Just a short scene today. Recall that our protagonist has just arrived in Nigeria and spent the previous day in the capital, Abuja.
February 14th, 2012 – “There’s a dead man there in the road!” the driver exclaims in surprise.
“What, where?” Michael the Country Director peers into the crowd behind us, as do I. We’re driving from the airport into Ibadan city, and it’s already very different from Abuja. The road is lined with decrepit-looking cinderblock buildings, pedestrians throng the edges of the road and the dirt beside it, and frequently weave between the steady flow of cars to cross the road. I don’t see the body but Michael does, turning back tsking in disappointment, “Why do these people just leave it there?”
The flight from Abuja had only been forty minutes on a small plane. Seeing the outskirts of Abuja for the first time by daylight, during the drive and as we took off, I found the land outside the city to be a savanna of intermittent trees punctuated by almost Dr Suessian abrupt hills rising suddenly out of the flat land, no doubt more giant rock escarpments of which Aso and Zuma rock are particularly big examples. The flat lands are thoroughly peppered with little houses and small fields.
During the short flight they served us complimentary hot sandwiches and beverages, which I noted even multi hour flights in the United States no longer do. It seemed a perfectly safe flight at the time, though the fact that one of three such aircraft operated by that small airline crashed a month later into the “Mountain of Fire” church with the loss of all aboard leaves me feeling I’ve come closer than I ever wanted to to a plane crash.
Presently, over a rise, the city spreads before us, an endless sea of rust-red roofs draped over uneven terrain. The vehicular traffic gets thick and viscous, as do the crowds of pedestrians flowing around and amongst the cars. Many aren’t afraid to stare upon noticing me in the car, which makes me feel a bit self-conscious, and among the babble of voices I can hear even through the windows, “oyinbo!” can occasionally be heard. Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has half the population the United States does, all crammed into a land the size of Texas, and sometimes it really feels crowded.
“Goll!” Doug exclaims over the phone that evening, “Blessing’s driving! I’m scared for my life!” I too had noticed driving seems to be a wild adventure here, though Blessing hadn’t seemed to me to be particularly worse than anyone else.
The reference to the later plane crash might be moved elsewhere. I thought about wriitng about the hotel check in because once again they showed me all the lightswitches, turned on the tv, and set the AC to blast, but altogether it seemed too mundane and similar to the previous hotel check in only a few pages earlier.
In other other news, in real life yesterday we had an earthquake! Here! In Australia. All my coworkers attested to not figuring out what was going on until after it was over, even though two were in the warehouse where tall shelving swayed alarmingly. Being from California I stopped what I was doing the moment it started and was like an earthquake? no it can't be??. I looked around for hanging lamps or other items that might be swinging, but there were none in the vicinity. A nearby coworker was workign away as if nothing was happening, so I was just starting to wonder if maybe I'd just had a random feeling of vertigo when the coworker asked me why water was spurting out of a hole in a water-tank, that must have been just above the waterline. Finally I had my proof that it was an actual earthquake! How exciting!
It was apparently 5.9 on the richter scale, and just about 200 km away from me, I'm really surprised by how strongly it could be felt at such distance.