There was a surprising amount of traffic for this time of the morning, but it was still much less than it will be in a couple of hours. We arrived with plenty of time for me to check in.
Everything in the airports seem to exist in one level or another of chaos. I went to the counter to get my boarding pass, and they weighed my suitcase, declaring it to be overweight. This happens every time, because they have lower weight requirements than the international airlines. What is required is that I pay a fee for the 1.5 kg of extra weight. This means leaving my suitcase and boarding pass, and going across the increasingly crowded hall to pay at another counter, collect the receipt and retrace my steps. A very “helpful” airport worker went with me to help me through.
There was a line of angry people at the window to pay, and it didn’t look good. The worker with me pushed to the front of the line, where he learned the lady behind the glass could not take our money, and no manager could be found. So he brought me back to the ticket counter, and explained I could not pay.
I handed the gate agent the 2,000 naira required (about $2.70 USD), which she pocketed, and she stamped my boarding pass so I could proceed. I’m quite certain Arik Air will never see that money…
The security scan was relatively simply, and in a few minutes I went into the large departures hall, with perhaps 400 other people. But I couldn’t find my gate. I asked three different gate agents, and no one knew. I was told to just wait for the announcement, and then I would know where to go.
But the intercom system in the hall is terrible. There was a tone, and I could hear “May I have your attention please.” But after that it was a garbled mess. I could sometimes make out a flight number (none of which matched mine), and sometimes a destination like Abuja, Owerri or Port Harcourt, but nothing else. Either I need new ears, or they need new speakers – probably a combination of both!
Finally I heard a number that matched my flight, and I was able to make out “Benin,” which is how Benin City is commonly spoken of. The lady said “Please proceed to gate 8.” So along with a number of other people, I went downstairs to gate 8. Sure enough, this was my flight!
We boarded a bus which took us around the terminal building and down the other side to a waiting turboprop plane – just about what I expected. I found my seat quickly, and we departed perhaps a few minutes ahead of time, landing in Benin City. Touched down is the term typically used when a plane lands. Our landing was somewhere between “touch down” and “slammed down.” But we were on the ground and taxied up near the gate. There is only one gate, so no problem with getting lost!
I gathered my bag and went out to look for Osas. He messaged me that he was stuck in traffic, but would be there shortly, and about 10 minutes later he came. After warm greetings, we loaded up and went to my hotel.
After check-in we went to my room and talked for a bit about the local congregation, and then it was time to leave. He had told two of our widows, Mrs. Beatrice Iyamu and Mrs. Esther Igdaliah that we would be around by 11am. We weren’t quite going to make that time, but close.
Mrs. Iyamu is blind and nearly deaf, but as sweet, dedicated and converted a lady as you’ll ever want to meet! Two of her daughters, including the one who lived with and cared for her, have died in the past couple of years, and yet her most common phrase is “I thank God for everything!”
A niece who is now looking after her had to travel to Abuja, so Mrs. Iyamu moved over to stay with Mrs. Igdaliah. They are three months apart in age (both nearly 83) and have known each other since they were girls in primary school. They have a long and wonderful friendship, that even included both being called into the Church when they were young married women!
We enjoyed a wonderful hour and a half of conversation and catching back up. Because of challenges they are facing, both ladies asked if I would pray for them before I left, which I was happy to do. They live in more difficult circumstances than most of us, and yet their faith is never in question!
There was no power the entire time, so no fan moving the ever warming air, and by the time we left, I was sweating quite a bit. I couldn’t yet feel sweat running down my spine, but it wouldn’t have been much longer!
Back at the hotel, I parted from Osas, knowing he had things to attend to at his shop, and we both had to prepare for the Sabbath. He offered to come get me for services (meaning he would have to take his family earlier than usual, and then come get me and still get everything set up and ready to go). I declined, and told him I can easily get an Uber to take me over, I know the way. He reluctantly agreed, and went on to his shop.
Back at the hotel, I took care of some correspondence until dinnertime, when I went down to the hotel restaurant. As the sun was setting and the Sabbath began, I was looking out the glass doors to the patio eating area (too warm for me to comfortably dine there) and thought about this holy time.