Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Where is Lafia, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for Lafia, Nigeria, which is near Abuja, in the part of Nigeria where Boko Haram runs rampant, and where over 250 girls were kidnapped from their school in 2014. Some few escaped, most were married off to poor young Boko Haram soldiers into hardship and near-slavery. Boko Haram does not believe in educating women. The Nigerian government at one point announced that Boko Haram had agreed to return the girls, but nothing happened. The Nigerian military and police do nothing to get them back.

Screen shot 2015-01-02 at 7.08.31 AM

January 2, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Nigeria, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | 2 Comments

Where is Enugu, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for Enugu, in Nigeria:

Screen shot 2014-01-09 at 7.33.30 AM

As you pray for the well-being of Enugu, would you also pray for all those places where religion is a cause for strife? Syria, northern Nigeria, the newest country in the world, South Sudan? To me, it is just heartbreaking that those who should be living in peace, working together, are in armed bloody conflict against one another.

January 9, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Social Issues, Spiritual | , , | Leave a comment

Where is Aba, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for the diocese of Aba, in the Nigerian Delta:

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 7.29.28 AM

January 2, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Education, Faith, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth | , , | Leave a comment

Where Are Dioceses of Ukwa and Umuahia (Aba, Nigeria)?

Every day our church prays for a different part of the world. Today it is Ukwa and Umuahia in Aba, Nigeria.  I had to look it up:

Screen shot 2013-11-06 at 7.34.14 AM

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Faith, Geography / Maps, Interconnected | | Leave a comment

Where is Lokoja, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for the diocese of Lokoja, Nigeria. Don’t you just love technology? You can go right to Google Maps and within seconds, you know where Lokoja is, right on the banks of the Niger river, bisecting Nigeria.

Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 7.34.38 AM

June 27, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Faith, Geography / Maps | , | Leave a comment

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

Screen shot 2013-06-22 at 11.09.21 AM


I don’t know what it is about summer reading, but now and then I go on a theme-fest; a couple years ago it was Nigerian literature, and, once hooked . . . when my friend who is now living in Lagos recommended The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, I ordered it right away, thinking from the title it would be maybe light and sweet and humorous.

From the start, that assumption was blown. This is a direct and edgy Nigeria, darker, rougher and full of family secrets, domestic details and messy relationships.

It is a very Nigerian book – this is a good thing. There are cultural things that are not explained, but it all ends up making sense in the end. There are foods I have never heard of – ekuro with shrimp sauce, asun. There is a rudeness in the way they speak to one another, (“Is this a parking lot?” “Do I look like a parking attendant?”), a crudeness in the constant need to carry small bills for bribes, even on public streets. People speak their minds, with little or no mitigation, depending on the status of the person and their own personal goals and agendas.

At the weekly meeting of wives, the senior wife, Iya Segi, doles out rations of household supplies to the other wives, including chocolate powder and hair conditioner . . . and as the senior wives complain about the new wife thrown in their midst, she says:

“You will trip over in your hate if you are not careful, woman. Your mouth discharges words like diarrhea. Let Bolanle draw on every skill she learned in her university! Let her employ every sparkle of youth! Let her use her fist-full breasts. Listen to me, this is not a world she knows. When she doesn’t find what she came looking for, she will go back to wherever she came from.”

There is a whole other world in that one paragraph – a whole other way of seeing life and expressing thoughts. The culture may be alien, but I thoroughly enjoyed being a tiny mouse in the corner at that meeting – and others – and inside the minds of the wives, of Baba Segi, of the driver – so many good stories, so many points of view, and I learned things from behind those high compound walls and closed and locked doors that I might never otherwise have learned. Alien as it was, for me, this was a very good book, new ways of looking at things, and a great recommendation from my friend in Lagos.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Books, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Relationships, Values, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

Nigeria Wants Looted Art Works Back

From AOL/Huffpost

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments, the governmental body in Nigeria that regulates the nation’s museum systems, is demanding the return of 32 artifacts recently acquired by the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Consisting of various bronze and ivory sculptures looted during the Benin Massacre of 1897, the Director-General of the commission, Yusuf Abdallah Usman, states that the pieces were illegally taken by the British Expedition as spoils of war.

The MFA in Boston acquired the pieces last month as a gift from New York banker and collector Robert Owen Lehman, who purchased the Benin pieces in the 1950s and 1970s. But the pieces were originally looted by British soldiers in the late 1890s, following the Benin massacre of 1897. In a statement made by Usman, the commission stated: “Without mincing words, these artworks are heirlooms of the great people of the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria generally. They form part of the history of the people. The gap created by this senseless exploitation is causing our people, untold anguish, discomfort and disillusionment.”

According to Huffington Post blogger and Princeton art history professorChika Okeke-Agulu, the laws governing cultural heritage in the United States are lenient toward museums holding works like those from the Benin Court. Commenting on the ethical imperatives associated with the looted art acquisitions, he has stated that “calls for the resolution of the problem caused by British looters of Benin royal art collection will not go away — especially now that Nigerian/world-citizen voices have learned to harness the popular power of the Internet to demand action.”

July 21, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Heritage, Political Issues, Public Art | | 1 Comment

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Thing Around Your Neck

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has compiled a series of elegant vignettes in her most recent book, The Thing Around Your Neck. I had just read Half of a Yellow Sun, and was still wallowing in stunned admiration, when I heard an interview with the author on BBC, and learned she had written this book, The Thing Around Your Neck.

I loved Half of a Yellow Sun. I loved Purple Hibiscus. I felt I began to understand just a little bit about life in transitional Nigeria, with all the social and political forces blowing to and fro, straining the very fabric of nationhood.

In The Thing Around Your Neck, something else happens. It shares with Cutting for Stone and other books I like the impressions of those who come to live in the USA for the first time.

“Would that the wee wee giftie gi’e us, To see ourselves as others see us . . . ”

I’ve had a lot of experience going to live in foreign countries. One of the things I learned is that most of what I learn the first couple years isn’t much. You learn a lot of things wrong. You filter everything through your own cultural biases; you judge, you interpret, you try to make sense of things that just seem wrong.

I love to watch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s characters do this in reverse, come to America and make judgements based on their own cultural expectations. I love to see us through these eyes.

Once, many many years ago, we entertained a Nigerian in our home, and when we served dinner, steaks, he looked at his plate and said “This would feed my family for a week.” We kind of laughed. We kind of thought he was exaggerating, or even kidding. We just didn’t know. We had never seen anyone truly hungry, we had always lived in this land of plenty. We had no idea what we didn’t know. We saw only what we knew.

Each story is a gem. Each treats the expat experience, coming here, or the reverse, coming to America and then going back and seeing Nigeria through eyes which have changed.

One story I had read before, in the New Yorker magazine and loved reading again, The Headstrong Historian. It starts with a smart woman, weaving her way among the ways of her people, whose husband’s family wants her husband to take another wife. He doesn’t want to. These two chose each other, and managed to live their lives together as best they could, by their own standards. Her son disappoints her, but her granddaughter – she sees her husband’s brave, courageous spirit in the eyes of her little grand daughter. You’ll have to read the story to find out the rest.

Other stories have to do with newlyweds, with students, with love and marriage and affairs – the full spectrum of human experience, through Nigerian expat eyes. There are settings common from all three books, the college campus at Nsukka, a prison outside of town, small villages outside the city. If you read all her books, you recognize place: “Aha! I’ve been her before, in Purple Hibiscus!” You learn how to bribe the guards so you can bring in food for your imprisoned family member, you learn to keep your eyes down to show respect, you learn how Nigeria smells when the rains come, and how dry and dusty it gets during the harmattan.

I’m just sorry there isn’t another book by this author – yet – that I can read!

I guess these books that I love deal with a theme dear to my heart – that we are culturally blind to so many things, and that as human beings we are more alike than we are different. Short of packing up all our lives and our assumptions and moving to many different countries, the best we can hope for in learning different ways of thinking is for books like these by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which show us how differently we perceive things, depending on our cultures, and how alike we are in the things that we feel, as human beings.

June 17, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Books, Character, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Political Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , | Leave a comment

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Purple Hibiscus

A couple of years ago, when we had a great book club in Kuwait, I read Half of a Yellow Sun, by this author, and I was blown away. Some books you just read for entertainment, and some books have such a strong, compelling voice that it comes back to you, again and again, and you think about it for a long time.

So when recommended Purple Hibiscus, I bought it, along with The Thing Around Your Neck. Purple Hibiscus is the author’s first book, and The Thing Around Your Neck is her most recent. In 2009, I found an interview with her online; you can watch it by clicking here: An Interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is an enormously talented author.

When I read Half of a Yellow Sun, I became Igbo, growing up in Nigeria. While that story was told through many eyes, I was able to be a boy from the bush brought to the college campus to be a houseboy, I got to be a wife, her sister, her professor husband. We experienced the Biafran succession, the insanity of several regime changes in Nigeria, the total fog and waste of war, through the eyes of the Biafrans.

Reading Purple Hibiscus was a little different; the story is told through the eyes of a girl, Kambili, who lives in a very controlled environment. We know from the very beginning that things are not right in her wealthy, beautiful world. Her father and mother love her, take good care of her, feed her, clothe her – and that is just a part of a bigger picture. Her father has an idea of the way things should be; he attained his position and wealth through his education by the Catholic priests and he has a rigid idea of how everything must be done. Vary from his strictures, and you get beaten, or scalded, or you little finger is broken and disfigured.

Part of what makes this book so compelling is that while the environment is Nigeria, and, to us, exotic, the climate of abuse is the same everywhere. It’s a dirty little secret, even in the wealthiest of families, you keep your mouth shut to stay alive, and to protect your family’s image. Abuse is no stranger to rich or poor families, and can only stay alive because people stay silent.

Kambili, fifteen when we meet her, lives a tiny, small, scared life, following the weekly schedules her father prints out for her and her brother and posts over her desk. She hears her mother beaten over the smallest failure, imagined or real. Her mother miscarries twice due to these beatings, and her father tenderly cares for the mother whose miscarriage his beatings caused. It is crazy-world. Kambeli and her brother are expected to take first in every class; if they do not, they, too, pay a severe penalty.

Just as the political climate in Nigeria starts to tremble and fall apart, so, too, does Kambili’s life, and in the falling apart, comes new ways of doing things, new perspectives, new risks and even learning to run, to laugh, to be ‘normal’ as other children are. She is blessed to have an aunt at the university, no where near so wealthy as her family but able to cajole her father into letting the children visit with her. The aunt, Ifeoma, laughs, and encourages her children to challenge other’s opinions respectfully, and who grows the very rare Purple Hibiscus. Her heart aches for Kambili and her brother, and she tries to give them space to figure things out for themselves, and to chose what they want for themselves.

It is a scary time in Nigeria, a time when men can come to the door and take someone away, and you don’t know if you will ever see them again, or how damaged they will be if they return. Kambili’s own life is full of a similar terror, but the terror is inflicted by someone who she loves, and who loves her.

I love the soul of an author who can write a book like this, a book that makes me feel like in another life I was a Nigerian. I can’t begin to think I know much about Nigeria now, but having read three books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I have the broad outlines of the divisions which traumatize and fracture Nigeria to this day. Even better, I understand how very different the cultural expectations are from our own, and how very similar we are as human beings.

This is a great read. It is inspirational. You might even learn something. You can find it on

June 17, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Books, Family Issues, Law and Order, Leadership, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues | , | Leave a comment


BBC has been running a radio series on pirates, how we came to see pirates mostly deriving from Treasure Island, and romantic literature. Here is a recent article, however, on modern day piracy, which is alive and well, particular off the Horn of Africa / Somalia. Scary stuff. Did you know that 90% of the world’s cargo is moved by sea? And I recently heard that for Kuwait, the percentage of goods delivered by sea was 99%. This article begins a three part series on modern day piracy:

No vessel is safe from modern pirates
By Nick Rankin
BBC World Service

Pirates are not just mythological characters with peg legs, parrots and pistols. They now carry AK-47s and use speedboats to rule the high seas of the world.

Robbery of the high seas is not confined to 18th-Century history and literature or Hollywood films – it is still very much alive today.

Ninety percent of the world’s trade is still moved by sea, so it is not surprising that piracy against cargo vessels remains a significant issue.

It is estimated that seaborne piracy amounts to worldwide losses of between $13bn and $16bn a year.

Piracy peaked in 2003 with 445 attacks around the world and since then, they have more or less steadily come down.

In 2006, there were 239 attacks. Last year, the number increased slightly to 249.

Although attacks have decreased from the early 1990s, Rupert Herbert-Burns, a maritime security expert at Lloyd’s Intelligence Unit, says piracy is still a worrying problem.

“Attacks rose by 14% towards the end of last year, largely due to attacks off the Horn of Africa, specifically in Somali waters or in the territorial waters off Somalia,” he said.

You can read the rest of the article HERE.

March 11, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Crime, Financial Issues, Geography / Maps, News, Social Issues, Travel | , | 9 Comments