When I was in my late twenties, I was finished with college, married, and had a two year old son. It was the early 1980’s. We were living in Ohio, where my husband was from. He was offered a job teaching Christian Religious Knowledge in the Nigeria school system, and we decided to go. We didn’t own, much, but most of what we did own, we sold or put in storage except our clothes, and we boarded a plane.
First, the plane took us to England where we had a lay over for a weekend, so we decided to leave the airport and see a bit of London. We saw London Bridge, Big Ben, Downing Street where the Prime Minister lived, and we attended church at the church of Christ in London on Sunday. My two year old son chased birds across the square in front of Big Ben as was his custom. Wherever there were birds all over the world as we traveled, he always chased them all the time he was growing up, and as a teenager, he was catching them and making them pets.
We stayed at an English bed and breakfast in London. We expected more than just a piece of toast and one egg for breakfast, but that was all there was, and they told us that we expected more just because we were Americans. I rarely eat eggs, but when I do, I eat two because I know two have the same vitamins of an 8 ounce steak. As for my husband, he ate eggs more often, and I had toned him down from eating four eggs in the morning to only three because I was afraid of what he was doing to his cholesterol. They may have been right about him, but I was never a very big eater, and it also is customary for Americans to eat two pieces of toast, not just one, if they are going to eat toast. The bathroom was down the hall and shared with other guests. There was no shower, only a bathtub with legs and such a small amount of water pressure it was hard to fill the bathtub up.
Something else I insisted we do in London was go to a fish and chip shop while in London because I remembered enjoying the fish and chips from when I was a little girl in English. We rode the London subway, and we also visited a wax museum. We were like tourists for a weekend. I saw punk rockers for the first time that weekend in the London subway. I was actually shocked when I saw them because they were dressed so strangely. Punk Rock was really new then, and there was a Chinese guy in the subway explaining to us what we saw. He said it was a fad among one neighborhood London that seemed to be catching on, after that, I saw it even in America in years to come.
On Monday, we boarded a plane from Nigerian Airlines for Kaduna, Nigeria. However, the plane couldn’t take off. We sat there and sat there, and the plane didn’t take off. Eventually, the Nigerian pilot came over the loud speaker. He explained that he had lost his papers that gave him permission to take off and was looking for them. We couldn’t believe a pilot could be so irresponsible!! A pilot’s job is a very professional, responsible job. What kind of pilot was he if he lost his papers for take off? We wondered if we were making a mistake going to Nigeria, but we didn’t get off the plane. Eventually, he must have found the papers or had new ones issued because eventually, the plane took off.
We flew into Kaduna, Nigeria. It is all the way in the northern part of Nigeria. We were headed for Bukuru, outside of Jos a little south of Kaduna, but still in the north. Jos is the capital of Plateau State, Nigeria. When we got off the plane, the airport didn’t look modern at all. It was a small airport to be an international airport. People were not sitting on chairs, but people were sitting all over the place. They were sitting on a dusty concrete floor and the white washed walls were dirty. The women wore a long piece of brightly printed cotton cloth wrapped around their bodies from just over their chest to their ankles and a piece of cloth to match on their heads. If they had a baby, the baby was on their backs with another piece of brightly printed cotton cloth was tied around the baby and the mother together. I saw one mother adjusting her baby. She bent over, laid the baby on her back balancing the baby, and then wrapped the cloth around the baby and herself tying it in the front. The men were wearing what they called dashikis. They had machine embroidery all over the front of their shirts. The shirts just slipped over their heads, and they were cotton tie died cloth with pants out of the same tie dyed cotton. Many of them men wore what looked like the little hats that Jews wear.
We were picked up by an American couple we knew who were already in Nigeria in their van. On the way to the rest house, a type of Nigeria hotel, we passed a big mosque, a Muslim place of worship. I remembered mosques from my time in Morocco as a little girl. There was a huge wall around the mosque. I knew only men were allowed in. Everything looked dingy and dirty.
We checked into the rest house. We were given a room that had an outside entrance. The floor was just plain unpainted concrete. Everything seemed rustic and primitive. There was no problem at the rest house with the toilet, but as I learned later there were problems with no flush toilets and lack of water in Nigeria. We had a good sized bathtub and all the water we needed in the rest house. Later was when there were water problems, in the dry season, when it didn’t rain for six months and we saw people in dry river beds digging for water.
I have blogged about this room before. They supplied a bed for my two year old son that was basically a screened in box with a wooden frame. It had a lid on it. The screen was to protect him from mosquitoes as he slept. Our bed had a mosquito net over it. It was extremely important to stay away from the mosquitoes because of the malaria they carried.
We were taking prophylaxis pills everyday prescribed by a doctor in America. We called them anti-malaria pills, but they really couldn’t stop malaria from coming. However, if we got malaria, it would make it more bearable. We wouldn’t be quite as sick.
We went in and slept right away. The next morning, we went to the big commons room at the rest house. They were serving porridge, and I have blogged about this porridge before too. It was some sort of whole wheat porridge, and it was terrible. However, the others seemed to be enjoying it. After breakfast, we got in the van to go to our friend’s house. The air was full of dirt blowing everywhere. You could hardly see a foot in front of your face there was so much dirt in the air. They called it the hermaton. It was sand blowing in from the desert. Here in Korea, we get yellow dust that blows in from China, and in Nigeria, they get sand blown in from the desert that is much thicker than the yellow dust. The yellow dust just causes a haze and settles on your car or anything you leave outside. The sand is just everywhere. When I was in high school in southern California we used to have sand storms because we lived in the Mojave Desert. Back then, girls wore short skirts, and that sand blew against my legs and stung. Even if you kept your windows shut, you could still find it on the inside on your window sills. The sand from the hermaton was like that, but I couldn’t get over the almost no visibility during the hermaton. However, people were driving cars and going about their business anyway, and our friends drove out of Kaduna slightly south with us. When we got out of Kaduna, the sand storm lessened.
We had arrived. If you want to read more of what happened, there is another blog about culture shock in Nigeria. Culture shock was a hard thing physically. Sometimes, the problem is communication because you go to a country where they don’t speak English, but that wasn’t the problem in Nigeria. We were fighting dirt in Nigeria, and it was really hard on me physically. I actually lost weight on accident the only time in my life.