Monday, March 2, 2009

Goodbye Naija



Its difficult to believe that almost a year has passed since I became a part of GIVE's family. I came to GIVE and to Nigeria with a lot hope, excitement, curiosity and eagerness to make a difference. Lagos to me was very much like India in all its hustle & bustle and vibrancy. Though the traffic and NEPA were tough to get used to, the music, the art & culture scene, the BRT, the beaches and most importantly the PEOPLE have made this an unforgettable experience.

Over the past year, working with the Network gave me the opportunity to work with a number of organizations and different people. I have been lucky to witness some impactful initiatives and meet committed visionaries. Thank you especially to Falana Martin-Mary, Princess, Ijeoma, Felix, Charles, Dr Chika for accepting my small contributions. As a volunteer, there was tremendous value and respect for my experience, skills and perspective. It was humbling to receive invitations to workshops and seminars outside GIVE.


One of the reasons that I chose to volunteer with VSO is that I wanted to test myself and my skills to see how much I really know and can do. Working at GIVE, I have had my hands full throughout my time here, which is a great thing. Its better to be busy than bored! I had a great boss-Mayowa Joel who listens, advices, asks & appreciates! He has given me the freedom to plan out my work and has been open to my comments, complaints, and ideas. colleagues-Ike Nwibe & Nike Fagade and volunteers especially Titi Kazeem, Yinka Coker and Shittu Abiodun have been patient and welcoming of my inputs and work style. I have had challenges from not being able to plan realistically to having to multitask and focus of things which were outside my initial work plan. But I have enjoyed most of it. The struggle, stress and challenge occasionally came from the constant thought in the back of my head that my job is to not just do the job but make sure they can continue to do it after I leave. And also good to know that the Network is also seriously concerned and taking necessary steps to address this issue. I cannot say that I have found the answer to that for every situation, but the process has been quite intellectually invigorating! As a volunteer, there was tremendous value and respect for my experience, skills and perspective. It was humbling to receive invitations to workshops and seminars outside GIVE. In my time here, I have realised what is it that I like, what I hate, what I am good at and what I am not good at. I have realised that there are levels of perfection, that I am good at making something from bad to good but I sometimes lack the patience, discipline & creativity to take it from good to great. I get too concerned with the how and the process and sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture. Having these realisations and sporadic light bulbs in my head have made me come closer to being aware of myself and understand my actions.

I have never lived on my own before. I was living a very comfortable life with my parents and then with my husband. I have never been away from Delhi for more than a month. In Delhi, I go around in my car and seldom use public transport. With the maid and cook, I have never had to do my own laundry, cleaning, or cooking. Given that here, I have managed to get around using public transport, done my own cleaning, washing and cooking, I feel I have conquered Everest! Living away from my husband has been more hard than I had imagined. But being on my own, I have learnt to take care of myself in ways i can’t describe here. I made some smart decisions and some stupid decisions, but the feeling that these have been my decisions have made the consequences quite bearable. Though I am sociable, I have been uncomfortable and stressed thinking about creating a whole new social life for myself away from home. But I am amazed at both the warmth and acceptance of my landlords, colleagues and friends here as well as my ability to develop and maintain relationships which will surely last beyond this one year.
Living in a different developing country, I cannot help but notice the stark similarities between India and Nigeria. Being here I believe even more strongly that a country cannot be defined by the nature, attitudes and limitations of its people. I flinch when anyone’s reaction to a problem, is “well, this is Nigeria!” I see the same problems and frustrations in India and I believe that a country works because of the system that governs it. People are essentially the same everywhere. Though contexts and history is different, human nature is homogenous. Nigeria has the same mix of the good, bad, and in betweens as in India as in any other country. My first host family (Pastor Samson, Lizzy, Christabelle) and second host family (Professor & Mrs Victor Adefela) have loved and cared for me as their daughter. All the wonderful people at HOPE have made my days very colourful, happy and fun. I have made many dear friends over the year who have showered me with their love, warmth and protection and its difficult to name them all.

Working with a Network gave me the opportunity to work with a number of organizations and different people during my limited time here. I have been lucky to witness some impactful initiatives and meet committed visionaries. But it pains me to see that mostly all the organizations I worked with, though they have great leaders, they are struggling with the same issues—lack of systems and processes for organizational and program management. They seem to be stuck in a captivating spiral of insufficient resources and lack of competent & dedicated staff to enable them to scale up and multiply the reach of their impact. I hope this frustration of mine will guide me choosing what I do with my life in the future.

I have been also lucky enough to travel across Nigeria and witness the sights, sounds, and vibrancy of the Calabar Christmas Carnival, coolness of Jos, the ancient markets of Kano, the lush sacred forests of Osogbo, and the moving slave relics of Badagry.
Nigeria is an exciting place to be and I am very glad it was my first stop in Africa!

Nigeria has a terrible reputation outside, particularly Lagos. Crime, traffic, filth are all alleged to contribute to making it the "worst" place to live! Yes there is crime, traffic and garbage everywhere, but not as bad as it is made out to be. I actually felt safer in Lagos buses then in Delhi buses! It is also good to know that the government is doing lot to improve on these things and there have been good improvements since my first arrival in Lagos. There have been many moments where I have witnessed kindness, acceptance, and humility. Twice I did not have sufficient change to pay for the bike ride from my home to the main road, the bike guy humbly accepted whatever change I had. People occasionally give up their seats for the elderly, pregnant women, and even me! I greet this one lady vendor while going to work and when I first bought a recharge card from her, she actually refused to take any money!

E ku se o Naija!

No comments: