A Trip to Jos
There’s the feeling a new place brings.
I awoke somewhere in the heart of Jos, Nigeria, to the warmth of sunrise after a grueling journey the day before, ready to explore my environment.
The first thing that hit me was the cold. It was freezing! Or maybe not so much, but for someone like me who had never been anywhere remotely cold, simple things like walking and bathing were tasks that required prancing about like a rabbit. Not the locals, though. They moved in customized head warmers and socks and jackets—things I too wore but still shook like a leaf—with a steady rhythm as they went about their daily activities.
Another amazing thing was the quiet. There was a semi constant power supply so the usual cacophony of generators I was used to once it got to evening hours were absent, and in the mornings, the roads hardly got busy with people and cars before the crack of dawn. Even the markets resumed late compared to those back home where you could see people opening shops by 7am.
There was an awareness of health too. I could see that in the patronization of the varieties of fruits and vegetables—dill, parsley, cauliflower—veggies I had not come across before today mixed with the usual ones like ugu. This, coupled with the sight of people jogging down the road without a care in the world, made me wish I lived here with my trusted smoothie maker.
There was warmth, one extended to strangers as well. A presence of genuine curiosity and unflinching demeanors when faced with the lens of a camera. Maybe they were consciously living true to their name, being the home of peace and tourism or maybe they were all too used to the curious glances and the thirst for knowledge from outsiders; the thirst they too had woven into the steps of their young ones as they marched bright and early to school.
I’d always heard that Hausa wasn’t difficult to learn. Even though it was my first time in a predominantly Hausa speaking community, I’m inclined to say it has less to do with the language. The language may be easy, but who wouldn’t find it so when it welcomed you. Even if you did not understand a word, it made no attempt to alienate you—it gently caressed you until you understood the wrinkles behind the eyes and mouths upturned into a smile while you waited for a translation. It was in the way they would ask “where are you from?” and then proceed to speak your language—even if in bits and pieces—all the while giving off proud smiles at their ability to communicate and be understood in a foreign language.
There was so much history here, and so much potential. So much I didn’t know about before. It was in their local meals and drinks like gwote and pito, still prepared the way it was intended to be consumed traditionally, in the houses of those who brewed them.
It was in their fruits like strawberries, broccoli and radishes which spoke volumes about interactions with foreigners.
They had their share of local bars as well, and my ears were filled with the interesting stories beyond their doors. Stories of religion mixed with human desire. Stories of hustle and luck—stories worth listening to. I ended up walking from expansive farmlands in the University of Jos where foods so numerous to mention were grown; to nurseries where lemongrass and rosemary plants left a fragrance I would continue to associate with my visit.
The serenity of a nature park has always been something I craved. There are very few places where one can seek and achieve the peace and quiet present in a park like this one and I believe each state should have at least one; if only to dial down the insanity in our minds.
It was a week day and there were a lot of people at the Jos Wild life park. A lot of school children filled with excitement at what lay beyond twists and turns and college students whose steps quickened too as they approached an elephant.
Many reduce the black man to a stereotype—say he’s not made to function in a certain way, think a certain way, appreciate the things his counterparts from other races do because he wasn’t made that way. But then, a man who bought his suya few feet away from me said loudly in pidgin that he wanted to sit and watch the animals while he ate and all it required was a change in environment.
While I loved the sights, the hikes, and the adventure, I hope we rethink our way of dealing with wildlife. Someday, I hope we are the ones viewing out of mobile confined spaces or some other technology while animals run free and in company of their kind. That way they don’t exist solely for amusement—startled and prodded to make any move to excite visitors, or to be bored to death.
I may not have ended up at the museum the way I did, or met the people I did, if I didn’t stroll out that evening with no destination in mind (with Google Maps as back up though).
It may not have climbed the 100 steps to what was once Afizere settlement at the National Jos Museum to watch the sun set. All that was missing was background music and my partner-in-crime and for a long while, all I heard was the silence, and the occasional (many) clicks of my camera.
I would most likely go back to Jos soon; this time around, fully prepared for the cold, dryness and its effect on my skin.
Pito: a type of beer made from fermented millet or sorghum usually served in calabashes and found in northern parts of Nigeria
Gwote: Local cereal like northern Nigerian delicacy
Adaku Nwakanma is a photographer and storyteller. Her recently published photo journal View up here (http://selar.co/m/adakanma) details her experience watching the sun set in Jos, Nigeria. You can follow her journey and work on Instagram and Twitter @adakanma