One of the marvelous things about this trip is that the itinerary has seemed to grow with each passing day. Media interviews appear out of nowhere, more visits with Rotarians. More. I learned when I was in Philippines with the GSE trip that there is a fifth line to the Four-Way Test: Is it a surprise? and to just roll with the punches. Since then I’ve gotten much better about asking what is appropriate to wear, however. In the Philippines I started off by saying, “is it appropriate to wear XXX”? The answer would always be yes, and then we would be very inappropriately dressed. Later I asked our mostly male counterparts, “what will you wear?” and tried to come up with the female equivalent, and similarly almost always ended up very inappropriately dressed. Finally (about the third week in the Philippines, I learned to say, “What will your wife be wearing?” and then I had the information I needed to get it right.
As I say, these many years later we’re getting smarter. And have learned to wear the dresses we were given. It works. An American in local dress is always dressed appropriately! I think it’s like the dog dancing in the bar. It’s not really a matter of how well the dog dances. …
Anyway, on Thursday we wore our team shirts for yet another media interview, this one the morning program on the major Abuja station. This was the first one for which we were made up, so I guess it was the most prestigious, but frankly, the interviewers weren’t as well prepared. They wanted to know all about the camps, but they didn’t know until Claudia told them that we had only been to one camp, and they wanted to know why we went to Adamawa State instead of Borno State, the real center of the problem. My answer: Because our Rotary friends took us to Adamawa State. I didn’t add: Why don’t you go to Borno State? but that would have been the correct come-back.
After that, we were invited to breakfast by Felix and Adetutu. Their daughter, who is a nutritionist, had cooked for about 20 people; there was a remarkable amount of food, including pancakes made from plantains.
Adetutu had taken our measurements on Sunday, and her dressmaker had been at work. She had dresses for each of us — very dressy, with a lot of glitter, which apparently is this year’s fashion statement. So we changed into our new finery, and many kisses and second helpings and farewells later, rolled out the door.
Ogi had previously asked us what we wanted to purchase, and our expectations meant that we needed to visit both the central market (spices, fabric) and the tourist market (collectables). And we have been treated royally for the past week and haven’t been allowed to spend any money, so we had a lot of Naira to get rid of. Off we went to the central market, Ogi leading the way. The problem was that when the merchants saw her with three white women, the prices immediately escalated. But we were in our Nigerian up-and-downs, so she just explained that we had recently married Nigerian men and were trying to learn how to cook properly. I have no idea if anyone believed her, but at least the prices didn’t skyrocket.
Sheila bought some really really hot pepper, but fast-forwarding to later in the evening, when she opened the container (a recycled soda pop bottle) she found a bug crawling in the pepper, so she left it behind. Ogi couldn’t understand why. I bought dates and ginger — good, freshly ground ginger. I guess I will freeze the bottle to kill any protein that might be crawling around …
We also went to the wholesale end of the fabric area, where I indulged myself. Fabric is sold in six-yard lengths — that’s enough for a dress — and I went wild. I will use the fabric in quilts, of course. Someday.
Then it was time to go to the Abuja Metro meeting, which meets at lunchtime (but not over lunch) at the Sheraton hotel. There are about 85 members in the club, and there was a good representation. Since the club includes two past District Governors, not to mention a past RI president, there was also plenty of protocol. A highlight was the Sgt-at-Arms — who asked each of us to participate, and included a club Rotarian as the fourth person to collect money. He announced at the beginning that the money would go to one of the club’s projects, and that we wanted to collect 20,000 Naira from each of the four sections of the room, and then he started fining. At some point, the four sections started a rivalry, and members started adding Naira to the pot in order to “win” with the most donations. It all got rather scattered and I forget the final total, but we made his number, that’s for sure.
I have already said how President Jonathan called us “angels” in his toast. I quietly demur, but I also understand that for American women to go to Yola and visit the camp of displaced persons means something.
Then the meeting after the meeting. Bob had done a great deal of work since we talked on Saturday (the first night of our visit – it seems months ago by now) and Claudia fine-tuned what he had accomplished, and he will send to us electronically, and I am cautiously optimistic. We talked of many things over lunch — a working lunch — and left the table around 4:30. But we still had Naira to spend, so Ogi took us to the craft market, where we stayed until we were out of money. Well, almost: We went to the shopping center to get to the supermarket and purchase champagne and Bailey’s Irish Creme (a local favorite) as thank-you gifts.
We arrived home in time to change (wearing an up-and-down all day can be tiring in itself!) and dinner at Big Mike and Missy’s house, next door to the guest quarters were we have been staying. Missy and her maid have been cooking up another storm, and so we faced the third big meal of the day. It was a small gathering — just Felix and Ogi and president Bob from Abuja Metro, BIg Mike and Missy and the three of us. Felix showed up in the Boothbay Harbor club shirt I had had made/personalized for him back in 2012. (The next morning Ogi wore the tie-dyed “Peace through Service” tee I had had made for President Sakuji’s visit and given to members of the GSE team!).
We ate, we talked, we laughed, we exchanged gifts, and I am afraid Big Mike won the gift-giving contest … he had had a whole collection of Rotary tschochkes made for his District Governor year and District conference — everything from a “Four-Way Test board game” to picnic paraphernalia to a book he had written and, well, you get the idea. It was all wonderful, but the careful planning we had done for packing went out the window. (He offered to give us an extra suitcase if we wanted …) In the end, the three of us fit into two large duffel bags and two roll-aboards. To put that in perspective, we had come with four large bags and three small ones. So we left three bags in Nigeria. Good.
We tumbled into bed around 10:00 p.m. and the alarm went off at 4:15. We left for the airport at 5:00 for an 8:00 flight. We changed planes in Heathrow and arrived in Logan about 1 hour late, at 8:00 or so local time. All of which recommends that I save reflections for a later post and go to bed myself!