Written by: The Bridge on Friday, February 29th, 2008
Ooooh La La! I know Brian and I had long talks with people back home, we saw a whole lot of pictures, even some video clips, received lots of advice, but all of it doesn’t prepare you!…This is definitely Jupiter, as Lance said in his first blog entry about Nigeria! “I don’t think any amount of description, advice or talking can accurately describe how it is here; I’m still forming opinions, and think I will for a while to come!”:D
Our first night here, I slept well, only awoke once to hear “pak, pak, pak” outside my door. It turned out Judy was whacking cockroaches with her shoe or something. Those gross things had had the run of the house for a year now; they are reluctant to move out. The next morning, it seemed I was the only person who didn’t hear the gunshot fired right inside Palmgrove gate. I didn’t mind. So far, I find these shots quite common in the night, but usually they are far away. Because it is so quiet without electricity, things can be heard from quite a distance.
The next day, Brian and I went with Emman David to Uyo, the Winnipeg of Palmgrove, so to speak. Those towns are a blog entry by themselves. I just want to describe an incident we had while we were there. Emman was backing out of a Superstore, which is located right at an intersection. Instead of going on the proper lane, Emman decided to try going through the intersection to save time. He was really going to go in the wrong direction, but it was only to cross the road, see? Well, maybe not, but it wasn’t doing anyone harm. We stood there, waiting for a clearing big enough to go through the heavy traffic. All of a sudden, there were LOUD shouts and three guys wrenched open our doors, started yelling at Emman; wrestled his key from him. They finally made him take the back seat and drove our vehicle to some sort of compound. Where they dragged as much money out of Emman as they possibly could. Fortunately, they didn’t bother Brian and me, who were trying to look invisible in the vehicle. Personally, I figure it was us white people that whetted their appetites for money and made them jump us. They were some sort of traffic cops, who, of course, were crooked. The next day Emman said that they lost their jobs, but I am not sure about anything really. I tell you, at that rate we will be ‘broken in’ in no time!
The main thing around here is that you learn the first and foremost… and DEFinetly the MOST important (note: sarcasm) is “white person = money.” And lots and lots of money! You can give to everyone continuously it will never run out, and everyone DOES deserve and expect it from you. I tell you, it’s getting on my nerves already and I’ve only been here for 2 weeks now. I tell myself I will be able to handle it soon, like, tell them politely “sorry, nothing for you”. Comparing this to home, where people don’t do that, except the beggars in Winnipeg, it’s rather mind boggling. Brian and I just look at each other and shake our heads. Sigh*
Actually, maybe we are a bit “onshtrenk,” since we are ‘flying by the seat of our pants,’ (as Brian is fond of putting it), alone!!Last Thursday Ed Vetter and Judy left for Liberia. After only 4 days of being here in this alien place, Brian and I had to fend for ourselves. It is now Friday of the second week, and we are still alone, huddled in the deepest corner of the house, scared to make the slightest motion. Naaah… things have actually gone better than I had anticipated. Before they left, I dreaded being here alone, where we didn’t know anyone yet. Well, turns out the people aren’t shy, they are very nice to us, friendly too. Maybe a bit too friendly, they invite themselves into the house unexpectedly all the time. The Thursday Ed and Judy left was Valentine’s Day. In the evening, the young people gathered in the kitchen, to sing songs and to play keyboard. The buem can really sing, and do so with gusto. ‘Charismatic’ is the word I would use to describe it, I really enjoyed it. It seems they put their heart and soul into it… but whether they really meant it, remains to be seen. Anyhow, we had a nice evening there, it was just like being at home with our young people, only we didn’t know who was who.We even got a Valentine’s Day card from one of the guards at the Palmgrove gate…. I’ve never seen a Valentine’s Day card with a bible on it, have you? Ed did give us a list of small jobs to do while he was gone, among which was for Brian to fix the gaping holes in the window screens on our house, a job, while not difficult, did sometimes get frustrating because it involved many, many trips back and forth from the shop. One of the boys, Enimesit “helped” him, and I helped him sometimes too. I did small stuff such as making pillows and cleaning… of course. I had to make pillows, because we were expecting American visitors to return with Ed. There aren’t any feathers here. I cut up sponge to put into our pillows, that we brought from home, they did have a lining of Dacron.
Funny thing is, it turned out that Inno didn’t approve of our celebrating Valentine’s Day. We got a ripping for it at Church on Sunday. He says in the future they are not allowed to celebrate it any more, that that was the last time. Then he called for a young people’s meeting right after Church. Everyone had to gather at the missionary house and those who wouldn’t show up would be in trouble. Everyone showed up. We then had a 2+ hour meeting/ lecture/ talk about problems that were apparently among the young people. I had to shmootzle a few times, because it struck me that it was just like home!! Only difference here was the skin was black, instead of white. It seemed that Inno had heard that there was disunity among the buem and the Dieneh, they didn’t do things together, so he addressed the issue. The boys thought the girls didn’t do any work, and the Dieneh thought themselves ‘unto gedruckt.’ How typical! I thought ‘in which colony isn’t it like that?’ Another issue we discussed was marriage, which kinds were acceptable, which weren’t. It was obviously a concern, since there are a lot of buem in Palmgrove that are getting up there in years. There are not so many older girls; it seems they mostly ran away, another topic, that was talked about. Inno also asked the boys about their work, what they were doing and tried to encourage them. I tell you, he is not one to mince words.
After the long, hot, meeting, a few of the young people went with Brian and me for a walk through the jungle. There was Glory, Egypt, Hezekiel, Emasse, and Ididiong. And, amid strains of “in the jungle, the mighty jungle,” we exclaimed over the foreign terrain. There is so much to learn, a big problem is getting them to explain something to you. One thing I figured out in a hurry, in my first week here was, no matter how much you think you understood them, or they you, you can never be 100% sure it is so. If they explain something, you are sure to miss one thing or another. And no matter how much they nod their heads and say “yes, yes, yes”, they definitely don’t always get you either. Funny part is… they get annoyed! Their English is never very good, then also combined with their accent, some of them are almost impossible to understand!! One of boys once complained to me, “I can understand you so well, but you can’t understand me”, like it was my fault!!I almost laughed out loud!
I’ve been to the market twice now, and I tell you, I ALMOST didn’t make it!! lol. The first time I went on Tuesday with Glory, one of the women here. We thought Ed and Judy were coming back on Wednesday, if so, I wanted to have some food in the house. The reason I almost didn’t make it was, I was near stared to death!!This country needs a lot more white people, was the opinion I came home with. I think I turned 3 shades whiter that day. It was uncomfortable to me, not being used to it. Getting back to Palmgrove was a relief. We found out Ed was coming back Saturday, and Glory told me we would go to “BIG market” on Thursday, I dreaded it. But I ended out enjoying it!! Goes to show you can get used to anything… almost! This big market was big all right, more people, more wares, more “Mbakara, (white man) buy my tomatoes, Mbakara this, Mbakara, that!” They were so tickled when I answered their ‘amissyereh’ with “’amisseryendeh.’(Good morning) Another amusing, yet embarrassing incident was a bunch of old women called Glory over to settle an argument, “was I a boy or a girl?” They could not figure out why a boy was wearing a skirt like that!!(I had a long skirt, a blouse and dark shades) I couldn’t believe it, when Glory told me about that. But I could understand why they thought that, there was not a young woman in the whole market who was dressed decently, they all had their clothes painted on. I was the only one who was loosely dressed. I got a laugh out of that one, and still do! That day was full of sights and sounds I have never seen. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get pictures of market at all, because it’s just not safe to pull your camera out in town. People will want money out of you if they see you doing that.Glory and I got to the market on a motorbike with 4 people! Heading back home, it was 3 people, our bags, and 4 live chickens! Whew! Those chickens were quite thirsty by the time we got back home.We butchered them for pepper soup for our guests on Saturday. The soup is great, very spicy makes you sweat even more. And there is nothing you cannot haul on a motorbike!
A few of the interesting things I’ve learned so far: These people have no “he or she” in their language.They may call you either “he” or “she”, no difference. Wearing a ring on the thumb means you belong to some cult. On the pointing finger, means you belong to some society. The middle finger means engagement, the ‘ring’ finger means marriage, and the pinkie means society too…. that goes for both hands the same. All their names mean something, they are very aghast that our names mean nothing, or when you don’t know what it means. Their names have fancy meanings like “Jesus blood”, and “the Lord saves”, they are so proud of them.
NEPA is crazy; you may get almost a whole day of power, or two days with nil, or some in the middle of the night. The boys say it stands for “Never Expect Power Always”. They have garri 3x a week; Judy says they would have it every day if they could.( I have to make myself eat it so far, the fish taste is too strong).All their houses have names. There is the Decker house, (which we live in), the Crystal Spring house, the Baker house, the Windy Bay house, and the Riverbend house. They have Gebet at 5 in the morning, three times a week. No, so far we have not gone…. Brian says he wants to one day, so one blog we might write about that. It is definitely worth getting up early, because it’s nice and cool then.
Anyhow, I’ll try to have more specific blogs in the future. I’d like some ideas from readers as to what to write about. Sometimes I think Lance covered it all! I know I want to do a blog on the trees in the area, they are quite fascinating, but I’m not bursting with ideas at this point.
“I will not bow down to your heathen gods today; I will not kneel down, to your images and pray.There’s no other God, than the God I serve above, and I’ll not worship another but my Lord!”