Sunday, September 30, 2007

The 71st good thing about Lagos: Less traffic on the Lekki expressway on the way home from church

One nice thing about the drive to church on Sunday is that there is generally less traffic than on other days. By the time we're on our way home after noon, the traffic has picked up a bit.
Today I didn't get my camera ready to get video of a more interesting part of our trip, where we drive on a narrow street through a market area, but I got video of the Lekki expressway, which is a road that is often slow with traffic. There's a lot of construction out on this road. People here say that 5 years ago there was not much of anything out this way but people weaving palm leaves, but things have really changed. You'll see a lot of construction materials piled up everywhere. I don't know if this will be interesting to you at all, but it's part of our trip home from church today. I'm sorry, but I can't edit this video -- I know it needs it. Do you recognize the song in the final video?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The 70th good thing about Lagos: Once a month, a quiet morning!

Ah! It's Saturday morning, 15 minutes before 10. Soon the honking and traffic noise will start again, but, for now, it's still blissfully quiet in our apartment. On the last Saturday of the month, Environmental Saturday, no traffic is allowed on the streets until 10 AM. Men and boys are out playing soccer in the streets and there are pedestrians here and there. But it's QUIET! It REALLY is a nice reprieve from the honking!

Friday, September 28, 2007

The 69th good thing about Lagos: no shortage of fabric choices at Yaba market

Today I had a real Nigerian experience: a trip to Yaba market. This is the place to come when you need fabric and want a lot of choices. I mostly just wanted to go for the experience of seeing it. It's a place we have to go with security -- we can't just have our driver take us there. Though it's not far; it's on the mainland and a place that doesn't see as many white faces. I was a little worried beforehand because my ExxonMobil friend who organized in the trip warned me to wear closed-toed shoes because of the rats. Because I didn't relish the thought of rats nibbling on my toes, I took her advice. She said to bring a flashlight because the power is often out and it gets quite dark. And someone else mentioned that the place is a fire trap because it's lit by kerosene burners in the absence of power and he sees all those piles of fabric and the kerosene flames all over the place and thinks of Mrs. O'Leary's cow. The place is truly a firetrap. But I didn't see any rats, though I was glad to have closed-toed when we were skirting the puddles outside -- puddles are pretty much open sewers here. There were some electric lights during much of our visit -- the power did go out near the end of our shopping trip. And the place didn't go down in flames -- today. We were quite the attraction -- the only white people that we saw there today. We had a crowd of followers wherever we went. People were bidding us welcome and wanting to talk to us and, of course, wanted us to look at what they had for sale. The upstairs was cram-packed with every type of fabric imaginable. Downstairs was just about every other kind of household product, as well as a produce and meat market area. There were quite a few people who didn't want their pictures taken, but others that cried "snap me! snap me!" I must say, my pictures don't capture the truly claustrophobic and filthy nature of the place. But I'd still go back again, given the opportunity!

Seen from the van on the drive to Yaba.

This blue building was right across from the market. The building is painted to advertise milk.

The largest part of the fabric market was upstairs in an enclosed building. Outside there were lots and lots of stalls selling everything imaginable. Here we are walking toward the market.

There were people sitting at sewing machines ready to sew your fabric into curtains or clothes or whatever you wish.

Looking down onto the lower floor from the upper floor, you get a glimpse of the goods for sale and also the garbage piled up on the roofs of the stalls with ceilings.

Perusing the grains and spices for sale.

Doesn't this dried fish look appetizing?

And then there's this delicious fresh meat. Notice the hooved feet in the blue bucket. I wasn't able to get a picture of the three guys, each carrying a big raw goat carcass on their heads -- the meat just sitting right on their hair.

more meat sellers outside

Outside the market, our guide who was indispensible in helping us to not lose our way. We also had a guard with a machine gun following us around as we shopped. It's not every day you have that kind of service!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The 68th good thing about Lagos: Sunday symbols and sacraments

At church on Sunday we again had no power, so it was challenging to deal with the heavy air with no ceiling fans, it as difficult to hear the quieter speakers, and we had no keyboard working, so the music was acapella. Our music director pitches the singing of the hymns so low that at times I'm frustrated because I enjoy singing alto and sometimes, even with my low voice, it's a stretch to sing the melody because it's so low. But I've found that the Nigerians find some interesting ways to harmonize, no matter how low the melody is. I've learned to sing the alto or another part above the melody and even if sometimes it's difficult to find the part and harmonize with the often creative things they do to the melody, it makes the hymns different and fun. Because I wasn't needed at the keyboard, I found a seat near an open door to get a breeze. My pictures are not so good because of the backlighting, but I wanted to share anyway some of what I saw and what I was thinking. (fyi: pictures were taken AFTER the meeting)

There was a window beside the door looking out onto the courtyard, with a wall topped with razor wire. As we sang the sacrament hymn "no crown of thorns, no cruel cross could make our great Redeemer shun -- he counted His own will but naught and said 'Thy will alone be done.'" I noticed how the rings of barbed wire reminded me of the crown of thorns.

During the sacrament, we had a lovely little rainshower which got a little cooling breeze going. I was thinking of the Savior, who is the living water, and gives life to the world. I noticed the bright green of the weeds and moss in the cracks of the courtyard paving stones. Then in Sunday School, we were studying Hebrews and I came across the verse: Hebrew 6:7 "For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God."
I'm grateful that here I can go to church and receive the emblems of the Sacrament and renew my commitment to follow Jesus Christ and that even in Nigeria in a church with a shabby courtyard inside a wall topped with razor wire, there is evidence of the Savior, if I have eyes to see.

The 67th good thing about Lagos: Learning new ways to use beans

Last Saturday afternoon we had our Relief Society enrichment meeting. This is something our church's women's organization does occasionally where there are learning opportunities of different varieties. I definitely learned something new at this class. Our teacher, a very intelligent and educated young single Nigerian woman who works as a nurse midwife talked first about the nutritional benefits of using beans in our diet. She then talked about soy beans in particular and demonstrated different ways to prepare them and mill them into flour. She gave us some samples of fried soybeans and toasted soy flour. She also talked about using and preparing a brown bean that is common here, which she also grinds into flour, as well as cooking it and using in soups and stews. She also mixes this bean flour with groundnut (the Nigerian word for peanut) flour. She made a dumpling mixing soy flour with water, adding chopped onion, some hot powdered pepper (which she also ground herself) and salt and a few other spices. After frying it in oil (using a kerosene stove -- which made our American RS president, who is not as accustomed as the Nigerians to cooking on a portable stove, VERY nervous) we got a sample and it was very tasty! She also explained we could make this kind of dumpling and steam it in a little bit of water, or drop it directly into boiling soup to cook. She said "this is like meat -- very good protein for your diet." Because the meat here is quite expensive and sometimes a little scary, I think I'll try this sometime.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The 66th good thing about Lagos: fresh produce

Before I first came to Lagos, I was afraid that I'd never be able to eat anything fresh here, and I didn't like the thought of never having a salad. I was relieved to learn that I was mistaken -- though there's not the variety of produce I am accustomed to in the US, there is plenty here and most of it is of quite good quality, if you stick to the fresh markets on the street. There is one grocery store that has some produce that doesn't look sickly, but most of the grocery stores' produce sections are not only much higher in price than what you find on the street, but the produce is all old and wilted. I know I've mentioned before about what we need to go through to clean our produce when we get it home, but I thought I'd post some pictures. First I fill the sink with water and just a little bit of dish soap and wash the dirt and any pesticides off the produce.
After washing in regular sink water (which we ONLY use for washing -- it usually comes out looking quite yellow...) then I fill a big tub with bottled water and add some Milton's (which is a weak bleach) or just some plain bleach. A common brand of bleach is Jik and many people here call this "jikking" your produce. I soak it in this weak bleach solution for 20 minutes. Technically, you may not have to bleach things you're going to cook or peel, but I "jik" everything, just to be safe. I don't want bacteria and whatever getting on other stuff in the fridge or on the counter.

Then it's time to rinse the produce in another tub with plain bottled water -- no bleach -- and then put it in a strainer or on towels to dry. I went through a good part of a 5-gallon bottle of water today cleaning my produce. And it's still waiting to be put away -- the lettuce in a storage container between layers of paper towels, other things in zip-lock bags.

I was a little bummed out since I've been back. My favorite produce spot on Bar Beach has been moved out. They are doing some changes on the beach front and I guess "they" (some official somebodies) decided that they didn't want a market there. The sellers there had great fresh produce and a lot of variety and there was a seller named Ismael who was always glad to see me and called out "Caroleena -- how are you today?" My driver doesn't yet know where Ismael is now, but hopefully he'll get the scoop -- drivers are the true source of information here.

So now I often go to a place that was recommended to me as being a place with great prices and because it was almost across the street from our former apartment, I went there sometimes for the convenience, though it doesn't have the variety of the Bar Beach market. It looks a little scary from the street -- kind of like a camp for homeless people, which is exactly what it is. This is not a great picture of the produce stand, but you can see that I could also sit there like the boy in the picture and get a haircut after I pick out my vegetables (seen in the background). Also there's the bonus of wildlife all around as the chickens wander freely (not pictured, but, trust me, they're all over the place). In the jerry cans is water, which they sell to the many people living in conditions where they have no running water. There are guys pushing these carts with jerry cans of water to sell all over the streets of Lagos.

Earlier this week I bought some apples from somebody selling them on a table beside the street -- they are set up on many corners. (I'll post a picture later after I take one).

And then today we went out to Lekki market which is mostly a handicraft market (a picture here of one of the stalls), but they also have a produce section with more variety than the homeless camp market.

So, all of you readers who buy your produce in grocery stores in the States with cheap prices, huge variety and can bring it home and put it directly in your refrigerator -- I hope you appreciate what a blessing that is!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The 65th good thing about Lagos: Coming back to settle in for the fall

Well, I've been back for a few days now. Brent originally was going to come back a couple of days before me, then he needed to stay in Houston for a meeting, so he changed his ticket to come back a few days after me (it was pretty expensive to change and the company would pay for his schedule change, but not for mine...). So, I figured, a couple days here on my own, it would be okay. Then he missed his flight and the next one he could get on will arrive on Tuesday. So that's close to a week on my own here. That wouldn't have been my choice, since basically my only purpose here is to make his life easier, but I expect that I'll survive. I've had a couple of nights of dinner and games together with the American LDS couple living above me and a fun single LDS woman who recently came to teach at the school. So it's been bearable. I'm excited to finally get our sea shipment, which has been here for a month. But that will have to wait till after Brent gets back to present his original passport and then who knows how long the customs officials will want to stall. When we get that we'll be able to really settle in. It's been rainy and not too hot. There was a lot of rain overnight, so my driver came to pick me up with the big SUV that's a little more capable of handling the road to the church after a rain than our usual little Toyota.

I like our apartment okay, but I do miss the grand water views from our former apartment on the 11th floor. Here we're on the 3rd floor, and from one side of the apartment (which we christened the "Flamingo Flats"), we have a nice pool and tennis court view and, in the distance, a little bit of a view of the water.
From the other side of the apartment we have a view of a busy street and all of its accompanying traffic noise. There was a big tree shielding some of the views, but when I got back, it was heavily trimmed -- I imagine the pruning was precipatated by security concerns of the possibility of someone climbing the tree and getting over the wall. The company security people have been trying to get the apartment management to get razor wire on top of the wall. There's a bus stop just on the other side of the wall beneath my apartment.
This road can get very backed up with traffic, but when I was taking pictures the other day (from a balcony on the back of my apartment) it was moving very easily. I took a few minutes of video, not particularly for what you would see, but to show you what I hear all day -- and all night -- they REALLY like to use their car horns A LOT here. My driver honks before making any turn, when approaching or passing a car in another lane, when an okada (motorcycle taxi) gets too close. Really just about every 10 seconds he finds a need to honk at someone. I'm already starting to mentally block out the noise, but at times it does get annoying. But I've got to find the good thing about it, right? Okay, it reminds me that when I'm here, I'm not ALONE.