After six months of temping and a failed relationship, I really needed to do something different. A week in Thailand sounded fun but I was really after a destination that not everyone had been to. The type of place that would not inspire the usual competition at parties of who had done the same trip on the tightest budget, survived more hardship or had done it all and got the tattoo.
So, for me, the country for my getaway was Nigeria. A country most commonly known for dodgy emails promising one million pounds just for your bank account details, phone number and date of birth. This way I figured, at least I would have stories to tell and adventures to be had. Along with some teaching experience after a few months spent at a local school in a village called Unwana. And after persuading my parents of the merits of this trip, I headed to Heathrow airport with my guidebook in hand.
A seven hour plane ride later, the other volunteers and I arrived in Lagos. We all piled into a beaten up truck and made the short ride to Lagos Airport hotel. Knocked out on malaria tablets and a few small bottles of gin swiped from my flight, I spent the night dreaming of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I was expecting similar, mad adventures on my teaching placement.
The following day we flew to Abakaliki – famous for being the place where John Major worked. Not what you would expect for a former Prime Minister! As Abakiliki is a small, bustling town in the middle of nowhere, probably with only a couple of thousand people living there. It felt like they were all out and about in the midday sun. With people shopping at the local markets, eating garri (small soft balls made from cassava) and buying beautiful bright clothes for church on Sunday.
Our day spent leisurely wandering around the streets listening to calls of “Oyinbo” – meaning white person – was interrupted with the arrival of our ride to Unwana. We all squeezed in the back seat eager to get to this tiny village in the middle of nowhere. With our heads stuck out of the windows to benefit from the cool breeze, we took in the amazing view of farms, villages and the occasional police checkpoint or fake police checkpoint. You can never really tell which are genuine and which are not!
Once we arrived, the first stop was to see the village elders. On route we brought kola nuts and gin for the elders to perform the welcoming ceremony. Not really sure what to expect, we approached a small hut in the middle of the village. Three small, elderly men emerged with walking sticks and orange bobble hats. Something I had never seen in documentaries of life in Africa, or Nigeria.
We were beckoned inside. Then shots of gin were drank and the cola nuts broken. Our Nigerian adventure had only just begun!