Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Well, It's Still Africa

My experiences here in Nigeria have so far been very different than my experiences in Zambia..... mostly.

I'm working with a department in the Federal government, living in the capital, taking taxis or riding with friends anywhere I go.  There's internet and air conditioning at work, parking garages near all the big buildings.  No mud hut, no bicycles, no hour walks just to see a car, no fire for cooking.  But it's still Africa.

There's some things I really like.  I can walk to the corner and find people selling phone cards, oranges or watermelon.  There's a lady that sits at the junction frying akara (bean cakes) all day long.  In town, boys walk around pushing carts of sugar cane or with jars of peanuts on their heads.  Sometimes we find a group of people roasting maize by the side of the road.  We start work at 9 and knock off at 4.  (Though we don't take a lunch so it works out the same as my summer's 9-5.)  Colorful clothing is everywhere.  People are friendly, and the sun is warm.

Then there are the things I notice that make me just shrug.  This is where I realize that if I had not learned how to deal with some things in Zambia, I'd be having a really hard time adjusting now.

The power goes out at least once a day at home.  It never fazes shower me; I just unplug my laptop so it doesn't surge when the power comes back.  What surprised me was that we can still cook when the power's out; it's a gas stove!  When I go into the kitchen to cook on this stove, I always first rinse the dishes I want to use.  Have to make sure to get all the termites out of them.  Rice gets washed twice to remove weevils.  The shower stall is quite small; the bucket takes up half the room!

I work in the Federal Secretariat Complex, a group of large buildings with between 4 and 10 floors.  The elevators have lists of emergency numbers posted inside in case the power goes out.  There's also a man that sits on a chair in the elevators, takes up a good portion of the space.  I think his job isn't so much to push the buttons as it is to make people feel safer about riding in the elevator.  

Most of the Ministries, as well as several high ranking government officials, have their offices in this complex.  Areas are roped off with guards stationed at the ends of the red-carpet-lined bathroom at work croppedhallways.  Guards man each entrance and ask for everyone's work id when entering the building.  In the office, we sit and work  on our computers, with newer versions of software than I had in San Francisco.  Yet, there's no toilets.  The bathrooms have ablution pans.  No soap;  no tissue,  the sinks don't work.  There's a reason I carry tissue and hand sanitizer anywhere I go.  And today, we started paging through some files on a desk in our office and a cockroach ran out of the folder.

sinks at work


I actually like the ablution pans.   If I ever build my own house, I think I'll put one of those in.  No fighting about leaving the seat up, and they're much easier to clean.  The bugs however, I could do without.


Anonymous said...

whats are ablution pans? I like how that one sink is half missing1 ^>^

goldenrail said...

@^>^: and how the one on the other end is full of water?! Literally, an ablution pan is a pan for washing. See pic above.

MaryRuth said...

umm...so you do your ablutions with water from that blue bucket? who fills the bucket?

goldenrail said...

@MR: I think that's what the bucket's for. There's a spigot on the wall for filling it. I always carry tissue and hand sanitizer and stay away from buckets of water.