Sunday, February 25, 2007

Arriving in Lagos, Day 1 in Lagos

We arrived in Lagos on Monday evening, February 19th. The plane touched the ground at 8:20PM and it took some time to get to our gate as we had 3+ miles to travel on the ground to get there. We went through immigration and customs and then waited, for what seemed like forever, for our luggage. Since Bob and I are planning on moving there soon, we picked up two very inexpensive suitcases to fill up and take with us on this first trip. Well, as the minutes ticked byand we had waited for over an hour for our luggage, we started to wonder if it was ever going to show up. At about 10PM it finally showed up on the luggage belt and suprisingly enough the wheels on the cheap luggage still worked! From discussions with many people who live here, very few if any bags do not show up... it just may take forever for them to show up! As we exited the airport, we passed two employees guarding the gate with rifles. The weather was warm and felt just like a warm, humid Houston May/June evening.

Tangent - I mentioned we packed two big suitcases full of stuff. We brought an assortment of items because our sea shipment can take 3-6 months to arrive in Lagos. We packed pillows, sheets, towels, toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, conditioner, tennis rackets and tennis balls (possibly our new sport in Lagos), and chocloate, to name a few items. With the move, we are also entitled to an air shipment (can take more thatn 3 weeks) but we can take extra luggage in lieu of the air shipment. We will probably check 5 bags each when we move there.

Back to the Story - Our drive from the airport was in a large van that is part of a caravan, sandwiched between police vehicles that drive with their flashing lights on, and some times their sirens on. Since we arrived at night we did not get to see much of the country as we stopped at hotels (Sheraton)dropping of those that arrived on either the Air France or Brittish Airways flight. At about 11PM, we were dropped off at a hotel on Ikoyi (on Lagos Island) called The Moorhouse or the Hotel Sofitel (see link below), which was very nice, similar to any hotel in the US or Europe.

After a poor (Lisa) to good (Bob) night of sleep, we showered, ate and met our driver at ~7:20AM to start our ~3km drive into work, across the Falamo Bridge over Five Cowrie Creek, to Victoria Island. The drive had been described to me by many others and I must say that it was very similar if not better that I had expected. Driving in Lagos is an art! I describe it as controlled chaos. I was amazed how close the cars and scooters (called okadas) got to each other without a collision. The drivers use their horns to communicate with each other so honking is constant background noise, something I will have to learn to tune out. The ~3km commute took about 45 minutes mainly due to the traffic leading up to and over the Falamo Bridge. This type of a traffic jam is called a "go slow". Street vendors use the go slow as an opportunity to sell goods, and quite a range of goods do they sell. I saw drinks, phone cards, toilet seat covers, socks, belts, snacks (plantain chips, nuts, mantos, gum, etc), car floor mats, an ironing board, watches, sunglasses, pens, to name a few items, being sold. One sign I noticed on the bridge that said something like "No urinating or defecating off of the bridge" and luckily for us everyone was abiding by the rules!

Street Hawkers

We reached the office after about 45 minutes of driving (remember that we only had to travel ~3km) and were greeted by many Nigerians that we knew and by many others we just met. A common greeting I got when many heard this was my first trip to Lagos was "You are welcome", and I did feel very welcome.

Lunch time rolled around and a cworker took Bob and I to a restaruant/ gourmet bakery called Chocolate Royale where we had a burger and fries. I enjoyed a drink called a Chapman, or a fruity soft drink, made of Sprite, orange soda, Angostura Bitters and black currant cordial (concentrated juice). It was yummy! The burger was OK but I must admit that I was not too hungry and was feeling a bit jet-lagged after the long travel and less than desired sleep last night. The service was great but slow, something I will have to get used to, and lunch lasted over an hour just for the service to be complete. As we walked out we saw all of the gourmet goodies (chocolates, cakes, pastries, and ice cream) and I am sure we will be back to visit once we move to Lagos.

From the 9th floor of the office building I could hear the cars honking as they navigate their way down the road. The office I was in looks over Five Cowrie Creek and I could see the water taxi, a small oared boat, that many use to get from Ikoyi to Victoria Island to avoid the "go slow" on the Falamo Bridge.

View from the Office

Our drive home from the office (left at ~5:30PM) took about 45 minutes and it was very similar to the drive into the office. Scooters everywhere. Scooter taxis. Entire families of four on one scooter! Bob noticed that the handlebars of many of the scooters were rotated up to decrease the width of the scooter and make if easier to maneuver between the cars.

We ate dinner with two coworkers at the Sofiel and enjoyed pepper soup, a very common and very spicy Nigerian dish, steak and prawns. The end of my meal was very interesting as I had taken an Ambien-CR to aid in a better night of sleep and it start to take effect while I was at the table. That stuff is good but be warned that it kicks in within about 15 mintues! ; )

More to come about the rest of the trip soon!

First trip to Lagos, Nigeria 2/19/07-2/23/07

Bob and I just returned from a 4.5 day business trip to Lagos. In the next few posts that write over the next few days, I will describe what we did and saw on our trip. We experienced very different sights, smells, and sounds than we are used to in the US. Based on our experience in Lagos this past week, we are still looking forward to moving there. It is very different than what we are used to, that is for sure, but living some place this different will be a great growth experience.

More on the trip to come...

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Moving to Lagos, Nigeria

Bob and I are being relocated by our company from Houston, TX to Lagos, Nigeria for a three year assignment. This will surely be a huge change but we have heard many great things about living there and we are really looking forward to our upcoming adventure. We hope to learn as much as we can about the country, its people and the culture and we hope to get out and travel parts of the world that will be much more accessible to us in our new location.