It is hard to believe we have been here for almost six months. We are going home for a break in two weeks and I was thinking how to explain what it is like living here. I think it is an impossible task!
As I travelled to schools last week, I peered out of the window as usual. The streets are full of people, brightly clothed going about their business. Women are lighting little fires in the ditches,on waste ground and setting up their pots to make akara or grill plantains. Everywhere they are carrying things on their heads to sell-basins full of bottles of tea, little white cassava loaves, bundles of old clothes, towels and by the road they are selling kola nuts, doughnuts, biscuits. Children are walking to school, dressed in vibrant purple and green uniforms, some have little red hats and I have also seen boys and girls in bright pink. Older children (sometimes only 5 or 6 themselves) are taking little two year olds clutching breakfast boxes and little cloth bags full of books. Traffic is everywhere, horns are blaring and it is hard to walk down the sides of the road without falling in the ditches. Fumes from cars, fires, generators also abound. People are greeting each other, children are stopping to buy little packs of biscuits. Goats and chicken roam everywhere. As we travel towards the Emir’s palace it gets more crowded and the traffic is horrendous. Alartise squeeze us into gaps and goes on the other side of the road as the traffic constantly jams. No-one wants to give way and there is a lot of shouting and near misses. Men line the road waiting for work on the road. We drive on the wrong side of the road again to avoid the massive holes and bumps in the roads. The ‘shops’ we pass have amazing names-Sons and Lovers is a book shop, God’s Grace sells computer parts. Old fridges, generators, clothes swinging from hangers, food stalls, it just goes on and on. Everywhere is a cacophony of colour and noise. It is never boring-I always see something different. Someone is always setting up some new stall or shop.
Then we are out in the countryside and we pass yam and cassava growing. Men and women are working in the fields. Some have come on motor bikes and are lying on them asleep. Some are knocking the mangoes off the trees. Fulani are herding the cattle. The road is really bad and often just a dirt track through a field. We pass through the villages of houses made of mud with tin roofs with wooden tables (often broken) where they are setting up the shops. All is covered with sand and dust.
People stare at me wherever I go but wave madly when I wave and smile at them.
It is just so different! At times it is scary-when we are stopped or when we seem to be crammed in by traffic-but it is so amazing. People are getting on with their lives in very harsh conditions-it is overcrowded, noisy, often dirty but alive. So so different from our manicured lawns, organised supermarkets and roads with traffic lights-but much more interesting!
Having said that it will be so less stressful just to go and pick something from a shelf and buy it!
I have also been back to the orphanage and seen Praise again. They have moved to larger premises in a better environment but are now a long way out of Ilorin. This means they can’t get to the owner’s school so she pays for them to go to a nearby private school. She also has trouble getting staff to go out and relies on donations to pay their salary. She had two new arrivals-both aged two months and very under-nourished. The children were very pleased to see us –I went with Emma and Obi-and were well and happy. They need so much. I am hoping to fill two suitcases of baby clothes and cuddly toys to take back with me. They also need rice, past and Pampers nappies so any money I raise I will use to buy those things here. There is also a girl who we think is about 15 there with her little boy who is 3. She has had a really bad time. She doesn’t speak much and can’t read or write. The owner was so pleased to see us as were the children so hopefully I can visit them again with some clothes and toys.