About a week after our arrival in Lagos, Ben and I were taking the dog out of the compound to the dog run for some exercise. We were very surprised to see a couple walking their pet Beagle down the street. It was the only other non-American dog I had seen in Lagos. The couple was also intrigued and the dogs were the most intrigued of all and a conversation ensued. They were from South Africa. They moved from London to work here for a large shipping company. She offered to take me shopping and show me around Lagos. She also mentioned that she and some other women walked regularly together in the neighborhood and attended a regular craft group. I jumped at the chance to meet new people and get some exercise. A few days later she took me to lunch and to many of the European shops and the mall. My eyes were opened that my experience in Lagos was going to be much easier than I anticipated. The man invited Ben to go to a weekly dart event with him. They have been good and supportive friends. We were lucky to meet them.
She invited me to attend a weekly get together with some members of the local British Women’s Group. They would gather every week and make various crafts. In November a large Christmas Bazaar is held and all of the crafts are sold off and the money goes to local charities and orphanages. Many of these ladies are very talented and creative. My creative bone is one I am just starting to flex. At first I felt intimidated to attend but they were wonderful and would give me simple tasks to accomplish during our meetings.
“Please cut all of these ribbons 3 inches long.” Check! I can do that. Over time I was able to contribute more. Every week we would meet and have tea, cake, biscuits and hummus. They would task me to help finish up various crafts they were working on individually at home. They are a lovely group with women from all over the world. All of them have some connection to Britain but most of them are not actually British. There are those from South Africa, Austria, Iran, India, Pakistan, Scotland, Japan, Canada and Nigeria as well as others. Their spouses work for consulates, oil companies, shipping companies and mail and package delivery companies among others. Many of them have been expats for years and had grand experience of living in Lagos. It was great to sit and listen to then talk and soak up their wisdom for this way of life.
The most important craft of all were the Christmas Balls. This group has been hand making lovely Christmas ball ornaments for over 10 years. It is now very much a tradition and something that the locals and expats alike look forward to purchasing every year. They look like this when completed.
It is quite a process to complete. Fabric has to be cross stitched with Lagos and the current year. Various complimenting pieces of fabric have to be cut out in different sizes. Using an exact technique beautiful things are created by securing fabric to a foam ball with straight pins. To me it looks as if the balls are quilted. It was pretty amazing watching how they came together. Each one represented about 2 hours of work for someone who actually knows what they are doing. I moved much slower and they were nearly finished with the balls when I joined so I did some work on 3 different balls. They completed 200 balls this year and the majority of them sold out in the first 30 minutes of the bazaar.
This is a great photo tutorial of how to make your own Christmas Ball: Christmas Folded Styrofoam Ball Ornament
It was quite the undertaking completing these ornaments in additions to place mats, table runners, beaded coasters and tissue boxes, aprons, wreaths, stuffed Christmas trees,tea cozies, cloth baskets and so much more. People come and go as they travel for rest and relaxation or holiday. Expats and wealthy Nigerians take many vacations here and they tend to be gone for weeks or months at a time so there were always ladies coming and going. Typically there were between six and eight women at every gathering. Here are just a few of us after a morning pricing all of our items and congratulating ourselves with a job well done.
The morning of the bazaar everyone arrived early to set up. It was hosted at the British High Commissioner Residence. It is always fun to get a peek into these types of homes. There were also baked goods and tablecloths for sale and several raffles. I was assigned money collection for the Christmas Balls. They sell for 6,000 naira a piece, or about $16.67 USD. This is half a months salary for many Nigerians. They go so fast there were four people assigned, two to direct people and watch for thieves (sadly two balls were still lost) and two to take money. We were given special white money bags that the women running the bazaar would come and exchange every 30 minutes or so as they filled with cash. Over the course of the evening I handled over half a million in Naira myself!!
It was a day well worth my time and I brought home a ball to add to our own Lagosian Christmas tree.
Happy Holidays everyone!