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Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Normal"

exhaustion!!!!

These past two and half weeks have been filled with happiness at seeing old friends again, nervousness about finding a house, anxiousness about putting an offer on just the right house, elation when that offer was accepted, happiness at Guy being able to join us for almost two weeks, sadness that he had to leave and go back to Nigeria to finish up his job there, worry about safety over there, and exhaustion from everything in between.

We've survived 2 trips to Chuck E.Cheese, at least 5 trips to Sonic, 7 trips to Chick-Fil-A, and umpteen trips to Mickey D's and somewhere in there the kids have even managed to eat some fruit and veggies.:)  They have been troopers through their fourth straight summer of living out of a suitcase.  I don't know how we'll feel next summer when we will actually have a house.  I was starting to feel like I was at home in Lagos, but I never really felt like the flat was "mine".  It was assigned to us, and I always felt like I was living in someone else's house using someone else's furniture.  I am looking forward to living in a home we chose with things that belong to us.:)  Although that home won't be ready for us until August...

This next year will be a struggle for me to find my "new normal" whatever that may be.  But, for right now, my" normal" is packing up our bags for yet another plane ride....this time to see some family in Michigan.  And for the time being, our "home" is wherever our suitcases are.:)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Re-Entry

This past week and a half of coming back to the states has been very different than the last three summers.  When I came back the other summers, I was a visitor, on vacation.  I didn't really jump back into the U.S. culture, but I hadn't really grasped the Nigerian culture either.  I was an "in betweener".  I could have the best of the U.S. fast food restaurants and rationalize it because I couldn't get that in Nigeria.  I could bounce around from friends and family's homes and visit and not have to think about where my children would go to school in August.  It seems that in many ways, my expat life has come to an end and the reality is that if I keep eating at McDonald's the way I have been when I have come back over the last three years for an unknown length of time.....I will probably be as big as Jabba the Hut!!!! 

Things are definitely different this time around.  I feel like I am noticing more because I know I am not leaving this time.  I have had to find a house, and register the the kids for school.  I have been trying to watch how much junk I'm eating.....but it's hard when you are relocating.  I thought I'd share a few things I've learned on my re-entry:

1) Bruno Mars is not a planet

2)  New Direction is not on my navigation system, but it  is one of the latest heart throb boy bands

3)  Nicky Minaj's song "Starship" makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and shake my bum bum

4)  I can consistently drive my self around in a car by myself, and am loving the back up camera on my new car!!!!

5)  My patience has been tested to new limits without having Happiness here to help me with the kids:)

6)  I am not taking the clean, well maintained streets for granted here

7)  I kind of miss the bumpy,flooded streets on V.I. and the okadas whizzing by

8)  I am not the same person I was when I moved away three years ago

9)  I see people differently now

10)  I'm afraid I will become boring....I kind of miss Lagos...yep...that is a huge shocker for me, too!!!

The past few weeks have been full of happiness and confusion for me.  I know I lived here three years ago, but I can't help but feel I am a little different now. Angela, a friend of mine I met in Lagos wrote to me the other day and she said she was so happy for the time she had in Lagos because "it made us all come alive again". I can't agree with her more. I don't know if I realized it when I was there, but I saw so much and did so many things I otherwise would have never done if I hadn't gone.  In a way, living there did bring new life into our lives.  My hope is that that "new life" will stick with our whole family so we can continue to "see" people and celebrate the differences all around us.:)

Monday, June 18, 2012

He's Back...

On Friday, Guy landed back in the good 'ole USA.:)  The kids were so happy to see him and so was I.  It had been a long week of jet lag, househunting and not sleeping. I needed serious reinforcements and I did miss him...just a little bit.:) We were so happy to have Guy with us for Father's Day. For the last three years, the kids and I have traveled out of Nigeria the beginning of June and not returned until the beginning of August.  Guy has always joined us in the U.S. the beginning of July so we haven't been with him on his special day for a while.  It was a great day of eating good barb-e-que and being together with the best dad my children could ever ask for.  And it was topped off by some pictures of our trip to South Africa with some frames from the real Lekki Market in Lagos, Nigeria...not Houston, Texas (Poor elizabeth....she is so confused.:)

Happy Father's day to my dad, Father-in -Law, Grandpa and all the great dads today!:)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Gold

It is so interesting to me how life always seems to work out.:)  It has been a little bit of a sad and confusing week (not to mention the jet lag) since coming back to the U.S. from Lagos, but it always seems like the universe seems to balance itself out.  As lost as I felt a few days ago, these past two days have been filled with hugs and smiles from some dear friends right here in the U.S.  Laughs, hugs, and some glasses of wine with a good friend can take all the sadness away.:)
My "silver" friend from Lagos in Houston.:)
And a waffle the shape ( and size) of Texas can bring a smile to any one's face.:) ( Courtesy of our hotel).


Lizzy was camera shy!!!???
These are friends I had before moving to Lagos (thank you Amy and Jim for having us over!) and who have stuck with me the entire time I was gone. And, guess what!!??? They are here to welcome me back!:) There is one more dear friend who I haven't been able to see yet.( Although I did get to see her husband who graciously let me store some of my very heavy bags from Lagos in their home.  THANK YOU!!!!)  She has been traveling to see her family, and she'll be back next week! Once I see Emmy again, it will most definitely feel like I am back home.:) Last year, I wrote a post called Silver and Gold about the new friends I made while living in Lagos.  I am so thankful for my "gold" friends for sticking with me on this three year adventure even though you didn't understand it all the time. My friends, Jen,Mindy,and Kirstin who didn't live near me before but have always been just a phone call away have also been there for me and supported me.:) I thank all of you for everything you did to not make me feel like I was a crazy fool for going to Lagos. You all let me go on this journey and then, were ready to welcome me back into your lives with open arms.   I am so thankful to have you in my life.  You are my "gold".  Thank you for welcoming me back home:)
Jeremy and his Godparents:)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pieces

I'm awake right now when I should be sleeping, but I was reading a blog post earlier about having domestic help in your home and feelings about that, and I couldn't help but think of Happiness.  When I moved to Nigeria, I never in a million years would have thought I would have made such a wonderful friend.  I never would have thought that I could make such a wonderful friend and when I had to leave one day, I would probably never get to see her again.  I couldn't help the tears from falling down my face as I read that post and then thought about it tonight.  I am happy to be back in the U.S. and to see all of my friends here. It's just that I feel like a left a piece of myself in Lagos with a dear friend.  I've taken the kids to a few places here and seen them laugh, and I know she would love to see it, too.  Part of why my kids have done as well as they have on our move to Nigeria is because of her...  ( and of course because of my hubby's meticulous planning!)
  
all smiles at Chuck E. Cheese














  • brain freeze at Chick-Fil-A
 Moving is hard, and I know I will get through this change.  People have told me that moving back home after having an assignment as an expat is hard.  It's funny because I would look so forward to "civilization" when I would come back to the States on holidays.  But, now, I realize that I was just starting to really think of Lagos as home, and it was time to leave.  I kind of feel like the mancala (ayo)  game that Jeremy loves so much.  You take some pieces and you leave some pieces.  I guess that is kind of how life is, too.  You leave some pieces of yourself with dear people you have met, and you take some pieces of them with you, too.  And, I have to say, leaving a piece of myself in Lagos does hurt a bit, but I would do it all again because it brought a very special person into my life.:)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tidal Wave

The kids and I made it to Houston at 5 a.m. local time yesterday morning.  It was nice to sleep on a fully flat seat in business class, but we still didn't sleep all that great.  There is just something about sleeping on an airplane that doesn't let me ( or the kids) get a really good sleep.  I was able to get all 9 bags and four carry ons to the car rental place with the help of another sweet family who was repatriating to the States along with me.  Thank you so much!!!:)  Thank goodness Guy rented us an Expedition or I wouldn't have been able to fit all the bags!!:)
We made it to the hotel only after stopping at McDonald's for our U.S. fix!!:)  Then, the kids and I took a marathon nap from noon to 5 p.m.  I usually never let them sleep that long after traveling from Nigeria, but I don't know if it was the physical exhaustion combined with the emotional exhaustion of the last few weeks and the roller coaster of emotions I have had but I could not move from the bed until 5 p.m.  I made the kids wake up or else we might as well grow hair on our ears and hang upside down because letting them sleep any  longer was surely a recipe for nocturnal disaster!:)   We went to good 'ole Wal Mart and got some snacks for the room and went to another favorite of Jeremy's...Taco Bell!!! I know, I should win" Mother of the Year" award for the nutritional food I'm feeding the kids!!!! :)  But, I'll blame it on exhaustion and whatever makes 'em happy at this point!:)  They keep asking me if this hotel is our new home, and I keep telling that that we need to find a home.  They both look at me like it's crazy that we don't have a "home" right now.  I guess it is...

We're doing okay, but every now and then, a tidal wave of emotions sweep over me.  I think of my final hug to Happiness before we boarded the bus knowing I most likely will never physically see her again.  The look in her eyes and the tears running down her face as the kids and I waved good bye to her and as I blew her a kiss through the window she grabbed it in mid air and placed her hand on her heart. It was so hard to leave.  I didn't ever think it would have been three years ago. 

When the kids and I were in the Wal-Mart (Elizabeth keeps calling it Lekki Market..I'm not kidding) yesterday, I noticed a woman in traditional Nigerian dress.  At first I didn't think anything of it, and then I realized I was in Houston...in a Wal- Mart!!  I heard her talking to her daughter in the familiar Nigerian accent, and I almost went up to her.  But, I couldn't because I realized I had tears in my eyes and no matter what I would say to her ( I had no idea what that may be) I wouldn't be able to say anything because all that would come was tears.

I feel a little lost and confused right now. Sometimes I think I am just on summer holiday visiting the U.S. and then, I realize that I'm not going back to Nigeria in August.   This transition will be a process, but I know one thing for sure.  Our family found" happiness" in Nigeria and I know we'll find it here, too.:)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Don't Cry Because It's over

The air shipment back to the U.S. is sorted with a post it to add to it in case there is more room...

 9 bags at 70 pounds each=630 pounds of luggage + 4 carry ons......thank goodness for business class on our way back!


As I was weighing and packing up the bags, I looked out the window and saw this...
 The man in the picture is turning this bent up iron re bar
 into perfectly straight re bar with his bare hands....
It occurred to me that when I move back, I won't see such unexpected things like this.  My heart feels heavy and there is a deep pit in my stomach, but if that man can do that with his bare hands, I can have the strength to say good bye this afternoon.  I just can't get over how much it feels like de ja vu to be packing up ...again.  Part of me keeps forgetting that this time it is "for good".  I keep feeling like I am only leaving for the summer and I'll be back in August...but this time that won't happen.  I am happy to go back to the U.S., but will miss many friends I made here dearly.  So, this is when I remind myself of a quote straight from the mouth of Dr. Seuss:

                              "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

So, when the kids and I are boarding the bus today and saying our final farewells, I'll remind myself of this quote and know that I am only shedding tears because of the once in a lifetime opportunity we had to live here.  And, I will know that a smile will cross my face when I think about my time here.:)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

500

This is my 500th post on this blog...I never thought I would stay with it so long...who knew I would love it so much!!! I thought we could look at a few pictures from when we first arrived....
Arriving in Lagos July 2009

Meeting Happiness for the first time!! July 2009

first beach trip August 2009


first day of school August 2009




And, now a few from just a few weeks ago......they have changed so much since we moved to Lagos...

Jeremy and his Teacher
It's funny, I heard once that people cry when you move here and they cry when it's time to go.  I didn't really understand that when I first came here. I didn't think I would ever get used to living here.  It took a few years, but I have felt so much more comfortable here this last year.  And, now as I type this with tears in my eyes, it is time to leave and I don't feel like it's time to go yet.   I feel like there is an aching pit in my stomach which I haven't been able to make go away for the last few weeks.  I am having the same feelings I had when I moved here, but in reverse.  I never expected to ever be happy here.  I never thought I would meet people I would truly care about.  I am mostly an all or nothing person.  I won't do things half way...if I'm in it...I'm in it.  I threw myself into the Beach Foundation and the kids schools, and I loved every minute of it.  I made new friends and I knew I would have to leave one day, but I didn't realize how much I would hurt inside.  I am happy that I'm going back "home", but somehow, I feel different now.  I know I am not exactly the same person I was when I left to move here three years ago.  I hope I don't forget what I have done and what I have seen while living here. I hope I was able to make some small difference here.  These past few weeks, I've been busy packing up bags and saying farewells...


Good bye to the Beach School Foundation...




The kids have had farewells....

 And so have we....
 I've met so many great people here who are hard working and they will always have a piece of my heart...
Daniel, me, Happiness and Josephine
I don't even know how I will say good bye to Happiness. (Please pray for me...I mean it...I really don't know how I will do that.)  We can't even look at each other these past two weeks and not cry.  How do you even begin to tell someone she saved you from the fear you had about coming here????  She is truly a special person with a beautiful spirit, and because of her, I will always be forever connected to Nigeria.  I will miss so many people I have met here dearly, but I will have them in my heart forever.  If you know me, I don't like change much.  I never have, but once I accept it, things usually are okay.  The only thing I know which is constant is change....nothing stays the same forever. The kids and I leave tomorrow, June 8 and Guy will follow later this summer. I have heard that with every ending comes a new beginning, and I hope you will join me as I adjust to my life back in the states right here on this blog.  Thank you so much for joining me on this amazing journey!!!!:) And to my friends on the other side of the ocean...I am coming home!!!!!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I Wish I Could Have Read this...

Here is a letter I wish I could have read before I moved here...

Dear Meredith,

Don't worry about feeling all alone in a new place because there are nice people all over the world, and most of how you will do in a  new place is based on your attitude.

Don't sell yourself short and think you can't leave things you know...you are stronger than you think.

Don't worry about losing friends from your home because your true friends will stick with you through it all even when they don't really understand why you left.

The power will go out, but consider yourself blessed that you have power at all when so many here don't have it at all.

You will never sit at a table and look at all the food the same way again.  You will see people starving and parents who have nothing to feed their children, and you will feel blessed for what you have.

You will have an amazing opportunity to meet people from all over the world and you will love it!!!  You think you won't because you will be far from home, but you will love it because it will open your eyes to things beyond your life in the U.S.  Put that knowledge in your mind and remember it for the rest of your life.  It is truly a wonderful opportunity for you!

Your children will learn acceptance and tolerance for people of other races and religions.  They will not identify someone by their skin color but by how they are treated.  Your son will learn to identify flags from all over the world.  Your daughter won't remember her home being anywhere but here.

You WILL be sad when the day comes that you have to leave, but love your stewardess anyway.  She will be your guide and your friend in this foreign land. It will hurt terribly to have to say goodbye but love her anyway and know she will always be in your heart.

You will have to leave all the wonderful people you meet here, but throw yourself into everything you feel passionate about even though you hate saying good bye to things you love.  Leave your "thumbprint" on things which are worthwhile.

Most importantly, remember to "see" the world on this adventure.  This is truly a wonderful experience for your entire family to see outside themselves and learn tolerance and acceptance for people all over the world.

I know you will worry and wonder if you will be able to live in Nigeria, but take the leap of faith that everything will be ok.  You are ready and you will have a wonderful experience!!!

                                                                                                      love,
                                                                                                    Yourself:)



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Recent Developments

Last week, I wrote a post about a batik artist coming to Elizabeth's school.  Well, here is the finished product.:)  

 I think it turned out pretty cute.:) 
Today was the graduation ceremony for Lizzy's pre school....the kids did a great job!:)
But, unfortunately, she wasn't in any mood to stand still and smile for the camera...
 But, she was willing to make a quick pose in front of the back drop for the program.:)  Just wanted to fill you in on some recent developments.:)

Monday, June 4, 2012

In an Instant

Yesterday morning 15 people woke up and got dressed and went to church in Bauchi State, Nigeria.  It was something they probably did every Sunday.  And, while they were walking out of church talking with friends and visiting with loved ones, a car bomb exploded right outside the church and those 15 people lost their lives in that instant...

Yesterday afternoon while the kids and I were enjoying a great afternoon of fun with some friends from our compound, a Dana Air flight took off from Abuja headed to Lagos.  While my kids were laughing and having fun with their friends, over 150 people lost their lives in a plane crash right near the Lagos International Airport (which is on the mainland.  We live on Victoria Island a good distance away.).  Guy is in Port Harcourt and was watching CNN, and immediately tried to call me.  All the CNN report said was that the plane crashed into a building in a heavily populated area in Lagos.  Guy had no way of knowing what building it could be.  I never even heard the phone ring with his frantic phone calls while I was was laughing and having a good time with my friends.  Poor Guy, when I finally checked my phone I saw that I had missed three calls from him.  Needless to say, he was relieved to know we were safe.

The only thing which could make that crash even worse is that the plane crashed into a heavily populated residential area of Lagos where houses/shanties are built so close together it resembles a can of sardines.  There is no way to know how many people on the ground lost their lives or are injured.  What is known is that all people on the plane lost their lives, but it will probably be a while before there is any report of how many people lost their lives in their homes...

In a country where there is poverty and sadness all around most days, Nigeria did not deserve these acts.  But, things like these could happen anywhere at anytime.  We all need to remember that each day is a gift and there is never a guarantee of tomorrow for any of us.  The one thing we can do is love our loved ones right now at this moment.  All of our lives could change in an instant...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fierce

Yesterday morning, I woke up to some thunder outside.  The thunder and rain quickly subsided and the sun was shining bright through the clouds.  After about forty five minutes, the sky turned dark again and the kids were a bit confused if it was night time again since they had woken up a little bit before.  Then, the rain and the wind started in, and the rain was blowing sideways.  I tried to capture it in the video to show you how quickly these storms can blow in from the ocean.  The ocean off the coast of Nigeria is such a beautiful thing, but it has a fierceness that nothing on this earth can rival....

video

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Yellow Fever

When we moved to sub Saharan Africa, we knew we were coming to a place where we could be exposed to several different diseases and sicknesses.  The top ones being malaria, typhoid and yellow fever. When we moved here, we all had to get a series of vaccinations so we (hopefully) would never get any of these diseases.  Until yesterday, I didn't know there is  "yellow fever" that you really cannot avoid here in Lagos...

Fatai was driving me around the Falomo bridge roundabout trying to get on the bridge to head back to Victoria Island.  We were about four rows deep into chaotic traffic trying to find our way to the very narrow opening to enter the bridge when I heard a very loud banging sound on the back side of our car.  I thought it was an okada trying to weave in between the cars and misjudging his girth. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw a traffic police officer walking along the passenger side of the car.  My window remained rolled up....but I could hear him loud and clear.  At first he was yelling very loud in Yoruba...and I don't understand too much Yoruba, but his facial expressions and body language could clearly tell me he was very upset.  Then, he started yelling at Fatai in English that he didn't see him waving him to stop.  I looked around at all the chaotic traffic and thought this guy is really trying to control THIS????!!!!  Yeah, clearly he was having a bad day and then I kind of felt sorry for him...what a terrible job...standing in the crazy Lagos traffic and no one listening to you as buses zoom past your outstretched hand and okadas not minding any traffic rules.  I guess we were just the ones to get the brunt of his frustration.  And, as many altercations in Lagos end, the traffic officer stopped yelling and eventually waved us forward with a disgusted look on his face.

When I got home, I told Happiness about it.  She asked me if he was wearing an orange shirt. I said he was.  She told me I was just infected with Yellow Fever.  I said, "Yellow Fever??" and she said " Yes madame, Yellow Fever.  Those traffic police try to infect everyone with their yelling and arm waving."  I told her that was odd to call them yellow fever because their shirts are actually orange. She said that there was an Afro beat artist named FELA who coined the name yellow fever for the traffic police here in Lagos.  Happiness told me that since she was little that is what many Nigerians call these officers.  I found it a bit amusing that it took almost three years for me to be "infected" with yellow fever.  With all the craziness in this city, I would have thought it would have been sooner.:)