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. 


Carson said...

The good news is that you're on the downhill side of this six months. Try to focus on the positive and remember these six months will be but a small moment in your life!

Stinson Clan said...

We really did have the best of both worlds growing up in other countries but with access to our own country courtesy of the military bases. I know it's been a rough couple of months, for more reasons than you listed. I love you, sister!