Moved South

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Gone south by Andy Buhler, CUSO, 69-71

Originally I had planned to leave Kano on about May 15th -- trains went south on M-W-F. Steve said he would see me the Tuesday previous as we had a bit of a Ministerial problem to clear up. To go back further -- Ian sent a letter saying I could transfer and should go in two weeks. He said Steve would be up in a couple of days to see the Ministry. Steve was late in arriving, coming on a Sunday. He stayed Monday and saw Dr. Patel. Dr. Patel panicked and said I couldn’t go, indispensable and all that. Steve saw me then he went south to confer with Ian. He was to return eight days later (Tuesday before 15th) to give Ian’s verdict. On Thursday (one day before the 15th) I got a phone call saying stay until Tuesday next as both Ian and Steve were coming up. So I had to cancel train reservations, and so on. I had already closed my house, got the water and power turned off, and had broken open my steward’s quarters (empty as I expected). I went to stay at Ken’s.

John H., who had been recouperating at Ken's, was to go home Friday and invited me to go to Hadejia for Id-el-Mahmud (Festival of Mohammed’s birthday). The ride Friday was full but a teacher was to go up Saturday morning and said I could go with him if I was up. “OK,” I said. “What time?” “Oh, I’m leaving at 4:00 a.m.” Yaaahh! However, I made it and spent an enjoyable Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Hadejia. The Military Governors of Western State and Kano State were coming up on a state tour on the Monday so on Sunday there was a festival rehearsal. I took a roll of film and had none left for Monday so the shots represent only the rehearsal. The actual event was a bit more colorful.

In Hadejia there were Kanuri people from Nornu (Mangawa tribe). I watched them practicing a street dance on Saturday. The flutist saluted me with a tune so I bobbed my hips in time with the tune. First error on my part -- they loved a Baturi joining in so grabbed me and had me dancing with them for five minutes -- observed by about 100 cheering spectators. I got a few pictures afterwards but only of other dancers (not of me). Monday I saw Sallah at Hadejia in the morning then went to Gumel on my way home to see it there. Gumel had camels and magicians in their parade.

Monday I got back to Kano. Tuesday Ian and Steve arrived late. Wednesday I boarded a train to Ibadan. The train was three hours late in leaving (noon instead of 9:00 a.m.). It delayed another hour at Zaria. The second-class compartments are supposed to contain only the six people whose names appear on the door but we had up to nine at one time. The seats fold down into six beds at night but the top two racks were so loaded with luggage that only four beds were available. I snagged one at about 11:00 p.m. Two people slept in each of the two others and, after getting back to six people, one of the six got a single too.

Anyway, after some time I arrived in Ibadan at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday. I tried to phone Ian’s to collect my gear -- phone was out of order. So had to store my stuff at the station and push my bike to the garage (I had to drain all the gas out before they would allow it on the train). I got gas then had to try and find Mary’s place. By 4:30–5:00 p.m. I eventually found it and stayed on the stoop resting in anticipation of her return (she didn’t return until 9:30 p.m.). Christianna from Ayangba arrived at Mary’s too, then Lorraine.

Lorraine showed us where the Classens lived so about 8:00 p.m. we went there and Diana made us some supper (first meal of the day for me). Back to Mary’s at 9:30 p.m. The next day I spent at Oke-Ofa hospital writing up a list of all supplies required to start up a hospital lab (ten typed pages worth), saw Ian, went to a show, saw Adel K. (CUSO volunteer doctor), etc. Saturday morning I set out for Abeokuta by bike and arrived at suppertime. There I met Dr. B. and his wife Renata (an artist) at Lorraine and Rose’s. They invited me to go to Oyo next day so I got a grand circle tour there. They do calabash carving at Oyo and also have native weavers. I took a couple of pictures of carved poles and of the Oba’s palace (Obas are like the northern Emirs). I had supper at the B.’s that night -- torrential downpour most of the evening.

Up by 6:30 a.m. By 8:00 a.m. I left by bike for Lagos. This is the only city where a bike is better than a car. The streets are terrible and traffic is so heavy it only moves about one mph on approach streets although quite fast on one-way streets. I had to thread through lines of cars, on the edge or down the center, judging widths to get my handlebars through, weaving in and out all over. Finally found the Catholic Secretariat and gave my lists to Fr. McCarthy, then I went back to Wendy’s. This was about noon. I had lunch and decided it wasn’t going to rain that day so I set off for Benin City at 2:00 p.m.

The road to Benin City from the Lagos/Ibadan turn-off is frightful. Lorries all over and they take a malicious delight in forcing bikes off of the road. Most roads here are only a lane to a lane-and-a-half anyway (total width). I saw about 20 vehicles smashed up on roadsides as there are many hills with single lane bridges at the bottom. Some people hit the abutments. Others probably go too fast and go out of control. Some vehicles are really mangled. Since there are few wrecking trucks here most of the mangled frames stay where they lay for months -- hence the large number of them. I got to Benin City about 7:00 p.m. -- just dark -- then had to try and find John’s place. That took me a good hour of getting lost about thrice in dark and winding streets.

Tuesday I left early a.m. for Ogwashi-Uku arriving there about 10:00 a.m. I passed through the town before I realized I was there so I had to backtrack a couple of miles (my instructions had said “big place along the road” -- ha!). However, there are apparently 12-14 small villages, about 30,000 people, which are clustered close together here in the bush forming Ogwashi-Uku. I found the hospital yesterday morning and was greeted by Sister Mildred and Fr. Golli, the doctor, and then I was allowed to sleep for two hours. After my rest I went to see the lab. That’s when I realized I was working for a couple of tornados. Sister wanted me to go back to Lagos as soon as possible and collect supplies -- “Friday,” she said. I had just arrived here Tuesday. So I said, “All right.” She showed me the three empty rooms of the lab and asked me to decide how I would like them fitted out. I considered that yesterday. This morning I drew a floor plan but not any elevations. Sister got a carpenter here at noon and wanted me to explain exactly what I wanted so he could start work immediately. (I hope I haven’t forgotten anything important as I’ve only really just seen the rooms. To put out exact plans overnight is a bit rushed.) However, I better have done things right as now I go to Lagos tomorrow -- Thursday.

So I’ve been here a day and half and have already made out orders for equipment and supplies. I have to make a new list, too, as they want to do some chemistry as well. We only have power at night from 7:00-11:00 p.m. so I may have to work evenings if I get power-operated equipment. Most equipment available will need power, rather than be battery operated, so I may have a funny working day -- assuming I can get equipment in Lagos. Tomorrow I go back to Lagos with a van, driver, order book, etc. to get as much as I can to start a lab. USAID are donating money for the lab if our supplies are ordered before the end of the month -- part of the reason for the rush.

St. Mary’s Hospital: several buildings are not yet opened as the hospital only started up about five weeks ago; Fr. Golli came about three weeks ago. There are three wards opened, an injection room and outpatient’s area opened, a pharmacy started (a dispensary actually), and surgery is in operation (Fr. Golli is a Polish priest who later studied medicine -- surgery is his specialty so he does several operations a day). Power is only available in the evening, from a generator. No regular running water yet but, as in the North, maybe soon. My house is not quite furnished so I’m staying in the doctor’s house with him. There are two Sisters, one Rev. Doctor, and about seven nurses and aides, running the place (which is soon to be up to 100-135 bed capacity). Quite a job, eh?

The army occupied the place during the crisis and damaged some buildings internally but structurally most are fine. The hospital is on a plateau overlooking a broad tropical plain (if you can actually see the plain through all of the trees here) to as far as the Niger River 15 miles away. It’s really quite a pretty setting -- lots of grass, some flame trees, a few palm and other trees. I will take some pictures soon. Ian is supposed to transport my stuff here from Ibadan on Friday or Saturday so I’m living out of a small suitcase at the moment. I haven’t shaved in three days but will try to rig up my razor to a lab plug-in tonight when the power is on.

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