I have now been in Abuja, Nigeria for a whole month. My assignment with my NGO, Jhpiego is going well. I am currently working on training material; the basics of project management with a view to train the new recruits out in the 2 states we are supporting, Kogi and Ebonyi; towards the end of August. This will give both Amal and I the opportunity to see more of Nigeria. Amal is a fellow GSK colleague and PULSE volunteer from GSK Egypt. We are working together on the same project.
This first month has seen many ‘firsts’ for me…my first African sunset, my first taste of Nigerian food – ‘amala’ , my first ‘buba and wrapper’ which is a traditional Nigerian outfit complete with a headdress! My first taste of Egyptian food courtesy of Amal. It was a dish called ‘foul’ which was pureed Fava beans mixed with chopped fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onions and plenty of fresh lime juice. We ate this with Lebanese bread – delicious!! And my first encounter with a Nigerian lemon!! I was looking for lemons when we first when to the local market. The only lemons I saw had their skin scrapped off and I couldn’t fathom that out. Surely that would cause the lemon to dry out and I wanted the peel for the zest. Then I found a lemon with its skin on and figured out why!! I am calling it the ‘Elephant Man Lemon’!!!
There are 4 ladies – all from GSK staying in the same apartment block so we tend to go to the markets and supermarkets together. We each share a 2 bedroom apartment. Travelling together is safer and more cost economical. We are also trying out our culinary skills, taking turns to cook and exchange recipes.
It is the rainy season here in Nigeria, and when it rains it pours. The rain is warm and you can smell the ozone once it stops and the sun comes out. And the sun does come out after the rain and transforms the place. The colourful lizards come out to bask in the sun. You see them everywhere on pavements, walls, anywhere in the full sun.
It has taken me a full month to get used to the frequent power cuts. I don’t jump anymore. There at least 6-7 power interruptions every day. You don’t notice it so much during the day. The air conditioner stops for a few minutes before the generator kicks in and it starts up again. But it is another experience at night. We have taken to having torches handy when we are cooking and eating. In fact, I noticed this last week that when the power goes off whilst we are eating, the conversation just carries on in the dark whilst one of us fumbles to turn on their phone torch. I must thank Ev for her really thoughtful gifts in the survival pack she gave me before I left. I am using the peg-less washing line, the sewing kit and the wind up torch which is a Godsend! I am never without it, especially when I have my evening shower just in case the lights go out!!! Thank you ever so much Ev!
The longest period of uninterrupted power so far has been 22 hours. I know this because I brought a clock radio with me. This resets itself to 00:00 every time there is a power cut. I can’t trust it as an alarm clock but it does tell me how long we have had power for. I also have to re-tune my television after every power cut but that is always with excitement as I get different channels every time! I was told that Nigeria sells power to Ghana, whose citizens have enjoyed 10 years of continuous power. I am hoping to see that change for the Nigerian people in the next year.
We have got used to using bottled water to prepare food and cook with. The mineral content of the tap water is high so we have been advised not to use it to cook with. I’ve attached other interesting signs I’ve seen around Abuja to share the experience with you!
We are due to travel to Kogi and Ebonyi states at the end of this month to deliver our training. This will be an opportunity to see more of Nigeria. I am conscious that we are in a bubble here in Abuja which is not representative of Nigeria, the country. I will share those photos when we get back.
Until then, let me share some interesting photos from my family; my brother and wife are travelling in Peru – I have no idea why the goat in the photo has a hat on and direct contrast to rainy and overcast Abuja is a photo from one of the Philippino islands where my daughter Zoe, is spending a month working in a hospital and of course exploring the islands as you do!!!
Nikki in Abuja