Fire Drills in Nigeria

Submitted by Ambika Samarthya

Happy Diwali to everyone! I celebrated Diwali at my crib in Abuja by having a few of my friends here over, eating ice cream and Indian snacks. I distributed Indian sweets at the office as well. It was a big hit.

Slowly started doing cultural stuff in this capital – flamenco shows for Spanish week, a play about a man who leaves his wife for their daughter’s friend. In the latter the audience discussed afterwars how the woman should have done more, have changed herself. Clearly everyone was on some crazy drugs and I left the play before the discussion was over…

We had our first fire drill. There was a small electrical fire in the office the day after we left work early because the power supplies/ generators were not working or coming back on. Electricity here is so bad that they have UPS – Uninterrupted Power Supply – boxes that keep power and store it for when the power goes out.

When this small fire happened in the electrical closet, I ran to open windows. Everyone else ran towards the fire (very small/ mostly smoke), urging people to test this or that and wondering what was faulty. The smoke alarm didn’t even go off.

A week later the office decided to do a fire prevention class. A fire warden came in explaining that fire was combination. What?  Who knows. They showed a video of a white guy putting a piece of paper on top of a toaster. You get the gist.

And then there was the actuality of the whole thing. I thought we would do a drill or evacuation. Little did I know the fire dept here is rarely called and never comes on time so instead WE LEARNED HOW TO PUT OUT FIRES!

I kid you not people in the office took turns with fire extinguishers and fire blankets putting out REAL FIRES. Oh yeah. Not fake demonstrations – they took gas, lit it up outside and people tried to extinguish the fire. I watched everyone like they were crazy.  The person from the fire warden’s office who did the demonstration burned a part of his hair when one fire went of whack and that’s when i decided i would go back inside.

We also had our first visit to local TV stations in another state. Abuja is not Nigeria and I learned that quickly.  We stayed at a great 5 star hotel where the lights went off every hour, and were driving on roads which might have been easier to walk down than drive down. It was all a big reflection on infrastructure and corruption.

As we were driving back from one station and I was drowsy and Dramain’ded up I heard my colleague ask someone in the front seat if what they saw was a tortoise. I love tortoises and woke up to see the car pulled over as she tried to buy some street vegetables.

Next to the front window was a guy holding a dead porcupine grilled and stretched on a spire. I nearly fainted. Pulled up my window and that was my first real confrontation with bush meat. When I explained my horror they explained this is a country where rat is a delicacy, everyone eats snails and gizzards, and there’s even someone who sells dog meat near one of my colleague’s house. Yeah.

Our media conference with the heads of the local media started 3 hours late with a tea session to open up the day – which wasn’t so pleasant since the breakfast of FRIED fish had been ready for hours. Whose genius idea was that, I have no idea.

Every presentation done by our partners in the local state was read directly from the Powerpoint and was followed by rounds of applause – they applauded in single, 5, and 10 beats as a game. Our presentation, which we produced a video in the tone of mission impossible introducing our team, however, got a “did anyone get that” and no applause. Sigh. We’ll keep trying.

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About ambiarth

A wine loving, nomadic filmmaker

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