Wow. I haven't had any time to go to internet cafes and even when we do go the internet is so slow that it is hard to contact people. just one more thing i realized i took for granted in the U.S. I have been thinking a lot about the U.s. while I have been here. When everyone told me that it would make me appreciate the u.s. a lot more i thought that there was no way that could be true. i was wrong though. being here has really made me realize that almost all of my problems with the U.s. really don't affect me at all- they are mostly political or philosophical. the fact is that every person in the united states has the opportunity to survive. it is seriously a powerful thing to be able to have a stable government, clean streets, strong infrastructure, minimum wage, free schooling, trash pickup. i am currently in Owerri, Nigeria. it is a city with a very large population, but you can't tell by the way the buildings look. the gutters are completely full of trash and oil. there is no trash pickup, everyone burns trash piles which is really bad for the air. the air quality is so bad because there are no standards that the cars have to pass. we have pretty much three or four power outages every evening. yesterday we took a ten hour bus ride from abuja to owerri. i pretty much stared out the window the whole time. it was a really neat way to see different social climates of nigeria. there were rural villages and the rest of the time was just huge, massive, immense spans of green. green as far as the eye could see and huge white clouds.pretty much everything i see does this for me- I see the beauty of community and love- and the tragedy of people fighting to survive. We drove by communities that looked perfectly happy- houses made of cement, happy children running around and going to school- poor on our standards, but still surviving. everywhere we go people are in groups- along thee drive i would see groups of guys, groups of girls, group s of children, socializing, laughing, playing. however most cities are very dirty and children are running towards the vehicle trying to sell eggs, bread or calling cards. we passed countless cities composed of vast stretches of shanties and the community relying on the income of people driving through. the thing i am least accustomed to is the dirty cities. i remember mr. drew my english teacher saying that when he went to mexico he would sometimes question why there was so much trash on the streets and everywhere. i know that there simply isn't the infrastructure in the cities and this is absolutely no reflection on the people living in the cities. the rural areas were a lot cleaner
today we went and had a meeting with the minister of education of this state. she invited us to go to a national children's carnival. we decided to go and pulled into the stadium that it was held at and our little van was immediately surrounded by tons of children. we unpiled and each person was surrounded by about 30 smiling faces telling us how welcome we are and how happy they are to see us. i took about a million pictures because kids here really like that. We talked for about 20 minutes just with tons and tons of little kids in their school uniforms. they all said that they are very happy and love school. i asked them what they want to do in the future and they all said they want to go to university and become doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, lawyers. it was really beautiful and it made me think about how much i wish i could guarantee that they could all do the things they want to do. i have never received so much love in my entire life. they asked me what my name was and i said annie and i immediately heard a huge chorus of ANNIE. i asked for a hug and i had 40 children all hugging me as hard as they could. we talked about the u.s. and their favorite activities. they sang me their national anthem and said their pledge of allegiance. it made me cry to hear how much pride they have in their country and their lives and families. we eventually made it in the stadium but it was hard to move with so many people surrounding us- the security had to clear the way. we got to sit in the area reserved for dignitaries next to traditional rulers, ministers of education, the equivalent of all the important people in the education sector of the government. there were several thousand children participating in this event from all over the Imo state. the event is not really a carnival at all in our terms, but more like our equivalent of a marching band parade competition. each school has a traditional dance and performance team. the groups paraded around the track and performed when they got to the front. the dancing and drumming were AMAZING. i couldn't believe how good the smallest kids were! it was really beautiful to see them preserving their culture and doing traditional practices. we were truly treated as guests of honor- i couldn't believe it. it really just makes me think about how impersonal my community is back home.
i have SO much more to talk about such as the protests and police violence i saw in the capital over a governors corruption trial (that i got to witness), sitting in on the nigerian senate, meeting with an NGO about women's rights, going to two crazy intense markets, being proposed to about a million times, going to 3 hour church wearing the dress of traditional nigerian women, meeting with the chief imam of a HUGE mosque and so much more. i don't have time for that now so my last words will be wish me luck on everything i still have to experience and see.
i have so many ideas on programs and things to do to help when i get back to the u.s.
in this city being white automatically makes me a celebrity. EVERYONe either stares, smiles, or waves. it really has made me think about what it means to be white. i am looking at africans so much much that white skin is actually looking very odd. i swear, the smiles of everyone and the millions of times i hear "you are welcome" everyday overwhelms me. i can't believe how many times i have made eye contact with someone and smiled and that was enough to fill their hearts with joy and smile or laugh back. thinking about america's view of africa saddens me. people just don't have any idea how people live their lives. i few sights i see all the time:
-motorcycles fill the road instead of cars a lot of the time. i saw today a motoccyle with three children on it and two parents
-people carrying things on their heads. they pretty much don't carry things any other way. i am really amazed/fascinated by this all the time. today i saw a woman with a forty pound bag of rice on her head like it was no big deal.
-women carry babies on their backs fastened by a cloth that wraps around the baby abd ties in the front. there are tons of children here and families typically have a lot of kids. any time i see a mother with a baby on her back it just melts my heart because it is so beautiful. i pretty much go crazy at the site of any child. they are so innocent, sweet, good natured and friendly.my response to the children has confirmed my desire to teach in africa and adopt. i think my experience with the kids today at the carnival was the happiest moment of my life.