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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Out On A Limb

For most of my life, I have had a fear that whatever I may want to write other people wouldn't like, and sometimes, I still feel like I'm in sixth grade trying to read my essay to my class and feeling my face turning beet red and hot.  I got so nervous, my stomach wouldn't stop flip flopping and I couldn't even speak.  I just looked over at the Sister (I went to Catholic School) who nodded her head discreetly to let me know it was okay for me to just sit down.  I remember thinking I wish I could just sink right into the chair and become invisible...

I am happy to say that I have come a little further today, and I have been writing on this blog for almost three years now.  I know many of my readers are my wonderful friends and family. But, there are a few of you I have met along this journey.

I haven't told too many people that I am a writer for World Mom's Blog because I was/am a little scared that people may not like what I have to say.  But, today my first post on World Mom's Blog was posted, and there is only one person who has liked it so far.  Somehow, I don't feel like I did when I was in sixth grade.  I'm glad I was able to write and have it posted today.  It is a huge milestone for me to "put myself out there".  So, if you have a chance you can check it out here
If you want to check out the post and it's after today, May 31, click on the link above and type
"Meredith" in the search box on World Moms Blog.:)  My post should appear after you click search.:)

And, if you don't like it, tell me ....or don't tell me....or do tell me......or don't........okay, maybe I am still like the scared little girl in sixth grade!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Beauty of Batik

Batik fabrics are nothing new. In fact, the art of batik has been around for thousands of years.There is actually evidence of it being done in the Far East, Middle East, Central China and India.  Some historians think this art traveled along the caravan trading routes routes.  Since coming to Lagos, I have seen some very beautiful fabrics.  The beautiful bright colors found here in Nigeria are nothing short of breath taking and I am afraid in my three years here, I haven't really done the whole realm of fabric here much justice.  But, today, I got to watch a local batik artist named Johnson share his craft and let the children at Elizabeth's school watch and learn a little bit of how batik fabric is made.:)

  We started with some aprons which were provided by the school. Johnson said they would work, but thinner fabric is better and organic fabric is best such as cotton. He started off by using a small tool which looked like a pen filled with extremely hot wax and wrote all the children's names on the aprons.

 Then, he drew designs on the aprons using the hot wax.
 The hot wax is what helps to make the design on the fabric.  The next step is to actually dye the fabric.  He said he bought his dye at the local market and he added something which looked like Baking soda to the hot water and the dye.  He said it will help the color from fading when it is washed.
 Large thick gloves need to worn during the dying process because the dye can irritate the skin badly and also dye the skin. I don't know how Johnson can do this all the time.  The fumes from the dye are extremely strong.
 The kids loved watching how he dipped the aprons into the various colors of dye he had prepared.  The next step will be for him to take the aprons home with him and boil them in extremely hot water which will cause the wax to melt right off the apron.  He explained to me that he then makes sure all the wax is off the fabric by scraping it with a stick.  Then, the beautiful designs are left behind.  I'll post some pictures of the finished products after he comes back next Tuesday to drop off the finished products.  I have to say that this whole process takes a lot of time and there is an infinite number of patterns which can be designed on batik fabric. The men and women who design these fabrics are nothing short of artists.  I have really come to appreciate these fabrics since living here, and I am so happy that my little girl can start to learn an appreciation for every one's talents and crafts.:)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sunday Street Scenes

I wanted to share a few pictures of some of the things we see along the street on Sundays when we go to church.  The kids are always excited to see the goats wandering around looking for food along the street...

 Do you see the tent in the distance off to the right?  That is where a small catholic congregation meets on Sundays...
 Two Sundays ago, we saw a group of boys flaying football in the rain...and the street!!
 That takes ALOT of talent!!!

This is just another quick glimpse into what we see around Victoria Island and Ikoyi.  I hope you enjoy the Sunday Street Scenes.:)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What do the African Rains Bring?

What do the rains in Africa bring with them???? Apparently one little cutie who couldn't wait to wear her rain boots!:)
 And some really cool looking clouds which kind of look like it may rain ...or maybe not....but usually it does.:)
 One thing I never expected the rains to bring is higher prices on produce Under the Bridge. Happiness went to get the veggies yesterday and the vendors under the bridge told her the heavy rains which fell last week actually killed many of the plants where they bring in their produce so the prices went up....
 one kilo of tomatoes went from 500 naira up to 1000 naira!!!!
 bananas went from 250-300 naira up to 500 naira!!
And the watermelon went from 600 naira up to 800 naira.  And that was with Happiness buying the produce for me...I don't know what the oyibo price would be.:)  I just never thought the rains would bring higher prices for the in Lagos is always full of surprises!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Finding the Love

This morning, I woke up as usual and took my shower.  I went to get Jeremy up and made him his breakfast.  I got him to the bus and came back upstairs to get Elizabeth ready to head off to school.  Then, I was taken aback by a comment I received from someone I have never heard of who read a post from last year on my blog.   It stung a bit, and then I started thinking.  Why is it that there can be a million things that someone does right, but it is the one thing that is wrong that everyone seems to notice?  I know that everyone does it.  We all make snap judgments of people based on a small glimpse into their lives.  I am one of the people who is guilty of it, too.   I used to think that some of the parents in Nigeria were terrible to let their babies ride on okadas.  But, now, I realize after learning more about their lives here, for some, that is the one and only mode of transportation which is affordable for them to get to work and make money for their families.  Do we all really follow the old saying "You can't judge a book by its cover?"

It's ironic that I just had a conversation with Guy the other day, and I realized that many times, I see the negative things in a situation first before I ever see the positive. Most of the time I see all the negative things in myself first and foremost.  It is a learning curve for me, but I can definitely say that living in Lagos has taught me more about acceptance and understanding than I ever had before.  

Why is it that people may read a newspaper, a magazine or a blog for years and enjoy it everyday without one single positive comment to the writers, but then he or she sees one thing which offends her and that is when all the negative comments come?  Words can hurt and they can never be taken back like a piece of clothing which doesn't fit.

I remember when I was living in New Orleans, I stopped at a local grocery store so many times on my way home from work.  I was always tired and would run in and grab whatever I thought Guy and I would like for dinner.  I went to any of the cashiers and to be honest, I was usually in such a hurry to get home from work that I never even really paid attention to what cashier I was going to.  One night, I was in line and ready to check out, and I realized I forgot something. Instead of doing the "rude" thing of telling the cashier to wait on me while I ran back to grab something, I collected all of my things and went back to get the item so the people behind me could go on ahead.  When I came back to check out, I put my things on the first counter I saw and all of the sudden, I heard a loud voice screaming, " I see how you are!!!!!  I see how it is!!!"  I looked up for a second and saw that two check out lines over, a cashier was yelling those words to me.  I was a bit confused , and then, she went on, " I see how it is!!!! You just wanted HER to check you go on and make excuses about forgetting something!!!!"  I still was a bit confused and then realized when I finally bothered to even look at the cashier in the line I was in that she was white and the other cashier was black.  I NEVER EVER had that intent in my mind......I simply forgot about an item and went up to the first check out counter I saw.  I felt terrible inside....I couldn't believe I could be judged like that.  I was so embarrassed and hurt that anyone would ever think that way of me that I left the groceries on the conveyor belt and just left. That cashier had no idea I taught African American children from the projects all day and loved my job. I LOVED those kids! She judged me in a moment and thought she knew me....

Why do we (as people) seem to gravitate towards the negative and not rejoice in all the positive? I guess what I am trying to say is before you say a negative thing to or about someone else, please try to see the "whole picture" first.  Try to look at someone as though you are assessing them as an essay question and not just a one word answer.  I think many times that is the reason why feelings are hurt and wrong judgments are made about others.  And if the entire essay is bad, then, and only then, call it what it is.

 I love the song Where is the Love by the Black Eyed Peas . I think it sums up just what I am trying to say.  And maybe (just maybe) we all can start to see the positive in people and finding the love.:)

Monday, May 21, 2012

You Never Really Know

 This weekend was full of getting together with friends we met from different continents but somehow all of our paths crossed in Lagos!!! 

The rainy season took a short break on Sunday so we could have a cook out with some friends at another compound.:)

 The kids had a great time splashing around with their friends...
 and the adults got to have a little relaxing time together and look at the blue water of the Atlantic Ocean...
Shanties along the beach front

shanty town

 It was a great weekend with laughter and friends....we almost forgot where we were for a few minutes until Jeremy came up to us at the other compound and said, "Mommy, look what I found!  What is this??"

I have to admit, I have never seen one of these up close, but I was pretty sure I knew what it was and upon conformation from Guy and a few of our other was concluded that yes, indeed, my six year old son found a bullet on the ground on a compound where we were having a beautiful afternoon.  Looking at this takes me back to 2:45 a.m.  You just never really know what you'll get to experience when you come to Lagos!:)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Art Form

When we first moved to Lagos, I was overwhelmed by a lot of things.....the traffic, the smells, the power going out, and also by all of the beautiful artwork!!!  Never before in the U.S. would I ever just walk down the street and see artists sitting on upside down buckets whittling away at wood or creating beautiful paintings.  Sure there are areas in some of the big cities of the U.S. where you can visit to see artists.  But, here, they are everywhere!  You can find them on the street corners, at Lekki Market, at the beach and in the go-slows.  I remember our first trip to Lekki Market when I got to see so many people  making baskets to sell and carving small wooden statues and some small tables.  It is a shame that after seeing so many of these things everywhere, they are kind of taken for granted.  But, this artwork is what makes this part of the world so unique.

Another art form here in Nigeria (and in many other parts of the world) is the art of bargaining.  This is an art I have never been able to master or feel comfortable with.  I always want to just pay whatever they ask me especially when I see they have no shoes or proper clothing.  Happiness told me you are expected to bargain, and actually, if you don't that takes some of the fun out of these sale for the vendor.:)  I don't know about that, but I do know that Guy LOVES to bargain and he is a master at this art form.  It is actually quite something to see him bartering with a vendor for merchandise.  Happiness told me that you should always offer half of what they want for an item and then you can slowly go up by 50 or 100 naira until you meet somewhere in the middle. And most importantly...never EVER let  the vendor know how much you love it!  you have to be bale to walk away if you think the price is too high. You know when you have offered too low when the vendor doesn't chase after you to come back to his stall to make a purchase.  I am not kidding when I tell you that vendors will follow you through markets to get you to buy from them.:)

So, when Guy and I decided to have a coffee table, two console tables and two end tables made I left the bargaining up to him. We went out to Lekki and were able to find something we really liked and that is when the bargaining games began.  But, eventually, Guy and the vendor were able to settle on a price, and after four weeks, and a torrential rainstorm yesterday, our new furniture was delivered... 

These tables were carved from scratch from mahogany.  There are so many gifted and talented artists and carpenters here in Lagos and all of Nigeria.  These tables were made by an artist and carpenter who will most likely never be famous, but his work is beautiful nonetheless.  Watching the artists work and the entire bargaining process to purchase the goods is nothing short of an art form.:)

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Do NOT Recommend This

I knew I should have listened to that little voice in the back of my head telling me "NO way!!" "Are you nuts!???"  " What the h#@% are you thinking?"  but like I usually do when those voices seem to creep into the back of my head I ignore them.  It's a quirk of mine to try to look into the face of insanity and just try to go with it.  I think that may be one of the things Guy loves most about me....NOT!!!!
Two very nice friends were having birthday parties for their children on Ikoyi....on a Friday...the same Friday .. and both parties were from 3p.m. to 6 p.m. at different places.  It was an insane thought but I had to let it pass through my brain, " What if you go to one party from 3 -4:30 and the other from 4:30 -6:00?"  Could it be done??? Had it ever been done???? Could I do it?"   Ha!!! I can laugh insanity in the face......does that make me more insane????

The plan was to leave my compound at 2:30 right when Jeremy got off the bus....2:30 turned into 2:45 after he played around and had an extended bathroom visit!:)   And then 2:45 turned into 2:50 because I couldn't locate my keys (yes, Guy , I can hear you telling me to have a "special place" to leave my key!!)  Anyway, the traffic wouldn't be that bad...I had a meeting on Thursday on Ikoyi and left at 5 p.m. and got there at 5:10 .....maybe the traffic was actually getting better??!!   We went about 200 feet and were stuck in gridlock traffic for 45 minutes.  Let me just tell you haven't lived until you have two kids in the car ready for a birthday party and you are not moving anywhere....

We finally got to Ikoyi an hour after leaving and Fatai was lost...he couldn't remember where we were going (even though we had been there twice before!).  He started to ask me about the names of the streets...I can't even pronounce them correctly let alone know where they are and don't even get me started on communication between Fatai and me!  So, we arrived at birthday party number one at approximately 3: 57 p.m.  I told the kids to go and play because we needed to leave in 33 minutes. I scanned the food  and beverage table.....not one drop of wine anywhere to be seen to calm my packing away of the plantain chips ensued in a wood chipper like was full on stress eating, baby!!! I am sure there were crumbs flying out all over the place, but I needed to take my frustration out on something and the plantain chips seemed like a likely candidate.  (And they did taste pretty good,too when I took a moment to reload my mouth!)

4:30 on the dot I corralled the kids into the car with Elizabeth crying because she didn't get to eat cake yet ( because it was too early) and Jeremy upset because he didn't get a goody bag from that party.  I explained to Elizabeth she would get cake at the next party and Jeremy would get a goody bag from the next party because it was for his friend.

As we drove away from that party and I was wiping the crumbs from the front of my shirt and my mouth, I was really thinking that I really should have a mini bar in my car for times like these.  It almost seemed like we would get to the next party without a hitch when Fatai said to me , " Madame, this makes no sense." I looked at him and said " What makes no sense?" He said " The road, Madame." I was thinking, " We are in Lagos!!!! The roads don't make any sense here and you are just now telling me this!!!!???"  He explained to me that some of the roads have changed names and that McDonald Road used to be Oniru Road and some of the road signs aren't correct anymore. 

MTN was working, and I called a woman I have never talked to in my life who passed the phone to my friend in the middle of the happy birthday song to give my driver directions to her place.  We arrived at birthday party number 2 at approximately 5:02  Jeremy was greeted by all his friends in the common theme , " Jeremy, you're late!!!!"  I scanned the premises and there was still not a drop of wine to be found.  So, I did the next best thing....I found a quiet corner by the pool and stuffed my mouth with a cupcake until I could barely chew..and I think I almost tasted it before I swallowed it whole!!!

The kids had fun and swam until 6 and then we packed up and headed home.  On the way home, they were wired, and I was exhausted.  Was it worth it?  Maybe... after seeing the kids laughing with each other on the way home, and I really do like my two friends.  Would I recommend doing this to anyone else...ever?????  Not on your life!!!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's Just different Here...

The past few days, I have been exhausted.  Living here is a "trip"...some days, it feels like I am bored to tears and other days I don't have a single second to think....

This week has been one of those weeks when I really realize it is just different here and no matter how hard I try to explain it to family and friends back home, it is so hard to understand.

For instance, we went out to the beach the other day for our last Board meeting of the year, and I was supposed to be back at the dock in V.I. by 2 p.m.  so I could pick Jeremy up from school and take him to a promised play date.  Of course, the boat was late getting back to the dock and didn't get there until 2:10 ...the exact time he gets out of school!!! (The last time he was left at school because he missed the bus, he was in the front office crying so hard he couldn't talk!)  All I could think was he would be standing there wondering where I was and I couldn't get a hold of anyone at the school.  The MTN service on my phone wasn't working and there are like about 50 different numbers to try to call the front office and almost none of them work!  I tried to call his teacher's cell phone when I finally had service...but there was no answer. To say I was in a  bit of a panic was an understatement.  I texted Fatai and told him to have the car running and ready and we needed to get to the school fast fast!!!!  To my amazement as I jumped off the boat and ran down the dock, he was ready and waiting!!!! ( a small miracle)  I told him we needed to go fast and he just smiled and said "Yes, Madame!"  and we just drove at a crawl.  I said we need to GO FAST!!!!!, and he said "Okay Madame!"  and picked up speed by half a kilometer an hour.  We got to Ozumba Mbadiwe and crossed the street to dead lock traffic trying to get into the school.  I said, "I can't wait..... meet me at the school." and I got out of the car and ran down the road.  There were okadas weaving in between me and the piles of gravel ( and I wondered what on earth are they going to do with that gravel??? Will they really fix this terrible dirt road??" but there was no time for that, I have to get to the school.) It was hot, and I haven't run in about a I was about to die when I got through the front gate of the school, I searched everywhere for Jeremy and when I finally found him I expected to see a cry or some sort of scared look on his face, but he was fine and his teacher was waiting with him.  He just said, "Mom, where have you been, let's go!!!! I want to play!"  I felt like fainting right there in the courtyard at the school, but I didn't.....I just thought to myself....this place is so crazy!!!

Or yesterday, when I was in the car and Fatai asked me about my grinder which was in the trash. I said "Grinder?" He said , "Yes, madame, your was in the there something wrong with it?" I said, " Oh you mean our blender?  Yes.....the motor is doesn't work." He said, " Oh." Then, yesterday afternoon I was taking a bag out of the back of the car and I saw our blender in the trunk.....he went and took it out of the trash.  I know I shouldn't feel upset about was my trash...but there is something very strange about seeing something you know you put in the trash can showing back up front of you.  It has happened a few times to me with a cleaning lady in our building...she has worn a pair of ratty old slippers I threw away because they were falling apart ....I wouldn't give them to anyone....

And, this morning, I ran out of milk in the kitchen fridge, so I went to the hall way and got another box of milk from that fridge.  It struck many people in the U.S. have a fridge in the hallway???

It is just so hard to explain things to my family and friends back home.  Things are just so different here.  Phones don't work, thrown away things turn up, things are in weird places, there's lots of extra help, but sometimes " too many cooks in the kitchen" can make things even more complicated...

The only thing I can tell my friends or anyone who asks what it's like to live here is's just different here.:)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day from Naija!

Mother's Day was looking good right from the start here in Naija.:)  I woke up to eggs and bacon cooked by some tiny hands and one great chef!:)  Then, I was "showered " with some precious gifts.:)

Mother's day book, homemade flowers and card:)

Beautiful flowers from my hubby:)

getting ready to go to church

I will treasure these flowers forever!:)

And who can beat some of the best sushi I have ever tasted along with some of our great friends from Lagos???!!  Yes, you can have fantastic sushi at Fusion in the Lagoon on V.I. (and no, I am not being paid to say that!) 

And one of the most magical moments of being a mom is watching your little one sleep.  There is something so peaceful and innocent about a child sleeping.  It is one of those times when time seems to stand still and you can just drink in the beauty of your child.  It is a time when all the whining and the complaining of everyday life drowns out, and it is just soft and peaceful.  Have you ever felt like at that moment you can really "see" your child???  I have those moments sometimes.:) ( Funny how they usually happen to me when they are asleep! ha ha!)
It was  a wonderful third Mother's Day in Lagos.:)  I can't imagine my life without my two precious little spirits. I am so happy that they came into my life!:)  Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms out there!  I hope you are able to really "see" your children  today:)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mr. Q and Miss U

Apparently, it was the classic story of Boy meets Girl or in this case "letter meets letter"...

 and it was love at first sight.:)
 They decided they could never be apart...but Mr. Q had to come to terms with the fact that Miss U will need the freedom to be in words without him.  Not even that could stop them from saying "I do!"
 And just like that Q and U were hitched for life.:)
 The celebration was complete with wedding cupcakes
 and sizzling juice according to Jeremy (also known as sparkling juice).  It was so much fun watching the kindergartners have so much fun!!! Congratulations Mr. Q and Miss U!!!:)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More Lagniappe

Yesterday on a rare occasion I was all by myself (that NEVER happens!)  I went out to The Palms Mall. I had heard stories, but could they have been rumors?  I mean could it really be a FULLY stocked clothing store?  I really had to take a trip out to see it myself....

 And the rumors were true!!!! Woolworth's is open at he Palms people!!!!  I was shocked!  I almost thought I was in a department store in the U.S. (for a minute at least).  I do have to say that The Palms Mall has really improved in the last three years!:)  I don't know if my U.S. friends can really understand this excitement, but I know my expat friends here in Lagos can totally understand it!!:)
 And, I finally finished this book, Imagine This by Sade Adeniran.    It was a well written novel which gave me some interesting insight into the family structure in a small village in Nigeria outside of Lagos.  I can't really say that it was an uplifting book, but it was one which really made me realize (yet again) how blessed my own life truly is.:)  I do recommend this book to anyone who would like to understand more about the Nigerian culture in Lagos.:)

Monday, May 7, 2012

My Wake Up Call

This past weekend was wonderful!  It was full of children laughing, birthday parties, big hats and bigger smiles.  When I woke up this morning, I was feeling pretty good (other than the fact I have bus duty for the week).  Sometimes, I even forget I live in Lagos.  It's true. I start to feel pretty comfortable here.  My kids are happy at school.  I know where to find things here, and I don't panic when I can't (like I did when I first got here).  But, I was zapped back into reality when I saw two words...Boko Haram....on my Blackberry this morning.  A friend of mine who also lives in Lagos sent a forwarded message to me about a possibility of an attack near Lagos.  If this happened to me three years ago, I would have looked at the message and simply hit delete (not that I even had a Blackberry then!) and possibly thought that Boko Haram was something new on the menu at one of the local restaurants. (Yes, I can hear my Dad screaming across the ocean.  My poor dad always wants me to keep up with the latest news, and I sure wasn't that great about it three years ago.  I think it had to do with a one year old and an almost three year old I was potty training!)  After reading the message, my first thought was " I get about 50 forwards from various people a week, and I always blow them off."  I went to make my coffee, but I couldn't shake that certain something that was in the back of my mind.  I tried to forget about the message and go on with the morning.  I made Jeremy his lunch and made sure he got dressed and brushed his teeth.  Then, as I gave him a kiss good bye and told him I'd be on the bus and he'd see me there, it hit me!  I looked at his big brown eyes and realized that feeling I couldn't shake this morning was FEAR. I couldn't ever forgive myself if something ever happened to my husband or my children while we are here.  I am sure the forwarded message was not entirely accurate, but if it was being circulated at all and making just one other person besides me fearful...then it was working. And instilling fear, no mater how small, is the definition of a terrorist, is it not???

Sometimes, I get caught up with my everyday life here.  I start to forget about some of the true dangers of living in Nigeria. I even made Guy do some investigating at work to find out if there was a heightened security alert.  Thank goodness there wasn't!  Nevertheless, Boko Haram is real and whether or not the attack will occur or it won't, the fact of the matter is that group is in Nigeria, and we all have to be vigilant of our surroundings.  I am grateful for the message I got this was a good "wake up call" for me to enjoy living here, but at the same time, I always need to remember I am living here.  I need to be conscious of my surroundings not only for Guy and myself, but for our children as well.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Our Friday night was a far cry from the late nights of dancing and partying of our "younger" years, but we loved every single minute of dollhouse playing and Lego building.:)

Saturday afternoon led us to a dear friend's princess birthday party over at the GQ on Ikoyi.  There really is not anything like an African thunderstorm blowing in.  The only things that comes even close is a Texas hurricane.  But, this storm blew in fast and fierce!  The temperature must have dropped 15 degrees in a matter of minutes!

Luckily, the kids spirits weren't too "rained out"  ( and the power didn't go out!)  There wasn't anything some cartoon network and piza couldn't handle inside the restaurant.:)  But, the storm raged on outside!!

And Today, we headed off to the Oriental Hotel here on V.I. for the Mother's Day "Big Hat" brunch (even though it was a week early). All proceeds go to breast cancer research right here in Nigeria so it is for a great cause!!! Thank you, Happiness for finding hats for Lizzy and me.:) (She trekked through Balogun market for us!).

We were joined by some of our very dear friends here.:)
 The whole banquet hall was decorated in pink and even the napkins were in the shape of the breast  cancer awareness ribbon.:)

There was some great dancing from the Society of Performing Arts Nigeria..

I even won a voucher for a brunch at a local restaurant!  I never win anything!!!!:)

Guy went up to the roof tonight to see the "Super" moon.  He got a few pictrures.  I am just impressed that we can see the moon.  The sky was incredibly clear today!!:)

 It was a really good weekend here in Lagos.  Great kids, great family (near and far), great friends (near and far!) ...what more could I ask for?:)