Onward to Kaduna

Today we woke early and after showering I began sorting through our gear.  Part of the problem with traveling is that inevitably a large part of our baggage will need to be stowed out of sight, either in the belly of a bus or an airplane.  This makes me nervous enough in Ghana (where a guidebook we have says never to stowe anything of value in the belly of an STC bus), but in Nigeria my paranoia ratchets up.  Actually it doesn’t really change at all because I am just paranoid all of the time, but everyone we know in Ghana has told us to be “very paranoid” in Nigeria, so I take this to mean my normal level of paranoia is more justified here.

So in order to travel to Abuja we had to check all of our clothing and toiletries and other “expendable” items, and carry onto the plane the film gear.  They only allow 5KG of carryons, so that was a bit dicey.  Luckily there wasn’t much attention paid, and the 20KG of gear we carried on went unnoticed.  Partially this is because we broke the gear down into its smallest possible configuration and put some of the less than essential stuff in the check bags.  The broken down configuration makes it much easier to carry, but impossible to use in any timely sort of manner.  I saw plenty of things in Lagos and Abuja I’d have wanted to shoot, but didn’t have the twenty or thirty minutes required to break out all the gear and put it together.

After getting the gear sorted and mostly back together we packed up to checkout and meet Mr. Abubakar.  On checkout we asked for the remainder of our deposit back — we’d been told to pay 20,000 Naira ($140) and we would receive nearly 7,000 on checkout as a refunded deposit.  The problem was now that when we went to checkout, we were asked to pay nearly another 7,000 Naira.  The employee at the desk in the morning knew nothing of our discount and took our “balance” to mean we owed that amount.  We explained our situation and he argued with us some, insisting he must have a letter from UNICEF.  I don’t want to get further into it, except to say it took another 30 minutes to check out, and even that was possible only thanks to the continued hard work of UNICEF (and the annoying love of Nigerians for paperwork).  We were paid all but ten Naira (7 cents) of what we were owed, and left with our contact for the bus station.

One our way to the bus station we saw an errant taxi blatantly run a red light, nearly getting t-boned.  And by ‘red light’ I mean ‘police officer with gloves directing traffic.’  The bus station it turns out was actually a “trotro station,” and we soon found a tro to Kaduna.  The tro itself was about a 7 on the one-to-ten scale, which is fine enough by my tastes, and in fairness I didn’t see any broken down trotros on the way to Kaduna, but did see two broken down buses, so maybe taking a trotro was the right move.  The driver’s maneuvering was entirely reasonable as well.

We paid 2100 Naira, about 21GHC (14USD) for the two of us.  This is about 2-3x what a similar trip would cost in Ghana, further reinforcing my perception that things here are more expensive.

As the trotro found its way to the freeway we cut through a junkyard-slash-place-people-fix-vehicles and I saw a man siphoning gasoline by mouth from the tank of a broken taxi.  This is the first time I’ve seen someone spitting gasoline outside of an action movie.

It took about 45 minutes to get out of Abuja and into the country, although of the three hour trip there was really only at most an hour where we were truly in the country.  Even after getting out of Abuja there was another half hour of roadside stands and little clusters of homes alongside the road.  Once we finally did stop seeing villages, the grasslands with sporadic trees reminded me a lot of Texas.

Soon we were seeing the hustle and bustle of the outskirts of Kaduna, something that was familiar to me from my many trips into Accra.  A good half hour before you hit what I would call “Accra” you start seeing lots of urban activity.  This periphery isn’t anywhere I’d want to live, thanks to its distance from the central services of the major city (embassies, hospitals, etc), but still has all of the major necessities of life (markets, vendors, chop bars, and so on).  Kaduna would prove to be no different.

Our tro eventually emptied out until it was just us.  The driver dropped us at another (much smaller) tro-station called “Kowoo” or something along those lines.  He found us a taxi and we hopped in, off to UNICEF.  We asked the taxi for the fare rate, and he replied “one-five.”  Not knowing where we were going (having never been to Kaduna), we had no idea if this was fair or not.  It turns out he had little more idea than us where UNICEF was other, as he had to stop and ask some people alongside the road.  Eventually we arrived and I think it probably should have been more like 500N instead of 1500N, but I suppose that is not so bad in the scheme of things.

We met with Rabiu, the Communications Officer for UNICEF in Kaduna.  It took a little while for him to arrive because this is the beginning of the Child Health Week in Nigeria, and he is of course quite busy.  On Paula’s reccommendation we asked to see the Zonal Warehouse, where UNICEF supplies are stored for emergencies and also during the period between procurement (on behalf of Nigeria) and delivery (to the Nigerian state governments).  Rabiu arranged for a car and we were off to the warehouse as the sun began to fade.

At the warehouse, which was maybe 15 minutes away, we got a tour from the manager and saw lots of rows of boxes of various things: midwifery kits, borehole pipes, rehydration salts, vitamin A capsules, and so on.  No measles vaccines at the moment, though.

From Kaduna it’s looking like we’ll head to Zaria, a smaller city of “only one million” (did I mention Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa?), to film the Child Health Week ‘flagoff’ (I prefer the term ‘kickoff’ but here they say flagoff).  This is assuming it takes place — we have word that it may or may not (the flagoff, not the CHW).  From Zaria there are some smaller areas/towns/villages (again, given Nigerian scale I am hesitant to commit to a noun) just a bit more distance to film in.

Tomorrow we will meet with the UNICEF Health Consultant here and then we should know a lot more about where the specific measles cases are taking place now so that we can go find them.

As I write this it’s 7:30pm and we just finished at UNICEF.  We’re going to catch a ride from Rabiu to a local hotel that is inexpensive.  There was a brief pow-wow of UNICEF people all consulting (mostly in Hausa) as to where would be good to take us.  According to Rabiu Nigeria doesn’t have guesthouses (low cost lodging) in the way that Ghana does.  He thinks there’s a 6,000N ($40) hotel that should work nearby, although some other staffers suggested a 3,000N hotel slightly across town that might also work.  He’s graciously offered us a ride (nice to save on taxi fare) as he drives home tonight.

We also have yet to eat today, other than a “donut” purchased from the cafe in the lobby of our hotel.  We considered doing their continental buffet, but it was $30USD per person, which is roughly ten times what we normally spend on meals at restaurants in Ghana, so we weren’t too keen.  Ater we find accommodations we’ll see how hard it is to track down some suitable food; there’s always our protein bar strategic reserves that can be tapped into if necessary.

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