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!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011


So we are well and truly back. We are now faced with lack of sleep and choking fumes. Our neighbour has a large generator which he has on most nights. We had sort of got used to the noise but now we have to get used to the fumes as there seems to be a problem with it. So do we sleep with petrol fumes or close the window and sweat???
The other challenge for me is I have finally come face to face with one of my worst fears-rodents-in the office and in the flat. We have a trap but no luck so far. I actually killed a cockroach yesterday which is not something I am proud of but survival kicked in I suppose.
I finally fell in a ditch but fortunately landed on my bum. The worst was being surrounded by everyone saying,’Sorry, sorry, sorry o’!
I have also got a mass of mozzie bites and my hair is falling out!
Three near misses by okadas end this list of woes!
On the plus side we have met more people-Nancy and David from Canada who work at the university here who are lovely people and made us real coffee, and Dory from Lebanon who is very friendly and made us a great meal. It was also good to see Chinwe and Yakiem from VSO Abuja and find out what the rest of VSO are up to. Emma is having a barbeque this afternoon to which we are invited and has promised there will be moi moi and vegetables! Help I seem to judge people on the food they provide! Today is a holiday as tthe new government take office and Friday was Children’s Day.
My kindle is proving to be a life-saver-it is great to read in the dark and I can get new books with one click-just not sure how much I am spending but who cares??

They love the rat!

They loved the rat
So it was back to work! As usual I have been very busy and crammed a lot into the last three weeks. I have done two spelling workshops and visited 10 schools, as well as editing lesson plans and producing display material for the launch of the lesson plans. I now work more with the SSIT which I enjoy. They are very kind to me and have even fixed the toilet so that it now flushes. The office is not as comfortable as the ESSPIN one as the a/c is not as efficient but they have good internet access. I feel I belong there more and Bola always makes me a great cup of coffee! We also have to go pass the Ostrich Bakery on the return journey where they sell wheat bread and chocolate soya milk! I have a desk and do enjoy being with them. They are very loud at times so when I need to concentrate I go to the ESSPIN office or do planning at home.
At the moment I am doing training for spelling and also learning myself a lot about Nigerian pronunciation. This was very relevant when I asked them to list homophones!
I was very happy when I went to visit schools in the areas around Oro. In the second school I visited the first thing the head teacher said to me was, “They loved the rat”. I pushed my chair back a bit as rats are definitely not my favourite creatures. Tunde saw the horror on my face and smiled. He said the means ‘Mighty Mouse’. ‘Mighty Mouse’ is a teaching aid I introduced in the numeracy training! It is a prism made of card with a mouse picture and a tail attached. The tail is a number line. Sure enough in all the classrooms there was ‘Mighty Mouse’ hanging from the ceiling by his tail! They had also made bead strings from cut up straws. They were all using the lesson plans too so it was a good day. ESSPIN were having their MTR (mid-term review) so another day I had to go with Funke to find some schools for them to visit. We saw seven schools in one day which was an exhausting experience but again rewarding as they do had the numeracy teaching aids. We had to find a rural school so visited some out of the way villages. In one village a man held up a dog’s head on a stick for us to buy! This is not very common but is regarded as a delicacy by some people. There were also the usual bush meet offerings and I was assured how delicious rat meat is-but not even slightly tempted! On the way back we stopped to buy another delicacy-a mix of maize and beans fried in palm oil. At last I thought something I can eat and bought six pieces to take home. If you want to have the lining removed from your whole mouth then this is the answer! It was so hot that even Lea had to give up. My neighbour, Gbenga was very pleased with the remaining pieces however. We also bought some corn on the cob which was very nice. They often roast it by the roadside which makes it a bit chewy but this had been boiled and was nice. On the subject of food mangoes are in abundance and very nice. There are different varieties however. Mary has some in her compound which are very superior-they are more fleshy and very juicy. There are also some in the grounds of the ERC where I work with the SSIT now. I only mentioned how I had not had any mangoes from there and immediately Philip, who is their leader, went out and got me some! Apparently he is very good at climbing the mango trees!
I was very impressed with the work being done in the schools in Oke-Ero. There was a real sense of the schools being places of work. I also got to see some of the problems they were having with the water from a bore hole not long installed. I took a picture of the muddy water that was coming out and showed it to the ESSPIN consultant who later went out to see and fix it.

The bore hole had problems.
Note the 'bead string' made of straws and the coathanger with pegs for number bonds to 10!
Role play!

The final published version of some of the numeracy and literacy plans were finally ready so it was decided to have a big launch. The launch also coincided with the end of this governor’s office in Kwara. The new governor took over yesterday-May 29th. So we thought it would be good to present the lesson plans to the outgoing governor and celebrate all that had been achieved. I went out to a school in Ilorin West to get samples of work from the children. Dari and Ottan (SSIT) were great and explained to the teachers what I wanted. I say it and they repeat it but without my accent! One teacher got her class to write some sentences about a picture in the text book-they actually produced different versions as they were in groups-real progress! We even managed to get an older child to draw round a kindergarten child and label the parts of the body-the little girl was absolutely terrified I think though-of the process or of my big white face I don’t know. It was good to be back in the classroom working directly with teachers. The classrooms are a far cry from the UK though. Primary 1 were very crowded. There were about 50 pupils sitting 8 or 10 on benches made for 4. I got new exercise books for them and pencils and the work they did was really neat. We had number line work, place value, phonics and stories. Sherif and Taiwo worked with another school and they chose 12 pupils to present an example of a lesson. The whole event took place in a very grand banqueting hall. The pupils spent most of the day before rehearsing songs and their lesson in the hall. They were so well behaved and never moaned once-an alien concept anyway for a Nigerian pupil!! They must have sung ‘Ten Green Bottles’ at least ten times while I was there! They also did a role play about a monkey hiding in a tree and I was asked if I had a big plant the monkey coy-uld hide behind. I think they were very impressed when I arrived with my big sunflower! When they were finally released I took them to the local ‘cafe’ for an ice-cream. This was a bit fraught as I had to wait for ESSPIN to get the money to me and ended up scrabbling in my purse to pay myself. Trying to haggle the price was a definite no no! I was later reimbursed and the children got their treat which was the main thing. I also made display of songs, stories and teaching aids from the lesson plans for a display in the hall. A decorator had been hired for the occasion and assured me there would be room for my display. I was told it was not protocol to stick work on the walls so would have to attach it to cloth.
Note the sunflower!!!

So the big day dawned. The celebration was originally scheduled for 10am but in true Nigerian style was changed to 3pm and actually began around 5pm! We were supposed to go and set up at 11am but there was suddenly a problem and we were told the venue might have to be changed. However at about 12.30 I was allowed to go to the banqueting hall. Julie came with me and we gazed in wonder at the swathes of cloth draped around the massive hall with intricate bows and artificial flowers-but where was I going to put my display. Mercy, the decorator asked me if I loved the display. I assured her I did but wondered where the cloth was for me to pin my display to. The pins themselves had caused some problems. Poor Ayo, the office boy had gone out three times in search of them. I eventually wrote the word ‘pin’ down as he thought I meant ‘pen’ but he came back with needles! Finally someone told me they were called office pins and we were in business!! He was also very patient when I was trying to enlarge some songs from A4 to A3. He said the machine could not do this but eventually with Emma’s help we pressed the right buttons and for the first time his photocopier enlarged! To get back to the display crisis! I soon realised the concept of a vertical drape was an alien concept and while Mercy and her gang were making beautiful drapes behind the high table I grabbed some of my precious blu-tac brought back from the UK and told Julie to help me get sticking! We slapped the display on the wall and I waited for the sky to fall in but it didn’t and so far I have not been arrested for this breach of protocol! Mercy didn’t say much but stuck bits of fabric around the display and in it. Then to my amazement she hung fairy lights across it. I arranged the other stuff on the tables that had been designed for schools and later the SSIT brought their teaching aids too. We set up a model classroom on a side stage as agreed the day before but it was decided to put it at the front so it all had to be moved again. The drivers had a tough day of it as they had to bring all the booklets (yes all so everyone could see the magnitude of the task), the 16 tables, 24 chairs, fold up tables, samples of work down the two flights of stairs from the ESSPIN office to the hall and then shift them around when they arrived and of course, pack them up and take them back! So then we waited and waited. The hon commissioner arrived and other important people. They got to sit on the high table. Sue, Emma and Steve (from ESSPIN Abuja) were also invited to join them. We then heard that the governor would not be coming as there had been some trouble at a previous engagement. The deputy governor came instead and the show could begin. The children were great-they sang the national anthem with gusto and did an excellent role play. My sunflower was such a hit that it was put near the high table! Those children sat so patiently and were so well behaved. The sad thing was everyone was told to hurry up as the deputy had another function to attend so their lesson and singing was cut short-we never got to hear 10 Green Bottles. Sue AND Philip had an excellent presentation but that was also cut short. The worst thing of all though was the lesson plan books were never unveiled-they stayed covered up! Everyone thought it was great and I was complimented on the display (probably the worst I have ever done by UK standards but with very limited resources albeit lots of twirls of fabric and fairy lights!). I felt sad that no-one on the high table thanked the children even though they clearly enjoyed their performance.
This was later adorned with fairy lights!!!! Note the green cloth which I was asked if I loved!!!
We then packed up-me desperately trying to save my precious blu-tac-the nearest equivalent they have here is chewing gum! Feeling very grubby, dirty and sweaty we headed off for the Kwara hotel for food and drink. This was my third meal out of the week! Earlier we had a night out with Andrea and Harold there and I had enjoyed the vegetarian option-chips so chips it was again. We had also been out with VSO representatives, Chinwe and Yakiem on Wednesday to Royals where the vegetarian option was a small pot of coleslaw!!! Anyway it was good to celebrate with everyone ans sit outside under umbrellas and feel a cool breeze.


We have been back for three weeks now. It has been very hard to settle back. Going home made me realise how much I was missing everyone and how difficult life is out here. However, as usual as I have been very busy and the days are going by quite quickly.
I decided that it was time I experienced religion in Nigeria so the first Sunday back I finally took up my neighbour’s offer and went to church! She was very excited about taking me and promised me it would not be a long service. We went to a  Winners church-they have lots of churches and schools in Nigeria and other countries, including England. There were about a thousand people there! Ante drove us into the car park about 8 am and marshals directed us into the building. It was extremely well organised with a succession of marshals directing Oozo, baby Michael and myself to our seats. The older children went to a separate room for their own service and Ante parked the car and then sat on his own somewhere. A lot of people were wearing clothes of the same material which had pictures of the founders of the Winners church on it. This was to celebrate the thirty year anniversary of the church. We sat under a large canopy as the actual church (which was also large) was full. There were two television screens so we could see the pastors. The first speaker told us there were three kinds of wisdom-wisdom that allowed us to do tasks, evil wisdom from the devil that resulted in manipulative acts and spiritual wisdom. The congregation were then told how pleased God is when they bring someone new to the church and the rewards they will get. So then of course all the new people were told to stand up. I could hardly hide as I was the only white person there! Fortunately there were about eight other visitors so I was not singled out. The marshals sprang into action again and we were directed into the main church and taken to the front which was a kind of altar decorated with fairy lights and artificial flowers. The pastor was standing behind a lectern and the other speakers were round him. We had to shake hands with all these people and were made very welcome. We were then taken to a little room at the back where I was given information about Winners and asked to fill in a form about myself. I kept this to the bare minimum as I did not want to receive phone calls or have a ‘follow up’ visit. One of the questions asked for the date when I had been born again so that got left blank! They were very kind-they let me keep the pen-and there was no pressure. We were then allowed to return to our seats amidst lots of hand shaking from the congregation. I then heard the basic philosophy of Winners –in brief believe in God and be a Winner! Once you are a Winner you will have the greatest gift of all which is God’s grace. Doors of opportunities will be opened, you will be prosperous, healthy and never experience shame again. He told us how God always provides. Whenever the church need more land or money to build a school it just appears. Everything just falls into their laps! He had a good laugh about this! It is so wonderful-they do nothing and God just makes it happen! Basically God is in charge and we should not worry-that job we need will come, we will get our house, etc. Winners have many schools in Nigeria which have just happened! He failed to mention how much money was raised each week-My neighbour told me I had to bring an envelope with money for the collection and we were advised coins were not acceptable! There is a much better place waiting for us to-when we die! Winners is striving to buy more land, build more churches and save more people. New people who wanted to be saved that day were then invited to go to the front. I sat very tight in my seat! The service ended with twenty minutes of very loud singing and dancing. The video cameraman panned into my face and there I was on the large screen for all to see! The singing was in Yoruba and aided of course by the microphone so my ears were ringing. Oozo handed Gabriel over to me while she went to get her other children and we swayed a bit together. There was a lot more handshaking and half hugs. Finally the singing stopped and we filed out of the church. Some of my other neighbours met me in the car park and were very pleased to see me. Everyone was very welcoming but all I wanted was to get home to reach for paracetemol as my head was now throbbing from the noise! Winners have a church in London I later found out.
I may try the Catholic church next. Watch this space.......

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Orphanage photos!

Babies Gift and Abigail
Grace was very excited!

 Peter loved his toy.
The group picture, toys, clothes, rice and kids1

Friday, 20 May 2011

Funmi buying the rice

Our friend Fumi took us to Yoruba Road to buy the rice. There was lot of haggling but at last we agreed on 7000N which is the correct price apparently! Fumi then drove us to Christie's church where her husband is a pastor. We then went with her to Hope orphanage.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Today I went to Hope orphanage with Lea. Funmi, my Nigerian colleague and friend drove me in his car to the market stalls in Yoruba Road where we bought two huge bags of rice. My school in England had raised some money and Sue and I added to this so that we were able to buy the rice for 14,000N. There was quite a lot of haggling but we got the best price. Funmi then drove Lea and I to the orphanage which is down the road they are resurfacing so it was quite bumpy in places.
The owner of the orphanage, Mrs Omolehin (she said I can call her Christie) told us she started the orphanage 4 years ago. They have now moved out of the two rooms where I first visited and have bought the land and buildings where the new orphanage is. They had renovated one of the buildings and hope to do more later. She told Lea that she wants to model the orphanage on the SOS model where the children live in family groups with a helper ‘mother’. The state do nothing to help her and in fact she had to pay a registration fee to set up the orphanage-nobody comes to check her work with the children either. She relies entirely on donations to pay her staff, the children’s school fees (which are considerable as they go to a private school because the public school is awful), their uniforms, clothes, food, etc. Her husband is a pastor and helps with money from his church. We spoke to him and he is very involved in a Hope mission in Tanzania.
So we drew up in front of the orphanage and Funmi wrestled with the bags of rice while we staggered in with the suitcase and rucksack full of clothes and toys collected by my school and friends in the UK. At first the children were a bit scared but when they saw all the toys they were very excited and ran round the room playing with them. The pictures tell the story!!!
The older girl, Bose, is quite traumatised but realised the bag was just for her. Christie told us some very sad stories about the children. Children are abandoned because they are the result of rapes, because the mother is very young, because the mother was mentally retarded or in one case the baby was found on a rubbish dump.
The staff at the orphanage are very kind and Christie lives in the orphanage with the children. Even the guard was playing with the children.
The babies are now about four months and absolutely beautiful. Gift has amazing big expressive eyes and Abigail is so pretty.  I held them in my arms for ages and did not want to give them back. The boys soon forgot their nervousness and enjoyed playing with Lea and the puppet-this was a real hit . At first some of the children just wanted to grab as many toys as they could but soon settled down to clutching the ones they had chosen. It was great seeing them playing with them. They were so pleased with them! Thank you to everyone who helped me with this! The soft blankets were also well received and will be useful when it is cooler.
Christie said she really needs Pampers nappies and books for the children to read after school. Maybe when I next go home I can do a bit of fundraising and get some money to buy those things here as there is very little difference in the price and books would be very heavy to carry. So if any of my friends are reading this and want to have a coffee fundraising morning......
It was a humbling experience seeing them so grateful and made me want to do more. The place is very basic. They have just got a small table for the children to sit at but there are no soft chairs or big toys.
Just before we left a monkey raced into the room! Most of the children were scared of him except Peter who chased after him. Eventually the guard got him out-he belonged to someone who lived nearby.
The toys and clothes I gave to the children who spend most of their day in the tin shack with their mother selling motor oil have been well received too. They called me over this morning to show me that they were wearing the clothes and love the dolls.
When I think of some of the things I used to spend my money on in the UK.................
Can't seem to downlaod the photos-internet problems will try next time!!!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Easter holidays

We are now back in Kwara and I am reflecting on my return to the UK. It was very hard coming back! Saying goodbye to my family tore me apart. Baby Orla had grown so much in the six months since I had last seen her and she was talking! Katie is frantically getting her wedding preparations underway and I just felt I had missed out on a lot.
However we had a great time. The holiday began as soon as we got on the BA plane and I was offered coffee with milk-‘Real milk?’ I almost screamed! ‘Of course madam and you can have more if you want!’ The in flight entertainment was great to-‘Little Fockers’! Even the free tooth brush and flush toilet caused pleasure-I am so easily pleased now!
At first I found it hard in shops and difficult to buy things which seemed so expensive. As a result I spent a frantic last few days buying things like a new head torch, blu-tac, tee-shirts, a decent potato peeler and all the other things on my list that are hard to get here. Best of all is my kindle-it is fantastic. Not only has it got books on it and a little light so I can read in the dark but also I can get the internet without paying anything! Magic!
As well as meeting up with the family we had a lovely few days staying with friends. The weather was gorgeous and we enjoyed a barbeque in Gil and David’s garden. I went to see ‘Red Riding Hood’ with Gil-it was not very good but I really enjoyed just being in the cinema!
We had a few days in the Lakes which was pure heaven. We stayed in a great hotel near Keswick and Derwent Water. We went on lovely walks-it was so nice to walk about in the fresh air again. I also enjoyed the boat trip, the lovely food and the bath in the hotel! In fact I had several baths while I was at home!
Many thanks to Dave at RT Booth optician for fixing the glasses for free. I also finally got my filling fixed which was not free unfortunately.
Most of the time we spent with Katie. I loved going riding with Carrie and watching her in the dancing competition. I made up for lost time with cappuccinos and scones! I also visited my mom and we enjoyed a pub lunch together. Thank you Ann for the clothes you donated for the orphans.
I visited my school who had also collected for the orphans. It was good showing them my photos and talking about my experiences. They sat and listened for ages! They had also raised money-about the equivalent of 10,000 naira so I will use that to buy rice for the orphanage. Thank you also Karen for all the lovely clothes that you bought. We were able to bag everything up so that every child in the orphanage will get at least four new clothes and two toys.
It was great to watch the Royal wedding on the television and Emily had a party in her garden so it was lovely to have the whole family together. Lucy stayed the night in her new tent-we did not join her as we were enjoying the hot baths and electric lights too much!
The journey back was not good! Most of the time I was sobbing quietly into Lea’s handkerchief! On arrival at Abuja we had to wait 8 hours for a connecting flight! As we arrived at 4 am this was a bit of an ordeal as the chairs in the airport are not designed with comfort in mind! I was also stressing over our luggage. I worked out that we would have to pay Arik 20,000N for excess baggage (the extra two suitcases we had full of orphanage stuff) and was wondering how my haggling skills were going to cope! However when we finally checked in there was a sudden rush of people and bags seemed to be thrown on at terrific speed. No-one noticed how heavy our stuff was!! Despite having hours to check in they had left it to the last minute-how wonderful!!!
So we finally arrived and what a wonderful welcome from our neighbours-they were so pleased to see us! They were delighted with the simple gifts we gave them which was quite a humbling experience. We also had a great welcome in the office-they very much appreciated the chocolates!
The flat was almost the same –about 10 dead cockroaches were on the floor and an army of weevils had invaded my flour! It is very hot and now we are having problems with water as the well is drying up. So we are into storing water-oh the joys of turning on a tap!!! Neppa has been a bit better but there has been no internet at the office. Tragedy struck yesterday when I went swimming at Kwara hotel and left the big container of conditioner I had brought back in the shower!! Oh well back to my usual Nigerian hair-frizzy and sticking out!!
My school saying, 'Hello' to everyone in Nigeria.

My grandchildren loved their Nigerian clothes.

My cat had got very fat!

We had a great time in the Lakes.

At Castlerigg

Derwent water where I got sunburnt!