“I don’t know where my passport is!”
Frantically panicking, one hour until my flight, I’ve misplaced my passport. Two of my friends are trying to calm me down.
“You didn’t leave it at the lab. Just think for a sec.”
Pause. Breathe. Ok. It’s in the bag of silica–phew!
Catching an early morning flight, I’ve arranged for a taxi to come get me around 345AM. Up with some friends and flatmates, the living room is taken over with bags, clothing, rubbish and an assortment of medication.
Why didn’t I sort this out sooner?
The past week has been a blur of 3 hour nights of sleep, errands, getting a visa (the Nigerian embassy does NOT make it easy…), vaccines and last-minute shopping sprees inter-spaced with tequila, beers, jazz, sushi and goodbyes. And everyone knows how I hate goodbyes.
Sharing a last beer and cigarette, the taxi driver waits as they all calm me down.
“You’ll be fine.”
“Checklist? Passport? Yellow card? Plane tickets?”
Ok. Four big bags, a day pack and my purse. So much stuff! Going to Nigeria’s Gashaka-Gumti National Park to follow baboons and take poop samples.
Goodbye hugs…don’t cry.
I wave from the taxi and start crying immediately for the third or fourth time that evening.
“Are you sad?”
“Are you coming back?”
I just can’t handle moments leading up to going away.
At Heathrow, it takes almost 2 hours to get all the bags checked. Near tears, the staff patiently helps me wrap bags together to bring my bag count down to 3 and check them into different places to minimize the amount of extra fees I need to pay. Thank goodness.
Going through customs–I am the last person.
“Can I please get an extension here?”
“No, I can only give you one month.”
“Oh, I’ve heard it may be possible to do it here…it’s just so difficult for me to get to an immigration office once I get to the park.”
He hesitates but holds firm. Feeling some pity for me, he helps me though customs and goes to hire me a cab.
A couple marriage proposals later while getting bags checked, someone is waiting for me out front. Too bad I’ve lost my fake wedding ring. Next stop to my couch surfing host’s house–a German working for the ministry in Abuja. We pass through several police checkpoints and everyone is curious about the massive amount of bags I have.
One police officer though is very kind and gives us directions as we are lost. Patiently drawing out streets in the dust and giving me his phone number if there are any issues.
“I want to go to America. I love America, you should take me with you.”
We finally arrive and there are two American girls on their way out, and they’re from Arizona! My home state. What are the odds?
Chatting a bit with everyone, I finally shower (I forget how hot and dusty it is here!) and pass out after not having slept in almost 2 days.
It’s great to be out of London despite all the drama of leaving.