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African Journal #1: Nigeria Welcomes Coco

Posted Dec 12 2008 4:25pm

March 17, 2008

First Update from Africa!!

Sanu, everybody! I am sitting in the local internet cafe shielded from the hot desert sun and thrilled to finally be able to get some internet access and get the message out to y’all loud and clear: I AM DOING GREAT!

Of course, there was some wahala (problems) and stomach churning incidents in the past two weeks into my first month here in Nigeria. It’s a blessing to have friends and interpreters Zach and Erin with me - if they didn’t come with me, I seriously would have lost my cool and unable to communicate with people here at all. So, it’s thanks to them, my experience so far has been a less difficult one and I look forward to the rest of my African experience.

I landed in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on March 2nd via London, UK (by the way, thanks for the Guinness and great company Tish and Arlinda) and was greeted by gawkers and several suggestions to be “friends” (meaning sexual partners)… ha. I was told by the military guy at Immigration that I should find a good Nigerian man to marry. Oh boy.
I had brought four bags/boxes and turned out I had only gotten ONE???? wahala wahala wahala…. dododo???? so within a week and half, I got the two others… one remains missing. In that box is my original childhood pictures and essential suvival kits, and even DVDs and coffee beans… how will I live without them???? Coffee here = instant. Ugh.

The In Country Training was long, interesting and boring. Had built a great network of friends with the other VSO volunteers who had just arrived in Abuja at the same time, and with the rest of the serving VSO volunteers scattered in Nigeria who came together for a PATCH meeting in Jos the weekend after the ICT. What fun!!!!

I had the fortune to meet several Deaf community members through Anadestin, a hearing interpreter and leader in the Deaf community and he brought along some Deaf people whom had a literal culture shock when they met a strong willed independent white deafblind woman! One woman, Doris said, “Thank you so much for coming to Nigeria. Now we have hope”. That made me almost cry…. They begged me to stay in Jos permanently during my volunteer service period, but I was already committed to work in the desert town of Birnin Kebbi, 9 hours away. I promised I would come to Jos once a month and visit. They mentiioned there was a Deaf Blind woman that had her education stopped at 12, and now she is 30 - she had stayed at home all this time doing nothing. Broke my heart but inspired me to do something for her and other DB folks. See what I can do.

The journey to Birnin Kebbi from Abuja was long and dreary. The temperatures rose as we drove more north. Erin, Zach and I were so cramped in the back of the truck while the driver and the principal of the school I work at, sat comfortably in the front. 9 hours and counting, we finally arrived in Birnin Kebbi and I entered my casa. A four bedroom house with kitchen, bathrooms, living room, a courtyard. It’s nice - middle class for Nigerian standards. I drain my water from the tap and use it for showers, washing dishes, washing clothes… and use a water filter for drinking water. Speaking of water, I’ve drank so much water in the past two weeks it’s insane!!! I am pretty sure I dropped more than 10 pounds and I can see myself wasting away (the good kind).
Speaking of waste, too… oh my gosh. I had the terrible stomach aches, had several embarrassing incidents with my bowel and having to drink conocotions for diarrhea. It’s still not over, but soon I hope…

It’ll probably be a while before I am able to update, and seems the internet cafe doesn’t recognize my USB card, would have been so great to download pictures for you all…

It truly is an AMAZING experience living in Africa especially the desert as a Deaf Blind white woman. I feel very welcome here and there’s been an astounding outpouring of support in this town. I met several important people today - te Waziri (vice president for the town), High Commissioner on Education for Kebbi State, the school administration, the teachers, and most importantly, I met several students who look forward to my presence everyday.
Tomorrow the school is having a special assembly where I will officially introduce myself and make my place at the school. I am truly blessed to have this experence, and look forward to the huge challenges that lie ahead.

I hope all of you are doing well, I’ve missed checking facebook, so you’ll have to email me and tell me any news you have.

Like we say in Hausa *the language of the North* Say Anjima (see you later)

tactile love,
Coco

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