Home Raoul's TGIF Greetings From a Village in Nigeria

Greetings From a Village in Nigeria

I am writing from Tai Solarin University’s guest motel room in Ijagun, Nigeria on a Wednesday morning. A ceiling fan helps with the muggy heat. Sometime around 10 pm they turn on the generator and we guests have air conditioner to give us a good sleep. This routine happens every day.

Yesterday our team of 5 had close to 1,000 university college students show up. We have 2 more days to teach about entrepreneurship. Friday we start heading home to good ol’ USA.

I have not had as much time to draw caricatures as I had hoped. I only have an hour or two a day to draw in between coming and going. Only made less than 20 caricatures this afternoon.I have been able to draw almost all the security guards in our enclosed campus. I am the most popular guest here. They always swarm around me when they see me. These soldiers are a mix of Christians and Muslims. Here in the Southern part of Nigeria, both faiths get along. Many have mixed marriages of both religions.

These Nigerians love ceremonies. They love to parade in their colorful regalia. They love to give long winded speeches and be in the spotlight. Who cares if nobody is listening to their hour long speeches? You are their captive audience and they make sure you suffer in the sweltering heat and echoing halls. To compound the problem, they do not come on time. It’s a contest on who can come the latest — the latest being the most important.

I brought a whole suitcase of books, magazines, toys, clothes, musical instruments (guitars, harmonicas, kazoos)m etc. Some gifts were donated by Heather, Amy, Sam and Joanne (my business associates), my daughter and my son-in-law). I’ve given away almost all my books and magazines. Will give away my last batch tomorrow. By the time I leave I will probably have only the clothes on my back left.

I gave our cook (Mama Kitchen) a bar of chocolates. I don’t think she has ever tasted anything like that in her life. She is a Christian who accepted Christ late in life. Her parents are Muslim. Like many converts, she saw a better faith alternative. Many Muslims convert. Ever since that day of my giving chocolate, Mama Kitchen has been extra nice to me. Others are complaining that I get a pitcher of coffee while they have to mix the powdered milk and powdered coffee from their plastic bags themselves. She even “shashays along” when she delivers her food to me. I guess a little chocolate goes a long long way.

I sweat like a pig during my lecture because there is no fan directed towards me. I’ve never drank so much water and fruit juice. Our only choice of food these past 13 days has been heavily spiced chicken and fish. Hardly any vegetables. Fried or scrambled eggs in the morning. It wouldn’t be too bad if Mama Kitchen was a good cook. She isn’t. I cook better than her! She, like many locals, has no concept of what is considered good tasting food. In fact, that is a problem here in the whole of Nigeria — a lack of standards. There is no consistency in almost everything. One day spicy fish tastes good. The next day it tastes half cooked. The chicken can be soft and the next day too hard to chew. The steps of a stairway aren’t all the same height. You better hold on to rusty guard rails or you will lose your balance. The walls aren’t straight. No one pays attention to time. They come when they please.

Perhaps my favorite food here is fried plantain bananas. I eat a ton of them. Even when they are inconsistently cooked in unhealthy yellow palm oil, I think this is the reason I don’t go to the “john” that often. The banana plugs my digestive system.

The TV choices are so limited you need to subscribe to DStv cable to get anything. The only news available is CNN. In this campus we only get one station — African soap opera mostly. The script, the acting the stories — they’re all bad. All the actors over-act with their whole body as if they were on a stage play. I only keep it on to give a semblance that I am not alone in my little room. But apparently the locals love it. They spend most of their time sitting down, perspiring in the shade, just staring in the distance. At least, this is what the security guards do. Speaking of guards we have 2 kinds of guards. One batch comes from a private company. The other are police who are paid by the city. They rotate the people so there are new faces every now and then. Above them are their “commanders” who position their people in different spots of the campus night and day. Whenever we travel we have at least one security guard and one police. All of them carry well worn armalites. We cannot travel alone. In fact, we rarely travel outside the campus. In the mornings, while everyone else is still asleep, I go outside the perimeter gates, security follow me, and I engage with the local town folks. I make a small spectacle all the time because of my skin color.

The first day, I brought my art materials and asked a store vendor if I could draw her. She, the proud old toothless woman that she was, demanded that I pay her to pose. I was dumbfounded. She gave in a few seconds later. (At least she tried to get something out of this gringo). It was almost school time and kids dressed in their blue and white uniforms began to crowd around us. The guards had to shoo them away. So some of them started to buy from the old woman. I think she got more business that morning than any other mornings.

I wrote a song the first night when I couldn’t sleep. I call it the Trepmaker (Entrepreneur Maker) Song. Here it is:

It’s meant for you
It’s meant for me
To create a job
Build a company

Na Na Na – Na Na Na — Nigeria!
Na Na Na – Na Na Na — Africa!
Na Na Na – Na Na Na — Nigeria!
Nigeria, Africa!

If you’re serious,
If you’re curious
Set your vision free
Future family!

(Repeat Refrain with audience participation)

You define the need
Then you plant the seed
Fertilize with passion
Endure all with action

(Repeat Refrain with audience participation)
Build supportive teams
And then share your dreams
Work hard together
Be fair with each other

(Repeat Refrain with audience participation)

To be the best
of what you can be
All you need
is creativity

Treat your clients with integrity
Always give the best quality

(Repeat Refrain with audience participation)

We can spread the love
Of our God above
Start a job invasion
And bless our nation

(Repeat Refrain with audience participation)

(End with a bang!)

I introduced parts of the song yesterday and the crowd loved it.

Sorry I can’t attach any pictures. My smart phone and my laptop don’t communicate. I have to wait to get home to transfer the images. And my internet connection is as weak as a dial up of 20 years ago.

I need to go out and talk to the guards soon … to see how they are doing. I hope my favorites are there — Jumper (they call him that because he jumps out of parachutes — he has killed and tortured several people in battle), Ola (the commander who is my birth year brother), God’s Power, Clement, Steven, Tunde (the electrician), Moses (the minister), Abraham, John, Kenny (the fashion designer), Jerome (the movie star).

I have spread my gospel of entrepreneurship even among the guards and the drivers. Stepehen and Clement are making kites out of bamboo, I’ve partnered up Jumper and Kenny who are going to sell clothing. Ola has plans for bamboo furniture. Ade, our driver, is going for wooden floor tiles.

I love to go out at dawn and watch the familiar sun welcome this far-flung land to a new day.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
— Lamentations 3:22

TGIF people!

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One Comment

  1. Himalayan Stew – Traveling Boy

    August 21, 2023 at 9:00 am

    […] think it was 8 years ago when I was alone in my simple but clean room in faraway Nigeria on a Rotary-sponsored mission trip to teach the locals about entrepreneurship (our team reached out to thousands of college Nigerians […]


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