Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Saturday Church??

As a kid, I LOVED field trips!!  Not only did it mean a special treat in my brown lunch bag (I distinctly remember the Hostess cupcakes I found in my bag on the way to the train station for our fourth grade field trip to Hanford, Ca), but it means seeing something new, exciting and memorable.  I'm still excited by field trips.....especially when it means getting out of the house and off the compound for an entire day!!
A couple of weeks ago, we took a trip with some other Embassy families to see the two most iconic buildings in the city of Abuja, the National Mosque and the National Cathedral.  I pass both of this buildings nearly everyday, but had never been up close.  In fact, the National Mosque is my 'North-Star' for navigation around the city.  Whenever I am totally lost (which happens frequently, especially with street names like Ibrahim Babangida, and Kashim Ibrahim, and Shehu Shagari, Amino KanoCrescent, Adetokunbo Idamola) I glance up to the skyline to find the Mosque to figure out where in the world I am!  Generally, If I keep the mosque in site I can orient myself and find home, (no matter how many identical streets I pass with the name Mohammed in them)!
Our visit to the two houses of worship was strategically planned for a Saturday to avoid the Friday Prayer services at the Mosque and Church services at the Cathedral on Sunday.  I think the kids were a bit bummed to find out we were going to spend a perfectly good Saturday at Church, but were excited to do something new. 

The Gold-Domed National Mosque, always seen from a distance...Since the Government of Nigeria objects to tourists taking photos of buildings, this picture is an online stock-photo. 
Photo: This Head scarf is really helping me stay warm since it's only 102 degrees out!!
Alexis wearing her wool head covering.  She looks beautiful, but with Temperatures over 100 degrees outside, I'm sure she was wishing the tour was less than 3 hours!!
I love that I didn't have to do my hair!  How much time would that save me if I could cut blowdrying our of my daily routine.  I could learn a new talent with all that spare time.....  Too bad it was so hot that I was wishing I was dead!
The Whole Clan at the Doors of the Mosque... This is where we would part ways.  The Men worship and pray on the ground level, the women proceed upstairs. All shoes are removed before entering to show respect.  As I proceeded barefoot to the top floor I nearly fainted from the sweltering heat.  The Mosque was not air-conditioned, and as we know heat rises!!  How do these women do it?!
Logan showing off his huge smile and his Kaftan (traditional Nigerian shirt). 
The kids wandering the Mosque's Market  with Miss Linda.  She treated them to peanuts and "toothbrush sticks".  Toothbrush sticks are what  is traditionally used here to clean teeth... No toothpaste needed, just chew on the jagged wood!  I tried it and for now I think I will stick with Crest and my Sonicare!

Alexis and Logan leaving the Mosque as we head to the National Cathedral

Our next stop was the National Cathedral located only blocks from the mosque.  Equally stunning and ornate, but much less reverent.  Alexis and I got a break from our head coverings, but the heat was still intense.  
Sawyer Loved the spinning floor!  The entire 30 ft platform with the pulpit rotated constantly so that the entire audience had a great view.  I just hope the preacher doesn't have a problem with sea-sickness!

The whole family in front of the stain glass at the National Cathedral....I think we look pretty good for 3 hours of churches!  Too bad it's only Saturday...

We enjoyed seeing first hand two of the most important places to the people in Abuja as well as to learn a bit more about their two main religions.  We received a booklet about the 5 pillars of Islam as well as interesting facts about the Mosque.  (Strange that they even included details about 43 male toilets and 19 female toilets).  I was glad to give our kids a view of the Muslim religion so they could better understand their school friends as well as not be fooled by common misconceptions about their faith. 

On the drive home, the real excitement started.  Alexis became extremely nauseated and overheated.  So nauseated in fact that she wouldn't eat the ice-cream we stopped for on the way home (this was the second time we'd had ice-cream in 7 months, so it was serious!!) We skipped her dance class and drove straight home for a cool bath.  She laid in the bath as I took her temperature and gave her lots of liquid to drink.  Between the baths, Tylenol, and liquids, her temperature would not drop below 102 degrees for several hours.  I was starting to get very worried because I knew she needed IV fluid to get her core temperature down because everything else just wasn't cutting it.  I guess being upstairs in an un-airconditioned mosque with full head covering while the sun was scorching outside was more than her body could bear.  Luckily after 4 hours, her temp finally returned to normal and she crashed on the couch for the rest of the night. I was so relieved that she was OK and we didn't have to head out looking for medical care for our little girl.  How do the women here do it?  Covered from head to toe all day long and going home to huts and shacks that are little protection from the brutal African sun.  They must have built a higher tolerance for heat over time.