Friday, July 10, 2009

Lagos- part 1

Flew out yesterday afternoon in a rainstorm, flight was bumpy beyond belief. Doesn't seem to matter how often I fly, I always believe I'm gonna look up from my book right as our plan hits a mountain and see a wall of flame, steel, and body parts flying at me before an intense searing pain and then merciful silence...well, now that the pleasant stuff is out of the way. Lagos is one of the world's "megacities" with a population in the tens of millions, it is a massive sprawling beast of humanity. And that's really the first thing you feel when you step out of the airport here, that this place is packed to the gills. The trip from the airport to our hotel should take about a half hour, door to door, but it averages 2 hours. I have never in my life experienced traffic of the level that they have here. At 8 oclock at night there was still rush hour traffic from Victoria Island, one of the higehr end business and residential centers that connect to the rest of Lagos mainland. We were dirving against the grain and it still took us nearly 20 minutes to cross the brdige from the mainland to the island, while for those leaving the island just crossing the bridge can take up to two hours. Clearly, transportation is an issue. Also, unfortunately, the infrastructure here is only slightly better than what you find throughout the rest of the country, with miles of dark streetlights, pothole-ridden holes and people constantly panhandling and begging by the side of the road.

We're staying in a nice suburb of sorts on Victoria Island which is a mixture of really high end condos and smaller hotels. It looks like something you would find in southern Florida. Of course, all of the properties are ringed by 10 feet cement walls, topped by razor wire or crushed glass, that front dirt roads filled with standing water. And it's this neighborhood that so effectively illustrates the paradox of a lot of Nigeria...there is a lot of money that moves through this country, but corruption has literally bled the country dry. Here this is a wealthy suburb area, with large houses, boutique hotels, and an endless array of luxury trucks driving about, but people still run power by gens, the water is not drinkable, and the side roads aren't paved or even well drained. Everything is about flamboyance, and getting yours. And this attitude is evident in most of what you see. You have shiny corporate offices on main thoroughfares that are essentially undriveable either because the potholes are 2 feet deep or the traffic is so bad that driving to the office takes 2-4 hours depending on where you start. Or you have a country that is one of the world's leading oil produccers but because some old men control the industry, Nigeria is also an importer of all refined petroleum products. The people of nigeria go through about 15 million gallons of diesel a day, primarily for automobile and generator use, and yet Nigeria doesn't produce a million of gallons of diesel or petroleum a month...

All that aside, this city is wild. Jess's friend Ak took us to this spot called the Sol Lounge, a small-ish lounge in the city packed with folk, loud music, and expensive drinks. It was pretty fun. Now, as most of you know, I have little to no fashion sense, and I packed for three days, so my choice for clothes is already extremely limited, so I was looking slightly less scruffy than usual. Once again, I was the worst dressed person in the room. Everyone was out in the nines, dropping 5 and 10 thousand Naira on drinks like it was going out of style. There were a lot of really attractive younger women with much older men. Ak informed us that about 95% of the men there were married and not there with their wives...Fun spot.

Heading to one of the larger malls today, maybe check out a museum or two. I'll update when I can.

1 comment:

Frank said...

it's a sad thing to hear about how the money's so concentrated at the top. everyone wanting to show off what they've got and people trying to get scraps off of those guys. i wish i could see the city crowd there.