November 03

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The papaya tree in the neighbour’s backyard

There is a papaya tree in the neighbour’s garden, that I can see from my landlord’s kitchen. At the end of each day, I sit in the kitchen’s door steps to get a stable network signal to talk with my family. Inevitably, I stare at the papaya tree. It has been growing quite a lot since I started paying attention to it in the beginning of July, and somehow has became an emotive objective to me. Simple because, it’s also on that door step, looking at the papaya tree, that I have been taking the time to reflect in my experiences so far, and the stories that I should compile for my next blog. I feel that if I were to take one of those psychological tests, where people ask you to say what an image makes you feel, a papaya tree will be a “chaotic whirlwind of frustration, annoyance, homesickness, and bliss”.

It has been close to three months since I last wrote about my Nigerian adventures. My NGO has discovered my “super powers”, and they have kept me busy. I have had the opportunity to use some of my data science skills to help in some of their other projects. As a natural follow up, I suggested to give some classes to anyone that would like to learn a bit about it. So, I’ve been busy preparing some tutorials around tools that I know, and teaching. It is really rewarding to see a big part of the organisation excited to learn about R! But also, (I have given 3 lessons on Excel by now), hearing the positive feedback at the end of the class, and most importantly, hearing the stories on how they are using newly acquired skills to simplify their work.

In the mist of all this, I can’t quite believe it’s November already, and I just have 7 weeks left. I find it hard to believe it sometimes, because by now, I will be freezing in the UK, the stores will be full of Christmas decoration, while here, we’re waiting for the mango session to start. Also, it’s still 30 degrees outside, leaves are not failing and turning yellow. Ah, tropical weather, I will miss it!

Nonetheless, living in Nigeria comes with several challenges, and once in a while we get reminded of it. You have the real dramatic stories which remind you that there are security issues in some parts of the country. And things that just remind you to be grateful of what you have back home. To illustrate the former, a couple of weeks ago, my landlord’s housemaid had to leave Kaduna in a rush because of the communal violence that broke out. The state is still under heavy curfew as I type. To the latter, you may have heard that electricity here is not very stable. The acronym of the network is NEPA which stands for Nigeria electric power authority, but the locals sometimes call it “Never expect power again”. Now, computers, and other electronic items, don’t quite like spikes in power. So, it’s recommended to always carry a power surge with you. However, sometimes that is not enough, as I learnt the hard way. In the midst of a normal day at work, my computer gave up on me. The challenge I faced was how to get a new computer when we can’t quite use a mail carrier?

But to every cloud there is a silver lining somewhere, right? Mine was that I got to meet GSK Portugal. Basically, when I went home to visit my family, my supervisor was very kind to arrange for a computer to be sent to the nearest GSK site. In the excitement I forgot to take a picture of the building and the incredibly friendly people I met, but you can see me below, incredibly happy hugging my new computer. So a very big thank you to the IT team in Stevenage for preparing the new computer, to the global supply team, to make sure the computer got in the right plane, to the GSK team in Portugal, for keeping the computer until I could pick it up, to my supervisor and group team leader for agreeing to this crazy logistics, and for the GSK team in Nigeria, for agreeing to activate plan B and get my computer to Lagos for repair if all the above would have failed!

computer_RSantos_min

But back to papayas, in these last 3 months, I have taken the weekends to explore the best Abuja has to offer: local markets, parks, and upcoming restaurants. My favourite activity is to go and buy fruit. And let me tell you, after eating a real papaya, I won’t eat an imported one so soon. Look at the colour! I wish I could somehow record the taste of it. It’s in moments like this I wish Harry Potter’s pensitive was real, and I could record what my taste buds experience when I eat a papaya, or a pineapple, or plantain.

Going to Millennium park is also a favourite activity. Since Elizabeth joined me in Abuja, is easier to move around. We get to see (and take a ton of pictures) of Azo rock, and bananas growing in the wild. Checking the monkeys on the way to one of our local restaurants is not something we do often, but it’s a nice walk to take. Our landlords have also been very kind to show us around. And we even got to use their tailors to convert the amazing Nigerian fabrics we bought into very colourful clothes.

And to finish this blog, there is just one last reflection that I would like to share. As part of the PULSE program, we get to have a job coach plus. I have found it very useful to have someone to talk through some of the challenges that I’m experiencing while working in a very different working environment. Particularly, to help me identify personal barriers when I want to bring an idea forward. So, if you’re considering applying for the program next year, I suggest you take a look at this option when the time comes.

You can now go and check another Nigerian hit: Skele by Iyanya (not to be confused by the American singer; watch out for google and in this case their erroneous suggestion). Until the next blog!