Detomo's Abroad

Detomos Abroad

Archive for July, 2009

Train Trip Down the Line

July 19, 2009 12:19 pm

            It was Thursday and the weekend was rapidly approaching.  With rainy season upon us and a free Saturday coming up we decided to join up with a Nigerian Field Society, (NFS), for a local excursion to the Nigerian Railway Corporation, (NRC).

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            The trip was jointly sponsored by NFS and a group called “Legacy” which focuses on maintaining historical infrastructure.  We followed directions to the Ebutte-Metta Junction Station in Lagos where we met ~ 70 other people to take a train trip “Down the Line” to Ikojo, a town located 40 kilometers away.  The trip was scheduled to depart at 9am, but, as is common in Nigeria, we didn’t have a diesel locomotive until ~9:45am and thus left late.

dscn6101 Our train

            This route services over 7,000 commuters each week as 3 trains of 9 coaches each travel it 5 days a week.  For our excursion, on Saturday, the NRC brought out its special coaches, including a Barcar, an air-conditioned 60 passenger sitting car, a 25 passenger recreational car and NRC’s lone dignitary salon car, complete with black leather sofas, lush red velvet drapes and climate control system.  In order to power this extravagance, a diesel generator car was also attached.

dscn6108  The Bar Car

dscn6109 Passenger Car

dscn6111 Salon car

 

            With everybody on board, we began the hour-long journey out of Lagos.  One is immediately surprised at how Nigerian life has moved right up to, and in some cases over the train’s tracks.  We traveled through busy markets, squatters villages and along a corridor showing a cross section of typical life in Nigeria –   many poor people marginally making a living on the edge of disease and ruin.  But most Nigerians are hard workers and they move on, building a life for themselves and their families the best that they can.  Venders who are set up on the tracks move to the side as the train passes.  Market stalls and umbrellas are only inches from the train as it passes by at ~40-50 km/hour.  Walls that were built to protect residents from the train’s route have simply fallen down and serve as hills on which children play and business takes place.

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On the tracks

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            We arrive in Ikojo at ~11am and are greeted by a town delegation of immaculately dressed men and women in Nigerian Finery and are serenaded by a loud local drum corps.  The train stops, we disembark and are escorted through town to greet the Oba, the town’s equivalent of a Mayor, Chief of Police and Judge all rolled into one person.  After pleasantries are exchanged, gifts are given, and many handshakes and photographs are taken, we walked back to the train for the trip back.

dscn6154 Greeting at station

dscn6170 Drum corps

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Oba

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            On the train we talk to one of the Conductors, Augustine, and to the NRC’s Chief Engineer, Abdul Sanni.  Abdul explains that the weekly commuter trains are blue and that the coaches in which we are traveling are green, and that everyone on the ground knows that the green train is special.  This is why so many of the locals are taking notice of us as we pass through their communities.  We are also told that this train line goes all the way to Kano in the North of Nigeria, a 2-3 day journey.  However, service is currently suspended because the number of reliable locomotives that NRC has available today does not allow for it.  Like much of the infrastructure in Nigeria, maintenance has been ignored and the consequences are now undependable service.

 

dscn6102 The station

We arrive back at Ebutte-Metta Junction at 1:00pm, as promised, and complete the morning’s journey/adventure.  Today was just a small glimpse of the country from inside of an iron horse left here by the British before independence was given.

 

Member Election – Ikoyi Club 1938

11:49 am

            As we documented earlier, we joined a local sports club in Nigeria located on the island of Ikoyi, only a short distance from our residence.  It is a comprehensive club with 18 bars and restaurants and facilities for 12 major sports.  Our prime focus there has been the 18-hole golf course, which is currently closed for 3 weeks while the rainy season runs its course.

 

And so, for the past year, we were “Junior Members”, meaning we had membership use of the facilities, but were on “probation” until such a time as the Club’s Committee decided to invite us to become full members.  Last week, we were finally invited to the Official Member Election event, a formal throwback to British Colonial ceremonies that are part of the Club’s founding heritage and traditions.

 

The Ceremony Event begins with a check-in queue requiring both us and our Member Sponsor to be present and to be appropriately dressed:  Matching suit and tie for men and cocktail dress for women – no blazers, no jeans and no casual wear.  Once presented and introduced by our sponsor, we proceeded to a receiving line of the entire Executive Committee of the Club including the Director, Functional Chairmen and each Sport’s Director.  After we greeted and conversed with each representative, we proceeded to pick up our gift, and then moved to the drinks and hors d’oeuvres, while under strict instruction that leaving the room early or having one’s cell phone go off would disqualify us from membership!  We met some new people and participated in “small talk” until the last member had been received by the Committee – over 2 hours later!  Then the Director addressed us and inducted us into the Club as full members, and we were finally free to leave.  We found the attention to such antiquated customs both curious and refreshing.  It demonstrated clearly how historic customs and traditions are adapted locally, although they are culturally curious and serve only to preserve a comfortable familiarity with the past.

Wednesday Night Football

11:48 am

           No, Monday Night Football has not moved nights, we have simply begun a local version of our own entertainment here at Queen’s Drive in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

            Months ago, Rocky built two small soccer goals, (40 inches tall x 55 inches wide and 55 inches deep), out of PVC pipe and old soccer nets we brought from the USA.  We placed these on our apartment’s outdoor basketball court in hopes that the local residents and their children would begin to use them.  Instead, we sparked interest in the complex’s guards and staff, which motivated Rocky to organize what has now turned into a regular Wednesday Night Football Match, mixing Nigerians and Expats, drivers, guards, staff and residents’ and creating an event which has taken over the complex’s tennis courts every week on Wednesday evening.

 

            The matches are played 5 on 5, with usually about 12-18 people participating, including an average of about 2-5 “Oyibo’s”.  Most of the Nigerian players are in the 25-35 age range, and all are technically skilled with a soccer ball at their feet.

 

            Some of the more amazing aspects of the game are the fact that some players play barefoot, and some play in flip-flop sandals!  How they run and control the ball with this lack of footwear is  truly amazing.  Every game ends with a quick beer or water for the players and the session’s group photo – a pictorial record of an event that has no social, political or economic overtures.  The world’s sport!

dscn6066 Notice the bare feet

dscn6084 Even the guard who was on duty wanted in the picture!

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Overnight at the Beach

11:40 am

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Rocky and I had a long weekend at the end of May and were able to spend the night at the beach.  We recently have purchased the beach house that we have been escaping to on weekends for the last several months.  So an overnighter was perfect to get a good feel of how well everything works.  And all worked wonderfully well.  The ocean lights up at night with lights of hundreds of ships heading in and out of the Lagos Harbor and the sunset was spectacular.

dscn1730 Sunset

dscn1726  Reflections

dscn1724 Julie at sunset

 Sunset