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!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The cockerel who cannot tell the time!

He lives in my back yard and crows throughout the night!

Iffy has a cookery lesson!

Iffy made mincepies!
Iffy made mincepies. She soon got the idea of crumbling the butter-it was a bit different from punding the yam! They tasted delicious and we even had enough pastry to make some jam tarts. The people in the office loved them!

Monday, 17 January 2011


The weeks seem to fly by! It is now well and truly Harmattan and people are feeling the cold! I saw someone with a padded Jacket and Mary brought a blanket to work! I am, of course still hot! Well it is still 36° by 11 o’clock! It is a bit cooler at night and we do have a cover on the bed now-a shiny silver bedspread in fact, left here by a previous VSO. The biggest problem is all the dust and sand brought in by the Harmattan wind. Our verandah was covered with it and my shoes look brown instead of black. Lea washed the curtains which previously looked orange but in fact are several shades lighter!
We are real VSOs again and back in our house minus the generator but with geckos! Now Jayne has gone we have lots of space so I have put my Pilates exercises  in her room and am using her bed as a mat as I don’t fancy lying on the floor so that I can demonstrate the moves to  the cockroaches! It is my New Year resolution to do Pilates every day. I have been a bit lax-sorry Tanya-but I do find it hard doing them in the heat and finding somewhere to lie down was a problem. However no excuses now and so far I haven’t missed a day. I have got to do something as my clothes are getting tight with all the rice, yam and akara I am eating. First day back at the office I was told how robust I was looking and how fat I now was-this is actually a compliment! Then this week, Bello asked me how old I was and said, “I think around 50 or maybe around 60”-so I have also resolved to try to put make-up on. This is quite tricky in the mornings without NEPPA or Jayne to tell me how I look! We have bought an ironing board so at least my clothes should look smart. I am not telling many people about this or I will have to wash it. “Wash”, I was told, means to have a celebration-bring in food-for getting something new.
This week I went to see how the SSIT were doing delivering the training to the SSOs who then train the heads at cluster groups. It was indeed going very well and I was very impressed. I stayed most of the day and enjoyed the lively discussions. It was much more interesting than school development planning I have done in the UK-we should definitely adopt some of the energisers and the group tasks are done with real enthusiasm. The lunch was good too-jollof rice, plantains and chicken and the training center is set in lovely grounds. As I stood outside after lunch with the sun on my face, looking at the gardens and talking to interested participants I thought about my colleagues in England doing yard duty in the cold and rain.............
I also went to a leaving do at SUBEB where pounded yam and goat soup was on the menu. Needles to say I made do with a coke! The director was wished a happy retirement without pain and with more energy so he could serve Nigeria even better and then given enormous gift wrapped boxes which no-one knew the contents of. As it is not the custom to open gifts in public I can only guess the contents. My quest to discover where the story books are and  to obtain the books in SUBEB continued after the do and I now have another department to visit!
At last I finished the lesson plans-hurrah! I had only a short time to celebrate as Sue has found 75 more for me to do. I also have to do a workshop on Phonics at Oro college next week. It is a three day training so I am quite busy researching and planning for that. I also have to chair the technical team meeting tomorrow, arrange a meeting with directors in SUBEB and think about the induction for the new VSOs so I expect this wek will fly by too. We are looking forward to having new VSOs as Lea and I are the only ones here now so it will be great to have some company.
Sue is back and we have had a great weekend. Yesterday we had a good play with her girls and a great Indian meal followed by Dance wii which is great fun. Today Lea watched the derby with Sue-bit risky as he is an ardent Liverpool fan and Sue is Everton but fortunately it was a draw.
Disaster struck my laptop. The lid will not close properly so I am Hoping Katherine’s friend has been able to fix it as it is a real life-line. Sue has let me use hers and I have a net book but really need the laptop.
I am going to post the cockral who need to learn to tell the time. He lives in the shed at the back of our house and starts about 2am and continues until it gets dark. He has a really angry face I think you will agree. Some cattle were being driven down the road by  a Fulani and I did think of snapping them except the leader looked about to charge when I stared at her and in fact, led the herd down the side road I turned into much to the Fulani’s annoyance!
Another culinary achievement this week was the soda bread I made. I spent nearly an hour at Yoruba Rd market asking for bicarbonate of soda and was shown bottles of soda but eventually found a shop that sold it-even though the container turned out to be half full! We had to get my phone calculator to convert grams to ounces for the VSO Chop Recipe book and use peak dried milk but it worked and is very nice especially with the strawberry jam my daughter sent me via Sue.
Lea is making a map for the new VSOs and has found some new little walks of interest. He found the flower garden which is like a mini rainforest where the bats hang out-not my favourite creature so He will be taking them there on his own! We have roped him in for the lesson plans while the schools are closed so he can come to the office which will be good.
My project for the house is to try to remove some of the junk from the yard outside, ie: the old toilet and desk, then get some compost and plant some seeds. Benga, our neighbour, already grows garlic and tomatoes so will ask him to help.
The children round here are now calling me Aunty Caroline which is so lovely and we have made friends with the vegetable shop man who got me some delicious paw paws and let me try the red bananas ata special price because I am his regular customer now-I still haggled for a lower price though and he dashed me two cucumbers. His stuff is really good and we have had great pineapples and runner beans this week.
On that happy note I will switch off my head torch and heat up a pan for my bucket shower and go to bed!!!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Why I am still a vegetarian!

Today I went with Iffy and what a difference shopping is with a Nigerian! She helped me get everything about a third of the prive I paid last time! In the first picture the woman is chopping Iffy's meat into junks on an old wheel hub! The flies are everywhere and there is a strong smell of rotting flesh. It is very dusty and dirty and really noisy. Cars and bikes aslo drive through the narrow gaps between the stalls.This woman is selling dried fish which are twisted onto sticks.

 Here we have fish bones for making stock-again flies are free!

It is very crowded and noisy but everyone is friendly and eager for me to buy. Iffy is brilliant at bargaining. She says things like," I know there are lots of carrots around so don't try to cheat me" and "Put some more in there". I am learning fast!

I now get to the vegetables which is a relief and start buying!

Tomatoes and peppers are everywhere. Small children want me to buy carrier bags.

Oh! Oh! Iffy needs to buy skin so time to be brave again!
These pictures do not do justice to the market experience but hopefully convey some of the atmosphere.
I go away with beans, tomato paste, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions at a fraction of the price I payed last time. Thanks Iffy!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Back at the office

This is the view from the office window.
My love affair with the goats continues!
I am ploughing on with the lesson plans. It is good to be back and chatting to colleagues again. I am trying to set up book corners in the classrooms now which I really want to do! Going to go to the bank and use my card for the first time soon-fingers crossed!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Journey to Oro-the bus and the windscreen.


So far these are our tried and tested dishes:
Curried yam with omelette
Yam ‘sausages’ with cabbage
Bean burgers with rice
Stir fry
Fried beans and rice
Roasted veg and fried plantain
Squash and potato mash with ‘spinach’
Spaghetti with onion tomato sauce
Carrot dahl (Lea’s special)
Oven permitting I can also do  a version of pineapple upside down pudding, apple crumble, banana cake and fairy cakes!
I have given up on Peak dried milk which I really don't like but have found a kind of soya milk fo my cereals. Really missing drinking chocolate. Bournvita isn't the same and is very pricey. It is pineapple season now which is great. Honey bread is quite nice and they make a kind of coconut cake which is sweet. Oats are cheap but Cornflakes and Cocopops much dearer. You never know what you will find when you go shopping even in Martrite which is a supermarket. Last time there was a huge tin of Del Monte fruit fot 5000N which is about £20!
Dried fish is everywhere. The woman selling it outside Martrite is teaching us Yoruba. The smell of the fish is overwhelming and basically stinky to m,y British nostrils. She aske me yesterday if Lea would like her to be his wife then she and I could be sisters! Lea looked quite alarmed when I said it was up to him and she was welcome!
Another delicacy is roasted plantain. Plantains and bananas are in abundance everywhere. Lea has Lipton tea and we were actually able to get ginger biscuits today.

Adventures in Oro and recovering on New Year's Eve

We decided it was about time we did some exploring and ventured out of Ilorin. We had been told that Oro was a pleasant rural town with a museum as well as a college that Lea may do some work for. So we decided to go ‘travelling’ there. In true Brit style we made a packed lunch-peanut butter sandwiches and bananas.
It is a bit cooler now in the mornings-harmattan is here apparently-so we started our travels with the treck to the filling station by Ilorin Post Office. There are lots of interesting ‘shops’ by the post office selling shoes, bras, dvds but there was no time to dawdle. As we approached the filling station (remember this is Nigerian for bus station but not as I know bus stations) we were asked where we were going and taken to a very dilapidated vehicle-it could once have passed as a green minibus. There were two other passengers and we were told to get in. Just as I was considering that it was going to be a cool ride due to the absence of a windscreen at the back we were told to get out. Apparently another passenger needed to get in with the added complication that he was carrying a large windscreen-no, not for the bus but to fix another vehicle in Oro. After a lot of debate and struggling he managed to get the windscreen in behind the driver’s seat. We clambered back on and waited for more passengers to arrive. Hawkers and beggars constantly appeared at the windows. There was a bread stall next to the van and I watched as the owner took the bread out of the bags and wiped them with a rather grubby green sponge before putting them back in the bag-far too much knowledge and suddenly my butties didn’t seem quite so appetising.
Finally we had fifteen passengers and it was time to go. First the stone that was acting as a hand brake had to be moved then we had to coast down the slope a bit (avoiding another bus going in the opposite direction) so the engine could kick in-surprise surprise no ignition either. The first bit of the journey was okay apart from the bang on the head I got when we swerved to avoid a taxi. But then we got to the ‘bad’ road. This is road that was under construction but as the workers have not been paid work has stopped and it is now like a dirt track with sand everywhere. The houses and shops in this area are covered in sand. They also blocked part of the road so there are constant traffic jams. The only good thing was the driver had to slow down! Breathing sand and diesel is not pleasant!
Fortunately we soon left the ‘bad’ road but stopped to pick up two more passengers. Surely we were full now? No ten minutes later we were joined by a large lady and I was pressed even closer to the window. After an hour we were in Oro. We had to shout ‘drop’ quickly as we only realised when we asked another passenger.
Feeling very hot we decided to go for a drink in a ‘bar’ next to a shop. We didn’t linger as the flies clearly enjoyed this spot more than we did. We started to walk towards the centre and admired the buildings which are very old and ornate. Seeing a sign for the college we turned off the main road. An okada driver wanted to take us and didn’t seem to understand why I refused. He was very concerned that it was too far for us to walk. Eventually he seemed to get the message and we continued on our way but then disaster struck. It was a very bumpy uneven road and next thing I knew I had tripped and was flat on my face. I had cut my hand, my knee and banged my head! Lea came and helped me up and I was very brave! Suddenly we were surrounded with people saying, ’Sorry, sorry’ and trying to help. I was also filthy and one lady gave me her handkerchief which was very kind. The okada driver reappeared and said, ’Now you will come on the okada!’ He was completely bewildered when I refused again.
So we tried again. This time we were joined by a man who kept telling us it was too far to walk but then said,’ah it is for exercise’ and said he would show us a quick route. When I told him where I was from I got the ‘colonial masters’ phrase and ‘how was the queen?’ but he was very kind and led us through some interesting paths where the people waved and were very friendly. Back on the road we soon arrived at the college. All in all it took about twenty minutes!
The college is in a pleasant rural setting and there were plenty of benches in shady places for us to have our picnic. We met someone called Felix who was in charge of student welfare and made us feel welcome. The buildings are in better condition than the college at Lucy’s and a lot had glass windows.
On our way back I stopped at a shop to buy some biscuits. The children were so friendly I asked could I take a photo. As the three posed a shout went up and suddenly more children appeared-all desperate to be on the picture. This caused a lot of amusement and was a lovely moment. All in all Oro is very pleasant and it was good to get away from the noise and bustle of the city. People also were very friendly and eager to chat.
The worst bit was standing by the road trying to hail a bus to take us back to Ilorin. All buses are not standard colours so you just have to try to stop any minibus you see. After an hour of standing in the sun a bus eventually stopped and we were able to get in. After the journey home I think going on the rides at Alton Towers will be a doddle. We went at top speed and I gave up counting the number of near misses!
Back in Ilorin we trekked back to the house. I bought beans on the way-the shop keeper remembered me and I got some free!
The joy of having a hot shower to get all the filth off was wonderful. Mustn’t get used to it though as Sue is back next week!

So today has been spent at a more leisurely pace as I am quite stiff and sore after my fall. We went to Chicken Chilis for lunch. I was hoping for a doughnut but they had none. Lea enjoyed his chicken however. Then we went to my new friend who has a shop near our house and I did some hard bargaining to get a pineapple. I bought green beans too and he gave me two free oranges! The hawker I stopped to get onions from was not so easy to bargain with but thanks to another customer I eventually got onions at a fair price.
Exhausted we went back to our own house where Neppa was on so we could chill out a bit. We also went to the egg shop and had a good chat with Esther and her sister Miriam and their cousins. They actually know and use my name now which is great-just need to teach the other kids now and stop the constant shouting of ‘oybo’ (white person).