Sunday, 7 March 2010


After a mere three days of training in the 'Happy Hall' at the Crystal Palace Hotel in Abuja, during which we covered the history and politics of Nigeria (complex), advice on how to stay healthy, and some basic greetings in Hausa, VSO decided it was time to send their 18 new volunteers into the big wide world to learn to look after themselves.

So on Thursday I set off for Kano, a predominantly Muslim city in the north of Nigeria. Four of us were crammed into the back of a VW Golf for the six hour journey, with a crazy driver who averaged around 140km an hour, and liked to overtake on blind corners, at one point he nearly knocked over a motorcyclist, who then tailed us for about a mile, before trying to smash the car window with his elbow... welcome to road transport in Nigeria.

Patience, a Ugandan volunteer, and I were staying with Sophie, a volunteer in the education programme who lives in Sabuwar Kofar, close to the city centre. Her house is a large compound with mango trees, and hammocks, and lots of wildlife, including lizards, birds, and cockroaches.

There are a lot of children who often play outside Sophie's house, and as Patience and I returned on Friday afternoon we were surrounded by cute kids who were very interested in us, and wanted to know who the new baturia (white person) was. One of them was so curious that she leaned towards me, took a deep breath, and sniffed me! Rather her than me, it's pretty hot in Kano.

We spent a fascinating three days touring the city, on the back of motorbikes or 'achabas' as they're called in the North. We saw Kano's famous dye pits, I bought some amazing fabric in Kori market, and we visited Dalla Hill from where we could see all of Kano.

As the idea was to learn, I thought I'd write down all the things I discovered thanks to Sophie and Patience, most of which Patience was amazed I'd never done before:

- To put my motorcycle helmet on - it's harder than you'd think with glasses
- How to ride pillion on a motorbike - my knuckles were white from holding on with both hands, whilst Patience was on the phone, not even holding on!
- How to put up a mosquito net
- The best way to kill a cockroach.... with a flip flop in case you wondered
- How to shower when there's been no running water for two days - sachets of water called pure water were pretty useful for this.
- That you can open red wine with only a sharp knife and no corkscrew - good team work on that one.
- How to make toast in a frying pan.
- How to eat sugar cane - I think Patience found this one the funniest.

So week one in Nigeria has been a steep and fascinating learning curve for me, let's hope it continues this way!


  1. Hey Gal,welcome to Africa! atleast for you are getting on well with the hot (pepperish food!! (peppe)and for me,i am in for stervation to tha last bits!! good for you are enjoying the spicy food as i lough out loud about your other escapades..Okada rides, sugar cane and mosquitoe net experiences.. lol.. no woories,as Sophie put it,you guys are gona lough at me refusing to drink tap water..

  2. Hey
    Glad you are having such an awesome time. Look forward to hearing about your future adventures,..
    We miss you at the BRC! x

  3. I didn't think you could kill cockroaches? Is it a myth that they can survive a nuclear winter? Would the cold war arms race have been different if the powers knew about the destructive powers of the flip flop? Please provide answers to these important questions in your next post.