Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Relaxing after school

I feel like a broken record when I say once again regular classes are canceled this week. Exams are finished but the teachers are using this week to finish grading and getting report cards ready. The children come to school but without classes they have a lot of free time. When the teacher is out of the classroom, the volume is quite a bit louder but all things considered the kids are really well behaved. I admire how self sufficient Nigerian children are. So today I worked in the financial office and then I helped record exam scores. Tomorrow will probably be more of the same. Thursday we have the day off from school and Friday the children come to pick up their report cards. Next week school is out for Easter Break.

This evening Ngozi asked if I wanted to come with to get her hair relaxed. Since I haven't left the compound since Sunday I agreed. The salon Ngozi went to before closed, so we wondered around Awkunanaw looking for a hair dresser with a generator. Relaxing hair requires a hair dryer which requires a generator so we spent almost a half hour looking for a suitable place. It took just over an hour for Ngozi to get her hair done and I must admit I was pretty bored. Still it was nice to get out. Just walking down the street in Awkunanaw can be an adventure. We were walking around when chickens ran across the road. I tried to make a bad joke but Ngozi didn't get it. I also saw a dog on a hot tin roof. I have heard of a cat on a hot tin roof before but never a dog and it made me wonder how it managed to get up there. And on the way home, one guy proposed to me.

All in all, not a bad day.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Nuns and I

I would like to take some time to talk about my roommates, the nuns. There are seven Sisters of Notre Dame in Awkunanaw: Martina, Ifeoma, Helena, Bernadine, Celestina, Ngozi, and Francisca.

Sr. Martina is the headmistress of the school, which suits her no nonsense personality. Martina is from the North and so she is the only non-Igbo speaking Nigerian. She is usually the quietest of the bunch which may be why her quick sense of humor often takes me by surprise.

Sr. Ifeoma (Ifee for short) is a jolly sort of person and she is always smiling. Ifeoma works with the Prenursery school kids, who are three and four years old. The nuns take turns saying grace before meals and yesterday was Ifeoma's turn to pray, however people were not promptly coming to the dining room. Ifee was very hungry so she shouted out her prayer to the empty room and began to eat.

Sr. Helena is 70 years old which makes her the oldest in the house. Helena is British, the other Onye Oicha. I have heard stories told about Helena's legendary ability to teach any child how to read. Helena likes things neat and orderly. It bothers her if pictures are crooked, table cloths are off center, or people greet her when her back is to them.

Sr. Bernadine (usually goes by Bern but I like to call her Bernie) teaches Science and Home Economics, and is the homeroom teacher for Primary 2B. Bernie and I can get each other laughing over the stupidest things. Last week she was at a conference but when she returned she told the children that they had to be well behaved because she spent the last week sick in the hospital and she couldn't handle the stress. I had to avoid making eye contact with her or we would have cracked up.

Sr. Celestina works in the Bursar Office, keeping tract of the School's finances and collecting payments for school supplies. Today I helped her compare the cash book to bank statements for the month of January. Celestina is an albino and people have said that we are sisters. Celestina seems almost shy when she is in a crowd but she gets very animated when in a smaller group.

Sr. Ngozi is the youngest of the nuns, she took her final vows about a year ago. She also works as an accountant in the Bursar Office. Ngozi has been pretty sick with an ulcer the last few weeks and it is nice to see her becoming herself again. Ngozi is not discreet about anything but her honesty can be refreshing. More than anyone she has picked up my American phrases. Ngozi has this swagger and a mischievousness to her that I love.

Sr. Francisca or Franca teaches English to the older students. I am surprised to find that I have the most trouble describing Franka. She is neither shy nor outspoken. She is tall. Hmm... Franka is competent and kind.

Last but not least, is Blessings. Blessings lives with us but she is not a nun. She cooks, cleans, goes to the market, and does countless other jobs. I have trouble guessing anyones age but I don't think Blessings can be much older than twenty. Blessings has had very little schooling but she is smart. When I first arrived she could barely speak a few words of English. Today Bernie was complaining about fish bones in the soup Martina had made and Blessings apologized and told Bernie not to get worked up about it. The sheepish way Blessing used her new English phrase made everyone laugh.

I cannot say enough about these eight women. We often joke that they are out to make my life difficult but that is far from the truth. They have been very good to me. I appreciate all the little things they do for me, like buying pineapples because it's my favorite. They easily forgive me when I inadvertently say or do something wrong. They are so grateful for the work I do and it makes me wish that I could do more.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mothering Sunday

Today is Mothering Sunday, so Nigerians are celebrating their mothers. At church there is a huge procession of all the mothers and everyone is singing and dancing. When I got back from church I spent the next few hours in the kitchen. This week is Sr. Martina's turn to cook so I helped her chop onions and carrots, fry groundnuts for tomorrow's soup, and pounded ginger, garlic, and onions into a paste. Of all the nuns, Martina is probably the quietest but I love her sense of humor. At lunch the nuns translated what Fr. Nwodo said during mass. Father has three goats, one of which he has owned for over a year, and sadly all three are missing. One is big and white, the second is smaller and black, the third did not have a description but it will most likely be in the company of the other two goats. If anyone finds the said goats or knows of someone in possession of these goats should please contact the priest.

So I would like to wish all mothers a Happy Mothering Sunday. Today I have been thinking about my family and the BBQs we often have on Mothers' Day. If you are reading this Mom, I just wanted to say that I love you and miss you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A good day

Last night one of the neighboring churches had an all night vigil. All night vigils are common in Enugu and a few times I could hear one in Awkunanaw. But last night's vigil was either particularly spirited or it just had a superior loud speaker. I went to bed around 11 pm and I was rudely awakened just before 3 am. The preacher kept shouting "Holy Spirit fire, Holy Spirit fire" and the crowd responded with equal enthusiasm. The vigil kept me awake until 6 am and by then I was rather annoyed. If people want to stay up all night praying, well more power to them, but do they have to keep the rest of us awake too? With only four hours of sleep I was pretty grumpy this morning.

Fortunately my day got better as it went on. Since I was up at 6, I decided to fetch water before it got too hot. Then I swept and moped by room because a ridiculous amount of dust collects in my room after only a few days. At 9 am Sr. Bernie and I went over to the school to meet a group of students. Our school has been invited to participate in a cooking contest and the children practiced making steamed rice and coconut rice. After we finished cooking, I went out shopping with Sr. Helena. We went to a couple of shops that cater to expatriates. I bought things like canned soup, ketchup, pop tarts, and even a snickers bar. After we finished shopping, we went to the John Nwodo house and Sr. Theresa gave me my passport. My new visa is good until June 22, 2009. On the way home, we stopped at a couple of road side stands and bought bananas and four pineapples, which are my absolute favorite. Now it is 9 pm but I am completely exhausted. Still it has been a good day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sweating like a Christmas Goat

According to my blog, it is 82 degrees outside. 82 degrees doesn't sound that hot, it gets that hot every day of the summer back home, but trust me this is a different type of heat. Right now it is 9 pm, it unbearably hot, and I am sweating like a Christmas goat. Apparently Nigerians slaughter goats for Christmas dinner and the goats start sweating when they realize they are about to be killed.

I hate that we never get a break from the heat. Every morning I take a shower and before my hair dries I am already sweating. During the worst heat of the day we don't even have electricity to use the fan. Then in the evenings we spend a lot of time in the kitchen where our stove gives off even more heat. Before I go to bed I usually take another shower to cool off but there is no escaping the heat. I would feel bad complaining about the weather but it is almost too much for the Nigerians, who are used to heat.

So I am off to bed and I am praying for rain.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I was a bum today. I went over to school for morning assembly and then I helped Ngozi in the office. After that I went to the teacher's lounge to help grade more exams but all they had were Igbo exams and I can't grade those. So I went back to the house and killed twenty minutes helping Ifeoma cook lunch for the tank cleaners. (Workers cleaned the water tank so now all we need is a delivery of water or rain and we should have running water. I am soooooo excited.) After that I was out of things to do so I went back to my room and fell asleep. I took a two hour nap and I really needed it. I haven't been sleeping very well this week, mostly because of the heat. I woke up around 1:30 and I decided that I needed to do some actual work. So after grabbing some rice for lunch, I went back to school. I graded Agriculture exams until almost five and then I called it a day. This evening was just a typical Thursday: Fr. Nwodo came to say the weekly mass at our house but of course he was forty five minutes late, then we ate dinner, and we finished the night with this week's episode of Super Story.

The biggest adjustment to life in Nigeria for me has been getting used to the slower pace. The nuns are amused that I am constantly looking for something to do but I need to keep busy. If I wanted I could probably come back to the house and take two hour naps everyday but that would make me go crazy. The day goes by so much faster when I have things to do. Back home I could do any number of things with my free time but I am pretty limited here. So I keep looking for more work and I try to appreciate having so much free time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Exam Week

Once again I find my normal routine disrupted, this time because it is exam week (which technically started last Thursday). In the past we have had week long assessments but this is more important. The children are taking exams to pass the second term. So I find myself looking for work yet again. For a couple days I worked in the office, going over four months worth of financial records. There are three different records kept of every bank transaction and I was given the tedious task of comparing them, to make sure it all matched up. Today I wrote out bills that itemize the children's' school fees for the third term. Primary 1-4 students pay about $80 in school fees which is a lot of money for some of these families that can barely afford to keep their children fed. After filling out over 200 bills, my hand was starting to hurt and I decided to look for another job. I helped Sr. Helena sort newly arrived books for the library. The rest of the week will probably be more of the same, looking for anything to keep me busy. I am starting to resent exams and how it disrupts my schedule. I am still new to teaching and I feel like every time I start to make progress with the kids, another week of tests hits and disrupts us. Oh well.

On a happy note, this week school gets out at 1:30. So that gives me time to do household chores like laundry and fetching water but mostly I have been reading. One of the nuns lent me Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. It is a really good book about Nigeria during the Biafra War and you should read it sometime.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Sr. Helena!

Today we had a birthday party for Sr. Helena. Sr. Helena is British but she has lived in Nigeria for over twenty years and it has become her home. Technically today is her 70th and a ½ birthday but she was in England for her real birthday.

In many ways, I enjoy the party preparations more than the celebration itself. Yesterday I helped bake the cake. Nigerian cake is sorta like pound cake with raisins, usually heart shaped, and served without frosting. Today I chopped liver and carrots and washed dishes. Those things might not sound exciting but I love hanging out in the kitchen. The best conversations take place when everyone is cooking together and we laugh a lot.

It was a fun party. SNDs came from around Nigeria and I think there were almost thirty people here. Typical of a Nigerian celebration, there were speeches and toasts in honor of the chief celebrant, lots of food, and lots of dancing. I have two left feet but that has never stopped me from dancing. The party broke up about an hour ago and we finished the cleanup. Now I am just relaxing and enjoying what is left of my weekend.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Long live the Mountain Troubadours!

I just wanted to give a shout out to all my friends in the St. Mary's Youth Group, especially the Mountain Troubadours. You guys are awesome.

To answer your questions, Nigeria is a deeply religious place. About half of Nigeria is Muslim and half is Christian, with a smattering of traditional religious practitioners. Generally, the south is Christian and the north is Muslim. Even though I live in the south, I can usually hear the iman calling Muslims to prayer throughout the day. However, more often than not when I hear someone on a loud speaker it is usually a Christian. My neighborhood has churches everywhere and they like to make a lot of noise. It is not unusual for them to have loud all night vigils, which can be annoying when I have to get up for school the next morning.

The church I usually belong to is called St. Theresa's. I usually go to the 8 am service because that is the mass for children (they walk to church and attend mass without adult supervision). I like the children's mass for two reasons: one it is nice to see my students at church and I feel bad saying this but it is shorter, only an hour. Mass at St. Theresa's is in Igbo and I only understand a handful of Igbo phrases. The other services can last up to three hours and that is a really long time when you don't understand what is being said. Still I find it interesting going to church. Nigerians have different customs, for instance all the women cover their heads in church, people bring yams or toilet paper for the offering, and there is a second collection for community development where the altar servers squirt people with water. What I really appreciate is the things that are the same. I like the fact that half way around the world, I am reading the same bible verses and saying the same prayers as you are at St. Mary's. Just like you, we are celebrating lent. Although we don't worry about eating meat on Fridays because we only eat chicken or goat once or maybe twice a week. I am looking forward to Palm Sunday because the Sisters tell me that people cut down their own palm leaves from the trees.

If you are interested in sending something here are some things we could use:
Colored chalk
Educational posters (the walls of the school are depressing)
Flash cards (for either math or reading)
Colored pencils
Masking tape

Please address it to:
Sisters of Notre Dame
CO: Katie O'Dea
14 John Nwodo Close
PO Box 3777, Enugu
Enugu State, Nigeria
Please don't send anything breakable, valuable, or perishable (although I would kill for a cheeseburger). On the customs form you might want to list it as used school supplies without any value, so corrupt postal officials won't be tempted. My mom sent be a package and it took several weeks to arrive but it made it in one piece.

So thank you for everything. Everyone at St. Mary's has been very good to me, especially the Youth Group. I appreciate all your prayers and support. I would not be here without you. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Love from Africa,

Friday, March 20, 2009

Good News

I got a call from Sr. Theresa today. The Catholic Secretariat told her that my passport has a brand new visa. I was expecting to get only one more month but I got a three month extension, which is so much better. That means that I can stay in Nigeria until June. I am so excited.

So my plan is to spend the next three months enjoying life in Nigeria and then God willing I will go to Kenya. Right now there are four volunteers living in Malava, Kenya. Sissy Corr, our Executive Director and Fearless Leader, has found me a job working at the Divine Providence Home for abandoned and abused children. I would live in Malava with Jean and Sue and the SNDs in Malava and I would commute to the home in Kakamega. It seems like an ideal situation for me. It will be nice to be around other Americans again. I also think it will give me a better understanding of Africa to live in both West and East Africa. If I can't stay in Nigeria, going to Kenya would be the next best thing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Raining Buckets

Today it finally rained. The Nigerian rainy season usually starts in March and I have been waiting for it to rain for weeks. Today the sky was pitch black when I left school at 2 pm and a half hour later it started pouring. We really needed the rain. Awkunanaw has been parched and the dust is awful. When I get home I have to wash off the layer of dirt that I acquire throughout the day. I have become accustomed to that gritty taste the dust leaves in my mouth. The rain also means that we are less dependent on water deliveries. As soon as it started raining, Blessings, our cook, positioned four huge containers and assorted buckets in the courtyard to collect the rainwater. It was raining so hard that within twenty minutes a huge garbage can was full. Later on the rain will probably cause flooding and problems with the roads but right now it is nice to have a break from the dust and the heat.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm back

I am back in Awkunanaw. I had an interesting trip to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Sr. Theresa and I made the eight hour bus ride on Monday. We got to the bus station around 4 pm and then made it to the hotel. We stayed at the Pope John Paul Catholic Center (and hotel). It was a typical Nigerian hotel. Not nearly as nice as American hotels but it was clean and had running water. I was excited to see that my room had a fridge, tv, and most importantly an air conditioner. Unfortunately, those commodities were rarely used because NEPA (Nigerian Electrical Power Association) was rarely working. On more than one occasion I was forced to use the flashlight on my cellphone because the lights went out. Monday night we went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Sr. Theresa was worried about finding something I could eat. I assured her that I can eat swallow (bland tasting pounded yam which ends up looking like mashed potatoes) and vegetable soup with stock fish. Nigerians roll the swallow into balls, dip it in the soup, and swallow it whole. I have yet to master this technique and I have to chew it. Swallow is not my favorite Nigerian dish but I can force myself to eat it.

Tuesday we had an appointment at the Nigerian Catholic Secretariat. We took a taxi to the Secretariat office and this was probably the most enjoyable part of the trip because we got a little tour of Abuja. We drove by landmarks such as the Central Mosque, the Central Church, the football stadium, and the American Embassy. We went to the Secretariat office for two reasons: I need help getting a visa extension and Theresa is trying to get an American visa so she can work in and observe Notre Dame Schools in the US. The Secretariat has two employees, Yakob and Stella, who deal strictly with immigration issues. Sr. Theresa's situation was more complicated than mine and we spent seven hours going through various documents. The good news is that Yakob told me that it would be no problem getting a three month visa extension. Apparently the Secretariat has good contacts in the Immigration office, so we left my passport, documents, and most importantly the money. They told me that I could go back to Enugu and Sr. Theresa could collect my passport when it was completed on Thursday or Friday. I am a little nervous about the visa extension but I am trying to keep the faith. I keep telling myself that there is no sense in worrying about things I can't change.

After leaving the Secretariat's office, we went to the bus station to buy my return ticket. Since restaurants are fairly hard to find in Nigeria, we ate at the bus station. It was a nice meal of rice and fried chicken. I was hoping to do some sightseeing or even some shopping but Theresa wasn't feeling well so we went back to the hotel. I lost the desire to explore by myself in the oppressive heat and I just went back to my room too.

This morning I left the hotel by 6:15 am. So it was a necessary trip to Abuja but not exactly an exciting one. The eight hour bus ride can be long and grueling especially on the semi-paved roads but I also find it interesting. I can't stand the Nigerian movies, which are full of overacting, bad special effects, and oftentimes casual violence against women. So instead of watching the on board entertainment, I enjoy watching the passing scenery. In the country there are communities of mud huts with thatched roofs. There are herds of scrawny cows with massive horns, sometimes wandering the roads. Almost all of the rivers have dried up by now and the dust is horrible. Trees and bushes look rusty brown because they are covered in dirt. Still the land is very green and the mountains are beautiful. Most days I forget that I am half way around the world in Africa but during the bus ride that was pretty much all I could think about.

So I am off to bed and it is nice to be sleeping in my own bed again.

Love from Africa,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Going to the Immigration Office

Today I leave for the Nwodo house. I am going to spend the night there and early Monday morning Sr. Theresa and I take the bus to Abuja. Tuesday, we are going to the National Immigration Office and hopefully I can get my visa extended. My current visa expires on March 23rd which is coming up quick. I don't know how long it will take to get an extension but Martina suggested I pack enough clothes for an entire week. So once again I find myself at the mercy of immigration. They could extend my visa for one month or for the full six months or possibly deny me an extension at all. I hope to get the full six month extension but I am trying to prepare myself for the worst case scenario. Please pray for me and a nice long visa extension.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

This week in Awkunanaw

So here is a recap of my past week:

Sunday: I went to church and on the walk home the nuns noticed that I was shivering in the 90 degree heat. They insisted that I go to the hospital where I was told that I had malaria.

Monday: I went back to the hospital for a blood test. I passed out and that got the doctors' attention. I went home and felt marginally better after four hours with an iv in my arm.

Tuesday: I thought I was dying, so I spent the day laying in bed.

Wednesday: I stopped vomiting but I was still exhausted. I spent another day in bed and by then the boredom was almost intolerable.

Thursday: I woke up convinced that I was miraculously healed. I went to school for Sr. Theresa's party and had a good time. But I was so tired that I actually fell asleep watching Super Story.

Friday: I felt pretty awful in the morning and I realized that I did too much the day before. The Sisters were concerned so they talked me into going back to the hospital. (Nuns can be very bossy when they want to be.) I saw another doctor, who gave me more drugs and told me that it will just take time to get over malaria, especially in this heat. After a long nap, I felt better and made it down to dinner.
This weekend there are seven Aspirants (possibly future nuns) staying with us. I always like having a full house, although it can be awkward making small talk with people who barely understand me.

Today: I woke up around six this morning. Last weekend I was too sick to do laundry, so today I washed almost every article of clothing that I own. After that I grabbed a quick shower and then went to check on Ngozi. She was just diagnosed with an ulcer and she hasn't been doing well. After my bout of malaria, I appreciate how much it sucks to not only be sick, but also bored and lonely. So I had a nice chat with Ngozi. Now it is 10:30 and I have run out of things to do.

So that has been my week. It definitely was not my best week in Nigeria but I guess I was bound to get sick eventually. I have a feeling that next week will be much better.

Oh and I want to wish my sister Becky and all fellow math nerds a Happy Pi Day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I am back amongst the living. Last week was the sickest I have ever been in my life and I am grateful that I am finally feeling better. It is nice not having to vomit after every meal and being able to get out of bed. I think I would have cried if I had to go to the doctor a third time.

Today I left the house for the first time since Friday, not counting the hospital. Instead of normal classes, today we had a celebration/send off for Sr. Theresa who until recently was the headmistress. Sr. Theresa was instrumental in getting our school started, back when the neighborhood was still bush and other people were reluctant to come to such a poor and dangerous area. The stories of Awkunanaw a decade ago are almost hard to believe because today it is rapidly developing. Time after time, I hear people talking about the good things the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are doing in Awkunanaw and around Nigeria. It makes me proud that I am working with these women.

So today was a fun day. It started with mass and then there were speeches and performances by the students. The last act was a traditional dance done by a group of girls. As often happens at this type of function, the guest of honor joined in the dance. Then one of the parents decided that the Onye Oicha should dance too, so she grabbed by hand and dragged me to the front. I don't know how to do a proper Igbo dance so I just tried to imitate the kids. Everyone in the audience was amused and the more exaggerated my movements became the more they laughed. The other nuns joined in and it was actually fun.

After the ceremony finished, we all went back to the house. Sisters Theresa, Florence, and Maria live at the John Nwodo house so we caught up on their comings and goings. I broke into the Nutella that Helena bought me yesterday, while everyone else ate moi moi and rice. To finish out the night, we watched our weekly installment of Super Story. So it is 9pm and I am exhausted, but in a good way. I am just happy to be healthy and amongst friends. Life is good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Malaria sucks

It has been a couple of days since I wrote anything. This is because I have been too exhausted to post anything and also because the last few days have consisted of laying in bed, doing nothing.

About two weeks ago I started having flu like symptoms but after a few days I felt better. Unfortunately Thursday night I started feeling sick again and it kept getting worse. Sunday I started shivering in the 90 degree heat and the nuns decided it was time for me to go to the hospital. The doctor said that I probably had malaria but the hospital doesn't do blood tests on Sunday. So he started me on three different malaria medications and told me to come back Monday for the blood work.

So Sr. Helena and I went back to the hospital for what was supposed to be a quick blood test. Since we got the paperwork yesterday, I went right in with the nurse. She took some blood and sent me out to the waiting room. I sat down and I remember thinking that I really felt awful. The next thing I know, I wake up with Helena propping me up in the chair and a bunch of doctors and nurses asking me how I felt. It took me a few minutes to come around enough to realize that I had passed out. It turns out my blood pressure was low so the doctor started an IV. I felt much better after that but the doctor wanted me to get a second bag of fluids. So I spent four hours with a IV in my hand.

By the time my IVs had finished, the doctor had my test results back. After all of that, the results were inconclusive. The doctor thinks I have malaria but since I already had a couple doses of the drugs the results came back negative. So he told me to keep taking the drugs and to come back if I am not better in a couple of days.

So I must say malaria sucks. I can deal with the horrible headache, the vomiting, and the body aches. But what I hate is the way I am constantly exhausted, I wake up from a nap and I am still tired. I am also weak and shaky which is really annoying. The good news is that I have felt much better since the IVs. Tomorrow will probably be another boring day spent in bed but hopefully after that I can return to school.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fly on the wall

Today I felt like a fly on the wall. Since it is still exam week there really isn't any work for me. For the last three days I have been typing a listing of all the school's textbooks and library books. Yesterday I stopped somewhere around the 900th entry. I am sick of hunching over the child size desk, typing the day away. So when Sr. Bernie invited me to come to her classroom, I jumped at the chance to do something different. I spent the day sitting at the desk in the back of the room, just observing. With the exception of yelling at a couple of kids for hitting each other and distributing toilet paper, I really didn't do any work today. After a half hour of last minute cramming, Bernie wrote the test questions on the board and the children wrote the answers in their notebooks. The school can't even afford the cost of photocopying tests. In between today's two tests, the children got their results from yesterday. Children who did poorly (a 20/30 or below) were flogged in the hopes of motivating them to do better. Teachers give harsher punishments for poor test scores. All week I have heard children crying after being beaten. It bothers me that I have become accustomed to floggings. I miss having work to do but I always find it interesting watching the children.


I have a history of insomnia but in general I sleep better in Nigeria than back home. (At night when the power is out, there isn't a whole lot to do so I might as well sleep.) Of course, there is an exception to every rule and tonight I could not sleep. I woke up several times in the night and I just couldn't stay asleep. I think it might be because of the heat. Lately it has been so hot and it is hard to get comfortable when I wake up drenched in sweat. Oh well. I was planning on getting up soon any way. Once or twice a week I have been going with the nuns to daily mass and we leave at quarter to six when it is still dark outside. So even with a flashlight, I stumble drunkenly around in the deep ruts in the road. Still I like going because it gives me an excuse to leave the compound.

Have a good morning or night depending on where you are in the world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Water. Mmiri. H2O. Aqua. When you don't have water, it's hard to get water off your mind. I was working today and all of the sudden I stopped and thought, I don't have water to flush the toilet. The worst part was that we didn't know when water was coming. How many days would I have to go without showering? I don't mind roughing it when there is an end in sight, but there are no guarantees here.

We ran out of drinking water today, so Bernie and I walked to a Pure water factory. Around Nigeria there are Pure water factories that purify water and put it in a little bag. So instead of buying bottled water, most people buy a bag for 2 or 3 cents. It turns out that the owners of the factory have a son in Bernie's class, so they gave us two cases for free and we bought two more. So it was nice not worrying about drinking or cooking but that water wasn't for showering.

I had given up on the possibility of showering tonight when I went down to dinner. But to my surprise, the water truck arrived at eight o'clock tonight. I was practically giddy when I heard the sound of splashing water. It is such a relief to drink an entire glass of water without thinking about what else that water could be used for. Tonight I will be able to scrub myself head to toe, flush the toilet, wash the floor, and finally chug an entire bottle of water just because I can.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Where has all the water gone?

We are getting dangerously low on water. Saturday we finally emptied the cistern and distributed the water throughout the house, in bathrooms and the kitchen. We called the water guy and arranged to buy a tanker of water. In typical Nigerian fashion, he promised that he would be here first thing Monday morning and he still hasn't delivered. So I think I am down to a bucket and a half of water in my bathroom. Oh and since this was the last dregs of the cistern, the water is full of little floating flotsam. I put off doing laundry on Saturday since the water was low. I have one more clean shirt and after that I will have to break out the Fabreeze. Tonight we tried to conserve as much water as possible doing dishes. I am not sure how much drinking water we have left and I really don't want to know. So tonight I am going to do a rain dance and then pray that the water man shows tomorrow.

If we don't get water soon, things could get really smelly.

Assessment Week

This week is the second round of assessments at the school. In some ways, it is nice because regular classes are canceled so I don't have to come up with lesson plans. In some ways, it sucks because my normal routine is shot and I am having trouble keeping busy. Yesterday I spent the entire morning typing up test questions for other teachers. Today I started typing up a record of all the text books and library books the school owns. I made it through the first 160 entries and decided it was time to look for different work. I finished the morning in the office, filing receipts from the last six months.

Even though it is Assessment Week, I am still tutoring students in the afternoons. Yesterday I worked with my three boys from the Nursery section. The boys are five or six years old and we practice reading and writing the alphabet. In the last week I noticed that they are improving slowly but surely. I was ecstatic when they remembered how to spell boy from last week, repetition really pays off. My boys are really cute but sometimes they can be a handful.

Today I worked with Princess, who is probably eight or nine. Princess has both physical and learning disabilities but she is a sweet, shy kid. Once again, we started with writing and ended with stories. Princess struggles with simple flashcards so reading a book is out of the question. So today I read her a couple stories including one of my favorites, Curious George Rides a Bike. Princess sat quietly absorbing the story and it wasn't until I asked if we should read another book that I realized how excited she was. Princess cannot read but she has good verbal comprehension. I think I might start reading her installments of chapter books.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I have always been fascinated by the night sky. Some of my favorite memories of college were the times we would drive out in the country, find an empty corn field, and just stare at the stars. We would lie on top of Luke's car and watch for falling stars (I think the record was 17 in one night). Western Illinois is a pretty rural area and we could easily make out the Milky Way and countless constellations. But my favorite constellation has always been Orion. Orion can actually be seen anywhere on Earth, depending on the time of year. I find it comforting that I will always be able to see Orion, no matter where I go. So it has become my nightly ritual that after dinner I stop in the courtyard and look for Orion. Today I was disappointed to only find one solitary star in the sky. I blame the dust, which has been horrible lately. Have I mentioned that I just love that gritty taste the dust leaves in my mouth? This morning a blanket of dust settled over the area and visibility was low. No wonder I can't make out much of anything tonight. Still, most nights (especially when NEPA isn't working) the sky is clear and I enjoy watching the stars. It may sound stupid to people back home but I am enjoying life's simple pleasures.