A Tough Day (November 2011)

My extended trip to Calabar has been nice but I am ready to go back to the village. There is a huge difference between choosing to stay in Calabar and being prevented from going home. I realized I had a meeting on Tuesday with one of ourfunders so I thought I might as well stay until that was finished, no sense in going up for a day and coming back the next. The massive traffic jam finally cleared up on Sunday resulting in a smooth flow of traffic (a four day traffic jam). We wanted our truck to go up Monday to drop the supplies intended to go up last Friday and then we have some tourists that have paid for transport to Rhoko Camp on Tuesday and back again Wednesday. These people have apparently flown toCrossRiver specifically to go to our field site.

When dealing with the variety of problems here, all of our staff have a kind of tag line. Although we all share an affinity for the f bomb we also have our own unique lines when disaster strikes. My director will always say ‘Oh dear…”, my other coworker will say ‘Are you serious’ and I frequently say, ‘It never ends’. Once you solve a problem here a new one always seems to emerge. Just yesterday our modem for internet broke, a power surge fried the power cord to a laptop, a monkey got sick, the power went out melting the fish in the freezer dripping blood on a the things in the fridge and a government representative who we need to sign a document to get a new worker’s visa told us he would meet us but then later said he was in Abuja. And it is literally like this everyday….like I said, it never ends.
We got word today that the drivers of fuel tankers were going on strike. This meant huge lines at petrol stations after word leaked yesterday. Stations were empty by today and the only petrol available is on the black market. Aside from the obvious price increase, the black market petrol is frequently cut with water. And actually even in times of normalcy petrol has been known to be like this and it has ruined our truck in the past. This becomes even more of a problem when you are outside of the city because petrol is sold by individuals with a 50 liter drum of petrol. And now we have a big problem because the tourists have paid to use our truck. Luckily we have enough petrol to get us to Rhoko Camp and back. We think the driver will just stay overnight in camp and we will scratch the trip today. Meanwhile I will scour the black market for petrol. Hopefully this strike will blow over soon or it will get really tough!

The following day we heard that the fuel tanker strike was projected to last two weeks. I had some errands to run and found makeshift ‘gas stations’ all over Calabar. You couldn’t walk 10 ft. without seeing someone with a petrol container on their head; either selling or stocking up. When I returned to the office I heard even worse news. The national power company was planning on going on a strike as well. I’ve already commented that the national power company is a total embarrassment to Nigeria so I don’t know why the workers think they need higher wages. We literally have electricity maybe 20% of the time and frequent power surges fry electronics and send shocks through computers, fridge door handles and anything else you might touch. And without the infrequently available national power(called NEPA), people would be expected to rely on their generators. This combined with the fuel tanker strike is a real disaster for residents of Calabar. Fuel prices will skyrocket, transportation prices will skyrocket, everyone will be feeling the lack of air conditioning and fans and perhaps this will even lead to a rise in crime. Either way, it’s a total mess.


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