What It’s Like to Live in an Armed Conflict Zone

Travel Nigeria: What It's Like to Live in an Armed Conflict Zone

I decided to travel to Africa and live in Nigeria–in the middle of an armed conflict, surrounded by bombs and insecurity. For six months, I lived in Jos, Nigeria, a city located in the middle of the country, where the Christian South and the Muslim North meet, killing each other, in the name of religion.

During that time, I witnessed many disturbing things. While conducting research for my master’s thesis, people told me the most horrible experiences. I felt the fear in my body. I got to know orphans, who had seen their parents and most of the people in their village slaughtered in the middle of the night. I met Nigerians from both regions who did not dare leave because they feared being killed.

Beside the armed conflict, I had to adapt to a life without access to basic services. No running water. Every time I wanted to go to the toilet or wash myself, I first had to go outside to catch water in the well. Then, I had to carry the bucket inside to the bathroom. Once I had a really bad case of food poisoning. You can imagine what that felt like. Every five minutes for three whole days, I had to do this before running to the bathroom, with fever and body cramps. These were three of the hardest days of my life.

Before going to sleep, I wondered, will they attack tonight? During the day, I wondered, will the fighting break out?

There was also no electricity–or maybe for an hour or two per day if we were lucky. Then everyone would run to charge their phones or laptops, even though there was a big risk that the charger would burn up.

So, how could living like this be the best thing I have done?

What It’s Like to Live in an Armed Conflict Zone

Travel Nigeria: What It's Like to Live in an Armed Conflict Zone
I was fortunate to only experience this as a temporary situation.

Well, because it changed me. I understood that having material things does not make me happy. I was happy in Nigeria, even happier than I am at home. Though I did not have basic services, I had many Nigerian friends who cared about me. We had fun together. We opened up to each other. They were like family, and I felt at home with them. I realized that as long as you have people around who love you, that is what matters.

I know that for me it was a temporary situation, and that it is different for the people who cannot escape these conflicts. They cannot return to their country, where showers, lights, Cable TV, WiFi and flushing toilets are available.

The armed conflict was the most devastating thing I have ever witnessed in my life. But it made me realize that I won the jackpot, being born in Norway. How lucky I am to live in a peaceful country. To have a family that won’t be ripped away from me due to their beliefs. To not feel safe is one of the worst feelings I have ever felt. Before going to sleep, I wondered, will they attack tonight? During the day, I wondered, will the fighting break out? I am very lucky to live a life without having to think these thoughts.

After my experience in Nigeria, I see the world differently. I appreciate different things than I did before. I appreciate my life more than ever before.

Travel Nigeria: What It's Like to Live in an Armed Conflict Zone
I consider this experience the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

 

About Hanne Hellvik

Hanne HellvikHanne Hellvik is from Norway, and has travelled to over 50 countries on five continents. Usually sustainable, staying at each place for a longer period of time. Volunteering, studying, working or just living. With a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Development Management, studying people, communities and their cultures, comes naturally to Hanne. Furthermore, she loves to write about it in her travel blog, Places People Stories.

3 thoughts on “What It’s Like to Live in an Armed Conflict Zone

  1. Avatar
    December 19, 2014
    Reply

    Hi Hanne… what an amazing experience! I always wanted to do that, and people think I am crazy. But I always wanted to do it because I know how much these people need any kind of help they can get, not to mention, as you said, how much we change, how we see that material things are nothing, and how we should appreciate our lives!
    You did a great thing girl, and I really admire you! 😀

    • Hanne Hellvik
      Hanne Hellvik
      December 22, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Allane! Yes, if you ever get the chance you should defiantly try. For the people living in war or armed conflict, it so many side affects, like not having food, money, clothes, house ect. So they really need help when living in this situations, like you say.
      But yes, people think you a crazy when wanting to do such things. I know that very well! But it is worth it!

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