Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm back

I am back in Awkunanaw. I had an interesting trip to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. Sr. Theresa and I made the eight hour bus ride on Monday. We got to the bus station around 4 pm and then made it to the hotel. We stayed at the Pope John Paul Catholic Center (and hotel). It was a typical Nigerian hotel. Not nearly as nice as American hotels but it was clean and had running water. I was excited to see that my room had a fridge, tv, and most importantly an air conditioner. Unfortunately, those commodities were rarely used because NEPA (Nigerian Electrical Power Association) was rarely working. On more than one occasion I was forced to use the flashlight on my cellphone because the lights went out. Monday night we went down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Sr. Theresa was worried about finding something I could eat. I assured her that I can eat swallow (bland tasting pounded yam which ends up looking like mashed potatoes) and vegetable soup with stock fish. Nigerians roll the swallow into balls, dip it in the soup, and swallow it whole. I have yet to master this technique and I have to chew it. Swallow is not my favorite Nigerian dish but I can force myself to eat it.

Tuesday we had an appointment at the Nigerian Catholic Secretariat. We took a taxi to the Secretariat office and this was probably the most enjoyable part of the trip because we got a little tour of Abuja. We drove by landmarks such as the Central Mosque, the Central Church, the football stadium, and the American Embassy. We went to the Secretariat office for two reasons: I need help getting a visa extension and Theresa is trying to get an American visa so she can work in and observe Notre Dame Schools in the US. The Secretariat has two employees, Yakob and Stella, who deal strictly with immigration issues. Sr. Theresa's situation was more complicated than mine and we spent seven hours going through various documents. The good news is that Yakob told me that it would be no problem getting a three month visa extension. Apparently the Secretariat has good contacts in the Immigration office, so we left my passport, documents, and most importantly the money. They told me that I could go back to Enugu and Sr. Theresa could collect my passport when it was completed on Thursday or Friday. I am a little nervous about the visa extension but I am trying to keep the faith. I keep telling myself that there is no sense in worrying about things I can't change.

After leaving the Secretariat's office, we went to the bus station to buy my return ticket. Since restaurants are fairly hard to find in Nigeria, we ate at the bus station. It was a nice meal of rice and fried chicken. I was hoping to do some sightseeing or even some shopping but Theresa wasn't feeling well so we went back to the hotel. I lost the desire to explore by myself in the oppressive heat and I just went back to my room too.

This morning I left the hotel by 6:15 am. So it was a necessary trip to Abuja but not exactly an exciting one. The eight hour bus ride can be long and grueling especially on the semi-paved roads but I also find it interesting. I can't stand the Nigerian movies, which are full of overacting, bad special effects, and oftentimes casual violence against women. So instead of watching the on board entertainment, I enjoy watching the passing scenery. In the country there are communities of mud huts with thatched roofs. There are herds of scrawny cows with massive horns, sometimes wandering the roads. Almost all of the rivers have dried up by now and the dust is horrible. Trees and bushes look rusty brown because they are covered in dirt. Still the land is very green and the mountains are beautiful. Most days I forget that I am half way around the world in Africa but during the bus ride that was pretty much all I could think about.

So I am off to bed and it is nice to be sleeping in my own bed again.

Love from Africa,

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