One month in and I and the other volunteers are beginning to acclimatise to some of the ‘quirks’ of living in Nigeria. Before they become the ‘norm’ I thought I’d share a few with you.
I am no electrician but I know that wiring a hair dryer straight into the plug so close to a sink is not standard practice.
The second bizarre wiring in my room at the hotel was a telephone socket close to the ceiling next to the shower.
I saw these light switches at a meeting and had to take a photo, firstly because there are so many and secondly because they managed to show off the vast options of types of switches!
I had read somewhere before I arrived that Nigerians frequently say ‘you’re welcome’ as opposed to ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’, taking the literal meaning of; you are welcome to my house/country/to the office etc. However much I was prepared for it it still catches me off guard and I say something ill-fitting like ‘you’re welcome’ back.
Where we have moved to is very close to the office so I am able to walk to work. As I walk down the middle of the street (there are paths but they are obstructed by rubbish) the guards/school children/ random passers by frequently say ‘good morning sister’. Again I find myself unsure of how to respond – ‘good morning brother?!’ so instead I go for the classic English response ‘good morning, lovely weather’!
Hardly anyone walks in Abuja, so the only option to get places are taxis, there are no public buses (that I can see anyway), and as an aside motorbikes in the city are banned apparently due to the number of accidents they caused.
We have been advised to catch the official green painted taxis which have a number painted on the rear wheel arch. The ones to avoid are the green painted taxis without this number and normal cars – ‘unofficial taxis’. From the last few weeks experience the unofficial taxi cars look in much better condition than the green ones; one other volunteer and I left a supermarket last week and asked a supermarket car park attendant to help us hail a cab as it was raining and getting dark. We were then packed with our shopping into a legitimate green taxi. I was sat up front, as I looked back I realised the back windscreen was actually a plastic sheet flapping in the wind and when I looked forward I saw the driver pulling a tool from around his feet which he then plugged into the side of the wheel and as he turned the tool the windscreens wipers came on. This was repeated at every traffic light. Oh and when the front windscreen steamed up a handy cloth was pulled out, again from around his feet, to wipe the window!
Uninterrupted power… something I have been taking for granted! Repeatedly the electrics all shut off followed by a few minutes (or sometimes 5 minutes) in the dark and then you hear the ‘gen’ (i.e. generator) kick in and then the lights flicker back on. Most of the time you barely notice, other times it is very frustrating, such as 10mintues from the end of the film Ghost having never seen it before! AH! We are getting used to it, this weekend we had some people over for dinner, whenever the power went off whoever was talking would just continue talking into the dark while someone found a phone to put the torch on.
The CHAI office is actually in a converted house on a residential road. I believe because it is easy to contain; gated and surrounded with barbed wire. It is slightly bizarre as I have a desk in an office upstairs in what would have been a bedroom, so we have an en-suite bathroom!
The next couple of weeks are going to be quite quiet workwise as my whole team, both national and regional, are out in the field collecting data on the success of the project so far, from the traditional birth attendants (TBAs). I was very much hoping I could go, but after an initial approval to travel on Friday, it was decided over the weekend that due to the proximity to the boko haram area it was not safe for me to join them. Hopefully, in the next 5 months things will improve and I will be able to travel out of Abuja to see the impact of the project first hand.