It’s May 2nd which means we’re nearly finished with our first year in Lagos. It’s been a good year, but a busy one filled with uncertainty, challenges and the typical hard-work associated with a first year in a new country and a new school. I feel guilty about not being more timely in my blog postings. But then I think back on the past year and I realize that it’s okay to give myself a little break considering everything we’ve had going on:
- Taking full-time classes online to finish my Administrator’s Certificate from July until October
- One of our local teachers dies from malaria a week before school starts
- Ebola comes to Nigeria; delay bringing returning teachers back, reassure new teachers already on campus. Stock pile food and water….just in case
- Ebola delays, then closes all schools in Nigeria
- Transition to fully online teaching 24 hours after closure; do this for five weeks
- Watch the occasional Boka Haram attacks around the Northern part of the country splashed all over CNN; reassure worried family and friends
- Upcoming Presidential and Gubernatorial elections cause widespread worry throughout the country; more CNN coverage
- Elections are delayed until Spring Break causing panic that people won’t be able to get out of the country for travel; reassure teachers and families
- Experience regular fuel shortages
- Devaluation of the Naira effects the local economy with growing inflation
As you can imagine, each of these events (except my Admin degree) was something Greg has had to plan for multiple contingencies and respond to. It’s been an interesting and amazing, but thoroughly exhausting first year.
Of course, it hasn’t been all stress and work! We spent a wonderful Christmas together in Spain:
We were able to attend the regional leaders & teachers conference in Cape Town, my new favorite city, back in February (or was that March?). We didn’t see any sites because we were in workshops all day, but we had amazing seafood and steaks, wine and organic veggies by the picture-perfect waterfront. The weather was that sublime end-of-summer moderate with clear blue skies and not an ounce of humidity, total bliss after the heat and wet of Lagos. The Dollar is strong compared to the Rand; we were able to order 300 grams of free range, organic, aged filet for about $20, and don’t even get me started on the wine or the view.
We decided to spend spring break in Lagos for a couple reasons; Greg had just finished traveling literally around the world a few times hiring teachers and needed some time at home. As you can imagine, things like Ebola and Boka Haram make it a little more difficult to hire so Greg was criss crossing the world attending job fairs. We also wanted to be close “just in case” since the elections were held over spring break so Greg could more easily deal with contingency plans. And, call us crazy, but we kinda didn’t want to miss the potential excitement if something did happen during elections. I mean, who wouldn’t want “evacuated out of Lagos” in their repertoire of overseas stories? But, potential book material aside, we’re happy for Nigeria that such a closely watched and contentious election was mostly peaceful, and the transition of power from one party to the other will be handled Democratically. Most teachers traveled over spring break so we enjoyed being on a very quiet campus spending our time swimming in the pool, watching movies, cooking and just being together as we recuperated from a long stretch from Christmas to spring break.
With my upcoming move into Administration next year, I was able to spend about four days in Johannesburg for another leadership workshop. Granted, I was down there during the xenophobia rioting that was happening last month, but it was a great experience all the same. This coming Wednesday is my last professional development workshop that I’ll run this year; it’s been a whirlwind ramping up to my new position while still teaching full-time but I’m excited to be part of administration next year. It is a strange feeling though to realize that if things go according to my plans, this will be the last time I have my own class of kiddos that I’m teaching every day. Greg already had his contract extended by the Board for an additional year, so we know we have at least three more years here. Oh, and I do plan on participating in student events, even though I’ll be Admin and not in the classroom.
But, it’s not over yet! Next Friday I leave with four other Grade six teachers, our principal and 58 kids for Switzerland on our annual “Swiss Trip”. I’m not looking forward to the red eye flight in an economy seat, but once we get there, it will be worth the sore butt and cramped legs. The Swiss trip is supposedly the most popular that AIS runs, and I can’t complain about spending six days in an outdoor camp where the young counselors run the entire program, adults have our own cabins, and we’re schedule for a tour (and sampling) at a chocolate factory. Yes, I’m saving some room in my suitcase so I can bring some new chocolaty-friends home.
I’ll go back to DC for a week the beginning of June for training and Greg will come for a couple days so he can see his daughter before flying back to Oly. Two days after I return from DC, we’ll drive down to Portland where we’ll spend four days attending separate trainings; Administrative stuff for me, assessment-related conference for Greg. At least we’ll be in the same city at the same hotel. That leaves us about four weeks out of six-weeks allotted vacation time to take care of dentist and doctor check-ups, buy the clothes and things we need that can’t be found in Nigeria, and go sailing. We’re planning two and a half weeks on the boat this summer, not nearly enough, but we’ll take what we can get.
It’s been a busy weekend. Yesterday our PTO sponsored the school’s annual Fun Fair on campus. Some of you may recall that we had similar events at our other international schools, but this one was by far the biggest with tons of vendors with food and crafts, huge blow-up castles and various water sports and competitions for the kids, and they even had two mechanical bull rides! Greg utterly refused to let me ride either bull; my neck was already giving me some serious grief this week, and he reminded me of my injury suffered when riding the last mechanical bull at the Fun Fair in Mongolia. Maybe next year.
Flash back to Mongolia…
We also had our first annual May party for teachers and friends. We ordered way too much food catered from the GQ “Tex Mex” and a colorful local Afro-Reggae band. This is the same band that played at the welcome dinner put on for new staff by our Board Chair the beginning of the year.
As the evening begins to wind down, the lead male singer begins singing and dancing through the audience soliciting tips. This isn’t so bad, but it’s his approach and quite frankly, frightening appearance that is a bit unnerving. The fact that he’s an albino is not shocking of itself, but coupled with an enlarged, protruding belly button that sticks out a few inches and suggestive dancing is. So, when he removes his shirt, smears white paint on his face, then pelvic thrusts his way through the audience singing “bang, bang, bang”, which quickly clears a wide path as people flee, in an attempt to solicit tips….well, it makes for an interesting night. If you’re brave, watch the video below.
I’ve also included a video update our our apartment that I shot back in March when Greg was out of town: new paint, some cool local artwork, and a menagerie of plants. I also talk about the plethora of items given us in our Christmas gift baskets, an interesting and generous tradition here.
I suppose that’s all for now. My next post will probably be some pictures from the Swiss trip, then it’s the rapid count-down to the end of the year, a trip across the world back to our much missed home aboard the S/V Journey. Hope to see you all soon.