I had the unique opportunity to go with an acquantance from the British Womens Group (BWG) to a Community Health Project in Amukoko. This was quite simply an eye opening experience, one that not many expats would venture into. Amukoko is about one hour drive time over several bridges back to Lagos mainland and into the heart of the “slum” area. It is mostly African transients trying to get established in Lagos that have nothing. The streets are packed with people in native garb, 3 wheel cars (yellow)[thousands of these], okada’s (2 wheel motorcycle taxis), and vender stands (the size of a 3X3 ft. square) packed into every available space. We went to the Mission/clinic to give a donation check from the BWG to the mission so the mission could purchase soy beans for the nutrition clinic. The Mission is actually an oasis in the middle of the slums. After driving for 20 miniutes on dirt streets through carts, people and stalls, you come upon the Clinic which is a Catholic Mission (a priest house for the only priest, a convent [5 nuns – one of which is a doctor], a church, a clinic, and 2 schools (computer school and baking school). The nuns are simply amazing. The clinic is open 7am-4pm, Monday -Friday, and offers the following services: pre and post natal care, TB clinic, AIDS/HIV clinic, Immunization clinic and Nutrition clinic. The schools for computer and baking are to educate these women to facilitate them getting a better job and a better life for their famililes. We recieved a tour of all the clinics because I had never been there before, and the nuns were so grateful for the donation. We had arrived before noon and they had already seen 17 TB patients, given 200 immunization shots, tested 40 women for Aids/HIV, fed 80 women and children in the nutriton room (10×10 ft. room with a single stove and mini-fridge). The physician on duty had seen almost 100 patients that morning. The check we brought was for 125,000 Naira (or $1100) and will buy soy beans for the Clinic for 3 months. The staff will sort the soy beans, wash the beans, grill the beans and then grind the beans into flour/meal for packaging into portions to serve 2 people each. The clinic then teaches the mothers how to prepare the flour and then they feed the mother and children for 3 days, re-enforcing the nutrition teaching daily before finally supplying them with soy flour/meal to take home. The clients are very patient. They have their temperature taken daily and their symptoms logged and paper charted. There is a complete pharmacy available for the clients. After recieving care, the clients form a queue for the cashier’s office. Everyone is expected to pay and they calmly wait to do so (there were about 75 waiting when I was there). An immunization shot costs 15N (or $0.12). The cashier accepts whatever they can give even if it is only 1N, and they each get a receipt. The main supporters of the clinic are the Catholic church, the BWG and the Nigerian government (who supplies the drugs, the syringes and the DVDs/CDs the nuns use to keep up with the newest regulations). So after the tour, we went to the convent for coffee and biscuits. The day room was complete with TV/DVD and computer with Internet but no lights and a one burner stove. These people thanked us over and over for coming to see them in person. While this is not a place I could readily volunteer, (as the Africans in this setting have little trust for the oyinbo – “white person”), I can voluntarily help them best by raising funds and visiting them occasionally. It was most interesting to converse with the nuns. They were as curious about me as I was about the clinic. It is a very well run clinic (clean, orderly) in a 3rd world area, rigidly following CDC/African Health Guidelines and helping the people move a step forward. Next time, I’ll try to get a few pictures!
It seems that friends are curious about the food here. Well we are in a hotel that caters to international businessmen. The food is of a wide variety and of moderate taste. There is as of yet nothing spectacular. There are lots of red and brown sauces on meats, fish and vegetables. The main influeneces seem to be Indian and African. Because there are several American businessmen there are buffets in 2 of the restruants. A salad of Iceberg lettuce or any lettuce is rare, but there are salads just using cold vegetables mixed in a variety of ways with your choice of salad dressings. Bacon is generally thinly sliced ham that is fried in any size or shape. One drinks bottled water at every meal in addition to what ever beverage is ordered. We have eaten italian, chinese, lebanese, and hotel. Oh, coffee and pastery shops are plentiful, however, no Starbucks. Lots of the food comes from either Egypt or South Africa. The locals sell vegetables at Falomo bridge ….this womens booth is full of yams, very large yams! These yams are a main staple of the locals.
Nigeria is twice as large as the state of California.
Seventy percent of the people earn less than $1.00/day.
In Nigeria over 300 languages are spoken with 9 of these languages used in network broadcasting.
Nigeria is a democracy since the constitution of 1999 and just celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence from Great Britian.
Here is the view from our hotel window. In the foreground is a popular fishing lagoon, Kumara Waters, bounded by Bar Beach. In the distance is the Atlantic Ocean.
After a busy week of paperwork, orientation and company direction, we decided to get out of the hotel and spend some time learning new places to visit and getting our bearings. Laurens Gaarenstrom, a Shell friend from back in The States is also staying in the hotel, so this morning, we picked him up and went to a little French Import Market called “La Pointe”. After picking out a some cheese and crackers, we went to pay and had a little adventure at the counter as we tried to pay with 50 Naira currency bills given to us as a gift back in the U.S. Image our surprise when we found out that these bills, (we have 100 of them), are about 8 years old, and Nigeria has replaced them with a slightly different version, and that these are now worthless, (locally referred to as “trash”)! Oh well, 5000 Naira out the window, (it’s only about $43)! It was embarressing, however.
We then went for cappacinos at a wonderful little place called “Chocolat Royal”, and finished up with a Lebonese lunch at “Cactus” resturant, looking over the water from Victoria island to Ikoyi island. There, on the water’s edge on the other bank and next to “The American Club”, is the Queen’s Drive Apartment Complex, where we have requested permenant accomodations. Keep your finger’s crossed for us.
Tonight, we’re off for dinner with a group of expats who are old friends. So far, life is tense, but wonderfully warm and easy. Certainly, it will take a little time to build a comfortable routine, and truely settle in.
Until then, ciao… …Rocky
Today I ventured out with our Driver, Chinedu. Chinedu took me to “The Palms”, a shopping center with about 60 stores including 5 cell phone stores, a grocery SHOPRITE (part of a South African chain), GAME (they sell everything but cars), and a cineplex. The parking lot was full, most every car had a driver waiting. This is a very popular shopping complex with the ex-pats [ex-patriots] (people like me). In all it is about 6 miles away from the hotel and took 40 minutes to get there. The streets are crowded with cars and scooters. We passed some housing construction, a new huge apartment complex with 5 cows grazing in the front yard. On the way back numerous scooters zipped in and out as well as 2 horses (no riders). I have no clue as to where they came from. So in a city of 12 million spread over 3 islands – life continues to be an adventure.
Sorry it took awhile to get a posting to everyone, but getting IT up and working took a few days. Our trip over via Atlanta was pleasantly uneventful, and although we’re in the rainy season, it has yet to rain a drop in the 2 days in which we’ve been here. The weather has been beautiful, with a high of ~82F each day. We’re living in ahotel for the time being, until our furniture arrives and we get into permenant housing.
Keep in touch, everyone!
So, today, Saturday, June, 28th, we’re hanging out with our friends at Dave French’s house in Magnolia, Texas. The day’s spent so far eating, playing cards, drinking, eating, playing pool, drinking, eating, playing with the dogs, drinking…
Seriously, we are going to miss our friends so much, but we are counting on making additional friends in Nigeria! It’s always a little bit “scary” giving up everything that you know and that you’re comfortable with, but life is an adventure, and Julie and I believe that you have never really lived life to the fullest unless you’ve pushed the envelope of your comfortability factor and reached out to the global experience. We know that Nigeria will challenge our comfort factor and our views on life and the world, but we welcome that experience, and hope that we will continue to grow in our appreciation of the true human condition.
And to all of our friends, we love you and look forward to staying as close as possible while we are over “the pond”. Stay Safe!!
More to follow…
This is how we can keep you all informed of the adventures over the next several months. We have spent the last month preparing for the big move. And on June 30 we will leave for Lagos, Nigeria. This weekend we are spending with friends: card playing, billiards, barbeque and great conversations.
Check back to see where our adventure takes us.
Rocky and Julie