Friday, 6 July 2012

Nigerian Polar Bears

My diary, typed up. And edited a bit. Because it made no sense. Not that it makes much sense now either. But at least it no longer contains sentences such as 'crayfish, what's that about ey? jeeeez I want to punch those fish of the cray variety in the face. those fishes be cray. heh heh heh'

I'm in Nigeria.
I'm sorry, what?
I'm in Nigeria.
I'm in Nigeria.

Yep, I'm here. Have been for the past three days. Just chilling, like a villian.. With a gold tooth filling.
Only, nothing like a villain. Also without any gold tooth fillings, not even any regular fillings. As it goes, my teeth are in remarkably good condition. Come to think about it, there hasn't been much chilling either. It's pretty darn hot here.
So.. Ignore everything I just said wrote. Everything I just wrote.

In the time it takes to travel from London to Abuja, I apparently lost the ability to think coherently. For the first couple of days, my mind was only capable of thinking the same four words; What. Am. I. Doing.
Suddenly it seems ridiculous to think that I ever needed more than these four words in order to express myself. They seem to cover every situation I've found myself in so far..

Such as when I landed in Abuja, I looked around at the crowd of people I was with and realised I'd met the majority of them less than 24 hours ago. Now we were all standing, sweating in the Nigerian sun. As we would be doing for the next 3 months... WHAT AM I DOING?!

Or when it hit me that I'd dedicated myself to this programme without actually knowing all that much about it. What an idiot, ey?
During fundraising, people would ask me what exactly I'd be doing in Nigeria. My response was always something mumbled along the lines of:
       we'll be doing stuff about HIV,
                                   and, other things,
                          it's .. SUSTAINABLE. 3 months.
       GOVERNMENT backed.
Sounds a bit stupid right? It's not that I hadn't researched in to the programme enough, or that I was just a bit of a dimwitted twat. It was that we hadn't really received much more information than that.
So why did I ask people to donate? Why did I travel to another continent on such minimal information?
Because I trusted the reputation of VSO. I trusted their promises of creating a 'sustainable impact'. I'd trusted that the Government wouldn't allow us to waste 3 months, partially at their expense.
As we arrived at a hotel in Abuja to meet our Nigerian work counterparts, I couldn't help but curiously wonder... What am I doing?

Then over the past few days, we've been overwhelmed with information about what's expected of us. It had all become clear why we'd known so little, we'd be the ones deciding how the next three months would look. We'd conduct research and evaluate what the community would most benefit from. I'd craved all this information, now I wish I could go back to being blissfully ignorant. I'm a bit of a lemming at heart, I know how to follow instructions. I'm good at being told what to do. But, taking initiative and making decisions that will directly affect a third world community? You're talking to the girl who finds deciding what flavour yoghurt to buy a stressful situation. 'I am doing... WHAT?!'

Before I came, I did have all these doubts and fears. But they were pushed to the back of my mind by excitement. Now I'm here, I'm petrified. Which probably explains the whole 'WHAT AM I DOING' situation that is currently raging on in my mind. This programme seems to heavily rely on people being... Good at stuff. I'm distinctly... Not good at stuff. Every new piece of information I receive pushes my comfort zone further and further out of reach.

Difficult to find food made without pounded crayfish in?
~one leg out of comfort zone~
Being an introvert in an extremely extroverted country?
~clinging on desperately to the edges of my comfort zone~
Conducting research you say? Possibly not making any difference whatsoever due to you being a bit useless?
~Oh hey, where'd my comfort zone go? COME BACK~

My biggest fear is that I'll spend the next three months feeling like I'm being assaulted by every new scrap of information..
Then again, maybe this whole experience will be like watching the series 'Lost'. When you first start watching, you can't help but be all
Because y'know, dude. It's polar bears on a tropical island.
Then you progress through a few series, and suddenly you get in to all the weird stuff. Somewhere along the line you stop classifying it as 'weird stuff', because so much weird stuff has happened that you've adjusted your boundaries on what's classified as 'weird stuff'. Before you know it, you've become all
'Time travel? Meh, what a casual, standard occurrence that is'

Does this make any semblance of sense? Let me try again.
I knew everything would be different in Nigeria. I expected the culture shock. Because I expected the culture shock, for some reason I thought this would prevent the culture shock (yes, I can see the flaw in my logic... Now). But I couldn't prevent it, there's no way you can prepare yourself for being thrown in to an entirely new environment. And do you know why?

Because there is no way you can prepare yourself for polars bears on a tropical frigging island.