About a year and a half ago, I posted a blog titled Staying Sane While Away. The purpose was to give a few snippets of what our daily life looks like in Lagos. Much, of course, has happened between now and then, so I thought it would be a good time to throw out a few more tidbits of what we’ve been up to this school year- events and happenings that don’t necessarily merit an entire blog dedicated individually, but enough material when cobbled together to add up to an interesting read. Here it goes; some happenings about town, a change or two to our routine, and a few side notes.
You’ve probably realized by now that I really enjoy cooking. On the rare days that I haven’t already completely planned-out dinner before I’ve finished making breakfast, I’ll work through the remaining details during my afternoon run. I pay attention to particulars like the interplay between colors and textures, liberal use of fresh herbs, and intermingling of contrasting yet complementary flavors. I generally organize meals by theme, especially lunch and dinner. One night it be an ethnic focus (Think: Mexican, Italian or Asian), or maybe I’m trying to ameliorate a particularly stressful day or week at work (Focus: comfort food), or perhaps I’m just working through a new way to reimagine some leftovers.
But why would I cook when the Lagos norm is to have your Steward or Stewardess do it for you? Aside from issues around quality control, taste preferences and a desire for healthy meals, time in the kitchen is ‘me’ time. I quickly find my happy spot- glass of wine in one hand, tunes in the background (80’s mix, jazz or classic rock are favorites) poised over a bubbly concoction as I add a little of this, stir in a little of that, until I’ve attained a synchronous amalgam of tastes and smells. At least, that’s the hope; it doesn’t always work out the way. My kitchen failures are pretty rare, but they can be quite epic. But, like running, I appreciate the repetitive nature of chopping and slicing, grating and stirring so try, try again I do. Best part of all? Greg loves my cooking and appreciates the thought, time and love that goes into it- and he’s willing to try just about anything, even the failures.
Cutting Greg’s Hair
I no longer cut Greg’s hair as a way to pass the time. It should be clear from the picture below that Greg no longer sports long locks, or really any locks at all since he started
shaving his head last summer. This is great news for me, not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy cutting his hair, but because I LOVE him with a shaved head. In fact, it took nearly two years of not-so-subtle hints that I thought he’d look great with a shaved head and should give it a try. He finally took the plunge last summer. Gorgeous! Greg generally takes care of the shave when he’s in the shower, but per request, he did let me try my hand at scraping away the stubble. I did a great job, if I do say so myself, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to try an old-fashioned straight-edge shave on his head; I’ll leave that to the professionals. Suffice to say, I miss our bi-monthly, not-so-professional clipping sessions, but I do love his smooth, new look!
Disease Du Jour- The 2015 Ebola outbreak made for an interesting start to our new life in Nigeria, arriving in Lagos (via diplomatic passport) just three days after our own transit through Muhammad Murtala airport the end of July 2014. I wrote a brief blog posting titled The ‘E’ Word on August 9 to address our friends and families understandable concerns. I won’t rehash all that happened last year, other than to reminisce that I was finishing my Administrator’s Certificate as the E Word crisis was unfolding. Needless to say, I think I won the “Most Interesting Internship” award from my profs back in the US. Unfortunately, with a year-round tropical climate and basic infrastructure issues, Nigeria seems to create a perfect storm of conditions that breeds nasty buggies that eventually make their way through the food chain to us. This year is no different with another variety of haemmoraghic fever-type disease called Lassa fever. This one is spread by rats, the ‘multimammate’ variety to be specific.
According to this CNN article, the rats are good ‘reservoirs’, transmitting the disease by infecting grains that are then consumed by humans, or simply when rats are consumed. Yep, you read that right. Now I’m fairly adventurous, and I’ve consumed a thing or two in the name of cultural sensitivity that I definitely haven’t wanted to eat- case in point; hot stone and mutton soup conveniently packaged in a sheep stomach when living in Mongolia- but a platter of rat is over the top. A second career as host of Bizarre Foods West Africa is not in my future.
The problem with having a reputation to live up to is well, living up to that reputation. After being widely recognized as winning the unofficial ‘Best Costume’ award two years running, Greg and I are already brainstorming what our Halloween 2016 costume will be. Halloween 2014, you’ll recall we went as a ‘Couple of Babes’ with Greg sporting a New Year Babe’s sash and diaper while I was wearing the more sensible impossibly tight black outfit with an over-stuffed top topped off with a platinum blonde wig. This past Halloween, you’ll see below that we went as a boxing couple; I was the boxer, Greg was my ring girl and this year, he wore the wig. And lipstick. Okay, and I’ll admit I put a little bit blush on him as well. We had a local tailor make Greg’s top and skirt, and I can’t even tell you what that conversation was like. I told Greg he had to explain what he wanted to the man because I didn’t think I could do it without laughing. Suffice to say, the tailor was confused, but willing, since money was involved. I’m sure he’s still trying to figure it all out.
For this upcoming October, Greg has reasonably decided that he probably can’t pull-off an appropriate outfit much smaller than the last two years- to do so would clearly blurring the line of what is appropriate. But, I think we have a couple pretty solid ideas that we’re playing around with, and we’re hoping we will retain our costume hall of fame reputation- and perhaps a bit more of Greg’s dignity…or not. But, dignity intact or not, Greg is a great sport. Mum’s the word on what we’re planning; you’ll have to check-back next year, if you dare.
I researched how to make a proper black eye.
It seems there’s always opportunities to dress-up around here; for school events, monthly Flat-Rat parties, work-related evenings and special invitations extended us because of Greg’s position. Here’s an assorted laundry list of different events we’ve attended this school year.
Nigerian Culture Day– the school celebrates a different major Nigerian region or tribe each year; this year we celebrated the North with a representative from Kano State coming to the school. I loved our outfits, compliments of the PTO, and it was a very successful event. There were about four horses and riders demonstrating horse racing (Durbar), a tradition from the North. The riders would race back and forth on the back field, tearing up the grass in mock competition. The kids loved it and it was fun to see. I don’t think a trip up North, where much of the troubles in Nigeria brews and stews, is in our near future. This is unfortunate. So, if you’re interested in someone’s perspective about a real Durbar that has actually traveled up North, here’s a detailed write-up from their blog. In our picture, I’m holding Pirata, the little Lego pirate Sam gifted me with last summer to remind us of Journey and our roguish, sailor ways…I’ve added her into Miss Chicken Adventures.
Diwali– we attended this last year, too. The Indian families that attend our school are gracious hosts; inviting all the teachers, their spouses and kids to attend. Many of our students performer, so it’s a fun family event that’s over-the-top with Bollywood singing and dancing, amazing (but spicy!) Indian food, and colorful sari’s for the ladies…what a fun event!
AISL’s 50th Anniversary Gala- Last year was AISL’s 50th anniversary, and the PTO sponsored an amazing black-tie event. There were performances, speeches, a nice
dinner all set in one of the local 5-start hotels. We all walked the red carpet and were transported to a different time and place for one evening. I’ll admit to spending some time thinking about the kind of dress I wanted to wear that night; I was looking for an over-the-top glam gown that was slightly scandalous, yet still tasteful. I ended-up buying something when I was back in the DC-area for training last summer, and I think it was perfect; floor-length midnight blue sequins with a plunging neckline (though not much scandal possible there on this girl) and an even plungier (is that a word?) back. Greg, as always, looked quite dapper in his Tux.
Middle School Valentine’s Dance– I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with school dances when I was in Middle School. For three long years, I was the shy kid in the corner desperate to be asked to dance by a boy. It did happen- a grand total of one time in my three-year stint at Lincoln Savage. At least I wasn’t the girl crying in the bathroom; there was always plenty of other girls playing that role. For me, Middle School was just a long, awkward, uncomfortable stretch of time to get through. I suppose that’s one of the underlying reasons why I was drawn to middle school as a teacher; I have such vivid memories of my experiences and hoped that I could somehow make it a bit more tolerable for my students that struggle with it as well. So, I find it somehow soul cleansing to attend our middle school dances with a completely different frame of reference now that I’m an adult, married to a wonderful partner and beyond caring about ‘fitting in’.
Marine Ball- Greg and I also attended the Marine Ball when we lived in Bolivia. We enjoyed that event, but we both agree that the Lagos Marine Ball was special. I’m not sure if it was the venue or knowing more people in attendance, but it felt more intimate and inclusive. It’s always interesting to see who goes to these things, and of course, it’s always fun to dress up!
Who Dun’it Murder Mystery Party-
It turned-out that neither I- the glamorous, haughty, spoiled (and quite crazy) socialite didn’t do it; nor Greg- the attentive fashion designer- committed murder that night. Though I will say, it was stifling hot with a million mosquitoes
feasting upon our flesh… I was ready to kill by the time the case was solved. Despite the heat and incessant buzz of mosquitoes in your ear, it was a great way to spend a Saturday night in Lagos. You will notice that Greg is measuring me for his latest creation, an ‘Oyibo’ inspired design straight from Naija-Land. Aaah, I married an artiste…
Grand Opening of Hard Rock Cafe- The ironic part, of course, is that neither Greg nor I have been to a Hard Rock Cafe anywhere in the world, so being invited to the VIP grand opening in Lagos was somewhat surreal for us. It was everything you’d expect- the very wealthy and elite local Nigerians and local expat community, along with regular people like us that happened to score an invite due to position or some other arbitrary
reason. It was crowded and loud; they had live singers with dancers performing a hip hop routine, the requisite ribbon cutting ceremony- which was actually guitar-smashing on stage by the VIP management that were attending. As to be expected, folks were enjoying the gratis drinks and we heard that upwards of 1500 tickets had been sold for the event. I’m guessing the party really ramped up, much later in the wee hours of the morn, long after we had made our way home. It was fascinating, and I appreciate that we were invited to the hottest spot in Lagos that night, but I can’t say that it was exactly a normal night out for us…I am thankful every day that I married a homebody like me!
So, that’s pretty much it folks. Most of our time is truly spent at work, or at home recovering from a long week at work, but we do manage to get out and about occasionally. I need to post pictures and a write-up from October break- we spent a week in Cape Town with Greg’s eldest daughter, Nicole, seeing the sights, wine tasting and indulging in fabulous steaks. I probably won’t get to it as tomorrow is our final day of spring break, but I’ll get there, eventually. It was an amazing trip and it will be fun to share.