I was asked by Stepping Stones to do some Maths training in Imo. Now that I have resigned from my school in the UK I was able to say, 'Yes'. It is only for a week but I am very excited to be going back!
Crazy but wonderful. Nigeria I had forgotten how you make me smile! Seven hours waiting for a delayed Arik plane from Abuja to Owerri on a hard metal seat I wondered what I was doing. Necessity drove me to the toilet which was clean but had no lock! I was constantly informed of flights taking off to places such as Lagos, Enugu, Maidguru by a very dramatic female voice who ended every announcement with a very throaty drawn out ‘Thank you’. As more and more flights left with Arik I wondered about my suitcase (or I should say ‘load’) and hoped it had not been put on any of those planes by mistake. I was amazed it had got this far without any comments as it was full of scissors, dowel, bottle tops for my maths training. With no phone card or Nigerian money all I could do was sit and wait. Finally I heard the word Owerri and leapt to my feet. We walked out to the plane, dodging passenger buses and walking round planes. I need not have worried- there was my load by the plane. I indicated it was mine and got on the plane. I was the only white person on the plane but there was a distinguished visitor on board so I escaped much attention. The usual juice and cake were served and in no time we landed. Owerri seemed so green compared to Kwara and there were many trees and crops growing. As we walked to the terminal I followed the distinguished visitor until I realised I was about to go out the exit. As a mere mortal I had to go back for my load. Outside I waited as the truck brought the loads to where we all stood. There was then a scuffle to get the bags as it was hard to see which part of the truck they were in! I then went to the exit where my luggage receipt was checked-foolproof system I need not have worried.
Godfrey, my driver, was waiting. What a great, kind person he was. He took me to some Hausa people so I could change my money and then phoned a friend to arrange for me to get a sim card for my phone. I had a tour of Owerri. It felt like I had never been away. The bright colours, the bargaining, the dusty roads, the ditches, all the churches and the heat all greeted me. There were a lot of tuc tucs , drivers with no respect for any driving rules and the ‘road safety’ police were busy taking money.
In my hotel I was very grateful for a nice clean room. The phone rang a lot but the line was empty when I answered-it took a while for me to realise it was the phone in the bathroom and the one by my bed didn’t work! I went to investigate the conference room and was told the training had started at 8 and finished at 4 last week (actually it had started at 9). I was also told they knew nothing about card, masking tape, etc. A frantic call to Naomi and I was told these things were in a cupboard. I gradually relaxed and got into Nigerian mode-everything works out in the end! Mr Fred came to visit me-he was to be my assistant the next day. Then I met the chef (pronounced ‘shef’). He said he would make me food other than on the buffet if required. I helped myself to ‘potato’ soup(tasted suspiciously like chicken but the waitress assured me it had no meat-she did not like the look of it, she said but white people ate it!). Then I had beans and vegetables which were nice and paw paw. Finally after 24 hours I slept!
The next morning the teachers arrived at 10am! However all seemed to go quite well. I had to slow down a lot as they found it hard to follow my accent. We had a lot of fun singing counting songs and making dice. They have a lovely uniform which is a dark blue suit, white shirt and red flower. On Fridays they are allowed to wear their own clothes.
After the training I tried to buy a slice of cake from the bakery-I ended up with enough cake to feed a family of eight. It was good to have a cup of coffee-even with powdered milk. I have a hotel porter outside my room all the time which is very reassuring and everyone is very polite and smiley-even when telling me there is no internet connection. After another meal of beans (Simon, the chef is going to make me spaghetti tomorrow) I left the restaurant. My waitress asked me if I could teach her to spell! She wrote out the alphabet on a scrap of paper and looked at me expectantly. What could I do? She is going to write a story about herself for me to check tomorrow.
It is quite noisy as the hotel is near a roundabout but somehow it doesn’t matter. The smiling, the greeting, the happy faces and the rousing ‘God’ music makes it impossible to be down or anxious for long! I would like the internet to come back though......