I’m finally here…Africa. More, specifically, I’m back home.
Yesterday, I landed in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. The moment I stepped off the plane into the airport, the curls at the nape of my neck curled from the humidity. It is SO HOT! And the heat is sticky, thick, and there’s very little wind- so unlike Kenya’s weather. But… it’s too good to be here.
Right away, I noticed the difference between the Lagos and Abuja airports so I can confidently say that I never want to go through the Lagos airport ever again in my life. The Abuja airport was hassle-free! I admit, I did expect it to look a little better than it did. But it’s not as dingy as the Lagos airport. Only 1 person asked me for a bribe, and that guy was just even joking–I think.
After getting my baggage (which had not been tampered with at all–another stark difference from the Lagos airport), I went to ‘customs’ where an idle man gestured for me to come. I walked toward him. “Madam, how are you?”
“Yes, you are very fine….” he says with a chuckle, exposing his beige teeth and goofy demeanor. “So, what do you do?”
“Ok. Where do you do it?”
“In America. Wow, that is good. So what is all this in your bags?”
“Shoes and clothes,” I said with all the innocence I could muster.
“Okay. Shoes and clothes. What did you bring for us?” he shamelessly asks.
I’m thinking: get outta my face. But I force my lips to curl up in a grin. Actually, I didn’t do too much forcing- I found this guy a kind of funny.
“Nothing? Ok. Well next time, ok?” he says waving me on with a pleasant nod of the head.
The next guy, stern-faced tall guy, tried to give me some trouble, telling me to go open my bags when no one else in the line had to do so. So, I stepped to the side, preparing to open my bags. But then something told me that this is not necessary. After 5 minutes I went back to him.
“Excuse me, sir. I don’t have anything to claim. Nothing at all,” I said, again, sweetly, unassumingly, innocently.”
“Are you sure?” he asks.
“Yes. I only have bags and shoes.”
The guy shrugs his shoulders and says, “okay.”
I stayed with a cousin and Friday night, we stopped at an eatery where I ordered plantain and fish. The fish was wonderful. Fall-off-the-bone moist and well-seasoned. This morning, we went to a local market and you know what? I hate to say it but I never want to go back there again. I’m glad I did it for the experience, but no more. It was too hot, too crowded, too dusty, too stressful! Breathing the dirty fumes from car and motorcycle exhaust and constantly moving to the side to let okadas and buses pass was really annoying. Then, the ground is pure dust so my legs were so dirty. The local market kind of reminds me of Kibera in Kenya because you are snaking through makeshift structures, stepping on rocky unpaved roads and maneuvering through little Muslim girls wearing veils and noisy chickens. And of course, people were watching me, though I tried to blend in.
“Madam, tsk tsk.”
“Madam, pure water.”
“Fine, fine gal.”
“America! Come, Miss America!”
Yeah, I’m not gonna go back. The simple truth is that I’ve been away too long. I don’t know how to walk in such a place, so I was bumping into things, walking too slowly, being too patient, letting everyone pass in front of me then never getting a chance to pass myself. And my cousin was walking so fast!
But, it’s too good to be here.
I awoke this morning to the sounds of children playing outside the window above my head at 6:30 in the morning. A lady was washing clothes, talking to who I assume were her house servants. “Kate? Kate. Fetch water!”
Then her children, “Mama, how are you?”
“I am ok. How are you?”
“We are ok, Mama.”
I couldn’t help but smile. And thank God for a safe journey. The heat, I’ll get used to it. The water, you have to fetch it. The light, on now and gone the next second. Malaria, ’tis the season. But… it’s too good to be here.