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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reflection

I realized over the weekend that our family has been living in Lagos for over two and half years, and I can't believe that the time has flown (although some parts felt like they lasted an eternity!!) I remember when I first told my family and friends I was moving to Nigeria...with a three year old...and a sixteen month old....the first look I got was the look of "What kind of mother are you?"  I felt judged and I felt guilty for even entertaining the thought of coming to that far off place where bombs explode and people people are mugged all the time (or so I thought).  I kept asking myself how I could even considering moving here.  Guy had been here several times over the previous few years and kept reassuring me that everything would be okay, and I wanted to believe him.  How could I be okay with taking medication for malaria and having a shot for yellow fever? How could I have known at the moment I got that shot I had to stop nursing my daughter? I didn't even realize the last time I nursed her was the last time I would EVER nurse her!  Then, I was trying to figure out how many diapers to bring in our annual shipment and thinking I needed to buy a 50 lb. bag of rice!!!!! Oh, my gosh!! When I look back at those days before I moved here with my husband and children I shudder at how scared, crazy and judged I felt by almost everyone around me.  Seriously, I felt that way because I was one of the people who would have thought a person like me was out of her mind for even thinking about bringing small children here...and I think know the person who judged me the most and the hardest ...was myself...

When I first got here, I was in the "OOH and AHHH Oyibo" stage when I was wide eyed and couldn't believe what I saw around me.  I was a little scared and actually tried to make a schedule to stick to.  I wanted to give money to everyone I saw around me, and I couldn't imagine even opening a box of pasta that had bugs in it or eating anything beyond the expiration date...I felt lost alot those first months and that judgement of myself kept creeping up on me....."How could you even think you could survive here??"

Then, after a few months, I moved onto the "Giddy Get Involved" stage.  This stage can be the most dangerous.  I wanted to get out and meet people. I didn't want to be stuck on the compound.  I was out joining lots of clubs and volunteering for lots of different things. I had and still have a great nanny/ cook/ stewardess who could help me with the kids.  And somehow I felt that I could make that voice inside me saying " I can't believe you moved here." go away.   I was just too freaking busy to even hear anything during that year.  It was fun...but I am glad I wrote about it on the blog because I honestly wouldn't remember a lot of it during that last part of my first year and early on the second year if I hadn't written it down.

Last year I think I entered into the" fed up" stage.  Things started to lose their luster. Certain things about living here were really starting to get to me (traffic, lying, bribing, maintenance,etc.) and I realized I just had to cut back on some things I was volunteering for.  I was burning the candle at both ends and I didn't want to be so tired at the end of the day that my kids were driving me insane. ( After all, I am supposed to be an expat wife, right?  No one told me that all those volunteer hours could actually feel like a full time job! Even when you have a nanny.) I decided to focus on one or two things to really try to help in ways I thought (and still do) feel are important.:)

Now, I think I am in the "Free to Be" stage.  I feel like I have slowed down a little.  I've learned that it's okay to say "no" to things (not just when I don't have the time....but even when I really just don't feel like doing it.)  I am happy with the volunteer work I'm doing, and I am enjoying this time here not feeling like I am trying to throw myself into something else. I can fully see that just because I am in a country on the other side of the ocean, people are really just the same.  They want the same thing...to be loved, appreciated and cared for.   I just didn't realize when I was freaking out before moving here that I would eventually learn to appreciate new cultures and new people from all over the world.  And, most importantly, that judgmental voice in my head stopped telling me " I can't believe you thought you could survive here."  to " You are surviving here, and you've survived here for almost three years."

I started writing this blog for my friends and family at home (with the help of my friend, Carolanne, who set it up initially for me) whom I knew were worried about us being over here on the other side of the ocean.  But, I think it ended up being more of a place of reflection for me.  A place where I could go back to and reassure myself that I can do this, and I have done it.

On Friday, I received an email from one of the founders of InterNations.org ( a worldwide expat website) telling me that he had stumbled across my blog about Nigeria and he actually thought my blog was really interesting. (I was dumbfounded), and he would like to feature it on their website (seriously???)  I never really considered what I was writing about as "being good".  I was just writing so I wouldn't forget.  Who knew someone (I didn't even know) would actually like it???  The blog link to Nigeria hasn't been set up yet on InterNations, but it will be soon.  He sent me a questionnaire to fill out about my experiences as being an expat and the last question on the questionnaire asked me to sum up my expat life in Nigeria in one "catchy" sentence.  So, here is my life over the last two years summed up in one sentence:

"Life in Lagos, Nigeria has been a frustrating, exhilarating, heart-breaking, time-of-your-life adventure that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world."

I guess that about sums up my life over the last two and half years......and I definitely wouldn't trade it for anything.:)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Liquid Gold

This morning I ran into the kitchen to fill my water bottle up before going to help at Elizabeth's school.....I always take this for granted...


It's just a water dispenser, but when you're out of water around here...it can really be a problem...
A few weeks ago, while I was helping at her school, we turned on the tap, and there was no more water.  Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you have to bring buckets of water "bucket by bucket" to flush the toilet for 20 little ones 4 and half and younger!!!  Not to mention having to wash the kids hands in a bucket with the only water left from the bottom of the water tank...
I don't know why it never really occurred to me before, but just like electricity...the water supply is not central and many people (like me) have water delivered not only for drinking water, but also for just water for the tap and flushing toilets (in huge water tanks...usually on top of the buildings).  That was another "aha" moment for me (Thank you Oprah!)!!  I had seen these tanks before, but never really thought about what would happen when that "endless" supply ran out!

That's why, when I saw this this morning I was pretty happy....

The terrible, loud sound of this water tanker filling up the water tanks at Elizabeth's school is the sweet sound of not having to bring buckets of water in to flush the toilets!!!!! That's worth more than any box of gold! Yay!!!!:)

Friday, February 24, 2012

The "Haves" and the "Have Nots"

Something that has been on my mind since the very first time I came to Lagos is the sharp divide between the "Haves" and the Have nots". I see it every day on the streets as I go to school with Elizabeth in the morning. The hawkers who are out selling recharge cards for the phones and the women selling bread along the road. Then, there are the Jaguars and the Mercedes and the Prada and Gucci purses and the Jimmy Choo heels. There are HUGE birthday parties complete with D.J's and [party favors which are better than even the gifts given themselves. The government officials who are making and spending millions of naira while many people live on only two dollars a day.   I am not talking about the contrast between expats and local Nigerians. I am talking about the divide between Nigerians themselves. Although the population of middle class in Nigeria is rising, the difference is in plain site everyday. And, to tell you the truth, it is something which makes my insides feel squirmy and a tinge of guilt go through my mind every. single. day. I don't have Jimmy Choos or Prada handbags (and most likely never will...much to Guy's delight!!), but I do know what it feels like to not have to worry about where my next meal will come from. I am not claiming to be an expert, and I know that there are many "have nots" in the U.S., but I guess I didn't see them all the time...right outside my door....or outside my car...
I've never been in a place where people from the same place...the same country...have such a huge divide in the way they live..... I can see it right outside my window...
man selling fruit from a cart...


Nigerian compound with 13 cars!!!!!! right off the same street as the man with the cart..


yep...a Porsche

who knows what's under there??










I don't really know exactly what I'm trying to say...maybe I am just trying to give you an idea of the struggle inside my head every. single. day.  Maybe it's why I keep giving my driver chance after chance when I know I probably should have fired him a long time ago.  Who am I to take away the salary we give him when he is only doing things he has done his entire life to survive in a place where it is rare that people help one another succeed?  But, where do I draw the line? How long do I keep giving money to people I know are lying to my face, but just can't help it??? Is it even right to give it anyway just because I can??? After all, I am better off than they are, right?? I keep asking myself these questions.   Why was I so "lucky" to have been born into a life not having to lie and steal to make sure I could have money to eat at night?

This struggle will continue in my head long after we leave Lagos and for years to come.  I don't want to forget what I see here every day which is why I write this blog.  But, maybe in the years to come, the huge divide between the" haves" and the" have nots" of Nigeria will become smaller...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Art of Adire

Since moving to Lagos, one thing I have to say that I have really found a new appreciation for is the many beautiful fabrics you will find here.  I have seen thousands of them on my trips to Balogun Market, and along the streets of Lagos as people walk by in their brightly colored outfits.  I have to admit, when I lived in the U.S., I never really gave a second thought as to how a particular fabric was made or the art behind it.  But, today, some ladies I know were able to experience a little treasure here in Lagos.  They were able to go to the Nike Art Gallery and Center for Art and Culture.  I was able to hear Nike Davies Okundaye speak a few years ago at an afternoon tea.  To say she is an interesting and amazing woman is not nearly enough.  She is absolutely incredible with an incredible life story to go right along with her.  She was born in Ogidi, Kogi state in north Central Nigeria into a Yoruba community.  She learned the art of adire ( traditional Nigerian tie and dye) from her great grandmother ( who also was a cloth weaver and indigo dyer).  Her father was a basket weaver and leather worker.  Her parents died when she was very young, and she was eventually married to a Yoruba chief and was the youngest of 16 wives!!!!!  After he passed away, she started selling her tie and dye work and eventually went on to open up several galleries(even in New York, New York!!). Not only is she an amazing artist, but she teaches free classes to poor, underprivileged Nigerian women to empower them to help themselves in a society in which women have been oppressed for centuries.

I was completely bummed out that I couldn't go to the gallery today to see the tie and dye process Nike teaches, but one of my friends took a scarf of mine and was able to tie- dye it there for me!!!!!:) ( Thanks, Karin!)



For more information on Nike and her life and how she developed her amazing career and service, click here and here.  Maybe one day, I'll get to go and see her again, but for now, I have a little piece of her art...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ratatouille?

Once upon a time, a family of four decided to move across an ocean to the exotic continent of Africa.  When they first arrived, they were amazed at how different their new life was from their old one.  Here in Lagos, it is always noisy and  a little  ALOT more dirty.  Although, some may say that is what gives Lagos so much character. The mom from this family remembers thinking the same thing when they lived in New Orleans many years back.:)  They got used to seeing bugs in bags of pasta,  people peeing on the side of the road, okadas buzzing in and out of traffic, and even the occasional bathing of some people on the side of the road.  But, one morning, the lovely, beautiful , adoring wife went back to the store room to get her son some more Goldfish crackers for his lunch box.  And, alas, to her surprise  HORROR she found that the bag inside the box had been torn and upon further inspection, there were small teeth marks and pieces of foil inside the box!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Suddenly, it dawned on her that when she had gone back there on Saturday and three cans of pringles were on the floor that it had probably been......NO she couldn't even think it!!!!!  NO...she couldn't even say it!!!!!!!!  She took the box and calmly scared out of her mind, showed her understanding and loving husband.  To which he said, "Yep, we probably do have a rat!""" Until she heard the words come from her husband's lips, she could still deny it....but now that word was out there!!!  There was no taking it back!!!  The loving and dutiful husband left for work with his wife standing there wondering how she could live in such a place!!!  So, the brave and courageous wife went back to the store room and looked at the closed door.  She mustered up her courage and thrust opened the door ever so slowly....she just had to know what else had been eaten besides her precious Goldfish  which had traveled thousands of miles in her precious shipment for her children....she could find them no where in Lagos).  The, she heard it!!!!! A very loud quiet sound.  And then, she SAW all 6 inches of it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It  jumped from the shelf and on to the dryer on top of the Downy bottle and up into a small opening in the ceiling!!!!!!!!! A RAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
She screamed in horror!!!  And she did what any expat wife living in Lagos would do.....she called her fairy godmother stewardess and screamed over the phone that there was a rat......in the flat....and it's alive!!!!!!!!!!  Happiness arrived and with the wave of a magic wand was "on top" of the situation.  She quarantined the storage room, and she was whisked off on an okada to the nearest roundabout to bring back three large rat traps.  Meanwhile, the calm freaked out of her mind madame went stormed to the maintenance office and told them they needed to fix the hole in the ceiling of the storage room.  It took most of the day, but the hole was sealed off, and the rat was caught...in a hall way closet. Apparently, the rats are in the walls and can access just about any flat through the hole in the ceiling where the dryer vent goes.  The madame felt a little better knowing a rat was caught....but she was still uneasy as she didn't know if it was the rat.  Although the "fairy godmother" stewardess did bait the trap with Goldfish crackers......hmmmmmmmmmm.    Just thinking of the rats inside the walls here made the madame think of  one of her children's favorite movies, Ratatouille, and makes her skin crawl. But, for some reason, in that movie, she didn't recall the rats leaving turds in the hall closet...

rat was caught while I was gone...Happiness took a picture of it on her phone:)

where the rat was caught and some rat poop was discovered
 Since there is only trash pick up here only once a week, it is no wonder there is a rat problem here.  They are in the dumpsters and come from the huge ditch behind the compound which has become a dumping ground for sewage and tons of other garbage. From there, they wander into the building through any opening they can find....

tons of trash...






But this family is not the first one in the compound to have a "rat invasion".....the madame's friend who lives on the 11th floor, mind you, also had a rat visitor a few weeks ago....and that rat (which has since been caught) had a hankering for Goldfish also........

That night as the Madame went to sleep, she thought to herself that she had always heard stories of Rats living here, but until today, she had never actually seen one.  Now, her mind will be plagued with the fear of rats running wild in her building!!!!  So, I guess the moral of the story ( if there is one) is if you have Goldfish, make sure they are locked up tight....apparently, the rats in Lagos love them just as much as your children do!!!!!!
precious Goldfish

EVERYTHING goes in the freezer...not just the meat!!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Memories

Nigerian Dancers
Last night, was the annual Small World event here in Lagos. This organization is made up of all women who come together to raise money for various charities in Nigeria. It has been going for 17 years now, and has given money to over 160 Nigerian charities.  Last night, they reported earning over 42,000,000 naira for charity  (about 257,000 U.S. dollars!!!) That money is then divided equally among about 34 charities who are sponsored by different countries participating in Small World.  I helped out with this event a few years ago on the decorations committee, you can check it out here and here.  I have never lived in a country where I have experienced so much need. Sometimes, the need I see each and every day out of the windows of my car or flat feels overwhelming.  How can anyone help so many people???  That's when I realized that I can't help everyone I see, but I can focus my time and energy into different organizations.  During my time here in Lagos, I gave blood sweat and tears to Small world 2010.  After that year, I decided that o would like to help by buying tickets and showing up.:)  Don't get me wrong, the hard work was worth it knowing I was helping put together something great for Nigerian charities...but there is a reason why even the chairperson for Small world only has her job for one year.....it is just too much to do!!! Only here, have I experienced being around so many people from all parts of the globe... ( I didn't bring my good camera...but you get the idea, dancers from different countries perform on a huge stage.)
Ibero America

South Africa


France

Lebanon

Philippines

India

Syria


While we were walking out, I had to have Guy snap a quick picture of me and the "Small World Lady"...I am not sure, but I think she may have remembered me....we have a lot of memories together from 2010:)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

NO Waholla Day:)

 So far, today has been a great day with no Waholla!!! No big problems:)  The gen was repaired last night, and believe or not....the power has been OK today:)  We started off the day by going to Jeremy's second tee ball game of the season.  I can't believe I didn't blog about his first game last week.  This is the third season he has played here in Lagos, and he is better than he has ever been. You can check out the pictures of his games over the last two years by clicking here and here.  The team started out with a team meeting to get the kiddos psyched up for the "big" game!!!  His coaches are doing an awesome job, and since he is in kindergarten this year, he is feeling like the "big" kid on the team.  At his school, the teams are divided by grade levels, and his team is made up of pre-k and kindergarten children.
up to bat!

rounding the bases...

and it's a home run...well, maybe not a "real" home run after all the kids on the other team were fighting over the ball...by the time they stopped arguing over the ball..Jeremy had run to home base!:)

after team meeting:)

 After the t ball game today, we headed on over to the G.Q. on Ikoyi and had a nice quiet time at the playground and the pool.  I can't say enough about the hamburgers there......THEY. ARE. AWESOME. and worth every penny of the eighteen dollars you pay for them!!!!!!!  Funny how the novelty of getting a great hamburger can lift the spirits here!!!:)
I don't remember if I have ever posted pictures of the lizards I see here everywhere.  But, I thought I'd take a picture of the one today who was eyeing our table while we were eating.  He (or she) wasn't scared of us at all.  It was about 10 inches long, and they are literally EVERYWHERE  around here.  I even tried to find out the name of this type of lizard a few times, but have had no luck, so far...so I'll just call it the colorful lizard.:)  However, during my research of the name of this lizard, I did come across a web page for the Lekki Conservation Center. We have been out there before as you can see  here and here.  I thought the web page is worth checking out.  You never know....you could end up in Lagos and have nothing to do!!!:)
 I hope your day today is a NO waholla day, too!!!  E kaasan!!:) 
p.s. To see a video of the future National Baseball League star...check out the video at the bottom of the post!:)
video

Friday, February 17, 2012

NOT my Best Side

So, tonight, I am sitting in my flat with my kids and Guy and we were just getting settled to watch a movie with the kids and then put them to bed so we could watch something also before we both pass out from exhaustion.  When, we got a call from security saying that the power would be going out so the generator could be serviced.  What the %$#@?????????? There wasn’t a better time to fix this &#@% thing????? A Friday night, really?????? So, now we are at the mercy of  NEPA which isn’t even called NEPA , by the way!  Let me just tell you that our UPSs no longer work and the batteries have been replaced twice in them and the power has gone off 7 times in the last hour and half. The Internet is spotty and I can see this from the window of my flat…..yes, that is a Nigerian worker who is “working” over there….



I don’t know, but, when I moved here, I really saw everything as something new and exciting. I still do see some new and exciting things here, but I don’t see things with the fresh eyes I used to have…and lately, things are just irritating me beyond belief. Today, I went down to get Jeremy from the bus , and Elizabeth and I got on the elevator which didn’t work and spit us right back out onto the 9th floor….we took the steps and then the power was out …AGAIN!!!!!! Ugh!!! When we got to the bottom, the steps were wet from being mopped and it was dark and I slipped and Elizabeth almost did.  The guard at the bottom floor said, “What’s wrong, Madame? The lift is working.” I couldn’t even talk to him…I was so mad.  Has anyone ever gone down 9 flights of stairs with a three year old in flip flops who has dropped her new make up kit about 5 times along with way in the dark??? If you have, then you know my frustration…. Just FYI, when I was coming back up the steps, I could hear someone pushing the alarm in the elevator because they were stuck…poor things…..the security guards tell us to push the button for help but they don’t have any kind of tool to even open the doors.  My friend last year had to pry the doors open with her bare hands ( I am NOT kidding!!!!!)…something I could never do. Oh, and did i mention that there is NO air flow in the elevators....you are completely sweating by the time you take it down from the 9th floor.. and there is no cell phone service inside the lift either.  I think maybe the next time I need to take a bottle of wine with me so at least I can self medicate!:) Who knows how long I could be stuck in there!

I don’t know, but lately, I have lost my temper a few times over things I never would have lost it over in the U.S, I feel like my patience here has worn thin after more than 2 and half years.  I really wish I could say that it has gotten easier to live here, but I think you just know what to expect and then get pissed off anyway…but that could just be because the power has gone off two more times since I just wrote about in the last paragraph…


Anyway, if anyone is even still reading this post, thanks for letting me vent!!!  I know this attitude is not reflecting my best side right now…but on a positive note…the power just came back on again after the 12th time of going off since 7:30!!! The bad news is that Guy just got a call and was told that the crew working on the gen couldn’t fix it , but the “good news” is there is another crew who “ thinks” they can fix it………heaven help us!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Purpose...

On Sunday, I finished a great book lent to me by a friend here in Lagos. It wasn't a travel book or information about Lagos, but it did pull at my heartstrings.  It's a book she told me about almost 6 months ago...but I thought it was too soon for me to read it.  I knew it would bring back sweet memories of my Bernie....and some painful ones also. For more about Bernie, click here and here.  I don't think I ever understood how much your dog becomes another "being" in your family.  Sometimes, you almost think of them as "human".  I know I didn't feel this way about any dog...even my two dogs my family got when I was in high school....partly because I was too busy trying to be cool with an emphasis on trying and hanging out with my friends. And also because my mom and dad did all the work for them (s orry mom and dad.....I guess I thought I was too far above scooping the poop!)  But, when Guy and I brought Bernie home, she became our whole world.  We had no kids at the time, and since we lived far away from our familes...she was our family.  I can't believe that it has been more than a year since she passed away, and I think of her often.  Last week, I was getting ready in my room and I heard something jingling...I immediately knew it was the unmistakable clinking of her dog tags.  I came out in the living room and saw Jeremy curled up holding her collar with her name tag and his stuffed animal that looks like Bernice. (We have her collar hung on the side of picture of her and Jeremy, you can see above)  He told me "Mommy, I miss Bernie...I don't want her in heaven anymore...I want her here with me."  Of course, the whole sight of him sitting there made my heart crumble, but I knew that I couldn't fall apart. I told him that she had a good long life, and that she was loved and happy.  Now, she didn't have any more pain.  But, after I had him calmed down and we put her collar back, I couldn't help but ask myself if I did give her the best life possible.  Did she know that we truly loved her even when she wasn't our only "baby"?  I always think that with Jeremy we paid a little less attention to her and then when Elizabeth came along, she really got pushed to the side, but I hope she felt we loved her...
So, when I read A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, it was like a breath of fresh air!   It is such a heart warming tale of one dog's journey through many different lives.  It will pull at your heartstrings but, the theme was the same throughout the book.  He always felt love, and he always wanted to please his family. And, his love was always unconditional.   I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever had a dog or is even just a dog lover.  It is a wonderful book, but I recommend tissues while reading it.  I know it is fictional, but it helped ease my sadness of wondering if Bernie knew we truly loved her.  She will always have a special place in our hearts.  My hope is that wherever Bernie may be she will always feel safe, loved and most importantly... she had a purpose in our lives.:)

Love is in the Air...

 yesterday was valentine's day, and I got way too busy with everything to even have a post about it. But, that's okay because there is still over in the air over here.:)  The kids had valentines to make for their classmates...

Valentine greetings came from across the ocean....with tattoos!!!!!!!!


 There were Valentine parties with lots of yummy treats...

 And tiny Valentine greetings from our little ones....
 And of course, no Valentine's Day would be complete without my own personal Valentine.:)  And if there is anyone who doubts that you can find beautiful flowers in Lagos...you need to talk to Guy.....he finds them for every one of our Anniversaries, my birthdays, Mother's Day and Valentine's Day...I guess I've trained him well!!!:)  Happy Valentine's Day to you all!!!:)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Moon???

So, looking at the picture above, you would think the sun was setting and the moon had risen into the sky...right??????? You couldn't be more wrong.  On the way over to Ikoyi this morning, the harmattan was so thick that you could actually look up and see the sun as a small circle in the sky.  I took these pictures at 8:20 a.m. That must explain why my eyes have been watering and my sinuses are revolting against me!  For more info on harmattan, click here.  I think these pictures give new meaning to a "gray day".:)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Just Another Holiday:)

This weekend is a Muslim holiday weekend here in Nigeria.  It is Mohammad's birthday, and Muslims all over the world  are observing this holiday. The kids have Monday and Tuesday off from school.  Although we are not Muslim, we are taking advantage of this time to spend some fun time together with each other and with our friends.  We ventured over to Ikoyi yesterday for some fun time with our friends at the American Guest Quarters. I need to do some more research on the "GQ" but as far as I can tell it was a part of the American Consulate.  Americans and people working for American companies can become members and after a year's long wait on a waiting list, we are members now.:)  Funny how it takes living here to find access to another swimming pool something to be on a waiting list for!!!:) ( and okay, the burgers are great.,....and totally worth the $18 U.S. dollars you pay for them!!!!)
Guy and Jeremy:)

kids loved playing in the shower:)









This is totally off the subject, but has one lived here to long when my daughter comes to me and says, " Mommy,look!!  I made a really nice zed!"? ( Zed is the British way of saying the letter"z").  The teacher in me has to wonder!!!:)