Final morning, and the trip home

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Benin City, Edo, Nigeria
After a decent night’s sleep, I showered and got my bags mostly packed up before meeting Cody and Bobbi downstairs for breakfast at 7:00 am. Mr. Rodrick Smart was to meet us at 7:30, but he showed up early – before we had finished eating. So we all talked a few minutes while the three of us finished getting our breakfast down. Then we made our way out to his antique Peugeot sedan for the trip to his house, and visit with his wife, Florence.
About three years ago Florence suffered her first stroke, and she’s had several since. They’ve left her unable to speak, walk, feed or dress herself. She requires now constant round-the-clock care. The daughter of Mrs. Iyamu works for them several hours each day to help with Florence, and two of their children have moved back home in order to help take care of their mum. A son who was there when we arrived told me of his love of cooking, and how he had a restaurant before his mom’s stroke. He sold it and moved home to help with her because “she gave so much for us, we need to give back. ” A very honorable attitude! When the time is right he plans to once again get back into the restaurant business.
Mrs. Smart has never met me, but she smiled and seemed happy to greet me. But when Cody and Bobbi came over, whom she’s known for a number of years, she was laughing and even had tears of joy to see them. That is quite a testament to the love and concern they have shown for God’s people in Nigeria, and how our brethren here respond to that!
The power was out (an occurrence more common than the power being on), so after we arrived Mr. Smart fired up a small generator. Everyone who want to have power when it is needed must own a “gen”, and likely two. I noticed that he has two, the small one he started (probably just for a few lights and such), and a larger one that probably has the capacity to run most everything in the house.
The Smarts, their son and a daughter as well as the three of us shared some enjoyable conversation for nearly an hour. But the traffic in the city would be picking up by now, and our schedule was tight (or so we thought), so we loaded back into the old Peugeot to go back to our hotel, finish packing, settle the bill and head to the Benin City “international” airport. (It is called an international airport, but I’m not sure any flights actually come in or out from another country. I suppose it could be that international visitors occasionally pass through, so the more prestigious name is used!).
While the Smarts have a nice house – spacious by Nigerian standards – their road, the city “street” is as bad as any I’ve seen. I tried to take some pictures out the windshield, but there is no way to capture the full impact of such a road on a flat two-dimensional photograph!
Back at the hotel I changed into the shirt I want to travel in, packed the last few items in my suitcase, checked to make sure I’d not left any chargers or other things, and headed down to the front desk. Mr. Smart stayed with us even though Osas was coming back with his trusty old Volkswagen to take us to the airport, about a 10 minute drive depending on traffic.
Osas arrived shortly, and with the bill paid it was time to begin the long trip home. We loaded our bags and climbed into the Volkswagen with Mr. Smart and the elderly Peugeot leading the way – but not for long. Part way to the airport he began to slow, and limped the car to the shoulder. Osas stopped behind them and the two of them got under the hood to see what was wrong. It shuddered and started to fire once, and then nothing more. It took only a minute or so to determine he’d pushed the fuel a bit too far, and was now out of gas. As sorry as we were to see this happen, we were grateful it didn’t happen someplace between his house and the hotel, where it could have been much more challenging for us to get back and packed in time!
Mr. Smart grabbed a plastic jug from his trunk and hopped in with us. Osas dropped him off at a petrol station that was on the way, and we said our goodbye’s. He would either walk the few blocks back to his car, or perhaps catch a ride with someone passing through, and with this fuel should be able to make it back up to the station to get more. He hoped to accomplish this in time to see us at the airport, but it was going to take him longer than that, so we didn’t see him again before we departed.
Driving in to the Benin City airport is not very inspiring. The airport is anything but new and modern, and there are deteriorating buildings on the edge of the property. I don’t know what they are used for, but I’m glad that wasn’t the terminal!
The check-in process for our AirPeace flight went quickly and smoothly, and I noticed there were few people there. Perhaps this short shuttle flight to Lagos would be mostly empty. Actually, it turned out there was another reason none of us were immediately aware of.
After going through security and entering the departure area we found seats and began what should be a short wait. Cody bought us a pastry filled with cooked beef, which was really quite good, and would last me for the day.
There was no announcement of any kind, but we saw an AirPeace jet land and pull up to the empty loading and unloading pad. People started lining up, and we joined the queue. When we reached the ticket agent we discovered this was a flight to Abuja, not Lagos, so we stepped aside and went back to our seats.
Our flight was to leave at 11:40 am for the 20-30 minute flight to Lagos. But no other plane landed. 11:00 and there was not a single plane at the airport. 11:15, 11:30, we wondered what was going on, so Cody and I both went to find out. We talked to different agents, but got the same story – no plane was coming this morning and they didn’t know why. But our flight was rescheduled for 3:45pm.
We are already at the airport, we’d watched our luggage wheeled through the departure area (there is no conveyer belt here), so we need to stay here. We paid a small fee to enter the VIP “lounge” which would give us more comfortable seating, a TV blaring the tiring focus from CNN and free drinks (which turned out to be one cup of either coffee or tea). So we read, slept, talked and played a couple of card games while we waited.
Finally we saw airport workers going out to the tarmac (an encouraging sign) and shortly an AirPeace jet landed. As we boarded we were told it was open seating – meaning the seat number on your boarding pass is meaningless. Fortunately we were early in the line, so we got three seats near the front. And since passengers from both the scheduled morning and afternoon flights were here, this plane was completely full! We took off and the short trip went well. Just about the time we hit our peak altitude (22,000 feet) we started right back down.
In his welcome, the pilot apologized for the delay, saying the plane that was to come this morning had developed mechanical problems and was unable to fly. I’m good with that … because unlike Mr. Smart’s Puegeot, if the jet develops a problem in the air we can’t just coast to the side and pop the hood to fix it! Besides, our flight out of Lagos wasn’t until later in the evening, so we had time. The main casualty of the delay was we were now unable to visit with a family who lives in Lagos this trip.
The regional flight does not land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, but rather at a nearby regional airport. So we have to collect our luggage, go out and negotiate for a taxi and then go to the large International airport. Bobbi stayed with our luggage so I could go out with Cody and see how this process works. It turns out that Cody is an EXCELLENT negotiator! The taxi driver might not be happy when he’s done, but he gets the best price possible. I think I want to ask him to come down next time I need to buy a car or some other large-ticket item!
Cody and Bobbi had warned me about how confusing and messy the check-in procedure would be, but just like on arrival it went very smoothly, much to everyone’s delight. We cleared security with a little time, so we went into one of the restaurants to get something to drink. Sadly, several men came in and lit up very bad smelling cigars, so we had to beat a hasty retreat to the concourse.
We had time to stroll back and forth for awhile as we talked. They stopped to buy a couple of souvenirs and then it was time for me to go to my gate (my flight leaves an hour before theirs). I got seated, but the pilot announced we would be delayed taking off because a luggage conveyer belt had broken, and it was taking longer to load our bags. But no worries, he could make up time in the air to get us on the ground in Amsterdam on time.
The trip to Atlanta was smooth, and as I sit here in the Hartsfield airport, I’m ready to board the final leg of my trip home. I can hardly wait to see the beautiful smiling face of my wife when I come around the corner in Fort Smith this afternoon!
For those who have read along with me, I hope this has been of some value and interest to you. And for those who have prayed for the safety and success of the trip – thank you very much! We try to be wise and plan as carefully as we can, but we all know it is only in God’s protection that we can truly trust!
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june Barrett

Thanks for the blog, I really enjoyed keeping up with you and your group. We pray for you and group.

Kathy Treybig

We thoroughly enjoy reading about your travels to visit our far off brethren! Knowing Cody & Bobbi plus a few of the FOI volunteers made it easy to visualize what you were writing. You should be home by the time I'm reading this. :-)