Thursday, June 11, 2009

notes from nigeria

By Morgan Clark

Well, i can say that it has been quite a busy few days. i can't promise any writing as good as lauren's, but i will do my best..thanks to andrew's friend moses, we are really lucky to be able to even be continuing this blog! (we are not able to just walk to an internet cafe, and it takes too much stress/time to find someone to take us). as i am writing this, the power just went out - came back on - and went out again- came back on! this happens often here..don't know if lauren mentioned, but we are somehow blessed with air conditioning in our rooms - which amazes me! it is a nice contrast to the hot heat.

on monday, we started our teaming up with pro health international (a group full of such wonderful people) by waking up at 5:30 am..yes, i said 5:30...for singing, prayer, and devotion.. hey, when you are here, you live by their rules..and no one is allowed to miss it. they are deeply religious and very passionate about their religion. when that was over (around 6:15), we were able to go back to our rooms to prepare for the day (we just slept some more!) and then at 7:30 we rose again for bible study followed by breakfast. they tell us that we will be doing this everyday (really!). andrew says it was the norm in his household growing up

we loaded up the bus and drove to the benin sports stadium, where andrew's old coach and friends play sports. the basketball court in the stadium - which is like a big complex that has tennis, swimming, and offices - is flooded. not just today, it is always flooded and they have no way to fix it. so instead, they play ball on wire road. but before we can go there, we have to go to see the commissioner to get her blessing for what we will be doing. we always cause quite a scene wherever we go, and this was defintely one that was an important visit captured on both parties cameras and videos. everywhere we go, we feel like celebrities..nigerians LOVE to take pictures!!! some common phrases they also use are "that is ok" (for good) and "you are welcome" (at first we wondered what for, and then we realized they are saying you are welcome here in nigeria, here in the sports stadium, here in our school..).

we finally make it over to the courts on wire road, way behind schedule, to see not the 50 people we thought would be there, but the 150 people there waiting for us - since 9:00 (it's like 11 at this point). the courts are basically some cement slab with some marks on them (i think thanks to andrew). you can tell they have started to paint the courts from the money andrew has brought with this trip, but have held off continuing because of rain the night before. the day is a bit disorganized as we think of what to do with our new numbers on the fly. coach sue, andrew, frank, and chris easterling do an excellent job running some scrimmages and teaching the nigerian players some new moves.

while some are playing on the courts, we have set up the foot washing station, where we get to know the people and are able to deliver them a new pair of shoes. i think andrew is pretty satisfied with how the day went. unfortunately, the nigerian goverment has delayed our container of shoes, and we only have the basketball shoes that we brought on the plane with us to give out. the other 500 basketball shoes remain in port (where they have been for the past 1.5 weeks) in lagos until the government decides to review our paperwork (again) or accept some payment (think thousands) - welcome to africa - you never know what will happen! we just recevied disappointing news - confirmation that we will not get the container until after we leave. luckily, andrew's church has about 40 AMAZING volunteers (these are really special people) who will finish the mission for us and deliver shoes to all of our targets (not just basketball shoes, but the other thousands of regular tennis shoes too!!!).

ok, sorry for the sidenotes there. we hung out at the wire road courts for the majority of the afternoon, making conversation with all of the players after we were done with the shoes. the ones that didn't get any are still very excited to get some next week. we just hope that they get into the right hands, and not into some of the corrupt coaches. these players work so hard, and play so hard, and have such big dreams. it was heartbreaking to not be able to bring them all to the US to play like andrew has. BUT as Frank said best, they can shine in nigeria too! it is an honor to play for your country (like frank has), and they were reminded of this. we have nicknamed Frank BenEze the Poparreze, because he is allllllllways taking pictures. also, many refer to andrew as drew or andy. everyone idolizes him (and frank), you can see in the players eyes, you can hear it in their voices. he is truly an inspiration for all and i feel so lucky to know him and frank. they have both continued to amaze me. after seeing where andrew came from - you think you have an idea, but you really don't- he and frank have even more of my respect (if that's possible).

the people of nigeria are amazing. there are very few white people here, so when we go places, we get stared at a lot. but, if you wave and say hi or smile at those staring faces, they burst into smiles and energetic waves - they are so friendly and happy, it is so heartwarming. and they may not have what we have at home (think - children taking baths in the street, running around barefoot, very little electricity - yes, on andrew's street too..everywhere), but i think they are probably way more satisified and happy in life than the majority of americans i know. i only hope one day to be fulfilled in life in the same way that they are. all of the nigerians i have met are the most loving, welcoming people!

when we were done at the courts (i think we will return tomorrow to fix them up some more) we grabbed a quick bite and headed to a village outside of the city, about a 2 hour bus ride. we drove on a cement road most of the way there but roads into the village are all dirt, potholes, mountaints..i don't know how our bus did not get stuck. the school we went to was a primary school filled with 800 children, who were waiting to welcome us. manny (samaritan's feet leader) spoke to them with an inspirational speech about how he,andrew,and frank were native nigerians, and what they have been able to achieve because of their success in school. encouraged them to become doctors, engineers, be a superstar for nigeria. it was like out of a movie - those kids are amazing. they are so good, sweet, and eager to learn. so many questions to answer for them, we were basically mobbed in their eagerness to learn about these strange visitors. i wanted to kidnap a good few many children - but i'll leave that to molly or lauren to talk about. to sum up, words can't describe the experience at that village school. once the container makes its way to benin, those 800 children will all receive a pair of shoes from us, which will be wonderful for them. however, they have no electricity( the govt neglects the villages), no computers... if they just had 1 or 2 of those, they could do so much. it makes me think deeply about a- what else i can do for them and b-what would all of the american parents feel or think if they had to put THEIR child in these conditions.

this has gotten long, has strayed off course, but you'll have to forgive me..there is so much to think, feel, and try and get across to you. one thing is for sure, and that is how PROUD i am of andrew and frank. these 2 will be in my life forever and for that i am thankful...that they will always remind me of how to be a better person. frank especially has made me proud, as i have seen such a different side of him than he showed at davidson..he is in his element now, and really shines. he is definitely a future leader!

oh, and moses wants to come to the us for graduate school..he will be taking the gre and i have told him that i will send him some gre study books, so all you friends of mine that have those laying around - i need one or two to send to him. moses is special, like andrew and frank, and i will not rest until he gets what he wants!

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