travel expat

On The Road in Nigeria

I met both Ed and Simon up a the bar over some beers.  I immediately had something in common with Ed because we had both lived in Colombia and enjoyed it very much. Simon was just fun.

We were living on a fenced-in agricultural research compound in Nigeria, West Africa.  In order to break the monotony we started going on Sunday expeditions out into the countryside.  I met Francis on our fist expedition.  That Sunday we didn’t get back on site until midnight.  By that time my mom and Francis’ wife were worried and were starting to get a search party together.  This was mainly because Nigerian roads were deadly anyway and at night they were even worse.  To give you an idea of what a Nigerian driver is like, a friend of mine, Tim,  who was 18 at the time, went in to get his driver’s license and he told me about his test:

Officer:  Tell me five times when you should not pass

Tim:  On a round about, on a hill, at a corner,

Officer:  Do you know where I could get a dog?

Tim:  Well, at the moment I don’t know of any, no

Officer:  Okay, drive straight on until I tell you otherwise

Tim drives

Officer:  STOP!

Tim stops

Ofice:  Back up to where we started

Tim backs up

Officer:  Okay, you passed

Now you can imagine what kind of drivers you would find on the road if that is all they had to go through to get a license.

So my mother imagined me sprawled out dead on the road someplace. The day we were going to climb Ado Rock, she told me I had better be home before dark!  Naturally this created a scene since I was 20 years old and resented being told to get home by dark for such a ridiculous reason.  Nothing was going to happen. I wandered over to Ed’s place and knocked on the door.  Simon was already there.

“Good morning, we were just going over to pick up Francis.”

As we were walking to the car I said, “I’ve got to be home before dark.”


“I don’t know! Pretty idiotic!”

We got into Ed’s car and rode over to Francis’ house where his wife let us in not looking too happy to see us.  The three half-dressed children were sprawled around the table eating breakfast.  Francis had been out until three a.m. carousing so he was still in bed.  Ed and I sank into the couch, mumbling to ourselves.  Simon fixed himself some tea.  Ed wanted some coffee and couldn’t believe it when he found there wasn’t any.  I think it was a cultural thing, him being American and the others being British.

Simon sat down at the table and had a second breakfast.  After a while Ed said, “Are we just going to sit around here and wait until Francis feels like getting up, or what?”  He was getting impatient and annoyed with the whole situation so, as I had discovered I had forgotten my camera, I asked him to take me home so I could get it.  That killed a little time and soon after we got back, Francis showed up popping pills and looking for something to eat.  Francis was a pale, thin person and this morning he looked more pale and fragile than usual but he stood up amazingly well throughout the expedition.

We were on our way to climb Ado Rock and none of us knew how to get there so we asked people on the way.

“Which way to Ado Rock?”


“It is this way?”


“We be for going Ado Rock. You know it dis way or dis way?”

“Oh no!  You mean Ado Rock?”

“Yes, Ado Rock”

“You go dis way for small small and den up dis way, eh heh!”

They were all pointing in different directions.  Francis was getting irate, “Oh, forget it!  I think I can find the way”  So with Francis’ ingenious naviational abilities we finally made our way out of town in the right direction.

Related Posts:  Ado Rock,  Travel

Dr Spock.. the other one…

Dorms at Kokai

Dorms at Kokai

Kodaikanal International School was established in 1901 as an American residential school for the children of missionaries.  It was in Tamil Nadu State at the southern tip of India.  Located high in the mountains, the weather could be very cool.  On a clear day you could see across to Celyon (Sri Lanka).  Lake Kodaikanal covered 60 acres and was good for boating while the surrounding areas were good hiking territory.

In 1957 my two brothers went there for boarding school.  By that time there were more than missionaries in the region.  My father was working in Burma establishing an agricultural school funded by the Ford Foundation.

My brothers traveled about 2,000 miles.  There was no flight from Kodai at that time so they took the bus to the train station, a train to Madras, a flight to Calcutta where they boarded another plane for Rangoon, and then went by either train or car to Pyinmana where we lived.  They were 9 and 11 years old.  There were several other children who went there from Pyinmana so they usually had people to travel with.

One year only one of my brothers showed up in Rangoon.  My other brother had the mumps and had to stay behind along with a friend of his who also had the mumps.  As soon as he was well enough to travel, his housemother took him to her home in Madras.  Once he was fully recovered he flew to Calcutta where some friends of the family met him and saw him off on the plane to Rangoon.

My mother was to meet him and take the train home but the train was cancelled that day and she and my other brother went by car.  This meant they had to stay the night in Rangoon.  They all finally made it home okay.  A few days later my other brother complained of a sore jaw.  Now he had the mumps!

Getting sick in Pyinmana could be a problem.  There was a good hospital and doctors in Rangoon but it was 250 miles away and was about a 10 hour trip by road.  There was a good Indian doctor in Toungoo which was about 75 miles away.  He could easily make it to us in a day but the problem was getting a hold of him.  There were 3 or 4 telephones in Pyinmana and we had access to one of them but it almost never worked.  There were times when we had to send somebody to ask him to come.

Otherwise my parents relied on Dr Spock’s book: The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care.   Also referred to as their medical bible.  When I moved to Russia many many years later, it was one of the books I took with me.

“Change is the essential process of all existence.”

–SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”