Nigerian Cultural Norms

The morning that I arrived in Abuja, my luggage did not arrive with me. I left Baltimore with two suitcases and one carry-on. However, I arrived in Abuja with just the carry-on to my name. So, I filed the necessary claims (sans one of my luggage claim receipts) and proceeded to begin my new life with my ONE piece of luggage. Initially, I thought it’s cool, I’ll have to wait maybe a couple of days. Well, what I thought would be a two-day wait actually turned into two weeks. That was two weeks wearing about 5 of the same outfits and two pairs of shoes TO WORK. Needless to say, I was super excited when I received the call that my luggage had finally shown up to the airport. So I go to the area where the luggage is being held with my happy, excited American self and say “Hello. I received a call that my luggage has arrived. Could you please tell me where I should go?” The man looks at me with disgust and says “If you’re going to be here, you need to learn the proper way to greet us. It’s ‘Good morning’ and then you ask a question!” He continued to fuss and I drowned him out with “Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.” He waved me off in a general direction and I eventually got my luggage. Continue reading “Nigerian Cultural Norms”

Gratitude in Da ‘Buj

The hardest thing about living abroad in general for me is being away from my family, my mother and sister specifically. If I came from one of those globetrotting families who travel all over the planet and meet up in exotic locations, it would be much easier. If I had my way, we’d meet in London during fall break, South Africa during Christmas and some sexy beach locale during the summer. But whether or not I see my family and friends back home depends a lot on me. Folks simply don’t visit. I’m sure they’ll say money is an issue, but hell, even when I’m home I don’t see them unless I go to them and sometimes that requires me traveling an additional two to three hours even though I’ve traveled thousands of miles and most of the times, more than 16 hours. Continue reading “Gratitude in Da ‘Buj”

Is Nigeria Safe?

The question I get asked the most about living here in Nigeria is whether or not it is safe. For me, this is such a loaded question. Is Nigeria safe in comparison to where? What’s the scale being used to determine the level of safety? When living abroad there are numerous factors I have to consider to determine just how safe I am in my new environment. Access to good healthcare, police/military presence, terrorist activities and cost of flights out. I’ll discuss a bit about each of these factors in relation to Abuja, Nigeria. Continue reading “Is Nigeria Safe?”

How to Survive and Maybe Even Enjoy Road Trippin’ in Nigeria

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”:

“Highway” on the way to Enugu

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.

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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.

 

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