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!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Training, Birthday Cakes and Storms

We have just done training with the SSIT, Oro and people from SUBEB. It went well and a lot of work was done but it was also great fun! The funniest bit was the energiser I did with them where they had to pretend to be penguins being captured by flamingos-and they did! They are such good fun and really join in with everything with such enthusiasm. We asked them to devise a strategy for the 4-6 training for literacy and numeracy and gave them a variety of shapes to put their ideas on. They immediately set to work-discussing ideas in groups, making notes and then presented their ideas in really innovative ways. I wish I could take just a small percentage of their enthusiasm back to the UK.
We got to experience our first Tropical storm on Friday as we were walking home. It was fantastic! The heavens just opened, thunder and lightening flashed across the sky and it lashed down. We were about to go to the vegetable shop so we dashed in there for cover. They were very kind and tried to dry a bench for me to sit on. They tried to cover their goods with sacking but very soon the floor was deep in muddy water. The poor lady next to them had to rush out to rescue her jugs of motor oil. When it was clear it was not going to stop soon we had to venture out. Head down against the torrent of rain I literally paddled up Old Cemetry Road! My clothes were soaked through and for the first time I felt cool-great! Next day the mud and water had all gone-dried up quickly in the heat-which has increase and is now in the 40s mostly. My trainers are still drying though-two days later!
I have also been busy cooking. I made a cake for Obi’s birthday which Lea decorated! As you can see from the photos it is a Liverpool cake-good job Obi’s mum, our team leader supports Liverpool. Meg and Meysha helped to make it and we had a lot of fun last weekend. This weekend I made garden egg curry. Garden eggs are a sort of fruit but a bit like a cucumber only round!  We had to grate coconut for the curry and add plantains-It was very nice anyway. We also had sugar cane which is very refreshing and sweet. Mangoes are just coming in season now and avocado pears which are really tasty.
We have had a great weekend mostly with Sue and her girls. We went to the lake again which is a lovely spot. The cashew nuts look nearly ripe in the trees. I got a shock though this morning when I went to have a shower and a gecko popped up out of the plug hole. Needless to say I screamed and ran out!
We also met up with another VSO from Kaduna called Jenny and Sandra and Helen from Save the Children and it was great to talk to them. Finally got to have a swim again today-my old joints are seizing up from lack of exercise. I am trying with the Pilates but it is really difficult in the heat and sometimes I only manage a few minutes.
Neppa is trying to come on! It has started to play tricks on us-going off then coming back on as soon as we light the candles!

Monday, 14 February 2011

A day in the Life

We actually had rain two nights ago and a great thunderstorm! First time I have seen rain since we have been here. Of course it also meat that our house is now full of sand brought in by the harmattan  (wind) but it was great to feel a breeze! However it only lasted ten minutes!
We have just had a really hot night and no Neppa which was very unpleasant. We also have no water so I had to fill a bucket from one of our bins of water to take to the bathroom so I could soak myself in order to cool down a bit and try to sleep! I am neurotic about creatures who like to visit us so going down the dark corridor in the early hours was an act of bravery on my part!
I have now given up attempts to sleep so thought I might tell you about a day in my life! If anyone is reading this and can’t sleep also this may help!!!
There is no typical day but it sort of goes like this......
On a good morning after a sleep under the fan I am woken by the alarm at 6.30. Or I should say it goes off then-I have already been woken at three by the Redemptionists speaking in tongues and the mosque at five! Just after the alarm the room is filled with petrol fumes as someone revs their car into action and it is definitely time to get up! It is still dark then and often there is no Neppa so I switch my head torch on and make my way to the bathroom. Before entering I make a lot of noise to warn any cockroaches or geckos that I do not want to greet them. I then crawl back under the mozzie net and if I am not too hot put on my ipod and do some pilates while listening to music. This is followed by a bucket shower. I attempt to put skin crème on but it melts in the heat and usually runs onto the floor. On a good Neppa day I can straighten my hair as well. Breakfast is a sort of muesli I concoct with oats, bananas and dried fruit and soya milk. Lea has cornflakes-a very poor imitation of Kellogs and past the sell by date but reminds him of home! Sometimes I indulge myself with toast which we do in the frying pan. Best is the cold water and fruit juice! I also have my anti-malarial tablet. Then it is time to but on clothes-often my Nigerian clothes-and try to do my hair. Doing my hair involves going outside as it is too dark in the house so I often greet my neighbours at this time. When I think no-one is looking I quickly apply a slap of make up so I don’t look like a sleep deprived ghost!
Some days I get a lift to the office but if I am up early I like to walk in. I stick my laptop in my backpack with my sandwiches (usually tomato and cucumber or sometimes peanut butter and banana) and walk out double –locking the doors. Benga is outside washing the car and I practise some Yoruba. I also greet Ante who is off to work at Kwara television. I squeeze past the cars, chicken, an old diesel engine and rubbish bin, push the metal door open which clangs noisily behind me and step out of our little compound. Miriam and Esther greet me from their egg shop. Greet involves not just ‘Good morning’ but also asking you ‘How was your night?’ and if they know me, ‘How is daddy?’ (referring to Lea who is also referred to as Mr Lea and Babba). The correct response is ‘Fine and how was your night?’
The goats are clambering on the cars in the repair shop as usual and the mother hen is completely disregarding her chicks as they scrabble around in the dust. I walk past the well and speak to the children who are lowering their buckets. Juliet is a beautiful girl and is there every morning. I continue down the road-my sandals now full of grit and sand-more children greet me and I pass the bush meat restaurant where I have to greet my friend (oremi) which always causes amusement. Children pass in brightly coloured uniforms and I dodge ocadas and the odd car. I make it to the main road which I cross, careful not to fall in the ditch! We have discovered a shortcut so I turn down another sandy bumpy road. Shops are just opening. Children are queuing at one which sell biscuits and sweets. A group of women have got a charcoal fire going and are fanning it with bits of card, someone is burning a rubber tyre. I come out onto the main road where ‘Yellow Fever’ (the traffic controller with a yellow shirt) is directing the traffic. On the corner is the artificial plant stall where I am tempted by the sunflower which is so bright and gaudy but would so brighten our parlour! As soon as it is safe I cross the road and hop over the ditch. As I get nearer to the centre the ditch gets cleaner and I greet the woman who is responsible for this with only a bunch if twigs to assist. On the way I pass the Hallelulia shop which sells Office word for 100N apparently, the hair parlour and the handbag shop. Sometimes I see Elizabeth, an elderly lady who once worked as a nurse in London and who is always thrilled to see me. At the end of this road I turn and cross a sort of dual carriageway. The beggar with one leg is there and the woman selling kola nuts. There is a barrier in front of Kwara State Library which two men lift with a rope. The older man loves to hear my attempts at Yoruba which he finds extremely funny. Then it is in through the door, say ‘Good morning’ to the woman at the desk and climb the two flights of stairs to the office-not an easy task in the heat! The guard at the door greets me and takes my bag into the office. It is heavenly in here-the air conditioning is on and there is a cold water machine! I sit at my desk and charge up my laptop. Sometimes I get myself a drink. Gradually the other people arrive. Funmi sits next to me and Sue and Mary are on the other side of us. At the far end of the room is Alhaji Woru and Bala, Katherine and Emma. The other three places are used by various inter-national consultants when they are here.
There will often be a meeting or I may work on the lesson plans amd often I will go out for part of the day. Tomorrow I will go to the ERC to work with the SSIT and so have to then go to the admin office to ask for a driver. The most essential thing I learned early on is that the  key hanging up in a corner is for the toilet which is at the end of the corridor and has to be double locked! There is usually some discussion as to who is going to treat everyone to akara which Aiyo goes out to buy. I usually start work about eight and try to leave ay five but it is usually nearer to six.
Often I go to Yoruba Road market at lunchtime or after work to get things like flour, beans and rice. They sell almost everything but it is quite hard finding the correct shop. They are quite kind to me though and if they haven’t got something often direct me to someone who has. So far I have managed to buy a good sweeping brush, an icing set and weighing scales there as well as cornflakes and food items. I often get groundnuts or carrots off the hawkers there too.
On my way home the phone card table is open and they try to teach me a bit of Yoruba. I pass the passport photo umbrella, the photocopier with the noisy diesel engine and the women selling huge pineapples, oranges and tomatoes. Finally I go to my vegetable shop where they say I get a good deal because I am a regular customer! Last time he had garlic, peas and pawpaw and we always buy a cabbage. Next to him is a woman selling motor oil. She has three lovely little girls called Bridget, Anna and Elizabeth. They are very poor and so happy when I speak to them. The mother insists on helping me cross the road! Bridget is only a baby and crawls around in the dust and mud.
As I walk down cemetery Road I am greeted by lots of people and children shout, ‘Hello Auntie Caroline ‘ which is lovely. I usually buy a few bananas and onions. Sometimes I have a chat with Miriam at the egg shop.
Finally I get home and hope NEPPA is on. If it is there is a mad scramble to charge everything u

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


After nearly eleven hours I arrive. No need to worry about hurting my back by horse riding  after that journey which definitely rates as the bumpiest ride ever! To say the roads are rough is an understatement and the speed bumps are more like a ride at Alton Towers! We set off at 8am. Mary was in the front of the truck and I clambered in the back with her suitcases- Mary is a very stylish lady who loves her clothes and handbags! We drove down the dusty road through Oro-I love the old buildings there. Then I had a lovely treat as Mary produced a box of Ferrero Roche chocolates and I was told to take two as was Samuel, our driver! They tasted good too-nearly all the chocolate I have bought here tastes of soap-so these were a real treat. It was good to chat with Mary too-she has daughters living in London and Arizona and visits them every year.
We stopped in Omu-Aran and Mary bought some bread while I made friends with some little girls. I also investigated kola nuts but was warned not to try them as they are a stimulant-we could do with some of them at certain meetings I have been to!After about three hours we crossed into Ekiti and then Kogi state and stopped at a sort of service station at Kabba. There was a music hut where Mary bought some CDs and a food bar where I got a coke. As we both needed to ‘ease’ (they really do say this) ourselves we went round the back of the building to find the toilets which turned out to be holes with the requisite plastic water kettles.
Most of the landscape was very flat and dry. We did pass some villages with mud huts with thatched roofs. Along the way we stopped to buy yams-these were enormous and a very strange shape. There was much bargaining-Mary does not give in easily. We also got a huge bunch of plantains. Recently picked-the men selling it had to go and fetch the farmer in order to accept the price Mary was asking but it was agreed and we set off again. My only purchase was a little bag of cashew nuts but even then Mary paid for them for me. We stopped so I could get out and admire the cement factory of which Nigerians are very proud and the countryside became more varied with mountains and hills. Crossing the river Niger was quite interesting although the water level was very low.
Throughout the journey people were holding up bush meat they had just caught in the hope of selling it. One was particularly gruesome with the innards hanging out! Most looked like rabbit. Eventually we were on a good straight road to Abuja but as we neared the city the speed bumps appeared and I had to cling onto the seat as we bounced over them! The traffic was awful. Some cars were driving down the central reservation. Traffic one side of the dual carriage way was slower than the other so quite a lot of cars were speeding up their journey by going the wrong way down the faster side!
Just before we reached Abuja we stopped to visit a large shop famous for its materials. The cloth is lovely and much softer than the stuff I got from the Emir’s Palace market. I bought two lots. One is lacy and soft and may do for Katie’s wedding. The shop also sold skin crème so I was able to treat myself to a tube of Dove. I also bought Laughing Cow cheese. There were many other lovely foods but out of the price range of a VSO.
The hotel was very nice with friendly staff and quite a good veggie choice but the noise from the a/c was horrendous although it did block out the noise from the night club opposite. I went on another foray to the material shop the next night but apart from that stayed in the hotel. Obolowu and d Alabi were there and were good to work with.
The meeting was good-it was nice to see Lillian, David and John again. There was loads to eat with lots of snacks. I got to visit the ESSPIN office where I hoped my laptop could be fixed but alas no. I watched telly and read books in the evenings and mainly tried to rest a bit. The journey back was less interesting but not as tiring as we came by plane.
Unfortunately I was then not too well and we were a bit worried that I might have malaria but I seem okay now.

Extra-curricular activities!

Cricket and Burns night!
Yes, we really did both! It is now extremely hot again. Neppa has not been a good friend-mainly coming on during the day when we are out and staying off during the night when we are sweating in bed! After more trouble with the fuse box-even the electrician got a shock this time!-we now have new fuses. When Neppa is on for some reason it likes to change the line it is using so we have to try the fuses in new positions! Great activity at 2am-even more rewarding when you get up and realise you are wasting your time because no-one has Neppa! Then it is decision time –do I sweat or open the window and listen to the noisy generator and breathe the petrol fumes??? We are planning to add to the fumes soon with our own generator. We can get a small one to operate the ceiling fan for about £50.
So Saturday and a fruitless journey to the Glo shop-yes the modem has decided to stop working so I am doing this offline and will post in the office! They couldn’t teat the modem because no-one had brought any laptops in! However we did get to the wonderful Ostrich bakery and bought their delicious bread and sat and ate a coconut cake thing. In the taxi the man next to me told me he was  vet and would like to give me a dog!
Later we went to Sue’s where Andrea and Harold were busy preparing the cricket afternoon. They made egg sandwiches for half time and then we were ready to start. Funmi, Gbenga, Bike and Alhaji Woru  from the office came and Kenneth and Judith, Iffy’s children. In the boiling heat Harold explained the LBW rule and other technicalities which we were later tested on and then provided us with a comprehensive training session. My bowling skills leave a lot to be desired and I only got two runs but we are confident that we will improve and hope to take on the ministry soon! After our break we then had a match-Fumni and Kenneth are definitely our stars! Running in sweaty sandals is a feat in itself-pun intended!
After a very short rest it was time to get ready for Burns night. All due protocol was observed-Scottish music, prayer, welcome for the haggis and even a poem! A small whisky and champagne were of course compulsory! Andrea had even got a vegetarian haggis for me and we had mashed carrots and potatoes. After the meal we released a Chinese lantern and how great that was! Life doesn’t come much more bizarre than this! I am in Nigeria, celebrating Burns night and watching a Chinese Lantern disappear into the night!

Phonic training at Oro college

Practising vowel sounds, playing sound bingo and singing the alpabet sounds song!

Phonics training

What an amazing rewarding experience training the SSIT and Oro lecturers proved to be! Lea was a great help-drawing pictures, photocopying and making flash cards and keeping me calm! Ayo, who is part of the office support, was great too with photocopying at the last minute. This man is amazing-he seems to know when energy level are low and appears with packets of biscuits and dashes around buying sim cards for us and even got my watch strap fixed for 30N. There was a lot of preparation as I tried to make the training as practical as possible-I even made a snake puppet.
On the first day we arrived at the college to find not 20 participants but 24! Extra snack and lunch had to be sent for! We began with a game and a song from the Letters and Sounds and everyone joined in with gusto! Never again will there be doubt as to the importance of sounds as opposed to letter names when teaching phonics! The real highlight was on day two when I showed them how to play sounds bingo, What’s in the hat, Matching and Silly sentences. Each group had to prepare and teach one of these games. To say they were competitive when doing the Bingo is to put it mildly! My teacher friends in the UK would have been amazed at the enthusiasm and seriousness they put into this session and what great fun we all had! On the third day we tackled ‘split digraphs’-they were so interested and willing it was really rewarding. In the afternoon they discussed how to incorporate the training into their own work. The SSIT will use it to train the head teacher cluster groups who in tuirn train the class teachers. The lecturers are incorporating it into their learning programmes for the student teachers. It was a very lively training and I was asked loads of questions and challenged on lots of issues but they were so appreciative. I was thanked many times and told it was the best training some of them had had! We finished by playing ‘The yam is in the Bag’-bit like ‘The Farmer in his den’-which involved two of the SSIT racing around the room and a lot of noise! This is definitely the best experience yet. I felt so touched when so many were thanking me and saying how much they had learned. I know why I came here now!
In the evening it was Harold’s birthday so we went round to Emma’s for chips and moin moin and ice-cream and cake-delicious!