its really not that bad

In all fairness I feel I should say its really not that bad here.  Really.  I mean, sure there was a lizard on the wall in our bedroom and the next morning a giant ass cockroach almost crawled on my foot in the kitchen (Joey, who heard my blood curdling scream from the other room, found me cowering on top of the dining room chair clutching a paring knife). 

And then there's the Harmatan, which is what they call all the dust and sand that blows south from the Sahara that covers everything with a thin layer of film - when you lick your lips you can taste the dirt - and by dusk the haze is so thick you can't see any of the giant rock formations around town and it looks as though a tornado is about to blow through when actually its so dry you wake up with a sore throat. 

But seriously, besides the minor meltdowns which my poor husband bravely bears, I feel really lucky to be here.  I am really enjoying myself. 

Yesterday on my way to the Embassy I saw three station wagons completely coated in colorful political posters and completely full of Nigerians all dressed in traditional African dress (long pants, ankle-length tunic, fez) who would all get out of the cars at each intersection and dance to the tinny reggae-sounding music blaring from the car speakers.

Most of the restaurants here are supposed to be mediocre at best, and rather expensive.  So far we've been to two (three if you count the fish market but that's an entirely different experience); one was good (enough - I mean we just spent the last four months eating out practically every night in culinary heaven) and the other one was not - so we've had to cook every meal.  Which is a challenge because 1. we don't have a dishwasher or a garbage disposal, and 2. although groceries are not hard to find, it is hard to swallow the cost ($8 for corn flakes.  Seriously.) 

Unless you want to buy a goat out of the back of some guy's trunk.  Because you can.  He was parked outside of the one of the restaurants and about twenty hooves were hanging out of the hatchback.  Our sponsors said that was okay but for really fresh meat we should go to the Wuse (Woo-say) Market and you can choose your animal while its still alive.  That way you know its fresh.  We did go to the Wuse Market but steered clear of the meat.  Actually there was nothing clear about the Wuse Market - it was this crazy, authentic, African market.  Stuffed full of people and fruit and fish and everything under the sun.  It was loud and smelly and colorful and overwhelming.  Actually I think that's how I'd sum up Nigeria so far.  Loud and smelly (not necessarily in a bad way, just a lot of new odors), and colorful and overwhelming. 

Many men and women wear traditional West African garb here, and its beautiful.  The women wear these long tailored dresses with mermaid skirts in brightly colored patterns with matching headresses that go in every which direction.  And it is so cool how so many people carry things on their heads.  I mean its amazing to see some woman in her brightly colored mermaid skirt (not easy to run in) dash across the street with a giant plate of plantains perfectly balanced on her head.  Or yesterday I saw a guy wandering down the street with a two-foot stack of papers on his head.  Papers!  I mean can you imagine if that fell over what it would look like?  He's just walking around like its no big deal.  Or they'll carry plates of these little round orange fruits, I'm not sure what they're called, but you'd think those suckers would roll around and roll off the giant plate on their head.  Nope.  It makes sense, especially at places like Wuse Market where its so crowded, to take advantage of vertical space, but it really is amazing.  As you would expect, everyone has perfect posture.  (I just sat up straight in my chair). 

People are friendly - everyone thinks you're rich because you're white (called Oyibo, pronounced "Oh-Ee-Bo") and you definitely have to bargain - but overall its safe.  And has peacocks!  I don't think they're wild here, unlike the chickens that roam the streets, but it was still cool to come upon them.  Every day its something cool and different like that and I'm really enjoying taking it all in.  I promise I've been taking tons of pictures and will upload them as soon as I can - we just have to wait for the internet guy to get back from his village where we went to get married.  It seems like everything is just a little funny like that.  Anyway, I've rambled on enough for now - forgive me its my first time writing anything down since we arrived - its been such a whirlwind.

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"Oh. My. God." I yelled as I stood in the doorway of our bedroom.

"What?"  Joey replied from downstairs.

"Ohmygodohmygodohmygod there is a lizard on the wall!" I screamed, frozen in fear as I stared at the eight-inch long gecko on the wall next to my bed.


"Get the F*** up here there is a Fing lizard on the wall!"

So Joey bounded up the steps - we agreed I would go downstairs to get something to catch it and he would watch it to make sure it didn't move.  I ran downstairs, and after making my way through the iron gate at the bottom grabbed my camera, an empty 2L Aquafina bottle, a piece of paper and a juice glass.  When I returned the gecko was nowhere in sight.

"Where'd it go?" I asked Joey as he is casually searching the curtains.

"I don't know - it ran away." 

"There is a gecko loose in our bedroom?!"  I'm frantic, and at this point I'm standing on top of our bed in my sheer little black robe clutching my camera, the water bottle, the paper and the glass. 

Did I mention its 2:30 am?  George decided he needed water around 1:30 and after about half an hour of listening to him scratch at the door we finally acquiesed and decided we might as well have some tea.  It was when I returend upstairs with my teacup that I made this lovely discovery. 

"That's what you brought me to catch it?" Joey asked me, incredulously, while trying desparately not to laugh.

"What the hell do you expect me to bring you?  I grew up in Iowa and I find a Fing lizard on the wall and you think I'm going to know how to catch the Fing thing?" Yes, I have a potty mouth.  And it was in full swing at 2:30 am with a lizard on the wall in my bedroom.  Or rather a lizard running loose in my bedroom.  "And its not funny!"

Joey is now laughing hysterically, while I am just hysterical.  "Get it! Where'd it go?!  Get the Fing thing!"

He points to the window and says that it probably went out this little hole and that he looked everywhere and can't find it - tells me this story about how even the nicest hotel rooms in Hawaii get lizards in there all the time and that its no big deal - they eat mosquitos.

Clearly I am not convinced.  I go downstairs and come back up with the step ladder.  Joey searches for another fifteen minutes (meanwhile our entire pack of three worthless dogs is hiding under the bed, probably more due to me freaking out than the lizard), and finally declares the search over.  Relunctantly, after checking under the blankets of course, I crawl back into bed.  Joey looks over and asks "Will you turn out the lights?"

"Hell no."

"Some of them?  Please?"

So I turned off all the overhead lights, but left my lamp on.  I read for the next few hours (and glancing to the wall every few minutes) until I was so tired I finally had no choice but to fall asleep. 

The next day I told our sponsor, Ibrahim, an American FSO who is originally from Nigeria, that we found a lizard on the wall in our bedroom.  He responded knowingly in his sing-song Nigerian accent, "Oh a wall gecko!  Those are little things - they won't hurt you!  Sometimes they'll crawl on your face at night while you're sleeping and leave a little scratch, but otherwise you'll never know they're there."

Oh I'll know.