Saturday, January 7, 2012

Safe and Sound

Today was a quiet day. We got some extra cleaning done, Princess was adorable, we played a lot of board games (including introducing Prince to Solarquest, a galactic version of Monopoly) and made chocolate cake. Prince and I finished reading the Wizard of Oz and he asked to go on to read book #2 in the series. Oh, and I cut my own hair and did more than just shave it all down for the first time. It turned out more layered than tapered, but it works. Everything was quiet outside.

If you want to know what's going on in the rest of Nigeria, look under the fold. The point of this post is that we are happy and healthy and well provided for. Only look under the fold if you want things to worry about or to make your prayers a bit more specific. We're fine and feel at peace.
Several things are happening at once.

1 - Pres. Jonathan removed the fuel subsidies overnight Jan 1, increasing the price of gasoline from about $1.60/gallon to about $4. Now most of that gas is bought by the middle class and wealthy, not the vast majority of the country that earns less than $2/day ... but as soon as that price was announced, the price of water doubled (what's in that water??). Our grocery bill didn't go up appreciably, but in some areas, prices for the strangest things have gone up (haircuts?? That's one oily haircut in a country of men with hair only 5 mm long!). This has led to mass protests in most major cities - not Yola so far as I can tell. The opposition called for strikes starting Monday in protest. As an economist, I tend to be in favor of removing consumption subsidies on principle, but it's been difficult for past governments and we can always find ways that things might have been better done - such as by putting in place programs to help the poor before removing the subsidy. My work blog has several posts on the subject if you want more information.

2 - The holiday season is always a very difficult time around here apparently. Starting about December, the number of local robberies went up dramatically. Not much of a problem, we were told. Do your shopping in the morning and you're fine. The robbers visit stores in the afternoon when they have the cash and haven't been able to get a bank (did you really expect a deposit safe for a roadside stand?). Some robbers even tried to steal a woman's car here at our compound a couple weeks ago. They were unsuccessful, but one of our guards was shot in the leg. I came down afterwards to give him first aid, a blessing, and some emotional care while others were chasing down the robbers or taking care of the woman and her child. He was taken to the hospital and his fractured leg is being cared for. Security has since been beefed up, including temporary protection from a Nigerian Police Force Special Protection Unit. This is the first incident like this against someone at AUN. It was a random incident, not targeted at anyone. It was ... stressful. AUN came out in full force to show us support and caring, and Pres. Ensign even offered to cut her own vacation short and race back if anyone here thought we needed her. We're well provided for.

3 - I am not an expert on terrorism, and have only snatches of information on Boko Haram, much of it contradictory. AUN Pres. Ensign sent us an article by Herskovits arguing that "while the original core of the group remains active, criminal gangs have adopted the name Boko Haram to claim responsibility for attacks when it suits them." There have a been a series of attacks in northern Nigeria claimed under its name, including in Adamawa State and even one in Yola on Friday. Yola is normally a very peaceful, quiet town, so this is quite surprising.

4 - And, oh yes, they are having a redo on the governor's election Sat 14th, assuming things have quieted down enough by then to still have an election. We expect a curfew that day, unless the election doesn't happen then.

Given all this, the governor and Pres. Jonathan declared a 24 hour curfew in the state starting noon today. 

Back to us:
We received word Thur that Prince's school would not open on Monday as planned, but ten days later because of the strike and the election. We were put out, in part because of thinking how much more put out we would have been had we gone to the States and planned our return to Nigeria to coincide with school starting. We are now thankful the school keeps its ear to the ground and cares about the safety of our kids.

About 10:30 I had called up our usual driver to see about going into the market to refill our water jugs in preparation for Monday strike and getting some material for some new pants. He said he'd get back to us in a couple hours. A couple hours later, all the shops were closed, so my trip was canceled.

Tonight while taking out the garbage, I was invited to join the security force for a late night snack and chat. I happily agreed. My pigeon English is not passable at all, but they would occasionally pause to fill me in on what was going on. The curfew included a strong military presence on the streets, so everything has been extremely quiet throughout Yola. They have been stuck here the whole day too until tomorrow noon, instead of their usual 8-hour shift. They reported on a speech Pres. Jonathan had just given and were very upset at the idea he proposed that all government employees would see a pay cut of 50% to show the government was serious about taking a hit along with the common man. After the chat, I checked his actual speech and found out it was a 25% cut on "political office holders," so our friend in the Special Protection Unit ought to be just fine. I went back down to let them know the good news.

So, again, we are happy, healthy, and well-provided for. AUN let us know they have a stockpile of food in case of the strike going on too long for anyone's food storage and they will try to get it to us. We let them know about how much drinking water we have (about 12 bottled gallons) which should get us through Wed, and we've been boiling some more since. We have food for more than a week. Tap water is fine for all our other needs. So we will just continue enjoying some more quiet days at home together. Church will happen tomorrow as planned since one family lives in the compound with us and the other one is in the States right now.

So, la fayi (no problems), all is well, and your prayers that we remain so are cheerfully accepted.