Sunday, April 13, 2014

Makoko

Better late than never! These are some of my favorite sightings from last weekend's trip to Makoko, the stilt village. It really was one of the highlights of my time in Nigeria. It's just a place so full of textures and interesting innovations and friendly people.
 
I've been to 'floating markets' before and found them hugely disappointing. Most floating markets or villages around the world are hopelessly touristy. Thailand was especially overdone. There were more tourists than Thai people at the floating markets and the only things they sold were trinkets and souvenirs. You could only get a faint whiff of what life might have been like back when it was actually a market place.
 
Here though, we were one small boat of people skimming through a town of 100,000 people who actually live and learn and work and worship and trade and play and give birth and do absolutely everything on the water. While it's a poor community it was also much happier than other places I've been in Nigeria. Everyone seemed immensely proud of their home and very tightly knit.  I know if Nigeria's security situation ever gets better that this place would be overrun with tourists and so I enjoyed it that much more, knowing that it's likely not going to last.
 
Are there still problems? Absolutely. It's amazing to me that there aren't NGOs working in Makoko to improve the quality of health care and sanitation and bring schooling to more kids. The yacht club actually built a school, but I think they said it holds between 250 and 300 kids - nowhere near enough space for the children of a community of 100,000.  There was one other school that we passed (pictured below) but the community is made up especially of children so there is a ton of need. The field society organized this trip and they work with the community leaders to make donations for health and education on every trip (that's where the trip fee goes) so in large part that is what pays for the teachers' salaries and school supplies for the few schools in existence.
 
All in all, enjoy the pictures and if you're in Nigeria definitely make it a priority to visit and maybe donate through the yacht club or field society.
 
The grocery store

The biggest challenge to photography is to avoid naked children. They were literally everywhere, often in huge groups chanting 'Yevo, Yevo, Yevo' (foreigner) as our boat passed by.

Everyone - young and old - knows how to work a boat and they were all out on the water at the same time.

Inside a hut where they were smoking fish, one of the exports and the major business of Makoko.

See what she's standing on? It's a beach! Families use boards to block off a square of water next to their homes, they fill the space with trash (unpleasant but it's the only thing available) until it's a solid pack and then they top it with sand to make their own dry land. See what I mean? Innovation.

I just wanted to explore everything. Maybe when I retire I can get a nice stilt house here?


One of the two schools. I wonder what they do for recess?

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