Well, time and deadlines got away from me, but here’s a post I started the end of November. New Year’s Resolution? Do a better job keeping my blog posts timely…
It’s officially the last day of November. We’re at the tail-end of the four-day Thanksgiving weekend that had great promise of lasting forever when examined at noon on Friday, but now seems to have flown by in a whirlwind of baking turkey and pies, time spent with friends, and the inevitable call of work to be done for school. Ah well, in just three short weeks we should be off to Spain for a couple weeks of R&R and some adventure to boot. We need it. But, don’t start feeling sorry for us yet! Though we’ve been incredibly busy with school events and the requisite socializing that goes along with being the resident Oga (Greg, not me!), the events we’ve attended have been interesting cultural affairs, physical challenges, and a bit of Americana thrown in to boot. Let me begin with Diwali.
Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrating the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, which is interestingly enough, also the name of one of my students. (Hmmm…note to self: make sure Lakshmi passes her English final next week.) Where was I? Ah, Diwali in Lagos. This year, our amazing Indian community pulled out all the stops by inviting all the teachers to join in their celebration of Diwali complete with a two-hour cultural program, tons of amazing Indian food and they even had beautiful Sari’s for the ladies that we were swathed in upon entering the gym. It was a great way to spend a Friday evening with friends and I loved seeing my students performing and playing host to their cultural heritage.
If you’re interested in knowing more about Diwali, click below: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/religion/hinduism/diwali.shtml
Our next event was held back at the Lagos Yacht Club. Now, it’s fun to say “Yes, we went to another event at the Lagos Yacht Club” with a snobby affect to your voice. But, you’ve got to realize that there is absolutely nothing snobby about this particular yacht club because truly, like much of Lagos, it looks like a bombed-out relic from yester-year. Okay, maybe not that bad, but there’s nothing high-brow about this place, which for us, is part of the charm. What’s great about the Yacht Club is that they host really fun events and it’s offers us a break from being on campus. We’ll be joining some time after Greg brings some of our boat gear back from Oly in February. I wonder if they have reciprocal agreements that we can use when we’re sailing in the San Juan’s? Maybe not. At any rate, we went to the annual “Sail Around the World” fest which is basically a bunch of country-themed booths with lots of food and even more alcohol. Can you guess what was at the American booth? Yep: hot dogs, potato salad, and Jello shots, all the best food America has to offer. I had my first…lick… of a Jello shot. I just couldn’t stomach it, so I kinda licked the top just to say I’ve had one and threw the rest away. Ugh.
Part of the reason I didn’t imbibe too much at the dinner was due to an early morning 10K the next day. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fast runner so I’ve made running races in weird places my schtick. It seems to work for me as I love the little eccentrics that seem to accompany local races. For example, our driver Desire was able to literally drive right up to the starting line to drop me off. And, while I was pleasantly surprised at the number of water stations on the course, I would have appreciated a square or two of toilet paper in the porta potty. But, they do say the devil’s in the details, and like most of the countries we’ve lived, starting events on-time seems to be one of those details. Another detail that seemed to get lost in the shuffle of competitors was providing us with race numbers. This played out in an interesting way. We had registered online for the event, but there didn’t seem to be any sort of record of registrants at the starting line. So, as I ran, course officials would call out for my number as I passed checkpoints; I simply shrugged my shoulders and kept going. The finishing line officials were clearly irritated that we didn’t have numbers, but I did appreciate being handed a finishing place ticket which was a torn piece of cardboard with my finishing place scrawled across. Ah, details.
Regardless, you don’t need a number to run, so four of us from school, three other Oyibo’s (foreigners) and a couple hundred Nigerians took off promptly 45-minutes to an hour after the scheduled starting time. But, not before we were led in a vigorous round of warm up calesthenics all to the beat of Nigerian rap. Though still early in the morning, the humidity index had me looking like I had just stepped out of the shower within the first ten minutes. This became a mild issue as I had effectively lost so much liquid and electrolytes from excessive perspiration that I started having nausea and muscle cramping the final mile. Despite the discomfort, I did enjoy seeing a different part of the city, and as always, I took the “helpful” comments of bystanders in stride. The Nigerian police did an okay job of closing off the bridge part of the time to traffic and their presence at points along the course made me feel safe running through the city. I was glad that one of the teachers that ran the race last year warned me to watch out for the missing manhole covers on the bridge; plummeting three stories to the road or water below seems like a bad ending. All in all, it was another tick on my list of interesting places to run, and I even managed to come in 14th place (women’s division) despite the nausea.
Our next event was celebrating Nigerian Culture Day at school. This is an annual school wide event complete with dancing, music, men on stilts beating out a tune on “The Tallest Drum in Africa”, and special guest appearances by world-renowned musician, King Sunny Ade. Some of you may have listened to his juju music in the 70’s as he brought attention to Afropop. Here’s an article from Rolling Stone if you want to learn more.
This year, NCD coincided with our school’s 50th anniversary celebration, so the entire school was dressed in the same official cloth. It was great fun to see the many renditions of outfits sewn by different tailors and seamstresses. Not exactly “every day” dress, but it was great fun to be Mr. and Mrs. Oga for the day. Next year we’ll be able to use whatever African inspired fabric we desire so I’m planning on having something outrageous and colorful made to mark the day.
Below is a video of some highlights from the day. The quality isn’t great, but gives you an idea of the incredible mix of singing, dancing and celebrating we experienced this day, amazing.
Nigerian Culture Day Video Highlights
Our final event before the rush to Christmas break was Thanksgiving. Now, I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in a number of countries and in a number of ways:
- At a Bedouin safari camp close to the Med in Egypt.
- Enjoying a traditional pasta dinner in Malta.
- Making do with a pork roast and traditional sides in Mongolia.
- Doing it up right with a traditional bird and way too many sides in Bolivia.
- All the works (bird, stuffing, pies, sides) aboard Journey in my small, but well-equipped galley.
- Ordering-up an overpriced bird in Jakarta.
…but I can’t say that I’ve ever had the opportunity to feast THREE TIMES in less than seven days:
- Parent Teacher Organization Thanksgiving lunch for faculty.
- GQ Club Thanksgiving Dinner for AISL teachers.
- Flat Rat Thanksgiving brunch.
It took a lot of stamina to make it through the week, but we somehow managed. For the Flat Rat brunch, I was one of two people that made a turkey and stuffing. I also made a pecan pie, but was under strict orders that it was for our consumption only. I agreed since pecan pie is Greg’s absolute favorite and I will only make it once (or twice if I’m feeling generous) a year. The irony of course is that I still have another turkey in our deep freezer but I just haven’t managed to summon the (energy, courage, will) to partake. I’m thinking after Greg returns from his 2 1/2 weeks conference-hiring bonanza will be a good time to pull-out some home cooked comfort.
Hmmm….back to that New Year’s resolution. I still have our travels in Spain to share, the round of karaoke we did (well, Greg did) last night, food that’s been cooked and countless other asides. But, it is Sunday and I do have a full slate of work ahead of me today so I’ll have to save another update for next weekend.
Thanks for taking the time to share your amazing life with us!
Funny, the details so Lagos…no manhole covers! Thanks for including me. Brings back some memories!