Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Adventure: Day 1 (in transit)

Dear Readers,

I write this from my seat on the first leg of my flight to Abuja. I can’t really tell what my feelings are so far…Mostly a tired calm seems to have enveloped me. I miss my boyfriend, cat and family. I wonder if I’ve taken on a job that is too risky.

I hope I’ve done enough preparing, although I doubt it. I am excited by the adventure. I am unaffected by the details of traveling, packing, lines, etc. I guess one advantage of a lifetime of travel (I took my first international flight at 3 months old to visit my grandparents in Japan—note, I’m not Japanese), is that travel itself seems familiar, and even soothing. I think I’m extremely productive when in transit.

Is leaving my loved ones for 6 months worth it? We’ll find out. If I’m even 50% successful, I’ll learn a lot about myself, the Niger Delta, development work, and how to create value out of any situation. I will pray and do my best to make sure nothing untoward happens.

The job and the timing make sense—if I’ve got a Masters in International Security Policy and want to focus on ways to prevent, transform, resolve, mediate and recover from conflicts, then I have to know first-hand what I’m talking about. One piece of that is finding out if I can handle doing something challenging, on my own, in a community with a certain amount of turmoil. Also, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak—so the idea of consulting is something I’ve wanted to explore.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are signs of potential success. This type of project has succeeded with much more impoverished communities. The Bayelsa State Government (BSG) officials have been very helpful from a distance, and will hopefully be in person. The political timing could go either way—maybe it will cause problems, or it will be the backdrop for the Governor (who is backing the project) to prove his commitment to his people.

One very tangible piece of evidence that the BSG is serious about this project is…they’re paying for it! They’ve already paid for some of it. I think this represents an important commitment and buy-in. I also think that it is high time the Nigerians start to take care of themselves. Nigeria is often a tough country for me—because, unlike some places—it has so much wealth. It could do anything it wants, and be an oasis in the region…but its not. Sure, Nigerians are very hospitable (“You Are Welcome” is probably the most common phrase I’ve heard there), brilliant and creative. Anyone who survives or thrives in Nigeria is worthy of some admiration (even if I don’t always want to know how they got there!).

So, how to get Nigeria to take care of itself? To provide for and encourage its own growth and humanity? I don’t have the answer, but I hope to learn something about this over the next 6 months.
Hope to hear your thoughts,


  1. Thanks for posting about your journey! I'm an Elliott School MA candidate, and I'm making my first work-related trip to Nigeria on Monday!! Knowing there's another girl headed in to the Delta shortly is very cool.

    I'm blogging about it too (our blogs are eerily similar) at

  2. Watch your posterior, if there's anything you need, you know where to go. All the best!

  3. Alena is great to know you're on your way! You will excel in everything you set your mind to do and thanks for keeping us updated!

    Best of success!!!!