Friday, 7 May 2010

Public holidays and political events

This will be a memorable week for those with an interest in British or Nigerian politics. On Wednesday night the Nigerian President, Umaru Yar’Adua died, after a long illness, and on Thursday the acting president Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as President. Whilst in the UK election was held yesterday, and at the time of writing has given us an unusual result, and no government as yet.

The momentous events in Nigeria prompted a public holiday, closing schools, government offices and some NGOs, like VSO, but not my organisation, HVC. The random thing about public holidays here is that they’re not announced until the very last minute... I only found out when on the bus into work (the downside of not owning a TV), and a colleague’s school children arrived at their school and were sent home again. Monday was also a public holiday here, known as workers day, similar to our May day at home, but again it was only confirmed as a public holiday in the middle of last week!

Although the title of this blog post suggests political speculation, I’m actually more interested in the public holidays. I spent the beginning of last weekend in Abuja, on Friday I went to a party held at the Hilton by the Dutch embassy in celebration of their Queen’s birthday. It was a very swanky event, with plenty of free wine, and more importantly all the cheese I could eat! On Saturday I went to the Guara waterfalls just outside Abuja for a picnic with some other volunteers and friends.

After spending the weekend in Abuja it was nice to have an unexpected extra day off on Monday. Richard, Elizabeth, Bertine and I went to the neighbouring city of Zaria to do some sightseeing. Zaria is an ancient city, which used to be a trading centre for goods from across the Sahara. Today it contains the fascinating Emir’s palace which is still in use by the current Emir of Zaria, and the crumbling remains of the city walls.

Here's the front of the emir's palace...

We weren’t able to meet the Emir at his palace, but we were allowed to sit in his visitor’s chairs and pretend we were guests of honour!

Following our visit to the palace, we went to what had been described in our guide book as ‘Zaria’s dye pits’. The use of the plural was somewhat misleading. It was a one man one slightly disused dye pit operation, and I’m pretty sure the crowd of twenty small children who surrounded us to stare had more fun than we did! Nonetheless the dye pit ‘Baba’ (father) spared the time to explain the dyeing process to us, and showed us a sample of his work. Meeting this charming elderly man more than made up for not seeing the dyeing process at work.

This week has been a busier one at work, I’ve got a big funding proposal to work on, and when not deciding who to vote by proxy for I’ve also been helping to fill the solar fruit dryer with mangoes and trying not to eat them all in the process. We’ve named the kitten Zippy, and he’s slowly becoming much calmer and less likely to bite my toes.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Heather,
    I'm fascinated by what you do in Nigeria. Weldone.
    You have some lovely pictures here that could promote the cultural heritage of the country. i am seeking your permission to use one of these pictures for a calendar i am working on. would you oblige me that privilege?
    thank you. God bless.