Friday, May 25, 2007

Who is Flat Stanley?

Before bringing Flat Stanley with us to Lagos, I was not really sure who he was. I had heard of him but did not know the details of how he became flat. Flat Stanley is the title of a children's book written by author Jeff Brown in 1964. Stanley Lambchop is a boy who gets flattened by a bulletin board and because he is flat, he can easily travel around the world, visiting many countries and participating in many adventures, via an envelope.

For more information see the following web sites:

When Bob and I were still in Houston, my nephew Brody, who lives in southern California, sent us Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley helped us build a deck in our back yard and went to our going away party (you can find him in Bob's pocket on the main blog page). Brody even came with his brother Jake and their granndmother (my mom) to visit us (me, Bob and Flat Stanley) in Houston, help us pack, and send us off at the airport. Most of Flat Stanley's adventures in Lagos are described on the blog.

Today, Friday May 25th, I asked a Nigerian coworker named Nonny to take the envelope containing Flat Stanley with her on her trip back to Houston and then send him in the mail back to my nephew in Southern California. I would have preferred to send the envelope from Nigeria but there would be no guarantee that he would return to the USA in a timely manner or at all!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Testing out our New Underwater Camera Housing

Just before coming to Lagos, Bob and I bought a much needed new camera and in the research process we were looking for one that we could buy an underwater housing for to use when we go scuba diving. The housing was out of stock before we moved here so we ordered it once we arrived. After one month we finally received the package in the mail and we wanted to test it out. We took Flat Stanley into the pool to help us. This picture is not our most flattering picture but we thought that my nephew would enjoy that we had Flat Stanley help us out.

Another Beach Trip

It was my turn to reserve one of the boats to take a group of us to the beach and for this trip we chose to go to the beach hut reserved for employees of the company Bob and I work for. The larger boat was taken so I got one of the small boats that holds 11 people plus our driver/captain. We set out from the dock on Ikoyi at about 9:15 AM, stopped at the dock at Bayshore/Cactus to pick up some more people and were on our way. The boat ride to the beach takes about one hour. Once at the dock we were met by the local family who helped us carry our things to the beach. Again the women were amazing and carried the heavy coolers on their heads. I know our cooler (the blue one) was pretty darn heavy as it was completely filled with ice, water, beer and soda. This beach was much more set up (gazebo, tables, chairs, lounge chairs with cushions) than the last beach and it has many vendors that try to sell their goods to you through out the day.

Having the vendors stop by was nice so that we could do a little shopping. Items for sale included all kinds of beads, masks, wood carved boats and cars with people (made from worm wood), table cloths, clothing, and swords. We were in the market for some baskets, which we never saw for sale that day, and a table cloth. We got a large batik table cloth (indigo, brown, and white) with 8 matching napkins for our dining room table. All purchases are made by bargaining. The starting price for the table cloth and napkins was 5200 naira (~$40 US) but we talked him down to 4500 naira (~$35 US). A coworker Jeff later talked him down to 3500 naira (~$27 US) for a different table cloth and napkins. Since Jeff was borrowing money from us he split the difference therefore we eventually got the table cloth and napkins for $4000 naira ($31 US). Thanks Jeff! Having the vendors around this time was not bothersome but I can see that it might be in the future, once we have purchased the items we are looking for. Some of them walk between you and the beach to get your attention which was a bit annoying. Bob and I stopped by a small grocery store called La Pointe and picked up some chicken and beef kebabs and some sausage to grill for lunch. Bob supervised as one of the young local men cooked and the food was yummy! Rich and Tony - your Scavone sausage is WAY better! ; )

Go to to learn more about Bob's aunt and uncle's sausage business in Lindenhurst, Illinois.

As with our last beach visit the waves were big and Bob enjoyed swimming out beyond the waves and hanging out. He is a really good swimmer and loves the water. I did not go into the water until just before we left and I wished I had gone in sooner… next time!

We took Flat Stanley with us to hang out before we send him home to my nephew Brody in southern California. Here are some pictures of me and Flat Stanley next to one of the boat on the beach and one with one of the local kids as we walked by his village back to the boat. The last picture is of the villagers that helped us in one way or another on our visit. Flat Stanley may be hard to see but be sure and look for him in the pictures!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bob’s First Driving Experience

Bob just got his drivers license so we have a little bit more freedom now. We don’t plan on driving into the office or for errands on Saturdays but we may want to drive and not have to rely on having a driver. Bob needed to go to the office on Saturday evening (May 19th) to check on a computer process that had been running since Friday so he drove us there. The first drive was rather uneventful, luckily, and I think Bob only honked his horn once. Horn honking is one of the main languages on the roads in Lagos. During rush hour the noise is constant but you learn to tune it out, I hope!

You may wonder what it takes to get a drivers license and we found out that it does not take much, just 7000 naira (~$55 US), two passport photos and a bit of info. No driving test or anything! We asked our driver, Yves, to get one for Bob on a Monday and Bob had it in hand on Friday. I will get one soon so that I have one if I ever NEED to drive, but don't plan on driving much.

The car we currently have is a Toyota Avensis which is similar to the Toyota Camry, but not as nice. We got really lucky as a lot of the pool cars are junk and our car only has about 4000 kilometers on it. We are waiting for the car assigned to us, our “status car”, but we may be waiting for quite some time. There are many people here that have been waiting for over one year. If we were happy with a Toyota Rav4 then we can get one now but we are holding out for the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, an SUV. We want something with more clearance so that we can take it on long trips exploring the back country of Nigeria and surrounding countries (with a driver and a guard from the Nigerian Polie force, automatic weapon and all). We may just luck out again as we recently heard that a bunch of Prados are in stock and we may get one soon. The ones the received have tinted windows and therefore require a permit before they can be used. Once the permits are received, the Prados will be distributed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Not exactly tennis pros… Flat Stanley was there as a witness to it all

Before coming to Lagos, we had heard that a lot of people play tennis so we bought tennis rackets and a bunch of balls and brought it all with us in our luggage. We played with other folks a few times but quickly realized that we really needed to get some lessons to correct our bad habits. At the first lesson, we learned that Bob is a much better tennis player than I am. I am currently taking lessons 3 nights a week and Bob is taking them one night a week. Here is a picture of Flat Stanley on the court with me and my tennis coach Kenny.

In the evening, large moths are attracted to the bright lights at the tennis courts and the toads are out croaking loudly. Here are some photos that I thought my nephews might like.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Construction everywhere...

There is some sort of construction activity on three of the four sides of our apartment. On the south side, a 5-star hotel is being built... at least they say it is being built. The have been working on it for a while now but all I see is a bunch of dirt and cranes. See for yourself.

On the west side, an embassy building was recently torn down (within the month on March) and now a new building is being constructed. Most buildings here are made of concrete. In the picture below you will see (if you look closely) the forms that are being put up on a concrete foundation (thin strips of concrete just below the wooden forms). This work has been done in less than 2 weeks. They started off by laying down sand, leveling it and then packing it down with a machine that looked, to me, like a lawn mower. Bob had seen one before. We are not sure if this first floor will actually be the first floor or just the foundation for the rest of the building. I will let you know…

On the north side, the beach is growing. Sand is being dredged from somewhere else and pumped here to expand the beach on which a building will be constructed in the future… how soon in the future I do not know. I keep waiting for a big storm to come and wash the new beach away!

On the east side, there is no construction. Here is a picture.

IPOD Status

As of last Friday there was still no word on the recovery of the IPODs. The security folks indicated that there was an investigation underway but it was not complete. How hard is it to ask find out who was in our flat and ask them to return the stolen items? It does not seem too hard to me but it obviously is. As time passes it seems less likely that they will be returned. We believe we have spoken to the highest level of security management and it has gone through our Geoscience management so the right people are involved but I believe I have mentioned this before… everything goes MUCH slower in Nigeria! If they are not returned, we will then ask for someone to pay for them to get replaced.

Bob had mentioned to me that a few people were coming from Houston for meeting this past week. I jumped on the opportunity and called Reggie, a manager that I had met on our business trip here in February (Bob already knew him), and asked him to pick up an 8GB IPOD if he had a chance and bring it to me when he comes. He is a wonderful man who made the time on his weekend and stopped by Best Buy. I am currently charging the IPOD so that I can load music and get my butt on the treadmill!

Bob downloaded every CD we own while in Houston so that we could just put all of the CD’s in storage, therefore most of our music was not lost. The only music that was lost was what I downloaded from my nephew Jake’s IPOD and Mindy’s IPOD while I was in California over the holidays. Losing that music is sort of tragic because it was a bunch of tunes from the 80’s and early 90’s!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Lesson Learned the Hard Way – Our IPODs were stolen

Bob and I got a bunch of new furniture delivered to our flat last Friday. There were about 10 people unwrapping and building furniture and it was chaotic. Bob was here with our steward but there was so much going on that you could not have watched everyone. Friday evening we noticed that my 8GB Ipod nano was missing and then looked over to the speakers for Bob’s Ipod and noticed that the 80GB Ipod was gone too. We are very bummed as the Ipods were gifts from our parents and they held all of our music. Immediately after noticing that the Ipods were gone, we called security and the furniture people. There is an investigation underway but we are not sure what will come of it! We are hopeful… We will keep you posted on the outcome...

When our shipment comes n a month or two, we will either choose to unpack all of it ourselves or just select a few people to help us unpack. If we just select a few people then maybe they won’t take anything because the potential thief would be one of a few people and much easier to identify. We will also have to teach our steward to be much more aware of what other people (maintenance, telephone, etc) are doing when they are in our flat. On Friday evening on his way out, our steward asked that he be searched by security just to clear his name. We did not suspect him but that was a smart move on his part.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Palms Mall

I thought you might like to see a few pictures of the Palms Mall. I don't have the greatest pictures of inside the mall because I am not always too comfortable taking pictures of people here. I don't want to upset anyone!
The mall is pretty nice.
See my post in February called Day 3 in Lagos - February 2007 to get more details on the mall. I failed to mention in m earlier post that there is also a movie theater there called the Nu Metro. Last time we checked the movie "Music & Lyrices" with Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant was playing. I believe that movie is over a year old at least! If I recall correctly, "The Good Shepherd" was also playing. There were others but I was not too familiar with them. I will let you know when we go to a movie!

No need for inflatable bike tire tubes here!

Bob and I did a little shopping on this May Day holiday today just to check out what is in the stores. Every weekend we have been here, Saturday has been a no drive day so that is one less day on the weekend to get out an look around. When we were in one of the stores (Shoprite in the mall) we ran across these tire tubes, not airinflatable tire tubes but hard foam tubes. I wonder if they have some to fit my bike when it arrives! We did not look around to see if they have tubes, but I am sure they do somewhere.

Here is a picture: