We made it! After a 2 hour flight to Atlanta, an 8 hour flight to Amsterdam (where we met the other 4 people on our team) and an 8 hour flight to Abuja, we made it to Nigeria! We expected problems with customs in Abuja but it really wasn't that bad. To be honest, I find it more stressful going through the TSA checks in the US.
As we made our way out of the airport at about 11:00 or so on Friday night, we were greeted by 2 tall Nigerian men in Samaritan's Purse shirts. They were our drivers, Enoch and Stephen. It was so nice to meet friendly faces who knew the ropes and would take care of us here.
Enoch drove us to a guest house for the night. It was simple but clean and comfortable and we slept like rocks. For breakfast, we went to a Catholic conference center for breakfast. They grow coffee in Nigeria but the English influence is strong so we were served tea with bread and jam, oatmeal and hard boiled eggs. At that point, we were willing to take whatever caffeine we could get!
We had a 7 hour drive to Egbe so we had lots of time to observe the culture. The first thing we noticed was the traffic. I will never again complain about drivers in NY not knowing how to drive! Imagine a 2 lane road with no lines. There are people walking along both sides, motorcycles (each with 2-3 people) on each side of the road and 2 lanes of traffic. I don't remember seeing a speed limit all day. As you drive, you zip around potholes and anything else that may be in the way (pigs, cows, goats, people). If someone isn't going fast enough, you beep your horn and speed past them. If there are oncoming cars, you just go faster. They may or may not slow down to give you time. I can tell you my prayer life grew today! My best friend was the handle on the back of the seat in front of me. Oh - and no seat belts. By the way, for most of the trip, there was a divided highway but they drove this way on both sides. If one side got stopped up, you could always cross the median and drive on the other side for awhile!
We were stopped many times today by police with AK47's. They mostly waved us by because we had a sign in the front window that said we were missionaries. They would put pieces of wood and rocks in intervals on the road on opposite sides so you would have to drive through in a snake pattern. This was to keep people from speeding through.
There are a lot more cars here than I would have thought. I don't believe there is any kind of vehicle inspection. We saw all types of vehicles, some of which would never make it through a NYS inspection! There were also some very nice cars. I didn't see a lot of gas stations but the ones I saw had long lines at the pump and it seemed to be cash only.
There are markets all along the road here. Wherever there was a police checkpoint, there were young people selling things - mostly fresh fruit and vegetable. They would crowd around the car, asking us to buy. We didn't have any local currency so even if we wanted something, we couldn't buy it.
One place we stopped was called Pineapple Junction. Several beautiful young girls came up to the windows trying to sell us something. Ray, one of our teammates took pictures through the window. They LOVE having their picture "snapped". Another girl came up with a baby and held him up for a picture. Ray turned the camera around so she could see it on the display and she smiled but held the baby in front of her face, embarrassed to see her picture. It was very funny and sweet.
I can't even describe the living conditions we saw all along the road. People are living in such small, broken down houses. I'll try to post pictures later. It's beyond what I can describe. There is trash everywhere with goats and chickens roaming around picking through it. Some placed also had pigs or cows roaming around. Many people were sitting around in groups or cooking over a fire. There were a couple of times we went over bridges and saw people bathing or brushing their teeth in the river.
This description could very easily give the wrong idea about the Nigerian people. I have found most to be very intelligent and hard working. They have very little but seem to be very resourceful and many are have started little businesses. We saw car repair places out in the open along the road. Many were selling gas in bottles. I realized that many of the things we take for granted are because we've grown up in a society where the government has made laws concerning safety, etc, which for better or worse, have shaped our lives. If we didn't have those laws, we would likely be doing many of the things they are doing to sustain themselves.
I can't close without saying how very happy people seem here. They have so little but always have a smile! They are very friendly and feel slighted if they greet you and you don't greet them in return. I am looking forward to getting to know the people here better over the next 2 weeks.
Tomorrow, I'll post about our arrival here in Egbe and our tour of the hospital. As I write this, it's only 3:45 at home but it's 9:45 here. It gets dark around 7:00. I'm exhausted!! Good night from Egbe.