Covid-19: Coping with lockdown

Just as we were expecting to be packing up to head to Nigeria, the world went crazy with this Covid-19 Coronavirus virus and Nigeria very sensibly shut down all its international airports. We had already received advice from Wycliffe Bible Translators to stay where we were, so we’re here in the UK a bit longer.

While we were gearing ourselves up for a culture and context shift, what’s interesting is that the world around us all has changed.

Not all our girls choose to embrace change, but we’re realising their life experience so far moving between Nigeria and the UK has equipped them fairly well for handling major changes like this. Sometimes well-meaning friends are a little concerned about whether it’s really fair to drag the girls around the world just because of our convictions and work, but we always were convinced it was actually a rich and fruitful experience for them and perhaps we see some early fruit now.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s changed in the last couple of weeks:

  • House move: We were supposed to move on 9 April and had already given our landlady notice, but she’s being understanding.
  • Homeschool: This isn’t new to us. What’s newer is that it’s not all down to us to set the curriculum; the school teachers have been working hard to keep things going for our girls.
    • Another difference is that it’s normally helpful for the girls to be able to run around our compound in Nigeria at break times, but we can’t do that here and now. The girls are definitely feeling rather cooped up and emotional at times.
    • Julie’s doing a daily book reading with other families at 2pm, which has been fun.
  • Work impact: From my (David’s) perspective I have been doing most of my work from home anyway, so not much changes, but that has only worked because the Ashɛ team have come into the office in Jos for decent internet and help with their computers.
    • Whatever chaos was happening here in the UK Arams and Moses were able to keep on meeting in Ashɛ-land, then feeding back to me every other week so we were making some progress.
    • Unfortunately Nigeria’s now going into a preventative lockdown to try to prevent an Europe-style explosion in cases, and our office shut yesterday, so it rather looks like they won’t be able to keep working with each other let alone with me. The internet/phone network just isn’t good enough in the places where they live. They did try a couple of weeks ago, to find a nearer location that might work but without success.
    • I sent them some health information to try to translate into Ishɛ language, but I don’t know whether they’ll be able to produce anything.
    • I have work to get on with in the meantime, but I really fear that without much serious guidance and interaction being possible this will be largely lost time for the translation work.
  • Keeping in touch with family and friends: Fortunately most engagements had already happened in advance of our lockdown. So now it’s a little like we’ve already gone to Nigeria — keeping in touch with friends and family via video chat.
    • On the plus side, we hope that this may make it easier for the girls to maintain relationships with UK friends once we return to Nigeria. That’s never been too easy.
  • Church: When in Nigeria, apart from going to a local ECWA church, we would try to keep up a little with our sending church in Glasgow watching services in ‘catch-up’.
    • We’ll make the most of that and maybe it might become a regular habit in the future, not just to watch the stream, but also discuss the teaching afterwards with others from the church.
    • Interestingly this has all prompted our church in Nigeria to live stream too, so we’ll maybe be able to stay better in touch with folk there too.
  • Friends in Nigeria: We had been looking forward to seeing friends back in Nigeria – especially Sarah, Blessing and Samuel who work for us. Remembering some of the panic and misinformation that spread during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Julie called them to make sure they were OK and had clear understanding of preventative measures and we were able to send wages a little in advance to help them get food while that was still possible.
    • As curfews get imposed we’re rather keenly aware that Nigeria is not in the same position as the UK. It’s not a total shut-down. Here we’re allowed to go out to buy food or for medical need, but in many developing countries when a curfew is imposed the powers will not let anyone go anywhere, unless they pay. And people typically don’t have great stockpiles at home, because if they did their family and neighbours would take advantage and empty them in no time at all.
    • It’s going to be tough for farmers unsure whether they can sell their produce and consumers unsure whether they’ll be able to buy what they need. There are many challenges which westerners may not appreciate.
  • House in Nigeria: We were on the verge of commissioning some building work for our house in Nigeria, but given some financial uncertainties at this end we had delayed. Now it looks like we’ll miss the dry season opportunity for building work anyway, and with Nigeria in lockdown it really wouldn’t work to get anything done. So whenever we manage to get back to Nigeria we’ll try to pick up on that.

What’s the current state of things in Nigeria?

Well, from a first case in early March who has now recovered, they have been adding verified cases of Covid-19 mainly in the commercial centre Lagos and the administrative capital Abuja, and are up to 89 cases now, with 1 death and 3 recovered. It doesn’t seem to be out of hand at the moment, but it’s clearly spread considerably more than the Ebola outbreak 6 years ago.

There doesn’t seem to be any reported case in Plateau State, where Jos is.

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