Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Life is...

When I was young, I would speed in my little car and wonder why all the old people would stroll so slowly in the big cars?
Now I am older, and I have a big car and a girl on my right.
And as I stroll along the street, I wonder why all the young people are so eager to speed in their small cars.

-Jacek Marczyk (founder of Ontonix)

This was said to the author during our days at MSC.Software when Jacek would try his best to fit his long frame into my little Kancil.

Let’s Go to the Beach

It was Sunday, a day of rest after putting in 55 hours of work during the week. But wifey wanted to go out, so we went to the beach. We went to the Tropicana Beach & Resort, a 90 minute trip from where we live. It was a chance to see the different side of Lagos.

Picture below shows a glimpse of Lekki market where, apparently, you can obtain anything under the sun. I haven't visited it yet but most expats say that this is the place to buy stuff, if you know how to bargain well.


Below are the typical Nigerian house. With roofs made from straw, these people live close together, sharing well, planting their own food and rearing animals, who from picture below, lack nourishment just like their owners.

Note: My Nigerian colleague politely reminded me that the picture below is a house in the rural area, i.e. kampung style house. In the city, people live in brick houses, just like those in Malaysia. After he reminded me of this fact, he resigned from the company. Thanks for the info Gbenga.



And this is how people get from one place to the other. They hitchhike.

No joke. When you’re poor and cant afford to buy a transport, you wait by the side of the road and hail down a car. And lots of people will stop. You bargain the price of a journey and if their also going the same way, off you go, as the pictures below show.


Although the highway to Tropicana was mainly free of traffic, sometimes we were slowed down by slow moving vehicles, like this little guy here. But most of the time, our Toyota van was hurling at 120 km/h.


Ok, here comes the bribes. The first one was an ad hoc police blockade. To get through, you pay money. This is when your driver is an asset, depending on how good he negotiates with the police man. This time, we got off scot free, thanks to our driver.

The second picture shows another ad hoc blockade, but this time with pretty women. We ended up paying N1000, N200 for each driver.

Note: My experienced expat colleague informed me that the police usually have road blocks on the weekends to maintain security around the city and in Lagos. Lagos is much safer than Port Harcourt.

But the women who asked for money are apparently gate keepers. Gate keepers exist in every part of the country.

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We pay N2000 (RM50) each for entry. The lady in green offered us to drink palm oil wine. Yup, palm oil. It has a strong taste. And apparently, Michael Jackson’s sibling, Marlon was here.

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And this is the beach. I could smell the sea water from here. It’s been a long time since I went to the beach.


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The ocean we were facing is the Atlantic ocean. So if I were to swim in that direction, and if I don't get eaten by any sharks or swallowed by a whale, I could actually reach Brazil.

For N2000, you can a small bunk to burn yourself in the sun. There is a little umbrella that barely covers the bunk but its all yours to barbeque yourself in the sun, or sleep, like my colleague Hazeem here.





And that is the massage room. For N2500 (RM62.50), a pretty Nigerian lass will massage your whole body for an hour. It was that or a a boat trip for 30 minutes @ N300 each – everyone opted for the boat ride. But that was before…


That was before the weather turned bad very quickly. The weather went from sunny to dark skies within 20 minutes. I have never seen weather change so fast. If we had gone out to see any earlier, we would have been for one hell of an interesting ride.






Some people are rude. There was this plum grumpy lady and her friend sitting in the same place as we were who snapped at me when I accidently sat on her bunker. How was I supposed to know when she was busy sitting inside the rest house?

She snapped at us again when Taufik, our driver, played some local native song from his radio for my wife. Well, we know she wanted some piece and quiet, but she could have been more polite instead of asking us to go and sit far, far away under the trees. This is her below, going off to swim. Too bad she didn't drown and die!


Coconuts. We take this for granted but for some of my colleagues, its not. So they took delight in tasting coconut water and fruit. The handsome man in light green is our faithful driver, Taufik.


It was good fun going to the beach with these guys.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Nando's Recycling Fries?

We took a long walk to Nandos (Ajose Adeogun) today for lunch. I always have a problem keeping up with tall people. But it’s the only exercise I get here.


So we went to Nando’s and my colleague Paul ordered the chicken wrap and a coke, no fries.


After waiting 18 minutes for lunch to be served, his dish came with the chicken wrap and fries.


Hmmm…but we continued eating our lunch.


Then the waiter comes and tells him that he has to pay for lunch. Paul showed him the receipt which showed that he didn’t order fries. The waiter then said he would like his fries back. Paul agreed.


(If this was in Malaysia, the waiter and the cashier would have overlooked this mistake on their part and Paul would have gotten some free fries.)


But this is not Malaysia.


So we watched the waiter sweep the fries of Paul’s plate onto another plate and then he walked back to the kitchen. We expected him to thrown the fries away.


But no! The fries went back into the waiting bin with the rest of the fries!


I pity the next soul who comes in for some fries.


Note to self: Don’t order fries at Nando’s. I wonder if they recycle the chicken too? Must check bird for bite marks before eating.



Bombay Palace

Finally, some good food in Lagos.


We ate at the famous Bombay Palace, one of the few places in Victoria Island where good food is served.



There was not many people on a Saturday night but apparently its full on a Sunday where they serve their famous buffet for N2000 (or RM46) per person – its eat as much as you can from 12 noon to 5 pm. Lots of Shell people make this their Sunday hangout.


The first thing that caught my eye was how dirty their plates were.


It took me a while to see that it was an actually a design. All their plates had the same design. And I thought the previous diner had chocolate for desert.


And this was the kind soul who spent his Saturday night taking my wife and I for a delicious dinner at Bombay Palace in his car, Nils Kristiansen.

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Nils picked me up from our hotel and took us to Bombay Palace. He’s still the same, eager for an adventure person I have grown to know. In fact, the very first pictures I ever saw of the Niger Delta was from Nils photo’s on Facebook. He’s been here for close to 2 years now, with another 2 years left in his contract. He travels to all the neighboring countries during his breaks. He’s off to Ghana on Wednesday for some rest and relaxation. According to Nils, Ghana is much safer than Nigeria.




After that, we were taken to Tingles, one of the few places in VI that has a live band every weekend. Apparently there were some big shots in the establishment because after taking this picture with flash, we were immediately warned not to take any more pictures. Luckily they didn't confiscate our camera.

Thanks Nils for showing us Bombay Palace. The food was good, the company was even better.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Working on a Saturday

It’s 11 am Saturday morning. We just got in the office after the roads re-opened.


The drivers slept in their cars overnight at the office. They live very far from the office (more than 2 hours away) and if they had gone home, they wouldn’t have been able to pick us up at half past ten from the hotel when the roads only opened at 10 am today. Today, the last Saturday of every month in Lagos, is Sanitization Saturday and all roads in Lagos are closed from 7 am to 10 am.


It’s off to the beach tomorrow. A colleague of mine tempted me to go to Bungalow, a restaurant and bar, to watch the Singapore F1. But who wants to watch F1 in that puny island!? It’s off to the beach for me. Apparently it’s a 3 hours ride to/fro the beach, with lots of impromptu road blocks asking for money. It should be an interesting ride.




Friday, September 25, 2009

A Trip to Cactus

Cactus is actually just a restaurant. I didn't go to any desert or anything. The food at the hotel is either very spicy or very salty (most of the time) and it doesn't go well with everyone. But since we work long hours, we have no choice but to eat at the hotel. So when we do get the chance to go out, we RUN!


The driver was giving the car a quick check up before taking us.



Don't laugh but this is one of the security vehicles guarding the entrance of the estate. And no, the lady in the picture is not the security guard.



Picture below was my attempt to catch my colleague buying phone card off one of the many street peddlers. I don't have a better picture of them but there are lots of them on the streets every day. Its a tough living here.



If you look right in the middle of the picture, that’s the traffic police in the little wooden hut, right in the middle of the junction. He or she controls traffic during peak hours. Without them, traffic would be virtually at a stand still. No joke. Nigerians do not give way. These people make all the lady drivers back home in Malaysia so much more bearable to live with. (I don't think my wife will read this :)  )



I don't know how these two pictures will turn out to be but the gentlemen in white is Jon Clancy, one of the tallest people I have ever met. He leads the SPS team (the subsea structures) while the handsome guy to his right is Paul Charlton, who left his previous employer of 19 years to come spend time with us in Nigeria. Paul’s the umbilical guru.

Close to me is my princess, who hardly gets out of the hotel!




Just beside us were people in the skidoos. These are private skidoos.




Our little neighbor having a jolly good time.



And yes, going back to the hotel, we got caught in traffic and the car was practically at a stand still most of the time.



This is the river that separates the main land, Ikoyi from Victoria Island. Traffic on this bridge is very, very heavy every day. On a public holiday, it takes us 12 minutes to get from the hotel to the office. On normal days, it takes us 50 minutes. Still, its not as bad as going from Kepong to Tun Razak!



The smiling gentlemen in the middle is Baljit Singh, the Dover Project Manager, who’s leaving the project for better opportunities.



Ah, I hope this is a better picture of the street peddlers. They will carry boxes of practically everything you can possible imagine. I saw someone selling toilet seat covers today. It’s a tough job but everyone has a stomach to fill. You can buy fruits, tid bits, books, pens, watches, lots of stuffs.



This scene happens every morning. The poor queue up for long hours at a petrol station to buy fuel for their daily needs.



This is where we go to get our groceries. It’s the equivalent of a small supermarket in Malaysia. Its so much smaller than a small Carrefour back home. There is another called Shop Right but we haven't been there yet.



A glimpse of Lagos town. Looks like KL in the 1970’s.


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