Sunday, March 3, Benin City – Immunization Day
Our team came to Nigeria in anticipation of these next few days. Edo state showed its support by providing us with extra police security and they cleared the roads as we proceeded.
We were pumped and ready to do the job of KICKING POLIO OUT OF NIGERIA. But alas, like many of our experience in this country, it did not go smoothly. Ready to move out at the appointed hour, we were delayed repeatedly due to the tardiness of the healthcare workers carrying the vaccine. There were some very very heated discussions with the 80-year-old lady who was the local coordinator. (This individual has 8 children, only one of whom has stayed in Nigeria. The others have emigrated to the US and UK.) We divided into 3 groups in order to maximize our experience and we were doing our work at churches. We were told that the primary means of informing the Nigerians about the immunization program was through the churches – we did not see posters in the cities, towns, and villages) In theory, this was a great plan as Nigerians are a very Christian country and most attend services. But due to our very late start when we arrived at the first church, immunizations were already completed by the local healthcare workers. After chasing through the neighborhoods of Benin City and its churches, each team met with some success. Our goal was to immunize 1000 children, but maybe we immunized 200.
Next we attended a 70th birthday celebration for a Rotary Past District Governor for only 400 of his nearest and dearest friends and family. Our menu was pepper soup with cow leg, the typical two types of rice (white and jollop), fish, and some type of “mystery” meat. I was not sure how to eat this meal as I had only a spoon while others had only a fork. There was free-flowing wine and of course lots of bravado and toasting to the guest of honor.
Sunday evening, we were invited to a formal dinner with the Governor of Edo State. We had all planned a little rest before this gala. However this evening turned into a terrible fiasco as we had been misinformed as to the timing. Rick and I were awakened by a phone call and then pounding on our door that we were keeping the Governor waiting. Apparently, the party started at 5 not 7 as we thought. We hurriedly threw on our “party” clothes and left the rest of the group in a private car as we were sitting at the “high table.” We had no security and we were the only Westerners in a room of government officials, dignitaries, VIPs etc. And the Governor was not there! The Deputy Governor was the senior official in the room. We had missed the appetizers and began eating our meal of … yes rice, escargot, chicken, fish, etc. .. when the speeches and formalities began. It was at least 25 minutes more until our team arrived. As team leader, Rick received a beautiful gift of a bronze sculpture of Queen Eden for whom we presume Edo state was named. It was promptly 7pm when the Deputy Governor left and most others exited the event. It turns out the Governor was out of town. The band continued to play and we stayed on dancing amongst ourselves and our Nigerian Rotary friends. We had great fun participating in a conga line which even included some of the young children. And since THIS IS NIGERIA, even the Governor’s mansion experienced a brief power outage.
We have had daily challenges and for the most part we are all doing well handling the unpredictable.