First Impressions of Nigeria’s Delta State

We arrived in Nigeria early in the morning after an all-night flight from
Ethiopia.  The international airport in Lagos is notorious for being one of
the most difficult airports to navigate after arrival.  Stories of having to
pay-off customs officials, harassment while waiting for your luggage from
people trying to scam you, baggage claim checks that require arguing and
more money are quite common.  Fortunately for us, we had none of the sort. 
Our papers were in order, we exercised patience, and we kept to ourselves
while waiting.  We transitioned smoothly, even managing to get a few of the
guards and other officials to smile a little. 

Joe, our counterpart here in Nigeria, quickly met us after exiting the
building.  We hailed a taxi and hurried to catch the local plane to Benin
City
.  In less than a half hour from landing we were lining up to get on the
propeller plane for the 1 hour flight to Benin.

The ride was smooth, the day a bit overcast.  Tired and red-eyed with a
doughnut and a box of juice in the belly, we landed in Benin.  We gathered
our bags and made way to a local café for a breakfast of okro soup and
pounded yam for me and fried chicken for my wife, hardly what we wanted to
eat. 

Anyway…

Before long we were in another taxi for the hour and a half drive to Asaba,
the capital of Delta State, the site of our project in Nigeria, and our home
while working here.

               *************************

We have been in Asaba for three weeks.  A few things we have observed here:

The people here share the faces of America’s Africans.  West Africa is just
one of the many roots of America.

The people are so darn friendly.  I know it may seem that I say everyone is
friendly, but these folks are very, very friendly.  They are warm,
welcoming, accommodating and say “sorry” far more than they should or need
to. 

A statue in the town depicts African warriors slaying two white men, British
colonialists.  It’s a gruesome sight.  Perhaps I am the one that should be
saying “sorry.”

Asaba sits on the west banks of the Niger River, one of the world’s great
rivers.  We ate lunch at a hotel by the river.  I couldn’t help but think of
how it may have looked before colonization.  Then two-men paddling a dugout
canoe came down river.  Could it have looked much different?

Mr. Bigg’s is the Nigerian equivalent of MacDonald’s.  Not a fan of
MacDonald’s, Mr. Bigg’s is ok though.  It has meat pies that are the perfect
snack to fill the void.

Guiness is brewed in Nigeria.  That’s right, Nigerians love stout!!  I am
most happy that Guinness is here.  It tastes like Guiness in a bottle
because it is Guiness in a bottle.  They’ve just put out Guiness Extra
Smooth, which isn’t too far off from Guiness on tap.  I am beer-satisfied
here.

It is hot in Asaba.  It feels like Hanover during the dog days of July or
August.  Humidity is high and the sun is intense.

The landscape is eastern Carolinas. It is flat, sandy and the dirt is red. 

                                   ********************
A few more things to share:  Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country.  It
is also it’s most diverse with more than 200 ethnic groups.  It is one of
America’s leading suppliers of oil.  It is a center of African literature. 
The people are very aware of global affairs and current events. It is
considered an economic powerhouse for Africa

I think we are going to learn a lot about this fascinating nation over the
next couple of months.

(written 6 November 2005)

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