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Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Couldn't Look Away...

Before moving to Lagos, I had always lived comfortably. I had never really experienced much hardship.  When I lived in New Orleans, I had my first taste of poverty while I was teaching kindergarten to children who lived in housing projects just outside of New Orleans.  Talk about culture shock when I started my very first teaching job!!!  I was a white girl in a 99.9% all black class of children.  Not only was I looked on  as an outsider, but I felt like one, too. Even though I cried every night for the first year because I just didn't think I could ever get through to those children or make the parents trust me that I was there to really help their children.  ( I am not exaggerating about the crying every night...just ask Guy...and I think there was a bag of mini snickers bars consumed nightly also.), I learned so much about the culture of the children living in the projects and about myself in the process.  I learned that the children there even though they came from somewhere different than me really needed the same things I needed when it came right down to it...acceptance, understanding and love. And if I would have given up after that first year, I would never have gotten to work with a fabulous teacher who was a great friend to me  I started to realize that I could live somewhere I didn''t understand, and I could learn so much in the process.  Pretty soon, parent conferences in the drive thru of Wendy's didn't seem so odd.:)

In a way,  living in Lagos has been very similar.  Things here are very different than what I was used to.  Things like the power going out all the time and not having water in the water tanks are starting to seem like second nature to me.  And although I am definitely getting used to so many things I see here everyday, I am still having trouble seeing this...

I know the picture isn't the greatest, but beyond the fishermen is a shanty town just past the Lagoon.  Many people come to Lagos in search of a better life and have nowhere to live so they become squatters on what is essentially government land or land that does not belong to them.  They build small shanties which have no running water and often flood when the tide changes (although I have seen some shanties with stilts).  There is nothing to say that the next day the government won't come through and bulldoze the whole place to the ground. And, yes, that really does happen.

Yesterday, I took my kids over to a new compound to visit with some friends.  The pool there was gorgeous.  It was right by the lagoon, and just past the shanty town, you could see the ocean.  My kids were playing happily under the African sun, and as I was looking at them play I couldn't help but notice the shanties just across the water. It hit me.  Why am I in a life which can provide for my children?  Why have I been blessed with not having to worry day to day where my next meal would come from?  Why have I never been faced with telling my children there may not be anything for them to eat that night?  There is no answer and I really don't know why I was born into such a different world from them.

After living here for a while, I hate to admit it, but I have become a little desensitized.  I'm happy that I realized how blessed I was last night when I was watching my children play.  Maybe that is why when I was taking the kids over to the Palms mall to watch a move today after the baseball game and I saw a rail thin man in the traffic begging for money or food, I just could not see past him.  I have seen him several times before and I have given him a granola bar once and an apple another time.  He is always grateful whether he gets anything or not.  I have been told by several different people never to give anything because your car will be "marked" and next time there will be more and more people coming up to you.  But, today, I didn't have any food to give him and I couldn't reconcile that I was in an air conditioned car and able to take my children to a movie and look away when I saw a starving man in the street.  In a split second decision, I whipped some money out of my wallet and gave it to Fatai and told him to give it to that man.  Fatai looked at the money and at me and told me it was too much to give, and for the first time I yelled at Fatai and told him to just give it to the man.  The man took the money and told God to bless me and keep me, and I couldn't even look at him because I was ashamed.  How many people do I pass by each and everyday who are like him and I haven't even noticed them????

 I am not writing this post to show that I gave money or anything like that, but living here is unlike anything I have ever experienced. Sometimes, I look around and wonder if this place was forgotten because of all the poverty and desperation I see all around me every day. But, then, every now and then, there is a glimmer of hope.:)  I am glad I felt that way today. I am glad I haven't started not to notice the poverty. It is what helps to keep me grounded, keep things in perspective, and helps me remember all of my own blessings.  I am glad that today I couldn't look away...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

World Malaria Day

Tomorrow, April 25, 2012, is World Malaria day.  I haven't written too much about this devastating disease since we have moved here, and that is probably because it has been one of my worst fears that it would directly affect my family.  Guy and I both agree that the WORST thing that could ever happen to us while we are living here is having either Jeremy or Elizabeth contract malaria.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with how malaria is spread, click here for more detailed information on what malaria is.  But, "in a nutshell", malaria is spread by the female anopheles mosquito.  It spreads the parasite called plasmodium.  About 40 percent of the world's population are living in malaria endemic regions.  These regions are the tropical and sub tropical areas of the world.  About 90 percent of the deaths from malaria are in Africa south of the Sahara and most of these deaths are children.  In Africa, a child dies every 30 seconds from malaria, and those who do survive often have brain damage or learning disabilities as a result.

Part of the problem of the epidemic of malaria is the lack of education and resources to prevent it from happening.  Although, if a person is born in an endemic region and has lived there through the age of five, they are considered partially immune. According to this site, immunity means,

"People residing in malaria-endemic regions acquire immunity to malaria through natural exposure to malaria parasites. Children living in areas of stable malaria transmission become infected early in life, and experience more severe disease symptoms during the first five years of life. But as immunity develops the disease becomes less severe and the number of parasites circulating in the blood declines. The acquired immune response to malaria is strain specific and is lost if a person moves away from a malaria endemic area."

We do take precautions such as not going outside in early morning or staying out at dusk when the anopheles mosquito is most active, and my family has been very blessed that we have been able to afford chemopropholaxis for malaria.  There are several different medicines one can take, but we take malarone each and every day.  Some people may say " Why give your child a pill every day?" Guy and I talked about it, and we would rather give them this medication and know we tried to do something to combat it than have them get malaria and feel guilty the rest of our lives that we didn't do something to prevent it when we knew it was available to us.  Everyone has their own views, but that is ours.

It is heartbreaking to me to read about the cases of malaria and all the suffering, deaths and money spent on malaria treatment on a continent which has so much poverty.  According to the Malaria Consortium website, about $12.5 billion dollars a year in Africa is spent just treating malaria.  I can't imagine ever being in the position that I couldn't do everything possible to keep my child safe from getting malaria. My heart breaks for the thousands of parents who have lost a child to this disease.  I know that even though with all the precautions, malaria is still possible to contract.  But, there are so many people on this continent without the basic preventions such as repellent and mosquito nets. 

There are several groups who are teaching people in endemic areas about prevention of malaria, and you can click here and here to watch about how one group is helping.  Please remember there are so many people in this world who are suffering and even losing children each and every day.  Please take the time tomorrow to remember them and know that even though the field of health care has made so many strides in the right direction there is still a deadly disease which is taking so many innocent lives.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Where are the Bananas???

 I am not really sure because we didn't find them on Banana Island.:)  Today, we headed out to Banana Island for a charity walk.  It is a neighborhood right near Ikoyi.

 Well, Guy and I walked...Jeremy rode his scooter with his friends and Elizabeth rode in the wagon.:)

 Banana Island is another section of Ikoyi where there is major construction going on of new homes....yes...this is a new home being built ...
 Elizabeth wasn't too impressed by all the huge houses!!!
 Another home ...
 And there is continued construction of apartments.....the scaffolding always scares me a bit...
 And this house has a Rolls Royce parked in front...

 Walking through Banana Island drives home to me the gap between the wealthy and the poor in Nigeria...
 We did have a minor medic stop for Elizabeth's skinned knee after walking two feet.:) Don't worry...she was fine!:)
 And since Jeremy did so well riding his scooter for the 3 K walk...I promised him he could jump in the pool when we got back to the compound!:) 

It was great fun today for raising money for the many charities in Nigeria.:)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Wonder...

No pictures for this post.....just my own thoughts....a peek inside my brain..
 I is a bit scary!:)

I wonder as I drive through the streets from my air conditioned car,
how that mother selling bread with a baby tied to her can walk so far.

How about the man with flip flops on his feet? How does he feel every time a car drives past
and he slowly retreats???

How does that okada driver feel when the police take his wheels?
It's his livelihood...his life line..his ticket for his meals...

How does the woman selling fish under the bridge feel on a morning when business is slow???
Will she have any money for that day?
Will she have anything to show??

And what about the man who shines shoes along the street...
How much does he make??
Does he ever feel that his lowly job is just too hard to take?

And those people on the bus, crammed in so tight...
Trying to get somewhere...
Maybe home from work while it's still light?

I know I am just an expat and there are things here I will never understand..
Many times, I still do feel as if I am in a foreign land.

I feel as if I will forever be a visitor looking from the outside in,
But even after a few years of living here...
The old feelings creep back in...

I know I cannot change everything I see,
but I always want to remember all the little things around me.

And, just when I start to feel a little bit low,
I see a beautiful Nigerian smile from someone that I know.

She is the reason I have adjusted so well here. 
She's taught us so much about her life and life in general here.

For many here, life is is a life of work.
But, family ties are strong here and those roots don't desert.

Families are bound here in a way I will never understand.
Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers all give each other a helping hand.

Even when I am long gone away from here,
I'll remember all the beautiful people I saw and spoke with and listened to here.

Like a love affair, this country and I have had our ups and downs.
I've gone from elated and thrilled to trying to peel myself from the ground.

But, for good or bad or happy or sad,
For the opportunity to come here, I will always be glad.

In my life, Nigeria will always play an important part.
Memories from Nigeria will always be close to my heart.:)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jeremy's Lessons in Yoruba

When we first arrived here in Lagos, my thoughts were always about how safe I would feel. How safe would my children be?  What kinds of foods will be in the grocery stores?  Will I be able to find "good" wine??  And it turns out almost three years later, my thoughts have turned to thinking , "What a blessing it is that our family was able to come here."  "A whole new world and culture has been shown to us." And somewhere in there, Jeremy has been able to bring the local culture into his life.  I am pretty sure that if we were still in the States, he wouldn't be learning how to count in Yoruba...

Just a review :  There are over 400 dialects spoken in Nigeria alone.  The "official" language is English, but the main tribal languages in Nigeria are Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo.  Around Lagos, there is a huge Yoruba population so it is only fitting that in his African Studies class at school, he is learning Yoruba.  He brought this Yoruba number book home last week, and I am going to keep it forever!:)
1= Okan and 2= Eji

3=Eta and 4 = Erin

5=Efa and 6= eran

7= eje and 8= ejo

9=esan and 10 =ewa

Yesterday, we went out to Lekki Market. We hadn't been out there in months, and it always surprises me how the local boys who are there to walk through the market with us and carry our purchases always remember us and always remember that we like to have the same boy with us each time, Ola.  So, yesterday, Ola walked with us as we browsed through the different stalls in Lekki Market...

It was boiling hot at Lekki Market!!!!

We ended up bringing home a Mankala game.  The vendor who sold it to me said it is also called Ayo in Yoruba, and is a very popular game played here in Lagos.  After some research on playing the game, Jeremy and I were hooked.:)
and so was Guy!!:)   Lizzy just liked sitting on Guy's shoulders:)
It is also called the "sowing game" because the stones you see are actually dried out seeds and it is like you are "sowing' the seeds as you drop one in at time to each hole.  To Jeremy, it is just a fun game, and one of the many memories he will always have of Living in Lagos.:)

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Little Thank You

We've been back in Lagos for four days now, and I am still feeling like I am on "vacation" time.  I LOVE going on holiday, but it is always such a chore to get back into the swing of things.  I swear you'd think I hadn't packed a lunch box in a year ( and not just 10 days) when you see how many times I have to go back to the fridge in the morning for everything I need.:)  But, I did have to write a quick note to the best trip planner, left- side- of -the- road driver, and travel husband!:)  Thank you for planning such a wonderful trip for all of us.:)  We had a great time!  Love you!!

Day 10- Easter in Cape Town

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter to everyone!!!  The Easter Bunny made his delivery to the kids last night, and they were all smiles this morning!:)

We were off to Mass at Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Cape Town…

We actually were able to find a church with a service this year.  Click here to see about what happened to us last year!:)

Saint Mary’s was beautiful…

and it had a pipe organ…

The kids liked it, too…

After Mass, we were back to the Winchester for an Easter Jazz Brunch….

The Easter bunny delivered here, tooJ

The kids had their own “bubbly!!( sparkling grape juice!)

But, the favorite by far was the chocolate mousse…what can I say?  She takes after her mom.:)

There was a jazz band playing in the courtyard…

Then, we were off to take a bus tour of the city…

The weather was still rainy today, so we sat inside…

We toured around by the Two Oceans Aquarium (where we were yesterday).  It is located in the V and A Mall (named after queen Victoria and her son, Alfred.  It is mistakenly thought to be named after Albert, her husband).  Near the V and A Mall, there are many ships. Sorry about the pictures…it was raining…

We passed by the Mount Nelson Hotel which we found out hosts many of the VERY wealthy and some major celebrities.  It was voted best High Tea in the world recently in a UK paper.:)

We saw Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner for 27 years.  You can barely see it out in the ocean because of the weather…

We passed through District 6 of Cape Town.  District 6 used to be a place where runaway slaves and freed slaves and many different people from all ethnicities came to live.  It was also the birth place of the famous Cape Minstrel Parade. When apartheid came into play, it was outlawed for anyone of another race to marry into another race.  The decision to get rid of District 6 was made, and in 1968 the government began bulldozing this area.  By 1985, 60,000 people were displaced from this area.  To this day, many parts of District 6 are still barren and covered with weeds.  It is a sad reminder of what apartheid did to the people of South Africa. For more information on District 6, click here.

Abandoned building in District 6…

empty land in District 6…

Then, we drove through the area known as Woodstock.  The city is trying to create a media and movie hub here in Woodstock along with several different businesses opening up in this area…

Next, we passed by the City Hall building.  It was built in 1905, and it was from the middle balcony at this building that Nelson Mandela addressed the people of South Africa in February 1990 after he had been released from prison.

Then, we were off to Camp Bay.  This is where the very wealthy people in Cape Town have their apartments and some celebrities like Prince Harry come to have a holiday.  Of course…it just doesn’t seem like the “holiday” place in the middle of all this weather.  Here is a picture of some children playing soccer on the beach.

And, here is a picture of some of the peaks of the “Twelve Apostles”.  No one is really sure why they are called the twelve apostles since there are 17 peaks….but the name still lives on…

But that is another picture of Camp’s Bay.

The bus tour was a little much for Lizzy who fell asleep half way through!

After a little resting up back at our  hotel, we were back to the Victoria and Alfred Mall for dinner…

The kids were really troopers walking through the rain…
and Jeremy managed to get a picture of Guy and me toasting on our last night in South Africa…

 And just in case you were wondering what  craw fish looks like in South Africa…here is an example!!

Yep!!!! It’s a freakin’ rock lobster!!!!!!!  And it was delicious!!!! After dinner since the kids were so good, we let them have a helicopter ride!!!

It’s always the “little things” which mean so much!!!:)  We had a great time in South Africa and we can’t believe that it’s time to head back to Lagos tomorrow.  It’s been a great holiday, and it is definitely one our entire family will always remember!:)