I was picked up by Femi, with bags packed for the beach and a stay over in Lekki which is on Lagos Island (the nice side of town). To start with me and the girls from the centre got into opening the boxes of donated goods that I collected and shipped over. This was while Femi saw some patients that had turned up to see a doctor out of surgery times, with no doctor in today, Femi sorted them on before we got on our way.
We headed for the airport to exchange some money, passing on the way the Lagos equivalent to DFS, ten or more individual units next to each other with leather suites for sale. I asked why they tend to sell the same things in the right next to one another, Femi said this was because if you need a certain thing you know which area to go to, people can’t or don’t want to go from area to area as we tend to do.
When we got to the airport and exchanged our money, on the black-market as this is seen as the norm here, and you get a better rate of exchange (apparently both official and black-market rates are published in the papers). Femi offered me Kilishi, pieces of beef that are peppered, and then left in the sun to dry (all those that know me well, will I’m sure be amazed that I’d eat a piece of meat that had been left on a table out in the sun to go dry, what about hygiene, sell by dates and flies!). As determined to try everything, I tried it and it was really nice, a strong meaty taste and very spicy and hot. So far my stomach has been ok and not too affected by what and where I’ve eaten.
We then headed for Lagos Island, stopping by to pick up our tickets. Then taking a look at the beach here, which has been redeveloped with a promenade and looked very nice until you looked into the sea, unfortunately it didn’t appear clean, lots of waste floating in it. We headed for our hotel and put our bags into our rooms. This area is full of big hotels and lots of money, although evident all around is the contrast of poverty. Immediately out my room window I could see and run down shed type building with people living in it.
After eating in Tantalizers another Nigerian food chain, we headed towards a beach where Femi knew the sea would be cleaner. As we drove along a 20 kilometre stretch of road we passed huge complexes being built, walled housing estates again showing there is obviously great wealth coming to this area. We passed several large banks, churches, schools and shopping malls. Scattered around these, I suspect almost invisible to their wealthy neighbours was thousands of these shed like buildings worthy of demolition, all filled with thousands of people ( to get an idea of how many people I see daily here, picture some shopping centre like Bluewater at Christmas).
We detoured off the road to Lekowe, along unmade roads to a plot of land that, Femi hopes to one day build another medical centre on. The area had lots of unfinished properties and as with all Femi’s clinic not in the nicest part of town. The excitement obvious on his face at the thought of many low cost affordable, good standard clinics available to people that deserve better than they have in a country that appears not to care for its lower class citizen. Certainly no government support, no councils houses, no social benefits, no free health care.
Then we headed for Eleko beach, as we drove down a long road we came to a barrier (a rope across the road) the men insisted they worked for the government and we had to pay money to head for the beach, on request for a receipt, they refused to give one (probably due to the fact that they didn’t work for anyone other than themselves). A few hundred meters further on and another barrier this time a receipt was offered and we had to pay again.
There in front of me was miles of beautiful fine sand and as I found out lovely warm Atlantic sea, palm trees. This could rival any beach I have been on, although like so much here neglected there was rubbish, bottles, cans etc by the load full all along as far as you could see. Wake up Nigeria you’re your sitting on a gold mine, income from tourism is huge!
The sea was strong and as you walked in the waves swept you off your feet, but it was beautifully warm. I sat and watch as two young boys entertained me with the acrobatic display, they could make any gymnastic team given the opportunity, with their breath taking back flips etc. Not normally one to buy ‘souvenirs’, I couldn’t resist the wooden Okada and the wooden doctor and midwife checking a pregnant woman, they made me laugh…..Beth wanted a present!!! I then suddenly focused in on the sand to notice loads of tiny crabs shooting about at great speed. The boys obliged and caught one to show me in greater detail. At the end of the afternoon they deserved their few Naira for keeping me amused, which of course is what they had been hoping for.
Back at the hotel, I rushed to get ready for the Pink Ball (in aid of breast cancer awareness) I only had forty minutes or so and was very sandy and salty from the beach. I realised my room was in darkness the lights were not working (only here!). It didn’t appear that anything was going to be sorted so I showered in the dark, then got dressed and as the TV worked I managed to put my makeup on by the light from that, regularly changing channels when the programme went dark. Ready at last cinders and prince charming left for the ball.
What a glamorous affair men looking handsome and women, beautiful in some stunning dresses (Femi also scrubbed up well in his tux and dickey!). The décor of the room and tables was very well done and quiet spectacular, all with a pink hue. Speeches were made and an auction for a watch went for 800,000 Naira (about £3200), donations were pledged. Music played, food was eaten, a fashion show and a special performance by an ex-governor Donald Duke and his band, which got everyone up on their feet. We finally left at gone 01.30 and after meeting many people Doctors, comedians, motivational speakers and many more, whose name I will not even attempt to remember. It was an evening that I will surely remember.