Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lagos Living - Sanitation Saturday

One of the quirks of living in Lagos is the phenomenon known as sanitation Saturday (I may have mentioned this before but I'm too lazy to go back and check).  Once per month the government basically grounds the entire city of Lagos for 3 hours on a Saturday morning. Absolutely no cars(without police permission), no pushcarts, no hawkers; everyone is supposed to be at home cleaning up. I do wonder how much actually cleaning goes on, but the sentiment is appreciated.

Really, it isn't so inconvenient - Saturday morning isn't usually my most productive time anyway. I sleep in, make pancakes, read a bit and before I know it the peace and quiet is over and it's time to get on with life. I'd love to hear how the average Nigerian likes the policy though.

For all its charms, I think this is an idea that doesn't have a lot of transferability. Can you imagine what would happen to the politician who tried to tell Americans they weren't allowed to leave their houses?
No cars. Is this really Lagos?

Monday, March 24, 2014


(by reader request - Hi Mom!)

It does seem a little odd that I so rarely post about sailing, considering that it's been my main hobby here. But in case you're interested - I'm still at it!

The club holds a race every Saturday, usually at 2:30. Those of us without boats just show up between 12 and 1 and ask around - I've never been unable to find a ride. We get the boats rigged up, douse ourselves in sunscreen, and hit the water.  Usually I'll be off the water by about 5 - sticky from the salt water, tired, a bit sore, and happy. The club has been a great way to meet people from outside the consulate, get some exercise and sunshine, and learn a skill I hope to use again. It seems expensive, but when I thought about it I'm spending the same I used to spend for a part-time driver (back when I had one) and this has by far turned out to be the better investment.

Unfortunately the best photo ops all happen in places where I'm not planning to bring my camera - so you'll have to made do with what I could get from shore.

Close calls - the channel is always full of a variety of boats, some are just a bit more 'adventurous' about giving each other space than others.

I love how you actually get a sense of the size of some of the monster ships coming through the port. It is my dream to one day drive one of these monsters through a hurricane. Maybe for my next career...

A bit blurry since I took it with my phone - this is right at the start of the race. These are the Lightnings. Sailing them is a bit more civilized (you get less wet and less bruised). The Hobies are catamarans (pictured above) and sailing one is exhilarating, but also kind of like wrestling a water buffalo for a few hours (this is my guess, I have no actual experience with water buffalo.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Things I've eaten in Nigeria that might raise some eyebrows

First, giant snail, or Achatina Fulica - native to East Africa but very much present in Nigeria. These lovely little guys can grow up to around 7 inches long (though I assume that only counts the shell, judging from the picture below).  Wikipedia says it's an invasive species so I guess Nigerians are just doing their part to keep the population in check.  This delicacy was served to me by a king - it was a bit cold, so I'm going to give it another go later, but based on my first experience I would describe it as edible, yet forgettable.
(picture from here)

Second, grasscutter, otherwise known as the Greater Cane Rat. It's a rat native to Sub-Saharan Africa that can grow up to two feet long and weighs more than my dog. Here's a picture.
(Picture from here)
Believe it or not this was one of the dishes on offer at the Radisson today. They had all the normal stuff too of course, but who could resist trying the local specialty? Right guys? ....
There it is. Exotic and glamorous life of a U.S. diplomat.
So who's hungry?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lagos Living - Signs

Posted without (much) comment
Best parts of the sign? The dead goat pictured in the corner, and the second to last item on the menu.

You can barely see them, but underneath the picture on the 'magic fingers' side there used to be two holes that have now been patched up with cement. We spent many a ridiculous ride to work speculating on just what the purpose of those holes was. Do the magic fingers come out of the holes? Do you have to stick your hands into the holes - a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? To our dismay we discovered it's really just a 'barbing salon' (ie a plastic chair and an umbrella where someone will cut your hair).

For your delicious.

Kind of hard to read. It says 'God Love This Compand' (sic)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lagos Living - Supply and Demand

That's right folks. After at least 4 months there is fresh milk for sale in Lagos. I don't really even drink milk (lactose intolerant) and I was still excited.
You see, my mom bought me this super awesome cheese making kit so I can make ricotta and mozzarella at home - perfect for a place where a small tub of ricotta will run a person 15$. The only problem is that you just can't make cheese with UHT (boxed) milk. And the one and only supplier of milk happened to stop supplying just about exactly when this kit arrived.
Since then I've been lamenting the lack of milk to anyone who would listen.
Fast forward to yesterday. A friend casually mentioned in conversation that he'd seen 'boutique' milk for sale at one of the big South African stores. He said the supply is limited, and it's crazy expensive, but I was undeterred. I drove straight there and arrived within 5 minutes of the store's opening. I bought up the entire stock of fresh milk (1.6 gallons total) for $30. So yes, expensive for sure. But so worth it! I love that this stuff is not orange and stale tasting. I love that I can make things with it. I love that it is not 'shelf-stable' for a suspiciously long time. I guess this experience has served to remind me that you should never take stuff for granted.
Also - it brings up an important aspect of Lagos Living that I wanted to mention - scarcity.
Despite being able to find almost anything I want to purchase there are still a few items that haven't yet 'caught on'. Fresh milk is clearly one of them. Also - bagels (a very recent arrival to Lagos, and still only available frozen), tofu, fresh berries, cream cheese and sour cream. In fact - mostly it's dairy products that are hard to find and expensive. I think it's because dairy products make up exactly 0% of the Nigerian food pyramid.
I will say this for Lagos however, every single one of these items is available sometime, you just have to be willing to pay an arm and a leg for it. And isn't that what the cost-of-living pay is for after all? One's ability to track down hard-to-find items is also a good indicator of how long they've been in Nigeria and how adventurous they are. If you're willing to get out there and dig you'll almost always stumble on something good. That's the fun of living in Lagos, right? A trip to the grocery store becomes a hunt for buried treasure. Granted, I'm not always in the mood for an adventure. Sometimes I just want to get my food and be done with it. But it's nice when life has a little challenge to it...

This article provides some good insight into the reason for the scarcity (and the cost) of fresh, non-Nigerian, food.