Sunday, July 6, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

I know I'm a few days late, but Happy Independence Day!

I didn't do anything too patriotic for the actual 4th, other than watching Independence Day the movie (doesn't get much more patriotic than that, right?) But on the 5th I made up for it with a very full day of representational event - starting with the inevitable arrival at the event location 7 hours early. I'm pretty sure Lagos' very informal version of the 4th - a 'backyard bbq' theme - isn't typical, but it was a lot of fun. It pretty much poured all night long - but that didn't stop the guests from coming and having a good time. If only the 4th didn't fall smack in the middle of rainy season every year....

I would share what was going on in other news - but frankly I don't have much other news lately. Work's going good. Nigeria is about the same as ever. I haven't been getting out too much (see above, rainy season). I've got less than six months left at post now, so I'm just trying to take stock and see if I can cross anything else off my to-do list. Just to refresh your memory - back in April last year I set myself a list of Nigeria goals. Here's the list:

  • Learn to sail
  • Make homemade cheese
  • Visit at least four other African countries (the short list so far is including Benin, Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa)
  • Get an article or photograph published - anywhere
  • Grow something from a seed to the point that I can eat it (assuming of course that the something is an edible plant)
  • Learn to play at least a few songs on the piano
  • Read at least six more books by African, especially Nigerian, authors (currently reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, next up The Famished Road - Ben Okri, also want to read another Chinua Achebe, another by Ngozi and some Wole Soyinka)
  • Learn how to cook a Nigerian dish, preferably either Fish Pepper Soup or Suya
  • Conduct an interview in Yoruba (and bonus points for an interview in Igbo)
  • Go to an Eyo festival (see picture below)
  • Go to Calabar, Abuja, or both

I've got many of these done now.
  • I sail regularly and I think in a pinch I could actually rig the boat, launch, and steer on my own (it wouldn't be pretty, but it would be possible).
  • I made ricotta cheese.
  • I've visited more than four other countries (Benin, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia and South Africa) and I plan to visit Ethiopia in a month.
  • I've grown several herbs and consumed them all - and even one sad little tomato before the plant died.
  • I've read Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi), Ake (Wole Soyinka), The Trouble with Nigeria (Chinua Achebe), I do Not Come to You by Chance (Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani), and I'm almost done with The Famished Road (Ben Okri). While that isn't six, I am also counting the books I've read by other authors from the continent, so there's also Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese), Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight (Alexandra Fuller) and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun (Peter Godwin). Each of the books I've read have brought new insights into the country and the region - even the ones that weren't that entertaining to read - and for that reason I'd recommend them.
There are a few that I've technically done - but I'd still like to make more progress.
  • I can play a few songs on the piano, but they're very basic songs and I'm not very good at them, so I still consider this one to be a work in progress.
  • I can cook tomato stew, but it's no suya. Still hoping to make this one happen.
  • I have held some mini-interviews in Yoruba, but always with a Yoruba translator right there next to me to 're-interpret' what I've said. I have only ever said things like 'thank you' and 'goodbye' in Igbo. I'm not real optimistic about the probability that I'll pick up any more foreign language skills in the next few months.
  • I haven't yet had any articles or photographs published. I've only submitted one thing so that might be why. Will have to actually do something about this goal.

Finally, there are the - definitely no progress yet items.
  • I haven't been to Calabar or Abuja and it isn't looking all that likely that I'll get to go. I'll at least request it though.
  • There haven't been any Eyo festivals since I've arrived, so not much I could have done on this front. Here's hoping that they hold one by December!
So there it is! I guess I'd better dive back in if I want to have a respectable amount of progress by December.

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