At the end of March, I took a step outside my comfort-zone.
A 7,849 mile step, to be exact.
I, friends, spent fifteen days in Abuja, Nigeria
I absolutely love to travel, and traveling to a brand new place to experience something I have never encountered before is always the most exhilarating. Something, however, that trumps my adoration of travel is my exclusive and all consuming love of comfort. I have known about this trip to Nigeria for a year now, and since meeting my husbands parents three years ago I have heard countless stories of their home in the village. I had so much time to prepare myself for the trip, but chose to keep it very vague and hypothetical until February rolled around. Although my husband hadn’t visited his family there in 14 years, I asked question after question hoping it would provide a perfect visual of this coming vacation.
I checked the weather and found out it would be a lovely 106 degree average during our stay. I couldn’t wrap my head around it…What does that even feel like?! I was told to prepare for no power, complete pitch blackness at 8pm, the need to keep a low profile to prevent abduction, blistering heat, heading to the river for water, insects the size of your thigh, a distinct smell that will surely clear your sinuses, and the worst driving one could ever imagine. I have a fantastic imagination, which worked against me for months. The malaria pills didn’t help, promising nightmares, strange dreams and anxiety.
With one week to go, I was thoroughly panicked. I was on the phone with my dad outside my classroom talking like a crazy person convincing themselves they are excited when I broke down. And I mean- I REALLY broke down. Sobbing, snot running, hands shaking and all- finally accepting how afraid I was. I was so excited to meet my husband’s family and experience the life that every Atogwe before us has lived and thrived. I was doing my best to be a ‘cool-chick-wife’ again, pretending to be excited and positive and upbeat by meditating on verse after verse and deciding that people go to Africa all the time. To be honest, I said ‘Angeina Jolie goes to Africa all the time. I got this.’
And I did. After one 6 hour flight to DC, an 8 hour flight to Frankfurt and a 7 hour flight to Abuja, we had finally arrived. One of my larger fears was the amount of time spent on a plane. Arthritis in the back and herniated discs make for grumpy flights. Oh how little my faith was!! Although I slept for a grand total of four hours on the duration of these flights, I felt fantastic. And best of all- I survived them. God is so good! The airport gave me my first glimpse of the corruption of Nigerian government and authority, as almost everyone who helped us demanded we give them money…for doing absolutely nothing. My sister in law who traveled with us as well informed me that by not giving them what they want, you can end up stuck in the airport-or prison-for as long as they want. Naira (The currency of Nigeria) rained up in that place.
We spend a couple nights in an Abuja hotel while waiting for my brother in law and his girlfriend to arrive and then hit the road early in the morning for the 5 hour drive to ‘The Village.’ This gave me my first glimpse of Nigerian traffic rules- there are none. Not a single one. No road signs, no set directions, no laws, no speed limits, no traffic lights- nada. A one way street quickly breaks into a snug three lanes in seconds if a car so chooses to go a different way than the crowd. People ride on top of cattle trucks, no one uses a seat belt as they have all been cut out in order to fit more people, The millions of motorcycles flooding the streets usually feature the combination of a man steering-and texting- a baby in the middle and a woman on the back with a bowl full of yams on her head. We all eventually decided it was best to keep our eyes closed for the driving portions of the trip.
Once we arrived, however, all fear turned to pure joy. I cried just as hard as I did on the phone with my dad one week before. I cried because I was so thankful for their welcoming arms. I was thankful to see my in-laws who had arrived a week before us, and I cried thinking of how hard my husband’s parents worked to be the first Atogwe’s to move to Canada in order to make a better life for their family. This was my first glimpse into realizing just how blessed I was to be in that place.
I have an incredible pride in my last name simply from the stories I have heard over the years of exactly what this name means and what it stands for. After spending two weeks in the place where every Atogwe before me began, That pride has grown to uncharted territory. I am so excited to share this journey with everyone, I hope I have you at the edge of your seats waiting to hear more!