Lagos Got Me Like…

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I’m tired. ::sigh::  I’m humbled and thankful, but exhausted.  Over the past week, I have spent over 30 hours on an airplane and gosh knows how many hours being patted down, having my bags searched and sitting at the various airports.  “Where did you go?” you might be wondering, “Was it someplace fun? Was it a vacation?” Well, not exactly.  I can say that it WAS warm.  Much warmer than the weather I am currently experiencing.  The country I was in was in the upper 80’s/low 90’s and it is currently 45 degrees here and quite blustery.  Brrr…. talk about a shock to the system!  That is about it as far as the niceties go though.  You see, the country I went to is not a tourist destination.  It isn’t known as a vacation hot-spot.  It isn’t viewed as a safe location and you have to look beyond the exterior facade to see the beauty that the city holds.  I just came back from…. Lagos, Nigeria.

Why on earth would you go to Lagos!?!  Well, before I even venture into that topic, let’s settle into more about this neglected country.  Nigeria is said to be a fairly wealthy country, yet it is stricken with horrendous poverty.  You see it wherever you go.  As you drive through the city of Lagos, people walk between the cars, goods in their hands or with baskets on their heads, peddling their wares.  Sometimes you will see little kids come up and bang on the windows, begging for naira.  Every corner and side street is full of people hawking items, trying to make a living.  Taxi drivers will even chase you down to attempt to get a fare if they see you walking down the road.  It is an overload of the senses no matter what time of the day or night you go out.  It never ends….

Just about every building worth anything of value is gated off, with most having security at the gate.  The walls have barbed wire, jagged glass or spikes on top to deter unwanted guests.  Next to a nice building will be a little shanty that looks like it will fall over at any given moment.  Half built buildings held up by bamboo poles are everywhere because funding ran out halfway through the project.

Some other issues Lagos has: the water in is not safe to drink, so you have to be careful to only get bottled water.  The power grid is very unstable, so it is quite normal for power outages to happen a couple times a day (but they may not be very long).  Traffic in Lagos is pure chaos, you must accept this.  One night, it took us 3 hours (3 HOURS!) to get to a restaurant for dinner.  It was some of the best food I have ever had, but I don’t know if I would make a three hour trip for it.  Once our bellies were full, we hopped back in the van and drove 20 minutes back to the hotel.  Yeah, you heard that right.  It took 3 hours to get there and only 20 minutes to get back.  Ridiculous!

Although terrorism in Lagos is not as bad as it is in other parts of Nigeria, it is not as safe as other countries either.  It is best to travel in groups and to be aware of where you are going.  I wouldn’t travel alone and I wouldn’t travel anywhere where you aren’t familiar with.  There were times I felt uncomfortable traveling at night just around the block my first night there.  You see cops EVERYWHERE.  They are at most intersections, though I think they are more like lawn ornaments; most of the time they aren’t actually directing traffic.  You will see tactical teams, customs patrol, etc all around.  Cops are not armed, unless they are…. by that I mean that cops do not carry sidearms (pistols).  They either walk around with nothing or they are armed with assault rifles.  It is all or nothing in Nigeria- it is actually rather intimidating.

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With all the mess that Lagos is, it makes up for with culture and random moments or places of beauty will pop out.  Among a section of dilapidated houses that are mostly in ruin, will sit a sculpture garden (WHAT!?!), a modern hotel will sit amongst a bunch of unfinished buildings.  Marble is very common in Nigeria, so many of the nicer buildings have it all over the place.  It seems that most of the nicer places to live are apartment buildings, but I did see some houses in other sections of Lagos. Lagos has a beautiful lagoon too, which you’ll see many fisherman in little boats pushing their way through the water via poles.

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So what else does Lagos offer?

The food is FANTASTIC!  Although they don’t really understand what a “vegetarian” is, they were quite accommodating of my dietary needs and I found plenty to eat.  Pescetarians and carnivores will be plenty happy!  I did eat at one excellent restaurant ran by a Nigerian/Polish man and he was quite familiar with vegetarians/vegans and had several things on his menu.  Luckily for me, the place is nearby the apartment I’ll be staying at when I go back! (WIN!!!)  All the wines and beers that I tried were also excellent.  I don’t know if I had any native Nigerian wine, but the Nigerian beer (Star Light and Gulder) were pretty good.  Star light reminded me of Michelob Light.  I’m not sure what Gulder reminded me of.  I do know I preferred Gulder though.

I think the best thing Lagos has to offer is the people.  Lagosians are so incredibly hospitable and kind.  Everyone I met during my trip was quite generous and friendly and I made some genuine friendships and connections.  They are a proud bunch and are striving to make a change in their city and country.  They know how to laugh and have a good time and will share what they have with you, but they are also hard workers and want answers too.  The people are what won me over the most.  Without them, Lagos would be lost.  It would be hopeless, lost to greed and corruption…

It wasn’t until I got back from my trip and reacquainted myself with my old surroundings that things really began to set in.  The things I took for granted I had already realized, because they were smacking me in the face over in Nigeria the entire time.  It was the subtle things that were gnawing at me.  How could people I have only known a few days impact me so much?  Why was it that I already wanted to go back?  Or is it that I never wanted to leave?  How is it that I can best help these people?  Am I even able to help tackle this HUGE of a problem?  Do I really want to be over there so much?

All these questions were washing over me to the point that I felt like I was going to drown.  I was glad to be home, yet wanted to go back.  No, I was longing to go back.  Yeah, that’s better.  My luggage broke while I was over there and the first day I was back I already went out and dropped a shit load of cash on some NICE luggage.  More than I should have, but it has a ten year warranty, so this shit better fu$%’n last!  Then I had to chuckle at myself because I’m not even going back over there for a couple months!  I’m like a kid at Christmas or something….

What is it about a place that impacts us so much?  Here I am planning and saving to go to India and I spend all my money so my husband can come to Lagos with me and I’m back at zilch again.  Then, I make money while I am over there and then I spend that shit on luggage to go back to Lagos!  Okay, I get it… I’m not meant to go to India now, but WHEN!!!!???!!!

Obviously, I’m meant to go in another direction for now.  Or, maybe I’m not meant to go to India at all.  Who knows.  By what I’ve seen, Lagos could use some yoga, but I have no idea how that could work.  They certainly couldn’t pay that much for it over there and it seems rent for buildings is pretty high.  I do know that I wouldn’t feel safe driving out to places to teach yoga, so that is out.  We shall see.  All will come in time.

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