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Birthday in Ibadan

January 4

Okay, I gotta start out with a shout-out to somebody who is not in Nigeria, but who is responsible for bringing Nigeria to you. The other day, I’d finished the post about the wedding/engagement, loaded pictures and the damn blog app crashed. Now how many of you think that made me happy? Right.

I think I made up several new Yoruban cuss words, before writing to Glenn Crocker, “my web guy,” who over the years has designed and modified my website, helped me with blog issues and, in short, done whatever I’ve needed. I’ll spare you all the details, but it was actually Glenn who posted the wedding/engagement post and, in half a dozen or more emails, guided me to a point where I can once again make posts. So, if you need any help with anything that smacks remotely of web-type stuff, get in touch with Glenn, and tell him that you discovered him in Nigeria. glenn@netmud.com, www.netmud.com

This may seem like a complete diversion from the description of the trip, but, actually, I don’t think it is. The blog has become for me a way of focusing on the events of the day and reflecting on them. In this sense, blogging enhances and becomes part of the trip. It also is a way of preserving those memories that is easier to access than the written journals I used to keep, and a good deal more visual. Finally, sharing our trip with friends and family who are interested also enriches and extends our travel experience and allows us to connect around those experiences with folks we care about.

Okay, now where the hell were we?

Up rather early to pack and have breakfast with the Kipharts. Then it was “get me to the church on time,” with Dick, Susie, Funmi and Sola to give thanksgiving for Feyi’s engagement. We were originally going to go to a larger, fancier church, which would have required the ladies to don their engagement headgear again, but since we have to get out of Dodge quickly (though Lagos, at over 18 million people, is quite a bit larger than Dodge), Funmi opted for a more modest church, which we plan to attend, dressed for the later events of the day (of which, more to come).

Well, actually, it turned out that our church was in the lobby of the Blowfish Hotel. We were mistakenly taken to the main cathedral, where we saw people dressed for church in finery equivalent to what we saw at the engagement. The young woman who accompanied us said everyone dressed up for Jesus, but she suspected that some dressed up for each other. We were later told by Funmi that the first Sunday of the year was a day on which people dressed in their absolute finest, to give thanks for having survived the year.  As people leave the church, some pass out money (“tips”) to people standing outside.  A fight nearly breaks out between young men shouting at one another, unhappy about the division of the spoils.  Doling out money in this way appears to be a regular part of Nigerian celebrations, and occurred at the engagement party and later today at the birthday party.  In any case, this cathedral was not where Funmi and Sola were going, so we headed back to the hotel to wait for Them. At least, back at the hotel, we got to see Feyi and Ayo, dressed for the service they were going to at the main cathedral. Oh, well, the best laid plans….

This morning, actually the entire few days we’ve been here, have been so different from the hectic pace we usually keep with the Kipharts and Olopades. Today will be another relatively slow-paced day, as we travel to Ibadan for the 70th birthday bash for Funmi’s brother, Abiodun Falusi, a professor of agricultural economics at Ibadan University. The 2-hour drive to Ibadan, a city of some 4 million people, is along a highway that is pretty decent, though in need of some repair. Driving is fast, weaving in and out, trucks are passed on the right or left. In shot, it’s smart to have strong religious convictions if you drive on these roads. We pass market areas and roadside retail spots, more urban than those we’ve typically seen in Ghana.

We travel with the Kipharts in a van with a driver, security guard and a representative from the university. The Olopades travel in a separate vehicle and trail us by probably close to an hour. We arrive at the university around 2PM, and are ushered into a very large auditorium, where probably 300-400 people dressed every bit as fancy as at the engagement party are seated at round tables of eight. Speeches are underway and, at a break, we are introduced from our table at the front of the hall.

This is a very major tribute to Funmi’s brother. A book has been prepared in his honor, with chapters written by many professors, for sale to those assembled. Guests are given bags with gifts of specially done diary books, notebooks, pens, all in Abiodun’s honor and with his name on it. Another book of his life history, with pictures and tributes is passed out.

Speeches continue for a very, very long time by professors, vice chancellors, friends and family. Abiodun’s family seems to rival the Olopades in terms of achievement. His wife is a doctor and expert on sickle cell anemia, at least two of his children are doctors, as well. Like the Olopades, they are a very handsome family.

While the affair goes on for a very, very long time (we’re there for over three hours), it’s warm and impressive. The strength of family and friendship bonds is palpable, the mood is festive. It’s nice to see a person’s life and work appreciated so fully at a time when he can enjoy the celebration, rather than at a funeral service, as frequently happens in the US.  A large portrait of Abiodun is presented, and there is much thanks to and praise for Jesus. While the religiosity is over the top from my standpoint, it does lend a certain humility to the proceedings through recognition that a person’s accomplishments are not solely his own. There is talk of another party for Abiodun’s 80th, but I’m pretty sure I’m busy that day. Singing and dancing, with a live band, follow. These Nigerians know how to party. And we and the Kipharts are greeted very warmly by many people who we met on our trip to Nigeria last year, including Funmi’s 94-year old mother.

Here are some photos from the birthday bash:

Young birthday celebrant with his Grandma

Funmi’s mom

Abiodun and Susie

Abiodun’s wife with Carol and Susie

As soon as the final prayer is offered and dancing begins, we say our goodbyes to the honoree and his wife, and arrange to meet the Olopades later. We are driven to a home on the Ibadan University campus, where we’ll stay for the next two nights. Our accommodations are fine, though far from posh. We spend some time reading, blogging, etc and around 7, are called to the dining room for a simple dinner. After dinner, Funmi comes over and we discuss the engagement and birthday parties, and the fact that we can’t get wifi in the house. Bummer, no blog post tonight. Retire very early, in need of a good night’s sleep

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