Wish for Africa Foundation


Monday, 31 May 2010

Monday 31st May 2010

Today is a public holiday here in Lagos as well as back in the UK. It was a slow start all round today, even the children didn’t rise so early, and no knocks on the door. I got up, showered, had my cornflakes and mango, and eventually when the children realised I was up they all came in one by one. They clamber all over my bed and seem to enjoy wrapping themselves in my cover (especially Sola). The other thing they want is to press buttons on my computer, this I have had to be strict about as they do just press which is a pain when I’m in the middle of anything, so my rules are Do Not Touch!

As distraction from my netbook I went outside with them and watched them crash on their bikes for a while, they seem to get the most fun by taking the bikes indoors and then falling down the large front step and crashing into the car. Bolu was wearing her new Hello Kitty bow in her hair that she proudly told she received from the children’s party at church.

The family all then went out and I sat outside with Nike (the dog) who was now tied up as punishment for the bin episode yesterday. I watched as the red faced lizard ran along the top of the wall dodging the barbed wire and I flapped to get the flies off me, there are so many here. I am feeling quite homesick today and wishing I was going home to see my family, now the children’s day party is over, and with nothing major now planned, the clinic seems quiet, and there seems little reason for me to be here.

Soon Femi arrived with his assistant Fumni, as we were going to Festac to pay another visit to Gloria before I leave. The traffic was slightly reduced again today due to the holiday I guess. As we drove along we suddenly passed a taxi (one of the yellow mini buses built to carry about 8 people usually seen with several more crammed in). It had stopped in the middle of the road with its wheel literally fallen off (don’t think it had passed an MOT recently). All the women passengers were standing on the blocks in centre of the roads, obviously paid for their ride but going nowhere. There seems to be quite a lot of burnt out or smashed vehicles dotted along the road sides, cars, taxis and lorries.

I can’t help but notice people’s shoes as we drive along especially the men’s, I don’t think they worry too much about shoe sizes as a rule here. Many I notice are either too small and their feet hang over the edges whether sandals or even sometimes actual shoes with the back worn over, whilst others are too big and they look like flippers. I guess money dictates what they have and what’s available to them, the ‘shoe shops’ as with most shops tend to be small stalls with a selection of several items, not a cellar full of different sizes.

We arrived at Gloria’s house where the neighbour’s chickens were running around with the pigeons all pecking for food. It appears that chickens and goats run around Lagos much like they would in a farm, they just roam about, I assume people know which ones belong to whom. We stayed and had drinks, chatted for a while then made our way back, I was glad to see Gloria before heading back to the UK.

As we were going we grabbed a snack from a street seller, fried yam and akara with a dollop of a salsa type dressing and a nice bit of chewy goat skin thrown in. I declined the goat skin as when I say chewy, I mean really rubbery, Femi enjoyed it though.

There is a river that is crossed to get to Festac and on the opposite bank I noticed as we were heading back were loads of tin roofed huts/houses all looking precariously like they were about to fall into the river. Many of the rivers that we pass (and there are many in Lagos as its built around lagoons) are sadly full of rubbish and must be extremely polluted. It seems that although Lagos State is making a noticeable effort in clearing up the streets, it has yet to look at the waterways, some are certainly loads worse than others but all are affected. This in turn must affect the health of people as well as wildlife.

On our drive back we witnessed another victim of poor vehicle maintenance. A huge lorry laden with its goods had completely snapped in half down the centre, the middle of it was touching the floor. These things very rarely just happen and not if they have been well maintained and not over loaded. We looked in amazement and both just laughed ‘only in Nigeria’.

I returned home and when the others got in Angela prepared food, fried chicken and turkey (which is always chopped into small potions never cooked whole and sliced). Angela also prepared Amala, which I finally saw how it was made, from yam flour and water stirred and stirred into play dough consistency and turns a grey colour (there may have been more to it than that). This was served with a bean sauce and another hot sauce all of which I can’t remember the names of.

The whole of the evening was filled with the sound of torrential rain, I came in from the garden about five o’clock because it started to spit. By eight we had thunder, lightning and this continued on and on. I wonder what the roads will be like tomorrow as many were flooded today with just showers. Many of the roads have been laid without much if any drainage, it’s a good job the cars seem to be diesel and not petrol, at least they stand half a chance through the roads of river. I also wonder how it affects all those people in those poorly put together buildings, the disabled men scooting around on those skateboards, and all the street workers trying to make their living.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sunday 30th May 2010

Today everyone left the house early by 6.00 for church (except me). I stayed in bed a bit longer and got up at a more sensible time. I went to get breakfast and couldn’t find any milk powder, when Angela came back to get me at 10.00 she immediately said she had realised after leaving and gave me several packets to last the week. I think she was more worried than I was but we both quickly had cornflakes before heading back to church.

Sundays traffic again was pleasantly calm, a tenth of the usual amount, so driving is pretty much stress free, and we got to church in about 15 minutes. They were having a children’s day celebration in church today and many of the groups put on shows. Worship was led by the youth choir and they got straight into it and had typical big gospel voices, the young girl really took the lead with no nervousness or shyness.

First of the groups was the smallest ones who came and recited bible verses, all but the two tiniest ones that went all shy and wouldn’t speak. Next was a group of about ten little ones about 4 years old and they did a dance routine, they were so good it brought tears to your eyes, so cute and such natural movers. Then was a drama group that did a sketch that was funny, followed by Bolu’s group that also danced a routine with her in the lead and very well she did too. Last were the older teenagers they also danced and were very professional. It really stands out that for whatever reason Africans definitely have natural rhythm, even the youngest dance well and have natural timing with music. Even the sermon was preached by one of the youth, a young man about 17 with confidence and flair.

The church has about 250 children attend there and they provide food, breakfast and dinner for all of them. Many of these children don’t even have parents at the church and are local poor children that probably struggle to get a decent meal the rest of the week. It has grown so much that another building has to house them, and the food bill keeps growing. They are really working with their community and blessing them.

I was dropped off home by Angela before she headed back to church, and given jollof rice for lunch which was really lovely, it just finished heating in the microwave when NEPA gave up for its afternoon nap. So I sat outside with the dog who had decided to empty the contents of the bin over the garden (he must be wanting that stick again) and waited for Dr Abimbola De-Silva who had kindly offered to look after me for the afternoon. She arrived early, which I never expect as there is on time and African time.

We headed over the Third Mainland Bridge with the houses standing on stilts on one side (where they catch fat fish) and the saw mills which were all featured on the BBC programme ‘Welcome to Lagos’. I had forgotten quite how long it seemed as we travelled across it, about 10 kilometres long if my memory serves me right. Even on here the traffic was light and we sped across with ease.

We headed to the E-centre at Yaba to the cinema where we decided on Sex in the City 2. The cinema was pretty much equal to those back home and certainly in better order than the one in Abuja on my last visit where the chairs were unbolted and they tilted back as you sat down. The film was funny and we sat eating popcorn and when it finished we got wraps from Chicken Republic (like KFC). A chicken wrap which of course has to have a kick in it.

We drove back over the bridge and popped into Abimbola’s house which is on another private estate with guarded entry for security. Large looking houses all with the same Lagos feel but each designed individually, this is a second stage development the first being in Oloworo were I was this week looking at the potential new clinic. Abimbola’s husband wasn’t home so we said a quick hello to her boys that I met at the children’s day party. Then we headed back home and she dropped me off. Another really nice day, people have blessed me so much on my trips.

The children were asleep as I returned so I think I got into my room un-noticed. Everyone else was getting things to eat but I declined all except the mangoes again. Angela pointed out that I don’t eat them properly because I peel them and she eats it all including the skin with exception of the stone. I did try the skin and it was edible but tough so I still declined. When you see what Nigerians eat, you suddenly realise how much many of us waste (except the Gray’s… sorry in-joke). If I eat with Femi he can always find more meat and finishes the gristle, fat and I’m sure even some of the bones!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Saturday 29th May 2010 - The trip to Olumo Rock

Today I was woken early by a combination of NEPA going down and the heavens opening with the loudest downpour ever. I lay in the humidity of the early morning thinking about getting up, excited about my trip out of town to Olumo rock. I laid there hoping the electricity would soon return as it’s nicer to come out of the shower with the air con giving a coolness to the air allowing you to dry.

The kids had been given bikes and were all outside excited trying to ride them, Sola and Nimi deciding standing on them was mush more fun. Angela then did a cooked breakfast of sausage and eggs. Of course this was not an English fry up it was Nigerian style, frankfurters with a spicy scrambled eggs with onions, pepper and chilli, very nice too.

Today being the last Saturday of the month was environmental day, everyone is expected to clean and tidy around their homes in an attempt to make Lagos a cleaner place. Mr Dee went to get the car from Femi once this allowed him and picked me up at around 12.30. We (Mr Dee, a Nigerian lady also called Jo and myself) were travelling out of town to Ogun state to visit Abeokuta which is home to a Yoruba heritage sight called Olumo rock.

We left Ogba and headed through Ketu and Egege and out of Lagos state into Ogun state. This was not the quickest of journeys as there was heavy traffic at times. Once in Ogun state I suddenly realised how clean Lagos is and how it must have been just a few years ago. Although the further we got in the greener it became and not so crammed with buildings, but the rubbish on the sides of the road was incredible and at times it was like mini dumps, fly tipping would be an understatement. This must have been how Lagos was before the road sweepers were employed to clean it daily. Just as we got into Ogun state the roads became even worse and a huge bottleneck had appeared, horns were being blown even more than usual. For those who have never been to Lagos horns are used to say I’m coming, get out of the way, have you seen me, why are you not moving, as well as just because I feel like it. I think the only law of the road is you must have a horn and that really is the only rule.

There was one town that we drove through (or rather took an hour to travel the mile or so through) that had built an overpass, a well-constructed dual carriageway that for some reason that I cannot for the life of me see was blocked off to traffic and had never yet been used only as a very expensive foot bridge! The road had a huge hole even by Lagos standards and was in part more like a river than a road.

Once through this the roads for the most were fast, fairly well maintained and had relatively little traffic. The views were more of trees, cornfields and luscious green which is stunning against the beautiful brick red of the ground. We went past Aro the biggest Mental hospital you could imagine, the wall must have spread for 2-3 miles and from the outside it looked like it should have been a nature reserve. We then passed Ewekoro and its huge cement factory that is run by Lafarge and Blue Circle and is in the process of expanding.

Eventually we reached Abeokuta home of Olumo Rock and as we arrived I suddenly realised all the taxis had changed from the yellow of Lagos taxis to green. This is meant to be one of the first towns that welcomed missionaries and has a reputation of its people being very friendly. We then travelled past a market that specialised in Nigerian clothes, there were stalls and stalls with every colour of the rainbow and every pattern imaginable. We also went over the Ogu River where Ogun State derives its name, it looked beautiful with the mass of vegetation that surrounded it,

We got to Olumo Rock about 3 hours after leaving this was for about a 65 kilometre journey (40 miles). We entered through the huge gates after paying our entrance fee and there before us was the famous granite rock. We had the choice of a lift (which was a bit of an eyesore against the natural granite rock) or climbing and decided that climbing would be more fun, we had a guide to take us around and inform us of the history and he took my camera and took photos too.

It is not the highest place in the world at around 137m but certainly was a fair climb in the humid heat of Nigeria. First was the main Olumo shrine where once a year only 2 people can enter, they used to sacrifice people but thankfully now just animals. There was a low cave where families would shelter in times of war, there were bowls carved into the floor. We went up this crevice which started with stairs and soon turned into boulders which we had to stretch across and anyone that knows me would have been proud of how I managed without fear and trepidation! The ‘safety measures’ were brown lines saying do not cross, every time I went within two feet of these Mr Dee panicked and pulled me back ( I think the fear of Femi’s wrath if I had slipped was his main concern). There appears sadly not a huge amount of well kept history in Nigeria probably not always realising its importance for future generations. This sight is of great importance to the Yoruba tribe which is predominately the main culture I have seen here.

We descended down on the inside staircase and made our way back to the car. We had dinner in a local ‘cafĂ©’, the woman had run this place for forty years and governors and allsorts have eaten there. We had amala, Ogbono, goat and fish which was really lovely. Everyone was making a fuss of the ‘Oyibo’ and women would come in and say welcome. I then had the photo shot with the women handing me their babies, just as I handed one baby back it weed all over the floor and its mother, I would not have been so happy if it hadn’t waited those vital few seconds!

We then made our way back leaving at around 5.30 and again hitting the traffic in both Ogun and Lagos states I got in about 8.30. Femi was relieved to hear I was home (he was concerned as to whether I would be safe and not altogether happy with me going, so I thank him for letting me and lending us his car). Angela also rang to make sure I was OK, and when I came in she offered to make me dinner but even though it was jollof rice I had to decline as I was full. As I was sitting writing my blog I could hear Julie Andrews and the hills are alive, I went into the front room and just laughed as Angela and her sister in-law was watching The Sound Of Music. My favourite! Thanks Mr Dee for a great day and a memory that will last.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Friday 28th May 2010

Today was to be a day for resting. I was not that keen to spend the day at home to be honest. I didn’t rush to get up, showered, it must have been about 9.45 and followed by breakfast, cornflakes and toast with jam today about 10.30. NEPA was kind and the air con stayed on keeping me cool. I was also blessed with good internet access (not as slow as it normally can be here) so I was able to upload photos and do bits and pieces there.

At around 1.30 I decided that rather than go completely stir crazy in my room, I would sit outside. It’s not so much a garden as a paved side way. The family has a dog, white fluffy about the size of my dog back home (albeit slimmer and younger) that up until now has never been keen on me or rather it has liked my ankles and gone for them every time it saw me. It often had to be seen off by the children, whenever I came in from outside, or shouted at by Mama. Today I decided I was going to sit out and we would get on. As he ran up to me I showed him I was not afraid and was in charge (I thought that’s meant to work). He sat glaring at me and I offered my hand, after a while he came over eventually giving his paw to me and I stroked him. At last we were friends and I was able to enjoy sitting out, but as I went in to grab my phone he still went for my ankles, a playful thing I’m sure!

Emma (my older daughter) skyped me and we had a chat whilst the dog who is now very friendly kept nudging me and jumping up to get my attention. That was until Mama shouted at him and showed him a stick, he then laid down quietly. When the children came home, the driver took me to meet Angela at her work place.

The evening traffic was bad, we arrived and waited for Angela to finish work. Angela had generously offered to buy me material and have me and my daughters something made. So when she was out we went to a shop to buy material, this was where Angela has her hair done, and I chose three patterns from about six. We than went to the tailors, not a grand shop as it might be in the UK, there are many tailors here as many people have their clothes made by hand especially traditional clothes and they are far cheaper than in the UK, which is why I bought my material back to be cut and made. There were children running around barely clothed themselves in an area similar to that of Mafoluku. They may be poor but the clothes they make are beautiful and they are very good seamstresses.

We then made our way through the very busy rush hour traffic to a grocery shop that has a good reputation locally, run by a husband and wife with good service to its customers, which even Angela said was rare here. We grabbed some roasted corn from a street seller as a snack and then drove to the Chinese to grab some Singapore noodle to take away. As the driver and every other driver on the road drove from side to side dodging the huge pot holes, it made me think of the few back home after the bad weather that everyone complains of. Here they are everywhere from side roads to major roads some times you zig-zag along to avoid them.

As we made our way back home, an ambulance came along the road with lights and sirens going and no one moved it just sat in the traffic like the rest of us unable to make its way through. No one seemed to be thinking that this might be someone dying or that it was going to an accident. Femi only said yesterday that if you call an ambulance or fire engine they sometimes never even arrive or at best can take ages. This obviously is one of the reasons, no one sees it as a priority or urgent, something that could save lives, again I think this is down to education and ignorance. I would imagine the use of these emergency vehicles has been abused and so people don’t believe it is really urgent. They are not regulated and managed like our services. We in the UK know if we dial 999 whatever we need should be there within minutes wherever we are, and if it wasn’t we would want answers to why not.

Eventually we made it home it was now dark but only just seven o’clock, only one road I noticed had street lights, shops were often lit with single hanging bulbs. The roads were still bustling with people the evening trade goes on later here. When home I was welcomed by the children and sat in my room to enjoy my Singapore noodles followed by mango. I played online hangman with Beth and then Battleships with the help of the three musketeers here, which all got a little too excitable and our own battle commenced here for button pressing duties! Soon it was goodnight Beth and goodnight Bolu, Sola and Nimi and the peace and quiet of my room.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Thursday 27th May 2010 - Children's Day

The day of the Children’s Party was here. I was picked up by Mr Dee, an earlier start than usual as I had a radio interview with the lovely Mr Femi Sowoolu of Continental Radio. I had met him on my last visit here and had kept in touch via Facebook and he kindly invited me back again to discuss WFA and our Children’s Day party. The show went well, but I worry as although Femi has a very clear dialect, the show includes a phone in and I find it difficult to grasp what people are saying sometimes. Mr Dee and I always laugh as we can never get what each of us is saying. He says I talk fast, but I think Nigerians do but although it is English they do use words we don’t often use or mix it slightly with Yoruba.

The callers ended up being children saying thank you for my efforts and wishing me happy Children’s day. One young caller however asked if I could help his Mummy to put him though school and when Femi said I was already doing a lot, the boy insisted I helped him. This is typical of the desperation some children have here. The show finished and I thanked Femi for having me again and he tried to get me slotted into the morning TV show, but the schedule was full with children so I may be asked to return on another day.

When we got back to Mafoluku preparations were well under way. The crowds were gathering even though it didn’t start till midday and it wasn’t even 11, all eager to get a place at the party. The tables of toys were laid out, there were hundreds on display, party bags were filled with gifts for many of the children, and others would get smaller toys as well as clothes. So many had collected vouchers to attend and yet there were even more turning up. The children waited patiently in the heat of the day whilst we tried to be at least a bit organised, which always seems difficult with Nigerians. We handed out sweets but as there were so many children there was not enough to go around.

Eventually after the guests of honour (3 men from the CDC, CDA and the landlord of one of Mafoluku’s streets and Dr Abimbola Da-silva) had arrived and things were as organised as possible the party commenced. Mr Dee was the master of ceremonies and introduced us all then the national anthem was sung by two young children. Then the usual thing certainly for any Nigerian gathering, speeches from the guests of honour, that can go on a while. Then tickets were drawn and children were invited up to receive extra prizes.

Angela and the children turned up to support and join in. Eniola who I met on my last visit also came along to support the event and help out, as well as Femi’s younger sister. Then food and drinks were given out to all the guests, bags with sausage rolls and donuts, plates of puff-puff, spring rolls, samosas and plantain. After eating, children were invited up for dancing competitions, to tell jokes or riddles etc and won prizes. Then they were invited in to receive goodie bags that had sweets, crisps, toys etc in. Then they were ushered upstairs to choose clothes, to make this fair it was decided two items per person so that everyone would have the chance to have some and that only a few people at a time. The women were going mad, wanting several items, getting angry when not allowed to take more. One woman that had some items taken and thrown back flung herself with her baby strapped to her back over the hospital bed to retrieve them. Chaos ensued with nearly every group refusing to accept the rules, and not appearing grateful for what they had been given. I guess this is the side of poverty that isn’t so pleasant to observe. In their defence if you struggle to provide due to extreme poverty when an opportunity comes along you make the most of it. Others including Fumni (with the baby) were so grateful and happy to be given stuff.

The disco played on loudly and some went home whilst a few danced and played. Lola Adewole was a late comer but came laden with gifts, drinks, crisps, biscuits, lollies. We filled up a few more party bags and pulled in a few more children that hadn’t been lucky enough the first time. Then we went out into the street and handed out lollies and crisps even a few of the local men that hang about had some.

At the end when most was cleared up everyone was shattered we all sat around exhausted. It had been a manic, chaotic day, I think the kids had a great time, certainly the look on most of their faces gave that impression. It was the first event WFA had done just for children and on such a scale, I’m sure lessons would have been learned for the next such event. But given the circumstances and the environment in which this is done I feel it was a great success. Well done to all the staff, local people, friends of WFA and people back in the UK that donated money, toys, clothes etc. Without the effort that everyone put into this these children would not have had the memorable day and the gifts that they did have. Thank you, E-se.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Wednesday 26th May 2010

Woken up by the heat as NEPA was down, the kids sounded grumpy maybe they were hot too. Showered and dressed I got my breakfast from the kitchen, cornflakes with powdered milk, fresh milk doesn’t seem to be available here everyone mixes powder with water. I said good morning to Mama as she is fondly referred to, she is the house keeper. She often giggles at my attempts at Yoruba at her as I say E-se (thank you) & E-karo (good morning).

Mr Dee picked me up this morning, the traffic was bad again and we slowly crawled and weaved our way to Mafoluku. Without the luxury of air con in Mr Dee’s car when we stopped the heat soared, he kept apologising as the electric window is also faulty and wouldn’t fully open. I really didn’t mind his kindness at picking me up was far greater than my discomfort.

As we drove or rather sat in traffic I watched the Lagos world go by which never ceases to amaze me or make me laugh or cry. Such a mix of things that are so different to what I see as normal living in the UK. People are fetching water from communal taps and then walking with the heavy and full buckets and bowls of water on their heads. So many shack type shops selling pretty much anything you can imagine, it makes you wonder how they make any money when so many sell the same things. LAWMA, Road workers sweeping the roads in an attempt to keep Lagos clean. Men working hard digging the dirt and garbage from the large road side gutters, that separate the road and the shops to allow for drainage. At every entrance to the shop there are precarious boards to cross over like a draw bridge.

The disabled begging many seem to have these skateboard type things to sit on as their legs are withered and thin due to polio, they shoot around the traffic in hope of money, no wheelchairs for them. Many of these I understand from Femi came from the north where they refused vaccines as they fear it is something ‘Christians’ will give them to kill them. Improvement has been made in the area and fewer people now suffer from Polio. Still many can be seen in most areas along the roads begging.

Once at Mafoluku I took advantage of the fans to cool down and grabbed a sprite, all was quiet so I caught up on the internet. Femi made his breakfast which made me laugh, a pint glass filled with cornflakes, several sugar cubes, milk powder then water poured over the top (I spent five minutes making sure my power had dissolved before adding cornflakes! Only in Nigeria!).

Money was required to buy paint to freshen up the downstairs in preparation for the party. The staff hadn’t budgeted for this so I gave them money from the donations 2000 naira which is only about £9. They purchased paint and keenly commenced painting. It could be said a little too keenly as it was everywhere, no masking tape, no sheeting just rollers and paint, and once Femi had seen it and raised his voice (scary!) cloths were grabbed and light switches, tables, desks, floors and faces were wiped. We then had a quick African dance move session before I treated them to donuts for all their hard work.

After noon and the TV crew arrived from IMPC to shot a short documentary on Wish For Africa. They are behind a charity football match that is being held on 6th June with celebrity players and one of the teams will be playing for us. As we went from room to room for different shots one of the staff members were interviewed, then Femi, then myself. By the time it was my turn I was suitably hot and sweaty, being a celebrity certainly isn’t my thing, but all in a good cause.

Mr Dee then took me home borrowing Femi’s car as he didn’t want me sweating so much again, and we have to go straight for a radio station tomorrow. Poor Femi will have to slum it in Mr Dee’s car if he goes out, sorry! On the way home we drove through a different area of town, Mongoro Agege. It was the first time I had seen a railway, as with many things here it appeared to be work in progress some of the lines were being replaced, many were not properly joined. Further down the track I could see a train but it is obviously restricted on its destination. Apparently like many things that fail here, the people that were in government had no interest in railways but in haulage, so why put money into something that you personally won’t make money from? Plans are now set to improve the railway system and like all major cities they recognise the need for a better railway system if the dreams of a Mega city are to come to fruition.

On my return I was greeted by the children, all started calmly as they joined me in the room then they were full of excitement and came in jumping over me and the bed. After a while Mama came in and insisted they left the room to calm down. Any shyness from them has certainly gone. They have their moments but the are such beautiful children I am blessed to be staying with them (as long as the keep out of my bags :-)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tuesday 25th May 2010

NEPA was kind overnight and the air con stayed on without fail, even to the point of me leaving at about ten. I had the usual goodbye from the children on their way to school. Femi turned up around ten and we headed off to pick up Mr Dee before making our way to pay a visit to the build at Alagbado. Unfortunately progress has been delayed due to lack of finances and support, although the medical centre certainly had improved from my last visit. The outside had been rendered, roofing on and inside the floors and many of the walls had been tiled. The tiles looked great, not too clinical which is rare in a Nigerian hospital, a nice touch. A long way to go until completion but by Gods grace, sponsors and donations will allow its completion.

The Alagbado area has no local hospitals at all, the nearest we know of is about 3 miles away. This distance is just not practical for many to travel and with local herbalists and witch doctors on the doorsteps this is their first choice as its cheap and accessible. Many Nigerians have been brought up with this kind of medicine and believe it to be safe, which it often isn’t and at best doesn’t harm them but neither does it heal them. Another Doctor set up a local business nearby but found that turning the clinic into a brothel would be far more profitable. There is a huge need for help in this area and the local people deserve better.

We then made our way back via the airport, so I could change up some money for myself and some of the money donated from Beth’s school and friends to pay for the children’s party. We met ‘our man’ on his moped at the airport, bartered for a good price, then off he went to meet with his next client. No one uses banks to exchange money in Nigeria - another black market thing that is tolerated and accepted.

We then made our way back to Mafoluku and the clinic, passing though the back streets of Oshodi. At one point we were following the dustman as everyone runs out to chuck their rubbish in the back of the dustcart. As we arrived in the road of the clinic, Fumni (caesarean delivery last year) was sitting outside the tailors with the baby. With a huge smile she stood up with Rachel and I got out of the car, she handed me Rachel, who was not so pleased to see me and burst out crying. A strange Oyibo (white person) turning up and snatching you might be scary if you have never met one before.

Later Fumni came to the clinic to measure me up for an outfit to be made from some material that Eniola kindly gave me on my last visit. Femi hoped it would be ready for children’s day, so I could dress for the occasion. As soon as I walked into the room the baby cried again, I definitely have not made a good impression on her!

At the clinic we opened the suitcases everyone was amazed at generosity of people back in the UK and their thoughtfulness at wanting to send stuff to people they do not know. Their was also medical things that the staff in the gynae clinic back home sorted out which Femi was very pleased with, stuff that can be difficult to obtain and often very costly here. Everyone was very excited and wanted to look and touch everything, asking what some things were. The children’s day party should be a huge success and a big thank you to all those back home that helped make it happen.

Femi wanted to go to the local pool for a swim, so I accompanied him, although I didn’t have swimwear so I sat poolside and wrote my blog. I also enjoyed some suya a hot spiced meat which was tender and enjoyable. My only chance for a tan and it was overcast, typical. It made a nice change to be able to sit out & enjoy the warm weather. We went back to the clinic to eat rice and a spinach type dish with chicken. I find food here very filling and can never eat all I’m given, I guess because it’s so starchy.

The other bizarre thing that keeps happening (please tell me if it has happened to you) I keep getting repeated texts sent to me. Tony, Michelle and Femi all sent me a text on arrival in Nigeria and since then the same ones keep coming through not once or twice but several times a day (and night!) Again, ‘only in Nigeria’!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Monday 24th May 2010

A disturbed night, as not feeling my best (not quite sure why). The children knocked to say good morning before leaving for school, all looking smart in their uniforms. Nigerian school wear is different from what we are used to seeing in the UK. The children always appear smart for school even in the poorer areas. Bola, Sola and Nimi were no exception to this rule, I gave each one a kiss and they went on their way (home work in hand).

Femi texted to say the driver we have been lent very kindly for my stay by Aderemi Fagbemi was having car trouble and wasn’t sure when it would be ready (I could say this a hundred times a day ‘only in Nigeria’). So it was relax, chill and wait. NEPA off, I went back to bed, then NEPA on I decided to iron before it went off again.

The driver Waiha (I think that was his name) arrived, delayed in part by the very heavy Lagos traffic, but once we were on our way it was clear how busy it was. We passed though areas I had not been before, trying to avoid the busier roads to Mafoluku. As we drove up M M I Airport Rd the holes along the sides had been filled in, they are in the process of widening the road, realising that this is the main road that every one travels down from the airport and first impressions matter. Well that is unless you look too closely and notice the poverty at the edge of this road. I think that is the case as poverty is every where in Lagos. I have not seen one place that it isn’t in one extreme or another.

I arrived at the clinic and by the time the driver had turned the car around, all the staff were out of the building shouting and screaming with excitement. I got out the car and was attacked with hugs and kisses, what a welcome! We went inside as a meeting was in progress deciding on plans for the party on Thursday, which I joined in on. When the meeting was over I gave out presents to the girls of sunglasses and earrings which went down very well.

There is an exciting new project that Femi is getting involved with. Lagos Ministry of Health are setting up a community based healthcare prepayment scheme. The theory is that the poor pay a small but regular amount and when they need treatment it is free at source. We went to Oloworo another poor area near Magodo where a project has been up and running for nearly two years. Femi is in the process of potentially managing this in the near future. This means a regular income, support and being able to provide care in another poor area of Lagos.

We were shown around the hospital, it was purpose built bright and clean. The hospital contained two wards, male and female each with two beds, treatment room, consultant room, labour room & delivery room. It also has its own generator so not reliant on NEPA, and a water tank for constant water.

We went in and met representatives of the Ministry of Health and of the community scheme, discussing the details of the working relationship, our ideas and their restrictions. It was a very successful meeting and I look forward to my next trip to see this in progress. Lagos has certainly started to make changes and although much is long over due, it does appear to be making headway. It now needs the Diaspora to be catalysts of this change and people with long term vision, which arguably has often been one of Nigeria’s short comings. Enthusiasm, passion and ideas are many but seeing them through to the end seems to be the problem, often corruption gets in the way of the end goals.

I returned home and was greeted by the children back from school. NEPA was down so I thought I’d grab a nap as it was hot and dark inside. The children thought otherwise and decided my room would make the best playing area in the house. As I said earlier children are much the same where ever you go.

Angela who insists in spoiling me, cooked another delicious meal of fried rice and chicken. This was followed by fresh mangoes, which like most fruit here looks far less ‘attractive’ then in the UK but tastes so much nicer. I was joined once again by Bola who likes to come in and sit with me, she is lovely and reminds me of Beth, who I spoke to on the phone over dinner.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Sunday 23rd May 2010

My first night sleep wasn’t too bad, disturbed only by the unfamiliar noise of the air con and the fact that the same two text messages came through about five times each. Angela and the children were up early to be at church for around seven. I was going to go to the second service and Angela would come back around ten to take me (the thought of rising at six for church was a little daunting).

As I laid on my bed thinking about getting up and ironing my clothes, NEPA (Nigeria’s electrical network) went down, so no electricity, no lights, no fans, no air con, no iron! I was able to have a warm shower although the power was low, but in the humid heat drying wasn’t a simple task, even my fine hair remained damp. Just about ten o’clock and NEPA was up, I turned on a fan (good job the house was empty as I danced in front of it drying my hair).

Angela came back to pick me up and we drove the 15 minutes to her church The Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Life Spring. In comparison with other churches I have been to in Nigeria this was quiet small, but very friendly and I enjoyed the service. The theme was on having to give some things up so God can give us even more, like Noah, Abraham & Hannah. It also reminded me that Angela was giving up a lot to take me a stranger into her house and blessing me, so I in turn can bless others here in Lagos.

Whenever I have been to a church here, they always ask who has come for the first time, being that I have been to a different church every Sunday I always have to say yes (there is no way of hiding this fact as I’m the only white woman there). I then go off to a side room and get fed, this time a hot dog and fruit juice and also generous gifts, a mug, pen and a book. All we give at home is a cup of tea :-)

Returning home the children (Bola, Sola, Nimi) one by one join me in my room and ‘we’ do homework (they did it all by themselves really if Angela is reading this), it’s like being at home with Beth, trying to get them to concentrate on what they are doing. Children wherever they are, wherever they are from can be so similar in so many ways.

Femi came over in the afternoon and took me to see a friend, Gloria (Angela’s sister that showed me around on my previous visit). We drove to Festac, where I last went for Angela’s wedding. The okadas, taxis, buses, cars, people all jostling for spaces on the roads, I had to get back into non panic Nigerian mode. We stopped to buy fruit from the market - there were yams, carrots, tomatoes, pineapple, bananas, melons, mangos and some things I have never seen before. I just love the hustle and bustle that surrounds these places. The discarded fruit and rubbish was all in the open gutters and rotting, not the most pleasant of smells.

After our visit we headed back stopping to pick up some roasted corn by the road side, I also tried a fruit that I did not recognise, Femi also didn’t know it. It was mauve/ black and tasted like nothing I have had before, quite tart in taste but green like avocado in texture. We headed home past Oshodi and Mafoluku, can’t wait to get back there tomorrow.

When I got back Damola had returned home, Angela cooked dinner it was delicious. I asked what it was and she informed me it was egg and corned beef... well anyone that knows me knows I wouldn’t go near corned beef with a barge pole, I hate it! It was a good job I tasted how nice it was before being told. I will take the recipe home for Tony who is a fan! I was joined for dinner with a family of cockroaches in my bathroom, six in varying sizes and states of coma, Angela promptly sprayed them and swept them up, even though she was more bothered by them than me!

My return to Lagos 2010: May 22nd

I was taken to Heathrow terminal 5 by Tony, Beth and Michelle on this beautiful sunny day, summer had arrived and I’m leaving. The very nice man allowed my overweight suitcases though without cost and I headed though customs, a quick tearful goodbye and I was on my own.
This time I was not running with black men, it was much more relaxed and less stressed, having plenty of time to make my way down stairs, on the train to gate B45. Once boarded on the plane I found it to be half empty due I guess to the pending BA strikes, but this meant we had room to move. The flight went well with only the odd bit of turbulence and kept to time even though we left 20 minutes late.

The plane started to descend into Lagos and the green rural areas receded and the now familiar sight of the tin roofed buildings and the dusty roads take precedence. We land at the some what dated Murtala Mohammed Airport, and soon are making our way off the plane. Immediately the heat hits us, with very little in the way of air conditioning, the sweat soon takes over.

Once though arrivals I headed to get my bags, assuming Femi would be there to meet me as last time. Unfortunately he was unable to enter the building this time which meant I had to struggle alone with collecting 3 very heavy bags. Luckily I had some Naira and was able to obtain a trolley, and a nice gentleman assisted me with my final one lifting it on top. I made my way outside followed by a concerned female security guard, wanting to ensure I knew who was collecting me.

There was Femi with his huge handsome smile to greet me, along with Funmi, who I knew from my last visit. The hustle and bustle immediately hits as you step out of the airport, the sights and sounds of Lagos, I just love it! As you look around at the money men making deals on Naira, disabled people hoping to stir the conscience of the ‘wealthy’ and many others hoping to cash in on the travellers.

Once in the car we headed towards Ikeja and the house of my hosts Angela and Damola, a secured area with guard entry. We found the house and received a warm welcome from Angela and children.

A large open planned house, very different in style and feel to UK homes. I was shown to my room. The children were very keen to receive their gifts, so helped raid my suitcase in the hunt for jelly babies. I unpacked, spoke to home and then we ate delicious shrimp rice and a red hot sauce with chicken, I love the taste of Nigeria. Then off to write this blog and to go to bed, air con bellowing.