Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Nigerian Experience

Things I won’t miss about Nigeria:

--Hearing the muezzin or whatever he was blaring from a nearby mosque in the pre-dawn hours. I can deal with the roosters, the car horns and anything else of a noise variety. That one alarms me, though, and the first time I heard it I thought a terrorist attack was imminent;

--Rice. Whether it’s white, or jollof, with red sauce, with beans, or in some other form, I’m ready to explore other culinary dishes;

--Driving. As near as I can tell, there are no rules to driving in Nigeria. Nor are there even guidelines, let alone suggestions. I don’t know what it takes to get a traffic ticket here, but let’s just say road cops in the USA with a monthly quota of traffic tickets to fill could get ‘er done in about an hour here. I’ve been on divided highways with a raised median and if traffic is stopped in one direction, why they just hop the curb and start driving against traffic in the oncoming lanes. Right by cops. Why is this okay? And passing is always an option, even going uphill, past a tractor-trailer on a blind corner. I feel like I cheated death on the roads for two weeks;

--Showers. Picture a faucet, a small bucket and cold water. You’re feeling my pain. Like any spoiled American, I like my showers long and hot. The struggle is real, man;

--Electricity that constantly fluctuates. It’s worse than being in a relationship with Taylor Swift – the power is on again, off again. On again, off again. On, off. It makes it really hard to recharge my cell phone. Oh, the horror of it!

--Vivid dreams. I suspect it’s the anti-malarial meds I’m taking, but man have I had some vivid dreams. They’re the kinds often that make you wake up with a start and you can’t get back to sleep … then the muezzin fires up. Last night I had a dream I inherited some very valuable books in a very finely crafted wood bureau and had to get them from New York to Boston without anyone knowing it or else something really bad was going to happen to my family.  Oops … now everyone knows it;

Things I will miss in Nigeria:

--The weather. Hot, dry days in the 80s and cool nights in the 50s. It’s like summer in Central Oregon. Perfect;

--An Arabic shawarma from Jam’s, a little hole-in-the-wall eatery over by one of the other missionary compounds. Chicken, garlic, pickles, salad and a couple of other things wrapped inside a tortilla-like thing. Oh, the joys of a Jam’s shawarma!

--The sights. Every day you see something that blows your mind. Take, for example, the cargo on a motorbike, to include masses of humanity, livestock, goods such as firewood, or all of the above. Just when you thought it was not humanly possible to pack more onto a motorbike, you see more;

--The people. So friendly. I made many friends here and made them quite easily. One of the things that tickles me is how often they say, “Welcome, sir.” I’ll meet someone and greet them and they’ll reply, “Welcome, sir. Thank you, sir. Welcome, sir.”

--The children. Universally polite and friendly, if not somewhat surprised and curious at times to see a white guy. I will never forget the look on the kids’ faces when I took their photo and turned the camera around and showed them the digital copy. Priceless. I believe for many of them it was the first time they had seen their own picture. Their faces were a thousand words;

--The faith of my fellow Christians. You can hear it in the prayers. It’s a deep, profound trust and love of God that I imagine comes in part in a place where life is truly fragile. In the course of five days earlier on my trip I was with three people while they received word that someone close to them had died unexpectedly. There are no guarantees here and life is hard, very hard. The one thing you can trust is God’s love and the hope we have in His son, Jesus Christ. I have a great love and admiration for the people I’ve met here. God bless you all. I’ll miss you and look forward to seeing you again.

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