This post is three and a half months overdue.  We went to Lagos in beginning of March for a wedding and I never got around to blogging about it.  I took a ton of pictures and haven't posted those because I wanted to blog about the trip before I posted the pictures and then everything got away from me and here we are at the end of June and I'm getting caught up.  I figure I'd better write everything down now since we leave for an incredible vacation a week from tomorrow and by the time I get back any attempt to post such old stories will be completely futile.

I digress.  So we went to Lagos in early March.  Joey and I were both really excited to get out of Abuja - it was our first overnight trip away and everybody said Lagos, albeit crazy, was this great, fun and exciting place. We were also both so excited because we'd heard the Lagos Commissary had lots of good cheese and meat, so cooler in tow, we headed to the airport.

Our flight to Lagos was blissfully uneventful, and as soon as we got out of the airport I could feel a shift in energy.  Lagos already seemed so lively!  Like Abuja on steroids!  So many people, so many little houses and shops and buildings, all built on top of one another out of concrete and cardboard and tin roofs for miles and miles dotted with colorful umbrellas and bright yellow taxi buses - I've really never seen anything like it.  It was a lot more of the African chaos I'd imagined.  We drove past thousands of tin roofs until we came to a long bridge - and the ocean.  God I can't even tell you how seeing the water lifted my spirit.  Even amidst all the chaos that was Lagos, just the sight of the water made me instantly happier.  As we made our way along the bridge and I dreamily looked out over the water, Joey touched my arm.  I hadn't even noticed the view from the other side of the car:  the city had continued into the water; the shacks were on stilts!  The sight of the colorful floating houses and long wooden fishing boats in the haze of burning trash so foreign and so cool, I felt like we'd been transported beyond Nigeria, beyond Africa to somewhere truly exotic, like Bangkok or Mumbai.

Then we hit the traffic.  Everyone, from our steward to our peers to the driver to the Abuja airport, warned us how horrible traffic is in Lagos, but we figured nothing could be worse than the gridlock of DC.  Well we thought wrong.  Who would have guessed that at 10 am on a Thursday morning there'd be so many cars on the road?  Once we reached the other side of the big bridge, the car crawled at the most painfully slow pace for over an hour.  We eventually arrived at the Consulate, from where I hoped to be taken to our hotel.  I knew Joey had to work and I was perfectly happy going to the hotel and relaxing by the pool with a cocktail in one hand and book in the other.  Unfortunately it was still too early to check-in so I got to tag along with Joey.  Luckily it at least involved a boat ride, which felt amazing, but I was starving, tired, and felt bloated and greasy after the flight and just wanted to veg out.

A view of our hotel from the boat.
Finally we both headed back to the hotel where we'd been assured our rooms would be ready.  HAHAHAHAHA.  I mean I should have known after three months in Nigeria that just because someone tells you something is done or ready or taken care of doesn't mean it is and you'll have to ask at least fifteen more times to even get an answer and then wait even longer, but I was optimistic:  this was a different city which was supposed to be the hub of business in Nigeria and it was a brand-new Sheraton.  Anyway we got to the hotel and surprise!  No room.  After another thirty minutes of hemming and hawing and going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth at long last we were told we'd have a room.  Said room would be ready in an hour and why don't you head to the buffet in the meantime.  Buffet?  Well duh you could shut bitchy Melissa the hell up a long time ago if you'd mentioned her fat kid heaven earlier! 

Holy dessert table I didn't care when our room would be ready, I finally got to go to a restaurant that was cute, the food was continental-style and they even had an awesome salad bar and a chef preparing pasta dishes to order.  Sure it was $50 per person for a lunch buffet but we oohed and aahed over every single bite.  We even wondered why we hadn't bothered to eat at the hotels in Abuja.  What a difference a nice restaurant makes!

One food coma later we finally made our way to our room - it was gor- geous!  Huge windows, big bed, high ceilings, modern bathroom - and clean, too!  This was the start of a great weekend.  We relaxed for a while and then decided to scope out the rest of the hotel.  I wanted to see the pool where I planned spending all of Friday.  Enter major disappointment number 1:  not only was the entire pool area smaller than most people's driveways, but it was completely shaded and the pool was broken.  There goes my idyllic afternoon sipping Pina Coladas (not that I could order one of those here anyway - Pina what?). 

So I suggested we dive into the city.  Let's walk around, see some sights, take some pictures!  We're in a new place, let's explore!  Ahem, I'm informed by my lovely husband, walking around is probably not a good idea.  Additionally, we are banned from using any form of public transportation and the motorpool is restricted for official use during the workday.  And thus we were stuck in the hotel room until dinner unless we were willing to attempt a walk.  Well I didn't travel all that way and pay for a plane ticket to just sit around a hotel, so I decided to go for it.

About four blocks and one total-Melissa-freak-out later, we turned around.  With no sidewalks, no traffic laws, the craziest drivers in the world, a ton of people everywhere and no real map or landmarks by which to judge, I lost it.  Waaaay too overwhelming, and frankly, I was convinced if we kept walking one or both of us would be run over by a car or shanked.  So back to the hotel we went, and after several hours in a white room and temper-tantrum number two, motorpool picked us up for dinner.

The car dropped us off at Bottles, a highly recommended Mexican/Tex Mex restaurant.  What a difference two margaritas make.  And two margaritas that actually taste like margaritas!  My second margarita was even strawberry and blended!  It was amazing.  The food was pretty good too and it just felt great to go somewhere different whose proprietors understood ambiance and real cocktails and Mexican food.  I definitely had taken for granted the amazing Mexican food always available to me growing up in Iowa.

Friday Joey had to go to work again and I was left with absolutely nothing to do. So I got a manicure and pedicure in the morning and then sat in our white room.  All day.  Joey was supposed to be able to pick me up to visit a market but because of the traffic he wasn't able to get back in time.  So I watched TV.  At least the hotel had more channels than we do at home but most of them were Nigerian, which pretty much left me with CNN or BBC and unfortunately the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan the same day.  Obviously my problems pale in comparison to those poor souls and my heart goes out to them, but 24 hour coverage with the same five video clips is enough to make you go crazy.

Finally Joey returned and my dear husband, just like my father, manages to make friends wherever he goes. He'd made friends with another American guest at our hotel traveling with another government agency.  Joey's new friend invited us to check out the nearby "mall" with him, so we went and explored the African version of Walmart and a real grocery store.  Exhilirating.

A Chapman
Upon our return to the hotel we shared a drink with our new friend (he encouraged us to try "Chapmans," Nigerian's drink of choice, for the first time) before departing for a sushi dinner.  We were a little leary about ordering sushi in Nigeria, but we knew some people who'd ordered it before and figured we wouldn't be able to get it again for a long time so what the hell.  It was good!  The restaurant had a lovely ambiance too and the service was great!  It was nice to remember that such things still exist in the world.

The next morning was our last chance to see the market (or anything cultural for that matter).  The wedding didn't start until eleven and so we (I) planned to wake up early, go (drag Joey) to the market and then come back and get ready for the wedding.  But when we walked to the hotel parking lot motorpool wasn't there.  We called motorpool and they assured us a car would be there in half an hour - to take us to the wedding!  Apparently because the traffic is so bad we had to leave two hours before the wedding to make sure we got there on time! (Don't even get me started on the fact that the wedding invitation we received listed the wedding on Friday which is why we had plane tickets to Lagos on Thursday to return Saturday and we didn't find out until the day before we left that the wedding was actually on Saturday and we'd have to change our tickets to Sunday!)  So after temper-tantrum number four about having to leave home and the dogs to sit in a hotel room and not experience any culture, I pouted while we quickly changed into our new wine wedding wear and departed for the wedding.

Along the way to the wedding I saw a dead body on the side of the road.  At least I'm pretty sure it was a dead body.  I guess by that point it was more of a torso but it was black and kind of bloody and when I said, "Did you see that?" Joey didn't but another American going to the wedding did.  And when I said, "Was that what I think it was?  Please tell me that was a black deer."  He told me that it was not a deer.  Shudder.

I already blogged about the wedding a little - but to recap, the wedding was hot, but short and sweet, despite the sermon on how a wife needs to obey her husband.  And it started on time which was amazing.  All of the outfits and headresses were gorgeous and I even got to pose for pictures with babies (?).  The bride's family said they were really honored by our attendance and our outfits were a huge hit.

We proceeded to the reception which was totally decked out with fabric, a beautiful cake and even a costume change from the bride!  We witnessed some more of the fabulous aisle dancing that we first saw at the baptism, only this time it was a lot more people and hip hop.  Unfortunately we slid to the other end of the temperature spectrum when we sat directly in front of the air conditioner; I was so cold I had goosebumps.
By the time the reception reached full-swing, I was exhausted and felt sick (not sure if it was the sushi the night before, the new malaria medication, the drastic changes in temperature or a blood sugar thing from not being able to eat until the reception at 2 and then stuffing my face with rice), and quite relieved when we were informed it was time to go home.  On the way out, Joey and I received our party favor (tupperware, which Joey told the gift giver he wasn't interested in buying before realizing it was a gift) and purchased our paparazzi photo (random photographers show up at the ceremony, then develop their photos to sell at the reception).

Two hours and a car accident later (our driver took the car through some gulch full of other cars and cabs and minibuses and got side-swiped.  The other guy didn't even notice), and lots of praying that I wouldn't throw up on everyone in the car, we finally returned to the hotel.  Poor Joey had to get dinner with his new friend because I couldn't get out of bed and was relegated to several more hours of tsunami coverage.

Sunday we attempted to shop at the Commissary before our flight home, but after the traffic-filled drive there we discovered it was closed.  So empty cooler in tow, we made our way back to the airport.  Several hours and several delays later, none of which were announced (when Joey asked the airline agent about our flight status (no electronic boards here), he received her most incredulous look, like why in the world would the airline have that information?), we were finally back on a plane to Abuja.  Nothing like home sweet home.  I think.

So without further ado, here's the link to the rest of my pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/100586084762366858227/201103Lagos?authkey=Gv1sRgCLys3cik3ub5eg&feat=directlink