Saturday, 15 September 2007

Its been seven hours and fifteen days.

Things are settling down. We are getting into our groove. The nightly gun fire has disappeared to be replaced by the banging of drums. Empty oil drums that is. There are OPC providing unofficial security in the area and apparently this is how they communicate with themselves. At 2.30 this morning Iyawo literally flew out of bed when the drumming began. As I say it is a lot more defined now that the guns are silent. Yours truly being the man of the house, defender of the weak and protector of the brood muttered platitudes from deep in slumberland whilst she canvassed the place to make sure it was still secure, the kids were still asleep and the guards were awake. Of course if there had been any real drama I would have been all over it like white on rice. For sure.

We are now starting to fall into the rhythm of life in Lagos. Most of the handymen have now taken their ounce of flesh and gone. At one point we were like the home for motherless handymen what with a carpenter, electrician, plumber, generator repair, pool man, mesh man, painter, brick layer, welder etc all over the place. Finally, Iyawo gave the green light that the place is fit for habitation so large sums of money have exchanged hands and all have departed. Some with tears in their eyes. Some will take early retirement. Oga are you sure there is nothing else? Yes there is. It's called bankruptcy and let's not go there.

Things are not going well on the school front. Firstly, the rah rah international school for the big girls has no school uniforms. We have been trying to obtain these for weeks but they still have not arrived. So the kids are having to do with a mixture of second hand stuff or attire that is either too small or too big. Interestingly, the school apparently threatened all students that they only had two days grace for not wearing the full uniform before severe sanctions would be imposed. See the logic? Also despite the heat they are banned from carrying\ drinking water during the school periods. Refreshments only allowed at lunch and after PE. Needless to say I will be popping into the school next week to have a word. Or two.

Things are even more of a disaster for the younger ones. Firstly the promised "special eds" unit that led us to register our daughter at the school over the summer has not materialised. The person who was to set it up has been relieved of his duties and is now back in the UK. On the first day of school Iyawo asked her new teacher (the one we met a few months before who was "specially trained" had also left) where all the teaching materials were being that the classroom was totally bereft of anything including, er books. Apparently these things were held in a special unit. I assume they are only brought out for photo opportunities? Further alarm bells start ringing when in casual conversation our son mentions that his new teacher (less than a week remember) told him that unless he prays his mummy and daddy would die!! Now I had only recently noticed that the school has a strong Christian slant but I did not expect this. When Iyawo arrived at the school one morning she found the classrooms empty as apparently all the teachers were in a prayer session. Is a school the right place for this?

So the kids start at their new schools next week. We checked it out on Thursday to be met with such activity filled classrooms that our heads were spinning. Iyawo was almost in tears such was the stuff on offer. Books galore, activity sets, games. The whole place was filled to bursting and as they are Montessori they seem to have a very clear idea of how to look after and develop the children. We took the kids there for an initial assessment yesterday and after one day the Head had more of an insight into the kids than the other school had given all week. Not that they had given us any feedback whatsoever. So the message for future returnees is be careful.

Meanwhile my cousin has just arrived with her son who is going to start boarding at Greensprings. She herself is coming back in October. More and more Nigerians are returning home. There is a light flickering at the end of the tunnel. Jeremy posts pictures of the new local airport and my heart soars to the heavens. This is what we can do wen we put our minds to it. I hope they maintain it. The Lagos state government is finally clearing off the rest of Bar beach. One day I stopped there to buy fruit and veg and the next day all the stalls were gone. There are more policemen on the street than ever. We have had electricity and running water for 95 % of the time. The only fly in the ointment has been the traffic on the inappropriately named Lekki Expressway.

Overall things have been much better than we expected (or is that because we had already prepared for the worst). To top it all of Iyawo is performing tonight at the Muson. Her first show in Nigeria in a long time. I will post some pics as soon as they are available.

More on our Niaja move to follow.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

A six gun salute welcome to Lekki

I sit here in the Virgin lounge at MMI airport waiting for my flight to London and reflecting on our first week in Lekki. I won't bore you with the palaver of retrieving our goods from the shipping company not only because it is tedious and predicatable but also because it might lead me to tears. Again. And no one wants to see a large black man crying in public. Especially I suspect the Virgin lounge staff.

I jokingly told Iyawo that I had to make this trip just to get internet access. It is not like I have not tried but the shuttle between Cool FM internet cafe, Eko Hotel "Business centre" and the Protea "Business centre" had become a bit tiresome. So it was that I set out to acquire a Starcomms line for internet access. This is where I ran into my first barrier. The lady in the shop in the Palms was serving three of us at the same time and as such was unable to give me her undivided attention to explain the various plans, phones, devices etc that was on offer. Besides which she needed a utility bill from me showing my address. Having lived in the house for precisely 24 hours I explained that this might prove difficult. I gave up in frustration and rang Jeremy who put me in touch with Direct on PC.

A few calls later and there is a chap in my house with a wireless device connected to my PC and forty thousand naira changes hands (why does it never change hands into mine?) and off he goes. This was four days ago. Since then I have probably had two hours where I have not had to reconnect and reboot the PC. Yesterday when it rained I actually just left it running a loop where it was trying to connect for several hours. The kids are not amused that they are being denied Messenger which was one of the terms of their agreeing to the relocation. (They are also less than amused having picked up the schedule to arrive at the Palms to watch a film only to be told it was not showing!) It looks like it is back to Starcomms and their dial up service.

So the goods were finally delivered at about 6pm in the evening. Obviously there is no more discreet way to move into a neighbourhood than for a forty foot container to arrive at your doorstep at that time of the day. Needless to say sleep was at a premium that first evening. What really surprised me though was the warmnt of the welcome from the people in Lekki. I mean the gunshots rang out all night (and to be honest every night since). Now I am pleased that they are so pleased to see us but I feel it might be time to put a cap on it (pardon the pun). Sometimes the shots sound like they are coming from right outside our gate which was a bit worrying before we had the security boys in place. Actually it is no less worrying as all the security boys are armed with is their mobile phones.

My uncle had arranged for the police patrols in the area to pay a courtesy visit on a daily basis but I feel they have given up now. See they were supposed to come over whist on their patrol and sign in to prove they had been. On the first day I was therefore pleased to see the boys in black carrying their trusty rusty rifles at the gate. I went out to meet them and the conversation went thus.

Senior officer - who might you be?

Me - Introducing myself

SO - we understand that we are to sign here daily?

Me - yes that is my understanding

SO - that would mean driving here daily?

Me- i follow your logic and i like it

SO - this requires petrol for the car

Me - staring blankly

Junior officer - as a matter of fact it requires more than petrol. For example I have just had to pay the vulcaniser to fix the tyres.

Me - is there no central depot where you can get petrol and fix tyres?

SO & JO both stare at me as if I have dropped from the sky wearing an aluminium thong

SN - oga let me make it simple for you. If you take care of us then we can take care of you otherwise if there is any problem and you call us well we might not be able to make it ........

I have not seen them since I assume on the basis that I have not been home all the other times they have been round and they have taken this as a sign that I am avoiding them. As if.

On the other hand I accidentally pushed the button on the Alarm Centre remote and they are outside the gate in two minutes asking if there is any problem. Result.

The other thing we have all noticed is the Nepa situation. Touch wood my people but in the last week we have not been deprived of electricity for more than 5 -6 hours max. And four of those were on a single day. Funnily enough I had read on laspapi's blog something to the effect that there was now a huge improvement in electricity in Lagos but this only made the residents more nervous. I fully buy into this mentality as Iyawo and I keep thinking that at some point they will just take light for 6 months to compensate.

I know that a lot of people are moving back to Naija or thinking about it so I will focus this blog now on what life is like for new arrivals like us trying to settle down in this strange place called home.

Meanwhile my congealed omellete and nuclear hot meat pie beckons. Ciao.