Last Day in Phoenix

My last day in Phoenix got rained out, but the rain was a welcome reprieve from the heat. I’m sure the locals would agree.

I will have to visit Phoenix again one day soon, during the winter months, when I have more time to plan and more things will be open.

But, to make the most of the day, I decided to go out anyway. I did not go out for very long; the rental car that I was driving was very small and I’m nervous about driving in the rain in foreign places. In Houston, where I live, it floods a lot, so I am always concerned about street flooding, no matter where I am.

To start the day, I decided to go out of the way to get lunch. I ended up at the In and Out Burger, a place that I’ve heard a lot about!

IMG_1271

I cannot recommend the In N Out burger, though. The menu is very limited and the burger wasn’t that great. Perhaps there’s something that I am missing? Maybe that’s the fun of it, having fewer choices and eating a small burger? I’m not sure. Like the media  always does, I’ll blame the hype of this establishment on the millenials. Sorry Millenials. Ha, ha, just kidding. No, seriously, what’s so great about this place? The bun didn’t even have sesame seeds on it. A disgrace!

The rest of the day, I just drove around, somewhat randomly, taking photos and looking at things along the highways.

Whatever this thing was, it was the highlight of my drive. I had never seen anything like this. It is a, ummm, I have no idea. It’s like a very large hill, but the sides have big holes. It’s like Swiss cheese had a baby with a mountain, or something like that. Perhaps I should Google it and get a proper name for it. Whatever it was, it was majestic and very, very interesting!

IMG_1257

The most surprising thing about Phoenix was the architecture. I really liked how lots and lots of the buildings were one story; many had flat roofs. Then, there were these really, really interesting buildings, like this apartment building, that kind of shot up along the roads. Many of the newer apartment buildings were, what’s a good word…fantastical! Very interesting designs, colors, shapes, etc. And, I love how the folks in Phoenix incorporate greenery into the landscape in interesting ways. This was an apartment building in Scottsdale, which isn’t very fair from downtown Phoenix. Look at those bright red patios and hanging plants over every balcony! GORGEOUS.

IMG_1261

This is the shirt I wore to drive around. It’s a glitter skull. I was going to wear it to the John Mayer concert and look super cool, but I found the other shirt and wore that one instead.

IMG_1266

The photo below will only be humorous to the folks in my hometown of Shreveport. I saw this place, named Kokopeli’s and laughed out loud. In my hometown, Kokopeli’s is a very rowdy and often times fatally violent night club. To see this quaint little gift shop baring the same name was like an inside joke that I shared with myself.

IMG_1268

I saw these horse sculptures while riding around in Scottsdale.

IMG_1269

This video shows a short detour that I took through a residential area. Look at the short houses and the really, really nice roads. I also found Phoenix to be very, very clean!

This video shows more of the very nice and well kept roads in Phoenix.

 

And on to my last Phoenix related story!

Take a look at these two gentlemen.

IMG_1284

These two probably nice, but definitely ANNOYING gentlemen were in front of me at the airport. Goodness!

These two guys were German, and I think they came to Phoenix to buy every, single used electronic item in the whole damn city.

Do you know how nowadays you have to take out your “larger than an iPhone” electronics and place each one in a separate bin? These guys used probably 10 different bins, I’m not kidding. They very methodically took out every, single, damn, item, oh, my, GOD.

I am glad that I’m usually at the airport very early; I was able to wait behind these guys and still have time to eat a salad and walk leisurely to the gate and make a restroom stop before boarding started.

Also, these two guys also had two of their bags searched. I also had my roller, carry on luggage searched because I had found some super discounted bath bombs at Ross and purchased them. They were only $2! But, they set off the TSA agents, so I had to be searched. When the guy asked me what they were, I had the intelligence and common sense to call them “bath soaps” instead of “bath bombs”, because, well, you know, I was in an airport. I would probably be in a holding cell right now if I had made that mistake.

The flight home was better than the one going there, except for the terrible landing and quite a bit of turbulence. It’s 9 hours later and I still feel queasy, but I’m glad to be back home.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my adventures in Phoenix.

Until next time, my friends…

My Favorite Thing about Lagos

Hey! You! Yeah, you, reading this. I’m talking to you. Stop laughing right now. Stop looking at the screen all funny like the title is not what it appears to be. You read that right. There is something that I enjoy about Lagos. Well, enjoy is a strong word. I should say, there’s something about Lagos that never ceases to amaze me. It’s the traffic.

Take a look:

Traffic in Lagos is like it’s own thing. It’s a part of life here that is so batshit crazy that I often just gaze out of the window with full confidence that something batshit crazy is about to happen.

I do not say that to be dismissive of Lagos. I know that being dismissive of other places, people, and cultures is a very American thing to do. We are often accused (sometimes rightfully so) of being very judgmental of other cultures.

I say that some things I see are batshit crazy relative to my experience in the States, where there are lots of laws about how traffic works and almost every large city has its very own driving culture, that vary from coast to coast.

But I think that the overall laws governing all things related to motor vehicles keeps interesting things from happening in traffic in the States. However, our lenient gun laws make traffic-related rage and shootings more common than I’d care to admit.

Here, in Lagos, I haven’t heard of anyone getting shot, but lots of other oddities are common.

  1. There are roundabouts. A roundabout is a terrifying thing to me. Perhaps they’re common in some US cities? In Houston, where I live, I can only think of one, and I think they only made it to protect a statue of Sam Houston, the founder of Houston, that sits in the middle of the damn thing.
  2. There are a lot of dump and construction trucks and a lot of them are  leaking fluids. I don’t know what the fluids are, but every driver I’ve ever ridden with *always* quickly moves from behind the dump trucks.
  3. There are sometimes art pieces in the roundabouts! You can see two in the video above: the silver, geometric circles and the metal cube standing on its side. The metal cube was installed just a few days ago.
  4. People drive pretty balls out and road rage is not as common as you’d think. There’s lots of weaving, cutting people off, changing lanes, etc.
  5. People ride motorcycles with almost complete abandon! No helmets, no tennis shoes, no shirts, no motorcycle jackets, no hands, no holding on. I suppose the traffic makes it impossible for the motorcycles to go so fast as to really mess up a rider if there was an accident, but it still seems so dangerous. A couple of days ago, I saw a motorcyclist with a passenger who was holding a huge box in between them. Just cruising along down the Epe Expressway holding onto a box. No big deal.

Dealing with the traffic has probably been my biggest accomplishment with adjusting to living here. The terrible traffic is both frustrating, but also entertaining, and I don’t have to actually drive in it. I sit in the back of the car while my poor driver navigates the horrors of Lagos traffic.

The traffic here also makes me so thankful when I go back home. During my last stint at home, I drove sometimes an hour across town, just because I could and just because I knew that traffic in Lagos was more horrible than in Houston. In that way, being in Lagos has really helped adjust my attitude for the better.

Where are you reading this? What’s the traffic like where you are?

Until tomorrow, my friends…

A Trip to the Mall, Part I

“Yeah, if you go over there to the Mega Plaza…” R’s voice started to say.

“Argggh! You know I HATE the damn Mega Plaza!” I responded.

“Why on Earth do you hate the Mega Plaza?” he asked.

“Well,” I started to reply, struggling to articulate my hatred for the damn Mega Plaza, “it’s not really what I’d call a mall,” I finally concluded.

“How so?” he asked. I felt like he knew exactly what I was talking about, but was just being a bit cheeky, in a fool-hearty attempt to help me get the hell over myself.

“THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH CLOTHING STORES!” I yelped abruptly and loudly, feeling exasperated that he’d even ask such a ridiculous question.

“Well,” he started again, “if you go get this little fuse, we can maybe watch the sixth Harry Potter movie tonight, even when the electricity goes out.”

“Humph, I guess I now have motivation.”

After lunch, me and my driver began the trek to the damn Mega Plaza.

On the way to the damn Mega Plaza, I drove by an interesting billboard. Religion is both in your face and covertly advertised in different ways here in Lagos. In the States, things usually have outright religious advertising or not. Here, the advertisers seem to blend the two, sometimes with head-scratching results, as least in my opinion.

This billboard seems to be directed towards young women who need subliminal guidance on how to choose a guy. Basically, religious guy = good guy is the message here. Out of respect for people’s religions, I won’t make any snarky comments about the obvious fallacies associated with believing religious = good, but I digress, before I start.

20170405_140548

 

I also saw two little Red Bull cars. I’ve seen these little cars roaming around in the States, too. It’s funny that I took a photo of these little cars on the way to the damn Mega Plaza because on the way home from the damn Mega Plaza, I saw that one of these little Red Bull cars had been involved in an accident. One of the construction dump trucks had changed lanes and side swiped the little car. The drivers of both were out side of their cars, furiously arguing about the incident. It made me wonder what it’s like to deal with the Nigerian bureaucrats when trying to get your car registered, your driver’s license, going to small claims court, etc. My own dealings with immigration officials made me want to gauge out my own eyeballs using a small teaspoon, so I can only imagine the frustration of the local folks if they have to deal with officials more than I do.

20170405_131046

After about 30 minutes in traffic, I finally made it to the damn MegaPlaza.

20170405_135448

The damn Mega Plaza is a strange place. It is a tall and narrow building, unlike any mall that I’ve seen in the States. There are armed guards at the entrance. When you approach, if they feel like it, they will search your person with metal detectors and open your purse. If they do NOT feel like it, which is what happened to me today, they will continue to chat with each other, as you walk by unnoticed and unbothered.

The first floor has office supply kind of stuff, which is why I was there. I was in search of a very small fuse for a piece of electronic equipment called an uninterrupted power supply or UPS. The UPS is like a big ass battery and surge protector combo that you plug your priceless electronics into for safety and continued availability to use. When the power goes out, which it will, several times a day, for various lengths of time, your electronics keep working for a while, running on the battery of the UPS. One of ours blew a fuse, so we had trouble watching Harry Potter movies at night when the power went out.

I also needed photo paper, a binder, and some plastic sheet covers. I went into the first office supply store. It was hot and VERY crowded. The aisles of the stores are not very far apart, so me and an employee who was stocking the shelves almost became down right intimate when I tried to pass her.

I was able to find photo paper at the first store, but no fuse.

I walked literally to the next store, next door, and the signs were almost identical. The large plastic bags that I received at checkout are also almost identical. One reads “Office R Us” and the other reads “Office Land, Ltd.” Quite original naming.

Both stores were owned by folks who I think were Indians. I found this fascinating since in ONE day, today, I saw four people whom I think are Indians. I had never seen any people whom I thought were Indians any other day, so I was excited to experience the diversity.

I ended up buying printer paper, a binder, and plastic sheet covers. I will share the rest of my day tomorrow, in “A Trip to the Mall, Part II.”

Be sure to come back tomorrow; I will write about all of the interesting things then. Ha!

Thanks for reading. Be sure to subscribe.

 

 

Traffic in Lagos, Part 1

HONK.

HONK.

HONK HONK HONK!!

The movie below was taken on April 3, 2017 at approximately 3:00 pm. I was on my way from the Victoria Island area, where I’d gone to do some shopping.

Traffic in Lagos is a different kind of crazy. The first day I arrived here, I thought for certain, that I would absolutely die in the traffic here.

Lucky for me, I have survived so far, and long enough to make a few observations.

  1. Honking does not equate anger or road rage: I have observed that the honking is a way to alert people that your car is nearby, you’re trying to merge, or you’d like to pass.
  2. B-E   A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E: Driving in Lagos takes a full attention span and an even fuller cup of aggression. People rarely use turn signals and commonly speed up to block others from changing lanes. But, everyone seems super chill about all the chaos.
  3. Keep your camera out: You never know what you might see in Lagos traffic. I commonly see people riding, rather precariously, on the backs of trucks. The trucks might be pickup trucks, dump trucks, or construction trucks. I once saw a man riding on top of a stack of bricks that was as tall as my two story house on camp. No restraints, no personal protective equipment (aka “PPE” in the oilfield), not even a pillow to throw down to land on, in case he was thrown from the truck. I guess he no wahala, as they say here…it means “he has no worries.”
  4. Roundabouts: There are literally maybe 4 or 5 proper traffic lights I’ve seen in the entire city. The rest of the city is managed through roundabouts. Now, as an American, I used to think of a roundabout as a magical, British traffic invention, where magical, British people, like Mary Poppins, would somehow magically use the big ass concrete circle in the road to navigate traffic. However, in a densely populated city as Lagos, roundabouts make as much sense as a cat who doesn’t play poker on Friday nights. DUH, of COURSE cats play poker on Friday nights. It’s only logical. Roundabouts, however, are NOT.

In the video below, you will see my view from the back seat as my driver expertly attempts to navigate through a roundabout in Lagos.

Do you think you could drive in this traffic? Why or why not? Leave your comments below!

Look for a guy doing something interesting around minute 1:26.

 

Keep Ya Head Up

“It’s gonna take the man in me to conquer this insanity.                                                Tupac Shakur in the song “Keep Ya Head Up”

Yesterday, while leaving the poolside party where we picked up P’s daughter after an afternoon of childhood revelry, I saw this little lizard sitting on a tree. His entire body was flat, but his head stuck up confidently, and in my mind, he looked determined.

Now, to go through life assigning such humanistic characteristics, like determination, to animals, and sometimes even inanimate objects, is a lifelong specialty of mine. I think I get it from my mother, who used to curse objects when either she or I bumped our toes and jammed our fingers against door knobs and unyielding furniture.

But this little guy, this little lizard, one of the most iconic things associated with Lagos, sure did look determined.

As I hurriedly took out my phone to photograph him, I thought, “Look at how flat his little body is, but how he still confidently holds his little head up. That little guy is tough.”

The lizard reminded me of what it takes to live abroad, in a place that is so, so very different from where home is.

Some days are good, like yesterday. Some days kind of suck, like today. Most days just pass with neither fanfare nor folly; days like that far outnumber the rest.

Moving to and living in a foreign country is not the sexy, exotic, every day is a crazy-ass day kind of experience that movies, books, and misinformed friends would have you believe.

Sure, if you move so some place like Canada, where I *imagine* everyone is somehow fit, delightful, friendly, and non-violent, all at the same time, then yes, you have a chance to live out your sexy, exotic, every day is amazing kind of experiences.

But, surviving the day to day trials of life, most of which are mundane, can really suck when you’re thousands of miles from home.

Over the course of this blog’s life, I’ll share a few things that suck about Lagos and my personal expatriate experience. Today, I’ll share the WORST thing about being here.

No Driving

Before I came here, all of my friends teased me about how cool it will be to have a driver. In their overactive imaginations, my driver would be like Fonsworth Bentley (does anyone remember that guy? Probably not, let me think of another example) or perhaps Morgan Freeman in “Driving Miss Daisy” or, in my OWN imagination, Alfred, from the “Batman” comics. God! How I would love an Alfred.

Wait, no, I’m getting side tracked talking about Batman. Because in real life, would I actually want an Alfred? OF COURSE NOT.

So, why not?

Lack of Freedom: Out of decency as an employer, my driver only works 9am – 4:00pm Mondays-Fridays and occasional Saturdays and even less frequently on Sundays. This means that any trips I take off camp are made during those hours unless I am taking a bus to the airport or a bus full other expats to some dreadful, seemingly “fun” experience like Taco Night. NEWSFLASH: Nigeria is NOT the place to have a taco. Mexico isn’t having Jollof Rice Night, I can tell you that.

The lack of freedom that is taken away by not being able to drive myself is maddening. Most of my life has been planned. I’m a planner. I like plans. I like lists and pens to check off things that are completed from the lists. But MY GOD what I wouldn’t give to be able to go to a movie whenever I wanted to. What I wouldn’t give to just randomly go for a drive alone at night, some place to watch the cars go by.

There’s something very magical about “going for a drive.” Going for a drive is therapeutic to the soul. The other day, I was listening to a podcast and one of the presenters said “Going for a drive is a very American form of therapy.” In America, if you say to someone that you’re “just going to go for a drive / ride” they already know what you mean. They know that you mean you need to just be alone, inside of a several ton machine, passing the time, clearing your mind, seeing new things along the road, and appreciating the things that are familiar.

I hate road trips; but I love to just “go for a drive.”

When I first moved to Houston in April 2005, I would frequently quell my fears and stress by going for drives up and down my favorite street, Westheimer Road, which I used to live near. I would just wait until it was late at night, after the traffic had died down, and go for a drive. It was glorious.

When I went home from Lagos to Houston in December 2016, I was ECSTATIC to receive keys to a rental car. I took photos of the rental car, just like it was a plate of fine caviar or a pastry that Martha Stewart had made herself. I was over the moon to have my own mode of transportation, to be behind the driver’s seat, to be absolutely free of anyone else’s time constraints, or work schedules, or preferences. To be free of any guilt of staying out to late. To even have the OPTION to stay out late. I learned a new appreciation for “going for a drive” that I would have never gained had I not lived in a place where it was illegal for me to drive.

I curse myself for all the times I drove home, in the horror of Houston rush-hour traffic, and wished it to be over. Because what I wouldn’t give right now to just get in the car and go SOMEWHERE.

So, sometimes, life abroad is hard. And that’s probably why I related to that little lizard so much yesterday. His little flattened body, flush against the tree, reminded me of how I feel sometimes while living here.

While I feel fortunate and I know that this time in Lagos is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity for growth and adventure, I also feel quite oppressed. Many days, I feel sane; some days I don’t. I struggle with feeling ungrateful when I get down because I miss the simplicity of my old life. I struggle with feeling ridiculous when I think about how I used to complain about my old life. I struggle with feeling impossible to please when I think about how much I do NOT want some parts of my old life back, even though I also miss them at the same time.

On days like this, I have to remind myself to be like the lizard. I have to coexist with both sets of feelings: a mostly struggling, oppressed feeling and my attempts at cultivating a determined and resilient attitude.

Besides, right after I took the little lizard’s photo, do you know what he did?

He got up and strolled away, like it was nothing.

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑