On the 18th of June 2018 I’ve started my own Africa adventure, and after being in Nigeria for almost two weeks, I feel I need to borrow the title of a childhood movie for my first blog. “África minha” is the Portuguese adopted title for the Sydney Pollack’s movie from 1985, “Out of Africa”, which literally means “My Africa”! It’s the first expression I thought about when stepping out of the plane at 5 in the morning to be greeted, by a warm, sticky, and delicious heat.
Abuja is a modern city, full of big avenues, reflective of the fact that it was almost built from scratch in 1991. The diversity of cars on the road, makes for a very colourful drive from the airport to the city. You have very modern SUVs, and then cars from the 70s too. But I must say that I don’t find the driving here as mad and chaotic as what I experienced in Naples!
People are also very friendly, and it’s impressive the amount of green in the city, being palm trees or more exotic bushes, it never tires the eye. Maitama, one of the districts of Abuja, is also full of big houses behind tall gates. See the view from the hotel where I was staying.
And some of the landscape remind me of pictures I grow up seeing in my grandparents’ albums from Angola!
Now, Rain (it’s the wet season until end July)! Wow, what a beautiful meteorological event to witness in the tropics. It’s so imposing, that you do stop what you’re doing to stare at it [Also because, when it rains, it’s likely that the electricity goes down, as well as the speed of internet, and it’s very common to loose mobile signal too – so, Nature: 1, technology: 0]! The rain is also not predictable. I remember my uncle telling me that in Angola it would rain one hour at a certain time of the day and then it would stop, so you could plan things around it. Not the case in Abuja, at least. But, strangely enough, I like this warm rain, where the clouds don’t even look as dark and depressing as in Europe (generally speaking).
But moving to a new country, as you can imagine, always comes with its quirks. For example, take SIM cards, in many of the European countries that I had the pleasure to live, buying a SIM is normally a straightforward business. Some give it for free, others you have to give an address, but nothing compares with Nigeria. They require biometrics! Yes, I had to give them my fingerprints in order to buy one.
On the topic of food, my first Nigerian dish was grilled fish in a vegetable stew. And it confirms, Nigeria food is spicy. But very tasty. Since then I had the pleasure to try suya, and masa. Suya is basically a spicy meat (chicken, beef) skewer very popular in West Africa, and masa is a Hausa rice cake. And while waiting for work to start, I got to read Purple hibiscus from the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It made a provocative reading, depicting a picture of Nigeria, which I haven’t seen or been exposed to, at least yet. I’m a few chapters into Americanah now, and I’m enjoying it more, it’s closer to the stories I hear at the office. Let’s see what brings in the end.
Now, onto the important stuff. As mentioned in the list of 2018 volunteers, my PULSE assignment is with Clinton Health Access Initiative in Abuja, Nigeria (CHAI). I will be supporting their family planning program, by helping refine their data collection and reporting system, as well as, assist with training, and analysis of the data and dashboard utilized for program monitoring. The ultimate goal of the program is to address the local gap in family planning access and services, with the aim to understand if such amenities will help reduce child mortality rates in some northern states of the country.
And so far, my first days with CHAI have been very nice. Everyone is super friendly, and really made me feel welcome. They also didn’t waste any time in giving me work, as on my first day at the office I’ve learnt that I was scheduled to travel the week after to support the training happening in the northern states. As you can imagine, I’m quickly getting up to speed with the project, and training material! Curiously, while doing this, I realised CHAI is similar to GSK so far in at least one aspect, they love acronyms as much as we do! So, the first few meetings, is a bit of a guessing game.
And to end this first blog, I would like to leave you with a piece of my daily life. A popular song on the radio, which I get to hear quite frequently on my way to work: “Chop my money” by PSquare. If you like dancing, this song is for you!