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FFRR in Nigeria part 2: The beautiful face of Nigeria

News about Nigeria is dominated by all the bad stuff that happens in Nigeria and I feel it is time to look at the positive sides of the country.

During our 3+ year stay in Nigeria we have had several opportunities to travel in the country and enjoyed it thoroughly. We have visited Ibadan, Akure and surroundings, Abuja and the sacred groves of Osogbo.
The drive to and from Akure as well as the moving around in the Akure area was brilliant. The area is thick, green, lush jungle and makes for a very relaxing view out of the car, especially after living in hectic Lagos for a year at the time.

Akure and surroundings was a weeklong trip visiting the 660 steps old village, the hot water springs and waterfalls. The 660 steps (the amount of steps on the stairway up to the village) is a well maintained staircase to a 1000+ year old village on top of an Ayers Rock style rocky outcrop. The area has several similar looking outcrops that make for a very beautiful view from the top and during the drive.

A guide takes you up to the top and gives you the history of the village, the customs of the past, like certain paths were only used by the king and his family, how they found water (hollow spaces in the rocks a.o.). Although the village has long been abandoned it is still in pretty good nick and gives an idea of how people lived in the old days. The view from the top is quite spectacular, looking at the other rocks and the “new” town at the bottom.

Another trip out of Akure was to the waterfalls that are also quite nice and little travelled (even by Nigerians). The waterfalls are not high but very beautiful and there are 6 levels. You get to the bottom waterfall by walking along the stream that runs away from it and from there you can walk/climb up to the next levels. At the top of the highest fall there is a village and its occupants walk down on a regular basis along the waterfall (so a well-travelled path).

The hot water springs were also a nice experience, especially the swimming pool we got to jump in afterwards !! The springs are in forest area so you are walking around in the shade of the trees. There is a hot stream and a cold stream that meet at some point, funny to feel the temperature changes at the meeting point.

The sacred groves of Osogbo are absolutely beautiful and have a serene quality to them. Former sacred areas subject to being sold off for farming land were found by an Austrian artist, Suzanne Wenger, who took an interest in this beautiful part of Nigeria. She started an artist community with local and foreign artists and worked very hard on getting the area protected against further development. In the groves the artists created beautiful art, mostly based on the local folk tales, that fit perfectly into the leafy, green environment. The streams running through the groves make it a super relaxing place to spend hours and hours.

The Austrian government supports the protection of the Osogbo groves and the Nigerian Field Society arranges regular trips to it (that’s how we got there). The local government keeps the area protected and rightfully so as it preserves Nigerian heritage on several levels. Osogbo Sacred Grove is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Our Ibadan trip didn’t leave any time for sightseeing unfortunately, neither did the Abuja trip, however the drive from the airport to Abuja center was great. We had to take a back route due to highway congestion and our taxi driver did a great job in giving us some info on the area. The famous Aso rock is quite imposing when you are driving towards Abuja, Aso Rock is again similar to Ayers Rock in Australia, a big rock sticking out of “soft” soil with little similar rocky outcrops around.

As for the other beautiful face of Nigeria, the people, I can only describe it as passion. People here have so much passion for the things they do, they smile a LOT, are mostly very happy and positive and work incredibly hard. No matter what time of day or night you can find almost anything you need, a lot of small shop owners sleep in or next to their shop to maximize opening hours. Get a Nigerian motivated for something and he/she will work very hard to get it done.

Their attitude is very friendly and polite towards other people although expats might struggle with the “direct” approach sometimes. The use of the English language with all its subtle niceties is something you won’t find a lot here (only the UK raised people). They are usually more direct than Dutchies, something some perceive as being rude (in Dutchies and Nigerians alike I might add Wink), while they are actually very polite in their interaction with expats or higher ranking and older people. Especially respect for older people is a big thing here and very nice to see, compared to the horrible rudeness you see in the “Western world” these days.

Another nice character trait is helpfulness, I know a few stories that illustrate that. One friend and former co-worker used to walk or cycle to work. The traffic people would always make sure she got across the road safely (something that is not easy here believe me). One day she fell of her bike and within seconds she was lifted off the ground, helped onto her feet and had ten people there wanting to help her get to work, carry her etc.
The same happened to another lady, who sprained her ankle in a restaurant quite spectacularly and within seconds she had fifteen people helping her to her feet, wanting to carry her to the car etc. I also frequently see the willingness to help me, like yesterday when I ran out of petrol. It is very nice to be in a place where helping someone is normal and not an exception.

We have also seen another trait of Nigerians (and reportedly of a lot of other Africans) and that is resilience. I know a young girl that lost her foot in a very tragic accident and because the amputation wasn’t done properly she had to walk around with an open wound for 2 years. Every other day it had to be dressed but would not heal. Now one would expect that girl to be angry with the world and depressed and all that but no way, she was still smiling, active, running with her one, too short crutch, playing football at the orphanage and helping where she could. She, like most Nigerians, smiled a hell of a lot no matter how bad things were. You see that all over the place here, people accept their lot and try to make the best of it and are generally very happy.

By the way, the girl has now had a proper amputation, her stump healed well and she has her prosthetic leg to run around on (no more crutch) and has been adopted by an expat family. She is going to school and still a very happy, positive, mentally strong kid. The past is the past and she is living her life to the full, every day and that is the norm here, not an exception. MY 2010 5.0 SC Galway green and sand interior!!
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Post #142466 22nd Sep 2012 10:42am
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