A Few Reflections From My First Few Weeks in Abuja

So far, my experience in Nigeria has been interesting, different, exciting, confusing, frustrating, and magical. I know that’s an extremely vague way to describe it, but I can’t really think of the right words. In any case, here are a few reflections of my time thus far:

Going to the market

The smell of blood and sweat was suffocating. The flesh of the daily butchered meat drowned the air, pungent, and I couldn’t focus. It was challenging to see the slaughtered heads of cows and goats and the hanging tripe displayed front and center so everyone that walked by could take a peek. The chickens were alive and tied up by the legs. I could see them twitching and swerving. I wanted to rescue them from being next in line, but there was nothing I could do. I walked through the aisles of the market like a mummy. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t prepared for that. I’ve lived a sheltered life. Protected by the convenience of plastic wrap around my food. Hardly ever do I see the signs of live animal in the meat I consume, and just a few minutes at the market in Abuja was eye-opening.

Life with Security

Security is a whole new concept for me. Most of the time, when I lived in Oakland, I slept with the door unlocked. I know what you’re thinking, “She must be crazy,” but the truth is that I never felt threatened by people. I am not afraid of going outside, and I’ve never thought about living in a super-secure environment. In a way, I feel like now that security has been established for me, my freedom is limited. It’s a hard concept to swallow. It’s hard to think that because of my current situation, I can’t explore Nigeria the way I would want to explore it. There are places in Abuja I shouldn’t go because of the security restrictions. There are things I can’t do, because of the security issues involved. It’s a new life, and I am learning how to adapt to it.

Searching for the Perfect Home

Adam and I have lived the past seven years of our lives in tiny apartments. Some have been so small that if Adam and I both stretched our arms across we would be able to touch both sides of the apartment. Our first apartment was 37 square meters (approximately 400 sq. ft.); it was pretty small for both of us, but somehow we managed. Unfortunately, our apartment history didn’t get much better from that point. In fact, our last two places were somewhere around the 27-square meter-range (approximately 300 sq. ft). So, after living a good portion of our adult lives in a shoebox, you can imagine our shock when our real estate agent showed us a five-bedroom, seven-bathroom, four-story house. We stood in the entrance of the biggest house, and we decided there was no way we could live in a place that was that big. Instead, we moved into the smallest apartment we saw, but it’s still four bedrooms and five bathrooms. It feels so strange to have this much space. I feels so weird to be able to be in two different parts of the apartment and not even know the other person is there. This, like everything else, is going to take some getting use to.

Well, that’s all for now. I will write some more about my experience in Abuja soon. Do you have a similar experience? Comment below and tell me all about it!

9 thoughts on “A Few Reflections From My First Few Weeks in Abuja


    1. Hi Marleny! It’s not all horrible. I actually love it in Nigeria. There are a ton of things that are so weird and it’s been hard to adapt, but mostly, I am happy that we made this move. You should come visit!! Besitos 🙂

  2. I grew up in Africa. In a time long ago. My sister and I wandered where we wanted. The only danger was from horrid snakes and legewaans (huge lizards) along the river. We could not swim in the river because we might get Bilharzia, a ghastly disease. Our dangers were not of security from other people. But when I left Africa, the whole situation had changed. I’m uncertain of why this should be. I think, once, the “have-nots” had no way of changing to “haves”. They lacked the education. But now, with education and the full exposure to the Western way of life, Movies, the Internet, mobile phones and other technology, being a “have” is a huge goal. I can understand that. I love being a “have” and I am grateful everyday for it. The fact, wanting to be a “have” is changing the whole way people are moving around the world, in Europe particularly, and this shows how desirable it is.

    If I had to find a premises to live in in Africa, I would go for “small”. The reason is that I didn’t like employing “servants” to clean up behind me. I like to do it myself. And I found, in Africa, with open windows for the heat and big verandas and gardens, there can be a lot to look after without help. Things seemed to get dirtier more quickly than living here in the UK.

    Remember that however frugally you live, your way of life will appear magnificent to someone else less well off than you. Lock your doors!

    The only thing I miss by living here, is the colourfulness and rigorousness of the people of Africa, the wonderful markets and ingenuity you find there. Life there is REAL and not cosmetic.

    It’s a place you can do a lot of inner “growing”.


    Looking forward to your next post.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      I am really enjoying my time in Nigeria. I love the people. The food. The culture. I am surprised daily by how challenging some things can be, but even still, I love it.

      As far as the desire to have what you can’t have, I think that here we have a struggle between so many opposing forces. There are those who do want what others have and because of that destroy, take, steal, and beg for what is not theirs, but then there are others, who are actively fighting to stop the spread of globalization; to remove any western influence at all within the country. We are living in such a strange time. This exact argument, the one to stop the spread of globalization and remove outsider influence, is happening globally. The USA elected Trump. Brexit happened. I don’t want this to be political, but I think that the fight for identity and taking your country back seems to be a global desire. It is this very discourse, which leads to insecurity for all those outsiders. For those people who do not belong.

      Where in Africa are you from? Have you been back?

      1. You are talking of our fear of the alien, the strange or unknown. Countries oppose globalisation because it brings with it large movements of executives (yes even them), managers and of course in some places at different times swathes of migrant workers imported because they are cheap, which displace the Union protected, tax paying resident worker. In Britain even the employer contributes towards the tax payments aimed at Health provision for instance. Translators have to be in place in building sites in Britain today, the construction company import the workers complaining “no one here will do the work”.
        Then the embittered start finger pointing and name calling, very easy now on social media, and the divisions begin. I have known good Christian Nigerians who will openly admit they are afraid of others of their Nation migrating to Britain because of the deep seated corruption in their society which distills into life here. People who will ask for money or reward to allow a builder permission to build for instance. I don’t think people want their country back that is the extreme right talking, they just want their opportunities and culture returned to them, normality to return.

      2. I think it’s completely normal to be afraid of the unknown. It’s not until you are sure that there is no threat that you get to relax. Unfortunately, though, even the well-known is scary. As you said so yourself, you have Nigerian friends who are afraid of other Nigerians. However, when we block the unknown, and stop the foreign from coming and we limit the potential. I think of Abuja in Nigeria. The best road to drive on is the airport road. This road was created by the Germans so it always has lightening because they also created the electrical panels to provide electricity to the road. If all roads had been created with the same panels, then Abuja would always have electricity. When it comes to globalisation some times we have to accept that some one else has the knowledge that we don’t have, but it can improve our own living conditions if we just accept.

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