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African vacation brings peace for Angela Mack

By Kay S. Pedrotti Angela Mack did not take a real vacation for 20 years. When she did, she went halfway around the world to visit friends in Nigeria. The Lamar County Activity Center director left Sept. 16 and spent 10 days in the developing city of Abuja, which replaces Lagos as the capitol of Nigeria. It was her first journey out of the United States, she said, and the airplane flights nearly made her wish she’d picked a place closer ‘“ two and a half hours from Atlanta to New York, ‘eight and a half hours of true nothing over the Atlantic to Paris,’ then another five and a half hours to Abuja. Her friends, established with facebook, Skype and phone calls, encouraged her to visit but really did not believe she would, said Mack. She said, ‘They promised they would keep me safe and get me safely back on the plane to Atlanta. There really isn’t the dangerous atmosphere played up on TV but it’s better not to be alone and more fun in the company of people who live there.’ All her previous shorter times off work she stayed connected with the center via cellphone but this time, ‘My phone died when I got there, just after I had called my family to say I arrived,’ she said. So she could keep checking in, her friends provided prepaid phone cards for her to use. ’For the first day or so I wondered ‘˜what’s happening at the office?’ Then I relaxed and it was the best time I’ve ever had in my life. I really could completely relax and have a good time ‘“ what could I do about it if anything did happen in Barnesville?’ she noted. She stayed in a villa-type hotel, needing a place to be alone and process all she saw and learned, but her friends all offered to open their homes to her. Abuja is not finished yet, she said, because it is being designed as a neutral city independent of any political boundary or province, ‘much like Washington, D.C., is for us.’ There was evidence everywhere of people’s faith ‘“ churches, mosques, people dressed in traditional African or Muslim clothing, other people dressed in styles you might see in the U.S. Time after time she marveled at how people could carry such heavy and precarious loads ‘on their heads with no hands,’ or balance two people and a goat on a speeding motorbike. In many places she could not take pictures. ’I kept telling my friends ‘˜without pictures nobody’s going to believe me!’ I did respect the local customs, even if I couldn’t understand or relate to them,’ she said. ‘I tried to learn some of the language but I guess my Southern accent was all over the place because they told me I talked funny. I said, that’s okay, because when you come to the States you’ll be the ones talking funny.’ The food was ‘absolutely delicious,’ Mack said, but vowed ‘it has only one spice, called hot.’ She said the only consumables not spicy were water and ice cream, but she enjoyed the meals. ’What I was most impressed with was the school children ‘“ they can’t wait to get to school. There is no free lunch ‘“ everybody makes their own and brings it. Their parents frown on free things; they think the education isn’t as good if you don’t pay for it,’ she said. ‘People walk everywhere or ride the motorbikes ‘“ truly a frightening experience because there is no speed limit.’ ’I couldn’t believe they had Lions Club and Rotary in Nigeria ‘“ I did take a picture of those signs. The currency exchange was confusing but I’m told Nigeria has the best value for U.S. dollars. I brought back a restaurant menu so the students at the center can learn to translate the prices from naras to dollars,’ she said. Despite the doubts from her family, Mack was convinced she wanted to go alone and she would be fine. She said the family went into ‘prayer mode and thank God I did get back safely.’ What was the most important thing she gained? ’Peace,’ she said. ‘I learned to concentrate on important things because I saw that people live happily without all the stuff we think we need. I found a peace I’ll never lose.’ Angela’s friend Stan ‘˜Jenkins’ Anukege, a writer concentrating on making that a career, wrote the following about his home country and visitors: ‘Some people still think of Africa as that place where humans and monkeys jostle for space. I am happy one person (Angela) doesn’t think of Africa that way. It really is a good thing to travel and discover other cultures, learn a bit of other traditions ‘¦ and taste the dishes of other cultures. Traveling overseas is a luxury but I must tell you if you can’t make the trip don’t be a drip and sit there judging an entire continent when you know nothing of her struggles and her triumphs. ’Nigeria is a great nation. Like other countries, we have our own problems; we’re also developing so don’t always give us the herculean task of having to be perfect in your eyes. Nigeria also has her charm. She’s like a mother that welcomes you home. I’m sure you already know a mother never grows old, so also it is with Nigeria; she never grows old. Her children have been killed, bought, sold and judged but still she forgave and still has her arms open, saying ‘˜come home.”

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