Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tour Time!

Want to take a ride on the wild side? 
Tour Lagos in this bus
 offering the following amenities:
 flow through ventilation
unobstructed views  
freedom from seat belts
handles for the "occasional" bump
authentic city smells 
vintage styling
seats 14-20
Discounted rates are available!   :) 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Operation Domicile

Thursday morning, bright and early, I just knew that the moving company was on the way to our flat.  They hadn't shown up the day before as promised (see previous post) and I was optimistic that "today, today" was here!  They didn't disappoint and showed up at 12:30 pm to let me know that the moving truck had a flat tire and was stranded somewhere on the side of the road.   The man 'in-charge' had been waiting for over 2 hours downstairs and just thought he would check to see if I was HOME!   

Thankfully, they arrived with one large truck and lots of help at 3:30 pm.  Mutiu was waiting at the guard gate to help clear security and finagle the details.  Even though yesterday's guard approved the container for entry into our compound, today's guard felt the truck was too big to make the short turns.  So, the truck was parked on the street and the contents were reloaded into a van, then driven into the compound - multiple times.  

The men in red shirts work for the moving company.  We started off with nine workers,
but somehow ended up with 13 men to dash (tip).   Apparently it's common for 'extras' to join in the fun!  :)    

They were able to fit an UNBELIEVABLE amount of furniture into the van.  It helped that the back door didn't close and it was held on by rope.  

Our coach is being loaded on top.  Notice the paper starting to come off? 

It's loaded, but you can't see the boxes on the front hood!

Nothing is strapped on, so one guy held on to the things at the back  and another
sat on the hood. I am constantly amazed at the ability to balance things here, and
furniture was no exception. 
Check out the moving guy in FLIP-FLOPS to unload furniture!   

When they came around the corner with mattresses on top of the van, I thought they would come sliding off as they made very speedy turns to get to our building!

Miraculously, the only thing damaged from the move was our bed.  They put a little glue and 2 screws in it and fixed it immediately. It's not attractive, but it is functional. :)  I am learning not to sweat the small stuff!  We also ended up with one missing box and 4 extra ones, so I am just calling it even - and everyone seems happy!

The movers promised to return first thing Friday morning to assemble the furniture and arrived around 11:00 am.  They began with the dining table and chairs.  I offered the instructions which I carried from Houston and was told, "We don't need instructions, Madam.  I can do it."    So, when I returned to check on them 30 minutes later, the same fellow was sitting with 2 screws in hand, a completed chair and a dumbfounded look on his face.  I asked if those were extra pieces in his hand, and he replied "Yes, Madam".  I jokingly said - "Oh, a bonus!"  He smiled and agreed, then jumped up ready to start the next project.  I had to stop and explain that I was joking and that having two extra pieces wasn't  acceptable, so he went back to his task.  However, we did end up being short a few screws for the last chair.  I'm sure that the situation has been solved since I telephoned the store in Houston and they are shipping the screws to AFRICA.  They seemed bothered that I ordered the furniture in January and am just NOW reporting the missing screws.  I hope the pieces arrive in time for Christmas! 

The movers were very pleasant and worked hard.  They did most tasks multiple times before they were accomplished.  It had to be frustrating for them, but it had great entertainment value for me.  The first clue was the metal shelves which I asked them to assemble for the laundry room.  I wish I had thought to take a picture since not one shelf was on straight!  They redid it five times before it was workable.   In the meantime, another guy was working on an IKEA sofa table.  He finished it, but the raw wood was facing the front on half of the pieces.  He had a good attitude about changing it, but he reversed ALL the pieces, so the second attempt showed the "other" pieces were backwards.  He took it totally apart again and 5 other men got involved for over an hour arguing and discussing.  This time, all the shelves were facing the same direction, but the ends faced the wrong way!   I actually felt sorry for the guy when he started rebuilding it the fourth time!  One hundred percent of everything that they assembled was wrong the first time - ONE HUNDRED percent!!  I would just smile and point out the obvious and they would smile and just start over!  The last piece was the media cabinet which had a shelf across the top of two bookshelves.  They called me excitedly like children - "Madam, Madam, come look!  We did it right the FIRST time!"  They were so proud.  I really hated to tell them that the shelves were indeed right, but the back happened to be nailed to the front side!!  We have some nail holes to fix, but other than that, we are in good shape! 

After a few days, all boxes have been unpacked and everything is put away.  It feels good to be completely moved in, especially after waiting so long.  However, I do need to go to the markets to find decorative accessories, since our walls are bare.  I thought I'd end this post with a comment that a friend stated as we drove into the market the first time.  "Look around", she told me.  "This is the place that will totally decorate your African home.  It's Nigeria's version of Bed, Bath and Beyond".   Here's a picture of Lekki Market - our favorite home accessory store! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Today, Today OR Tomorrow, tomorrow?

9:48 am - Wednesday, May 18th
Dear Sir,
Top of the day to you!  We r pleased to inform you that we are at the final stage of clearance and are planning on loading your shipment out of the port today.    Kindly confirm if you will be available to receive today your shipment and also confirm your delivery address.  We will appreciate a response from you very soon.   Thank you and best regards.

10:05am, Wed. May 18th
Dear Sir,  
We would welcome our shipment to come today.  Could you please advise an approximate time of delivery, so that we will be ready?   Our address is ......
 Thank you, 
11:20 am, Wed. May 18th
Hello Ma,
Your mail is well received with thanks.  We are looking at loading out around 4pm depending on port activities.  Hope this is fine.  Your shipment will arrive today
Best regards.

It's now 11:30 pm and there is no sign of our shipment.  Based on our experiences so far, I knew that our chances were slim that our personal effects would actually be here today, today.  In Nigeria, 'now, now' means RIGHT now, so we are hoping that our container comes tomorrow, tomorrow! 
After loading our goods from Texas in February, we are thrilled that our things are right around the corner.  Receiving our container is a VERY BIG deal, so I want to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible.   In anticipation this afternoon, I checked with the front security gate to make sure our items will clear easily.  I know that a fee is always involved and determined that we need to pay a  N10,000  "TOLL"  just to get into the entrance.  We tried to negotiate with "da boyz' but they have it written down on a piece of paper for our sized container, so that makes it official.   :)  
I have everyone in place ready to man their stations for tomorrow.  Mutiu (our driver) will be managing the movers....David (jack of all trades) will be standing with our shipment on the street assuring that all boxes which LEAVE the back of the container actually ARRIVE at the elevator - 50 feet away.   I'll be in front of the elevator upstairs (which is beside our front door) checking off box numbers from the master list and Gabriel (our steward) will be watching the movers like a hawk inside our flat. (FYI - My sweet husband will be relaxing on the golf course during this time playing in a 'company' tournament!)   I am prepared with "Dash" money (tips) in the correct denominations and extra naira for the random people who typically show up to carry a box and receive a tip.   I have placed Mutiu in charge of all dashes, so the movers have to impress HIM in order to get paid.   We've spoken to security at two of the three gates and Mutiu will talk to the guards in front of our flat in the morning. I bet most people don't have to go through THIS routine to move - but it is a bit of excitement for us!    I hear that the entire neighborhood enjoys this process too - looking at our things, salvaging the paper/boxes and waiting for whatever is left over!!   

The moving company will only unpack the furniture items, which will be the first time in years that I will unpack my own boxes.  It is my choice due to the theft potential, but I am looking forward to it!!    
We'll also arrange an additional truck for Monday (more dash $$) to return the furniture that we borrowed temporarily.  I wonder if the truck has to pay 'da boyz' to leave the compound?   It may be chaotic for a few days, but it is a very welcomed mess for us to have!   
We are praying that our furniture arrives undamaged, the food products are not crushed or spilled and that ALL boxes arrive together at the correct destination!        

Until tomorrow, tomorrow...


Monday, May 16, 2011

Cheesecake and the Ambassador

The American Women's Club of Lagos hosted a luncheon to celebrate Women's History Month and invited the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria along with many other dignitaries.  
The Civic Center was decorated in American and Nigerian Flags -
a combo of red, white, blue and green.  Small flags were on every table and each guest received a small pin with both flags represented.
My job was protocol, which had to be the best job ever.  I was in charge of the United States Ambassador to Nigeria.   I was briefed by the security team before the Ambassador arrived by boat and then met him on the dock along with the US Consul General and the Vice Consul.  What a priviledge!  The Ambassador flew in from the capital, Abuja, just for this event.  We did a 'meet and greet' in the boat house with other dignitaries of Nigeria and I was able to meet them all.  I don't have pictures in the boat house for obvious reasons, but I would have loved to snap a few close ups!  I didn't think it was appropriate for the protocol person to ask them to pose!   
However, we were allowed to take pictures during the speeches, which was nice. 
The Ambassador explained his role of diplomacy and answered the audience's questions. 
The Consul General also spoke briefly and it was interesting to learn more about their duties.  When asked about their biggest challenges, they talked about local content (more jobs for locals and less for foreigners) and the work they do to promote US business interests in Nigeria.  
The First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Mrs. Goodluck Jonathan) was scheduled to attend, but was unable to come at the last minute.  However, the wife of the Nigerian Speaker of the House gave a welcome and sent greetings from the President's office in her place.  I love her colorful national attire. 
Her Excellency, Princess Sarah Adebisi Sosan (Deputy Governor of Lagos State) also attended. 
 These two ladies were also dressed beautifully. 
I'm not sure who they are, but they sure looked pretty!   :) 
The person that I most enjoyed meeting was Chief (Mrs.) Oluremi Tinubu (in the yellow skirt and head tie), who is the recently elected state senator from Lagos and the past first lady of Lagos State.  She was so personable and we had an enjoyable conversation.  I was able to be her "protocol' representative on the way out and she gave me a big hug at the door.  She invited me to visit at her home anytime, so you just never know when I might drop in!  :) Her husband is very well known as the ex-governor of Lagos state and currently the head of one of the major political parties in Nigeria.   I pass their house daily and it is always crowded with poor and sick people who are asking for help.  They always provide for them and they are loved by the people here. 

  The lady in red is the wife of the Consul General, Kathleen Stafford.  She is so gracious and hospitable and is perfect for the role!  She hosted a table full of other consulate's wives from France, Sweden, Egypt, Italy, Lebanon and Spain.  

The lady with the short hair is Nike (knee - K) who is a prominent artist in Lagos.  She had heartfelt words of gratitude for the ladies of the American Women's Club since they have supported her work through the years, bringing her from poverty to success. 

The lunch was certainly inspirational and I enjoyed being right in the middle of the action!   And....we had CHEESECAKE, which is big treat in Lagos.   Since a 4 oz block of cream cheese here runs over $10 US, we don't get this often, so I enjoyed every bite!  Other than the dignitaries, I think that the cheesecake should have been top billing!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Before we moved to Lagos, a friend mentioned that she had heard of many expats who quilted in Nigeria.  I laughed and stated, "That will be the day when I start quilting".   She thought it was especially funny since my sewing skills have been non-existent.  OK, truth be told, she laughed out loud and the word "Hysterical" was used a few times!  In fact, my good friend does all my sewing for me......patches, valances, etc.. and I have been very grateful.   She came over one day and needed a needle - and the only one I could find came from the little emergency sewing kit obtained from the American Airlines business class travel pack along with 6 colors of thread.  I was deemed hopeless AND happy with the title! :)  

I mentioned to my mother (who is also talented in sewing) about expat women quilting.   We decided that she needed to start worrying about my mental status if she ever heard of me quilting!  She also thought it was funny and actually laughed at the thought of me getting bored enough to start a quilt.   We've had some fun on Facebook just mentioning the "Q" word and that post started a lively discussion of over 25 comments - none of which were especially flattering about my sewing abilities!!! 

OK - friends and family - time to EAT MY WORDS!  I've started quilting!!   
I totally, totally get it now.....The African fabrics are vibrant and fun and oh, so beautiful.  I am getting addicted to fabrics, like I have been addicted to scrapbooking paper in the past.  I love to shop in the outdoor markets and am learning the difference between Wooden, DaVita, Adire, Batik and Java prints.  I have purchased fabric made in Ghana, Nigeria, Benin and Kenya.  The fabrics are so unique and I want to use them all and display them all proudly.  The textures, the color, the patterns, the design - just amazing!  The women here are willing to teach and encourage and many have never sewn in the past either.  But with all these fabulous fabrics, we have to do something - and quilting is the logical answer. 
So the process has begun!!  I bought a rotary cutter and mat from an expat who was moving, then bought a pair of real sewing scissors (my first pair ever!) and a quilting ruler from a friend.  I borrowed a sewing machine from Kristiann and a large electrical converter from Juli.  I copied directions to get started and have spent many luxurious hours just measuring and cutting scraps given to me by new friends.  I have pieces from Lindy's curtains and Juli's skirt, and Sheila's projects along with lots of other patterns from generous friends.  I am making a 'Steps to Freedom" quilt with my African pieces and am thrilled with the process.  
So far, I 've cut out 80+ 4.5 inch black squares, 80+ 4.5 inch strips,  80+ 6.5 inch strips, 80+ 11 inch strips and 4- 2" squares - all shown above.   I am busy laying it all out and putting together the puzzle that will someday be a quilt.  It's a fascinating process and exciting to see the pieces come together.  I am just learning one step ahead, so I don't overwhelm my brain! 
The biggest adventure in international moves is learning new things, with new friends in a new location that I can cherish forever.  I'll let you know how it progresses. 

Grandmother Holt would be so proud!  :) 


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rice Paper Art

I love the personality of these 'kissing' giraffes created on rice paper.  
The artist is the husband of the lady who does the string art shown in an earlier post - so they are a pretty talented/resourceful family.  I was surprised when I attended a bazaar last week to hear my name shouted across the room by the artist.  I guess when you buy
three seperate items on three seperate occasions, she gets to know you quickly. 
 I got a big hug too, so I am making 'friends' easily!!          

 I also discovered a wonderful frame shop called,AFA (African Foundation of the Arts) in Lagos and took my string art and this print in for framing.  I had a total of 8 choices for mats - one shade of each major color, and a reasonable selection of frames.   You should have seen all the "help" I received from the workers of the shop, wanting my prints to be more colorful and bright!  It was a fun experience just making the decisions! 
However, the finished pieces turned out great!  
 I think we are going to definately need an "Africa" room when we get home!  :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

God could not be everywhere,

Therefore he created Mothers

Jewish Proverb

My mother and I on a cruise - July 2010

As is the mother, so is her daughter – Ezekiel 16:4

Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful Mother!!  I am so blessed - and very proud of you too!!  
 There are SO many things which I appreciate and admire about you that I never put into words over the years.  Here are just 100 of them, but there are thousands and thousands more….
I appreciate/admire/thank you for:
1.       Your work as a my life and in the lives of many others.
2.       Your work in the Adult Education Department, supporting the dreams of adults and  challenging them to do their best.   Your encouragement meant the world to many!
3.       Your work in the Curriculum Department, providing your expertise in the needs of Adult Education.
4.       Instilling your strong values in your children and grandchildren.
5.       Supporting us through help with school work and homework - and lots of it!
6.       Your ethics and morals….which are being passed on to your grandchildren.
7.       Sewing costumes (many at the last minute).
8.       For providing braces and root canals and glasses.
9.       Your gift of a college education for me.
10.   Your support of the church and working with the children’s programs as well as Sunday Schools and Vacation Bible Schools.
11.   Your advice and wisdom and counsel .
12.   For encouraging my love of books and for the many, many visits to the library.
13.   For the time spent taking us to doctor’s visits, dentists, orthodontists, eye doctors, etc…
14.   For chauffeuring to dance and school and baton and all the millions of trips in the car…just for us.
15.   For making chocolate chip cookies, homemade ice cream and cupcakes and teaching me how to make them too!   (Also for snow cream and hot chocolate on wintry days!)
16.   For getting up every morning to make us a HOMEMADE breakfast – not just cereal!
17.   Putting and serving others before yourself.
18.   Raising us in a Godly manner and in church.
19.   Living so that your family KNOWS that you love them.
20.   For all the prayers you said for us.
21.   Loving Daddy – 52 years is a shining example of true love and commitment.
22.   Your determination and dedication to your family.
23.   For teaching us to be practical and to think before we act.
24.   For taking thousands of pictures which showed how important we are to you.
25.   For your unending devotion to your children and grandchildren.
26.   Your Christian faith and example  - and leading me to give my heart to the Lord. 
27.   For teaching us right from wrong.
28.   For giving us an appreciation of education which will span generations.
29.   For always expecting the best from us.
30.   Your BEAUTIFUL eyes!!  J
31.   For your encouragement and support in all situations.
32.   For being a Godly woman and teaching me by example.
33.   For staying home with us while we were growing up and putting our welfare above working outside of the home.
34.   Loving all of us through both the good and the bad…
35.   Your dedication to Mamaw and the help and care that you gave to her.
36.   Supporting Grandmother Holt when she needed you most and helping to care for both Grandmother and Granddaddy when they were sick.   
37.   For making holidays and birthdays special and for all the work and effort it took.
38.   Your giving heart in buying us presents.
39.   Teaching me about being creative through your painting and crafts.
40.   Making it fun to see what clothes you bought and laid on my bed for me.
41.   Loving your brothers and sisters and their families and showing your love to them – unselfishly.   Showing us by example the value of extended family. 
42.   Helping us all financially when we needed it.
43.   For teaching me HOW to love my children.
44.   For working so hard to get your college diploma, then continuing on to get your Masters, then your EDS.  It’s very impressive, especially since you had three children at home while you were doing it!
45.   Your ability to share everything you have with us.
46.   For tolerating me during my teenage years of irrational-ness! J
47.   Cooking for every activity,  especially when I needed to bring snacks and cookies at the last minute…
48.   For a surprise birthday party when I turned 18 – and inviting my friends!
49.   Teaching us about life in Pickwick and for Root Beer Floats!
50.   Making homemade pizzas, which were better than any pizza parlor!
51.   Making sure that chocolate covered cherries are always a part of my Christmas present!
52.   Making our birthdays special by allowing us to choose our meals and making us feel like royalty for the day.
53.   Helping me sew curtains for the first time and giving me the confidence that I COULD work with 42 yards of fabric!
54.   Helping out when Chad and Josh were born.  I could NOT have done it without you!
55.   For knowing what to do when Chad stopped breathing and when Josh and Chad both had asthma.
56.   Buying baby clothes and toys and fun things for Chad and Josh.
57.   Your trust in us which has allowed us to trust in ourselves.
58.   Your help in decorating and arranging our MANY homes! 
59.   For tolerating slumber parties, girl scouts, prom dresses and sorority events.
60.   For decorating the upstairs game room with “TEEN” items including colorful carpet and beads in the doorway.
61.   For providing a beautiful wedding for me and for spending the money to give me the wedding of my dreams.
62.   Giving us a love and appreciation for travel – all over the world!
63.   For surprising me with a special headboard when we lived on Sturgeon – making me feel like a princess!
64.   Becoming a travel/cruise expert and working at the travel agency.  We are proud of your knowledge and your help.
65.   Teaching us to be “CRUISERS”!!  Travel is fun on a ship!
66.   For your ability to shop and find very good bargains.
67.   For showing your kindness to those less fortunate and for treating everyone with respect.   
68.   Sitting through many recitals and competitions and parades and rehearsals and programs... 
69.   Being an example of a good friend – and for keeping in touch with lifelong friends.
70.   Accepting and loving Charley as an “adopted” son.
71.   Loving me “just as I am” and supporting our decisions (both good and bad ones). 
72.   Helping with our boys, traveling with them, keeping them when we traveled, supporting them and loving them.
73.   Dressing up as Mr. and Mrs. Pickpocket at Fox Meadows - What fun!
74.   Seeing the value in me taking gymnastics, baton, guitar, dance, piano, jazz, voice, modeling, clarinet & piano lessons!   (Just to name a few!)  
75.   Passing on your quest for knowledge and desire to learn about the world around us.   
76.   Your intelligence!
77.   Cooking and cleaning and washing and ironing and making sure that WE had pride in our home where we lived.  All of your work taught us to take care of our possessions too.
78.   Your generosity with those around you.
79.   Your ability to reach a balance in life, between family and home and church and work and others…
80.   Your ability to guide me when I need it (and I will always need it)
81.   For sending me to charm school!  J
82.   Sacrificing so that we could live in a nice home and take great vacations.Thank you for scrimping and budgeting to give us the things that we needed AND wanted.
83.   Showing us the value of voting – and for campaigning and working the polls. 
84.   Sharing your love for missions and for serving others.
85.   Providing trendy clothes, costumes and shoes and all the "girly" things you allowed me to have…And for all the shopping trips where you hung everything back up for me!
86.   For letting me get my ears pierced and talking Daddy into letting me too! J
87.   For accepting my friends.
88.   For your support as we move around the world.
89.   For accepting Charley’s family and including them in your life too.
90.   For being a wonderful, loving, caring, fabulous Nana.  
91.   Your positive thinking and your inspiration that we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to do - and for your pride in us.  
92.   Your support of my (sad) gardening efforts, even since I didn't inherit your green thumb!
93.   For raising a well-adjusted daughter! J
94.   For giving us wonderful childhood memories of time on the lake in Pickwick and Selmer. 
95.   For loving both sets of families (Holts and Landrums) equally and caring for them above and beyond.
96.   For teaching us to accept people over possessions.
97.   For making us feel that we are important to you.
98.   For allowing me to have pink shag carpet and a pink and purple room – and for designing the most beautiful bedroom imaginable to grow up in…
99.   For my wonderful canopy bed that made me feel special and all the French provincial furniture that went along with it.
100.  For handling life’s difficulties with grace and strength.

And most of all - Thank you for loving me, for providing for me, for teaching me and guiding me and for your unconventional love.  I am lucky to be your daughter!

For I am my Mother’s daughter
Of that I am proud to be
Special women that are the same, yet different
God blessed us with this family tree!
 Happy Mother’s Day!

I love you!