This weekend our class all went to Abeokuta, which literally means ‘under the rock.’ It was my first outing since having malaria and the exercise from hiking up Olumo Rock was not only exciting (we crawled through crevices in the rock and scaled the side to get to the top) but also refreshing to be out in the open again. We traveled south out of Oyo State into Ogun, just north of Lagos State. Ogun is named for the river that runs through much of Yoruba Land and to the ocean.
Ogun has many meanings depending on the tones or ‘ami ohun.’ If you didn’t know before, Yoruba is a tonal language meaning that depending on how you say the three tones (do, re, mi) of a word you could be saying drastically different things, making it incredibly hard to learn for an English speaker because we literally cannot hear the differences. Depending on how you say it, ogun could mean sweat, war, medicine, god of iron, to climb, or longevity. This gets pretty dicey with other words like “oko” which could mean either husband or car. I once asked my teacher if she lets other people drive her husband on accident before. Tones are important.
At Olumo Rock we saw wonderful views of Abeokuta, tasted the mountain water which is said to cure any sickness (“ONE exception,” our guide told us, “HIV!”), saw a holy tree that actually grows out of the rock, and toured a pretty cool art exhibit at the bottom. Later we went to a fabric market in the city where naturally children followed us interrogating the “Oyinbos.” Thankfully my friend Adeleke serves as somewhat bait because boys like okunrin (men) more and he has a cool cowboy hat. They usually leave me alone (unless they’re young men who want to take me home with them – yeah this is a pick up line) and assume I’m his wife just along for the ride. They even assume when he is speaking Yoruba I might not until I start talking which surprises everyone. The women in the market like to talk to me and laugh at my accent, trying to get me to buy their clothes. I had a great time shopping with my friend Bose and haggling over shirts made in a special Abeokuta-tie-dye design.
Exhausted, we headed home as another thunder storm broke out overhead and our bumpy and already exciting hour and a half ride home was quite wet. The sights were encapsulated by broken down semi-trucks leaking black liquid, old buildings, interesting signs (my favorite was the one advertising “Kambridge University Coming Soon!”), and crowded crossways.
The one thing I really think I will take away from this experience that I will never ever be able to share with anyone who has not been here is the environment: the smells of air cooked with exhaust and street food, the blending colors of dust and vibrant palm tree green amongst shattered gray cookfires, trashfires, rumbling trash and bright colorful geles and felas, the sound of old screeching cars, yells from the road side of haggling women, the call of ‘oyinbo,’ greetings for hard work ‘e ku ise’ and ‘pele’ and ‘bee ni tabi been ko!’, clashes, the crack of plastic, car honks, and the strange silence that comes between the noise in the afternoon from heat. Yep, that was crap at describing it. Anyway, it was a good break to be off campus (and out of my sickbed!) for a day. More photos to come from this weekend Abeokuta! (under the rock).
PS! Michael and I have tickets to Sri Lanka in January.