Breakfast had arrived on time on the first working day. I was looking forward to my full Nigerian masquerading as a full English. The bacon was pale and streaky and the toast tasted of sugar. However the eggs seemed to be missing a vital biological ingredient, that of the yolk so it was as if we were given a bacon and albumen banjo, to use a military term for a sandwich. Still we had paid for it, and that was that. We drove out of the compound, hungry and off to the Savannah Bank. But after a few yards I asked the driver to return. I walked quietly to the front door, which was not locked and pushed it open. I poked my head around. Cheery sounds of the steward’s six little boys gobbling very yellow scrambled eggs delighted me. They needed feeding more than we did, and so the question of the vanishing yolks had been solved. I left them chattering, eating toast and playing as boys do at their breakfast.
We arrived at the head office of the bank. It looked like it was built in the late 60s and was square and unassuming. We were placed into and then waited in a large room for our students. Magic invisible workers had set up the room as a classroom, complete with our magnetic board. The boxes had been unpacked, the papers and folders stacked neatly. Beside each desk was a large waste paper basket, no doubt for disposing of all our hard work and photocopied pages. It was hot and despite the three split air conditioners throbbing away, David and I were ready. The trainees trooped in followed by the Chairman of the bank. They all looked serious but very well dressed. The men wore the typical outfits for the clerical classes in Nigeria of white shirts, burnished suits, tight ties with a bank crest and gleaming black shoes. The women, tall and full figured, were dressed for a beach cocktail party. They were bursting out of their colourful, bright and flowery dresses that seemed to be made of swathes of crimplene. They completed their attire with bright red lipstick, dangly earrings, all colours matching their high heeled shoes. Without instruction they had separated into couples, staring at us in silence. I stared back.
The Chairman introduced us and then he banged on about the bank, its future and how important training was for them especially as a Mr Thomas and a Mr David had travelled here at great cost to assist him. I felt he might need some instruction after he started on his theory about foreiegn exchange. He eventually finished by saying he would keep a close eye for any malingerers and punishments could ensue for lack of progress. I was not sure how this type of management would work in London. The attendees looked even more nervous.
‘Can you please write your names on cards so I can remember who you are?’ I asked.
They started scribbling with large marker pens and soon we had the most wonderful selection, though how I would remember them all would be a challenge. I was introduced to Adeola, Benjamin, Dola, Chinara, Isaac, Emmanuel, Jesus, Obi, Jacob, another Jesus and many more. I struggled to keep up, making notes and little reminders so I could recognise them. I started this with Adeola who had one leg longer than the other or maybe it was the way she was sitting. Jesus had glasses, but in fact the second Jesus also did. They were keen to get going and so with the first exercise it was clear that we had an enthusiastic lot, but their grasp of basics were rooted to a trait that would make for much amusement later in the week. The basic premise was that why would anyone sell dollars and buy worthless Nigerian Naira. The challenge was to teach them why.