Thursday, June 1, 2017

When in Nigeria...

There are a lot of things that are similar here in Nigeria...

  • Mamas love to show off their babies! I can always walk up to a woman and say hello, then peek around her back to see her baby strapped to her back and make some sort of funny face. I usually get a laugh from both mama and baby!
  • You greet your elders with respect. We don't say "sir" and "ma'am" here, but anyone elder than you is "auntie/uncle" or if they're a generation older they're "mama/oga"
  • I can't get away from US news. I will often catch the 8:30am news brief as I__ takes me to the hospital for work each morning. We listen to the radio announcer read the Nigerian newspaper headlines and is seems that the only global news they cover is about the US! Today I even heard them talking about LeBron James!
  • Everybody has a cell phone. Many are "dumb phones" without data connections, but almost everyone has a cell phone.
  • It's hot and humid here now... a lot like Texas! But the weather is cooler here on the plateau than on the coast in the city of Lagos or in the northern part of Nigeria.
  • It's customary to greet people as you pass them on the street or as you walk by their shop or office. Sometimes the greeting is just called out, but other times you'll stop and chat. 
  • Nigerians tend to talk pretty loudly--a lot like Texans! Sometimes it can seem like two people are yelling, but they're just excited.
  • Everyone has their mama's own version of a family favorite recipe, although here it's not her famous chili,  but instead either "jallof rice," "red stew," or "kunu" (a drink made from corn). And she ain't telling what she puts in it!
...and there are a lot of things that are really different here in Nigeria:

  • Nigerian money doesn't have any coins. (Well, I've heard that there used to be coins, but since inflation and prices skyrocketing, everything is now handled in bills) We have bills for 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 Naira. All the bills are different colors and sizes. Right now the exchange rate is about 350N to the dollar, so you have to carry around a stack of bills if you're going to buy any large purchase. 
  • We don't throw things in the trash without sorting first. I separate my trash into three bins: food scraps, non-burnable trash (tin cans, batteries, etc), and everything else (plastic, paper). I then take it downstairs and either dump it into the cement food pit, the burn barrel, or the other 55gal drum.
  • If you invite guests over, it's a necessity to give them food or at least offer a drink. If you do serve food, you bring it to them to eat and then you may return to the kitchen or another part of the house until they're done. Nigerians don't socialize over meals; meal time is for eating before the food gets cold!
  • There are no fast food restaurants and no drive thrus at restaurants/coffee shops/banks/dry cleaners. (Well we don't even have coffee shops here)
  • There are no traffic lights here. Major intersections have roundabouts / traffic circles, but the smaller intersections have nothing to guide traffic flow. You just look both ways and if it's clear (or you think you're faster than the cross-traffic), you go for it!
  • Water is free here... if you can get it. If you're wealthy, you might have your own bore hole drilled and have a pump to pump the water up to huge tanks stored on your roof or a 2-3 storey scaffold structure nearby. Then the water just flows by gravity into your faucets. If you don't have your own bore hole or it happens to be too shallow, you can carry buckets of water from someone else's house. (We are blessed to have a water line from the very deep bore hole at the SIM headquarters building so we only run out of water when the electricity has been off for days and days so the water pump hasn't been pumping to fill our tanks)
  • There are no lanes of traffic here. Streets either have a cement divider between directions of traffic, or they have nothing at all. Lane striping doesn't exist, nor would drivers pay attention to it even if it did exist! Oh, and U-turns happen anywhere.
  • Electricity doesn't get billed to your home. You have a prepaid meter for each house and it's your responsibility to keep it topped up. Interestingly, the hallway lights and the washing machine I share with the apartment next door are on a different electrical line than my apartment so it's not uncommon to have lights but not be able to do laundry or vise versa.
  • A lot of sinks and toilets are only connected to the sewer line; they don't have a water input line. For this reason, there are often  big buckets of water in the bathroom and you're responsible to use the smaller bucket to flush the toilet and draw out water to wash your hands with. By the way, bring your own toilet paper! (Thankfully I have running water in my bathroom!)
  • Most middle or  lower class people don't own cars. Public transportation is pretty cheap in a keke or a taxi car, and if you need to travel longer distances you can go to a "car park" and find a minivan advertising its destination, pay the fare, and cram in with others going that direction.
  • All women wear a head scarf or head tie to church. This is more than a headband, and often covers the entire head & hair. It's a non-negotiable and you can be denied admittance to the church building if you don't have a head tie--or more often some mama will find you a fabric piece to use!
  • There's no such thing as a cell phone contract. You pay about $1 to get a SIM card registered with the telecom company and then you're all set!
  • To use your cell phone for voice/text or data, you go down to the corner and flag over one of the teenage boys selling "recharge cards." You tell them which telecom company and how much you want to buy, then they hand you little slips of paper with a 16 digit code inside. You call *222*the 16 digit code# and then it applies the monetary amount to your voice/text account for that SIM card. If you want data, then you can either go online to buy whatever data plan you want that's good for 1 day, 7 days, 30 days, a weekend, or nights only for 30 days. You can also enter *229*2*the number of the data plan you want# and buy data that way.
  • Parenting is communal. On days when we run clinic, it's pretty normal for a patient to hand her baby off to another woman when she is called into the exam room. And somehow the mother always seems to know where her baby is, even when the baby was passed off multiple times several hours ago!
  • We don't recycle.  Except for the glass bottles that sodas come in. To buy sodas, you take the empty 30ct crate to the store and then pay about $3 and pick up a full crate. You can mix and match between Coke, orange Fanta, limca (tastes like Mountain Dew), Sprite, and a couple other flavors.
  • Soccer is king! Just today I caught a bit of the game between Mexico and Venezuela while I was at a restaurant for lunch.

No comments:

Post a Comment