Photos will be added shortly.
I flew through Heathrow on my way to Nigeria, an uneventful journey. A long flight, sure, but an uneventful journey. I even trekked all the way into London to enjoy a nice lunch with an old friend. Then back to the airport to wait for the next flight, onward to Abuja.
I sat next to two Nigerian men on the plane, both of them currently living and working in the States. One man worked in the same field as me, the other I’m not sure. We chatted…they both felt the anxious excitement of returning to their homeland. I felt mostly nerves. And sleep-deprivation. But mostly nerves. Our conversation eased those nerves a little bit, but the pre-arrival jitters get me every time I travel to a foreign land. They are my least favorite part of travel, and curiously, Chris’ favorite part of travel (which is one more reason we make a good duo). Without my other half though, I felt the nerves. Especially in traveling to a land I had never visited before, one fraught with warnings of illness and terror and crime. But I chatted nonetheless, and that conversation served to remind me that the warnings of all things bad, while necessary, apply to a very tiny percent of the population, and most people in the world are just doing their best to raise a family, hold a good job, live a peaceful life. So I relaxed a bit, and onward we flew, into the night.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by the warmth and humidity even at 5am. The airport could use some repairs and certainly was not a cosmopolitan, capital city-type place. But it functioned, and we made our way down the stairs through customs with minimal trouble. Our temperatures were taken by a nurse-looking lady before our passports could be stamped – a sure sign of the current Ebola situation affecting this part of Africa. Speaking of Ebola, the Nigerians are confident that the outbreak is contained in their country – not a single person has voiced any concern to us that Ebola will continue to be a problem here (though, of course, we remain aware). Anyways, after passport check, it was out to baggage claim where my bag arrived right on cue, surely a good sign? I took it as such.
As we wandered out the door, into our home for the week, we were greeted by a staff member from the organization for which I work – he held a little piece of paper with my name on it, and upon seeing that little piece of paper, I felt my body relax the tension I didn’t realize it held. We had been retrieved, swept away in the arms of someone who knew this foreign land. Relief.
The drive into the city began with 5am darkness, only to have the city illuminate before us as the sun rose. Abuja is more expansive than I imagined – a city built in a vast open space. There are not many tall buildings, though cranes dominate the skyline so surely that lack is short-lived. We passed the national mosque, just across the way from the national church, and the realities of the land began to come clear.
The drivers here are crazy, though not as crazy as in Mongolia and not as plentiful either. I felt safe driving around, and still do. Roads construction abounds, but again, not as bad as in Mongolia and not as crazy. More feelings of safeness.
Arrival at our hotel greeted us with…confusion. You need a room? We don’t have a reservation, and we are full, very full. Hmm, tricky, because we have a confirmation that says you will have a room. Anyways, we played the part of the patient foreigners, and soon enough, we were parked in a temporary room where we could at least wash off the two days of travel and drink a cup of instant coffee (it tasted delicious, evaporated milk and all). I spent more time than I normally would simply staring out the window, soaking in the place I would call home for a brief time.
Shortly thereafter, the driver from work was back to retrieve us. Off we went, to day one of work in Nigeria.
To be continued…