Life Unparalleled

Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 6° 27' North- Lagos, Nigeria

May 6, 2018
by Ben
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Print Day in May

We are very lucky to have access to the diplomatic pouch, even to receive personal mail.  Many expats here essentially have no (practical) options for receiving mail.  We do have FexEx and DHL in Lagos, but it is fairly cost-prohibitive to use them for most things.  One downside to the diplomatic pouch, however, is that mail sent through it all goes to a warehouse in Virginia, and is then forwarded to us as space is available, which can take a long time.  I think the fastest we’ve ever received something sent from the states is about 3 weeks, and it is often 6 weeks.  My mom sent us invitations to participate in an event organized by someone she knows from a printmaking club she is part of, called Print Day in May.

She sent the mail with the invitation postcards at the end of march, and they arrived this week, only just in time.  There were participants in Print Day in May from all 50 states, and from dozens of countries.

Here is a list of participants and their locations around the world

Essentially, all participants were supposed to make some sort of print yesterday, and then share it.  Here is the blog post with our kids’ work.

Lifeunparalleled Printing in Lagos, Nigeria

April 30, 2018
by Ben
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Bidding by the Numbers

The list of openings which we could “bid” on started at 222 possibilities.  We were subject to a few limitations on that list.

  1. I am not yet off language probation, so I was only allowed to bid on positions which are language designated, i.e. for which the Department of State considers it mandatory to have foreign language skills, and for which the Department will teach me the necessary language.
  2. I am a consular coned officer, so I can only bid on positions which are either a 2 year consular tour or a rotation tour consisting of 1 year consular and 1 year of some other job.
  3. I am required to bid on positions in at least 2 of the Department’s geographic bureaus (regions of the world)
  4. Each position on the list has an estimated date when I would be expected to arrive.  I can only bid on positions which will allow me to depart my current post when scheduled to, complete any necessary training for the position (including learning a language) and arrive at post at the right time.  There is a little flexibility in this rule, but even with that flexibility, a lot of positions were ruled out.
  5. We must submit at least 10 bids.

The first two rules left me with about 110 possible  positions around the world.  We then spent much of our free time in the last two weeks reading up on posts, reaching out to people we know or to the fabulous Community Liaison Officers at posts, and otherwise researching, to try to find the places which will best fit our family’s needs and desires.  We focused on places which will allow us to be out and about more than we can in Lagos, places with large American International Schools, so the kids can hopefully have a good pool of possible friends, and places with good timing for us (scheduled departure date, training, and arrival date that will minimize the interruption to our kids’ school years).

Today we turned in our list of preferred posts.  Our bidlist by the numbers:

We bid on 12 jobs

We bid on jobs in 4 different geographic bureaus.

We bid on jobs on 3 continents

We bid on jobs which would require me to learn one of 5 languages.

We bid on 10 2 year consular jobs and 2 rotations

Most importantly, we bid on 12 jobs in places we think we would enjoy living, with good, large schools, and interesting domestic or regional travel and recreation opportunities.  Once again it is time to hurry up and wait.  We should know how long we’ll be in DC, and where we’ll be moving in 2020, in about 2 weeks.  We look forward to scratching off another country on our cool scratch-off map!

A few funny things about this map.  We’ve actually visited a few more countries than are currently scratched off.  We recently got several pieces of artwork, including this map, framed.  The guy mostly did a nice job.  However, he seems to have backed this map with corrugated cardboard or foamboard.  The trouble with that is, we just get a corrugated impression and a mess when we try to scratch things off of it.  We’ve ordered a new map and we’ll start over when it gets here.  Dannica was in Spain and France earlier this year, and Harrison just got back from Norway, but neither of us went along, so they don’t count.  It’s funny that we both grew up in the southwest, heck most of my highschool went to Rocky Point every year for spring break, but neither of us has been to Mexico yet.  Someday.

April 18, 2018
by Dy
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Lagos Life Spring 2018

It has been an eventful spring. It is the dry season here in Nigeria. The dreaded sand filled skies of Harmattan have left us and we are left with warm sunny days. Day to day life is filled with mundane and exciting adventure, which is how life should be. Below you will find a brief glimpse into the last few months.

We spend a lot of time with friends and co-workers. They are the best thing about this post. We had a great meeting on the day of the second annual women’s march. Lots of discussion over how how we can make a difference, support equal rights, empower women, and be involved in our nations politics even a continent away. My friend Brianna brought her friend Hillary to join in on the fun.

 

Everett Roger celebrated his 11th birthday. He had an awesome birthday party. Pool party of course because who knows when we will live somewhere warm enough to have a pool party in February again.

A picture of me to prove I really am doing well. I tend to take so many of the pictures I am not often in them. We are adjusting my thyroid meds every month in hopes to find something that will work. My yearly ultrasound check is coming up, I am sure it will still be cancer free and the mass they found last year will not have grown.

 

Roger and his friends are obsessed with pretending they have “The Force” and making their friends fly or jump. The pool adds another level of fun to the exercise. Roger loves living in a compound with so many friends around to play sports!

 

Oh swimming pool, how thankful we are for you!

 

All students in the second grade joined the Invention Fair. The students developed their own invention including a prototype. Oliver may a Zipper Neck Saver which zipped onto a seatbelt to protect it from rubbing against your neck while on the school bus. Yes our busses have seat belts.:)

 

He got to present on his invention to all of the parents who came to enjoy the convention. He was so professional.

 

We spent a night out with our longest standing friends in Lagos. These lovely people were all members of Ben’s A-100 class in Virginia. They too were sent to Lagos on their first assignment. Happy one year anniversary with the Foreign Service!

 

Dannica got to dress up for Throwback Thursday at school. When I told her she should wear a dress I had from the 1960’s she replied “Not that far back mom, more like the ’90’s or 2000’s.” Ben’s letterman jacket did the trick.

 

A quiet moment of two brothers playing video games in a thrashed living room because lets be honest, a fair amount of video gaming happens around here as well.

 

Unfortunately too much of our time is spent in traffic. Frank our great driver makes it a more pleasant experience as well as just being along for the ride. You have to enjoy the crazy like this taxi driver being  so done with traffic he is attempting to push his fellow taxi mate into the intersection.

 

Some friends of ours went to Thailand. We agreed to kitty sit. Miss Damissa is a sweet and sassy thing. Of course she went into heat right after they left so the kids got to learn another reason to spay and neuter you pets. It was a loud few nights for them but she was fun to have around.

 

Ben had a birthday and I made him pineapple upside down cake with real pineapple. The pineapple here is so tender and juicy it was quite moist, probably too much so but it tasted great.

 

Well what can you say, a beautiful country ruined by trash. The first few weeks the kids were so shocked now they eat their candy and don’t even notice.

 

Easter at the American Club. They had games and an egg hunt and a pretty great Easter brunch. Look how tall they are all getting.

 

The kids and Ben celebrated Dannica’s safe return from France/Spain and the long Easter weekend with a few hours spent on their ongoing game of Dungeons and Dragons. Any long weekend it is the first thing they request. One of the perks of this job is Ben is home so much more. Also without the pressing needs of a house to care for we have much more time for family.

 

Keeping with our tradition of experiencing as much of the medical care as Lagos has to offer…Oliver had major tooth pain and had to see a local dentist for a filling. I was very impressed with their skill and sanitation. The cost wasn’t bad either. A three sided filling, stand up x-ray, infection treatment and 3 exams for about $150. Sure beats the $400 we paid in Virginia.

 

Roger was excited to participate in Saturday sport soccer. Barcelona is his favorite team and Dannica got to visit the stadium on her trip.

 

Dannica got to play Mulan in the school musical. It was pretty magical watching her. We now have a huge canvas poster like this!

 

A show well done. We didn’t get any pictures of she or Harrison during the performance leaning on a professional filing crew. I guess there have been some problems so we still don’t have the video.

 

The cast and crew at the end of the show. It was a full house. Over 350 seats sold out both nights.

 

We have gone through 4 fridges and one freezer in the 9 months we have been here. Hopefully this one with mysterious Wifi will be the keeper.

 

Since our car arrived 5 months ago we have been hit by two motorcycles weaving their way through traffic and this guy who was trying to cut in line while waiting to pay a toll. He scraped that mirror all along the side of our Pilot. I was not happy. There may have been some words said. Ben was driving. Needless to say it ended fine because Frank our driver is magic and removed the paint with foam and brake fluid?!?

 

Saturday sports has now moved on to baseball which Roger is excited to play again after missing last years season because of our move. Other than fencing, watching him play baseball is the most enjoyable for me.

 

The kids had the equivalent of parent teacher conferences. Only the teacher doesn’t really talk. The kids put together a online portfolio showing all the work they have done in various classes so far that year. They do a formal presentation to their parents. It was pretty cool. Harrison was happy I rewarded him with a chocolate croissant. I miss this half grown boy he is currently on his class trip to Norway.

April 16, 2018
by Ben
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Bid List!

Nothing makes you remember the part of being a foreign service officer wherein you committed to being “worldwide available” like looking at a bid list! We received the list of possible postings for second tour officers who are scheduled to leave their current posts in the summer of 2019 (read: me and an unknown number of my colleagues, about half of my A-100 orientation class and part of some others before ours who had language training for their first post). We now have 2 weeks to digest it, read up on others’ experiences in the various options, and submit our list of preferences. It really is fun to do this kind of research and imagine ourselves living in the various places. Based on a first review of the list, I think we may have more people wanting to visit than we have had here in Nigeria.

We’ve got a few goals this time around.  We’ll have 3 kids in highschool by the end of our next tour (wait, what!?!?!), so we’re looking for places with good schools, and hopefully a reasonable size pool of potential peers.  Hopefully we won’t need to avail ourselves of the medical care quite as often as we have here in the last few months, but it would be nice to have medical care available.  We definitely want more access to nature/wilderness!  Living in a megacity with restricted movement is not the same as living 1 house away from the Dixie National Forest.  I’ll be required to learn a language for my next tour, so wherever we go it will start with several months in Washington.  Stay tuned for the news about where we’ll be headed in early May.

April 5, 2018
by Ben
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When the Going Gets Tough

I’m sure many of you have seen in the news that the US has declared 60 Russian diplomats persona non grata, and that Russia has responded in kind.  I can only imagine the stress and heartache my colleagues in Russia and our counterparts in Seattle must be going through.  Here is a very touching blog post by the spouse of the Deputy Chief of Mission (second-in-command) at our Embassy in Moscow.  Please read it and think about the sacrifices we in the Foreign Service make for love of our country.

When the Going Gets Tough

“Those of us left behind will stay tough and keep the mission going. Last week we rallied around our friends and did what we could to help them meet the deadline for departure. Next week, the halls of a building emptied of some of the finest people I have the privilege of knowing, will be walked by some of the finest people I have the privilege of knowing. And we will pick up the pieces, carry on the work, and continue to live here in this sometimes gloomy, but ever vibrant and enigmatic city.”

I am proud to be part of this service.

March 31, 2018
by Dannica Gordon
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Franish Trip

While my family was in Benin, enjoying beaches and nature, I was in France and Spain. It was an 8-day trip starting immediately after school on Thursday the 22nd and got back on Friday the 30th. I brought my suitcase to school on Thursday and was allowed to wear my trip shirt and hoodie to school instead of the usual uniforms.  I ended up late to the bus, carying a piece of toast, as all good trips start. Continue Reading →

March 30, 2018
by Ben
1 Comment

Ile Ife Heritage Marathon

Several months ago I set a goal of training for and running the Lagos Marathon.  I was good and consistent about training for a while, and built up to a long run on the weekends of 13 miles, but then my motivation fell by the wayside. However, an opportunity arose to travel outside Lagos to participate in the inaugural Ile Ife Heritage Marathon, in the cradle of Yoruba civilization.  Ife is the oldest Yoruba city, dating back to circa 500 BC.  Not wanting to pass up this opportunity, I went for it with 2 friends, notwithstanding my lack of training.  Continue Reading →

March 29, 2018
by Dy
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Ben in Benin – Spring Break 2018

Two things we hoped for when setting off on this Foreign Service life abroad were being able to enjoy nature in its many varieties and traveling to other countries.  Sadly for us Lagos, Nigeria has been a bit of a disappointment in both of these areas. There is lots of green space in Nigeria, but most of it not accessible to us without an escort.  There is very little green space in Lagos.  Nigeria is surrounded by four countries none of which are easy to get to thanks to Nigeria’s terrible roads. Due to volatile currency exchange rate fluctuations in recent years, air travel out of Nigeria is also very expensive.  The exchange rates have been much more stable since we’ve been here than they previously had been, so maybe that will change, but the cost to fly anywhere with our family of 6 has been largely prohibitive for us.  We aren’t quitters though!! Continue Reading →

March 12, 2018
by Dy
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International Day

Evidently my family members need to own shirts with the American flag on them and it is shocking that we don’t. I had no idea this would be a requirement to this lifestyle. We never even owned holiday themed shirts when we lived in the United State. Back in the days when I still had to do my own laundry, sorry guys :), I kept my kids on a pretty strict 7 outfit rule. Yes each child only had 7 outfits. 7 outfits was plenty of clothing. It meant I do could all of our family laundry in just a handful of loads every week. The kids only owned clothes they really loved so I never had to argue with them in the morning or find outfits they took off half through the day and tossed in the hamper. I would rotate out the clothes twice a year. In Utah we only had two seasons, warm and cold. Most of the clothes were rags by the end so hand me downs were few and far between but I didn’t care. This greatly simplified my life and holiday themed clothing isn’t simple. So back to the point of this post the kids are expected to dress in clothing that represents their country on International Day. I guess International Day is a common event at most American International Schools around the world because contrary to what you might expect based on the name most of the people who attend these schools are not American. American school implies the style of teaching, american/Canadian teachers usually and use of the English language. Unfortunately America also doesn’t really have a national dress since we are really a melting pot of so many cultures and we essentially tried to completely eradicate the Native Americans and continue to take their land to this day, Ahem,,,Utah Bears Ears. It would feel culturally insensitive to dress up as a Native American. So American flag clothing it is! Well not us my kids went out the door in white t-shirts, blue jeans and either baseball or cowboy hats. It is what we could come up with.

Entering the gym there were taped off sections all over the gym floor that were labeled for various countries. The school had flags hung all around in support.

 

 

The American International School of Lagos had students attending from 59 different countries. YES 59!

The kids all sang the Nigerian National Anthem then the band played a song and a few selected children were asked to read essays about their countries. Then in alphabetical order they showed a large flag on the screen and they played the national anthem as the children and teachers from that country walked across the stage in their native dress or flag colors. It was pretty amazing. Some countries were well represented like Nigeria, India, the United States and Lebanon, with my estimate at probably 60%of the school of these nationalities. Other countries only had one or two children proudly or reluctantly walking across the stage. It was lovely to see the different costumes. Mostly it just touched my heart to recognize so many of the children as friends and class mates of my own kids. Probably the number one reason Ben decided to apply for this job was an overwhelming desire we had for our children to explore the world and get a better understanding of different cultures. Seriously I was unabashedly crying.

 

After the assembly the students were released to the courtyard where parents had set up tables and booths filled with food from countries all over the world. The children got to go around and eat and experiment with new tastes to their hearts content. It was pretty awesome and delicious.

Greek, Indonesian, Chinese and Canadian food on my plate.

After the stellar food I went to go help and watch a presentation in Oliver’s class put on by three of his classmates and an acquaintance of mine from India. They did a great job and shared Indian food, famous Indian people, dances, flowers, animals, religions, etc. They ended their presentation with a group meditation as yoga is from India.

In Oliver’s class of 14 students the following countries were represented: Israel, Denmark, Ireland, India, USA, Lebanon, Indonesia, Philippines, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

It was a great day that I got to spend with my kids and I am reminded through all the hard that we are really happy and thankful to be here.

I do have other children I promise, the youngest just insists on the most pictures.

 

 

 

March 8, 2018
by Dy
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Antibiotics- How do I love thee, let me count the ways…

  1. Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC)
  2. Enterotoxigenic E.Coli (ETEC)
  3. Samonella

All at once.

It was an interesting week but once again I am reminded how lucky we are to be from the United States where really you could survive much of your life and probably not have to count on Westernized medicine very often. Here, not so much.

PS

People might have overheard me yelling to Ben “I am almost 37 years old, I deserve soft toilet paper in my life.”

I <3 you Charmin!

Image result for Charmin toilet