Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Our last day in the office and our LONG trip home - February 207

We packed our bags, ate breakfast at the hotel and then met our driver for our drive into work. It was a busy day in the office. Bob and I both ate lunch in the cafeteria (separately), which consisted of chicken, rice or potatoes, and some eggplant dish. It was good but not great. At 5PM we headed out to the van for our trip to the airport.

Our trip home took an exhausting 30 hours. We left the office at about 5:30pm and headed to the airport in our caravan (a large 20-person van sandwiched between police escorts), dropping people off and picking people up along the way (staff house, expat residence building, Sheraton Hotel). Once we got onto the mainland, where the airport is located, we saw the more densely populated and impoverished parts of the city. There were many houses packed together on land and the housing extends out into the water (houses built on stilts). I tried to take a photo but because we we moving relatively fast in the van, the pictures came out blurry (have not figured out our brand new camera yet). I will try again in the future. The drive took about 2 hours.

Market on the side of the road on our drive to the airport.

Once at the airport we were escorted into the airport by company representatives, checked in and had our checked baggage searched (all checked bags are searched in your presence) and then headed to the British Airways lounge, which is not near as nice as the lounges elsewhere! It was packed, every seat was taken, and the food selection was not too great (Bob saw a bug crawling inside a plastic bag with a pastry - YUM!). We sat there for about 3 hours until we boarded the plane for our near midnight departure.

The flight to London was good (~6 hours, local time upon arrival 5AM). We both slept a bit, me more than Bob, as usual. Near the end of the flight, the crew sprayed the plane with insecticide to kill any mosquitos that made it onto the plane with us in Lagos. Once in London, we had to change airports (Heathrow to Gatwick, 45 minutes by car) which killed some of our layover time (5 hours) and then we decided the take advantage of the showers available in the BA lounge. In the future we will try to avoid flying BA so that we don't have to change airports in London and our luggage can be checked all the way through from Lagos to Houston. We travelled BA this time because there were no more seats on Air France or Luftansa and our "chaperone" was flying BA. It is not company policy to have a chaperone but it definitely was nice to have someone with us who knew the procedures once we arrived in Lagos. We would feel comfortable flying into Lagos on our own next time.

Finally we boarded the plane to make the final leg of our trip, the 10 hour flight from London to Houston. By this time I think we had watched most of the movies available to us and were ready to get home. Once in Houston, we were picked up by company-hired transportation (Lincoln Town Car) and taken home where we tried to stay awake until at least 8PM in an attemp to reset our internal clocks to Houston time.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Day 3 in Lagos - February 2007

Bob and I went into the office in the morning but them left at lunch to do some shopping. basically we wanted to get an idea of what we could by here in Lagos (food, electronics) and the cost of such items. The first place we went was the new mall called The Palms. In the mall there is a movie theater, a grocery store, a Walmart type store (everything from electronics to furniture to dishes), a cell phone store (Celtel) plus about 12+ other stores. There is a food court and a few restaurants.

In the Walmart type store called Game, we found that electronics are a little more expensive than in the states but we can purchase the items (TV) right when we get to Lagos as opposed to waiting for the items to arrive three months later in our sea shipment. We will be shopping for a TV, a DVD player, a microwave, a few UPSs and transformers (convert 110V to 220V).

We went into the grocery store and found that we can get chicken breasts, minced chicken or beef and pork. It is packaged very similarly to that in the US but it does not look quite as good, the presentation anyway! Many of the vegetables in the store are very expensive because they are imported. A head of iceburg lettuce is about $11. A small container of strawberries is about $6. Large potatoes are about $10/lb. Frozen vegetables are significantly more expensive and canned vegetables are 3-4 time the price in the US. We do not plan to pack too many canned vegetables because we are hoping that our steward or cook can get fresh vegetables at the market for much less money than in the store.

For lunch we went into one of the larger restaurants. It was and italian restaurant but I don't recall the name. This is the first time we really noticed the number of times the power had gone out in an hour and a half. We noticed the power outages here because there was rather loud music playing in the background that would suddenly stop as the lights went out... and then everything would start back up as if nothing happened. The place was very modern and the service was very slow, which I hear is common at most restaurants in Nigeria.

Here are some links with more info on the Palms, the new mall in Lagos.

After lunch we went to Lekki Market a market that is mostly visited by expats or tourists. There is some food, meat and vegetables, sold there but the majority of booths contain various crafts. There are tons of beads made in many different West Africa countries. I bought some wedding beads for a very close girlfriend who had recently gotten married. Congrats againg Mr. adn Mrs. Tran! I also bought some glass beads, made in Ghana I believe, for my mom and for some other dear friends that threw a going away part for Bob and I (I will write something about that soon). Thanks to Leslie, Lucy, Shelly and Yvonne! I also bought some wood carvings, carvings out of various densities/hardness of wood as gifts for another very close girlfriend Marcia and my nephews, Jake and Brody. I was a bad friend and failed to get something for Heather another very close friend... I owe her big! ; )

Lekki Market

Wedding Beads

On our last night in Lagos, we ate dinner at a co-workers apartment/flat in the complex that we will likely live in. They have a cook who is from Benin, the country just west of Nigeria and he is trained in French cooking. That night we had indian food which was prepared from a cook book and it was excellent. The flavor, the presentation and the chocolate mousse dessert was yummy! I think we got the most important tip of all that night... bring chocolate (chips and baking) in our luggage as it is not easy to find here. That tip may just save our lives!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Before going to Lagos, I was concerned about mosquitos but once in Nigeria we saw very few. Bob saw one in a work safety meeting and we saw two in the van on the way to the airport. Funny how we were fine outside but always seemed to be exposed in a company setting! Bob got bit by one of the mosquitos in the van.

Our company is very proactive in the prevention of Malaria. Whenever we travel to Lagos we are to take a chemoprophylaxis and we chose Malarone. When we leave Lagos we take with us what is called a "Malaria Survival Kit" which has a test kit and medication to take if you experience Malaria symptoms and are to contact our company medical team ASAP.

Here is a link to the Center for Disease Control site with info on how to prevent getting malaria from the malaria-carrying Anopheles mosquito, which usually bite between dusk and dawn.

Day 2 in Lagos - February 2007

Finally I am back to continue telling you about your trip to Lagos in February. Bob and I have been extremely busy getting ready for our international move, prepping our house to be rented and stocking up on supplies.

Day 2 Wednesday
We ate breakfast in the hotel, met our driver at 7AM and then started the 45 minute sssslllloooowwww drive into the office. I ate lunch in the cafeteria with some coworkers. Food in the cafeteria is free to all employees and there is a variety of dishes to choose from. There are continental options (rice/potatoes and chicken), national options (some sort of pork of beef dish and pounded yam), and sandwiches. I went for the chicken and rice dish and it was pretty good. I don't think the food preparation is very low calorie so I am going to have to be careful over here! Bob had a meeting that included lunch and he enjoyed the food.

We left the office early (~2PM) to check out some of our housing options with one of the employees who works in the housing group (the man with the keys) and Tina, the wife of a coworker. There are two locations where the employees without kids live, both are apartments, but one is brand new and the other was built in the 1970's (I think).

The first place we looked at was the older complex, which is on a decent size of property with tennis courts, a gym and a pool. The apartments are about 2300 sq.ft (larger than our home in Houston) with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms and are well furnished with basic furnishings. Here are some pictures of one of the vacant apartments.

Pictures coming soon once I resolve my picture posting problem!

We definitely liked the new apartment complex better but the best apartments have already taken and while it is much newer (nice stained wood accents, granite countertops in an upscaled kitchen) the remaining rooms are near the ground floor and have bars the windows. The new apartment complex in on a much smaller piece of property (also has a pool) so we would prefer to live higher up in the building so that we have a view of the surrounding area and don't feel so cramped behind the walls of the compound.

Here are some pictures of the new apartment complex. While they are not the best
pictures of the place, they will give you an idea of what the place is like.

Pictures coming soon once I resolve my picture posting problem!

Both apartments had plumbing problems. I don’t meant to be negative about the work done there but they need to set some higher plumbing standards. There was at least one wall in each place (old and new) that will require some upkeep due to some leaky pipes behind the wall.

After home hunting we were planning on going to la Pizza for dinner with Tina, Kelvin (Tina’s husband), and Bob (another co-worker) and his boys. We were a little sweaty after looking at the apartments, many of which did not have the AC on, and we were ready to go back tot the hotel. Unfortunately that did not happen. We heard tha the traffic was terrible and we should head straight over to the restaurant. It was about 5:30PM when we left the apartments and we got to dinner about 7:30PM and Kelvin made it there a little bit later. Bob and his kids never made it as they turned around after getting fed up in the traffic. The pizza was great and so was the local Star beer (brewed in Nigeria but owned by Heineken). The meal was a bit pricy, about $25 a person (including the pizza for Tina and Kelvin’s driver who had been waiting outside the entire time we were eating), but it was worth it.

Pictures coming soon once I resolve my picture posting problem!

It took us about 15 minutes to get to hotel, the same drive that took us about 2 hours a little earlier I the evening. Near the restaurant was one of the movie theaters, where Blood Diamonds was showing. Tina mentioned that there is a nice bookstore there and I plan on checking it out soon. I will let you know how it is!