Saturday, June 6, 2009

Touch Down

By Lauren Biggers

The team has arrived safely in nigeria!

After a flight to atlanta, a 12-hour flight to lagos and another hour-long flight (with lots of traveling tales in between) to benin and a 20-minute ride to the hotel, we safely checked into our hotel around 3 p.m. local time (which is around five hours ahead of eastern standard time). it's been a long couple of days of traveling, but i can already tell it's going to be worth it.

you'll have to forgive my misspellings (spell check isn't active!!) and my going all e.e. cummings on you, but this international keyboard i'm typing on has the shift key located in a place my fingers do not readily recognize, while my hour of time is too-quickly slipping away on the ticker at the top of the screen.

our journey began when morgan's mom picked molly and i up at my apartment early friday morning and delivered us to the charlotte airport, where we connected with the rest of the charlotte-based crew, including manny and his wife, tracy. it took quite some time to get all 21 bags of shoes to meet the 70-lb. weight limit, but we finally got the green light. security was a breeze (we wore our flippy floppys...) and before you know it, morgan's hunting down a cinnabon. (totally worth it).

in atlanta, we connect with the rest of our team, which includes a videographer, al, and sue, head women's basketball coach at florida state, who has also been tasked with sharing a suite with morgan, molly and myself, and by default, andrew lovedale, frank ben-eze and their nigerian posse.

after a quick, er "quick," bite to eat (that's worth locating the shift key for) at tgif friday's - where morgan is kind enough to order me both a diet coke and a water in my absence... she's a keeper - we set about gathering necessities for our 12-hour flight. for morgan, newsweek, gq and mentos. for me, us weekly and chocolate, natch.

the 12-hour flight is as painless as one could hope, especially once we learn the third person in our row doesn't exist and make friends with the flight attendant manning the beverage cart. the movie selections are unfortunate, something with the rock in it (no, i can't smell what you are cooking) and something about a hotel for dogs, but everyone tries to buy some sleep. apparently, i am the most successful, but i cant help it if i was the most prepared.

in lagos, we get through customs with impressive ease, though not speed. the 21 bags of shoes seem to slow us from this point on, as the baggage attendants insist on matching tag numbers and bags. (yeah, yeah..) eventually we get enough cabs for the team and the bags, and we are on our way to our fourth airport of the journey for our third and final flight.

andrew's brother is traveling from england to benin, and we meet him on this flight, before finally connecting with andrew and frank on the ground in benin. (annnndreeeeeeew!!!!) all load the bus for the short trip to the hotel, which is a pleasant surprise, except for the frequent, but abbreviated power outages that elicit only laughs and cheers of "welcome home" from andrew and frank. the four girls on the team have been assigned to the "queens suite," rightly so, with morgan and i in one room and sue and molly in the other. (we have cnn!)

after a quick lesson from andrew on why there are buckets in the shower (fill one, pour from the other), we change and make a quick visit to the wedding reception in full swing and local color at our hotel. the bride, a volunteer with pro health international, the medical clinic we will be working with, insists that we jump on the stage and take a photo with her, so naturally, we oblige.

then it is time for the team to grab a quick bite at kada chicken, nigerian equivalent of kentucky fried chicken, which neither frank nor andrew have experienced. after a couple pieces of fried chicken and french fries, andrew decides we must try meat pies and fried doughnuts. too. (so much for my nigerian weight loss plan). they are worth the taste, even as frank continues to make fun for my giving approval prior to tasting.

four of andrew's friends, including his best friend moses (or burning bush) hold court in our living room for a while after dinner, and sue is gracious in allowing the davidson athletic contingent to keep her from sleep. frank discovers he played with one of florida state's nigerian players on their national team, along the way.

frank, andrew, molly, morgan and i piled (and i do mean PILED) into a truck for the ride to the internet cafe to make this report before heading back to the hotel and craaasshing. i'm also typing in the dark, here. fyi.

tomorrow's day kicks off with a 6:30 a.m. breakfast before a visit to andrew's church. i'm not really sure what the rest of the week will hold, but so far, we are having a blast. i love visiting new places and experiencing new cultures, and i am even more excited about seeing nigeria through frank and andrew's eyes. thanks for reading.

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