Well this might be, not sure, one of my last posts before leaving for South Africa on Thursday.
I must devote a portion of this blog to the “vacation” we took to Yankuri Game Reserve on Thursday and Friday. (See Tara's blog for some great pics. I'll post more when I get home. I don't have her patience.) Dr. Chris got word that he would be returning to Jos by 3 p.m. on Thursday and decided that we would leave at 3 p.m. for Yankuri. This trip was supposed to occur earlier in the week, however, his side trip to Lagos to retrieve the surgery equipment that has been in customs for over a year (he still doesn’t have it, but he did make progress in moving it forward) put a kink in these plans. This was really the last opportunity we had to take this trip. The elections were on Saturday which meant we shouldn’t be “on the road”, and Dr. Phil Fischer, our Mayo “contact” is coming into Jos on Monday which will fill up our days until we leave for Thursday. It was therefore Thursday or not at all.
It was actually 4:30 before we got on the road. This is not unusual for Nigerians. They admit that there is “Nigerian time” and “American time.” Usually Nigerian time is the norm. Occasionally they will tell us to be there at “American time” but even this time usually leaves us waiting a bit. Nigerians are very “no problem” about everything. I really covet their laid-back attitude.
One thing I quickly learned. It is possible to fit more people in a vehicle then you may have every thought possible. I have yet to see a child’s car seat. If you can fit in the vehicle, then it is a safe arrangement. I say this to tell you that we had 13 people in a “comfortably” eight person van. Technically, you could seat nine. We put 4 more inside. Granted four of these were children, but it still left us sitting wherever possible. This seemed okay until Dr. Chris told us it was a three hour drive! In all actuality it took 4 hours. This was due to a few factors. The first was the need for a quick pit stop. This “bathroom break” took place behind an abandoned gas station on the side of the road. Quite honestly, I am getting less and less picky about where I use the restroom. The second reason for the longer trip was nightfall. This slows everyone down. There are many police stops on the road. These include rocks or tree branches in the road that you must wind around to get by. (These cause a lot of accidents as they are in the middle of the highway and hard to slow down for.) These stops are harder to see at night. There are also a lot of potholes in the roads. I asked Dr. Chris why this was, and he said it really boiled down to people doing sub-par work. The third reason was a stop at the gate of Yankuri. They like to keep track of tourists so we had to give passport numbers and pay for camera usage (people sell their photos apparently) and other things of the like.
We finally arrived at 8 p.m. Dr. Chris and Dr. Mercy’s cook had made us some food for the road. Warming containers are very big here and really do a great job. The food was very warm and very good! Afterwards, Dr. Chris informed us it was time to go to the warm springs. I was not too sure about swimming in foreign waters in the dark. However, I should have been more relaxed. These springs were so amazingly beautiful! It was basically a site for the movies – a perfect lagoon in the middle of the jungle. Bats were diving and eating flies off the water. The water was the PERFECT temperature (seventy degrees I believe.) It was so amazingly refreshing and totally worth the long drive.
The next morning we went on a two hour game drive in the back of a pickup truck. We didn't see any of the “big five”, but we saw some great birds, bush bucks, and other smaller animals. We also, as our tour guide informed us, got to see the "tse-tse fly”. These things bite badly! The only thing I can compare them to are those bugs that bite you in the pool in south Florida. Ajit is covered in bites today from some animal -- not sure if it was the tse-tse fly or what! But it was still great fun.
Afterwards, we returned to the warm springs for another swim before heading back. I could have swam there for the entire day. Dr. Chris was a bit disappointed that the park was still in the condition it was. Apparently, a year ago, government officials said they were going to really focus on this park and make it more welcoming for tourists. It has the potential to be an amazing “money maker” for the area. However, apparently, work has been started but hasn't really advanced. In a sense, we were glad that it isn’t exactly “welcoming” to tourists because, as Tara said, the swimming area wouldn’t be as amazing if it were overcome with tourists. However, it definitely has something to offer people from all over the world. They will need to improve the living quarters and roads in order to make this happen but the potential is there.
We got back to Jos in much better time than our prior trip. No bathroom break and no darkness allowed our driver to get us back in 2:45 minutes! Great job Godwyn!
We spent all day Saturday laying low. We turned on the television in our flat for the first time in order to watch some news. It appears that there really wasn’t any violence throughout the country. This was the first time in the country’s history that the government had shifted from democratic to democratic. In the past the shifts have been from military to democratic and back to military again. In addition, there was some big “to do” in regards to some court hearing on Thursday. To avoid the case being heard in time, a national holiday was declared. Just like that a national holiday! This really cracks us up. It’s all quite interesting and educational. Next Saturday the elections for the president will be held. Apparently, this election isn’t as serious as the election today. Either way, we are glad our flight is mid-week being as most of the airlines have cancelled their flights today and next Saturday. Elections are quite serious stuff around here.
It was actually very strange on Friday night when we went to bed and when we woke up. It was eerily quiet! Dr. Chris said most Nigerians would stay home and just avoid any trouble. People were encouraged to vote and then head home to avoid getting swept up into any riots or problems. Musa, who is staying downstairs and helps us with water and the generator, taught us a fun Nigerian card game.
“Papa” our favorite Nigerian chef voted this morning. He returned and showed us the ink on his thumb. He was very proud. He also pulled out his voting card and registration. We found out from this card what Papa’s real name is: Danladi Dasan. We also found out that he is not in his sixties as we thought. The guy is 78! He doesn’t speak great English. We can communicate but are limited to very surface conversations. He calls me Madam. He calls Tara “Mrs. Fruit” because of how she devours any fruit he serves. He also likes having doctors living in the house. He got a pretty nasty cold last week. JB went in to check on him and Papa asked John if he would take his blood pressure! This was so cute. John explained that blood pressure probably wasn’t necessary, but he did give Papa some Dayquil and Nightquil. Papa really enjoyed this stuff and the next day, I asked if he needed more medicine he said, “Yes please. And the green ones.” The green ones are to help him sleep so they obviously helped. Papa is an amazing man! He brought us two pictures of he and his wife. He had 12 children. Ten of them are still alive. I haven’t been able to get a straight answer as to how many grandchildren he has.
Sunday we helped lead the HIV support group. Kelsey preached and knocked our socks off! Tara led a great song, JB spoke on HIV research around the world, and Ajit gave a great photo presentation. I was fairly useless! :) I was supposed to have them sing some of their songs to record but they sang without a request.
It is now Monday afternoon. Our friend Lauretta came over last night and gave us each Ibo names. Later, I will write them for you. She gave our "future" child a name as well which means "God's gift". It was quite awesome. She is coming over tonight to help JB learn to cook a "real" Nigerian meal. Very fun.
Anyways, I think that is enough for now. Again, I'm not sure I will get on again before we leave for South Africa. I am also not sure what access we will have in South Africa. It is amazing that our nearly four weeks in Nigeria has come to an end. I have so much more to say (believe it or not) than what I have currently written, but I guess you will all have to wait until we get home for more details (and pictures). Check Tara's blog. She's a great picture-loader! Missing you all so much!!