Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Second week in Lagos

This week we went on an excursion to the US Consulate on Victoria Island, which is part of the city of Lagos, for an update on safety issues and services for Americans in Nigeria.  It took us over 2 hours to get there and the same coming home...and it was only 15 miles away.  That is what traffic is like much of the time.    There are okadas that zip in and out (motorcycles carrying paying passengers) but other traffic is very slow.  The streets are in very poor condition and in many places are dirt roads with deep ruts.  People walk among the slow moving traffic selling various goods... from newspapers to electrical appliances.  All of this is in the middle of a city with many "booths" on the sides of the road selling cloth, leather goods, sunglasses, etc.  Thomas, one of the mission drivers, drove us...There were many times I closed my eyes as he made lanes that did not exist; narrowly missing nearby vehicles and people walking in the streets (in most places there are no sidewalks).  That is how all the drivers operate along with honking their horns for everyone to get out of their way.  It is hilarious.  We saw many living areas where people live in huts barely protected from the elements. 

One of the villages that our mission is working with is actually a leper colony.  ( I thought leposy had been eradicated.)  Medication is donated at no cost for the people in the village, but the government charges the villagers for this medicine to make money.  The people in the village cannot afford to buy the medicine so leprosy, and their suffering continues.  Our church is trying to get medicine and wheelchairs to the people in the village directly through a contact that has been working in the leper colony.  We are also trying to help them become financially independent by teaching them how to grow crops in order to afford the medication from the government.  The church is also drilling bore holes, here and in other villages so people can have fresh, unpolluted water.  Many villages still wash their clothes and bodies, as well as get drinking water, from a nearby stream that is usually not very clean. 

Thursday and Friday were Muslim holidays and almost everything was closed down so we took the opportunity to go back to Victoria Island to visit the National Museum of Nigeria.  (There was very little traffic...very unusual).  It portrayed the history of this part of Nigeria as well as the political history of the whole country.  There is too much to tell in this email, but it is a history of much violence...personal and political.  Not too many years ago twins were killed because they were thought to bring bad luck, political leaders were murdered as regimes have changed, and living conditions cause a high rate of infant deaths.  Amazingly, the Nigerian people are very resilient and most have great hope for their children's future. 

Not much gas in Lagos, so our driver had to put some gas in the car from the mission reserve.
Apartment Buildings
 A kay kay (three wheeled taxi).  Sometimes see six or more people riding.
A kay kay with a passenger. 
 High rise apartment building in very poor condition.
Museum of Nigeria.  Wonderful inside, but they refused to let us take pictures. 
High rise buildings on Victoria Island.  Some parts look fairly modern. 
An unusual street on Victoria Island.  This is as good as it gets. 
 Looking across the Lagos Lagoon.
 A shanti town, very depressing.
People selling on the street. 
People packed in a taxi van.  They sometimes hang out the sliding side door. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Arrival in Nigeria

We left Salt Lake City on the 15th of October after spending a wonderful week-end at Jeff and Angie’s with Shireen, Brett and family joining us there as well.  On Saturday we went to Provo and went to the cemetery and visited our grandbabies and afterward went to Diego’s for a Mexican lunch. The males went to the BYU homecoming game with Oregon State while the ladies did a little shopping.  Sunday we attended church (Gwen played the violin in the Primary program) and then had family pictures taken by Amy Pulsipher, who we have known since she was a baby.  On Monday we bid teary good-byes and were driven to the airport by Jeff.
When we arrived in Lagos, after a 16 hour flight, there were no signs telling us where to go so we followed the crowd and ended up in the wrong line with immigration officers glowering at us because we had such difficulty understanding them.  Finally we were moved onward and a very kind Nigerian gentleman that we had a conversation with in Atlanta handed us some Nigerian money to get a luggage cart because we did not yet have any nairas (Nigerian money).  We then encountered the travel person from the Lagos Mission who helped us breeze through customs.
As we drove from the airport the traffic was amazing… motorcycles weaving in and out with 3-4 people on each one (a form of taxi) and other motorcycles with covers (called kakas) as well as lots of small cars that made their own lanes and seem to follow no traffic laws.  There are many walled areas topped with razor wire.  Our mission complex is walled but razor wire on only one section.  Exterior doors require coded cards that are read electronically while the inner doors have at least four steel rods that hold the door securely.
Our apartment has one bedroom which is comfortable and air-conditioned except when there is no electricity…  This goes off at least a dozen times a day.  We have hot water off and on.  The kitchen had hot water briefly after one of the three plumbers, who came to fix our problem, flooded the kitchen and part of the living room.
We are thoroughly enjoying this experience…  and laugh over the idiosyncrasies of this country.  The African missionaries are wonderful…  and all the young missionaries are African.  We attended a zone conference, conducted interviews of the missionaries and have begun learning some of our administrative responsibilities.  We will be spending a lot of our time helping with the administration and organization of the mission.
Saturday we went grocery shopping with the two other senior missionary couples.  Grocery stores here are nothing like the supermarkets in the US.  We went to three stores and were unable to find many things on our list.  We have decided to wait until we get to the store to see what they have and then plan our menus around those items.   Food is 3-4 times more expensive than we are used to.  I saw a half gallon of ice cream for the equivalent of $30.  We are going to try going to a local fruit and vegetable stand that is in a safe area near our mission complex.  We are warned a lot about safety and are making an effort to follow the guidelines.  We are very anxious to see more of the country and are told that a driver will be able to take us various places.

Neighborhood from our window

Guard at our mission complex

Working with Elder Ampiah

Elder Adu-Gymfi (Elwood's co-worker)

Map - mission area outlined in black

President Karkari, our Mission President

Preparing for our grocery excursion

Typical walled in area (this is part of our mission wall)

How do you like the sidewalk?  There are none!

Part of a main street

Nearby neighborhood

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Week 1 at the Missionary Training Center

We thoroughly enjoyed our first week in the MTC (Mission Training Center) in Provo, Utah.  Our learning experiences have been amazing... honing our scriptural and teaching skills.  There are approximately 150 senior missionaries (old people) in our group.  It is the largest class to ever enter the MTC.  Two other couples are going to Africa - one to Ghana and the other to Benin.

Our district, with Brother Hong (center)

We have been divided into districts of four couples.  Ours consists of the Bytheways from Glenwood, Utah heading to Toronto, Canada; the Garretts from Memphis, Tennessee going to Edmonton, Canada; and the Pugmires from Seattle, Washington going to Jamaica.  We have had many spiritual experiences together.  There are a number of teachers, but the most memorable have been the leaders of our small group:  Brother Hong and Brother Keepman, two young returned missionaries.  Most evenings have been spent preparing assignments for the next day.

Elder and Sister Brown with Brother Hong

Today we drove up Provo Canyon to see the beautiful fall colors - magnificent!

Monday, October 1, 2012

And they're off! To the Mission Training Center!

After a wonderful farewell last weekend in Granada Hills and visiting with family and good friends, Penny and Elwood headed to Arizona to visit Brett and Shireen and kids, then off to Utah for a few days with Jeff and Angie and family.  This morning, they checked into the MTC, where they will be for the next 2 weeks.

Let the adventure begin!  Day 1 at the MTC in Provo, Utah.

Elder and Sister Brown in front of the world map, pointing to Nigeria.