It Really is a Wonderful Life!

Wow! 2019 was a very busy and challenging year! It is ending very similarly to the way it began…extremely busy and a bit unsettled! It started in the heat of the Nigerian election season. There was not much time after getting back from the US after Christmas to rest before jumping directly into Nigeria’s over the top election process. Less than a month after getting back to Abuja, over 60 foreign delegates arrived in Abuja to observe the elections, including two former heads of state and the former vice president of a West African nation!

IRI NDI IEOM

Members of the International Election Observation Mission, including former President Festus Mogae of Botswana (center with walking stick), former President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia (center) and former Vice President Fatoumata Tambajang of The Gambia.

For nearly five weeks, I only slept a few hours each night. The election process became even more complicated (and longer) when the election management body announced that the elections would be delayed by one week. I would like you to know that the announcement came at 2am the morning of the elections. There were people queuing at polling units unaware of the announcement. In Nigeria, delayed elections are a normal process as the two previous general elections were push back.

After the heat of the election subsided, we found ourselves preparing to leave Nigeria. Conversations with my headquarters started in April that we would leave Abuja. This process was complicated by the size and attention needed for the Nigeria program. Sentell also made a four day trip to the Minnesota to watch Auburn play in the Final Four! It was an awesome trip that included driving from Chicago to Minneapolis and getting very little sleep. Unfortunately, Auburn lost in the last second of the game to Virginia!

While Auburn didn’t win the game, I did get to see old friends in Madison, Wisconsin and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In June we traveled to the US for Sentell’s work and spent a few additional weeks dealing with your typical appointments when you have been out of the US for several months. Sheila ended up spending three months in the US so I returned to the continent by myself.

SMHK6662

In August, Sentell returned to the US to celebrate his 40th birthday! We spent the week hiking and exploring Aspen, Colorado! It’s hard to believe that He is 40. While He says he doesn’t feel as young as a 20 year old, he likes to think he is a 30 year old man…Sheila also celebrated her birthday in August. She marked the day with her friends in the US enjoying flowers and a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake I sent her to mark the occasion. I arranged the delivery all the way from Maputo, Mozambique.

Birthday with Sheila and all

Sheila celebrating her birthday with friends in New Jersey.

We have been trying to tone down our aggressive travel schedule but we love exploring the world. We started the 2019 in Istanbul, one of Sentell’s favorite cities. We booked an extended layover in Istanbul and spent three days exploring traditional markets and learning the history of the millennium old city. Sheila loved shopping in the Bazaar.

IStanbul

We spent Easter with family in Rwanda and traveled to Austria, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) for our third wedding anniversary. Croatia was amazing but BiH was like a tour through the Balkan past. We learned about the events that led to World War I, Yugoslovia and the most recent Balkan crisis. Most people we talked to have no clue where BiH is located! We also made multiple trips to the US, mostly for Sentell’s work. Sentell also went to Botswana and Mozambique for work.

In November, we finally departed Nigeria for our new home in Johannesburg South Africa. After nearly six years living in Abuja, it all ended as we packed up our house and headed out to the rainbow nation! Sadly, because of visa issues, we were unable to travel together. Sentell went to Johannesburg on November 13 and Sheila followed on December 1. She had to leave Nigeria to process her visa. South Africa’s relationship with other countries on this African continent is a difficult one, which creates significant challenges for getting a visa.

Leaving Nigeria!

Since December 1, we have been trying to settle down in Johannesburg. We have been looking for housing, trying to find our way around this new city and sampling the rich and diverse culture of South Africa. We are already looking forward to our time here. Just a few weekends ago, we traveled to a game park about two hours outside of Johannesburg and spent the weekend relaxing and viewing the Big 5 (animals). We are already planning our next trip to one of the many game reserves that operate in South Africa. AND we found old friends in Johannesburg. David and his wife Diane are based in South Africa. We got to know them in Abuja and they became second parents to us. We are so happy to have them in South Africa!

Abuja in May (left) and in Pretoria in December (right).

We are looking forward to 2020 and delighted that there are still people praying for us, thinking about us and loving on us from afar. This transient world we live can be lonely sometimes, especially when moving to a new environments but we are happy to know that people are still following story as we travel through this world.

christmas 2019

Christmas in Rwanda with family and friends…and even a few Nigerian friends who happen to be in Kigali for Christmas (The Igyuhs).

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