NIGERIA, JULY 2005, JOURNAL
Our flight to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, lasts six hours and leaves at about 11:30 pm. So, we make our way to the airport and allow plenty of time for security. Again no problem. The flights to Nigeria are at night because during the daytime the winds can blow down from the Sarah desert and it can be too dusty to see to land. We met our party at the gate. Thirteen of us in all, four physicians, two wives, three pre-med students, one medical student, one nursing student, one nurse, and one man who used to be an airplane mechanic and fixes things. [Everything is always broken or breaking over there.]
We arrived just before day break. We pretty much bypassed customs, because everybody at the airport knows Dr. Farrar. He was a permanent missionary there for ten years and has been going back annually since. They call him "Papa". There are no white-skinned people there. When the locals see us they know we are with Dr. Farrar and Nigerian Christian Hospital. Even little kids, probably less than two years old, look at us and call us "doctor" or "missionary".
We had to wait several hours for our rides. The drivers wonít drive at night for fear of armed robbers. So they couldnít leave the hospital compound for the two or three-hour drive until daylight. No pictures are allowed at the airport. Everyone tries to seem official so you will think you should give them money. Men want tips for helping you whether they did anything or not. The men ask for Bibles. One man almost cried when we ran out and didnít have one for him. Henry had told us to bring New Testaments to hand out.
Henry sat on the curb on a wooden chair, shaking his cane and talking to the men about the kingdom. He is seventy-nine years old and still doing this. He is way past his prime physically, but still bright. He has a massive childlike faith. I learn by just sitting and listening to him talk.
After several hours we started our drive to the hospital. I was a little uncomfortable at the airport. I was scared during the drive through Port Harcourt to Aba and the hospital.
Port Harcourt is crummy. It is about what I thought the Third Word would be like: shacks, dirty, no facilities. Soon after we left Port Harcourt -- about thirty minutes out -- we had a flat tire. That probably took about forty- five minutes to take care of. So the rest of the journey was without a spare.
Hell couldnít be any worse than Aba. Smelly, crowded (Nigeria is the size of Texas and Oklahoma combined and has 130 million people), noisy, ugly, filled with miserable people, muddy (itís the rainy season), raw sewage, garbage heaped up along the road for miles and miles. Congestion is unbelievable. Lots of traffic, but no stop signs or traffic lights.
Nothing is nice or pretty. That's raw sewage in the open ditch right beside the road.
When it rains it floods. Motorcycles are a common mode of transportation.
The floods fill the ditches with water. Now there's sewage everywhere.
Garbage beside the road. It's mounded up for miles and they never remove it. This is downtown in a big city and it's full of stinky, slimy garbage.
Laura is trying to breathe in Aba. It isnít easy.
After what seemed like forever, but was actually only three or four hours, we arrived at the Nigeria Christian Hospital compound. It is a 115-acre site which includes the hospital, a grade school for the hospital employees, a Bible school to train preachers, a mosquito net factory, and the residence for visitors and for the permanent missionaries and physicians. Our quarters are crude by western standards, but are pretty good. A cook prepares our meals and they wash our clothes each day.
Here's the residence.
It has a nice screened-in porch.
This is our living area. Dr. Farrar is explaining to the medical team what we'll be doing today.
This is my bedroom. Note the mosquito netting. Actually I never saw many mosquitoes, and the few I did see were very small -- not like our big, husky, red-blooded American mosquitoes. They didn't make life miserable for us -- we weren't swatting at them all the time.
Here's the women's bedroom. Four women slept here. That's Laura and Michelle sitting on their beds.
SINCE WE TRAVELED ALL NIGHT IT IS NOW THE 13th.
We settle in and rest a little. I took a short nap. We plan to go to the hospital and look around.
The worst thing about the residence is that the electricity is always failing. Sometimes the power outages last all night, so itís dark and hot because the ceiling fans donít work and you canít shower because the water is on a pump. There is a generator that provides power to both the hospital and the residence. It is adequate during failures unless they have to turn on extra equipment at the hospital, like the Xray machine or the autoclave. Then they have to turn off power to the house.
For security reasons there are big iron doors they lock at night.
This is the commons area where we had our meals. They served the food buffet style on top of that white freezer in the background. One of those plastic tubs on the table contained toasted peanuts and the other contained plantain chips. We could snack on them all the time.