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Archive for September, 2010

Weekly Òwe

We learned this proverb on the first day of Yoruba class in Nigeria. It means we don’t make fun or abuse people to their face. It would be extremely rude to count a man’s 9 toes right in front of him.

As we have been trekking through campus going from department to department on a journey for library cards, ID cards and the like, we naturally meet a lot of new people. It usually happens that one of us ends up talking more than others. The people we greet assume the others can’t speak Yoruba as well as the one talking and then say that to us to our face. Now we have a comeback to put them in their place and show we actually do know Yoruba dáaáaa (very well).

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Ni Opin Ose–The Weekend

The weekend in Ibadan is a time for relaxation, celebration and prayer. Families spend most of their time watching TV, reading or tidying up around the house. There must be at least three weddings on the University of Ibadan campus alone every Saturday. My family and I did not attend one this weekend, but on our drive on the way out of campus we saw hundreds of people decked out in traditional Yoruba clothing gathering outside the churches and mosques. My mom assured me I will be bored of weddings by the end of my 9-month stay here. Prayer is a big part of the weekend in that EVERYONE goes to either church or mosque on Sunday morning. Seeing that I’m Jewish and this weekend is Yom Kippur, I thought it would be wrong to go to church with my family, so I stayed home this time, but I will go in the future to see what it is like. My parents were up and in the pews by 7 a.m. The children go from 10:30-12:30. Religion is integrated into every part of life here. Many of the University signs have some comment about God’s blessing. When I tell people I’m a ‘Joo’ (how its pronounced here) people just say ‘ahh, so which church do you go to?’ Even the water I drink out of a sachet bag is called “Blessed.” But more about religion in another post…

This weekend my mom wanted to bake a wedding cake for one of her friends so we went to a woman named Mercy’s house outside of the UI gates in a neighborhood called Orogun to mix the batter and get the baking pans. While the women baked, I was left to hang out with the kids who sat in front of the compound sewing, eating, chatting and kicking a soccer ball around. The presence of an Oyinbo girl really stirred up their Saturday afternoon. Hearing me speak Yoruba made them all giddy, and like typical greeting situations they all wanted to ‘snap’ with me. I met a man there called ‘Ayo’ or Joy, and he spoke Conc Yoruba to me. Conc Yoruba is the real deep, concentrated traditional Yoruba language where the Yoruba we speak today originated from. I could hardly make out most of what he was saying. After I told him a few of the proverbs (òwé) I know, he asked me if I eat ‘pomo’. I don’t know what ‘pamo’ is, I told him, and he said ‘eh, eh, then you don’t know Yoruba.’ Apparently ‘pomo’ is the meat right under the cow’s skin that is a typical Yoruba dish. I’ll have to try it soon to be a real Yoruba person…

Some of the kids and I hanging out in front of the flat/apartment building I went to in Orogun.

Ayo, the Yoruba man who spoke Konk to me, and I.

Doing laundry at the back of the compund.

For the rest of the weekend we are going to Lagos to go to the American Embassy and meet the Regional Security Operations officials. I don’t know what exactly is in store, but any reason to go and observe Lagos is alright with me. Look forward to a post about the chaotic, bustling thorough-fare that is the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

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I condensed my 15 minute walk across campus into a 5 minute video to show you what I see everyday as I walk to the Language Center every morning.
And yes, the question ‘what did you eat?’ is very common for people to ask. Yoruba people are very concerned with how you are doing, if you are well, if there are any problems, so it bears the question what did you eat.

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A Slow Ebb and Flow

As of now, six days into my stay in Nigeria, it feels like two months have passed. This is not because we have completed many tasks, drastically improved our language skills or seen many new places in Nigeria. No, in fact we haven’t done much of that at all. Things go slow here. I don’t know if we are on schedule, behind schedule or ahead of schedule because our plans change by the minute. The places we need to go, people we need to greet and forms we need to fill out are plentiful, but everyday it takes a few hours of us sitting around our Language Center to figure out exactly what needs to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I am really enjoying my time here so far, but it’s a completely different pace of life than I’m used to at home.

Today, the four of us arrived at the center from our respective host family houses at 9 a.m. We all slept or worked on our laptops in the Lounge/TV room for over 2 hours before we were given directions. The four students and Gabe, one of our teachers, all got in the University of Ibadan van to go around to all the different departments and greet the department heads and professors to realize that the back tire of the van was stuck in the dirt. We all got out of the van and stood around for 35 minutes while the men figured out how to push it out. With a little rope, a massive truck and the hands of 8 men, we succeeded!

The sunken tire, while people discuss then plot a plan of how to get it out.

From the center, we went to the library to attempt to register for our library cards. After 10 minutes of sitting in a man’s basement office and greeting all the people he brought in to meet us, we found the librarian we needed to talk to. He gave us pink cards and said we needed to type our information on the cards. So we drove to the computer station and waited 10 minutes for Gabe to type our info on the cards. Then we returned to the library, gave him our cards, paid the librarian 100 Naira each (about $0.80) only for him to tell us we needed to return tomorrow to get our cards laminated. So it goes in Nigeria. We wait and wait to find out we need to return again tomorrow.

Cloudy cloudy Ibadan. The sky looks like this most of the day and it rains off an on all day.


A similar situation happened when we went to open bank accounts the other day. We deposited our money and left without an ATM card or account number. Apparently the bank is going to call us this week to tell us to come get our cards. Our Nigerian teachers and friends aren’t worried, so I won’t be worried… yet.

We stopped to buy water on the way to the bank and I greeted mama onisu (pronounced onishu). They were both incredibly taken aback that I spoke Yoruba.

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Pop Bottles

As I will come to learn more and explain more over the course of my time here, things are CHEAP-food and drinks especially. Everyday we eat lunch at the same cafeteria and never pay more than 200 Naira–about $1.25–for a full plate of rice, beans, meat and a glass bottle of soda. $1.25! Can you believe that? I haven’t investigated the reason the food is so cheap yet, but I have asked some questions about the drinks.

Cafeteria Baluwa on the University of Ibadan campus where we eat lunch most days because our director says the food is safe here.

In general, soda comes in a tall glass bottle. When you are finished drinking it, you need to return it to the lady who runs the restaurant or cafeteria. If you want to take a drink to go, you ask for a can of soda, but that will cost you more. A bottle is 60 Naira (about $0.40), whereas a can is 80 Naira.

Schwepes Bitter Lemon and Fanta in glass bottles. You drink it with a long straw.


You return the glass bottle, instead of throwing it away, because the restaurant sends the racks of glass bottles back to the bottler to be refilled and returned to the store. So when we pay for a bottle of Fanta, we are paying for the liquid content only. How efficient and environmentally friendly of Nigeria!

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Weekly Òwé

I chose this proverb because our resident director, Moses, said it when we finally arrived in the Lagos airport. So you use it when, you have been working at something for a long time and you finally achieve it.

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We made it!

After two long flights and an exciting bus ride down the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway we have arrived at the University of Ibadan, our home for the next 9 months. Exhausted and overwhelmed by speaking only Yoruba and adjusting to the time change (it’s 6 hours ahead of Central Standard time zone), we are busy meeting tons of new people and adjusting to the pace of life here, what we call African time. People usually don’t arrive on time and we sit around for a while trying to figure out what’s going on before we make any moves. We greet all the new people we meet with a typical Yoruba greeting– ‘good afternoon’, ‘good evening’, ‘greetings for sitting down’, ‘greetings for the home’, — and they are shocked and stunned to hear us speak Yoruba. They laugh at the fact we speak their language for a while, then when they see we can say more than just ‘how are you?’ they really freak out and say ‘dat’s good.’ We were all expecting this, but the feeling I get when I hear Yoruba people react is hard to explain.

We only have a few minutes to ‘browse’ as our teacher calls it, before we go to a barbecue at the Vice Chancellor’s house. We just came from a woman’s 40th birthday party. It was a big deal and we were among many honored guests. We eached introduced ourselves with our Yoruba names and the guests exploded with laughter after each name.

Our first full day in Ibadan has been full of surprises. When I get my bearings here and move in with my host family I will have more organized posts, I promise.

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