Sunday, February 26, 2012

Expect not the worst, but defintiely the unexpected

Before we came here, I was told the secret to happiness in Nigeria was low expectations. I didn't like that principle. However, Joy has taught me a thing or two about the power of expectations [end of understatement], and in some cases the importance of not having any. This is a (partial) catalog of unexpected things that happened just in my travels this week.
You need to be more ...

I expected I would leave Wed morning for Ethiopia for a work conference this week and be home again Sunday. I did not expect that they would demolish the Yola airport as part of its remodeling, leading Arik Air to have concerns about the safety of their plane if they left it there overnight, so they canceled their morning flights. Instead I had to pass a Tuesday class off to another colleague and flee to the airport right after teaching Game Theory, spend a night in Abuja, and THEN fly out to Ethiopia. (On their side, they don't expect people to come by more than 24 hours in advance to buy a ticket.)

Arriving in Abuja, I told our friendly AUN-Abuja office fellow I didn't care where I stayed, just as long as it had water, an air conditioner, and internet.* I neglected to remember that every time I stay at TopView, there is a problem with the internet and I went there anyway. When the internet didn't work in my room, I remembered how often this has happened and that the only place it works is in the lobby. I did not expect that I couldn't even get a connection in the lobby.

I did not expect the hotel restaurant to wake me up at 6:30am to tell me I had signed with the wrong room number for dinner. They would send someone over now. I said NO. I am still in bed. Let me sleep. They sent someone anyway. TWICE! TWICE they sent someone before 7am. I doubt the desk clerk expected to see me looking bedraggled, or to hear me end my tirade by saying, "and I sincerely hope you have a good morning despite me."

The next morning, AUN-Abuja office had no fuel. This was expected. They were 45 minutes late. This was not unexpected. There are fuel shortages around here again (I expected that one too!  :D  ), which means people are in line 3-4 hours at the only gas stations that have fuel, and it was a minor miracle our shuttle had made it to TopView in the first place the day before driving on empty the whole way. So they took me to the airport in a cab.

I gave them the information for my return trip, writing down that I would get back to Abuja at 12:40pm on Sunday and wanted a return flight after that. I sent an email before I left to confirm, and another one just to be sure.

Then maybe you'd like to live
in Nigeria!

When I landed in Abuja today, the officer told me she had been looking for me all morning. What? Why would you expect me to be here in the morning? I told you wouldn't land until 12:40, which it is right now. I came just as expected.

I had not expected her to book a flight for me leaving at 12:15pm, assuming I have no idea what. Thankfully (?) that flight was canceled. So I'm blessed to stay in Abuja another night - not in TopView - while Joy singlehandedly holds down the fort against the royals for another unexpected night. I miss her, and I feel for her. And I miss her.

I will spare you all details, but I had not expected my bowels to act the way they have. Painfully.

But we do believe on the blog in unexpected tender mercies too. They're the best kind!

I did not expect to get to watch Star Trek II at TopView, and finding that the Wrath of Khan calmed mine.

I did not expect to be trailed during my entire tour of Addis Ababa by a 17 year old. I tried to shake him at first, but he would have none of it and pursued me doggedly. I would not have expected him to become a valued tour guide who showed me interesting sites I wouldn't have found otherwise, prevented me getting mugged by palace guards, and stopped at least two pick pockets!

I did not expect that the Addis airport would require proof that I had been vaccinated against yellow fever. But when you travel from Nigeria, that is only to be expected. Thankfully, in another unexpected moment, they said they believed me that I had the vaccine seven months ago. Next time, bring your card. Gotcha.

I had expected I would not need a visa to enter Ethiopia because that's what I was told. I did need one. Thankfully, they'll process your visa right there, something you might not expect, and it only costs $20.

I had expected I would waltz right through the Abuja airport. Apparently, however, my permission to work form was a temporary form good for only 6 months. The six months ran out ... yesterday. Well, didn't see that one coming! Thankfully, and unexpectedly, they also said they would let me through this time, "But make sure your work gives you a green card or we'll deport you back to the US." Can I get a gut-buster belly laugh over that statement?

Ethiopia had reprogrammed my expectations about random strangers walking up to me: they want money or to steal something. I forgot to expect Nigerians to be friendly, helpful, and extremely talkative. While waiting an hour and a half for the AUN officer to get back to me, some very friendly, helpful people came over to me, asked if I was okay (one of them looked really worried about me - did I mention my bowels are not happy with me?), and made pleasant chitchat. It was nice. I need to remember to expect that so I can do a better job returning the favor.

The waiter at the Immaculate expected when he saw the look on my face that I would not be ordering any of the yummy Nigerian dishes, but just the club sandwich. I did not disappoint him. I did surprise him when I unexpectedly also ordered the dodo (fried plantain). "Do you know what that is??" he asked incredulously. Yes, it's fried plantain. I make it at home too. It was good. Better than the club sandwich, but then, I didn't expect to be able to taste the bacon in it, so I wasn't disappointed.

Me in 18 hours ... plus or minus,
barring unforeseen difficulties,
void where prohibited.

* I realized how different Joy and I are when he repeated back to me, "water, food, and an internet." Right. If I were Joy, or if she were with me, I'd be worried about a place with food. But because I'm married to the Lovely and Gracious, I had half a chicken, several dried bananas, six carrots, a box of Hob Nobs, and a large can of cashews with me. I shall fear no starvation. How I appreciate her preparations!