Housing: There are various compunds for U.S. Embassy folks, so we live behind 10-foot walls topped with concertina wire and guards at the gate. Grocery stores are walled-in and have armed guards. Everything has armed guards with razor wire and walls.
International schools: My children have been in a variety of countries and international schools, but this is the very worst ever. It is anti-American, poorly run and offers only an unsafe environment. My children will be going to boarding school soon, since my youngest has started throwing up every morning before school. When I talked to the couselor at school, her response was to ask if she were pregnant. When I replied that she had just turned 12, the counselor told me that American girls have sex much younger than girls in other nations, due to their lax morals. There is a French school and a German school. Americans are stuck with the American International School of Abuja. The elementary school is okay, but the middle school and high school are questionable. They are not very family welcoming and don't want the parents involved at all. The older American children have said that as long as they stay in groups of two or more they are safe and get only verbal abuse for being Americans. The teachers and the administration condone this, and I have been told that the "American children have the attitude that they will succeed because they are Americans. We try to get them to understand that they are creating many of the problems in the world." This is not the attitude I want in my child's teacher, especially in the teen years. There has been a case of physical assault by a (6-foot tall) Nigerian boy against an American girl (5 foot 3), where she was choked and thrown against a wall after she told him to not grab her rear end any more. The girl was told by the principal that it was her fault, since men would not hit women unless they had done something to deserve it. The young man was back at the school after a few days' suspension. The principal "counsels" children in his office alone with the door shut. The children come out crying and don't want to talk about what went on in the office. The embassy apparently doesn't want to get involved "the school is not in my supervisory control". There are NO electives offered at all, and the same biology book is used for all grades of high school. There are not enough books for the students, so handouts are used.
What is the availability (and the relative cost) of groceries and household supplies? Everything here is imported so it is all very expensive. The Naira has fallen, so the COLA has been cut, but the cost of food has risen. So we eat a lot of beans and rice. The biggest grocery store in town is the size of a 7-Eleven and the food is of poor quality. We have bought flour and when we opened it there were bugs.
Morale among expats: Currently poor. The embassy is understaffed and overworked. The expectation to do more with less and then face a budget cut can be depressing. The highest level of administration does not seem to care about staff at all. Add to that the lack of a social life, since, if you did have money to go out, there is nowhere to go. The school situation makes it even more difficult, since each week there is a new incident.
Morale among expats: Poor to okay. In most embassies it ispoor. It is impossible to work with the Nigerian government, and one feels like one is wasting time here. In the U.S. Embassy in particular, there is poor morale -- those in charge simply do not care about the troops. I'm not trying to use this as a way to do some sneaky criticism, but it really is true, and anyone considering working here should know it.
Any health concerns? What is the quality of medical care available? Unhealthy. Don't buy anything over the counter. Anything more than a very minor illness requires Medevac, since the care here would have to improve to be called poor. Don't have any dental work done here.
Can you save money? Barely. The COLA has been cut but the price of food has risen.
Can you save money? In the past we could. The State Department has cut both our differential and our COLA, so while we used to save a lot of money, we don't anymore. While the naira HAS gotten weaker against the dollar, eliminating the COLA as they have done is ridiculous. It takes away one of the few reasons to serve here.
Knowing what you now know, would you still go there? No, not unless I had no children or could put them in boarding school.
Knowing what you now know, would you still go there? A very qualified "probably". Versus when I arrived, the financial benefit to being here is nearly eliminated, and Front Office management is really poor.
Any other comments: You will get a chance to do work that you usually don't do, so that is interesting. You will be helping, so that is good. I have lived in some challenging places, but this is awful and people are curtailing (despite this being a SND post) and paying back the money in order to get out.