Sunday, November 16, 2014

Things that have been making me happy in Lagos lately

Earlier this month I think I complained that I couldn't think of anything to write because not much was going on. Lately it's been the opposite. I'm too busy to write because I'm having a great time finishing up my tour - especially now that every problem can be met with a shrug and a cheery update on my countdown. (Change to the shuttle schedule? Meh - 45 days. Annoying road construction? I can avoid that for 6 weeks. Nigerian food getting old? I might as well eat it while I have the chance - 33 days from now I'll be missing chicken and rice! See? It's fun!)

Not only is it easy to shrug off things that would otherwise annoy me, but I've been keeping busy doing all my favorite things now that I only have a little time left. I've crammed in quite a bit of sailing, tried a few new restaurants, and made a general point to start spending less time working and more time 'networking' with my friends.

And of course I've been meaning to write about lots of random things that are making the time fly -

1) I attended the Lagos Yacht Club's Sail Around the World event this weekend and had a great time. It's basically a big, relatively casual party where all the participating countries host a booth and provide party-goers with a sample of their national dish. I particularly enjoyed the French booth, the Israelis, and the Texas booth (this is, of course, in addition to - and entirely separate from - the American booth).

2) The very next evening we had the Marine Ball. (For those not in the know, this is an annual ball hosted by the Marines to celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps. It's very fancy.) It was fun to see so many people from around the community that I know; kind of like a mini-reunion. I saw friends from my church, from the Togo trip, sailing people, people I met on the bike trip, and even a few that always just seem to go to the same parties I do. That's the nice thing about Lagos, it's a huge city, but a fairly small world and after almost two years here I finally feel like 'everybody knows my name'.  The Marine Ball is also nice as it's the only time most of us get to dress this fancy after senior prom, so we went all out with the dresses, hair and makeup. I must say - the consulate community cleans up well!

3) Some friends and I have started celebrating Christmas a bit early (ok, a lot early). Since I'll be packing out in mid-December and traveling around the holidays I wanted to get my money's worth out of the Christmas season. Just putting up the tree made me happy - and even better, it helps remind me that I need to sort out those Christmas gifts ASAP!

4) There has been real milk on the shelves for several weeks in a row now. I can't really explain how/why this is so important to someone who's lactose intolerant anyway, but trust me that it is. Box milk is an abomination. Just saying.

5) I'm actually feeling cautiously optimistic about all my 'end-of-tour' tasks. I'm about to submit the cable I've been working on for months, I sent in my EER bullet points (before I got a panicked email from my supervisors no less!), and I've even put some time into purging all of my extra junk - mostly a stack of 'important papers' that appears not to have been sorted since I was in elementary school. Could it be that I'm actually going to have a relatively stress-free move?

Of course not, but it's nice to dream.

I really do mean to post some pictures sometime soon, but my internet has been on strike for ages so that might have to wait. Only 5-6 more weeks until I'm back in the States!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans Day!

To all the veterans but particularly the friends and family veterans - thank you for your service and your sacrifice.

In the spirit of things check out this site from The Guardian that lets you view scenes from mostly WWI and WWII both during the war years and today. It's very moving.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The 'Buj

Zuma rock, picture from here
I am happy to report that I'm just back from a very brief TDY to Abuja and it has inspired me to write at least a bit more about Nigeria.

Of course I'm going straight for the obvious - a not even a little bit biased comparison, Abuja v. Lagos

After almost two years in Lagos, my standards may be a bit different than yours, but my first impression was that Abuja is fancy (fancy being a personal shorthand for 'developed').

I could describe what makes Abuja feel this way or I could just show you.

Below is a Google image search result for Abuja:
pictures from ...Google
Remember your impressions.

Now here's a Google image search result for Lagos:
Bet you can't guess which picture is purely aspirational.
Seems like Google's impression of Lagos is a little less 'shiny city of the future' and a little more poverty, overcrowding and some combination of the two.

And just because... scroll down in the Google search result for my favorite, totally random guy with the world's most terrifying animal.
Naturally, since I've called Lagos home for so long I feel like I can finally see past some of ^that and present my own view of a city that - while flawed - has a lot going on if you know where to look. Take Makoko for instance (the floating town) - did you know the school I visited there is an award-winning (or at least award nominated ;) design? Visit the website in the link for a very cool discussion of housing possibilities for the area.
Anyway, back to Abuja and how fancy it was. Abuja has lots of nice things - hills, tree-lined boulevards, an Ethiopian restaurant, and a U.S. Embassy that looks and feels like it was built by a developed country. (just saying...)
Abuja also had a pretty notable collection of architecturally bold buildings - a few highlights below:

The Ministry of Defense building - 'Ship House'
picture from here
This tower and cultural center aren't yet finished but already stand out in Abuja's relatively short skyline. Lagos needs a cultural center!
picture from here

This church also stood out. I don't specifically like the design, but I can appreciate the uniqueness of it. And the tower is fun. Abuja seemed to be big on towers.
Picture from here

And finally, my absolute favorite - the National Mosque. I love the towers (see more towers!) -they look just perfect for a Disney princess, don't you think? I took a picture every time we drove by, but like I said - phone pictures = no good.

picture from Wikipedia

Inevitably, more impressions to follow.