As a child raised in Southwestern Nigeria, it has always been my dream to explore the other regions of the country. That dream was partially acted upon in July, 2018 when I visited Abuja (the capital) and took day trips to Nassarawa and Niger States (2 northern states).
This time around though, I stayed in a Northern state for 4 nights! Too short but it is just a start.
- Arrived in Lagos, Nigeria at 3.30pm. An hour later, I was en-route to the domestic airport. My flight to Abuja was really delayed flight. I finally arrived in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) at 10pm.
- I took the 7am train to Kaduna. Excited because it was my first time taking a train in Nigeria or any other West African country!!! The hotel I stayed Quarter House Hotel arranged a car + driver for me. The driver picked me up from the train station. We went to the hotel to drop off my bags before proceeding to explore.
I visited the National Museum first before heading to Zaria to see the Emir’s Palace. It was an Islamic festive day so the road leading to the palace was super crowded. The palace was extra crowded.
After the Emir’s Palace, we continued to the Ahmadu Bello University to check out the Sculpture Garden at the Department of Fine Arts. The sculptures are created by students at the department and entrance is free. The sculpture garden is a piece of heaven in Northern Nigeria for art lovers.
I headed to Gamji Park after that. Gamji Park is a green space for picnics or to simply hang out. In the park is a mini zoo to semi starved looking animals.
I ended the day by hanging out with a friend I hadn’t seen since 2011 at a really cool café.
- I woke up super early to head to Southern Kaduna. It took us 2.5hours to get to Kafanchan to see the Matsirga Waterfalls. I was sort of disappointed that we couldn’t get closer to the waterfalls. There was no trail or guide. We stopped when it was impossible to go further. After that, my driver reluctantly drove me to the Nok Museum. He claimed it was way out of the way. Anyways, after getting lost, we finally get there but it was unfortunately closed. All that stress for nothing ☹.
Anyways, ended the day on a happy note because I met with one of my really good friends from Medical school in Nigeria. We haven’t seen for over 12 years.
- My last full day in Kaduna aka KD City. My day started by visiting Kajuru Castle (the only castle in Nigeria). That visit almost never happened. You are supposed to book at least two weeks in advance. I didn’t. Thanks to Mark from Motley Travels and the Travel Gods, I was able to visit. That visit was spectacular. My iPhone camera couldn’t do justice to the view.
Next up was Arewa House where the museum showcasing the Northern history is house and also the residence of Sir Ahmadu Bello (one of Nigeria’s founding fathers).
We continued to Turunku. Turunku is the hometown of one of the greatest African Queen- Queen Amina of Zaria. History puts her reign as Queen in the mid-15th century. Her palace was on a hill and the remains of her royal chair and bed can be seen. We asked a local of town to show us around and he gladly did.
Last visit of the day was to Fifth Chukker- polo club. Amazing & breathtaking is an understatement!
- I had an 8.50am flight to Lagos. This is my first flight ever with Air Peace that departed on time! It was a chilled day so I could be ready for one of my favorite cousin’s wedding the following day. Check out the blog post on Weddings + Birthday Celebrations in Nigeria to see how we turn up 😊.
This is long post. I had to be detailed in describing my experience in a country I love so much that I had to get a tattoo of it on my back :). Although, I was born and raised in Nigeria, Nigerians don’t think I’m a Nigerian. I always get the ‘You don’t look Nigerian or even talk like a Nigerian’. It used to piss me off but I no longer care.
On this trip, I visit Abuja – the capital of Nigeria, 2 northern states – Niger & Nassarawa states and Lagos. I used Uber and Taxify the whole time. Taxify is the Nigerian version of Uber. Choosing the cash option on both Uber and Taxify helped. If not, most drivers will cancel your trip.
Below is my itinerary for my 16 days visit to Nigeria aka Naija.
Day 26 (July 5, Thursday): Accra – Abuja Airbnb (3 nights) Depart Accra in the morning Arrive in Abuja at noon Relax
Left for the airport in Accra early. Flight was on time. You will be asked for your Yellow Fever Card upon arrival in Abuja. I got a taxi from the airport to my Airbnb in Maitama area. When I got to the Airbnb, I almost left immediately. The place looked cleaned but had the dampness feel to it plus the internet was not working. Since I didn’t have a local number and WhatsApp was my primary means of communication, I decided to go to the MTN office to buy data for the MIFI my dad gave to me.
Later in the day, I met up with a couchsurfer – Roberta for drinks and chat at a trendy bar in Maitama area called Traffic.
Day 27 (July 6, Friday): Day trip to Niger State Zuma Rock & Guarara Falls
I was lucky prior to my trip to have discovered Motley Travels. I found out about them on a blog post by theajalabug. I decided to try them out; I was picked up by Mark (the owner of Motley Travels) at 11am. Our first stop was Zuma Rock. We went through the Golf Club by the rock and got close to the most famous rock in Northern Nigeria. The rock is famous because you can see a shape of a face. It was also rumored that a ghost/spirit exist in the rock. The rumor led to the abandonment of a hotel building beside Zuma Rock. The workers claimed they kept on hearing ‘voices’ so Hilton abandoned its almost completed building and moved to Maitama area.
After Zuma Rock, we went on to Guarara Falls. We were the only visitor there. The hike down is easy, just going down stairs. To move closer to the Falls, you would have to climb small/medium sized, sometimes slippery rocks. My pictures doesn’t capture the beauty of the Guarara Falls. It is totally gorgeous. We took a different route to leave the Falls, this route, you would have to climb fairly steep, slippery rocks. It is appropriate to wear sneakers or hiking shoes, a small backpack or fanny pack so you can climb without interference.
Guarara Falls & Zuma Rock are located in Niger State. You can see Zuma while in Abuja, it’s just on the border of Niger State and Abuja. Guarara on the other hand is further in Niger State, about two hours from Abuja. The roads are good until you get into Niger State and encounter a stretch of road under construction. It is about a 10-15 walk down to the falls once you get to the parking lot.
In the evening, I went to an old friend’s place to watch the soccer game – Brazil vs. Belgium. It was great meeting her family and re-connecting after 5 years.
Day 28 (July 7, Saturday): Day trip to Nassarawa State Farin Ruwa Falls
Decided to take another trip with Motley Travels. My couchsurfer friend – Roberta came along. Farin Ruwa is located in Nassarawa State, it is not a piece of cake but worth it. It took 2hours 50 minutes to get to the road leading to Farin Ruwa. Then another 1 hour (road in deplorable condition) to the last village where you begin a 6km walk. You will have to walk through three streams before getting to the Farin Ruwa’s entrance.
It took us 25 minutes from the last village to the 1st stream which is knee length deep (I’m short – 5’3). 36 minutes from 1st to 2nd stream. 6 mins from 2nd to 3rd stream. 10 minutes from 3rd stream to the entrance and another 15 minutes of walking and climbing to the waterfalls from entrance. The most difficult walk for me was from the 1st to the 2nd stream – that had several places that was uphill. The 2nd and 3rd stream wasn’t deep, slightly above the ankle.
I promise you when I say the long walk (no intense climbing) was worth it. Farin Ruwa means White Water in the local language. I was impressed and beyond excited.
Note, we decided to take the longer way to the Falls, you have an option of taking a motorbike from the last village directly to the entrance but we wanted to walk J. On our way back though, we took the bike because we wanted to get back to Abuja before it got real late. We were picked up at 8am in the morning and arrived back at Abuja around 8.30pm.
Day 29 (July 8, Sunday): Abuja to Lagos Jabi Lake Park
Usman DamDepart Abuja at 5pm Arrive in Lagos at 6.30pm Shrine (only stay to 9pm)
We decided to cross out Usman Dam because it was on the outskirt of town. We (Roberta and I) met up at Jabi Lake Park. Jabi Lake is an artificial lake that a park surrounds. It was commissioned sometimes during Obasanjo presidency so between 1999-2006). Beautiful to go on a stroll, jog or run or anything active. We stopped by Coco Café, which overlooks the Lake for chat and drinks.
I got back to the Airbnb and later to the airport. The flight was delayed for 2 hours with no explanation. I’m side eyeing Air Peace! Arrived in my favorite city in the whole wide world – Lagos, AKA Las Gidi at 8.20pm.
Got home, drooped my bag, had a change of clothes and headed out to The New African Shrine to watch Femi Kuti perform. So back in University when I was in Nigeria, I used to go to Shrine every Sunday to watch Femi play at Shrine. So it felt GREAT to experience this again. Femi was going on a tour so it was my last chance anyway to watch him before he left. One of my secondary (high) school friends met up with me there.
Day 30 (Monday, July 9): Lagos Mainland Lunch at Amala Shitta 2pm (Surulere)
I wanted to relax this day so only went out to lunch at a popular Buka/Mama Put that is popular for my favorite food – Amala. Shitta is an area in Surulere. Surulere is in Lagos Island. There are several Amala joint in Shitta area but Olaiya Amala somehow became more known to people. Anyways, the food was good but way too pepperish (spicy), it felt like my mouth was on FIRE!!! The customer service sucks big time. So I most likely wouldn’t go back there.
I was told of another place in Surulere, close to Olaiya Amala called Amala Akinyemi. My Taxify driver said Amala Akinyemi had better tasting food than Olaiya so I would give that a try next time. Two of my friends met up with me there.
P.S, Buka or Mama Put means the same thing – it is a local eatery. Pretty much a local version of a fast food restaurant that focuses on Nigeria cuisine.
Day 31 (Tuesday, July 10): Lagos Mainland Nigerian Railway Compound 12noon(Ebute Metta) Yaba White House 2pm
We took a visit to The Nigerian Railway Compound. I was told there a little museum there. Railway used to be a big deal in Nigeria. It is slowly making a recovery. The guide was very helpful and gave us so much history and info. They are building a bigger museum in the Railway Compound. The Legacy Foundation did the restoration of the museum. The foundation is involved in restoring historical houses in Lagos and advocating against the demolition of historical houses. I couldn’t take great pictures here because it started raining heavily. My friend Star, her friend and my mum came along with me on this visit.
After the Railway Museum, we went to have lunch at yet another Amala Mama Put. The Amala at Yaba White House was immaculate, cheaper than Olaiya Amala and with reasonable amount of spiciness. The customer service was good. Way better than Olaiya Amala.
Day 32 (Wednesday, July 11): Lagos Mainland Kalakuta (Ikeja) 2pm University of Suya
Another relaxed day. In the afternoon, met up with my cousin – Busola to pay homeage to Fela Anikulapo Kuti. We went to his former house which is now a museum. Apparently, you are suppose to make a reservation. We didn’t know that. The security guard told us a line to use so the museum can be opened for us. The barterner working at the roof top bar in the same building opened it to us.
Since he wasn’t working at the museum. He wasn’t able to give us any information. We simply walked about the 3 level museums, taking pictures and reading from the clips to get some of the info we wanted. We ended the visit at the Roof Top Bar. We gave the bartender a tip and the security guard a tip as well for telling us what to say to get the museum opened for us.
We stopped at University of Suya close by to try out the suya. Suya is the most famous street food in Nigeria. My opinion is Nigerians in the diaspora made University of Suya popular because I have tasted better suya.
Day 33 (Thursday, July 12): Lagos Island Awolowo Museum (Epe) Lufasi Park (Lekki Epe expressway, Abijo) Freedom Park (Lagos Island) Bogobiri (Ikoyi)
A really busy day. We (my mom and I) left home on the mainland around 9.30am because morning rush hour traffic on the major bridge connecting the mainland to the island would have cleared by that time. Two hours later, we arrived at out first stop – Lufasi Nature Park. It cost N1,000/person. It is a small park but beautiful. A guide will walk you through. The animals present there are rescued animals. There’s a play area for children, an artificial lake and picnic area.
After the park, we moved on The Awolowo Institute of Research and Policy Center. Chief Obafemi Awolowo is one of Nigeria’s founding father. I grew up hearing about him, he died in 1983 – two years before I was born. His house in his home state (Ikenne Remo, Ogun State) is adjacent my family’s house. Awo as he is popularly called lived on in many people hearts. Anyways, it only felt right to pay homage to Awo. The beach is right in front of the museum!
This museum was where he was imprisoned for a month. Awo spent a lot of time going to jail. His jailers were the various Nigeria Military Head of State who were pissed at his efforts (along with others) to regain democracy of Nigeria. He was initially prisoned at a prison in Broad street, Lagos Island (now known as The Freedom Park) before he was moved to this place in Epe because they wanted to isolate him. Epe, then was only accessible by water so they thought it was a great place to hide him from the public. They were wrong, they had visitors from all over, and the people of Epe came to visit him. The then military government moved him yet again because he was receiving too many visitors. He was moved to Calabar when he was later released. We paid N1,000/person for entrance.
We moved on to Freedom Park in Lagos Island. Entrance is N200/person. I always find Freedom Park peaceful and a great place to people watch. There is always a performance there. There is an Art Gallery, a museum, food court, mini eatery and a stage on ground. There were shooting a movie when I was there. My mom left me there to go visit my grandma. I people watched until it was time to go to Bogobiri.
I was tired by the time I got to Bogobiri around 6pm so I couldn’t wait for the live music performance at 7.30/8pm. I love Bogobiri, I used to hang out here a lot when I lived briefly in Nigeria from 2012-2014. The Art around the place is fascinately. They have an hotel there as well. Thursday night is for live music. The last Tuesday of the month is for Taruwa – spoken words. Cost is N500/person for Thursday and Taruwa.
Day 34 (Friday, July 13): Lagos Lekki Market The Backyard (VI)
I went to Lekki Art and Craft Market to buy somethings. They have really great stuff there from bags (leather or Ankara) to paintings to cravings to dresses (Ankara print).
Later, met up with a friend at The Backyard. Oh, how I love this place. It has now become my second favorite after Terra Kulture to hang out. Ambience is great, décor is excellent. Food is not cheap though. We left before 5pm to beat the afternoon rush hour traffic. You don’t want to be stuck in Lagos traffic, it has the power to make you reconsider your life!
Day 35 (Saturday, July 14): Lagos Makoko (meet 8am at Makoko land) Lekki conservation park (Lekki) Terra Kulture
Another busy day. We visited Makoko – a community on water. The community has been around for almost 100 years now. It was founded by various tribes from southwest and south-south area of Nigeria. These tribes are known to be skilled Fishermen hence the need to live by the water. The name Makoko came from the word ‘Mahoho’. The community had a practice called Mahoho where they publicly shamed people caught stealing or involved in adultery before expelling them from the community. They would put those accussed of these two crimes in a boat and go around the community shouting the person’s name and the crime the person committed. Outsiders who came to the community to buy fish and other sea food saw the practice and would refer to the community as ‘the place where they do Mahoho). It later evolved to Makoko.
This community was brought to limelight when a young talented Nigerian architect constructed a floating school. All of a sudden, several foundations was created by outsiders and several NGOs began raising money for the ‘poor people of Makoko’. I don’t know if the people of Makoko identified as poor people. It didn’t seem like it. The community was refered to as a slum on water and other names that the people of Makoko did not call themselves. In turn, the people became hostile to outsiders. You can not just go to Makoko nowadays. You will permission from a community member and big cameras are not permitted. Even with your phones, be cautious when taking a picture, people do not appreciate you pointing your camera at them. They will cuss you out.
There is only one primary (elementary) school in the community. The school cannot accommodate all the primary aged children in the community. It is in need of resources and an extension. Unfortunately, the floating school collapsed. It was rumored that one of the fishermen took one of the anchor that supported the floating school hence it’s collapsed. We asked Noah, the community leader, he said the floating school was just a model that was not meant to support many people.
One of the noticeable thing is the dirt and plastic in the water. Noah – the community leader claimed there was a sewage in the area that pushed the plastic into the community. Might be true, but we saw people in the community throw their trash in the water. They don’t see the trash and plastic issue as a problem so oh well.
We stopped by to get lunch before going to Lekki Conservation Center. It cost N1,000/person for entrance and another N1,000/person if you want to do the canopy walk, which is the longest in Africa. We decided to eat our lunch in the car since the monkeys at the center have gotten too bold. The canopy walk was exciting for some of us and scary for others. Star was hilarious – almost like she was crawling. If you are afraid of height, this might be a problem.
After the canopy walk, we sat to drink coconut water while we waited for my other friends running on Nigerian time.
We ended the day at Terra Kulture. I LOVE Terra Kulture. No way, I would be in Nigeria and not go there. There is a bookstore, study area, Art gallery, restaurant and space for plays, concert and conference. Pretty much, my type of place. We dined on fried sweet potatoes, fried yams, fried dodo (plantain) and off course palm wine.
Day 36 (Sunday, July 15): Epe Epe Mangrove
We left Lekki around 10.30am and got to Epe about 1.5 hour later. Epe Mangroves – what can I say? Simply serene and peaceful. It was a canoe ride and we visited a village on the other side of the mangrove. Upon getting off the boat, I fell into a swamp knee length. For a minute, I thought – wow, so this is how I will die? Lol.
After the Mangroove, we went to the Fish Market. We bought some prawns. We wanted to buy snails, but it was so expensive.
The last stop was the local brewery, well it’s just where a guy who migrated to the area 10 years ago produces his local gin. The local gin is called ‘Ogogoro’, made from fermented palm wine.
Day 37 (Monday, July 16):
Dedicated to running errands and brieftly visiting some folks.
Day 38 (Tuesday, July 17): Lagos Mainland Jevnick restaurant- Ikeja GRA
Since I like food, met up with two friends for lunch. I tried an soup from the South-East part of the country. Delicious!
Relaxed for the rest of the day. Chilled day
Day 39 (Wednesday, July 18): Lagos Hard Rock Cafe Roots (Ikoyi)
Took my cousin along with me. I wanted to check out Hard Rock Café. It has a beach in front of it. Great view. Ambience cool. Food and drinks over priced.
Stayed only an hour before going to Roots Restaurant and Bar to meet up with a few friends. My last outing before departing Lagos. Great conversation and food. I realized why I am much happier and less prone to anxiety in Nigeria. I surround myself with strong, amazing women. That night at Roots, I felt grat being in the mix of these awesome women. I don’t have this type of support in the U.S.
Anyways, it was a great night out.
Day 40 (Thursday, July 19): Anti-social behavior loading
Pretty much, packed and finished pending errands.
Day 41 (Friday, July 20): Kunbi departs
Flight left at 1.40pm for Cairo. My parents wanted me to leave the house at a ridicously time. I HATE waiting at airport. In the end, we left at 10.30am. Got to the airport at 11am – no traffic! Flight left on time. Arrived in Cairo at 9pm.
Egypt Air has a service where they would put you in a hotel if your layover is 6 hours or longer. Well we waited 3 freaking hours for them to process this. We walked into the hotel in the airport past midnight. I didn’t have expectation for the hotel since I found out it was Le Meridien. I didn’t enjoy Le Meridien in Giza but this one is updated.
While waiting for hotel to be processed at the airport, I meyt some interesting characters. Well, let be back track to the flight from Lagos. I was seated by this Syrian guy who went to visit his girlfriend in Nigeria and vacation there. He said they met online and she is Nigerian. I asked where he lived and he said in Syria. I asked about the war and he said something along the line that Syria was ok. I was confused. He said he would connect to Beirut from Cairo and cross the border to Damascus where he lives. I subpected he wasn’t telling me the full story because it is just simply rare that he would leave a war torn proven (asd told by western media) go vacation in Nigeria and return to a country that has an ongoing civil war.
My doubt was later confirmed when we were talking about salaries in various countries. He said the salary in Syria has always be trash but in Nigeria, you can make good money. So I suspect he went to work in Nigeria and took the money home.
Now back to the airport. A Nigerian that relocated from London to Abuja in a time where most people are relocating abroad. He was just frustrated and tired of living abroad. I could connect with him on that. I wanted to exchange contact but was too frustrated with waiting.
Met a girl who was having trouble boarding her connecting flight to Canada. Canadian’s version of Border Control re-interview people with visas to Canada at Cairo airport before letting them board the flight. The girl had just USD400 with her, no credit or debit card, hotel booked & paid, told the border agent she didn’t know anybody in Canada (a lie that her Travel agent told her to say) and she was spending 20 days in Canada. The border agent wasn’t convinced because how can USD400 substain you for 20 days in a place who don’t know anybody. In the end, I don’t know what happened to her. She looked really sad and worried the last I saw her.
Met a guy going to Utah for his PhD in Ecology on a full scholarship #blackexcellence #naijasmart. This is his first trip to the U.S. I exchanged contact with him because why not.
The last guy I conversed with. Regretted that by the way. It began as a normal conversation. We actually talked about the girl with the issue with Canadian Border Patrol. He mentioned he was going to Dallas with Spirit Airlines from LGA. I made a joke about not getting to his destination. Then something changed when he asked what church I went to. I said I don’t practice Christianity or any other organized religion. He was shocked like most Nigerians. He wanted to further the conversation on that topic, I declined firmly. This was then it took a creepy turn.
I was handed over the room keys for the 10 people in our group of Lagos-Cairo flight. He asked me to give him a room next to mine. I ignored him. Unfortunately, our rooms ended by each other anyways because I had to put a mama and her kids in a room by each other. Anyways, I latched closed my room. At 5.30am, someone was knocking at my door. I don’t it couldn’t be hotel staff because I had the ‘Do Not Disburb’ sign on the door handle. I peeped through the hole and saw him. I went back to sleep. He called my room, when I picked up I didn’t say anything when I heard his voice, I disconnected the phone cord. I left my room at 7.05pm to go down to breakfast. He was waiting forme he said at the lobby. I left him there to breakfast. Took my time, he was gone when I went back to the lobby. Like most Nigerians obsessed in getting at the airport way too early, he left. Thank God. I didn’t make it to the gate until boarding started. Unfourtunately, I passed by him on the way to my seat on the plane.
So there is my theory. I believe he saw me as vulunerable, as someone he could take advantage of because I’m religionness. He probably assumed because I had no religion, I had no morals or ethics. And he probably wanted to test his limit. He has a wife and son by the way.
Day 42 (Saturday, July 21): Began the long flight to New York City (11 hours 40 minutes).
Nothing eventful. Made it safely to JFK and headed to my hotel in Newark.
Day 43 (Sunday, July 22):
Arrived in Dallas at 8.30am. Moved my stuff from the storage unit to my new apartment. And got ready for work the next day.
WOW! It has really been 4 months, 3 weeks and 4 days since I uploaded my last blog. So much has happened since then.
Until August, I was extremely busy making a pet project (SCN) a reality. SCN (Summer Camp Nigeria) was an amazing 2 weeks experience for pre-teens and teenagers. It took place in Lagos, Nigeria and had 40 participants ranging from ages 4 to 16. It was a pilot program, had many challenges planning it but in the end it was all worth it. We gave a survey to the camp participants (to be filled out anonymously). One kid said this when asked to describe his/her SCN experience “Summer Camp Nigeria has changed me mentally, physically, socially and spiritually. It has been a once in a lifetime experience.” Another kid said this when asked about lessons they are taking away from SCN, “That humans are totally different, our characters are our greatest assets and our minds are our greatest tools.” With powerful quotes like these, I can’t help but feel really grateful to all that made this pet project a reality. Definitely my greatest highlight of this year…This is a link to the video the kids made on their SCN experience.
In September, I was mostly recovering from stress associated with SCN, so mostly I just tried to relax and get back my social life. I attended a conference in Osogbo, Osun State (about 4 hours from Lagos State) on Afro-Identity. It was organized by the one of the most prestigious universities in Nigeria – Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun state. I didn’t attend as just a conference participant but as a paper presenter – YES, I presented a paper on Afro-Colombian Identity. I was pretty nervous because there were many important names in the house including Wole Soyinka. In the end, I was grateful, I got great feedback on my presentation and folks actually thought that I am incredible smart (hmm I don’t know how to respond to compliments/praises). I also made contact with amazing folks from Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Germany, Cameroon and Nigeria. As a part of the conference, we visited the King’s palace –the Alaafin of Oyo – the Alaafin is the king of Oyo state, the military capital of the old Yoruba kingdom. My first time in a palace or in front of a king – I was greatly impressed by the Alaafin, he is such an intelligent man. One thing that stayed with me from the visit is the greeting given to the Alaafin by the Brazilian and Cuban conference participants. They greeted the Alaafin in Yoruba (heavy Brazilian/Cuban accent) and using the same gestures as if they were Nigerian Yorubas. These people had never been to Nigeria before this, the greetings and other cultural displays were those handed down to them from generation to generation that survived slavery and assimilation to the mestizo culture of Latin America.
October, I was occupied with paperwork associated with completing my National service program. Remember my first post from Nigeria detailing my experience at the military camp. Well, I completed the remaining 11 months of community development. We ‘graduated’ on October 10. Gracias a Dios! So now am officially unemployed :(.
I’ve met up with 3 couchsufers so far – 2 from Argentina and 1 from France. I also hosted my first couchsurfers this month – two ladies. I have always surfed someone’s couch/extra bedroom so it was great to host finally :). I went to Benin Republic with them. It was an admazing adventure. First we crossed the Seme border (Nigeria & Benin Republic) by ourselves. Anybody familiar with this border crossing will be nervous about crossing it alone. In the past I’ve always used an international bus to cross. I had horror imagination of crossing without the international bus; however, the process wasn’t even half as bad as I assumed. If you have an ECOWAS passport, no luggage and not driving a car, then you should have zero problems. I will still encourage foreigners (non-ECOWAS passport holder) to use the international bus though; it will save you hassle and stress. On getting to Cotonou, we ate lunch and went straight to Lake Gauvie. I’ve always wanted to sleep overnight at the lake and we did it this time 🙂 #alifetimeexperience. I came back to Lagos the next time while they went on to Togo.
Oh, I also started job hunting. I’m not too picky on where I find a job but I would prefer somewhere in Africa, Latin America, or Caribbean – I wouldn’t mind DMV or NYC area of USA as well. I would prefer a job in the Education (administration mostly), Policy, Research or International affairs sector. I have experience in Project Coordination/Management, research and event planning. So please if you know of something that fits this, tell me know. I really do need a job, unemployment is NOT fun. Thanks….
This month (November), am recovering from a two-weeks mini self-pity state of mind. Mostly, I have been indoors, sleeping, eating, reading novels and doing it all over again. Today, I woke up with a promise to myself – self-pity will not bring me anything good so am just going to take each day -a day at a time. Intensify my job search, continue to network and hang out with friends.
Remember the Team FUN adventures I mentioned in the previous post. Well since June, we have gone to Badagry (July), Erin Ijesha, Osun Groove & Ooni’s palace (September), Arinta Waterfalls & Ikogosi warm springs (October). These trips were AMAZING. Who knew Nigeria had such beautiful sites to explore. The last Team FUN trip for this year will be on November 23, 2013. It will be a day trip to Erin Ijesha Waterfalls in Osun State. If you are interested or know anyone that might be interested, please send an email to me – firstname.lastname@example.org or add me on bbm (2998B321). Also if you need someone to organize your family trips or you have friends/family members coming to Nigeria for the holiday and need a tour guide, shoot me an email or bbm. My fees are not expensive I promise, I truly believe in exploring the Nigerian tourism sites :).
Oh, I climbed 653 stairs and walked 5 miles in one day – impressive, right? The most I ever climbed was 649 stairs at El Penon, Colombia. I went to Idanre Hills with two friends. On top of the hill is the former settlement of the Idanre people before they moved their village down the hill. The houses, Palace, court, school on the hill were made from mud, cool!
Lastly, I’m the project director for a communicator program scheduled to hold from December 16 to 21. This program – Scribes & Orators will focus on developing the writing and public speaking skills of preteens & teenagers (ages 8 to 16). Do tell your friends, family and co-workers about this rewarding program. Check this website for additional information or email/bbm me.
Thanks for reading this very long post 🙂 . I actually did miss blogging.
p.s, Naija is slang for Nigeria. ‘Things’ or ‘Tins’ is also slang in Nigeria use to describe events or anything pertaining to how you are living your life. For example, you can say ‘Work Things/Tin’ (to mean you are at the office or working on office project). You got it? So, now let me stop this ‘blogging things’…….
Until next time…..
I decided staying in a village will make me miserable, plus I was rejected at the school I was posted to. According to the school’s principal, I wouldn’t cope at the school because I am a foreign trained student. So I began the process of getting re-posted to Ibadan (the capital of Oyo State). I was naive enough to believe this process would be easy and straightforward but I was dead wrong. First, there was no office or person/official in charge of this. I was at the head office in Ibadan every day for 2 whole weeks before I finally got an official to accept & approve my re-posting. I was very lucky – he (the official) only accepted my application because I schooled abroad. All my other friends that schoole d in Nigeria either had to bribe or bring their influential parent before they could get anything done.
I began apartment hunting – a tortuous process. All the apartments I saw were very disgusting. I wasn’t asking for a lot – I just wanted a decent place with running water. In January, I had to pick the best of these apartments. The apartment had two rooms, kitchen, bathroom and no living room. The bathroom and shower were not tiled so we had to pay for it to get tiled #1stworldproblems. There was running water, constant electricity & it was located in a very safe neighborhood. I shared with another girl.
I loved my Job at Ibadan; I was posted to a research institute – Nigerian Institute of Social & Economic Research. My boss was amazing and engaged me in several research projects. I had few friends in Ibadan so I should be happy right? No, I hated Ibadan. It was way better than the village I was originally posted to but still wasn’t the city I would want to live in. In Ibadan, there are no places to hangout during the day, no malls or interesting sights and there were plenty extremely aggressive people. The city had no flavor to it, just plain, big, dirty and very ugly! I went to Lagos every weekend so as not to die of boredom. At the end of January, I got a call – the happiest call since I moved back to Nigeria. I was re-deployed to Lagos!
So February, I was busy completing registration out of Ibadan, subletting my room and beginning registration at Lagos. The only disappointment I had in Lagos was I wasn’t allowed to work at a research institute. Lagos corpers have just two choices – working in a school or at the local government (county office). I was posted to a local government. At the office, I was told by my boss that there was nothing for me to do so I shouldn’t bother coming to work L. At that point, I started brainstorming projects I can do, no way was I going to be a bum.
In Lagos, I began to grasp my new life. Many people consider it fun, interesting or exotic to ‘live like a local’. This is true if the country you are living as a local is NOT your country of origin. I loved my experience living like a local in Colombia and Honduras. Living like a local sucks for me in Nigeria because I lived here for the first 17 years of my life, I have family here, I have ties here. It is simply not exotic!
With the national service program, we are paid an equivalent of USD$125 per month. I have never lived on $125 a month. The least I’ve lived on is $400/month (in Honduras) and Honduras is way cheaper than Nigeria. A bulk of my money is spent on transportation – Lagos is similar to Houston, Texas in that if you don’t have a car, getting around is complicated.
I keep myself busy and sane by taking French classes; online courses via Coursera and exploring Lagos & surrounding states. Also, am partnering with an Educational organization to launch a Summer Camp Program in Nigeria. The camp is scheduled to hold in August. Check out our website Summer Camp Nigeria.
To be honest, the move back to Nigeria has not been an easy transition for me. It has been a roller-coaster; some weeks I’m depressed, others am just fine. I continue to network and explore Lagos. Another thing I do is to organize fun trip (Team FUN) with a group of people from my network. Many Nigerians don’t travel within the country and there are expatriates interested in seeing the country. So monthly, Team FUN visits new places. So far, we have gone to Tarkwa Bay beach and Olumo Rock, pictures coming soon.
As in and no be small thing o are common slang used in Nigeria. No be small thing o means it is not that easy. As in is used in the same way Americans use ‘you know what I mean’.
Background: my friend calls me up for a job she thinks I would be interested in. The company needed a recruitment agent that spoke Spanish. It sounded like a good opportunity so I forwarded my CV (Resume). The Operation Manager gave me a call – enjoy the conversation
Operation Manager: Good Afternoon, may I speak to …..
Me: I’m doing fine, and u?
Operation Manager: fine as well, I am calling about the recruitment position. What religion do you practice?
Operation Manager: What religion do you practice?
Me: I have no religion
Operation Manager: You have no religion?
Me: Yes, no religion
……call drop (me thinking, what a jerk, he hung up on me because I have no religion!). A few minutes later, my phone rings
Operation Manager: hmm, would you like to come for an interview? By the way, sorry the call dropped, poor network service
Me: Sure. When is the interview?
Operation Manager: if you can come in today, that will work fine
******fast forward to the interview********
As I enter the room, the man begins saying a prayer. The prayer included the ‘casting out of demons’, ‘sanctifying the room’ and several chanting along these lines. It went on for about 5 minutes. During this period, I was confused. Then I thought maybe he’s on the phone. After he stopped praying
Me: Hello. I’m Kunbi. I hope all is well
The man: yes, I’m **** ***** and I’m the Operational Manager. I was praying to cast out the demons you can with. Since you have no religion and your hair is dreadlock. All I need now is Holy Water to completely cast out the demons. So tell me, how come you don’t believe in God?
Me: (400% shocked) Oh, so that was what the prayers was all about. God and religion are not the same thing.
Operation Manager: so what happened to make you not have a religion? You schooled in the U.S.A, right? It must be the American influence. Here in Nigeria, you must have a religion. Without a religion, you are lost. You are like a headless chicken without direction. And your hair, you will have to cut off the dreads within one week of working here.
Me: okay, your opinion. Nothing is going to make me cut off my hair.
Operation Manager: No, it’s not my opinion. It is a fact. You see, I win souls for Christ. I was responsible for my best friend becoming a Christian, now he is very dedicated to the church. I just pity you because you are unfortunate without a religion. The man that will marry you will be so unlucky because he will end up with unfortunate person like you. Do you wear heals, make-up, dresses, skirts? You see your problem is, you are too simple.
Me: [my mind suddenly goes blank, as I can’t believe what I’m hearing, so I shrugged my shoulders].
The Operation Manager went on to say more inappropriate and offensive stuff………………..then offered me the position……At that point, I was ready to leave. I had been trying really hard to mentally erase all he said to me but without much success.
After this interview (my first in Nigeria), I cried. I felt so belittled and couldn’t do anything about it.
Until next post……………………………….
The purpose of this post is to provide necessary information pertaining to NYSC for those folks that schooled abroad.
- Step 1: keep in mind, NYSC mobilizes graduates 3 times a year. The first – Batch A is around March, Batch B in June and Batch C in Nov. Registration close for foreign trained students a month before camp begin. So always check the NYSC website for updates in case anything changes.
- Step 2: you have to physically appear at the NYSC headquarters in Abuja to register. This registration can take a whole day. I’ll advise you to schedule two days to complete registration. Make sure to take all ORIGINAL copies of your documents and make at least 8 photocopies of each document. Check their website for which documents to bring. Make sure to have your Nigerian passport. Have at least 30 passport photos and a pen. Start buying things you need for camp. For a sample list, check below.
- Step 3: Wait for your ‘Call up Letter’. This letter shows what state you are deploy to serve and the start date of camp. You can request to pick up your call up letter from your state of residence (if you don’t live in Abuja). Usually you have between 4-5 days to report to camp from the date the call up letter is ready for pick up.
- Step 4: Report to camp. It is advisable to report the very first day of camp. That way, you will have a head start with registration. Endure an intensive 3 weeks of paramilitary camp. For my camp experience, check out ‘It has been a very Long Thing’. On the last day of camp, you will be given another letter called ‘The Posting Letter’. This letter will either make you smile or cry because it shows what city/town/village and the institution you are expected to serve for the remaining 11 months of the program. In the ideal world, you cannot choose where you will be posted. But in reality, you can actually arrange it in camp to get posted to a favorable place. Ask around in camp (the soldiers cannot help you with this), it might cost you some money.
- Step 5: Report to whatever institution in the city/town/village you were posted to. Prepare to be accepted or rejected at the institution. The institution you end up working with is your ‘Place of Primary Assignment (PPA). If accepted, you have no problem; you can proceed with other registration. If rejected, you will either be assigned to another institution or you can seek ‘request letter’ from an approved institution of your choice. Note, by law you are required to serve in any government agency or schools. No private institution is allowed (except private schools).
- Step 6: If accepted at your PPA, complete all registration at your assigned Local Government (LG), including opening a bank account (you will be told which bank). Then apply for a 2 weeks leave. This should allow you look for accommodation and transport your belongings to this city/town/village that you will serve for 11 months. You might have to do some registration at your PPA, do this before going on the 2 weeks leave.
- If you want a re-deployment to another state. The process is tiring, by law, re-deployment is only granted on health issues or to be with a spouse. But as usual, you can work your way around it. It will cost you money!
- Step 7: at the end of your 2 weeks leave, you begin work. Once a week, you are excused from going to work for the ‘Community Development Service (CDs)’ at your local government. You are given a CDs card that must be signed by your Local Government Inspector (LGI) weekly.
- Step 8: once a month, you must collect a ‘Clearance Letter’ from your PPA stating that they are satisfied with your work and that you do not owe them any money. You will take this letter to your Local Government office and sign a ‘Payment Voucher (PV)’ before the federal government will pay your monthly stipend to the bank account you opened. Failure to sign a PV will result in disciplinary actions against you.
- Step 9: If all things go well, at the end of your 11 months service you must participate in the ‘Passing out Parade (POP) and your certificate will be given out. This certificate will be required before any employer offers you a job.
Note, every time you go to the NYSC head office or your assigned local government, you HAVE to dress in the appropriate uniform (that is, your khaki pants, white t-shirt and white tennis shoes/jungle boot). Nobody will attend to you if you fail to abide by this dress code.
Camp: Sample list of things you will need
(1) Baby wipes and toilet paper
(2) At least 5 round neck white t-shirts and 2-3 white shorts -it can be knee length, mine was
(3) 5 pairs of white socks and 2 pairs of white tennis shoes
(4) Medicines: anti diarrhea, vitamin c, cold & cough, acetaminophen/tylenol or ibuprofen
(5) Soap, sponge, detol, hand sanitizer, body lotion, toothbrush & paste, 2 towels
(6) Enough underwear for 3wks, sanitary pad, body spray
(7) Bed sheet, pillow and pillowcase
(8) Mosquito net and mosquito repellent
(9) Bathroom slipper/flip-flop
(10) Waist pouch (big enough to hold your cash, phone and key to your luggage)
(11) torchlight/flash light
(12) Books to read (if you are the reading type)
(13) At least 8 photocopies of each of your credentials and documents including your American passport and university ID card. Bring a folder to store all your document
(14) Your Nigerian passport and 20 passport photos
(15) Phone & charger (I took my blackberry and Nokia c7 and it wasn’t stolen – you just have to be careful)
(17) Padlock/combination locks to secure your luggage
(19) Your own cutlery and food container if you plan on eating at the camp kitchen. I didn’t bring mine and I was fine since I ate all my meals at the mami market (camp market)
(20) 2-4 change of clothes
(21) Cash – between 40,000 to 50,000 Naira minimum cash
(22) Open mindedness!
It felt great to go back home after almost four years of being away!! Plus I needed the break to refresh before graduate school resumes in January. Overall, it was 5 weeks of enjoyment, good food, lots of rest, peace of mind and all of those positive things. Also, it was good to see my family and friends ….
It was my first time in Ghana. I visited only Accra.
Well I wouldn’t write more, enjoy the pictures. Look out for more blog entries this summer; I’ll be doing a summer internship in South America…..