Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Hello Everyone,
So I am just finishing my my seven week super-stint in the U.S. and many of you have made the comment that I have not been exactly "faithful" in my blog. I am so sorry. Those of you who have know me for a while know that long-distant communication has never been my strong point- and that problem seems to multiply with every mile I put on between myself and the United States. However, I did survive my first year- there were several ups and downs. Some very hard moments and some really amazing ones. I can say at this point that I do like living there- I love the challenge and find myself fascinated by life there.
Thank you to everyone who insisted on keeping up with me in spite of myself. My brother Karl, who faithfully wrote me even if I didn't write him back. And all of you who sent me those emails "are you alive"- feel free to resend them if you find me slipping through the cracks.
Highlights of my year:
School was amazing! I love teaching at AISA- it is an incredible experience. My students are brilliant, I enjoy the staff I work with, and I have had a wonderful time doing things like directing a Nigerian version of Romeo and Juliet and organizing various school events.
As for the other stories- well most of those are best told in person. Perhaps they will seep out more consistently this year. Perhaps I will be in a better place to communicate just what I experienced.
Anyway, I love yah all! Take care. i will try to keep you updated.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Return of Martina Been
Dear Friends and Family,
So it is about time I updated this blog… I know, I know… I have been shamefully remiss in my duties. It is January, and the last thing I wrote was written in October… please forgive me. You should all know, as a matter of course, that if I seem to drop off the earth, it is nothing personal and not necessarily a reason for panic. Simply send me a series of emails stating “are you alive?” eventually I will respond with at least a yes or a no.
I made it back to the states for Christmas and was able to see many of you. Some of you could probably tell that I was in a slightly distraught state throughout the whole trip. Thank you so much for your love and support- especially with my tendency to randomly burst into tears at awkward moments. I just need lots of hugs and “I love you’s” (which of course cause more tears, but that is all right.
I attribute my emotional volitability (my spell check says that is not a word, but as an English teacher I have the right to form a word into any part of speech I want to, although Karl has argued with me about this during scrabble games)… to a couple of things. 1) I think I was experiencing culture shock, something I had heard about but did not think would effect me. 2) I was very jet-lagged; still am as a matter of fact. Oh the joy of waking up in the middle of the night because your body is CONVINCED it is only 2:00 in the afternoon! And 3) I really miss you all and was overwhelmed by the fact that I had just a few moments here and there to spend with you. Anyway, enough about my emotions- they take up entirely to much energy if you ask me.
Abuja is still here and going strong. The police still hold their checkpoints everywhere, eying me up for a bribe as I slip past them. The highways are still filled with overcrowded, antiquitated cars that creep along at excruciatingly slow speeds, their drivers thinking the lines in the road are mean for them to drive their car right on. The banana boys are still selling their bananas outside the Lebanese grocery store, trying to bully me into buying their bananas.
It is good to be back. My students are wonderful as always. Those of them who stayed here during the holidays are so bored they are joyous that school is back in session. We are doing grammar this week- a nice, routine oriented relief from the stress of the holidays. We are going to be putting on Romeo and Juliet- the African version as our spring play this year. It should keep us all busy.
So, my goal is to try to keep you all updated on the events, even the small daily ones, of my life here. I will also try to download some pictures. Take care, I miss you all!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

October 9th Blog:The Amoeba Diaries
Hey everyone, here is a blog I wrote a couple of months ago without sending it… It gives you a picture of what life here was like at that point:
Dear Friends and Family,
Once more I am at the Sheridan, trying to email. However the network is not up. I figure since I am here and actually have a charged computer, I will write a blurb now and send it on from school.
I am defying the gods, at the moment, drinking Nigerian beer and eating an overpriced grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Why does this classify itself as mortal rebellion, you ask? Well, I have been sick with some mysterious bacterial disease- yes, the little buggers have been playing kickball in my intestinal track since Wednesday. I have been living off of bread and water, and other mundane things- I decided that it was time to attempt to live a little. I can already tell by the feeling in my gut that I am going to regret this.
Life has been discouraging this week- I am tired of being sick and I desperately miss my life back in the U.S. This is not FUN right now, and I have this nagging feeling that my life is not going to change much in the future- that I will be destined this level of aloneness for a long period of time.
In order to prepare myself for this impending doom, I went to a movie by myself for the first time on Saturday night- not my first movie, but the first time I have EVER attended a movie without a friend, lover, or some type of companion. I actually enjoyed it- saw Devil Wears Prada for the second time, I highly recommend it.
Its not that I don’t have people to hang out with, but I still am battling this feeling of isolation- a feeling which I do not handle well. I think that is pretty natural after you spend a weekend holed up in your apartment watching the re-runs of American reality t.v. programs (I’m hooked on the Jerry Hall one- even though it is totally scandalous)
Speaking of T.V.- my favorite show “Lost” is playing here (for those of you who were holding your breath over this). However, its ½ a season behind. Better than nothing.
Well, I need to take my intestinal track home and put it to bed- perhaps if this continues I will be on a reality television show of my own-“random tropical diseases that people get who don’t take their sister-in-laws advice on what food not to eat while in a 3rd world country” sounds catchy.
Love you all- keep praying!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hello Everyone!
I thought it was about time that I wrote you all to let you know that yes, I am still alive here in the fine city of Abuja. That is not to say life has been without its little disasters, of course- those of you who have known me for any length of time will know that that is not my style:-)

I'm sorry it has taken so long for me to write- the internet here is incredibly unreliable, and even the places where you hope it will be on do not always have it. Today I have off for "Nigerian independence Day", so I decided to spend the afternoon wandering around the Sheraton hotel looking for an wireless network that is actually working. I have ended up on the 8th floor lounge- which is actually the most consistent place to go here, and am hoping that no one realizes I am not actually a guest here. Yikes.

On the way over here I had my first experience of being pulled over by the police- well, pulled over is not the best way to describe it. They mostly stand in the middle of the road in front of your car yelling at you and try to get in your car- which is what you should never ever let them do. I have to defense mechanisms that I use with my interaction with the police- I am incredibly nice to them and I pretend not to understand anything they are saying- which isn't really pretending because there accents are often very thick. Anyway, I accidentally ran a light- I didn't see the light because either it wasn't lit up, or it was placed somewhere random. A policeman jumps out in front of me, making me stop in the middle of the road and starts screaming. I make my eyes as big as possible and try to explain that I didn't see the light- It is hard for me to see them here because they are placed differently. Another policeman starts yelling at me to open up my car and let him in- I refuse, just cracking the window a little. They have me pull over, where their superior officer, after I almost am crying starts to tell me something about it being independence day and that I could do something for them and let it go. I pretend I don't understand anything they are saying- but I point to a N200 bill- about $1.50 (because I knew what they wanted was a bribe, which is what all police want here).
He says no and someone yells out a sum like N10,000 Naira- about $70- at that point I say "I don't understand you, I will call the embassy and they will explain". The police officer looked alarmed and told me that I could go.
I don't actually know the number of the embassy, but I know that they think that anyone with connections to the embassy has connections to their superior officers and can get them in trouble. I was actually going to just call my principal, but I didn't have to.

So, this is a small taste of the law and order of this town. It is sad really, people with money or power get away with anything they want, while those who do not have the above things are at their mercy. They get thrown in jail for no reason and have very few rights. I am starting to understand how corrupt some of these roots go. There are certain people who when they have any kind of control over another group of people, seem to just lord it over them- there is a definite class system that is active within Nigeria.
This is not everyone, of course. I have met many lovely people here who have integrity and are not like this at all. However, there is a cultural acceptability to this concept of taking- whatever money, women, power, comes your way.
I feel somewhat guilty that I am somewhat in a cocoon of protection from this aspect of the culture- although I do have to be on the constant alert for being taken advantage of.

On a more positive note- school has been fantastic. I love my students, my classes, and all aspects of what I am doing and what is going on. I have been given a lot of responsibility, and am thriving in it. It is making me actually considering going into administration as my next step. We shall see.

I think I have found a church here- I have been frustrated because I realized that I really disagreed with most of the doctrine that is commonly taught here. I'm realizing how lucky I have been at Lookout the past 6 years. Anyway, the church I found is an inter-denominational church that is very grace-oriented in its teaching, which is unusual here. It is also very calm, which is somewhat unfortunate, but is a reaction to the extreme emotionalism found most protestant churches here. However, what I like about the church is that the people seem so genuine. It is very small, but the members are very involved and serious about their faith. Many of them are from different African countries, and they take their faith and studying the Bible very seriously. I have enjoyed talking with people and really feel that it is the fellowship God has prepared for me.

I think that is enough news for one day:-) Please pray for me- pray especially for my health. I have really not been feeling well lately. My muscles and joints, especially, have been acting up- I'm worried that my degenerative arthritis is taking a turn for the worse, which is discouraging, as most of you know I DO NOT like to be slowed down;-) Perhaps God has other plans. Anyway, the pain is hard to handle sometimes, so I could use your prayers!
I love you all. Take care!


Monday, August 28, 2006

For the record, I have just written an entire post and lost it because of the poor internet connection. I'm finding myself miffed and annoyed- plus the waiter keeps on ignoring me (I am at the Sheridan as usual doing my internet.) The tips are so low in this country, the waitstaff has little incentive to suck up to you. I think because I am a woman they tend to think I'm waiting for some man to come and take over- or am planning on finding one to pay at the very least. The concept that I might be fully capable of taking care of myself seems to allude them.

Yes- I know, am overreacting. I really had a nice post all written- and rewriting it isn't the end of the world. However, I am feeling the need to whine and have nobody to whine to- thus you all get to here it.

Life has been scary, frustrating, exhilarating, and dramatic these past few weeks. I have been driving- a dangerous endeavor in this city where drivers ed. is an unheard of concept. My first night I ended up on the wrong side of a freeway- swerving and honking to avoid the cars coming at me. I drove about 1/4 of a mile before I could turn around- and almost went into hysterics in the middle of it. The lane I was on suddenly swerved to the right and when I kept going straight I was in oncoming traffic. The truly scary thing is that it is not uncommon for people to drive the wrong way down a road ON PURPOSE- just because it is a more direct rout to their destination.!
School is wonderful- i adore my students and love the subjects I'm teaching. These kids are even better behaved then my last set of students.
I have hired a housekeeper-and for the first time in my life am totally caught up on laundry. It is awesome coming home to a clean house and having someone to shop for me (especially in the market since I stink at the whole bartering thing).
Life has been lonely, however. I am feeling the isolation alot these last couple of weeks. The women I hung out with the first week have not been available and the friends I have made have their own lives. I did go out on my first "Nigerian date" which was exciting, but found the man to be too similar to those I left behind in Denver- except richer and more African. I'll save that diatribe for another night;-)
I appreciate your emails and comments soo much- I'm already looking forward to my visit back to the states in December. Please keep my in your prayers!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dearest Friends and Family,
I have a few moments of respite, along with wireless internet thanks to the Sheraton hotel, so I thought I would add an insert to my blog.
This last week has been one of wild sensations- Africa has wooed me, coerced me, horrified me and enchanted me in ways I never expected. I am treated like a queen here, but am extorted for as much money as can be got out of me at every possible turn. I’ve figured out how to live as a westerner- at a rather daunting cost. However, I met some native Nigerians this week who took me out for “fish”- what people seem to eat when they go out for dinner. The restaurant was all outside. You sit and drink Nigerian beer and eat fish that has been grilled and covered in this fiery pepper sauce. According to Nigerian custom, if you invite people to dinner you are expected to pay. If you are invited then you are not allowed to pay anything.
The market (local non-western) is wild. You have to barter for everything, and just about everything can be found there. You hire a “barrel boy” who pushes a wheel barrow around behind you. Yesterday when I went with two other teachers from the school, we had three other me, besides the barrel boy following us around. They took us anywhere that we wanted to go- and divided our tip at the end of the shopping time. It was crazy. I’m starting to get good at bartering- I think I just need to pretend I’m middle eastern and I will be able to get away with lower prices. With the help of our escorts, I was able to find fresh mint, lime, and Bacardi rum- watch out mojitoes here I come. When I asked for mint, they brought me to the meat section- I almost threw up as I was pushing through crowded aisles of fish and goat and steak- it smelled pretty bad. Anyway, I eventually got back to the vegetable stands and was able to smell my way to various fresh herbs.
Right now I am at the pool at the Sheridan- thanks to some kind business me whom we met the other night (ironically, two of whom are from Mexico city). There is a live band playing “Girl from Ipanena” and these wild blue and orange lizards wandering around. I can’t believe I’m here.
My classroom is really nice- It is big and any extra furniture I want I simply ask one of the school carpenters to build. The only problem is the school is not fully finished yet- we will know tomorrow if we are going to have a delayed start. If that is the case, I think my new friends and I are going to take a short trip to Ghana or possible Cairo- an Egyptian dignitary lives in my compound and his wife told me that we just need to hand him our passports and he will get us visas.
Apparently, if you have internet access and a headset, you can use a website called to call landlines. It is free up until December and after that it is only 2 Euro-cents a minute. Expect some calls as soon as I figure out how to use it.
Take care and feel free to write. It is so encouraging to hear from home. I love you all.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Greetings from Nigeria!
Yes folks, I have made it here! After a rather grueling trip I arrived at the airport. I was greeted at the immigration desk by a representative from the United States Embassy. He moved me past the guard who was ogling me and into the arms of the principal who hired me. Very exciting.
The Gates of nigeria say "You are Welcome". this is a standard greeting here. My first impression of the city was of the surprisingly well-manicured road system. It was at night, so I didn't see much else. I was dropped off at my apartment, which was furnished and set up with some basic necessities. I unpacked one suitcase, cried a little bit, and eventually fell asleep.
My apartment is really nice- clean, tile floors, nice furniture (Although extremely hard sofas and mattress) and most importantly, air conditioned! It is not on the school grounds, but is in a compound that has a barbed wire fence, gate, and a armed policeman guarding it. The grounds are gorgeously landscaped and there are these wild lizards with orange heads running around. I am incredibly blessed! The power does have a tendancy to go on and off, but there is a generator that sometimes works.
Yesterday I went car shopping- hung over from jet lag. It was quite an experience. One dealer whose lot we went to decided that I needed to take him back to America when I was done in Abuja. He wanted to pick out my car, and kept on trying to do things like hold my hand. It was very unpleasant, especially since he did not seem to understand the concept of deoderant. Luckily, Eckon, a driver from the school, was with us. He made sure we were safe and not swindled. Through his help, I have bought a very sweet red Rover- four door sedan from a car dealer whose wife works at the school (and who also has better boundary issues:-))
Today we are going off to the market, hopefully, to start the fun process of finishing the furnishing of my house. I am almost caught up on sleep and am excited to explore this city. The people seem fantastic and I think that I am going to be ok!
Those of you who I was not able to contace before I left, thank you for the gifts, encouragements, and prayers! I do not have internet at my apartment yet (it is actually quite a challenge to figure out how to get it) so my contact time on the internet is limited. You are all in my heart and I miss you. Take Care- I will write again soon!
p.s. I did not have a complete list of people to write put together, so feel free to send this on to anyone!