|Our triplex is in the background, as well as the concrete back wall of our camp. It's pretty humid and hazy because this is the dry season, so we get the harmattan (wind blown from the Sahara that has picked up sand and dust particles).|
The bus like the one that picked us up from the airport
Next came customs. We were a little stressed as we hurried to fill out our immigration cards - mostly because it was hot, the girls were restless, and it was just busy and bustling. Not as busy as I expected it to be, but it still felt stressful. Russ took our family's passports and cards up to the customs agent and he said that as soon as the agent got our papers in hand, he said, "You have a gift for me?" (asking for money). Russ just said, "Not today", which was probably a bit of a gamble since he was the one who stamped us into the country. :)
Then we went to the one baggage claim belt. Maybe there were more and it was too crowded to see it, but there were sure a lot of people waiting by just that one. Russ got the bags while I wrestled with very irritable little girls. (Grace just wanted to walk around, without shoes on, by the way. Sophia made it her mission in life to annoy Grace: sitting in Grace's car seat, using Grace's special baby blanket for her own stuffed animals, etc) There were several other Chevron families, and we were greeted right away by men wearing Chevron hats who helped us load our 8 69lb suitcases, our 4 carry-on suitcases, 4 backpacks, and 2 car seats onto a big cart.
The group of about 30 Chevron people headed to the exit and stood for a while waiting. The whole concept of time at this point was foggy. I know by the time we got to Chevron's camp, it was after 9:30, and the drive only took 45 minutes to an hour. So we spent a long time standing at the exit waiting for our bus. Then we walked out to the bus and waited again. Then the women and children got on the bus while the men babysat the luggage until it got loaded. Whoever was in charge of picking us up didn't realize what a large group we were and didn't send enough busses. Everyone else said they'd never had such a long wait at the airport, but since we didn't know any different, it wasn't a big deal to us.
I should say that even exiting the airport was different than in the US. You walk out and there's a small curb and a small road, and that's it. People came up to us asking for money, and we walked out in the street to get to where the vans were parked, with cars waiting for us or passing right by us. The airport guards were sort of directing traffic, while having AR-15s strapped to their backs. It was dark out, so we couldn't see much else, and maybe that's good because I thought Sophia would be more afraid of it all than she was. I did explain to her about how driving is different here and we had to be extra careful when we walked around - because driving is CRAZY.
The bus has curtains covering the windows, and the girls and I were in the back, so I couldn't see out. I heard lots of honking, though. Russ was in the very front and said the driving conditions reminded him of India (aka mass chaos). Like I said, we got to camp at about 9:30.
We are lucky to have not been alone for the whole arrival process. The other Chevron families were very welcoming from the start. It's a small enough community, everyone noticed we were new and introduced themselves. A few key people have already been invaluable to me as I ask them question after question. Our next-door neighbor had dinner waiting for us, as well as a key to our house. This is our first time being in an actual house! Sophia is very excited about having a back yard to play in. I will post pictures of the house when we get a little more settled, but it's a 2-story, 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath triplex. It's mostly concrete and tile, which means it echoes a lot when the girls cry or even just talk, and we're worried about Grace cracking her head on the stairs! Our refrigerator and pantry were well stocked with lots of food, fruits, drinks, and about 8 different neighbors had delivered meals. This has been especially wonderful because you don't just have the ability to run out to the grocery store, so we've had more than enough to eat these first few days. We feel very, very welcomed and taken care of!