Yesterday I attended a monthly coffee with the other expat wives ( and a few husbands whose wives are working over here). It is a nice to meet some diferent people who don't necessarily live on the same compound as my family. The lady hosting the coffee also had some local artists at her house to sell some of their work. There was Larry, the wood carver; Baio, the artist; and Dupai, the fabric maker. Since I have come to Nigeria, I have learned that there are so many artists here. There are so many artists over here who paint and carve wood beautifully. Their work really captures the images I have seen in only a short time here in Lagos. The fabrics, on the other hand, I thought were pretty, but I really was not that interested in them. Afterall, I could just go to a fabric store in U.S. and buy some fabric there. So, we all had time to browse at all the things the artists brought to the house. Then, Dupai and her husband, Baio, did a demonstration of how they make different fabrics. I was not really sure how interested I would be to see how the fabrics were made. I have to say, I was truly amazed. Dupai showed us the fabric she starts with, which I believe she makes herself. But, the dying process was really interesting. To make the different tie dye designs in her fabric, she makes the dye from various fruits and vegetables. ( you can't just go to Michael's over here). The colors are so pretty, too. She showed us how she ties string and rubber bands around equally spaced parts if the fabric. She continues to do this for an entire 5 yards!!! She soaks and dyes the fabric. She showed us her tie dyed fabric and it is so beautiful. Then, she went on to show us how she makes Batik fabric. Batik , to me, is the typical fabric I think of when I think of Africa. She showed us that she makes designs on the fabric with melted wax and a sponge. Then, she will dye the fabric many colors. She may have to dye some parts orange, red, etc. Then , she has to remove all the wax from the fabric after she dyes it. The whole process for her to complete 5 yards of fabric is about three days. I'll tell you she must have brought about 150-200 different fabrics with her yesterday to show all of us. I was just thinking of all the days work she spent on making the fabrics. There are no machines to do the work for her. I think it was a coincidence because I needed to find some fabric to make some Nigerian clothes for Nigerian Day at Jeremy's school. The whole family needs to be dressed in traditional Nigerian clothes. As I was riding home in the car after I bought the fabric from Dupai ( which she sells for the eqivalent of about 20 U.S. dollars for five yards of her fabric... I couldn't believe how cheap it was!!), I was watching all the different people who were walking on the side of the road. Some were selling bread and some people were selling things in the traffic. I looked out the window and saw a woman in traditional Nigerian dress made out of a beautiful fabric. I looked down at the fabric I bought and really saw how beautiful it was. It is beautiful fabric to look at ,but I also now can see the beauty of the work that goes into making this fabric.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Today, I heard one of the ladies who lives here on the compound telling someone else that she was having a malarone moment. ( Malarone is the medication we are taking while we are in Nigeria for malaria prevention). Apparently, it is widely believed in the expat community that malarone does something to trip up a person's memory, makes someone say silly things or just an excuse for any silly thing one may do. The lady was telling her friend that she couldn't find her keys, and it was because she was having a "malarone moment". That started to make me think...since I have been here...I have done some pretty silly things. A few weeks ago, I was playing cards with some of the other expat wives, and I couldn't tell from across the table if the card was a 9 or a 6. I kept trying to angle my head so I could see it from another perspective. Finally one of the girls at the table said ," You know, you can count the number of hearts on the card to find out what the number truly is." She was very nice...but I couldn't help but be embarrassed...why didn't I think of that?? Could it have been a "malarone moment"??? Then, I thought about the other day when I saw that one of the expats was selling a T.V. I thought it was a pretty good price for a 20 inch LCD T.V. I knew that Guy really wanted one. I was surprised when he wanted to pass it up. I asked him why. I knew he wanted a T.V. that was 5 feet. Then, he told me, "Yes, five feet...not 20 inches." I don't even know what I was thinking. Could that have been attributed to a "malarone moment"? Then, there was the time I told Edouard that I owed him $50,000 for the re upholstery( instead of 50,ooo naira) . Yes!!! A "malarone moment had to be the answer! I kind of felt relief...there was an answer for the things I have said that were completely out there!!!:) Thinking that it was the malarone made me feel a little better about being such a ditz. But, then, I was a little scared. I can blame malarone for the last month of silly things....but what can I blame for the last 33 years of ditzy things I have done???
Monday, August 24, 2009
Yes, I really did! But, not in the way you may think.:) When you flash someone over here, that means you call their mobile number, but only let it ring once. I do this when I am coming out of the building and need Fatai to come and pick me up. That way, you don't have to use any pre-paid minutes. Believe me, those minutes are precious!:) I knew that I must say that to Fatain pretty often when Jeremy asked me on the way out of school today, "Mommy, did you flash Fatai?" Good thing we weren't in the U.S. I probably would have gotten a few weird looks!:)
Here are some before and after pics of the furniture the seamsters covered. The blue and floral( yuck!) was the before and the brown and red is the after.:) I realized after I took the pic of the couch when it was finished...the cushions weren't in the pillows... they brought the cushions for the pillow covers later today. Also, since I can only put four pics on each post...I couldn't include all the rooms with curtains. I was pleased with their work. Not sure I could have stood being out on a balcony all week.
When we moved over here to Lagos, the company my husband works for allows us to recover all the furniture in the flat. We are also able to add window treatments in the flat as well. This seemed like a daunting task to me. That seemed to be the first question people would ask me. "When are you recovering your furniture??" I would look at them with really tired eyes, and the thought of even trying to find someone in this city to do that kind of work for me really frightened me. Thank goodness one of the expat wives had some furniture redone in her flat, and she recommended the people who did her furniture to me.:) I was nervous to meet with the men at first. They arrived in true Nigerian fashion about and hour and ten minutes after their appointment time. When they came in to sit down, I told them I was interested in recovering my furniture ( The furniture I had was horrid. Why someone would ever recover their furniture in the type of material that was in our flat was a mystery to me.) At first, Edouard seemed a little aloof, but his partner, Bonaventure, was very friendly. They brought about 5 plastic grocery bags of fabric for me to look at. There was so much of it. I had them help me sort through the fabric into the colors I was looking for. I managed to find a few samples I thought would work. Thy let me keep the samples over the weekend to show Guy. The following week, I had them return and told them I would like for them to do the work in my flat. Happiness told me to ask them to complete the work outside on the balcony so the kids wouldn't get into any of the fibers. I couldn't believe that they said that would be okay! ( Really, I think Happiness knew that the men would be pretty stinky. Many people here do not wear deodorant.:))They explained to me that the work would take about a week to complete. They would start on Monday and be finished by Friday. They also explained to me that I would have to pay 70 percent up front so they could purchase the material...then, I would pay the remaining thirty percent when they completed the work. I went back into the safe, and pulled out the money. In Nigeria, there are no credit cards...everything is done with cash. The Nigerian cash is called naira. There are about 150 naira to one U.S. dollar. Needless to say, you almost need a shoe box to carry money with you wherever you go. I came out with the money and Happiness' face was hilarious. Her eyes were huge as I laid a huge pile of money on the table. I proceeded to count it out into piles of equal amounts. Then Edouard counted it, and then Bonaventure counted it. To watch a Nigerian count money is really mesmerizing. They count out money like a machine....amazing. Anyway, I was over in two piles and under in one pile. So, after we figured that out, I realized that I was 50,000 naira short. I asked them if I could pay them on Monday when they came to start the work. They said that would be fine. So, on the receipt, I wrote that I owed them $50,000. Bonaventure started laughing and said, "No, Madame, 50,000 naira!" Then, Edouard really started laughing. So, on Monday, Bonaventure, Edouard, and three other men came in to start working. They took my couch out onto the balcony and stripped it all the way down to the wooden frame. It was amazing to watch them strip it down, and then, one of the other men was on a sewing machine out on the table on my balcony sewing the fabric to put on the couch. Everything was measured out exactly so. They came every day at 9:30 and worked through until 5:30 p.m. They didn't even stop to have lunch or anything. Edouard would sing a lot of french songs out on the balcony while all the men worked.(He is from the Ivory Coast. He and the men who worked with him spoke French, English and a tribal language that only they understood. Needless to say, it was hard for me to understand them and for them to understand me. Thank goodness for Happiness!) Elizabeth would always start dancing when she heard him singing. She would get everyone laughing. The only thing they asked for was water while they were working and a soda at the end of the day.:) They pretty much finished up reupholstering 8 dining room chairs, one love seat, one couch, one arm chair and curtains for seven different rooms on Friday, and just dropped off the rest of the red cushions for the couch today. I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised with the work the men did. They truly were amazing in how they cut the fabric and finished everything they said that they would...all on a balcony of my apartment. And they say that you can't get any quality work in Lagos!:)
Friday, August 21, 2009
On Wednesday, Jeremy received a package from our playgroup in Houston. They sent him some birthday presents, some snacks and a huge banner that said "Happy Birthday". Everyone signed their names on it. I also got an "In Touch Weekly" so I could catch up on all my celebrity gossip. When I saw the banner with all the moms' names and all the kids' names on the banner...I got a little teary eyed. I have been so busy here with trying to get Jeremy settled into a new school, meeting new people, and making sure the men doing the reupholstering are doing the right thing, that I had kind of put my feelings about missing everyone off to the side. I am not sure that I will ever find the great group of moms I found in Houston anywhere else. They really are a special group of ladies. I am probably the only person in the world who got a little teary eyed reading a tabloid magazine because I missed not being able to just see them at the check out at the supermarket. Anyway, it just felt good to know that you all remember us over here because I think about you all, too. Thanks for thinking of us, and for making Jeremy's day!:)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Yesterday, my little boy turned four years old! I can hardly believe it. I remember when I first held him and couldn't believe he was my baby. Now he growing up so fast. He woke up, got dressed, and ate his breakfast. While he was eating, he asked me, "Am I four yet??" I told him he wasn't yesterday, but today he is. He was so happy. I took him to school, along with plenty of cupcakes to share with his classmates. It was the first day he would be there all day long. I was a little worried that he would get upset about me leaving, but he kissed me and gave me the sign langauge for "I love you." from across the room. Then, he sat right down for circle time. I was really proud of him. Part of me wanted to cry because he wasn't crying to come with me...I knew it meant he wasn't a baby anymore. Where does the time go??? When I picked him up from school, he was wearing a construction paper crown with glitter on it for his birthday, and he was carrying a birthday book the class had made for him. Oh, and I mustn't forget the huge yellow helium balloon that I just new would pop before we ever got it home. He was so happy. We rode the bus home together, and we were stuck in traffic only 100 yards away from the compound. Just as I feared, the balloon popped with a huge bang. The bus driver jumped with a start. I think he thought it was a gunshot. Needless to say, Jeremy was crying because his birthday balloon popped. Twenty minutes later after we managed to inch our way into the compound, he was feeling a little better. I took him, just he and I, to the playground for the rest of the afternoon. I watched him play and I just kept thinking what a life he has had so far; born in Guatemala, lived in Texas and now he is here in Lagos, Nigeria.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Today was Jeremy's first day in Pre-K. He woke up this morning and had a strawberry pop tart ( Thank goodness for our shipment!) I helped him to get dressed in his uniform, and Fatai took Guy, Jeremy and myself to school. His first day was a time to meet the teacher and see his classroom and meet a few of the children who would be in his class. His teacher seems wonderful. She is very small with a very quiet voice, but you can tell she can be firm when she needs to be. There are three Nigerian aides in the classroom to help the teacher as well. We first met with the elementary school principal , and then, we went back to Jeremy's new classroom. The children had a snack and then chose an acticvity they wanted to do at their tables. The parents were able to sit and listen to the teacher go over rules and procedures for the class. It was a great first day. When Jeremy got in the car he told Guy and me, " I really like my teacher." So, I guess we are off to a good start.:)
On Saturday, we decided to have Fatai take us out to Lekki Market. Lekki is an outdoor market where many artists display their work such as woodwork, fabrics, baskets, paintings, etc. When we first arrived, several young boys wanted us to "hire" them to follow us and carry our purchases from the market to our car. We decided to have a boy named Ola walk with us. He looked very young and I asked him how old he was. He told us he was 14 years old. I am sure he wasn't any older than 10 or at the most 11 years old. We asked him when his birthday was and he said 1995. We were not sure if he has been coached to say that or if that really is the year he was born. He didn't know what month and day his birthday was, though. Ola loved Jeremy and Elizabeth, and he kept touching Jeremy's arm. He walked with us and showed us where the baskets were. Since I have been in Nigeria for a few weeks now, I can see how the Nigerian women carry their babies on their backs. I decided that really made sense. I had Elizabeth in my sling from my dear friend, Emmy, and I decided to push it around to my back and carry her on my back. She loved it and all the people in the market would smile and look at me. One of them said, "African style!" That was really funny. They were probably wondering what this oyibo was doing carrying a baby on my back...but it was actually quite comfortable.
Ola took us to a stall where there was a man selling big baskets. We needed two baskets for laundry hampers. Thank goodness Guy is good at bargaining because I am not. He said his price and held firm to it until the man conceded and we got the baskets for the price we wanted. While one of the men was putting handles on the baskets we were buying, I noticed an artist who was carving animals into a small wooden table. Many of you know I rarely leave home without my camera. I asked the man if I could take his picture. I did, and I may as well have said that this was my first time to the market. So many boys and artists came up to me asking me if it was my first time here. They started to ask me to buy their things. I could see in their eyes that they wanted me to spend too much on whatever they were selling. When an oyibo comes to the market, Happiness told me they will try to get you to pay a much higher price than a Nigerian. So, I guess the lesson learned here is don't bring your camera to the market...or at least if you do...don't use it.:)
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Coming out and seeing the children behind the wall still bothers me, but it has become a regular part of Jeremy's day. I wish I could see the world through his eyes. He doesn't see any bad anywhere. When we go down to walk Bernice, he immediately goes over to the wall to see if any of the children on the other side are outside. Yesterday, before we took Bernie for a walk, Jeremy pooped. Then, he asked for a lollipop ( I really need to ween him off the lollipops when he poops in the toilet). I was getting one for him and I told him we needed to take Bernie outside ( Happiness was getting a medical exam done). He told me he wanted to bring his lamb stuffed animal because the "other kids" hadn't seen it yet. He was pretty excited to go and show them. Right when we were walking out, he said "let's bring those kids a lollipop like the other kids from the beach." So, I grabbed a Ziploc and put some of our lollipop stash in it ,and we headed outside. Off I went from Jeremy's poop to Bernie's poop. As soon as we got to the basketball court, he ran over to the wall and yelled, "Hey, is anybody there?" Immediately there were a few hands that poked through the wall to say hi. He put his lamb through to the other side and the children looked at it and then I saw another little hand push it back through to Jeremy. The children love to reach out and touch Elizabeth on her arm, and she thinks it is so funny. Jeremy and I handed out lollipops to the children who were there. I really didn't expect them to say anything when we gave the candy to them, but two girls on the other side who i had met before ( Josephine and Precious) looked at me through the wall and said, "Thank you, Madame." I was pleasantly surprised. When I moved here, i was told to be very careful around Nigerians. If you are too generous to them, you will be taken advantage of. I can see how that is true, but I believe you can tell how genuine a person is through his or her eyes. I am sure the look I saw in the girls' eyes was genuine. People are people wherever you go. It was a nice feeling yesterday to share with those children and not feel like I had to put up my own wall.
I realized that I had not included a picture of Fatai ( pronounced Fu tie with a short u and the accent on the second syllable) in any of my posts so far. Fatai is our driver while we are here in Lagos. He loves our children, and he has five children of his own. He is able to drive us safely around this crazy city and bring us back home in one piece. He is a very brave soul! I took a picture of him yesterday wearing his native dress clothes. Every Friday, the staff is encouraged to wear traditional Nigerian dress. I also found out that in the spring there is "Nigerian Day" at Jeremy's school. It looks like I will have to start going out to look for fabrics to have some Nigerian clothes made. It will be hard to find just one fabric I like since there are so many here that are truly beautiful!
Thursday, August 13, 2009
In true Nigerian fashion, we received a phone call on Tuesday night at 10:30 telling us our shipment was here. We waited a little bit after the phone call to make sure that they were not going to unpack that night. ( Some people who live here have had their shipment unpacked at 10 p.m.) Security let us know that the unpackers were not here that night, but they would be here early in the morning. So, the three drivers ( yes, three...not sure why they needed that many. I asked Happiness why there were three drivers, and she told me that two of them were drivers and one was the "conductor"and she didn't know what the "conductor" did. I don't think she even knew why there were three) had to sleep with the shipment that night. Happiness told me that she has seen drivers sleep under the shipment truck. We were a little worried about our shipment because the container had been crushed. Not sure how that happened since it is a metal container...but now my saying is "That's Nigeria!" Usually a shipment can sit in customs for a few months. Then, when you get it, a lot of things are missing. The customs people will take things like a few rolls of toilet paper and other odd things like that....weird. The only good thing about it being damaged was that it was pushed through customs really quickly. So, at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning we got the call that they were going to start unpacking. Guy went downstairs to see the container. When he got off the elevator, he heard this really loud banging sound coming from outside. He saw the unpackers slamming the lock on the container with a huge metal stick. He asked them what they were doing. and one of them said,"Sir, we are opening your container." Guy asked him the next logical question,"Can't you use the key??". So, he got the logical Nigerian answer,"Oh sir, we do not have the key. We have thrown it in the sea for security reasons." What????!!!! You may ask. Apparently Nigerians don't even trust each other. Happiness also told me the same story. We learned the standard protocol is to beat the @#&% out of the lock until it breaks open. At least the container wasn't as badly damaged as we were told it was. It even looked better than the pictures that were e-mailed to us. The unpackers started to bring up our things. Fatai was in the apartment to watch the unpackers and show them where to go. I stayed with the kids and made sure they weren't in the way. Guy was checking off our moving list as they brought in the boxes. They had no dollies or carts to carry the boxes...only their muscle power. They would bring in a box and leave it right inside the door and then leave for more. Poor Fatai was grabbing boxes and putting them into the correct rooms. Not sure that is what he thought he would be doing that day. Guy told the movers they needed to slow down and put the boxes in the correct rooms. They were a little annoyed with that idea, but they did comply. Afterall, they are movers and not just delivery men.:) Most of the boxes seemed to be in pretty good shape. Happiness came and helped me with the kids and started unpacking the kitchen. She was telling me where she was putting things and I told her, "Let's face it. You are going to be in this kitchen a whole lot more than I am going to be. Put everything where you think it should go and then tell me where it is." So, for the rest of the day, she was in the kitchen unpacking and washing everything. Bless her heart, she worked through lunch and even stayed overtime. Meanwhile, I was busy trying to find Jeremy's bed buried under all those boxes. We brought so many toys that I realize now, we didn't even need. The kids survived for 2 and a half months without them and never once seemed to miss them. On the bright side, it was like Christmas for the kids. Needless to say, we were all exhausted yesterday. I was up until 1 a.m. last night unpacking. The only thing I kept thinking to myself as I was unpacking boxes was, "Wow. I really am here. My things are here. I really live in Nigeria."
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
We went outside about two hours ago to take Bernice out to go to the bathroom. We always go to the basketball court right next to "the wall"( I will attach a picture tomorrow). When we got outside, three little heads popped up from the other side. They were the children of the staff for our compound. Jeremy went over to the wall to talk to the children. He had a small magnadoodle with him. You could see all of their hands poking out through the cinder blocks to see if they could hold it. Guy and I didn't even have to tell Jeremy to share; he passed it through the wall so the children could look at it. I have to admit, I wasn't sure if we would ever see it again. After a few minutes, a little hand passed it back through the wall. A little boy had drawn a great picture of an astronaut or a "space man" as he called it. Then, another little boy, Edward, climbed to the top of the wall and saw Bernice. He asked, "Is that a lion??" It was so funny. Some of the other children laughed at him. One little boy said ,"No, it is a dog!" It started to make me think. Here we are in Africa, and people back home think of lions and tigers. They think of savannas and jungles when they think of Africa. And, here we are with children in Africa who may not even know what a lion looks like. We are in Africa here on our compound with a cinder block wall separating us from people who are from here. When I go outside and see that wall, it makes me sad. I guess I do see reasons for it to be up, and I also see reasons for it to come down. It is hard to explain. Many people here will say that the "quarters", as they are called here, are really good for the staff. (When I say quarters, I mean one 8x10 room for a staff member and his or her family) They will say that it is better than where they could be living. I just can't help but feel like I have stepped back in time about 200 hundred years. So, I guess I could tell people it isn't that bad here, but it isn't that good either.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Bernice needs to go out several times a day to do her "business". There is a designated area next to the basketball court for the dogs. Jeremy and Elizabeth love to go outside and take a walk when Bernice has to go outside. Next to the basketball court, is the staff quarters. The staff quarters is divided off from the basketball court by a huge cinder block wall. ( I will write more about that in future posts.) Sometimes, you can see the hands of the staff's children poking through the cinder blocks to touch Jeremy and Elizabeth. Since the kids are outside so much when Bernie goes to the bathroom, Jeremy has gone over to the wall a few times and talked to some of the children. It is really interesting, the Nigerian children love to put their hands out and touch the "white"children. It is almost as if they don't think that light skin is real until they touch it. They will yell through the fence to Jeremy and Elizabeth ( and to Guy and I when we are out there), "Oyibo! Oyibo!" The literal interpretation of this term is "peeled one". It comes from the idea that "white" people have somehow "peeled" off their dark skin. It is really funny to watch the kids talk together. I can hardly understand what the other children are saying, but Jeremy seems to understand just fine. It is really heartwarming to see them interacting together. Yesterday, Jeremy and Elizabeth went outside with Guy to take Bernice for a walk. When Jeremy came back inside I asked him if the other children were outside behind the wall. He said, "Yeah." I asked him what they said. He said, " They didn't really say anything. They just said BO!BO!BO!" I started laughing. It is so funny to see his innocence. He had no idea they were calling him "Oyibo".
So, I woke up this morning and got the kids their breakfast. After they were done, I wiped them off, and they went in Elizabeth's room to play with Happiness. I looked in the refrigerator for something different for breakfast. I thought I remembered Happiness telling me she bought some papayas for us. I looked through a few bags in the refrigerator and pulled out the papaya. I put it on the cutting board and began to cut it open. I opened it up, and I was in shock. It was an avocado!!! I had never seen an avocado that big before. The pit was the size of an avocado that I would have bought in Houston! I yelled for Happiness to come into the kitchen. I told her I thought it was a papaya. She started laughing at me. I told her how small the avocados were back home. She said, "No, Madame...the avocados we buy here are all like that. They are 100 naira ." That works out to be about 66 cents for a HUGE avocado! Wow. For those of you who read the post about the twenty dollar grapes...I guess this makes up for it!:)
Friday, August 7, 2009
After my morning shower escapade, I was off to my first pantry sale. When an expat family is going to move back to the U.S. they usually have a Pantry Sale. The sale consists of anything and everything they don't have to ship back to the U.S. ( Since when they get back, they won't have to stockpile everything like we do here.) I got an e-mail about the sale that said it started at 9 a.m. I decided that I didn't want to get there too early because I didn't want to look to desperate. ( I was really wanting the Ziploc bags I saw on the e-mail that the lady was selling. We have been out for a few days and Happiness has been rinsing them out.) Anyway, Fatai drove me to the pantry sale and I arrived at about 9:25 a.m. I couldn't believe when I walked into the lady's apartment that almost everything was picked through. I quickly learned that you actually have to arrive before the sale in order to get in and get the truly coveted items like hand soap and Ziplocs.:) It is amazing , really nice ladies will completely transform their personalities and act like mother cubs protecting their young. Don't even look in the direction of a woman who has an armload of wet wipes or Ziploc bags...you will get a look that could kill! I did manage to get some wet wipes ( The other lady didn't see the other packs), some cleaning things and a few various other things, though. ( Don't worry about the Ziplocs for me, though. A lady living in my compound gave me a box of hers...God bless her!!)
As soon as I was back in my car on the way home, I could feel the tension going away. I realized that the next time I go to one of these things, I need to have a poker face and arrive at the crack of dawn.:) When we were driving home, the traffic was getting a little heavier. The little motorcycles, okadas (as they are called here in Lagos) ,are always weaving in and out of traffic. They are literally millimeters from the doors of the cars they are passing. Not only that, but the cars are so close to each other that I could roll my window down and feel the engine of the car next to mine. Combine that with the the street vendors weaving in between cars along with the okadas. They sell anything from toilet seats to action figures...you name it...they probably sell it. ( Yes, I really have seen them selling toilet seats in the middle of traffic.) I realized just how crazy this city really is. Which makes me wonder, does Nigeria make one crazy or do crazy people move to Nigeria???:)
This morning, I thought I would get up a little earlier than usual so I could take a peaceful shower before the kids woke up. It was great, I didn't have to hurry out. I even had hot water the ENTIRE time. ( Many mornings, the water heater doesn't work that quickly and takes forever to heat the water up. Since I take a shower after Guy in the morning, the last part of my shower is an ice bath!) It was so nice to not hear screaming over toys or doors slamming. I got out of the shower and was drying off when that dreaded sound for all mothers of sleeping children went off...THE DOORBELL!!! It was 7:20 a.m.!!! ( Whoever invented that blasted doorbell did not have small children who needed to sleep. I can't think of a more obnoxious invention than that. What happened to just politely knocking on the door???) So, needless to say, my tranquility was over. I was only in a towel , and walked to the door. I looked out the peephole and saw that it was the building maintenance. I opened the door and he said," I am sorry Madame. The control room is showing that your fire alarm is going off." I told him that there was no fire here, but he said he had to check anyway. He came in and looked up at the ceiling at the "alarms". I hadn't even noticed them before. I told him I hadn't heard anything, and he said that I won't hear anything, the control room will hear it. What???!!!! Anyway, it turned out that the "alarm" in my room was going off. The only way I could see that was that a red light was on. I asked him why it went off and he didn't know why. He said, "I don't know Madame, probably just dust." (Okay, does anyone else see a problem with a FIRE alarm going off because of dust in it???!!!!) He cleaned it out, reset it and left. By that time, Elizabeth was screaming, and Jeremy was crying because he didn't know what was going on. I realized when I walked the man to the door to leave that my hair was wet and sticking up everywhere and I was still in just a towel. By that time, I was thinking all I really need right now is some coffee with a stiff shot of something in it. Then, I realized....I can look on the bright side....in a country where almost nothing works, at least the fire alarm does work ...just maybe not for fire.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The other day, one of the the expat wives invited the kids and myself to the beach. I thought it would be great to go since there is still not alot of people back from summer break. And also, because I needed a break from hauling Elizabeth up the ladder at the playground to go down the slide. ( She wants to do everything Jeremy does never realizing how little she is!) So, Fatai took the kids and me to a restaurant nearby where there is a boat dock. The boat to take us to the beach met us there at 9 a.m. There were 6 other ladies besides the kids and me. So, the boat was pretty full. It was about 16 feet long and it was pretty safe. The kids looked like little turtles in their life jackets with their head poking out. The boat ride to get to the beach was about 40 minutes. The scenery was quite interesting. There were shacks along the water where fishermen and their families lived with rickety old boats that they took out on the water. There were huge barges with various shipments on them. There were even some old boats that had run into each other on the water just left abandoned in the middle of the water.
When we got to the small fishing village where the beach was, about 20 children ranging in ages from 1 year to about 14 years old ran to the dock to greet us. They immediately started to balance coolers and bags of things we had brought for the beach on their heads. I was walking with Jeremy when I saw a baby , probably about 12 or 13 mos. old, walking on the dock alone with no diaper or pants on. He was only wearing a shirt. I commented to one of the ladies who was with me about how sad it made me feel to see a baby like that. I asked her if the parents of the children in the village do care for their children. I thought to myself, maybe the way they care for their children is just different than the way I care for my own. She said that the parents love their children, but they are also very hard on them. Nigerian parenting is very different from what we are used to. During the day, their parents go out on the boats to fish and the children stay in the village to look after themselves. We walked through the village of small huts and shacks. I also saw a two room school house. It was so humbling to walk through the village and see where the children lived. As we kept walking, we eventually came to the hut or gazebo where we would be spending the day on the beach. It really was a beautiful sight. Here we were in such a poor fishing village and there was a beautiful beach right there. We brought so much food to cook ( sausages, shrimp, chicken) and salads and cookies. ( I felt guilty having so much when I could see they had very little.) There is a man from the village who cooks for you in an open fire pit. While we talked and played and hunted for sea shells with my kids on the beach, the man cooked our lunch. When it was time to eat, we came back up to the hut. While we were eating, I saw some boys pulling on a line right out of the ocean. They were pulling in a fishing net. I just could not get over how different their childhood is from what mine was.
After eating too much food there, we played some more and then it was time to pack up and get back on the boat to go home. Some of the village children came and helped carry our bags back to the boat. A few of the ladies who were with us help the village school. They are on a charity that supplies the school with school supplies, etc. On our way back to the boat, they dropped off some school supplies to Lady Salami, the head teacher for the school. Elizabeth immediately put out her arms to hug her. Lady Salami was so tickled to hold her. I was able to snap a quick picture of the two of them.
I had brought a bag of lollipops to hand out to the children in the village. Jeremy saw the bag of lollipops and immediately wanted one. I explained to him that the children in this village did not have a store they could go to get lollipops. He looked at me kind of confused. And he said," Yes, they do." I told him they did not. He looked at me and then looked at a little boy who was only wearing blue underwear. I gave Jeremy a lollipop and told him to give it to that little boy. I wasn't sure what Jeremy would do since he is so shy. He took the lollipop and gave it to the little boy. The little boy smiled at him. Then, Jeremy came back to me and said, " I don't think that little girl has a lollipop either." He kept coming back to get more lollipops to give out to the children. He didn't ask for one for himself. He told me," I can wait til i get home and have one." I was very proud of him for sharing. Even though I know the children there could definitely use more than just a lollipop to rot their teeth, I know they were grateful for a small treat. We got back on the boat to go home. As we passed by the small fishing villages on the way home, I could not get the image of that baby walking around on the dock with no pants on. When Fatai dropped us back off at the compound, I told Happiness what I had seen there. She told me," Madame, do not feel bad for them. That is the only life they have ever known." I suppose that is true...but that doesn't mean it is the only life they have to have...
Monday, August 3, 2009
Today the kids and I went to the playground here on the compound. Later on, we went to the pool. It is amazing how normal it feels here to go to the playground and pool. It doesn't feel like I am in a third world country. It feels like I am going to meet my playgroup for swimming or play on the playground ( except, of course, they are not here). I have only been here a week and I don't really notice the concrete wall surounding the compound. It doesn't even seem strange anymore that Jeremy always waves at all the security guards who are walking around the compound. They know his name and smile and wave back. It just seemed like a regular day with my kids.:)
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Today, the kids, Guy and myself went out to the Palms Mall. When I say Palms, please don't think of a beautiful beach with Palm trees. When I say mall, please don't think of the Galleria in Houston. It's more like a lot of Walgreens and 5-7-9 stores all rolled up into one with an old movie theater in it. We ventured out to see a few of the grocery stores and get a few things we needed. It is so interesting when we are driving on the streets to look at all the different people. One sight I have seen here very often is women ( and sometimes men) carrying baskets and platters of food on top of their heads. I mentioned this to Happiness. and she said , " Madame, it is so easy, all you do is this." She proceeded to wrap the kitchen towel I had on my counter into a circle. Then, she placed it on top of her head. She told me that then you can place a platter on your head and it won't fall off. I don't know about that, but I will say that all the Nigerian women I have seen have perfect posture. I also see alot of people sitting on the side of the road with lawn chairs. I am not sure what they are doing, but they don't look like they have anywhere else to go. They are smiling and laughing. They seem to be enjoying the moment. They are talking and laughing with their friends. I could probably learn a lot from them. Every Nigerian I have met, always has a smile on his face. They may not have a lot of material possessions, but they know how to enjoy the life they are gven and the moments they have.
Well, we have only been here a week and already we have a had a milestone for our family. I celebrated my 33rd birthday here in Lagos. It turned out pretty well, though.:) I had lots of family and friends call me. The kids got me a cake and some flowers ( courtesy of Fatai, our driver, driving around to get them.) Guy gave me some earrings he had bought a while ago when he was in Singapore. It was a really nice birthday; just the kids, Guy and me. It felt good this week to be able to un pack and not have to leave again on an airplane for a little while at least. It still doesn't feel like home here, but it sure is nice to have a drawer to put my underwear.:)