Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stuff I Learned on My Trip to Nigeria and Cameroon, 10/26 - 11/3, 2011

·        Richard Inyang, my Nigerian travel companion, is a very loyal friend; and his sponsors, the Northern Light Church of Christ, are very generous.  A head shorter than I am, Richard carried me to the third floor of the hospital on his back.
·        The people at the Ikop Usen Church of Christ and at the nearby Palma memorial Hospital were very glad to see me.  The last American who had been scheduled to visit them had cancelled because of security warnings.  They were anxious to use my visit to invite American visitors again.  The hospital needs new mattresses.  I don't know what else.
·        Because of the reception we got from the Ikop Usen church and the Palma Hospital, I say that at least in their eyes the trip was a success.  The church gave us each an expensive looking authentic African set of clothing, and the hospital gave me a large woven hanging with my name and the date on it commemorating our visit.  Richard's parents killed a goat in our honor and fed the whole church Sunday after church.
·        African countries are not much like Haiti.  The Black/White relationships are different somehow.  I can't really put my finger on it.  Not necessarily better or worse in general, just different. It would take a lot of study and is probably not worth it.  Relationships are what they are.
·        Take cash money - cash cards and credit cards are not reliable.
·        Take a watch.
·        The speed boat ride from Nigeria to Cameroon was very crowded with cargo and passengers.  They fill them up, then add 5 or 6 more people.  The sun on the water, two degrees above the equator, was gruesome, especially for a 70 year old.  I will never again complain about the leg room on airplanes.  The round trip boat ride threw my sodium levels way out of kilter.
·        Cameroon officials, at least the one I met, are rule followers, if not people who make up rules.  I believe that in another place, they might have let me fly back to Nigeria for health reasons rather than put me back on the four hour speed boat ride.
·        Being deported is not a pleasant experience.  We spent the night in the immigration office on the docks.
12 hours in or near coma status

·        Being nearly in a coma, and speaking to people for whom English is a second language made it hard for me to communicate to the staff of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital that my problem was one of very low sodium chloride levels in my system.  It was also difficult for them to obtain the cortisone supplements I needed.  The people, however, were friendly, concerned, and solicitous.  At one time I counted six medical professionals gathered around my bed.
·        Coca-Cola is harder to come by in Nigeria.  
I remember very little of this
·        Delta Airlines' people are friendly and well organized.  Their seats on the 11.5 hour overnight flight to and from Nigeria do not incline as far as the domestic flights, but they served two meals and a snack.
·        Don't expect people overseas to know the phone access code for the US.
·        In Nigeria the airports, roads and cities are more modern than Haiti - the villages not so much so.
·        If you travel with Richard there is no need to take along two novels.  He moves fast and steadily
·        Start international trips with the conviction that nothing is unexpected.   Therefore, I was not really surprised when Richard could not arrange to fly from Lagos to Ugo as planned and we had to go the following day; when neither Richard nor I could access our money through our credit or debit cards; when I lost one lens from my glasses; when the speed boat ride was so hard; when my immigration to Cameroon was denied at the dock; when I kept losing things, among them my hand lotion that could have prevented the sunburn I got on my face on the speed boat rides, the book I was 3/4 finished with, and even the other half of my glasses on the plane home, but another passenger found them and turned them in; when I figured out that what I had brought along was Kaopectate when what I needed was Imodium A-D (look them up); when I ended up in the emergency room of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital; and when my cell phone started buzzing and refused to turn on - grave yard dead.
·        There are no coins in Nigeria - just paper money.
·        Life is not necessarily something to hold on to.
·        God is still good and is still in charge, even half way around the world.

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