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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Under the Bridge

I have heard the phrase "under the bridge" mentioned many times since moving to Lagos. It is a mysterious place where some of the sweetest pineapples and the biggest avocados come from. I pass by this curious place each day when I take Elizabeth and Jeremy to school, and I have always shied away from going there. I think it was my own insecurity of knowing I would be one of the only oyibos there. But, last week, I thought to myself, " That is so silly! I can so go under the bridge to see what it's all about!" I talked to Happiness, and she and I decided that today was the day we would go "under the bridge".
I have to say that it is the furthest thing from a scary experience I have had here.:) I really didn't know what to expect as far as how dirty it was there. But, it is what it says...it is a market literally under the Falomo bridge.:) There are tons of vendors there set up with pineapples, mangos, lettuces, veggies, and so much more. The only downside was that the vendors saw me with Happiness and did hike the prices up a little bit.:)
A picture of Happiness getting ready to go into the market.
Here is one of the vendors getting a watermelon for us.

Another vendor with tons of avocados, melons, limes, lemons, and mangos.
Right next to the fruit and vegetable market under the bridge is the fish market. Here is a picture of what it looks like walking up to it ( bridge included).
There is a surprisingly decent selection of fish here at the market. There is grouper, tuna (which Happiness gets for us quite a bit), croaker, red snapper....and even baracuda!
Here are some HUGE prawns. Happiness has gotten us shrimp here tons of times and it is really good.:)
Here are some of the fishermen cleaning the fish.
Yes, this is really a baracuda! I can honestly say, we have never had that.....yet.:)
Red snapper and croaker.
We did get some fish from this lady, and she is cleaning it in this picture.

There are also some GIANT snails in case anyone is interested in some escargot.:) I do have to say my first experience under the bridge was a very positive experience. Now, I don't have to think of it as some distant far away place I will never ever go. In fact, I just may go there again sometime soon.:) I'll leave you with a quick video of some of the vendors in vegetable market. I was trying to video my experience there without the vendors knowing because I didn't know how they would feel about it....but one of them actually wanted me to film him....so I thought I would share it with you.:) With that I will say Ayo ni o! ( "cheers" in Yoruba) and E kaale!
( good night!)

video

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A VERY Good Day

I have to say I had my doubts about how this day would go when it began this morning. I had the kids all ready to go to school. I had my back pack packed and ready to head out to the beach school. I had Fatai waiting downstairs with a load of books to go out to the school...the only thing missing was Happiness. I guess we got our wires crossed yesterday about the time I needed her to be at the flat this morning to stay with the kids. As soon as she arrived, I knew I was already going to be late to the boat dock to get on the boat that goes out to the school. I ran down the steps of the compound ( carrying an easel donated to the school by a friend here on the compound) and yelled to Fatai, " I need you Now, Now!!!" That is a phrase used in Nigeria to get the point across that you need something immediately. I never ever thought I would use that phrase myself...but let me tell you...I don't think I have ever seen Fatai run across the parking lot so fast to open my door! I did get to the dock and despite an overzealous security guard at the restaurant near the boat dock not wanting to let us out onto the dock...we did get on the boat and made it out to the beach in record time....only about 35 minutes!!!
For the last few months, a few members of the board and some high school students have been working together to collect books so the children at the beach school could have a library. The high school boys came out today to help put the books on the shelves and organize them so the children at the school will be able to enjoy them.
Installing the library at the school has been a process. We started out by bringing shelves a few trips back and explaining to the teachers that we would be bringing books out for the children. Then, last week, a few of the members from the board came out to talk to the teachers and Lady Salami about what a library is and how it can be used and some pictures for them to see what a library really looks like. It is very humbling to me that some of the teachers there have never seen a library...and how could they ever teach a child what a library was or how it should be used if they themselves did not know?
Today, the members of the foundation made another trip out to actually deliver the books and this was one of those days when my "teaching cap" came back out! I got to tap off the dust on that cap and put it back on...and it was soooo much fun!!!! We had every class ( grades pre primary through primary 6) come into the library with their teachers, and I talked with all of them about how to act in the library and take care of the books and where their books for their particular grade were located on the shelves.:)
The looks on their faces were priceless.:) They loved being read to and they LOVED that they had so many books they could choose.:) Below is a quick video of them singing a song to say good bye to us before we were leaving to head back.
video

There is no other way to say it:

1 fast boat ride+ 4 great high school boys+ 6 awesome board members+3 library shelves+ tons of books + the smiling faces of the teachers and students= a VERY good day!

I have to savor this moment.....good days are often hard to come by here in Lagos.:) And with that I bid you O daa ro! and Ese (pronounced eh-sheh) which means thank you. Thank you for taking the time to share in this very good day with me.:)

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Secret

A while ago, I wrote a post on the blog called Too Comfortable. I wrote about a few things which helped me stay positive while living here in Lagos. You DO have to have a little bit of a spirit of adventure and a sense of humor......but, after thinking about it today...I realized that I forgot one very important thing!!! It is a secret I also shared with a good friend of mine who is an expat living in Germany. ( You can check out her blog on my reading list). We talked last week about how it is hard sometimes when you are living in another country and you miss your friends and family ( I have been totally worried and stressed about my mom's next surgery) back home. One of the "secrets" I told my friend to staying happy is LOTS of wine!!!!:) Would you believe that behind this black metal door is a FANTASTIC wine store!!?? It is another hidden gem I have discovered here. X.O. has a wonderful selection of wines, whiskies, and other liquors imported right from France. ( No, I am not getting anything for saying something about them.:)) It is the only store I have found here that has consistently had great white wines as well as reds. ( Typically, since the power goes out here very often, the white wines can get odd tasting if they are not kept at a constant temperature). This place has been right on the money every time! (slight pause in typing as I sip my glass of Bourgogne) I never would have thought you could get fabulous French wines in Lagos....but you can find them here!:) (As you can imagine, they see me ...and my money quite often there!) Thank goodness because that wine has been "the secret" to getting through many a day here in Lagos ( not too mention my mom's surgery and the elections for the next three Saturdays )!:)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Streets of Lagos

I planned to write on the blog yesterday. But, I got sidetracked. I got a call from my dad that my mom's recovery from her hip surgery done last month isn't going as planned, and she will have to undergo another hip surgery on Wednesday...again. So, needless to say my night was filled with phone calls and worry. All prayers are welcome for my mom.

I have a few minutes to write a quick post this morning since it is environmental Saturday. Or, at least it was supposed to be...but it was cancelled because the next three Saturdays no one, except voters at designated times, will be allowed out on the streets on Saturdays. In true Nigerian fashion, no one knew this until yesterday that environmental day was cancelled.:) So, Jeremy's tee ball game won't begin until 11:30 under the blazing African Sun.:)


I thought I would share these pictures with you. It is always entertaining to "people watch" on the streets of Lagos.:)
Not sure what this man was doing carrying this P.C. monitor and CPU down Awolowo road. Fatai said he was going to repair it....I just hope he doesn't get robbed.:)

Above is a picture of men sleeping on a truck with hundreds of bags of concrete....maybe that is comfortable???!!!

Not too sure if that rope is going to hold whatever is overloaded on the public bus...glad Fatai went into the other lane after I snapped this picture.:)


Would you believe me if I told you this Muslim girl was riding an okada and there was a baby strapped to her back under her veil??? Well, you should, because it is true!:)
I didn't know there was a Nigerian Idol!!!! I will have to see if i can catch that one on T.V.!:)

Ok, this one was crazy...you really have to look closely. I almost didn't see this man up on the scaffolding in BARE FEET and no safety equipment working on this building. Can you see him?? He has no hard hat and no shoes. I was going to edit the picture so you could see him more up close...but you get a better idea of how high he is from this picture.


So, there are a few pictures of what I saw yesterday...like I said....always entertaining!:)





Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Traffic

When you live in Lagos, you always have to expect that there will be traffic at the times you want to get somewhere in a hurry and no traffic when it doesn't matter how long it takes you to get somewhere. Of course, today was one of those days that I had picked Elizabeth up from school and wanted her to get home to have lunch so she could take a good nap this afternoon. Then, we got on the Falomo Bridge and the Lagos traffic had a very different idea indeed.

There was gridlocked traffic and I could see by the amount of vendors in the "go slow" that this traffic jam would most likely last awhile. I started to feel a little frustrated wanting to get home and knowing there was not a thing I could do but sit in the traffic jam with vendors walking right by our car looking inside asking us if we wanted to buy something...
This is what "hawking" looks like here in Lagos. These vendors aren't supposed to be out in traffic selling things...but they do all over the place.
Then, I saw this one....I just had to laugh. I think I have put a picture of someone selling toilet seats in the " go slow" before....but it just hit me because I wondered, " Has anyone ever actually bought a toilet seat while they were stuck in traffic?" If a person did then he or she must really need one! My friend who was with me in the car wondered if they sell that many that they keep selling them in the streets. I said, "Either that or they can't sell the original ones and they just keep hauling them out hoping some desperate soul will buy one!"
Anyone need a car air freshener???
Anyone need candy??
Dog leashes anyone???
Wall clocks??? I swear that you can probably find anything you would ever need sitting in Lagos traffic! That is anything except what one newly potty trained three year old really needs!!!!! Yep, you guessed it!!!
Unfortunately there were no potties on sale in the "go slow" today. Mommy's water bottle had to do for this little lady to do her business. I know you are all looking at this picture and thinking,"Gross!! Nasty!! That's pee!!!" Well, that may be true...but it is a definite first for us...Lizzy is the first one to pee in a water bottle in the car!:) I just had to document it!:) (Note to self: Always bring a few pull-ups in the car for times like these!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hawking

This is a sign I have probably driven by hundreds of times when I come off of the Falomo Bridge from Victoria Island to Ikoyi taking Elizabeth to and from school. Signs like these are posted up and down Awolowo road and Bordelon Road. I know what trading is, but I realized that I really didn't know the real definition of Hawking...
It turns out that hawking actually has nothing to do with hawks.:) It means vending or the act of selling goods for a living. I think that someone needs to come down these streets because I don't think these signs are preventing anyone from selling things.:)
After I saw that sign, I thought I would take a few pictures of other signs I see everyday but haven't posted on the blog. Here is one which says that okadas are banned from this road...
I guess someone forgot to tell this okada driver that he wasn't supposed to be there.:)
Yes, this sign is actually posted on the bridge and I pass by it everyday...I don't think it needs any explanation to what it means!:)

So, there you have it...a few interesting signs I see everyday here in Lagos.:)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

No Power??? No problem!!

For all those runners out there, you are probably going to laugh at this post, but, it is a personal victory for me.:) After I had Elizabeth ( and gained 60 pounds) I knew I needed to start to do something with myself to try to get the rest of the weight off....too bad she didn't weigh 60 pounds.:) I started running soon after she was born...and I did reach my goal weight....so I stopped...

I haven't really done too much exercise since then, that is until my friend, Karin, moved into our compound. She is a die hard exercise/ trainer/eat right guru. I am a never exercise/ unmotivated/eat whatcha wanna kind of girl. But, somehow, she got me to start running again....and I did reach a personal goal today of actually running an entire 5 k (of course the actual race was 6 k...and I did walk one kilometer).....but I had not run a 5 k race ever in my life. Not to mention on the streets of Lagos in the sweltering heat!!! Below is a picture of us getting ready to leave at 7 a.m. I don't think I was all the way awake.:)
I wish I could have brought my camera with me....it was one of those days that I wish I had more than two arms....but, I only had enough hands for a bottle of water and my cell phone....but I could have taken some great pictures. I know my words can't adequately express what I saw today on the streets...but I will try to paint a picture for you.:) Several streets on V.I. were blocked off which gave me a very interesting perspective of V.I. that I only had once before when I walked this race last year. It was so funny to see the okada drivers' faces looking at the sea of people running and I could just tell from their expressions they were thinking, "Why are these crazy people choosing to run?" Of course there were the armed guards with their machine guns at about every other corner ( I really wish I could have gotten a picture of them!) Don't worry mom and dad, the whole route was secured!:) I think I only stumbled a few times over the bumpy streets...it was definitely not ideal conditions for a race...but the race was for a great cause. "Run for the cure" has been happening in Lagos for three years now...and it is such a great cause. I sure wish I could call my grandma and tell her I did run most of the way.:)
When we got back, the power in the compound was off. Maintenance needed to service the generator for the weekend...so it was off for about 6 hours today and six hours tomorrow. Good thing my legs were pretty numb...it made it easy to hike up the seven flights of steps to my flat since the elevator was out. Being cooped up in a flat with two kids ( and no husband...Guy is in port Harcourt ...again!) wasn't sounding very good to me. So, a few friends of mine and I decided to take the kids to see a movie at the mall on V.I. After my shower, it was back down seven flights of steps ( with two kids) and off to the mall.:) I have to say, the movie experience wasn't too bad...except that for a matinee in 3-D, it cost 7500 naira for the three of us to see the show ( about $48 U.S.). Then, we had to get popcorn ( of course)..but I think the price was worth it...it was definitely an afternoon better spent than being stuck in a compound with no power and 90 degree heat!!:)

I had to snap a few pictures of the kids with their glasses on.:) Who knew the kids and I would ever be in a movie theater in a Nigerian mall watching a 3-d movie???! They had a great time (even Elizabeth behaved herself!)

All in all, today was a pretty good day. We made it through a day here ...surviving a race in 90 degree heat and no power. (It did come back on by 3:30 p.m. like it was promised.) So, no power again tomorrow??? No problem!!!:)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"I married a poor man!"

*****Nobody panic..we are okay...just read on!*****

Today was a good day, there were several things the kids did (and said) that made me laugh.:)

This morning, Lizzy told me that her milk was "Too told!!!" (translation: too cold!) So, she told me," That's otay mommy, I'll put it in the fridge to warm up!" ( the "k" sound is coming out as "t" sound) I looked at her and wanted to burst out laughing...but she was so serious I didn't have the heart to tell her she was wrong.:)

This afternoon, she was outside playing with some friends on the compound and she was running away from them and shouted," Nan nanny noo noo!!! You tan"t tatch me!" I guess that is the modern take on Nan nanny boo boo??? At least that was what it was when I was little.:)

Jeremy made me laugh today when he got off the bus today and ran over to me and showed me his "treasure". He said," Look mom, I found some gold!!!" He opened his hand and showed me a rock that had been spray painted gold. He told me that he had gone on a treasure hunt at school for Saint Patrick's day and found gold at the end of the rainbow. ( By the way, happy Saint Patrick's day to everyone in the U.S.!!) It was just so cute because he really believed that he had found gold. Then, tonight, after the kids had dinner, I told them they could have ice cream. I had made it for Lizzy's birthday and forgot to bring it downstairs for the party ( Yes, you are reading this correctly...I did make my own ice cream...another adventure I had in the kitchen!) Anyway, as Jeremy was eating his ice cream he said," This is the best ice cream ever! Mommy you are the best cook!!!" I did start laughing out loud....I don't think I have ever heard that from anyone in my whole life...not to mention making ice cream isn't really "cooking". But, if my little boy thinks I am the "best cook" Then, that's good enough for me!:)

After I put the kids to bed, I was getting money out to put in my wallet so I can make a quick stop at the grocery store tomorrow. As I looked at the money, I remembered something funny that Happiness said the other day. She was doing her laundry here on Friday, and she pulled out a pair of her husband's pants. She found a 5 naira bill in the dryer which had come out of Nathaniel's pants and said to me ," I married a poor man!" We both burst out laughing.:)

Looking at the money tonight made me realize that I don't think I have ever shown you what the money over here looks like. I know many of you will probably never even come here or ever really need to know what a naira looks like...but some of you may, so I thought I would share it with you.:) The picture below is the front of a one naira coin. Since it takes 150 naira to make 1 U.S. dollar...one naira is literally worth less than a penny...

Back of one naira coin...
An even smaller denomination of naira is kobo (kind of like dollars are broken down into cents). Here is a picture of the back of a 50 kobo coin. If one naira is less than a penny , then 50 kobo is literally a fraction of one naira...I am really not sure what 50 kobo will get you...
front of 50 kobo...
Here are the bills which Happiness claims are the sign of "a rich man". The 1000 naira bill is about $6.42 U.S. dollars and the 500 naira bill is about $3.21 U.S. dollars...
backs of the 1000 and 500 naira bills
The next denominations down are the 100 and 200 naira bills. 100 naira is about 64 U.S. cents and the 200 naira bill is about $1.28 ( U.S.)
backs of the 200 and 100 naira bills
The remaining bills are the 50 naira ( about $0.32), 20 naira ( about $0.13), 10 naira ( about $0.06), and 5 naira ( about $0.03)
Backs of bills...
I have to admit, after living here over a year and a half...I still feel like this money is like "Monopoly money". I really have to be conscious of how much I am paying when I do buy things here....the money just doesn't feel real to me....especially since everything is paid in cash and you have to use so much of it everyday. I hope I can keep track of the money I spend here well enough so I don't turn Guy into a poor man!:)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Democratic Elections??

Nigerian Democratic elections are going to happen here in April. After doing some research on elections in Nigeria, I learned some interesting things. Right now, there is controversy over whether a northern Nigerian or a southern Nigerian should be president. Traditionally, there has been a "gentleman's agreement" to rotate the office between people from different regions of Nigeria. Last year when Umaru Yar'Adua was declared dead after months of speculation that he was dead (see the post titled "Finally!") the vice president , Goodluck Jonathan ( Yes, his name really is Goodluck!!), took over as president for the interim until the elections happen this year. Yar'Adua was a northerner and a Muslim and Goodluck Jonathan is a southerner and a Christian. That being said, Goodluck Jonathan's decision to run for election as president has caused controversy here in Nigeria. There are those who believe that it is time for a Northerner Muslim to become president since Goodluck has had his time. Goodluck wants to run to actually have his own election instead of only being appointed as president because the original president died. I ask you, is it "democratic" to not want certain people in a country to run because of where they are from? To me, it doesn't make sense, but to many people here, they won't vote for Goodluck because he is not a Muslim and he is not from the north...

Just a few quick facts about Nigeria:

1) Nigeria is the most populated country in all of Africa

2) It has 36 states and one territory

3) English is the official language with over 400 tribal dialects spoken

4) There are 63 registered political parties in Nigeria

5) Nigeria is a Federal Republic "modeled" from the U.S. A presidential term is 4 years and a person can only have a maximum of two terms.

6) Nigeria was officially out of military rule and in democratic rule in 1999. ( So, the democratic election process is still in its early stages here.)

I am sure there are more candidates than the ones I am listing who are running...but these are the names I was able to track down today:

1) Goodluck Jonathan ( People's Democratic Party) ( southern/ Christian)

2) Muhammadu Buhari ( Congress for Progressive Change Party) ( northern /Muslim) He was actually president in 1983 when the government was military rule, but he was overthrown in a coup in 1985...I guess he is back for more???!!!!

3) Nunu Ribadu ( Action Congress of Nigeria) and Anti Corruption Campaigner. I didn't know there was anything to do with anti corruption anywhere here!!!?? ( northerner/ Muslim)

4) Patrick Utomi ( social democratic mega Party) ( Southern/ Christian)

5) Atiku Abubakar ( Northern political leader's forum) He was a former Vice President

6) Pastor Tunde Barkare (Save Nigeria Group) ( Southern/ Christian)

7) Pastor Chris Okeite ( House of Fresh) ( Southern/ Christian)

Everyone will have to stay tuned for the election outcome. During the month of April, elections will be held on three separate Saturdays:

April 2: The National Assembly Election

April 9: The Presidential election

April 16: Governor and State Assembly elections.

On those Saturdays, no one is allowed out on the roads....the only people who can go out are those who are in the zones to vote at assigned times. ( I guess I should gear myself to be held up in the flat!) Some of you may ask, "Why don't they just have the election for everything in one day?" I have to ask that too!!! As much as Nigeria is growing on me, I just don't understand some of the waholla it creates for itself.:) I just hope the elections are peaceful with no big waholla in the streets during that time...

I thought I would show you some of the political signs which are up everywhere throughout Lagos...
This is one of a presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu.
The picture above is advertising for the current governor of Lagos State.
More pictures of Fashola ( current governor of Lagos State).
I guess someone doesn't like him!!:)
Let's just hope that whoever the next president may be will help the people of Nigeria help themselves and try to end some of the corruption here... Let's also hope that the elections in April are truly democratic.