Lagos, Nigeria Travelogue – 2012

Deb travel to Lagos, March 3-4
I am writing to you from Lagos, Nigeria. I am staying at the Southern Sun hotel on Victoria Island. The food is plentiful and very good. The lighting in the room is absolutely fantastic! Not only are there two lights on either side of the bed, they each have directional reading lights! There is also a directional light on the desk. I’m in heaven being able to work and read without strain.

At night, they turn down your bed and leave a mint on your pillow. There are very friendly guards on every floor and if you need anything at all (in my case, an iron and ironing board- then someone to fix the shower light) they are there in a flash.

Downstairs outside there are at least 3 or 4 gentlemen to help you in and out of the car and carry anything you need carried (when I arrived, that included three heavy suitcases). After shopping for water at ShopRite, that included carrying two bags full of water bottles.
The shower is wonderful- with a hand held spray as well as an overhead rain spray that I really enjoy. The bed is firm and comfortable, the pillows exactly firm and soft enough. When you open the door, you put your room card into a slot that turns on the lights and the air conditioner. You just have to remember to take it out and with you when you leave the room.

Can you tell that I like my room and this hotel? Oh, also the young woman who was the hostess at breakfast and lunch today was exquisite, wearing the national dress. I hope to get a picture of her tomorrow!

The trip here was very long but relatively uneventful. The leg from Madison to Detroit went quickly. They tagged my heavy carry-on bag, so I didn’t have to worry about someone lifting it up and down from the overhead luggage rack.

During the over 7-hour leg from Detroit to Amsterdam, I found that I really couldn’t sleep in the plane. I read and then got up and walked the aisles. I had a four-hour layover in Amsterdam, so I walked around, checked out the duty free shop, and then saw that I could get on the Internet for a fee. So, I did, to purchase and download books from Barnes and Noble for my Nook.

Since I read a book a day, usually I bring library paperbacks with me. That wasn’t practical for a month and half trip, so I purchased a Nook e-reader and I’m enjoying it. Most of the books I bought were less than a dollar!

The only unpleasantness occurred when I went through security for KLM Dutch Airlines to get on the plane to Lagos. I had someone put my bag on the conveyer belt and when it went through, I asked the KLM fellow at the other end if he would take it down for me, explaining about my surgery and weight restriction.

The young guy proceeded to lecture me that carry on meant I should be able to carry it on- and continued in that vein for a few minutes. At the end, he said that he would put it down for me just this one time. Good grief! I wanted to kick him!!

Then they said that my bag was too large to carry on with me, so they tagged it and sent it to baggage. That was actually fine with me. However, I felt singled out when I watched dozens of folks carrying much larger bags onto the plane!

While I was waiting to board, the waiting room was packed. A young Nigerian in a natty suit moved his luggage so I could sit down. I learned that his name was Edmund and he was returning to Nigeria from Italy after an absence of 2.5 years from his wife and children. Apparently he was able to find work for a while there, but then the work dried up.

When I sat down on the plane, Edmund was seated next to me across the aisle. And after we landed, he took responsibility for taking my luggage off of the conveyer belt. A very nice guy.
Getting on to the plane was a real trip. The Nigerians do not cue up. When it was time to board, they moved en masse to the gateway. The KLM representative kept repeating that only those in seats 25-42 should board- but after about 10 minutes she gave up!

But back on the plane, three things to tell you about. First, I overheard the lead stewardess talking to the man in front of me who apparently got pain in his ears when the cabin pressure changed. She told him that he needed to use a nose spray- and then went and got him small capsules to use! Talk about amazing service!

Second, it was a treat to watch some of the Nigerian women (mostly much older) come in wearing their beautiful dresses and headdresses.

Third, during the last hour of the7-hour flight to Lagos, an older woman at the end of my aisle started singing and got louder and louder. She was singing in her language and I definitely didn’t know the words or the melody.

Once at Lagos, we had over an hour wait to get through customs. Again, no one just simply lines up. Everyone jostles to move forward and if you’re not aggressive (and even on a good day with lots of sleep, I’m not!) you could get pushed to the end of the crowd very easily. I got behind someone who was good at moving forward, so I was able to, also.

A small complaint. After getting all sorts of shots so I would have the necessary yellow card, every time someone asked for my passport I included the yellow card and every time they just pushed it back to me. No one ever looked at it!!

It took another 30-40 minutes for all three of my bags to appear. A porter came over and got me out to the curb, where approximately 10 taxi drivers descended on me. Luckily, I saw Ben Ben (who was my welcome wagon and ride to the hotel). I followed him through the 90-degree humid evening (about 9 p.m.) over ruts, holes in the road, and around huge crowds of people and cars stopped, beeping, and speeding around us. Just as I was going to get into the car, Edmund came over and introduced me to his wife!

It took about a half hour to get to the hotel, where all of the staff were friendly and welcoming. Tricia, my American contact, came down to greet me. It was nice to finally meet her face to face. We all made plans to meet mid-morning and off I went to my room.

There it took a while to get onto the Internet so that I could Skype call anyone- by the time that Jenny and I connected, I was completely wiped out. So, she kindly made the calls I had planned to make, announcing my safe arrival.

Deb in Lagos, March 5

Breakfast included scrambled eggs made to order, fresh fruit, smoked salmon! Yogurt and a roll. Then I went upstairs to iron some clothing until Tricia got back from a meeting.

We rolled the two suitcases full of training materials (I had mailed one to her to bring with her from D.C.) and got into the car with the driver, Ayo.

Thank goodness for his ability and quick reflexes. I’ll try to explain the drive from the hotel to the office.

No one obeys any signals or signs. The cars speed, all trying to get into the same lanes (assuming there were lanes). Then we have zillions of motor scooters usually with 2-3 people on them, weaving in and out of the traffic. Then the people standing in the middle of the road hawking everything from mirrors to water to shoe racks! Then the people on the side of the road selling things. There are no sidewalks, so there are also people walking. It’s a madhouse.

The poverty of the place is apparent from all of the dingy broken concrete huts, hovels- there are slums along the roads- there is a water slum with broken huts on stilts. Every now and then, you see someone (usually a woman) walking with something huge balanced on her head (they wrap a cloth in a circle, put that on their head so they can balance whatever it is).

There are what look like bar umbrellas here and there, selling anything and everything.
There is a constant stream of humanity, as well as huge crowds of people just standing.
When we got to the office, Tricia warned me that it would smell of mothballs, because they have them throughout the rooms. We’re thinking it has to be an insect repellent strategy but we’re going to ask Ben about it tomorrow (if we remember).

It took quite a while to get everything else together for the training, then we (Tricia, Ben Ben and I) piled into the car and took off for the hotel where the training will be held.

Something I noticed was that any building of any import (business or hotel) has a guardhouse that you have to get through. If it doesn’t, you have to honk so they check out your car before they open the gate. There are high walls with barbed wire around every building. In some places, it looks like what I imagine a war zone would be like.

At the hotel, the manager introduced herself, welcomed us and led us to the training room. There were heavy wooden tables lined up in a long U with about 15 staff people sitting there. She explained that they were all there waiting to find out how to set up the room. And by golly, they all got involved. In all my years of training, I have NEVER had that much help.

When I went to stand on a chair to put up a kite on the wall, three men hurried over to do it for me. I could certainly get used to that!!

One exciting moment occurred when I plugged in the power strip I brought. There was a large pop! No one told me that the electric current was much higher than in the states. Needless to say, it got fried. Luckily, the LCD projector plugged into it at the time survived unscathed. That would have been terrible if I had ruined it.

There will be fifteen people in the training, which runs from Tuesday through Friday. They are all staying at the hotel with the training room. When I asked Tricia if they were coming from out of town, she said no, they are all from Lagos. But the traffic is so terrible, there would be no guarantee that they would get to the training room if they weren’t already staying there. Tricia and I will be the only ones traveling back and forth. We’re leaving at 7 a.m. tomorrow, even though the training starts at 9, because we don’t know what to expect.

Now it’s time for me to go to bed.

Deb in Nigeria, March 6

This will be a very brief update because I am absolutely exhausted. I got up at 6, dressed and had breakfast (avoiding the eggs, which they do not refrigerate) and was picked up at 7. It took an hour to get to the training site, where I had to continue with set up.

I am conducting a four day train the trainer program for 15 folks (only 2 women) who conduct training for US AID in Nigeria on access to finance and business management.

As they came into the room, they began to take pictures of the kites, the agenda map, training sayings I’d posted on the wall, and me! They loved the candy and music and moving around for activities. I discovered that they LOVE to debate- which means that a module that is typically 20 minutes is over an hour. We began at 9, had lunch from 1:15 to 2 pm. and didn’t end until 5:45 p.m.- a good 45 minutes over the scheduled ending time. Because I couldn’t get them to stop debating in their small groups. Just one example: it took them over 30 minutes of strenuous arguing just to decide on a title for the training program they were designing! Good grief!

They are all pleasant, bright professional people (all of the men in suits and ties) and are taking the training very seriously. There is a lot of chatter and laughter- and their energy seemed to increase as mine flagged. I still haven’t caught up on my lack of sleep during the flights over.

I’ve already decided to replace some small group work with individual activities, because I absolutely refuse to be on my feet conducting training for 8 hours again tomorrow.

Lunch was not good for me. It was (understandably) native Nigerian food, which meant that it was all too spicy for me- with the exception of some rice and fish. Well, the fish was very spicy but I cut it up and mixed it with the rice, so it was tasty. Unfortunately, it was also full of small bones which were even more difficult to find in the rice… By the time we got back to the hotel after 7 p.m., I was starved.

Although exhausting, it was a very gratifying day to see these folks, all of whom are lecturers, embrace the idea of accelerated learning and participatory learning activities. The evaluations were all very positive, with the only concern being the length of the class today. Two thought it was too long, one didn’t think it was long enough… We’ll discuss this with the group tomorrow, when I lay down some rules.

I really miss the two count down timers I’ve always used on my Power Point. When I upgraded my Mac operating system, it no longer supported whatever system the timers used. I’m going on line before I got to bed (very very soon!) to find even a basic free timer that will work on a Mac. I think projecting the remaining minutes will help keep them on track.

Oh, I didn’t mention that yesterday I changed dollars into naira. Because of the exchange rate, I am now marching around with many thousand naira bills! My salad buffet tonight cost 4600.

Deb in Nigeria March 7

Today was another exhausting but extremely exhilarating day. 

Driving to the hotel, we see children of all ages dressed in different colored school uniforms. Tiny tots walk holding hands with older siblings, parents or grandparents. The children also dart through the traffic, which is incredibly scary!

I’m rethinking my statement that Lagos has many slums. The more frequently we drive down the same streets and through the same neighborhoods, I’m realizing that the concrete and rust (from the salty ocean air) are just part and parcel of the urban environment.

Yes, there are open air shops that sell everything: toys, plantains, tires, groceries- and folks are also sitting under umbrellas, but that is the nature of the small businesses. It is continually amazing to see women, children and some men walking with huge bowls on their heads, filled with fruits, appliances, breads, ice and water! My gosh their necks must be incredibly strong- and their posture very erect.

Women carry their children in a huge sash that goes over their breasts, with the child held close next to their back. 

At the beginning of the training day, I had a frank conversation with the group about the need to set strict time limits on activities so we could avoid a recurrence of the late day yesterday. They agreed and, to a great extent, complied.

They are so into the training- they take photos every time I show a cartoon on the Power Point, they stand next to me for pictures, every activity we do, someone is taking a picture. Since today focused on interactive learning activities, they had a lot to photograph.

Before I forget, they were each given a clear plastic letter-sized case that included a small notebook, a pencil, a square flat eraser, and a razor blade to use for sharpening the pencil. We need to clear off the pencil shavings from the tables after each training day.

I used a bingo-like game- and had to explain what bingo was. They had a blast.  We also used tinker toys to create merry-go-rounds  and they were very creative in their building- although I wouldn’t want to ride on any of them if they were life size!

It was very gratifying to review their home practice, which was to create the title, learning goals and learning objectives as the first part of a lesson plan.

They all got it!! Later, in debriefing a case study about a trainer who lectured for 2 hours, it was great to hear their suggestions as to what the trainer did incorrectly and what many changes that trainer would need to make to set the learners up for success.

At one point, the three table groups worked to identify learning activities for a lesson on minimizing the risk of infectious diseases. One group knocked my socks off with their creativity. To introduce the concept of an infectious disease, they created a simple game- their participants, sitting at tables, were to pass around small pieces of paper. Several of those pieces of paper had a dot on it, signifying an infectious disease. Once everyone had their piece of paper, the individuals with the dots were to raise their hand- and then identify all of the people with whom they had come in contact. What an imaginative way to lead into a definition of infectious disease.

They took to heart the idea of meeting the needs of different learning styles. For example, to check participant comprehension of which diseases were infectious, they planned to state a disease and have the participants move to the right of the room if they thought it was infectious and to the left if they thought it wasn’t infectious. 

Another group loved using pop ups to check for comprehension and built in a requirement for an action plan at the end. I am so impressed with how quickly they not only absorbed the idea of participatory learning but also immediately applied what they had learned in their lesson planning process. Yup, very gratifying.

Another nice thing about today is that I had much less trouble understanding folks when they spoke. Yesterday, there were times I simply had no idea what had been said. Today, my ability to comprehend their cadences (which are somewhat British and very lovely) increased geometrically. By the time I leave next Wednesday, I may even understand a good 90-95% of what is said!

Morning “tea” happens during one of the breaks in the morning and includes some pastry with meat. The afternoon tea break yesterday included what looked like plain cupcakes and round flat cakes. I tried one of the latter, which tasted somewhat like very very dry corn bread. Not my favorite (I’m a chocolate and nuts girl).  Today, it looked like some kind of egg roll with what I imagine was very very hot dipping sauce. Lunch was better for me today because we ordered individually rather than having a buffet. I had chicken and chips (French fries) and cole slaw.

Interestingly enough, on our way to the training hotel a fellow passed by on a scooter with an enormous basket behind him on which were tied a pile of live very scrawny looking chickens! I’m wondering whether one of those provided my lunch. We also passed a statue of representatives of the three tribes (?) of Nigeria, each wearing native dress, holding up Nigeria. 

Speaking of native dress, Tricia (my US contact who is here with me, thank goodness, and great company and help!) told me that Fridays are native dress days. I can’t wait to have an entire room full of folks in their native dress. Since they’ve been taking pictures of me every day, turn around will be fair play when I take photos of them!

Additional random facts. The training hotel is using its backup generator to ensure that we don’t lose power, since the electricity goes on and off very frequently. It happened at my hotel this morning just when I was going to get dressed. It’s very hard to get dressed when you can’t see in front of you! But the power came on very quickly.

When it rains, as it did yesterday and today, there is a sudden downpour and you hear the thundering drops on the roof above you. It lasts for a few minutes and then stops. There are huge open culverts on the side of roads to take the water- or that’s what I assume.

Tricia informed me that the restaurant puts cream into the scrambled eggs- that’s why they taste funny and have an unusual texture.

when I get back to the hotel in the evening, the maid has turned down the bed, left a little reading light on and a chocodate on the pillow (a date stuffed with an almond and covered with chocolate). It is surprisingly tasty!

Yesterday, on the way back to the hotel, Ayo (our driver) explained that the sirens (more like buzzing beeps)  we heard didn’t mean there was a difficulty- the police use their sirens to get through traffic to go home, not to fulfill any policing responsibility!

When I got back to the room this evening, the big floor lamp wouldn’t turn on and there wasn’t a bottle of water in the bathroom (to use for brushing teeth). I called and within 5 minutes got a return call telling me that both housekeeping and maintenance were on their way. They both came and remedied their respective situations for me within the next 5 minutes. Five minutes after that, I got a call to follow up and make sure that my needs had been met.  What incredible customer service!

An embarrassing admission: when I conduct train the trainer programs in the states, I always tell participants how important it is to use examples that are relevant to their training audiences. Until I came here to Nigeria, I didn’t realize how difficult it is to even discover what might or might not be relevant. I used a pizza example- and they don’t have pizza. I provided what is supposed to be a meaningful sentence in an activity: We go up north to see the autumn colors- and that had no resonance for them. Then today I had to explain what bingo was. Luckily, they knew what a merry go round was.

I’m rethinking some of my training content for Jordan, based on this experience. I can’t imagine that they are familiar with those references either. 

However, I must tell you that there are Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants all over the place…

Speaking of food, I need to go and get some dinner. 

Until tomorrow.

Deb in Nigeria March 8

First of all, let me be the first to say to all of the women reading this email- Happy International Women’s Day!  According to Tricia, every country except the US celebrates it. Each of my participants came up to shake my hand and congratulate me. Who knew?

Some of you have asked if I am taking a lot of pictures. My dears, I am not out strolling- I am in a car at 7 or 7:30 a.m. for a drive that is anywhere from 30-60 minutes to get to the hotel when the training is sited. Then I am in a car at 5:30 or 6:30 p.m. to get back to our hotel. I tried to take pictures as we drove today and (1) got sea sick, (2) got a headache, and (3) got told by Ayo, our driver, that I should make sure no one saw me taking pictures or we would all be arrested. So, I stopped.

I believe that we (Tricia and I) will be going with Bassey to see a local artisan. If that’s the case, perhaps I’ll be able to walk and take photos. In lieu of that, I’ll just have to give you word pictures.

When we got to the training room today, we found that all of the candy had been taken from the bowls. A bit later, we learned that the hotel staff actually sleep in that room! They had shown admirable restraint not taking the candy the first night. 

We also lost the air conditioning for about an hour. Given that it was probably 100 F and 100% humidity outside, things got very very warm in a hurry. Just as we were going to move into another part of the hotel that had air conditioning, they fixed ours- and it was even better and cooler than it had been for the previous two days. Whew!

I am so thrilled by the participants. They are very astute and clearly have absorbed the accelerated learning concepts. They handed in their completed home practice assignment, which was to create a lesson plan avoiding the use of lecture- and they were masterful in their lesson design. 

My one minor disappointment today was the fact that no one noticed I was wearing a pin in the shape of Africa and African earrings to match (which my mother brought back when she and Dad went to Africa). I felt very snazzy. Tricia suggested that perhaps they were so used to seeing this type of jewelry it didn’t register with them. Maybe.

On the way to the training hotel, we saw what must have been an entire family of 6 people on one scooter! I wish I’d been able to get a picture of that.

I also wish that I could get a few photos of the fishing boats on the water. In the morning, there is a mist or fog over the water- and the small boats are very graceful- similar to those you would see in photos of Japanese fishermen. Every now and then there is a boat with a square sail, but otherwise the boats are moved with long paddles from a standing position.

That’s all I can manage tonight. I’m bushed!

Deb in Nigeria March 9 and 10

Now I have two days to talk about. I was just too exhausted last night!

Yesterday, the participants were responsible for facilitating a 10-minute participatory learning activity that they designed. It was also to be a brand new activity that they had never facilitated before.

I ran the video camera (which I brought with me, along with a wonderful light tripod that worked perfectly) which meant that I was standing all day. I actually wore my compression stockings, so I can’t imagine how much more tired I would have been without them.

With few exceptions, the participants did a wonderful job. They tried new things- brainstorming, games, case study, debate, small group problem solving. They used common ground questions: how many of you….? For the debate, Bassey asked: “How many of you have children?” When two didn’t raise their hands, he recovered by asking: “How many of you PLAN to have children?”- to which both replied in the affirmative. Bassey was setting up a debate regarding corporal punishment for children- pro and con. Just fascinating.

These appear to be cultural: each participant began the facilitated session by asking if everyone was all right and if everyone had had a good breakfast or lunch. The “facilitators” also ask the participants “do you agree? If so, raise your hand.”

As a rule, the participants also stand when they respond to a question or have something to say.

Yesterday was national dress day, so as I had written earlier, I was looking forward to having a class full of wonderful Nigerian costumes.

Only two came dressed that way- Lawal, who was the only woman and dressed in native clothing every day, and Wade, who wore a traditional men’s long shirt and pants, as well as a beautiful soft hat. Tricia was also dressed in native costume that she had been given earlier and she looked wonderful- the oranges and browns of the patterns on the fabric complimented her red hair. She also had a head dress.

Later that afternoon, I was given my own green patterned dress and head scarf, as well as beautiful white large pearl or pearly bead double strand necklace, earrings and bracelet. I wore it the rest of the day and it was very light (cotton) and comfortable. Everyone took their picture with me! We even took a few class pictures. What this means is that a hotel employee took pictures of all of us with at least 8 different cameras!! I was sure that I would see flash spots the rest of the day!

Now the upsetting part of the day was the choice by the master trainer who is supposed to take over providing my train the trainer materials. He scheduled himself to facilitate at the very end- and proceeded to give a traditional lecture. (Did I mention that lecture was NOT allowed?) I was very happy to see some of the participants shaking their heads and rolling their eyes at me. They knew what was wrong. At the end of his practice session, I first asked for the group to identify the strengths of his activity. A few waxed eloquent at how wonderful he was. (They all admire and respect him greatly). 

When I asked what recommendations the group had, a few pointed out that he had lectured. But he began to argue that there wasn’t enough time to do anything else. (please realize that 13 other individuals had used interactive learning activities successfully in their ten minute practice). I have to admit, I took his decision to lecture personally. It invalidated the entire three days of training on adult learning principles, learning styles, 10 categories of participatory learning activities, etc.

I asked the group to identify the basis for our choice of learning activity- they knew that it was NOT the number of people or the number of minutes- but that it is based on the desired learning level. Then I suggested that we discuss what the master trainer could have done differently, hoping that he would take the opportunity to redeem himself. Nope, so other participants identified a good 6 participatory learning activities he could have used instead. 

Needless to say, I am not happy with him- and he will be among the three individuals I will be training for three days this coming week using the business counseling program I designed. Given that, I felt that I had to write to him last night about my regret that I had to handle the situation in the manner that I had. We’ll see how and if he responds.

Although we did a few wrap up activities and a celebration (with bubbles and music that they loved!) at the end of the training day, I was very concerned that the participants would be turned off as well as turned against me by my treatment of their idol. However, that was not the case. Every evaluation was glowing. Whew!

An exciting side note. Tricia had mentioned her concern that the business and finance trainers were now prepared to train using the materials I designed, but the health trainers (doctors and pharmacists) still had their old lecture materials- and it would be very difficult for them to redesign those materials. She mentioned that to Ayo (the woman in charge of the project)- and the fact that I could design program specific materials from the States- and she was ecstatic. She has asked me to tell her how long I think it will take to design 12 days of training- two four day training programs and two two day training programs. I need to let her know on Monday. There is also already talk about my coming back to train more trainers. I definitely wouldn’t mind that at all.

On an entirely different note, I saw a huge line of scooters along the side of the road and asked why they were there. You know my earlier mention of seeing two or three people on a scooter? The scooters are actually taxis- people are paying to ride behind them!

Last night, I also had a two hour Skype call with Piotr in D.C., who was the driving force behind my work with US AID Nigeria. We discussed my training experience her at length. He also asked me how long my layover would be in Amsterdam when I leave Wednesday night to fly to Jordan. He suggested that I get a day room at the Yotel (hotel) at the Amsterdam airport. 

That prompted me to actually look at my tickets to see how long my layover would be. I am scheduled to arrive on Thursday morning at 6:15 a.m. and I don’t leave for Amman, Jordan until 4:30 p.m.

Since I don’t appear to be able to sleep on the plane (which will be 7+ hours) I’m so glad he suggested I do something so I can sleep at the airport. 

Last night, I also sorted all of my dirty outfits for the laundry (sweating profusely takes a toll on clothing) and computed that it would cost me at least 21,000 N (approximately $135). First thing on Saturday, we went to exchange dollars for naira. I found out that you get a better price if you have high bills ($100) than if you have what I had, which was $20 bills. Tricia’s rate was 157.7 N to the dollar, and mine was 155 N to the dollar. I still ended up with 77,600 naira- which means I was given 77 N1000 bills! They really fill up a wallet, let me tell you!

Today, Saturday, Tricia and I went with Ayo (our terrific and fierce-looking driver) to an open air market with arts and crafts, carvings, wood, bronze, jewelry, paintings, clothing. It was open air, but in a concrete building that was like a maze. Every step we took, someone was trying to draw us into his or her “shop”- calling out Mama or Madam (both terms of respect) and telling us there was no charge to look.

Thank goodness Ayo was there, because you have to bargain prices and he knew how to get the price to half their original asking price. Neither Tricia nor I could have bargained that way. I am happy to report that my shopping foray was very very satisfactory!

Then we went to a mall to purchase DVDs for me to upload the videos I’ve taken of the participants.  While there, we ran into Bassey (who I mentioned earlier) who was there with his little boys.  We ran into them again at the Shoprite grocery store- and again at the checkout counter. Talk about an amazing coincidence!

Next, we went to a huge off-white sand beach- where there were lots of horses for folks to ride and near the water’s edge were umbrellas with tables and chairs under them- all for a price. Ayo walked with me (for my safety) while Tricia rested in the car. We had to pay to park, pay to get onto the beach (the fellow told us it was 200N each, but Ayo just gave him N200 for both of us- you see why his looking fierce and powerful is such an asset, because no one argues with him!!

We watched a man teaching maybe 20 little boys how to ride the waves and swim in the ocean. Further down the beach, there were three tiny tots standing just beyond where the waves would lick their toes.

In an hour, I’m going to meet Tricia for dinner. We going to do something new and exciting- walk to the Chinese restaurant next door! We are both tired of the starter buffet with salads and cold meats at our hotel! So, this will be a real treat!

Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll be working with the videos and the DVDs. I plan to sleep really late tomorrow (no wakeup call)!

On Monday, we will leave at 8 a.m. to get to the office by 9 a.m. so I can set up for the Business Counseling training, which will start at 10 a.m. The three gentlemen who will receive the training: Ben Ben, Bassey and Kazeem, will be training others using the materials later. So, this will also be a train the trainer.

In addition, I’ll speak with Ayo about the curriculum design and possible train the trainer work she would like me to do.

I’ll end this with a comment from one of the participants on his evaluation: “I have been grooved with standardized facilitating techniques in just four days!”

Deb in Nigeria, March 11

I know that my unusual requests will make me a living legend here at Ikoyi Hotel! I first called maintenance on Monday because my bathroom light was broken. It turned out that what looked like a light to me was actually a round vent. On Thursday, I called maintenance because the large floor lamp was broken. It turned out that there was a switch on the floor that needed to be pressed. Last night, I called maintenance because I wanted to wash my underwear in the bathroom sink and the stopper wouldn’t stay down. As the perplexed maintenance man continually counseled me, the drain is not supposed to be stoppered because we want the water to go out…They must think I’m blinking crazy!

Then an hour ago, all of my lights went out. I couldn’t even see the phone to know what number to dial, so I just pushed a button. They told me the correct number to call and I had to explain that I couldn’t see the numbers. Maintenance came up and, yes, some fuse was blown. So, he fixed that, then discovered that the bulb in the large floor lamp was dead- and got me a replacement. They must live in fear and trembling about my calls- either that or they’re in stitches about the crazy American woman!

For those of you too polite to wonder if I am destined to wear dirty underwear- I piled the clothing into the sink and ran the water over them. They served to keep the drain stoppered to a certain extent, so I was able to wash everything. I hung items all over the bathroom and, with two minor exceptions, everything was dry by morning. Hurray!

I realize that I’ve waxed eloquently regarding the lighting in the room. Now let me tell you about the lights on the dining room tables. Tricia showed me yesterday that there is a tiny button on the bottom of the light so that you can increase the wattage from low romantic light to enough light to read by. Isn’t that cool?

Last night, Tricia and I went to the Chinese restaurant around the corner. We were the only patrons (although Nigerians tend to eat at 8 or later in the evening) so that was not a surprise. We were both so tired of chicken that we ordered the spare ribs and rice. We could have shared our entrees, except that Tricia likes her food very hot and I don’t handle spice at all. It was a nice break from chicken.

I then came back to the room to upload all of the photos of flipcharts from the training and mail them to Kazeem to send to the participants (I don’t have their email addresses) and upload the 5 hours of video tapes into iMovie. One of the participants, Dr. Festus Kalu, had requested in an email that everyone be sent all of the videotapes rather than just their own, because of the comments and additional teaching moments they captured.

So, I checked out to see if I could upload a humongous huge file- yes, they claim the upload limit is unlimited (I suppose I could have phrased that better). Then I went to create a movie of the 5 hours- and learned that it would take 21 hours for the computer to complete the process. 

I tried to find an easy way to create individual movies by selecting clips, but found that didn’t work. I had taken a video of each facilitated session, turned off the camera, and then turned its back on to record the comments. Given that process, one would expect that two long clips would cover each person. However, when I selected two long clips, I would find that more than one person was on them. So, I gave up and went to bed.

When I spoke with Piotr on Skype, he told me to simply bring my video camera into the office on Monday and have someone on staff handle creating the DVDs- which, with 120 minutes per DVD, will involve 4 DVDs per person if all receive everyone’s video. 4 DVDs times 16 people (including Ayo and Megan, who heads the program in the US for Banyan Global)- whoever gets this task had better have lunch, dinner and breakfast catered in…

Today, I had a relatively late breakfast and then worked, emailed, skyped, scheduled a day room at the Yotel at the Schipol Airport in Amsterdam for my layover on March 15th from 6:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.- and didn’t go down to have my dunch (yes, dinner and lunch) until 6:30. I had a hamburger. I may never look at chicken again!

Today I also prepared for the three day Business Counseling training and realized, to my chagrin that: (1) I had not packed dominoes, which I need for an activity on Day One; (2) I had not annotated the tables of contents with the activities and time frames, to serve as my cheat sheets; and (3) the lesson plan that I originally created was not completely in sync with the actual materials, because I combined modules that had initially been separate.

So- I (1) created “dominoes” by cutting index cards into thirds;(2) annotated the tables of contents; and (3) revised the lesson plan and sent it to Kazeem to print out for the training.

Right now, I have training materials on my bed, on the floor, and in two open suitcases. I have to decide what I need for this training, what should go with me to Jordan, and what should go back with Tricia (who returns to the US on March 15th) that I won’t need in Jordan. I’m worried that I’ll need to take all four suitcases to Jordan if I can’t fit what I need into the three suitcases. Please keep your fingers crossed. 

Particularly since, as Jenny reminded me (thank goodness she pays attention to the details!) my ticket to Amsterdam goes through to Madison- and if I want my luggage to get off with me in Amsterdam, I’m going to have to do some fancy talking with KLM Dutch Airlines. If Jenny hadn’t said anything, it is very possible I would have arrived in Amsterdam and suddenly realized that my luggage was on its way to Madison. That would have been a very sad moment.

I’m not sure what to expect tomorrow at the office, where I am scheduled to train Ben Ben, Bassey and Kazeem. Tricia is going to have a talk with Ben Ben before the training- although Joan, who was here in Lagos before me (and brought me onto this project- thank you, Joan!) thinks there is a possibility that Ben Ben may not even come in to the office tomorrow. That would be tantamount to shooting himself in the foot since Tricia is his boss. I guess we’ll see.

I spent two hours assessing the fourteen trainers in terms of their ability to design learning objectives, select a variety of participatory learning activities, communicate their understanding of the train the trainer content, and facilitate a participatory learning activity of their design in a creative and successful fashion. I also assessed the degree to which they support the concept of participatory learning and whether or not I think they will be good participatory trainers. Happily, there are only four of the fourteen about whom I have some question. Unfortunately, I have no question about Ben Ben- he is simply not going to be a participatory trainer.

That said, Piotr, Joan and I had a three way Skype conversation to discuss what to do about Ben Ben. In truth, without Ben Ben as the main topic of conversation, I doubt if Piotr, Joan, Tricia and I would have had much to discuss! Tricia and I have discussed him at breakfast, driving to and from training, at dinner, on Saturday shopping… what a crying shame.

Well, if I ever want to get to bed without a floor booby trapped by open suitcases and training items, I’d better get a move on.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s report on my meeting with Ayo to discuss work for her and a possible return to Lagos to conduct more training, the first day of the Business Counseling session, and the success of having a staff person create the DVDs of their facilitation practice session for the participants.

Deb in Nigeria, March 12

Today had all sorts of excitement, starting with a fire alarm at 3:25 a.m. I grabbed a hoodie to put over my nightgown and my purse (with passport and id) and headed down the four flights of stairs. When I got there, I was the ONLY one in sleepwear- only the staff was there, in their suits. They told me it had been a false alarm. Then came the dilemma of how to get back upstairs to the fourth floor (since you can only go down the stairs to the ground floor all the doors to the other floors have no knob). I finally found someone who would start the elevators, then I ended up in an unfamiliar part of my floor. The way I needed to go was blocked. A guard came and opened the doors (which has been closed for the fire alarm). I must have wandered around for a while until I finally found a hall that looked familiar. This is really not a very large hotel, I was just all turned around. After that, it was difficult to get back to sleep.

Coincidentally, in the morning I turned off the air conditioner (it gets absolutely frigid by then) and immediately could smell wood smoke. I could smell it all the way down the hall. I mentioned it to the front desk. Then, as we were driving, I smelled the same wood smoke odor again. Tricia told me that the mist/smog around us was partially wood smoke from fires for cooking and for burning trash. That smell had probably come through the vents in the hotel. 

On the way to the office, where I was to do the training, we were rear ended. Luckily, nothing was hurt except our serenity. The man driving the errant auto actually came to apologize to us. That was very nice.

I wore my Nigerian dress and jewelry, to great acclaim. I somehow managed to trip on the long skirt only once all day. Hurray! I notice that Nigerians are very pleased to see me wearing a native costume and compliment me. I had been concerned that they might take affront seeing me in their dress.

The room for the training was very long and narrow, with heavy long wood tables in a narrow u shape. I pushed two of the tables together so the participants could have a group setting. Then discovered that there was no LCD projector.

However, since there were only four participants (Tricia joined Ben Ben, Kazeem and Bassey) I was able to simply show them the Power Point on my lap top.

Yes, Ben Ben did come to work and Tricia had a very frank conversation with him before the training. He then actively and helpfully participated in the business counseling fundamentals training. It was only later, on our way back to the hotel, that Tricia told me Ben Ben had never seen my email. Apparently they buy internet cards the same way we buy calling cards- and he hadn’t been able to get to the store that weekend. 

She also told me that he was very angry and felt attacked during the training. I can certainly sympathize with him. It wasn’t until Tricia told him that he had disappointed her, me and his peers that he really paid attention. He had thought that I was the only one who didn’t accept his lecturing.

Tricia told him that she had serious doubts about his commitment to participatory learning and he assured her that he would conduct the train the trainer in a participatory manner because the materials were written that way. Hmmm…

Among a number of options being discussed about how to handle the train the trainer program, one raised by Ayo (female head of the project in Nigeria) was to pair Ben Ben with Diji (who is a big, blustery, bright man who reports directly to Ayo on the health side (versus Tricia on the business and finance side of the project).

In the meantime, bless Kazeem’s heart, he started to figure out how to download the videos from my camcorder. I’m hoping he was successful. I sure don’t want to work on them in any way.

Oh, one other less than stellar part of my day was when lunch was delivered. Someone misheard me say that I didn’t want any spices, instead getting me the hottest spicy food he could. Needless to say, I had very little for lunch. Luckily, I had commandeered an apple and a pear at breakfast, so I managed to assuage my hunger to a great extent. The fellow felt terrible about the misunderstanding. Hopefully, I’ll get something less volcanic tomorrow!

Interesting factlets:  There are oodles of women and a few men sweeping the highways (yes, the same ones where everyone is drag racing and trying to be in the same lane!  They wear either neon yellow coveralls with neon yellow brimmed hats, neon orange, or red. Clearly, the idea is that no one will be able to miss seeing them. They use small brooms and sometimes wear masks over their mouths. 

I saw what appeared to be a palm tree way up high next to two cell towers. It is fake, intended to somewhat camouflage another cell tower. When I asked Tricia why there were so many right next to each other, she explained that most people in Lagos need two cell phones because the lines are often too busy to get through on one or the other.

Well, I still have a lot of work to do tonight, so I’m going to sign off.

Deb in Amsterdam March 15, 2012 Impressions of Lagos:

Gracious hospitality at Southern Sun Ikoya Hotel- they gave us a huge box of musk spa materials upon our leaving- and everyone asks when we will return and they hope it will be soon

Nigerian people are delighted when we wear their native costume- while we were worried they might take offense. I still received compliments days later after wearing Nigerian dress.

Bright colors, patterns- ornate or delicate laced flowers even on men’s dress. Some men wear very long robes, others the long shirt, loose pants and hat. Many women have something covering their hair- a hat, a scarf, the native scarf.

The fishermen in the morning mist in the middle of Lagos Lagoon- have manually poled their boats out to the middle of this huge lagoon. They must be incredibly strong.

At the open market, one man was selling beautiful pictures-made entirely of butterfly wings!

Ben Ben was a gracious and masterful business counselor in the simulation. He has a beautiful beatific smile, listens carefully, follows up, repeats to be sure he understands, gently probes to find all issues and determine what the business owner has done. I was in absolute awe!

Despite all that has transpired, Ben Ben is very friendly to me- and that seems sincere. He surprised me the other day when he came in- he slapped my hand in greeting the way he does with his friends. He gave me a hug when we left. He is truly a people person.

I had a marvelous time on the flight from Lagos to Amsterdam. The food was the best I’ve had (chicken and rice) and I was able to watch two movies I had missed in the states: The Artist and New Year’s Eve.

This is good, because I had a terrible shock when I went to check my baggage and tell the KLM Dutch airline person that I needed to have my luggage get off the plane with me in Amsterdam. She couldn’t do that- and sent me to their office, kindly keeping my 2 bags totaling 100 pounds by her. I had to pull my carry on through construction- which means over dirt, mud, broken concrete- and then discovered that there was no elevator. It is so very lucky that I am now able to lift, because I had to carry my bag up a huge flight of stairs. The heavens were smiling on me, because a fellow traveler coming down the stairs offered to help me and took my bag up the rest of the way.

KLM would not budge on their rule that the luggage could only be off loaded at the end of a booked flight. I was given a choice: purchase a one way ticket to Amman for $1600 (notice this is US dollars, not naira!) or a round trip ticket for $1290. Clearly, I had no choice. I just hope and expect that either Banyan Global and/or Ecodit will cover that cost.

The trip to Amsterdam from Lagos got us in early- by 5:30 a.m. and I was able to find the Yotel very quickly. The room was incredibly self-contained. It is square, with the bed under an overhang on the right, a small floor between the bed and the bathroom area: a toilet, a sink, and a shower. This is very bare bones, but clean, comfortable and wired for internet. I had been able to purchase a converter on the plane, so was easily able to plug in my computer and send a quick note about my arrival. There was one towel, but it served me very well- I really needed a shower. I had a great sleep and feel so much better!

I didn’t write on Tuesday night because I was up until 3 a.m. Wednesday making changes to the Business Counseling Fundamentals materials, writing a proposal to Ayo to design the health related curriculum she wants, and then packing four bags. One to go back with Tricia to the US and then mailed to Jenny, the others to go on to Jordan with me. Without Jenny there to do her expert packing, this took me quite a while!

This was particularly true because the power was off in the office and we sweltered for two or more hours. I was dressed for travel, so long pants that got very damp…

However, I must say that this trip to Lagos has been really wonderful, thanks to Tricia (who is terrific company!) and Ayo, our driver, who made me feel safe and looked after. The hotel was, as mentioned before, very gracious and comfortable. I’ve enjoyed everyone I have worked with in the training programs. I would definitely return to Lagos in a heartbeat! Besides, I need to get back to that open air market!!! Items I had purchased for 250 N were sold for 2000 N at the Lagos airport!

This morning, I had a devil of a time finding out how to check in with Royal Jordan. First, I tried at a “transfer” site- but realized that the reason it didn’t recognize my reservation was because this was for KLM flights! I asked where to go to check in for Royal Jordan and was told T (as in Transfer) 9- which turned out to be approximately 1 mile away. When I got there, it was not manned and there was no self-service option. Another fellow was there to check in, equally confused as to what to do. But he figured out that we both had to go to gate G 4- and when we got there, learned that we would get our boarding passes when we went through their security.

He was going to Egypt on a flight then, but my flight was not for another 2 hours and I hadn’t eaten anything since 4:30 A.M. and it was now 2 P.M.

Impressions of Schipel Airport in Amsterdam. Huge, absolutely huge. Lots of shops, a museum, a museum shop, places to register for excursions (I guess I could have done that instead of sleep). Since I was very hungry, I had exchanged some $40 for Euros (by the way, the US dollar is NOT very strong- you get 1 Euro (and 1 Jordanian dinar) for $1.57. What a switch from the Nigerian naira!

I went to a convenience store to get an apple, an orange, some crackers and some sparkling water. The attendant would not sell these to me if I couldn’t show her my boarding pass. Since I had none, I was panicked. I explained the situation- if I got a boarding pass, I would be in the secure area with no way out again. She asked for my flight number and seeing it was for Amman, she relented and let me purchase the items. I cannot imagine why they have this requirement! The only people in the airport have had to go through security…

So now, here I sit, eating my crackers and drinking my sparkling water. Comfortable, well rested, close to my departure gate, and looking forward to the next step in my journey. Tricia has told me that her experience in Jordan was that everyone was incredibly friendly, inviting you to their homes. (Note, despite being friendly, none of the Nigerians did that for Tricia, who was there just under a month).

I have already been invited to a project member’s home for breakfast and then an outing with the Jordanian project team on Saturday to Pella. I have to read up on all the information they have sent me during the flight.

I’d better pack up, get to a bathroom and go get in line to go through security for my flight. My next message will be from Amman, Jordan!

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