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Published: September 27th 2012
"Oyibo" is a word that I am starting to get extremely familiar with. It means "white person" or "foreigner" and Katie and I have definitely heard it enough times that we are beginning to respond to it on impulse. We are very aware of just how "oyibo" we happen to be, for everyone is completely shocked to see us here. We've even gotten bursts of laughter, which I also have to join in on. It's gotten to the point where I myself, am shocked to see white people and find myself wondering what reason they have to be here. Hmm, I suppose my mindset is slipping into the culture without me realizing it.
I'm going to start where I left off a few days ago, Sunday morning we rose bright and early to accompany Claire, Ngozi, and Stephanie (Claire's niece) to mass at the Assembly church. It was interesting to be seated among ambassadors from all across the world. In fact, Katie and I were even given the seats reserved for the Ambassador of Sudan and the High Commissioner of Canada when they failed to attend. Regardless, the most interesting part of mass was looking at all the elaborate and brightly colored ensembles of the women! Not all were dressed in African apparrel (though all were dressed to the nines), but those who were look brilliant! It made me very excited for the fact that we're having African dresses tailored for us so that we can own traditional clothing. Katie got a little light-headed and dizzy during the service, but was taken to the back by the Phillipino nuns, to lay down and rest. This is a little example of how accomodating people seem to be here. Once we went out to brunch at the Hilton, she was feeling better. I believe our out of whack sleeping and eating schedule caused her to feel under the weather.
Later we walked around one of the public parks. This is probably one of my highlights of the trip so far, because of seeing the more modern day culture. We got a glimpse into the everyday life of Nigerian people living in Abuja by going here. Many teenagers were rollerblading on the paths and I was told that they have a club for this. Young pre-teen boys had their horses at the park and would offer to let us pet or ride them for small fees. There were many smaller gatherings going on with food and music and many people were walking down by the water. I thought it was sweet when a mother asked us if we would take a picture with her daughter. We're beginning to feel like local celebrities around here. I hardly expected Africa to make us less down-to-earth. In all seriousness though, we are finding ourselves very fond of the things we are experiencing and I'm already finding them to make us more humble. The other day we passed a man who did not have either of his legs. On top of that, he didn't even own a wheelchair and was pushing his way down the street on a rolling cart, mere inches off the ground. Regardless of the fact that it deeply saddens me, I'm fortunate to see it and be inspired to help change conditions for people living in poverty. Katie and I discussed the other day how we would rather be in a country seeing these injustices and know that they are occurring than to live in a world like we do where it is so easy to hide it and pretend it doesn't exist. Someday I hope to make these truths known to all people and not allow some to ignore it. Many have been capable of great change and I know that there are many more out there who are! We then drove around Aso Rock which is said to be the most prominent landmark in Abuja. We followed the drive with dinner at an outdoor venue called "Point and Kill". Intimidating, huh? Well I decided to join in the local culture by selecting a catfish from a large sink area and watch it be killed and prepared for our dinner. I felt guilty, but it was delicious and spicy! Claire says that we're sure to lose our sweet tooths while in Africa because of all the spice. We'll see, but anyone who knows Katie and I can attest to our love of chocolate. I'm sure many vegetarians who read this will be horrified at my actions, but hey, when in Rome, right?
The next morning we switched from the Protea Hotel of Abuja to the Sheraton, which is more centrally located. Our new hotel is very nicer and much larger, but we do miss the home-y atmosphere of Protea! We did world-record packing when we were told we were switching. I'd say we got our stuff together in just over five minutes. We went to Claire's office later to say hi and met many more of her colleagues, all of whom were very nice and asked us how we're enjoying our time in Nigeria. We then went with Ngozi to the big market and man was it big! I've definitely never been shouted at more in my life, most of it was friendly though. I learned there that I truly am starting to respond to "Oyeebo" which seems to amuse many people. The sales people at these markets will do nearly anything to make a sale, mostly including flattery. I was told by one man that I look like a queen, I'm choosing to believe that he said this out of the goodness of his heart and I won't hear other suggestions. I purchased an interesting eyeliner pen from a young boy there who was just too sweet to pass up. We also went through the fruit market and listened as Ngozi argued prices. We still love to hear the Nigerian arguments, because they are always extremely lively and regardless of anger, one person is usually laughing and good-natured. It's very entertaining. Thank god, Ngozi has a good sense of direction because I would have been utterly lost in that maze of a market. We made it back right as the African downpour began and when it rains here, it rains HARD. Katie and I went back to the hotel and waited til the rain subsided before going to dinner at the "Beach House", a tikki shack by the pool. We ordered a few drinks and before long got into an excellent conversation with two middle aged men dining there as well. We decided to eat together, with the two, one a white man from Zimbabwe and the other, a born and raised Nigerian. We discussed politics, ethics, home countries, and many other topics and were very excited to have our first real random interaction of our trip.
On Tuesday we joined Ngozi, Stephanie, and Chinedu in going to the "Arts and Crafts" village. It's an area in the center of town where people can sell their artistic projects out of little huts, all forming a small village. I LOVED IT! We purchased many little souveniors and I bought a gorgeous painting. We got great deals and a chance to practice our haggling, which I found I was fairly good at. I'm sure my dad will not be surprised at this, as I've been haggling with him my entire life! We accompanied them to a few other shops and Millenium Park where we saw muslims participating in their prayer time towards the mosque, which was interesting. We turned in early that night due to exhaustion.
Yesterday we stayed around the hotel for the morning and afternoon to catch up on rest, but in the evening we had dinner with Claire, a colleague of hers, and her boss' son at a restaurant called Vanilla. The food was very nice, I especially enjoyed the dessert. Afterwards we went to the outside seating area and enjoyed hookahing around a table and taking a few shots, which was the first time I've ever done so with adults and found it hilarious and so fun! The car ride home was equally as funny as we all laughed the entire time at jokes and funny happenings.
Today is our last day in Abuja and my last blog entry from Nigeria. It's so strange to think that the first leg of our journey is over so quickly! Today we picked up our African clothes from the tailor and they are amazing! Seriously beautiful. We will wear them with pride. We also went to the salon, a treat from Claire, and got our hair done and nails. I absolutely loved the man who did our nails, Sam. Not only was he very talented but also so sweet! We exchanged names so we can become Facebook friends and hopefully stay in touch! It's so wonderful to meet people all over the world and have friends in many places. We leave tomorrow afternoon to venture to Cape Town, a very very long flight. This week has flown by for me and has been extremely meaningful to see a part of the country that my uncle is from! I hope dearly that I'll be able to travel with him here someday and experience it with him. I've gained wonderful experiences and memories and in my opinion, a new aunt! Claire has been more than wonderful to us and it means the world to me. More than anything we've enjoyed her company. Thank you so much Claire for this week, we love you!
I love and miss everyone so much! Please leave comments or questions, it means so much to hear from people. Next time I post, I'll be in Cape Town, South Africa. Same continent, but what I'm sure will be a whole different world!
For some reason this website is not allowing me to post pictures so I'm going to include a link to my facebook album that everyone should be able to view. Don't worry, Dad, the rest of my facebook is still private! Let me know if this works please!
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