It's Monday evening, and we arrived here on Saturday evening -- getting in to the apartment around 10:30 PM after what was, for me, a trip of just over 30 hours. I had to change planes and airlines in Chicago -- Brent got on the direct flight to London from Houston. We met up in the BA lounge in London. I've got to say -- flying Business class is great! I'm too cheap to pay the premium myself. But when the company is paying, I certainly enjoy it! The trip was very comfortable -- the only annoyance being on the Lagos to London flight when the inflight entertainment system wasn't working. Oh well, it was a trial, but we managed to endure it. I'll have to watch The Illusionist another time.
There was one slightly disappointing thing to me. When I applied for my STR visa in Houston, which is a resident-type visa, the company sent my passport off to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, and it was returned with a thick manila envelope marked: "DO NOT OPEN THIS ENVELOPE! It is to be hand-carried in to Nigeria with you and opened when you arrive by a Nigerian customs official." I don't know if it is just documents, or if it also contains bribe money -- or what -- it is a mystery. And I worried about stumbling through a reply to the airline ticket agent when I was asked the security question asking if anyone I didn't know had given me something to take on my flight. But, thank goodness, they've done away with that security question with the looming threat of 2 oz. bottles of mouthwash and mini tubes of toothpaste. But I imagined some kind of hand-off to the customs guy -- I didn't know if it was going to be on the sly, or over the counter. I kind of was hoping for some intrigue with it -- and I wanted to catch a glimpse of what was inside. But, no, Brent told me -- I'm just supposed to give it to some company person and they bring it over to the consulate and take care of it. Oh well -- in Nigeria, probably most often boring is better.
It was comforting to me to arrive to the same familiar apartment that I stayed in last summer. Things in the city seem much the same -- although a construction project of a walkway along the beach seems to be finished and looks quite nice. I'm sure it will be featured in a future blog entry when we find the time/get up the nerve to go walking along the beach.
I've been getting things organized in the apartment. Because Brent's been sharing it with other guys, he's kept his belongings in the bedroom storage areas. But now, we have the apartment to ourselves, so the food went into the kitchen cupboards and things have spread out to other closets and dressers. There's plenty of storage space for what we have.
I did some grocery shopping today -- the driver came back from exchanging money for us with a thick wad of 200 naira notes -- the exchange rate is 129 naira to the dollar. Food and goods, especially things that have been imported are very expensive here. As close as I can tell most things are about 3-4 times what they would cost in the US. I've never spent $9 for a box of cereal before. I declined to buy a tub of Crisco for $25 -- I'll wait till I absolutely need it. But my grocery bill for my 8 bags of groceries came to $15,000 naira (about $116)-- and I had to pay for it with 200 naira notes -- oh my hands felt scummy after counting out that money. I reached for the hand sanitizer as soon as I got to the car!