Lagos baptism

I am grateful for many aspects of the job in Nigeria, the least of which is not the quality of management, especially from an ELO perspective. From the top down, there is consistent concern and support for first tour officers (I don’t think we have any second tour). The nature of the post means that we end up getting more opportunities and responsibility than others at larger or better staffed posts might get but there is also a clear and conscious effort to ensure that we are getting as many experiences as possible. It does put pressure on the interview scheduling but I appreciate that we get called off the line occasionally to work as a site officer or do some public outreach.

Right now I’m in Lagos as a beneficiary of an entry leve officer exchange between the embassy and consulate. For me it’s a chance to see how a larger consular section works and for the Lagos folks it’s a chance to see an embassy. I know a few people down here and it’s refreshing to see them and of course I’m happy to finally get to see Lagos.

Undoubtedly it’s a developing megalopolis with “have to see to believe” traffic and roads. But since I’ve been here, I’ve seen an amazing side of the city. I didn’t bring my camera adapter for the iPad and will have to wait till I get home to post pictures, unfortunately. On Saturday an Eminent friend and colleague took me out to this particular beach that is strewn with abandoned ships. We were there at low tide and could walk along the firm clean sand below the tide line instead of among the literally tons of trash at the high tide line. There were massive ships beach and buried that were very impressive to see. Salvagers were dismantling a huge tanker with nothing more than acetylene torches and pickup trucks.

There was also an old lighthouse obviously built by the British. It was only 4 or 5 stories tall but gave a tremendous view of the beach, the huge crowd of ships waiting to load or unload their
petroleum, and the squatters village just off the beach. We walked through the village and saw authentic village life (no electricity, garbage and goats everywhere, corrugated metal shacks, little shops and stores and other enterprises all over). It was pretty neat and got the anthropologist in me all excited again.

Yesterday we went out to a nature preserve and walked through forest, savannah, and wetland (albeit dried out at this point in the dry season). There was a troop of monkeys that was pretty neat to see. I climbed up into a canopy top blind that really made me uncomfortable. It was solidly built (by Chevron, I think) but there we too many people in too small a structure too high off the ground for me to relax. Good experience though.

We ended the day by retiring to a local bar with margaritas, pizza, and jalapeƱo poppers. We watched a Nollywood video that was pretty good in spite of the low production quality of the sound. I’d been staying at the Eminent Friend’s place over the weekend but checked into my hotel and had my first day of work in Lagos today. It went pretty well but I miss my coffee press.

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Scenery from the Valentine’s Day Hash

I joined the local Hash Harriers for the first time on Saturday and snapped a few shots on the route. It was overcast and its at the end of the dry season, so yes, everything is that brown right now. I could have touched up the pictures a little but that would have delayed the post even more.

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Scotch Tasting

Last Saturday a buddy of mine and I made good on our talk about having a scotch tasting. The challenge was trying to figure out who to invite. That endeavor quickly turned into a question of who not to invite and in a small community like we have here, that wasn’t very much fun. We ended up pretty much inviting everyone in the end.

The other question he and I went back and forth on was whether to have a blind tasting or not. I’d shared some of my better scotches with a friend who visited from Poland a few months back and we enjoyed comparing known scotches side by side. I relented and we went with a blind tasting this time though and I’m very glad that we did.

We ended up with 15 scotches and 12 tasters. There were close to 20 people there all in so we congregated on the roof of my building beside the pool. We took about 2 hours to go through all 15 with a dram of each for all. It was pretty surprising to experience. I did pretty good on the single malts but failed to heed the rule of Never Second Guessing. I was more surprised at how good even the cheap blends were. They weren’t as good as the single malts and were easily identifiable as blends, but they weren’t as bad as I remember them. My first time drinking Johnny Walker Red I puked on the beach at NIC. Horrendous, vile stuff, I remember.

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Kwara and Oyo trip

Last week I got to travel with the Ambassador on a 4 day trip to southwestern Nigeria. We visited a couple of Emirs, a couple of governors, and some small business sites that had received USAID support. It was a tremendous opportunity for me to get out of Abuja. More importantly, I wasn’t just along for the ride. I was responsible for helping run the trip. It reminded me of the work I did at OJC preparing our overseas program. The big difference is that we spent about 9 months preparing for that and official trips in the Foreign Service get planned in a few weeks. It was a lot of fun to be responsible for keeping things running and I saw a lot of the country that I never would have otherwise. I’d like to go back sometime on my own to spend more time but I know that is unlikely, alas.

I tried to take pictures but the two big challenges were that I was always shooting from inside a car and Nigeria is in the middle of its dry season so everything is BROWN. I want so bad to spend some time photographing the country but that too is unlikely due to both time and security constraints. Nigerians are generally pretty hostile to photography but if you take time to talk to people, let them know you, and then ask for photos, they can be very gracious and cooperative. Security-wise it isn’t too prudent to be wandering about by yourself, especially if you’re distracted through a lens and I don’t have any friends who are keen just to tag along to watch my back. So I have to settle for photos shot from a window.

The roads in Nigeria can be pretty bad, but some are really good. The flights were good, on time and professional. The hotels were nice. We stayed at an international research compound that was impressive. It was huge, with vast grounds that were very peaceful. I didn’t get to go on their tour but they do high end agricultural research and have some advanced technology buildings and resources. Self-sufficient, the water was potable and the best clean. Sitting out at night to relax listening to the frogs bellow was truly refreshing.

I won’t have another chance for anything like that during the rest of my consular tour but perhaps more chances to travel, maybe for election observations, will fall my way once I transfer into the Econ section later this summer.