Thursday, December 11, 2008

Emerging from the 'Fog'

Life in Jos resumed on Wednesday after the muslim holidays on Monday and Tuesday. Slowly things are getting back to the "new normal." It can never go back to exactly what it was at the end of November. We are all very wary. Curfew is currently 7 p.m. til 6 a.m. It makes for really quiet nights!

It was so strange to go to work and write the date "December 10." Where did the first 9 days of December go? I feel like I'm waking up from a Rip Van Winkle sleep. Gradually I'm remembering unfinished business from the end of November. We missed two holiday craft fairs in Nigeria and a number of other opportunities.

I have been going to bed at 9 p.m. and getting up at 6 a.m., but I have been exhausted throughout the day! Part of it is due to the fact that I missed my cup of morning coffee when we went to Abuja, and I've decided to just let that go. I do wake up during the night, not with fearful thoughts, just with an active mind. I've determined not to let myself get up and work because then I know I'll really be tired during the day. I think it's all just part of the stress that we've been absorbed in for the past two weeks.

Our two staff members who had their homes torched are actually radiant. They are simply so grateful to be alive. Talk about putting life in perspective.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Heading back soon

I think this mental break in Abuja has been really good for the kids and me. We needed to distance ourselves a bit from the situation.

Bayo felt he couldn't leave Jos when all of the people he works with are there. He had a tough day on Saturday when he took a foreign human rights reporter around to one of the hardest hit areas. A lot of people from his own tribe live there. He was shocked at the level of destruction and how many were killed. We personally know five families whose homes were burned in that area. One of Bayo's distant relations was killed in the fighting.

This morning I spoke with one of the MF staff who lost her home. I asked if they were able to get anything out. She said everything is gone--even their credentials. It is virtually impossible to replace credentials here.

We're heading back soon. Pray that God will give us strength and wisdom as we help many people pick up the pieces of their lives.

Friday, December 5, 2008

We're in Abuja

The kids and I traveled to the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Thursday just in case there are reprisal attacks this weekend.

I heard that Jos had a huge rainstorm on Thursday, complete with hail! That is absolutetly unheard of for December. In general, we don't get even one drop of precipitation from November til March.

In my packing to come to Abuja, I discoved that David's US passport expired 4 weeks ago. I figured I would get that taken care of in Abuja since the US Embassy is here. We went this morning, and I found out all of the things I am supposed to bring. I guess I should have looked at the website first! The most important thing is that both parents and the child must be present! (Bayo is in Jos.) Then they need his original birth certificate, photos from birth til present, our marriage certificate, and about 10 other things! I had no idea it would be so complex for a renewal. When he first got his passport, we needed his birth certificate, our marriage certificate, etc. I thought a renewal would be a breeze!

I have very limited internet access at this hotel so I won't be posting much. Just wanted to let people know that we are fine, and as of 10 a.m. Friday morning, Jos was calm.

We continue to pray for peace in our city.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This 'n' That

Regarding our accountant whose house was burned down, I forgot to mention: I just "happen" to have her passport in my possession! I'm so glad she won't have to go through the work and expense of applying for a new one.

Here's an interesting article.

We had four Nigerian visitors who came by today to check on us and to tell us their own stories. I wish these types of stories were only in the movies.

Rumors of potential attacks abound. We're trying to keep our heads cool. In corresponding with my superiors, they advise that we get out of this hot spot for awhile.

So, until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Today was the 3rd day of calm. However, we are still very alert and watchful. The kids and I have not left the compound for 6 days now. That doesn't bother me at all at this point. I have plenty of things to do in the house.

I heard that people fled to 13 areas within Jos which have become refugee camps. An estimated 30,000 people are at those camps. This is mind-boggling to me. The places they ran to do not have bags of rice, toilets, running water, blankets, etc. No one was expecting them. I have not heard how they are faring, but I can only imagine it's pretty rough.

There is a group of organizations in place to handle relief measures. They appear to be well-organized.

If a refugee could at least make it to a friend's home, he had a greater chance of eating something. Even if the supply were meager, it would certainly be shared.

Among our neighbors, we shared what little resources we had. After Bayo came in from Abuja, I sent Tobi around the compound to share some supplies with our neighbors. When he came back from one house, they had filled our basket with food. Tobi was glowing when he came inside: "Look what they gave us, Mom. It's like trick-or-treat!" This from a kid who has never been trick-or-treating in his life. (They don't know about that tradition over here, and I'm not about to start it!)

I can't stress enough that the little bit of mental stress we have gone through is nothing compared to what thousands of Nigerians have experienced.

Our accountant fled her burning home with her cell phone and the clothes on her back. She told Bayo: "Everything I've worked for is gone."

So far, we know of four of our women in the sewing program whose homes were torched.

One of our HIV+ widows is trying to raise four children by herself, and now her house and belongings are gone. Think of the hardships she has gone through: HIV diagnosis, widowhood, and now total destruction of all personal property. How do you pick yourself up after that?

For the most part, I have found the Nigerian population to be very resilient when faced with near impossible obstacles. Nigerians are also extremely generous. I have learned so much from watching how easily they give to one another. Many, many people will give sacrifically during this time.

Last week I read a short book called Escape from the Storm by Ivan Gorelkin about his family's incredible flight from Russia in 1984. The author included a quote from Aleksander Solzhenitsyn which has a lot to say about keeping things in proper perspective:

You hear strange and insignificant conversations: about...some
mother-in-law who, for some reason, does not get along with her
daughter-in-law; how neighbours in communal apartments...don't wipe their
feet; and how someone is in someone else's way at the office...

What about the main thing in life, all its riddles...?

...It is enough if you don't freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger
don't claw at your insides. If your back isn't broken, if your feet can walk, if
both arms can bend, if both eyes see and if both ears hear, then whom should you
envy? And why?

Monday, December 1, 2008

December 1: World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.

There was supposed to be a large rally today of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). I don't think it's going to happen. Somehow I don't think the government would take it too kindly if 1000 people marched through the main street in town today.
I believe the rally was being sponsored by PLACA (Plateau State Action Committee on AIDS). We are a member of that organization.
This is the first year that we had really planned in advance for the event. In October, my colleague Sarah and I started making plans to print a t-shirt for the event. This is what it says:

Front: Mashiah Foundation
Changing the story
Back: I'm Positive
Life goes on
We found a local printer who is really dedicated to quality work. I'm very happy with the sample he showed me. He was supposed to deliver 150 shirts to us on Friday at 1 p.m., but I guess something delayed him (see previous posts). Anyway, it's not a loss; it's going to be our uniform for the next year. We just thought today was a great kick-off day for our message.
The "Life goes on" theme is on our product tag now along with a picture of two HIV+ women sharing a joke. I'm thrilled with the double meaning of "I'm Positive. Life goes on" and "I'm positive life goes on." There is a big red ribbon on the back of the t-shirt which is associated with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
When many of our women were first diagnosed with HIV, they assumed death was imminent. Now they have been living for years by properly managing the disease with anti-retroviral drugs. Earning money through the sewing program has alleviated their main stress of 'how do I feed my family?'
I'm anxious to see the women we work with and find out how they are faring after the Jos riots. I anticipate there will be a lot of relief needs.