Monday, May 30, 2011

Democracy Day a.k.a. Another Day Off!

Just when I thought I could use a day off, here comes another! Democracy Day! Brief history on Democracy Day. It is actually scheduled for May 29 but observed May 30 this year because May 29 was a Sunday. It was first observed May 29, 2000 a year to the day after Nigeria reverted back to a Democracy after over 15 years of a dictatorship. Yesterday was inauguration for the newly elected President Goodluck Jonathan. Amy and I watched the swearing in with my Dad. I must say that we missed the memo and should have been wearing green or white yesterday. We showed up to church and 80% of people there were in white and we also sang the National Anthem in recognition of the aforementioned Democracy Day.

The Swearing In
As for our day off...well, we didn't do much to be honest. I got up and worked a bit from home while Amy slept (13 hours last night). When she got up we cleaned the house and went running. Well, she went running and I went on a walk. We were going to go eat at a Tex-Mex restaurant we heard of ( named bottles) but on getting there, we found out they were only open from Wednesday to Friday. So that was a bummer. We settled on yet another different Chinese restaurant called Jade Palace. 

For a night cap, Amy is watching Baby Mama while we have ice cream. I guess that's it for days off for a while because I have no idea when we are getting another one. Oh wait, what do you know...June 12 is another one. I'm loving it!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Daily Hustle

While talking to a friend of mine about work, I used a phrase common here to describe it; Hustle. And he responded saying yes, people don't work here, they hustle. And that is the truth. The GDP growth here (for the nerds) is 7.8% but unemployment rate is kindly said to be 19.7%. Underemployment rate is significantly higher and it isn't uncommon at all to run into people who are doing jobs they had absolutely no training for but it was the only job they can get.

Driver around the city in the middle of the day and you will most definitely run into a lot of people standing on the side of the road doing nothing because they have nothing. But you will also run into a majority of people trying to do anything to survive. From selling peeled oranges or cooked meat to laborers working on the street side to folks selling cell phone "credit" while others are trying to wash your windshield while you drive. There are still tailors that walk the streets and shoe shiners that hang around high rise buildings trying to do their thing for a buck.

We that would be considered middle class often find ourselves in the offices till the wee hours of the morning to then take the treacherous journey back home. Leave work any earlier than 8pm and the traffic that awaits you is enough to make you want to walk instead. The hustle and mentality extends even to the Über rich live and they themselves live an unhealthy life style of working ridiculous hours.

Kenneth, our driver navigating through traffic

Amy trying to avoid the camera

Any study on what radiation does to babies?

Public Transportation

Religion is big business here

Riding in the back of the truck

"Okada" bike soliciting business

Flooding from just a light shower

That road is actually worse than it looks

Morning Traffic

One too Many A's
So yes, Lagos is a crazy city. The weather occasionally doesn't help. For example, yesterday, we had to go to work by boat because the traffic level when it rains hard is unreal and it had been raining all night long. We got to work on time but few people actually did. So while Lagos might be nuts, it does have some very hospitable people. People like to greet one another only about 50 times a day. I find out just how American I am when I try to go straight to the point when I make a phone call and the person on the other line wants to take the time to ask me about my day. To which I usually reply, "Man, the hustle..."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Prayers and Thoughts with you in Joplin, MO and surrounding areas

For obvious reasons, it has been a rough week…certainly far worse for so many in Joplin, MO. I woke up Monday morning to the news of what had happened and we’ve been saddened ever since. But through that sadness and concern for so many of you closer to the devastation, our prayers have not ceased but instead, it has intensified.

It has been especially rough on Amy because situations like this intensify the want to be home to be closer to friends and family and to try to help in one way or the other. But she’s been very strong to resist any urge or temptation to want to quit regardless of whatever chance she’s given. I am truly grateful for such a wonderful woman of God in my life and it is equally great to watch the grace with which she is walking out her call.

Back to the issue of home, I just want you all so know that you are on our hearts and minds. It is our understanding that more treacherous weather is on the way and we are praying God’s protection over you all in Pittsburg, KS and really all over the currently affected areas. Also praying especially for you Phil, Kerri, Seana and Nathan. Living there, it will be very though not knowing someone severely affected by this disaster.

For those unaware, our home is in Pittsburg, KS which is a half hour’s drive from the devastation in Joplin. Joplin was how I got to Pittsburg by Bus from New York when I initially arrived to the States.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pictures from the Beach on Easter Monday

I need to go to bed. It is after midnight but lately I have developed the sleeping habits of an overworked single mom with twins. Okay, that's dramatic but I even Amy...a lot because she can sleep for 17 hours straight (no joke, it's already happened). Well, it's the first full week of work in the last three so maybe that's why I am beat. Anyway, this won't be a long one. I just wanted to share pictures (mostly for Emily) from the beach from Easter Monday!

The waves were huge that day, a surfers dream. Made me think of how much Jon S. would have loved it. I forgot our camera at home that day. I am terrible with that thing. But a friend brought his camera so I guess that why I can't complain that we didn't get enough pictures. Bah...okay, I go bed now.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

This is how we roll

First of all I would like to wish an early Happy Mother's Day to all the Mother's out there especially those who have been very instrumental in my life and especially to my mother Martina Nwagwu and mother-in-law Mary Sterrett. I also want to wish a Happy Mother's Day to Andrea Nwagwu, the mother of my newest niece. On that note, please be in prayer for my friend and former classmate Jide who just lost his mother this week suddenly. I can't imagine what he is going through but she loved God and if there is any solace, it's that she's with Jesus and that's where I want to be when I pass on.  

So a few things have happened since the last time I was here. Most of it has to do with adjusting to life here which is basically a full time job. So let's see some of the things we've acquired to ease the transition...
Mobile WiFi
Internet Access by Mobitel- This little sucker has made communication with the outside world so much easier. It’s the fastest ISP I have used in this town but I have a hard time recommending them to others because I don’t want them to rob me of bandwidth. That sounds bad, don’t it? Another great feature is that is has no data caps! How fast is it? Well, I can play Halo with Ben, my brother online and Amy can Skype (no w a verb in the English lexicon) at the same time. Pretty good, huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

A vehicle, better yet, an SUV- For good measure, we also have a driver now but I will get to that late. We are now mobile! Hence the title of the blog…so now we have been to church a couple of times by ourselves…well, really once because the first time we woke up late and missed a turn and showed up at the end of service. The second time, we tried a church in our neighborhood for the first time but more on that later as well.  We know where many major grocery stores are and can track down some of the kinds of foods, snacks or guilty pleasures we like.
A Driver – Now, in most western countries, this is a luxury. Here, it is a necessity. I don’t drive on weekdays, no sir. It is a mad city. Really, I am just a weekend warrior when it comes to driving here and it is bunkers. I’ve turned into one of them. I started out all courteous but not anymore. It has to be witnessed to be believed how crazy it is. I think prayer is very important here probably because of the driving condition. It's not very hard to "lose" your right standing by being on the road either as a passenger or worse, a driver. Kenneth is our new driver and he was born and raised here. He was the only one I interviewed and so far, he is working out just fine. Amy and I keep praying that we would be a blessing to him while he works for us.

Phones- We each now have phones. Well, I am down two that I carry but Amy keeps one around here but now we can communicate with each other at work since we are in different building.  
Now, back to the conversation about a house of worship…for the sake of privacy and not getting jumped, I won’t release the names of the churches that we visit as we try to find where God is calling us to serve in this season that we are here. As I mentioned, we tried one in our neighbourhood and it was good. Worship was excellent. There’s nothing truly like being in the presence of God and I loved that! I had hoped it would be someone from that local house who would preach but it was a guest preacher. I think I would like to visit at least one more time but tomorrow, I will be trying a different church at the recommendation of my dad. I did run into two old classmates from high school which was really interesting. So please be in prayer for us as we continue this search.

Work seems to be moving right along. Many of you who know me know that I don’t much care about talking about work. I find it tedious and boring to talk about accounting so that’s about all I will say about work. As far as the people I work with, I think they treat me very well but they prefer Amy. Not that hard to see why because I myself prefer Amy as well. And because there is another “Ugo” that works there, I am now being called “Ugo Beke” which means Foreign Ugo. Amy also has a Nigerian name now. The folks in IT have named her Amaka which means beautiful. Again, not a tough one to figure out.
Well, we are continually working to make our apartment into a home. We got Amy a tread mill…I might have already mentioned that. We also got a pull up bar. If you notice, I try to skip the details on how we’ve gotten around to many things and that’s because the details occasionally invoke memories we try to suppress and the phrase of the day is often “lesson learned”. That said, here are a few updated images of our home.

Coconut Tree...I wonder if I can claim it

Great view from the Deck

Our lone flower

Our ever growing Pantry

More stuff in our Fridge here than in Pitt

More great views

We’ve done more work as renters here than we did as home owners in Pittsburg and some of the work has paid off. Others we leave for the pros around here and they can fixed almost anything here. Things I would think should be pitched get thrown out here. Anyway, I gotta go…Amy just made some banana bread and I have to em…investigate J.