Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Abuja to Damaturu

I landed in Abuja after barely any sleep from Denver-Chicago-Frankfurt-Abuja. I had sat next to a Nigerian woman who lives in France and teaches English to university students, and was going back home for a three-month visit. After the flight took off from Frankfurt, she made her way to the back of the place to find a window seat. I saw her again mid-flight, a big, caring smile, "How are you doing dear?" She hadn't found a window, but the bulkhead was enough room for her to stretch her legs.

When we finally landed in Abuja after six hours of flying, I jumped from my seat, remembering the semi-chaos from flights to Nepal and Uganda. As I rushed out of the jet towards immigration, I was struck by the slow moving crowd behind me, almost like the wanted to stay on the plane. I had been standing in the immigration line for ten minutes before the flood of people came out.

When my turn came, I was instantly scrutinized by the immigration staff. Why are you here? Are you here to work? Who is sponsoring you? Is this Sarah person picking you from the airport? Why are you going to Damaturu? The supervisor was called over (again, they had some question about my business visa) and led me to a room, allowing me to grab my bag. He left me in the hallway, closing the door, presumably to call Sarah who had signed the letter I carried verifying my presence in the country. After five minutes passed, he opened the door and pushed his chin at me to go. I quickly found the driver and left.

One day's rest in Abuja, and we were off on a ten hour drive to Damaturu, through Jos, through Bauchi, through Potiskum to Damaturu. We met the south-bound vehicle halfway, greeted those going back to the capital and switched cars. The green hills gave way to green flat land, which rose suddenly to beautiful rocky mountains (I guess most would call them hills), before leveling off into the high plateau, dry, sandy, the occasional shrub. When we finally pulled into our compound at 4:30, I was exhausted from no sleep the night before (*during our drive, there were several police and military checkpoints, where again the police were questioning my and Abdi's visas - "Let me see your green card!" - we left without much trouble). I was shown my room, and ended the night early - it was Sunday and we would be leaving at 7:00 sharp the next day for field work.

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