Settling In to Arochuku

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JIm Ludden Wednesday, 25 September 1963

My first actual teaching is this afternoon, at last. For three days I have been re-grading the exams of the chemistry students. The last teacher was a bungler. Sometimes I wonder how these kids learn anything with some of the teachers they have—then I recall that they really don't learn anything from their teachers, and many don't learn much on their own. The weather is its usual 80-85 degrees and 100% humidity. It has been raining nearly every.afternoon, and we had a good thunder storm last night.

Let me describe my accommodations:
Part of the problem is that I have no good place to type. The compound is situated around two football fields with a boulevard of nine large mango trees between. The graduate houses (me) are on the west side of this and the boy's dorms at the south. My house is just like all the others for graduates (6 houses) including the principal, except the principal has two houses [one for each wife] and lots of kids to wait on him.

The front room is 20x8 feet with a desk and two chairs and a dining table. That about fills it. The floor has new linoleum which I have partly covered with a raffia mat. The windows will soon have curtains, I hope. The bedroom is 8x10 with a four-poster of iron to hold up the mosquito net. Also contained in this room is a wardrobe of little use and a vanity with a big mirror which blocks the light from the window.

The kitchen has a kerosene fridge which is very temperamental: if the flame is not just right, it warms instead of cools. I went without meat for a week from this thing. I hijacked another book case to put in this room for food and pots. There is a nice long table here, but my steward insists on preparing food in the cook room out back. Behind the house is a row of rooms with wood stove, bathroom, and outhouse, fortunately with a can which the ‘night-soil‘ man, removes almost daily. These are about 8x5 feet. I want to rig up some kind of a sink so we don't always have to go round the house to dump water. I imagine that a porcelain sink is frightfully expensive in this place, so I may have to settle for a large funnel with a rag stopper. Market day is every four days, so one must plan with some degree of thought.

My steward is not a genius at anything, especially meals. Monday he bought three yams (they are white here, about two feet long, six inches thru) which would last a family a week. He bought ten eggs, three of which he had thrown out before I found that they were bad only because the rooster got there first. I have had lunch at 4pm and one day I had lunch a 3 and dinner at 5 because Benson fixed it then. One egg is enough for breakfast. We will straighten him out.

In the evening women sell fruit on the compound, but Benson is usually in a stew about bath or dinner so he can go home before dark—that he forgets to buy fruit. The one thing I could live off of here is fruit, and he forgets to buy it. The water supply is not just suspicious—it is the school bath. At least for the boys, who go swimming before they fill the buckets so they can wade upstream a little.

Saturday when we went to Aba, Henry the biology tutor took me shopping so I could get all the things I needed in the little time we had. Then we went to his house and had fish turnovers and stout and met his family. His house is like mine, only bigger, with more rooms. These are of mud, about 8 inches thick, with corrugated iron roofs, and with no glass in the windows—only shutters. Fortunately I have screens. None of the jambs are plumb, so the shutters never stay open by themselves.

Yesterday was a festival day in Arochuku (or Aro the name of the sub-tribe]-Chuku [meaning 'god']) and Mr. Ikoku‘s second wife took us in to see the festivities. There were several groups who wandered thru singing and beating on drums, and every one was dressed up or masqueraded. It was great fun, but my camera got sick and I may not be able to fix it. I can't get the offending part out to work on it and it is no good as it is. Alas. I hear there is a good man in Aba for this.

Oh, yes, a few more amenities: my doorways, at least bedroom and kitchen, are now high enough to walk thru. I had them cut bigger. Mr. Abraham, an Indian graduate, showed me around the villages in his VW and introduced me to the postmaster, and showed me the local ‘store'. There is a doctor and a hospital here, as well as several government buildings.

Yesterday I made a stew; I put the yams in, and when they were done, my steward promptly took them out! He thought it very funny that we should cook them together. I also carried water buckets when I went with him to see the water source. It is about a half-mile away and I figured it was no use walking back empty-handed, especially when Benson hates to make the trip. He thought it very funny that I should carry water. Also he would not chop wood yesterday, so I went out to do it and he laughed at my funny way of swinging an axe in a circle.

I was called by the boys to teach a third form science class today—half-way thru the class, and with no preparation. This has to stop. Ikoku is making out a timetable I hope it is a good one, as I would like to make some sort of preparation for these things.

I caught my steward not boiling water the other day so I showed him how it bubbles when it boils. He sort of resents my being in the kitchen and not taking a bath when he wants it, etc, but this is my house now and he will have to abide by my rules. Especially if I have to eat his cooking. I guess the British are more submissive, as the stewards generally like to work for them best. Some of Benson’s specialties are good, some require special ingredients from the city. I still have difficulty telling him I want to eat Nigerian food, but I guess his training only taught him to cook a certain few dishes which Europeans will eat. He came back from the market and told me he had to go back to get the things he needed for ‘his own‘ food. So I asked him what he would buy and he told me. Then I asked him to buy some of the same for me and he said I couldn't eat it! Stubborn cuss.

Jim Ludden

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