Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The 186th good thing about Lagos: Huge snails to look at -- but I don't have to eat them!

We had a fun little stop over at the American School this morning, where the school was celebrating Nigerian Cultural Day. Tomorrow, October 1st, is Nigerian Independence Day, and a holiday here. When we walked in, there was a display in the courtyard of some Nigerian food and we were greeted by a basket of these big babies!

Do you get a better feeling for their size with this picture?....

or this one? Yep, those were some pretty big slugs with portable homes. I don't think I want those for dinner!

We spent our time in the vendor area. Many of the schoolchildren were sporting these very cool woven palm leaf hats.

It was fun to see children and adults all sporting their best Nigerian attire.

There was lots of shopping and good deals to be found -- I got some jewelry and a great deal on some baskets, as they had an upper limit on the prices the vendors could charge.

Happy Nigerian Independence Day! I'm heading off to the Sacred Forests of Osogbo -- more on that when I return!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The 185th good thing about Lagos: I don't have to speak Yoruba!

When we were visiting Eruobodo House (see my previous post), I asked a staff member there about the name and where it came from. He said it was the name of the home when it was a private residence -- it's a Yoruba expression that means something like "the river doesn't fear the one who jumps into it." When we were dissecting the syllables of the word, he said that "odo" can mean "river," but it can also mean other things depending on the tone used when it is spoken. It can also mean "mortar" or "zero." Yoruba is a tonal language, which I'm sure would make it a very difficult language to learn. He spoke "odo" the different ways that would change the meaning of the word, but it was really hard for me to hear the difference. He admitted that often it is the context the word is used that will give hints to the meaning. He wrote down the word "Igba" five times with different diacritical marks over the "i" and the "a" -- which designate the pitch the syllable should be spoken. (I don't have the patience to figure out how to type those on my keyboard.) But "igba" spoken with different tones can mean either 200, time, garden egg, rope, or calabash. I'm afraid that even if I had the patience and motivation to learn some Yoruba, I would never be understood, so it's a very good thing that I can usually understand and be understood in English here!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The 184th good thing about Lagos: A home in the country for special needs children

Last week I had the opportunity to get outside of the city to visit a home for special needs children. We had a drive of about 1 1/2 hours through some very nice countryside, to Ogun State and the village of Ijebu-Ode. I enjoyed the drive very much, as I traveled with two women, one from Sweden and one from Denmark, who had married Nigerians and have lived in Nigeria for many years. One came in 1963 and one in 1974. They talked about how things had changed so much with the growth of the city. Of course, they preferred it the way it was long ago. One talked about the chaos for about two years when the country changed the sides of the street they were to drive on. They said Lagos used to be so safe and they would drive everywhere and there was no traffic. Wouldn't that be nice!

The home was the former residence of a long-term British expatriate who married a Nigerian and has spent her life in Nigeria. She's still here and is a very delightful person. When the family moved to Lagos, they donated this house to use as a home for special needs children. Currently there are 24 children in the home, 18 of which are special needs. The home has also taken in some older orphans who needed a stable home, and they help with the younger children when they are not attending school.

One of the women I rode with was on the board of the foundation that helps support Eruobodo House. They get no money from the government -- they were saying that recently the local government said they needed to pay them money for the right to operate the charity!

They also have various things that help support the charity: a nice garden which supplies fresh produce to eat,

they raise chickens and eat and sell the eggs,

and they have a fish farm where they raise fish to sell and eat. They also do things like make ice blocks which they sell to the community.

They have a little craft store. This man, who is blind, teaches crafts to the residents and also makes these great woven bags to sell in the shop. I bought some of these -- they are really great sturdy totes.

The best part of the visit was meeting the residents. They were ready with smiles and proud to show us their rooms.

This boy in the wheelchair was practicing his sign language.

This girl has been in the home only a short time. She doesn't speak at all -- they don't know if she is physically unable to speak or what exactly her disabilities are. But she has a great smile!

This boy had surgery to install a shunt to drain the fluid from his brain. He's doing well now.

There were two little ones that were just laying on the couch, they were both new to the home. They were the only really sad cases that I saw in the home. The other little boy was totally unable to move his body, they had to do everything for him. And this little girl, who is two years old, but looks to be less than a year, has no eyes. They said she just wants to lay around all day. They put her in a walker and make her move her limbs, but she hates to be moved at all. She cried when she was picked up and when I tried to exercise her limbs. She ate listlessly when they gave pieces of cracker to her to eat.

This boy, Benga, was full of smiles.

They have some really great facilities, clean and spacious bedrooms, a nice family room and kitchen, and a playground with equipment that is in good shape!

The older kids had a nice game of volleyball while our group had a pleasant lunch under a beautiful cashew tree.

And there was a great message posted on a bedroom door:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The 183rd good thing about Lagos: Educational signs

In Nigeria, private schools often have colorful painted signs on the walls surrounding their premises.

I like the warning against speaking Pidgin English at this school. The widespread use of pidgin in this country has, in my opinion, had a detrimental effect on the literacy and education of much of the population.

Printed materials in the schools are often limited, so most schools use the blackboard much more than it is used in the States. In this cooking class at this training center for adult women, recipes are written on the blackboard,

as are notes in this nutrition class.

When we were walking through the town of Badagry recently, we passed a school with this painted wall. Notice that they are teaching French as well as English here. I have read many alphabet books to my children and grandchildren over the years, but I don't recall ever having the letter "Y" stand for "Yam," but here in Nigeria, the yam is their staple food, and they get respect (as I have noted earlier).

Next to the festival grounds in Badagry, there was a school and I went wandering over there during one of the speeches. It wasn't much to look at, but it's pretty typical of schools here.

It had children hanging around, wanting their picture taken.

And I really got a chuckle out of this sign posted on the wall: In schools everywhere, praise is a motivating factor, as well as shame!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The 182nd good thing about Lagos: A chance to learn about the area's history of slave trading in our visit to Badagry

On our last morning in Badagry, we left our resort for a walking tour of historical Badagry, taking a little road from our resort, which was outside the city center.
We passed some cultivated fields, where they were growing tomatoes, corn and cassava.

It was a short walk to the Badagry Heritage museum. There were women gathering water at the well in front of the museum. The museum had some artifacts and photos and told the story of the history of Badagry as a slave port, which began in 1473 with Portuguese slave traders, but grew within a century to collect slaves that would go to other European countries. Our guide had written a guidebook to Badagry and his book says that "the slave trade flourished in Badagry until March 8, 1852, when the Badagry Chiefs signed the abolition treaties with the Queen of England," but the slave trade actually "continued until 1888 when the last slave ship left for Brazil."

We continued our walk into town where we passed people going about their Sunday morning activities.

We visited this square which marked the spot where a tree used to stand under which Christianity was first preached in Nigeria. The guidebook says that in 1842 missionaries from Sierra Leone arrived, having been invited by a resident with the approval of the King of Badagry. "The first sermon of Christianity was first preached that day under the famous Agia Tree which fell in 1959 at over 300 years of age."

Next to this square stood an interesting building which looks like a Christian church, but is actually the Badagry Central Mosque. It was built around 1877 and is one of the few buildings of Brazilian-influenced architectural designs still standing in the city.

More scenes from the street -- kids are always ready to clown around for the camera.

I thought this street sign was pretty interesting -- a street sign in a small town in Nigeria is unusual in itself, but this one not only directed you to the palace, but also to "California Way" and had an accurate time clock on top!

We visited this square which at one time served as the slave market. It was one of the oldest slave markets in West Africa, opened in 1502. Our guide said that on a normal day during the height of the slave trade, 300 slaves would have been sold here. Over the centuries, millions of Africans have been sold here.

We then walked down to the waterfront to visit the slave port.

We got on a large pirogue and crossed the creek to get to the peninsula which borders the Atlantic coastline.

We then had a hike along the slave route across this narrow peninsula that the slaves would have walked to get to the ships taking them away from their African homes.

Here our guide showed us a cistern which the traders would have the slaves drink. It was referred to as a "sacred well" because it was believed to make the slaves less aggressive and to lose the memories of their homes. He surmised that the traders had put some drug in the water to make the slaves docile.

After about a 15 minute walk, we reached the "point of no return," which is now marked with a monument. Slaves waited here to board ships which were moored about a kilometer away in the ocean. Our guide said that many Africans died here just waiting for their turn to board the ships. It was kind of sobering to be there at this area's own "trail of tears."

After a brief rest by the ocean, we walked back across the peninsula and returned to our pirogue for the return trip across the creek. A friend took this picture of us at the crossing -- and he actually even got a smile from Brent!

Before we left Badagry, we had a visit to one more chief in his palace -- more gifts to offer and welcomes to receive.

This chief recognized the woman in our group who joined the dancing at Friday's festivities and had some fun mimicking her dance moves.

This chief insisted that we visit his family's private slave museum, which had its own set of slave chains and other relics from the age of slave trading.

On the ride back to our hotel, we passed the building which is the first "storey" building built in Nigeria. The building was built as a vicarage and completed in 1845. The guidebook says that the foundation was laid 3 years prior, which is the same year that Christianity was preached. So those Christian missionaries must have got down to business very quickly and planned on staying awhile! The English Bible was translated into Yoruba in this house in 1846.

Just after mid-day, we boarded the speedboats for our 1 1/2 hour trip back to Lagos. I was so glad we were able to take this trip and get a look at a different part of Nigeria with an interesting and tragic history.