Friday, May 31, 2013

The Same but Different

So, we’ve spent the last couple of months getting to know our new city.  Overall, we think we’re going to like it a lot.  It’s very, very different than Jos.  In some ways we like that, in others, not so much.  Here are a few of the differences we see:

  • The weather.  Oh my word.  It is so hot and so humid here.  We sweat all of the time.  Some days I shower 2-3 times just to keep my sanity.  We’ve spent a good chunk of our savings putting in AC window units to use at night so that we will be able to sleep.  It’s a big, big change.  Our previous city was known for it’s moderate and amazing climate.  We wore hoodies for 3-4 months of the year.  I really, really miss that.
  • The retail scene.  There are malls with shiny things.  There are grocery stores with meat packaged on styrofoam trays and wrapped in celophane.  There are more than 3 cheese choices at the grocery store.  There are fast food restaurants with counter services that serve pizza, ice cream, french fries and cheeseburgers.  There is a movie theater and a bowling alley and a miniature golf course.
  • The clothing. Well, let’s just say I brought the wrong wardrobe for this city!  Here, women wear very western clothing.  Skirts at the knee, sleeveless shirts, and even blue jeans are very common.  Having come from the land of long skirts, full sleeves, and head coverings, I have been in culture shock.  I feel like a frump when I go out in my “Jos” clothes, especially when Sunday morning church rolls around.  I keep telling Ryan that I need a trip to the States so that I can refurbish my wardrobe.  He’s not buying it.  
  • The security situation.  That’s probably the single biggest difference.  We feel like we can go most anywhere safely.  I even take taxis by myself.  I am pretty sure that when I get my International Driver’s License, I will even feel like I can drive here. Recently, I went to the grocery store by myself for the first time since we left Canada, it felt so weird.  But, I feel very safe here and I feel like the traffic and the authorities are so much more manageable.  
  • The hustle and bustle.  There is definitely a big city, urban feel here that we didn’t sense so much in Jos.  We miss the “front porch” culture we’d found there.  I hope we can find great relationships here, with time.
  • The rules.  People tend to follow them much more here.  They wait in line.  They don’t create extra lanes on the road.  They say excuse me when they walk in front of you.  Nigerians have a reputation of being very “me first.”   It’s become obvious to us, after being here that it is definitely true.  There is a significant difference in the way people interact.
  • The electricity... we have it here.  Nearly all of the time.  We’ve only lost power 3 times in our 2 months here.  I don’t think we had more than 10 days in the 14 months we lived in Nigeria where we had continual electricity for 24 hours.  Nearly every single afternoon I thank the Lord for my empty laundry hamper.  Electricity is way cool.

But, for all of those differences, there are many things that are very much like our former life:

  • Time.  It’s still relative.  Punctuality is not considered necessary.  Haste is unheard of.  
  • Skin color.  We’re still white.  They call us Obroni here instead of Bature, but it means the same thing.  You’re white, therefore you are rich and you hold far more resources than you need.  You should pay me more, give me more, dash me more...  
  • Customer service.  The bottom line is, we have yet to experience the “Customer Is Always Right” mentality.  If it’s on the menu and we don’t have it, it’s the customer’s problem.  If it’s broken, it’s the customer’s problem.  If you have to wait 30 minutes, it’s the customer’s problem.  This has been particularly frustrating to me because somehow I thought that in the land of shiny things that would come.  It didn’t.  I nearly snapped one day at a Chicken Inn.  Then I decided to lower my expectations.  Considerably.  Outings have been significantly better since then.
  • The worship.  It’s still beautiful seeing folks who have so many struggles sing praises with such abandon.  It’s still so convicting to me.
  • It’s not home.  I still really, really miss the people, the places, the comforts of home.  It’s not as overwhelmingly different, but it’s definitely not home.

All in all, I think we’re settling in well.  We really miss our friends in Jos. It doesn’t seem like we could ever have the same calibar of relationships here that we had there.  But, a year ago, we felt the same way about our lack of relationships there.  So, I’m trusting that the Lord will bring that in time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Walk Around the Block

We live near the US Embassy.  For that matter, we live very close to at least a dozen different embassies and/or ambassador residences.  I imagine that our organization purchased this piece of property that we live on when it had a much, much lower value than it would today.  As the deacon who visited us a few weeks ago told Ryan, we live in an "elitist neighborhood."  Who knew?

It's a big change from our last home.  There we lived a stone's throw from the "real" Africa.  We walked out our gate, made a left, and we were right in the thick of chickens, goats, half-naked children, and raw sewage.  Man, how I miss that.  And, if I'm telling the truth, I've been a bit down in the mouth about it.  How can one woman complain so much about all that is not available to her and then turn around and complain when her world expands?  Oh, that I would learn to be content.  

Yesterday morning, I got up early enough to take a walk by myself.  I went out my gate at 6:17 AM, thinking I'd get out while it was still quiet.  Boy, was I wrong.  I was amazed at all of the hustle and bustle.  I decided to  put on my narrative mapping hat.  When we went to Canada for training, they taught us to really look and see where people gather and how the rhythms of life work in the neighborhoods where God has called us to work and serve.

To walk around the block, I literally have to walk the entire perimeter of the US Embassy.  When I walked around the front side, it was time for the guard shift change and I noticed a half dozen tea and bread sellers, ready to serve those hungry men who were headed home.  As I made my way around the side, I realized there was a whole mini-city just across the street from the huge embassy building. There were chop bars and little shops that sold everything from cell phone credit to powdered milk to biscuits (AKA cookies).  There were ladies selling fruit and vegetables and meat pies.  Mixed in with all of the sellers was a wide variety of people coming and going, buying and selling.  There were white men in suits and brown men in guard uniforms.  There were ladies of various colors dressed for a day at the office.  There was such a pulse to that place.  And at that moment I realized that this too was the "real" Africa.  

I live smack dab in the middle of the "real" Africa.  I am not here by mistake.  I was reminded of the phrase in Ecclesiastes that says something like "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..."  I have no idea what God will have for me to do in however many days, weeks, months, or years He gives me in this new city.  But, I can be faithful with each one that comes, relying on God instead of my own pitiful self.   I can quit bellyaching about how this isn't what I signed up for and I can choose joy for this part of the journey.  That's what I was reminded of on my walk yesterday morning.  I'm so thankful that the Lord is so patient with me and that He takes the time to speak to my heart in little ways like that.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Day at the Beach

Did I mention that our new city is on the beach?  It is.  At least that is what everyone told us.  And we kept telling our kids that we lived in a beach city.  They were beginning to think we were liars.

Between waiting for our van, unpacking, learning to navigate things like groceries,  transitioning into a new job, and having Ryan take his first week long work trip, the beach had to wait.  Until this past weekend,  when we decided it was high time we soak in some sun and surf.  So, we drove a bit out of the city, where the water is clean enough to play in safely.  And we played all day long!  It was a great day.

 They loved climbing the beachside rocks.
Sweet Seesters!

 The view from my lounge chair.

 This boy fought the surf all day long.  He is one determined kid!

Getting 5 children to jump simultaneously is more painful than I could have ever imagined.  Forget it!
This girl insisted she didn't need sunscreen.  She ALWAYS tans, she NEVER burns (insert 12 year old eye roll here.)  I decided that maybe she could just try that theory out.  After all, she is headed to camp at the beach in a couple of weeks and I thought this might be a good time to learn a valuable lesson.  Well, she's on day 4 of Solarcaine and I bet I never have to coerce her to put on sunscreen again.  

I, on the other hand, faithfully applied and re-applied my sunscreen.  I stayed under the covered area a good bit of the afternoon.  I am also on day 4 of Solarcaine.  I don't think I've got an equator living kinda complexion.