367 days ago we landed in Abuja. It was our first day in Africa and we were excited, anxious, bewildered, overwhelmed and exhausted. 366 days ago Joey's colleague took us to Mogadishu Barracks to eat spicy whole fish with our hands. In a dark enclave outside the city, suddenly immersed in African culture, the experience so surreal I felt the space spinning around me. Half-terrified, half-exhilarated, Joey and I exchanged looks that said, "Are we really here right now?!" 365 days ago Mogadishu Barracks was bombed.
And so began 2011.
I could describe our year in terms of violence. The BBC reports election violence in April and May killed somewhere around 800 people in Nigeria. Summer was book-ended by bombs; first the Police Headquarters in June, then the UN in August. At least 20 people died. Then in November reports of credible threats to the Hilton and Sheraton flooded Abuja radio airwaves. All Americans were warned to avoid those hotels and the Marine Ball was canceled. Christmas Day brought more bombs close to Abuja, in churches no less.
We didn't realize the stress of living in such a volatile place until we left. And once we discerned how much better we coped with everyday life upon our return, we left every chance we could get. In 2011 we traveled to Stockholm, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the US, Ghana, and South Africa. We hit four continents, the Southern Hemisphere, and the Indian Ocean.
It's been an extraordinary year. It's been hard. It's challenged me in ways I never could have imagined. It's been truly scary, and some days I really didn't know if I could handle it. Another EFM I met here told me it would get easier. She said, "when I first got here I thought, 'If I can handle this, I can handle anything,'" and she was right. It has gotten easier and I'm proud of myself for living somewhere I never thought I would and many days never thought I could. I've come a long way from bawling under the covers of our townhouse in DC.
This year put a lot in perspective. The value of family and friends and safety; clean water, personal space, and deodorant; cheeseburgers and the United States of America.
God Bless the USA.