Thursday, August 24, 2006

The 16th good thing about Lagos: The opportunity to leave the US and return and realize how good and easy life is here.

Well, after a 26 1/2 hour door to door journey, we arrived back in Houston right on schedule Monday afternoon (well, actually the flight was 5 minutes late -- but I think that's quite amazing after such a journey). Things went smoothly on all fronts. We had a limo waiting at Heathrow (paid for with our ticket price) to bring us to Gatwick for the flight to Houston, so that was very convenient and easy. We did avert a near disaster in Gatwick: After checking in our luggage, the agent handed me our passports and boarding passes and Brent and I followed the guys who were toting our luggage over to the security screening area. We had to fight our way through long lines of people waiting to go through the security checkpoint. After leaving our luggage in the proper place, we were looking for the end of the security line and I realized I only had one passport with our boarding passes -- Brent's was missing. I immediately went back to the gate agent and asked her if she had forgotten to give me one of the passports, and she assured me that she had given them both to me. My heart rate jumped about 20 points. She asked if we had maybe put one away and we did look -- but I knew that I had kept the travel documents in my hand. She made an announcement about a lost passport over the intercom and we proceeded to retrace our steps. After only a couple of minutes, Brent was handed the passport by a security guy who had found it dropped on the ground. I suppose it had slipped out while I was fighting my way through the crowds. Next time I will keep an even tighter death grip on my travel documents. That could have been a real disaster. The agent said that even though she had just seen the passport, there was no way in the present security climate that they would have allowed anyone to travel without a passport. Brent probably won't trust me to hold his passport again! After a pat-down at the initial security check point then, at the gate, they had another check where they were going through hand luggage and doing another passenger search. When Brent and I got to the head of the line, the security guy just passed Brent on through without a search at all. I hadn't seen him let anyone else pass by without a search! I don't know about that -- I think the one thing in common with all the airline terrorists so far has been that they are all male! I think I would be inclined to give a pass to the innocent looking female passenger. But, alas, I had to go through the screening and they confiscated my contraband British airlines business travel kit that we had received on our previous flight that I had thoughtlessly stuck in my carry-on bag, even though it contained dangerous tiny tubes of toothpaste and lip gloss (gels are forbidden), and small bottles of mouthwash and lotion. Of course, the kit was still sewn shut and each bottle or tube within was tamper-resistent sealed. But, it is possible that a crafty terrorist while in the airport between flights could have taken each bottle and replaced, for instance, the mouthwash, with a dangerous explosive substance and then replaced the tamper resistant seal and then sewn shut the travel case so it had appeared to be unopened. You never know... But I quickly assured the security screener that I wasn't too attached to the items and she was welcome to them. I think she was extra thorough with the pat-down after that, as I was a proven offender.

Anyway, we were very relieved when arriving home and finding all was well. I only had time for a quick shower before going to a Symphony chorus rehearsal -- so it was right back into activity. But the biggest first impression of being home is one of comfort and ease. The ability to brush one's teeth without using bottled water. To go to the grocery store and have such a plentiful and relatively inexpensive bounty of items to choose from. To make a salad or eat some fruit without soaking the produce in bleach for 20 minutes. To get in the car and drive where I want when I want without real security worries (well -- at times having a driver would be a real plus in Houston traffic!) and to have traffic laws that you generally expect will be followed. To be able to walk around my neighborhood freely on streets that are not lined with trash and beggars and people who have set up their home underneath a cloth held up with sticks because there is no other place for them to live. The poorest people here have it so much better than so many millions of Nigerians because here there is the opportunity to find assistance should someone pursue it and here there are possibilities that the poorest Nigerians can't even imagine. There are some really great things about life in the USA.

We had some fun experiences in our final days in Lagos that I haven't written up yet -- so there's still some "good things in Lagos" yet to be recorded. Stay tuned!

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