Sunday, 12 June 2011

HAVC Brochure

This is the HAVC brochure.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Food Blog Pt II - The animals I have known and loved.

Meat in Nigeria is much tougher than in the UK (or anywhere else I’ve been), I think this is because animals are not fed high protein feed but have to fend for them selves and endure the long dry season when food is pretty scarce. Also female animals are only slaughtered once they stop producing babies so are pretty much over the hill once it comes to eating

To counter this Nigerian meat is either beaten senseless (see suya) or stewed for at least 8 hours. Butchery standards are low (why pay someone else to kill your animals when you have your own perfectly good knife and the road is basically wipe clean…. Right?) This results in a most meat coming with extra connective tissue, gristle, furry stuff  etc.

Goat Meat

Despite looking like they are a  little on the fat side the average goat doesn’t have much meat on it. Most of the meat is also impeded by bones and other things not normally considered food in the west (except if preceded by the word dog). Nigerians however love goat, its much more expensive than cow (which is considered not sufficiently flavored), goat also tastes suspiciously like what the goats eat, rubbish.

Goat Head
The head of one goat chopped up and presented on a very nice wooden plinthy thing. There are about 2 bits of decent meat in the average head. Mercifully I have never had the eyeballs served with it, although I imagine you could devise a good bar based tabletop game to play with them.

More expensive than cow. eaten in nigeria but not normally by accident.

Cow Skin
Yes people cow skin… commonly know around the world as leather a substance so indestructible you can use it to protect yourself in hundred mile an hour motor bike crashes. Here it’s a form of food, and I can confirm it is just as tough as you would expect, at the slightest sign of this in the soup at a Nigerian house all volunteers know to run, to do otherwise might result in it being served to your soup, and we all know that to be polite you have to finish what’s in your plate.


Errr, not much  to say about this. Imagine trying to eat boiled hosepipe. Again another acquired taste I just don’t have the enthusiasm or dental fortitude to pick up.


mmm…. Sounds tasty huh. Yes random bits of chicken inside are considered a delicacy. The best way to describe it is chewy, and not in a good way, more in “I wonder what vital function this particular piece of gristle did, perhaps poo production?” In a random bit of etiquette, woman are not supposed to eat gizzard, I’m not sure why.

This part of Nigerian cusine I am really going to miss. In/near every bar is a man with a barbeque with meat. My dinner often

I - Meat on a stick suya

Cow (or other meat) beaten to a flat strip, barbequed once to cook then again to reheat. Its really tasty, and amazing. Normally you can have it delivered to your table, it also often comes with masa which is a type of rice bready substance.

Big sticks of meat are 200N (80p), with a variety of sticks available up to this price. Suya costing less than 100N a stick should never be purchased except as catfood substitute (this is actually the cheapest way to feed our cat but even he’s refusing to eat it now).

II - Random lump o suya
Meat arranged on the top of a old oil drum sizzling away in a pool of its own fat, yes it is as amazing as it sounds. Also these guys have taken a leaf out of the supermarket marketing textbook and normally do a try-before-you-buy system, careful descion making and comparison can result in more meat being consumed at this stage than in the post payment stage.

In general I prefer type I suya, it less likely to be dog and less likely to be completely composed of actual meat.


This is dryed meat, think biltong but not as meaty. This is produced by cutting meat into thin strips then leaving it to air dry for a day, then coated in peanut paste and bbqed for a bit. The drying process is perhaps not the most hygienic of processes, I’m not sure what percentage of the .As with many foods in Nigeria its probably best not to see it prepared if you want to enjoy eating it.

(it gets worse, behind this photo is dala hill in kano, this side of which is used as the local toilet)

Fish is very popular in Nigeria. Crayfish is added to any stew (including vegeatable stew, much to the annoyance of the vegetarians). The

In bars however it is possible to acquire the best barbequed fish in the world. Cooking is simple:
Step 1 (optional) you select your live fish from the “point and kill” tank
Step 2: Fish is de-scaled and dipped in a tasty and hot sauce
Step 3: Fish is put on bbq
Step 4: Fish is taken off bbq, and eaten by hungery volunteers, with optional chips and more hot sauce.

This process results in really really good moist white fish. Well actually if you follow the process through to step 4 it results in poo, but no one wants to hear about poo.

This is for jon, he knows why:

A list of foods not available in Nigeria*
•    Cheese
•    Bread not containing 30% sugar
•    Bacon
•    Ham
•    Pork chops
•    Eggs with proper yellow bits in the middle
•    Lasagna sandwiches
•    Haggis

*except at ridiculous prices

Thursday, 14 October 2010

what to bring

This is a list of some of the stuff i have found useful, someone may find this of use in the unfortunate circumstance they find themselves heading to nigeria for VSO and have taken to reading my blog for inspiration. Also i suppose it highlights the daily issues of living here.

This is based on being placed in a city and also includes some things I wouldn’t bring and discussion on other aspects of life here. I am a bit techy so this may be reflected in some of the things I suggest.

The main challenges (outside work) are lack of power, water and things to do in the evening. Power can be managed through excessive battery purchase, water through really really big buckets and entertainment through books, dvd’s, scrabble, internet and excessive battery use.

Wind up Lanterns - Some of these work really well and some are complete rubbish, if possible try and get wind up lights which also charge from the mains as you can leave them to charge over night and can only resort to winding after a couple of days without power.

Rechargeable batteries - These are useful to go in head torches etc, bring lots along with a really bright led torch, some come with magnets on the back so they can be put strategically on doors/fridges etc

Solar chargers (Don’t bring)- I can see how these could be useful if you have your own compound. I brought a phone charger, which i’ve not used enough to justify the expense. The main problem is that as they take a while to charge during which you have to leave your shiney charger out in the open, which is just inviting it to be borrowed.

If you have a bit more cash or a birthday present/Christmas to use up consider a power gorilla. Its basically a giant external battery which can charge your phone and laptop (depending on size it gives 2-5 hours of extra laptop use) which can be quite useful for playing movies/music in the dark, powerless nights.

External hard drive and flash drives (lots). The hard drive is useful to back up all your photos etc and for borrowing movies from other volunteers. Make sure it runs off the usb power (i.e. doesn’t need to be plugged into the mains). Flash drives are super useful as emailing is slow, if possible get a flash which has the option to be locked, this means the drive is turned to read only and the computer you put it in cant load viruses onto it, very useful for getting things printed etc. Flash drives also make good presents.

Internet access is possible via numerous mobile networks, although only MTN currently supports ‘broadband’ which allows skyping (and occasionally video skyping) which is very handy and gives you something to do in the evening. If you have a smartphone which can be “tethered” bring it if you are planning to get internet access, as it will save you having to buy a dongle here (also if you have an unlocked dongle you could bring that too).

The internet is costly, at £32 a month for 24h access, so you might want to decide before you come to bring extra cash to cover this if you think you will need this. It is now possible to buy one day plans, which will cover you if you want to simply to skype once a week/month.
Check here to see the MTN mobile broadband coverage in Nigeria

There are internet cafes, access is normally slow (outside Abuja) and expensive but can be used to pick up emails etc (ideally not from the same email account to which your bank is registered, but I haven’t heard of anyone actually having their login details stolen).

If you don’t have a camera and are considering purchasing one, it would be a good idea to consider ones which are dustproof or better fully waterproof. Most of the volunteers in my group’s camera’s broke within the first 3 months, we think because of dust.

Amazon kindle (3G version) - If you live in the MTN coverage area (see above) and bring no other bit of technology this should be it. Apart from the endless supply of books, it gives FREE internet access, with which you can check your emails/facebook/news etc, the battery lasts for about a month of reading and about a week if your using the internet a lot. It is amazing and I love it.

Surge protectors have been suggested, we used these religiously until a transformer problem gave us about 400V, which happily fried our laptop chargers which were plugged in through surge protectors. They may be of some use, but they are not infallible

Dark coloured clothes - there are no (or few) washing machines in Nigeria, so its hand washing only, dark hides the evidence of the dirt which didn’t come out in the wash.

For boys a few shirts are useful if your work is formal or you need to smarten up occasionally.

Lightweight raincoats are useful in rainy season (pac-a-mac etc) as they can be carried in your helmet bag (which if you live outside Abuja you will carry everywhere with you).

Cheese - Cheese is either difficult or too expensive to buy here. If you think you will miss your cheese hit we have found that the supermarket pre-grated parmesan doesn’t melt, and lasts long enough to be worthwhile. Also if you have space, bring some cheese for the in country volunteers, they will love you forever for it.