Don's Perspective - Upon arrival in Abuja, we needed to pass through immigration services, collect our bags and then pass through customs. All went smoothly (although it took a very long time to get through immigration), until we attempted to collect our bags. The number of bags we had was staggering, because each of the ten of us had both one checked bag of our own, and one additional checked bag filled with donated prescription medications and supplies for the Kateri Medical Center. As you might imagine, the odds were against us with so many bags, and two of the bags could not be located at the airport.
My first experience with Nigerian authorities, and so far, thank goodness, my only experience came as I was attempting to video tape our group in the airport - just so that those reading the blog could get a sense for how many bags there were for us to collect, and just how chipper we all looked after 17 hours of travel and waiting in the immigration line.
That exercise didn't go so well. I was immediately approached by an airport official who demanded to take my video camera, wanted me to show him the picture I had taken, and to see my passport. It's a new camera, one of those miniature Flip brand video cameras, and I had not had much time practicing with it before I left. What I didn't realize, is that I never turned off the camera and most of the incident is at least audible, although the picture jumps around. O.K., so no taking pictures in the airport. Fortunately, my video camera was returned to me.
The Flip camera is something I highly recommend. It takes up to 60 minutes of video at a time, and makes it simple to post the videos to YouTube.
We got through customs without interruption for reasons I will not discuss here. Outside of the airport is a different matter. We had a team of porters assisting us with our bags, to get them from baggage claim onto the pickup truck and the van we took to Kaduna. These guys were very friendly, and hammed it up for the camera. I would estimate that we didn't get on the road until at least two and a half hours after we first landed, if not a bit longer. A very involved ordeal to get ten Americans into the country and on their way!
Peter's Perspective - The first impression of Nigeria is heat and dust, my L L Bean pocket alarm clock showed the temperature in the arrivals hall to be 90o F. Some of the staff of Bishop Josiah of the Anglican diocese of Kaduna met us. The sky outside looked overcast, until one realized that it was a smog of smoke from burning grass, trash and dust; a toxic mixture that irritated the eyes.
Our 30 pieces of luggage; 10 large duffle bags of medical supplies for the Kateri clinic, 10 personal bags and 10 pieces of hand luggage were loaded into the back of a pickup. Most of us squeezed into a small passenger van, the rest into the cab of the pickup with our overflow baggage.
Ten people from five different United States churches checked into a British Airways flight to Nigeria via London.
Our group was comprised of pastors, doctors, nurses and even two lawyers. Seven of the ten spent their time between Kaduna and Kateri, where a medical center has been established, funded by Trinity Episcopal Church in Tariffville, Connecticut.
Three of us, including two of us from St. Peter's Episcopal Church in South Windsor, Connecticut, and one from Trinity traveled another three and one half hours north to Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State. There we met with Bishop John Danbinta to explore building a primary/secondary school in Gusau.
Read on for more about the trip . . .
We all met on Friday morning (the 13th) at Logan in Boston. Some of the group were already in Boston, and others were driven to Boston very early Friday morning. Our flight involved two legs, one from Boston to London, Heathrow, and the second from Heathrow to Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria. Each leg of the flight was over 6 hours, with about a two-hour layover in Heathrow. The remainder of our journey was by auto, first two hours to Kaduna, and then for three of us an additional three and one half hours further northwest to Gusau.
There were ten of us on this trip, two from St. Peters Episcopal Church in South Windsor, three from Trinity Episcopal Church in Tariffville, and the remaining four from different parishes, including one from Texas. Our group is quite diverse, and we all took an immediate liking to each other when we met over the course of several months prior to the trip to discuss logistics. Our total travel time from Boston to Abuja was approximately 15 hours, including the layover in London.