Friday, May 29, 2009

Oyibo Cooking

I have been planning on making pizza for the longest time and today I finally did it. Most of the ingredients are easy enough to find but the cheese required a trip to Roban and it cost about fifteen bucks. Still, there comes a point when I need a taste of home and I stop caring what things like cheese costs. So around one o'clock I went to the kitchen to make the dough and I spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen. The hardest part about cooking in Awkunanaw is judging how much food to make, some days no one seems to eat at all and other days the food doesn't last. I made three pizzas: one with honey in the dough (luckily Franca told me she cannot eat honey before I made all of the crusts), one with sausage made out of canned beef, and one with only veggies (onions, mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, and olives). During the afternoon I made a comment about drinking beer with pizza in the US and Sr. Martina came back with bottles of Star beer. Tonight there were eleven people at dinner, three pizzas, one cabbage salad, and litre bottles of beer. That, my friends, is called the high life.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Short Week

This week has been very short, at least work wise. Monday was the only day I spent a full day at school.

On Tuesday, Sister Helena and I went to Ndeaboh, which is a rural area of Enugu State. There is an SND community there and they run a primary school. Sr. Kristi took us on a tour of the school and we stopped in each classroom. We stayed for lunch and then we drove the forty five minutes back to Enugu. On the way to Awkunanaw, we stopped at Roban. I stocked up on peanut butter, ketchup, and enough cheese to make a pizza.

Wednesday was Childrens' Day which is a national holiday. I went with the school staff to Okpara Square, where dozens of schools from around Enugu participate in the annual march past. The children get dressed up in their best uniforms and march past the governor (or as was the case this year the governor's representative) on his special podium. It was cool seeing all the different schools represented and the little kids were absolutely adorable. However the march last about three hours and after that all the big men had to make their customary speeches. The march past ended up being a little long but I was glad I went.

Today, Helena and I went to Ugwoumo, another rural SND community and school. This is the third time we arranged a visit to Ugwuomo and I was beginning to think it was destined to get canceled. The first two times were canceled on account of rain. It has been two or three days since it has rained so we decided to go. The Sisters did tell us when we came to standing water in the road to simply go straight, not to try going left or right because that would be worse. However, we ran into trouble long before the flooded road. We got to the end of One Day Road and our brakes failed. Luckily our driver, Mr. Chukwuma managed to turn on to the main road and avoid hitting the other cars. When we coasted to a stop, Helena and I wondered that no one was hurt, while Chukwuma checked the brake fluid. It was low and ten minutes later he came back with a bottle of brake fluid. We started out again but the brakes were still a little sluggish so we stopped at the mechanic. While the mechanic worked on the car, Helena and I stopped at the shoe repair shop and then bought a couple of cokes. Two hours later we were on our way. In the end we made it to Ugwoumo but our tour of the school was shortened so Chukwuma could get back to Awkunanaw in time to drive his school bus.

Tomorrow is another holiday, this time it is Democracy Day. Once again there is no school. I am excited about tomorrow because I have absolutely nothing planned. I might do laundry, maybe hit the market, but above all just relax. I may have only worked one day this week, nevertheless it has been pretty hectic. Friday will be a nice vacation from all of my days off this week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Look out Kenya, Here I come

I now have a plane ticket to Nairobi. My flight out of Lagos is at 10 pm on June 21st. Direct flights from Nigeria to Kenya are very rare, so I have a five hour layover in Johannesburg, South Africa. I should arrive in Nairobi around 4 pm on Monday the 22nd. I still don't like the thought of leaving Nigeria but I am excited about going to Kenya.

25 days left and counting...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Even More Random Thoughts

We have been doing a lot of planting in Awkunanaw. I planted okra and pumpkins. Okra takes only four days to germinate, provided the birds don't eat the seeds. The Sisters suggested that I make a scarecrow and I agreed as long as they provided the materials. I would use my own clothes but I only brought a couple pairs of jeans and I need them.

I was in the library when a little four year old boy started crying, an awful howling that seemed to be a harbinger of bad news. Josephine brought him in and attempted to calm him down enough to explain what had happened. Eventually in between hiccuping sobs, the boy told us that he had stolen another child's Bubo (a flavored milk drink) and drank it all. The boy was filled with remorse (or terrified that someone would beat him). Either way he kept saying over and over that he wouldn't do it again as fat tears rolled down his cheeks. Even after assuring him that no one would beat him, he still kept repeating "I won't drink his Bubo again." The Bubo's rightful owner, who had a reason to cry did not make a peep. Helena, Josephine, and I couldn't help but laugh.

On Saturday I went to the Gariki market. Of course, calls of 'onye ocha', 'oyibo' and my favorite 'white' followed me where ever I went. I try to be friendly but after awhile I tune out most of the greetings. When I got to the chicken section, one lady greeted me and asked where my friend was. I said hello and that my friend (I assumed she meant one of the Sisters) was not with me. She tried talking to me and started following me. I thought she was just another pushy vendor and lost her in the crowd. Later that afternoon Ngozi and Bernadine went to Gariki and several people told them about seeing me. Apparently that lady was the person Bernie and I had once bought a chicken from and she was very worried that I would get lost since I was alone. She had wanted to call and tell Bernie that I was alone in the market but she did not have the phone number. Instead the woman abandoned her stall to follow me around, until she was sure I was heading toward the exit. When Bern first relayed the story I was annoyed, after all I am not a child. Yet it also made me laugh and I was touched that someone would want to look out for me.

It may sound stupid, but I was sad when I broke my trusty plug adaptor. I dropped it one too many times and it broke into like five pieces. My mom bought it for me before I left for Germany and I have taken it with me on every trip since. I don't consider myself an overly sentimental person but I was really attached to that plug adaptor.

It has been storming all afternoon and the temperature has dropped to a chilly 70 degrees. I don't know why but I was freezing and I actually put on jeans and a sweatshirt. This has been the third time I have been cold in Nigeria and the first two times were due to malaria. Luckily this time I am feeling healthy. So tonight during grace one of the Sisters prayed in thanksgiving for the cool weather and especially for me since I prefer being cold and she sees it as a sign that I am adapting to the heat.

Technology is Awesome

Modern technology rocks. I just finished talking to my family on Skype. First I talked to my parents and my younger sisters, Amy and Megan. Then my sister Becky joined in the skyping fun. It reminded me of being home when there are multiple conversations going on and people keep interrupting each other. After spending a month in Amoyo, I have a new appreciation for the internet. Without the internet it is difficult to keep in touch with everyone back home and it drives me crazy when I can't talk to my family and friends. Something as simple as seeing pictures of Amy's graduation or of Logan walking makes me feel involved and still a part of their lives.

Most people probably won't understand what's the big deal about having the internet. But internet access is one of my few creature comforts. Right now I do not have running water which is true of many people in Awkunanaw. Yesterday we ran out of gas to work the stove. Half of the roads I took today were unpaved. There is a gasoline shortage in the country which means drivers have to wait in line for hours at the gas station or buy fuel on the black market. And Nigeria supplies so much electricity to neighboring countries that it can't provide constant electricity to even the major cities like Lagos or Abuja, let alone Awkunanaw. If it weren't for our solar panels, I would be sitting in the dark right now. Yet when I turn on my computer, I can pick up two wireless internet signals, the one at our house and the new Coal City wifi. The residents of Enugu may not have water or electricity but the state government provides its citizens with wifi. It seems strange to me but all I can do is accept and move on.
Through the miracle of the internet I wish you a good night.
Love from Africa,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Maybe because it is Ascension Thursday and there was no school today, or maybe it is because of the cool weather (the high was only 89 degrees), or maybe it is because I want to enjoy my last month in Nigeria, but for some reason I have been in a really good mood today. Today was just one of those days where I find myself completely happy and at peace with the world.

At lunch the Sisters and I were discussing my travel plans. I am still waiting for final confirmation but I should be leaving for Kenya on June 21st. It is difficult for me to believe that I only have a month left in Nigeria. Ngozi said something to the effect that the Kenyans are lucky to have me and I replied that I am the lucky one. And all afternoon I kept thinking about how fortunate I am. For the last four months, I have lived in one of the prettiest places on earth, I have made some really great friends, and my work has been very meaningful and rewarding. Who could ask for more in life? And while the thought of leaving breaks my heart, I get to fly across Africa and start all over again. I am excited about seeing Kenya and trying to understand a new culture. Plus, it will be awesome hanging out with the other volunteers. I am so blessed.

So I guess it makes sense that I am in such a happy mood. Life is good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Amoyo Pictures

The Convent in Amoyo

The Students' Dormitory
The farm

Sr. Prisca and I at the Asa River

Sr. Cordis and I hanging out after school

Sr. Fidelia and I

JSS2 during an Intro Tech class

Blessing, Cosi, Jennifer, Anna, Jo, and I

The JSS2 Class

Notre Dame Girls' Academy
Amoyo, Ilorin

Trip Highlights (Week Five)

May 11th-14th
Monday - Tuesday
I did the usual teaching during the day and tutoring after school. The nice thing about being a visiting teacher is that I could teach just about anything I wanted. The last week in Amoyo I tried to get through the Intro Tech notes as quickly as possible and then the students and I would change subjects and discuss our respective countries. One class period I taught the kids how to do the Hokey Pokey and another time we looked at some of my pictures of the US. When there was a lull in the work, I went over to the Medical Center to help Prisca plant bushes and flowers. I am getting pretty good at digging and planting with a machete.

May 13th is the day St. Julie Billiart (the founder of the SNDs) was canonized a saint and the entire school celebrated her feast day. We started the morning off with Mass and during the school assembly one of the Sisters gave a talk about St. Julie. Dinner was a bigger production than usual since it was both my last night in Amoyo and the feast day. We had rice with lamb, wine, and ice cream.

I was sad about leaving Amoyo because I really enjoyed my time there. The Sisters made me feel welcome and it was fun teaching and even just hanging out with the girls.

We were supposed to leave Amoyo at 6 am but as usual that turned into 6:30ish. The first half of the trip the roads were in decent shape and since we were driving a nice extended pickup truck (complete with air conditioning, shocking I know) the trip was quite pleasant. The scenery still manages to amaze me. Unfortunately about six hours later the roads started deteriorating. When we stopped for lunch my stomach was rolling and I was grateful for the chance to walk around a bit. The last two or three hours seemed like an eternity on the road riddled with potholes. Five days later, I still have bruises from being jostled about. The trip was long (especially since there was not even one bathroom break during the nine and a half hours on the road) but it is nice to be back in Enugu.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Trip Highlights (Week Four)

May 4th-10th
I decided that it was time to go back to work. I went to school in the morning but there wasn't much for me to do so I headed over to the medical clinic. I meant to take a tour sooner but the only time I was there, it was as a patient. So Prisca gave me the full tour of the waiting room, the lab, the consulting room, the patient ward, and the pharmacy. It is a small clinic but it provides good health care at low cost to mostly poor villagers. Monday afternoon the girls have sports so I taught them Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light.

I went to the JSS1 class and talked about the United States. It struck me how different our lives are, when I tried to explain the four seasons, especially winter. Then I went to Ilorin with Sr. Fidelia. We went to the market and to a shop that sells imported goods like peanut butter. On the way home Fidelia bought me a real ice cream cone to "flag my birthday". That evening I made glumpky (stuffed cabbage) for dinner and it turned out pretty tasty.

I asked for more work and Cordis suggested that I teach the Introductory Technology classes, since the teacher quit. In JSS1 we are discussing different building materials and in JSS2 we discussed force, work, and power, complete with some physic formulas that I learned in high school. In the afternoon I coached (tutored) some students in maths.

I celebrated my 25th birthday, Nigerian style. During the morning assembly the students sang happy birthday for me. I only had one class to teach so I spent most of the day relaxing in the house. In honor of my birthday, I planted two pineapples (you can cut off the green top of a pineapple, bury it, and a year later you can pick a pineapple). After school the Sisters took me to Asa Dam which is the closest thing to a tourist spot in Ilorin. The Asa river was swollen from all the rain and the surrounding forests were thriving. It was really beautiful. On the way home we stopped at Royals for real ice cream. We ate our dinner of fried rice while watching the final episode of Super Story. Then we ate birthday cake and drank wine. I was touched by everything the Sisters in Amoyo did for my birthday. I have been here for only three weeks yet I am completely at home here and the Sisters treat me like family.

I taught two classes today and helped the Sisters type up a schedule for the third term. In the evening I hung out with the students, swapping songs and answering questions about life in America. Sad as it may seem, I was beat by 8pm so I went to bed early.

I have been hanging out at the house for most of the day. I helped Fidelia in the garden and I showed some of the Sisters the basics of Power Point. But other than that I have just been relaxing.

For the past week, we have had a ram tied up in our garage. The school's chaplain brought it to celebrate the start of term. Originally I felt sorry for the poor animal that had to be killed for our supper. However, after a few days of listening to that sheep's constant bleating and putting up with the petting zoo smell, I has ready to eat. On Saturday, the driver Steven slaughtered the ram and today we finally ate it. It was nice having meat, which is a commodity here, even if I found a couple unidentifiable organs in the stew.

Trip Highlights (Week Three)

April 21st-May 3rd

The third term started today and classes resumed both at the Primary school in Awkunanaw and at the Girl's Academy in Amoyo. I was a little sad that I missed the kids at Awkunanaw but I was interested to see how a boarding school is run. I went to the morning assembly and then I headed up to the computer room. Three students came and asked if I would help them with Maths. Eventually more students wandered in until the entire JSS1 class was doing math problems with me. I doubt that all of them wanted to do some practice problems, rather I think they wanted a chance to talk with the Oyibo. Later in the afternoon I showed the students how to use Word and Excel. Very few of the students know how to use a computer, even typing is a laborous task for them but they are eager to learn. After school I helped some students review today's notes for Home Economics. I was going home to the convent when a couple of girls asked if I wanted to join them for Sport. I agreed and so we played soccer and volleyball. Unfortunately, our game was cut short when a storm rolled in and we got caught in the rain.

I spent most of the morning at the school and around noon Sr. Cordis and I went to Ilorin. First we ran some errands like paying the electric bill and going the the Ministry of Education. Then we stopped at an internet cafe so I could check my email and use the internet. The computers were incredibly slow, the keyboard had more Japanese characters than English letters, and the three emails I typed did not get sent. Although I did read some of the emails in my inbox so that was nice. After the internet cafe, we went to the market to pick up sheets for the students' beds and some fresh fruits.

I continued working at the school where I do several things, including typing up the list of library books, showing students how to use the computers, and tutoring the girls in a variety of subjects from the geometry to snakes to fatigue. I like working with the little kids in Awkunanaw but it has been nice having conversations with the older girls in Amoyo. They constantly ask me about the US and they were thrilled when I taught them the song Yankee Doodle.

Tuesday night I had a horrible headache and since then I had been feeling punky. After vomiting this morning, I went over to the medical clinic. After reciting my symptoms, Sister Prisca called the lab tech to draw up some blood for a malaria test. It is official, I have had malaria twice in two months. The good news is that I did not wait until I was really sick to get tested and hopefully this time it will not be so bad. I must say it is nice that I live with a nurse and I didn't even have to leave the compound to get my drugs.

Friday and Saturday
May 1st is a national holiday so there was no school on Friday. Which was good because I was too sick to go any way. So I spent the day in bed cursing mosquitoes. Saturday was more of the same.

I managed to get up for church but I went straight to bed as soon as I got home. The good news is that I started feeling better by Sunday night.

Trip Highlights (Week Two)

April 20th-26th

Even when school is not in session I try to help out where I can. Often times that means showing one of the Sisters how to use a certain program or typing something up for them, so today I typed up the Student Handbook. After that we went to town, where we stopped at the market and bought Indomie (gotta feed the oyibo) and fruits and veggies, bought mattresses for Stephen the Nigerian Youth Corp volunteer (which is sorta like Americorp), and finally we stopped by the Novitiate and another SND house in Ilorin.

We ran out of water. I take my showers in the morning and by then the water was gone, so I am feeling very dirty. Oh well, I knew it was too good to last. The good news is that in an hour or two the above ground tank should fill and we will have running water again.Today I used Excel start making a card catalog for the library. Brother Vincent who is an engineer came to work on the drainage system around the house and school. He will be staying with us for several days. He took us to Royals, a Nigerian fast food restaurant and we ate real ice cream and bought pizza to take back to the house. It was almost like being home.

I didn't do much work because NEPA wasn't cooperating and that makes computers useless. I took a siesta in the afternoon.William, who is a friend of the Sisters came for dinner. He is Nigerian who has been going to school in California and it was nice to hear stories about the US.

Thursday and Friday
I worked on the card catalog some more, it now includes several hundred books. On Thursday we ate dinner in front of the tv and watched Super Story.

I did laundry, because it is always nice having clean clothes. Most of the day was spent hanging out, reading, and watching movies. In the afternoon I helped Fidelia plant corn, pumpkin, and watermelon with a machete.

It was a typical Sunday, begining with Church and then a big lunch of rice. Students started returning to school for the start of term. The school has roughly fifty students between the ages of 10 and 14.

Road Trip Highlights (Week One)

I have been gone for a while and it has been an eventful couple of weeks and a lot has happened. Here are some of the highlights:

April 13th-19th
We (three nuns and I) drove five and a half hours to Edo state. We had to stop at four police road blocks in the first hour and after that I stopped counting. Sometimes the roadblocks are to check for safety violations, such as not using a seat belt or not having a fire extinguisher, but more often than not it is a chance for cops to earn twenty niara from drivers who do not want to be delayed. We stopped on the way and I used a "toilet" that was a cement stall with a hole in the ground. I will never complain about gas station bathrooms again. I ate a cricket: it was flavored with ginger, was crunchy, but not as bad as I expected. I saw pineapples growing and no, they do not grow on trees. I spent the night at the SND Central house, where all the Nigerian SNDs are meeting for their annual assembly.

I met a bunch of nuns who were coming for the assembly, the final head count was around seventy. I also saw five white people in Nigeria at the same time (prior to this the record was four) I ate cashew fruit (we could eat all the fruit we wanted but not the nut at the bottom because the nuns sell it for a profit). It sort of reminds me of persimmons and the juice is so acidic it will permanently stain clothes.I then went to Fugar, where the postulate house is. Fugar is about 25 minutes from the Central House.

I was given the grand tour of the postulate house and their farm including the yam, groundnut, and cassava fields. My entire life flashed before my eyes when the okada (motorcycle) I was riding on nearly crashed. I doubt if I will be getting on one anytime soon. I went to the Fugar market and bought pineapple for super cheap, small ones were less than 40 cents. Visiting shut ins is part of the postulates' ministry SO in the afternoon Edith and I trekked to the home of an elderly man and we stayed for a nice chat. I enjoyed twenty four hours of constant electricity AND running water. The last time I was able to enjoy that luxury was when I was still in the US sometime in January.

It was raining when I woke up and so I was able to go back to sleep until the scandalously late hour of eight o'clock. Sr. Annette (the British nun at the John Nwodo House) is celebrating her golden jubilee this year so I typed up the program for Friday's mass and then spent the afternoon hanging out at the Central House.

I went back to Central House and helped cook the feast for the last night of the assembly. Christopher and Amos (two SND drivers) took me to Agene Bode to see the Niger River. Three times a week there is a floating market where fresh fish and crops are sold and ferried across the river in long skinny boats. We took a boat ride up the river the scenery is crazy beautiful. I befriended the central house dog. It is the first dog I have seen up close in three months. I pulled the name of one of the winners of the SND raffle. The sisters have been selling raffle tickets to raise money for a new school in Abuja. The Sisters gave me a glass of wine to drink on the way back to Fugar (with all the pot holes I was surprised that I didn't spill it all) since the drivers wanted to go before the party was over. So I can actually say I went out drinking on a Friday night.

I went to stay with Srs. Cordis, Prisca, Fidelia, and Maureen in Amoyo, Ilorin which is north of Edo. We left around 9 am and even though the trip was supposed to be four and a half hours we didn't arrive until 4 pm. Part of the delay was because we were in my second car accident in Nigeria (vehicles often tap each other but it doesn't count as a real accident unless the drivers stops and gets out). It was pouring down rain and the bus behind us ploughed into the back of our van. The good news is that no one was injured; the bad news is that the SND's van while drivable has seen better days. Without seat belts in the backseats, it was a miracle that no one was hurt. The nuns start off every journey with a few prayers and those prayers paid off that day.

We went to a tiny little church in the village with an oyibo Irish priest. I enjoyed it for three reasons: we drove there so I didn't have to stumble around in the dark, it was almost entirely in English with a few songs in Yoruba, and it was only an hour and a half which is very short by Nigerian standards. When we got back I was shown around my home for the next couple weeks. The nuns in Amoyo run a boarding school for girls and a medical clinic. This is the school's second year and the Sisters are trying to come up with funding to build another wing and buy other materials, still I see a lot of potential. My projects for this week will be cataloging the books in the library and teaching the nuns to use Excel and Powerpoint. That night a woman was in labor at the clinic and the nuns were with her, so I ate a solitary dinner of rice with goat stew and fried plantains. Between the running water, the abundance of pineapple, and the dairy products, I am totally getting spoiled this week.

Back Home

I am soooo excited to have the internet again. I managed without the it for a whole month but I was disappointed when I arrived in Awkunanaw on Thursday and it wasn't working. It made me want to cry. But the good news is that it is working now.

So I am back in Enugu. It was strange coming home because everything was the same yet it somehow felt different. But I was excited to see the Sisters again and they seemed to have missed me as much as I missed them. I plan on staying put in Awkunanaw for the next 34 days until I leave for Kenya.