Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Making it back "home"

After two less-than-positive blogs concerning African travel, I figured I owed it to you readers to write a follow-up post on how it all ended. Especially since my former country director wrote in last week's team letter something to the effect of: "Rene and her fiancé, Andrew, were stranded in Accra when security issues prevented their onward journey to Guinea. Not sure where they are now, but pray for God’s protection." Haha!! Well, Bill, and all the rest, I have made it back to the States, against all odds, but of course, not without incident. Wanna hear about it?

So after a couple days of seeking out internet kiosks and buying cell phone credit to communicate with US travel agents, Ghanaian travel agents, and mom's who all were trying to help me coordinate a flight out of Africa. Easier said than done. With less than 24 hrs to spare, I finally managed to book a flight to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and then from there to Paris-->N.Y.-->Charlotte, NC. So on Friday Andrew and I parted ways in the Accra airport while he headed to Bamako, Mali and I back across the ocean. In Ouagadougou I spent a seemingly interminable 8 hr layover in the less-than-accomodating airport. I mean, I've been in my share of developping world airports...and I've never before feared I was contradicting malaria. I bided my time before they allowed me to check in (and thus proceed to the real waiting lounge (with drinks for sale and a television spewing horrible franco-african dance videos) ), by reading, journaling, and rearranging my skirt to guard against the swarms of mosquitoes. After about an hour when the morning flight took off and I'm the lone passenger they switch to low power mode--dimmed lights and no fans. Ok, enough complaining about the torturous time there. On the flight to Paris I got put in the same row as the only (as far as i could tell) American. We had some good conversation which helped both of us stay up to reprogram our body clocks and fight jet lag. Standing in the security line in Paris I was immediately struck by the dearth of bright colors and elaborate patterns of clothing...instead was just a sea of of grayscale. Perhaps that's why people seemed slightly happier around me...I was wearing a patchwork skirt made of vibrant Nigerian cloth and toted a flourescent green carry-on.

ANYWAYS, my 30+ hours of travel from airports to planes continued to slowly break me back into the "developped" world. Climate-control, water fountains, and car seats...all fantastic ideas. When I rolled past customs at JFK, the heart-winning, delight-filling, smile-effecting Grandpa Peter K. Haile was there to greet me. I was grinning from ear to ear as we hugged and he showered subsequent kisses on my cheeks. G'pa had graciously arranged a ride so he could come spend about an hour with me during my layover there at JKF. What a blessing for such a loving face to be one of the first to see as I stepped on American soil! My mom was slightly jealous:)

Though I only had one more short flight left to CHarlotte, NC, I wasn't ready to give up my transient life of waiting in terminals...so I volunteered my seat on the over-booked flight! They offered flight vouchers and I thought, heck, what's another few hours of self-entertainment in this NICE airport (with coushioned seats, bathrooms, magazines, and CNN)?? AND THEN I got upgraded to first-class for the 1st time ever!!! now, it would have been sweet for that to happen on the trans-atlantic flight, but cruising into my homestate in style wasn't bad either. You know how when you board a plane you shuffle past the 1st-class passengers and think to yourself, "It'd be nice to have the dispensible income to afford such a cushy ride. I wonder what this man/woman does?" Well, I totally got those looks and wanted to put a sign up that said, "Not rich, just work for God."

Ok, last fun episode of my journey happend after I collected my backpack and was milling around the baggage claim area. Someone was supposed to be picking me up but I wasn't sure who or if they would know me, though my attire and smell screamed Africa. While I wrestled with the payphone to try to reach someone who might know, this nice lady said, "Hey honey, just use my cell phone." And then this lovely hispanic lady complimented me on my skirt, which led to my giving my schpill about Nigeria and her offering to give me a ride wherever I needed to go! She waited with me outside until my ride rolled around, what a sweet heart! Her as well as a handful of other people and situations i encountered in transit got me thinking that perhaps God wasn't out to just screw up all my plans. I mean, I know He's not, but I had been really disappointed about not seeing Guinea and leaving Andrew early and frustrated about all the time I spent organizing things. Now that I'm on this end of things, I can see God's loving hand guiding and dropping little gems of blessing into my lap.
Right, that was super d duper d long. Sorry! I might have to do a little retroactive blogging about saying goodbye to Nigeria and then some of Andrew's and my fun in Ghana. You don't mind non-chronological blogging, do you?
ps--see link on right for my video summarizing the past 2 years :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

andrew's guinea update

here's andrew's more detailed explanation (from a mass email)

Hello all,
So many of you may have been following the news on Guinea the last week or so. For those who haven't, there has been a spate of violence in the capital, Conakry, surrounding a scheduled rally from the political opposition last Monday. Rioters were shot by the military and there were a number of other abuses, including stories of rape at gunpoint and other brutalization of women. Terrible stuff, and deeply disturbing considering the precarious nature of the political situation during this interim government period.
I've been in Ghana since Friday, taking the LSAT and meeting up with my fiancee, Rene as well as spending time with some other Peace Corps friends. It's been a great week-- beaches, hammocks, great seafood, and a real movie in a real movie theater have all been highlights. I heard the news about Guinea Tuesday night as I was waiting to pick Rene up from the airport. Getting back to the hostel that night, we made some phone calls and heard about the violence-- over 150 dead. Pretty shocking. From there, we've been in touch with Peace Corps and with Guinean friends back in-country.
Peace Corps, in coordination with the US embassy, has decided to evacuate all Volunteers as a precautionary measure. The country is ostensibly calm: the violence hasn't spread outside of Conakry although tensions are apparently high. However, the situation with the military and the interim government looks extremely grim-- the men who ought to be maintaining order and justice are instead murdering and brutalizing civilians.
Despite this, Boulliwel is of course entirely unchanged. When I called M. Diallo the other day he confirmed the reports that we had heard through the grapevine but assured me that everything would get better and that they'd have us back in Guinea soon enough. Apparently Blaise Campaore, the President of Burkina Faso, and a high-up American State Dept official are being dispatched to Conakry to "mediate." So we'll see how that goes.
In the meantime, it looks like the Guinea Volunteers that I'm here with in Ghana and I will be heading to Bamako, Mali this week, for a minimum of two weeks (and potentially more) to watch and see if the situation cools down. This is a huge bummer for me, because it means that Rene won't get to come see Guinea. She and I had planned to head back to Guinea on Tuesday and now it looks like she may head back to the States instead. We are exploring the option of her coming to Bamako for a few days to prolong the visit but it looks unlikely. And Boulliwel had been so excited to get to meet her after all these months! A real shame.
Please keep Guinea in your thoughts and prayers. All the Volunteers will be leaving Guinea for Mali on Thursday-- we might be there as soon as Wednesday (waiting on PC/Ghana for word on that one) to meet up with the rest of the crew. Bamako may not know what hit it! But we have all been shocked by the news and are hoping for a swift and peaceful resolution to the conflict and a just, orderly organization of the presidential elections scheduled for January.
Take care,
Much love,

Monday, October 5, 2009


In my early blogging days I posted a blog entitled T.I.A. (This is Africa) chronicling some of the ridiculous unexpected things that make life in Africa FAR from boring. Now, as I'm on my way back to the U.S. the African powers have decided I needed a final kick in the pants so I don't forget just how nutty life on this continent can be.
Right. So I had carefully, though not TOO meticulously, planned a little west African travel en route to the States after finishing my term in Nigeria. Andrew and I arranged to meet up in Ghana, where he and a couple other peace corps friends were taking the LSAT. We planned to hang out on the coast of Ghana for a week and then fly back to Guinea where I'd spend a couple weeks in Bouliwell, his village and home for the past 2 years. All goes according to plan EXCEPT for this small tid-bit of news we heard that there was some sort of violent retaliation towards a political opposition demonstration. "Hmm..." we think to ourselves, "that doesn't sound good." Over the course of the next few days we receive increasingly plan-threatening reports which culminated in learning that Peace Corps-Guinea will be evacuating all its volunteers to Bamako, Mali. (note: my wonderful fiance has sent out a mass e-mail with more details about all that jazz so I won't bore you with my less eloquently written rendition)(If you want to read that, I'll try to post it in another blog)
SO, yes, my friends. All those who said goodbye to me in Nigeria and jokingly said, "I can't wait to see what adventures West Africa throws at you this time..." it has come. Currently we are stuck in Accra (though we did have several fantastic days down along the coast. blogs with pictures to come at a later date), waiting to see when and how to get to Mali. Or if I'm even going to go. It is a good thing I've had lots of experience over the past 2 years with the unpredictability of African travel, otherwise my type-A tendencies might be on the fritz. I wish I could write more, but my time is ticking on this Internet cafe computer and there are travel agents to contact. For now, I have my white flag up in surrender for A.W.A (Africa Wins Again...I know some of you were wondering what that stood for :) )

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Day and Mai Day

Last week I celebrated my 3rd birthday here in Nigeria. I remember my 1st was when I had just arrived, no one knew me, nor knew it was my bday until the day was almost over so it was a fairly humbling time. Last year was the pirate party (remember?) This year there was a bit less fan fare...and I was feeling cruddy. SO, a couple of the staff, knowing how much I enjoyed hiking, took me on a birthday hike to this place called Dutse Maimaiki = "Rock of Wonder." Made me think of "The Cave of Wonders" from Aladin...but sadly this place didn't talk in a creepy voice and swallow perpetrators (sorry for you non-Disney lovin' folk). Right, so this mountainous rock outcropping is a "wonder" because its top is laden with these uniquely pentagonal and hexagonal shape rocks. It looks like they were pushed through one of those playdough machines. I asked my guide what they thought caused the rocks to be formed like this and he replied, "God." Right. I have actually seen another place in the world where God chose to use His divine playdough machine to make these groovy rocks--the north coast of Ireland. While Andrew and I were there last year, we went to this place called "The Giant's Causeway" and they too, had these polygonally shaped stones. Clearly, Ireland is less godly than Nigeria because they think a giant made their wonder :) Anyways, God apparently used the hot furnace deep within the earth to form volcanic rock into crystal-like shape which eventually came bursting out of the ground during some tectonic plate shift. Cosmic playdough, a giant's rage, or tectonic movement... seeing this wonder on my birthday was a poignant and humbling reminder that the One who was there orchestrating the sculpting of these rocks was also there sculpting me in my mother's womb 26 years ago and He says that I am "fearfully and wonderfully made." (Ps. 139:14) So MY day was pretty cool, but the following day,MAI DAY, is REALLY worth sharing about. A word of explanation: The “Mai” is the traditional chief of this area, encompassing 7 different people groups and a considerable amount of area. He’s very powerful, influential, and highly respected. His domain is referred to as his kingdom and his house is the palace, which we got to visit a few days prior. See Claudia and I assuming our thrones. We knew several church leaders and local dignitaries were coming to visit today, but I didn’t fully brace myself for what that would mean. It should have meant that I was on my A-game, greeting them with a big American smile, spewing out my best Hausa and utilizing the few greetings in the local language I had picked up...but I wasn’t. In fact, I was being held to my thin mattress by an extra-strong gravitational force due to a splitting headache and serious sinus constipation (which would give way to nose diarrhea approximately every 7.5 minutes). Right! So I didn’t exactly see the entourage arrive. Somewhere in my barely conscious state I heard Claudia say, “We want to welcome the Mai...” and gravity released its grip as I bolted straight up. . As culture dictates, the Mai’s size was proportional to his status...so it wasn’t difficult picking him out of the line up of VIP’s. His entourage included a federal policeman, one of his afro wearing sons, two turbaned, traditionally dressed dudes serving as the tribal body guards, and another guy I’m going to call the praise singer(P.S.). The P.S. was dressed a bit less regally but what he lacked in attire he made up for with words. His job, whether official or self-appointed, I don’t know, was to affirm/bless everything the Mai said and repeatedly proclaim a phrase equivalent to “Long live the King!” I wonder if the Mai ever turns around and tells him to put a cork in it...I certainly would find it annoying. Ok, so I stumbled into the room with all of camp facing this platform of babas. Claudia is giving a schpill about ECYA and I can’t help but admire what she’s done here in Nigeria and how she can speak undauntedly regardless of the audience. Then the Mai responded and in listing off the important people he was addressing, he points to me with his elaborately decorated fat finger and says, “I don’t think I was introduced to you.” Doh! Why am I still surprised that I don’t blend into a crowd of Africans?? So I did a curtsy bow, introduced myself and we moved on. This Mai expressed how impressed he was with the vision of ECYA, but wondered where the results were. Why doesn’t he see more shops being opened by campers selling these crafts they’ve learned to make? He had the staff who did own shops stand up and told each of them to come to his palace and collect N10,000 (~$100) to reward their work and encourage their business. He went on to say he would personally talk to the local government chairman and microfinance bank about getting any interested and committed campers some capital and loans to open up their own shop! Wow. I’ve never seen a leader that both challenged and immediately enabled youth to succeed. He put his money where his Mai mouth was. Claudia and I looked at each other and we both had tears in our eyes. This is exactly the sort of support the ministry and the youth need--helping to ensure ongoing impact in the community post-camp. At the end, Claudia gave a closing prayer, followed by the Mai’s benedictory prayer, and then this clogged-nose, head-swimming, deepened voice baturiya was asked to give the “final final prayer.” Then, I was ushered into the recessional parade and thrust next to the Mai (and company) for pictures. Pretty snazzy, eh? More stories about camp to come...in the meantime, check out the pictures from all the camps.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Widow's Mite

Another Sunday morning. Another church visitation. Another opportunity to share the vision of ECWA Camp Youth Alive, make awareness for this years camp, and petition for financial support from both the church and individuals to help make the ministry more locally sustainable. And another morning spent on a less-than-erognomically shapped wooden pew, attempting to glean what I could from the Hausa sermon. Don't get me wrong, I fully believe in this aspect of the ministry...its just that I've been to a different church every Sunday since February, often sitting through two 2-hr long services...and my schpill has lost some of its vigor. Out of all the congregations we've spoken too, a very small percentage have come through in collecting an offering to help the ministry offset registration costs for camp. So sitting there Sunday morning, i suppose you could say my optimism wasn't spilling over the brim. After 1.5 hrs into the service, towards the end of the announcement time, my colleague and I were asked to come forward to give our brief awareness (during our pre-service meeting with the pastor, he emphasized how he'd give us just 2 minutes). I did my part in greeting the congregation and attempting to butter them up with my Hausa before my colleague did the dirty work. Mission accomplished, we settle into our seats for the rest of the service.
Much to my surprise, the associate pastor decided that he would add an offering for ECYA to the other ones (making a total of 5, I believe) to be collected that morning. In these churches, offering time is the liveliest part of the service with upbeat music being played and everyone filing out in rows, then dancing down the aisle to drop their money in the baskets, rubber tubs, wooden crates, or other large containers. As I stood clapping and rhythmically swaying side-to-side, I saw something I don't think I'll ever forget. Slowly, deliberately, this one old kaka made her way towards the offering basket. I had seen her come into the building about 45 mins after the service had begun. Completely bent-over with her torso parallel to the floor, hands clasping her walking stick, she had shuffled in. I had watched her take a full minute to maneuver the 1 step near her seat, and wondered how long it had taken her just to get showered and dressed that morning. Now, with steadfast resolve she struggled to cover the 10 yards to the offering basket. As she shuffled, my eyes filled with tears, my heart filled with gratitude, and my apathy got a swift kick to the curb by this humble picture. That 5 Naira note she dropped into our basket was out-valued only by the sacrifice of her journey to give it. Luke 21:1-4 took on flesh, bones, and an african wrapper.

When she finally returned to her seat, I saw relief sweep over her face, and I let out the breath, I didn't realize I had been holding, with my own sigh of relief. Slightly I thanked the Lord for this blessed woman and her sacrifice. When the service finished and the church secretary handed us the bundle of money from the offering I looked at one of the crumpled 5 naira notes and knew I was holding a treasure. It won't pay for a camper scholarship or even a cup of tea, but it payed for this missionary to be humbled.
Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, "The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—she gave her all!" ~Luke 21:1-4, The Message

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What I could have done without

Remember how I mentioned in my blog about the soccer game that I had a little list of must-do/see while in Africa? Well, one of the things on my hope-to-not-have-to-deal-with happened, and I felt obligated to share it with you. Motor accident. (I can her the gasp from my mother, G'pa Haile, and a handful of others. Don't worry, since I'm at a computer, I'm clearly ok:))
Right, so there I was, driving Claudia's (my boss) truck to a little village called Luwuna. Shammah was with me as we were going to pick up Keturah, his wife, and Reborn Marshall, his son (and my namesake, see blog). We also picked up Keturah's sister, Rose, and were happily cruising through the lush, green Nigerian countryside. At one point I slowed down and turned on my blinker to make a left-turn. In fact, I had come to a complete stop and saw no cars in sight. Just as I began to turn the car, BAAAAMMMM!! SCCCRRRAAAAAAPPPPPEEEE!! A van came flying out of nowhere trying to pass on my left (while I'm making a left-turn) and completely took off the front left corner of the truck!!
Shards of metal littered the road, though my truck hadn't budged. Shocked but knowing this was going to require a bit of discussion, I pulled over to the right side of the road. Immediately I replayed the scene in my mind and deduced that I, without a doubt, did nothing wrong...except, of course, for the fact that my skin is pigmently challenged. The driver, an older man, gets out and starting walking towards me yelling about how I didn't look very well and I'm thinking, "Are you kidding me?!?!?!" YOU are the one who didn't see my blinker, didn't slow down, and tried to pass me while I was turning!!! You should be apologizing right now!!" Again, I was thinking these things. All I managed to get out was "I did nothing wrong." As the crowd gathered, I said to Shammah, "I am NOT at fault here and will NOT give him any money. At most, I'll agree to part ways taking responsibility to fix our own vehicles." Ha..silly white girl notions. Ensued 1.5 hours of debate on the side of the road as spectators swarmed in, not saying much, and probably not listening, just staring at me. Of course, there would have been a crowd for any accident, but THIS one had a baturiya driving! What a novelty!
A couple nice guys attempted to mediate, advising me to plead and beg with the baba to just accept a small token for an apology, so as to avoid hassle. I tried that, letting Shammah do the talking because (1) my Hausa wasn't flowing (2) my emotions were flowing and hence my tears threatened to break the dam and flood my face if I opened my mouth. The dude threw out a figure like N50,000 (=$300), COMPLETELY ridiculous, and i just laughed, responding that I have N1,500 (=$10) in my wallet. Naturally, they didn't believe me because white folks excrete money, right? When I got my wallet it and showed him the mangie 3 N500 notes, they smacked their lips and said, "Let's go to the police station." Conveniently this was only a stones throw away. I'm thinking I have nothing to fear, other than a loss of time, so why not? Now, the policeman was very nice but had never driven a vehicle before in his life and said that while baba should have stopped, I was supposed to "wait a full 5 minutes before making the turn."...WHAT??? The baba was pretty vocal, and aggressive and the growing crowd of ---- people no doubt intimidated the policeman. Negotiations migrated outside the station but I remained inside. At one point when everyone was outside except me and the policeman, the tears started streaming down my face. 4 main thoughts swirled inside my head: (1) this likely wouldn't be happening if I was black. (2)here's another example of the infuriating situation where I'm being exploited by Nigeria, the very place I came to give myself to (3) if that van had been a couple seconds later, the van would have nailed me...no more Rene. Ok, enough of those thoughts (4) So THIS is what it feels like to suffer at the hands of injustice.
OK...perhaps a little dramatic, but I have to be give it to you as it came.
Anyways, the policeman had pity on me upon seeing my waterworks and tried to encourage me...but at the end of the day, Rose, Shammah and I still had to empty our pockets, which only came to the sum of N4,500 (=$30). Not that I'm bitter, but essentially this guy broke traffic laws, hit me, damaged Claudia's truck, nearly killed me, and robbed us. I've had better Nigerian moments.

BUT, once I got to the village all the wahala of the previous few hours blew away with gentle breeze coming in over the maize
farms. My little "son" is absolutely precious and remembered me! Most Nigerian babies will cry when they see a white person, especially when taken out of their mother's protective arms and placed on the bature's lap. Reborn is too culturally educated for that :) I "backed" him (see picture) and we took a walk all around the village greeting people and exercising my "deep Hausa." Grace upon grace, the day with my heart being filled with gratitude and contentment.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Palm Sandals for Sale

A fellow "missy" out here, Chuck Truxton, passed along this story of a camper from our ministry. Chuck yearly sponsors several youth to come to our camp and its just incredible what comes of that sometimes. I wanted to share this story with you, perhaps giving you a bigger perspective on why I do what I do.

We buried Mamman’s father (at the age of 36) when Mamman was just beginning Secondary School. As the oldest of the four children, and especially being the eldest son, his mother began to rely on him as the man of the house. New purchases were put in his name for his future security. Sometimes mother and son discussed family issues as she used to do with her husband. Mamman was now the man of the house.

Still, just coping with life in secondary school was enough of a challenge. Mamman was not at the top of his class academically. What contribution could he make to seeing that the family’s needs were met and the future secure for his siblings? His mother was able to get a job cleaning rooms and dressing beds at a nearby Bible conference centre. But Mamman wanted to do something to help.

Then came “long vacation” and ECYA (ECWA Camp - Youth Alive). ECWA is Evangelical Church of West Africa, daughter church to SIM which has ministered in Nigeria for more than 115 years.

Mamman was given the opportunity of attending the camp for one week due to a gift from friends in America. It looked like a great way to get away and have FUN! And it was. But something interesting happened that was more than just fun. For Mamman, the craft time at the camp was the highlight of each day.

At the craft room, there was a choice of activities. Mamman selected making palm sandals. This turned out to be the best part of the camp for sure. Not only did Mamman have fun learning how to make palm sandals but he also realized: “Hey, I am good at this. My finished product looks almost professional! “

Then it happened. An idea was born.

No one had ever characterized this secondary school student as a “visionary.” But Mamman saw himself sitting in a workshop back home in his village, crafting palm sandals to sell to people in the village. These sandals are something that everyone uses every day of the week. People trek to the market to buy them, but what is available in the market is not nearly as nice as what Mamman saw his own hands producing. This could work!

Just two months after camp, Mamman found himself sitting in small workshop in his village, crafting sandals. Through a gift from a friend of his late father, he was able to purchase the one expensive item needed: a grinding wheel for shaping the base of the sandals. People are buying his product and Mamman can see that his work is helping his mother and taking some of the burden from her shoulders.

Just one big problem remains now. Mamman is not able to make palm sandals fast enough to meet up with the demand in the village! God is at work.
And this is just one of many stories we get to hear about in ECWA Camp Youth Alive. Sometimes with all the printing, speaking, traveling, and planning, we lose sight of the far-reaching outcomes of the ministry. Lives are being changed!! We do not just know this from the evaluation form campers and staff fill out at the end of camp, but we hear and see it when we run into former campers in the market, or former staff walk across the seminary graduation stage. ECYA 2009 is just around the corner (Jos: August 4-10, Aug 11-17; Kaduna: Aug 22-29; Tangale: September 3-9). Please join us in praying for the Holy Spirit to continue working in ways on the Holy Spirit can—healing broken hearts, open blind eyes, unlocking deaf ears, setting captives free, giving hope and changing lives. And hey, if you are interested in sponsoring a camper, drop me an email.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Up Nigeria!!

On my list of "must-do-in-africa", right after wearing gargantuas head-ties and driving a motorbike through the countryside (both being crossed off, by the way), was seeing a professional soccer game. I mean, here soccer is thoroughly appreciated, if not worshipped, as the noble sport that it is. Every afternoon you can easily stumble upon any number of pick-up games being played on patches of dirt, gravel, pavement or stubbly grass. Every boy learns to play before he's even taller than the ball, and virtually each one has the dream of making it big and being drafted for Manchester United of Chelsea. SO, when I stumbled upon an opportunity to see Nigeria's national team, the Super Eagles, play against Kenya in a World Cup Qualifier match, you can bet I jumped all over it...and so did about 20 other friends.
We journeyed to Abuja where the Super Eagle Stadium sits just outside of the city, backdropped by a huge gorgeous rock (see pic below). I had heard that the stadium's capacity was something like 60,000, but for some reason, it rarely gets more than half-full, despite tickets selling for N300 (= $2.00). Well, not so for this match! Yes, the tickets were basically given away for that price, but they evidently sold WAY more tickets than they had seats.I'm not sure if you can see, but every seat was filled and people packed the stairs, aisles, and walkways. It's a good thing there wasn't a need for an emergency exit, because we couldn't budge!

The game was scheduled to start at 4, but even World Cup Qualifier games can't overpower the African clock...so it didn't start till close to 5. Some of our crew got there early to reserve seats, so if you happened to watch the game, you might have spotted a pocket of batures on the 2nd level at center-field. decked out in Nigeria jerseys and homemade facepaint. Glorious.
I have heard all sorts of stories about unruly fans here in Africa and so REALLY hoped Nigeria would win. Thankfully, Nigeria put the ball in the back of the net within the first 2 minutes and maintained a lead the whole match. Other than the typical fouls, injuries, and player theatrics, the game was fairly tame. I was surpised to see how the Nigerian fans expressed their strongest displeasure with the captain. Virtually every time he touched the ball and made a less-than-stellar play, up with the hand cursing him! I gather they aren't to pleased with his leadership. (And yes, I am ignorant of pretty much everyone's name on the team...quite the disappointment to my sports trivia guru of a fiance)
Though a few squirmishes amongst the fans broke out in front of me due to invade personal space (which i didn't think Nigerians really had), the most unruly actions were actually made in jubilation. Fans used their empty plastic drink bottles as confetti, chucking them onto the track. The small army of police and military were powerless to do anything about it expect dodge the projectiles being hurled about them. The announcer attempted to discourage this, but only succeeded in provoking fans to do it more. I was mildly amused, but started to take cover when my friend got pegged by an empy coke can.
We took our time exitting the stadium, flowed with the tide of people to our vehicles parked a couple kilometers away, and then somehow stuffed 21 people and a guitar into two small cars (VW Golf and an 80's model Toyota camry wagon). Nigerians were delighted to see us batures supporting their country, cheering "Up Nigeria!" and cramming into cars. Definitely ranks up there on memorable moments in Nigeria. Check out more pictures and stay tuned because Nigeria's still in the running for a World Cup bid!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Another Engagement

Spanning cultural, national, ethnic, and generational differences sits the celebration of marriage. Oh sure, it LOOKS very different, but the joining of two people and families is a big deal and I'm hard-pressed to think of a people group that doesn't give it special attention. I find the different customs absolutely fascinating. Just a couple weeks after my epic engagement, I was priviledged to be on the inside circle during two dear friends' "official" engagement. Now, Akim had proposed to Abigail the western way back in December, but nothing could be official unti he showed her family the money--the dowry. Of course, since its Nigeria, everything is done with pomp and pizazz. If you don't mind, allow me to share some of the highlights:
--Akim and his entourage arrived slightly tardy to Abigail's uncles house, so the Mamma emcee of the day demanded a "late fee" before they could enter. Seriously, everyone in the group had to drop bills into a bowl before they could pass through the gate.
--Contrary to what I thought for the majority of the ceremony, this mamma emcee was not a family relation, but makes her living by orchestrating these "engagement" parties. It is part of the Yoruba tradition
--Multiple times, Akim and his brother and uncles had to prostrate themselves down in front of Abigails side of the family, showing his devotion and desire towards them. At least three times for they did it "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
--Symbolizes how his family would support him in the marriage, Akim was hoisted up by his brother & uncles and carried around the area
--Abigail watched most of the formalities from a bedroom window before she was lead out, head completely covered. Finally, she was paraded in with dancing (yours truly included in the train), unveiled and Akim had to confirm (monetarily) that his was indeed "the one" he desired.
--One of my favorite moments, was when both sets (of extremely reserved) parents were asked to face each other, and then dance towards each other "joining" the two families. Awkward turtle anyone??
--With all the loot Akim had to bring (jericans of palm oil, wrappers, a goat, salt, drinks, etc), Abigail was told to pick one item. I personally really wanted her to go for the goat, who looked trepidly around the whole time, anticipating his fate as tomorrow's dinner. BUT, Abigail being the honorable and godly woman that she is, chose the Bible. Still not sure if she really had an option. Anyways, tied onto the ribbon around the Bible was her and Akim's engagement rings.
--Abigail then had a few tasks to complete: putting Akim's hat on him (the first of many times she will dress him once they are married...wierd), giving him a kiss on the cheek (exemplifying the affection she will give him), and flashing her new ring before the crowd, affirming her pride in Akim's gift to her.
--Dancing, praying, money "spraying" (showing appreciation and support for people by putting money on their foreheads)(makes having a sweaty forehead a plus for it will stick and you'll look really cool)('spraying' has actually been outlawed by the government because it damages the bills when they fall to the ground and get danced on), and eating (of course) took up the rest of the ceremony.

Now, while I had a blast sharing in this moment with my friends, I'm ok with Andrew and myself not being embarrased in this way for our engagement. Then again, it would be amusing to watch Andrew prostrate himself before my family with all his groomsmen...perhaps it can be incorporated into our ceremony... :)

In a couple of weeks Abigail and Akim will be getting hitched, so look out for the blog for that one. Until then check out more pictures here of the engagement ceremony

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ratatouille and Dippin' Dots

I bet Ratatouille and Dippin’ Dots aren’t the first foods you think of when you think of Africa. Me either. In fact, they are so random that you might not be aware that both ratatouille and dippin’ dots are food items. Well, if my life has been anything the past month (or however long it’s been since I blogged), it has been random.

This past Monday began about like any Monday: 5:45am wake up, run 5 miles, chomp down some granola and head off to work. Mid-morning when I came back to the house to give car keys to the mechanic, I noticed a foul smell in the house. Hmm...perhaps Max, our cat, has brought in a mouse/bird/lizard and left it half-eaten somewhere. I looked under chairs, bookshelves, and cupboards to no avail. Then, I go to put something away in my closet and am blasted by the odoriferous funk. Letting my eyes adjust to the dark, I peer into the back and discover...


Yes, after a slight yelp, I go outside and yell to the compound guard, “DANLADI!! KA ZO YANZU!! AKWAI BERA A CIKI GIDANA!!!!!!!!!” Danladi, come now! There is a rat in my house!

Danladi tries his best to stifle his laughter as he rids my living quarters of the pestilence.

Maybe you don’t remember, but I had a bit of a traumatic incident last year with rats and have been forever scarred. I would have preferred a dead snake to a rat. And besides, this was no small, cute furry, nearly micky-mouse like critter...it was massive!! And in my CLOSET!! (OK, calm down, René...at least it was dead).Since there has been no sign of rat anywhere in our house (and that thing would leave some serious poo), and we don’t have rat poison anywhere, I determined that Max must have killed it and brought it in as present/punishment for me Sunday when we left her alone all day. See the killer with her typical prey.
OR, God could have been getting His holy kicks with me because I actually had planned to make the dish ratatouille for some friends for dinner, and watch the movie. Funny, YHWH, reeeeaaallly funny. And NO, I did not supplement my dinner with my discovery.

Today, no rodents in the house to my knowledge. However, the afternoon rain came in with vengeance today, deafening me with fierce hail on my tin roof. While the aforementioned ferocious feline hid under my bed, I watched my yard get covered in hail. Except, my brain didn’t register it as hail, but as DIPPIN DOTS!!
Just before I dashed outside with my spoon, an intelligent nuron fired and I realized it was hail. Oh, but what I would do for a bowl of Dippin’ Dots right now. They are the “ice cream of the future” after all. Can anyone send me some???