So this is Christmas…about freakin’ time!

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xmas celebrationI can’t tell you how glad I am that the holidays are back in full swing…and my blog is covered in full snow. I’ve been closing pretty late from work because the traffic going home has been unbearable for the last couple of days (and to that I say a sarcastic thank you to all those last-minute village-bound travelers and last-minute shoppers). I need a well-deserved break but I will drop a post very soon. Got to take care of me for a while. Hope for your sake it’ll be worth the wait ūüôā

MERRY CHRISTMAS MY DEAR FANS! I’M CRAZY ABOUT EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU! *Insert heart-wrenching Christmas carol here*

The Nigerian Way 101

Are you thinking of travelling to a place where you can sunbathe in scorching temperatures close to 40 degrees centigrade this Christmas? Are you looking for a place where you can enjoy delicious African cuisine, ice-cold beer, and transportation for less than $1? Are you looking for a place with zero snow, zero earthquakes, zero hurricanes, zero volcanic eruptions and zero riots? Are you looking for a haven where everyone who serves calls you Chairman (or Madam, as the case may be) and treats you like royalty? Then look no further РNigeria is your ideal travel destination!

Nigeria is a vibrant counrty¬†which is located in West Africa close to the equator and boasts of a population of about 150 million people – but never fear, there’s plenty¬†more room for tourists! One of the great things about my¬†country is the warm reception you get when you arrive at¬†Murtala¬†Muhammed International Airport,¬†literally. There is no air-conditioning. Whilst you wait for your luggage on the ‘sushi’ conveyor belt,¬†the blistering heat¬†helps you to burn a few calories and to prepare you adequately for the sunny outdoors.

When you exit the international airport don’t be alarmed by the eager unlicensed taxi-drivers who grab your luggage – they’re only trying to help ease your burden. They may want to test whether you’re familiar with the Nigerian way by charging you like they would an aristocrat. All you have to do is to start your negotiation at half his price and work from there. They may also want to engage you in some ‘small-talk’ because we’re generally very chatty people. Do take advantage and get to know the hotspots around town so you can plan the best way to enjoy your stay. There’s a whole range of hotels to choose from, depending on your taste and your budget.

After you’ve had a good night’s rest in your air-conditioned room and enjoyed a generous helping of yam and egg-stew at your affordable hotel, you will be ready to hit the road (or hit the bed again if you had too much yam). Make sure you carry along a bottle of cold water to hydrate yourself during the course of the hot day.¬†Getting from A to B is easy.¬†Go to the nearest bus stop and listen carefully to¬†the destination being¬†screamed out¬†by the¬†bus conductor – otherwise, your 3-minute journey¬†into the next town could become a¬†3-hour journey into the next state.¬†¬†Alternatively you can save a lot of money by just waiving your hand at the oncoming commercial motorcylists¬†and shouting ‘Okada’. You’ll soon be whizzing through traffic jams whilst enjoying the humid breeze.

The first sensible place for you to go to would be one of our many hospitals. Why? You would need to get anti-malaria treatment so that you’re rest assured of not having a¬†restless holiday. If your’re¬†squeamish about taking injections then there’s tablets¬†that the doctor can prescribe.¬†Pre-treatment is far more recommended than buying a couple of Baygon or Raid sprays and fighting an uneven battle with the non-relenting population of mosquitoes. Wear long trousers at night when you’re outdoors if you want to keep those legs spotless and to avoid being mistaken¬†for a former military officer with an involuntary reflex – ‘Attention!’.

There’s so much to see and to do, especially if you’re in Lagos. If you’re in its capital, Ikeja, there are many malls and eateries that could entice you. If you decide to go to Victoria Island you could tour The Third Mainland Bridge – the¬†longest bridge in Africa. You could also¬†see the magnificent toll gate structures at Lekki Phase 1 and these should be operational by the time you make your way¬†over to¬†Lagos so get your petty cash ready.¬†The are so many shopping complexes and food markets boasting of unique bargains so I’m very confident you’ll find something worthwhile to buy (Remember the 100:50 pricing rule!).

There is¬†a sense of security in Nigeria as you will notice the unprecedented number of checkpoints virtually every 5 miles of your¬†journey by road. We even have a saying, ‘Police is your friend’. They may stop your vehicle but all you have¬†to¬†do is smile, stay calm, lock your doors and ignore any requests¬†other than¬†producing your driving licence and¬†vehicle particulars.¬†That said, some habits you may want to abstain from¬†(but are by no means¬†limited to)¬†include: Walking in dark alleys¬†late at night whilst talking on your mobile phone; Arguing with a gang of drunk Man U fans when you’re clearly a fan of the opposition and; urinating on walls that have ‘DO NOT URINATE HERE’ boldly printed on them.

You would be surprised to learn¬†that our internet connectivity has gone from¬†‘good’ to ‘good grief!’¬†but recently¬†the introduction of Wi-fi has elevated the browsing experience by a big notch. Just ask your hotel receptionist for the password and you’re wired in. And for those Blackberry users most of our telecom providers have made affordable BIS available to the pubilc. You don’t have to carry so much foreign currency since¬†there are Mallams¬†in the black market who could strike a good deal, although I would recommend dealing with banks as they do not exhibit normadic¬†behaviour. Most of the¬†retail outlets in the city have Point of Sale terminals which accept foreign¬†credit cards…point of correction,¬†foreign VISA and Mastercard¬†credit cards.¬†Sales assistants¬†call the attention of supervisors and delay you when they see an American Express card.¬†

Do try any of our renowned beaches¬†which include the critically-acclaimed¬†Bar Beach, the breathtaking Tarkwa¬†Bay, the mysterious Alpha Beach and the mesmerizing Eleko¬†beach.¬†¬†Nigerians know how to party too. You have a choice of painting the town red¬†at any of the nightclubs on the island or mainland – yes, we uphold the ‘Happy hour’ tradition but not so much the ‘Dancing on the bar’ tradition. But if you’re more interested in souvenirs then you can find ethnic memorobilia¬†in City Mall, Ikoyi¬†if you want to leave Nigeria with a traditional caftan¬†or blouse and wrapper. Our¬†array of woven head gear¬†is also a must if you are going for that regal look. By the time you’ve maxed out your credit cards, gained a tan¬†and¬†picked up a bit of the lingo, also known as¬†‘pidgeon english’, you’ll be sad that you had to leave.

This is the unique experience that awaits you. This is the life that so many expats enjoy but may be keeping from you.   

This is¬†My Nigeria ūüėÄ

Christmas in the Eighties

...and thats not me by the way

I remember how I couldn’t sleep the night before Christmas because I was so excited about the presents¬†I might find under the Christmas tree. I would sneak out of bed around 4am to see if Santa (whom by the way¬†I believe is¬†black!) had paid a visit to my living room. I had to tip toe to and¬† fro in order not to wake up my sisters or my parents. After checking for all the presents¬†which bore my¬†name¬†I would scurry off to bed with a big grin on my face. I’d have more difficulty sleeping because I was trying to figure out what my presents were.¬†Was it¬†the Monopoly board game? Sega MegaDrive¬†Console? Or was it a Scaletrix¬†Car Racing set?¬†Aaaaaargh! Isn’t it time to wake up yet????

There was a compulsory church service at 7am that¬†my family and I had to go to (courtesy of mum and dad). We would dress up in our best clothes and sing praises to God and the inevitable ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ tune just before the service was over. We would get back home around 10am and be famished. Mum would come to the rescue as she used her superhuman powers to whip up a mouth-watering English breakfast; Eggs, Sausages, Bacon, Toast, Tomatoes (didn’t have mushrooms then but she did include Quaker Oats…mmm).

We didn’t have Cable/Satellite television then so¬†I sat and watched the local channels (NTA 2 Channel 5 being my favourite). I would be enchanted by the Intro to the movie epic Jesus of Nazareth (the best version starring Robert Powell as Jesus).¬†Afterwards my sisters and I would run to the Christmas tree and snatch our respective presents. My parents ALWAYS got what we wanted – must be their amazing psychic abilities. Then there was the catchy music. I would¬†dance to¬†Boney M as they sang their Christmas classics (Boney style). I would prance around like a pony as I could perceive Christmas¬†Turkey Chicken being roasted in the oven. We’d ‘wash that down’ with some jollof¬†rice (no, I didn’t invent the rice, for those non-Nigerian readers…its more like a risotto). I would drink all the Coke, Fanta Sprite that my bladder could handle and search under the crown corks to see if I had won a prize in the latest promotional campaign. The whole family would play Cards, Ludo or Snakes and Ladders and kill a few more hours.

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We sometimes went out to see a family friend in the evening or¬†a family friend would pay a visit to us. My sisters and I especially liked the ones who¬†gave us cash in envelopes. There was dessert; Birds Custard with a slice of fruitcake…yum. We would stay up all night watching movies till you couldn’t tell the difference¬†between the zombies on-screen and the ones on the sofa. If I had eaten way too much then I would be constipated and desperately trying to guzzle the nearest mixture of Andrews Liver Salt. I’d burp and fart my way to sleep (no sheep-counting required). Good times.

This year I wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Thank you for being a part of The Crazy Nigerian world. Cheers ūüėÄ

Entry #78 – Prelude to Christmas

Last year the build up to Christmas was the dullest I’d ever seen in Lagos.¬†There were all the usual antics of course:¬†Some shop owners hiring breakdancing clowns (complete with the colourful make-up and¬†the ridiculous jumpsuits) and strategically placing them right¬†outside¬†their shops in order to lure in/annoy customers (I don’t know);¬†Street hawkers¬†in the scorching sun wearing¬†red & white¬†santa hats and selling the same to drivers stuck in traffic (as if seeing ‘red’ would help in that heat);¬†A few live rams and goats¬†seen¬†stuffed into (but still hanging out of) half-opened car boots¬†on their way to being slaughtered (Animal Cruelty laws don’t apply in Nigeria);¬†Battle¬†of the Banks as each¬†compete to put¬†up the¬†most blinding Christmas¬†light display on their respective bank branches (more glare for night drivers means possibly more accidents); Christmas hampers including such items as¬†Non-alcoholic wine, Digestives, St.Louis Sugar and a bottle of groundnuts all packaged for N20,000/$133/80GBP¬†(rip off!!!) etc. Like I said, just the usual antics you’d expect¬†to see in Lagos around this time.

¬†Well if you’re not in Lagos you’d probably be curious to know how¬†things are faring¬†so far this year. For starters, the public’s attention has been diverted to the upcoming¬†National Elections in March 2011. Campaigns are being aired on¬†TV 24/7,¬†usually featuring some¬†Nigerian artists or actors singing some cheesy¬†jingle e.g. “No vote for Bad Luck, vote for GoodLuck!” (N.B- that’s the¬†last name of¬†our current president). As a matter of fact, I can’t recall hearing¬†any Christmas song on the local TV stations till now.¬†

And in the race to extinction I don’t know who will make it first – Koala bears or Christmas cards. I’m not talking about cards online (more commonly referred to as ‘E-cards’) but the old-fashioned, cardboard/paper-based ones. I remember when I still lived with my parents we’d get up to 200 Christmas cards, 3 gigantic hampers and a live turkey. A few years later the turkey dropped off. A few years after that the hampers stopped coming and then the Christmas cards being issued dropped gradually – as at last year my parents got about 20 cards between them. It seems the new trend is the use of impersonal text messages to send Christmas greetings/prayers. I say ‘impersonal’ because the message is usually a forwarded message¬†from another contact (and your name is usually not included in the message so that proves my point). Last year I got more Christmas text messages than I got cards and phone calls combined. Besides that, most homes didn’t bother to put up Christmas decorations or trees. What is this¬†city coming to???

Don’t even get me started on Christmas presents! I once heard a wise man say, ‘You have to give in order to receive’. My take however is that the wise man is probably not respected in Lagos because I didn’t see a lot of giving last year. Truth is, I saw a bit of rationing. One of my past employers, as a Christmas bonus, would give¬†employees bags of rice. In my first year of employment I got a full bag of rice. In the second year I got half a bag. Last year nobody was given rice. What¬†was to blame? The recession? That excuse is getting pretty lame.

Thank God I’m an optimist. It’s been a great year for me – more good news than there has been bad news (knocks wood). I think I’ve been a good boy too this year so Santa might¬†just send me a few prezzies this season (crosses fingers). But unless I don’t see a drastic¬†change in the¬†Christmas spirit in Lagos which appears to be fast fading into oblivion, then I’m¬†afraid I’d have to go to Ghana or something (at least there will be constant power supply,¬†Woo-hoo!) ūüėÄ