“my morning in Nigeria”

by Gloria Daniels in Nigeria

I wake up between 6am-7am to the auxiliary (natural alarm clock) of roosters crowing and birds hooting (they don’t “sing” like the birds you may know).Sometimes, humorously, I’ll wake up to our night guard tapping on my bedroom window to say good morning (“E Kaaro!”) and to tell me he’s going home. Once awake, I immediately check my email from the browser on my phone, looking specifically for messages from friends as well as those from my embassy or UN informing me of security issues. No news is good news. I then clumsily get off the bed.

I go to the bathroom to collect my buckets which I will take outside to one of three water tanks in my yard. When the tanks are empty, I use the well. I love this early part of the day because the temperature hovers at a comfortable low-70s, which gives me a chance to breathe in something besides my evaporating sweat. I fill my buckets so that I will have one to flush the toilet with and one to bathe with. While the buckets are filling, I walk around the cashew tree with my long stick and knock down the highest, yellowest, juiciest looking fruits for my breakfast appetizer. I make sure to be on the lookout for soldier ants…you know, the ones that kill babies.

As I walk back inside with my sloshing buckets, I say “E Kaaro” to the children who regularly peek their heads over my cement perimeter wall, watching me perform tedious tasks that would never interest them in the slightest, were I of a darker complexion. They giggle with excitement (well, I’d like to think it’s excitement) after I greet them, and their heads quickly pop out of sight.

I prepare my breakfast, which occasionally means simply opening a package of crackers. Often, though, it requires lighting my counter-top kerosene stove and reheating the dinner from the previous night, which is always a combination of rice, beans, eggs, salt, tomatoes, okra, onions, and peanuts. On a special day I’ll have carrots, though you can’t always find them at the market.

After I sit down for breakfast, I tear open a satchet of Pure Water with my teeth and drink it down. Pure Water is purified water (theoretically and hopefully) that comes in little plastic satchets about 5″x5″. You drink from them by ripping one corner off with your teeth and sucking the water out. They are only 10 naira per bag (6 pennies), and I buy them in bulk since I drink about 2-3 per day. Pure Water is a good substitute for boiling water which always ends up tasting like metal and kerosene whenever I do it, not to mention it wastes my fuel and makes my kitchen hot and smoky. We are not recommended to drink Pure Water as it may not be as pure as it claims, but so far I’ve been fine, and so has every other volunteer who imbibes in this lovely convenience. The empty plastic bags can then be dried out and used as classroom materials, so I don’t feel bad about it.

As I’m chowing down on starch and water at the dining room, I listen to Radio Nigeria on my cb radio that a former volunteer donated to me.

After breakfast I wash all my dishes and pots to prevent the “creatures” from throwing a blowout party while I’m at work. So far I have big ants, little ants, wasp-like insects, spiders, lizards, flying cockroaches, and I think a couple of rats/mice (though signs of excrement are the only proof of the latter’s existence). None of them really bother me, and it’s not like they’re always there, but that’s not stopping me from dousing my house with insecticide this week.

There is one creature, however, that I quite fancy and wouldn’t want to exterminate. He is a particular lizard that sits on top of the couch in my office at work every day and watches me. For hours. He just sits there, bobbing his head up and down, staring at me. Occasionaly he’ll race hysterically across the top of the couch to eat a bug, then meander lazily back to his preferred spot to resume the staring. His name is BFF. Those of you who are hip to youth culture know what that means, and if you’re not so cool, I’ll fill you in: Best Friend Forever. In reality, though, his name stands for Bob Freckles Friend, thanks to a successful Facebook poll asking what I should name my new lizard buddy. But I do like the double entendre.

I digress. So after I wash my dishes, I mosey to the tub in my cement-floored bathroom for my morning bucket bath. I do have ceiling fans and lights which function when we have NEPA (National Electric Power Authority, a.k.a electricity, a.k.a. Never Expect Power Anytime), so that brings me intermittent joy for a broken period of about 0-24 hours a day, depending. Also, the past few days have been spent with plumbers coming over to fix some pipes so that now I do have an indoor tap to fill my buckets and a toilet that flushes. And honestly, I have it much easier than most Nigerians who don’t have even the hint of these mod-cons, so I’m not complaining, just explaining.

Anyway, I take my bucket bath, which I really quite like. Some days I get a competitive rush and see how little water I can use for my bath. My best is 1/3 of the bucket. This morning, though, I splurged and used the whole darn thing! The water was just too cool and refreshing to not! I dry myself with a VERY small, superabsorbent camping towel I bought from REI. Best purchase I’ve ever made. I haven’t even had to wash it yet!! (Not gross, I swear). I dress myself in the coolest outfit I can manage because we are currently in the hot season now, and the weather gods don’t mess around here. Luckily the rainy season is fast approaching, which means several months of amazing thunderstorms, pounding rains, green vegetation, and cool weather. Of course it also means mosquitoes, damaged roads, and downed power lines, but I still can’t wait.

I finish getting ready, and there’s nothing too exciting to report about that. I pack my lunch (the same as breakfast, which was the same as dinner) and head out. I’ve been toying with the idea of purchasing a refrigerator which would allow me to vary my diet a bit, but fridges here are only as strong as their weakest link: NEPA. Besides, a fridge would put me back as much as at-home internet access, and I can’t afford both. I’m feeling a strong, 21st century pull towards the internet. What have I become!?!?!

So with a fancy padlock, I lock my barred front door (literally, the door is simply a design of bars), say goodbye to my daytime security guard, and with another big clonking padlock, the guard bolts the heavy metal front gate (adorned with Christ’s cross) behind me.

My 20-minute walk to work consists a dirt road, a paved road, then another dirt road. It involves chickens, goats, and greetings, Oh My! The greetings go out to pedestrians carrying impressively huge loads on their heads, schoolchildren, people honking at me from their okadas and cars, street hawkers peddling wares, security guards, and many more! I get to practice my Yoruba, which never ceases to impress them. They think I can actually speak it, which cracks me up. My walk also requires a bit of running, as there is this one area where this crazy biting fly starts buzzing aggressively (and very deliberately) around my head. I have found that if I run really fast – all the while looking like a complete lunatic – I can usually escape his menace.

I arrive at work and that’s where things get fuzzy.


So that’s my epic morning for you! Thanks for reading, and please feel free to email me any updates about your own lives. I miss hearing about them!

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