Friday, June 10, 2016

#20 Nigeria: Life in Pictures (Month 5)

 This 5th month went by really fast because it was full of get-togethers before people headed out for the summer, and also because we got to leave for 10 days! Being back in the US was an INCREDIBLE breath of fresh air, but I won't focus on that... Here are some of the pictures from our 5th month in Nigeria :)

One of many wonderful ladies lunches I've been able to enjoy because we have nannies to watch our kids!! 

The awesome Bible Study group here on the camp (this is most, but not all, of the group). I was the only LDS person, and most of my friends have always been LDS until we moved here, so it was a wonderful opportunity to learn about other religions (and develop a deeper appreciation for my own). Attending Bible Study was one of the highlights of my week these past months!

Heading to a Friday night on the beach. Grace insisted she sit in her own seat, and she looked so big! She and Sophia entertained (or maybe annoyed, depending on who you ask) the entire bus for the 30 minute bus ride by singing songs. :) At least they were happy!

The group's new beach location. No cool "Nigerian experience" of being right by that ship than ran aground, but this beach was MUCH more beautiful, quiet, clean, and peaceful.

This is actually a picture I found on Facebook of the beach group on a Friday back in February (right after Russ had left for his trip to the states) 

Grace is getting more independent and loves playing with the big girls :) 

 Sophia attended a birthday party for one of her friends at preschool. She loved the Doc McStuffins theme!

 saying goodbye to preschool and her teacher, Ms. Ime. Sophia wanted to name the baby "Ms. Ime" if it was a girl. Lucky for me, it's a boy! :)

Posing with all the Chevron preschool/pre-k girls on Sophia's last day before our vacation 

Sophia in her end-of-year early childhood assembly

 Gotta love that fake smile she has going on!

 Jetlag has been pretty rough coming home, especially for Grace. For the first several nights, she'd stay up really late and then sleep in really late. Luckily, we're all adjusting better now.
We've also been trying to squeeze in lots of playdates this week before the friends start leaving for their summer vacations! This was so cute - they dressed as Ana and Elsa and sang/danced/acted out the movie (all the way until it got to "Let it Go". Then they fought over who should get to sing it and stopped watching all together. haha 4 year olds...) 

 Put my hand through a glass door and got stitches for the first time in my life. Now I'm pretty nervous when I go through a glass door or see a full-length mirror!

 Sophia and Gracie with some of their best friends here in Nigeria. (Grace may be almost 2 years younger, but she's not much smaller :D)
I think Sophia and Grace have both worn dresses every day since we've been home. They're both obsessed with dresses right now! 

haha I love that even Grace is making a silly face! She's talking so much more and acting so much more grown-up lately! 

Both of my girls have other kids in camp with the same name as them (and since there's not THAT many kids, that's kind of crazy). Here is Sophia with Sofia (and Trinity). 

On the right, we have Grace and Grace. (Big sisters also joined this picture) 

I had to include this first attempt too because Grace kept putting that blanket on her head every time I told them to say, "Cheese"! What a silly little girl!

#19 Nigeria: Staff

One very different thing about living here is having household staff. We're required to have a driver, and I think everyone also has a stewardess. You could also have a nanny (ours does both cleaning and nannying), cook, or gardener. Since I am the one at home, I am, for all intents and purposes, their employer. It's weird to be called "madam" by people older than me and work out salaries and just be a "boss"! I also think since I know it's short-term, I ignore a lot of things I should probably talk to them about, so I don't think I'm necessarily the best at managing my staff, but I hope they think we are nice and pleasant to work for.

Driver - In general, a driver is a necessity, but mostly inconvenient. Their time is about 25% driving and 75% waiting around (either in your garage, in the car when you're out, or washing the car just to keep busy). But I think drivers are used to that. It's part of their job description, so it's probably only weird because *I* feel weird about it. And since they have working hours, if you want to go out or do something during their off hours, you pay them overtime and arrange it ahead of time (well, at least we Americans do that. I think Nigerians just tell their drivers they are on call 24/7, and work them as needed). Like I said, it's pretty inconvenient - especially on nights when dinner turns out to be a bust and I you just want to run and get fast food! (Not that there's fast food to go get anyway, you order lots of pizza)

Stewardess - When we first got here, they assigned us a temporary steward, and it was STRANGE to have someone around the house all the time who I had to tell what to do. But, I assure you, having someone to clean is something you get used to VERY quickly (and when you get into a routine rather than them constantly asking what to do next, it's also a lot easier).  It is going to be hard to go back to reality after 6 months of having someone clean my bathrooms, do my dishes, vacuum, iron the clothes, and basically do anything else I ask. She also does extra cleaning I don't usually do often - like wiping down the fridge and pantry, cleaning the oven regularly, and even scrubbing the kids' shoes! Our house has never been so clean on a consistent basis. :) She was especially invaluable to me when I was so, so sick and tired in the beginning of my pregnancy. Normally during my first trimesters, the house falls into a sad state of messiness!

Another great perk is that now that she's been with us for a few months and is familiar with what's in the kitchen, I can send her to do grocery shopping! She just gets the staples though, so I also go out another time each week to get the more specialty items, but then she stays with the kids, so I can go by myself! Here, though, you have to remember that grocery shopping is a totally different animal than in the states. It ALWAYS takes several hours and requires going to at least 4 stores to find everything you'd find in your ONE regular grocery store, and you also usually sit in a traffic for quite a while. So taking kids with you to do that is a disaster waiting to happen.

I also figured that while Sophia was in school, our stewardess ended up watching Grace for at least 10 hours a week! That's 10 hours a week of me being by myself! Those hours included bus duty for Sophia, grocery shopping, her taking the girls to the park once or twice a week while I cooked dinner, toddler playgroup twice a week, and when I'd go to Bible Study/lunches/book club, etc. That freedom to go out and do things during the day is something I'm definitely going to miss, but I feel guilty that Grace still cries every time I leave her. :(

Cook - Now, a cook is a real luxury. We don't have one, but one of our friends does and we hire him when his usual families are on vacation or sometimes on Saturdays. It is wonderful! I think my struggles with food here being weird or missing food back home or lamenting about my weird stove that always overcooks or undercooks would be alleviated if we had a cook regularly, but I also think we'd gain about 100 pounds from being so pampered.

Gardener - The camp has gardeners assigned to large areas of the grounds, so everyone technically has a gardner who waters and rakes and takes care of weeds. Some people pay their own gardeners or pay the general gardeners extra to do extra for their houses. Those people really do have some pretty flowers and yards, but for 6 months, we didn't see the point of having our own gardener.

#18 Nigeria: Makoko Stilt Village

This post is mostly for myself to remember as much as possible about this trip, so sorry if it's not that interesting to anyone else. :)

Last month, Russ and I went on a trip to the Makoko Stilt Village - a community of 100,000 people who live entirely on the water! They are really close to the Lagos mainland, but the chief's son/tour guide guy we talked to said some people live their whole lives without ever stepping foot on dry land. That's obviously not true for everyone because even just while we were there, we saw several people paddling back with a boat full of stuff you'd see at the local market. After all, I'm pretty sure you can't grow too much on the water, and you'd need to buy...almost everything, I'd imagine.

We were told that this community has been around for over 100 years, and it was HUGE! The men and older sons go out in the boats and fish. The women and older daughters go to the market and sell the fish. The guide said that almost 100% of the fresh or smoked fish sold at local markets in this area are from their community because every day, thousands of women are at the markets selling fish (and thousands of men go out each day to catch those fish).

I'd seen the community before, while driving across the bridge, and I could see that the buildings were all up on stilts, but for some reason it didn't register until our speed boat was pulling into the area that it was truly a water community. There was no land. Every family had a boat and there were narrow "streets" with "blocks", just like any normal neighborhood, except the only way to cross from one house or block to the next was by boat! It reminded me of Lake-town in the Hobbit....except with WAY more stinky trash and with buildings made of scrap wood and metal instead of charming wood structures.

I'll use the pictures to tell about the trip:
The main landmark I've used to recognize the community when I see it from afar. We went up there at the end of our tour - apparently it's one of the schools. Also, this week in a rain storm, it completely collapsed! So sad! Also sad is that the funds from our tour groups are a big contributor in paying for the school, school supplies, and a few of the teachers' salaries. 

Pulling into the entrance of the village

When I suddenly began to realize everything was water and boats...

Baby sleeping - just another day of errands with mom!

overview of the area/chaos/scraps used to build with

"grocery store" on bottom, house on top

Bottom: boat in action. Top right: boats "parked". Top left: sunken boat!

VERY simplistic accommodations, but some people still had satellite TV!

Not the sturdiest stairs I've ever been on

an idea of the wood flooring in the "church building" we visited

Some houses did have little patches of dirt built up like this. I guess this would be considered their "yard"

We switched out our speed boats for wooden boats to get around inside the village. This is the other boat on our tour - the big stick used to steer and paddle was interesting

The children were VERY excited to see us "oyibos" (foreigners). 

This lady just floated up to this "store" to buy some stuff from her boat - like a grocery store drive-thru!
Even in a water community, you need a place to buy cell phone minutes! There were actually tons of places like this one. 

A happy little kid, and showing that each family carves their name into the boat so they can tell whose is whose

I was surprised we didn't see more of these planks to connect buildings. Seems like "walking the plank" would be easier than getting around by boat - but it would definitely be slower since you could only have one person go at a time.

Power lines are run everywhere - there are generators on land that hook up to and connect all throughout the community!

Kids kept laughing about everyone's sunglasses and making glasses on their eyes with their fingers. Maybe they've never really seen them before...?

There were SO MANY kids who jumped up and down and called out and waved to us, but I didn't take pictures of many of them because most were not fully-clothed! 

Kid, dog, trash.

Bringing in gas for their generators!

The lady obviously didn't want her picture taken (oops! Sorry!) but I wanted to show that she was bringing back all sorts of goods from the mainland

The bridge I'm normally driving across when I see the village

Russ modeling in the boats :)

This was taken from up high in the school - just a sense of how BIG this village really is

one of several boat-building yards

There are different sized boats, with different prices. Most people had the small ones (like in the foreground). Our tour group went on a medium-sized boat, and this picture shows some of the BIG boats.

making nets

Heading back to land on the speedboat!

Of course, it wouldn't be a TRULY Nigerian experience if everything went according to plan, so - of course - our speed boat engine puttered out and for a leg of the trip we were limping along at maybe quarter-speed while we waited for the second boat to get back to shore, unload the rest of the group, and come back for the rest of us. :D It made the trip back quite a bit longer than we were expecting, but it was also just part of the experience... 

I am really glad we got to go on this trip. Luckily it was one of the handful of overcast days we'd experienced up to that point, so we weren't completely sweaty and miserable. We are pretty limited in our ability to play tourist in this area, both because of security concerns and because it's just not really  a tourist-y area, but I am so glad we got to experience this. (I'm also glad we waited to go until I wasn't so morning sick because it was a pretty stinky place!) It is probably one of the coolest things we've been able to get out and do together since we've been here.