Monday, January 29, 2007

first 4 days

Aaaah Nigeria! This country is amazing! The weather fluctuates between 29 and 33 degrees Celsius. I've just this afternoon arrived to Calabar with Winnie and Ann, it's so exciting to have internet. We were met at the airport by David and Joe, two of the committee members within Calabar, and had lunch with them and another member Aiji (no idea how its spelled, but that's how it sounds). Nigeria is a beautiful country, Nigerians are a beautiful people.
Everywhere we've travelled we've been so warmly received, they don't consider us strangers, or guests, or even potential friends, we are friends. They understand we are here to meet them and work with them, and I have never felt so instantaneously comfortable with hundreds of people before in my life!
We gave a Dignity and Peace Seminar in Lagos and Ibadan hosted by the Anthony Fatayi-Williams Foundation, which exists for the purpose of conflict resolution and peace. In Lagos we had approximately 150 participants, almost all of whom became members. In Ibadan we had approximately 100 participants, same story! What is very exciting though, is that in each city there were a few participants who wanted to become Active Members, they stayed and talked with Winnie and each other afterwards to understand how to do more, get more involved and make a difference.
I am learning much from them. Their comments, questions, insights are so deep. They have an incredible understanding of the dignity of the person, and how it can affect society, and they are willing to work. Today at lunch I watched a bit of Nigerian tv. Apparently they make their movies in a matter of days rather than months, but its still quality. We also watched the African music awards, and the artists need to be exported, or at least their work does. The lyrics promote values, the artists for the most part live values, they had such a positive message to the young people through their actions and songs, this is something the US could really use.
Well, as you're probably getting the picture, its a pretty cool place. Every time I have a spare moment I either guzzle water or sleep, I generally have better luck with locating water.
In spite of the heat, we've been well taken care of, most of the places we've been to so far have had air-conditioning or at least fans. Power outages are relatively frequent, every couple hours. There was one just now, but thankfully this post didn't get deleted. Yesterday in Ibadan, as I was speaking the power died for an hour, and I will confess to being soaked by the time I finished speaking. When the power finally returned, I must have appeared pretty pathetic as one of the participants got up to point a fan at me. He told me afterwards he thought I would melt in front of him. I was trying so hard to appear as though 35 degree conference rooms were common to me.
I've also checked out as much of the plants and wildlife as I can, our first day here we saw a foot long lizard with orange on it. I took a picture and will post it if this computer allows :) The plants are all desert plants, and quite beautiful.
In Ibadan we met the archbishop who hosted us, he is a wonderful man and was very excited about the World Youth Alliance. We spoke at a youth center and then met a number of students from the University of Ibadan for dinner. Many people in Lagos and Ibadan wear their traditional dress, here in Calabar it is much more western, but also more developed. It is sad to see how many people are struggling for existence, parts can appear like good scenes for a movie, but when you consider that the slums and trash and homeless and children working in the streets are people suffering I am so grateful for all the WYA members, and other people who are working to develop their country.
The posters everywhere are mainly of banks, loans, building advertisements, and the most common activity is construction. This is truly a developing nation, but in a very positive sense. There is much hope for the future, and in only two days having met the youth I've met, I truly expect Nigeria to become a major world force hopefully soon. We just have to make sure they keep the same ideals when they are in power, because with their determination they will be the ones running their country.
Well, I think that's enough for now. Obviously there is much more I can tell, but I think this gives an idea of what I'm experiencing.


shalpine said...

My Baby,

It seems you are doing a wonderful job as the new youth ambassador of all things good. Was there ever a thought that you'd be timid about expressing your enthusiasm for life?

I'm sure you're wearing your hair up a lot more in Africa.
Just remember: you're so cool!

All my love, Mom

WhiteS said...

Have you ever told your new Nigerian friends the story of Uncle Muskie and the fascinating Krakovian soccer rituals?