Saturday, July 07, 2012

Nigeria Bound: An Overview

So I’m moving to Nigeria.
For 6 months.
If you’re like most people I know, you’re probably either thinking, “Are you out of your mind??” Or “That is SO exciting!!” The truth is probably a little bit of both. As I’m headed off on this journey, I wanted to provide some resources for those in my life who are interested in learning more about the country where I'll be for this next season. If all you know of Nigeria is what you read in the NYTimes or through a Nigerian prince who has emailed you about an offshore bank account, you would understandably be a bit nervous that I’m about to journey there. However, I assure you that Nigeria is a diverse, complex and fascinating country, and while it unquestionably has a lot of issues, there is much to be celebrated! This six months will be a great opportunity to learn about the health system and (hopefully) help to improve quality standards for newborn care in the hospital where I'll be working.

Ok, so. Some basics.
The Wikipedia article about Nigeria is actually pretty long and covers a lot of ground. If you know nothing about Nigeria, it’s a reasonable place to start. Nigeria is a country of ~160 million in West Africa, and it’s the 8th largest country (by population) in the world. As for area, it’s about 2.5 times the size of California. The capital is Abuja and the largest city is Lagos (pronounced “Lay-gohs” not “Lah-gohs”), which is where I’ll fly to. They’re pretty similar in some ways to D.C and NYC, in that Abuja is the capital, but Lagos is where all the ‘action’ is. Abuja is a more orderly, planned, and clean city filled with diplomats and politicians, while Lagos is a booming, crowded, gritty city where you get the best and worst of humanity. The way Nigerians talk about Lagos is so much like Americans talk about NYC. Plenty of people from other regions say, “Ah, it’s too crowded and crazy, I could never live there.” But people who live in Lagos say they thrive on the intensity and buzz of the city. We shall see.
Approximately half of the country is Christian and half is Muslim, with the former mostly in the south and the latter mostly in the north, and the usual spectrum of what “Christian” and “Muslim” mean in each case. I was going to write a bunch more about culture, food, and people, but I think I’ll just wait until I’m there and share specific stories, pictures, and thoughts.  Here is a cool website that does some quick comparisons, “if Nigeria were your home instead of the US, you would…”

As for me, I’ll be in Ile-Ife, which goes by “Ife” for short. It’s about 100 miles northeast of Lagos, in Osun state, and in the heart of the region where the Yoruba people are located. I’ll be based out of Obafemi Awolowo University, most likely at the teaching hospital, though possibly in one of the satellite clinics. It’s an old and well-known university, and I hear it’s one of the more academically rigorous schools in the country.

Some fun links to videos and cultural awesomeness:
A video of various buildings on the OAU campus.
A video of an exhibit at the British Museum about historic sculptures from Ife.
A little bit about Nigerian Pidgin English and a Pidgin dictionary. English is the official language, and there are hundreds of tribal languages (though Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa are the most common, as those are the 3 largest groups), but most everyone speaks Pidgin. It’s an informal language, used amongst your peers, in the market, etc. I know a bit and am excited to learn more!

I will say that Nigerians love music. And I could probably write an entire post about music in Nigeria (and may do so at some point). But, here is some praise music of one of the more well known Nigerian churches. Another woman named Lara George has a rockin voice and I love her song Hallelujah.

As for radio tunes, some of my favorite songs by Nigerian artists are Yori Yori by Bracket and Be My Man by Asa. Actually, Asa is just great all around; other good ones are Fire on the Mountain and Why Can’t We.

There is so much more that I could write, but I will stop for now. I will most likely write individuals posts about religion, music, food, language, the university, the hospital, and so so much more. If you read my blog while I was in Romania, you know that I’m always finding new adventures for myself, and surely life in Nigeria will be no exception. 

Wow. This is happening. 

1 comment:

Erika said...

How exciting, Liz! Let me know if you go to Jos. We'd love to have you visit the Faith Alive hospital. or