Baraka Bashir of Freedom Radio, Kano and Lara Owoeye-Wise, AIT, Abuja were recently in the United States as the last batch of Nigerian journalists participating in the 2013/2014 ICFJ (International Centre for journalists) exchange program between Nigeria and the United States. Here, Baraka shares her unique experience with NDR. The Nigerian Northerner in Portland I

Baraka Bashir of Freedom Radio, Kano and Lara Owoeye-Wise, AIT, Abuja were recently in the United States as the last batch of Nigerian journalists participating in the 2013/2014 ICFJ (International Centre for journalists) exchange program between Nigeria and the United States.

Here, Baraka shares her unique experience with NDR.

The Nigerian Northerner in Portland

Baraka Bashir

I wondered what it would be like to be a Nigerian in the U.S. ever since I heard that I would be participating in the ICFJ exchange program, which is also sponsored by the bureau of education and cultural affair

The first thing that came to my mind was: Are they trying to gather information about our country through the program? How can I ever cope with white people?

Will they be friendly, nice or will they only talk to me about security issues in the northern part of Nigeria? These were some of the questions that agitated my mind as I set out on the journey.

I am the first Fellow to arrive the airport in Washington, D.C. Sameen Dadfar, of the ICFJ, is there to greet me with a smile. She says “Welcome Baraka.” “She recognizes me,” I say to myself and I smile back. Soon the rest of the participants show up and before long, we are at the Quincy Hotel, our new home for the rest of the four days of orientation.

During the orientation, a facilitator cautions that Portland, Oregon is a bit cold. This is where I’m headed. This Northern Nigerian packs her African clothes and a little pair of the English clothing and heads off to Portland.

Michael Clapp meets me at the airport in Portland. To my surprise, he had gotten a prayer rug for me, in case I forgot mine. “How kind of him,” I think. “It will be good in here,” I say to myself.

Driving to my new home I notice lots of trees on the way. Since I’m an environmental reporter, I know the trees protect the environment. I feel safe.

The first day at the office is good. The first thing I see on the white board is “Welcome Baraka.” At the morning editorial meeting, I’m asked to introduce myself, before the daily news discussion begins. Although I’m shy, I’m able to gather all my confidence to do that.

Everybody is nice to me. People come to my desk. One says “Hi, I am David, I report on environment here. Nice meeting you.” On and on they come, and introduce themselves to me. I relax a little. Things are good.

My first assignment is with the Think Out Loud crew. They are doing a show about the Imago Dei Community. The talk show host interviews a writer on religion, Tom Krattenmaker about his latest book, “The Evangelicals You Don’t Know.”

After that, I get to chat with the environmental team. This is what I’d wanted to do since my arrival in the newsroom. I have lots of questions on my mind: what are their environmental challenges? Are they similar to our own problems in Nigeria? Theirs is about how to save the aquatic life, and many more; no erosions neither is there flooding, what a world.

Over the weekend, I go to an apple tasting festival. The festival has continued for 26 years in Portland. Then, I visit Saturday Market. It’s a city market in Portland that runs every weekend of the year from the month of March through Christmas Eve. The market features local goods, including handmade crafts, art and paintings. It has a long line of carts and stalls where people showcase their wares for people to buy. The colorful carts have different goods that draw the attention of shoppers. I come closer to get a better look at the items displayed.

In one of the cards, there’s a popular “spoon man.” He makes different things with all kinds of cutlery, from frames, to glasses, and even a clock. Shoppers I talk with say the spoon man has been in the market for a long time, and that he always creates interesting work.

A woman who sells kids’ cloths says she has been operating in the market for about ten years or so. She says that whenever she misses a market day, she’s not fulfilling her obligations. She says that she pays for her spot through the rent system.

The market ends at the waterfront. A man who is painted from head to toe stands still, entertaining the passersby. An interesting part of my sightseeing of the Saturday market is a place at the north of the waterfront where the Japanese history is left on a plaque.

Apple Tasting

Apple tasting festival in Portland city is an old age tradition, practiced for about twenty six years or so, says an apple cider man at a corner in his pavilion at the apple festival in Portland Oregon.
It was pleasant for me, being from Africa; a whole new experience. As an environmental reporter, the whole scenario looks so environmentally friendly with the lovely green flowers and greenish festival ground.

The story of the apple began from Johnny’s apple seeds hundreds of years ago, who hails from the middle east of America, and was believed to be the first or amongst the early that planted the apple seeds. Being among the pioneer for a hundred of years ago, later on people started planting the apple seeds for apple cider or vinegar and fermented for wines.

It is an annual festival full of colorful activities and stands, with all kinds of garden flowers, hay bales, and even showcasing some animals such as owls, monkeys and even cattle.

The festival also runs for two weekends annually in October, with all kinds of carts, the coffee cart, popcorns, ice creams and many more available.
There are also the pumpkins and a beautiful garden. Talking with a lady and a man at the festival whose names I did not ask, they say Oregonians love natural fruits, which is why the apple tasting festival holds.

She says the act makes the people of Portland appreciate Mother Nature; and protects the environs from climatic conditions as they imbibe the habits of tree planting, which helps to deal with any kind of flooding as the plants absorb plenty of water when it rains while the water also help the plant to grow well even when it’s not raining

The Beach: A Moment to Remember

My third weekend at Portland, Oregon, United States of America was an adventure worth remembering.

My host took me on a tour to the Pacific Northwest coast of Oregon, named Cannon beach, which is 80 miles west of Portland and 25 miles south of Astoria. A captivating natural beauty of forests, ocean, beaches, rivers, and the Oregon Coast Mountain range surrounds Cannon Beach, four miles in length and with a population of 1,695 people. Cannon Beach is a popular and picturesque resort area.

The beach accommodates more than 750,000 visitors annually. According to the history, Cannon Beach was incorporated as a city in 1957 first by native cultures, and then, in the late 1800s, by American settlers. In 1806, Captain William Clark, of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, traveled south to the area in order to secure needed blubber from a whale beached near the mouth of Ecola.

It was a Friday evening when we headed to the beach for the one hour thirty minutes drive from SE of Portland. My hosts prayed that the weather will be friendly for me to enjoy and miraculously their prayers were answered which I was very glad about. Though, the weather over there was really taking its usual toll on my flesh, making me shiver to my bone.

Briar cot was where we spent the two nights, with my room having a heater for this northerner. How lucky am I to have a considerate host! “We want to make you happy” Michael and his wife Nelle always say, an assuring statement that makes me fall in love with them every day

The fire was started to make the cot warm, it was completely an American setting, and off I was till the next morning, awaiting another adventure. It was indeed a time to remember, and the next morning we were off to the beach.

Walking by the beach side, with the rough waves making my day, I became tempted to dip my toe in the waves, “the waves are pretty cold”, they warned, but then, to my surprise two kids happily ran into the forthcoming waves bare footed. Little did I know that kids don’t feel too cold or too hot, or perhaps it was different from the waves at Lekki beach in Lagos which isn’t as cold as that of Cannon beach. Hastily, I removed my shoes, and my host exclaimed, “She is doing it”, and to the waves I headed. At first the water was freezing cold, I smiled and then I was numb, managed to keep smiling and my instincts kept saying “it’s a challenge you have to overcome”.

It was piercing and cold, but I did it, and again they warned me not to put on my boots because my feet were wet. I walked barefooted on the cold sandy beach and to my dismay, it felt good. I was gradually beginning to get used to the weather. Near the haystacks rock was the spot where we took lots of pictures together, then took a nice walk back to the cot and rested for a little while.

We walked all the way to the beach town, to glance through the galleries and groceries around. What actually caught my attention the most was watching the glassblowers do their job. It was a sight worth watching. I saw talent and creativity in the woman doing the job which made it exceptional.

And we drove some miles down town away from the beach, towards the end of the road, I remember how persistent they were about a certain mountain, it was the Neankanie Mountain, and to my astonishment, it was indeed a fantastic view. Adding colour to everything, was Michael’s story of how things happened at the top of the Neankanie Mountain. He told all about how two tribes were fighting, and they worshipped a bird; that the bird came and divided the two tribes, which brought about the coast.

Then we moved to a cave. Michael said he last took a picture of that cave when he was only twenty years old but because of my visit this year, he got a chance to come back again, with me this time.

My stay with my host family completely changed my perception about the lifestyle of a normal American family as compared to the Raising hope’s drama series we watch at home which portrays them to be living a crazy life. To sum it all up, I feel lucky to have met this loving and understanding family for they made me feel at home and comfortable around them.

We Love You Long Time Before

It was a Monday morning on the 22nd of October 2013. The day’s assignment was an interesting one. We went to a community that consists of Chinese indigenes.

On our arrival at the Chinese community in Portland, Oregon, I noticed an advert of a movie done during the Vietnam War. There is an FM radio station at the center of this neighborhood. Hung at the top of the building clearly was a caption that read “we love you long time”.

The movie was about some Chinese prostitutes who didn’t know how to speak correct English. They believed that saying “we love you long time” was a way of trying to get a good market from the Vietnam soldiers. To some people in Portland, they viewed the message as an act of racism.

Surprisingly, since when I got to the OPB newsroom, there was something that always amazed me. It was the way most of their interviews were conducted. It was easily done while they were sitting right on their desk, with a simple dial on their cell phones; their interview was granted and recorded.

Kristain Foden Vencil, was one the best reporters I admired and enjoyed watching while he worked. He is English, and has an immaculate command of his spoken English coupled with a friendly manner of approaching people.

We went out again, but this time, to three shops in the Asian community, to get their views on that caption, although no one granted us an interview but rather kept referring us to the next shop.

Finally, a man named Lious Lee, in his Chinese dialect, lamented that he felt it was unwise for the caption to be placed there, making it look like they were promoting racism.

One thing I enjoyed about the entire story as I listened keenly was a proverb he quoted: “Don’t tie your shoe underneath the fruit tree, because somebody might think you want to steal it”. But up till now, I still keep wondering how this proverb fits into the whole scenario.

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