|PART ONE; 15 Million and counting....
Lagos....wow...that's all I can say. A city of 15 million people, with probably 4 times that many cars as people, and it still runs. One word that would describe Lagos is just simply: Nutty! Crazy! Chaotic! I really wanted to come to Lagos...and now my mission is complete. I could not leave Nigeria before I went to Lagos.
We left very early morning on Wednesday to arrive to Abuja to catch a plane to fly down. Here is an interesting note...in Canada if we want to book a flight and fly, we have to go online, call a travel agent, well in Nigeria you simply just show up at the airport and buy your ticket. They ask you to write you name on a little piece of paper, you pay your money at the booth, and they write in your name on the ticket, with an unassigned seat, and usher you on the runway.
The flight was only 45minutes long, but unfortunately the side effects of my malaria pills kick in every time we travel. I have not had any funky dreams, sleep deprivation or anything else, just very bad motion sickness. I was very happy to touch ground, and so was my stomach.
My first impression of Lagos was...oh, dear...it looks like Warszawa! The streets reminded me of how my home City looks like - Marcin said the same thing.
Lagos is extremely expensive, and you have to haggle over everything! There are many more white people in Lagos and because of that there is an underlying assumption that you have money, work for one of the oil companies or one of the embassies that are stationed in Lagos. We are poor CUSO volunteers, and we don't have as much money as all those people working for government.
WHERE DID WE STAY?
I suggest that before I start going on and on about Ms. Nike (said Neekay) Davis, you visit her website:
Have you gone there yet? If you have you would understand that she is an incredible person. She is a "friend of CUSO", and as a CUSO cooperant you get free room and board as long as purchase something from her. She is an artist - as you can see from her site- and her work is amazing!!!! Her entire house in Lagos is an art gallery. Mind blowing, is all I have to say. Just check out the pictures, her house of 3 stories is covered from wall to wall with artwork. Her life is an incredible story. For the first 15 years of her life, she was married into a polygamous marriage where the man had 15 wives. She was one of the 15. (read....FIFTEEN!!) While living in the precarious situation, she trained and learned the art of Batik, tie dye, and other traditional African art. One day, her limit of being in this type of setting had been reached. She gathered all of the 15 wives together, and left the husband. As she told us in her own words, "how can possibly have love in a marriage with 15 other women. It's a loveless marriage".
She remarried again to a British man, but divorced him too because she wanted to come back to her Nigeria. She remarried one last time to a Nigerian Man who is a ex-police officer, and had her last child at 47. She had traveled the world, has had exhibitions in New York, L.A. Canada, Germany, Holland etc....and has been chosen by UNESCO to be a representative for African art. She is so well known around the world, but yet none of my well educated Nigerian friends knows who she is. "How sad", they all cry together, that Nigerians are too busy surviving to be interested in artwork. But you can read all about Nike on her site... http://www.nikeart.com/
We were in awe of her place, her energy, and how much she just a really great person. If there is one reason why I would come back to Nigeria, it would be because of Nike. I would love to learn how to do all of this art work. She showed us a video that illustrated how labor intensive all of work is. (She lives on Lekki peninsula)
On our first day in Lagos, we went to Lekki Beach. An adventure in itself; as we were walking onto the beach, there was some guy sitting right at the entrance. We walk by him, and he calls over and tells us there is an entrance fee to the beach. He is dressed in regular clothing, with no name tag or anything that would indicate that he indeed is someone for real. He tells us to pay 100N for each person, and immediately Tonia launches into...who are you? Where is your badge? What company do you work for? Where are the tickets? We demanded to see the tickets that he was selling. He got really defensive, but showed them to us anyway. The tickets said: Valentine's dance tickets! The point is, more than likely it was a scam, but I and Tonia were not about to get into a rumble with buddy over 3 dollars, while my honorable man was completely willing to walk away. Oh, Lagos... this hardly ever happens in the north, but scamming and trying to be opportunistic so much more prevalent in the south of Nigeria. (where there are more batturias)
Lekki beach was deserted, apart from a few people. The waves were huge, but it was nice to hear the sound of waves crashing to the sandy beach. Funny enough, the water was nice and warm. Remember it is the Atlantic ocean.
We came home, or rather to Nike's place, and like magic food was served piping hot and ready for us to eat by Nike's "boy". Wasu was something else. He was plucked from Nike's village, as she saw that she could teach and train him in how to cook, clean and be a well rounded boy. Not being used to being served on, many a times I insisted on doing things for myself. I wanted to help him gather our plates together after dinner, but he was almost beside himself, and anxious when I was doing so. But he on the other hand, insisted on doing everything for us. He looks like he is very grateful to Nike for taking him in, as he too just last year lost his mother and he does not have a father to take care of him. He is a great guy, looks like he is about 16 or so, but is actually about 21 and has not had any real formal education. He is training with Nike in artwork in her cultural center, and learning traditional Nigerian dancing.
DAY 2 - LAGOS (Thursday)
It was a totally lazy Thursday morning, and the Canadians were getting up waiting for their breakfast to be served by the ever so enchanting Wasu. Today in the morning we had a starchy like goop that was actually maize, and some akara. (fried beans mixed with egg)
We stayed in at Nike's place till about 12 or so, just exploring her house. Marcin fell in love with one of the paintings in Nike's house. "ah! ah!", Nike said, ""It talks to YOU!" While I really started to like one particular painting; it was a painting of a couple by Tola Wewe, while Marcin's painting was that of a boy by Rom. (Search these artists...you will see they are well known too!)
Nike's husband quickly took to Marcin, after he found out that indeed he was a computer engineer. Please, he said...can you fix out computer virus problem? My problem solving genius was quick to respond YES, I will help, the only thing he had to do was get to an internet café and download some antivirus software. I chuckle while I write this, because before marcin came to Nigeria, he said to me... "I will come to Nigeria, but I am not fixing all the countries computer problems". Heehee. So far where ever he has gone, he's been Dr. Computer.
We ended up going to the museum on Lagos Island. (BTW Lagos is actually composed of 2 islands, Victoria Island, Lagos Island and a mainland) The one thing I wish was more done in Nigeria is upkeep and maintenance. They really try to put in new buildings, infrastructure, but that's all that happens. Things look like they are falling apart, because there doesn't seem to be a system in place that will maintain the building or the contents of the building. A lack of pride? Its something that Nigerians themselves complain to me about.
We met up with a friend of ours - Mayo (said: Mio) and went to a Nigerian version of fast food, called "sweet sensations", where they serve Jollof rice, egouise etc... (ps. The lights have come and gone twice since I started writing this entry)
From there we got a ride from Mayos' friend, where we proceeded in a slow, slow, traffic jam a.k.a.: a "go-slow" (something the DVP should be called!). We ended up at CoolFM radio station area, and dashed over to the internet café, so Dr. Marcin Computer PhD could fix Nike's computer problem. While me and Tonia went on the net, in search of a map of Lagos. As like I mentioned before, tourism is not the biggest thing here, rather oil is, the tourism board of Nigeria is I would say almost non existent.
Feeling a little hungry Mayo suggested we go next door to Chocolate Royal for something "small small". My goodness when I walked into that bakery, I forgot I was in Nigeria. They even had donuts! We settled on some delicious ice cream. That night we were supposed to go to see a movie at a slamming grand movie theatre called the "silverbird", but due to go-slow it was a no-go.