Me at Lucy's Wedding. The sun does shine in England!

Me at Lucy's Wedding. The sun does shine in England!
Me still in England!

Saturday, 25 December 2010


Merry Christmas everyone. Feels very strange here and a bit isolated. Most of my colleagues have been on leave for the last week and gone to their villages to be with family. I have continued going into the office to  editi the lesson plans and Lea has come with me but I am having a bit of a break now as the office is closed until Jan 4th. I did get to visit another school with Jegede which I really enjoyed-especially when she took the lesson herself-think OFSTED could learn something from that! Would be great to see them doing a model lesson after being observed!
 People here don't really do presents but give food and get new clothes at Christmas. In particular the women have their hair done-mainly extensions-have been tempted but think I may just use the Clairol dye I bought with me. My bargaining skills are greatly improved and I am getting better at shopping I think. We have just had a roast dinner with most of the trimmings! I got a chicken for Lea from the Kwara hotel-it was frozen! I decided if he wanted a fresh one then he could go and bargain for one of the live chickens I have seen in cages, watch while they kill it and then pluck it himself! I also used money I had saved to get a big piece of cheese, some chocolate, chocky biscuits and decaffeinated coffee. So we had chicken and bean burger for me with potaoes, carrots and cabbage and banana cake for pud! Couldn't manage gravy! Washed down with the bottle of wine left by Lilian, listening to Skye news!
After we went for a walk to our own house and visited our neighbours. I took sweets and some fairy cakes I had made for the children. We were made very welcome and I tried 'chin chin' which is little pieces of dough with nutmeg and very nice-Oozo gave me a load to take back which I can't stop eating now!
I learned that sightseeing isn't really a Nigerian thing as it was pointed out that thoughts are mainly on ensuring they have enough food to eat and then getting clothes. Most people stay in on Christmas day and visit tomorrow. The girls at the egg shop were very pleased to see us as well and we are making friends with another neighbour who is keen to come home with us! We found out a bit more about the political situation which is very complicated-don't know what will happen during the elections but Ante said last time it was safer to stay indoors as there was a lot of kidnapping.
We are now back in the comfort of Sue's house enjoying the generator. I wish this colder weather would come. Harmattan doesn't seem to have arrived yet. Locals say it is colder now-it is a bit first thing-but it soon gets to 37 again.
Was great to speak to family and friends today even though SKYPE is a bit fuzzy and very delayed. We may get a bus and venture further afield next week. We went for a swim yesterday and almost had the pool yo ourselves! Am missing everyone loads but not the freezing weather I can see on the TV!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Lake

Coffee shops???????

Well we have actually found a few places where we can go and have a drink and a cake! We enjoyed a nice apple doughnut and fruit juice in 'Chicken chilis' but have not been in the 'stomach Care' restaurant yet! On Friday after work we walked down to the lake and had a drink there which was quite pleasant despite the constant cries of 'White people' and the mozzies around our legs! Being Brits we tried to return our bottles but were told to drop them on the ground!

Goats and Carols.

They are everywhere! The Billy goat has a little family that he takes for a walk near our house!
Last night we went to a carol service at Katherine's church. There were several choirs and it was interesting to hear their adaptations of carols! It is hard to believe it is nearly Christmas but hearing 'Hark the Herald Angels' made it seem real and the children's choir were cute-especially when they rushed to the front at the end to get their sweets!
We went swimming on Saturday at 10am and had the pool to ourselves as the locals thought it was too cold! It is about 20 at 7am but soon gets back up to 36!

Sunday, 12 December 2010


Yesterday I went to an orphanage with Funmi, my colleague at ESSPIN. They were having their Christmas party. The orphanage is on the same site as the school and children from the school were there too. There are 13 orphans who have been rescued from rubbish dumps and the streets. The youngest is about 5 months. They are cared for and now thriving better but sleep in two rooms and have very few toys to play with. The toys they received from Father Christmas were of the cheap plasic kind and not suitable for toddlers but they held onto them with grim desperation. They play with bits of metal and tyres and have no possessions of their own. The staff are quite poorly paid themselves. While I was there a baby called Peace was crying. He stopped when I picked him up but later it was clear he was hungry. He was born in May so is 7 months. He was fed by a woman who put the milky cereal they have in her hand and then tipped it into his mouth. When I questioned this technique I was told it was the most hygenic way as they had no facilities for cleaning bottle teats or feeding cups. They also seemed short of bibs. The children were dressed up for the party but had to give all the clothes back at the end and they were put in a big bag to keep them clean. The owner has done a lot for these children but said they desperately need clothes for when it gets colder and I think it would be great if they all had one cuddly toy each that was theirs to keep. If someone is reading this and wants to help me collect some new cuddly toys and clothes 6 months to about 8 years please let me know. I just can't walk away from this. In the room they share with 6 other babies and children there are two beds which they share. They have so little and when I think of the number of toys children have in England and they are making do with plastic sunglasses that snap, balloons and pencils that they are either too young for or can't use because they have no sharpener..........

Quite a week!

Busy, busy, busy but some amazing experiences! On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday  it was School Development Planning training for the SSIT. Lilian was doing this and I was asked to assist and do a couple of the sessions. It was a really good experience. First we went over the School Self Evaluation -much more straightforward here! It's a really big step that they are starting this here and it is leading on to a school development plan that has to be agreed by the School Based Management Committee and the parents. Kwara is leading the way with Literacy and Numeracy and now needs to catch up with the other states in this area. Lilian is a brilliant trainer and I learnt a lot from here. The SSIT are great to train and we all did really well especially as there was no air conditioning and when the fans eventually came on they made a horrible noise. The SSIT now need to train another team of people who will go out and train the headteachers and SBMCs. On Tuesday we had to stop after lunch and go to the ministry where there was a big ceremony. Funds have been found to give all the School Support Officers in the state motor bikes so they can visit even the most rural and remote schools so there was a big ceremony as they were handed over. Awards were also given to the best teacher and there were science and maths kits for schools. The deputy governor and the comissioner were there complete with body guards and red carpet and I was with the ESSPIN team sitting behind them. So much has been achieved in such a short time. The next day another group gave them all helmets which was great too.In the evening it was the staff Christmas party complete with agenda! Yes, really-we had speeches and quizes and I was touched to be mentioned in one of the speeches and then had to go and make a speech myself! Later in the week there was a party with the SSIT which was great too. I felt quite choked when Philip said how well I had fitted in and how they appreciated the work I was doing with them. They had even organised special veggie food for me-moinme (sort of spicy bean thing but very nice!). On Thursday I had to go to Offa for a meeting at a hotel. We stopped to get okaro-which is deep fried beans and my favourite Nigerian food. On the way back we stopped to buy white sweet potatoes which Offa is famous for and Katherine got me a paw paw which I also like! On Friday I had another meeting-I am now on a sub-committee for the operational framework for the in-service and advisory policy!!!!
Yesterday I finally braved the hospital and had my B12 injection. The doctor was great and said as I was a foreigner he would give it to me himself. Everywhere was very clean so I felt okay only- problem was we were completely ripped off by the taxi driver. Fumni said 10 could have gone for the price we paid. Anyway we cheered ourselves up with a kitkat and a fanta! Earlier in the week I actually acquired my bank card! I had to sign two huge log books and more forms plus I mananged to get stuck in the security door but yes I can now access my living allowance!
We have moved into Sue's house while she is on leave and are enjoying air conditioning and hot showers and tv!!! Seems mad to be watching 'Who wants to be a millionnaire' here. Sadly Jayne, our flat mate has left and gone back to Kenya as things didn't turn out too well for her so we are the only volunteers in Kwara now. I will upload some photos when I am in the office. I am out visiting a school on Monday which I really enjoy.
This week I also made bean burgers with the VSO recipe book. It is still hot but has been a bit cooler at night and we are all waiting for the harmattan wind which will bring cooler weather and loads of dust! NEPPA has been very poor so I am very glad we are here. We had the bets night's sleep last night.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


It has been another busy week. I did my first training with the SSIT which I think was okay and I also gave some help on the use of the number line. I really enjoyed being with them-it was quite lively at times but good fun too. Yesterday (Saturday) we took a taxi down Taiwo Road. The driver was quite chatty and asked us if we were missionaries! When we explained what we were doing he told us the real price of the taxi for our return which was useful. Our aim was to renew the Glo subscription but the shop was not open yet so we walked down the road and found an interesting gift shop where we bought a few Christmas presents. Next door was a cafe where we bought a scone! Yes a real scone-no butter but washed down well with Fanta and only cost 60n. Back to the Glo shop and I was greeted with, "you were very angry last time". However when I explained that it now worked and I was not here to complain we got our new subscription and instructions on how to install. As we were now on a roll we decided to walk back(in full sun in true Brit style) and look for speakers for our laptop. After several forrays into dark interiors we were directed into another shop and shown some speakers but they were 5000n (£20). I explained we were only prepared to pay 3000n and after much haggling the owner, apparently a devout Christian who trusted us and wanted us to have it agreed on 3500 without a receipt. They work!!!!
We then found Gomalez-a 'department store' where we bought some funny little gifts for our grandsons. Shattered by now and fed up with near-death experiences with bikes and taxis we got a taxi to Martrite where amazingly I found white sugar.
I was now able to make my contribution for the party we had been invited to that evening. Apples are in good supply so I made apple crumble and even found custard powder-although the custard was rather lumpy! We really enjoyed meeting up with everyone at the party and Lea got to eat chicken and goat! I enjoyed the vegetable curry!
Today Sue took us to the lake in the university which is so lovely. It is set in the countryside and really great to breathe fresh air and be in such a peaceful setting. We saw egrets and heard some very loud toads. We will definitely go there again.
Other good news has been that I have been able to open a bank account this week thanks to Yejide in the office.

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Returned from trip to Abuja for a meeting with colleagues from other states. Writing this by torchlight as the power has gone so may be a short blog!
So we got to the airport and went to pick up our tickets. Why the long delay? No electricity so they had to write the tickets by hand! I also noticed their unique luggage system-one poor man dragging each piece out of the airport and onto the tarmac then as you get on the plane you show him which is your piece to check it's there!
We stayed at a good hotel and at last I could ebjoy a warm shower and even have a bath. There was lots of food too so I could make up for lost time and eat things like lettuce and apples! It was also good to meet other volunteers and share stories. I went to the VSO office and finally got some living allowance but Lea still has not had his due to our problems with the bank. Then I met Nova and we had a meal in Dunes. Dunes is also a shop and it felt a bit like being in Aladin's cave after the shops here. There was so much choice but a lot out of the reach of the VSO allowance. I did treat myself to some conditioner which was nearly a whole day's allowance but desperately needed and not available here. I also bought two Mars bars which were also desperately needed! Then I had to get a taxi back and in the dark! Nova was very helpful and made sure the driver knew the way and got me a cheap price but as I set off I remembered the warning about not going out alone after dark and how people pretending to be police were getting into taxis and then kidnapping the occupants. Needless to say I sat in the front with my eye on the door handle ready to jump out if the need arose. It didn't and the driver was great.
The next day I met Lilian, John and David who were running the meeting. They are great people. Lilian is more my age and used to be a VSO so knew how things were. She took Lucy (another VSO) and I out for a meal, insisted on paying for it and provided us with a taxi driver she knew so we felt safe going back. I really enjoyed the meal and our chat. I got the driver's number too so I can call him when I next go to Abuja. Quite a lot of volunteers are having problems here especially with bank accounts and three have had accidents on okadas. I brought my helmet back but am very unsure about using the okadas as the roods here are so bad.
The meeting was really useful too and good to know what other states are doing and how far ahead Kwara is. It was really well run too and Lilian is clearly well respected.
The plane was only delayed by an hour and then it was back to my no ac accomodation and limited food selection but Lea had bought coconut juice which went well with the Mars bars and it was good to see him and Jayne again.

In the field

Think I'm becoming a real Nigerian??? Getting into the terminology! 'Flash' is when you want to give someone your number so you just let your phone ring once! 'Travelling' means you are going out and 'in the field' means you are in the community.
So I have been in the field this week visiting schools looking for examples of good practice. On Monday I went to a fantastic school where they are really making use of the lesson plans and really trying to take a more child-centred approach. Although there were 51 children in the classroom-they have to have two classes together due to lack of space- the two teachers made the most of their situation. They had displays everywhere, a numeracy corner and made teaching aids out of junk materials. They had cut out letters so every child had an alphabet pack and arranged the desks in a U shape to encourage all the children to join in. There was a lot of singing, rhymes and role play to keep the children engaged and they knew the children's names. In another class they were learning about capacity and went outside to fill cups with leaves and stones, The head showed me a television and video still in the box-not much good without electricity! I was able to visit this school twice and was made so welcome. It was a long journey down very bad roads but well worth the effort. At another school a bit further on a class 1 teacher was doing Letters and Sounds and had really got the hang of sounding out the words-which teachers here struggle with, They were learning the sound 'p' and singing 'Puff the candles out' with actions. Some children here had problems as their parents couldn't afford to buy them exercise books. A PTA meeting was going on with parents sitting on benches under the trees. Both schools were very basic but they were making the most of what they had. I took loads of photos and made a presentation so the powers that be can see the success of the lesson plans, Photos will be on my next blog. Takes ages to download so have to do them at the office.

Of course I had some adventures on the way to the schools. On my first visit I had to go to the Lgea-Local Government education office to meet everyone. This is always hard as they always remember my name but I meet so many at once often with names I find hard to pronounce that I forget them quickly which makes me feel bad. I addressed one man in Yoruba which he complimented me on but then said I needed to learn their culture and as he was a prince he would show me how to courtesy!
On my first visit we had to give some other colleagues a lift and on the way back I somehow ended up in a meeting-still not sure what it was about-where I was presented with lunch. I am now officially allowed to look for a Nigerian husband as I ate my pounded yam and vegetabble stew! I also had to stand up and make a little speech about myself. Fumi, my colleague and Gabriel, the driver were great company on the journey back. Fumi got oranges for us and bought bananas for me-a third of the price I would have paid! I did not partake of the suya though-this is meat roaste on skewers at the roadside. Apparently they let you know which is roasted dog!
The SSIT members who arranged the visits for me and introduced me to the headteachers were very kind and helpful too and good fun.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


The Markets
Yesterday Jayne and I went to investigate the local hospital. I was very pleasantly surprised as it was very clean and welcoming. Appointments are unheard of which is a real bonus and we saw a doctor straight away who said there would not be a problem registering there. Unfortunately there is not an ambulance service here so all the more reason to be very careful crossing the road!
Inspired by the success of this meeting we decided to move on to the markets. Getting a tuc-tuc or taxi was problematic until a very kind girl told us to shout ‘oga’ which is market. After a fairly uneventful journey we arrived at the Emir’s Palace market and went in the materials market. This was fairly calm and full of women. The choices were amazing-so many beautiful patterns and colours. Eventually I chose two lots. You get either 6 yards or 10 and prices are from 1000n-about £4. There is some beautiful lacy material which I am thinking would be lovely for my outfit for Katie’s wedding which is 5000N. I also bought a head scarf for days when I can’t use my straighteners!
So then we got a taxi to the food market. Even though it was full we soon stopped to allow more people to enter. I found myself sitting on the gear stick but that wasn’t enough I was told to move up and ended up on the hand brake! Suddenly there was a crunching sound. The driver got out and a ferocious argument began. Just as Jayne and I were getting out with the aim of legging it somewhere the driver reappeared and we were told to get back in. It seems he had driven over some metal object off another driver’s car.
So we enter the market. Indescribable scenes of chaos greeted me. Cars and bikes, elderly people in wheelbarrows fighting for space down narrow paths. Hawkers and beggars, diesel fumes from generators, not to mention fires and smoke from burning tyres! People chopping large junks of meat surrounded by flies, whole cow heads on the ground..... There was even a little monkey on a chain. Determined, we entered and bought ‘greens’, apples and tomatoes. Exhausted by the heat and the fumes we got a taxi back. This taxi had been completely stripped off all padding and it was interesting to see what the door was made of! Again there was an argument-about change this time but we were now seasoned travellers so just waited!

Finally got the mobile modem to work! After an argument with the person in the shop who wanted me to remove my Norton Anti-virus and said he couldn’t give me my money back until he had found someone else to buy the modem off me!

Thank you to everyone who is reading this. Special thanks to those who contacted Lucy about Adam. I am pleased to say he is much better now.
It is absolutely boiling here! I am off to visit schools tomorrow and am going unaccompanied for the first time which is an adventure. I am also flying to Abuja on Thursday for a meeting so may get my helmet so I can ride the okadas here which are cheaper than the taxis.
This photo was taken from the taxi as I have been told people don't like having photos taken-wish I had risked it now. Stalls of skin and heads were something else!

Happy Salah

Photos of the celebrations at the Hon Commisioners house where we celebrated the Muslim New Year with lots of ram (politely moved to next person's plate by me) and nice cold drinks including wine!!! The white man in Nigerian clothes is Harold, a consultant from the UK. Hoping to get Lea similar clothes?????

Monday, 15 November 2010

My house and outside my neighbour is pouinding yam!

Four weeks

Four weeks!
Gradually getting used to being here!  Still find it hard to believe at times especially when I am walking down the streets! I am still a source of wonder to people who shout greetings to me which is very nice but does mean I have to keep smiling all the time! This can be a problem when I am sweat ing and my eyes are streaming! I have had a few problems with my eyes and one day they felt like they were burning so Sue kindly got a driver to take us to a pharmacy. It did bear some resemblance to Boots in that there were shelves of pills and medicines but the eye drops he prescribed were for eyes, ears and nose! Needless to say I didn’t use them. They gradually got better and I have to try very hard not to rub them. Apparently it is a common problem with VSOs as we are not used to so much dust and petrol fumes.
I have also been bitten where my feet must have stuck out of the mosquito net!
This week has been a bit quieter as there was a general strike on Wednesday so we couldn’t go to the office and were told not to go near government buildings. I did some lesson plan editing in the morning and went for a swim in the afternoon which was very nice. On Thursday there was an Output 3 meeting and I learned I am off to Abuja in two weeks for a meeting! I am also going to work with the SSIT team to try to identify some examples of good practice. I am looking forward to this as it will involve visiting schools which I really enjoy. We may visit some remote schools which will involve an overnight stay which could also be interesting and possibly challenge my bladder even more than the day visits!
Next week is Sala which is a two day Muslim holiday so not much work will be getting done although it will be a chance to catch up editing the lesson plans. I have just put out some washing and can now smell wood smoke! There are also several geckos playing chase up the wall by my undies!
Today is Sunday and I have just made banana bread which tastes okay if you don’t eat the black base-the oven only has one temperature-hot! We managed to return the kettle and came back with a larger one and a free bottle of bleach as it was cheaper than the first kettle. There are three supermarkets here if you want hassle free shopping at fixed prices-although yesterday the owner insisted in carrying the basket round for us! You take your shopping to a counter and a girl writes down everything you have bought and the prices which she then adds up with a calculator. You then have to pay another person who takes the money and gives you your change! Choice is quite limited but we get the rest from the street shops and hawkers. On Friday we had white sweet potatoes which we made into chips. Eggs are sold singly and quite cheap as are tomatoes, bananas and onions and we have even been able to get apples. I found a place near the office which sells my favourite doughnuts with the boiled egg inside. Often in the office someone will send round biscuits or fruit juice to celebrate an event. We got sweets on Friday which were nice. I bought a KITkat a few days ago but it wasn’t the same and was quite expensive.
We have not had much NEPPA because of the strike and my mobile modem is not working properly which is frustrating. However the house  feel more like a home now. We are enjoying living with Jayne who has cooked some more great Kenyan meals. We have a good laugh together and often walk to work together too. Some people asked about our house. Well it is really a flat. There are two flats downstairs –us and a bank manager who has been to England- and upstairs Oosi and Ante and their children in one flat and the owner and his wife and nieces and nephews in the other. Benga is one of the nephews and often pops down for a chat. He is a big help when things like the tap go wrong and offered to charge my laptop during the strike. The other flats have their own generators which come on when NEPPA goes. This adds insult to injury as we then not only have no power but also have to listen to the din made by our neighbours  generators!
So, to get to our house you have to go through the yard, where someone revs up a car about 6 every morning, and then through another gate, down the path and ours is the second door. Take your shoes off in our verandah area and enter our living room which has armchairs, settees and a table and carpet. You then go through to the dining area complete with fridge, food cupboard and blue plastic table and chairs. On the left is a dark corridor which leads to the bedrooms. Ours is the first on the right. It is a large room and now has two desks as well as a huge bed and wardrobe. A bathroom leads off which I have scrubbed furiously with bleach and hopefully convinced my gecko friend he would rather live outside. We have had a cockroach and a few maggots crawled out of the cabbage but that’s all so far-although I have seen a snake on my travels. Off the dining area is the kitchen with a sink and wooden unit that is coated in ant powder! There is also a cooker with a gas bottle and a stand for the water filter which we no longer use as the water tastes disgusting. There are some shelves and there is also a very dark pantry area with a door where we keep pots, pans, plastics and boxes. Outside the kitchen is another verandah area and outside there is a place to hang washing and apparently throw rubbish!
Yesterday we also went swimming again which was a welcome relief from the heat. After we had a lovely afternoon at Sue’s house playing with her gorgeous children and their little friend who is the daughter of a work colleague. Lea finally got to watch a football match so he was happy too. I had a lovely time drawing with the girls and then we played outside  for a while. Probably why I am sunburnt now! We enjoyed the egg and chips too and the cake the girls had made.
It has also been a worrying time as Adam, my grandson has been ill and is in hospital with a form of meningitis. I feel so helpless but I believe he is on the mend now. I will not get my passport back for at least 4 more months as that is how long it takes to process a resident’s permit which is not a nice situation to be in. However I could get back home in an emergency if I needed to. If anyone is reading this and knows Lucy please tell her I have been thinking of her. It is Adam’s birthday on the 17th so hope he is able to celebrate it. I had a lovely video from him and Jake, Carrie and Aimee before he was ill. I miss them all so much so it is great to receive something like that even though it took 2 and a half hours to download as the  internet speed is so slow here!
To  end on a lighter note. Lea has to go on buses a lot and on Friday when he got out he realised there were two sheep under his seat! He also tried to close the door and then realised there wasn’t one! Another time the back door suddenly swung open and a huge wheelbarrow fell out. It just missed a Fulani tribesman who was then told he had to help the driver get the wheelbarrow back on the bus!
Finally a few things I miss-apart from my wonderful family and friends
·         Dark chocolate
·         Brillo pads
·         Real milk
·         A hoover
·         The news
·         Marmalade
·         Cheese
·         Wholemeal bread
·         My bed
·         Traffic lights

Friday, 12 November 2010


The Return Of NEPPA
NEPPA is the electricity service in Nigeria but it is very selective about when it serves! Yesterday there was a general strike and there was no electricity at all. Despite the strike being over we have had no electricity today either. Just as Lea was about to charge his phone with our Power Monkey-a small device that stores electricity for emergencies can charge up small items-the lights came on. We cheered and they immediately went off. However half an hour later they are back so we have rushed to charge our laptops, phones and lantern. Best of all the fan is now working again so we can cool down at bit. So now it has gone off again! That lasted all of 20 minutes. Time to put my head torch on again!
On Sunday Lea hada bad experience with too much NEPPA and had an electric shock despite the fact that we have surge breakers. It was quite scary but I phoned Emma who is the state team leader for ESSPIN who have provided us with the house and an electrician was here within the hour. He bore no resemblance to the Scottish Power electrician! However he was very thorough and checked out all the sockets –he didn’t seem bothered that the mains was still on but just asked if he could put his rubber sandals on! (Here people take off their shoes and leave them in the entrance to your house.) He said he had found a fault in the wiring which he fixed. Our neighbour from upstairs was very helpful and came down to interpret for us. Lea was quite shaken but is back to his old  self now though maybe his hair is straighter!
Life without NEPPA  often affects the water supply too which is why we have two big black bins in the corridor full of water. Cooking by candle light is okay but it is a hot sticky experience, Tonight we went to Martrite to return the kettle which has decide not to work-have to go back when the manager is there!-and coming through Ilorin in the dark is not easy. I decided it was not worth falling into a ditch so we called a taxi. The first demanded 300naira and wouldn’t lower so we let it go. The next wanted 200-still too much but I was too tired to argue so we got in. A taxi is different from a drop which is dearer. In a taxi you share with other people. If the driver sees someon flagging him down and if he is going their way and the price is right they can get in-the fact that there may noy be enough room is irrelevant! We got out at our road and stumbled down the path by the light of Lea’s torch. Returning to darkness in our house we now have to resort to candles which are very romantic and do solve issues around cleaning and tidying as it is too dim to see such minor details!


The wedding
Yesterday we went to Mary’s daughter’s wedding. It was fantastic and we were made to feel so welcome. Sue picked us u . She was dressed in Nigerian clothes as were her two daughters. Hopefully I will be able to have some made for me soon. Not too sure about the head bit though. We went to the party which was after the church service which lasted three hours! The party was in a huge hall at a school and was absolutely packed with at least 500 people. As you can see from the photo everywhere was lavishly decorated with a blue theme. The cutlery was in gold coloured bags and the chairs were dressed in silky material and ribbons. Big bows were festooned across the balconies and there were fruits and sweets on the tables. One of the fruits was a garden egg which people seemed to enjoy but tasted a bit like a dried bitter cucumber to me! We sat at the ESSPIN table but I was also greeted by members of the SSIT  team. Lea was soon enjoying the chicken and beef plus skin accompanied by rice with chopped liver. Katherine-a really lovely kind ESSPIN  colleague- made sure I didn’t miss out and I had a dish of a kind of coleslaw with potatoes and chopped boiled eggs which was very nice. Katherine told me it was time for the dance for the bride’s mother so some of us got up. I was spotted by Jegede and Eunice who took me near to the front and we had a good dance together which involved a lot of hip swinging ! Next thing people were giving me naira notes! Apparently this is called “spraying” and is a way of complimenting guests!
Later on Mary came over and gave us all a hug and made us feel so welcome. She was beautifully dressed. Then came the procession of the bride who danced in with her husband followed by bridesmaids and family. Again I had special treatment as other guests ensured I got a good place near the front so I could take photos. The bride looked stunning-her dress was from London. After there was a long speech by the chairman and then a huge cake appeared. Gifts were brought to us all. I received a whisk and Sue got a hand juicer. In work the next day we all were given huge umbrella and a piece of cake which was delicious. It is hard to really describe the party. It was packed full with bright colours, noise, laughter, singing, dancing and just such good fun!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

More experiences

Last Saturday we went to Kwara hotel where the owner lets all VSO have a free swim which was great. It was lovely to do something familiar and the water was lovely and warm.I had to get out quite quickly as there was suddenly a torrential downpour! The rainy season is lasting longer this year.
On Friday I went to the bank which was quite an expedition. It wasn’t where I thought it was so I stopped a man in the street to ask for directions. He completely ignored me but a lovely lady took me with her the whole way to the bank. The bank bore resemblances to British banks with counters and an enquiry desk but was absolutely full of people-all talking at the top of their voices. Benga’s wife works there and let me jump the queue which was great. I now need references and more photos.
I also went in a fabric “shop” and acquired material for our bed-I bargained and got 200N off but in the shop where I bought black-eye beans I think I was grossly overcharged. When I arrived back in the office I was extremely red in the face after my expedition and long walk. I can’t begin to describe the sights and sounds in the streets-all the activities-people cooking in on open fires, beggars, hawkers in the road selling newspapers to passing cars, goats.......
We have now got a brand new desk for our room! Also we have worked out how to use the electric part of the stove and we have bought a kettle and a mirror! We have also did some  cleaning up and washed the kitchen windows yesterday! I have even managed to put some photos up in our bedroom! We are getting there!


We have been here three weeks!
I still have to pinch myself at times to convince myself this is not a dream. Time has gone so fast this week and I have had some amazing experiences!
It is still an adventure just walking to the office in the morning. I am roused at 5am by church singing; get up at 6am; bang on the bathroom door to let Graham, the gecko know I am coming in and don’t want to see him; have a quick splash under the shower; search for clothes-usually by torchlight; eat porridge and cassava bread-tastes very sweet and has butter in it; put laptop in rucksack; lock front door; put on sandals which are in verandah and lock outside door (turning key three times); go into main yard; give door in the metal gate a mighty shove and step out into Cemetery  Road. There is indeed a cemetery here but it is completely overgrown and only the tops of the graves are visible. The “road” part is debatable as it is really a sandy, litter-strewn path with huge pot-holes which Ahmed, the ESSPIN driver navigates with great sklil when he has to give me a lift. The raod, like all roads in Nigeria, is home to chickens and countless goats-smaller and cuter than British goats.Yesterday there were some gorgeous baby chicks following their mum in the ditch. People are everywhere-walking, on motorbikes, in cars, opening their shops, cooking plantains, shouting, singing..... Children in immaculate brightly coloured uniforms-the green one is my favourite- are heading off to school. School starts at 8, breakfast at 10.30 and finishes at 1.30. I still cause a stir and am greeted every few metres. I get a very enthusiastic welcome from the owner of the first “pub” who wants me to go and sit there one evening. It si nothing like Wetherspoons in case you were wondering! At the end of Cemetery road I turn onto the main road and there the adventure really begins. Traffic is horrendous! A ditch runs alongside the road with planks placed here and there so you can cross over them. Crossing the road is not for the faint hearted! Dodging okadas, cars and taxis which often suddenly turn and go down the wrong side of the road, I eventually leap the ditch and make it to the other side! As I get nearer to the office it gets busier and noisier. I am constantly amazed at what people can carry on their heads-huge baskets of plantains, oranges, boxes of cooked food, wood........ Other people hurry past with chickens under their arms........ The sights, sounds and smells are amazing!
After the heat the ESSPIN office is a welcome retreat with air conditioning, cool water machine and coffee. Everyone is really friendly and I get a warm welcome. I really am trying to learn names but it is not easy especially when I discovered some of the men had three names and the name Alhaja means they have been to Mecca so quite a few are called this.
I also need to learn the names of the SSIT team-State School Improvement Team as I will be working closely with them. On Friday I got the chance to really get to know Tunji and Abiyao (know these must be wrong spellings but it is how the names sound to me). I went out with them to two schools to attend the headteacher cluster group meetings where they were discussing school self evaluation. As we drove through Ilorin I saw more sights and sounds-everywhere is so busy! We could learn a lot from cluster meetings Nigerian style-I love the way everyone repeated the conclusions or things that were important and there is often an inspiring prayer. I don’t know how teachers would feel about sitting on broken desks and phones going off with very loud ring tones!The meetings were very efficiently run and I was made very welcome and allowed to sit in during group work. The second meeting was in Sunga, Edu which was a very long drive over bumpy roads. They had actually finished the meeting and gone to pray but came back especially to talk to us which I thought was amazing. The school they met in was very rural and some children were looking after the goats-it was half term. I was quite shocked at the state of the school which had desks only in class 6. It was good to meet the heads and find out their thoughts on the lesson plans. There is a photo of me with them somewhere in this blog!
Another day I went to the SSIT office to meet everyone and got a wonderful welcome. There are about 20 members and they all stood up and introduced themselves and then I had to make an impromptu speech-years of impromptu assemblies finally paid off! At the end there was even a prayer for me and a roll. This is where they roll their hand and then do a loud clap. I did my bit of Yoruba and they were very kind about my attempts! Hopefully I can help with the editing of the literacy and numeracy plans and have an input into the Letters and Sounds. The day after this I went to visit schools with three SSIT members-Dari, Amosa and Ibrahim (again sure these are wrong spellings but will learn them soon I hope). This was great day. We drove past the Emir’s Palace and the mosque. Men lined the road waiting to be picked for building work and the market was packed-although I was told it was much busier later! We went to two schools in Ilorin West where some great work was taking place and it was just so good to be in a classroom again! Although it was a far cry from the classrooms we have in the UK. In the first school there were 20 children in class 1 with 3 teachers and the teacher was clearly following the lesson plan. The children were learning to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” and the teacher had made a model bus out of a box and tin cans. She had also got literacy and numeracy areas. In another school children were learning tens and units with straws and twigs and counting using bottle tops. There was a homemade hundred square stuck on the wall with tape. It sounds familiar but set in a room with concrete floor and bare walls with little wooden desks from the Victorian era. The children had no shoes, stubby pencils and sat so quietly even when the teacher was talking to us. The teacher also had to endure being watched by the three of us and the head! The second school had lost a classroom due to subsidence which is a common problem. The head showed us the bore hole they had recently got so they could have water. The school based management committee had provided a “toilet” which was two pieces of corrugated metal. The last school was a rural one and very different from the first. Getting teachers to rural areas is difficult and two classes were without teachers which is quite a common situation. I watched class 3 this time and the teacher stopped the lesson she was doing so she could show me a literacy lesson. She repeated the one she had done earlier and the children just got on with it without a word! The head was a lovely man and keen to use the lesson plans but said he had problems with lack of staff, workbooks and infra structure-he had more derelict classrooms, again due to subsidence.
The following day I went with Sue, Abolowu and Philip to visit an amazing school in Oyun. Although the desks were broken and dilapidated the children were in circles or groups and encouraged to participate. The children had little bags with the letters written on scraps of paper which they used in the phonics lesson and in class one the teacher had a little pile of sand for the children to draw the numbers in. Most of the children had little bags with their exercise books in (they have to buy these themselves) and a pencil. The “blackboard” is a painted section of the concrete wall and displays are usually hand drawn on odd scraps of paper or card and attached with masking tape. It was amazing to see 5 year olds all sitting and doing the same thing and being quiet! They are moving toward more participation and it was encouraging to see teachers, working with so little resources embracing and trying out new ideas. I really enjoyed sitting and talking with the children. Class 3 were working on pronouns and worked so hard!
Philip took us to meet his friend who lived nearby who is some sort of minister, I think, in his church. He had a nice house and gave us a cool drink and Jacobs cream crackers which people seem to be very fond of. I was also introduced to a malt drink that is popular in another school but have learned fast not to drink too much as there are no toilet facilities and as I am often out for hours........
Life here is certainly not going to be dull!!!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Shopping in Ilorin
Jane kindly made us a meal on Wednesday and Sue brought us food on Thursday but now we have to become independent which means shopping for food. We were directed to the “fruit shop” at the end of our “road” (more of a dirt track than a road). Shop is basically a hut with a stall outside. Our first venture was quite successful and we returned with tomatoes, satsumas, bananas and a paket of biscuits. Our next trip was to the supermarket. This was not so good as we thought it was another hut shop which we entered and succeeded in scaring the children in there. The youngest was terrified and not helped by the mother threatening to let the igbo (white person)   carry him away! We bought some biscuits and were directed to a building next door which was the supermarket and as the child was by now in hysterics made a quick exit. There was more choice in this shop and we bought quite a few items but when I asked if he had any bread the owner said no. On my way out I saw a stack of sliced bread! So I marched back in and said “This is bread!” “No,”he said. “It is bread”. Anyhow I bought it-it was made from cassava flour and tastes quite sweet but is okay. Emboldened by our shopping prowess the next day we went to another hut shop-where there were no children-and I asked for cereals. The owner didn’t understand so I explained it was something you ate for breakfast. She went into the dim interior of the shop and emerged with what I first thought was  a tin of squirty cream but which on closer inspection proved to be a can of insecticide!
Today we found Martrite where we were more successful and able to buy cups, bowls and other items for our house. Laden with shopping we hailed a taxi who suggested 200 naira as the fair. Eventually he agreed on 100 but when we tried to leave the taxi said it was further than we had told him and wanted 150. We told him no way and he said “Igbo you pay” but  gave up and left quite amicably!
At the office there is coffee and biscuits and there is a lovely man who will go out and buy “moy moy” for you-this is sort of spicy chick pea paste and very delicious so I do have a back up!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Ilorin by candle light October 31st

So much has happened and no time to blog! Yes we are finally in our placement. The flat is nice and has a cooker, fridge and water but very little electricity so far! We are sharing with Jane and Rosalyne who are from Kenya and have been very helpful and are good fun too, We have our own bedroom and bathroom. The bed is huge and we have put 3 mosquito nets over it and there is still a little gap. The pillows were massive and rock hard so i have removed loads of the filling to give my neck a break!
After visiting Lucy there was more ICT  and my employer came to join me, He is the assistant director of SUBEB and called Abolowu. We talked a bit about what I would be doing and I also got a chance to try out some of my newly acquired Yoruba, So far I have learnt.:
Eshay-thank you
Bowoni-how are you
Da da ni-fine
Abolowu enjoyed the food at the hotel and assured me I would soon get used to Goats Head soup but I have my doubts! In fact we decided to give the hotel food a miss in the evenings and sampled some of the restaurants in Abuja. One called Dunes was very nice –I had a salad-and the owner gave us free banana pancakes. Nova, a volunteer from New York, was very good at getting us cheap taxi rides.
During one of the ICT sessions we had to go round the room and write our thoughts on the countries represented on our training. On the USA poster were comments like loud, confident, like interfering in other country’s affairs. On the UK we had poor food, colonized our country, fatty fish and chips, the queen, stiff upper lip, industrious, work too hard, gentle but cunning, the queen. Lea did well to defend us by saying, “On behalf of the British Government I should like to apologise......” On the last night we all went to Spice Foods for a really good Indian meal with loads of veggie options so I was very happy.
Next day we flew with Obalowu to Ilorin-not an easy task with all our bags, helmets and water filter! At the airport a porter helped with the luggage and I was told I would have to pay 5000 naira in excess baggage charge but he said let me see if I can beg with them  bit. True to his word he came back and we only had to pay 3000 naira, Pity he wasn’t with us at Heathrow. We flew in a small plane, minimal safety demo and no life jackets-but don’t suppose they would be much use on an internal flight. However we did get a drink and a biscuit.
When we landed we were met by a driver from ESSPIN (Education Support Section Programme in Nigeria) and driven very carefully-big contrast to Abuja to my office to meet everyone. It was good to meet Sue after emailing her for the last few months and a chance to try out my Yoruba on the team. I am trying very hard to remember their names. I met Mary and Gbenga that first day. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. I also had a desk with internet connection-wonder if I could take my straighteners in? Then off to our house where Jane was waiting. Sadly there was no NEPPA so unpacking in the dark was not easy and Lea got very hot putting up the mosquito net!
Am going to have to sign off now as my candle is wobbling dangerously! Can’t believe all this happened 4 days ago-have done so much since. More later and pictures..........

Travelling adventures

Travelling adventures
This has seemed the longest week of my life! Nothing could have prepared me for the experiences and sights ! I have had an overload of information and no time for blogs!
So Wednesday was gender training mostly and then we found out where we were going on our work experience. We also found out that although we would be collected and taken to our placement we would be expected to return alone. Fortunately Lea and I were placed together.- in Akwanga which is in Nasarawa state.  This is the next state to Abuja so I thought okay should be fine-then I was told to take my helmet........
The next morning I gave the liver stew a miss and tried a bag of something that had a vague resemblance to Readibrek which was actually okay with powdered milk and hot water. There was even some pineapple and melon which I ate in the hope of keeping me going on my journey. While we were waiting to be picked up I went to the shop opposite the hotel  which sells everything. You can buy shampoo and even Nivea-wish I had known-would have saved valuable suitcase space. Best of all they had Aero bars.
Lucy arrived to pick us up and we got in a taxi to Area 11 Filling Station where we needed to take a bus to the main motor park. We got out and followed Lucy across the main road-dodging speeding cars hooting furiously (suddenly realised I haven’t seen any traffic lights in Abuja). Suddenly Lucy was running and stopping a very dilapidated looking minibus. Next thing she was beckoning us to get in. First part of my steep learning curve-there are no bus stops-just areas where buses stop which might be going your way and you need to agree a price before you jump on. So we got on and I sat with 3 people on a seat made for 2-no mean feat when I was also carrying my helmet and flight travel bag which is on wheels. Lea sat somewhere behind me.  Next lesson when you want to get off you bang the roof and shout “Drop”. Fortunately Lucy knew where we needed to drop. Ah now, I thought the motor park and pictured buses lined up with destination signs. How naive was I? We stumbled out of the bus into a mele of people selling food and every item under the sun-these are  hawkers  and no, Lucy patiently explained this is not a market. When I looked more closely I could see some minibuses amidst the chaos. We needed to find one for Akwanga and it had to be green-the others aren’t regulated. This was quickly accomplished and Lucy said the price was fine so our bags were pushed under the seats and we got on. Everyone had a seat but we didn’t move until everyone was completely squashed and we were all enjoying the benefits of this free sauna. Next lesson-the conductor and driver don’t wear uniforms! While we were waiting to see if anyone else would like to squash in with us we were offered phone cards, eggs (yes real eggs and not in a box), silk scarves, plantains and all manner of food. Finally feeling peckish we bought some doughnuts. They looked just like jam doughnuts. They tasted just like jam doughnuts except they had no jam in the middle instead they had a hard boiled egg and were actually very nice. We were also subjected to beggars and then a rather large man stepped on the bus and tried to lead us in prayer. Over his shoulder a woman was selling children’s clothes to another passenger. So when another man asked us for 300 naira I was a bit dubious-but apparently it was okay as he was the conductor. Just before we left a man pointed at us and shouted “ Baturi” which means white person and apparently is not meant as an insult in any way.  At last we got going and I tried to be sociable with the woman in front who had a baby on her knee. She told me her name was Esther but Esther didn’t respond well to my smiling and silly face games-she just stared and stared.......Suddenly we stopped and a woman with a baby tied to her back got on and very cleverly managed to manoeuvre the baby onto her lap while having a heated debate with the conductor over the price of the fare. This continued for most of  her journey. She finally got off telling him he was a cheat and a thief. We stayed on the bus for about two hours and finally arrived in Akwara. Again I thought I was in a market but they were just hawkers. Lucy was then very kind and decided we had had enough adventures for one day and phoned her colleague to come and pick us up. Another lesson parking as such does not exist-you just stop anywhere regardless of traffic or inconvenience. We drove to quieter parts. Lucy works in a college and has her accommodation there. The teachers were on strike so there were pickets at the entrance but when they saw Lucy we were able to drive through. Strikes are very common as teachers are often not paid on time and are very badly paid also.
The college grounds are quite well laid out but I was shocked at the state of the buildings. Lucy lives on the second floor of her block and her neighbours were outside the building drying some crops. There were also some very noisy turkeys, chickens and two dogs. Grandma welcomed us and we learnt “Sadu” (hi) and “Enakwana” (how are you) and “Lafia” (fine). Our first lesson in Hausa over we entered Lucy’s flat and were introduced to the water butt-which is filled from a tap in the yard-but this only comes on intermittently we found out later when there was a mad rush by her neighbours up and down the stairs. We also learnt how to scoop water into a bowl to wash our hands with and use to flush the toilet. Although she has a bathroom nothing works in it and you can’t let water go down the sink. Bathtime involves putting an electric element in a bucket of water, placing that in the bath and then using the scoop to throw water over your body. Lucy had got a cooker and a fridge and we had a comfortable bed complete with mosquito net. After a lovely “normal” lunch of beans on toast we walked around the college. The lecturers and teachers live here with their families and grow their vegetables which they also sell at the market. The Lecture rooms are very different as you can  see and are full of rubble and very dusty. Students use the road as a toilet also. We also saw the primary and secondary schools, which again were full of rubble. Children aged 5 sit behind woode desks for hours every day. When we returned to Lucy’s the NEPPA (electricity) had gone off so our wind up torch came in handy!
Apart from the dogs howling we had a good night’s sleep and I decided it was time to feel the fear and go on an okada (motor bike). Another volunteer had warned me to choose a fatter driver so I would have something to hold onto in an emergency. However Lucy said it was not really the done thing to touch the driver so I just took the first driver. Putting my helmet on was not easy as it is such a snug fit and then trying to get my glasses on was almost impossible but somehow I ended up behind the driver! Off we sped and I hung on to the back of the bike for grim death until he shouted I was holding the indicator light! Lucy was in front with her okada but then she disappeared! Fortunately my driver knew where we were going and we arrived at the Provost’s house safely! We had an interesting time there and learnt about the nursery school they are setting up. After  that the Provost’s driver took us to a restaurant where we were introduced to egusi soup which you eat by making a little ball with the yam and using that to scoop up the stew. The yam is fine but I had problems with the stew as despite being vegetables there were pieces of dried fish in it which I was warned not to eat! Another okada ride took us to the market where we bargained and got a mobile phone for 5000 naira-about £20 and Lucy showed us the food we could buy.
The following day we went for a walk and came to a Fulani tribe village but couldn’t stay long as the children were frightened of us-bad enough we were white but worse I had a big hat on! Then it was time for some cooking! Lucy’s neighbour had given her lots of bananas so we made banana cake which was lovely.
The next day we had to return to Abuja unaccompanied!!! Lucy, however gave us some excellent instructions so we felt fairly confident-at least Lea did but with my sense of direction I wondered if I would ever see Abuja again. This time I did choose the larger okada driver but couldn’t work out where to put my feet and ende up with them stuck out at the side, desperately trying not to touch the ground. My glasses had also slipped and were on diagonally which meant I had limited vision. However, I thought I would imagine I was on a horse and if I could stay on a horse then why not a bike? As we bumped along I remembered how I had never liked riding without holding the reins........ The driver was excellent though and took us straight to the Abuja bus and put our bags in. We sat at the front and were soon chatting to the Nigerian students behind us who kindly offered to share their food with us. I even relaxed enough to eat plantain crisps! There was a slight problem when someone started demanding money until I realised he was the conductor. As before people were selling and begging so it was confusing.  As time wore on and our new friends got off the bus I started to worry about knowing where to get off but the driver was very good and let us know in plenty of time. I am very proud of the next part as when we got off we had to find a bus to Area 11. We were surrounded  by hawkers, buses and lots of mud but someone asked where we were going and lead us to a the buses. After asking at several buses we found the correct one and I negotiated a price cheaper than the one Lucy had suggested! When we got on and I sat by the driver I realised why-the bus was ina very bad state-wires everywhere and the speedo was broken but hey so what? The driver was friendly and told us where to get off and Lea remembered which side of the road we needed to be on so then all we had to do was get a taxi back to Crystal Palace Hotel. We then enjoyed a snack in the cafe-well Lea did as everything was meat except the doughnut which didn’t have an egg in this time. We also discovered the supermarket sold fridges, kettles, in fact everything you needed.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

More training and taxis!

Yes more training. Food is becoming a challenge! At breakfast I tried yam slices-okay if you accept they taste of nothing even when I added some marmalade! Fortunately there is fruit-pineapple and melons. Then it was another hair-raising drive to the VSO office which involved a very near miss when a car in front decided to suddenly open the passenger door! Everywhere there is hooting-and it's not to say hi!. At 12 we had to go in a taxi again which Shreela (one of the facilitators) haggled the price for 300 nairas. The next taxi driver wouldn't agree the same price so Lea, who was in the next group, was later while they waited for a more reasonable price. We actually drove to the local hospital which I thought I might become a patient in after yet another mad drive only this time in the front seat where I could see some very dodgy looking controls and got out with dirt all down my top off the very dusty seat belt! Not sure why we went to the hospital but the doctor there was very welcoming. Back to the VSO office for more training-finally getting the hang of going in a taxi-I just close my eyes! Really like the other volunteers I have met. Jane has reasssured me a lot about our house in Ilorin and my job. Lea and I have got a room with an ensuite! We then learnt we are going to Akanga in Nassawara to stay with a volunteer called Lucy for 4 days to learn about the basics of living here.
Having only had rice for Lunch (despite ordering fried rice it came with a piece of chicken on top ) we went with two otther volunteers to an Indian restaurant where, at last there was a choice of veggie food. And yes it involved more taxis!
After so much excitement I just wanted to go to bed. I discovered to my great joy that my shower now had lovely hot water. Sunday (the hotel receptionis) even found me a clean towel! The shower plus a big chunk of chocolate has revived my spirits a lot. Jeffrey (the hotel porter) is sitting on the stairs again tonight and told Lea he sleeps there as it would cost him too much to go home.
There are some amazing buildings in Abuja and if I can get the courage to open my eyes I will try to take some pictures tomorrow. I am just praying our trip to Akanga doesn't involve an okada (motorbike)!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Crystal Palace

  We are in the Crystal Palace hotel in Abuja and the photo on Trip Advisor was quite a good picture of my room. I can however lock the door and the bed is comfy. Lea has his own room 3 floors below called the Princess Suite which comes with 2 cockroaches but has hot water in the shower so we are making the most of all the facilities they have to offer. I am using the hotel computer in my room now a nice man has found a cable for the internet1
The journey was okay but we were delayed as there wasa problem opening the aeroplane door on arrival! Then when we arrived here-having driven through rush hour traffic ( cars going up embankments to overtake and lots of near misses amidst hooting and angry gestures)-We found out they had expected us the day before! So after dumping our bags at 7am-having had no sleep on the plane we had to go to the VSO office for our training. In the afternoon I actually dozed off which didn't go down well! The other volunteers are very nice. There are only 3 from Britain. The second session was form filling which was horrendous as I kept muddling all the papers up! We then had lunch and a talk by the doctor. After we were taken back to the hotel where Lea and I just went to bed and slept for 12 hours!
Today has been much better. More volunteers came and we met Jane-from Kenya- who we will be living with. We have also been given a sim card and vitamin tablets. Yesterday we got the malaria net and personal alarms. We did some hilarious role play about what happens when you get a bus which caused one of the trainers much hilarity when she saw the look of horror on my face! We had lessons in pidgin English and Yoruba which were fun but can't remember any at the moment. Another hilarious session was how to set up the stove and trim the wicks. Then the power went but nobody murmured as the torches came out! It is now pouring with rain and there has been a terrific thunderstorm.
Nearly time to go and investigate dinner! It is going to be a challenge to be a veggie here but today at lunch I did well/ Really enjoyed the plantains!

Heathrow October 17th

Well her we are. First minor miracle acieved! It has been no mean feat getting two helmets, two big suitcases, a rucksack and two pieces of handluggage not to mention me with a handbag and two coats with pockets bulging) on a train to Euston, then in a taxi to Paddington and then in the expressway and out again (while they reattached the engine which had apparently come off-not a good time to sulk Thomas!) Last hurdle was the lift to the departures lounge where I am now sitting and will be for the next three hours. Nothing like arriving early!
I need a rest after the traumas of yesterday. Our house has never been so clean!!! I think I have finally become the bleach queen! At the eleventh hour we unearthed a list from the letting agency on how to leave your house. The dishwasher dispenser is immaculate1 I must also mention R D Booth opticians for very last minute alterations to  my glasses-I can see the font so reckon I'll be okay. Hope you are readingb this Dave?
Thanks to everyone who has helped this week. I have got the best family and friends in the world1 Lea has just returned so it is my turn to go and investigate the shops, spray myself with perfume, eat chocolate, read magazines.....

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Where we are going.

We are going to Ilorin which is in the Kwara province.

Four weeks to go!

I have just put my grandsons to bed and done a bit more packing away. It feels strange to be putting winter clothes into boxes and suitcases to take to my mum's house for storage when it is so cold here. My mum is nearly 94 and has helped me in my fundraising by getting sponsors for me from the club she ran for the over 55s. She is very active and I am really proud of her.
It has been strange not being at work. My secondment began in September to fit in with the school term. I hope I will be able to share my experiences with the children at my school via the VLE and hopefully make them more globally aware. It has been quite hard explaining to them that I am going out to Nigeria to share expertise and help with training rather than to give them pencils, books, etc. I did a mini topic with them on Nigeria which they enjoyed. They were very surprised when I showed them the clip on Abuja which was in stark contrast to the mud huts they assumed everyone lived in.
As well as packing things away I have been visiting friends and playing with my grandchildren. Some people think we are mad as all they have heard about Nigeria is to do with corruption and money scams-hopefully I can show them a more positive picture!
My grandson started school last week and it was lovely picking him up and listening to his experiences. His mum is my daughter Lucy who got married.
It is very cold here and I am looking forward to a chge of climate. I have had all my jabs now. Hope my visa and tickets come soon. Still haven't got anyone to rent the house which is a worry but I have been assured we will get a tenant. Lea (my husband) is enjoying watching the football at the moment-doubt he'll be able to in a few weeks time!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Six weeks to go!

This is my first go at blogging so hope it works and someone will read it! In 6 weeks Lea (my husband) and I are going to Kwara province in Nigeria for 2 years with VSO. The training we had last week was excellent and great fun too. Suddenly everything has got very hectic-trying to rent our house, put stuff in storage, tell the banks, have endless jabs and fill countless forms as well as try to think what to pack. How can you pack 2 years stuff in 25kgs? As it will be the rainy season I think waterproofs are needed but I also need to take suncream as it is hard to get there. I have found some amazing paper shampoo and conditioner that I am taking. Other ideas are spices, vitamin tablets and much to everyone's amusement my straighteners.
I am looking forward to meeting the ESSPIN team in Ilorin where I will be working as  Primary Advisor. Trying to make the most of my last few weeks here with my family and friends but can't wait to get there too!
This is me surrounded by my daughters and granddaughters! They are amazing and my daughters are 100% behind me and hopefully will be able to visit me when I am in Nigeria.