Kelly Jo in Nigeria

Kelly Jo teaching the hokey pokey - 'You stick your right ear in'

This post is about someone who is very very special to me. My friend Kelly Jo was one of those people who fell into my life almost by accident (if such things as ‘accidents’ ever do happen) and well, I couldn’t be luckier. Over the years, as we have become closer friends, she has climbed major ranks by coming to visit me while I was living in Sudan (1 of only 2 people who went through the planes, motorcycles, boats, and cars just to get to South Sudan when it was still dangerous) and I think she is the only person I can actually say that I would fly to a state that I would otherwise never visit, just to hang out for a few days (Michigan, last summer). While I was never among her Lamu entourage, I did get to spend Christmas in Mozambique with her and just one other friend. In all her years living in Nairobi, she provided a home-away-from-home for me and about a million other friends who were constantly passing through that city. In fact, is nearly impossible for me and a legion of others to think of Nairobi without remembering her constant hospitality.

Anyway, this post is not just to sing her accolades. She recently moved to Nigeria for work and living in West Africa is a brand new experience for her. Reading her emails about her experiences constantly fill me with awe and I admit, a bit of jealousy. Here are a few clips about her life in Yola, Nigeria:

‘I had a Great Gatsby kind of situation enjoying with my friends and the who's who of construction contractors up here - twelve different kinds of meat and cheese delicacies offered from all over Europe and South America while an old Nigerian man in an apron and reading glasses from the 70s poured us drinks from behind the home made bar as we lounged around in our bathing suits. We sang along loud and badly to a live Rod Stewart DVD video playing on repeat after several minutes of a cannon ball competition in the indoor living room jaccuzzi. You read that right. I swear I'm not making this up.’

This little snap of just an evening with friends stands out in my mind as one of the reasons why it's so easy for expats to get addicted to living abroad. I'm not sure about any of you dear readers....however, I've never heard of any parties like this in the states (in this decade at least). Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place!

‘Sunday we traveled with men I call the 'old timers'. These are older white men from Kenya, Wales, Ireland, Lebanon, and England who have spent 20 years or more in Nigeria and now all live in or around Yola. They sort of include me in their breed (it takes a certain kind of person to endure here) since this is my tenth year on the continent, but I'm a woman so I've still got one leg out (I don't think I'm disappointed about this). Anyway, we drove like bats out of hell for two hours using our 4x4 prowess and then hiked/climbed like billy goats for one hour to reach a huge waterfall that was worth every sufferable minute to get there. Us three girls stayed clothed since we had 15 local men who climbed up with us to 'show us the way' after we paid a bribe to the local farmer who said the chief wouldn't allow us to pass unless we paid the farmer the equivalent of $30. Gotta love capitalism. Unless the guy walks four hours to the main road and spends the money on beer, I'm sure that money will last his family at least a month.'

The first part of this really stands out to me for so many reasons. I have mostly know KJ in Africa and for the longest time, I couldn't imagine her happily living outside the continent (considering she is still there, I still have yet to see). It wasn't until I hung out with her last summer in Michigan and this summer in Maryland that I got to see the potential for her to be very happy living here (in the U.S.). Maybe it is easier for men to live abroad* permanently. I definitely know more males than females who would even consider that.

The other part is just so classic Africa there are just no words to explain....just reading it fills me with nostagia.

I hope you enjoy reading about KJ's adventures as much as I do cuz you'll be reading more soon!!

* I'm specifically referring to expats from U.S. or EU that move to Africa, Latin America or Asia, not the millions who move from those continents to the 'west'


wacharo said...

i admit, it was an adventure, but was it DANGEROUS to be in southern Sudan at that time?!? wait, i just remembered the military drills outside your compound. never mind...

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