Have we walked into a trap?

Location In chief's bed in village in heart of trouble area | Mood Surprisingly calm and clear-headed | Date 16 April 2006
Author (full name): 
Franny Armstrong
In chief's bed in village in heart of trouble area
Surprisingly calm and clear-headed
Just shouting. No electricity here, so a rest from distorted TVs.
Very sore eyes
16 April 2006
Current crisis: 
Have we walked into a trap?

Found our fourth Crude character yesterday. She is Layefa Malemi , a 22-year-old who has been fishing all day every day for the last two years to save up enough money to go to medical school so she can become a doctor and work in her village. She is quiet, calm, intelligent and funny. Absolutely perfect.

Unfortunately all the loud, hysterical, stupid and humourless women in the village are not impressed that we are not filming their every move. We were followed by screamers at every turn - ruining all our audio - to the extent that Lizzie went off with the backup camera to film all the complainers while I worked with Layefa. Never mind all the men, who can hardly believe that we are filming women at all. We have to pander to their egos by wasting the vast majority of each day - when we could be working on getting their story out to the world - listening to the Chief and then the King and then the Youth Leader and then the Community Chairman ramble on and on, drinking beer and eating the fish that the women have been out catching (with the babies on their backs) and then cooking and serving.

After 10 days on the Nigerian vegetarian diet - peanuts and bananas and warm iodine-flavoured water - I held out little hope when they offered lunch. But the villagers were so beside themselves with giggles I couldn't help but be intrigued - turned out they'd nipped over to an abandoned flow station (abandoned cos of the unrest after the recent hostage-taking) and stolen baked beans and canned sweetcorn for us. Hysterical. But they didn't realise that they are supposed to be opened and heated up, so just presented Lizzie and I with two plates and several cans. Still, cold baked beans is a major breakthrough. (Lizzie is carnivorous, so could've been eating the local food - which is meat or fish only - but we don't have enough time to get sick, so she's been on the extreme diet with me.)

Didn't manage to finish filming everything we wanted, so I asked whether we could stay the night in the village. Huge enormous grins all round. They were all genuinely moved that, unlike every other stranger that rolls up here, we didn't believe that they were out to hurt us and we weren't scared of them. Turns out we are the first white people ever to stay in the village - other than hostages.

They got the beers out to celebrate a thrilling cross-cultural moment, at which Lizzie casually mentioned she can drink six pints in one sitting. Obviously this was red rag to a bull, but clearly not the time to get drunk. So our ever-adaptable Robinson took it upon himself to subtly drink every glass they poured for us, so the two white girls would have all their senses for the night ahead.