I wrote this last week at home and figured I’d upload it when I got internet. Well today is the day! Halleluiah!
After our 16 hour drive from Des Moines to Washington, a whirlwind packout, literally running home barefoot from the metro station to catch the airport shuttle after the sale of my car took too long, three hours in the Dulles airport; the first hour and a half spent trying to juggle three dogs, two extra-large suitcases, two regular-sized suitcases, two carry-on suitcases, a messenger bag with a laptop hanging out and a shoulder bag so full it wouldn’t zip (we would never ever have been able to pull it off without our friends Lee and James) and shuffle items from one suitcase which was so overweight it was not allowed to fly to another suitcase, and then the second hour spent trying to enjoy a last glass of champagne with Lee and James while listening to George yelp helplessly a hallway away, seven and a half hours on the flight to Amsterdam, five hours in the Amsterdam airport, and then another six hours on the flight to Abuja, by the time we got here, we were exhausted. I don’t know about Joey, but I was just as emotionally drained as I was physically, and so when the immigration official asked Joey, “How long will you be here?” and Joey replied, “Two years,” the following thud of his stamp on my diplomatic passport seemed to reverberate throughout the airport. (It reminded me a little bit of the moment during our wedding when the priest said “for the rest of your life” in such an ominous tone that caused my best friend Bridget to look over at me in sheer terror.) But once the dogs came rolling through on the luggage conveyor belt – imagine a quivering extra-large kennel rolling between the suitcases – now remember the majority of Nigerians are afraid of dogs – it was like the scene from the Ten Commandments where Moses parts the Red Sea – and I realized my boys were tired and overwhelmed but safe and healthy, I realized I was too.
And we thought traffic in DC was aggressive and crazy. Oh my God its a good thing we had some experience driving in DC before moving to Abuja. The way people drive here is insane. I mean complete, absolute insanity. I’ve ridden in cars in many places around the world and I can tell you, I have never experienced traffic like this. There are no traffic rules. People drive all over the road: in the middle of the lane, in the parking lane, in the lane facing oncoming traffic, on the sidewalk! Intersections have no signs. I think there might be like ten stoplights in the city but they don’t work frequently and people don’t heed them (not to mention the lights don’t even face the direction of traffic). When approaching an intersection it is every car for itself and you just kind of have to slowly tip toe your way into the intersection and hope someone doesn’t come barreling through! Meanwhile you’re stopped and eight different guys are sauntering between the cars, hawking phone cards, grapes, bottled beverages, kola nuts, Nigerian flags, you know, whatever. Then you have to watch out for the pedestrians because they just dart into the street with no mind that there are insane drivers everywhere. I mean Abuja driving to Mexico driving is like New York City driving to De Soto driving. Maybe. Its crazy.
The majority of these crazy ass drivers are cabbies, and they just zip around in their little green cars (they’re painted like the Nigerian flag) like its no big deal. Then there are the green mini-buses packed with more Nigerians than should fit in two. My favorite are the little three-wheeled tuk-tuks that scoot around town. Its like a covered motor-bike with the driver in front and two passengers in back – and the sides are open. They just drive down the expressway next to everybody else even though at any minute they could be side-swiped and dead.
And electricity? I remember once, during my semester in Florida, the power went out in the grocery store during a thunderstorm. It was a huge deal. The power goes out here all the time and nobody even blinks. We were in the grocery store here and the lights went out and people just kept doing their business.
Same goes with internet. You pay a ton of money for slow, unreliable service, because that’s the best you can get. But it is finally at my house and for that I am grateful.
More tomorrow. Because now we have internet at home and I can get online anytime I want. Actually only between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am because it costs double to get it the rest of the day. And I’m working (I know, coming out of retirement is going to be rough), so I can access the internet at the Embassy during the day. Anyway, I am trying to upload my pictures overnight, so hopefully pictures tomorrow too.