Monday, August 19, 2013

It's like coming home, but not quite

It's much easier to return to Nigeria than to go there the first time. Understanding how the system works (and how it doesn't!) reduces stress significantly. I knew to expect the flight to Yola to be late and didn't worry. We actually left within half an hour of flight time, which is pretty good. There were some things that were pretty different this time around, though...

Not having children to watch over made the trip both more lonely and less stressful. I got some good work done and played my games instead of Mario with Superstar. During my layovers, I couldn't help but look around for children who weren't there. I didn't get to hold the crying baby during the flight, which is an odd thing to miss. Waiting in lines and de-planing were much nicer alone.

Normally the passport authorities are very happy to see me and thank me for coming to Nigeria. This time, however, when he learned I had already lived here for two years he said, "So you have been eating our money for two years?" I had expected to receive that treatment occasionally, but I've met it so rarely that it quite startled me. I responded, "And spending it here in Nigeria too. I live here, I employ people, and buy from Nigerian shops." That satisfied him and he let me through happily. Funny, I didn't know he had a partial ownership of AUN's funds...

Finding the driver was kind of funny this time around. While standing in line, I could see this guy on the other side of passport control who looked kind of familiar. He was holding a sign that said "PERSON WHO IS NOT DERRILL WATSON." (Not literally. That would be harsh.). He signed to me to ask if I was PERSON WHO IS NOT, and I shook my head. I later got through customs and sat down in the mostly empty terminal, across from that familiar looking guy. I called the Abuja office and he said he would call the driver. A moment later the guy's phone rings and I think "a-ha!" He turned to look at me and asks if I am Dr. Watson. Why yes, I am. He was sent to look for PROF WHO IS NOT and for me also, but he remembered I was a guy with a wife, two kids, and tons of luggage, so I couldn't be me. He didn't mention the goatee, which is how the AUN drivers and guards usually refer to me when they think I'm not listening ("The prof with the *rubs thumb and index finger over mustache and beard*") Then both of us sat around for an hour because the the Abuja office needed to show up with money for a ticket for me to Yola. Then the driver left me alone to wait for the Abuja office for another hour, explaining that he had to go to work.

Nice to see you too. Thanks for sitting near me. *lol*

It was nice to be able to manhandle my own luggage and not need to call over two porters to do it for me. I finished two books during my journey, a new record.

I noticed that the billboards had changed, but little else in town. I had a couple short, happy reunions with our usual driver and two of the guards. But when my taxi drove up to the gate, the guard on duty didn't recognize me. I introduced myself to him and he let me in quickly with some embarrassment.

The porch area was remarkably well-swept - not a speck of dust anywhere. Even though they try* sweeping every day, I've never seen it that clean. I made sure to wash out the AC units, though, creating a new pile of dirt on the porch so it would look normal. ;)

Stepping into the apartment was the thing that was least like coming home. Furniture wasn't quite where it belonged. Something just felt off. Then I realized it: Superstar's room was empty. Princess' was too. (Okay, both were a bit cluttered, but they were empty of the most important thing: my beloved children) The house was far too quiet. It sunk into me that it was always going to be much too quiet. That king sized bed in our room looked awfully big without a Joy. I recognized the things - they were mine and I knew where they belonged - but this wasn't my home.

I had decided a few years ago that Home was the place I return to. Without Joy, this wasn't my home. There's somewhere else I plan on returning.

The internet still isn't working. Utah wasn't my home without that either, though, so maybe once the guy shows up Monday at 10am to fix it (so I can post this lovely long missive) and I can have my family's voices coming through Skype to fill the house, it will feel better.

Oh, and there was no platoon of dead cockroaches waiting for me. That was very odd. There was a tapestry of spider webs in the guest bathroom, though, and I've slain a dozen giant spiders (+10 xp each) so that should count for something. Also the ants have built condos in every bathroom. I had rather hoped they would leave us alone with no food to eat for three months. Tch. I got a shock this morning when I closed the shower curtain to see two cockroaches the size of my thumbs climbing on them. I shrieked (manfully), swatted them to the shower floor, danced on them with vigor until excessively dead, and disposed of the evidence. "Welcome to Nigeria; Have a Nice Day."

I spent half an hour in the predawn dark this morning. The power went off as I was waking up. "Welcome to Nigeria; Have a Nice Day." I eventually realized this was an awfully long time without power and remembered to check my circuit breakers, which were tripped. Fixing that, I could enjoy electricity and light again.

There was also something off about the kitchen, though at first I couldn't put my finger on it.
It wasn't so much the fridge and freezer that sat open over the summer,
Nor was it the potatoes with the inch-long eyes,
Nor yet again the crystalline muffin remains....
No, the source of the evacuation-worthy smell was the punctured, full can of cream of chicken soup that had spoiled and fermented for 3 months that had to be taken out of the house in a HAZMAT suit as soon as I found it. Good thing it was Dead Nose Daddy here and not Joy or things might've gotten ugly.
Couple hours later I added a MOSTLY empty can of furry pineapple juice to the list of exiles.
I really gotta work on making sure that doesn't happen again next time.

* - I can hear my parents and brother now: "What, sometimes he tries sweeping but he misses the floor and gives it up as a bad job?" Yeah. Pretty much. *lol* Y'know, I think I'm laughing at this post too much. It's probably bed time. Night all.