Pascal spent 7 weeks volunteering with JDPC, a micro-credit organization in Nigeria on an AIESEC exchange, the following is a couple days worth of observations and experiences living in Nigeria.
I have been swinging back and forth in my opinion of this place and my travels so far, ranging from “this is the greatest thing I have ever done“ to “what kind of half-thought-out, silly situation did I get myself into this time.” Is it one of the most uncomfortable and difficult things I have ever done? Yes. Is it one of the most rewarding? Definitely. Has it been worth it? I think so. Time will tell.
I took a 14-hour long bus ride to Calabar for the AIESEC Global Village event, which was scheduled to last 2 days. The trip there was long and surprisingly comfortable compared to what was waiting for me on the trip back. I was given the nicest (and deadliest) seat on the minibus, right next to the driver. Sadly, this prevented me from getting any sleep, since the driver consistently avoided oncoming catastrophes by no more than 10 centimeters each time. Unlike the people in the back, I didn’t have a 16-person cushion in front of me to absorb the impact. I had a giant, carve-me-into-pieces-when-shattered windshield in front of me.
What struck me most about the Nigerian roads were the police; every 2 kilometers or so there was an improvised roadblock, with cops checking every few cars. The roadblocks were designed to funnel cars through a narrow passage on the road. The cops ranged in degree of susceptibility to bribery. For one officer, our bribe of 50 Naira (25 cents) apparently was not enough to convince him to let us pass. He unloaded all of us and checked our baggage one by one. Needless to say, I was scared shitless; his comrades were carrying oversized guns ranging from Uzis to AK-47s, flare pistols and grenade launchers and none of them seemed to care about anything but their own supplementary income.
Thankfully, I carried all my cash in my pockets, and I was glad they at least seemed to pretend to need a reason to demand cash from us. This happened a few times during the trip; at one point, I stopped caring too much, until one asked me for my papers, which I was told to leave back in Ibadan because “I wouldn’t need them.” Fortunately, the officer let the issue go.
I find that making friends comes very easily to me here. For every unpleasant individual there are many others trying to help you wherever possible, as was the case with a particularly nasty officer; there were three people standing between us, telling the police officer there was absolutely no reason for him to demand I show my documents. People seem prepared to walk through fire just to help another person out, which is something rarely seen back home. I am genuinely impressed by their kindness and helpfulness—without which, I have no doubt that I would have had a whole lot more trouble than I have been in so far.