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Day 16: The Island of Misfit Toys

Do you remember the movie “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from 1964? It featured stop-motion animation with Burl Ives as Sam, the snowman narrator. I love that movie. The Island of Misfit Toys was a refuge for the misfit toys, of course. Those were toys who were defective in some way. There was Charlie, the misnamed jack-in-the-box; a train with square wheels on his caboose; a boat that couldn’t stay afloat; a cowboy who rode an ostrich instead of a horse; and so on. What a sad island! All of the toys cry and feel dejected, but they eagerly hope for Santa to find them a compassionate child to take them home.

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Why did I choose that title for today? I feel like House 69 is Arik Air’s version of the Island. This apartment complex is reserved for those whom Arik doesn’t know what to do with. I’ve decided to call us The Rejects. Some of the people here have longer rotations than the ex-pats, like eight weeks on and two weeks off. Sometimes cabin crew stay here, although I’m not sure why they stay here rather than a hotel. And then some of the foreign managers stay here, but I don’t know what their schedules are actually like. As for us, no one knows what to do with an ex-pat pilot who wants to live in the country for a year. They also don’t know what to do with his girlfriend/fiancée who is not a staff member. Here are some theories as to why this situation bothers management:

1) They are afraid that the Chairman, the owner of Arik Air, will find out Casey is staying here longer and be upset with this “special” circumstance. We think the Chairman would actually be pleased that an ex-pat wants to do the company a service and work more.

2) The pilot compound was built with the notion that two pilots would share a room, not at the same time though. One would stay while the other was away on rotation, and then they would rotate. Management has this idea glued inside their minds, and they cannot comprehend how things would run smoothly with one pilot taking up one room for one year. Chaos would ensue! Well, we don’t agree. Not to mention that the pilots’ rotations frequently get messed up anyway so, as of now, there isn’t an efficient way that two pilots can really share a room without overlapping at some point.

3) They seem slightly confused as to whether a pilot’s wife can stay at the pilot compound. We spoke to the manager of the compound yesterday, and she said that management is afraid to “raise the question” about spouses staying there. If one spouse is allowed to stay, then more would be allowed to stay, which apparently is just ghastly. These people aren’t adults, I guess, since no one is willing to bring the issue up at meetings.

4) I am not a staff member, so they have issues with me complaining about things and asking for help from management. Everyone knows who I am, and they are aware that I’m here, but the fact that I don’t have “an Arik ID tag” really bothers them. I’ve gone to the office how many times, and the people at the entrance still make me get a visitor’s tag. And they won’t even let me sign my name in the book! They want Casey to do it.

5) Everyone refers to “Arik” as some high-up entity, such as: Arik won’t pay for that, Arik won’t agree to those changes, Arik wouldn’t want you to do that, etc. Even the Director of Flight Operations, the highest person we can talk to, speaks of “Arik” in these vague terms. But what’s the deal? Do they mean the Chairman wouldn’t approve? Technically, the DFO is the person in charge of our “special” situation, so if he approves of our bills, then everyone else down the tower should cooperate. I don’t get it.

6) We’re white. They love to throw that in our faces. We get ridiculed for “doing things differently in America,” like having different standards for cleanliness and safety. Last year, when there was hot pink mold growing on our towels, the hotel housekeeper said that she’s worked with other white people and that never happened. They thought we were purposely dying their towels pink. Now, if we complain about mold, a dirty environment, or want appliances put in the kitchen, it’s because we think “black people are below us” and we have irrationally high standards. One woman said about the mold in her room, “I can handle it because I’m black. We’re strong.” I guess mold is discriminatory against white people…

Anyhow, I must digress. The past few days have been hectic. Casey and I went to the office last Tuesday and had a long talk with the DFO about appliances. He gave us permission to go price items at the store, and then Arik would give us money to buy them. We happily went to Cash ‘N’ Carry to look for a stove/oven, deep freezer, and refrigerator. We found everything at reasonable prices. All three appliances would add up to about N140,000, which is around $885. Not bad overall.

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Long story short, we ended up not being able to buy any of it. I went to the office on Wednesday by myself, since Casey was working, and talked to Onus, a guy in the housing department who’s been helping us. He told me that he wanted us to use the fridge and deep freezer found in next building, Block B (we’re in Block A). I said the fridge is too small, and he said there was a bigger one that is broken but will be repaired. He said we could buy the stove though, but “Arik won’t pay for a microwave.” No one likes microwaves, I guess. So I said ok, let’s buy the stove at least. Three hours later, with nothing accomplished, I was told by his boss, Elvis, (the guest house manager) that there was an old stove in storage from the Old House 69 (we’re at the New House 69) that they wanted us to use instead of buying a new one. It was dirty and rusted, but they didn’t mind.

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The housekeepers here cleaned up the kitchen as well as they could, and then one of them cleaned the stove. He did a good job. We still need lights and an AC unit installed, but we must wait for now. Then yesterday, Thursday, we had a really rough day. Onus said we couldn’t have both the fridge and the deep freezer from Block B! He said we had to choose between them because the people in Block B need one of them. I was appalled! I’ll tell you why: Block C has one kitchen with one fridge and one deep freezer that the tenants share. Block B has two kitchens with two deep freezers and two working fridges (the third is the broken one that they want to give us). Block A has nothing. Logically, it would seem fair that Block A could take one fridge and one deep freezer from Block B, but NO! Allegedly, Block B cooks more than the other blocks, so there is a higher demand for two deep freezers and two refrigerators. We’ve been here for two weeks and I have yet to see any food in the second deep freezer, but they claim that it’s not being used now because people are on rotation. That may be the case, but we still don’t understand how the demand could be SO high that they need so many appliances. I think it’s because Block B is where the people from the UK stay. They took possession of one kitchen, so no one else is probably allowed to share it with them. Absurd!

Also, management says that “no one else in Block A will use the kitchen,” so it’s just Casey and me that are asking for it. Therefore, we don’t need very many appliances. They say that we can suffice with one, dual fridge/freezer and don’t need a deep freezer. I was pissed. Another thing that set me off is that everyone says we don’t need an AC unit in our kitchen, but we don’t think that’s fair because there are AC units in all of the other kitchens. (“Arik won’t pay for an AC unit…”) Onus told me that there aren’t AC units in the other kitchens, and I disagreed, but he seemed so sure. I had spent all day Wednesday talking to him and he said nothing about the fridge and freezer situation, so I yelled at him on Thursday when he told us we couldn’t have both. I also said he lied to me about the AC units because the other kitchens clearly have them. He was insulted that I called him a liar, and he told Casey to tell me to be quiet, but Casey stayed out of it. This was between Onus and me. I was very angry and he knew it. Now, he refuses to talk to me, but I don’t really want to talk to him again anyway. The housing department is so unhelpful. They seem to think that taking care of House 69 isn’t part of their job, so they keep telling us to go to other departments to get what we need since they’re tired of dealing with us.

Another disappointment is that we are no longer able to eat for free at the pilot compound! We found this out last night after we took an okada to the compound for dinner. The chef said we had to ask the manager for permission, so we did, and she said that her boss (the DFO) gave her instructions to only allow persons staying at the compound to eat there. Apparently, the pilots have to sign in when they eat now. The rules they instill are crazy. She said we could eat there one last time, since we weren’t aware of the change, but we cannot do it anymore. Sigh. So much for the pilot compound.

Anyway, since Elvis turned us away yesterday by saying that he and Onus are soooo busy, we ended up unknowingly talking to his boss! She was very nice, and willing to help us, so she gave instructions to Onus and Sam, the maintenance guy, to check out our kitchen and fix any AC problems. She didn’t seem to mind us asking for an AC unit in our kitchen, like everyone else does. She told Sam to have an engineer take a look at the broken refrigerator and see what could be done. As the present time, I think we’re allowed to take either the empty, deep freezer or the working fridge to our kitchen until the broken one is repaired. I chose to take the deep freezer since it’s huge and more expensive than the fridge. No one has moved it into our kitchen yet though.

And that’s where we are! We are currently waiting for “Arik” to turn over funds for AC repairs, a new AC unit, and fridge repairs. We would like the kitchen to be repainted, but I don’t know if they’ll pay for that. I’m feeling slightly discouraged, but Casey feels ok right now. He said talking to Elvis’ boss, the nice lady, gave him some hope that something can still be done for us. After fighting with Onus yesterday, I didn’t feel like anything else could be fixed, but we shall see.

On a lighter note, we took okadas to a Chinese restaurant the other day to treat ourselves to a good meal. As I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily mind riding okadas, as long as the roads aren’t too busy. A good way to describe them is like a horse: both look docile and manageable when you’re off of them, but once you’re riding them, it’s a little more nerve-wracking than you expected. The breeze makes Casey’s hair stand up in the front and mine just gets tangled.

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Zen Garden is the name of the Chinese restaurant. It seems like authentic food to me, since the flavors are more subtle than in the US. Nothing is quite as sweet as what we’re used to, but it’s still very good. Casey started out with a Chapman, a very popular non-alcoholic drink. The ingredients are grenadine or any black currant syrup, Angostura bitters, Fanta, and Sprite. Garnished with a slice of lime and cucumber, it’s a bitter-sweet beverage. Our waiter brought out very hot plates, and you could feel the heat a good three or four inches away. I told Casey to pose like he was warming his hands over it. Then dinner! He ordered sweet and sour chicken, and I ordered Szechuan chicken. Both were yummy! We had plenty, which was even better. Sweet Sensations, a bakery, was next door, and they had this pretty light fixture out front, so I snapped a photo. It looks like a firework. Then I snapped a photo of Zen Garden in the evening. It’s very fancy inside with gilded artwork, statues, and waiters in silk vests. I always feel a little underdressed. At least that was a pleasant dinner.

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Here are some additional photos from yesterday. We went to the office, and I spotted a funny sign on the side of the road. It says, “No Stopping, No Parking, No Waiting, No Trading.” Nigeria is known for their hawkers,” which are people who sell goods on the side of the roads. They sell everything from sunglasses to CDs to food and cell phone credit. They even walk in between the cars and get dangerously close. After the office, we went to Heritage Hotel for lunch. Casey had to do something with one of the pilot’s tablets, so we spent a couple hours there. He had a tasty dish of chicken alfredo, and I had chicken tenders with bruschetta. They have good food there, so we were pleased.

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Flashback: Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon

Before Casey and I arrived in Nigeria, we spent a month in Washington visiting his parents, Chuck and Barb. The four of us went backpacking in the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon, and then we went rafting at Hells Canyon on the Snake River. I’m writing about this trip as requested by my dad :) The photos below were taken by yours truly, Casey and me, and also by Chuck! I’ve divided the blog post into sections, so there are four different galleries to match their respective days and activities.

August 4, 2012: Two Pan Trailhead to Mirror Lake

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We got up super early and left WA in order to reach the trailhead the same day. The drive was 6-7 hours, not including stops. We ate breakfast in Hood River, OR then lunch in La Grand, OR. During our drive, it occurred to us that we still needed to find a proper toilet to bring on the rafting trip. Some trails/rivers allow you to use the woods, others have outhouses installed, and others require you to bring a toilet or approved bucket and carry out your goods. The Snake River is one of those rivers. So therein commenced our quest to find a toilet! Casey called various sporting/rafting shops on our route, but none carried the item we needed. Chuck wanted to get the bucket, but we couldn’t find that either. We stopped in a few cities and “did it live” in store but, still, we found nothing. Finally, we found a portable toilet AND the twist-top bucket at – you guessed it – Walmart. Casey tested it out in the parking lot, per se.

Feeling a sense of victory, we drove straight to Lostine, OR where we stopped at the Blue Banana for a treat. (They make a great frozen hot chocolate, by the way.) 17 miles south of the coffee shop, we found the trailhead. Casey and I had been packing, and repacking, all week, so we were pretty set to go. After some last minute adjustments, we set off on the Two Pan Trailhead. The beginning of the trail was deeply forested and followed the river fairly closely. After a gradual two mile incline, we reached a set of steep switchbacks up the mountain. I was testing out our new trekking poles and didn’t like them at first. They felt awkward and in the way, but I got better over the next couple days, and they certainly helped on the descent. Once the switchbacks ended, the trail opened up into a wide meadow with Eagle Cap Peak looming in the distance. It was a beautiful sight! Our initial plan was to reach Mirror Lake in one day, but it was just a little too far for our schedule, so we decided to stop and camp in the valley. Since we got a late start, the sun had already fallen behind the mountains at this point, so it was getting dark and chilly. Chuck and Barb hike faster than Casey and me, so they picked a campsite by the time we caught up to them. We hiked about 5 miles total from the trailhead to our first campsite that day.

The evening came on us quickly as we set up our new tent. Casey picked out the Tarptent Double Rainbow for us which uses trekking poles as support. (That’s why I am learning to hike with them.) It’s a nice tent! Very easy to set up, spacious, and only one piece of fabric. You don’t have a separate footprint or rainfly. The only downside is that condensation can be a problem if you’re in a humid location, but it wasn’t too bad. We also had new sleeping bags and sleeping pads from Big Agnes that we adore. Oh, and a new backpack for me! Casey and I match now with our Gossamer Gear ultralight backpacks. And I can’t forget about our amazing Patagonia down jackets! Barb and I each got a new jacket since they were on sale, and we ended up getting matching colors. I also ordered one for my mom, in the same color no doubt, so we’ll be triplets if you see us in a cold climate together.

August 5, 2012: Morning finally arrived with the sun beaming down upon our meadow. We ate, packed up, and took some group photos on a small bridge near our campsite. What a gorgeous day! We had a great view of Eagle Cap with the sun shining on its peak. The wildflowers had just bloomed recently too, so it was really a lovely sight. It made us think of Switzerland…

Chuck and Barb shot off toward Mirror Lake, while Casey and I took our time snapping photos. We only had about three miles to hike today, so that was a nice surprise. After some switchbacks up another ridge, we saw a familiar red shirt hanging on a tree. We had a custom shirt made for Chuck with his nickname on the front and a quote from him on the back. We turned right at the shirt and found our groupies relaxing by a crystal blue lake. Casey was brave enough to take a dip in the icy water! I barely got my feet wet.

Since we arrived so early, the three of them decided to go on a day hike to Glacier Lake. I felt like relaxing, so I stayed at camp, took a nap, and worked on my cross-stitch. I posted the photos of their hike to and from Glacier Lake as well. They said they had a great time! Casey also said the hike was very strenuous, so it was probably for the best that I didn’t go. We ate dinner and enjoyed the multitude of stars above us. The moon was very orange and pretty on the lake. I was surprised at how bright it lit up the night sky.

August 6, 2012: Day three was supposed to be spent hiking to Eagle Cap, and then the next day we were going to hike out, but we had a change of plans. At some point during our trip, I got bit on the arm by something and my arm started swelling up. There were lots of mosquitos around, which bit me all over, but I think something else had to have bitten my arm. Barb wanted to be on the safe side and get me to a doctor today to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. It was disappointing to leave early, and I’m still apologetic to the rest of the group! But I know they don’t have any hard feelings. We had a lovely time while we were there, and the eight mile hike back was quite pleasant. We took a slight shortcut through the valley and were able to avoid some of those switchbacks near the lake. Chuck and Barb were waiting for us when we arrived at the trailhead, so we quickly tidied up, threw our stuff in the car, and drove out towards Lostine.

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Upon reaching Lostine, we stopped at the Blue Banana again and asked for the nearest urgent care (and got more treats). We were told to go to the Winding Winds clinic in Enterprise, OR, which wasn’t far at all. Once we got there, I was in and out and at Safeway waiting for my prescription. The doctor felt that the swelling was caused by an allergic reaction, so he prescribed a strong antihistamine.

We didn’t stay long in Enterprise because we had a room reservation in Joseph, OR literally ten minutes away. Barb booked a two-room cottage for us; it was so quaint! We especially enjoyed showering and getting cleaned up after our three-day backpacking trip. I’m a real stickler for hygiene, so I’ve been trying to come up with an easy, lightweight method for staying clean on the trails. Maybe I’ll write about that one day! We had a nice dinner at a local restaurant, and then walked around the very small town. Casey and I took a photo inside a teepee, and he snapped a photo of a very authentic-looking auto-shop called Mike’s Garage. Joseph is also known for its bronze sculptures, so you can see a really cool eagle we found as well.

August 7, 2012: This was our freebie day, since we weren’t supposed to arrive in Joseph until today. We slept in, but still got up early, and went to Wallowa Lake to ride the tram! (Barb was looking forward to this.) It was a good fifteen minutes to get up the mountain, so that was neat. There wasn’t any ventilation in the gondola, so Casey stuck his head out. At the top, there was a restaurant and short hiking trails. We hiked one which looked to the west towards Eagle Cap Peak, where we just were. I took a couple panorama shots to try out our new, point and shoot camera. Then we ate a good lunch at the restaurant before hiking another trail and heading back down the mountain.

The lake was close by, so we stopped to feel the water and play some frisbee. Chuck and Casey went in the cold water too! Those Rose boys are brave. The day was relaxing, and we got back to town early in order to pack for our rafting trip the next day. We also went back to Safeway in Enterprise to go shopping for food. Dinner consisted of some tasty pizza from another local restaurant before we hit the hay for another day!

 

August 8, 2012: Hells Canyon, Snake River

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The groupies go rafting! We got up very early again for the three hour drive to the put in at Hells Canyon Dam. We stopped at Scotty’s, a gas station, to meet with the lady in charge of the car shuttle service. She runs the station too. We made a reservation, but she likes to inspect the cars before she agrees to shuttle them. Boy, she was a pistol! Definitely a power-house in disguise. We had planned on eating breakfast at a café, but there was nothing on the way, so we had coffee, hot chocolate, juice, muffins, and a bagel from Scotty’s.

We drove to the dam and, within an hour, the raft (who we call Big Red, Rosie, or The Beast) was pumped up and ready to go. Casey was kayaking, while the rest of us were in the raft, with Chuck at the oars. Right after we pushed off, a large, yellow and black butterfly flew by us and landed on the raft. It was so pretty that we all stopped to look. Little did we know that he would follow us throughout our three-day journey. Every morning when we took off, he was flying nearby, and every evening at camp, he’d fly by again to check up on us. It was really very sweet. Casey nicknamed him Honest Al. Chuck was quick enough and snapped a picture of him!

The first day had two, decent-sized rapids to watch out for, so Barb and I were eager to spot them. I had the gps in my lifejacket, so I was monitoring our location and pace. We’d stop beforehand and scout them out. The first rapid was near an old cabin, so we stopped and looked inside. I think it was built in 1901 or something, so very old indeed. Luckily, the water level wasn’t that high at the time, so the rapids were not as big as we imagined. If you look online, the most popular pictures of Hells Canyon are when the water level is really high, so that’s what we expected. You have to realize that no one posts calm photos, but we were very relieved that the river was gentle to us. I’m surprised that the river fluctuates so much since it’s fed by the dam, but that’s how it is.

It was nice and warm, so Casey often hopped in the water to cool off. Since he was kayaking, he wore his dry-top to seal the water out if he flipped. The rest of us didn’t wear such warm gear, so he was the hottest. You will see many photos of that man swimming happily in the river. Our first campsite was called Bernard Creek Camp. We fixed a late lunch on shore, and then set up our tent. None of us were too hungry, so we had a late dinner and had to prepare in the dusk. Zip packs were delicious for dinner on our charcoal briquettes! The stars were so abundant and vibrant, and we had a contest of who could spot satellites. (The satellite conversation was also a long one that I’m sure none of us will forget. How many are there? Is that really a satellite in the sky? Etc.) We stayed up super late until about midnight but had a very fun evening watching the sky and shadows of bats. I had the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a sleeping bag/tent too. The weather was perfect so I didn’t have to get all the way in the sleeping bag. The ground was even. It was lovely.

August 9, 2012: Breakfast was Mama’s Oats! Traditionally known in Nigeria as Casey’s Oats, we had old-fashioned oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins. The nice part about rafting is that you have the ability to bring WAY TOO MUCH FOOD. It’s a privilege, but we must keep this in mind for next time and try to remember how much four people can realistically eat in three days ;)

I don’t have any photos of the toilet, but it was a treat to have such a nice facility on hand. Believe me. Anyway, we set sail again and had a nice, leisurely stroll down the river. Barb took over steering for a while, and then Casey did. I finally took a dip in the river, and Casey towed me with his kayak. At one point, Barb jumped in the water, then Chuck jumped in the water, so Casey jumped in the water. Who did that leave manning the oars? Yes, me! (It had the classic signs of a setup, but they claimed it wasn’t hehe.) Those oars are heavy, and that raft is heavy, but I managed to steer it towards shore, which just so happened to be our campsite for the night: Dry Gulch Camp.

On the other side of the shore was a grassy landing strip. Casey and I kayaked over there (I sat on top of him) to check it out. It was very dry, very hot, and very unmaintained. It was a grassy landing strip, simple as that. There was another old cabin that we took a look at too. There wasn’t much to see, but it was cool nonetheless. Maybe one day we can land there. Casey towed me back to our camp after we were finished, and we changed and relaxed. Chuck decided to swim over there before dinner to see the landing strip, but the current was quite strong when he tried swimming back to us. Casey threw him the throw rope to tow him in.

Dinner was spaghetti with Paul Newman’s sauce. Finally! Chuck loves this sauce. We all ate too much, they drank wine, and I had sparkling apple cider. It was delicious. We didn’t stay up as long this night, but still long enough to look at the plethora of stars, question the satellites, and wonder about the boiling temperature of water. (Did it increase or decrease at a higher elevation? What about cooking times? These were heated conversations.)

August 10, 2012: Day three. The final day of rafting. Chuck was up early and prepped the cooler to make omelets for breakfast! You crack some eggs in a ziplock bag, add veggies to taste, seal it up, and drop it in boiling water. After about 10-15 minutes, you have a moist omelet! It actually was very tasty. I’m not too fond of eggs for breakfast, especially too early in the morning, but I was impressed.

There weren’t any big rapids to worry about today, so we drifted across the green water and bonded. Casey wanted more action for his kayak, but nothing much happened, so he eventually came to sit in the raft with us. We did make a stop at the Kirkwood Ranch museum though. That was kind of neat to see that people really did live on the river before. What a hard life that must have been. Pretty soon, we were at the take out, and our rafting trip was over. Sigh. It really was a wonderful adventure.

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We unloaded, deflated Rosie, packed up the trailer, and headed out of the canyon. We didn’t have any plans or reservations, so we “did it live” and drove to Lewiston, ID. We decided we liked WA better, so we crossed the river and were in Clarkston, WA in five minutes. Motel 6 was the accommodation of choice, so we booked it and showered up! It feels great to shower after you don’t for days, as you can imagine. We went to Rooster’s by the river for dinner. Casey and Barb ordered the wine tour, so they each sampled five different wines. Afterwards, we treated ourselves to some ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Casey was really craving a banana split, so we ordered one with mint chocolate chip, cherry, and Reese’s ice cream instead of the traditional flavors. It was tasty.

August 11, 2012: Time to go home! A whole week flew by so quickly, we were surprised, but we all had a fantastic time. We stopped by Chuck’s work on the way back, which happened to be next to a cornfield, and I got so excited because I’d never been in a cornfield! Everyone was nice enough to let me out of the car so I could run inside. It was thrilling :) And much more claustrophobic than I imagined. Casey agreed that no wonder horror movies always set the enemy in a cornfield. It could be scary! The rows are much closer together than I thought they would be too. I also got to pick some wheat! Another first for me. The little things that make a person so happy…

 

I hope you enjoyed reading about our vacation! All of us had a really great time. I’m very pleased that we were able to spend so much time with his parents doing some very fun things. We have more backpacking and rafting trips ahead of us, that’s for sure!


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Day 10: Long Day, Bros

Casey was off! That was nice, but man, it was a long day. We wanted to move somewhere but, of course, we didn’t hear back from anyone! So he fiddled with his gadgets, getting Big Brother and Little Brother to look the same (with a background photo that I snapped earlier), and I worked on my cross-stitch. I finally finished the background, so now I can move onto the details. Yay :)

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We didn’t do much the rest of the day, but we did go on a short walk before dinner. We were looking for a market close-by, but there was nothing, so we turned back. I apologize for the blurriness of the photos, but it actually kind of adds to the atmosphere…

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Dinner was from the Indian Restaurant next door: chicken pizza and garlic naan bread. Yum! The pizza crust was thick, chewy, and slightly sweet. The toppings were chicken, cheese, onion, green peppers, and a little bit of tomato sauce underneath. Not a bad attempt at pizza. We would order it again. The garlic naan was delicious though.

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Until tomorrow, bros!


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Day 9: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Casey chose the title for today. We’re in a difficult spot, as indicated. We’ve spoken to “management” about moving and no one takes any responsibility. Everyone says that they’ll talk to someone else, and then nothing gets done. Sigh. I hate to say that this precedent has been set numerous times, so it’s really not surprising, but it’s still disappointing. At any rate, Casey flew two legs today and came back early. It had recently rained, so the roads were still muddy as he walked from the plane to the hanger.

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While he was at work, one of the guys in charge of housing for Arik Air employees came by and talked to me about our accommodation. He said we could either spend our own money to fix and furnish the kitchen in our building, or we could use the staff kitchen in the building next door. First of all, buying all the appliances would cost a lot of money, and we don’t want to fix it ourselves because of the health hazards from being around mold for so long, since the kitchen looks pretty bad. Secondly, the staff kitchen needs work too! Only half of the stove works, there are no lights, the drawers are broken, and it could use a good cleaning. I stated all of this, but it didn’t really phase him. I asked about moving temporarily to the pilot compound while things got fixed, and the guy said that it was full. How could it possibly be full? There are 50+ rooms, and there certainly aren’t that many people there. I needed to get to the bottom of that shady statement.

After Casey came home and ate lunch, we decided to go to the pilot compound and talk to the manager there to find out what the deal was. She was busy when we arrived, so we waited…

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And waited…

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And waited…

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I had never played real darts before, just a magnetic version, so that was fun to play. I think I won? We couldn’t remember what the scoring system was. Those Wine Gums above were very interesting… We thought they would taste like gummy Life Savers, but they tasted a bit different. I read the ingredients and they were vegetable flavored! It says online that they’re fruit flavored, but the ingredients on the package clearly state “vegetable extracts: black carrot, spinach, stinging nettle, and turmeric.” Need I say more? Casey liked them, but I didn’t really care for them. Meh. He also found a neat article about Google to pass the time.

The manager was still “busy,” but she was really just wandering around at that point. They were planning a barbeque at the compound that night, so she was checking on the status. We looked out the window and observed the people below…

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We decided to go downstairs and talk to her there. Overall, it was an unsuccessful conversation. She was nice, friendly, but not exactly helpful. The issue with the compound is that there is not enough storage for food. They have two, huge chillers outside but they are not working at the moment, so she has rules to only take in 26 pilots because that is all that they can feed. Arik just hired a bunch of Airbus pilots too, so now she had to take them in, making her final count 32, and she said she just can’t take in more. They have enough rooms, 54 actually, but it is a food issue, and her boss said no to more people. EHH. We said we wouldn’t eat any of their food, but that didn’t help us much.

The funny thing is that she is staying at House 69 too! In another building though, so she hasn’t seen our kitchen problem. We explained the situation, and she said she’d take a look at our building to see what could be done with our kitchen.  We tried to tell her that nothing can be done, since nothing is in there, but she brushed it off and said she’d “look into it.” What else could we do? We thanked her…

It was about 4 PM by then, and the bbq was supposed to start at 6, so we decided to stick around for dinner. Of course we should have known better about the time, but more about that later. Casey brought his frisbee along and played with another pilot, then with me.  He also helped move a table, and then helped himself to some bread. Very good bread, though. I think they bake it themselves… not sure.

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We walked outside to see the bbq set-up… and then waited some more! Dinner was finally ready around 7-7:30 PM, but it was worth the wait. We didn’t have anything better at our place anyway. They had chicken wings, chicken thighs, crocker fish, pork sausage, steamed veggies, and sweet potato wedges. It was pleasant! Those chickens don’t have much (or any) fat on them though, so it was a struggle to cut the meat off of the bone. And forget about those wings… We also had dessert: bread pudding and crème caramel. I didn’t like them very much, since I don’t care for custard-like dishes, but they were prepared well and Casey enjoyed them.

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We also had a great visit with the Q400 pilots! They are fun guys, so we had a good time. Lloyd is from Antigua and Andre is from Holland, so we enjoyed hearing about their countries. Lloyd’s Caribbean accent made the following statement particularly memorable for me. He was trying to cut the chicken wings but was having a hard time, and he said, “I’m trying to wrestle with the local fowl.” I’m sure the joke doesn’t translate through the blog, but it was hilarious! Trust me.


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Day 8: One Week Today

Since today is Thursday, it marks one week since we’ve been in Nigeria! The time feels much longer for both of us though. It’s been an interesting start…

We traveled across the US and then across the Atlantic Ocean, landed in a third world country with all of our belongings, arrived at a foreign apartment building with no food, semi-remodeled a bathroom, ate and showered at a pilot compound, shopped for food three times within the week and still feel like we don’t have enough, and deeply contemplated our surroundings. Not to mention the actual work Casey is doing when flying.

We’re not sure what our next step will be. We took a closer look at the kitchen in our building yesterday, and it desperately needs some work. The cabinets need fixing, there are no appliances so we need everything, shelves need to be put in the pantry, and everything needs to be cleaned. I’m afraid that there’s some mold around the ceiling of the pantry and around the base of the kitchen itself. It’s hard to tell if the paint is just chipping or if it’s more serious. The room has been locked up for who knows how long, so it smells very musty. Not a good sign.

It’s also hard to find management to talk to. Everyone is busy or they don’t return Casey’s calls. The guys who work here are super helpful but, unfortunately, they can’t make any major decisions without the boss’ approval. We’re kind of left on our own to figure things out, but still we can’t do whatever we want whenever we want. I also found out that Arik is leasing the building from someone, they don’t actually own it, so that’s another reason why things are hard to accomplish.

Anyway, since I’m housebound, I decided to snap some fun photos around the room.

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It’s already late in the afternoon, but I must eat something for lunch… and then I must contemplate what to eat for dinner. As you know, we’re in a state of limbo at the moment between being at House 69 permanently or moving to the compound temporarily or longer. Therefore, it’s difficult to buy enough food to last a long time. We don’t want to keep our food in the kitchen, but we have limited space up here in the room, so we’re stuck with cereal and sandwiches, mainly.

Alas, maybe the next time I write, I’ll have better news to share. In the meantime, enjoy a photo of Casey chomping on his turkey and cheese sandwich! Technology is great (when it works)… Casey is in Abuja, I am in Lagos, and you are reading this post!

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Day 6: Tuesday

Casey was off today! He thought he would have to fly, but the company decided to have him attend a meeting instead. We didn’t have any cereal left upon waking up, so we got ready and walked to the pilot compound to chop (which means “eat” in Pidgin English). The walk was about a mile one way. We got a late start since we slept in, so they served lunch items: jollof rice, steamed veggies, bean soup, and spaghetti bolognese. Casey and I had spaghetti, bread and fruit salad, and I tried the jollof rice, since I am a huge fan of the dish. This particular version was not as spicy as ones I’ve had before, but it was still decent. Just more mild.

After that, we grabbed a pineapple tart for dessert and went upstairs to the bar area to relax. An Arik driver came shortly to take us to the office for the meeting. Of course, we arrived early and the meeting wasn’t close to starting. We decided to walk to the domestic terminal (nicknamed MM2) in the airport and buy me an Etisalat sim card so I could have a Nigerian number and internet. By the time we got there and ordered a smoothie, Casey got a phone call that the meeting was ready to start, so we took the smoothie and walked quickly back to the office. I chilled in the lounge for a little bit, and Casey snapped a photo of me before going off to the meeting, which was about emergency procedures on board the aircraft. He didn’t necessarily learn too much, but management wanted to make sure that all of the fleets were on the same page with emergency protocols.

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Once the meeting was over, we walked back to MM2 and registered with Etisalat. I now have a Nigerian number! Yay! I probably won’t use it very much, since who can I really call, but it is cool nonetheless. We decided to treat ourselves to some soft serve ice cream at the KFC across the street. The added bonus over there was the good air conditioning! MM2 was pretty hot and humid inside. The ice cream was cold, creamy, and delicious. I noticed a trash can nearby and the sign amused me. When we finished our treat, we used the can as instructed. I also snapped a photo of the signs outside the restrooms because they were cute and unique.

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I bet you can guess what we did next too! We hopped in an Arik vehicle to take us back to our flat, but decided to go to Goodies again! We desperately needed more cereal and milk for breakfast, so we got some Tasteeos and Lucky Charms. Casey also decided to try their turkey lunch meat for sandwiches and got 100g worth, which was four slices of meat, just to try it out. I made him a sandwich later with sliced cheese, honey mustard, and wheat bread, and he said it was tasty! The lettuce was from a salad we had leftover, which worked out quite well.

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We made more spaghetti for dinner in the kitchen next door, and met some other guests. They were very nice and said we could use their kitchen with no problem. That made us feel more welcome. We watched some TV while we ate and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Casey only has to fly two legs tomorrow, so we’re going to bed at a decent hour :) It’s nice to write shorter entries instead of such huge ones like usual. I wish I had done that sooner, but this is a good start!


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One Year in Nigeria

It has been over a year since my last post! I didn’t mean to go so long without updating, but there wasn’t too much to update. I was busy in school and Casey was working, but now I have graduated from UNLV and finally have time to write! Also, the big update, is that you read the title of this post correctly. Casey and I have moved to Nigeria with the intention to live in Lagos for one year! This move gives me plenty of things to write about, which will definitely help our blog.

My plan is to write frequent posts about our living situation, adventures, and anything else that happens here. After all, who really gets to live in another country for so long? This will be quite an experience, and we are looking forward to it! Besides seeing new country and working on our photography book (about Nigeria), Casey will also be flying more in order to gain valuable hours so he can upgrade to captain sooner than later. We were planning on moving to Spain this year but, with the 30 day on/30 day off rotation schedule, he wasn’t gaining hours as fast as he wanted. We calculated the time it would take for him to upgrade and decided that moving here would be beneficial for his career. As for me, I have more time to work on our photo book and finally get our blog going. I would also like to look into writing for Wings, the Arik Air inflight magazine. Long story short, here we are! Casey is at work on this Monday morning, and I am sitting in our “apartment” writing…

But first things first. We left the US last Wednesday, the 15th. We flew out of Portland, OR straight to JFK. It was very hard saying bye to his parents! I started crying, and Casey was holding back some tears. Casey’s dad took us to the airport around 5:30 AM and helped us unload our truckload of luggage. Two people moving out of the country for one year really takes a toll on the packing situation. We had seven bags total: two, huge 70 lb. bags; two 50 lb. bags; one piano bag with our piano; and two totes. Wow! Not to mention my purse and Casey’s gadget bag. They were a handful. You’ll see more pictures too as our journey progressed.

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We flew with Delta and decided to treat ourselves with an inflight meal. We bought two yogurt and fruit parfaits, one ham croissant sandwich, and a snack pack (the box with the leaf on top). We also enjoyed the “free” cookies and drinks. The parfaits and sandwich were enough for breakfast, so we saved the snack pack, which came in handy later on. The five hour flight actually went by fairly fast, so that was nice for both of us.

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Upon landing in JFK, we had another thing to tackle besides our luggage. It was raining!! Thankfully, we had our raincoats handy to make the trip from Delta’s Terminal 3 to the international Terminal 4. It’s strange to me that you have to go outside to get to the AirTrain tram, especially because it rains and snows in NY. I think there is a covered tunnel at some point between the terminals, but we couldn’t find it easily. The picture below shows only six bags because we accidently left Casey’s tote at the bottom of the ramp behind me! It was attached to Casey’s bag, and it fell off. We didn’t notice it was gone until we got to the other side of the street., but Casey ran back and got it from the security guard who found it.

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We finally made it to Terminal 4 and stopped to relax. But not for long! We had intended to arrive in JFK, store our luggage, and leave the airport to go buy a treadmill at Sears. The two places we would be staying at in Lagos don’t have treadmills, and Casey needs one in order to run. The roads, temperature, and air quality isn’t the best, so running outside is not very enjoyable. Another long story short, we didn’t realize that airlines have a weight limit per bag. We thought we could pay whatever amount they asked and be okay, but that’s not the case. On Arik Air, in particular, each person is allowed up to 10 bags, but each bag must be under 70 lbs. This put a hitch in our plan because the treadmill is about 250 lbs. [By now, we were getting hungry, so we ate that snack pack from earlier.] We decided to call Sears and see if the treadmill could be broken up into separate parts, with each part weighing 70 lbs. Unfortunately, we found out that that could not be done, sigh. The bottom part with the belt and gears can’t really be taken apart, so we had to change our plans. We’ll have to try to buy a treadmill in Lagos at some point. They will be more expensive here and possibly lower quality, but we will see what can be done. Maybe the quality will surprise us.

We had a lot of time to spend at the airport since we arrived around 3:15 PM and our Arik Air flight didn’t leave until 11:30 PM, so we went to the Oasis Lounge to relax and eat. We were able to leave all our bags in a closet at the lounge, so that was nice that we didn’t have to drag them around. The food was buffet style and decent… mainly snacks and some international fare. It’s amazing how the international terminal makes you feel like you’re out of the country already. The food is different, the employees don’t act like they’re from the US, and the atmosphere is unfamiliar. I don’t know what it is, but Casey agreed with me. At least the international travelers should feel comfortable there.

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Casey enjoyed his new, Nexus 7 tablet and Bluetooth keyboard while writing an email to his parents. What a nice setup! Our Patagonia, down jackets came in handy too since it was a bit chilly in our corner of the lounge. Casey also had some wine, cheese, and crackers before we departed. My dad and his mom will be happy to know that the merlot was tasty. We checked in as early as they allow (four hours before departure), and ate dinner with Casey’s friend. It was nice to visit with someone, and all three of us mentally prepared ourselves for the trip.

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I love when it is time to board and the passengers are so excited that they can’t form a straight line. Every airport has this issue to some extent, but Nigerians are the best because they form a cube. They gather in a huge amoeba-shape and it’s a mad rush onto the plane, which is amusing every time. We like to board last, so we took our time through the gate and onto the jet way. We got good look at our Airbus A340 too. Casey took a breather in the first-class area while everyone was still getting situated in their seats. It’s too bad that employees can’t travel in first class yet, but maybe one day.

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The 10 hour flight went by surprisingly fast as well! Casey and I sat in a four-seat row by ourselves, so we were able to stretch out and sleep. Our heads were at opposite ends, and it was a puzzle to figure out where our legs should go, but we managed. We ate a little bit of the inflight dinner before we brushed our teeth and hit the hay. The next thing I knew, it was time to get up and eat breakfast! Everything went smoothly and we landed shortly afterwards. I enjoy flying with Arik Air because the seats are comfortable, the staff is friendly, and I’m going on vacation. We wondered how Nigerians feel about coming back home. I guess it depends on the reasons for their visit.

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Our flight was delayed about an hour, so we were already late to arrive in Lagos. On top of that, the bags take forever to come out, so we sat around for quite a while waiting for our plethora of luggage. We had checked five bags and carried our totes on board, so when we got four bags and the carousel stopped, we temporarily freaked out. There was no piano! Casey went to ask what happened and found out that the piano bag was too big to fit through the shoot, so it was on its way with the rest of the large cargo. Whew! We loaded up and proceeded to head out to find our driver. By then, it was about 5:00 PM on Thursday evening.

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When we got into the car, I noticed this sign on the sidewalk. I love it! It shows a Nigerian in their traditional outfit. I’m not sure if it’s a man or a woman, but I like to think it’s a woman. “Auntie” is a term they use for older women, so there you have it. Auntie crossing! We stopped briefly at the office to drop someone off, and I snapped a photo of the hedge work. I like it. It says “Fly Arik Air.”

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Finally, we reached our destination! The company decided to put us in House 69, the guest house, instead of a hotel or the pilot compound. We were so thankful to sit and relax. By then, we were very hungry, and all I had left was Yan Yan, an Asian snack. Since House 69 is like an apartment complex, we don’t have a kitchen staff to cook for us. We have to buy our own food and cook for ourselves. Upon arrival, we obviously had no food, so we went to a nearby Indian restaurant for dinner. We ordered vegetable samosas, chicken caesar salad, and a chicken burger. Everything had slightly different spices than we’re used to, but it was tasty and filling nonetheless. Afterwards, we went back to our room for a much-needed sleep. This concluded day one of being in Nigeria.

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Day 2: Friday

It’s a crazy feeling to wake up in a strange bed, in a third world country, after having traveled for over 24 hours. I remember telling Casey on Thursday night that we were in the same clothes for nearly 33.5 hours. That was including the time we slept on the plane, but it felt like we’d been awake for just as long. We woke up very early at 6:00 AM and just stared at each other wondering where we were. Our seven suitcases were scattered around the room, and we had to figure out what to do that day.

Our bathroom was a mess, so we couldn’t take a shower. The shower was dirty, the sink was leaking, and the toilet seat was missing. Also, we didn’t have any food for breakfast, and we were getting hungry. With all those things against us, we decided to go to the pilot compound to eat breakfast and, hopefully, to take a shower. We’re able to eat there for free whenever we want, so this morning was the perfect time. We put on the same clothes as yesterday, grabbed a few things, and headed out. The compound is within walking distance, but I certainly didn’t feel like walking. Fortunately, just as we were leaving, an Arik Air driver pulled up to pick someone up. He offered to give us a lift to the compound, and we gladly accepted!

The compound is very nice actually. It looks new and the food is decent. The only downsides, from what I hear, are that the internet and cell phone signals are poor. Those two factors make for unhappy expats. At least for us, we didn’t care about those things. Breakfast for me consisted of cereal, fruit salad, and juice. Casey had the same, as well as some wonderful french toast. We were even more elated when the receptionist let us use a room to shower in! Yay! I was so thankful. Casey relaxed on his tablet while I got cleaned up.

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After feeling fresh and clean, we walked back to House 69 to survey our room. It desperately needed some attention, so we asked the guys who work here to help us clean. They do a little bit of everything: cleaning, laundry, errands, etc. They grabbed their things and set to scrubbing down the bathroom. We got to know these guys really well over the past few days since we needed their help so much. They are so nice too, so we feel fortunate to have them around.

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Casey and I emptied some things out of our bags and decided that we better go to the market for some food. Goodies Market is close by, also within walking distance, but not quite close enough if we buy a lot of stuff. We called an Arik driver who picked us up and took us shopping. We bought food for our mini-fridge and cleaning items for the flat. They have a lot of familiar items: cereal, chips, cookies, pasta, sauce, canned veggies, cake mix, and plenty of hygiene products. We also had pizza for lunch since Goodies has good food. The crust was thinner and sweeter than American pizza, but still yummy. We stopped at the pilot compound again on the way back to grab bottles of water. You can see me proudly holding our new trash can!

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We also got Casey’s items from storage that he left on his last rotation. They were in a room on the top floor and, as we went up the outside stairs, I spotted some people building new buildings. I snapped the picture below for Casey’s dad. It shows the rubble/debris that they use as a foundation before putting dirt, cement, or whatnot over it. All of us were talking about this recently, and Casey said they call it “rubbish” instead of “rubble.” I hadn’t seen it before until now. Fascinating!

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Finally, we got back to our place. The plumber came by to re-caulk the shower and fix the sink. He also got us a new toilet seat and a towel rack to put on the door. Casey, a guy who works here, and I set to cleaning the rest of the room. They wiped down the bathroom and I cleaned the fridge. After that, Casey and I went through his bags that were in storage. Unfortunately, the storage rooms at most hotels are dark and humid with no ventilation, so mold can grow in some of the bags. It was a culprit this time, and we ended up having to wash most of his things from clothes to shoes to the bags themselves. I cleaned some of the things by hand that we weren’t able to put in the washing machine.

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Having woken up a 6 AM, it felt like a very long day by now! We set up our piano in the loft area outside our room and I tested it out. There are chairs and a TV out there, so the piano fit in nicely. There are also two other rooms next to ours, but I don’t think anyone is in them currently. The guests must be on rotation right now. Casey opened his gadget bag and set up all his necessary cords and chargers around the room. We were lacking outlets but eventually found another one behind the huge bed. Tired and hungry, again, we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. After brushing our teeth and getting ready, it was time to sleep, again.

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Day 3: Saturday

This is a very long post! These long updates are one of the reasons why I need to write more frequently with smaller posts. Whew… almost done though.

Casey went back to work today! (Isn’t he adorable in his uniform?) He enjoyed some tasty Corn Pops for breakfast in our temporary tupperware cereal bowls. He only had to fly four legs today, and it was nice to have him come back early! I went back to sleep after he left and then organized our clothes in the closet. By the time I was done, he was back from work and we went to Goodies Market again for more food and some cooking items like dishes, cutlery, and pots and pans. The market is also two-stories, so I took a couple photos to show everyone.

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We ate lunch there again too. Casey ordered a frappuccino that could rival those found in the US, and we had a dish that tasted like a quesadilla. I forget the name of it, but it was ham and cheese on Lebanese flatbread. Delicious! They should put the pizza toppings on this bread instead of the crust that they make. I may ask for that next time. Yummy! We had many shopping bags, so we paid for okadas (motorcycles) to take us back to our pad. It was nice to drive on less busy streets than where we’ve been before. I don’t mind riding on okadas actually. They feel stable and it’s manageable as long as we’re not around many cars.

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The downside to House 69 is that there isn’t a kitchen in our building. This area has three blocks, as they call it, and our block has a gym and laundry room, but no kitchen. The other two blocks have kitchens and dining rooms. We went to the building next to ours yesterday to try and use their kitchen, but other guests were using it at that time. We told them we just arrived and asked to share their kitchen, but they were not very friendly. They didn’t say it flat out, but we could tell that they didn’t want us to use it. Later on, we found out that they had to fight to get a kitchen established when they first moved in a year ago, so they want us to do the same in our building. Granted, it’s not their personal property, but they probably feel like they have a right to be possessive since they were the people who got it going in the first place. Sadly, we walked back to our room without a hot meal that night, but the pb&j sandwiches hit the spot.

This evening though, we decided to go to the third building and use that kitchen instead. No one was there, so we quietly washed our dishes and prepared spaghetti! It tasted so good! We bought some french bread from Goodies too, which complemented the pasta quite nicely. Casey was very happy to get some good, solid food in his tummy!

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Day 4: Sunday

Sunday morning, Casey had to fly six legs. I prepared his lunch on a makeshift countertop: cutting board, boogie board, and hamper. But it worked very well! He played some piano before he left, and I went back to sleep for a long time. When I woke up, I tidied up our room even more. It’s a small area and we have way too much stuff, so we had things all over the place. I organized our things into different bags for what we use every day and the stuff we don’t use very often was put away. I brought a LOT of bathroom items to hold me over for a while, so I needed to organize my things and tidy up the bathroom. I also took some pictures of the room to show our families.

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Casey had a long day, so he stopped by the pilot compound on his way home and picked up some dinner. We had chicken, rice, veggies, and a delicious strawberry mousse dessert. Yum! I’d gladly have that any day. We ate at our makeshift dinner table and had a good, quiet evening. We went back to the kitchen in the last building and washed our dishes before heading to bed. It feels like we’re always going to sleep!

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Day 5: Monday

Today! It’s always a nice feeling when you’re finished with updates and can talk about the present time. Casey had another six legs to fly this morning, so I saw him off at 7 AM and actually stayed awake this time. I had some emails to send off to the fam and wanted to get started on this blog! I also sent our laundry down and got it back very quickly. The guys here are just too good. They’re nice, helpful, funny, and hard workers. I feel safe and comfortable having them around, which is a great feeling when Casey is working. I know they would help me with anything if I needed them.

We found out the other day that we actually do have a kitchen in this building. The door was locked though so we couldn’t get in. However, this morning, one of the guys found the key and showed me the room. The sink and cabinets are there, but there are no appliances or shelves in the pantry. The manager of House 69 is away right now, so we’ll see what can be done when he returns. Casey and I decided that it would be nice if we could go to a hotel or the pilot compound for a little while until we can either get a kitchen going in this building or change rooms to one of the other buildings. It’s a small hassle to go outside to another building to eat. We don’t want to leave our food/dishes there either, so everything is taking up space in our room. It’s a tough situation because we would like to stay at this place since it’s quieter, more personal, and we can cook whatever we want, but we’re just having a hard time getting started. The small space, lack of a kitchen, and lack of quick transportation is taxing. We can call an Arik driver to take us shopping, but we can only go if they’re free. Anyway, Casey informed his boss, so we’ll see if we can move for a short while.

The guys just came up here to clean the floors and the shower. They are persistent in their cleaning! I told them the other day that they didn’t have to clean (since they just did), but they insisted. Which is fine! Better to be clean. Apparently the guests who stay here from the UK threw away a bunch of coins, so one of the guys found them and asked me if they were valid. I said yes, so they seemed pleased. I don’t know how much it will be, but they’ll be able to change it over to Nigerian Naira. Money is always good!

That concludes my well-needed, long-awaited update! As they say here, “We’ll see what go happen!” Cheers!