September 20th, 2021


Onward to Nigeria

   Now I will begin with Chapter 2: Nigeria, of the travel memoir I'm working on. Unlike Chapter 1 which has been through numerous drafts already and I'm pretty happy with the general shape of, this chapter is all still basically an early draft and I'm not sure about the pacing and shape of the whole thing ... in fact as of this writing the end of it isn't even written yet. Anyway, here's the first scene:

Day 1 - Arrival
February 13th, 2012 –
It had been a clear sunny morning in Los Angeles, 15 hours later it’s a dim and snowy winter morning in Amsterdam. Out the terminal windows, big snowflakes drift down like falling feathers, and an inch of snow like white frosting covers the tops of the boarding bridges. Arriving at the gate for my flight to Nigeria I find that nearly all the passengers are clearly Nigerian -- mostly men in business suits with multi-colored brimless hats, but some serious looking women, or families in matching patterned clothes. I feel suddenly self-conscious, very obviously unlike everyone else. There are a handful of young white guys in suits sitting loungingly together in the front row, laughing loudly about whatever they’re talking about. Oil industry folks I suspect, from the look of them and what I know of the Nigerian economy. The way they associate only with each other and laugh like they are kings of the world, I find myself hoping I will never be like them, and sit by myself in the back of the seating area for the six hour layover.
   I had previously been mainly preoccupied with just getting there but now that I am almost there, already surrounded by Nigerians, a new concern begins to settle in in the back of my mind -- who am I to come here and teach anyone anything? I’ve been a professional beekeeper just most of five years. Will I be able to contribute enough knowledge to justify the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program funding which is sending me to Nigeria? Will I even justify the Nigerian farmers taking time out of their busy farming to attend my training, or will everyone loathe me for wasting their time?
   A six hour flight takes me south to the squarish Texas-sized country of Nigeria tucked in under the Western bulge of Africa. I don’t have a window seat but for a lot of the flight we’re skimming high over the endless expanse of the Sahara desert, which extends into northern Nigeria. Somewhere to the south would be tropical jungles but what does Nigeria itself look like? I look forward to finding out.
   By the time we smoothly roll to a stop on the runway in Abuja in the middle of Nigeria, heavy darkness hangs beyond the sepiatone lights of the tarmac, so I can’t yet sate my curiosity -- Nigeria is a set with the curtains still drawn. Stepping out of the plane onto the jetway bridge. the steamy tropical heat immediately hits me. Ninety fahrenheit at 9pm. Was I really watching snow six hours earlier?
We passengers descend the escalator into the passport hall. We pass a framed photograph of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathon, smiling cheerily under a fedora, and the green-white-green Nigerian flag, and then a big Nigerian coat of arms on the wall: two white horses supporting a black shield with a white Y shape on it, representing the great rivers Niger and Benue which combine in Nigeria, and also, perhaps, the three major ethnic groups of Nigeria, the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Next, there is a big sign, again patriotically in green-and-white, with the picture of a decidedly scrofulous looking character, and the words “BEWARE OF INTERNET FRAUDSTERS” emblazoned across the top. It contains some fraud avoidance advice and the logo of the “Economic & Financial Crimes Commission” and finally the rather unsettling motto “EFCC will get you … anywhere … any time!”
Welcome to Nigeria!

Someone wise like Paul Theroux once said to never inclued the flight to a place as it's boring nad no one wants to read that. I think of that advice every time I flagrantly disregard it ;D