Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nigeria: A Scattered Travel Log (Part 2)

A store in the mall, with black manikins of course ;-)
On the bus, during the 6 hour drive to the village, I searched for a book I had bought from the mall, and remembered visiting it with some friends. Silverbird is the most popular mall complex in Abuja, the capital city, followed closely by Ceddi Plaza. It offers just about everything you would see in a western mall, with the obvious exception that it replaces snacks and foods with the Nigerian alternatives. When we arrived I was a little surprised that I had to stand in line to get inside. Wondering what the wait was for, I looked around the line to see a man entering through a metal detector and then collecting his belt, cell phone and some other contraption. It was a security checkpoint very much like the one at the airport. Confused, I turned to a fellow line-waiter and asked why we had to go through a security checkpoint to enter the mall in my now close-to-natural Nigerian accent. I was impressed with myself - the pidgin flowed out of my mouth as if I'd been speaking it nonstop for years. I smiled on the inside, reassured that I wasn't a foreigner after all. "You must be a visitor." the lady behind me remarked to my shock and dismay. "What... why?" I asked, laughing a little, trying not to sound too offended. "Everybody has heard about the bombings, its in all the local papers. These Muslims want to spoil our country." she continued. I turned around nodding. I had heard about the bombings.

They were carried out by members of "Boko Haram". Their aim - to instill Shari'ah law throughout Nigeria - is not popular among the general population, Muslim or Christian, so they gain attention through sporadic bombings. Nigeria's latest terrorist group was giving Nigerians a new reason to be afraid, Southern Christians a new reason to hate Northern Muslims, and Northern Muslims a new reason to be defensive about their faith. It is not as though they can't stand each other, on the contrary, the Muslims and Christians coexist well with each other, and are happy to do so. But there is always the random act of violence, usually spurred by propaganda and/or powerful people with ulterior motives, that rocks the steady boat of peace. To be honest, Nigeria's tumultuous history of Muslim-Christian hostility is complex, caused by numerous events dating all the way back to colonialism, and since nobody wants to deal with it, it is tucked away and labeled confusing - foolish to attempt an explanation for.  

Black soup & Pounded yam. Looks can be deceiving OK?
I couldn't find the book, so I looked outside the window. Buildings had started appearing, and people were bobbing up here and there. We were in Lokoja. We stopped for the 30-minute break at a popular inn in Lokoja rightfully called Lokoja Inn. We went in along a winding staircase into the overcrowded dining room and I looked at the menu. At my dad's suggestion, I selected black soup and pounded yam. What happened next can only be explained by facial expressions. I have never tasted anything so wonderful yet so unassuming in my entire life. Pounded yam appears as a white ball of fleshy, starchy stuff, kind of like an extra thick sphere of mashed potatoes, and black soup is quite literally black soup. The taste represented what every good meal I've ever had has tried to accomplish and fallen short of. It was extremely spicy, full of pepper in fact, yet I couldn't stop eating. I would pause for gulps of water and air and then resume - a most unattractive sight. Before I had finished, the bus was ready to go and I had to leave plate there. I vowed to return at least one more time.
On the bus

My favorite thing about rural Nigeria is the trees. Not because of their artistic loveliness's or their great contributions to the planet but because people can gather under them to socialize. The largest trees got to spread their generous branches over groups of people, young, old, male and female who would sit, fanning themselves, laughing and making small talk. One village woman had on a green t-shirt with the words "Talk less, say more" paired with a traditional wrapper. A wrapper is a beautifully designed African cloth, wrapped around the waist to form a long skirt. Somehow, these phenomenal women manage to tie it in such a way that they can still take long strides as though they are wearing trousers, without showing a bit of skin. Besides the extremely green trees, deep red earth and clear blue airs, something else stood out about this southern Nigerian village. Unlike in the sophisticated city of Abuja, the village allowed for small errors such as misspelling the name of your business. "Fate Medical Center", I was informed was supposed to inspire faith, not dismay. A large wall had graffitied on it "no yourinating please" and the local eatery offered "soft drins" and "supergetti" instead of their rightly spelled counterparts. After she glanced through the menu, I heard a woman at the next table yelling at the waiter for their lack of professionalism. 

Nigerians are a very "say it like you mean it" kind of people. An "uncle" I met held back none of his thoughts as he grinned at me, looking from head to toe commenting without reserve on how "sweet" I looked. I met a young couple who I was related to and as I took their picture for memories sake, the lady did not hesitate to tell her husband to change his pose because, and I quote "you will spoil the picture if you look like that". While it made things a little embarrassing if you happened to be on the receiving end, at least you knew exactly what everyone was thinking. It was hard to come across a fake smile or hear an "I love you" in that light, airy voice that belies its honesty. When it came to interpersonal relationships, at least the kind that don't involve money, the people just didn't know how to lie. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When David Ran

"For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol (the grave); Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever." Psalm 16:10-11

Background Info:
This was written by King David, the unexpected candidate that God handpicked through His prophet Samuel to be king over Israel. He made a couple of enemies, and when he wrote this, he was running and hiding from some of them to save his life. 

There are times in life where we are in a bad situation. For one reason or another, things aren't going well and we are usually filled with unrest and insecurity, confused about what is going on and wondering what it will cost us. At those times, we turn to a couple of the usual suspects - fear, anxiety, worry, stress... the list goes on. God called David "a man after his own heart" and this probably had something to do with why. When David's life was in danger, He turned to God to help him, but even in his anguish, he still remembered that God was not some far away Higher Being who looked down at his life to examine it every now and again, who he was held accountable to at the end of his life - no, he realized that God cared. God was interested in everything that went on with him and was with him even while he was suffering. He says that although these people are trying to kill him, and he is running away, he knows that God will not ABANDON him, will not allow his enemies to get the best of him. Where most would have accused God of leaving them alone, he believes that God will show him the way to safety, and looks forward to the joy that he experiences when he is safely in God's presence.
When we follow the rest of the Bible stories about David we see that God did save  him from this (and many other) trial(s), and David spent many years writing more Psalms talking about the goodness of God. 

We don't have to worry about our lives and what will become of us, if we are God's, then He cares for us as His children. Whatever we go through in life, it's a blessing to remember that God is faithful to all who turn to Him, and whether it feels like it or not, He is concerned for our well-being even more than we are, and He protects His own!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Quotes I Like: Fashion Edition

Remember that always dressing in understated good taste is the same as playing dead. Susan Catherine

Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes with plaid is easy. Albert Einstein (love this guy)

On the subject of dress almost no one, for one or another reason, feels truly indifferent:  if their own clothes do not concern them, somebody else's do. Elizabeth Bowen

"When in doubt, wear red." Bill Blass

"You don't have to signal a social conscience by looking like a frump.  Lace knickers won't hasten the holocaust, you can ban the bomb in a feather boa just as well as without, and a mild interest in the length of hemlines doesn't necessarily disqualify you from reading Das Kapital and agreeing with every word." Elizabeth Bibesco

"No one in the world needs a mink coat but a mink." Murray Banks

Friday, November 4, 2011

12 Things I Love Today

1. These Giuseppe Zanotti pumps that cost an arm and a leg.
Gotten from:

2. My first attempt at Butternut Squash Soup

3. The Book of Luke

4. This Song by Sean Hayes

4. Peaches, blueberries, avocados

5. The Show F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

6. Hoodies

7. Almost every Bob Marley song. "I wanna know, wanna know, wanna know now..."

8. Honey-nut Cheerios

9. This Song by Jesus Culture

10.  Bedtime

11. Skype

12. Commercials that introduce you to great music

13. Daydreams