This is the chant that follows me pretty much wherever I go in my new home. In Abuja I think they are used to seeing a few white people around in the city but here we are definitely more of a novelty. I am beginning to understand how it must feel for an animal in the zoo only I’m not in a cage, everyone stares at you, some with smiling faces who are just excited to see you and some with what can only be described as terror. I have taken to handling this by smiling and greeting people with the customary “Good Morning/Afternoon.” The strangest thing I have found so far is the people that want to touch you, it’s happened a couple of times, the first was a child in the market who was so surprised to see me he jumped off his stool and stroked my arm, possibly to see if my freckles would come off, I am a strange Oyibo indeed with my freckles.
I’ve been here a week now, and I’ve taken to a rather dangerous practice of counting the days that I’ve ‘served’ (350 to go). It sounds like a prison sentence doesn’t it? I would hate for a prospective VSO to read this and be put off but this is just my honest reaction to my settling in phase. It has and continues to be difficult but it is getting better I promise. I have been able to explore Calabar with the other VSOs based here a bit this week and this has helped hugely, getting to know the place you will be living in so that it becomes familiar to you is the best way to start making things seem normal. We went out for a couple of beers on Friday night and that was great, one of the places we went to even had proper chairs not the plastic patio style chairs that you see everywhere here. Then yesterday we went to a hotel that has a pool where you can pay as a non- guest to come in and use the facilities, it is expensive for us on our allowance so it will be an occasional treat but sooooooooo nice to know it is there. It was a little slice of heaven hidden away (they didn’t even have a sign) off a busy road not far from the airport. We lounged by the pool reading magazines and it felt a bit like being on holiday then at the end of the lounging we moved to the bar where they have a flat screen TV and there was football on! Later they were doing a review of the Premiership season and Leroy Rosenior was one of the pundits involved, I nearly jumped off my chair with joy at seeing a familiar face on the telly, he used to manage my boys Torquay United for those of you not familiar with his talents.
The best thing about the bar though, which I probably shouldn’t be saying when I’m here to try and integrate into a new way of life is that they served western food! Cheeseburger and chips! This was only my second proper meal of the week , I haven’t really been eating properly since I’ve got to Calabar. I’ve lost my appetite in the heat (which won’t do me any harm let’s face it) and haven’t been getting on too well with the local spicy food generally since arrival in Nigeria. All part of the adjusting I guess.
Last night my housemate Sarah finally arrived and I am really happy to have company in the house, I already feel a bit more relaxed just knowing there is someone else here. Bless her she was exhausted and I’m not entirely sure she was loving the house but at least she arrived when there was some furniture in it and a stove! She seems really lovely so I think we’re going to get on just fine. The only downside is she doesn’t like bugs either, I was totally counting her to be the resident bug catcher, back to the drawing board and finding a bug spray that actually works, at least we can be scared together rather than me being pathetic by myself.
So here I am wondering what next week will bring, I get to finally go into the office properly, it will be nice to do this with Sarah and be newbies at the same time. We can also buy some things for the house together and explore a bit more of our local surroundings although I already know my dude to get credit from for my phone, and my dude for supplies like loo roll and indomie noodles (a VSOs staple food I suspect, cheap and tasty). To sum up, I’m getting there, not there yet but I’m getting there.