Abuja: 3 weeks in

It has taken me a while to settle in here, especially with respect to internet service. I’m currently using a USB dongle which I reload with $50 of credit for the lesser of 30 days or 5 GB. It works but is a bit cumbersome on a laptop, and it is difficult to adjust to having to actually log on to the net rather than just having it there.


Life in Nigeria is surprisingly good. Everyone expected the worst but the capitol city is relatively nice.  There’s never any question that I’m in a developing country, but I’m not fighting for survival here.  The people outside the city proper though….


I’m busy with work, a good thing.  There’s plenty to do and even more to learn but I’ve got great colleagues who endure my ignorance in good spirits. I’m doing up to 50 visa interviews a day. They can be draining but it makes the time go by fast.  I didn’t realize that the obviously fraudulent cases were going to be easy; I expected them to be annoying. Instead it is the cases where good people can’t get a visa because they don’t meet the qualifications established by US law. I feel bad when I have to tell them this.  There are good cases that offset the hard ones though and in general I’m doing fine with being sympathetic to their plight without getting too emotionally involved. We’ll see how well I hold up over the long haul, I suppose.


Life outside the embassy is quite boring and a bit claustrophobic, really.  During the week, I come home, run around in my living for a while as a crude approximation of “exercise”, make dinner, and sleep.  I like to cook, even though I’m pretty rudimentary and can mostly just make sauces (Italian pasta and Japanese curry, to be precise). It is nice to use my hands to create something and there’s a zen about it, working in the kitchen listening to one podcast or another.


I did hire a steward and she would cook for me if I asked it. I may later ask her to make me lunches, but for now, I’m willing to eat lunch at the Tin Can (named thusly because its built out of cargo canisters while we wait for construction of the embassy compound to finish). She cleans and does laundry once a week for me and seems very nice.


There is a small but friendly group of expats here that eat out, go hiking, host parties, and so on.  I’m hobbled by the lack of a car but am making do.


My home is nice, too spacious for me with my meager possessions for now, but once the bulk of my stuff arrives, it will be nice to have the space. I wish I’d brought my archive of framed photos though, as the walls are bare. I can really feel the difference when I visit others’ places. My downstairs neighbors have a beautiful tapestry (blanket? rug?) that they hand with handpicked photos of their international travels framed all over it.  It’s really neat and a great conversation piece. I would very much like to copy that idea.


That’s about all there is to report, really.  I hang out at home, reading my Kindle, watching AFN and a few of the downloaded shows I brought with me (Game of Thrones was great), and cooking.  I miss my girls terribly but I’m able to talk to them regularly.  They are doing well and we are all busy, which makes the time move faster.


Oh, and of course I have to mention that Sugar made it just fine.  She was pretty upset with me, I think, but she’s adapted well and we are having a good time.  I’m very happy I have her, as its nice to have someone else around, even if they do act like a spaz or attack your ankles from time to time.

I wish I had more exciting stories or details to share.  Perhaps I’m just tired tonight. I do have some stories about some of the poverty I’ve seen outside the capitol and then there are little things that I’ve already forgotten, like the huge car crash last week where a semi-trailer full of rebar smashed into stopped traffic, inflicting horrific casualties only for another huge truck to then plow into the traffic jam caused by this first one.  One or the other of these apparently crushed some mini-busses and I believe the final death toll was close to 30.


I’ve got some comments and reflections about the “problems” here, but I’ll get to those later.

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