Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.


   I'd like to start with an apology, I meant to keep daily updates this past week or so, but I've been a bit preoccupied -- I'm in a third world country! This will assume you haven't read the ones I did make though.

   Today I was party to a dead serious conversation about whether or not picking certain leaves will cause rain to fall, whether or not fire breathing dragons are real ("I think they're in South Africa or maybe Arabia, Kris do you have them in that big zoo you said there is in San Diego?"), and whether millipedes can make themselves disappear and by extension be used by a person with magic to make you invisible, and later everyone who was in this conversation busted out their laptop. Welcome to Nigeria.

   Exactly oen week ago I arrived by a six hour flight directly from Amsterdam to Nigeria's capital, Abuja. It was 34f and snowing in Amsterdam at 3pm, it was 90f and humid in Abuja at 9pm. Altogether I'd been traveling for 27 hours since I left Southern California.

   My first thoughts on Nigeria as I entered the warm dark night was that it smelled very Earthy. A bit like a hedge. As my driver (First name "Blessing.") drove me the thirty or so miles from the airport into town I was actually surprised by how well developed the apartment blocks we passed were. They weren't soviet concrete monstrocities, they weren't bare brick piles like in Egypt, they weren't in abject disrepair like I've seen in Mexico, they were nice and decorative and looked like something I might see in Orange County! Well Santa Ana anyway.
   Another interesting cultural insight on that ride into town was when we passed cars driving the wrong way on our side of the highway median.
   "Uh is that normal??" I asked Blessing
   "Oh certainly, but not during the day. Only now that the traffic police aren't on duty" ...soo the traffic police don't work nights it seems! In unrelated news a few minutes later we passed a smashed car on its side in the fast lane.
   My hotel was nice, and had security looking under cars at the front gate for bombs and a uniformed guard at every landing of the stairs.

Day 2
   In the morning I met Doug, another beekeeping volunteer who had also arrived the day before, in the lobby. He was an older fellow who had done a lot of volunteer assignments before. He had just come from Ethiopia where he had trekked through a sandstorm to visit a remote volcano, had visited sulphur springs, and the lowest place on the Earth. At the latter they still harvest salt by camel, and apparently a bunch of tourists had been gunned down just two weeks earlier ("but it's okay, we had the army with us and a bunch of villagers with kalishnikovs!"). He was a very cheerful fellow who was constantly making people laugh.
   Blessing picks us up, we go meet the folks at the Winrock Nigeria field office. While we were talking to Mike, the country director for Winrock, he received a text that a bomb had gone off in Kaduna state just to our north.
   At a local market Doug and I noticed that all the honey on the shelves came from America, WTF!? We don't even have honey from America in America!! (Well okay that's a slight exaggeration, but I think literally a greater proportion of their honey came from America as does the honey on our own shelves)
   Seeing the town by day it doesn't quite measure up to Santa Ana but Abuja isn't straw huts or decrepid shanties either. To exchange my money we went to the money exchangers, which consisted of people who lurked on the curb outside the sheraton. Mike negotiated with them with the assistance of current exchange rate information on his smart phone. Couldn't reach and agreement with the first guy and made a deal for a second one for 159 naira to the dollar, which was pretty much right on the exchange rate.

   Doug drove (well was driven) down to Kogi state while I caught a 40 minute flight to Ibadan in Oyo state in the south-west. Ibadan, one of the largest cities in Africa (and yet I bet you've never heard of it!) DOES look like a third world country, The road in from the airport was lined with hovels, and we even passed a dead body lying by the side of the road. Host organization's office is about the size of a closet, but my hotel here is nice.

Day 3
   Wednesday the host organization (PASRUDESS) team picked me up and we drove to the local government headquarters. For the headquarters of the administration of a quarter of the city and 300,000 people, it was a shockingly shabby looking place! Unpainted concrete, broken windows, a broken down flat-tired grader in front of it on its grounds.
   I met the local government chairman, a very nice fellow in traditional garb, and then we all attended a very nice opening ceremony for the training. A meeting hall was nicely and colourfully decorated and at least 100 people packed in. There were speeches and was a performance by ... a dancing fire-breathing holy-man of the local traditional religion.

   After the ceremony there were many photograpghs taken, such as this one:

   I came back into the hall to see Mike from Winrock sitting at his laptop looking serious.
   "Kris, there's been an incident with Doug's team"
   I feared the worst in the pause that followed. Kogi state is not entirely free of the boko haram terrorists who are specifically opposed to "western education."
   "His driver hit a woman. She's in the hospital in serious condition, the driver's in jail, and the car is impounded." Yikes! Thank god it isn't boko haram but what a nightmare way to start the project!!!

   Next we bundled into our own vehicles (a car, an SUV, and a van packed with people) and headed out into the countryside to the bee yard. It took about forty minutes to get there. We went through two villages and lots of lush fields of shrubs. Unfortunately no thatched huts except for one small cluster that my Nigerian guides were quick to tell me were Togolese. Villages were typically small cinder-block cottages with corrugated metal roofs.
   It took about an hour and a half to get to the bees. And when we got there were didn't have any beekeeping equipment -- we'd driven all that way to just look around. Hives were a rectangular topbar style that is not the best. Was surprised by how little bee activity I saw at the entrances.

   Back at my hotel that evening I was filled with stress over the idea that I'd be expected to teach about bees 8 hours a day for the next week and a half to the same people. How could I possibly fill that many hours with bee lessons????

Day 4
   My panic grew more acute the closer the beginning of class came, until I was actually sitting in front of everyone and kind of wanted to shoot myself. Class was held at the local government center under a corrugated metal awning in a corner. There was a lot of background noise.
   Attempts to figure out where to start / fill some time by having everyone introduce themselves weren't terribly productive since most of the beekeepers barely smoke English and stumbled through a few basic sentences.
   So I began at the very beginning, talking about the three castes of bee in a beehive and their life cycle. It quickly became apparent they didn't understand me so a young fellow named Dayo ended up being my interpreter, translating what I said in English into.... English. Somehow no matter how slowly I talked and carefully enunciated, it was greek to them, but this fellow, whom I could understand perfectly well myself, also was perfectly understandable to them.
   We also quickly developed a system of them passing notes up to me with questions, and thus I filled the entire day with lecture along the lines of a marathon Q & A session.
   The next day I planned to talk mainly about bee diseases, as well as how to make lotions and creams from wax, and queen rearing.

   After class I was take to the state government buildings where I met the state agricultural commissioner, some important people in the education department, and was going to meet the governor but he was busy with the Chief Justice. Meeting the governor is still on the agenda at some point. Considering Oyo state has a population of over 7 million, more than many countries, that's kind of like meeting a president!

   That evening, however, doing a little more research on bees in Africa, I found out that diseases aren't really relevant to beekeeping in Africa. The bees take care of themselves here! There went my lesson plan out the window!!!

Day 5
   Another day of panic about how I was going to fill up the time! But questions about the two remaining topics actually kept us talking about them unil an acceptable ending time in the afternoon. Whew, survived another day!

Day 6
   On Saturday we went out to the bee yard with the equipment and had a productive day working through the hives and talking about ways they could improve what they were doing and addressing some misconceptions. Another day successfully filled with training and I had Sunday off!

Day 7
   Did stuff on Sunday but this isn't about that ;) this entry would be humungous if I strayed from my theme of the stress of filling up each day with training. So just so you know, there's a LOT that isn't in this entry. Tune in to my regular entries if interested.

Day 8
   This morning, like every morning, my car was extremely late (has been more than an hour late twice and 45 minutes late twice). Being as the class members had been sternly warned "we aren't running on 'Africa time,' you need to be here ON TIME, we're starting at 9 on the dot" I've been feeling rather irked to be coming in half an hour late myself as the teacher, all because my ride apparently DOES run on this 'Africa time.' Fortunately this morning, unbeknownst to me, the start had been pushed back to 10 at some point so I wasn't even late.
   First I spent a little over an hour talking about my observations from our working the bees on Saturday, and then responding to questions. After that we:
   (1) made mead their way -- by mixing ground up honeycomb (with honey in it) with water to a 1:1 ratio, putting a lid on it, and letting it sit. Allegedly after three days it's all fermented and ready to go! My brewing experience tells me this is madness but apparently it works for them!!!
   (2) made mead my way -- by mixing honey with water to a 1:3 ratio by volume, adding yeast, putting a lid on it with a tube in it with water in a bend, so carbon dioxide can vent without air coming in. This is supposed to sit for several months until the tube is no longer bubbling. Unless it goes off like a rocket like theirs???
   (3) made candles out of beeswax
   (4) made lotion out of olive oil and beeswax. While they had their own method of making mead and candles, this was a totally new concept to them and tehy were extremely excited about it, as making lotions and creams out of wax will provide them with very marketable use for their wax.

   Altogether everyone seemed to really enjoy today's "lab work" and it was just a really fun day. It felt like a great success.

The Future
   We're going out to another bee yard tomorrow and hopefully I'll have more of an opportunity to work with the less experienced members of the bee club, since I was mostly working with the most experienced the first time we went to the field.
   After that the local university's agriculture department wants me to stop by their apiary to talk about some problems they're having with their hives.
   Wednesday I believe we're going out to another bee yard?
   Thursday we're having a general review session.
   Friday, closing ceremonies!

   The end is in sight! I think I've survived! Not only that, but I think somehow I've done well, they're talking about having me come back and modeling other classes after the way I taught this one!

   Now I need to get back to cramming up on queen rearing. I really shouldn't be getting preoccupied right now with writing LJ entries.


Tags: africa, agdev, apiculture training, doug, nigeria, nigeria i, travel, travelogues

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