Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“My Mother Poisoned My Food!”

I’ve been disappointed recently, most of the scammers don’t go to the trouble to be believable. You know, the President of Wells Fargo writes me an e-mail about my account that has several mis-spellings, or my nephew who has been arrested and needs help desperately uses really bad grammar.

This scammer, however, has gone to some trouble to be interesting, if not believable.

Hello My Beloved, this is Ms Naomi Solomon from Estonia writing from hospital here in Ivory Coast; therefore this email is very urgent to attend. I want you to know that I’m dying here in this hospital right now which i don’t know if i will see some few days to come.
My Beloved, i was informed by my doctor that i got poisoned and it affected my liver and i can only live for some days. The reason why i contacted you today is because i know that my step mother wanted to kill me and take my inheritance from my late Father. I have a little adopted child named Andrew C. Brown that i adopted in this Country when my late Father was alive and $3.5 million Dollars i inherited from my late father. My step mother and her children they are after Andrew right now because they found out that Andrew was aware of the poison, and because i handed the documents of the fund over to him the day my step Mother poisoned my food, for that reason they do not want Andrew to expose them, so they are doing everything possible to kill him.

My Beloved, please i want you to help him out of this country with the money, he is the only one taking good care of me here in this hospital right now and even this email you are reading now he is the one helping me out. I want you to get back to me so that he will give you the documents of the fund and he will direct you to a well known lawyer that i have appointed, the lawyer will assist you to change the documents of the fund to your name to enable the bank transfer the money to you..
This is the favor i need when you have gotten the fund:

(1) Keep 20% of the money for Andrew until he finish his studies to become a man as he has been there for me as my lovely Son and i promised to support him in life to become a medical Doctor because he always desire for it with the scholarship he had won so far. I want you to take him along with you to your country and establish him as your son.
(2) Give 20% of the money to handicap people and charity organization. The remaining 60% should be yours for your help to Andrew.
Note; This should be a code between you and my son Andrew in this transaction “Hospital” any mail from him, the Lawyer he will direct you to, without this code “Hospital” is not from the Andrew, the Lawyer or myself as i don’t know what will happen to me in the next few hours.

Finally, write me back so that Andrew will send you his pictures to be sure of whom you are dealing with. Andrew is 14years now, therefore guide him. And if i don’t hear from you i will look for another person or any organization.
May Almighty God bless you and use you to accomplish my wish. Pray for me always.

Ms Naomi Solomon

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May 13, 2016 Posted by | Crime, Cultural, Financial Issues, Nigeria, Scams | , , | 2 Comments

Best Group Ever!

Sometimes, out of nowhere, comes a wallop, even a good wallop. Yesterday came such a startling change. The itinerary looked ordinary, do-able, nothing inspirational, but all get-the-job-done.

My group had a great weekend. They got to sleep, they got to walk on the beach, they got to eat a great meal or two. They had fabulous weather, a chance to chill and to integrate all the information we are piling on them, and a chance to walk away for a little while. They love Pensacola. Who wouldn’t, when the weather hits around 70° and the beach is white and the sky is blue?

First, we hit our volunteer experience, working at Manna to sort donations, making sure all the items were within acceptable expiration dates. At first, I wasn’t sure this group was going to “get” volunteering, but in a very short time, they were all focused and working hard, and working efficiently. As they sorted, other volunteers drove up in SUV’s, in big cars, in vans and we all helped unload. By the end of their experience, the warehouse manager said “You have processed enough food for over 1,000 people!” and complimented them. They glowed. None of them are from countries with a tradition of volunteerism, and this was a new – and thrilling – experience for them. It always gives me a thrill to see that light go on, to see oneself as part of something larger, organic, to see how connected we all are and to love being a part of something good, sharing. It thrilled my heart.

We ate lunch together downtown, and talked about events going on in each country, about the weekend, about their experiences. We bought coffee – oh! the universal need for caffein! – and headed on to our next appointment, which featured environmental issues and complex ways governments interact to combat the problems and enforce the regulations. It was a tough slog. These relationships are so complex that most of us don’t even think about it. These delegates have work to do; they are here to solve problems in their own countries, and they are persistent and dogged about getting solutions that they can apply in their own bureaucracies. It is a delight to see people so committed to solving problems that seem . . . almost unsolvable.

It is also inspiring, to me, to learn so much about Pensacola, in this job. When I was working on my Masters, I studied heroism, among other things. What I am loving about these office and field visits is that my education continues, and I see heroes at every level of bureaucracy, holding back the evil forces of laziness, corruption, and cronyism. And, sustaining my initial findings about heroes, heroines and heroism, they don’t even see themselves as heroes. They say, as all heroes do, “I am/was just doing my job.” They think anybody would do it. (They are wrong.)

At our very last appointment, I was thinking I would probably cut the day short. The speaker had given out information, the delegates had bags to pack, and all of a sudden, a spark, and an explosion! The good kind!

One delegate could not believe the head of this agency could maintain an important list with integrity. He kept drilling down on the structure, the details of how things worked (all the delegates were keen on the details of how the structures of organizations and bureaucracies worked to accomplish their missions) and where there were openings for corruption.

She was explaining how her employees were constantly trained, and how the agency was monitored to ensure fairness and an adherence to procedure. The delegates, all from countries where bureaucracies function differently, kept pressing her. Is there never anyone taken out of turn? Never?

“If I did that, I would lose my job,” she replied.

What followed was one of the most exciting hours of discussion I have ever experienced, as delegates from five different countries frankly compared their own challenges and experiences, and with great intensity tried to figure out how bureaucracies could function without corruption.

We tried to explain that we, also, are not immune from corruption, and cronyism, but that the combination of training and monitoring helps keep agencies within the boundaries, as best it can. Transparency doesn’t come overnight; we are still trying to achieve it.

As I listened, I could not stop grinning. These are young leaders, and the leaders of tomorrow. They admire what they see in our country. They want to bring trust into their own governments, but how do you create trust? How do you build trust? How do you maintain trust?

I don’t know those answers. And yet the process is working; the discussion was so inspiring, so heartfelt, and they had built enough trust in one another to share their challenges, without having to maintain that artificial facade that lack-of-trust builds.

Their liaison said “You will each have to find your own path; it won’t look exactly like the US path because it has to be a fit with your own culture.”

When I left the group, I told them “You are the best group I have worked with, ever.” There is a part of me that wanted to be a part of that discussion, because they were still deep in that discussion as we parted. My role had ended; I had done what I do.

And today, I am still grinning. I love this job, I love the people it brings me into contact with, international and local. I feel so blessed.

February 10, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Tanzania, Values | , , , | 3 Comments

219 Girls Remain Missing; Nigerian Villages Beset by Boko Haram

Today, on AOL News, a report on the ravaging of two villages in Nigeria by Boko Haram, with satellite images showing the carnage and destruction as survivors tally more than 2,000 dead. The craven Nigerian Army claims the losses are more like 200.

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Meanwhile, of the almost 300 girls kidnapped a year ago by Boko Haram, 219 are still missing. Those who returned, returned by escaping. No one rescued them. The remainder are likely “married” to their captors, slaves to the household and many of them are probably pregnant. To be pregnant by a Boko Haram soldier creates a severe social problem if they are ever freed or rescued – the family cannot marry off an impure daughter. The children of these unions face a desolate future, wherever they are.

The world watches when terrorists wreak havoc in Paris, thousands crush the cretins who kill in the name of God, but no-one lifts a finger to help these small villages in Northeast Nigeria, beset by destructive vermin.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Large areas of Nigerian towns attacked by Islamic extremists were razed to the ground in a widespread campaign of destruction, according to satellite images released Thursday by Amnesty International.
Amnesty International said the detailed images of Baga and Doron Baga, taken before and after the attack earlier this month, show that more than 3,700 structures were damaged or completely destroyed.

The images were taken Jan. 2 and Jan. 7, Amnesty International said. Boko Haram fighters seized a military base in Baga on Jan. 3 and, according to witnesses, killed hundreds of civilians in the ensuing days.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for the human rights group, said in a statement that the assault on the two towns was the largest and most destructive of all the Boko Haram assaults analyzed by Amnesty International.

The group said interviews with witnesses as well as local government officials and human rights activists suggest hundreds of civilians were shot; last week, the human rights group noted reports of as many as 2,000 dead. The Nigerian military has cited a figure of 150 dead, including slain militants.
Nigeria’s home-grown Boko Haram group drew international condemnation when its fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a boarding school in northeast Chibok town last year. Dozens escaped but 219 remain missing.

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You can find much more information in this article on BBC News/Africa.

January 15, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Bureaucracy, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Nigeria, Political Issues, Rants, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Where is Lafia, Nigeria?

Today the church prays for Lafia, Nigeria, which is near Abuja, in the part of Nigeria where Boko Haram runs rampant, and where over 250 girls were kidnapped from their school in 2014. Some few escaped, most were married off to poor young Boko Haram soldiers into hardship and near-slavery. Boko Haram does not believe in educating women. The Nigerian government at one point announced that Boko Haram had agreed to return the girls, but nothing happened. The Nigerian military and police do nothing to get them back.

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January 2, 2015 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Geography / Maps, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Nigeria, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | 2 Comments

“You Are Having a Problem With Your Computer”

Unknown

The man with the West African accent called at noon, explaining that he was a part of my security network and I was having a problem with my computer. My computer was not on. AdventureMan’s computer was not on.

“WHO are you with?” I asked, two or three more times, and he would explain that hackers were trying to get into my computer through my Windows system. I told him I didn’t recognize the name of his security system and he told me I was registered with them, and read off my (correct) name and address.

Anyone can get my name and address. My magazine subscriptions have my name and address, my bills, you can find my name and address by asking the right questions on the internet. I am so not buying into this.

What was interesting to me was that the caller was enjoying the process. He wasn’t stuck on a memorized script; he had a few points memorized and would repeat them now and then, but he would also improvise. He wanted me to get on my computer and he would “fix everything.”

After a few minutes I said “I think this is a scam. I am going to hang up now and call the police.”

He did not protest, nor did he call back.

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Communication, Crime, Lies, Nigeria, Pensacola, Scams, Technical Issue | , , , , | Leave a comment

Where is Lokoja, Nigeria?

Today the church celebrates the Birth of John the Baptist, whom the Moslems call Yahyah, and who has a much-visited tomb in the Ummayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. The church also prays today for the diocese of Lokoja, Nigeria, which is just south of Abuja, from where 300 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, people who believe girls should not be educated. Most of those girls are still missing. Three hundred girls . . . Lokoja . . . John the Baptist . . . Syria . . . so much need for prayer. . . The reading is from Forward Day by Day.

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TUESDAY, June 24 The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Isaiah 40:11. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

So much of our scripture is violent and distressing, yet there are many passages like this, full of comfort and assurance that the trouble is over. Others might look at it and say, “Your God is violent and terrible, and the reassurances are flat and silly.”

Maybe that’s true. I tend to look at them more as descriptions of how we experience our lives rather than declarations of God’s nature. Our lives are difficult and often catastrophic—earthquakes, malaria, civil wars, and dangerous militias, to name only a few issues—and our lack of control means we blame God for it. But I don’t think God acts that way. And in the face of catastrophe, we say meaningless things: “Everything happens for a reason.” That’s no comfort at all.

Isaiah speaks peace to his people, trying his hardest to take their pain seriously and to offer the truth that everything will be okay in the end. When it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end. That “okayness” might be justice here or it might be eternal life, but this present trouble is not the end of the story.

PRAY for the Diocese of Doko (Lokoja, Nigeria)

Today the Church remembers The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.

Ps 85 or 85:7-13; Isaiah 40:1-11; Acts 13:14b-26; Luke 1:57-80

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Cultural, Faith, Geography / Maps, GoogleEarth, Lectionary Readings, Nigeria, Spiritual, Survival, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

UN Will Help With Transfers?

This has to be the real thing, right? It says United Nations – that has to be the real deal. . . right?  But I didn’t deposit any funds or invest in Nigeria . . .
From: Ms. Carman L. Lapointe.
UNITED NATIONS OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL OVERSIGHT SERVICES
Internal Audit,Monitoring,Consulting And Investigations Division.
 
 
 
My name is Ms. Carman L. Lapointe, from the United Nations. It is a distinct pleasure to write you again and as you are well aware many foreigners have invested thousands of United States Dollars into Nigeria transactions in Hopeless Dreams to have none of them become a reality.
 
 
Right now, as directed by our secretary general Mr.Ban Ki-Moon, We have agreed with the Nigeria Government that US$100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars Only) would be paid to you through the Western Union Money Transfer Via special arrangement as first installment.
 
 
This is to enable you have enough funds to pay for the Tax Clearance and bank charges before you will receive the balance of US$4.1M (Four Million One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars Only). Please take note that you will pay US$185 only, being Notarization fee and this is the only financial obligation that you will undertake to receive the US$100,000.00 (One Hundred Thousand United States Dollars Only) through the Western Union Money Transfer.
 
 
Lastly,i will like you to reconfirm your information to me such as your full name, address and telephone number so that I will proceed with your Western Union Money Transfer within the next 24 hrs and the transaction information will be released to you.
 
 
I await your response for further proceedings.
 
 
Sincerely yours,
 
 
Ms. Carman L. Lapointe
{Under-Secretary-General}
United Nations

May 20, 2014 Posted by | Crime, Financial Issues, Nigeria, Scams | Leave a comment

“Private and Discreet”

I heard a program on NPR this weekend telling that the Nigerian scams are based on these letters appealing to the most gullible, and eliminating the skeptics. Evidently, it is a very effective technique.

Dear friend,

Your immediate reply needed please.

My name is dr.ousman diallo from the Republic of guinea conakry.

I am presently in morocco, I have a confidential transaction worth of 25 Million U.S Dollars to discuss with you. Kindly let me know if you are interested so that i can email you some more details about what i really need you to do for me and for us to organise, how and where to meet for a better discussion.

We would need to adopt one attitude “discreet” for something that is of a private and secret life.
Please send your reply only through my private email address at:

( drdiallousman@yahoo.com )

Thanks.
I await your prompt response please.

Regards,
dr.ousman diallo.
E-mail,(drdillousman@yahoo.com)
Tel: +212629618977.

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Crime, Financial Issues, Nigeria, Scams | Leave a comment

Nigeria’s Stolen Girls

This is what I love about New Yorker magazine: they print stories no one prints, they follow stories that need following. They lead, and they do their job, alerting us to issues that matter. My heart goes out to the families, Christian and Muslim, of these girls who were abducted because they were being educated. Boko Haram believes educating women goes against Islam. Someone should read them a Quran.

 

APRIL 30, 2014

NIGERIA’S STOLEN GIRLS

AP218361876356-580.jpg“I thought it was the end of my life,” Deborah Sanya told me by phone on Monday from Chibok, a tiny town of farmers in northeastern Nigeria. “There were many, many of them.” Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, kidnapped Sanya and at least two hundred of her classmates from a girls’ secondary school in Chibok more than two weeks ago. Sanya, along with two friends, escaped. So did forty others. The rest have vanished, and their families have not heard any word of them since.

Sanya is eighteen years old and was taking her final exams before graduation. Many of the schools in towns around Chibok, in the state of Borno, had been shuttered. Boko Haram attacks at other schools—like a recent massacre of fifty-nine schoolboys in neighboring Yobe state—had prompted the mass closure. But local education officials decided to briefly reopen the Chibok school for exams. On the night of the abduction, militants showed up at the boarding school dressed in Nigerian military uniforms. They told the girls that they were there to take them to safety. “They said, ‘Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to you,’ ” Sanya told me. The men took food and other supplies from the school and then set the building on fire. They herded the girls into trucks and onto motorcycles. At first, the girls, while alarmed and nervous, believed that they were in safe hands. When the men started shooting their guns into the air and shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Sanya told me, she realized that the men were not who they said they were. She started begging God for help; she watched several girls jump out of the truck that they were in.

It was noon when her group reached the terrorists’ camp. She had been taken not far from Chibok, a couple of remote villages away in the bush. The militants forced her classmates to cook; Sanya couldn’t eat. Two hours later, she pulled two friends close and told them that they should run. One of them hesitated, and said that they should wait to escape at night. Sanya insisted, and they fled behind some trees. The guards spotted them and called out for them to return, but the girls kept running. They reached a village late at night, slept at a friendly stranger’s home, and, the next day, called their families.

Sanya could not tell me more after that. She is not well. Her cousins and her close friends are still missing, and she is trying to understand how she is alive and back home. All she can do now, she said, is pray and fast, then pray and fast again.

The day after the abduction, the Nigerian military claimed that it had rescued nearly all of the girls. A day later, the military retracted its claim; it had not actually rescued any of the girls. And the number that the government said was missing, just over a hundred, was less than half the number that parents and school officials counted: according to their tally, two hundred and thirty-four girls were taken.

In the wake of the military’s failure, parents banded together and raised money to send several of their number into the forest to search for the girls. The group came across villagers who persuaded the parents to turn back. They told the parents that they had seen the girls nearby, but the insurgents were too well armed. Many of the parents had just bows and arrows.

 

***

The circumstances of the kidnapping, and the military’s deception, especially, have exposed a deeply troubling aspect of Nigeria’s leadership: when it comes to Boko Haram, the government cannot be trusted. Children have been killed, along with their families, in numerous Boko Haram bombings and massacres over the past five years. (More than fifteen hundred people have been killed so far this year.) State schools and remote villages in the north have borne the brunt of Boko Haram’s violence this year. The group is believed to be at least partly waging a campaign against secular values. The kidnapped girls were both Christian and Muslim; their only offense, it seems, was attending school.

Last June, I visited Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the birthplace of Boko Haram, to report on the insurgency and the Nigerian government’s counteroffensive, a security operation that placed three northeastern states, including Borno and Yobe, under a state of emergency as troops launched attacks on terrorist hideouts and camps. The military cut phone lines and Internet access, and, while residents were glad for the intervention, there was a sense of living in the dark. Gunshots, a bomb blast: was it Boko Haram or a military attack? Were the hundreds of men disappeared by the military actually terrorists—even the young boys? And was the government, as it claimed, really winning the war?

The military has restored phone lines in Borno. But the sole airline that flew to Maiduguri cancelled the route at the end of last year. The road to Chibok is so hazardous that Borno’s governor visited the town with a heavy military escort. Much of the northeast is now physically isolated. What is happening there that we cannot see?

Nigerians in the rest of the country had, until recently, been able to ignore the deaths. The general mood has been one of weary apathy—from a government waging a heavy-handed crackdown on northerners to civilians far removed from the chaos. That mood may finally change.

 

 

***

Sanya’s father, a primary-school teacher named Ishaya Sanya, is struggling with conflicting emotions: gratitude that his daughter has returned to him; guilt that the daughters of his siblings, friends, and neighbors are still somewhere in the bush; and an angry frustration that there seemed to be no effort to rescue the girls.

“We don’t know where they are up until now, and we have not heard anything from the government,” he told me. “Every house in Chibok has been affected by the kidnapping.” The only information that the families had been able to gather about the kidnapped girls, he went on, was from the girls who had escaped.

He remembers the exact time that Deborah appeared in front of him after her escape—4:30P.M.—and how he felt: “very happy.” But his despair soon returned. “Our area has been affected very seriously,” he told me. Parents had fallen physically ill, and some were “going mad.”

The military’s current plans are unclear; the Chibok parents hope that it is acting swiftly and cautiously. There is worry, too, that a rescue operation could result in the deaths of many of the girls; this happened during a previous attempted rescue, of two Western engineers kidnapped by Boko Haram. Last week, a military spokesman, Brigadier-General Chris Olukolade, said only that the search for the girls had “intensified.”

In the meantime, as in so many other ways in Nigeria, each community has to fend for itself. For a while after the abduction, girls trickled back into town—some rolled off trucks, some snuck away while fetching water. That trickle has stopped. “Nobody rescued them,” a government official in Chibok said of the girls who made it back. “I want you to stress this point. Nobody rescued them. They escaped on their accord. This is painful.”

A pastor in Chibok whose daughter is missing told me that he set out with friends on the morning after the abduction to find the girls. “I was forced to come home empty-handed,” he told me by phone. “I just don’t know what the federal government is doing about it. And there is no security here that will defend us. You have to do what you can do to escape for your life.”

I asked the pastor about rumors that Boko Haram has taken the girls outside of Nigeria’s borders, into Cameroon and Chad, and forcibly married them. He paused, and then said, “How will I be happy? How will I be happy?”

Four students walk in Chibok following their escape from Boko Haram. Photograph by Haruna Umar/AP.

 

May 1, 2014 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Nigeria, Values, Women's Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Heroes At The Dinner Table

“That’s Jollaf rice!” the Nigerian journalist  said, a note of delight in her voice. She is famous for her passion and persistence drawing attention to the environmental issues in the Niger delta related to oil extraction and production. I told her that here in the Gulf, it’s called Jambalaya, but we all agreed that it very likely had African roots. She delighted my heart; she had three helpings.

When we have visitors from foreign countries, I try to serve foods they can identify – grilled vegetables, a chicken dish, several salads, a dessert. This time, because we had no Moslems, we used a real Cajun sausage in the jambalaya (pork), and jumbo shrimp.

The award-winning Finnish environmentalist has his own online website and a goal of planting 100 million trees by 1017. He is well on his way, visiting and planting trees in new countries every week. He also has his own band and has a CD out with Finnish music.

 

00SwingDelegates

Our South African guest manages a large rhino reserve, protecting the rhinos from those who would kill them for their horns, thinking it renews sexual energy. Poor rhinos! He was quiet, but an acute observer, and the highlight of the evening was as he sang the haunting South African national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’, with the Finnish guest. They did not sing all 11 verses (!) in all the different languages; just one verse, it was very moving:

 

Our own sweet environmentalist was with us. We think our son and his wife are super heroes; they fight for justice and a clean environment. This evening, our son stayed at home with the grandchildren and his wife, who works with clean water, was able to join and talk shop over dinner with her counterparts from other parts of the world.

 

It isn’t so easy anymore to get these dinners on the table, off the table, dessert served, etc. I used to be able to do these easily, for more than 20 people, but I also had help, LOL! But these dinners give us so much joy that I can’t imagine giving them up any time soon.

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Entertainment, Environment, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Nigeria, Pensacola, Social Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | , | Leave a comment