Well hello again! I apologize for the long delay in writing, and I assure you that I have a good reason for the interruption. Shortly after my birthday, I wasn’t feeling well so I went to the doctor and found out that I had malaria! I took medicine and stayed in bed for days. All of my energy was gone so I really didn’t feel like blogging. At any rate, I am back! Hopefully I won’t have another long hiatus again but, if I do, let’s hope the reason is different…
The title of this post was chosen by Casey. He called us “modern pioneers” last week because we found ourselves in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey! We were planning on flying to the US on September 14th, but that trip had to be postponed since I still had malaria. You’re not supposed to travel, of course. Luckily, it only took a few extra days to get healthy again, and we ended up flying to New York on the 19th. Everything happened so fast, otherwise I would have written a quick post to say that we were leaving. Anyway, we felt that the reference to pioneers was appropriate because we are trekking across the globe, seeing new country, and living a different lifestyle than the typical American one. Our rental car also felt like a heavy, covered wagon after we were done stuffing our recently purchased items into it!
But more about that later.
The 11 hour flight to JFK was smooth, even though it was in the afternoon rather than at night. We tried to sleep so that we wouldn’t be dead tired when we landed. We arrived super late (10-11pm), picked up the rental car (a “luxurious” Ford Crown Victoria), and drove to Connecticut (where we stayed with Casey’s aunt and uncle). After a long drive (and a midnight stop at McDonald’s – the only place still open), we pulled up to a beautiful, classic colonial-style, New England home! I had never been to Connecticut, so it was exciting to see the architecture and soak in the posh atmosphere. Casey’s aunt was so thoughtful and waited up for us into the wee morning hours. We said hi, quickly took our bags upstairs, and went to sleep!
I must say that we had a very good night’s sleep! The bed was super comfy, especially after getting used to our firm mattress in Lagos, and Casey fell in love with their Tempur-Pedic pillow (so much so that he ended up buying one for himself). Besides updating the stamp for my visa, the purpose of this trip was to stock up on items that we can’t find or are too expensive in Nigeria. Almost everything costs more here since it has to be imported, but the main thing we wanted was FOOD! There are a lot of familiar brands here, but there are still things that we can’t find. Casey wanted Boboli pizza crusts (which thankfully keep in the freezer for up to six months) and LOTS of old-fashioned oats, raisins, and brown sugar. His “Mama’s Oats” are a breakfast staple. I wanted packaged side dishes, like Pasta Roni or any pasta/rice side. For me, side dishes are often harder to make than the main dish. We focused on canned goods and boxed items that would keep for a while, as well as non-food items. We bought a small desk and chair, bathroom shelves, pantry shelves, dishes, pots/pans, and other miscellaneous stuff. We’ve never purchased so much at once, so the bill was quite high, but we had to remember that we were stocking up for six months or so. By the end of the week, the back seat and trunk of the car were packed full with boxes and bags from Costco, Walmart, and Stop & Shop. It was insane.
To top it off, during all of that chaos, we were car shopping too! Casey decided that he wanted to buy a used car and ship it to Nigeria. Yes, ship it. The vehicles here are two to three times more expensive than in the US, so we actually save money by buying it in the states and shipping it. Then, when we’re done with the car, we can sell it in Lagos and make a profit. So, after countless hours researching cars online and visiting an extremely stereotypical used car dealership in an equally shady part of New York, we found a wonderful vehicle! We bought a 2005 Ford Escape in great condition for a reasonable price! Yours truly got the honor of driving it as well, and it handled beautifully.
The main reason we want a car is to have a little more freedom and improve our quality of life, as Casey says. Right now, we either have to call an Arik driver to take us shopping, or we have to take an okada (motorcycle) or a taxi. We can only use an Arik driver if they’re free, the okadas don’t hold very much, and taxis get pricey. With our own vehicle, we can go to the market when we please, which would be a huge advantage. If we want to go around the city, hiring a driver gets expensive too, so driving ourselves would be better. Overall, we think this is a good decision, so hopefully it will work out well once the car arrives! It doesn’t leave the US until the middle of October, so we won’t be seeing it until the beginning of November.
Casey found a company to ship the car, and the man who worked with us was a Nigerian who lives in the US and ships cars for a living. He was so nice and happy to hear that we currently live in Lagos. We dropped the car off at his warehouse in New Jersey, but not before we bought a treadmill! (It would be an understatement to say that we bought a lot of stuff.) We found out that Sear’s Outlets sell used or display items at a fraction of the original price, so we got a good deal on a semi-new treadmill. It took FOREVER to try to take it apart, which didn’t work in the end, and then it took FOREVER to get it into the back of the Ford Escape, but we finally fit it in and stuffed boxes of food around it. We are shipping the car in a container so we are able to put tons of stuff inside the vehicle and ship it too. Quite convenient. Most of our purchases are in the car, but we were able to take some things with us on the plane so we could have them immediately, like Casey’s new pillow.
Long story short, it was an incredibly busy week, but we enjoyed ourselves. It was a business trip, more or less, so we weren’t really able to relax and sightsee, but we had fun regardless. We’ll be able to do the tourist thing eventually. We treated ourselves to good food that we craved though, and it felt nice being back in the US. Looking at the pictures below makes me hungry now!
Our final meal before leaving the US was BBQ!! Yum. We were both overwhelmed at the amount of food we ordered, but we surprised ourselves by eating all of it. We try not to order beef in Nigeria, so this was a real treat for us. Although I guess we didn’t eat any beef anyway since we had pork ribs and a pulled pork sandwich. Alas, the pork was delicious! And the onion loaf, the cornbread, the baked potato… yum.
The familiarity of the US was comforting, but it surprises me how different the west coast is from the east coast. You wouldn’t think they’d be that different, but we really noticed a dramatic change of pace in lifestyle and in the design of the cities. I thought “California drivers” were bad, but these east coast drivers are at a completely different level. Everyone went at least 20+ over the speed limit, which actually reminded us of the drivers in Lagos. The streets in NY and CT also bothered us because they rarely have middle turn lanes. We’d be driving on a four-lane road (two-lanes both ways) and the left lane would be stopped due to people trying to turn. I wonder why they like this design. At one point in NY, we went under a river! We didn’t even realize this was happening until we were in the tunnel. It was a crazy feeling. Our GPS lost the signal, but you can see that the road goes straight through/under the water. Eek! I have to say thank goodness we had a GPS! It was a lifesaver. We couldn’t have possibly navigated around the cities without one. Sometimes it didn’t work properly though, and we still made MANY wrong turns, but overall it was invaluable.
After a very long day (6am-9pm), we made it to the airport with all of our bags. We had more luggage this time (nine pieces total: five suitcases, two boxes, and two totes), but it felt like a lighter load than when we moved here initially. Probably because we didn’t have that long piano to carry around!
We checked in and found out that the flight wasn’t very full, thankfully. We were able to get free checked bags too because Casey is staff. We wanted to treat ourselves one more time before departing, so we went to McDonald’s (again, the only place open) and ordered two apple pies. We wanted ice cream, but the machine wasn’t working. The pies were a tasty second choice though. We slowly went through security, walked to the gate just in time to be the last people to board, and found an empty row for us to share. It’s not easy for two people to lie down and share four seats, but we’re getting pretty good at it by now. We each had an incident where we opened the bathroom door to find someone in there (Nigerians don’t care about locking the door, it seems), but the rest of the flight was uneventful.
We landed in Lagos around 2pm on Thursday, picked up all of our bags, and came back to House 69. Everything was still in good shape! They turned the AC off in our room because no one was watching it and they were afraid it would cause a fire, but other than that, everything was fine. Now, a few days later, we have received our refrigerator and have been cooking quite a bit with our new ingredients! We made pasta with frozen veggies, fish sandwiches with mac’n’cheese, and I made banana bread! Tasty tasty tasty.
Casey also did a beautiful job recaulking our shower! He removed all of the old stuff, cleaned it thoroughly, and placed a new, smooth line of caulk around the edges. I was impressed! I have learned that Casey can do anything well if he wants to do it and sets his mind to it. I’ve also been battling with the corners of the shower trying to keep the water inside the tub, so I made little walls out of duct tape, plastic, and caulk. It’s certainly not the best plumbing job, but hopefully it will hold up for a while. We’d love to remove the whole tub and install a self-sustaining, stand-up shower (like those below), but it might be difficult since Arik doesn’t own this building; they’re just leasing it. I doubt the owners want us to remodel the building in that manner. So we’ll manage for now with our current tub. At least we bought a waterproof shower curtain in the states, since I couldn’t find one here. We also bought a new shower head, so that’s nice.
So yeah! We’re back! We’re getting settled again. Casey has started flying again, and I have time to blog. All is well!