Thursday, November 19, 2009
The 205th good thing about Lagos: Great pictures from others on my coffee table and pictures of my own in my mind!
I should be packing right now for the Thanksgiving trip I'll leave for tonight. Brent's on business in London and Jordan will be leaving his university studies at BYU and we're meeting in Barcelona and going on a cruise to relax together and enjoy some European-style culture. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! But before my mind gets cluttered with this different variety of culture, I want to paint a word-picture of a sight I saw this past weekend. I want to write it down so I will be reminded when my powers of recall aren't working so well (as seems to be happening more frequently these days). I was telling Victor that I wish he had seen it and been able to record it -- the picture in my mind is so beautiful. I was riding to church on the road that goes through a little village. I love this road because there's so much activity happening there on Sunday mornings. There are shacks with tomatoes and peppers piled high, peeks into rooms with people gathered for worship, and the sounds of the preacher and singing as we pass. There are people going about their morning activities, and all the activity is just a few feet from my car window. As I passed by on Sunday, standing so close I could have reached out to touch her if I had rolled down my window, was a young girl of about 7, standing nude beside a plastic tub of soapy water. She was standing, head upright, with the contropposto stance of a classical sculpture. Half of her black torso was white, covered with a thick soapy lather. Her younger brother (I assumed), maybe about 5 years old, was crouched beside her with a cloth scrubbing at her legs, covering them with the thick soap. He was so intent on scrubbing her clean -- I couldn't have imagined that my body had ever been scrubbed with such intensity. Overseeing this cleansing was their mother, standing by, looking on for quality control, while her son performed this service for his sister. Then again, maybe I'm romanticizing the scene. The mother was watching with one hand on hip -- maybe her son was doing penance for some teasing act he did to his sister and possibly his vigorous scrubbing was him acting out his frustration with his punishment. But I like the first scenario better! Anyway, I hope you can picture a little bit of this scene of dignity that I was allowed to witness. I do so treasure and, at this time of Thanksgiving, am grateful for the pictures of Nigeria that I now carry with me in my mind!
Monday, November 16, 2009
One thing quite different from the States is the tradition here of the wedding attendees having dresses, or at least head ties, matching the colors of the wedding. After we accepted the invitation, the woman at work who was organizing the fabric choice for the office workers said she had fabric for my dress, told me how much my portion would cost, and said I should have a tailor make me a dress for the occasion. I was glad that I was already having a tailor come to make me something for the Marine Ball (the next occasion on this day), so I didn't have to scramble to find someone to make me a dress. The wedding colors were blue and silver, so they bought a lots of yards of one particular fabric and many people from the office that attended had outfits made out of it. Other groups came in matching outfits of a different fabric that they had chosen to coordinate with the bridal colors. So, besides the wedding party itself, the attendees add to the decor of the celebration. I thought my dress turned out pretty well. The tailor just took my measurements and looked at a drawing I had made with a description of what I wanted him to do and he executed it quite well. Though the fabric wasn't cheap, the tailor only charged me about $35.
At this occasion, there were some things different from other church weddings I have experienced. Even though the wedding was held in a meeting room in a Chinese restaurant, it was managed by an Evangelical Christian church -- I think there were four pastors participating at various times. We got there right on the scheduled time, knowing that we would be among the early arrivals, as things here always start late. We joined in about 1 1/2 hours of praise music singing while waiting for the wedding party to arrive. The wedding was fairly conventional -- though I thought it was interesting that they used Coke as the beverage when they participated in communion together. ;o) The singing, both by the performers and the dancing and singing by the audience who joined in, was quite lively. And after the official ceremony, one of the preachers gave a sermon about making marriage work (with some graphic discussion that I've never heard in our church services... I won't explain it here) for a full hour. That was stretching it a bit for us! Then after that there was a prayer over the couple with the preacher calling for the bride to be having a child 9 months from this day -- he repeated that over and over while stretching his hands out over her. These evangelical pastors here can get very dramatic and I don't think any preacher in the States would dare offer that kind of admonition to a bride on her wedding day!
After all that, there was some picture taking -- both formal shots and informal ones, like this one of Brent's co-workers. Even one man got into the matching fabric action! Brent just wore a suit.
Then there was a nice dinner and dancing and cake cutting -- nothing too unusual. I was thinking -- "wow, this has got to be costing them a lot of money -- weddings sure are expensive here," but the Nigerians at our table said this was a very modest affair for a Nigerian wedding. He said they at times have a seated dinner for 3000-4000 people! I can't imagine that! I've heard about how often people accrue huge debt here paying for a wedding. It makes me very grateful that I have a practical daughter without expensive tastes and she was married in the US!
There was some lively dancing. When the bride and groom danced, many of the the attendees did the Nigerian practice of coming forward and dropping money around the dancers. They had a laundry basket there to catch the money gifts.
I liked this picture of some of the group of Brent's coworkers. I thought it was fun to see how we all had the same fabric, but there were so many different dresses made from it. Alas, I didn't get the head tie!
We had just a short time home in the afternoon before we needed to leave for the Marine Ball. This Ball is held in different places all over the world to celebrate the Marine's birthday. This year it was their 234th birthday. This is a big event for the American expatriates here. As we entered the hall, we were greeted by a reception line of the Marines from the detachment here in Lagos. They sure looked great in their uniforms. (I was not terrifically thrilled with this outfit which I had made for the occasion -- it's certainly not very flattering on me.)
After some cocktail/visiting time, there was a ceremony which started with the color guard presenting the colors.
Then there was the ceremony of cutting of the cake. This is a ceremony that recognizes the oldest and youngest Marines present at the occasion and symbolizes the passing of knowledge from the experienced Marines to the new Marine.
This was extra special to us because our host at our table, a co-worker of Brent's and friend to us, was the oldest Marine present (he is retired), so he went up, with the US Consulate General, and was the first to have a piece of cake. Next served was the youngest Marine here, who was only 21 years old.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
When I was recently subbing in kindergarten (which takes a different level of energy -- but while 8th graders tolerate me -- kindergarteners LOVE me! And that feels nice), I had the opportunity to observe the elementary students weekly Monday morning assembly.
Although the school has "American" in its name, it has a high percentage of students from all over the world, so saying a pledge to the flag of the United States would not be appropriate. I really liked the pledge these students made to a flag with a symbol of our earth home:
- I pledge allegiance to the world, To care for earth and sea and air,
- To cherish every living thing, With peace and justice everywhere.
Wouldn't it be nice if everyone all over the world could make a pledge like that and keep it?
Sunday, November 08, 2009
These women served as the visual narrators, dancing away the passage of time between scenes.
A young man wooed a young woman, presenting her with a flower.
and then celebrated the birth of a child (and they used a real baby here, which slept peacefully through all the dancing).
There were dancing scenes of work and fishing.
The baby grew up and eventually there was another marriage scene.
And finally, a death scene. It actually was a much more cohesive performance than my video here show, and they had a little slide show to help tell the story with projected pictures. Pretty high-tech for Lagos!
Another performance of a different variety that we enjoyed was courtesy of the Goethe Institute. They have a peaceful setting right by the water and we enjoyed listening to a German reggae musician known as Jahcoustix. He was quite a talented guy with a good band and I really enjoyed his music.
So, yes, I have very eclectic tastes in music and I'm always very happy when I have an opportunity to indulge them here in Lagos -- it seems like it's feast or famine here, so I'm likely in for a dearth of concert opportunities for awhile. In this next clip. the dread-locked Jahcoustix is singing reggae in Arabic -- he also sang in German as well as English -- this concert was an eclectic mix all by itself!