i have 167 bug bites.

Well friends, I’m two weeks into my trip to Nigeria**, and there is no word of a lie in the title of this post. Seriously. I just counted. Between the mosquito bites on my legs, the red ant bites I got this afternoon on my left foot, and the sun fly bites covering every exposed inch of my extremities, I think I’m ready for new skin thank you very much. If anyone has any to donate to a poor soul who is about to itch the rest of hers off, I would be so grateful.

Ok so that was a slightly creepy request. I’ll give you that, but you have no idea what I would do for just one tube of Cortasol and one night sleeping with a fan. For the past year and half, my life has been one long exercise in gratitude – I find myself fantasizing about a running shower and electricity at night. The National Electricity and Power Association has been given a different name by locals. Playing off the acronym NEPA, they’ve decided to instead call it Never Expect Power Always, and that seems pretty darn accurate to me. Wayyyy more accurate than the official name, at least.

Despite Nigeria’s rapid economic growth, there are huge lags in infrastructure, particularly in the rural areas. No running water or sewage system, no reliable power, and many of the roads are potholed and impassable when it rains. Thankfully, I’m staying at a wonderful rectory with our founder, Reverend Father Peter Obele Abue. A Catholic priest for nearly 30 years, Father Peter has done wonders for the parish, and the rectory is a pretty comfortable place to stay! Still, the power and water issues plague us, and the only place I can get an internet connection is under one particular palm tree in the back yard. The problem with that is that this particular spot also seems to be the home of my new mortal enemy: the sun fly. These tiny insects leave massive quantities of large, swollen, red, intensely itchy bites in their wake, and I refuse to continue being their buffet. This leaves me with only one option – when attempting to check my email, I must put on long pants, socks, long sleeves, and a bandanna in order to protect every possible inch. Aside from getting the side-eye from the gardener, this approach also leaves me with the problem of drowning in my own sweat. The days here reach 95-100 F on the regular, and as a girl from the Midwest, I normally reserve this skin-covering attire for weather in the 50’s or below. So if I’ve been a bit slow responding to your email, FB message, or other communication, please don’t be offended. I’m limiting my internet time in the interest of self-preservation.

167 bug bites.

No itch cream.

I’m busting out every technique we tried in Cambodia for dealing with bites – toothpaste, hot spoons on bare skin, the works.

 

167 bug bites.

No itch cream.

I wake up in the middle of the night scratching bites I didn’t even know I had.

 

167 bites.

No itch cream.

But…

Before slipping too far down the path of self-pity, let me revisit the reason I came to Nigeria in the first place. I didn’t get on the plane at JFK with the expectation that I was off on a month long vacation. I knew there would be tough moments. I knew I wouldn’t always be comfortable. I didn’t quite know the extent to which that was true, but still I came for a bigger purpose. If I’m working for an organization called Children of Rural Africa, I should probably meet these children I’m devoting most of my waking thoughts to.  Two weeks in, I’ve met many of those kids we work with. I’ve met with local government, grant-making organizations, institutional partners, and staff. I’ve heard from community women, clan elders, and parish councils. I’ve seen the need, and there’s still so much left to be seen. At one time or another I’ve been challenged, inspired, moved to tears, devastated, and filled with hope on this trip. Meeting the people I’m truly working for has been the best thing I could have done.

 

And suddenly……

167 bites.

I don’t really care.

**As of actually posting this, I’m more like three weeks into my trip, but yes, it has taken m that long to get the photos uploaded and find a good enough connection to make the post public. Sigh. Internet struggles.

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