Arrival in Arochuku

From Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

JIm Ludden Wednesday, 18 Sept 1963

It is pouring rain, as it never has at home. I am in Arochuku, at a very ‘bush’ school. It is a long way to the nearest town with a bank or a good store, altho Arochuku has a good market for food. Arochuku is a collection of 19 villages. I did not buy sufficient pro- visions to last until the next market day, so I an eating with the other Peace Corps Volunteer who lives and teaches here. We are expecting a British VSO [Volunteer Service Overseas] soon.

Our trip down was different than planned. The Jeep needed a lot of small repairs, so we came down in a carry-all and the Jeep will be delivered this weekend, we hope. We dropped off one other new PCV and one old PCV at their respective stations and visited another old PCV who had.served time at Arochuku until getting married. We had a very large amount of gear with us and the Jeep would have been most uncomfortable for such a long trip, as it has no rear seat. Benson, my steward, is just out of.‘training school‘ for stewards. Yesterday we cleaned the house and washed a set of clothes. Today we washed all the dishes and pots—a big job because I had to show him how to wash properly. Our kerosene-powered refrigerator is working now. We have no electricity because the light plant is out of order and has been in the shop for three months. There is no water supply except the river, and even my steward says that it looks 'suspicious‘. We boil all our water before drinking, of course. The water filter is broken, so we cannot make the water look good.

Last night the principal, Mr. Ikoku, invited us to dinner. The dinner was quite good: a mixture of Nigerian ‘chop’ and European food. His older brother, who is head of the family, and his two wives were there also. He is a very influential man, with strings and friends in politics, and high in the Nigerian Union of Teachers. Mr Ikoku is a very busy man, and soon forgets the things I tell him I need, so I constantly have to remind him. He went to Aba today with the football team so I hope he gets the filter and parts for my stove. If he doesn‘t, I can‘t eat. These houses are almost caves, and that is how the principal refers to them. The are of mud, with no glass in the windows, only shutters to keep out the rain, and no sinks or drains. Even without water taps, a sink is handy. I shall try to install one and also a water storage tank. I take may bath in a large washtub

Later— I just returned from a cursory glance at the ‘chemistry lab‘. Mr. Ikoku obtained a fairly large grant from the government several years ago to set up a lab, but had no competent person to set up or maintain the equipment. He has a lot of stuff which is just scattered about the edge of the room in great disarray. That room seems to be the only place on the compound which has running water and drains. It also has facilities for gas. So all is not hopeless. But it will be a large job just to get Ikoku to build some shelves for the chemicals and equipment plus all the work to organize and complete the supply.

Nigerian drivers are miserable. On our trip down here we had what is considered a good driver. He would have been good were there no other people or cars on the road. But the paved roads are only one lane wide, and an oncoming driver is reluctant to put his two wheels off the pavement. They drive right thru thick people traffic with their horns blasting and many of the people, chickens, and goats just get out of the way in time.

In fact, many don’t, and the traffic fatality problem is huge and growing fast. On all roads I would say our driver drove a constant 20 miles/hour faster than I would have done. On straight roads we ran 50-60 mph. The Eastern region has the best roads in the country because the people are thicker and more evenly spread. Arochuku will have a paved road by Xmas if all goes well. It is now about 15 miles from here where the paving ends, but the rest is graded and very muddy. There are two other roads to here, both impassible in the rainy season. Mr. Ikoku and the football team went to Aba today and may not be able to return as it rained for about three hours and made the roads and paths all mud.

Thurs morn— I talked Mr. Ikoku into getting me some more shelves for my kitchen, but Is it is at the expense of the house next door, which is to be occupied by the new ex-patriot from the British Voluntary Service Overseas—VSO—who will arrive soon. Also I may get my stove fixed so Benson can bake bread. Ikoku got a new water filter element in Aba yesterday so l can filter water now. Ikoku has a scheme to bring water in the compound but he bought too small a pump the first time and has a new one coming soon. No telling how well it will work when it does arrive. His schemes all lack a certain degree of technical competence.

Friday morn— Sorry about these rambling letters, but that is how I am living until I get settled. My steward shopped, but he is from the city and couldn't find the things he is used to looking for. He says this is a 'country' place and the yams are different. Also he cannot find green vegetables as he is used to preparing. He will have to learn. He can market with the steward of the other PCV to learn what to buy and how much.

So our larder is still not full and I hope even more that the Jeep will come so I can go to Umuahia tomorrow. Mr. Ikoku was going to repfiace my stove with the one from next door until he found he had already swiped it for some other broken one. So he replaced the broken parts. I must find time for Benson to clean it so he can cook some bread. If he can't buy food at least I can fill up on bread. I plan to buy a sink and install it in the kitchen with a linoleum drainboard and a small water tank. I hope I can find the necessary items. Ikoku is very conservative about everything. He admits that these houses are not fit for graduate teachers, yet they have served Aggrey for 31 years, so why should he change?

Friday not very busy. I read all of Steinbeck’s The Long Valley. Staff meeting tonight.

Jim Ludden

Back to Group_VII_stories

Personal tools