Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#15 Nigeria: It's Hard Sometimes

I have good days and bad days in regards to my attitude on being here....this is written on a bad day. 

We've been here over 3 months now, and it has not always been easy for me. It's not awful, but with my military background, I certainly thought it would be easier for me to adjust than it has been. Russ is having a great time. He said his expectations were so low, everything is great. I think since I was comparing it to my overseas experiences with the military, it's harder than I expected.

Ironically, most other ex-pats here make comments about how they maintain their sanity by leaving the compound, but I am happiest when I'm here! For me, leaving the compound reminds me that we're definitely "not in Kansas anymore". :)

Some of my biggest struggles:

  • finding the foods/ingredients I want for cooking. (and MILK! I miss normal-tasting milk!)
  • we've had a lot of headaches from unexpected and never-ending visa issues
  • missing fast food and restaurants (we didn't even eat out all that often, but it was so nice to have it as a last-minute option if dinner went wrong or I didn't feel like cooking)
  • heat, humidity, and bugs.
  • not being able to run to stores like Walmart or order things off Amazon (we don't get any mail here)
  • the smells, both of places and people and especially the weird smells in my house!
  • cleanliness and germs - especially when I go somewhere with the kids.
  • missing our furniture and our STUFF! (Nigerian beds and pillows are HARD)
  • sometimes, the cultural differences. (God bless America, people! Seriously! I know it's a crazy place sometimes, but there are so many good things about it! For example: almost every other week there is a fuel shortage or strike and cars have to line up for almost a mile to get gas!)
  • the craziness of traffic means you never know how long it will take to get anywhere
I also struggle a lot knowing that I really shouldn't be struggling! Really, we're so blessed here...

  • We are safe. For a third-world country that's not super stable and has a lot of poverty and diseases, we're in a very safe environment.
  • We are living in the biggest home we've ever lived in, and it's free! 
  • The people we're met on the compound really are an amazing group of kind, friendly, and welcoming people. They're the best part of living here, in my opinion. 
  • We're getting cultural experiences we'd never have otherwise. 
  • We're able to save so much money while we're here (one of the biggest blessings of all)
  • When we get sick (which has been a lot), there's a clinic right on camp where they always see you the same day, and everything is free
  • I have someone whose FULL-TIME JOB is to clean my house, run errands, and babysit my kids whenever I need her to. I am NEVER going to have that luxury again.
  • Chevron gives everyone a virtually all-expense paid trip twice a year (once for us, since we're here 6 months). 
  • And really, six months is a short amount of time! I should have a better attitude! But, unfortunately, *should* and *do* are not the same thing...

Before coming here, when people asked how I felt about Nigeria, I'd say, "It'll be fine. You can do anything for 6 months. We're excited!" Now, I find myself telling people I'm glad this is only for 6 months. Expats do say the first assignment is the hardest, and that Nigeria is definitely not an easy first assignment. They also say the first year of any assignment is the hardest, and that you don't truly feel at home until you get your shipment of household goods (which we are, understandably, not getting). So I give myself some comfort in knowing I am not completely crazy.

And as to growing up as a military child overseas, I think a) it's MUCH easier to be the kid than the Mom in these situations. Sophia and Grace are handling the changes - especially the new foods- with a lot more grace than I am and b) the Military has the best of both worlds. You live in a different culture, but you have a base where you not only see other Military members, but you can shop familiar brands, eat familiar foods, go to movie theaters and sporting events, etc. Then again, Russ wasn't a military child and hasn't traveled as much as I have, but he's adjusting just fine. I would even say he loves it here.

Aw well... Maybe I'm just a complainer. Bottom line: I think the hardest part is that 6 months is long enough to get homesick but short enough to pine for the things you miss rather than truly adapt. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#14 Nigeria: Mom and Dad's Visit!

We loved having Mom and Dad here for a week! Luckily, their visit coincided with Sophia's Spring Break, so she got to enjoy lots of grandparent time, too. It was nice to show them where we live and how we live, and it was reassuring to have my Mom tell me how much it reminded her of Japan (at least the compound part, and the weird milk, and the humidity/bugs coming into the house... being overseas as the Mom sure brings different memories than being there as a kid!). Looking through these pictures sure made me wish they'd COME BACK and stay FOREVER!

They arrived Friday night, and the next day they fought their jetlag and we went to check out the nearby Conservation Center. It's the greenest place I've seen here! They have a large tortoise, peacocks, and lots of fun monkeys that came right up to us.
Grace really likes our driver, Innocent (or "in-sint" as she calls him)

We didn't really see any bugs, but my malaria sensors were freaking out as we walked over standing water for a good 30 minutes!

this part reminded us of Louisiana! 

Can you tell we were a little hot and sweaty? At least it was shady, though.

 Our reward at the end of the path was a field that had cute huts to sit down in

 I like the difference in these next two pictures between Sophia's face...
 ... and Russ's face!
The next day was Sunday. Mom took pictures of the girls in their respective classes. (Grace may not look overjoyed, but she actually goes to nursery without a fight!!! Wahoo!)

Views from the ride home from church:

 I couldn't resist adding these two where the camera settings got the best of Dad. Bahaha

 We borrowed someone's cook for 4 days while they were on vacation, and 2 of those days were during Mom and Dad's visit. So this is us eating dinner the cook made!
 Grace and Granddad doing their morning stretches. :)

 Russ hurt his back really bad on Sunday, like so bad that the doctor told him to go on a straight week of bed rest (not even watching TV on the couch - flat on his back, knocked out on pain killers). It was so bad he was told if it didn't improve by a certain time, we'd be sent back to the states because he couldn't get the right kind of care here. So having Mom and Dad here for that week was INVALUABLE to me! They spent so much time with the girls, and I am so grateful for their help! They played in the back yard, went for walks, looked at the pretty flowers, and we all went swimming a couple times. 

 With Mom and Dad's help, Sophia named all the lizards that hang out in our back yard. 
 Sophia wanted to sweep with the gardner, and Grace wanted to do whatever Sophia was doing :)

 Grace keeping busy during Sophia's soccer class :)

The Hard Rock Cafe is brand new and located right on the beach (cleanest beach I've seen here)
 I love this happy picture of Grace and "Pa Pa" as she calls Granddad
 Grace: the facial expression queen.
 ...aaannnnd this is what the END of a trip to a restaurant looks like. Crabby and cranky kids!

We also went to the hot, sweaty market to buy some souvenirs. I'm sure Mom will post more pictures of the market, so I'll just put this one (with my Nigerian helpers from church). We were doing some intense bartering with this guy.

I wish there were more we could have done and seen, but we were still so glad Mom and Dad could come!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#13 Nigeria: Life in Pictures (Month 3)

Another month has gone by... We've reached the half-way point of our 6 month assignment, and I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me excited. Being here is definitely a good experience in a lot of ways, but I am really getting homesick for America!
This month we had lots of fun activities, including having my parents come visit!!! It was really nice to have their visit to look forward to, but I'll do a separate post about that. For now, here's random pictures from the month:
I signed up to read to Sophia's class. She was SO excited to have me go, and I had a lot of fun feeling like a teacher again (for 15 minutes :D).

Lately, Grace's two favorite activities are: watching videos of herself on my phone or laptop and playing "nigh-night". Now that's a game Mommy likes to play with her!

 Going out to lunch with friends :)
A cute picture of all the pre-school girls on a rare rainy day (I should really say "rainy time". Even when it does rain, it lasts about an hour, and then dries and heats right back up again) 

The leaving lion moved down the street when someone else moved, and the girls loved visiting it! 

 We went to an Easter lunch at someone's house, and this is how Grace let us know she was ready to go home...she just went and stood by the door. Poor girl. It was about 2 hours past nap time.

 During Spring Break and Mom and Dad's visit, a group of us we went to a movie! It was really cheap (about $3 per person, which included a small bag of popcorn), but the theater was pretty hot and stuffy.
 It was dark when we entered the theater, and the stuffiness/heat made us a little nervous. Then when we took this picture and saw the seat pattern lit up in the flash, we all freaked out a little - thinking they were stains on the chairs!! haha I felt more than a little germaphobic after this because who knows which are stains and which are part of the very unfortunate seat fabric choice...

While Russ was gone in the states, I braved taking the girls to the weekly beach outing by myself. This time we ate Nigerian food and watched some dancers (you can sort of see in the background) 

 Mary took some selfies with Grace on the camera ;) 

 My parents were here on Easter. Here are some pictures from our festivities - including at the camp's Easter party for the kids. 
Well, now she has teeth, but she still makes funny faces in pictures!
I like this because it shows how our cameras always fogged up when you went from inside to outside, and it also shows that I was there, too! 
 Painting Easter eggs is much less messy than dying them, and Sophia likes it more than dying. Wahoo!
 Some cute pictures of Sophia :) They did the egg hunt twice - the first time, my timid kids only got a few. The second time, the older kids weren't interested in doing it again, and Sophia filled her bucket up twice and Grace filled hers, too! I was sort of impressed that Grace caught on to what to do with the eggs. For Sophia's first Easter egg hunt, I had to keep telling her to get more since she'd just inspect and open each one. :)

Sophia's school had a Fun Fair a couple Saturdays ago. It was HOT and LOUD, but we had fun. Sophia especially loved playing in a pool they had set up, and Grace liked the train. A lot of activities were, understandably, geared towards older kids (or at least braver kids than Sophia), but she was brave enough to do the zip line by herself.

One morning after dropping Russ and Sophia off, Grace ran to the door before I got there, and I didn't notice the HUGE crab next to her (the one in the right-hand picture) because it was right up against the black door. When I saw it, I screamed and hurried us into the house. Then we walked around the back of the house to go get a picture of it. We saw the crab in the left picture in the back of the house, and then when we got to the front, Mr. tried-to-come-into-our-house-to-kill-us-all was hiding under that planter. It was so freaky! I've NEVER seen such HUGE crabs! About a month ago, Russ and I heard scratching at the door and assumed it was a cat, but I bet it was another attempted crab invasion!