The trip home

Sunday, January 21, 2018
Benin City, Edo, Nigeria
I got everything mostly packed, and decided to go down for breakfast this morning. This will be the first breakfast I’ve eaten in Nigeria just because I wasn’t very hungry in the mornings. But today is going to be a very long day – and my eating is primarily going to be airline food. So it seemed wise to get some fruit and eggs before proceeding.
The barrister (attorney) who has been retained by the local church to help with the government registration process came to the hotel with James and Osas Aghiemien just about 10 am. A law has been passed in Nigeria requiring all churches to register with the government, and of the 2.5 million churches about 80% have not yet done so. We’ve tried nearly a dozen different variations on our name and they’ve all been rejected, primarily because someone feels they are too close to a name another church is using. So we are exploring other options.
After he left, Mr. Smart also came by the hotel, and we all talked until it was time for Cody and me to go to the airport. We went in convoy to the airport. All three men came in with us and waited by the check-in desk while we got our boarding passes, suitcases tagged and were ready to go on back. They could go no further, so we warmly shook hands and said our good bys until next time.
Going back they scanned both our carry-ons and our checked bags. I had a bottle in my suitcase and the supervisor said I couldn’t have it in there. I asked why, and he said it was regulations. I explained that they let me fly in with it, why can’t I fly out, but he was adamant. After a few minutes I asked to see his supervisor – at which point he puffed up and declared he WAS the supervisor, and I could not take the bottle! So I took it out and handed it to the lady who was running the scanner and started to close up my bag. Another security man came up and whispered that I should just apologize and ask to put it back, but before I could do so the “supervisor” just told me to take it back and put it in my bag.
Cody and I talked about it after we got through, and he thought the man was just looking for a bribe, but when I asked for a supervisor I challenged his authority! At that point all he wanted was for me to back down, and by being willing to give the bottle to someone else he felt I’d backed down and now he didn’t care, I can take the bottle as planned. Interesting security procedures…
When it is time to board, they have all the checked bags sitting on the tarmac beside the plane. So before you climb the stairs you have to identify your bag(s), and then a man waiting there loads it. So we both made sure our suitcases were identified and loaded, then we found our seats.
Our plane took off almost on time, and the short flight to Lagos was smooth. When we landed I noticed another plane loading to take off, and sure enough, all their bags were out on the tarmac and each of those passengers was identifying baggage. I guess that is standard procedure.
Cody negotiated for a taxi to take us from the Domestic Airport to the International Airport. You can just about see from one to the other, but by road and with traffic it is about a 10 minute ride.
To negotiate a cab you have to talk with a boss man who stands at the curb (and there are several). Once you settle on a price he calls up one of his drivers and off you go. Cody negotiated a taxi for 2,000 naira (about $5.50) and we loaded up. As we were ready to pull out the boss man told the driver it was 3,000 naira in an attempt to cheat us. Cody immediately objected and got out, telling the driver to open the trunk and we would get our bags out. When the boss realized we were seriously going to leave him, he relented and agreed to 2,000 naira. I suppose this is a typical ploy to get a little more out of foreigners coming through.
Since we were fairly early, the check-in procedures at the Delta desk were quick and easy. Once through we found the Delta lounge, but they informed us they no longer would honor the frequent flyer status of Delta passengers even though they advertise themselves as a Delta lounge, and what they wanted us to pay we felt was an unacceptable amount. So we went down to the “Heineken Bar”, which is a restaurant that also sells all types of beer. We each ordered some food, coffee, and of course had to have a cold one before heading back out into the heat!
Our boarding gate was packed, and we had to go through yet another security check. They went through our bags, made me turn on my computer, ipad and phone to make sure they powered up, then gave us quite a pat-down, had us take off our shoes and even patted the underside of our feet! That was a first for me. It seemed pretty thorough until I realize that after going through the first examination of my bag, before the pat-down I took off my travel vest so he could pat me down. He never looked at it, and I realized later I guess I could have had anything in there I wanted. It was just my passport and tickets, but still…
It turned out that every seat on the plane was filled, and we were packed in tight when they closed the boarding doors. I always ask for an aisle seat, and my seatmate was a young woman who is a pre-med student in the US. She almost immediately got extra blankets, covered herself from head to foot and remained that way almost the entire flight. Probably the quietest seatmate I’ve had in a long time!
This flight is a long one, scheduled for an even 12 hours flying time from Lagos directly to Atlanta. I managed to get several hours’ sleep on the plane, and we landed a few minutes early in Atlanta.
Getting through Customs was very quick, and shortly Cody and I were waiting to collect our luggage. You have to do that, and then walk around the corner, drop it back off and go back through security once again. At that point we shook hands and went our separate ways. Cody had a flight back to Cincinnati within 2 hours or so of us getting in, but my flight back to Fort Smith didn’t leave for 7 hours. I tried to get an earlier flight, and I could have gotten in to the Northwest Arkansas airport a little sooner, getting home about 1 hour sooner, but it was a $300 ticket change fee plus any difference in the fare. Not worth it! So I paid for a day pass to the Delta lounge where one can sleep, work, catch up on emails (or writing travel blogs) and they have free food and drinks. Much better than spending 7 hours on the hard chairs at the gate!
The flight on home was smooth and on-time. We were getting a little concerned because a heavy line of storms was marching steadily toward Atlanta, but we got off before they hit, and the pilot quickly climbed up above them. He warned us of some possible rough air, but there really wasn’t anything but smooth sailing.
As I deplaned and walked around the corner, there was one of the most beautiful sights in the world – my lovely bride waiting for me! Home again until the next trip over in late spring/early summer. To all who were praying about this trip, your prayers were answered, and I greatly appreciate your concern and love for your brethren!

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Clyde Kilough

Glad you're home safe and sound! It was an interesting trip to track through your blog, and thanks for taking the time to keep us informed. Now, get some rest and hope to see you soon!

Ken Treybig

So glad to hear you are back home safely from what sounds like a very successful trip. Thanks for all the updates!

Tess Washington

Hi Mr. Clark, I'm glad you made it home safely & well! Thank you and to Mrs. Clark and Mr. Kitts! Laughter and tears came to me as I read your writing this morning!