Showing posts from May, 2008

Health and Safety a la Nigeria

I don’t know whether the term jincheng means anything to any of you, but if it does you know that they – even for motorcycles – are not the … how to put it: I’d say with a bit of squeezing and a stable luggage thingy there is just about enough space for the driver and two adult passengers – and these two are better in good terms because that is the closest you’ll get to anybody here in public, in fact even at home somebody sooner or later would ask you to get a room if you really want that much body contact.
But this being Nigeria – and the health and safety standards my WEA tutors hammered into me during last year’s teaching course simply don’t apply here – some parents actually manage to pick up five primary school children with a bike like this. Just so you get it right: That’s two children in front, the adult driver, three kids clinging to each other (the last one to the luggage thingy as well) behind him, and a couple of schoolbags hanging down at the side. And now don’t be fooled into thinking that I’ve seen this on a quite neighbourhood street where traffic goes slow (and even there would be bumps that make me to hold on tightly to the luggage thingy in order not to fall off the bike). No, BUK road does by no means qualify as such, at this particular time of the day its closer to an express way in character. In fact, daddy (?) was apparently in such a hurry that he still had to overtake my already speeding achaba driver!
Don’t get me wrong I’ve seen people transporting five or so mattresses (on end on the passenger’s head who’s holding them and the driver balancing the other end), goats (actually, I’ve seen some poor goats tied onto the roof of a VW-bus on the highway between Maiduguri and Kano) and whole pieces of furniture (an office desk) on those bikes; bus conductors are routinely hanging outside the door if the bus is full (or just the men’s section if they don’t put men and women together) … you get the point, but hey, come on, hold on for a sec and think that this is not just about your own adult life but also that of those kids!!! Or do you really have so many that one falling off the bike doesn’t really matter?!? – Sorry for getting cynical.
(No photos unfortunately of either as each time I was either myself on a bike or in a care too squeezed in to pull out my camera. So you’ll just have to believe me.)

Running up and down FAA Departments

I’ve been running up and down between the Fine and Applied Arts Departments at the Federal College of Education and Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education, Kumbotso, here in Kano distributing questionnaires for students and members of staff, finishing off the Hausa translation of the student questionnaire – yes, students at Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education, tomorrow’s (art) teachers don’t know enough English (at least theoretically the language of instruction in schools after the first years) for the teaching to be conducted in English, let alone for me to administer English questionnaires -, and attending (or trying to) teaching sessions. If I find time in-between that I’m making rather extensive use of the library of the History and Culture Bureau that contains some BA, MA and PhD theses on Kano, its history and local crafts – currently finally reading Prof. Salihu Suleiman’s thesis on the role and relevance of art in education in Nigeria (Ohio State University, 1974, unpublished, I think). Prof. Suleiman is the one who put together the original curriculum of the Creative Arts Department in Maiduguri and I’m hoping that his thesis is going to give me some insight into his intentions and ideas behind it. (And, as I’m running out of time I might not be able to stop over for a longer period of time in Bauchi where, if I’m not mistaken, he is currently based, so his thesis might be the closest I get to him.) Well, and Thursday’s holiday (Democracy Day) I used to hunt down the local lorry drivers, or rather I tried to. I thought I knew where they were (Unguwa Uku Motorpark) but turned out I was wrong. So the very helpful officials of the National Union of Road Transport Workers put me onto an achaba into the town, more exactly Kofar Mata. There, just next to the local Gidan Wanka da Bahaya (well, how do I translate this best? I have never used one but think it’s something of a public bath and toilet – honestly, here Kano is so much ahead of Maidguri where I’ve never seen any public conveniences at all. Instead … you don’t want me to spell that out here.) … anyway, close to the Gidan Wanka there is supposedly a workshop of lorry painters. Problem is only that there are at least three of those Gidan Wanka close to the gate and two of them were at a road that was closed off because of Democracy Day. My achaba driver tried to argue with the guards on my behalf – he might have felt that they should have made an exception for the baturiya on research – but they insisted to treat me like everybody else and, yes, I think they did the right thing there, although it obviously delayed me. Anyway, so I will have to go back there one of the next days and ask around for somebody to point me towards the right direction … whenever I’ll find time between FCE, SRCoE, Kano State Polytechnic (they have an art department and resume next week), the library and other appointments.

Still alive and finally moving on to Kano!!!

Alright, its almost exactly two months since my last entry. Sorry for that but, to my defence, there has hardly been anything worth reporting going on. I spent my time dealing with administrative issues – I mean, anybody seen and/or remembers the Asterix and Cleopatra film? There is this sequence when Asterix and Obelix are requested to just get a simple document from some Roman bureaucrats and kept on being send from one to the other and nobody actually feels responsible … That gets kind of close to the experience of the last few weeks, just without the magic drink!

Since yesterday I’m free (for the moment) and will travel to Kano to continue my research there. Finally. I have been waiting for this ever since I came back from Abuja/Lagos and have had people there asking were I was several times. So, now I’m finally actually going and really looking forward to a bit of a change and some progress with my work.

Though, its not completely true that nothing news-worthy happened the last few weeks. After all I just acquired a new senior brother!!! Abdul Azeez, as he is called, is working at the Postgraduate School at Unimaid and we’ve been coming across each other a lot during the last few weeks (usually he making me wait for him for hours!) and we’ve finally decided that this had to be formalised somehow – hence, now he’s officially the senior brother I never had. And I love the way people look at us when we tell them so: Same mother, same father!!! No, really, he’s coming after daddy and I’m more looking like mummy! Love it. Now I just need to work out how to tell my parents!!! (-:

Oh, and I experimented with local baking techniques and it actually works: you can do a reasonable bread in a pot on firewood if the pots half-filled with sand and the bread rest on that very same sand. – Tomorrow we’ll try whether it also works for pizza, though, I couldn’t find cheese when I was running up and down the shops today. Supposedly there is some kind of tinned cheddar available from some shops at Gidan Madara but … couldn’t find it! Just tinned cream fresh. Which is not exactly the same. But we’ll see how it works out.

P.S. Just as a side-note: My usual internet cafe has currently not working generator so is not available and somehow I seem to be unable to open facebook from the one I'm using currently. So to all facebook friends, sorry, bear with me until I'm finally in Kano!!!