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 The deep freezer on the side had been replaced by a tall fridge.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.