Saturday, February 23, 2013

My next big project



The moment my car arrives I have a lot of plans for it - grocery shopping, picking up my dry-cleaning that got abandoned all the way across town, trying out new restaurants, cruising the 'strip' at Bar Beach with my music blasting (well, maybe not) - but there's one thing I'm particularly looking forward to....I'm going to join the Yacht Club.
 
Technically a person has to be invited in order to join the club, but I don't think that will be a problem. How could they not want a new member with no sailing experience or skill or yacht? I'm a shoe-in!
 
Seriously though, this club was one of the big things I was looking forward to before arriving in town and it is slowly driving me insane to see them out there every weekend, smugly enjoying themselves with the wind in their hair while I sit, like a chump, on dry land.
 
Anyway, keep your fingers crossed for me that my car will be released from the port this week (and that there will actually be dip plates available so I can drive it). In the meantime I'll be practicing my steely sailor look and shopping for some boat shoes.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spotted this weekend in Lagos

I truth my Jesus mountain of fire minty (typo?) charm...
Truer words were never spoken. ... Or written on a random door in a random Nigerian village.

Because I'm adding these pictures from my imitation computer I can't seem to match the text to the words, so you'll have to piece the story together on your own. Kind of like those unsatisfying children's books that have no words, only pictures. Writers are such lazy bums.









Saturday, February 16, 2013

Meanwhile, in Lagos...

Nutella for the win.
 

I can't explain what's going on in this picture, but really, an explanation would just spoil all the fun.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Today

  • I interviewed 108 visa applicants.
  • I hired a driver. I officially have "staff" now.
  • I made Mexican food in Nigeria.
  • I had to put on a sweater in 80 degree weather because I felt "chilly"
  • I was wished happy valentines day more times than I can remember since grade school.
  • I watched an episode of breaking bad and only had to deal with one power outage interrupting the show.
Clearly it was a big day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One month in

Can you believe it? I've already been at post for a month. My tour here is 1/24 (4%) over and I feel like I just got here. I've only recently started to feel like I really knew what I was doing with certain aspects of my job and I haven't settled into many routines yet because hey - I'm new.  But I guess I can't keep acting like a newbie forever. I'm now only the third-newest person in the consular section (well fourth-newest counting the TDYer) and a month from now I'll be one of the more experienced people on the NIV line. That's a scary thought!

So what have I been doing so far, one might ask? Well - I've been working on the NIV line. I've hit a max of about 75-80 visa interviews a day. My goal is 100, but we'll see how long that one takes me. I heard there's a member of my A-100 already doing 120 a day and I'm both jealous and intimidated by that. It's important to be quick so that you handle your share of the days interviews - otherwise your fellow officers have to pick up the slack - but it's even more important to make quality decisions.  And good decisions just take a bit more time when you're still unfamiliar with the culture, the accent*, and the patterns at post.

As promised, I've already got a thousand stories under my belt - it's too bad I can't share them with you. But the applicants are definitely the most interesting part of the job and it's this opportunity - to speak with a hundred regular Nigerians every day - that drew me to consular work in the first place. I've met kings and comedians, models and used-car salesmen, oil worker and homemakers, babies and 'mamas'. I may not be able to visit all of Nigeria during my two years here, but I don't have to - Nigeria's coming to me!


*Oh the stories I could tell about misunderstanding the Nigerian accent! It works both ways too. A typical interview includes at least one moment where I ask the applicant where they are going and they reply 'in May'. Luckily they're patient with me and we usually have a laugh about the mix-up once we manage to get on the same page. I cannot even imagine how tough this would all be in a foriegn language...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Boat tour of Lagos

Just a few quick pictures from the boat tour we took yesterday. I cannot get over how much I love seeing Nigeria from the water. You see a little bit of everything. There's the Yacht Club and the fancy hotels. There's the port, full of huge cargo ships from all over the world. And then there are the traditional communities, fishing and living on the water. It's all beautiful and I keep being reminded how lucky I am to be here.
 

These guys are the sand dredgers I think. They spend all day pulling sand from the bottom of the lagoon. They have to be just about the strongest people in the country because that would be exhausting labor.

Reminds me of 'Heart of Darkness'. I really love that tree.

Talking with a TDY-er from Poland - I guess the boat parking system is a little more haphazard here. If you want to park you boat in the middle of the channel then you just damn well park it in the channel. (And if you want to abandon it there forever, well - it happens.)


Not pictured: monkeys, tortoises, lizards and peacocks from the Lekki Nature Center. Also I need to get some good market pictures because it's awesome.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Harmattan

Four weeks ago when I first flew into Lagos I noticed something odd. Even though I arrived while it was still daylight I didn't have a very good view of the city, and while you could see the sun in the sky you could also look directly at it without hurting your eyes at all. There was this weird haze over everything. I thought - especially after reading some other FS blogs and their horror stories about pollution - that Lagos must just have a really bad pollution problem. Luckily the haze has a much less sinister explanation - Harmattan.  I'll let Wikipedia do the explaining. 
The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March (winter). In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog.
See? Trade winds off the Sahara! That 's the romantic kind of haze. Way better than exhaust fumes from city buses or something.
 

 If this is the worst weather than winter has to throw at me then I can't complain.

**This is not to minimize the suffering of people who might be more adversely affected by the Harmattan, especially in northern Nigeria and Niger.**