Let me start off by saying it has been surprisingly cold in Texas. It has been consistently 50 degrees or below since November. My car even froze at Anita’s birthday party.
Austin, TX at 29 degrees. So cold, so very, very cold.
Last winter break I was unable to make the trip, but this year I had the pleasure of travelling for 2 weeks to Onne, Nigeria for Christmas with a layover in Frankfurt, Germany. As expected, my sister and I got delayed out of DFW to Germany via Lufthansa. The weather was quite hectic in December, so better safe than sorry. Unfortunately, the delay was so long that upon arriving in Frankfurt, our flight to Nigeria had already left. There is only one flight a day, so Lufthansa paid for us to stay in a hotel. The other issue was that all flights were fully booked for the next 8 days, so we would be stuck in Germany and miss Christmas. To help us out, Lufthansa bought us business class tickets to Nigeria via Air France from Paris! We spent a day/night in InnerCity Hotel in Frankfurt.
While briefly in Europe, Jessica and I discovered the amazing Melody Gardot. She is very popular in Europe, has a very moving and inspirational story and upon returning to the United States, I got her albums. Her music is so smooth, and I strongly encourage giving her a listen. More on that at the end of the post.
After some relaxing in the very cold Frankfurt, it was a one hour flight from Frankfurt to Paris. Unfortunately, the layover was too short to explore the city. I haven’t been to Paris since I was 12 with my mom and sister, so I haven’t gotten to enjoy it as an adult. I will definitely return sometime. I also haven’t gotten to fly business class since I was a child, so this was a very nice change. It’s a completely different experience up there. The seats are more spacious, the food is significantly better, there is much more entertainment, and totally worth it for long and international flights. We were lucky that the airline upgraded us for free, as this couldn’t have been cheap.
The 5 hour flight went by quickly because of the constant catering in business class. Upon arrival in Abuja, we found out that our luggage was still in Paris, and would not arrive until the next day. Even worse, because of the original delays in Dallas, we long missed our flight from Abuja to Port Harcourt. Thankfully, family friend Ajuri was there to help us, and put us in a hotel for the night.
Standard water heater
After one more night, we flew out and made it to Port Harcourt, and thankfully my cousin Eunice was there to help us get out of the airport quickly. After nearly four days of travel and 4 countries, we made it to Onne village. It is more or less the same since my last visit in 2011.
After much rest, it was time to eat. I had been looking forward to the food, and it was definitely worth the wait. Being in Nigeria is one of the few times I eat breakfast, though I really need to start. I knew it would be nearly 2 weeks of sweet bread, Milo, eggs, and fried plantain :-).
My first food place to go to was Polazanda just outside of the village. My dad always recommends this place. I enjoyed the meal, but it was not the same as I remember it from 2 years ago. The jollof rice in particular just had less flavor and less spice.
It was now family time, so I expected to see a lot of people for the next 10 days.
Jessica and Eunice
The next day, we got to try some Chicken Republic, an African brand found in Nigeria and some parts of Ghana. I enjoyed it more than most places I have tried in the United States. The seasoning used is phenomenal.
I got to catch up with more family. Exploring the village at night, I got to see Caska with my dad.
The next was the Christmas party and prize giveaway for employees of the Prodeco Camp. Uncle Ben took Jessica, Eunice, and I.
Jessica and Eunice
More to my rice consumption
Juice with less chemicals
Super spicy suya, various meats, no sticks
The majority of the trip was spent with family, either visiting or them stopping by. It just felt great to see everyone again.
Uncle Joe and Jessica
My cousins Prince, Eunice and Joy with Jessica and I. I promised Prince I would return with an iPhone for him back in 2011, and I’m glad I was able to deliver.
Plantain and egg!
My dad decided to show me the full work facility of the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority. I had never seen it before, so we were able to check it out with him and his access badge.
Ade, Chisom, Rodney, Adam, it’s your people:
Eventually, it was time for food and time to check out the Christmas parade in the village. An old favorite restaurant had pretty much lost all of its former glory. Most of the menu was gone for some reason.
…so we found a new spot, Resa Fast Food. There was so much to choose from!
On the streets, one of many Christmas festivals had started. Holidays are taken very seriously, and the entire month of December and the beginning of January are full of celebration.
Though I’m born and raised in Texas, something about the heat and humidity during December in Nigeria was tough on me.
Back at the house
Jessica in Christmas hat
I went to the church down the street with my family. There was a wedding that day, but unfortunately (and not surprisingly) I didn’t take my camera to the church. We did take a few photos outside the house though.
For lunch, it was meat pies, which the Nigerian variation is much like a Jamaican patty or an empanada. I have waited so long for this moment.
I also got to see Uncle Ben’s office during the trip.
We also ran into an old friend, Abu, at the office. Man, the heat was just too much for me.
One more big night of fireworks and drinks for Christmas
He was afraid of all of the fireworks, so we tried to cheer him up!
I almost forgot: Channel O is a music goldmine. I got a
LOT of new Nigerian and other African music during the trip. My favorite song from the time spent in Nigeria: Omo Akin – Do Me Wayo
There were a lot more photos and stories from the trip, but that’s all for now. I will need to go back to see the family again sometime soon. for NYE 2013, I got to spend it in Austin. A good friend from my UT CS days, Dino, invited me, Gloria, and Uchenna to his and Linda’s apartment for the celebration. It was a lot of fun, and good to catch up with people.
That’s all for now. Next update will be next week, with the Seattle trip with Gloria, birthdays, Chinese New Year, and my experiences as a mentor for a programming class. I’m happy with the direction my life is going in, and making the best out of each day. Each day must be filled with more growth, but I am definitely happy where I am right now, and will do all I can to keep it that way.
First song of the post: Melody Gardot – Les étoiles. This track is sung mostly in French, with a short bit of English in the last verse. I watched her performance of this on TV while in Frankfurt, and heard it again during my short time in the airport in Paris.
Alternate song of the post: Melody Gardot – Baby I’m A Fool. This song is entirely in English, and incredibly relaxing (thanks for sharing, Tatiana!)