We returned home from Enugu in triumph. The journey took nine hours and we didn’t stop for lunch so it was not a great experience. We did stop in Kogi state and the driver and my colleagues got out to shop in the market leaving me in the car. I think they thought I would stop them from getting a good deal. As it was I was now alone in a posh car and instantly surrounded by sellers. I bought some little pears-which have to be boiled and taste a bit like avocado, some bananas, some really juicy oranges, some greens which looked different from Kwara ones and were certainly more expensive and a very large ‘pear’ which had a bumpy surface but which, as I will explain later, I never got to eat although I think it is another variant of the avocado pear family. We set off again, only stopping so the driver could ‘ease’ himself’ by the side of the car. Eventually we had to stop for petrol and of course the ‘easing’ by the van. I legged it down the road in search of a large bush! Of course half way through an okado sped past and must have seen quite a sight! I spent the rest of the journey obsessing as to whether I had wee on my sandels. So you can imagine I was looking forward to getting home and seeing Lea again especially as he had lost his phone and been unable to contact me after the third day.
So we got to the flat and my key wouldn’t go in the lock. After a few panicky moments Lea appeared. Dare helped me in with my bags and boxes of teaching aids and then left with the driver. Lea was keen to make me a drink but then the truth hit me lost phone and new locks??? Lea had been burgled while I was away. It got worse. Lea had been asleep in bed with the pillow over his head-to drown out the noise of our neighbour’s generator-while a thief had slashed most of our outside netting and some of our neighbours and then sawed through the bars of our spare bedroom window and gained entrance to our flat. He had then grabbed a knife from our kitchen and gone into the bedroom where Lea was sound asleep-thank God-and taken Lea’s watch and trousers. He took the trousers into the parlour and took the money from the pockets. He also took our laptop, hard drive, camera, mobile, head torch and a bottle of groundnuts. He attempted to lower our generator from the window but our landlord’s wife was woken by the noise, opened her window, saw him and shouted, ‘Thief’. He dropped the generator and ran off over the back wall. He had also cut all our electric wires and absconded with our meter. Lea only discovered all this when he got up in the morning and another neighbour asked him if he was alright.
Apparently there had been other burglaries in our flat before we arrived. The last VSO had been burgled but not reported it and never changed the locks. Over the last few months things have ‘disappeared’ from our flat-phones and most recently my ipod which was upsetting as the music used to keep me going when I felt homesick. The police think someone had a set of keys and that another thief had been coming and going-so when I thought I could see shadows I was not imagining things. At least I know I have not been going mad!
So now we have new locks, strengthened bars and a guard at night. Lea has written a funny blog about the police station but I am still reeling from it all and can’t help thinking what could have happened......
Everyone has been really kind. Our neighbour Oozo made Lea a meal and Gbenga was brilliant taking Lea to the police. Fumni, as usual was so supportive too as was Stephen getting Lea a new phone, etc.
We stayed in on Sunday, trying to come to terms with everything. I was so sad that Lea had lost all his poems and his training notes. We had no music either now to lift our spirits. Lea made a special nut roast which I ate with the greens-which seemed unusually tough. So the next day I felt really sick and had, what is called here ‘a runny tummy’. However I managed to go to work but went straight to bed when I got back. I was the aching, had a headache, temperature and generally felt awful so the next day it was off to the hospital. The doctor was great. I had to have the malaria test but fortunately it was negative and so he said I had gastro-enteritis. Drugs were prescribed and he then offered to examine Lea! I spent the next two days in the Esspin guest house and gradually got better. Hence I did not get to taste the bumpy pear and do not want to see Kogi greens ever again-at one point I was thinking I had been poisoned by them as the stomach cramps were so bad.
It is the following Sunday now and I am still not quite better but have managed to start eating again. Our misfortunes continued on Thursday when Lea got a very bad electric shock from the toaster in the guest house kitchen and on Friday when our new key got stuck in the lock of the front door! I have also lost my bracelet which I never take off-it must have fallen off somewhere.
Again everyone has rallied round. Julie has copied some of her music onto CDs for us which was really thoughtful and Katherine hastened the arrival of the carpenter when I phoned her in distress after waiting for him for three hours terrified someone could just walk in. Sue has also been great-making meals for Lea and getting someone to take me to the hospital. Stephen insisted on staying to bring us back even though we had to wait ages. Neighbours have asked how we are and everyone says how sorry they are about the burglary.
I can’t laugh about it yet. The thief must need money and was obviously hungry. I guess he needed the money from my stuff more than I do.... He probably just thinks white man-money and has no understanding of ‘volunteer’. We do live near to a lot of very poor people and they must see the difference in our lifestyles even though ours is a basic one compared to UK standards. Does make me wonder what I am doing here.........
Sorry folks this is the most miserable blog I have ever posted but it is what being a volunteer is like-taking the rough with the smooth. Fact is Lea and I did not get on the next plane out.
The SSIT were so pleased with the feedback from Enugu and expressed their gratitude to me. They are such a great group to work with. I just hope I can summon up some more inner strength to keep going as my confidence has taken quite a bashing and not being well hasn’t helped.
Final thought: Sorry I can’t provide photos of temples, amazing sights, waterfalls, etc but this is Nigeria and this is the reality of being a volunteer here. The only thing that keeps me going is the people and the children stuck in those dark dismal classrooms learning nothing.