Saturday 21 April 2012

Munday & Rosemary

Munday & Rosemary


Our driver at work got married this weekend. He and his bride Rosemary are he told me childhood sweethearts, but had waited until Rosemary had finished her studies to get married. They had gone through the private traditional ceremony last weekend which as much as I understand it is the business part, no dowry per say but the usual commitments to and by both the families, and today was their church wedding. I went with my colleagues to this my first Nigerian, indeed first African wedding.

In Nigeria, everyone is of one religious persuasion of another. When they ask me, the reaction my response gets ranges from bemusement, to disbelief, to concern, to persuasion. Not having and not practising a religion is not something most people have encountered. I’ve politely declined offers to take me to church on a Sunday, and being given religious fan mags to read. I’ve never felt the need to go to a church service anywhere as a tourist, since I went with a university friend of mine to a “wee free” island kirk service in Stornaway, to hear what could only be described as a hell, fire and brimstone preacher strut his stuff in Gaelic from the pulpit one Sunday morning.

But a wedding is a total different matter -  I’ve been to non religious weddings, registry office dos, Hindi weddings, Buddhist weddings, Catholic weddings, civic partnerships weddings. A wedding is after all a celebration of the union of two people who wish to spend the rest of their lives together. Whatever religious persuasion the participants have or don’t have  is in my book secondary to going along as a friend or colleague to support them on their big day and to celebrate with them.

I must however say a bit about the ceremony and the sermons, yes plural, given by the pastors, yes plural. Three in fact, and two formal sermons, plus prayers and then the more usual vows, signing registers. First it was an evangelical church, so I expected there to be music and there was – a band and a choir ; second in typical modern day fashion there was the guy with the video camera – which meant the pastor and the participants had huge hand held field mikes. Perhaps there wasn’t quite so much call and response action as I had anticipated everyone saying amen and hallelujah after every utterance form the pastor. Not quite. The most boisterous part, and actually the most enjoyable, was when the choir started singing and everyone got up from their seats, started to danced and shuffle their way into the aisle and sauntered off to shake hands with the new bride and groom.

The sermons, were something else. One was in Munday’s local language so i understood nothing, the other was in pidgin English so I caught the drift – all about honesty in marriage, but also about the “obey” part of the vows,m re-emphasising a woman’s role and a man’s role, and bringing home  to me just how entrenched views are which keep woman subservient to men.

I didn’t take many pictures, because being the only white face there is cause interruptive enough without striding forward like everyone else does to take pictures at the front of the church. But after the ceremony there was a formally set out order for photos and whilst the work groups was congregating to be next I managed to snap one a relatively OK one of Munday and Rosemary which you see here.

I skipped out on the reception because the wedding was in Kubwa, about 45 minute drive out of Abuja in the quiet of a Saturday morning and my boss Ibidun had thankfully offered to take me, but she needed to be back in Abuja for an afternoon appointment. So I missed the dancing of the reception.

Except for a couple of kids checking  me out during the service, and noticing the video man pan round where I was sitting I thought I had managed not to create too much of a white faced stir until we were exiting the church when a lovely old woman standing greeting everyone as they exited hugged and kissed me like some long lost sister :) I think it was Monday’s grandmother. 

So Munday and Rosemary, all the best as you start you life together, may it be everything you want it to be.

Friday 20 April 2012

Abuja weather

image Weather in Abuja comes as 2 or 3  seasons depending on how you look at it – there’s a warm, humid rainy season and a extremely hot dry season and then there is the period between these of the harmattan. 

The rainy season starts in April  - we are getting some rains already - and ends October. During this season day temperatures are around 30 C and night time lows around 22 C. All in all quite pleasant if it wasn’t so wet. I am told the annual rainfall is 1100 -1600 mm, the area being on the windward side of the Jos Plateau.

In the dry season, October to April, day temperatures get into the 40s and night time temperatures can drop to 12 degrees, chilly ! But the cool morning temperatures don’t last long and by 9AM they are climbing back up. I arrived in March towards the end of the hot season, so temperatures are currently falling.

The other weather feature, which I am not looking forward  to,  is the harmattan This comes between the 2 seasons any time from November through March. It is the NE Trade Wind blowing in from the Sahara and covering everywhere in dust and is cold ( even down to 3C) and very dry. These dust storms can severely limit visibility even blocking out the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog. It stayed late this year. It was still hanging around when I arrived here in mid March and the dust played havoc with my eyes,nose and face generally for the first couple of weeks. I wish I had my cheche with me :(

For now the heat of the day is bearable, the humidity climbing, currently I’d say ~60%, and the nights are restfully cool giving me plenty of time to find a blanket.

Check out the current weather conditions here.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

And there was light – an update to projects in India :)

Long time readers of my blog will remember my posts about sourcing chickens for Shakti’s backyard poultry project and being part of the initial visit to some remote villages at the start of a solar lighting project in Kasipur block.

I am really please to say that both these projects have been successful! You can read about it Shakti’s own blog, in their own words and pictures  - Backyard poultry - step towards  better livelihood and Light for happiness

Please join me in congratulating both the Shakti staff and the beneficiaries of both projects for all their hard work in making these projects a reality by leaving some congratulatory and encouraging message on their blog or Facebook Page

What a difference this will make!  May many more such projects bring light and income to the people of Kasipur block’s remote village communities.

Photo Copyright Shakti Organisation

Monday 16 April 2012

Evaporated Milk

image Who knew I’d be reminiscing about my childhood and visits to my maiden aunt Kate’s!

When I was very small she and her brother lived in the family house next door to us. When my uncle died, she moved into the town, so we had to take a bus trip to see her so it became a different sort of treat than spending time with my favourite Uncle john pottering in the garden.

Kate was a large, well lets face it huge lady, with the beginning of a moustache which tickle me something awful  when I was made as a child to kiss her. But  her saving grace was she was a tea fan, the teapot was always on the go.

What I am remembering now is that she never had fresh milk, unlike our house which always had full cream gold top milk which I still refer to this day to the water down semi skimmed variety that is all the rage in the UK.  Instead she had tubes of evaporated milk, yes if you’ve never seen them they did exist, believe me. Like the stuff you get now in tins, but a much thicker consistency, more like that of toothpaste. In tea, it gives a quite distinctive, sweeter flavour.

Little did I know that years later I would be sitting sipping tea in Nigeria with, yes, you guessed it, evaporated milk. I’ve yet to see fresh milk here at all , although you can get yogurt, and cheese if you pay for it – 840N for 200g of cheddar, ouch! – that makes cheese omelettes a real treat. More about prices of stuff coming in a future post.

Saturday 14 April 2012

My neighbours


I was preparing my meal with the back door of the flat open to let in some air when I was aware of a man talking in Hausa on a loudspeaker and then a child singing, then another spell of speech and another singer. Clearly something going on I could make out odd words but nothing coherent enough for full sentences or real meaning. By the time I had finished cooking it was all over and people were making their way back home. Everyone was all dressed up in Saturday best. Now where did I put my camera! I managed to get only a few pictures from our balcony. Clearly I need to go out and sit with my neighbours one Saturday and try a bit of my Hausa out.

The container the boy is carrying is one that I have seen used to store cooked food in, so it looks like whatever I missed was a lunchtime get together.

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