Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My first road trip in Nigeria!

Just few days into my entry into a new land, I was on the road. The distance between Abuja and Jos is about 300 km and thanks to the great condition of Nigerian roads [two lane to six lane], we made it there in less that 4 hours! The Nigerians were surprised to here me say that their roads were better than ours in India:)

The drive to Jos was absolutely amazing! Jos is in "Plateau State" and is literally on a plateau, hence, the cool weather...We passed by small green and brown hills, vast expanse of land, Its also an abundant producer of fruits and vegetables...and many volunteers do their grocery shopping here.. Good news is that the mango season is just about to start and I already saw huge mangoes on the road sides...it was just amazing...

We attended a "Volunteer Patch Meeting" of the northern patch which has about 40 volunteers across the northern states. It was a great opportunity to meet volunteers from Netherlands, Canada, UK, Ireland, Uganda, Kenya, US, Australia who have been serving in Nigeria for six months and more...I was so inspired by all of them...they all shared that after the initial months of a bit of loneliness, frsutration, depression, there comes a time where everybit of this experience is worth cherishing! Each one of them simply loves living here and some have even gotten extensions or gotten jobs here:) One of the volunteers described Nigeria as a "naughty child in your classroom: you get so annoyed by him but you also adore how his excitement and wit livens the classroom!"

We had two days of workshops with volunteers taking creative sessions on planning, cultural diversity, motivation, monitoring and evaluation, sharing skills [popularily known as speed dating], theatre for development!

We just walked around town, went to the Jos museum. The first thing I saw was the currency exchange section and I thought of Parth immediately...this is his favourite part of any museum!
Nigerians have had a history of using various things like cowrie shells, iron materials, even cloth as media of exchange. We saw very nicely preserved pots and pans, musical instruments, dresses, masks [again parth's favourite], weapons...It was quite interesting...

The best icecream in Jos market and my first Nigerian rain were the highlights of the day! We went around the market looking at fabric shops and there were so many lovely colours and shades of fabric...We went to a supermarket and I was surprised to see so many familiar brands and I kept shouting whenever I saw something familiar [Parth, you would have found it quite funny!].

One of the purposes of such a visit is to make the new volunteer familiar with public transport. So we were all paired with an existing volunteer and we had to find our own public transport to
get back to Abuja. Nigeria has a very interesting public transport system. They have these licensed motorparks where you go to take a taxi or minibus to your destination. You wait till a
vehicle fills up and then you are on your way! Then there these motorbikes called "okadas"! These are quite fast and get around much more easily than the taxies. So Steve [from Kenya] and I hopped on an Okada each to reach the nearest motorpark. There we booked a taxi [which takes about 7 people]. The taxi guy was quite happy to see an Indian in his taxi, he even called me "didi"! Our ride back was quite comfortable and we reached Abuja is about 3 hours! Congrats, Mana on your first ride!

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