Today was a day of visiting around Benin City. Osas came to pick us up shortly after 9 am and we started out. His father, Mr. James Aghimien, was able to travel with us today, which was a nice surprise. Mr. Aghimien has been suffering numerous health problems recently, and has had very low energy. So for him to be able to come and travel around with us was very nice and a big effort on his part.
Shortly after leaving our hotel we passed the Obas Palace. I asked about it, and was told that is the residence of the king of the entire Ebo State of Nigeria. I know there is also a governor of the Ebo state as well (and elections are to be held next month, so there are a lot of political banners up all over), so how do the king and the governor work together? Apparently it is a rather complicated system. The king represents the traditional government, and it is hereditary. He wields a lot of influence with the common man. But the governor is elected by the people, and also has a lot of power. By law the governor can overrule any decision made by the king, but the influence of the king is so great that if he chose he could get the governor removed from office. So the two try to work together and be on the same page of the political landscape in the state.
Our first stop was the home of Mrs. Esther Igdaliah. When we turned down the dirt street leading to Mrs. Igdaliah’s house (virtually all the side streets are dirt) we were faced with a huge pile of dirt in the middle. Apparently a dump truck had dumped a load in the street that at some point will be spread out to fill in the potholes and level things out. But we couldn’t drive any farther, so we parked and walked around it.
We immediately noticed that on the other side of her driveway there were two more large piles of dirt. She has a car (although she doesn’t drive, she has a driver who takes her wherever she wants to go), but it is clear her car won’t be going anywhere until that dirt is spread out. She said they dumped it there a few days ago, but no one knows when they’ll be back to spread it. Such is life in this part of the world!
Mrs. Igdaliah is one of the members who was able to raise her hand as having attended 50 or more Feast of Tabernacles this past fall. (Mr. James Aghimien is another, along with his wife, Bridget). She is a retired school teacher, and has been a big help to quite a few young people over the years. She has extra rooms in her house, so she has been able to take a few young people in to her home from time to time, and help provide for them and help them get schooling. All of this helps these young people get a better start in life. There are several young people who owe quite a debt of gratitude to her generosity!
From her home we went across town to visit with Mrs. Beatrice Iyamu. Mrs. Iyamu is another one of the 50+ year people at the Feast this year. Mrs. Iyamu is almost completely blind, and she asked to be anointed again for her eyes. At this point she said all she can see is discerning the light from the doorway verses the darker inside the room.
She is also completely deaf in her right ear, and can hear only slightly out of her left ear. So you have to talk to the left ear, and rather loudly before she can hear. But when I asked her how she was feeling, she told us she can walk, she can bathe herself, she can feed herself, and that is so much more than many people! It struck Cody and me both what a wonderful attitude she has! In a few months she will turn 79, and is looking forward to her 80th birthday!
Mrs. Iyamu will always sing to us when we come, and she asked if she could sing before we left, which of course we welcomed. So she sang a completely acapella version of “There is Joy in My Heart”, and I don’t think she missed a word! But by the time she finished she was noticeably getting tired, so it was time for us to venture back out into Benin City traffic (which isn’t as bad as Lagos traffic) to go back across town.
We arrived at the home of Mr. Roderick Smart around 1:30 pm. If you saw the “street” in front of his house you would think it is really bad – and it is. But it might surprise you to learn it is actually a bit better than it was last time I visited! They have brought in dirt and tried to level out some of the deepest holes in the dirt street. It will help for a while, but since the rains are coming, I’m sure it will begin to wash and wallow out to about what it was before.
Mr. Smart has never taken me to the back of his property before, but I’ve heard about the goats, turkeys, chickens and rabbits he raises back there. He said it is a joy to work with them, and said the animals sometimes show more gratitude for what you do for them than people do! Sadly, I’d have to agree with that statement…
So after we visited for a bit he took us all out back and he showed us all that he has. The rabbits he sells to a local university for medical research, and a few he sells to children as pets. The goats, chickens and turkeys he raises to sell, and perhaps eat as well.
Interestingly, he said his turkeys are very unpredictable mothers, so once he gets a nest full of turkey eggs, he takes a brooding chicken hen and sets her on the eggs instead. She will dutifully sit and hatch them and watch carefully over the little poults until they are large enough to fend for themselves (by which point they are getting larger than their surrogate mother!).
He also has done much research and work with various tropical fruit trees, and can tell you when they need to be trimmed or cut down, what makes them produce the best and so forth. It was clear from listening to him that not only has he done a lot of reading and worked with the animals and plants, but he has a passion for it. The trip to the back of his place was quite enlightening!
By midafternoon Osas returned us to our hotel hot and sweaty and more than a little dusty. While we enjoyed our visits, getting back into a room with air conditioning was also a real delight!
One of the things that it seems everyone in Nigeria is facing is the lack of electrical power. Where the Edafe’s live they get a few hours of power once every two or three days. Here in Benin City they may get three or four hours a day, but often much less. And there doesn’t seem to be a discernable pattern as to when they will get power. So everyone must have a small generator (simply referred to as a “gen”) on standby. A number of times here at the hotel all the lights go off, and a minute or less later they come back on. That means either the power failed and the hotel started their large generator, or the power was restored and they shut the “gen” down to switch back over. You can imagine the problems the unpredictable power supply will create for homes and businesses alike, but it is simply a fact of life here, and everyone deals with it as best they can.
Tomorrow Cody and I will get a taxi from the hotel to services where we’ll get to see everyone, and catch a few more people we need to talk with.