Wednesday, 29 February 2012

I Knocked My Head Once. I Knocked My Head Twice!


Before we moved here to Nigeria, I know we are "diving" straight into the lion's den. I was somewhat mentally prepared for it. Somewhat. Especially after watching a documentary about Lagos on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) channel sometime ago before our move. They were showing about life in the slums, the way the Lagosians live, the power outages, the corruptions, the notoriously-known wild Nigeria.We were in Singapore. Before that, we were in Saudi Arabia and the US. There are no comparison between Singapore, the US and Nigeria. PERIOD! Saudi Arabia is different too but it wasn't a bad place. Everyone was shocked to find out that we are moving here. I was shocked too!

Singapore. Clean and safe.

Lagos, Nigeria. What do you think?
I have heard about all the nasty things and how dangerous Nigeria is and can be. Of course when I set my foot at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, oh boy was I not happy. I was miserable. I felt out of place. A total culture shock! Our oldest son cried in the bus because he was nervous and scared. Our youngest son seemed ok because he's still not sure what he's in for. This place is filthy, the traffic is horrible it gives me headache and it still does, the people are terribly loud, rough and full of B.O.! I don't really know anybody except for one family who have since left Nigeria. Worst, we came here during the school summer holidays! Yes, you guessed it right. Almost all of the expats were out of the country. Nobody was here. The kids were bored, I was bored. We lived in a corporate hotel in which everyday the four walls were staring at us. Lucky for our boys, a few weeks later, came another American family who have two sets of twin boys. Yes, two sets of twin boys! They all became friends immediately.

I've seen my fair shares of people pooping and peeing on the road. I've heard, seen and experienced people asking for a dash (money, tip) here all the time every seconds of the day. We will be here 8 months come tomorrow, 1st March 2012. Time really flies.

We are supposed to stay here in Nigeria for about 3 years, maybe 5, maybe even 1 year. Who knows. I do know that it is time for me to let go of all the negativeness that I have for this country and start living it. Yes, there have been a lot of times when I hate the fact that we are here. I told myself that if I don't let it go, I will be miserable. It's time for me to get to know Africa and experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. You will still hear me complain about my frustrations here. You will. I know that I am not 100% happy here but I have my family here with me. We will go through it together. I have started. I have started making friends. I have started having fun. I do feel a bit happier now compare to the first time I set foot in this country. It will be ok, I will be ok, my family will be ok. As long as I know how to make use of my time, our time, while we are here.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Sleepless In Nigeria


As I'm writing this post, outside my window, it is simply raining CATS AND DOGS! I don't mean there are cats and dogs pouring down from the sky. That would be weird and maybe a sign that's telling us the world is coming to an end. Before the internet "dies" on me, I shall write this blog.

It has been pouring down for about 20mins now and it is HEAVY! If it keeps on doing what it's doing, I can only imagine what the roads/streets will look like tomorrow. It is not going to be fun especially if I have to go to the market! Yes, it is now 11.41pm. I am sleepless in Lagos. I was watching tv because usually after 9pm, that's when I get to unwind myself. After 9pm , the apartment is usually quiet. Quiet from the screamings and fighting of our two boys. Quiet from the hustle and bustle of the everyday antics of Lagosians. Quiet from the flicking of tv channels by my husband's fingers. Yes, he hogs the tv and I hate the fact that we do not have two tvs! Well, we have one more tv upstairs but there's no satellite. Our boys use it for their Wii . I'm outnumbered in this house. Our female cat doesn't count!  I love my boys don't get me wrong but at times, they drive me bonkers!

I can't sleep because I am nervous about what this rain might or can do. After experiencing that "hurricane-like" moments a few weeks ago, I'm nervous that a window might cracked open just like what happened to one of our neighbours upstairs. You can read about that here. I also can't sleep because our boys' aircon is making lots of "knocking" noises. What if it blows up? Not funny I know. It can happen.

One of my Malaysian friend, who lives at the Total compound, posted on her facebook about three hours ago that the compound caught on fire! Her husband couldn't salvage anything from their flat. They live on the ground floor. Everybody in the building had to get out of their apartment in whatever clothes they had on. Good thing she's not there. She went back to Malaysia as she was told she was not fit to live here. She's pregnant. Maybe this rain is a blessing after all. I do not know how bad is the damage at that Total compound but I sure hope everyone is ok. That is not the first fire outbreak I've heard. Apartments, building, houses get burned down at times. I'm nervous!

It is midnight now. The rain seem to have stopped. After a busy day today and body a bit sore from Zumba yesterday, I should be able to rock myself to sleep. Otherwise, I will count sheep. So, goodnight, sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite! Or whatever Nigerian bugs that's lurking around! Don't get me started about the mozzies here. Especially during this rainy season that apparently have started early.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Shake It Part Two


If you have not heard about Zumba yet, where the hell have you been all this while?!?!?! Zumba is EVERYWHERE these days! My friends in Singapore have been making me a wee bit jealous by shouting out loud that they have been to Zumba. After months of trying to find a class, I managed to shake it again this morning. My ass, my chicken arms, everything and I mean EVERYTHING will shake! I LOVE IT!! There's a lot of twisting, shaking, dancing involved. Want to know more about Zumba? No fret, click here and here. I have done something similar in Singapore before we move to this lovely place called Lagos, the Centre of Excellence. Body Jam is the name and just like Zumba, GUARANTEED to lose weight and burn those calories!!

Shake it, shake it, ladies!
I can already see the results. My ass is looking nice and firm. Now, where is my Bodycon dress?!?!?! At least, there ARE things to do here to keep my sanity intact. There just have to keep an eye out for it.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Shake It Nigerian Style!


Do you like art, paintings, scarves, batiks, textiles, dancing or just want to learn more about art in Africa? If your answer is yes and if you get a chance to visit Lagos, then I would highly recommend a visit to the Nike Art Gallery. The Nike Centre for Art and Culture as it is famously known, is a fabulous building here in Lagos located in Lekki Peninsula on Elegushi Road. It consists of five floors of vibrant collection of art from various Nigerian artists. It is owned and managed by Mrs Nike Davies-Okundaye, a famous Nigerian artist. Read more about this place by clicking here. If you want to read more about Mrs Nike Davies-Okundaye, please click here.

Mrs Nike Davies-Okundaye, our fantastic host with her husband, giving a welcome speech.

We were greeted with traditional Nigerian music and dance

This Nike gallery in Lagos has been opened to the public since September 2009. I went there today with several ExxonMobil ladies not knowing what to expect since this is my first visit to the gallery. My N6,200 (US$40 or S$49) payable to Nike Gallery is so worth it! I came home after the visit enriched with more knowledge of Nigerian culture. Doesn't matter if I am not able to go to yoga anymore since the instructor is out of town for a while. I get to shake my bum-bum as they say and swing my flabby chicken arms getting them to work today!

My group trying to "master" the moves ala chicken style
Tye dye station outside the building. This lady is helping me dye my scarf :)

I walked out of the Nike Art Gallery with my bum looking like a sick Nigerian donkey's ass and arms much more flabbier than ever, thank you! Just what I need! At least I am enjoying my new, urine-smelling scarf (no, I am not kidding!). It suits and will blend well in Lagos. Abadunde Batandu Batandu...Abadunde Batandu Batandu. Don't ask me what it means or if I say it right. That tune is stuck in my head all day long. Most important of all, it was a really fun day with lots of dancing and laughter. I am really beginning to like Lagos even more (did I just say that?!?!).

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Join A Club..Or Two..Or Three


If you are like me that cannot sit still at home and like to keep yourself busy while the kids are in school etc, then life is good here in Lagos. There are PLENTY of ladies' groups here that you can join or get associated with. I mean PLENTY...many, countless. American Women's Club Lagos or AWC as they are known is one of them. It was founded by the wife of the first American Ambassador to Nigeria in 1961. Want to know more about them? Click here. Of course, there are also British Women's Group, Nigerwives, French Women's Group, International Women's Society (IWS), South African Women's Club and many more. See, I'm not kidding right? Just pick one. Eenie minnie miny moe! By joining a club, it is also a good way to find out about "treasures" in Africa and also about experiences living in other parts of the world. You get to hear that some of the expats here stay as long as 20years in Nigeria! For us, we are still in the "baby" stage. We are just starting our first year here and come July it will be our first anniversary in Lagos!

Marla Kunfermann. She has been here for 20 years!

Yesterday morning, AWC had a hospitality morning coffee which is held every third Tuesday of the month. It was hosted by my wonderful bubbly friend. She is one of those funny, bubbly, energetic lady who is also a good writer.

Nice little spread of food

Sometimes, there are vendors selling their wares

Usually, when we meet, we will have a nice quick coffee catch up, talk, gossip and then we will all sit down and get down to business. I usually will try to go to their morning coffees/meetings as I would like to get myself involved in their charities. Yes, they do a lot of charity work here in Lagos. If you read more about them, you will know which charities they are actively involved in. It is always a nice way to get together, have fun and make new friends at the same time. So, if you are bored or need someone to sit down with you to have a cup of latte, pick up that phone, woman! Just say where and when. I'll be there.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

REAL Birthdays Parties Are For The Rich


Yesterday, our oldest son was invited to not one but two birthday parties that happened right after one another. Both birthday boys are 3rd graders just like our son and three of them are in the same reading group in school. One apparently is a local Nigerian kid and the other is an expat from three nationalities, a mixture of Carribean, American and Nigerian (?) I was told. Some Nigerians here are very rich with LOADS of money. I mean they are really filthy rich. In the invite says drop off at school at 11am and pick up from 1.30pm onwards.

Somehow, when we went to the GET Arena to pick up him up, nobody was there. I mean the two birthday boys were missing, the guests which included our son were missing and even the parents of those two birthday boys were missing! I'm like what's going on. After two phone calls to one of the moms and 45 minutes later, they appeared. Apparently, they went to the mainland for one of the boy's party first. Of course, my husband was not thrilled when he found out about it. Nobody goes to the mainland without any security escorts. Now, peeps, before you start accusing me of being a bad mother letting her child go there, let me explain. First, I didn't know that they were going to do that. Going to the dangerously wild mainland that is. One has to cross the bridge to go there. That's where the airport is at. Secondly, the kids had security escorts but still!! If I had known, I wouldn't let him go.

Now, back to the phrase, "Some Nigerians are filthy rich". I also found out that the birthday party was held at a very famous rapper's studio. Nigerian's very own MI.

He is a famous Nigerian hip hop artist. To find out more about him, click here. I was like, "Woah, that must have cost his dad big Nairas!". Then again, we are in Nigeria and they are rich Nigerians. When our son finally got to the GET Arena, all I can hear from him was, "That was awesome!". Of course, it was. You paid big bucks, you get big awesomeness! Oh by the way, GET Arena is a go-karting place here in Lagos. Not a lot of places for kids to go for entertainment so this place is quite popular. This is the other boy's birthday party. They had a DJ, book a fancy party room, big birthday cake and big goody bags. We "showed" our faces, said hi, happy birthday and bye. Off to a sleepover we go. Our son's social lifestyle is much more busier than mine!!

Goody bags for the kids

Saw a boy wearing this among the crowd at the arcade :)

Few of the kids with the DJ

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Nigeria's Expat Leftovers


No, it's not really the phrase, "All you can eat buffet". I am talking about going to an expat sales in Lagos. What I mean is that whenever someone is leaving Lagos, Nigeria, for good, they are bound to hold a pantry sale to let go of their stuff. Especially the expats community here. One will sell anything that they couldn't bring back to the next country that they are going to or things that they no longer want or need. Of course, I can sometime find the things that I am used to buy in the States or Singapore here in Lagos but looking at the prices, shit, I'd rather not at times. Thus, I am ALWAYS looking forward to an expat pantry sale whenever I see or hear one!! Believe me, when there's an expat sales, I'm there! So, a few days ago, I was on the computer surfing the net trying to finish planning our summer vacation when I saw, "..........EXPAT MOVING SALE"! I grab my bag and zoom off, praying that I would be the first one there and nobody else. Well, at some point, one cannot be greedy because this is what happened when you are greedy....

Dog Bites!!!!
I was bitten by a dog at the sale!!! Oh f***! Don't tell my husband. He doesn't know about this or he'll kill me! Of course, I was the only one and perhaps the first one there. Only the driver was present with the dog. The owner wasn't there and Comfort (yes, that's her name!), the stewardess, was nowhere to be found either. She was supposed to be in charge of the sale. Anyway, I rushed home to take care of the bloody bite marks. Don't worry, friends and family, three days of antibiotics, I will be OK!  My rabies shots are all up to date thanks to Nigeria! All vaccinations are up to date before coming here.

Dog bites or no dog bites, it's all worth it! One of my expat sales haul here in Lagos :)
Only challenge is where to put all these?!?! Our pantry here is not like the houses in America, Singapore etc but wait a minute! I cannot say pantry because we do not have one here!

NO!!! Our pantry room doesn't look like any of the above!!

Our so-called pantry is office-laundry room-storage area. Below is what our pantry-laundry room-office-storage area looks like. You are welcome!

We do not get a lot of storage space in the apartment and there is no way we will store all these food/items in the allocated storage room outside as things get stolen. You can forget it! So we try to "stuff" in every corner of the apartment when we find space. My husband's company allow us to do an annual shipment worth of 1000pounds of goodies. Come July, we will have a headache! Where the hell am I going to put the rest of the goodies when it comes??? We'll cross the bridge when we come to it i guess.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Oh Honey, Honey


Just this week..just this week that I am without a husband. Yup, he went out of town for business. Just for 5 days thank goodness. He will be back tomorrow. I am lucky that he does not have to be out of town all the time for a long period of time. No, not that I am happy the he is NOT at home. Okay, maybe I am kind of happy that he is not at home! I get to hog the tv! I have the house to myself! Well, mostly at night especially after our kids went to bed. In the daytime, I can forget about my "freedom" since I have my nanny at home with me! EVERYDAY! So today, I told her not to come because I don't feel like her being around me today. I know I am a nice Madam:) I always feel that my hands are "handcuffed" and my movements around the house restricted! Uggh! I do appreciate that she's around usually as she cleans the house and deal with the maintenance people.

I feel like her whenever my nanny is around

Last night, I grab the opportunity and went out to dinner with a few of my friends from our building. We went to Bottles. It's a Tex-Mex restaurant. Food is not bad. I'm not going to rave about it but DO NOT, i say it again, DO NOT, order their chicken wings. Oh my God! It was like rubber! Me and my husband ordered it one time and we did not do it again!

Moira, the owner. She's South African.
I was supposed to meet some other ladies but NOBODY turned up! That was something else. Anyway, I was glad that I was there with my other friends otherwise I would be sitting in that restaurant all by myself on a table meant for 15 ladies!!!! I swear that I do not want to organise anything for them again :)  
Live bands on Wednesday nights @Bottles

Time for me to fill up my cup of Joe and turn up the music. Adele time, baby! Adele time...gotta get my groove on and get jiggy with it! Till then...Adios!

Monday, 13 February 2012

I Heart You, Hurricane (Or Not!)



That was the question I was asking myself when it stormed this morning. I am not kidding you..the wind were blowing like as if it was travelling at least 150mph. It was pouring down hard. Our boys were getting ready to go to school when the power went off which of course was NOT a surprise! Immediately after that, that's when it happened. One of my neighbour on the 6th floor had one of their bedroom windows cracked. A few houses in front of our apartment building had minor damages to their property. Roof top blown away, small trees uprooted and electric poles fell on roof. In other parts of the city, telephone lines "conquered" the roads and cars were seen driving on opposite side of road to avoid the "catastrophe". Ok, maybe, I'm just exaggerating. Look at the pictures that I took and judge for yourself.

Holes on the rooftop

The end of the road for my favourite windchime
Part of the KFC's rooftop "disappear"
It has been a gloomy day here at the Centre of Excellence (Lagos!). Apparently, the raining season is here early! Main rainy season is usually from March to July, with a second minor rainy season in September and October. I don't mind it at all actually because it makes the weather cooler. I will always have an excuse to dress like this.....

Gloomy day in Lagos
I thought last week was crazy. This morning was also crazy! It is ALWAYS crazy here in Lagos. Oh, did I tell you that our car was stopped by the "police" here twice so far. One time, this so-called policeman was trying to get a bribe from me. Wow, shocking isn't it?!?! Then, last week, I had to call our company's security because this stupid "policewoman" was trying to delay my precious spa appointment. When I mean spa, I mean by Nigerian standard kind of spa.

Spa/Mani & Pedi places here doesn't look like this...

Or like this either....

Nice? Don't be jealous :)
I was also called an Oyinbo for the first time since I got here! If you read my previous post, I explained what an Oyinbo was. Anyway, after a phone call to my security people and 10mins later, she finally released us. We have all the papers for the car and our driver, Samuel, has his driver's license. All she wanted to do was just to antagonize this Oyinbo!! You can imagine steam coming out of my ears and I was ready to charge! All's well though, all's well.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Sweaty Armpits


Lagos is not for the faint-hearted. Nigeria itself is not for the faint-hearted. If you are the type that's not comfortable to come out of your comfort zone, then this place is not for you! What's more going to the ever popular Lekki Market. Yes, today I am going to talk a little bit about one of the famous market here, ladies and gentlemen.

If you want to have a taste of the real Lagos, then you might want to start here, at Lekki Market first. It is not a far ride from where I live at but nowadays it is a pain to get over there eversince the toll started.

Entrace to the toll stations
Lekki Market is always frequented by foreigners and the traders/sellers there love it. When they see us, they see lots of nairas! To them, we are Oyinbo (white person, foreigner, expat etc). If you don't mind all the hassling and loud voices of these sellers, then your trip here will be fully rewarded with fabulous selection of Nigerian beadwork, traditional fabrics, African art & crafts, wood carvings and lots more. Even fresh vegetables and fruits are available but apparently, best to come on Fridays for these. It is advisable not to go to the market during the weekends as the sellers will really mark up their prices and will not budge! The more sloppy looking you are the better. So yesterday, I went here with a few other ladies. I was trying not to dress glamorously but hey! No, I don't look like this going to the market. I wish! *Sigh*

 Ok, so we are set to shop. Time to put our bargaining skills and caps on! Usually, the traders will roughly offer us a third of the asking price. We, the buyer, will try to reduce theprice. This will continue till he or she shakes their head. The trick then is to walk away. Then, if you are called back, try your luck to lower the price again. Somehow, the last-mentioned price is what will be accepted. I know, this sounds like a hassle but believe me, this is the way to do it!
It was a hot, HOT day

Paintings alley

Hello little one :) Cute Nigerian boy
For first time visitors to the market, it is always best to go with a friend who can show you around or just hire one of the local boys to navigate the market and at the same carry your goodies. At the end of your visit, just give them a dash (tip) of N100-N200 (60cents-$1.25).
This is the area where you get your daily supplies of fresh fruits, vegetables and some dry goods. Didn't I tell you they have almost everything here in the market?

Yes, even two Chinese grocery shops here can be found. I get my tofu supplies here :)

Armpits sweaty, make-up all melted, goodies in our hands, we came out of the market tired but smiling! It was a good, hot day at the market!! Dang it was hot! Till next time...