My 12 days of Christmas started on December 23, the day after sending in the final draft of the Zittnet business plan to the Wireless Africa Project, so the holidays could finally begin.
For those that prefer bullet points – let me summarise:
- Tuesday 23 December – shopping trip to Abuja for Christmas goodies
- Wednesday 24 December – German Christmas dinner with Markus and Sabine in Gidan Waya
- Thursday 25 December – US Christmas dinner on the new Pink House grill
- Friday 26 December – visit to Fantsuam’s Attachab site to welcome the Chief and Council of Attachab/Angwan Rimi
- Saturday 27 December – Golden Jubilee celebration of Batadon Day in Madakiya
- Sunday 28 December – Thanksgiving at Christ the King Catholic Church
- Monday 29 December – audience with the new Chief of Kagoro and attend the Vincent Kawai Memorial Foundation Talent Show
- Tuesday 30 December – Blog Day
- Wednesday 31 December – prepare for Kagoro Day and our 9 VSO visitors from around he country
- Thursday 1 December – Kagoro Day!
When our plans for going away fell through because of cost (probably close to a month’s salary for three nights) and slight concerns about security on the roads, we decided to take what we might have spent if we could have afforded it, and have an almighty blow-out in an Abuja ex-pat supermarket. These havens of air-conditioning, non-negotiable prices with scanning checkouts and credit cards – are simultaneously heaven and hell for a village-living VSO who marvels at the endless goodies around them which, at prices often considerably higher than the equivalent back at home, are simply devilish extravagance on our monthly stipend.
We arrived home to discover that between them Laurie and Yashen had fully constructed the Pink House grill from Attachab’s red blocks, and cement and metal grids from the market put together with assistance of Chief Dominic’s shovel and a random (but useful) piece of iron scavenged (and later to be returned) to the Fantsuam compound.
Getting public transport into Kafanchan on Christmas Eve was not as easy as usual with numerous half-empty vehicles passing my ‘drop’ signal (low hand waving downwards as though you were patting a small dog on the head) without a care for the N50 (25p) it would earn them.
Glowing from Reuben's appreciation, I then visited Seth to collect my dress sharp on the promised hour of 2:00 where it was complete and just being ironed (Seth and one of his two apprentices was taking advantage of there being NEPA to iron whatever they could). Then I was lucky enough to get a lift back with our Fantsuam Marcus to Kagoro in time to try on the dress and get ready for our journey to Gidan Waya for our first Christmas dinner.
Shortly after, Yashen returned with the chicken pieces in a bucket which were then liberally marinaded with goodies brought back from Abuja. I squeezed oranges, grapefruits and lime/lemons (I’ll let you know one day what the tree actually is) into a delicious cordial for later (hoping that someone would bring the vodka) and started preparing the side dishes of rice and cabbage before leaving to change into my new (and I think rather lovely) Nigerian outfit.
Sabine and Markus were the first to arrive and sample the first products of Laurie’s amazing grill following which visitors came and went including the Bodem, son of our neighbour Chief Dominic, Marcus from Fantsuam and his friend, and Bala Dada and his Lagosian cousin, hot-footing it from Jos to beat the 6pm curfew in place since the recent riots.
Regular readers will be familiar with Fantsuam Foundation’s Attachab site. What I may have failed to mention is that much of the land was donated by the local district under district head (hakimi) HRH Daniel, who asked if he could bring his council, many visiting from further afield, to visit the site on Boxing Day.
Often a tedious part of the proceedings I must congratulate both the Chief and his second in command, the Baju, for their delivery, which told much about the history of the site and the hopes that the local Attachab clan had for its development.
The Christmas break is a good time for celebrations (and countless weddings) in rural Nigeria as it’s the time that families leave the cities and congregate in their ancestral villages. The Batadon district of Madakiya in Zango Kataf first held a Chritsmas party for the local youth in 1958 in order to recognise and give thanks for the achievements of the previous year, and to plan for the coming year. The event grew in stature and, by its Golden Jubilee in 2008, it was celebrated as a full three-day festival of which I attended the gala celebration in the grounds of Madakiya Secondary School. Accompanying Markus and Sabine, we were given VIP seats for the proceedings and watched the choirs, cultural dancers and various dignitaries including the Kaduna State Governor Namadi Sambo, ably represented by the State Minister of Culture... I forget his name.
December 28 – Thanksgiving at Christ the King
On Sunday we were invited by Yashen to attend the thanksgiving service at his church, Christ the King Catholic Church, to give thanks for his sister and niece’s full recovery from a serious road accident. Laurie and Dori had attended St Joseph’s Catholic Church on the other side of Kagoro the previous week and could therefore compare and contrast the more upmarket St Joseph’s – with its own batauri priest, carved altar crucifix and affluent congregation, to Christ the King, with its cardboard cut-out crucifix, intermittent electricity supply and no priest (but some highly enthusiastic stand-ins).