Happy Christmas – Here’s a little Expat Christmas Ditty to the tune of We Three Kings….
Happy Christmas – Here’s a little Expat Christmas Ditty to the tune of We Three Kings….
No, it’s not that sort of announcement. I’m not expecting, but once upon a moonshine I was and hopefully you will soon be able read about the slightly less conventional road to parenthood that we travelled in Lagos, Nigeria in an actual book.
Following on from Lisa Ferland’s anthology Knocked up Abroad, a second book, Knocked up Abroad Again is in the imminent works and I’m excited to have contributed a chapter.
Winging it in West Africa is my account of being an expectant-and-then-new mother in Lagos and trying to circumnavigate tropical diseases (a phase of shoe licking did nothing to quell my anxiety), field ‘helpful’ parenting tips from our steward Augustine and assess the perils of being pregnant in a Lagos traffic jam.
Parenthood is daunting enough, but hurl cultural conundrums, language barriers of life overseas and in my case, the utter craziness that life in Lagos hurls at you on an hourly basis and you end up with a melting pot of fascinating stories. In this case 26 stories set in 25 different countries contributed by an interesting and resilient group of expat women.
As promised, here is Part II of my A-Z of Lagos Lingo. If you haven’t read Part I yet, click here.
N is for NEPA plc: The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHC or PHCN) used to be called the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA plc). Due to the frequent power outages, it was more commonly referred to as: N.ever E.ver P.ower A.vailable, p.lease l.ight c.andle.
N is also for Naira: Nigeria’s currency…and is for Naija: A slang name for Nigeria …and for Nollywood – I’ll let you work that one out for yourself.
O is for Oyinbo: (I’ve also seen this spelled oyibo) Literally it means peeled skin. If you are a white person, you will probably hear this often, usually to get your attention (yes, you are the peeled skin person) or as an informal greeting.
O is a popular letter, it is also for: Continue reading
The official language of Nigeria, the language of business and commerce, the common language for Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and other tribes to communicate with one another is English. Whether you are a native English speaker, or like many expats have English as a second (or impressive third or even forth) language, it sounds like one less thing to worry about when moving to Nigeria.
However, even when more standardised English is spoken (and a lot of the time it will be the less comprehensible pidgin English that you hear around you), there are various words and phrases that are likely to confuse, amuse or befuddle you from the moment you step off the plane. You might figure them out easily, you might not. Let me help by decoding a little bit of Lagos Lingo for you.
A is for Area Boy: A local hoodlum. Watch out, watch out if you are told the area boys are about.
B is for Breaking Plates: Plates that are not plastic. i.e. the regular kind of porcelain plates that most expats over the age of 5 would eat from. Continue reading
It’s possible that this will be the first and only recipe I’ll ever share with you, but it’s a goodie and has been a lifesaver over the years. I’m a reluctant cook and love to have a few cheeky tricks up my sleeve. When I say I’m a reluctant cook, preparing a meal for guests generally involves either not inviting them in the first place and appearing to be deeply antisocial or inviting them followed by a tiny meltdown, a sense of impending doom and dirtying virtually the entire contents of my kitchen cupboards.
The end result is a kitchen which looks like it’s been hit by a tornado. I also look like I was in the kitchen when the tornado swept through, frazzled, ruffled, food stained and crazy eyed. If I’m lucky, there will be a passable meal for our guests at the end of the kitchen chaos. …See why this could be the one and only recipe?
Despite constant gentle reminders from my culinary superior husband to ‘tidy up as you go along’ and that ‘prior planning and preparation prevents p*ss poor performance’ and that I should ‘cook with love’ I still get my oven mitts in a twist almost every time.
When we lived in Lagos, the selection and variety of restaurants was limited, so dinner parties were a
popular form of entertainment regular form of torture. To make hosting a dinner party more challenging, Lagos was a particularly tricky place to find all the ingredients to complete a recipe. This added to the torturous drama of producing a fabulous dinner. At one point we expats gals got together and shared our most ‘Lagos Friendly’ recipes, ones that were tasty and that you could reliably get all the ingredients for (or at least enough of the ingredients to make a decent go of it).
Action Barbie’s* Failsafe Focaccia is one of those recipes, it is in fact one of the most impressive tried and tested recipes I’ve ever got my mitts on. It is dead simple to make, it smells and tastes divine and so far I’ve been able to source the ingredients wherever in the world we’ve been living. Win, win, WIN.
So, here’s how to make it… Continue reading
In the 19th century, maps of Africa charted the coastal areas, but the interior, as yet a mystery to European explorers, was left blank…or dark. The romantic name ‘The Dark Continent’ was coined and is still used to this day although in our case we use it in a different context…..
It’s Easter today, so I thought a quick little eggy post was in order. In Lagos the Easter eggs used to melt and go hard, melt and go hard, melt and go hard. By the time you got your hands on them they were often deformed, out of date and had that attractive mottled quality that poorly stored chocolate has. If you’ve bought chocolate in Lagos, you’ll probably know what I mean.
Have you ever flown with children? Have you ever flown on your own with children? Don’t unless you have to. It is the curse of the expat wife. I remember somebody once asking Mr Incredible what it was like to fly with the kids. “Oh, it’s no bother”, he replied breezily. Yes, that would be because he’s never travelled solo with the children. It is a real treat and I would like to share just a few of my highlights with you. Continue reading
Five Potato, Six Potato, Seven Potato, More…
Years ago I remember a South African friend waxing lyrical about the amazing potatoes in Nigeria. At the time I thought it was a bit odd. They were perfectly nice potatoes, but nothing to write home about, (and yet ironically here I am writing about Lagos potatoes a decade or so later). Continue reading
Expat : A person living in a foreign land and anything pertaining to life as an expat.
-orama : A handy bit you can add to the end of a word meaning “wide view of” or “spectacular display of”.
My wide-view-of-expat-life credentials include stints living in Lagos, Istanbul and a current, ongoing posting in Johannesburg.
I am also a former (and this is a label deeply loath) Expat Brat. My parents clocked up nine countries over a quarter of a century. At some point during these formative years when I was cutting my expat baby teeth it seems I also caught the Travel Bug. It causes Itchy Foot Syndrome, a condition that stays with you for life, usually raising its’ pesky head, just as you’ve unpacked that last box.
Having already caught the bug, my fate was sealed the night I met Mr Incredible, (now my charming husband). I asked him what he did for a living and got a cocky answer along the lines of “In a nutshell, I build power stations in Africa.” Sold! I’m kidding, I actually married him because he had such a cool surname. I’m mostly kidding.
I’ve got some far fetched, but completely true tales to share with you. From dodging stray bullets in Lagos, to dodging stray cats in Istanbul, we are now getting cosy in Jozi. I have to confess, it was actually only ONE stray bullet that I dodged in Lagos. I was really and truly sitting in the car though, just a metre or so from where it punctured the bonnet.
I was on my way to an exam where being a) foreign b) female and having c) a fully equipped pencil case were all a great novelty to the other candidates. Even the exam moderator was keen for a big of a chinwag before we started and was quoting Shakespeare AT me as I was desperately trying to stop all the last minute facts and figures from leaking out of my brain before it was time to pick up a pen and transfer them onto the exam paper.
Anyway, back to dodging that bullet. We (the driver and I) were hurtling along a flyover and I had my nose planted in a textbook trying to memorise all the formulae I should already have known. My cramming was interrupted by a loud crack. I remember thinking that an unusually large stone must have been churned up from the road and hit the car and looked up to see whether or not we still had a windscreen.
I also remember our driver looking shifty, but then he was a bit shifty. When we finally left Lagos I was weeping at the airport and my parting words to him were “Look after your family”. I didn’t mean, steal the company car, sell it and disappear with the cash, but that’s how he interpreted it.
In this instance I think he looked shifty because he had guessed what kind of projectile had hit us and was desperate to get off the flyover and under the bonnet to check on the cars’ vital signs and prognosis for getting back home again. We were in the back and beyond of uncharted Lagos, so it wasn’t as if we could easily hop on a bus to get home if there was a mechanical failure. That could have been quite some adventure, but thankfully the damage was superficial.
The bit about dodging the stray cats in Istanbul is entirely true. I really did avoid them, lots of them, all of them. I’m horribly allergic, so primarily it was a self-preservation tactic. It’s also true that we are now getting cosy in Jozi having moved to Johannesburg mid 2013.
Starting from childhood days in the lowlands of Holland to the present day up on the Highveld here in Johannesburg, I have some fairly solid experience to pop on my expat CV. Experience gained, includes both the air conditioned, smooth-as-a-baby’s-bum type, where I learnt from somebody else’s mistakes and by the by-the-seat-of-my-very-own-pants type, where I learnt from my own.
Anyway, stick with me folks (best way to do that is to like my Expatorama Facebook Page or kindly pop your email address in the ‘follow this blog’ box on my home page).
So, let’s get on with the journey. My travel companions are Mr Incredible whose job dictates our location, our daughter Sweetpea, our son Pickle and our dog, The Cheese Thief. This nomadic existence can make you cry or it can make you laugh. I mostly choose to laugh and hope you’ll laugh too, sometimes with me and probably sometimes at me. Enjoy!