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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.