I am writing to you from Lagos, Nigeria. I am staying at the Southern Sun hotel on Victoria Island. The food is plentiful and very good. The lighting in the room is absolutely fantastic! Not only are there two lights on either side of the bed, they each have directional reading lights! There is also a directional light on the desk. I’m in heaven being able to work and read without strain.
At night, they turn down your bed and leave a mint on your pillow. There are very friendly guards on every floor and if you need anything at all (in my case, an iron and ironing board- then someone to fix the shower light) they are there in a flash.
Downstairs outside there are at least 3 or 4 gentlemen to help you in and out of the car and carry anything you need carried (when I arrived, that included three heavy suitcases). After shopping for water at ShopRite, that included carrying two bags full of water bottles.
The shower is wonderful- with a hand held spray as well as an overhead rain spray that I really enjoy. The bed is firm and comfortable, the pillows exactly firm and soft enough. When you open the door, you put your room card into a slot that turns on the lights and the air conditioner. You just have to remember to take it out and with you when you leave the room.
Can you tell that I like my room and this hotel? Oh, also the young woman who was the hostess at breakfast and lunch today was exquisite, wearing the national dress. I hope to get a picture of her tomorrow!
The trip here was very long but relatively uneventful. The leg from Madison to Detroit went quickly. They tagged my heavy carry on bag, so I didn’t have to worry about someone lifting it up and down from the overhead luggage rack.
During the over 7-hour leg from Detroit to Amsterdam, I found that I really couldn’t sleep in the plane. I read and then got up and walked the aisles. I had a four-hour layover in Amsterdam, so I walked around, checked out the duty free shop, and then saw that I could get on the Internet for a fee. So I did, to purchase and download books from Barnes and Noble for my Nook.
Since I read a book a day, usually I bring library paperbacks with me. That wasn’t practical for a month and half trip, so I purchased a Nook e-reader and I’m enjoying it. Most of the books I bought were less than a dollar!
The only unpleasantness occurred when I went through security for KLM Dutch Airlines to get on the plane to Lagos. I had someone put my bag on the conveyer belt and when it went through, I asked the KLM fellow at the other end if he would take it down for me, explaining about my surgery and weight restriction.
The young guy proceeded to lecture me that carry on meant I should be able to carry it on- and continued in that vein for a few minutes. At the end, he said that he would put it down for me just this one time. Good grief! I wanted to kick him!!
Then they said that my bag was too large to carry on with me, so they tagged it and sent it to baggage. That was actually fine with me. However, I felt singled out when I watched dozens of folks carrying much larger bags onto the plane!
While I was waiting to board, the waiting room was packed. A young Nigerian in a natty suit moved his luggage so I could sit down. I learned that his name was Edmund and he was returning to Nigeria from Italy after an absence of 2.5 years from his wife and children. Apparently he was able to find work for a while there, but then the work dried up.
When I sat down on the plane, Edmund was seated next to me across the aisle. And after we landed, he took responsibility for taking my luggage off of the conveyer belt. A very nice guy.
Getting on to the plane was a real trip. The Nigerians do not cue up. When it was time to board, they moved en masse to the gateway. The KLM representative kept repeating that only those in seats 25-42 should board- but after about 10 minutes she gave up!
But back on the plane, three things to tell you about. First, I overheard the lead stewardess talking to the man in front of me who apparently got pain in his ears when the cabin pressure changed. She told him that he needed to use a nose spray- and then went and got him small capsules to use! Talk about amazing service!
Second, it was a treat to watch some of the Nigerian women (mostly much older) come in wearing their beautiful dresses and headdresses.
Third, during the last hour of the7-hour flight to Lagos, an older woman at the end of my aisle started singing and got louder and louder. She was singing in her language and I definitely didn’t know the words or the melody.
Once at Lagos, we had over an hour wait to get through customs. Again, no one just simply lines up. Everyone jostles to move forward and if you’re not aggressive (and even on a good day with lots of sleep, I’m not!) you could get pushed to the end of the crowd very easily. I got behind someone who was good at moving forward, so I was able to, also.
A small complaint. After getting all sorts of shots so I would have the necessary yellow card, every time someone asked for my passport I included the yellow card and every time they just pushed it back to me. No one ever looked at it!!
It took another 30-40 minutes for all three of my bags to appear. A porter came over and got me out to the curb, where approximately 10 taxi drivers descended on me. Luckily, I saw Ben Ben (who was my welcome wagon and ride to the hotel). I followed him through the 90-degree humid evening (about 9 p.m.) over ruts, holes in the road, and around huge crowds of people and cars stopped, beeping, and speeding around us. Just as I was going to get into the car, Edmund came over and introduced me to his wife!
It took about a half hour to get to the hotel, where all of the staff were friendly and welcoming. Tricia, my American contact, came down to greet me. It was nice to finally meet her face to face. We all made plans to meet mid morning and off I went to my room.
There it took a while to get onto the Internet so that I could Skype call anyone- by the time that Jenny and I connected, I was completely wiped out. So she kindly made the calls I had planned to make, announcing my safe arrival.
Deb in Lagos, March 5
Breakfast included scrambled eggs made to order, fresh fruit, smoked salmon! Yogurt and a roll. Then I went upstairs to iron some clothing until Tricia got back from a meeting.
We rolled the two suitcases full of training materials (I had mailed one to her to bring with her from D.C.) and got into the car with the driver, Ayo.
Thank goodness for his ability and quick reflexes. I’ll try to explain the drive from the hotel to the office.
No one obeys any signals or signs. The cars speed, all trying to get into the same lanes (assuming there were lanes). Then we have zillions of motor scooters usually with 2-3 people on them, weaving in and out of the traffic. Then the people standing in the middle of the road hawking everything from mirrors to water to shoe racks! Then the people on the side of the road selling things. There are no sidewalks, so there are also people walking. It’s a madhouse.
The poverty of the place is apparent from all of the dingy broken concrete huts, hovels- there are slums along the roads- there is a water slum with broken huts on stilts. Every now and then, you see someone (usually a woman) walking with something huge balanced on her head (they wrap a cloth in a circle, put that on their head so they can balance whatever it is).
There are what look like bar umbrellas here and there, selling anything and everything.
There is a constant stream of humanity, as well as huge crowds of people just standing.
When we got to the office, Tricia warned me that it would smell of mothballs, because they have them throughout the rooms. We’re thinking it has to be an insect repellant strategy but we’re going to ask Ben Ben about it tomorrow (if we remember).
It took quite a while to get everything else together for the training, then we (Tricia, Ben Ben and I) piled into the car and took off for the hotel where the training will be held.
Something I noticed was that any building of any import (business or hotel) has a guardhouse that you have to get through. If it doesn’t, you have to honk so they check out your car before they open the gate. There are high walls with barbed wire around every building. In some places, it looks like what I imagine a war zone would be like.
At the hotel, the manager introduced herself, welcomed us and led us to the training room. There were heavy wooden tables lined up in a long U with about 15 staff people sitting there. She explained that they were all there waiting to find out how to set up the room. And by golly, they all got involved. In all my years of training, I have NEVER had that much help.
When I went to stand on a chair to put up a kite on the wall, three men hurried over to do it for me. I could certainly get used to that!!
One exciting moment occurred when I plugged in the power strip I brought. There was a large pop! No one told me that the electric current was much higher than in the states. Needless to say, it got fried. Luckily, the LCD projector plugged into it at the time survived unscathed. That would have been terrible if I had ruined it.
There will be fifteen people in the training, which runs from Tuesday through Friday. They are all staying at the hotel with the training room. When I asked Tricia if they were coming from out of town, she said no, they are all from Lagos. But the traffic is so terrible, there would be no guarantee that they would get to the training room if they weren’t already staying there. Tricia and I will be the only ones traveling back and forth. We’re leaving at 7 a.m. tomorrow, even though the training starts at 9, because we don’t know what to expect.
Now it’s time for me to go to bed.