from Jos

Yesterday Heather arrived in Jos, Nigeria. Here's part of the message I received from her this morning:

Saralynn met me at the airport at 5:00 in the morning with a mission van (which was also picking up some other people) and prayed quite fervently for the driver before we set out. (I gather it's not a totally safe road.) I was exhausted but way too excited to go to sleep for most of the three-hour trip. My first time in Africa!

I stared out the window at the sights and sounds of Nigeria waking up. Honking, all the time, as much as in New York City, mostly short beeps that mean "Hi," "I'm going to pass you," or just "Comin' through!" Chickens and goats running loose. A man standing outside his house brushing his teeth, with a cup of water in his hand, preparing to spit into the bushes. People setting up little rickety tables by the side of the road to sell things, produce piled neatly—green oranges, for instance, no matter whose table they are on, are always in a small pyramid that looks like the Eiffel Tower, with one or even two oranges stacked vertically on top of the top one. Women carrying big plastic tubs on their heads, men crossing the street with pushcarts full of plastic jugs of kerosene. Little mud-brick buildings with corrugated metal roofs and signs that say "So-and-so's Bar & Restaurant" or "Such-and-such pharmacy." Walls written on by their owners—for instance "This land is not for sale" or "Please do not urinate here." Corn planted here there and everywhere in little patches, or (as we got up into the plateau area) in fields bordered with a row of skinny cacti for a fence. Red dirt and very green grass, much greener than I expected. It's the rainy season. The air is moist, and it rains every day.

We made it to Saralynn's house with no incidents. (I did go to sleep in the van and at one point woke up looking directly, to my great surprise, at a man in a green uniform with an AK-47 or something of the kind slung casually over his shoulder... but he was a cop.) That was the day before yesterday. Since then I've slept a lot, gotten to know Saralynn's family and visited the hospital they work in and gone along on a couple home visits, and been to a meeting where I met Mrs. Oyebade and several other people I'll be working with; I haven't been properly introduced to the kids yet, but this will come soon. At the moment I'm still busy trying to learn this place, collecting new experiences by the dozens. Learning to sit loosely in the backseat of a car so the potholes don't jar me as much, learning to use the boiled water to wash out my toothbrush, learning to say "Sannu" to greet one person and "Sannuku" to greet several, learning to smile and wave back at the kids in school uniforms who stare and wave because there's a baturi (white person) going by...