I’ve largely been silent on here because this past year at my place of employment has been pretty darn traumatic. From being the victim of racism (in Nigeria no less), to unsupportive colleagues and then being forced to work closely with and train a bully who consistently attempted to paint himself the victim and of course, others so readily believed and having to do it all with a “smile” pretty much muted and masked my true feelings. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for the end of the school year and finally being rid of that very toxic environment. I’ll speak more about the mind-numbing ordeal this past school year has been in a different post. Continue reading “And so it begins…”
Yeah, yeah, corny I know, but I couldn’t help myself. So this year’s spring break was pretty doggone amazing and the first stop was Athens, Greece. I spent a total of 4 days and 3 nights in Athens. Two were spent at the beginning of the trip and one at the end. And I’m actually mad at myself for not spending more time. See, I chose the number of days based on the recommendations of others who stated that two days was all you really needed in Athens. Now, I’m wondering what on Earth those people were doing or not doing to think so little time is needed to enjoy the city and all it’s wonderful cultural offerings? Advice: Be prepared to be disappointed by other people’s suggestions. Always base how you navigate your travels on the kind of traveler you are. Continue reading “It’s All Greek to Me!”
I love a good road trip. Packing snacks, creating playlists, singing, taking pictures and just bonding (hopefully) with your road trip crew. I’m not a fan of driving mind you, but I absolutely love being a passenger on a good road trip. Of course, road trips in America are easy. There are certain things we don’t have to worry about, like military and police checkpoints, having to pay bribes to avoid an illegal search or asinine detainment, horrible roads just to name a few. But for me, that’s part of the adventure. Yes, it’s annoying and if you’re not careful it can be dangerous especially if you encounter an aggressive officer, but mostly it’s a great way to see all the beautiful landscapes that Nigeria has to offer.
The first thing you want to do is let go of any and all expectations you could possibly have regarding the trip. Whether or not you think you’ve taken a comparable trip, it’s best to simply approach a road trip in Nigeria with no expectations – AT ALL. I made the mistake of expecting the highways to be paved, but soon learned that the government doesn’t seem to care much about maintaining paved roads. So trips usually take about two to three hours longer than they actually should. Here’s my videoed reaction to the “highway”:
The second thing is to make sure you’re embarking on the trip with someone you actually like. Trust me. Your road trip crew will make or break the experience. Perpetual complainers, worry-worts or chronically unhappy people would make it the trip from hell. This is not the kind of trip for them. This trip is for the glass half full kinda people. The laid-back and nonchalant folks who rarely get their feathers ruffled. Now, understand what I’m saying. YOU may very well be one of the former types of people I described, but you cannot, I repeat, CANNOT go on this kind of road trip with another one. You need someone to balance out that energy and influence your mood in a positive way. And the more of these types of people, the better. Their energy alone will make the challenges you encounter less of a big ordeal.
The third suggestion is take pictures and don’t be afraid to explore. Nigeria is much more mountainous than I would have ever thought. There are so many lush, open, green spaces, clear, blue skies and gorgeous, untainted hillsides. The unspoiled landscapes often look picture-perfect. And there are always tons of farm stands to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. You can buy anything from bananas to cocoa plants to rice. You could literally complete all of your unprocessed food shopping. And this is not a bad idea, because there are no fast food restaurants to make stops. Just pull your vehicle over and they’ll all run over with whatever they’re selling. Our last trip we purchased plantains, bananas, cocoa beans, snails, soursop, papayas and pineapples all from the roadside stands. Spending no more than $20 USD for it all.
Finally, I will say make sure to bring along someone who knows how to navigate those Naija streets and drive an SUV if at all possible. Seriously. You need someone who can navigate the check points, maybe even knows a better, more acceptable road for your destination and someone who can navigate the bad roads when there is no other choice. There is a lot of pothole dodging that has to be done and you want someone who is skilled enough to do this without damaging your vehicle. And most importantly, will allow you to just enjoy the ride.
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.
No matter what you know or don’t know about China, one thing we can all agree on is that the Chinese are rather small. The Northern Chinese may not be as small as the Southern Chinese, but they all are still smaller on average than most Westerners. Therefore, shopping for clothes can be quite challenging. However, expats have a few choices to accommodate those extra inches. Continue reading “The Six Best Places for Expats to Shop for Clothes in China”
For the passionate traveler, traveling is more about the journey than the actual destination. In this interview with healthcare professional and travel lover, Marjorie Jean, we discuss why she traveled to her latest destination and the lessons learned during the experience. Continue reading “Interview: Marjorie Jean Explores Guadalupe”