This year, I have to get into my dissertation, so much into it that I would only have a few loose ends to tie by the end of the year. I know, it is going to be hard, but no one said it was going to be easy when I signed up for a doctoral programme. No, it does not mean that I will not be blogging, actually, I want to blog much more than I did last year. I have found that blogging offers a good way of clarifying my thoughts and dealing with issues I probably would not deal with if I did not blog. Yea, I live in real life, and though my dissertation is not entirely theoretical, I would not exactly describe it as real life either. So, blogging is going to offer a balance of sorts in my life. To show that I mean what I am talking about, I will let you into a secret that a friend and I have been working on. It is a blog review project, and most of you will be contacted soon to take part in the project. It is collaborative, it is interesting, it is informative, and it will draw a lot of people together. That is the much I can say without getting permission. It is something to look forward to.
The city [Stuttgart] is… the birthplace of two gadgets that have changed the world we live in: Gottlieb Daimler’s petrol-powered, high speed engine and Robert Bosch’s spark plug. The Mercedes-Benz factory [also in Stuttgart] began automobile production in1926. (Daimler patented the motor coach, and Carl Benz the motor car, in 1886. Not to be outdone, Ferdinand Porsche set up shop here as well.
You guys can see that a city that hosts Daimler – makers of the Benz brand, among others – Bosch and Porsche must offer some fun experience. I was there earlier this year, and I hope to further explore it in the period I’ll be staying there. Oh, did I add that I am going to be there for research? Yea, but I hope to have some time for blogging too.
Ok, bis später.
There are other advantages to sitting at that spot. One is that, since the back door that passengers are allowed to use is at the other side, not at the side of the driver, you don’t have to disembark or move each time a new passenger comes in. The other advantage is that you are at a nice position from which to view what is happening at most parts of the bus. With your feet slightly raised, a turn of the head a little to the right makes it easy for you to observe the passengers as they come in, and a shift of the body a little to the right, still maintaining that slight turn of the head, gives you the advantage of seeing most of the persons in the bus. Now, at this spot, I was able to observe the other people in the bus, the actions of the police who stopped our bus almost every ten minutes, and I was also able to hear the wranglings of the driver as he tried to bargain his way into paying as little bribe as possible.
But that is not the story; the story is written on the faces and the bodies of the people who are normally my co-passengers when I took the bus. No, it is not the way the faces are set, or the ways they sit, although that – the way they sit – has a story all of its own. The story is in the way the expressions on their faces change each time we were stopped by the police or customs officers. Oh, I forgot to add that Badagry is close to the Nigeria-Benin border, and that only one main road leads from that side of the border into Lagos. The buses are normally packed with goods bought by the traders, who are most often women. Under the seat, in what remains of the trunk after extra rows of seats have been added to the bus, on the laps of the women or between their legs. Several consumer goods – rice, T-shirts, denim trousers, an occasional bag of vegetable oil – are normally some of the goods packed under the seats, or are hugged closely by the women. The women’s faces tell stories of hardship, of nights of going without sleep, or days without a shower. But those are the stories that are written on the faces even before they got in the buses. The stories their faces tell once they are in the bus are different. You see stories of apprehension, at seeing a customs officer who had never been seen on that road and so might be a hard person to bargain with; anger, at the odd driver who does not know how to deal with the police or the customs office; disbelief, at the crazy driver who is so greedy as to think that he could outsmart the customs officers or policemen at the checkpoints and thus provokes them to telling each and every passenger to disembark from the bus and declare – oh, that dreadful word – their goods; assumed expression of innocence, at the customs officer who asks them to explain how come they had this amount of this, and that amount of that; desperation, once the customs officer proceeds to seize the goods; and relief, once they are able to reach a bargain with the customs officer, and their goods are returned.
These stories make you ask: why? Why is it that they continue in the trade? Is it because they make a lot of profit from the trade that any inconveniences are compensated by the financial gains? Or is it simply because it is the only trade they know? Is it because of that promising child who would not have money for their school fees if she didn’t make that trip to earn some money? Or is it because the responsibility of fending for the family has fallen on her shoulders after her husband has been given the sack by his employer? You want to know, to understand.
Whatever you think, each time you disembark from the bus you leave with a renewed feeling of respect for the stories their faces tell, for their resilience, for taking charge, and for constituting a very important part of the economic life of Nigeria. Then you think, Maybe I should write a book about them.
Well, I am going into the city today to try and get some more books to read, I hope that will keep me off the computer for as long as possible.
The remaining part of last week was spent trying to start to write my research plan. I have written the first four pages. Pretty disjointed, those pages. I am currently reviewing one of the most murky of analytical concepts in the social sciences – Network Analysis. I didn’t know where to start so I have decided to use as a guide, through the whole maze, articles or books that have reviewed the concept. I have found a few of them and I have started doing that. I have the first four pages, and a page and a half of references, to show for it.
I hope to finish a major part of the review this week, so that I can move on to other things next week. French classes start by next month. Time is flying, and I don’t know if I can keep up with it.
I was in Leipzig with some colleagues yesterday. One of my colleagues stays, with her kids, in Leipzig. Since there wasn’t much to do here on Sunday we decided to go visit them. We got to her house, had a brunch and later headed for the beach. I had already been told that there was a part of the beach where people didn’t put on any clothing. The beach is basically divided into two sides. At one side, where we stayed, were people who were in bikini and other swimming stuffs, and at the other side were people who were basically naked. Some lay down on the sand, face-up, soaking in the sun; some others were swimming. I don’t see anything wrong in them doing that, but something inside me simply couldn’t get over the fact that nakedness is a private thing, that when we are outside we are ‘supposed’ to be clothed. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that nakedness was not something you exactly paraded in my family when I was growing up. No, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that there is something to be ashamed of in nakedness; I can rationalise it, tell myself that people have the right to be clothed or not, at least in such places, but that doesn’t help me shake off the feeling that it might be better to keep the naked body private.
What do you guys think?
We went to see the cinema at the suggestion of the Dutch guy (of course, Paul Verhoeven is Dutch), with promises that we would see a great movie. We really didn’t know that it was about the war until we got there. The first objection was raised by the other German lady, who has given me permission to call her Status, just after we bought the ticket. We got into the cinema hall and found that it was almost empty. That was another suggestion of the popularity of the movie. I was able to follow the movie in my not-yet-good German, and in all, it was a good movie, nothing great. The Dutch guy said it was a great movie, his girlfriend said it was a billiger Film (cheap film) that drew from a time in history that was a ready pool to elicit the kinds of feelings the producer wanted it to. Status called it a ‘very boring movie’. The little I have written would show how much Germans do not want to be reminded of the war. Status said that sometime ago when she was a student in China the class was given an assignment to write about why they were proud of their country. Others did but she couldn’t; she wrote about why it was difficult to be proud of her country.
This whole story reminded me of a day I was watching Schindler’s List and a German friend called me. I asked if I could call her back after watching the movie. Immediately the movie ended I called her and the first thing she said, jokingly, of course, was ‘do you hate me now?’ These stories show hard it must be for them to live with the history, something I can only imagine.
We were a couple of kilometres from Bitterfeld when we took a wrong turn. One of the guys stopped to ask some pedestrians about the way, and One, who was in front of me turned his bike around. I, who was pretty close to him, still biking, turned back at just about the same time to see what the guy who was getting the direction was doing. The moment that One turned his bike around was the moment that I looked back. And I ran into his rear wheel. His wheel got bent in, there was no way we could fix it and he had to go to the nearest train station to go back to Halle. I don’t think that I need to add that the rest of the day was totally off for me. I had not just ruined One’s bike I had also ruined his day.
I just left One’s office and he stilled looked pretty hurt. I said I was sorry but said he could have done with that yesterday. Of course I said sorry yesterday, but maybe in the moment he didn’t hear me say it. I really feel bad that he must have gone through yesterday thinking that I didn’t feel sorry. Well, what can I do? Try to make him know that I feel sorry, and that at the point that it happened I felt sorry…. Yea, thought I would feel better after this but it is not really happening.
After Amsterdam I took a three-hour train ride to Maastricht where I met some old classmates from Uppsala. One of them is doing a PhD at the United Nations University in Maastricht, and the other works in Brussels. I would have posted the pictures of the people I met there, but u know say oyinbo people fit give you wahala if you post their picture without their consent…
Was at Madam Tussauds in Amsterdam. Beautiful figures. Will try and post some. At least, dat one na public domain pictures