As I arrived into Abuja, Nigeria, I knew my day wasn’t over just yet. Normally, as I wave goodbye to the passengers I envisage myself minutes later sunbathing by the pool, consuming some of the local alcoholic beverages or exploring the new destination that I have arrived into. But on this occasion, it was deemed too unsafe for us to leave the aircraft. Instead we fly onwards to Lagos.
TIA. This. Is. Africa.
Blood Diamond is a fabulous film and when these words are spoken within the movie (meaning things run slow, expect the unexpected etc) I never hesitated to agree, however never have they felt more valid than during my Nigerian experience.
As I walked through the airport it felt as if I had stepped back in time by a few decades. Furnishings were old and in bad condition, machines didn’t work, and staff lingered around the building without purpose. Rats darted across walkways as they heard my heels touch the hard, concrete floors before them. Smells of dust, and sweaty, unwashed bodies filled my nostrils.
Immigration was a stand, whereby I had to sign my name in a book. (can you even call this immigration?!?!)
I had to wait over half an hour for the bus to collect me to take me to my hotel outside the airport, even though they knew our arrival time, which is the same as it is every day (TIA huh?!).The humid, dusk air reminded me that I had not slept for almost 24 hours, and I felt rather dazed and blurred by the whole tired experience.
Locals stood all around me outside the airport. I held my bag tighter than usual. The African men starred at me with my blond hair, and I felt rather uncomfortable. The noise of the beginnings of rush hour traffic and car horns filled the streets with an early morning buzz. Cars were old, dented and produced puffs of fumes when they moved off. It was as I would expect from Africa, but paradoxically surprising at the same time.
When the bus finally arrived my bags were taken from me and put into the back of an open roof truck with flashing lights atop. Armed guards would be looking after my belongings between here and the hotel. The armed guards were well built, and intimidating in appearance, I certainly wouldn’t have messed with them!
When we got onto the bus we were told that we must fasten our seat belts and pull the curtains so that we cannot be seen, for our own safety. It was all a new, and different experience for me.
As we drove off I opened a small gap to peer outside, I might not have been able to go out and explore here, but I was determined t
o get as much out of this experience as I could. And sometimes, you get the best, and most authentic sights, out of a bus window…