#Day 1 #Mission Possible

November 27, 2017

#Day 1 #Mission Possible

I hate goodbyes!! I hate them!! I am leaving from Greece and my heart is heavy. Mixed feelings of homesickness, of the fear of the unknown, for the new adventure that is coming, stressed for the new job and tired of moving constantly. However, deeper in my heart I knew that this is what I’ve ever wanted and I know that I still want to do it. I took a deep breath, looked up at the sky and I said: “So, let’s do it”. Welcome to Nigeria.

#Day2 – My Room

November 28, 2017

#Day2 – My Room

In general, I was prepared that I would live in a house with poor facilities. I knew that there are missions where people live in a tent or with the lack of warm water. Well, I was pretty lucky. This is my room. And the first thing I did when I entered in is to close the door and imagine it as my “safe place” or as my comfort zone for the following 6 months. *the white net over my bed protects me from the mosquitos as in Nigeria I need to take pills daily for the prevention of malaria.

#Day3 – Food Matters

November 29, 2017

#Day3 – Food Matters

After my experience in Myanmar and the several food poisons I had, my priority when I move to a new place is to visit the supermarket. It is very important to find out what kind of food supplies I can find in the country. I arrived in the market with the MSF driver. The supermarket has lots of stuff and I could find even feta cheese! A big smile takes place on my face…

#Day4 – my flatmates

November 30, 2017

#Day4 – my flatmates

In this house, we live more or less 8 people. Here is the coordination of the mission, hence several people pass from here only for a few days or a couple of hours as a transit either in order to get to the project field which is in other states or either because their mission is finished and they are going back home. People from France, Japan, Italy, Canada… almost every day you meet someone new. Living with people is not always easy. You share your space. Your personal space. In this case, I have my own room, my personal toilet (very happy for that) so we share the kitchen, the yard and the living room. Most of the people here speak French. I don’t speak but at least they respect that and whenever I am around they switch to English.

#Day5 – fight with the insects

December 1, 2017

Well, maybe some of you know what is my biggest fear. What I cannot even name and I use the sound “bimb” in order to describe that awful, disgusting insect. Yes, this brown thing that runs that fast and can hide everywhere… yuck! Today, one of this was in my room. I opened the door and it was up on the wall. I could not even get there… what should I do “Think!!”. I run out trying to keep myself cool but still like there was an emergency and I asked from the guard to help me. “Pleaseeeee can you help me, there is an insect in my room!” He walks slowly as I am running back to my room not to give time to that thing to go into hiding somewhere in my stuff. The guard takes a tissue, grabs it and throw it out of my room. Phew! The first and I hope the last…

#Day6 – local market

December 2, 2017

#Day6 – local market

It is Saturday and all these days I am walking only between the house and the office. That takes only at most 30 seconds… Today is time to explore some parts from Abuja. There are certain areas that we are allowed to visit. And we are not allowed to go in some “red” areas regarding the security level. So today we visited the local market. Fruits, vegetables, tools, fresh meat and fish (under the hot sun) and fabrics… Wow! Amazing African designs and colourful patterns. For Nigerian women, this is a thing. They make them pencil skirts, long body shaped dresses, jackets to bring out their silhouette and their hips.

#Day7 – corner shop

December 3, 2017

#Day7 – corner shop

The Corner Shop is a local restaurant where you can have barbeque fish and chicken. The cost for each dish is up to the mood of the waiter.  Sometimes the cost can be 2.000₦ (Nigerian Naira), some others to 2.500. This amount is more or less $7 -8. The place is dark, the only light comes out from the TV screen that usually has a football match. There are no forks to use or tissues. They provide that only upon request. However, they will bring you a tub with water which they will put it on the floor next to you and you can clean your hands. The fish is spicy and is served with a side dish of french fries. To my surprise, I can find my favourite alcohol drink (and maybe the only one I drink) which I hardly can find it back in Greece. Yeaaaaa!

#Day8 – my office

December 4, 2017

#Day8 – my office

Last week I was working in others colleagues’ offices since mine was not ready yet. The part of the offices are being currently renovated. However, today I am in the new office which is fresh and bright. Here, with my 2 laptops and my 3 screens next to Rahina, my colleague from Nigeria.

#Day9 – restrictions

December 5, 2017

#Day9 – restrictions

It is the second week and I start to get used of that place. I speak more with my flatmates and things get easier. However, I feel that the most difficult thing that I find it hard to adapt are the restrictions. In Myanmar, let alone in Greece, I was used to walking around anytime or even coming back late in the night by taxi. This is not the case here. Whenever I want to go out from the house, I have to check if this area is in the green zone in which we are allowed to go. Then I have to inform the guard that I am leaving and to write down on a blackboard my destination, the time on my departure and the approximate duration. Then I request the MSF car and then a car driver will get me to that place from where he will pick me up later, when I will call him. Hmmm… safe but not easy to get yourself adapted into that daily routine. However, I suppose at the end it becomes part of your life…

#Day11 – the second insect

December 7, 2017

#Day11 – the second insect

… but this time was my turn! This time I was prepared. Next, to my bed, I keep a repellent. Still difficult for me to do it and spray on it but I HAVE TO DO IT!!! I don’t want to be that spoiled girl that cannot face… an insect and she asks for help for men. I am very proud but let’s be honest I am also scared… so I think I spent the half of the spray on it but finally it worked… By the way this is my toilet…

#Day12 – Caramelo night

December 9, 2017

#Day12 – Caramelo night

People in Nigeria love music. And as in most countries in Africa, they are also good dancers. Here, they love Afrobeat. So tonight we are going out to the Caramelo local restaurant bar. Live music, dancers on a small stage, in an old-fashioned decorated restaurant where people enjoy their drink or the bbq fish. Basically, women are accompanied by a male, boyfriend, husband or whatever… they drink light cocktails and men drink beer or whisky. Around 10 pm we went to the club where everybody dances to the Afrobeat rhythm. It is amazing how women can move their hips and shake their body and for sure you cannot resist starting dancing. Suddenly a young girl holds my hand and she starts dancing with me. I am smiling and I am trying to follow her. The night turns to be really nice with my new friends dancing to the r&b rhythm too. A young Nigerian lady got upset because my Japanese colleague didn’t respond to her hips move. I am trying to calm the fire and I explain to her that he is a nice guy but usually people from Japan are not very expressive. “Oh! Ok! I can see that!!!” she says while she gazes at him…Oops!

#Day13 – Harmattan

December 10, 2017

#Day13 – Harmattan

iNFO by wikipedia: The Harmattan is a season in the West African subcontinent, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by dry and dusty north-easterly trade wind, of the same name, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea iNFO by Me: I just cannot breathe… I am staying in my room almost the whole day but even in my room the smell of the burning rubbish that comes from the neighbouring house doesn’t help.

#Day14 – Jahun field visit

December 12, 2017

#Day14 – Jahun field visit

Abuja 7am-Jahun around 4pm. Jahun is in Jigawa State and it takes around 8 hours to get there by car. I am in the MSF van in between boxes, medicines and luggage, me and 4 more colleagues. MSF calls that “kiss movement” which means that in the middle of our way we will meet another MSF car that comes from Jahun with staff that goes to Abuja.That makes the trip easier for the drivers. Leaving back Abuja you meet the industrial area with many tank trucks parked in the sideways and petrol stations. There are local markets and crowded places where people of any age sell stuff such as mobile phone chargers, sunglasses, hats, soft drinks and many others at traffic lights or in between the cars where there is traffic. They mainly target motorists and open tracks. A bunch of people that run alongside the moving car in order to sell some of their products. As we approach Jahun this changes. Is where you realise that you are in Africa. Typical African villages in a desert scenery where people live in mud shelters, some goats around and mainly men hanging out in the streets. The main street is paved but all the other streets are just dirt roads. Me, I am in the front seat as after so many hours in the back I feel dizzy…

#Day15 – in the hospital

December 13, 2017

#Day15 – in the hospital

One of the projects that MSF runs in Nigeria is in Jahun in Jigawa State. It is a vesico-vaginal fistula and emergency obstetric programme at Jahun general hospital. Only for 2016, 70 percent of the 10,531 women admitted to the maternity unit had complicated pregnancies and deliveries. The team performed 2,660 obstetrics-related surgical procedures, treated 400 women with fistulas, and assisted 7,365 births. A total of 1,293 babies and 1,141 women were admitted for intensive care. The hospital has mainly four area parts. The area for the caretakers; they are mainly women that they come with the patients in the hospital and in most cases, they have to spend days until the patients will be discharged.  There are not many husbands to escort their wives to the hospital…in this area most of the people are Muslims and it is clearly a patriarchal society. The second part of the hospital is the delivery ward. It is constantly crowded and in some cases, there are 4 women for each bed due to the lack of facilities and limited capacity. The last one is the ward for the vesicovaginal fistula operations. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and the bladder or rectum, through which urine or stool leaks continuously. They are devastating injuries resulting from complicated childbirths, affecting more than two million women worldwide. The team works with pregnant women to prevent the occurrence of obstetric fistulas, while at the same time treating those with the condition and providing psychological support to fistula sufferers to help rebuild their lives. Every Wednesday they dance in the yard and this is a big weekly event for the staff and the patients. For these women who had suffered rejection by their families and their husbands, this event is the way to gain back their confidence.

#Day16 – Childbirth

December 14, 2017

#Day16 – Childbirth

Usually, the story goes like this. The family is waiting in the waiting room of a hospital and the mother is screaming while she is giving birth. Then the nurse comes in the fancy waiting room to announce that “It’s a girl” or “It’s a boy”! The family is happy and the husband is looking forward to seeing the newborn child. This is not the case in that particular hospital. Mothers, even at the age of 12 years old, give birth on a metal bed, without screaming as it seems that they have become very tolerant of the pain. When the delivery is finished and the baby is being taken care by the nurse, the mother is getting up off the bed and she is that calm that she puts her clothes on by herself and she is moving to the next room. Of course, this is not the case where things are not going very well… I am speechless…

#Day17 – Caesarean delivery

December 15, 2017

#Day17 – Caesarean delivery

Yeap… three doctors prepare the room for the surgery and two nurses are around to support the process. The mother is coming and the surgery starts. I AM INSIDE THE ROOM!!! I am sure that my parents wish to be in that bed but anyway!!! This is another story… Wow! I mean… WOW!!! The process takes only a few minutes until the baby comes out and the nurse takes care of the newborn. In some cases, they need to spank softly or just tickle the babies feet in order to stimulate the baby to take the first breath and to make it cry. In this particular case, the baby was weak and must be cared in an incubator. However, the previous night, the baby was born… dead.

#Day19 – My new room

December 17, 2017

Remember the room that I had when I arrived. The small one, the cruppy, with the broken toilet… well my new bedroom is bigger, bride, clean, and spacious to practice my yoga! It’s been almost 3 weeks since the day I arrived in Abuja and finally, I put out my stuff from my luggage and I settle into my new room! I am happy, happy, happy! I was cleaning and washing for the whole day and besides the disinfectant smell now everything is clear and tied up! For now and for the following months this is my home and my comfort zone!

#Day20 – It’s bread time!

December 18, 2017

#Day20 – It’s bread time!

It’s cooking day! While I love cooking, it is also a nice way to please your flatmates. Moreover, baking is regarded as a great way to bond. So, considering that my flatmates love bread and the only option is a sugary one, the bread and the cheese biscuits that I made today were really appreciated. Next step is to show to our cooker how to make this so from now on we can have healthy homemade bread! My top achievement will be to show her how to cook Greek mousaka! 😉

#Day22 – Make it rain

December 20, 2017

#Day22 – Make it rain

In Nigeria, the first rainy season begins around March and last to the end of July which is followed by a short dry break in August known as the August break which is a short dry season lasting for two to three weeks in August. This break is broken by the short rainy season starting around early September and lasting to Mid October. The ending of the short rainy season in October is followed by a long dry season with peak dry conditions between early December and late February. Rahina, my colleague, said that she had never seen rain during December. Well, today I woke up with the sound of the rain on the roof. It is Christmas, it is cloudy and I love rain! And with the aircon on there is that kind of feeling like there is autumn in Nigeria… well, almost!

#Day25 – pidgin english

December 23, 2017

#Day25 – pidgin english

When I arrived at Nigeria’s airport there was the MSF car driver waiting for me to pick me up. On our way, he welcomed me by sharing information about Nigeria. I am telling you. I hardly understood what he said. Nothing, nothing, nothing! But they do speak English… “Yes, but we speak pidgin English”, he said. “Pidgin? like the bird?” I asked. “Well, almost!” Pidgin English is an English-based language spoken as a lingua franca across Nigeria. It is like broken English (pronounced “Brokin”). It is distinguished from other creole languages since most speakers are not true native speakers although many children learn it at an early age. It can be spoken as a pidgin, a creole, or a decreolised acrolect by different speakers, who may switch between these forms depending on the social setting. I am telling you when I speak with Nigerians I can see their face struggling to understand my accent and me trying to slow down and speak slower and repeat what they say in order to assure that I understood what we are talking about…

#Day27 – Christmas Day

December 25, 2017

#Day27 – Christmas Day

“Ok we need to do something”, I said to Philip. “Yeap, let’s cook and invite some colleagues and their families”, he said. We bought what we needed, we even found a turkey, I baked the bread, Andriy made a traditional Ukranian salad, people brought deserts, French cheese, wine and whisky and almost 14 people with their kids enjoyed the Christmas lunch. When I said to my grandmother that the turkey was a big success I could see her proudness on the skype line. Well… indeed it was a big success! hehehe!

#Day28 – one more day to boast about

December 26, 2017

#Day28 – one more day to boast about

Filix, our cooker, had a big smile n his face when he met me this morning. “Yesterday, it was great! I really enjoyed it! Thank you so much! I was telling to my friends that a Greek lady cooked turkey and it was delicious. I want the recipe. I saw you put lemons, mustard, olive oil… I enjoy cooking with you! And it was nice to have guests!” “Thank you so much Filix! I like it too!” Filix comes from very far only for these days to replace our main cooker. His village is almost 13 hours far and he cooks very well! We have a cooker because otherwise with 8-9 people cooking in one small kitchen it would be a nightmare. We have the food-box and every month we offer an amount in order to buy stuff from the supermarket and fruits and vegetables from the local market. During the first weeks, we were running out of fruits. I took the initiative to coordinate the grocery shopping. We almost doubled the amount we spend on vegetables and fruits and I think this is something that my flatmates will use to tease me though they prefer it that way. To my defence, we don’t need to buy bread anymore….

#Day29 – Christmas Tree

December 27, 2017

#Day29 – Christmas Tree

It’s Christmas and I haven’t realised at all. Abuja has many Catholics. However, Abuja is an artificial city and most of the people that live here are coming from the other states only to work. So during holidays, they go back to their families. The city is almost empty and no Christmas decoration is in the streets. A Greek guy arrived yesterday for his mission in the field. I knew about his arrival because we have a common friend and she had told me. GREEKS ARE EVERYWHERE!!! However, that friend, Vicky, grabbed the opportunity and she sent me my Christmas gift. What!!??  I was a good child this year, I absolutely deserve it!!!!No?????? Well, Vicky knows better!!! So, from Nigeria, my ANANA TREE and I wish you Merry Christmas and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

#Day31 – SuperMarket

December 29, 2017

#Day31 – SuperMarket

There are some big supermarkets in Abuja. Products are quite expensive but you can find a lot of basic products. Every Saturday we go shopping to get our weekly groceries and it takes at least three hours! You need to be well prepared with the shopping list as you have to take into consideration several things; the different nationalities of the people that live in the house, the things that the cooker will need, the products that are available in the supermarket and the cost. The total budget is collected by all of us every month and at the end is more than sufficient. This time it wasn’t my turn to go shopping but lately, I have taken the initiative to organise the kitchen so I decided to go. Furthermore, for me, it is an opportunity to go out as in Abuja there are not a lot of choices. Although I enjoy shopping what is really tiring is the queuing in the cash counter. I don’t know why but here every time the queue is long and the waiting time can take up to 45 minutes! One by one… lots of products are checked one by one by dialling the product’s code and the smiley cashier works at a slow pace, that you really feel the inner need to go and do her job…God… it takes long!!!!  

#Day32 Haircut skills

December 30, 2017

#Day32 Haircut skills

I’ ve never expected to write this in a post but yes, today I made Greek traditional pita bread and I cut Ian’s (flatmate) hair. Just to clarify, none of those is in a comm’s job description neither in the main skills in order to participate in MSF mission. But ok, you need to be creative and develop your skills in general! At least it was fun and oh! God, souvlaki (Greek pita with meat and tzatziki paste) was DELICIOUS and Ian was happy with his new hairstyle!

#Day33 – New Year Eve

January 1, 2018

#Day33 – New Year Eve

There are always two ways to think when you are not in home with your family during Christmas. One is “Lucky me” and the other is… “Lucky me”. Well, it’s the last day of that year. To tell you the truth I believe that Christmas celebrations are very nice but still, you can get depressed easily. The contrast of the real life with the fancy shops, Christmas lights, fairytales and the idea that everyone enjoys Christmas in a cosy and warm place makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable. So, yeap from that aspect “Lucky me”. However, there are moments where you cannot cope with the fact that your family is back there. Usually, I would spend time with my grandma baking some cookies, watching TV shows and I would enjoy the 1st day of the year when I weak up and my parents are in the home and not in their shop as usual. No this is not “lucky me”. But you have to fight that feeling and then you realise that you celebrate Christmas in Nigeria, you share thoughts and feelings with people that you’ve just met, under a wooden canopy, drinking a cheap wine and eating chips and some sort of cheese. “Lucky me” as this is a life experience and my parents support my choice. Lucky me…

#Day36 – Flying by ICRC airplane

January 3, 2018

#Day36 – Flying by ICRC airplane

In general, I don’t have any fear of airplanes. I remember once when I was travelling to Thailand by with Air Asia… It was during monsoon and there were rain and turbulences almost during the whole flight. The plane was going up and down and I was really scared. Since then I said to myself that I would never fly with a small plane especially if the weather makes the flight worse. But never say never. And here I am flying with the ICRC plane. ICRC provides an aeroplane for the cases where the humanitarian aid access to remote areas is not possible or safety standards could not be met in any other way. NGO staff uses this option in order to arrive in Borno state, in Maiduguri which is in north-eastern Nigeria. The plane has more or less 10 seats. During Harmattan the flight might be postponed or cancelled due to the dust.   Never say never. It is almost a two-hour flight.

#Day37 Borno state

January 4, 2018

The conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military, which began in 2009, has displaced an estimated 1.8 million* people across the northeast of the country. In 2016, the armed conflict resulted in a catastrophic humanitarian emergency in several areas of Borno state, with high mortality rates linked to severe malnutrition and preventable diseases. Although security within Maiduguri, the state capital, improved slightly, allowing for an increase in aid, active conflict, mass displacement and disease outbreaks continued outside the city. During the last weeks, there are some military operations. In the nights you can hear the airplanes and during the day, you can see the army around and several checkpoints. There is also a curfew in force that starts at 7.30pm. After that, you are not allowed to be out of your home.

#Day39 KESAKO training

January 6, 2018

#Day39 KESAKO training

I arrived in Borno in order to attend an MSF training which is called KESAKO. We were almost 25 people, national and international staff arrived from the other states of Nigeria and the objective was to attend the training and after 2 days some of us would offer the training to the following participants that would arrive on Monday. It was very exhausting but absolutely interesting to participate in discussions with people that are coming from a different background. The presentation was really successful besides the limited time. And besides the two rats that I met in the kitchen, the accommodation was quite ok.

#Day41 – Flying by Helicopter

January 8, 2018

#Day41 – Flying by Helicopter

… but as we said, never say never! On Monday I am flying to Monguno, in one of the villages where MSF provides medical and nutritional support to the displaced people in the camps. It has been most efficient in the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in children and infants, thereby saving hundreds of children that were on the verge of death due to hunger. Practically speaking, these are people that had to flee their homes in Borno villages after warnings for their life due to the conflict in that area. The posting is only for African people. When you arrive in Monguno, only 3 cars are allowed to get in the area where helicopter arrives. On our way to the office, there are military transport vehicles, checkpoints and sandbags that are used as barriers on the roads. MSF driver gets me to the office where I meet the project coordinator. His posting is for one year. The fridge has some fruits, tuna, yoghurt and some vegetables.

#Day42 – in the Refugee Camps

January 9, 2018

#Day42 – in the Refugee Camps

There are many camps in the area and there are some humanitarian actors that run projects in Monguno. ICRC, MSF, UNHCR, WFP, DRC, NRC and the IOM are some of them. The situation though remains critical. People that have been there for months under the plastic sheeting that UNHCR provides and considers as shelter. “Yesterday, we had 15o new arrivals. There is no space in the camp and the situation is getting worse”, says the coordinator of the camp. It’s one of these moments that I am going back to my room thinking of what humanitarian aid is. Is sustainability ever possible in these type of crisis or it is just a way to maintain a crisis situation?