Today we didn't do much so this will be a short blog post. The most interesting thing that happened is that we learnt about drug use in Nigeria and drug use overall. I was very surprised that people sniff poo in Nigeria to get High. I don't know much about this process, but I'm not very keen to find out.
(I found this article on the subject: https://lailasnews.com/youths-sniff-pit-latrines-lizard-dung-as-substitute-for-codeine-brisin/ )
After finishing the days training, we were given free time. However, we were unable to leave the office as we were hit by torrential rain again. We all chilled in the office for a few hours until it stopped listening to music and talking.
I then went back to Jacks once the rain had subsided as he had a generator and luckily, we managed to catch a World Cup game topped off by cartoons after (Old school Bugs Bunny). At around 5 our project officer called a meeting at a bar. This sounds fun, but as it is a dry project we are unable to drink alcohol and our curfew is 7, so we had to leave by 6:30. So after one fizzy pineapple and malt juice, we had to head home.
Once we had got back to our host home, we realised the power was back on, and Cosmas asked our host Dad if we could watch a football match in his room. He said we could and boy were we surprised. We had been living in really basic conditions with the rest of the family and kids. However, as we stepped through the father’s door, we entered a completely different house. He had tinted lights, plasma TV, sofas and tiled floor. His lounge leading into a bedroom is the nicest room I have seen since being in Nigeria. He is living like a king while the rest of his family are sleeping on the floor. I felt guilty even sitting in the room as I know that his own children and wives aren’t allowed in. This was clear when the oldest child sat in the room with us while the dad was out… but when he heard his dad's motorbike approaching, he sprinted out of the room.
Today was the start of our placement week. The day started off with a delay as our host mum was using the bucket shower when we had to leave, so it made us a little late to the office. When we got there, I found out that the school I have my placement at hadn't started back yet, so I was given the option to go to one of the other schools. I chose to go to First class which is one of the private school in the village. Once we got there, we went and spoke to the headmaster who quickly told us to come back next week as only 20% of the school had come in today. As we didn't want to go home defeated we decided to play some games with the kids that decided to turn up. I chose to teach them British bulldog (touch) which they grasped pretty quickly and seemed to enjoy a lot.
After this I went back to Jacks with a few others and with the continued power cut we decided to play Bananagrams. Spelling not being my strong point I gave up quickly and just relaxed on the sofas as I don't have such luxuries of sofas in my host home. Due to having to be back at the office for 3 the games and relaxation were cut short.
All we had to do at the office is write a report on what we had done at work that day, as all we had done is play games we didn't have much to write up. The other guys and I decided to go play football with the local boys. This was absolutely knackering, and I got skilled up a few times. The highlight was I scored a penalty, and my team won 8 - 4. After playing for an hour, I was out energy and truly overheated. The kids laughing at my “tomato face”.
One of the highlights of the day was that the power turned back on in the town. However, I was foolish to get my hopes up as even though it's fixed, it is turned off most of the day.
Today was not the most interesting of days. In fact, nothing really happened. We went to the office, did some more training and then went back home in time for curfew at 7pm. While at the office today we decided to entertain ourselves by having arm wrestling competitions and thumb wars.
The training we did today was lead by Jack and Paul and was on corruption and the effect of corruption in Nigeria. We discussed the ways in which to tackle corruption In different situations. We also played some role playing games to make the training a little more fun.
However, I am looking forward to tomorrow when we are starting our placements and visiting the schools we are going to be working on. Roll on tomorrow.
Today we went to St Johns Anglican Church. This started at 9am and ran on until 1pm. Honestly, for me, this was very interesting but to go on for so long tested my patience. I give the choir and congregation 10/10 for effort, but for the singing ability, it would have to be far far lower. The message the pastor had for us was probably the most interesting, explaining the difference and similarities between Muslims and Christians belief. This being important as the population of Gwada is both Christian and Muslim. The offering went on for the longest time and was when the church was at its most energetic, everyone taking turns to put money into a bag at the front of the church. I thought this would be the end of the money giving, but I was to be corrected. A man went on to take donations, announcing how much that man/ woman had given to the congregation and getting a round of applause. Of course, the people that gave more money received the loudest round of applause... this didn't seem very "Christian" to me as a certain story in the bible pops to mind about a rich man and a poor man. Jesus is said; for showing off his wealth and donation that a camel has more chance of going through the eye of a needle than the rich man has of getting into heaven.
After the service, we were all given Jollof rice and some water which was very nice and provided by the church and then headed back to Jacks host home, as they were the ones who invited us to church in the first place. Here we were hoping to watch some of the World Cup, but of cause, the only channel that didn't work was the one showing the football. So, we ended up watching Nollywood and chatting until it was time to go home, in fear of breaching Curfew, which is 7pm.
On the way home, I came across a dying lizard, being the animal lover I am, I checked whether it was dead and saw it was breathing. I then dabbed it with water, and it drank the droplets from my fingers. I took it home. When I got home, I placed the barely moving Lizard next to me and sat down. Before I knew it, a chicken came out of nowhere and ate the lizard in one. I don't know what the moral of this story is, but I feel like there must be one. Maybe the circle of life or something along those lines.
After this, I followed the usual routine of a bucket shower, food and bed. Electricity still being out and limiting my options in the evenings.
Today we didn't have to be in the office until 9am, but that didn't make any difference to me. At 6am one of the kids woke me up familiar sound of "Alex, uncle, Alex". I promptly said "No, go" and tried to go back to sleep. I then woke up properly at around 8ish and had my morning bucket shower. Then got ready to leave. We went around to another host home, as we agreed we would walk to the office together now as we live close together. It also gave me the chance to see their kittens which I am hoping to buy from the family, one because I love cats and two because our host home had rats, I have woken up with rat poo on my mosquito net a few times now. Samariah wasn't ready to go when we arrived, which made us late. When we got to the office, we all had to pay a late fine of 50 naira. The money raised from late fines goes to the social events and activities.
We had a few hours of lessons again today, bringing in the rule of only speaking if you have your hand up. As the Nigerian counterparts and some of the English chose to shout pretty much all the time in discussions. After this finished a few of us including our project manager, Hassan went to the tailor’s house to watch the Argentina/ Iceland game. This was a fun break as it's the first time I have watched TV since being here! And in a room with a fan! A massive luxury for me.
Strait after this we all moved onto a Birthday party that was happening at one host homes. It was the party of two twin girls turning 17. They were both dressed up and looked amazing. Along with the rest of the guests. After an hour of watching the girls have money thrown at them while dancing we decided to leave, the parents gave us all an orange milk drink and some jollof rice as a departure gift which tasted amazing.
On the way back to our house we walked past a football match, me and Cosmas decided to join in. After picking sides, we got stuck into the game. Not trying to brag but I scored, and for anyone that knows me I'm not that good at football, so it's possible they were being polite. But the main outcome was I was extremely sweaty. Playing football in the Nigerian heat is knackering.
Once home I went through the usual routine of shower, and food and spoke to the dad who said we could watch the football with him. When the time came to watch the game, he was nowhere to be seen. So, we didn’t get to watch the game.
As I and Cosmas were settling down for the night, we didn't realise what was to come. First, I saw lightning in the distance, however no rain. Then the winds picked up! And a sandstorm hit the area, stupidly I decided to stick my head out the window, wanting to watch the sandstorm, this resulted in getting a face full of sand. As I came back in it was clear Cosmas, and I were not the only ones taking refuge in our room. A bat had flown in and was resting in my mosquito net. Looking back, I’m happy to know that the net would keep me safe from rabies and malaria. However, not being accustomed to this scene I metaphorically shat myself! Cosmas was ready at hand with his flip-flop ready to kill it, but I told him not to kill it. The kids rushed into the room hearing the commotion! At seeing the bat and me quickly exiting the room half laughed and the rest went into action mode to catch the flying mammal, I was out the door at this point but could hear Cosmas shouting at them to catch the bat not kill it out of respect for my wishes. They caught it and took it outside to release. What we didn't know is this little creature might have known more than we did. Within 10 minutes of releasing the bat, a massive tropical storm hit the town! I have never seen it rain this hard and I'm from England where we are very familiar with rain. The room began to leak under the door, so we had to quickly move everything into the next room. I'm writing this from that room now listening to the rain pound our house. Hopefully, this will be the end of a crazy night.
The video's below are from the birthday party. Enjoy.
Today is Eid which meant I got a thirty-minute sleep in, I woke up to a text from Charles (one of the Nigerian counterparts) saying that the tailor had finished my clothes for today meaning I could wear it for the festival. So, after waking up, I went out of our room and once again was swamped by kids. As it was a special day I decided to get the pipe cleaners out, all multicoloured and started making brackets for the kids. There were 14 Children I gave up after about 5 and showed the oldest girl how to make them for the rest. After this when walking around the village, you can now tell which children I live with as they all have brightly coloured pipe cleaner bracelets.
I then left with Cosmas and one of my host brothers (Adams) to collect my new clothes. On returning home, I had a bucket shower and freshened up, putting on the kaftan and went to the "Mosque". It wasn't hard to find, we just followed the 17 thousand locals along the road. Packed is an understatement the road was crammed, and it leads to a field outside of town. Here at 10am, everyone began to pray. After it finished, lasting around 6 minutes, everyone rushed back towards the town, as the fast had broken and everyone wants to celebrate Eid by now eating meat. It is pretty the Muslim version of Christmas on the scale of its importance and the level it is celebrated.
After this we waited for the food to be cooked around Ayan and Samirah’s host home and brought the food to the office where we met the rest of the VSO team, we shared out the food together. I tried a variety of different foods and drinks, and we spent the rest of the day together. One of the guys from Nigeria called Charles had Malaria and is resistant to as he seemed to have a cold but didn't look too threatening. I think if I got it I would have been a lot worse off. Today I was stopped constantly for photos as I am wearing the traditional dress, it gets tiresome and, in the end, I just said no to everyone!
After this, I and a few of the others went back is Isla's house and played Uno, sad to say I came pretty much last, the night was ended by coming home and giving all the children a lollipop as it was their day of celebration. As there are so many children (14 living at home) they use this to their advantage, and once one grabs a lollipop, they dash off and then come back pretending they didn't get one, this trick is pretty effective. However, one little girl made an error. She dashed off, and while I was giving out another lolly she joined the crowd to get another, her mistake was that the lolly I had previously given her was in her mouth. I pointed at it, and she looked shocked she had been caught out. And covered her mouth as if that would fall me into giving her another one.
I would like to start this article explaining the warning over graphic content and why I feel it is important to show the content that I have. In this blog entry there will be a video of a cow being killed and photo's of other dead animals that have been killed for the festival of Eid. If you do not wish to see this content then It may be best to skip this blog entry, however, I would recommend persevering. As someone who eats meat myself I would find it massively hypocritical to have looked away as the cow was killed as this was not and will not be the first animal that has died so that I can eat meat. If you have issues with the way that the animals are treated and killed then I would like to remind you that this is their country and their culture and we have to respect the way that they do things even if it is different to what we are used to, I assure you they don't want to cause anymore pain to the animals than me or you would. Anyways let the blog begin:
Today we left for the office, and on the way, we passed quite a few cows that had been slaughtered in the street. One of the men let me cut a slice off the cow. It is a lot tougher than I thought and after my hand was covered in blood. They are killing the animals for a certain Muslim festival that marks the end of Ramadan called Eid al-Fitr. The pictures show a cow from the moment it is slaughtered to its transformation into piles of meat that are shared with the local families. As the community can’t afford to slaughter an animal each, they all put their money together and buy a cow between them.
In the office today, we decided our roles for the next few months. This involved a lot of shouting from everyone. I was given the media team as I could use my experience I already have with my website and blog to teach the others in the team, we then found out what schools and co-operatives we would be working with. My team would be working in a boarding school called FSTC Kuta. This is actually located outside of Gwada, so I will have the opportunity to see another community and the area around this town. For the co-operative, we will be working with children in the community to discourage drug use. And rehabilitation.
Thursday is market day in Gwada, the town is packed with men woman and children selling pretty much everything. We looked around, and the first thing I bought was some sugar cane, it looks like bamboo, but instead of being hollow it is full of sweet fleshy wood that you chew and spit out. After this, Jack D and I went to buy some white material to make into traditional clothes for Eid tomorrow. On the way back to the office there was a cow about to be killed. I decided to stay and watch. As uncomfortable as it was it was killed with respect.
For the rest of the day, we waited for the project officer and two other ICS leaders to arrive. We had to wait from 11am to 4pm for these people to arrive and when they did... after a very long wait all they said was hello and left. We waited 5 hours for a 5-minute conversation. Missing the World Cup match that we wanted to see. It did give us time to look around the market, and I bought myself a catapult. It was a lot more powerful than I expected, limiting how much I could actually use it without hurting anyone!
After they left, I ran an exercise camp, getting the other VSO members to do press ups, sit ups, wall sits and planking. My training in the army helped run this session and found it nice to be on the other side. After this, we headed home!
Today we got up, went to the office, and chose our personal ACD. I chose to keep woman in education as mine, as living in a household with two wives and fourteen children I wanted to do family planning for my Active Citizen Day. However, I feel this would have been too direct, and my family could be offended. Instead by choosing “Keeping women in education” it is a lot broader and would also cover family planning. You might be wondering what the hell an ACD is well here you go: it is a day where we chose an issue within the community we are in, and plan a day where we can try and tackle this problem or bring awareness to the problem. For example, to try and keep girls in education we could go around local houses and speak to the mothers about the importance of educating both their male and female children, or go to the market and speak to the fathers. An idea that I wanted to do was create a mural of powerful and respected Nigerian women across the world on the school wall.
On our break, I went to the market with the tailor and bought some fabric. I left them with her as I needed a bag and she agreed to make me one. Unlike in England where you go to a shop and buy an item of clothing, here you must go to the market and buy the materials and then take it to the tailors to be made. You cannot buy clothing from the tailor, so it is a longer process than one would think to get clothes or bags.
After this, we went back to the office, and luckily Cosmas had brought me food from the host family so that I could eat my lunch in the office and didn’t have just biscuits to fill me up until dinner again.
We finished the training after lunch, today we were trying to learn the local language. After this, we all went back to Jamal and his counterparts house which was very nice, also it has an orange tree in the middle. He had an actual toilet which I was jealous of. We were all given an orange and even though, to my surprise, they were green, the oranges were ripe and tasted delicious. I asked Cosmas, and he told me that in Nigeria they don’t have orange Oranges they are all green which I found amusing, so from then on I called them Greenages. After this I went to jacks and his host family gave us Coca-Cola, Jack had one of the better homes with sofa’s, a toilet and working tv/ generator, again the green-eyed monster comes out when I compare it to my house. His family were lovely, and the children were well educated as there are only three of them.
We couldn't stay long as the curfew was 7pm, so I left. Unfortunately, I didn't know the way back from the market, so I got on a motorcycle to the office as I thought I knew the way from there... I didn't. From the office I knew I had to get to the market but got lost on the way there, I was also nearly run over by a cow bolting from a house, and these cows have massive horns so would have been messy if I was slower. Finally, I found the market and thought I was safe from here but no… I got lost again. While lost I passed a massive crowd mourning the death of the local leader who had just died. I felt very out of place, and everyone was very tense making me feel the same as everyone stared at me as I passed the house of the deceased man. I eventually made it home just before it got dark.
Today was a big stepping stone for me as I finally gave in and used a squat toilet (Hole in the ground). I won't go into detail on this. But not as relaxing as a normal one.
In the last blog I spoke too soon about the quiet night, in fact, I was woken up throughout the night by what sounded like a call to prayer at 1am and 4am and was finally waken up by one of the 14 kids knocking on the window saying “Alex” at 6am. Fair to say it wasn't the best night, as the 30-degree heat made it hard enough to sleep.
Once awake I had a bucket shower that was pleasantly cooling and then got ready to go to the office. While doing this, we were brought breakfast, which consisted of a loaf of bread and hot chocolate. As someone who has never been a breakfast person, I decided to give it a miss and look forward to lunch. On the way to the office we met up with the volunteers that lived closest to us (Samiria and Ayan), when we entered their compound I noticed that they had kittens that were around the same age as the kittens I had left back at home, this made me pretty excited and knew I would be coming back to their house often now. Ayan’s host home was a lot like ours. However, she wasn’t having to share it with 14 kids, the children that still lived at home were all grown up, meaning her house was a little more peaceful. She may not have been living with any young children, but she was sharing her house with about six chickens and over fifty chicks running around everywhere.
After being introduced to her family who spoke pretty good English we made our way to the office, through the dusty streets and finally somehow, we made our way through the maze of Gwada. The “Office” is a small carpeted empty room that we all sit in listening to each other and the team leaders. We first spoke about our host homes, and what we thought of them, it turns out that not all of the volunteers were living in the same primitive homes that I was. Cosmas and I were the only ones to be living in a house with more than ten children and two wives, and some of the houses had both electricity and toilets, this seemed unfair and a lesson to be learnt, life isn’t fair. We then went on to speak about world issues and the effect that these issues have on a community and country. We then had an hour break to have lunch… unfortunately for Cosmas and me, our house was one of the furthest houses from the office, and we couldn’t hack the walk all the way back (around 30 mins) to our host home, so we went to the local shop (best way to describe the shop is a shack at the side of the street), and bought the only thing edible without cooking: Biscuits. One thing that I miss most about England is the range of snacks available, the options in Gwada is bread or biscuits.
After the lunch break, the team leaders sent us out to do a treasure hunt and acquaint ourselves with the village we will be living in for the next few months. The list consisted of buildings such as the mosque, church, police station, school and the only bar (TVS) in Gwada that we were informed we were not permitted to go to. The scavenger hunt started well, but after around thirty minutes the Nigerian heat started to become too much, so I persuaded my team around an hour into walking around the town, that it was not worth getting heat stroke for a game and we made our way back to the office, taking us to around an hour and a half walking in the midday sun. I was very glad to get back and my hands on the pouches of water.
Around four is when we finished at the office, Cosmas and I went back to our host home and interacted as much as we could with the host family and children, as only one of the mother spoke very little English it was hard to communicate with them. The electricity was still out in Gwada meaning that as soon as the sun went down around 7pm, we are plunged into a world of darkness with not much to do. Luckily for tonight, Cosmas had enough power on his laptop for us to watch a film, but I know when all our electricals die, which will be soon, we will defiantly have a lack of activities to occupy our time in the evening. Especially as curfew is at 7pm.
Below is a video of one of the teams during the treasure hunt, visiting host homes and looking for some of the other locations. If you were wondering what the town looks like this is a great insight into the life in Gwada.
Today my roommate and I woke up late, so we missed breakfast, but for me, that wasn't much as I only really have two spoonfuls of oats anyway. We said goodbye to the other group that left for the airport, flying to another part of Nigeria. After we said goodbye I went back to the room to finish off packing.
Once packed we all got on the minibus and left for Gwada, we were told it would take around four hours. About ten minutes after leaving the convent we stopped off at a shopping centre. To get into the shopping centre, the bus had to pass through armed guards, and then when parked up we walked through metal detectors again to get into the mall. The security was very high in this mall, and it was actually pretty empty, I'm guessing this was because not many can actually shop there due to the price.
Once in the mall, I bought a basket full of items some that I don't need and others that I will. I bought lollies for the children, pineapples for my host family and salt and vinegar pringles for myself among other things. We also got to buy ourselves lunch in the mall. I got myself jollof rice and fried beef. The beef was really good, taking the texture of beef jerky just with a little more moisture. After this, we got back on the minibus and started towards Gwada once again!
The next set of photo's are from the journey, they are pretty self explanatory.
After a three hour drive through Nigeria’s beautiful countryside and small villages we arrived in Minnia, once here we stopped at the chairman of AFAN’s office, which stands for All Farmers Association of Nigeria. He then welcomed us to Niger (the state of Nigeria Minna is located, not the neighbouring country). I thought it would be appropriate to give him one of the pineapples that I had bought in the mall to him and he seemed to like this gift.
After a team photo with the chairman, we carried on to the small village of Gwada. The children defiantly knew we were coming, as we got into the village the minibus was swarmed by kids following us to VSO "Office" which was actually just an empty room. As I mentioned previously, I thought it would be amusing to draw my host home with lots of children as that's what I was told it could be like. What I hadn't realised was that I was meant to draw what I wanted my host home to be like. Subsequently, this meant the team leaders paired me with a family with 13 children the oldest being 16. When told this I thought the team leader was joking. However, they weren't, Cosmas and me had joined a family with 13 children. As we walked through and met our host family we were once again swarmed by children, and presented a newly born baby. In fact, the little girl had been born yesterday meaning we are living with 14 children.
This was pretty overwhelming, so I asked the oldest son of 16 to show us around the village, which he did, we walked for around thirty minutes until we made it to the VSO "office". On the way back we walked through a market selling anything from sugar Kane to Cows. When we got back to our host home, we started to unpack our bags as we were quickly losing light. Halfway through this, we were presented dinner which consisted of rice and vegetables. Which was actually very filling. I then had a go at getting the water out the well, which was a lot deeper than I thought. And went back to unpacking. By this time it was dark, and I had to find my head torch to make my bed (mattress on the floor) and put up the Mosquito net. To finish the night off, I had my first bucket shower... in the dark, the cold water being very refreshing, the experience was a lot better than I expected. I retreated to my room with Cosmas shatter from the heat and day's travels. Interrupted occasionally by any one of the fourteen children calling "Alex", "Ander" through the window. The two-day year old baby kept surprisingly quiet through the night.
Like I mentioned previously when on the road from Abuja to Gwada we went past a lot of fuel tankers parked up on the side of the road. I asked for the reason for this but didn't get a definitive answer if you know then comment below the answer. In addition the second video is our welcoming to Gwada from the local children.