CnLsnapping

One Year in Nigeria

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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!

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Author: CnLsnapping

Casey is an airline pilot and professional photographer. Leanna is also a photographer and an aspiring writer/journalist.

4 thoughts on “One Year in Nigeria

  1. That’s sounds like such a cool adventure! I hope you guys have tons of fun in your year in Nigeria :)

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  2. Always interesting posts you’ve got here. Keep ’em coming and welcome back!

    Like

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