These first few days have been very adventuresome! We arrived in Kano, Nigeria on Thursday night after a VERY long plane ride. I had met another student on the plane named Abdul and he was able to help get us through customs without any hassle. Once in Kano, Christopher from the dRPC picked us up and brought us to the Tahir Hotel in Nassarrawa. The hotel is one of the nicer hotels in the city with a restaurant, air conditioning, electricity that is on most of the day, a somewhat reliable internet connection, a shower, and luke warm water.
The next three days were absolutely amazing. On Friday, we went on an adventure around the hotel to try and find Nigerian sim cards. They use a system of pre-paid calling cards that are not too expensive to purchase. On Saturday, Abdul was nice enough to take on the task of showing us all around the old city. The old city dates back to 999 and is surrounded by 25 km of city walls with 15 gates (kofars). Unfortunately, the old city has not changed much since it was built. It has an incredibly high population density, most of the city wall has turned into a mound of sand, and there is little/no electricity throughout the city. Abdul took us to his wealthy grandfathers house in the old city where we saw a house made out of stone. It was a large house with many people living in it. Some rooms had ceilings while others do not to allow light into the house. His family also had horses in a stable next to the house. Abdul and some of the people we met at his grandfathers house took us to the Kurmi Market which is the centre of the old city. The market is made up of many very small aisles with traders on all sides asking you to come into their store. Some of the most popular things they were selling were leather work, hand made shoes, and jewelry. Ian, Adam and I wanted to buy a few things but in order to do that, Abdul had to bargain with the traders for at least five minutes before a price was agreed on. When we finished in the market, Abdul took us back to his house outside of the old city to meet his family. His house was absolutely gorgeous. It was very large, with its own generator (to provide electricity), their own water tank, a personal driver and gate keeper, and their home was beautiful inside. His family was incredibly generous and polite.
On Sunday, Abdul took us to his family’s house for an authentic Nigerian meal. His mother cooked some amazing food and we all sat on the ground in the living room to eat. His father had invited some of his doctor friends to eat with us because he knew that we were working in health care. I can not tell you how giving and thoughtful these people are. Then, Abdul took us out again to the old city. This time, he had set up for all of us to ride around the old city on his horses. This was a very big treat. They had the horses all done up in traditional saddles. We walked all around the old city and even onto the main streets for about an hour. It was a lot of fun although I can’t tell you how awkward the whole experience was as well. As you can imagine, we are some of the only white people here. Being paraded around the old city on horses was definitely not the most discrete way to get around. People here are so nice though. Everyone would say hello (Sannu), wave or give us the thumbs up. Some of the people would yell out “batauri!” which means white person and point in surprise. Everyone here also loves to take pictures. Everywhere we went, we had to stop and take pictures with all the people. The adults really like to take pictures but that is nothing compared to how much the kids do! I pulled out my camera in front of a group of kids and asked if I could take a picture of them (oto?). They were basically jumping on top of each other to get into the picture. But, one of the funniest parts of that whole day was when this little boy came up to me and just started petting my hand and stared at me like he had no idea what I was.
Some random things I want to comment on: the traffic and the amount of animals in the street. OK, the traffic is ridiculous because there are absolutely no rules. There are tons of cars on the road and even more motorcycles (achabas). Although there are no rules, it seems to work here! [Mom: stop reading here] We have been taking achabas around the city because it is the cheapest and best way to get around. They are actually pretty fun and I feel somewhat safe on them. These people are crazy drivers but they know what they are doing. [Mom: you can start reading again] I probably wont be able to do that once in Kaduna though because it is not “lady like” to get on the back of one. The family I am staying with is very traditional and will probably not approve of me using them. Also, there are animals everywhere: specifically goats. You can’t look down a street without seeing at least a half a dozen goats walking around. There are also horses, chickens, and dogs all over. They are so used to humans that you can get as close as you want without them even being scared. I really want to pet them but I would prefer not to get one of the thousand diseases I know they must be carrying.
Being a white woman here is a very interesting experience. Everyone is very nice but it is still a very traditional culture. About half the men will not shake my hand. I have learned not to put out my hand unless they do first because it is very uncomfortable when I do and they don’t shake my hand. I have started to wear long sleeve shirts and a head scarf because I think it makes them more comfortable and it makes me feel more comfortable as well. I also have started to tell people I am married when men ask me because it is unusual for a woman my age not to be married. It is hard to describe the differences in how I am treated here compared to the US but it is a slightly uncomfortable and frustrating experience.
The last few days have not been quite as exciting because we have started to begin meeting with our partners to determine our goals for the summer. We meet with the people at dRPC and at CITAD. Ian and Adam will be working more directly with them then I will be. I leave for Kaduna tomorrow. We are leaving early in the morning to go meet with the director of the Kaduna school of Health and Technology (who is currently in Makarfy) and then we will drive the rest of the way to Kaduna. I am really looking forward to begin my work with Girl Child Concerns and to get to started visiting clinics and hospitals.
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