When I first arrived in Abuja, I had been traveling for nearly 36 hours. My first flight out of BWI was canceled resulting in a rebooking directly to London. I arrived in London at 11 am the next day where I “enjoyed” an eleven hour layover before finally arriving in Abuja the following morning at 4:55 a.m. Needless to say, I was tired and in dire need of an attitude adjustment which was bound to happen as soon as I indulged in a hot shower and lots of sleep. After a long wait in customs, I arrived at baggage claim ready to grab my bags and leave for my new digs with the transportation sent by my new employer. Unfortunately, the baggage I hoped would have made it to Abuja, in fact, did not. And I quickly realized that the experience of lost or delayed baggage was my first lesson into how my expectations needed to drastically change…and fast for my peace of mind.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (ABV) is a very modest airport, so there isn’t a department or even a window to go to when your baggage doesn’t arrive with you. In fact, you’re lucky if the airline has a designated bag agent at the airport upon your arrival. Luckily, British Airways did have an agent there and I immediately filed my claim with him. Yay me! Right? Well, not so much. The agent proceeded to inform me that since I didn’t have one of my luggage stickers that they were not liable for that bag. Well, remember that attitude adjustment I mentioned I needed? Yeah. I pretty much lost it at this point. I was tired, hungry and frustrated and it all came out in that moment. Needless to say, it was not my finest or classiest moment. But the agent looked at me and began to lecture me about how the process worked. Needless to say, I ignored him. What energy I had left, I used fussing at him moments ago. I simply walked away and proceeded to leave with just one measly bag.
I called him everyday for about a week, inquiring about my bag. A few times he simply hung up on me after I asked him to double check that my bags had not shown up. After a week, I received one bag. And while I was happy to receive it, it wasn’t the bag that contained all of my clothes, so I still had to continue to call the agent daily. Of course, I filed reports with British Airways and American Airlines (that is with whom the ticket was purchased), but it was the agent who the gatekeeper to my bag. All calls returned to him. Finally, I decided it was time for me to breakdown the walls of Western expectations and add a lot of honey to the vinegar I was spewing. I took the time to talk to him and explain the importance of the lost baggage. I greeted him properly “Good afternoon” because greetings are VERY important here in Nigeria and while he responded rather nonchalantly he didn’t hang up on me this time and promised he would call as soon as it arrived. Two days later, I received the call that my baggage was available for pick up.
So far, Nigeria has demonstrated stark contradictions in culture, expectations and reality, but I quickly found that my Westerns ideals and expectations will either make this experience unbearable or grow me in ways I never imagined. And since it’s up to me, I choose the latter. Here’s to growth and evolution.
Living abroad does not lessen the impact of government issues at home. In fact, I would venture to say that living abroad places those issues under a microscope of scrutiny and never-ending questions. This presidential election especially shone light on just how confusing Americans and their politics appear to the rest of the world. Countless times I’ve been forced, unwillingly, into conversations about the two presidential candidates, expected to weigh in on my choice and reasons behind it. This campaign season definitely contributed to sharpening my sidestepping and redirecting conversational skills. It has been utterly exhausting.
And now, while the election is over, the questions, confusion and bewilderment is not. My students look at me discontentedly and wonder what this means for them and their goals of higher education. Will it be safe for them to pursue their collegiate goals in America? Should they use the election results map to determine which college is better situated geographically to make them feel comfortable…welcome? And I honestly have no idea how exactly to respond, because much like them I, too, have questions.
I think the absolute worse part, is that I am expected to speak on behalf of the American people. I am expected to provide answers to the unanswerable when the truth is I have no idea how we knowingly elected a bigot, xenophobe, misogynist and just all around “mean” man as one student put it. What does it say about us, Americans, that we elected someone who spewed divisive rhetoric from the very beginning to the end of his campaign? What does it say? And I think that’s the scary part. It says a hell of a lot.
Those of us who didn’t vote for him can attempt to detach from the election results and even the president elect by saying we didn’t vote for him, but at the end of the day, does that matter? Does it matter to people abroad? When I navigate this globe, I do so as an American and I am, therefore, judged as such. Does it matter that I didn’t vote for him? I don’t think so. I think ultimately people will expect me to give them insight into what the hell happened in my country on November 8, 2016 and they’ll want answers. But where do I even begin? Because the truth is, a response to that question requires historical context that can’t be explained in a quick conversation and I don’t know that I would even want to do there in the first place. You know…there. Nah, I’ll pass. So for now, my response is simply, well, America can’t hide who and what it truly is any longer. The proof is in the pudding and will shortly be in the White House as well.
Leaving China was not a hard decision for me. Initially, the plan was to hunker down and create some semblance of a life there for me without the kiddo. See, early on in the decision making process of trying to figure out if I would stay or leave China, the kiddo was pretty adamant that she WOULD not be returning. So, when I decided to stay I knew there would the added of adjustment of trying to navigate my new environment without the company of my kiddo. And while I wasn’t looking forward to being in Foshan alone, I was looking forward to furthering my career and working under a pretty great administrator. And that was my sole reason for considering to renew my contract.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I knew that in order to survive another year in Foshan, I needed to make my life as comfortable as possible. So I began to increase my social circle, obtained a part-time job, created a natural hair Wechat group and started to explore the city a bit more. And I fell in love with iherb.com, ordering and stocking up on some the products that I had so desperately missed. But ultimately, it was all for naught. My administrator soon after broke the news that he would not be returning to the school and I knew there was NO way I could stay.
It didn’t take long, however, for the Universe to work its undeniable magic. By week’s end I had secured a position at another international school in a much more desirable location, Abuja, Nigeria. And it was the best decision I could have ever made. The school is much more established and I’m using my gifts and talents on a daily basis. The school community is diverse, vast and supportive. And most importantly, I have a family here comprised of friends, colleagues and well…a beau. J That always makes a difference. My kiddo still elected not to take part in this journey…but that’s a work in progress…stay tuned.
I can’t say that I miss China, but I am so grateful for the people I met and the relationships I forged while there. Moreover, I am especially grateful for the beautiful memories Baby Girl and I created while there. But I can’t wait to create memories just as beautiful and significant here in Nigeria. Actually, I already have.