Saturday, July 31, 2010

Good Morning! Good Afternoon! Good Evening!

One thing that took me a while to realize was the importance of greeting people here. My first few trips were full of missteps but I've finally gotten the hang of it. In the US of course it’s kind of like whatever, if you walk by someone and happen to make eye contact you might say “hi” and hurry along. If you know someone well you might say “Hey, how are you?” but not really stop to hear the answer, and you know it’s usually “I’m great!” anyway.

Well in Nigeria it is very different. No matter how many people you walk by from Point A to Point B you are expected to say the appropriate greeting (Good morning! if it’s the morning, Good afternoon! if it is after noon, etc.) and very often you will get a “How are you today?” and it’s a question that merits stopping and actually engaging in a conversation about how you are really doing. Sometimes those conversations are relatively quick, but sometimes they are longer. It’s very hard to be in a hurry here. If you don’t do the appropriate formalities then people think poorly of you and you get to be known as a “bad person” and basically no one wants to have anything to do with you. That is usually, especially for me especially, that is the worst path to take. In as social environment as this you need to have people think well of you. Once you get to be familiar with someone it then becomes “Good Morning Aunty!” or “Good morning Uncle!” or sometimes using someone’s name, though that greeting is usually from me because I still find it uncomfortable to call some people Uncle or Aunty.

Right now I am still in the “get familiar” stage so if I am with L or F (which is often) in addition to greeting I am also introduced. Usually short “This is Lindsay. She is a PhD student from the US who is here to do some research. She will be with us for 5 months. You will see her around the University a lot.” And then usually some small chit-chat. Repeat this about 30-50 times in a day and you might have an inkling of my day-to-day life right now.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Random Hebrew & Random Answers: A Typical Day's Conversation

Obviously the M's have an internet connection since I am blogging and Facebooking, etc. The funny thing is that when I first connected my Google page was all in Hebrew. And it comes up as which indicates that we are connecting through an Israeli internet service. Ok, no biggie most of the time. Randomly Blogger will only display all the command functions in Hebrew which of course I cannot read so I just have to randomly guess and click on things. But usually going back to the Google homepage and clicking on "English" will fix most things.

I was kind of wondering why they had an Israeli connection, being that we are in Africa and Israel seems like an awful long way to travel for internet. I didn't know if there was some secret Israeli business cohort living in Benin that I didn't know about. So one day I casually inquire as to why we have an Israeli connection/everything is in Hebrew. The person I asked looks at me with complete seriousness and says "Oh it's because we source the internet from Egypt." WHAT? Most random answer ever that still makes no sense on multiple levels. But one thing I've learned working in Nigeria is that sometimes it's best to not further inquire because it A. usually gets you no where anyway and probably even farther from the logical answer you are looking for and B. involves you in a very long conversation that you probably don't want to have, especially when you go back to point A. So I just said "Oh, ok" like that answer made complete sense. Right.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Aaaaaaah, it's electric! Quirk #8709808

My brother-in-law (BIL) is an electrician. He spends the first 20 minutes in every new place he visits inspecting the walls to see if the electricity in the house has been installed "to code." And then he shakes his head and offers a pitying assessment of what is wrong. Usually followed with something like "amateurs," "old house, needs updating" or even worse... "non-union I'm sure." My BIL would be horrified if he lived in Africa.

Nothing in Africa follows ANY code, much less when it comes to safety and sense. I spend an inordinate amount of time pausing and thinking "Is electrical current pulsing through my body or am I just having a weird moment?" Usually it's the former. Obviously it isn't a major shock (or I'd be dead or seriously injured) but I definitely have felt tingling throughout my body on more occasions than I can count. Not that I am an electrician, or really know anything about electricity at all, but having heard my BIL and stepdad talking enough I think that most of the time the "electrician" (or whoever randomly installed the said electrical source, definitely non-union) has forget to ground it. After a while you get to know which outlets will shock you and/or the little tricks you have to do to avoid the shock, e.g. plug it in when the switch is off.

Anyway I'm off to try and make my hair stand on end. Ta-ta!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Visit to the Library

Apparently if you want to confuse people just try and "hang out" in the library. Well at this University at least. I'm trying to get more exposure around the University...exposure as in people know I'm around and though always the strange white lady not so strange that they can't trust me or talk to me. Not like I'm exposing myself. Just wanted to clarify. Ok, moving on.

I thought that today I'd go to the University and "hang out" e.g. get some work done on my laptop, put myself out there as someone who is working but a part of the University community. One of the first ideas I came up with was to head to the library and park myself there and observe and be observed. Sounds simple right? Students use the library, presumably, so I'd see them and they'd see me!

Well apparently that was my first mistake.

I mention to F that I'd like to go to the library and if he could just point me in the right direction I'd be happy to wander over. Well he grabs someone who was walking by (whom he knew) and said "S please take Lindsay to the library and introduce her to the Head Librarian." Ok, no biggie. Always good to have a formal introduction. So we head to the library and head to his office. After S introduces me to his secretary and explains why I am here she goes into the Librarian's office to tell him I'm here and what I want. He calls me in and I sit down. We talk a little bit about why I'm here generally at the University and why I am here at the library. He doesn't seem to understand the concept of "hanging out" (even though I expressed it differently, because I would rarely if ever use that term here) and tells me that they do not have very many public health resources available but I am welcome to check out whatever I find interesting. He said normally he would request a letter from the President's Office to allow me to be in the library (how's that for formal?) but since he saw me at the Staff Development Training and S brought me over on behalf of the President he will assume I already have his permission. Whew. Then he tells me he is a very busy man and will not have time to be available for my needs so he is going to call the Reading Room Librarian. Thank you so much sir.

The Reading Room Librarian comes to fetch me and we go down to his office. It takes about 10 minutes of discussion for him to understand what I actually want from him (really, nothing. Just a place to "hang out!"). First he tells me I can use his private office. No, that wouldn't give me exposure. Then he tells me that discussions are not allowed in the library. Ok, that's fine. I won't have any discussions, I'll just park it and work. But he doesn't seem to think that is a great idea. He asks if I have fliers that he can pass out so people know why I'm here and they can direct people to me. Um, no, that's a little formal and I'm not quite at the stage where I want to speak with anyone specific. I just want to HANG OUT, BE SEEN, and OBSERVE! I was trying to explain the concept of "just being seen" but it took a while for him to either understand what I was really looking for or to believe that is really all I wanted. Finally he seemed to either give in or give up and brought me to the "Digital Room" which is like their computer lab in the library. Great, fine. I can get some work done. The only downside is that it is tucked back in the office area and has only 6 computers and they don't allow flash drives to be used. Sigh. The person in charge of the Digital Room however is very nice and says he can scan my flash drive (for viruses) and make an exception for me. Super. Then he realizes I have my laptop with me and says he can give me a cord so I can hook my laptop up directly. Even better.

So here I am. Only one other person has come in the room, but at least I am blogging and getting some other stuff done. It's always funny when you have these unintended cultural mix-ups/confusion. There are always things I am expecting and know I will have to work through, but sometimes they come up and bite you unintentionally and since I'm a good sport and used to this sort of thing it usually turns out fine and just gives me a good story. But for those of you who are less experienced traveling internationally, just a lesson for you to think about if you should travel abroad and find yourself in a similar situation!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lions and Tigers and...Monsters? Oh My!

The other night we got into a discussion about scary movies and how none of us were all that fond of them but some of the gentleman were declaring that even though they did not prefer them there was still nothing to be scared about because they were just movies. Yeah...right. Some of us, with very over-active imaginations can get past that fact and become terrified with even a mention of a scary boogey man type movie. Making this conversation even worse is the fact that I have to walk to my room in the guest house across a very dark, albeit very short, walk across the lawn separating the two houses. My 12 year old bff O was very much in agreement with me as he has to walk even farther to get to his living accommodations in the main house (Mama's house). M looked at us and said "You are scared even though you live in a walled compound that is guarded by gatemen AND military police?" Uh, clearly he did not realize that scary monsters do not care about gates, gatemen or police with big guns. Luckily O was still on my side. But to add to the terror he also said that the dogs that they release every night at midnight are also very mean. If you run from them apparently they will chase you, bite you and kill you. Or something very scary. Grrrrreat. One more thing to be terrified of when walking home. Oh, and you think I'm being dramatic I'm sure...take a look:

My walk during the day:

My walk at night:

Update: I wrote this last week but with internet issues I couldn't upload the pictures until now. Over the weekend a repair man came and fixed many of the lights around the compound. So now my walk is much brighter and not as scary. But as we know...most monsters don't really care about light anyway.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Visit to Uromi

I went to Uromi on Saturday. It is the place where we do our annual medical mission trips. I went to visit Father John who runs the Children's Home in the town and has acted as our "administrator" for our medical mission supplies. He keeps track of all the drugs and equipment that we send him and another volunteer, Lucky, comes and picks them up before each clinic. We have 5 clinic sites in Uromi that are run by the public health nurses that staff the public health clinics where our free clinics are held. A recent medical school graduate has been the volunteer doctor overseeing the clinics. We've been so lucky to build this volunteer network finally. It only took 6 years!

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After taking care of "business" I got to play with the little kids while the big kids were doing devotionals in the chapel. Here are some cute shots of the kiddos:

Me poisoning their teeth with sugary suckers

Pretending to be innocent of above said crimes.

They were fascinated with rubbing my white skin.

This kid was so excited he peed his pants. Right on my foot.

After playing for a while I went back to my room to "rest and refresh" (and wash pee off my foot). I then had dinner with Father John & the seminarian who has been staying with him. After that we went to the chapel to finish up night time prayers with the kids. Then it was time for bed. At 8:30pm. I know how to live I'm telling you.

But that's ok, I read for a while before falling asleep because I had to get up at 5:15 am because I had to make it to 6 am mass! Definitely a different lifestyle. After mass we had breakfast and watched the Catholic network on tv and the driver came to fetch me at 1o. I was back in Benin by noon and have been hanging out all day!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I am working on some blog posts but the internet has been bunk all week and I haven't been able to upload any pictures. Such is life in Nigeria. The bandwidth sucks; even if you pay good money for internet sometimes it just doesn't work! So hold tight, there are more on the way!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Quirk #764921

So yeah, I know I'm not supposed to say things are "weird" and rather be more p.c. and say that things are "different," but I'm sorry. Sometimes things are just weird. That doesn't mean bad, but definitely weird. Take for instance, this one light switch in my room:

Yeah, so there is a light. And then there is a place on the wall where one might find a switch. But instead of a standard wall switch there is a giant (I would estimate about 20 feet long) cord that has a button on the end of it and that is the light switch. It's totally weird! And again, it's totally weird, but I totally don't mind because if you look close you will see that it is draped across my bed which would indicate that at night when I am laying in bed reading I can conveniently hit the button while lying there saving me a trip across the dark room where I could either trip and fall or get attacked by monsters. Totally.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friendly Researc-y Article

This came across Facebook yesterday and of course the title caught my eye: Guilty Pleasures: Religion and Sex Among American University Students. This is a good primer article that can get you familiar with a lot of the issues I am looking at with my research. Basically the research this person did shows the same thing I've been talking about with mine; e.g. even students who consider themselves very "religious" are participating in sexual relationships and not feeling (too) bad about it. Of course, the research doesn't show WHY they are doing it and HOW they are rationalizing it or even too much in depth about their thoughts about it, particularly how they make decisions about whether or not to participate in sexual relationships and what factors they consider. Which is exactly what my research is about. And with Nigerian students rather than CA college students. But very similar stuff. So anyway, just so you get an idea that I'm not the only person interested in this stuff I thought I'd share it.

Quickie Update

I woke up this morning and my throat was NOT hurting, thank goodness. I'm a little congested but nothing bad so I'm hoping my rest and relaxation yesterday helped, as well as the extra vitamins and zinc tablets. I'm hoping this is the worst of it and then it'll be over!

We had our last day of staff development training today. It was very interesting overall but I'm glad it's over. My butt is seriously hurting from sitting in plastic chairs for hours at a time (as well as my overall anxiety level of sitting in them!) so I'm glad I won't have to do that anymore. I learned a lot about the University and the general campus environment which is of course very helpful to my work.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do tomorrow since the training ended a day early. I want to try and get to the market and get some small craft items to send with Father John to the US for the fundraising event for the foundation. Other than that, I will hopefully take it easy and get some work done. I will be in Uromi all weekend visiting Father John & the children at the home, which is always fun and should be nice. The M's driver will take me on Saturday and Father John will arrange for transport back to Benin on Sunday. I'm sure I will attend mass with the children on Sunday as they have a chapel on the grounds. Hopefully I will get to check out some of the clinics or at least meet with some of the people who have been working hard the past year keeping our clinics running.

I have a few short posts coming up soon, but I'm not sure I'll finish them tonight. Stay posted!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Real Unspoken Enemy in Africa: The Plastic Chair

Some people say the mosquito is the silent enemy (or killer) in Africa, and while I would agree that the mosquito is a horrible creature, I think that it has a strong competitor in the competition for awfulness: The Plastic Chair.

Millions, if not billions, of plastic chairs exist across the continent just lying in wait ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims. In only two and a half days of orientation/development training at the University it’s claimed 5 victims. One minute you are sitting quietly, the next minute the legs are giving way and if you are lucky you can jump up to avoid the bumps, bruises and scrapes that are awaiting your fall, but no one escapes the embarrassment and shame of the broken and twisted chair. I myself have been a victim twice in my life, but thankfully I have avoided it thus far in my stay. I’m sure I will fall into its trap again before my 5 months is over. I do not look forward to the day but know it is only right around the corner waiting… resting low like a lion ready to pounce.


I’ve meant to comment about the weather before now, but I kept forgetting. It’s actually been much cooler here than in Indiana since I’ve been here. Only yesterday around noon was it actually hot. It’s been mostly in the 80’s since I’ve been here. Yesterday I’d venture it to have been in mid 70’s in the afternoon. Almost chilly by Africa standards! It is rainy season which also means that it’s been mostly overcast as well. All of this has been ok with me as I don’t really like sweating and being that hot. Especially when I have to dress up, which I have had to do since the University has a pretty strict dress code.

Watching Mr. Bones with O

So last night the internet was down (hence no blogs yesterday) and there wasn’t much like I felt like doing since I was feeling a little blah (I think it’s mostly the weather and the fact that I’m just tired and can’t get caught up!) so I told O we should watch a movie. After about 10 minutes of discussion we settled on Bruce Almighty, although I wasn't terribly enthused about it. But it was a Nigerian DVD so it had like 30 movies on it so I made him scroll through to see if there was anything better. We were discussing different movies and he asked if I had ever seen “Mr. Bones.” I had never even heard of it so he assured me it was “very funny” and we should watch it. He started the movie and the first credit we see is “The Gods Must be Crazy.” Ahhhh, so that’s what Mr. Bones is. It’s always funny when you see the alternative names for American-made movies.

We started to watch it and it was showing the tribal African family running around in loin cloths and drinking water off of leaves and I said to O “You know that’s how most Americans think Africans live.” He looked at me and said “Get real.” I said, “No for real.” He looked back at me and said “What a joke.” And then some kids ran across the screen with bare butts and I said “What? You don’t go to school dressed like that?” He cracked up and said “No. I would get in so much trouble.” Sadly the CD was busted and we didn’t get to watch much more. Then we went on to the new Karate Kid. Yippee for me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Digs

I know some of you have been dying for pictures, so I finally got around to taking some this afternoon. It was much harder to get them uploaded! The bandwidth here is pretty slow so it takes a while. I had to resize them and upload them one by one. But finally got them done! Enjoy!

Here's a view from the door of my room (excuse the mess):

Also, see that love seat type couch in the middle of the picture? Totally tripped and fell on it last night when I got up to go to the bathroom!

Here's the view from the opposite wall:

TV doesn't actually work. And the internet doesn't reach to the guest house. So basically I sleep and shower here.

Here is my bathroom:

Right now the hot water heater is broken so I'm taking cold showers...brrr! But it's supposed to get fixed (hopefully) tomorrow!

This guest house is called the "glass house." I'm not really sure why. There are 6 rooms in the guest house. I'm in Room #1. Because I'm #1 obviously.

Here's the door to the guest house. It's a sliding glass door...maybe that's why it's called the glass house? The sliding glass door is reminiscent of the one we grew up with, e.g. it doesn't really have to dragggg it bumpity bumpity along.

This is the outside of the guest house. The two windows closest to the right corner are mine.

This is L & F's house. It's very large. If you look closely you'll see O goofing around and photobombing me.

And this is the "main house" e.g. Mama's house. She lives here when she's home, but she travels a lot so she isn't here right now.

The M Family

I had a very interesting discussion with L today that is prompting me to rename their family for issues of privacy. I was telling her that last year when I blogged about our trip I had included her name and when I got a new webcounter on my page I found a really cool one that gave me tons of information including the source page that leads people to my blog. A lot of the hits either come from Facebook (when I’ve posted a link on my page) or “No Source” which I generally assume it means it came from someone’s bookmark or something. However, right after installing it I found out something interesting. A HUGE number of hits came from L’s name on Google. She thought that was pretty funny but also said that she has some light “cyber stalkers.” Nothing serious, but more people who are curious about who she is, what her story is, etc. After all she is an American woman married to one of the most respected men in the Benin community. So this got me thinking a little bit. It reminded me of when my sister put up her classroom blog. Trying to be supportive I “followed” it so it looked like she had some supporters (which of course she did). When she had it evaluated by the township they basically said “Who’s the sex freak who’s following you?” and expressed concern that people could follow the links back to my page which is generally not appropriate for people who would be looking at her page. She gently asked me to “unfollow” her which of course I was happy to oblige. Just because I enjoy my blog and work doesn’t mean everyone would. 
She didn’t ask me to do this and it’s not that I think this is a grave issue of security/privacy but because their family has been so wonderful and kind to me I feel like I should give them as much privacy as possible as well as the same issue of my sister’s blog…I didn’t want anyone looking for her to be unwillingly (sort of) subjected to my blog. You’ve all seen their names and/or have heard me talk about them, and if not, it doesn’t really matter what their actual name is all that matters is who they are and what role they are playing in my life. So henceforth I will be referring to their family as the “M Family” instead of by their real last name (which is quite unique). Why M? Well two reasons. When I was thinking of a pseudonym it popped into my head because tonally it is similar (lots of vowels, 4 syllables) and because it reminds me of home, specifically my sisters who love the movie “Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa” which has a character named M who sings a song that reminds them of me. So just so you are in the know and warned when you start seeing M you know what the heck I am talking about.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


So last night before bed I inquired about the Sunday schedule. Being that the M's are part of a major Evangelical Pentecostal empire I knew that a big part of the day would revolve around church but I wasn't sure what else to expect. L said that breakfast is basically "make/grab your own" and that everyone should be ready to depart by 8:45 for the church. Then she said "If church is short like it was last week we should be done around 11:30...if it's "typical" then we'll be done by 1." WHOA!

Now I have to interject to say that the majority of church I've attended in my life has been Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic (until my family stopped attending in my early teens) and I actually have a high proportion of friends who are Catholic (total coincidence). I have attended other churches, but not many, and never an Evangelical Pentecostal church. If you've ever been to a Catholic Church service then you've basically been to them all. Catholic Church, for those who don't know, basically have the same format everywhere in the world. Even the few services I have attended in Nigeria have been basically the same. There is a little variation here or there but basically you do the same thing and it takes an hour. You sit and listen, sing a few solemn hymns and take communion. So when L said 2.5 to 4 hours I was a little shocked.

I headed back over to my room in the compound next door; one of the staff (A, one of the house women/nanny to baby F) accompanied me since it was late and dark. However, apparently the lightbulbs in the common area of the guest house were missing or not working so it was really dark over there. I didn't care because I was just ready to collapse into bed. I told A that the light in my bathroom was also burned out thinking that it would be helpful for her to know since they would be arranging for the common area bulbs to be replaced. She was very concerned about it even though I assured her it was fine. About 10 minutes later A, T (another house woman/baby F's nanny), and O (one of the M's adopted children) came to fetch me. I said I was ok with it, but if it were an issue of "comfort" on the M's part then I would come back over. They insisted that L was not comfortable with me being over there with not much light. So back over to their house I went, which was fine.

When my alarm went off I couldn't believe it. I slept like a rock, but felt like a bulldozer had rolled over me. Jet lag caught up with me! I knew once I got up I'd be ok. So I pulled myself out of bed and headed back over to my room to shower. Yesterday when I took a shower I had assumed that they'd just turned the water heater on, but this morning I realized it had been on all night and it still wasn't hot. Luckily the ground water stays close to the surface so it wasn't freezing, and the cool water helped to wake me up. L had said that native outfits were appropriate for church so I got the chance to wear one of my outfits that I had made earlier this year but haven't yet had the chance to wear. I grabbed some toast and drank a whole bottle of water (I was feeling dehydrated from my day of travel) and we were off to church!

It was kind of cool getting to ride with L because again, since she & F are the heads of the church she of course gets special treatment. We had a front row parking space and got special seats in the church.

Speaking of the church, it is BIG. I think L said that it seats 5,000, but as of lately attendance had been down. If I had to estimate (and I'm pretty horrible at estimating) there were probably 1,500 people in attendance today. We were sitting in some special section in the very back row. The only bad part is that it was also a walkway for people running around behind the scenes so it was a lot of wiggling to let people through. A man who came to visit the house yesterday apparently thought this was not appropriate for me and put 2 chairs pretty much in the middle of the aisle in-between the special section and the choir/band section and told me I should sit there. Slightly mortifying since we were already elevated above the rest of the church and now I was pretty much sitting by myself. I was later joined by the children's pastor but for a while it was just me!

So the first 40 minutes were some solid rocking out singing. I'm telling you, this church GETS DOWN. The only bad part is that I had no idea what they were singing and it was pretty hard to hear what the leader pastors were saying in the microphone so I was pretty lost. It wouldn't have been too bad except I was now sitting in an exposed area. I'm sure I'll catch on though. After the rocking out part then there were some short messages and speeches from other pastors. Then there was some more singing but the choir and band did most of that. Then it was time for the "main preacher" to speak. Which this week happened to be F! So F talked about the purpose of prayer...and at one point he was talking about it being a conversation with a friend, and that friend is Jesus (or God) and since you wouldn't shout nonsense at a friend you shouldn't shout nonsense to God. After that I think everyone was unsure with how to pray and worship. This was the only time that there was a similarity to the Catholic Church! It was pretty quiet while everyone was trying to absorb F's message and decide how to act on it. He later reassured them that he didn't mean they couldn't rejoice openly but to remember the conversation aspect of prayer. Pretty funny.

I was feeling pretty jet lagged the whole time and it was pretty warm so I was struggling to stay awake at a few points. When my seat mate joined me he helped make sure I stayed awake! At one point he elbowed me pretty hard which was funny. The other thing is that the only bible I have is a Catholic study bible and I didn't realize it but it's labeled "Catholic Study Bible" on all sides of it. At one point he looks over and says "Why do you have a Catholic bible?" and I explained that I was Catholic (a half-truth). He said "Oh, I see." I told him I didn't mind going to different churches and that basically the text was the same, just paraphrased a little different. L told me after we got home that he came down to talk to her at one point and said "We need to get her a real bible." Ahahahahahaha. L said "It IS a real bible, just a different version!" So I think my plan is working: if I confuse them about my beliefs they won't ask me too much about religion and my religious views!

After church we went back to the main house to prepare lunch. Apparently afternoon lunch on Sunday is the biggest meal of the week. All of F's family members congregate to enjoy time together. Various other people also come over and everyone eats and chats and spends time together. We had a nice lunch and got to do a lot of talking. Right now it's after lunch and since people are working on my room I can't really take a nap so I thought I'd squeeze in a quick blog (which actually turned out to be longer than I thought!). We are getting ready to go to a baby-naming ceremony so I'm sure I'll have more to write about later!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I have arrived.

Funny how I couldn't get OUT of Detroit to save my life, but I managed to get to Nigeria on time with NOT A SINGLE delay. Clearly Delta needs to get it together.

Anyway, after a morning of stress and tears I arrived at the airport around 10:30 am. Had to pay excess luggage fees for one of my bags...I just couldn't fit 5 months of my life into 100 lbs. so I had to go to 70 in one of my bags. Most expensive $150 I ever spent. Also, Mercy told me on Thursday I had to bring an extra bag with medicine for Uromi. Just when I thought I was out of the smuggling business I was forced back in! Of course since it was for the Foundation I didn't have to pay the $200 extra bag fee out of my pocket.

After I checked in I went to have brunch at Patachou. I love Patachou and thought it was fitting for my last meal! Then, surprise of all surprises, my bestie Josh came and surprised me with a visit! It was nice to take my mind off of being sad about leaving, because with Josh, there's no talk about emotions. This is why I love him.

I got through security no problemo, boarded and flew to New York (JFK). I only had an hour layover so I hustled to my gate and called Ange. We boarded shortly after that and we were on our way to Nigeria. In the past we stopped in Dakar and let people off (but we didn't get off the plane) but apparently they've changed the flight because we didn't stop. The flight was right around 12 hours. The other awesome thing was that the flight was only half full so I could spread out a little bit and not have to sit by anyone!

I ended up watching 3 movies and getting about 4 hours of sleep. I watched Date Night (so funny), Invictus (unexpectedly awesome), Valentine's Day (pretty good). I don't know what motivated me to watch I usually don't like movies that revolve around sports, but I'm so glad I did. I think my main motivation for watching it is because I love Nelson Mandela & I love Morgan Freeman. And I think South Africa's history is really interesting. Now that is a sports movie that I can get behind. That is what sports should be about. If you haven't seen it of course you have no idea what I'm talking about, but trust me, it's more about Mandela & his coming to power than about sports as a topic. I highly recommend it.

We arrived in Abuja around 9:30 am. I had tried all week to see if I could find someone in Abuja to purchase my flight to Benin in advance and to have Naira ready for me. I could not find anyone to save my life. I was pretty sure I would be fine doing it all by myself, but my American-ness was paranoid that I could not purchase a ticket for a flight 3 hours after I landed. Luckily I didn't have anything to worry about. I had some Naira left over from last year and I used that to buy a SIM card & minutes for my phone. I then checked in with L to make sure she hadn't found anyone to help me in Abuja, went to the Money Changing Station, switched some money, went and bought my ticket, checked in, went back to pay for my excess luggage, and waited for a while until I could board.

I slept the entire 45 minute flight from Abuja to Benin. I got off and got my luggage and had a very enthusiastic welcome from L and some American guests she's been housing. The 2 females are recent graduates in nursing who have been here for 5 weeks shadowing in the M's hospital and the male is here as a full time University student. He is familiar with them because he attends L's father's church in the US. They are very nice and helped me to feel at home.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't tell you that a Nigerian popstar was on my flight. I, of course, did not recognize him BUT I did know who he was when L told me. She said "Hey, some Nigerian singer was on your flight! When he walked out all the younger people were screaming 'D'Banj!!!'" And I actually know who D'Banj is! If you've ever been in my car you've probably heard "I love that booty" which is by him. Brush with fame and I didn't even know!

After we left the airport we went straight to the M's compound. They are housing me in one of their guest houses which is very nice. I took a shower and came over to the main house to hang out. Shortly after coming over everyone left with F to go somewhere. I decided to take it easy and do some emailing and such. After about an hour everyone came back and we chatted, ate, and then got into a fierce game of Monopoly, much to my delight! No one at home ever wants to play so when they asked if I wanted to I was thrilled! It ended up lasting FOREVER because the kids were adamant that they wanted to be L. They didn't but it took about 3 hours for them to admit it.

After that we've just been winding down which gave me some time to check emails and write this blog! I'm gonna have a quick late bite to eat and then head back over to my room and get some shut eye! I've been feeling a little bleary since mid-way through the Monopoly game but I want to get on a good schedule so I'm trying to stay up a little.

In the morning we are going to church and then we'll find something to do for the rest of the day. Oh, I also spoke with Father John, who is the person who runs the Children's Home in Uromi and helps manage our chronic disease clinics. I am probably going to go to Uromi next Saturday. I have a busy week ahead. Laurie wants me to participate in Staff Training & Orientation at the University and that is M-F of this week from 9-4. I'm excited to jump in feet first. I already met 2 people today who dropped by the house to chat. Starting to gather my contacts and get moving!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Neato Squeato

I saw this article on CNN about the inventor of the cell phone, Martin Cooper. I of course, being ancient, remember the time before cell phones, but it truly feels like a very distant memory. I just thought the article was fascinating and thought I'd share it since I know I have many tech-savvy and tech loving friends. Also for my younger fans...particularly those who seem to have glued their cell phones to their hands (ahem, Hilary Briggs) so they can pause and appreciate how far we've come.

I am going to be trying to implement some tech-savvy stuff into my dissertation so look forward to some posts about that!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Oh hai!

Yeaaaaah. I know, it's been a LONG, HOT MINUTE. Sorry about that. I've been PhDing and all that jazz. Long story short, I accomplished in less than a month what it typically takes about 3 months (or longer!) to do. I've been working like a DOG...wait, our dogs are lazy as heck, so maybe like a crab fisherman (we're obsessed with Deadliest Catch right now) and that's clearly left me with little time to blog.

The quick and dirty summary:

I leave for Nigeria next Friday, July 16th...yeah, HOLY SHIT. I'm excited but also nervous and overwhelmed all at the same time. Luckily I made a visit to the IU Health Center and got a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug (don't worry...I'm taking a very low dose, I will NOT be following Lindsay Lohan on her downward spiral) so I'm doing well with all the extra anxiety.

Our garden has died. A sad, painful, ugly death. None of our seeds grew basically (except for some cute little carrots), but some broccoli and tomato plants we bought at the Farmers Market did...and then the weeds took over. They are technically still living, but they don't look so hot. We are having some landscaping done because we have a rat bastard dog who's torn up the yard and it makes it REALLY hard to mow and on their agenda is to tear out the garden and re-seed with grass. As we will be moving in the next year (depending on where I get a J-O-B) so we need to beautify for selling anyway.

I've got 2 days left at my part-time office job for Dr. O. After that I will be a for-real full time student and full-time oh-my-God-I'm-doing-my-dissertation-research-and-I'm-my-own-boss (in NIGERIA for that matter). This will be the first time I've not had some sort of "real" job (eg I have to clock in or report to someone) in like a century. It's kind of weird. Good, but weird.

We just got back from an awesome family vacay. Fun times in OBX.

My momma is moving to Cali next week as she got a job at CSULB. Lucky biatch.

Oh yeah, I can't stop watching Lindsay Lohan cry on TMZ. So funny.

Still head over heels in love. We're trying not to think about the fact that I'm leaving for the next 5 months. Of course that's impossible so we're pretending like it's no bigs and not dwell on it. Everyday we get closer to the 16th the more panicked we feel but we're still pretending like "la, la, la, whatever." It'll be a mess next week I'm predicting. Oh, and the mission got canceled so it's unlikely Ange will be coming to visit. So it really will be 5 months apart. Ugh.

Um, yeah, that's about all. That I can think of anyway. In my swirling head. I am planning on blogging like a maniac from Nigeria. Not just because I want to keep everyone in the loop, but I think it will also help my sanity. And it will be a good journal for later. And probably helpful in my research. And a good way to maintain my friendships at home. So yeah, expect it.

We'll see if I get any more blogs out before then. I hope, but often I'm wrong. Time will tell.