Today is the day! Fully packed, I set off to the airport and said goodbye to Elly. Arriving at Heathrow, I met up with a few of the VSO group that were also early and sat in Costa for around a hour chatting, until meeting the rest of the group and a lady from VSO, who subsequently gave us our passports and Visas she had collected from the Nigeria Embassy earlier. From this point we followed the standard procedure for getting a flight; check-in (thankfully my bag was only over the weight but 0.2kg), then security check and through to departures. One of the guys in my group (Jamal) actually left his passport at the security desk, but luckily enough the security man ran after him and gave it back in departures. At this point me and the guys from the Nigeria squad decided to have one last meal, choosing a nice but slightly priced Italian as our last supper. We lost Jamal on the way to the gate after, finding him again struggling to carry the bags of shopping he'd bought. We then boarded (the first time for me) a double-decker jet to Dubai.
We were flying with Emirates, the seats were pretty comfy to me and came with a pretty good range of TV series and videos. This was a big step up from the bogstandard EasyJet/ Ryanair service. Even the food was pretty good, (never thought I'd be so happy describing beef that actually looked, tasted and had the texture of beef when eaten). Also, the screen on the back of the chair could show me the news. While bored on the almost seven-hour flight to Dubai I decided to look at the news in Africa. Particularly, "Crocodile Kills Ethiopian pastor during Lake baptism" was hilarious but that might just be my dark sense of humour. I made a note not to get baptised while in Nigeria, especially in anything with a larger body of water than a bucket.
On arrival to Dubai we found out that Jamal had left his wallet at Heathrow so we went to lost and found who just gave him an email address (which wasn't massively helpful), I then saw some Fanta which was a luminous orange, I decided to buy it, however, they only took notes, after handing over £10 I received 25 Durum back, meaning that the Fanta had cost me £3, and being stuck with 25 durum I had to quickly find something to spend the currency on before the next flight to Nigeria. I ended up being 6 camel bottle opener key rings saying "I 💙 Dubai".
We bored the plane and took the flight to Nigeria the plane wasn't as luxurious as the one previously, however, was still by far better than the flights I am used to. Making use of the free drinks I stored five cans of 7up in my bag for more desperate times. On arriving in Nigeria we could see the lush green landscape as we landed, along with little villages that were parallel to those mud huts you see on documentaries.
Getting through customs was easier than I thought and after 40 mins we were out of the airport and met a man from VSO. We packed into the minibus to realise that one of the girls was still back at the airport with one of the Nigerian representatives. I and a girl called TJ decided to go back and see if everything was okay, to discover the girl had already booked her flights back to Nigeria after being in the country max 30 mins. This was a bit of the shame but we headed back to the van and made our way to where we were staying the night.
It turned out we were staying a convent/ hostel, and here we met the rest of the team who is made from Nigerian university students. We played a few team games and got to know each other the Nigerians giving us a true introduction to the country. I was sharing a room with a great and also hyperactive man like me called Tochukwu.
The only negative of today would be the fact I took my anti-malaria tablet on an empty stomach and was sick before dinner... won't be making that mistake again
Today I had to go to London and hand in my passport at the Nigerian embassy for the work visa that is required to do the three months charity work.
Getting up at 7am for a student, who’s used to getting up a few hours later was a bit of a struggle, however, could have been worse as some other people were travelling from Scotland to get their visa’s sorted. It was a pretty easy process for me, although it was clear the lady from the on-boarding team had put a lot of effort in. Saying ‘each person’s paperwork took her an hour and a half each”, meaning all I had to do was sign a form and hand in my passport plus have my photo and fingerprints taken.
One point I would like to make is the price of the visa; as I am going with VSO meaning the cost of the three-month visa has been covered by them. Still, it was ridiculously overpriced at £146, when compared to the Visa I bought to go to India which cost £60! Also, the man asked the lady for £10 CASH for each person, we are pretty certain this was an official/unofficial bribe. Think I'll have to this concept of bribery over the next few months.
All that's left for me to do now is to get my visa cleared and then VSO will be able to book and tell me the flight details... plus I need to get the massive pile of clothes and sun cream into a suitcase.
In just under two weeks I will be taking a Flight to Nigeria for three months. Thankfully I have handed in all my assignments for this year and am now able to concentrate on preparing for this challenge ahead of me. For anyone interested in volunteering overseas I will start by telling you how I got to this point of the program so far;
First of all, I signed up to ICS/VSO sometime last year, had filled in a few forms and was invited to a selection day in London. Here we had team tasks, and I was interviewed, everyone was friendly and the food provided was actually pretty decent. After that I had to fill in even more forms, leading to a training weekend in Ashford… I won’t go into too much detail about this as it honestly wasn’t that interesting, but it did put a lot of worries/questions at rest. As I am going as part of a charity, it was also expected of me to raise money for VSO before I leave for Nigeria. To hit my target, I did a sponsored walk from Bromley to Brighton (approx. 50 miles) and ran a student raffle and quiz night at Brighton University student union bar. Again, thank you to everyone who donated! (you know who you are). The next step was a Skype call with the guys I will be working within Nigeria and the team I am going with, we could ask any questions and find out what we will be doing once we get to the country.
There was a lot to take in from the hour-long skype call, however, from what I could jot down, I will be living with a host home in a small town (Gwada) northeast of a city called Minna. Here we will be taking part in a livelihood program, focused on agriculture. I’m still not certain what this entails, however, as much as internet permits I will update the blog and let you all know. One aspect of the program is ‘Young Farmers club’ which I am looking forward to, this will involve teaching the children of Gwada how to farm (finally all that time/experience spent on the allotment has paid off).
While writing this post, I received an email from VSO inviting me to the Nigerian embassy to ‘get my fingerprints taken’ and have my visa approved. This is the last step before actually getting on the flight and means that VSO can now book the flights and give me a definite departure date, so was very good news to hear. All I must do now is actually pack, I have done a lot of research and looked over lots and lots of packing list all over the internet managing to put together one of my own (this will be attached to the post if you’re in need inspiration). If you feel there is anything essential or non-essential that I have missed, please feel free to send me a message!
For now, this is all the information I can share with you all, the next post will be once I am in Nigeria, keep an eye on the website or Facebook page for any new posts over the summer. If you have any questions just drop me a message will be happy to reply. Hope you all have a great summer!
Who We are...
Living in London as a couple in their early twenties, we've been thrown into the want to travel as living in the largest tourist destination within the United Kingdom shows the excitement and feeling of accomplishment travellers achieve. Through this website, we track our adventures and attempt to also capture the adventures of other travellers. We hope that you enjoy following our journeys with us as much as we love sharing our stories.
Elly and Alex