Sunday, 20 February 2011

Engine for Sweeping and Other Short Stories

1. In the office, if I am in the middle of a conversation and someone wants my attention they either continuously tap me on the arm until I respond (like children do) or keep calling my name “Lucy, Lucy, Lucy. . .” until I answer them. It feels so rude and childlike. And nothing has been so urgent that people can’t wait a few minutes for me to finish.

2. I was invited to this workshop about teacher training and deployment. Out of the 40 participants I was very pleased to see another female there. The facilitator told me to make friends with her and take her to sit down. So we were about to sit close-ish to the front so we could see the screen ‘very well’ when I was told “I think you would like to sit over there, at the other side of the room,” indicating to the back of the room. In answer to my response I was told that the front was reserved for ‘important people!’ Down plummets our self esteem!

3. Ladies here do not sit with their legs together and it always surprises me when I see them sitting with their legs very wide apart like a ‘bloke.’ Then I try to remember being taught to sit politely but I can’t remember being taught – so I guess it is just engrained in our culture.

4. Knowing that we find it difficult to understand each other’s English, when waiting for an internal flight I listened very attentively to each announcement so as not to miss my plane. As my departure time drew very near (also knowing that things often run late here) and I hadn’t heard my call - I went to ask an attendant. I was then told to ‘run, run, run’ as my plane was about to take off. So I ran through the ticket booth. Attendants are pointing to my plane, which is all boarded and ready to fly and they are telling me to run across the airfield in front of other planes about to take off. So I run. I run, knowing that I would never be allowed to run across an airfield anywhere else in the world. I run, even though I can see my plane has no steps to the doors anymore and is fully boarded. As I run I am wondering why the attendants are not stopping me. But still I run, right up to the plane and stop next to the man with the torch and flag.
I have no idea how I missed the call. I listened so carefully to each announcement.

5. I have been in 3 road accidents now. My first day crash which was really bad. A small motorcycle accident in which the two men proceeded to have a fight over whose fault it was. And another minor car crash in which someone bumped us from behind. I hope this is my lot. Every journey I take I see the aftermath of accidents and wonder if people survived.

6. On a 5 hour public transport journey back from visiting friends in Kaduna I somehow got stuck in the middle of a political rally. (Making the journey 9 hours.) There were hundreds of cars with banners, t-shirts and posters for PDP (Peoples Democratic Party). Thousands of men lined the streets, hundreds of cars full of Nigerians hanging out of car windows, sitting in open car boots, sitting on the vehicles roofs. The scary part was they were waving weapons like swords, daggers, axes and huge wooden logs. Knowing that this could get violent, but hoping and praying it wouldn’t, I try to stay calm, the whole time waiting for a phone call with a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ from my family in England who were celebrating a belated birthday for me with a tea and scones party. (Out of the 1000s of people I only counted 4 other females in the rally or spectators.)
A week later we hear of news of a political rally in Lagos in which 9 people were killed in a stampede.

7. Harmattan is the season when the winds blow the dust from the desert. For about a month it got a little bit cold, cold enough to wear a thin cardigan in the mornings and evening. And sleeping under a blanket was comforting. The Nigerians were freezing cold but I have really enjoyed this season, being able to walk around town without getting hot and sweaty. But now temperatures are beginning to get hot again. 36 degrees in our workshop today. (I have a thermometer now.)

8. My neighbour’s kids are fascinated with my hoover and listened in amazement as I explained how it worked and how you emptied the dust etc. I have never seen so much wide eyed interest in a hoover! I have to ‘dash it’ (give it) to the mother when I leave. They couldn’t remember the English word for it so called it the ‘engine for sweeping!’ One day was a little bit cold and it made me laugh when they were warming their hands from the fumes!

9. The neighbours also think I have brought a washing machine from England with me. (I wish) They have seen washing machines on the TV. I told them I am learning to hand wash like them.

10. Lizards are everywhere here. There is one I always recognise in the garden as it has a broken leg. When these same neighbours heard that people pay a lot of money to keep lizards as pets in England they were amazed. They say they are going to put some in my suitcase when I return to England and then I can send them the money!


  1. I'm really enjoying your blog, Lucy. It's absolutely fascinating. The most surprising thing is your lack of contact with the women - not what I would have expected at all. Keep up the hard work and I look forward to your next installment - I hope it will still be rat-free ... Belinda (still hanging in there at St. Aldhelm's!) x

  2. sorry about your number 2.

    @ your number 4. you probably didnt hear when the flight was called or maybe it was called in hausa. i think your number 4 should be included in a especially the run, run, run part.

    @ your number 5. please be careful with bikes (especially if you are in northern nigeria or in the south, but ridden by a northener). they think they are invincible so they are not careful and they also see anything (evil/good) as the will of Allah(God). always tell them to slow down. accidents on them can be fatal.

    @ your number 6. sorry that you had to celebrate your birthday that way.

    @ your number 7. good that you have a thermometer so you watch so as not to have sun-burn.

    how do you blog from those locations?

    @ your number 9. i guess that they were improvising. survival instinct at work.

    i couldn't hold back from laughing at your number 10.

    you have a nice blog. i will tell my friend's to come to it anytime they need to something to make them laugh.

  3. There are a number of things that should not happen in Nigeria but you tend to see them. The image of Nigeria for world wide travellers in changing as many come by flights to Lagos and to enjoy the appeal and charm this African beauty have for them. Nigeria will definitely be much better in the coming future.