Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ishahayi Beach School

"Now, climb into our boat, and we'll escort you up Five Cowrie* Creek and out to Ishahayi Beach - secluded, quiet, beautiful and incredibly poor.   It is a weekday, so we watch villagers cast enormous fishing nets, then work together to haul them back into shore. In this primitive but time-honoured way, their catch for the day will be the village's sole source of income...." http://www.ibsfnigeria.org/home

 I have been reading a book entitled Nigerian Gems written to help fund the Ishahayi Beach School.  This is a project started by expatriate women in Lagos, who saw a need and desired to help educate Nigerian children in this small beach community.  The foundation has made great improvements over the last few years and I wanted to see it firsthand.  As I walked around the school, one of the younger students tugged at my shirt.  When I knelt down to talk with her, both little arms went around my neck and she hung on...and oh how my heart just melted.   

 The Ishahayi Beach School is located in a remote area accessible only by boat.  There is no electricity, no plumbing and no running water.  About 1/3 of the children are picked up each morning in a canoe and returned home after classes.  The IBSF (Ishahayi Beach School Foundation) has completed a six room school building with separate classrooms for the various grade levels, as well as donated books, desks and blackboards.  
Approximately 150 students attend the school with about 30 students per classroom.
As we passed each of the classrooms, the students and teachers 
stopped their work and chanted a greeting to us. 
"Good Morning Ma, We love you Ma, You are welcome Ma, God bless you Ma". 
Some of the classrooms are divided in half by the chalkboards, separating
the grade levels.      We were impressed with both children and teachers! 
The students are well disciplined and so attentive.
The sixth room is a library, with new books and two new bookcases!  The American School of Lagos has been collecting books for the beach school and brought them out today. The children were taught how to care for the books and how to select the right ones for each grade.
Uniforms for the students were donated by a private school in Houston. 
The children play happily on the playground. 

The IBSF dug a borehole for water and installed a new well and pump.  This allows the children to have clean drinking water.  They fill up buckets to leave outside of the classrooms.  The students share the same two cups, scoop up the water, drink it, and pour the remainder right back into the bucket without wasting a drop.     
At lunch time, the children crowd around to get food with their new shiny red bowls. 
I didn't hear a word of complaint about what they were served! :) 
Each child received a bowl of beans along with sauce and a pounded yam. 

In the U.S., we teach our elementary aged children not to play with scissors. 
These children in Nigeria are using machetes!!!! 
Since the women bring gifts of books, supplies, etc. each time they come out, the students want to give back gifts too.  Today, they picked coconuts and cut them for us as a present.  This little boy was really working hard!   We got our coconuts and I am pleased to report that they still have all their fingers and toes. 
This is the female teacher's (and director's) housing -complete with mosquito nets and inadequate beds.  The director has asked for a new roof over this building as they prepare for the rainy season.  The thatched roof leaks and the rats eat through the holes.  This is their most immediate need.   
Above is the male teacher's housing.   Wow!

The teachers of the school are pictured with the IBSF Chairman.  The lady in the blue printed skirt and head wrap is Lady Salami, the missionary who started the school and current director.  She is incredible and took the time to sit down and talk with each one of us. 
This is the kitchen for the teachers and the school.  
This is the school stove.  

The toilet block includes 3 lavatories and 1 shower, which is the only shower around for many miles.  The lavatories are more-or-less holes in the ground attached to sewage.  A generator has also been provided to give electricity to the school.   

Before we left, the students had a good bye song and dance to thank the students from the American School of Lagos and the women who came. 
They are so appreciative.     

While much has been done to help these students, many needs still exist.  The current school provides education for students through the 6th grade.  At this point, many students are unable to continue their education after graduating from 6th grade.  It is the dream of Lady Salami to build additional classrooms (with additional paid teachers) in order to extend education to the 7th and 8th grades.  
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The IBSF sells the book, Nigerian Gems, in order to have continuing funds to support the school.  100% of all donations and proceeds are used and it is certainly a worthy cause (and a fun book of expat tales to read).  If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please let me know and I would be happy to ship it to you.         

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Water Views

Today, we went to the Ishahayi Beach School, which is located in a remote area about 45 minutes away from Lagos by boat.  I'll write a blog about our visit to the school soon.  
It was a beautiful day and a real treat to be out on the water!
Here's the boat dock where we left.  You can see our Silver SUV in the background

We passed so many interesting sights along the way.  Lagos is very pretty via the water!  Pictured above is the Civic Center, which is especially beautiful at night.
This is a view of a commercial part of Lagos.  Notice the buildings in the background, but the shanties right on the water. 

Another view of Lagos with all the cellular towers. 
More views of the city are above.  Since SOME people have told me that I am not including enough pictures to satisfy them, I am trying to do better today. :) 
See,  I do read the email feedback that I receive, so feel free to send
additional comments or requests. 
These are some of the homes and apartments on Ikoyi, not far from where we live. 
 Some of them are really spectacular!
  Here's a picture of where I HOPE that our container will be soon.....
Currently it is in Tangiers, Morocco after a few days layover in Spain.
This is a picture of the Port of Apapa - just for my brother, David. :)  He worked at this port for about four months and seemed to have a bit of "Pirate" trouble during his stay.  It's probably not the best time for me to be thinking about his experiences since I was on a tiny boat, motoring through the ship channel, in a "lawless" area.   But what fun we had! :)   Oh - by the way, the Apapa terminal was owned and operated by the Federal Government of Nigeria until March 2005 (per wikipedia) when it was sold to A.P. Moller -Maersk Group for about US $1 billion. 
Honestly, this morning I felt perfectly safe out on the water.  However, now as I am writing about our day and reviewing the pictures, it MAY not have been a good idea to check the spelling of Apapa.....then decide to google "Apapa Pirates" right afterwards.....no, not a good idea at all.  Let's just say there are MANY pages of incidents...and I could have gone a long time without that knowledge.   
Then, I noticed this picture.  Do you think that pirates wear life preservers? Geez....
All I can say, is I am glad that I wasn't thinking about them this morning!   :)
I liked this picture of HALF a ship.  Oops! 

And this just doesn't look right! :)
The pictures get more interesting as we move further out of the city.  
I'll blog on those tomorrow! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Abeokuta

Oyibo!  Over here!   Oyibo!

Oyibo means "peeled one" or "without color".  It's the call we hear when we go to the market.  "Oyibo, (O-we-bo) come to my booth...Oyibo, please buy my wares".  The children are sometimes afraid of us, so they hide behind their mothers.  They know we carry money, travel in groups, move with armed guards and that we have the ability to buy whatever they are selling.  Many of them are desperate for just one sale.
I went with 7 other women to Abeokuta (A-bay'-o-koo-da) for a day trip (along with 1 driver, 4 armed escorts and a chase car).  It's about 2 hours north (65 miles) from Lagos in southeast Nigeria.  Abeokuta is the capital city of the Ogun state and its name means 'under the rock'.  Nationally, the city is best known as the place where the people took refuge among the rocks to escape the slave hunters.  The most famous rock is the Olumo and there's a tourist complex (picture below), which might be interesting to visit sometime. 

For many, the area is also known for the famous resist dyed fabric, Adire.  Yoruban Adire traditionally uses indigo and cassava paste, then tied and dyed.  We parked at a gas station, and started down the street into the fabric area.
  It didn't take long to purchase fabric!
  There are such unusual patterns and beautiful material. 
Even the guard wanted in the picture!  Did I mention that he is excellent at bargaining?  I know he is warm in this heat with his helmet on since it's about 95 degrees.  Can you see the rifle he carries with him?
The market was an incredible experience.  While I enjoyed shopping for fabric, my senses were overloading quickly.
The food looks good in this picture and much of it was nice.  But I have never seen such filth - ever.    I have traveled a lot and seen many things in my lifetime...but this took me to a completely new level of awareness.  
 
You can't see it well in the pictures (thankfully) but there was also meat for sale - right out in the open - in the heat - in the filth.  People would walk by and pick it up and look at it, then keep on walking. 
I just kept thinking of the disease.....botulism, E.coli, typhoid....that had to surround me.  In the midst, children were playing with no clothes...urinating, etc...  and everyone just passing by and thinking this was normal.... 
And the fish that they laid up on the table and hacked into with a machete....made me move quickly out of the way.  
  The sights...the sounds...the smells....the heat....just began to get to me.  
They told me that I did great for being in the country for only two weeks, but this will not be a place that I will bring visitors - so no worries!  :)  
  In addition to fabric, you could buy ANYTHING!

Absolutely anything....
We were glad to see that there was a nice school, since I know that education is the only way out of poverty.  The students are in their uniforms - blue jumpers and pink shirts below. 
We passed by a few churches.  This one is the All Saints Anglican Chapel.

Most of the pictures were taken from the van, and about half of them were blurry or crooked.  The roads might give a good explanation.  I felt like I was riding a horse part of the time!  

I was fascinated with this sign in the middle of town.  It says "Ogun State - The Obvious Investment Destination of Choice".  
And just in case you are interested in seeing what the world wide web has to say about Abeokuta - read below.  
"The city of Abeokuta is a significant site in Nigeria because of its strategic position and its historical significance. The city is located at a position, which is nearby to the most important cities in Nigeria. Abeokuta is also a culturally significant spot in Nigeria, owing to
the historic Olumo Rock. Due to these reasons, Abeokuta is a potential tourist attraction
of the country, drawing travelers by its beauty and aura."

And if you are interested, there's some land that we can show you too! 
On the way back, we drove right into a political rally and quickly turned around.  Our chase car followed behind us and blew his horn and siren the entire way.   
Overall, we had a great day, a fun time with wonderful new friends, an experience to last a lifetime and good memories....along with opened eyes and an amazement for the hardiness of the people around us.  And to end our time together, the armed guards took a picture with us.  We're missing one guard, but you get the idea of how we 'roll'.