Carolyn Johnson

|| December Email Notes ||

December, 1998



12/05/98 We were not able to go out because it was election day for local officials in the soon-to-be civilian government. There was a curfew restricting people to their own neighborhoods and not allowing any vehicles (even bicycles) on the road to prevent people from voting in multiple places. Last Saturday we weren't able to go out because it was Sanitation Saturday, the last Saturday of every month when everyone in the country is forced to stay home and clean house. What a riot! I wish I could enforce that just in my own home in Iowa.

12/12/98 was the first day of serious harmatan and now we get it. You may know that harmatan is a 3 month long season where dusty winds blow down from the Sahara. The dust blocks the sun so it is cool. Before today we enjoyed the hints of harmatan with the moody haze and cool, gentle winds but now we know that it means breathing dust continuously and being able to write in the dust of the coffee table within an hour of cleaning it off. Our beds puff smoke as we plop down. We are in the dry season and it will not rain again for months which is such a change from the daily showers and nightly thunder storms we experienced on arrival. The green has turned brown but all manner of flowers are popping from unlikely places. Brush fires are scattered over the hills (very dramatic at night) to clear out the snakes. Regardless of the season, the sun always shines so every day seems beautiful to me.

We were in Abuja (the capital) recently because Cliff was doing some consulting with the US embassy and happened to be having dinner at the ambassador's residence when Ambassador Twaddle left suddenly. We were to find out later that he was being notified of the Iraq bombing. Even being on the scene we received very little news. We thought it ironic that as soon as we were indulged a little staying on the ambassador's compound for a few days we would be exactly where we don't want to be during terrorist scares. We were glad to get back to Jos for that and other reasons.

While Cliff was consulting in Abuja he went to the NUC which manages the UniJos email system and found out that it was down for 24 days because someone couldn't remember the password and didn't know how to get around it. Kai! (as they would say in Hausa.) As most of our friends know by now, email has not been fast or reliable. This was just one of many problems.

Christmas in Nigeria has been delightful. We didn't miss the commercialism at all. The kids hardly knew Christmas was coming until the week before. We did cut down a tree and decorate it with ad lib ornaments (thanks to Jake), go caroling in the neighborhood, had dinner with friends and drank eggnog. The locals don't do much of that present thing. They get a new outfit (found at the market - rejects from the states or made by the local tailor) and cook meat to share. On boxing day, (the 26th) people we didn't even know showed up at the door for a mineral (soda) and cookie - kind of like trick or treating.

We are planning to go on a safari 12/29 if we can find a tank of petrol. The government has closed down the black market but no one is willing to sell at the government price. First the private vehicles went off the road, next the taxis and now you see mostly motorcycles, half of which are being pushed home after finally running out of petrol.

I will be taking a three month intensive Hausa language and culture course starting in January. There are some new missionaries coming in who will be stationed in the bush and have to know the language. The mission has agreed to let me participate. It will be held on the same campus as the kids school and the same hours so we will be coming and going together (and doing homework together.)

Cliff is taking lessons on his newly acquired cow horn xylophone which is huge and loud. It is quite a sight. Neighbors will show up while he practices to listen and groove. Cliff thinks he will be able to take it apart and ship it home so you all may have the pleasure of a concert.

We will cut our first bunch of bananas this week and there are two huge mango trees in our yard promising treasures to come. Is this heaven?


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1998 by Cliff Missen