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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Craziness

What could be more crazy than trying to get ready to leave Lagos for two months this summer with two small children to pack for a 24 hour trip ( including layovers and bus ride to the Lagos airport) back home you may ask?? ( Yeah,I know you didn't, but I'll tell you anyway! ha ha)  Trying to pack to leave for two months, and packing and organizing for a move to another building here in Lagos!!!!  All while trying to keep a cold at bay.:)  Yep, that's my life right now.:)  If any of you are thinking about coming on over to visit...we'll be pretty easy to find...it's the only purple building on Victoria Island!!!:)  Fatai made the understatement of the year last week.  He said," Madame, that color is not common." ( In case you're wondering, we have to move from our compound to a new one while some renovations are done to the current one.)
We call it the Barney building...can you see why??!!!

The first time Elizabeth saw this building, she said," It's a pretty purple building, for me???"  Well, I guess so...at least that is where we will be living when the kids and I come back from our summer trip in August.:)  Thank you to my wonderful husband for moving everything over while we are gone.:)

How else would you expect Nigerians to move things?? On their heads of course.:)

Starting to pack for our trip out on Friday

 I have started to pack some things on my own before the movers come to move us over to the Barney building...so, this is what my hallway looks like now...
 and my living room...
I know that this craziness will pass soon...but why does it feel like it lasts so long while you're in it???:)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Demorial Day

Today is one of those days that I am torn between two countries celebrating two different holidays.  I thought I could combine the two and just call it Demorial Day and be done with it.:)

In Nigeria, today was a holiday called Democracy Day.  I know, most of you may be thinking Democracy Day????  It was the day that Nigerians remember Chief Olusegun Obasanjo becoming the elected President in 1999 after 16 years of military rule. Hence the name, Democracy Day.  Yesterday, President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn into office as the president of Nigeria along with all the other elected officials from the elections in April.  I do hope that Goodluck Jonathan can bring some "good luck" to the people of Nigeria.  I hope that he can start to bring an end to the rich becoming so rich they don't even know what to do with their money and an end to the poor becoming totally destitute.  That would be something to see here in this country!:)

In the U.S., today is Memorial Day.  Thank you to all of our U.S. military for fighting for us to have true democracy (including my brother, Andrew, who is currently serving in the Navy and stationed in Abu Dhabi).  Now that I think about it, the reasons for these two holidays aren't so different from each other after all.  The military in the U.S. has fought for democracy and freedom for over 200 years for the U.S.  Today is the day we sit back and reflect on those who have fought so hard for us.  Have a wonderful Memorial Day, and for any of you having a "good old American" cook out, please have a juicy burger for me....that is one thing I just can't seem to find here in Lagos.:)  Happy Memorial Day to you all!:)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Interesting Perspective

Since I have moved to Nigeria, I have been meaning to read some books written by Nigerian authors about Nigeria.  But, I had so many books I brought with me that hadn't been read, that I just had to read those first...I just couldn't let them sit there all sad and lonely (some of you may not know my complete fascination with the Tudor dynasty in England....I had to finish all the Philippa Gregory books my mom had given me...and yes, I know the books are historical fiction..but I am totally hooked!)  I had heard about this author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and knew I needed to read at least one of her books.  If you are interested in reading a Nigerian's perspective on life in Nigeria (primarily Lagos) then, this book may be of some interest to you.  It was very enlightening to me to read about a Nigerian's perspective on Nigeria and oyibos ( white people) in particular.  The book is a very simple read, and it is a compilation of various fictional short stories ranging from Nigerian people living in Lagos to Nigerians moving to the U.S, and everything in between.

One thing I have learned from living here (and just further validated by this book) is that I had a very ethnocentric view of the world when I lived in the U.S.  Not that it is a bad thing... it's just that I didn't realize until I lived here and saw each and every day how very different other peoples' thoughts and days were in other parts of the world while I was living inside my own "little world".

If any of you have a chance to read this book...please let me know your thoughts.:) I would love to hear about your perspective.:)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Marching On...

On Thursday, my almost-kindergartner marched on up to the stage...

Getting ready for the big show
 for the end of the year program for his Pre-K class...
Parent paparazzi
 I can't believe that he is really going on to kindergarten.  I look at him and I know that time has passed because he is growing by leaps and bounds....but it still seems like it was just the other day when we brought him home...
Ready for Kindergarten!!!


Samuel and Jeremy
He has grown so much and in so many ways.  Moving to Nigeria was definitely a huge change for him also.  When we first arrived here, he was a quiet and reserved three year old. He needed me to help him with everything and he wouldn't dare to talk to anyone he hadn't watched or observed for at least a few days.  Not to mention how quickly plans can change here because of traffic, strikes, elections, etc. That used to get him so upset if his plans had to change without warning... 
Jeremy's buddy Rowan

 But, now, it's like he is an old pro.  We don't have to knock on the bus mom's door each week for him to meet her.  He just knows that a bus mom will be bringing him home on the bus no matter who it is. He has learned that it is okay to trust other people besides only mom and dad because he had to get to know Happiness and Fatai.  He has become a leader in his class instead of the follower.  Best of all, he has been able to make friends who are very special to him.:)

As I think about all the time that has gone by since he was such a cute, chubby baby smiling back at me, I realize that there is something your mom doesn't always tell you.  As your babies are getting older...so are you...

I realized that this morning when I was looking in the mirror.  There are lines on my face that I know weren't there last year...but it's funny how I almost didn't notice them at all.  I thought about a line from one of my favorite movies ( Steel Magnolias) when Truvy says," Time marches on and pretty soon you realize it's marching right across your face!"   Well, I realized it today...but, if it means that I get to look forward to many more years of watching my children grow and become happy healthy adults and laughing with my husband...then let that time march right on!!!:) 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Silver and Gold

Before I moved to Nigeria, I went through a time (which I try not to think about..Emmy knows what I'm talking about) where I just couldn't even begin to ever think I could ever be happy here.  I thought to myself,
 "How will I survive in a developing country?"  
"How can I ever feel safe?" 
And most importantly," How can I leave my friends and family back in the U.S.?"   

After almost two years, I can say that 
"Yes, indeed, I can survive in a developing country!" 
"Yes, I can feel safe (of course the level of safety is always relative)!" 
And "Yes, I am away from my friends and family in the U.S., but I can still stay connected to them through the phone and Internet (thank goodness for those blessings!)"

  But, something else happened to me while living here.  Something happened that I didn't really expect to happen at all.  I never really expected to find such great friends here in Nigeria.  I was so worried about everything else that it didn't even occur to me that there would be wonderful people here who were thinking the same things as I was.   Living on a compound in a developing country is hard some days and fun on the others, but the one great thing about it is that we are all in this crazy place together.  When you live in a different country along with so many others who are also not in their native country, there is something that binds you together.  It's strange and fun how quickly you become friends and how you do so many things together.  Should I even dare to say that your friends here start to feel as if they are like family????!!!! ( I guess I just did!) 

Tonight , some of my great friends took me out for an early birthday dinner since we will all be going our separate ways this summer and won't see each other until August.  If someone told me 10 years ago that I would be sitting in Nigeria in a sushi restaurant with friends from the U.S., Colombia and Sweden all at the same table having a great time, I would have thought that person was crazy!  
My Lagos buddies!
But, here I am in Nigeria eating sushi with friends from the U.S., Colombia and Sweden......who's crazy now???!!!

Tonight when I got home I couldn't stop that song I learned from Brownies going over and over in my head.  Some of you may know it...it's the "meet new friends but keep the old...one is silver and the other's gold" song.   I am so thankful and blessed to have my dear friends who have always been there for me before I moved here and who are still there for me now.:)  And, I am equally blessed to be able to have great friends here to help make my life brighter.  There is no way I would be able to be happy here without these great ladies!:)  Because , let's face it...."us girls have to stick together" whether we're silver or gold.:)

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's In a Name???

Before moving to Nigeria, I had never heard of anyone named after a day of the week.  i had never heard of anyone being named after so many different kinds of virtues.  As a matter of fact, as I mentioned in my previous post, I even laughed when I found out my stewardess's name was Happiness.  "I mean really", I thought to myself. " Who would ever name their child Happiness???"  I have to say that a great man who raised a wonderful daughter would.:)  

I think that is one of the things that living here has done for me is opened my eyes to different ways of doing things.  Moving here has definitely lifted the veil from what I thought the way the world should be, and I really think it has helped me to be so much more accepting of things which I know I wouldn't have accepted had I never moved here.  Now, when I hear that someone is named Friday, Sunday, or Blessing...it is just another name.....nothing that makes me laugh.  But, the thought of these wonderful people does bring a smile to my face.:)

I thought I would put a few faces to some of the names I mentioned above.:)

beautiful bride, Mercy
two of the best nannies in the world, Blessing and Happiness:)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Happiness

This week has been a busy one and I haven't been able to get on to post much.  The end of the school year is always a busy time and combined with worry about a few health issues which came up with my mom this week, I haven't had a whole lot of extra time.  But, I knew I needed to make sure I took some time today to post about the trip Elizbaeth and I took out to see Happiness' new flat.:)  Guy and Jeremy were going to come with us, but poor Jeremy woke up this morning feeling pretty warm and not too good, so Guy stayed home with him ,and Elizabeth and I hit the road for a "girls' trip!"  ( Fatai drove of course...so maybe not an "all girl girl trip"!:)
She moved into a new flat quite a ways away...further down the Lekki Expressway than I have ever been...
Baby strapped to his mother's back while riding an okada

so crazy!!!


And another baby riding an okada!

We traveled about 37 kilometers down the Lekki Expressway until we came to Awoyaya in Ibeju Lekki Government.  Today, there was no traffic and it took about 45 minutes from our compound to her flat.  Next year, there will be some renovations done to our compound and there will no longer be steward's quarters, so Happiness needed to move and find a new place to live...
Waiting for us on the road to guide us in.:)

Happiness' dad, Udoh, sister, Mathilde, and Happiness ( I think you know the little girl in the pic.:)

Her dad and sister came over to surprise her today right before Elizabeth and I arrived.:)  Happiness has been slowly moving things in to her new place.  She has a one bedroom flat with a sitting room , a small bathroom, and a tiny kitchen.  She told me she was so excited because she finally has a place where she doesn't have to draw the water from a well to take a shower...she has running water!!!:)
Happiness and Elizabeth in the sitting room

Mathilde, Nathaniel( Happiness' husband), Udoh, Happiness and Nathaniel

This picture was taken right before the doorway to her flat.  It was so heart warming to see how happy she was to show me her place and her plans for it.:)

As we drove back to Victoria Island, I couldn't make that old familiar feeling go away.  It is a feeling which comes over me more often than not while I am riding in the car and observing people outside.  I always wonder," How did I get so lucky?"   How was I so blessed to never have to know what living without running water means? ( unless of course you are talking about the aftermath of a hurricane). I watch the people working on the side of the roads and can't get that thought out of my head...
shop on side of the road

???

not sure what this is...

tire fixing station

Not sure f someone is living here...but there was laundry drying  in one of the openings

Often times, I look at Happiness and see such a wonderful hard-working woman.  She loves my children, and she takes care of my home and my children as if everything and Jeremy and Elizabeth are her own. Today, I looked at her and saw a woman who is so proud of her new place, and she was exuding utter....well....I can't think of another word except for happiness!!!  I remember finding out that Guy had hired a woman who would be our steward and found out her name was Happiness.  My friend and I had such a good time laughing about her name!   I really couldn't believe that someone actually had that for a name.  But, now, almost two years later...I can't imagine her with any other name!  Her name fits her  in every way.:)  She doesn't ever see Nigeria the way I see it....to her, it is her home..plain and simple.  I admire her for her hard work in a country where it could be so easy to just give up. She is such a blessing in my life and she is a huge reason for my happiness in living in another country.:)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Humbled

Today, I went out to the beach school with members from the Ishahayi Beach School Foundation to see how the school was running and drop off a few supplies...


A boy from the village carried a box of colored pencils to the school for us

leftover coconut shells in a pile
One of the projects today was to add a few more books to the library which we set up on our last visit out to the school in March.:)
Books are color coded...this one is for Primary 1

primary 2

more books

grade level guide for coding of books

I am happy to say that the library is getting a lot of use from the students and the teachers.  The last visit when we showed them how to use a library, they were so excited.:) It is always a good feeling when you feel like you have helped someone.:)

This little guy wouldn't smile no matter what I said!:)

lunch time!:)

Too cute!!!!

Beautiful faces!!!!
 Every time I come out to the school, I always have a good feeling knowing that Lady Salami is doing the best she can to give the students who attend her school the best education she and the other teachers can give them.  I am always humbled at the same time by their spirits.  They always greet us with huge smiles, and at the same time, they don't have what we would consider modern conveniences.  I cannot imagine having to draw drinking water several times a day from a well, and this is part of their daily lives...
Two children from the school carrying a bucket of water to the school.

The well where they use the buckets to draw the water.

It is so easy for me to get caught up in my own life here of getting upset when the power goes off or the fact that I am running out of Goldfish crackers for the kids ( which is reaching a definite code red emergency with only 1/4 bag left to last me two and a half weeks 'til we travel again!).  Here in this village, things are very simple.  When I come here, I see a woman who started a school from virtually nothing, and she now has over 100 students.  Many of these children will probably never leave the area of this village and they will be perfectly happy with that.  In this respect, I am so thankful that I have had the chance to experience this part of the world and see what people can do with virtually nothing given to them.  Many times, people  especially in developed nations including myself) fill their lives with so many material things, and here in this small village, people don't have those material things.  But, something remarkable happens!!!!! They still have smiles on their faces and the children still have things to keep them busy (yes, even without a DS!) .:)   One of the main things which keep these children busy is football.:) ( or soccer...depending where you are from.)
video

It is really remarkable to watch these children play football in the sand in bare feet and kicking the ball and running all over in the scorching African sun...but they are happy.

Living in Nigeria can definitely have its challenges...BUT, every now and then, you get to see a glimpse of hope and happiness.:)  That is what I saw today, and I just had to share it with all of you.:)

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Nigerian Wedding

This post was really hard for me to upload pictures and videos because of the "flickering" Internet we have had here for the past few days. The video which did post was not really the one I felt like really did show the mood of the wedding, but at this point, I will take what I can get.:)

On Saturday we attended our very first Nigerian wedding.  What an experience!  The lady getting married works for Guy and she was so happy for us to attend.  She is actually from Ekit ( the same area as Happiness) and she did the traditional wedding ceremony in Ekit on Wednesday which included many items which I wrote about on an earlier post.  

The ceremony we attended was at a local church ( a permanent tent set up in a parking lot).  We got dressed up for the occasion in traditional Nigerian dress.:)
Happiness tied a head tie o Lizzy, but she ran away before I could get a picture.:)

This outfit is nicknamed 1,500.

Both Jeremy and Guy had matching 1,500 outfits.  The origin of this outfit is from the Hausa tribe and Happiness told me her friend's father told her that it got the name because the left side is longer and has more fabric and needs to be folded up over the shoulder (1000).  The right side is made with a little less fabric and doesn't always need to be folded over the shoulder ( 500 ). 

Guy in 1,500 and me in traditional Nigerian woman's dress with a head tie.

quick family picture.:)

Lizzy plugging her ears.:)

When we arrived, you would have thought that we were already at the reception. :) There was a complete band in the front of the church playing music and two singers.  The music was so loud, but everyone was having a great time getting ready to celebrate the wedding.:)


Band playing for the wedding.:)

Guy and kids outside the church.:)

The bride, Mercy, getting out of the car. According to Lizzy, it she was Princess Tiana!:)


Couple walking back into church after signing the marriage certificate.:)

Unlike, weddings in the U.S. , there wasn't a huge procession into the church when the wedding began.  Mercy just walked in the church with her older brother.  But, after the marriage certificate was signed, that was when the whole wedding party danced their way into the church.  That video just wouldn't download for me, but you have to believe me when I tell you that everyone was ready to party.:)
The happy couple.:)  ( wedding colors : gold and mint green)

15 ministers were present to perform the wedding.:)

Just in case there is any question as to whether or not the wedding took place, there were actually 15 ministers who officiated the wedding ceremony!!! ( No, I don't know if that is really the reason why....but is sounds like a good reason!:) The whole thing took about two hours, and there was so much singing and dancing ...it was a wonder how Elizabeth fell asleep during the wedding.:)  We had a great time and it was so interesting to experience a wedding in a different culture.  We are so happy we could be a part of it.:)