Living in Lagos is culturally different but there are a lot of similarities to things in the USA. Our car is a Toyota Camry readily available in the USA but a luxury item in this town (because it is a full size car) as are SUV’s. Most people get around by bus or okadas. In the USA being chauffeured around in a limo is a luxury for the wealthiest. Now picture us being driven around Lagos – here we are considered to be the wealthy.
Our water is from a borehole which is then pumped to a container and then pumped to a roof top container and into the flat. Currently our borehole has a problem and water is trucked in by tanker 3-4 times a day and then pumped to the containers. This complex of 32 flats has 3 water containers on the ground. This water we use for bathing and cleaning. We have a bottled water dispenser in our flat for drinking and cooking.
We have electricity provided by Nitel, the local electricity provider. However, power interruptions happen daily lasting for a few seconds to 20-30 minutes. Our complex has its own generators (3) to mitigate the power interruptions so our power is rarely off more that 2-3 seconds. And then, we personally have UPS (Universal Power System), an emergency battery power system on several appliances: the television, the sound system and the computers. The Governor of Nigeria has a goal for Nitel and Nigeria – “no power interruptions by 2020” (but we do not intend to be here that long!). Today it rained and there are more power interuptions thatn usual so 2 of the 3 generators have running since morning.
When shopping, one needs to keep an open mind. What is in on your list is not necessarily what you will find in the stores. It pays not to be in a hurry and to be willing to browse. Today, there were no AA batteries and no black pepper. However, there were taco shells and taco sauce. Daily there is only brown eggs (and even quail eggs) and long life milk (milk in a box on the shelf-there is no refrigerated milk here). There is no sour cream, dips for chips or chocolate chips ever, yet there are all kinds of candy bars. Hummus is everywhere and but not pita bread. When you find an item you really like, buy several and freeze or store it if possible. The beef comes from South Africa. Goat is commonly in the meat case and there is a fair amount of lamb. Chicken abounds but is just as expensive as beef. Locals eat a diet of white yams, beans and rice. Juice is everywhere in long life boxes and is 100% juice and cheaper than milk. Long life boxes do not need refrigeration till opened. Cheeses are best from La Pointe, a French shop that gets its shipments in late Wednesday night and so is packed on Thursday mornings. However, I have yet to find parmesaan cheese. A lot of the vegetables come from Egypt. Corn on the cob is seen here occasionally and is very small and spoils quickly, the same with lettuce. Our salads are shredded cabbage, with carrots, green peppers, cucumbers and occasionally tomatoes. Tomatoes are expensive and also spoil rather quickly. There are all kinds of pastas and rice in abundance. Most of the cereals are imports from the USA or Europe so if you see your favorite, get it because it will be gone tomorrow and the containers only come weekly and don’t always have every item that is out of stock. If your favorite store is out of what you want, then generally most of the groceries are out of it because people all shop more than one grocery. And most groceries have some imported items from the Netherlands and Britain. The groceries are very congested with people and shelf stockers alike. When shopping during the lunch hour or on Saturday mid-day, checkout can take an hour. Since shopping is hit or miss adventure our menu varies quite a bit.