I was 22 years old and the year was 2003. My father, who was in the oil industry, was being transferred to Lagos, Nigeria. I stuck my hand up, just like a kid in school and said me, I want to go.
What was I getting myself into? That was unknown but what I did know was that I had this deep desire to travel the world and I had yet to leave country ever before. Me being the “off-the-beaten-path” person, it only seemed natural to go to a country that was different than anything I ever knew, as far away as possible, for my first international trip.
Now that it was decided I would go, it was time to do all the things I needed to do in order to go. What was that? Well, I am glad you asked! I had to get my passport and visa done, which was done through the company that my father worked for. I had to get 13 shots, yes, 13 vaccines (6 in one arm and 7 in the other). Then, and most importantly, I had to figure out how to pack everything I thought I needed into a few suitcases. Which of course, ended up being way too much but hey, what I did I know then.
Tickets were bought (which they were one ways because no one knew how it would go on the other end) and off we went. Many, many hours later we arrived in Paris for a layover and from Paris we would go to Lagos. Now, here I am a 22 year-old girl who grew up in upper-middle class suburbia in California and Texas, and now I’m standing in the Paris airport on my way to Lagos, Nigeria.
I am pretty sure this is when my full-fledge wanderlust set in.
We board the plane and take off for Lagos. About 6ish hours later, we land in Lagos. I was not prepared for what I was about to see or, more importantly, the humidity. No, I was not.
Imagine someone who is in shock by what they are witnessing that all they can do is look around with their mouth wide open. Well, that was me. It isn’t that I was horrified or disgusted by what I saw, I was simply in disbelief because (as I stated earlier) I hadn’t ever seen anything like this. There were no lines, and everyone was just in these funnels. It was hot and to top it off, I am a 5’3 American white girl who very obviously stuck out like a sore thumb.
Let me tell you, this was a very humbling experience. The whole time I was there, really. However, it was humbling in the best way possible and I believe living here is the reason my eyes are so wide open; they’ve been open and accepting ever since.
We (my father and I) get our bags and make it through customs and are being escorted by security from his company. They lead us out to a bus, which will be taking us to our flat. As I board the bus and walk towards the back, I am looking out the rear window to see a vehicle behind us that had four men with rifles, in it. At this point I am still stuck with my jaw dropped but I am learning that this is just par-for-the-course. We leave the airport and get on the highway and who is following us, that vehicle with the rifled men.
As we are driving down the highway this is what I see: shack after shack lining the road and people walking everywhere; the traffic was horrible; and, at every light there are (mainly children) trying to sell people their goods. As I am taking in all of the smells, sounds, and sites, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that yes, I am here. This is my life now and I don’t know for how long, but I did know is that I was ready for the adventure. I was ready for my life to be turned upside down, for the better, and I was ready to embrace everything that came with being an expat in Nigeria.
In 2003, the population in Lagos (alone) was over 13 million people and the locals lived on less than $2 USD a day.
About an hour or so later, we made it to the flat which was on Ikoyi Island; there were guards to let us on to the property. We gathered our belongings and heading to the building which housed our flat. We were on the 4th floor, which I would call the 5th floor because in America, we call the ground floor the first floor. Oh, and no, there was no elevator; this was going to take some getting used to. We make it up to the flat and in we go. Wow, was this nice; 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, a huge kitchen and living room and the view was spectacular; we overlooked the tennis courts, the pool and the barbeque area.
Stay tuned, the best is yet to come!
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