Saturday, January 03, 2009

Nigeria Wrap-Up

So I'm back in the US and I have some thoughts on Nigeria. Before I start, let me go over the final days of the trip. Once I was back in Abuja, we went to a Chinese food restaurant that was playing country western music. That was quite odd. The food was really good, though.

After getting back to London, the 4 of us (me, my mom, Uchenna and his gf) went to this really nice restaurant in the Mayfair area to celebrate the New Year. We didn't see the fireworks, but it was alright. We've seen fireworks in so many places (most impressively in Sydney), that I'm ok with not having seen them.

Ok, so about Nigeria. I was talking about this with Uchenna, and he has a very interesting theory about Nigerians in general and the problems they have in their country. It's very interesting and I can see where he gets it from. In short, he thinks that they hold themselves in too high a regard and they can't really extend their thinking to include big picture items like working for the good of the country or things like that. These are of course generalizations, but I think that they are fairly accurate. There are numerous examples of this that we saw over the trip, like the terrible conditions of some of the NATIONAL and STATE highways, the complete lack of maintenance on any number of other utilities and infrastructure, the fact that there's nowhere in the country with 24/7 power (seriously, how can this country sitting on all that oil have power problems??), etc etc.

This isn't to say that there isn't a sense of community. At the town and village level, it's remarkable (something that my brother mentioned, too). But people's thinking rarely goes up to state level and almost never goes up to a national level. It's just a bunch of people in pockets of areas that are only loosely associated with each other. My brother thinks that all of it is a symptom of the tropical climate and the overabundance of resources. 

In any case, I'm glad that I got to know my family, but I'm still not a fan of the country. There's a lot that they need to do and it definitely won't be easy. A lot of Nigerians (including my dad) say that they need an "Obama" president of their own to change the thinking of the people in the country as a whole. I agree, but I think that the it's such a deep-seated problem that that person, whoever it is, will probably have to be even better than Obama at inspiring people.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Nigeria - Back to Civilization

Oh my god. I’m back in Abuja, and all I’m going to say is that I’m glad to be back in a modern city. It’s still kind of ridiculous that the satellite TV in the village was better, but everything else is better (such as power being on being more the rule than the exception as it was in the village). I’ve been talking with the family (or more, listening to them talk), and I’ve got some wrap up thoughts on Nigeria, but I have to form them and I’ll get back to it in a later entry. Also, I should wait till the Nigeria part is over before that, haha.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Nigeria - Last Day in Obeledu

Well, I’m going to be heading back to Abuja tomorrow. Church was as long as I expected, but not as boring as I expected. There was a fundraising event halfway through (during the time set aside for the Homily, if you know Catholic tradition) that was pretty interesting. Both of my parents donated quite a bit of money to the Church. My dad had me and my bro go up and “donate” money, too, but he’s going to actually donate it.

After that we came home for a bit and ate lunch, and I took a nap, after which, we went to a Bazaar, which was another donation event for the church – a charity auction, actually. It was pretty cool at first. Then boring. Then cool again, when I walked around and talked with my brother and cousin (technically, first cousin, once removed). Then boring again. I will say, though, that the image of my dad as the rich dude around town was very striking. He was seriously like the Don Corleone (sp?) of the town (without the illegal activities, hehe). There are also a couple of other big, famous families around town. I have a picture of my dad and guys from the other two families sitting next to each other and it really looks like we’re looking at a triumvirate of mafia heads or something. It was crazy. Yeah, my dad is rich.

Oh, I told this to my brother earlier today, but an interesting thing out here is that everyone greets everyone all the time. And very proper-like. “Good Evening, Sir.” “You are very welcome here!” Stuff like that. It’s kinda cool because it’s gotten me talking to people and being polite and stuff. 8^D

As this part of the trip with my family draws to a close, though, I can say that I’m really glad I came. Not saying I’m going to come out here all the time, but for the first time, I really feel connected to my culture and my family over here. It’s a good feeling.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nigeria - Off the Beaten Path

Church, church and more church. I went to church the day before yesterday for Christmas (Merry Christmas, btw!) and went around to visit some family (including seeing Josephine, one of my favorite cousins over here, the other being her twin, Ngozi). I went back to church yesterday and will probably go again on Sunday. *SIGH*A very religious people, the Nigerians, hehe.

So what else happened? Oh yes, there was a festival the day before yesterday that I went to went the family. Well, “danced down the street to with a troupe of drummers, family and friends” is more accurate. It was a big town-wide thing, but among the activities, my dad was given yet another chieftaincy title. So apparently, I’m a prince of some sort? Weird. After that (which went on for quite a while), there was a Gala Night. It was supposed to be like a party for young people. There was a live band which was good in parts and super boring in other parts. My bro and I went out with 3 of my cousins. It was pretty good overall.

Today was mostly a chillout day. I just hung out at the house most of the day and played with the dog. He’s pretty bite-y in the way he plays, btw. In any case, after having breakfast, we went out to buy some bread that my mom likes, after which we went to see the Agulu-Nanka Erosion, a giant valley made purely from crazy erosion from the torrential rains here in Nigeria. It was really amazing. To get there, we first went down like 3 back roads and asked around a half dozen people for directions. We finally had to have a local kid from the town we found ourselves in guide us after driving down this crazy downhill grade to where it ended at someone’s house. He walked us into the forest (on a fairly lightly traveled footpath, so not QUITE off the beaten path – but still, it keeps with the spirit of this blog, hehe). After a bit of walking, the gorge/erosion opened up in front of me. My mom didn’t walk out there because she’s afraid of animals or something, so she stayed with the driver, but I was really glad I did. It was totally worth it.

I’ve been having this feeling for a little bit, but this is the first time that I feel like I’m really experiencing Nigeria.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Nigeria - More about Obeledu

This morning, I was woken up by the sound of a rooster crowing and goats bleating. Yeah, countryside.

So yeah, my dad has a dog. His name is Prince and he’s very unruly. Well, he’s still young and wants to play all the time, even when he’s covered in dirt and mud. He ruined 2 shirts of mine in about a 30 minute span. I like him and all, but stupid dog.

Oh, right. The flight out here was pretty interesting. I should be used to it from the couple times that I’ve done it, but it’s still pretty crazy to me. The terminal building was very manual. Signs hanging from the ceiling showed the flights. There were no screens or LEDs or anything like that. I guess I just thinking of airports as requiring a minimum amount of technology in them, but when there are only maybe a handful of flights in and out any given day, I guess it works. Needless to say, there aren’t any gates so to speak, only a door out to the field and the mobile stairs they put out next to the planes. Also, the baggage claim in Enugu (the airport that we arrived in) was a trip. Think tractor pulling trailer of bags into a room where the bags are put on a desk.

Oh, I didn’t mention this before, but right now it’s the season called Harmattan in Nigeria. That’s when desert wind picks up sand from the Sahara and covers the country in a blanket of haze and absolute dryness. It’s hazy everywhere, all the time. Thankfully, it’s also relatively cool (“cool” meaning in the high 80’s, low 90’s during the day with no humidity).

So what happened today? I watched my dad’s helper guy split up the meat from a cow that they had slaughtered this morning. The meat was split in order to give to my dad’s siblings’ and friends’ families. It was pretty crazy watching him cut everything up. But thankfully, I didn’t see the slaughter itself. That might have been too much. Oh, and apparently, they squeeze the feces out of the intestines with their hands while preparing the meat. Nice.

There was more heading around and visiting family and friends. Tomorrow is when the crazy celebration and stuff starts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nigeria - Obeledu

So I did some calculating, and I haven’t been here in the village in a whole decade! I was last here in 1998 for my dad’s knighting or chieftaincy ceremony or something. Yeah, I was in high school then. Crazy. Anyway, I saw some relatives and friends of the family today. There will be much more of that to come in the next few days.

So my dad is pretty well off, but I don’t think that I really understood the scope of that. Before coming out to Obeledu, we went to go see all the properties that he owns, and I realized just how crazy well off he is. He owns like a dozen houses, apartment buildings and plots of land. He was talking about the cost of building them and of renovating them, and how much he would be selling them for and he was throwing around numbers like millions of Naira this, millions of Naira that (125 Naira = $1). @_@.

In any case, back to Obeledu. Being around here, I’m really struck – again – by how contradictory (or at least, counterintuitive) this country is. Power isn’t on 24/7 anywhere in the country (stupid NEPA!), and it’s worse in the countryside (it’ll be off maybe 3-4 hrs at a time in Abuja, whereas it’s occasionally off for whole weeks out here). And yet I still get cell service. I was singing the praises of satellite TV at the house in Abuja in the earlier post, but one TV’s satellite controls the channels that all the TV’s in the house will show. Here in Obeledu, every TV can watch a different satellite channel all modern-like (oh, and btw, half of the channels are evangelical and about half the rest are in French). What’s next, a free WiFi network that I can sign onto, lol?

Anyway, the power just went out again, so I’ll call it a night here. I’ll give a description of my domestic flight out here later. Oh, and I didn’t mention that my dad has a dog now! More to come.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nigeria - Arrival in Abuja

Well, I just arrived in Abuja. What’s happened so far? I stopped over in London Heathrow. British Airways just completed most of their new terminal, Terminal 5, and holy crap that is one big terminal. It’s just for one airline, too. It’s honestly amazing. The stopover was SO LONG, though. I got in at about noon or so and the flight out to Abuja left at 9:30pm. BLECH.

Since arriving in Abuja, I’m reminded of a lot of stuff. There’s the same sorta stark difference between the rich and the poor, but I’m beginning to see more of what makes the “middle class” here. It’s getting better from what I can tell. More traffic lights, more highways, more infrastructure in general. Power still doesn’t run 24/7, though. Stupid NEPA. Hmm, my phone works and gets 3G of all things. I’m pretty surprised at that, but I guess that’s the benefit of GSM. I’m still not keeping AT&T, though. It’s just too annoying while I’m in the US and this phone is a bit unstable for my liking.

Internet is a rare commodity here, so I’ve only been able to check email once this whole time. I’m having withdrawal pains here. HOOK IT TO MY VEINS! This would be the ideal location to get WiMax rolled out, honestly. But that would require that the government get its act together and actually work earnestly towards bettering the lives of its citizens, which is a tall order. If it wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg, I would use my phone, but alas, I can’t. At least I have the lifeline of CNN.

I will be heading to my dad’s village of Obeledu tomorrow. This part of the trip should be interesting. I haven’t been back there in a LONG time.