August 15, 2008

ECorps trip begins

Monday morning we were taken on a tour of Abuja. We saw the National Mosque, the National Communicant Center (an ecumenical cathedral) and the Abuja zoo. We were able to see the National Assembly building from a distance, but unfortunately were not able to go inside.

Abuja is built in an area with some outstanding giant rock formations. Near the National Assembly and right behind the zoo is Aso Rock and on our way out of town we saw Zuma Rock.

After our tour we headed out for Kaduna. The drive was uneventful and the road seemed fairly good. Most of the route is divided highway. In Kaduna we were set up at the Catholic Social Center. The center consists of a few hotel-style buildings, a church, and a restaurant and bar. We each were given a room with bed, TV, and bathroom. The bathrooms seem to be of varying quality with some having better luck with things like hot water, but generally the facilities are quite comfortable.

Next door to the Social Center is a Media Center which houses audio-visual studios and a computer lab for teaching classes. About a hundred yards away from that is a bookstore and a currently-unused cyber cafe.

At the Social Center we met another WCE team member, Obafemi Badajo from Abeokuta. We also met Fr. Kukah, Fr. Michael, Fr. Anthony, and Tony, who teaches computer classes at the Media Center.

Tuesday morning we had the first official WCE meeting with the local IT team and representatives from Jos, Kafanchan and Zaria. Due to the short time frame the Oshogbo and Makurdi projects had been dropped.

We went around the room introducing ourselves then got an update on the status of the computer shipment (still delayed--maybe next week) and tried to come up with a tentative plan of action.

The city representatives described their current setups and what they needed and/or wanted in terms of computers.

After lunch Obafemi took the iniatitive to present a brush-up class on Windows XP for those city representatives who needed it. Meanwhile others of us tried to set up a wireless network using a laptop as an AP -- failing, unfortunately -- and compiling an inventory of the arriving equipment and comparing it to the needs.

One option we discussed was for team members to go out in pairs to the various cities to see the conditions in person and perhaps be better able to make recommendations. For the most part we decided this was unnecessary, but the representative from Jos, Yilwe Dimlong, was very interested in taking folks to see the Jos school situation. Since he had to return to Jos the same afternoon I volunteered to go with him and drafted Mike to come with me.

Driving between cities at night in Nigeria is dangerous due to road conditions and lack of lighting. Often trucks that break down on the road will simply stop where they are without any sort of safety lighting and many of the okadas (motorcycle taxis) have poor or no lighting at all. Since it was already 3:30 when we decided to go to Jos we had to pack and load the car immediately in order to make it to Jos before dark.

Although we left in time, we ran into heavy rain and dark clouds as we came up the escarpment onto the Jos plateau which contributed to some tense moments. The driver was quite good, however, and we arrived at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Jos without incident. We took a route via Kafanchan and Vom which included a shortcut on an unfinished stretch of road.

Posted by cayfo001 at August 15, 2008 10:24 AM