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Here I am. I am here. Abuja, Nigeria. Where I wanted to be. I’ve been doing this work for a while, this moving and settling and waiting and adjusting. I should be used to this by now. And I am, sort of.
But I have discovered, after one week in this country, that I am not immune. I suffer from First World Problems. You know what those are: complaining about things that we take for granted in the First World that we can’t have here – wherever “here” is. I was warned. My colleagues told me this place, this residential compound, this apartment would be challenging. “You will place a lot of work orders,” they said. (Work orders are what we submit when we need something done – repair this, move that).
I have the standard American-style electric stove in my apartment. Last weekend, I started to make some pasta. I decided to be fancy and heat the sauce on the stove instead of the microwave, and added some fresh green peppers. The pasta is boiling. BOOM! Power outage. Not unusual here. I stand still and wait for the generators to kick in. I hear them, churning. But nothing. Oooo-kay. I wait a bit longer. I look outside my window. My neighbors have power. Why don’t I have power? I am confused. I consider just going to bed. But I am hungry.
I do not “do” electricity. Anything I touch will electrocute me, I think. I steel myself and head to the fuse box. The breakers are in the “on” position; everything looks okay, but what do I know? I flip a few switches. It does not kill me. Also, I still have no power. I find the flyer that was taped to my door, which provided the after-hours emergency number. Does this qualify? Yes, I decide.
The facilities guy comes pretty quickly. Abuja is not that big. Through trial and error he determines that there’s something wrong with two of the burners on the stove. If I turn them on, the power goes out. So don’t use them. Someone will have to come and look at it. You still have two burners to use.
This is definitely a First World Problem. I want four burners, you see. Four. I would argue that it is my right to have four. What if I wanted to fry an egg and make a grilled cheese sandwich to go along with my pasta and sauce? What if I wanted to put the kettle on and make some rice, AND boil an egg AND make some stir fry? Can’t be done. At least, not all at the same time.
But let’s get real for a minute. I still have two burners. Inside my apartment. On a residential compound. Surrounded by high walls and patrolled by guards. In my one week here, I have seen Nigerians living with far, far less. I need to get over myself and put it all in perspective.
So I smile. I thank the gentleman for turning the lights back on and apologize for calling him out on a Sunday night. “It is my duty,” he says. The next day, I dutifully submit my work order. Until the repairman comes, I will make due with my two burners.
I shudder to think what will happen if I turn on the oven…
With its political satire, political thrillers, and partisan politics.
With its millennials changing the landscape, interns chasing the dream, and sometimes cynical “old timers” who’ve seen it all.
With its Natural History, American History, and soon – African American History.
With its beltways, highways, and parkways. Traffic reports, crazy commutes, and Dr. Gridlock.
With its slowdowns, shutdowns, and continuing resolutions. With a White House, Arlington House, and President Washington’s house.
With its monuments to presidents, war fighters, and drum majors for peace.
With its heat, humidity, and tourists in the summer; derechos and power outages in the spring; continuing resolutions and budget showdowns in the fall; and Snowmageddon.
With blue lines, silver lines, orange lines, and yellow, green and red. Maybe purple one day. With elevator outages, broken escalators, and weekend track work. And please stand on the right.
With Caps and Nats and Mystics and Kastles, the United and the Football Team That Shall Not Be Named – at least not here.
With U Street, H Street, 16th Street. Politics and Prose, AFI Silver Spring, the National Mall. With the Folklife Festival, National Book Festival, and Kite Festival.
With DCA, IAD, and even BWI. With security lines, Global Entry, and TSA PreCheck.
With federal agencies, and agency acronyms, and “the principals.”
This town. I’m going to miss it.