Friday, October 9, 2015

So Many Things To Love

In a Keke
The news is spattered with scary news about Nigeria.  However, if I were to watch the news that is broadcasted around the world about this country, I would probably not recognize it as the place we call home.  Some of you reading this may have negative images or words that come to your mind when people say, "Nigeria,"  so I thought I would write about a few of the things I love.  I will do this by sharing some short stories about things that have happened just this morning.

  • Daso cut up sweet bananas, pineapple, and watermelon to take for her school snack.  Children here do a lot of work, and she did it so joyfully.  By the time I got up she had already bathed, made her lunch, gotten dressed, and packed her school bag.  I love that we have fresh fruit grown right here in the country.  I love that children learn to be independent while still being very interdependent! 
  • We were all ready to go to school early, and decided to get food on the way instead of making breakfast.  We walked onto the muddy street in front of our house with the floppy umbrella we have yet to replace.  We met "Biggie na Slimmie", the pop artist who makes Ramen noodles with eggs under a tin shed on our street, smiling and ready to serve at 6:30am.  This is the local "Denny's" with a tilty counter decorated with a huge vinyl  poster of an unusually serious "Biggie na Slimmie" with a microphone in his hand looking at you while you slurp your noodles.  Everyone who passes either stares unashamedly or greets cheerfully.  I love the irony  nature of everyday experiences, and the flamboyant colors, sounds, smells, and cultural friendliness. 
  • I went with Daso to meet her ride this morning.  It was sprinkling and cold.  The large, friendly woman in the small motorized "rick-shaw" moved her purse so Daso could sit on her lap to save us paying for her seat.  We arrived at the junction where another parent picks her up and stood under a make-shift shelter constructed with recycled wooden posts, and covered with a holey tarp held on by worn out tires.  I think during working hours it is a "vulcanizers" spot, but when we are waiting for our ride, it protects us from both the sun and the rain.  Our ride seemed to have forgotten us, so we climbed another keke and went to her school, forgetting her lunch behind.  When I got to the office, Zach told me that the ride had come after we had left, found her lunch, and taken it to her.  I love that people make do with what they have.  I love that we can walk to the junction, but if we need to, we can also get public transport.  I love that people care enough to pick up a little girls lunch that she had carefully cut up for herself and take it to her. I love that I am part of a complex system that is made more simple through content exposure and experiencing it from the inside.
  • The taxi driver that picked us up agreed to take me back to old airport, picking passengers along the way.  He laughed about Daso's food and said, "When I was a child, we walked two hours to school, and didn't take any food with us.  I did that for six years."  He continued to explain that in Nigeria, the "people who have plenty take the water from the stream and carry it to the river instead of putting it in the well for the people." We picked up two small children clad in plaid and their "auntie" on their way to school down a very winding road through narrow streets lined with shops. When they entered they greeted, "Good morning, ma." I strained to hear the taxi driver explaining to me that the economy is hard, and you work and go to school only to struggle to have enough for your family.  Right after saying this, the children and their auntie reached their destination, and the little boy handed him 80 naira (40 cents), the driver then gave him back 20 naira and said "You gave me too much," and we went on our way.  Shortly after that we picked up an old woman with a bucket in her hand probably on her way to collect food for her pigs.  I think she probably would ride for free.  Another 30 feet we picked up one of our co-workers and we smiled at our meeting in a keke on this rainy morning.  When I was getting out I handed him a big bill to make change and he said, "How much of this is mine?"  I bet he would have taken less than I gave him.  He smiled and said, "I know you from seeing you around this junction, you were pregnant, but now you have a baby." I love that a stranger shared a childhood story with me.  I love that he knew money is hard to come by, but he didn't want to take anothers share.  I love that old women in worn cloth and young men like my colleague in a sharp office ware ride down the same roads in the same vehicle and greet each other warmly.  I love that though you may not know someone, you are known.  I love that with all the things that make us different, there are ways to bring us closer to those around us so we don't always have to stand at a distance. 
  • I had to walk a short distance to get to the office.  I didn't mind, but was feeling a bit tired from the unexpected journey all the way to Daso's school.  One keke going the opposite way came to a stop and the driver greeted, "Hi!" I recognized him as Paul, the keke driver who took us to school yesterday afternoon to pick Daso up.  "Hi Paul!"  "Where are you going?"  "Just up the road."  "Want a ride?" He asked.  "Sure!" Turning his keke around, he opened the floppy back door for me.  We went the two minutes up the road, and he let me out, turned around and drove back in the direction he had been going. I love that so many Nigerians give what they have to give.  I love that I am learning to accept what others have to give without being feeling guilty for taking because it blesses all of us. I love that Paul, a young man in a rough neighborhood, has qualities of a gentleman and inspires hope in me for his generation.
  • When I got to the office, Mari was wet, and I was frustrated that the shops weren't open for me to find her pampers to change.  My cloth diapers have been on the line since yesterday morning, and are still wet.  Despite her wetness, everyone wanted to hold her and said it was the blessing of having a baby.  She smiled charmingly at everyone, and laughed during the prayer time (at which point Zach asked me to take her out.)  When she was crying loudly, they offered to hold her, quiet her, and then she drank until she slept with Auntie Grace rubbing her back.  I went to put her on my chest in the carrier, and two other aunties ran to my aid in putting it on. I love that my daughter is being raised in a community that loves her and rejoices over all her developments as any family would.  I love that I can breastfeed my baby in public without anyone thinking anything of it (in fact, it is encouraged every time she cries).  I love that people help me when I need help without being asked.  
 I don't know what other experiences I will have today that will make me rejoice in this place, but I do hope that you have a new picture in your mind of Nigeria, one that replaces any negative messages you receive because God is doing good things too!  He's knitting us into a community, speaking to people in their inner beings, putting kindness in the hearts of strangers, providing us a home in a foreign land, and building his church in Nigeria.

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