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[Nigeria]Nigerian glossary


Playing with maps again

Filed under: other,VSO — kevin @ 20:08

I like maps, I can spend hours looking at them. I’ve also played around a bit with making maps (the Kaduna bus map, for example).

This evening I’ve been playing with Google Earth and Google Maps, set off when I noticed that the coverage of Kaduna had gone from uselessly blurry to “I can see your house from here” level.

So I’ve made a map showing some of the places I mentioned during my time living in Kaduna. You can see it online at Kaduna Places or look at it in Google Earth: Kaduna Places.



Filed under: books,bradt,travel,VSO — kevin @ 16:36

The second edition of the Bradt guide to Nigeria is finally out, complete with my updates to the northern section and seventeen of my pictures (unfortunately the cover photo isn’t one of mine).

My copy should be on its way to me now, I’m really looking forward to seeing my photos in print. I suspect the money I’m being paid for the photos is going to be spent furnishing my new apartment, when I finally find one, maybe I should have asked Bradt to just pay me in IKEA vouchers…


Scavengers in Kano

Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 12:50

The BBC has a good “In pictures” story on children scavenging the rubbish heaps of Kano. Andrew Walker has been busy recently, producing some good varied Nigerian coverage.

The lake he mentions is this one:
The sun sets behind an ancient city, reflected in a lake.
it looks much nicer at sunset!

By the way, I’m still intending to post some pictures of my apartment in Sweden and things like that. I just haven’t got round to it yet.


On my way home

Filed under: travel,VSO — kevin @ 06:05

I’m currently sitting in Schiphol airport, waiting for my flight to Edinburgh. I’m also in the slightly strange state of mind caused by not sleeping and eating meals at very odd times (dinner around 2330, breakfast around 0400).

One thing I’ve noticed on flights to and from Nigeria is that the Nigerians tend to wear Western clothes going to Europe and Nigerian clothes on the way back to Nigeria. I’m guessing that this might have something to do with the attitudes of European officials. For example, you may be less likely to get hassle from immigration if you’re wearing jeans than if you’re in full babanriga. On the other hand, Nigerian officials will treat you better if you look like a big man. I’m sure there are other explanations…

Later today I should be arriving at Edinburgh airport to be shocked by the change from hot and humid Abuja to cold and windy Scotland. Last I heard it’s going to be my sister, niece and nephew picking me up, should be fun. Will little Eve still recognise me?


Leaving Kaduna

Filed under: travel,VSO — kevin @ 08:31

I spent most of last night going through my house, deciding which things to take home, which to throw out and which to dash to people. Today is my last day in the office, so I’m tidying things up and emptying my desk. NTI have organised a send-forth dinner for me at the Arewa Chinese Restaurant tonight, so I’m going to have to pack my bags this afternoon.

We with a group of NTI staff outside the offices.

So, next time I post here I’ll either be back in Scotland or on my way there. It’s goodbye to Nigeria (for now at least) and the end of my time as a VSO.

My next plan is a (short) round-the-world trip, the current itinerary is:

Dates Where
15 Nov–30 Nov British Columbia, Canada
30 Nov–29 Dec New Zealand
29 Dec–26 Jan Australia
26 Jan–early Mar Philippines


Getting ready to leave

Filed under: friends,VSO — kevin @ 08:42

At the weekend I had a small goodbye party in Kaduna. Marion and Monique were around and Helen and Julia came through from Akwanga and Jos.

We went to the NAF club on Friday night; for a hike near NTI on Saturday; to PDP Saturday evening and had a lovely buffet lunch at the French Café on Sunday.

At the end of Saturday’s hike we were all hot and desperate for a mineral, so we stopped at a small shop in Rigacikun. Within minutes a huge crowd of children surrounded us, watching our every move with great interest. The shopkeeper occasionally tried to chase them off but they always came back straight away.

I’ll see if I can borrow some photos from one of the others to add to this post.


National Union of Rogues, Thieves and Wasters

Filed under: travel,VSO — kevin @ 19:30

There won’t be any more pictures on this site until I get home, because some scumbag stole my camera. I may still be able to add the odd blurry and poor-quality picture from my phone though.

I had to travel to Abuja for a meeting with the new country director, so it was the usual early start to get to Kawo motor park. The Abuja car was almost full, so while we were waiting I hung around watching my rucksack in the boot. Thefts in motor parks are quite unusual but today I was being a bit more careful because mine was the only bag in the boot.

As soon as the last passenger appeared the staff from the NURTW (the National Union of Road Transport Workers, one of the major obstacles to effective transport in Nigeria) hurried us into the car and closed the doors. They left the boot open for a few minutes, during which time I couldn’t see my bag but could see uniformed union officials at the back of the car.

The journey to Abuja was uneventful, there was the usual morning delay at the expressway junctions for Kubwa and Dutse and the car was even more of a wreck than is normal.

Once I got to the VSO office I discovered that my little Sony Clié PDA was missing from it’s usual home in the top of my bag. I distinctly remembered putting it in there before leaving the house, so I was worried straight away.

A bit later I checked inside the bag, in case I’d put it there instead, to find an empty baby lotion bottle, an empty bottle of perfume and a broken Ericsson mobile phone! When I checked my camera case in the side pocket my camera had been replaced by an empty bottle of deodorant.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and the whole journey back to Kaduna fuming. I’m finding that living in Nigeria is making me an angrier person, today I was struggling not to give in to outbursts of rage. It didn’t help that all the union officials had cleared off home by the time I got back to Kawo.

As there’s a police station inside the motor park I thought I might as well report the theft, not expecting much from the Nigeria Police Force (except possibly an attempt to extract money from me). I was pleasantly surprised when the officer at the front desk was immediately sympathetic and helpful, hand-writing a form for me to write my statement and going out to try and find the union chairman.

It’s one of the problems of living in Nigeria, you hear so many bad things about the police that it’s a surprise when they do their job. The officers at Kawo have to put up with almost no resources and a crumbling, mosquito-infested station that has been half-demolished to put up a block of shops. The officer took my number and said he’d talk to the union officials and get back to me tomorrow.

Getting such a helpful response has calmed me down. I’m still angry but no longer snapping at people and growling.

The worst thing isn’t the loss of the camera or PDA, both were quite old and the camera was becoming unreliable and needed replacing. It’s the fact that the PDA contains my address book, so the thieves have access to that. If you get strange calls from Nigeria I apologise.

This coming after yesterday, when somebody tried to bribe me (can’t give any more details here). It’s like all the bad things people tell you about Nigeria have been waiting for my last month. At this rate I’ll be getting kidnapped next week!

I don’t hold out much hope of ever seeing my camera and PDA again but on a positive note I’ve discovered that at least one policeman in Nigeria is prepared to do his job without a dash.


Returning to Kaduna

Filed under: travel,VSO — kevin @ 15:12

We’ve finished our work at the South-South and South East zonal offices for now, so after an early start we got back to Kaduna around two o’clock today.

Returning to Kaduna was a little bit more interesting than usual. On the bypass – close to the Kronenberg brewery – a tanker had overturned, blocking one carriageway and most of the other one. A huge crowd had assembled, carrying plastic containers, presumably in the hope of getting some free fuel, some people never learn. The police and National Emergency Management Agency were just standing about, making no effort to keep people away from the spilled fuel.

Fortunately it didn’t smell like petrol, it might have been kerosene, so less likely to explode but still not something you want to hang around. The police directed us to drive right past the tanker, through the puddle of whatever it was. A few minutes later as we continued along the road a fire engine passed in the other direction.

Further round the bypass our driver discovered that he couldn’t change gear any more. We stopped and he fetched a mechanic. It seems that one end of the rod connecting the gear lever to the gear box had dropped off. While the mechanic was fixing that the driver had to change one of the tyres, which was pretty flat. Once the mechanic was finished I got to see how Nigerian mechanics clean oil off their hands, no Swarfega required. Just get your apprentice to remove the fuel line from the carburettor, suck out some petrol and spit it on your hands. The poor kid had to do this a few times before the mechanic was happy, I went and bought him a bag of water to rinse out his mouth.

Petrol (quite apart from being very flammable), is also not at all good for you.


Scathing? Me?

Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 10:16

I got this comment from Adamma:

Kevin, is this my imagination or are all your comments about Nigeria rather scathing? Am yet to read one line that’s postitive from you, the closest you’ve come to that is patronising.

Oh and who says everything about the British wasn’t about the empire and power?i’ll have you know that the Government here is modeled to a large extent after the British, and that includes the eight-car convoy of of the Governors-thanks to Lord Lugard’s similar convoy in the pre-independence days.

How much do you know about Lagos, Nigeria’s military regime and the demolition of the structure in Utako market?perhaps you’ll find time to compare these factors before you pass the bulk to we wives and girlfriends abi???

How about i send you a photo of the master plan of London or perhaps that of Dublin? You know, like a before and after, just so we can compare notes and see how much difference there is these days.

(I’ve reformatted it because my comment form tends to turn everything into one huge paragraph)

I like getting comments from people, it’s useful feedback. Adamma has obviously even read several posts here, unlike some people who accuse me of things based on skimming a few sentences and picking out the bits that annoy them.

One thing I’m often accused of is being negative (in this case scathing). Looking at my recent posts I’d say that they are tending to be a little bit negative, but that just reflects what’s been happening to me and around me recently. It’s difficult to be positive about the general strike, abuse of power (in the form of excessive ‘perks’) and getting electric shocks from my cooker. It’s also related to the fact that I’m most motivated to write about the things that annoy me, that’s just me.


If all your tools are hammers…

Filed under: VSO — kevin @ 07:24

… you’re probably working in Nigeria.

Last week the contractors finally arrived to fix the roof of the building my office is in. It’s a fairly well-designed building but for some bizarre reason the architect decided that it would be a good idea to have flat roofs over some parts. Just like back in the UK these need to be repaired every year, when water starts leaking through.

This is usually manageable with buckets and just allowing the carpet to soak up the water (why many offices smell a bit moldy), but the worst place for leaks this year has been the internet café. In particular, there was a lovely leak right over the equipment rack in our server room.

We seem to have fairly good contractors, the guy in charge has been expanding the drains on the roof and using concrete to add a gentle slope towards the drains. We’ve had a bit of difficulty persuading his workers that the satellite antenna (for our internet connection) is not a washing line and that although it provides nice shade in the afternoon sitting in front of it probably isn’t good for you. I know that if our internet connection stops working I just have to go outside and ask the workmen to move themselves or their clothes.

There’s been a lot of noise too, as they use hammers to bash holes for the new drains and to expand existing drains. They’re almost finished now, so we’re looking forward to dry offices, at least until next time the roof needs to be repaired.

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