Work to Ride’s 2008 Trip to Africa, Pt. 2:
May 31st, 2008
Greetings from a world away; not just any world, but a third world country away. You see, poor life as we know it in America is not the same poor. Our poor is rich and wealthy beyond our own knowing. It would seem that we have landed in a commercial that you might see on TV asking for just 25 cents a day to save children. But this is real.
Upon our arrival in Abuja we could see things were different, but we could not put our finger on it right away. As we moved through the airport to the van that was waiting for us, the kids started complaining about the smell of body odor from the locals. These experiences were very new to me as well but I was too busy making sure our passports did not just disappear. People were passing our passports around like it was free cheap candy.
But my eyes, like an F-16, kept a lock on all of them. Once outside the airport I met Terry and her film crew. We would get to know her all to well over the course of the trip.
There was also a language in our ears that we had no knowledge of. But the kids (or the film crew?) must have liked what they were seeing because they started to laugh. We kind of laughed too, but we had no idea what was so funny. All bags were packed into the two white vans and a green pickup truck. It was about 5:30am. As the sun was winning the battle over darkness, I could see things here would no doubt change my perspective on life forever.
The people as they walked everywhere gazed at us. Why were we something to look at? It was not light enough for them to see us clearly. I would learn it was because we were in a new vehicle and had to be somebody.
This appeared to be a place for the poorest of poor. Black smoke ran out of every car and motorbike. The stores were such that I could not recognize them at all. Motorbikes were all over the place. Everything was green, and I knew that it must be the rainy season.
The language of Nigeria is Hausa and the money is Naira. The air around us had a very distinct smell. The people there walk for miles to work. There are no real buildings to speak of. There are many people that look very rough in the face from years of sun and lack of nutrition. At times they seem unapproachable. This might be similar to the look of us in the states in our poor places.
At the club we met the horses. They were good looking Argentine and Sudanese horses, and the club was very nice. But everyone here treats me well only because I am American, or so I am told. There appears to be only rich and poor, no middle class to speak of. The animals run wild, like chickens and goats and white cows with tall curved horns.
As I write, we are on a three hour ride to Kastina, Nigeria to meat the Emir. The landscape is changing from flat land to scattered trees and shrubs with very large boulders. Vegetable and fruit are all along the road side for sale, mostly mangos and bananas.
By Richard Prather
Coming soon: more on Work to Ride’s 2008 trip!