Sunday, December 1, 2013

What we did this summer - Idaho

On Pioneer Day (July 24) we drove to Idaho. Our primary mission was for me to have an informal interview with the econ department chair at BYU-Idaho where I would have loved to get a job offer. I did get a formal interview later but as of this point the answer is not this year. It was very nice of the chair to make time for me.

Idaho is also where Joy's father (DeWayne Lazenby) and the grandfather I'm named (that would be Derrill One) after are from. After visiting Rexburg, we drove a couple hours to Albion where her father is buried. Albion, population 267. In case any others of Joy's family visit the gravesite, there are some pictures to help you find the plot below the fold.

The cemetery is next door to an emu farm, so that's a good clue.

We were surprised to find another relative there next to DeWayne. Joy's best guess is that DeWayne's adopted stepson, Michael, had a son, David Lazenby 1996-2011, and buried him next to DeWayne. We're not positive, though.

Joy sat next to the grave and told the kids some stories about her father and the happy times. We left him some flowers we picked up next to BYU-I.

We pulled in to Snowville afterwards but I already told you about that, so I'll spare you.

What we did this summer - Timp

Way back in July, we took the family to Mount Timpanogos to go hiking through the caverns. It was a perfect day to take off. In the canyon it is at least 10 degrees cooler than in Provo/Orem, and of course in the cave it's down in the freezing temperature range.

I had checked Google maps and found out how long it took to get there. We left with oodles of time. We arrived only to discover that Google map only takes you to the entrance to the park. It's another half hour's drive to the ranger station! We drove on in and were told we'd have to book it to make our scheduled tour and that all the tours for the day were packed full so if we missed it they couldn't fit us in later. It's a mile and a half walk (not bad...) straight up (stink...).

"Oh, and you can't use your stroller."

Aack. That's going to make this whole two-year-old-with-us thing much more difficult.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A very traditional Thanksgiving

Left to right: cole slaw, cranberry sauce, some bird,
apple pie I mistook for meat pie, carrots, wait-that's-not-chocolate-
it's-a-cinnamon-brownie!, rice that's hotter than the hot sauce,
and some kind of crumble that was too hot for me.
The last two years, I think I've done better at celebrating Nostalgia Day than Thanksgiving Day. While still being thankful overall, I thought a lot about what was missing, what was unusual, what was uncanny, and especially what was just Wrong about Thanksgiving in Nigeria. Much of it isn't even Nigeria's fault - I mean, in order to be a Traditional Thanksgiving, it has to be at my aunt's house, the one they sold more than 20 years ago. Some crowning foods just don't exist here.

I wondered what traditions and nostalgias my little boy was picking up, celebrating American Thanksgiving in Nigeria. Would I some day read his blog post titled "It's just not Thanksgiving without jollof rice and bleached cabbage"?

Ah well. We do the best we can. We are grateful for what we have, not for what we don't, right? Of course right. AUN is a wonderful institution for even planning a big celebration.

Today though I realized I am actually celebrating a Very Traditional Thanksgiving. In some ways, you can't get more traditional than to celebrate Thanksgiving as an expat.

My four pilgrim forefathers who were there on the Mayflower were wanderers in a strange land, a tiny and very opinionated minority in a land of people who looked and spoke differently and who ate strange foods. The first two years were very hard. They watched as friends left one by one - in their case to death and in mine to other jobs in other lands. Finally they threw off their socialist ideals, embraced private property, and enjoyed the bounties of the land with new friends. As far as Hallmark versions of the holiday go, I think I've done this just about right!

I leave for home in two weeks. 14 days. I am thankful for the number 14.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Passive-Aggressive Professor

On Thursday one of my classes was decidedly empty - only 2 students showed up, and both of them were more than 10 minutes late. I was ready to leave.

Today there was no one there at 8-10 minutes late and I was getting mighty frustrated. Finally most of the class showed up. There was a quiz today and they did not have much time left to solve it.

Because most of the class was not there on Thursday, I decided to be a very nice guy and hold some extra class time after our normal class to review what they missed. When normal class ended, I told them they were free to go and, if anyone wanted, I would quickly review what we did last time.

When someone grumbled about not wanting to stay for an extra hour and a half, I told them I needed to catch my bus too; this would be mighty fast. And then I said something in all sincerity:

"I'm just doing something nice to be of service and help. Don't feel that you have a responsibility to stay."

I meant that. I was not providing a burden of guilt.
I wanted them to feel that I was being helpful, and if it wasn't helpful, they should go do something else.

But as soon as the words were out of mouth, I heard a different prof with a different voice use those exact same words to mean the exact opposite. "How dare you be so ungrateful! Here I am busting my chops, taking all this extra time so you lazy ...." ouch.

So if any of you are my students, just know that I meant what I said sincerely and please don't take it the wrong way.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What we did this summer: fireworks

One of the nice parts of living in Utah this summer was fireworks. These are two pictures from the first time we got them out on July 4.

Superstar was rather concerned about them at first and it took a lot of coaxing to get him to hold the sparkler. (Careful daddy is happy - this will keep him safe. Funloving daddy is sad - he was really missing out.)

Princess took her cue from Superstar. After trying out some sparklers and a few small-grade fountains during the day, the kids were clearly not up for more.

So Joy and I lit off most of them at night while they were in bed. Ha ha! See what happens when you don't enjoy the special treat we prepare for you.

By Pioneer Day (July 24), though, the kids were rather more interested and we did some more together. Even though we got back from Idaho very late at night, we let Superstar stay up to watch some more with some neighbors and we finished off our very large box.

Successful dieting

Nigeria on the whole is good for my waistline. Summers in the US are ... not. Despite every effort I can think of I tend to gain a pound a week* each summer I went back home. Simply returning to Nigeria this year took off 6-10 pounds in ONE week.**

Delicious camel eyes
To get the rest off, I set myself a goal to lose a pound a week. Any morning I was below my target I could eat whatever I wanted within reason. Any morning I was below I had egg and toast for breakfast and dinner and a great many fruits and vegetables for lunch at the cafeteria.

As of this week I've officially returned to my pre-summer weight and can now enjoy contemplating knocking it down another 5 pounds or so before I return for Christmas, potentially tying or surpassing my lowest recorded weight in the last 10 years. If I were to keep this up through next semester, I would be within 20 pounds of my ideal weight. Now that would be something!

The other great thing is that this is something I can keep up in the US.

This is also to say I've had a great many days of vegetarian eating, if not veganism.*** I picked eggs because they give me some proper protein, my body metabolizes cholesterol gloriously, they are cheap, and I really like eggs and toast. I haven't gotten tired of them yet. The lack of variety around here to begin with is quite helpful in sticking to it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Words of General Conference, Oct 13

Last week was the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My internet connection was significantly better than in conferences past, so I was actually able to not only listen to but watch most of conference. I was very happy about that.

To summarize each talk into one short phrase, personal conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and joyfully enduring to the end were emphasized most heavily. We were warned repeatedly to get our priorities in order, particularly the two great commandments and the second of the 10 commandments. We had three talks each on women and the priesthood, reactivation, and missionary work. Two talks each focused on the Atonement, healing, and priesthood duties. Of other commandments, we were told to be humble, pay tithing, keep the Sabbath day holy, and honor our bodies as the temples of our spirits. We were also encouraged to listen to General Conference, learn the Articles of Faith, and be better teachers.

Last April I did a post on the words used at General Conference. I'm largely going to ignore the words that were used about the same between each conference and focus instead on what was different in this conference from the last. As before, I'm only using the words said at least once per talk (more than 34 times), of which there are about 115 instead of 99.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Princess' favorite books

One of the best parts of my day happens about 6:30-7:30pm when I spend lunch time with Joy and Princess on Skype. Yes, they are the ones having lunch, not me. When Princess is all done eating, I get a chance to read her a story before quiet time.

Her two most favorite books that I still have over here are Hop on Pop and Owl Babies. She asks for each of them regularly if I don't try to shape her choice. She also goes for The Bus for Us, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and The Tawny Scrawny Lion that I used to enjoy as a boy. She never asks for it, but always enjoys it when I pull out Shel Silverstein.

I gotta say, some books are a lot easier to read on Skype than others. I essentially have to turn the pages completely away from me so she can see them. Both of her favorites are easy. In the case of Hop on Pop, it's because there are very few words on a page, so I can look at the words very quickly and know what to say while I show her the book. Owl Babies is very nice because the words are on one page and the pictures on the other, so I can bend the book in two and just show her picture after picture. By now I have all seven verses of Itsy Bitsy memorized, so that one is simple on my end, except there are very few words on each page so I have turn them pretty quickly while I sing and the poor video connection doesn't always give her time to see the picture clearly before it's time to move on.

Princess gives a cookie to a dragon. Om nom nom nom.
Tawny Scrawny isn't bad - there are a lot of words on each page, but thankfully the pictures on the wrong page generally work very well for the words on the page I'm reading, so I can cheat. But the Toy Story 3 drawing book is terrible because the interesting words are on the interesting page and because it's a mammoth board book I can't bend it. The Bus for Us is very repetitive and when Skype shows me the miniature picture of what I'm showing her, I can identify the truck and give the right line.

It's really cute to see what parts she likes to read too. Her favorite parts are still hopping on Pop and Mr. Brown being upside down. She just picked up that her father can read big words too, like ... "Constantinople and Timbuktu," which is adorable out of a two year old's mouth.

You knew I was coming back.
I knew it, said Sarah.
I knew it, said Percy.
I love my Mommy, said Bill
Sometimes I think about Owl Babies while I'm reading it. This is dangerous. I think about a little girl who loves her daddy, but he's not there. I love to testify that Daddy will come home again. I was daydreaming this week of hopping on a plane or four after class Thursday and just showing up at their door Friday evening to spend a long weekend during fall break. They would jump up and down and scream in their surprise. Then I might say in my best owl mother voice, "What's all the fuss? You knew I was coming back." Then they would think (all my owl children think a lot). Maybe one of them will say, "I love my Daddy."

Friday, October 4, 2013

Like Father, Like Son: Cheesy Rice

Superstar's stomach has not been the happiest member of the Watson household in the last month. He's had more morning sickness lately that Joy has in all her pregnancies. In all our searching for solutions, Joy mentioned to him one day that when my stomach is upset, I really like to eat rice with melted cheese, "cheesy rice."

Superstar thought about that idea. He loves cheese. He likes rice. Maybe they might taste good together. Maybe. Could he try some please?

So Joy made him some cheesy rice. He loved it. He loved it so much it has become his favorite food in the world. He would eat cheesy rice every meal if he could. And it does seem to be helping his stomach a little.

I have often wondered if and when Superstar and I could share a favorite food. So far his eating patterns and mine have been so far apart it seemed hopeless. So for him to find a similar favorite food is a very pleasant thing for me. As I sit here eating my own cheesy rice (plus taco meat and salsa) while writing a macroeconomics midterm, I'm thankful and thinking of my far-distant son.

Mencken on Democracy

Henderson and Mingardi shared some Mencken quotes last month about Democracy that I'm enjoying a little too much as I teach my Public Choice class.
Democracy is the theory that the common man knows what he wants and deserves to get it, good and hard.
If x is the population of the United States and y is the degree of imbecility of the average American, then democracy is the theory that x*y is less than y.
The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Today I Saw ... Skillz

This Thur or Friday I saw a guy riding a bicycle

while carrying a crutch in his left hand just inches above the ground

with his left [broken/sprained/damaged] leg resting on the support bar.

So really, with one hand and one foot, he peddled over the pot holes of the broken dirt road and made it look effortless that he was going faster than our car. It was quite impressive. I wish I had a non-verbal picture for you.

Finding common ground: Karl Marx

This semester I'm teaching an independent study course on "heterodox economics" - which is to say, the stuff that doesn't typically make it to the textbooks. I was pretty confident in picking the readings for the sections on Austrian and new institutional economics, but decided to chat with my next-door colleague, an avowed Marxist, to see what he would suggest for covering Marxism. He recommended the first volume of Das Kapital in the gleeful knowledge that he was getting ME to read it as well. He knew I was not about to assign something to my student I hadn't read myself and the recommendation is a sensible one since I'm assigning very sympathetic readings for the other topics as well. I've been meaning to read Smith, Keynes, Ricardo, Marx, et al "someday" anyway, so I took this as a chance to cross one off my list.

Primarily, I confess, I was reading so I could voice better objections to Marx than that I don't like his conclusions or rehashing other people's criticisms. I've found those objections and I'm quite pleased with the understanding I've gained in the last couple weeks. My opposition to Marxism is now founded on firmer grounds*. I also found two things that I liked.

The first was a lovely quote in praise of the labor market as
"a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham [the greatest happiness for the greatest number]. ... And precisely for that reason ... under the auspices of an all-cunning providence, they all work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal, and in the common interest."
I found myself in ready agreement with that characterisation.

The other idea was one I had never before considered, but I found it profound in my circumstances.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

LDS in Nigeria: Tithing

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we give 10% of our income to the church to fill the ancient law of tithing. When we moved out here, one of the things we wondered was how we would pay our tithing. There wasn't a bishop to give it to; we never see the mission president; what do you do?

Answer: you pay online. Our mission president helpfully sent us a set of instructions to set up bill pay. There is also a short electronic form to fill out. We had our credit union in the US pay our tithing straight to church headquarters - at least until Joy and the kids settled down in Utah. As Superstar began earning an allowance this year, he saved his N5 and N10 bills until we could get to the US where I exchanged them into quarters and nickels so he could pay his tithing too. We wanted him to have the experience of actually handing it in.

June 2001 three Nigerian members wrote in to the Church magazine to answer a question about tithing: why pay if you earn so little that your contribution won't make a difference? While I don't know if these particular Nigerians were among the 80+% living on less than $2/day, the odds are pretty good at least one is. These were their thoughts:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

LDS in Nigeria: Faith Rewarded

The story of the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nigeria is one of remarkable faith. We heard of that faith before the Church was even allowed to send missionaries here as people who had never even heard of the church had visions of the temple and congregations sprang up across the south. My last post told of how some of the members gained their testimonies. In the year 2000, the Ensign and Liahona contained tales of miracles in our day, of faith rewarded.
Aba Nigeria Mormon Temple

The greatest of these blessings was Pres. Hinckley's announcement in the April 2000 General Conference that a temple would be built in Aba, Nigeria. The Church had grown to 9 stakes in Nigeria. At the time we had 76 temples in all the world, though another 50 would be completed within the next 5 years in a massive campaign of building. Even though I have not yet had the privilege of visiting it myself, knowing that there was a temple here has been a source of strength to our family. The temple will have its own post later on once my chronology gets closer to its dedication in 2005.

David Eka, who was I believe the second black African Area Authority, was sent to fight in the Nigerian civil war while a young man. He recounts:
While in a bunker, he heard a voice instruct him to quickly move out of it. He stood to leave and urged others to leave with him, but when they refused, he climbed out without them. Immediately a bomb fell on the bunker, and he was the only survivor. With this assurance that his life was being spared, he began kneeling in prayer daily. If you will take me back alive to my people, I will serve you, he recalls saying many times in prayer. He was never wounded and returned safely home.

Advice on moving to Nigeria: food

It's been a long while since I made official suggestions for someone preparing to move out here, but the wisdom of this one has been pressing on me this time around:

Bring Meals. Not just food, but meals.

When we have ever planned to go back home, the longest list of "Things To Do in the States" is of the foods we will eat, ranging from the fresh vegetables that you either can't find here or have to clean in bleach, to anything that requires refrigeration, to meat that you don't have to soak in vinegar to get rid of the health risks, to anything that resembles variety.

I have a friend out here who spends the better part of his non-work time (as far as I can tell) posting pictures of food he will eat when he gets back home. When another friend left a year ago, she gave us her food storage: Pop Tarts, real butter, Asian spices, and a host of other things we are still going through. It was a delightful treasure trove that felt like Christmas.

While we've always brought a little food from home we mostly brought ingredients: seasonings I can't find here (eg. paprika, Lawry's, Worcestershire sauce, or anything green), a little dried fruit, and one bag of peanut M&Ms per month. We did think of a couple foods we wanted to make and lacked ingredients for: chocolate chips and canned pumpkin for cookies, powdered sugar for crepes, but not meals.

This time around I decided to play it smarter. I thought of particular meals I wished I could have here and brought everything I'd need. I brought taco seasonings and salsa and made myself some improvized taco salad last week I was enraptured about. Tonight it was falafel mix that sent me into ecstasy. I have Thai sauces and Indian mixes and just a few other special meals, enough for about one a week.

Those little treats do a world of good for my morale. So I heartily recommend that if you are coming to a little, out of the way corner of Nigeria, bring some variety.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Confession: Sundays are longer than I remember

Do you remember the Twilight Zone episode where the guy wanted nothing but to read without being bothered by humanity, and when he wakes up to find himself completely alone he goes off to read in the library only to **O Henry Spoiler Alert** break his glasses so he can't read? Sundays have become a little like that, only without O Henry.

I never really felt like I got as much time to study the scriptures and ponder on Sundays as I wanted. It's not that I wanted to ignore my kids and wife. I wanted to spend gobs of time with them too. I just couldn't do everything I wanted to do.

Well, I don't have that problem anymore. I can study the gospel, hold church, watch a general conference session, do family history extraction or help in the vineyard, blog and write in my journal, practice piano, prepare food, "and by then it's, like, 7:15." Saturdays are a lot easier because there's even more that needs to get done and I have the comfort of knowing I won't be able to do a lot of it on Sunday.

Joy was visiting her sister last Sunday and we didn't have a schedule for when we would talk. Not knowing when or IF I would finally get the chance to see my family was really hard. I was happily surprised when we did get to chat. It was much-needed manna to my soul.

I love every moment I get to spend talking with them. I've learned I tell time by how many hours it is until I can see them again.

My hope is that I will use this time to get really stuffed full of time to myself on Sundays and rejoice for every minute I get with Joy and the kids when we're back together again.

A Prophet visits Nigeria: Feb 1998

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley was well known for his travels visiting members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world. In Feb 1998 he took Elder Holland with him to visit Canada and Africa and they made a stop in Port Harcourt. As far as I can tell, this was the first visit from a Prophet of the Lord to Nigeria ever. He spoke to 1100 priesthood leaders, visited Aba where he would eventually build and dedicate a temple to the Lord, and then spoke to 12,000 members in a civic center members of the Church had been cleaning and preparing for his visit. On his drive to Aba, hundreds of members lined the roads in their Sunday best, waving green and white Nigerian flags.

The May 98 Ensign does not have much that he said to them, sadly. He told the brethren to be committed to their callings. He also said:
“The Church will grow in Nigeria as you grow,” President Hinckley said. “If you don’t do anything, nothing very much will happen with the Church. But if you are anxiously engaged in assisting those for whom you are responsible, the Church will grow in strength.”
Speaking of the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males, President Hinckley said, “I am an eyewitness to what happened.”
After the conference, a sister from Benin City commented, “This conference was like Moses gathering the children of Israel.”
Thankfully, some of the things he said were later shared in the monthly home teaching messages. From June 98 we learn that he said this to the general membership:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Confessions from the Absentee Father: Schizoid Man

I was standing in the kitchen warming up my leftovers for dinner when something happened I was not prepared for. The window was open and suddenly


I was in emergency mode. I was not only in emergency mode, I was divided into four people, all of whom were talking and yelling at each other at the same time:


This went on not very long, but long enough before I could pull myself together. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Finding the Gospel in Nigeria: 1996-99

Several articles in the Ensign describe how individuals in Nigeria found the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and much happier their lives are as a result.

Florence Chukwurah was born into a very poor household in Onitsha in southeastern Nigeria. She determined that she would escape poverty by staying close to the Lord, working hard with her hands, obeying her elders, and working hard in school. She decided to become a nurse, which was possible because of a government subsidy and a loan her father was able to get to pay for her schooling. While working as a nurse, a woman noticed that she went home after work instead of spending time with the men. So she sent her nephew to propose marriage to her. She prayed about his offer, felt he was a religious man, and accepted.

Both she and her husband very much wanted to find a church that filled their longing for truth but could not find one. They fasted on New Years Eve 1981 to finally find a church they could stay in. Their prayer was answered nine days later as they both had separate impressions to visit some friends.
When they arrived at the home of their friend, they were surprised when he offered them a soft drink instead of the more usual beer. He explained that because he and his wife now belonged to a church called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they no longer drank alcohol or smoked.
“My husband and I looked at each other,” recalls Sister Chukwurah. “We love each other so dearly that we can speak with our eyes. After looking into each other’s eyes, we immediately asked, ‘How can we become members of this church?’”
Ten years later her husband was called as a mission president in Ghana which gave them the opportunity to be sealed together, along with one of their sons. At the time of the article, her husband had just been called as one of the first area authority 70s. While her husband was away, her son was very sick and not responding well to the medicine. She prayed and felt impressed to stop giving him one of them. He quickly grew better. She knew her prayer of faith had been answered.

Dr. Pius Ozoemena was worshipping in a meditation room while at a conference in Italy. There he found two books that drew his attention, the Book of Mormon and Elder LeGrand Richards' A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. He wanted to know more, so he paid to have the books photocopied and professionally bound so he could study them. "Because of the revelations contained in these books, I guarded them jealously upon my return to Nigeria. For almost a year I read them faithfully and compared their messages with other scriptural texts."

Some more summer fun

While Joy and the kids are visiting her sister's family, it seems only appropriate to post this picture of our last visit to them. Here is Princess riding on her cousin. It's so very nice to be near family!

Princess' first bowling

Over the summer we took the kids bowling a couple times at the BYU lanes. It was Princess' first chance. The thing that amazed me was to see this teeny little person carrying a ball one-fourth of her body weight over and over again, and she still thought it was fun. After a while Mom and Dad had some pity on her and we set the ball up on the supports for her. Even then she occasionly protested: it was her ball and she was going to carry it herself! She and Superstar both had a great time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Development in Yola

Shortly before we left for the summer I stopped by our preferred expat retailer, Luka, for some shopping. It looked a lot like it had when I was deciding whether or not to move to Nigeria.

On returning this Friday, however, I noticed that some of the stuff had moved around and there was a little more room. I didn't remember the ceiling fans, but they might have been there before*. The deep freezer on the side had been replaced by a tall fridge. The drinks had moved from an awning outside to a whole other shop across the street. Wow, I thought, Luka's been expanding.

Much more interestingly, the counter had completely changed. This entire time, Luka has had 2-3 guys behind the counter, adding up prices on large calculators, showing us the total, and (maybe) writing up a quick receipt that we paid x000 naira.

Luka's got computers. Not computer. Computers. Three of em. They aren't cast off, rejected from US elementary school computers either. They're running Windows 8 on flat screen monitors that print out itemized receipts with prices and everything. They scanned the items.

It was wild.

And our family was a small part of bringing that progress to pass. How cool is that!

Meanwhile, our preferred fruit and veggie dealer has added a lot of awnings to his business, upgraded the wood frame, and it seemed to me was dressed a deal better than when I last saw him.

Q&A with the Africa Area Presidency - 1994-97

In October 1994, the Church Magazines office interviewed the Africa Area Presidency: Elder J. Richard Clarke, F. David Stanley (later in the general Young Men’s Presidency), and James O. Mason. Coming from a day when that area has been broken into four, the concept of only one area for all of Africa seems comical. I look forward to the day when four seem comical too. Anyway, by that point there were 80,000 members in Africa, primarily in South Africa, but they were growing at more than 10% per year. Elder Mason added during General Conference that month that the number of baptisms could be even higher, but they were focusing more attention on training leadership to ensure that growth was real and lasting. After testifying of the spiritual growth and maturation of church members, he mentioned that there were by then five stakes in Nigeria and Ghana – half of the stakes in Africa.

The area presidency shared that managing that growth was the church’s biggest challenge, as I remember Pres. Hinckley saying on more than one occasion. “We are fortunate that when the Church began proselyting in West Africa, initial converts were men and women who had been well educated. Our leaders are in a position to act as a bridge between the colonial languages and the traditional tribal dialects.” From that day to this, the strategy has been to start from large cities with an established LDS presence and move out. That strategy is one of the reasons there are no missionaries in Yola yet: I am not enough by myself to count as a “center of strength.”

They indicate that the gospel gives the African members great joy and hope. The members love the scriptures and reverence the modern prophets:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Q&A with Nigerian LDS youth

I was amazed at just how many comments the Church’s magazine for youth, the New Era, has published from Nigerian youth and young adults. They show up primarily in the "Q&A" section, where the magazine asks a question of its readers and several months later posts their answers. Here is a sampling from 1993-1997. These are examples to me of the kind of faith and spiritual growth that had occurred in Nigeria in the relatively short time since the Church was organized here.

Gbenga Onalaja (Sep 1995) of Ibadan described how when he was 9 and attending a private Catholic school, the archbishop visited. At a gathering of 1000 students, the archbishop began by asking them who Saint Martha was. Not one student answered. Finally Gbenga raised his hand, walked in front of the thousand people, explained that Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus, and recited Christ’s visits to them.
The archbishop seemed very impressed with my answer and asked for a round of applause for me. He then shook my hand, hugged me, and asked which Catholic church I attended. I explained that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that I learned these things in my church Primary class. He smiled and said, “Gbenga, you have made me very happy today. I am very proud of you, your church, and whoever taught you. Without you, nobody would have answered that question, and I would have been greatly disappointed.” He then rewarded me with a scholarship for my last year at the school. This made me feel very thankful for the Church, my Primary teacher, my family, and the Spirit of God, which directed me. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Rithmatist: Totally Not a Harry Potter Remake

The problem with something very popular and really good, like the Harry Potter series, is the inevitable rip-offs. "Harry, yer an Olympian!" "Harry, yer a Time Lord!" or a Jedi! or a cyborg! or a my little pony! Whatever it happens to be today. Then there's the other problem that anyone who follows the standard Joseph Campbell hero journey is going to sound a lot like anyone else who does it too.

So then I settle down for an early birthday present reading Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist on my way back to Yola. When I learned he was starting yet another new series, I was slightly dismayed because I'm waiting around for the continuation of the other five. In fact, 5 of his last 6 releases were not part of one of the 6 series he lists on his website. But oh well, he's always a great read and he put six years into this thing. Let's do this.

We spin the wheel of fascination and learn that today's magical element is ... chalk. Magic chalk drawings, some of which come alive (in a 2D sense) for duelling purposes. Okay. Sounds very unique, like Sanderson always does.

It's like coming home, but not quite

It's much easier to return to Nigeria than to go there the first time. Understanding how the system works (and how it doesn't!) reduces stress significantly. I knew to expect the flight to Yola to be late and didn't worry. We actually left within half an hour of flight time, which is pretty good. There were some things that were pretty different this time around, though...

Not having children to watch over made the trip both more lonely and less stressful. I got some good work done and played my games instead of Mario with Superstar. During my layovers, I couldn't help but look around for children who weren't there. I didn't get to hold the crying baby during the flight, which is an odd thing to miss. Waiting in lines and de-planing were much nicer alone.

Normally the passport authorities are very happy to see me and thank me for coming to Nigeria. This time, however, when he learned I had already lived here for two years he said, "So you have been eating our money for two years?" I had expected to receive that treatment occasionally, but I've met it so rarely that it quite startled me. I responded, "And spending it here in Nigeria too. I live here, I employ people, and buy from Nigerian shops." That satisfied him and he let me through happily. Funny, I didn't know he had a partial ownership of AUN's funds...

Finding the driver was kind of funny this time around. While standing in line, I could see this guy on the other side of passport control who looked kind of familiar. He was holding a sign that said "PERSON WHO IS NOT DERRILL WATSON." (Not literally. That would be harsh.). He signed to me to ask if I was PERSON WHO IS NOT, and I shook my head. I later got through customs and sat down in the mostly empty terminal, across from that familiar looking guy. I called the Abuja office and he said he would call the driver. A moment later the guy's phone rings and I think "a-ha!" He turned to look at me and asks if I am Dr. Watson. Why yes, I am. He was sent to look for PROF WHO IS NOT and for me also, but he remembered I was a guy with a wife, two kids, and tons of luggage, so I couldn't be me. He didn't mention the goatee, which is how the AUN drivers and guards usually refer to me when they think I'm not listening ("The prof with the *rubs thumb and index finger over mustache and beard*") Then both of us sat around for an hour because the the Abuja office needed to show up with money for a ticket for me to Yola. Then the driver left me alone to wait for the Abuja office for another hour, explaining that he had to go to work.

Nice to see you too. Thanks for sitting near me. *lol*

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Breaking of the Fellowship

I'm not sure if it is my favorite part of all three Lord of the Rings books, but I have always been deeply moved by the breaking of the fellowship. Frodo realizes that the rest of the party just isn't safe where he is going and so he takes a silent departure from them to face the perils of Mordor alone - until a loyal Samwise catches him at it. Aragorn, understanding Frodo's noble motives, lets him go so he in turn can pursue two Hobbits and face the combined armies of Sauron.

I'm sitting in LAX's international terminal waiting for my flights to Heathrow, Abuja, and Yola. Joy is watching the Hobbits in SFO waiting for a flight to Utah. Now, Nigeria is no Mordor and Utah Mormons no Dead Men of Dunharrow. Still this third instalment of our adventure in Nigeria feels like at the best of times like an epic quest. Today was one of the hard parts.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

God Makes Noise!

Communication is a fascinating little creature.

Day 1:
Superstar sits at the breakfast table and tells us about his difficult night:
Last night I couldn't get to sleep all night. I was scared of the noise. But then I prayed to God and I wasn't scared anymore. I could sleep.
We were very happy with this recounting and talked about how God sends the Holy Ghost to calm our fears. Or we were happy until Princess said, "God makes noise. Hyrum scared of noise. I scared of noise. God makes noise!"

Oh no.

We tried to explain that God took the noise away. God made Superstar not afraid. Superstar agreed that he wasn't scared of the noise anymore. Princess was not convinced.

Day 2: "God makes noise!" Her continued attempts at listening comprehension failed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

First Fast

Superstar has been fascinated at how each month Daddy goes without eating breakfast or lunch once or twice each month for religious reasons. We explained that the first Sunday in each month is designated as "Fast Sunday," when all capable members of the church skip food and drink for 24 hours to come closer to God. The money they don't spend on their own food is then donated to help care for the poor.

Last month, Superstar announced he was going to join our fast. So yesterday we invited him to. Because we have church from 11-2, we tend to have 4 meals on Sunday: breakfast, lunch-before, lunch-after, and dinner. We asked him which one of those 4 he wanted to skip. He chose to skip lunch-before. We were slightly trepidatious since both kids have had some serious reverence problems the last two weeks, but we tried it out.

Superstar was wonderfully reverent the entire meeting. The primary presidency even came by our home (which means less when they live in the same building) to tell us he was "awesome." Score one point.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Scenes from a very long drive

To celebrate Pioneer Day, we drove to Rexburg, Idaho to visit BYU-Idaho and the Rexburg Temple, and then to Albion to visit Joy's father's graveside. The 10 hours in a car with two little ones went much better than anticipated. We may talk about the real reasons for the trip later, but until then here are several vignettes from the drive:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Prince turned 5 [a while ago]

"There were a lot of fun things about my birthday and I won one of my games on my birthday party. And hmmm, and that ... I, uh, hmmm, that I, that I stayed up until 8 o'clock. That's the last thing I want to tell them."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Time capsule: Live each day

(Written Saturday, May 11)
Among my least favorite things this semester was a growing worry for my and my family's safety. There were two days in particular as I was getting ready to leave for school that I felt like there was a real possibility I might not make it home again.

Of course, there's always that possibility - crazy drivers and muggers are everywhere; food poisoning can happen everywhere; who knows what my immune system can't handle; everything we eat kills us by degrees. That's life.

But two days it really hit me that I might not be coming home. One of those was graduation. Boko Haram is a terrorist group whose name means (roughly) "Western education - boko - is sinful - haram." So here I am, Mr. Boko, doing something haram. A graduation of a western university sounds like an ideal target for any one of the dozens of splinter groups and copy cat organizations. When a (false alarm) report of 30 dead spread the day before, I actually prayed that I'd rather have another kidney stone attack to give me a legitimate excuse to miss it.

Living each day as if it were your last would be horrible.

The night before and the morning of graduation, the possibility of it being the Last Time really hit home. Singing to my children felt particularly important as I sang our family's song - I sometimes call it my spell of protection, binding our family together to survive any calamity. Trying any kind of discipline was very hard. I set my alarm earlier because I wanted to make sure that, if it was my last day, we had read scriptures together. When we did read scriptures, I found an excuse to bear my testimony to them ... just in case. Extra hugs and kisses before I left. Extra admonishments to be good and obey Mommy.

and to know I love them very much.

I told Joy I would send her a little email every 15-30 minutes during graduation so she would know I was okay. Turned out my connection was lousy, so they came in bunches. I thought about writing my children a long letter each - which didn't happen, sadly. Those last letters are useful things to have around, just in case, y'know? But I know what would've gone into each of them.

In economics, we differentiate between "risk" and "uncertainty." With risk, you have a pretty good idea what the relevant probabilities are: stock returns have a particular distribution, flipped coins will be 50/50 heads, that kind of thing. You don't know what will happen, but you've got a good idea of what might happen and how likely certain events are. With uncertainty you don't even know what might happen, let alone how likely each outcome is. I was very uncertain. I didn't know what the probability was, but with a new attack somewhere in this state or the adjoining one every couple days for the last several weeks and every week for the entire semester ... it felt high.

There's a natural tendency now that the "crisis" has passed and nothing at all happened to want to minimize all that fear. But it was a rational response, whatever the objective probability actually was. It's one of the top reasons I'm glad Joy and the kids will be living in the States next year. Bad stuff can happen to them there too ... but it's known risks and not uncertainties.

When we prayed last night, I told God I trusted Him with me and with the family. It felt very silly after saying that to even want to ask for anything else or more than for His will. It felt very foolish to worry - we're all in His hands anyway. But His ways aren't my ways. (Psst... they're better.)  Oh right.

Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief.

On the drive to the graduation, this is what I read next in my scriptures:
But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee ... because thou hast put thy trust in me. (Jeremiah 39:17-18).

Time Capsule: Toyland

**This was post was written April 22, but won't be posted until we're letting the world know of our machinations**

8 suitcases. That's it. 8. It's what Joy and the kids will live on for the next 8 months until I can bring another load from Nigeria at Christmas time.

As we roughly sketched out what would go in each bag, we said the kids would get one suitcase for their toys.


Three months ago, to bring some order to too-messy rooms, Joy collected all the kids' toys and packed them into 4 suitcases. We opened one at a time, occasionally replacing all the toys with those from another suitcase. So we knew exactly how many toys we had:

3 times too many.

What goes? What stays? How could we choose? I asked Superstar that question on Saturday and he said, "Let's do it Monday." Do what? I didn't know, but he had a schedule to keep apparently.

Confessions: Our plan for 2013-14

This has not been a good year for Nigeria. Increasing terrorist attacks, kidnappings, and more, and it seemed to be coming closer and closer to Yola. We were rather frightened and had Joy start shopping only every other week. On top of all the other stresses of last semester, this was too much.

We started contemplating the idea of moving Joy and the kids to the US in early 2014. We would only be apart a couple months - we've had to do that before - and it would give Superstar a chance to start school in the US before first grade .... it sounded nice and safe.

As things got worse, we even started to consider the unthinkable. What if we moved them to the US in summer? We prayed to know if that was what we needed to do to keep them safe and protect them. The answer to our prayers was unexpected.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Superstar tells a story

Some random person on the
Internet had the same idea for
Halloween, I guess.
This other website has
a noteworthy shot of Luigi
with "baby-"Merida.
Superstar likes pretending to be Mario at school, and the school generally encourages it. He gets to play Mario with his classmates, and they get turns with their favorite things also. Sometimes the teacher is Bowser. 

Yesterday he drew a comic strip of Mario. Another boy drew an Indiana Jones comic. A girl drew Rapunzel. Then they decided to put the stories together. [spoiler alert] The crystal skull would defeat the witch and then Mario would climb up Rapunzel's hair.

We are pretty impressed with Superstar's school.

He has also been creating his own brand new stories. Here is the one he told us at breakfast today:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Great Water War of '13

It began suddenly in the pre-lunch afternoon at Logan Central Park. Battle cries, harsh and ominous, sounded in our ears. The children were attacking! Led by their fierce Uncle Doug, they surrounded the peaceful adults and commenced firing on us until all were ... mildly annoyed. "Don't get the baby," cried a helpless mother.

Then there was calm for lunch and family pictures. We thought, we hoped, we had seen the last of General Doug's army.

We were wrong.

Historic Vacation - from the kids' perspective

Almost everyone
For the first time in over 10 years, all of Joy's siblings got together. We gathered for no particular reason other than the convenience of all being in Utah at the same time. We invited the kids to talk about their memories.

When we prompted them about each of the aunts and uncles, this is what they remembered, along with some help from Joy:

Princess: Uncle DeWayne have fun. I just played with him.
Joy: You did some dog pile and he threw you in the air.
Superstar: I remember about the trampoline. I jumped on the trampoline with him.

Superstar: I miss Uncle Dougie. We played Mario. Uncle Doug put the hose under the trampoline and water came out of the trampoline. And I sprayed them in the face!
Princess, on coming in the door at home: Where is Uncle Doug and Paris?
Joy: Doug made the biggest water fight.
DW: That's going to get its own post.

Princess: Aunt Fran didn't come back. I did lots of fun on the floor. I slept in a tent. I think so.
Superstar: We played Mario Chase and Mario Ghosty.
Joy: Now he wants a Wii-U. He talks about it like it costs $1-2.

(The kids didn't interact with Uncle Dustin much, so they came up with strange answers:)
Princess: I played all night with Dustin. Now they're gone.
Joy: I think she liked the chips at Uncle Dustin.
Superstar: I had 4 pieces of cake at Dustin's house.

Superstar: Christopher read books with me will we were gone from our house.
Princess: Christopher ran away (I think she is giving him the characteristics she would like to have)

Superstar: Abby played Mario Ghosties and Catching Mario Wii with me.
Princess: I did play with Abby, a toy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Learning new words

We were reading the scriptures in the car the other day, including this verse, spoken by Jesus:
And even unto the great and last day, when all people ... shall stand before God, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil -- If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation; ... according to the mercy, and the justice, and the holiness which is in Christ.... (3rd Nephi 26:4-5).
Superstar asked a good question. He's been doing a lot of that lately. He asked what "damnation" meant. We explained that it meant being unable to live with Father in Heaven or being an eternal family.

The kids then practised sounding out this wonderful new word they had learned.

Joy and I looked at each other, waited, listened, and decided not to let them smell that this was a big deal. They might say it more often, if we did! They finished. We let it drop. And when we were done, I asked the kids what we had read, and they did not say, "Damnation."

One more disaster averted.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why is this boy smiling?

That's what I asked myself when I saw the pictures. Why is my son smiling?

Oh yeah. He lost his first tooth just before we left Nigeria.

He lost his second tooth (right next to it) in California.

We never found either one, so he still hasn't been visited by the tooth fairy. That or else she does things via internet right now and he has some bit-coinage laying around.

What has made him slack jawed?

A brand new set of Woody pajamas, like he got the "first" time he went to Disneyland. Now he could match his Woody doll he got from Pop and Grandma.

I don't suppose I need to explain the smiles here.

This person deserves a raise

To Whomsoever was starring as Minnie Mouse at the 8:30 character breakfast at Disneyland on May 21, 2013,

Thank you.

You were the person my not-yet 2 year-old daughter was dying to see. She was excited to see other people, too, but you were the one she talked about before the trip. So the character breakfast was the very first thing that needed to be done. You were right there as we walked in. She ran up to you with a Hug of Everlasting Happiness in her arms and an older brother in hot pursuit.

You admired her and made kissy sounds and all the things the other characters did, and that was nice.

You got hug after hug, and that was nice.

You and Princess Ariel sure knew how to take a picture, and that was nice.

You put up with Woody being bonked on your head, I'm sure not for the first time, and that was nice.

But when your break had come, you took an extra moment to dance with my little girl ...

That was Disney Magic.

A week after the trip, we asked the kids what their favorite things were. For the most part, they enjoyed California Adventure more than Disneyland ... except you. You were her favorite out of everything.

Thank you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Enjoying America

(Ten mostly-random pictures from the last three weeks in the US)

It's nice to be in America. We landed in LA and had lunch with my grandmother the next day. Then we spent the next day with my brother's family in Ventura - like here at Chuck E. Cheese.

Joy and Princess got matching dresses made in Nigeria. Here they are before church the first Sunday.

Pop and Grandma took us to Disneyland. We bought Princess her own Cinderella dress, which was adorable ...

while Superstar got a Woody costume to match the Woody doll he got for his birthday. Woody was declared to be his second favorite toy the first night and was his official Favorite Toy and Best Friend the next morning.

Woody goes around greeting everyone by saying, "You're my favorite deputy." Superstar pulls his string several times to get him primed for that saying each day.

Princess loves Disneyland.

She loves being on a horse.

She loves her Daddy.

She also has a serious crush on anything dressed in polymascotfoamalate.

She feeds the furry creatures (or anyone else she likes), gives big hugs...

She kisses their noses...

Tigger, Miko, the Brother Bears, Chip n Dale, all big winners.

Minnie Mouse was the biggest victory, and her first introduction to Disneyland (this trip). Video and pictures to come.

 Superstar agreed to go on the river rafting ride. He was kind of nervous, but decided after the first splash this was pretty great.

We did lunch at Ariel's Grotto, which was one of the kids' favorite experiences. They liked Ariel alright, but their treatment of the other princesses was odd.

Aurora came by and they said Hi.

Snow White came by and they ignored her completely.

Tiana came by ... and ELVIS WAS IN THE BUILDING.

Tiana got hugs. They gave her food. They put stickers on her dress. They both talked to her. They smiled. They LOVED Tiana.

Belle came. She worked really hard to get a smile out of them. Nothin'. They'd stand up with her, but that was about it.

Princess Tiana. Who knew?

After Disney, we flew to Provo where we have an apartment for the summer. Among the nice things of living in the land of plenty is having large boxes of diapers delivered the next day.

Another nice thing is turning large cardboard boxes into airplanes that you can fly back to Pop and Grandma.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nigeria in the Morning

Today I am thinking about what Nigeria sounds like to me in the morning. I hear birds chirping, guards talking and laughing. I hear roosters crowing. I heard that wonderful sound of the generator.
When we first moved here Margee was worried that we might not like our apartment because it was located so close to the generator. Granted it does make it hard to hear our children at night, but everyone in our family, even our one year old, is relieved to hear the generator when it peals, because of the hope that it will bring the electricity on again.
Then there is the awful sound of prayer by microphone (shouting) at 4 am. I am not awakened by it anymore, but our first few months it was really nerve racking. I don’t like it when I am awake either, but at least it isn’t as bad as waking up to it.
Another morning experience for me today was the hot sticky feeling of being just as wet after I toweled off as I did before.
I was also thinking about emotional independency and how I get to learn even more about it. Nigeria has been a diamond in the rough for me in learning how to be truly independent when before I cam here I only liked to think that I was. With this blessing has come an added closeness with my family that I cherish.
 - Joy

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Neoimperialist reading of The Cat in the Hat

I was reading The Cat in the Hat to Superstar tonight. As usual, I like to pick random dialects, accents, and characterizations to make the books more interesting. Tonight I happened to give the cat a very deep, posh British dialect and the fish an Indian accent.

Suddenly the entire book was transformed into a colonial pseudo-commentary: wise India continually cried for the British to stop with their Great Game to play, but its voice went unheeded. When the British finally left, everything was a mess. But, in good neoimperialist/White Savior/white guilt tradition, the Cat shows up again as an NGO (or an economics professor?) to clean up the entire mess and restore everything to its idyllic state. Shall we go so far as to name Thing 1 and Thing 2 the Breton Woods Institutions of the World Bank and IMF?

Even though the narrator is "Sally and I" (notice the ever  dominant male perspective and the completely silent female), the real star of the show is the imperialist who gets his own line of dolls, t-shirts, books, sequels, television specials, and movies, all upheld by copyrights promulgated by Thing 3 (the WTO) and the corporatist government (the mother) who pretends to see nothing amiss. The neoliberal market allows the developed world to exploit the developing once again by controlling how its story is portrayed.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Catch up: A few little moments

Superstar lost his first tooth. He lost it and we don't know where to find it, so I'm afraid the Tooth Fairy shall not be making a Nigerian appearance. This is probably for the best since the Nigerian Tooth Fairy would ask for a tip after taking your tooth.

Superstar and I started reading Harry Potter, which he chose over Narnia or Fablehaven. He also rather enjoyed the Muppet Christmas Carol. Among their innovations is that the two hecklers, Statler and Waldorf, play the part of Jacob and Robert Marley. Superstar hoped that there was another version with three brothers Marley.


Last night we packed Joy's and Derrill's clothes for our trip to the US. Superstar's are mostly packed. When Joy mentioned this at lunch, Princess got off her chair and ran to her room to start packing her clothes.

Just before that, though, she asked me to move her chair closer. Then she said, "I love you," and gave me a big hug. She is a very sweet and adorable little girl.

The other day she went to the window to comment on the trees. Then she noticed the new onions in the basket. She picked one up and said, "New onions. They so sweet."

After Church, they wanted to speak at our makeshift podium.

Books Princess loves and asks me to read her regularly at night: The Marvelous Toy; Saint George and the Dragon (she's scared of the dragon but regularly asks for the book anyway); One Fish, Two Fish; The Tawny Scrawny Lion; Little Bunny; Fox in Socks; and anything with a lot of animals or anything else by Dr. Seuss.