were adamant that they wanted to be L. They didn't but it took about 3 hours for them to admit it.
After that we've just been winding down which gave me some time to check emails and write this blog! I'm gonna have a quick late bite to eat and then head back over to my room and get some shut eye! I've been feeling a little bleary since mid-way through the Monopoly game but I want to get on a good schedule so I'm trying to stay up a little.
In the morning we are going to church and then we'll find something to do for the rest of the day. Oh, I also spoke with Father John, who is the person who runs the Children's Home in Uromi and helps manage our chronic disease clinics. I am probably going to go to Uromi next Saturday. I have a busy week ahead. Laurie wants me to participate in Staff Training & Orientation at the University and that is M-F of this week from 9-4. I'm excited to jump in feet first. I already met 2 people today who dropped by the house to chat. Starting to gather my contacts and get moving!
Friday, July 9, 2010
I am going to be trying to implement some tech-savvy stuff into my dissertation so look forward to some posts about that!
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The quick and dirty summary:
I leave for Nigeria next Friday, July 16th...yeah, HOLY SHIT. I'm excited but also nervous and overwhelmed all at the same time. Luckily I made a visit to the IU Health Center and got a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug (don't worry...I'm taking a very low dose, I will NOT be following Lindsay Lohan on her downward spiral) so I'm doing well with all the extra anxiety.
Our garden has died. A sad, painful, ugly death. None of our seeds grew basically (except for some cute little carrots), but some broccoli and tomato plants we bought at the Farmers Market did...and then the weeds took over. They are technically still living, but they don't look so hot. We are having some landscaping done because we have a rat bastard dog who's torn up the yard and it makes it REALLY hard to mow and on their agenda is to tear out the garden and re-seed with grass. As we will be moving in the next year (depending on where I get a J-O-B) so we need to beautify for selling anyway.
I've got 2 days left at my part-time office job for Dr. O. After that I will be a for-real full time student and full-time oh-my-God-I'm-doing-my-dissertation-research-and-I'm-my-own-boss (in NIGERIA for that matter). This will be the first time I've not had some sort of "real" job (eg I have to clock in or report to someone) in like a century. It's kind of weird. Good, but weird.
We just got back from an awesome family vacay. Fun times in OBX.
My momma is moving to Cali next week as she got a job at CSULB. Lucky biatch.
Oh yeah, I can't stop watching Lindsay Lohan cry on TMZ. So funny.
Still head over heels in love. We're trying not to think about the fact that I'm leaving for the next 5 months. Of course that's impossible so we're pretending like it's no bigs and not dwell on it. Everyday we get closer to the 16th the more panicked we feel but we're still pretending like "la, la, la, whatever." It'll be a mess next week I'm predicting. Oh, and the mission got canceled so it's unlikely Ange will be coming to visit. So it really will be 5 months apart. Ugh.
Um, yeah, that's about all. That I can think of anyway. In my swirling head. I am planning on blogging like a maniac from Nigeria. Not just because I want to keep everyone in the loop, but I think it will also help my sanity. And it will be a good journal for later. And probably helpful in my research. And a good way to maintain my friendships at home. So yeah, expect it.
We'll see if I get any more blogs out before then. I hope, but often I'm wrong. Time will tell.