Once again here is the more or less first draft of my travel memoir, any feedback is much appreciated. This is the second scene of the second chapter (or you could consider it a continuation of the first scene, they're not very seperated).
In the warm humid darkness just outside the terminal, there’s a rich scent of plant life in the air, as if one’s stuck one’s nose into a hedge. From the moment I grab my bag from the luggage conveyor, porters begin weedling me to employ them to carry it, but aside from it being easy enough for me to carry myself I have no local currency to pay them with, so the importuning makes me feel set upon and increasingly anxious as I desperately look for my contact. As usual just outside the baggage claim there’s a crowd of people with signs or hawking taxi or hotel services. I scan the crowd trying not to encouragingly make eyecontact with any of the service hawkers and add them to my porters. Ah but there’s a man with a sign with my name no it. The man holding it is stocky, with a hairless head, and might have looked tough if he’d stop grinning for a moment. He extends a hand with a gold-looking watch hanging loosely from the wrist.
“Hi, I’m Blessing, I’m the driver” He says cheerfully in a thick Nigerian accent. I grasp his hand like a lifeline -- henceforth I should be in the Organization’s capable hands. If I had known 48 hours later he’d be under arrest for a potential murder charge I probably would have been a lot more uneasy. The porters melt away as we walk a short distance across the parking lot to the white landcruiser. I try to stare into the empty darkness around the airport, are there giraffes out there? Elephants? Zebras?
Soon we’re out of the airport and zipping along a broad divided highway. It seems about three lanes wide per side though there are no lane markers, and though it appears to be a freeway, there are occasional speed bumps. The Abuja airport, it turns out, is about half an hour out of town. Peering out into the darkness in hopes of seeing zebras or maybe some quaint huts, I see only the occasional blocky modern building, and a crashed car left on the side of the road … and a mile or two later another one … and another...
“The tow trucks won’t come out at night” Blessing explains, after noticing my head swiveling to watch each wreck go by, “because it’s not safe at night. So crashed cars remain till morning.” I wondered if the same goes for ambulances.
A pair of headlights approaches on our side of the median. Surely I’m not seeing this right. Blessing steers us to the far left of the laneless roadway as a car zipps past on the right side, clearly going the wrong direction on our side of the median.
Instead of commenting on this Blessing says.
“There is another American beekeeping volunteer here”
“Yes, his name is Doug. He just came from Ethiopia, he is a very interesting man”
“Oh, I hope I will meet him.”
“He is at the hotel where you are staying, you will surely meet him tomorrow.”
Another oncoming car hurdles past.
“Umm,” I say, raising a finger questioningly.
“They wouldn't do that during the day, they would be arrested,” Blessing chuckles, “but there's no police at night. Probably they want to get somewhere on this side of the highway and rather than drive to the next break in the median they take an earlier one and drive down this side,” he explains in his heavily accented English.
Presently we are driving in the city of Abuja, and from what I can tell it looks indistinguishable from an American town -- parking lots and multi story buildings and illuminated billboards, though none of the traffic signals seem to be operational. All my life African cities have always been portrayed in one of two ways on TV: miserable overcrowded shanty towns in the news and movies, and, in national geographic, full of quaint huts. Had I just traveled halfway around the world for a thoroughly mundane experience?
Arriving at the hotel, uniformed guards with AK-47 machine guns casually slung over their shoulders use a mirror on a pole to look under the car for bombs and look in our trunk before lifting the boomgate and allowing us to proceed to the hotel entrance.
“I’ll be back at 9am to take you to the office” he says as I get out and thank him.
“The police don’t go out at night, you probably shouldn’t either.” he adds as a warning before smiling and bidding me goodnight.
Having only ever stayed in budget hotels before, I marvel at the broad glamorous hotel lobby. The porter takes me up the broad stairs, there’s a uniformed guard on the 2nd floor landing and another at the 3rd. He’s a young man with a friendly face, in a solid avocado green uniform, and he nods to me as I pass.
The porter shows me to a room that is huge and luxurious compared to the Motel 6es I am accustomed to. A white mosquito net hangs like a veil around the bed. The porter sets the AC to blasting and turns on the TV before leaving me. I hurry to turn down the AC before freezing to death, and then spend a few minutes trying to figure out how to turn off the TV. Exhausted from the 27 hour journey, I climb under the mosquito veil and am soon asleep.
As you can see in this scene and yesterday's I'm trying hard to introduce my feelings about it all as a plot arc themselves, so it's not just a recounting of what happened in Nigeria.