“The magic thing about home is that it feels good to leave, and it feels even better to come back.”

Hi All,

The quote in the title is from an author called Wendy Wunder, and I felt it was incredibly apt for this months blog.

It’s been nearly two months since I last blogged, as August and the start of September were really busy with my work here at CHAI, and I had my mid-way break in London catching up with friends and family.

Nigeria is comprised of many different tribes, but the 3 largest are the Yoruba, originally from the South-West, the Igbo from the South-East, and Hausa from the north of Nigeria. As a result these three areas of the country are vastly different and have very different cultures. After traveling to the South-West previously I really wanted to get some experience of the predominantly-Muslim North.

The North of Nigeria has a mixed reputation recently due to the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East, but the Nigerian armed forces have done great work in taking a lot of territory back from them and as a result things are a lot calmer. This meant that I was able to get security clearance from CHAI to travel to Kano, the second largest city in Nigeria,  to conduct a retail audit like I previously did in Lagos and Ibadan. I also wanted to visit here as stunting levels are much higher in the North, so these would be the people the programme would be most likely to positively impact. In fact, a great deal of NGO work in Nigeria is focussed on the North.

The people in Kano were incredibly welcoming and I really liked it as a town. All the shopkeepers and wholesalers were incredibly keen to help, although as in Ibadan, a lot of the conversation was in the local language, in this case Hausa, so I was often just an observer in the discussion.

I also had the opportunity to visit Dawanau grain market in Kano. This is the largest foodstuff market in Africa, with over 20,000(!) shops, and has traders from all over Africa and the Middle-East visiting to source their Maize, Millet, Sorghum and other grains. It was a really incredible place with loads of activity, its so vast I didn’t get anywhere near seeing all of it but one of the best things was the  grain trucks which were all brilliantly painted with animals and quotes. I grabbed a few quick photos below;

Post-Kano, our focus was on finalising our scoping note for the Global CHAI team. The scoping note summarises all our findings so far and is used to source more donations which will hopefully allow us to move into the next part of our project, a proposal on how we would intervene in the Nutrition space. Alongside this, we were preparing our business case for the CHAI Nigeria leadership team, so they could have local level discussions on the program. Managing these two competing priorities was a challenge but one we pulled together to complete in time before I went back to London.

As part of the PULSE program, we are allowed one weeks leave to travel back home in the middle, and after 3 months, the longest time I’ve ever been away from London, I was more than ready for a break and to get back to familiar surroundings. I London I was able to catch up with lots of friends, attend an old flat-mate’s wedding (Congratulations Tom and Suzanne!), see Spurs play at Wembley (shame about the result), go to a West-End show, play a game of Rugby for Hanwell (we won), and even stop by at GSK House to see my old team.

I’d been told to expect that it would feel strange being back, as it feels like so much has happened to me in the 3 months, but things back home just keep ticking on, and that really felt true. I had to remind some of the GSK guys who said “not much has changed”, that in fact since I left they had a new head of Consumer Healthcare Northern Europe and a new CEO had been announced!

When I was home it felt like I’d never been away, and coming back to Nigeria and leaving everyone again was very hard, knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing them again until Christmas. My PULSE buddy (the PULSE alumni who was in Abuja last year that I am paired with) warned me that this would be one of the hardest times and I felt quite low for my first couple of days back in the country. However, she gave me some great advice about throwing myself back into things and doing some exercise, and after a run and a few drinks last night with my Abuja friends I am feeling much more positive.

On my run I also spotted this great view of my area of Maitama, you can see my apartment block on the far right. Running up this hill also annihilated me due to a bit of a rogue diet in London, a few more runs needed this month I think.


In addition, this time around I have my sweet new threads, made for me by my tailor, Falu, so now I can walk around feeling like a local.

Fridays at the office are wear traditional clothing day. With my colleagues Deb and Paulette.

I’ll leave you with this store I saw in Kano, an interesting combination of products to sell…


All the best,



  1. Great effort on the run – the hills in Abuja are deceptive! Keep your chin up, the time will fly, be sure to do what you set out to do, make a list of all the foods you want to eat when you get back (that’ll keep you busy!) and keep your diary busy! xx

  2. Great new threads! It is definitely fun to embrace the local culture and try to fit in. I also really love your view of Maitam- so beautiful. I really think the second portion of your assignment will fly by like mine seems to be, Christmas will likely be here before we know it. I, too got so busy for a while that I couldn’t blog like I wanted to either. I appreciate your descriptions of Northern Nigeria. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Great blog Alex. It’s one thing to share verbally and a different experience to read your experiences in a blog.

  4. What a great blog, Alex – thanks so much for sharing! Loved seeing your photos (esp your new local garb!) and hearing your reflections at this mid-way point. It’s true that the time will fly — the 2nd half of experiences always does — so savor every moment & bring your best self to work so that you’re sure to give & get all you can from this PULSE journey of a lifetime. Wishing you all the best … & keep blogging/ sharing with us! 🙂

  5. The last pic in the traditional attire is the best ! So neat that they actually have a day a week to dress traditionally 🙂 It sounds like you got a truly once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the northern part of Nigeria and getting a flavor of their biggest market – must have been amazing! Glad you had a good mid-way home trip too 🙂 sounds like you are all set for a GREAT second test match ! All the best !

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