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Phones, fender-benders and food by Andy Buhler, CUSO, 69-71

News of last week: As you know I had D&V on Saturday so stayed home Sunday. This meant Isaac (our driver) would not get back in time for his appointment in Asaba at 8:00 a.m. Thursday if he drove me so Sister went to Asaba to apply for Sr. Connis’ driver. Sr. Connis said, “Yes, you will have him at 7:00 a.m. Monday.”

When 9:30 a.m. came around I went to the Post Office to phone and try to find out where the driver was. At the Post Office the operator tried Asaba -- no response. He asked the Agbor operator to please try as this was an urgent emergency. Agbor took this as an insult for some reason and refused to try Asaba until the Ogwashi operator mollified him by putting through some of his Agbor calls first. I waited about a half-hour and Agbor was still not yet prepared to phone through. Michael the tailor came puffing in to say they had another driver. I returned and after collecting six people and having patient palaver and so on we finally set off. Every 15 miles we had to refill the radiator as it leaked out. Also the horn didn’t work. We dropped labourers at Umunede to repair a gate and continued to Benin City, refilling with water every 10-15 miles. In Benin City I got fed up and took the lorry to Niger Motors. They took out the radiator (in a pouring rainstorm) and re-brazed the outlet pipe. Did a good and quick job! I was amazed! After dropping Sr. Bernadette at Ijebu-Ode we went to Ijebu-Igbo for the night.

Next day we went off toward Lagos. We got within eight miles of Lagos when we started up a small incline and had to stop behind some slow traffic. Charles, the driver, hit reverse instead of second and we lurched backwards a bit. Got going again but some car behind kept blowing his horn. After a half-mile we got tired of hearing the horn so we pulled off on the side to let him pass. He pulled off too. As I went to shout at him for his noise he got out to shout at me for the damage we did to his car.

Seems his car was right behind when we reversed and we crumpled the hood / lights / radiator a bit (£N86 worth it turned out). He was one big Yoruba man and there was a policeman there too so I spent all day finding out about insurance, estimates for damage, etc., etc. Next day I collected a bunch of equipment and did some of my own business. Charles, who I was told knew Lagos, had only lived there for one year, and had never driven there, so I had to do all of the thinking and directing and hollering.

Thursday we went to Abeokuta and Ibadan (Charles had never been to either of these places in his life) and stayed with Dr. Healy in Ibadan at Oke Offa hospital. There I saw Linda’s new lab building and felt very envious at her ability and amount of equipment.

Friday I worked in Ibadan then went to Ijebu-Igbo for the night. I went to Dr. Starkewitz’ place as he wanted someone to drink with. I spent the evening drinking his local concoctions (Concoction #1: local gin, local honey, cinnamon, ginger and cloves; concoction #2: local gin, pineapple) which were quite heady and too sweet but he was proud of them. He only speaks broken English so I couldn’t quit at just one drink without offending him. At Ijebu-Igbo it was the eve of the feast of St. Joseph and since the hospital is St. Joseph’s they were preparing for the feast. They had killed a cow and were mutilating the meat into little pieces for cooking. Onions and peppers were cut in great pots full. I had some (cooked) fresh liver.

Next day I set off to Benin City early, then back home. I dropped Anthony at his home (we collected him from Abeokuta. He’s the X-ray tech trainee). Kept busy all afternoon and evening with one thing and another. Sunday wrote some letters, unpacked all the goodies from Lagos and checked they weren’t broken. In the afternoon I took pictures of many of the girls in the dorms. This evening Allan R. from Makurdi arrived to stay (CUSO ‘70 dentist). My house is a veritable Mother Hubbard’s because I had bought no groceries, Sylvester is not in, and big market is tomorrow. I had bread and oranges in my fridge. I borrowed a half-dozen eggs from Sister and made rice, scrambled eggs, and corned beef (my last tin). That, and coffee, was supper.

He’ll get two eggs for breakfast tomorrow plus bread and coffee. I left the dishes for Sylvester and went out for a beer instead. Arrived back at 10:30 a.m. and Michael the tailor came rushing over to say Sister needed me urgently on the ward. I went to see what was up. They were putting a patient on Dextran and they said he needed blood. He had lost a lot in a fight. The power had quit in the lab on Saturday evening so I had to fumble for equipment. I didn’t rush as I thought Sister was too panicky about the man. I was right -- only shock made him look pale; his hemoglobin was strong. I was lucky as I didn’t feel like taking donors and the ten people who came in with him all disappeared when the words blood donor were mentioned.

Last Sunday the Chinese from Asaba Textile Mills got the generator repaired and we had power everywhere. All the patients in Ward One thanked me as I turned on their lights. They haven’t had lights for a while, only bush lamps, and I guess it’s tough being given needles in the semi-dark. I think Monday was a regular day. Sr. Ethel left with Sr. Mildred on Sunday so there is only Sr. Cora and me to run the hospital. Sr. Ethel has gone back to her brother’s ordination -- he decided late in life to be a priest and got through in two years instead of three. Monday night Sr. Mildred returned. Tuesday after work I went to Issele-Uku to get brakes in the Peugeot 404 again. The handbrake didn’t work and the footbrakes were nearly useless. I hurried all the way so I could get there before I had an accident. Anyway they were fixed.

Either Monday night or Tuesday night was very unusual. There are a group of Chinese running the textile mill in Asaba now. They have been in this country about three months and are starting to get the usual initiation ailments. There is one friendly fellow who speaks English quite well and is here regularly both as a patient or guest. Often he brings food and always has his tape recorder. Only in Nigeria on May 1st could I sit outside under a full moon with two Irish Sisters and a Chinese textile engineer while eating Chinese food and listening to Christmas carols by Pat Boone. Since Mr. Hu’s arrival I’ve had noodles, real soy sauce, barley soup, 1000-year-old eggs, and prawn potato salad with roast beef and mushrooms.

That must have been Monday night as I went to CCN Asaba for supper on Wednesday and I don’t remember having two consecutive good meals -- usually it’s at least a day between feast and fast.

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