Sunday, 6 June 2010
My last sleep in Lagos was a good one. NEPA appeared to be kind to me and to my knowledge remained on all night. NEPA’s favour lasted until about 1.30, so I was blessed with air con and light all morning. This gave me the luxury of dry hair, light to pack by and even the internet was working well and fast. I could almost have forgotten its inconvenience over the past two weeks (but only almost).
Angela gave me the beautiful outfits she had made for me and I tried them on. Not being an expert at tying a Gele (head tie) Angela came to my rescue and showed me how it should be done. They look so stunning when you know what you’re doing and just from a simple piece of material. I unfortunately can’t carry it off as well as the Nigerians they always look stunning in them.
Femi came mid afternoon and I was able to complete my packing with the missing suitcase recovered. I said my goodbyes and thank yous to Angela, Damola and family for their kindness in hosting me, making me feel part of their family and for their generosity of gifts.
We headed to Surulere to meet with Aderemi in her showroom, where she displays her talents for design for prospective clients to view. We then headed though the Lagos streets back to Mafoluku to pick up the clothes that the staff had made for me, taking in the sights and sounds for the last time.
We then headed to Ikeja to a restaurant called the Orchid Bistro that is run by a Doctor that opened this little oasis in Lagos. Nigerian food is hardly featured on the menu, the food was great and the coffee (for one of the world fussiest coffee drinkers) was perfect, hot, strong, not bitter. The décor which Aderemi had designed was clean and modern, I could have been in the UK, it was simple yet effective and classy. Not the cheapest place to eat but somewhere I would certainly recommend and like to return to.
While there we happened to meet Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, the commissioner for tourism, who appeared to be a very pleasant gentleman. He was enjoying the atmosphere with his sons. I chatted briefly and said what an enjoyable time I had had in Lagos.
Then Chief Dele Momodu came in and I was introduced to him. This gentleman is the publisher of the Ovation Magazine and was the kind donator of 1 million Naira (£4500) to Wish for Africa at the Ovation Red Carol event in 2009. It is also said that he has aspirations to be a future President, never one to be too in awe of people, I just said nice to meet him and commented on how nice his aftershave was (I’m sure Femi despairs of me sometimes).
The meal over we made our way to the airport, where Femi drove to the departures drop off, said a quick farewell and left. Lagos airport is not as organized or as updated as UK airports and unless you know what you’re doing, it’s not obvious. Anxiously, I made my way to the check in area and gave the helpless blonde white woman look, until someone pointed me in the direction of where to go. I had to then manage my two heavy suitcases, pull along cabin bag, laptop bag and handbag single handedly as the trolley had to be abandoned. The suitcases had to be placed on weighing scales then I had to drag them over to the next person who writes your name in a book, then to someone who opens and looks through each bag, then finally to the check in.
Once this was over I joined the long queue through to departures. With no air conditioning and no computer system it is a long and sweaty process. The queue crept forward slowly and I found myself standing next to a Nigerian woman with a little boy Casey, who were on their way to Germany. He chatted to everyone and he at least gave everyone around him some amusement as we waited for our turn. Eventually it was my turn to go before the two different people that check your papers, then for my stuff to be scanned and me to be frisked, which everyone is, but I wonder if the detector thing you walk through even works?
Finally through, I made my way to my gate, where I sat down with the crowds waiting to board. We were then called in and made our way to our seats and waited for take off. The plane left on time and as we rose over Lagos, I looked at the areas of light and darkness thinking I will miss the uncertainty of NEPA in a funny sort of way. I wondered if or when I will ever return.
Lagos like us humans is full of faults and inadequacies but has something about it that is appealing, exciting and addictive. There is so much room for improvement, so many areas it falls short in but it also appears to be genuinely making progress. So much of Lagos is hard to understand and difficult to comprehend, yet it is vibrant and welcoming. Its people can be selfish, greedy, corrupt, yet they can be warm, generous and inspiring. Lagos has a long way to go and much to do before it can become appealing to holiday makers but it has the potential, it has the beaches, the sun and the atmosphere, but it has to work on its roads, electricity, beaches, safety etc. Lagos can and will be great, health care will improve, it will be a mega city, but people will have to have long term vision and not just a desire to fill their own pockets, once the people in charge take control for the right reasons Lagos and Nigeria will be great.
Friday, 4 June 2010
Heavy storms throughout the night again meant another hot and sweaty night without NEPA. This lack of power continued all morning and after my shower my hair was still damp two hours later. I really fancied my rolls toasted for breakfast but no power, no toaster, no toasted rolls.
The rain outside was persistent and heavy, yet it was still hot. The driver came for me around noon and I made a quick dash for the car, still managing to get wet in the torrential downpour.
We drove along and as well as the roads of rivers, where understandably the drains were finding it hard to cope, there were thousands of umbrellas of all shapes and sizes. Okadas (motorbike taxis) were carrying passengers with umbrellas up. Those that didn’t have umbrellas used a multitude of things to prevent themselves from getting wet, bags, sheets of plastic, upturned bowls and buckets. I have also noticed that many of the Okada drivers that wear coats seem to wear them the wrong way round, some still done up and some open. I can’t quite see the benefit from this but today in the rain there was even more doing it (I guess to reduce the rain getting to their fronts). As buses and cars drove along huge tides of water were sprayed and shot out indiscriminately, hitting whoever got in their way.
Once at Mafoluku I was welcomed by Mr Dee and his handsome little boy. They looked stunning in their matching tie and dye suits. Unfortunately I was not wearing my clothes that had been made as they were a little too big and although I had the skirt altered I hadn’t brought the top with me, Femi was disappointed.
I had to pick up my suitcases from the clinic today so that I could pack ready for my return home tomorrow. I had come to Mafoluku with these bags full of donations and gifts and very sadly someone had decided to take my bag for themselves. It is not the value of the item but the fact that I had come with gifts for the staff and someone decided that it was their right to just take what was not theirs.
Soon we had a group meeting and prayers of thanks we said for the success of the stay. Then each member of staff said their own words of thanks for my visit, which was very touching. Finally Femi spoke and after discussing all that had been achieved with the Children’s party and the delivery etc, he pointed out how disappointing it is that someone had taken the bag without permission. He also said that he hoped that it had been a mistake and that the person hadn’t realised that it wasn’t a donation as well, and that they would return it before I left. With the formal talking over we had crisps, crackers and drinks and photos were taken. Soon after we had gone into the office one of the girls came up to speak to Femi, and said a member of staff had said she had taken the bag and would return in to me.
In the afternoon the Mother, Father and baby that was delivered here on the 1st June came back to see us. Due to the kindness of two donors from the UK, we were able to bless them and their baby. They were handed enough to pay their medical expenses and more to give them a start with their new baby. They were so happy with the donations, it has made a huge difference to them not to have to think about their bill, even though it was much smaller than they would have been charged at other hospitals. We had our photos taken and the father requested that they have a copy so they can show the baby as it grows up, to remind her how blessed she was the day she was born and how the Oyibo was there too from the UK.
Femi and I then made our way to visit Abimbola and her husband Yemi who had very kindly asked us to dinner at their house. We were warmly received and had a lovely dinner of Jollof, chicken, beans and plantain served with red wine and juice, a huge feast.
We talked business and discussed the future of Wish for Africa and Femi spoke of his dreams of healthcare in Nigeria and our role in that. Abimbola and Yemi were very receptive and encouraging, and hopefully will be a part of the future growth of this healthcare vision. We praised God for all he has done and that He will use us like a snowball, that we will grow and affect many needy people in the areas that have been neglected for far too long.
We left there and made our way home not quite managing to miss every pot hole in the darkness of night. The use of car headlights is another thing obviously not discussed at the driving test. Many cars at night spend all the time on full beam so completely blinding on coming traffic, maybe a ploy so they keep out of your way, giving you rule of the road. Other car drivers even have their fog lights on even though fog is not really an issue here, well certainly not in the times I’ve been here. Femi received a call from the staff nurse on duty who informed us that the bag had been returned by the person that took it.
I arrived home and thankfully it was ‘up NEPA’ which meant I could sit peacefully without the generator screaming and in the coolness of my air conditioned room. Where I could begin to pack and get ready for tomorrow’s departure.
Thursday, 3 June 2010
In the middle of the night I woke up and as I opened my eyes I couldn’t see, oh no I thought I’m blind, then I remembered I was in Lagos and NEPA was down. I scrambled to the end of the bed to find the table and my phone as I pressed it there was light! Not blind at all just dark.
Today was going to be a girl’s day out with Angela and she had gone to work till lunch time so I had a lazy start to my day. I laid in my bed checking out the internet and chatting with Tony, then Michelle back home on skype.
Angela came for me at midday and we headed for Victoria Island over the Third Mainland Bridge, past the fat fish and houses on stilts and eventually to the huge impressive buildings, the other side of Lagos. We were headed for the UBA bank that Damola works in to swap drivers so that Angela’s driver could go and pick the children up from school.
This meant the usual thing of sitting in Lagos traffic, which although would drive me mad back home, I do get pleasure in watching Lagos go by. The Okada drivers and their passengers, although most of them on Victoria Island only had one passenger, many carry two or more and the things you see people carrying whilst on them can be amazing. Huge panes of glass, long lengths of pipes or wood, heavy bags on their heads and often babies strapped to the backs of mothers. Although it is law to have a helmet, like most laws here it is not followed too well. Often if the Okada rider has a helmet it is in his hand or often it is a hard hat from a building site.
As we headed from inner town to the edge heading for Shoprite, we passed along a road that is currently under construction. I had passed this way last year and it was good to see the progress that was being made. A toll had been built which I’m sure I saw the foundations for last year and couldn’t see what it was, although it had not yet started to take money.
This part of town has some of the most expensive hotels about and they look very grand and obviously cost a fortune to stay in. I would imagine most of the visitors to these are business men/women and there must be many as there are loads of hotels and they must make money to survive. There are also more under construction so the need must be about. The oil industry here is very big and a lot of business comes from that I guess.
This is when you see the extremes of wealth side by side grand beautiful buildings and outside the cooking pots and sellers in their shacks. The stop and shop sellers making the money in the chaos of the traffic.
We finally arrived at Shoprite which is a large Asda type shop near Lekki that also has smaller outlet shops and another big warehouse type shop called Game within the complex. In these you can pretty much buy anything and there were lots of familiar brands and food I haven’t seen since I was in the UK. This was the first time in this visit that I didn’t feel as though I stood out so much, as there were several non-Africans doing their shopping there.
I excitedly got crusty bread rolls, camembert cheese, salt and vinegar crisps and of course chocolate! If I ever lived here in Lagos as long as I was near Shoprite I could survive. We walked around and looked at the shops but shortly had to head back to the car. By the time I got back in the car the chocolate was started, very nice too.
We then made our way to the Silverbird cinema. I have been there before on my last visit but not to go to the cinema. We had a look around and then grabbed some lunch at a Nando’s type restaurant, once we had finished there we had time to spare before the film, so we walked around the shops and I got a couple of small gifts to take home.
We then went and purchased popcorn and then Angela insisted on us having ice cream too which was a really nice treat and thoroughly enjoyable. The Silverbird complex was really nice, well decorated certainly by Nigerian standards and the toilets were spotless, the cleanest I have been in, in Nigeria. There was even nice toilet paper (this matters to a girl), even the public toilets in the Hilton Abuja were disappointing. The film we saw was Robin Hood and very good that was too. The only thing was it was running to African time and we were meant to go in at 5.30 and we were told to wait as the previous showing had yet to finish it was 5.50 before it started. Well, when I say started, we sat and watched the end credits before the start of our showing (only in Nigeria).
When it had finished we made our way to the driver outside and he took us home. The traffic was not too bad and we passed over third mainland quite quickly the stilted houses almost invisible in the darkness of night. The busy night time trade was under way and the streets as always were busy with people going about their business. When we got home the children greeted us with excitement, and I gave them the popcorn I hadn’t eaten and retreated to my room (to eat chocolate!).
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
I woke up after a fairly good night with the remains of stomach cramps, I had these all day yesterday and ate very little as a consequence, but they hadn’t gone. The power was off so I lay dozing for a while but soon thought I had best be ready as Mr Dee and the driver were meeting me here and one may be early.
I was going on a radio programme, Talk Nigeria with Ify Onyegbule, and had to be there for the start at 11 to speak at 11.30. Mr Dee turned up on time but we had not heard from the driver. Eventually we got hold of him and he was only at the Third Mainland Bridge, it didn’t look like we would be on time. The driver rang and said he was round the corner, so we went outside to wait he got to us by 11.05.
Typically whenever you’re late the traffic is bad, and I could feel myself becoming anxious, but what was the point, I either made it or I didn’t, it wasn’t life threatening, so I just relaxed. We arrived at the studio gates at 11.30, the man at the first set of gates must have recognised me from before as he was about to check us and then smiled at me and opened them. We stopped at the second set where you have to sign in and get ID, no one was there. We blow the horn (of course) and again, then the gate man came running round from behind the hut, obviously just been for a wee, still doing himself up. He caught my eye as I laughed and he realised what he was doing and turned away to prevent my blushes!
Nigerian men, I must say, wee anywhere and everywhere, with no shame whatsoever. I lose count in a day of how many times you see a man with a stream of urine being expelled. There are even signs painted in a lot of areas stating do not urinate here. I even saw a public toilet and a man going outside. Mind you, you probably have to be brave to use public toilets here as they are not the best toilets even in the nicest of places. I will also add that children and women can also be seen squatting regularly.
I rushed into the studio at 11.35 as Ify introduced me and asked why I was late. I apologised and blamed Wyhid the driver. The programme was fairly short with me and another lady on it, a bit of small talk about why I was here, then the dreaded question of how does health care here compare with the UK. This is difficult to answer without sounding like “we are great and you are not”, but I do my best at being diplomatic. Ify was really pleasant and I thanked her for asking me onto the show. We had the usual photo shot and I was on my way.
We then went to the Ketu clinic to see all the staff there. I had bought enough gifts so they would have something too, but when I gave them to the girls at Mafoluku, in my naivety, I’d said one thing each as the gifts had to go around, but they went like wild fire. I turned around and nothing was left (if there is a next time I will be less trusting). The Ketu staff said hello and I went in to see the lovely Dr Yussef, we had a good discussion about health issues and how things were going there. He had also visited his sister in England since my last visit and had stayed fairly near me, he even had to attend A&E in the hospital that I work in. I said next time he was to contact me and he assured me he would.
The head nurse then came in and asked if I had bought gifts for them, Nigerians are very big on giving which is really generous of them but they are also very loud in asking. I had to apologise that I had not got anything and explained what happened. I don’t think they were too impressed with me.
Dr Yussef told me about a recent birth they had there. A baby had been born an extended frank breech (basically bum first with legs up by its ears). It also had a myelomeningocele (a growth on the base of the spine associated with Spina bifida, formed due to the spinal canal not closing before birth), this burst at delivery. The baby born weighing 2.3kg (5lb) also had talipes (club foot) and a bowed leg. This in the UK would have been picked up on scan and been delivered somewhere appropriate for its additional care. This baby was transferred to a General hospital and to my knowledge has survived so far. The government will I understand pay for the operations for the baby but any drugs required will have to be paid by the parents. The reason this family didn’t have a suggested scan was that they couldn’t afford one, they too are unlikely to be able to keep up with the cost of medication should this baby survive. Arguably what life is there ahead for this child when you see the streets full of disabled beggars because there is no welfare system to support them?
The afternoon was taken up with resting. I was going to Nando’s this evening, Aderemi the very beautiful and considerate lady that kindly gave me the use of her driver for my stay had offered to catch up with me and take me out. I was intrigued to see if Nando’s was the same as in the UK. The décor was definitely reminiscent of the ones back home but disappointingly there were no olives (Nando’s do the best olives ever but I guess that’s not to Nigerians taste as a rule) or nuts etc and no salads.
Although the menu gave the different heat strengths this was not offered so Nigerian hot it was then. I had a wrap which was certainly different mainly because of the lack of salad, and fries were smaller in portion size. The rice that Aderemi and Femi had however looked loads nicer than the packet style savoury rice they serve at home, Nigerians can certainly do rice. No refill on drinks just your usual bottle choice but I guess the water here can’t be used to be mixed on the premises like in the UK, and Femi joked that Nigerians would sit here all day and drink it. I was surprised to see that they shut at nine here, which is apparently usual and allows staff to get home securely.
The evening ended with my own little fashion show, Angela had a beautiful embroidered buba made for me with a head tie (I think I need practice at that one). Also the material that Eniola kindly gave me on my last visit had been made into a long skirt and top by Fumni the lady who had the caesarean last time. Not my usual attire for home but it will make me stand out as much there as I do here!
Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Happy Birthday Angela who has been blessed with 40 years, a great husband and 3 gorgeous children, congratulations!
Well after the heaviest rains I can remember and a storm that was relentless, the generator went off at midnight and darkness fell. Ok any one in England rarely experiences total black out, not being able to see your hand in front of your face, but that’s what it was. Although I couldn’t see I could however feel (maybe my imagination in part) the gnats were biting even though I sprayed my room and could hardly breathe myself, they still came.
After a pretty hot, sweaty sleepless night with no NEPA I received a text at 7.30 to say I will be picked up at nine. Not wanting to fall back asleep I got up and showered in an attempt to wake up. The driver on African time turned up at 10.30, NEPA turned up at 10.15, just in time for me to leave. I gratefully sat in an air conditioned car and the traffic was light and we arrived at Mafoluku within about 15 minutes, to a NEPA free clinic. I am certainly being forced to experience true Nigeria whether I want to or not.
I thought the roads would be bad after last night’s downpour but the areas we drove through were fairly clear of water. The one area that was affected slightly had LAWMA scooping up the mud from the drain sites in the road in an attempt to drain the water away. All credit to the people, most of whom appear to be women, they work hard by the road sides with brooms, dust pan and brushes to improve the look of Lagos, hard work and probably not much pay.
We arrived at Mafoluku and all was quiet, I sat in the office and sorted out some things with Femi and Mr Dee. Femi and I then went to the UBA (United Bank of Africa) to draw out money for wages to pay the staff. Femi prides himself that no matter what, the girls always get paid monthly, regardless of his own finances, a rare thing it seems here. The bank is very different to what I’m used to seeing. Firstly you enter the building via a tardis type doorway one at a time, as the door behind closes the door in front opens, to prevent robberies I assume. Inside there is organised (I’m sure) chaos, cheques are still the norm, lots of paper is still used, broken filing cabinets crammed with files, extension leads and hanging wire everywhere that is typical from the streets to shops to homes. The queue was long and I sat and watched while waiting, finished we entered the tardis again to get out.
After exchanging more pounds for Naira with my airport friend we received a call from Mr Dee saying someone had turned up at the clinic in labour. So we made our way back. On arrival back it became apparent that this woman only spoke French (my poor French was better than everyone else’s). She had just arrived from Niger Republic (a French speaking country just above Nigeria) into the country and had only one episode of antenatal care at 23 weeks which included a scan report (scrap of paper, this ironically is all too often how we see Nigerians in the UK). From the scan we deduced she was around 41 weeks and 4 days and her observations (BP, urine, pulse, fetal heart rate) were all ok. Femi examined her and she was certainly in labour (around 6-7cm to those that understand). She is the sister-in-law of the woman whose son Femi delivered on his return to Nigeria and also a second child recently.
We admitted her to the upstairs ward and I observed whilst a lot of people ran around. The last time I was here I wrote protocols for delivery far less in depth than those back in the UK but trying to improve what the Nurses and assistants already do. To my surprise they all needed constant reminders on what to do. They only monitored contractions and didn’t record strength or length of each one. They were asked to record the fetal heart rate every half an hour and I had to constantly remind them to listen in with the sonic aid. Thankfully all was going well. I encouraged the woman to get up and mobilise and to drink fluids, Femi said to them to give her water at least every 15 minutes as it was so hot with NEPA down.
Suddenly the nurses called out and we went in grabbed our gloves and the baby's head was descending beautifully. Although the woman's pushing was erratic and she was doing her own thing, it worked and the head crowned and seconds later a beautiful baby girl was delivered, no pain relief, no tears, she did very well. The baby was taken to another bed where we dried her off and I prevented them from routinely suctioning the baby’s nose and throat, although later she was a little snuffly and Femi asked that her nose was cleared.
Here they oil the baby pretty much immediately, then after measuring head and length (by holding the baby by the legs and hanging her upside down to my horror), they weighed her (3.1kg about 6lb 8oz). After this they then bathed her in soapy water, welcome to Lagos little one! The baby wasn’t encouraged to have skin to skin contact or breast feed, this probably will not happen for a while, they were not that keen to attach baby too soon the last time I was here. Practices here are so very different to what I am used to and it is very difficult to watch and not want to jump in and change so much, but we had a safe delivery and all was well. I was able to watch over and guide towards change in some areas, but at the end of the day I go back to the UK and they stay here and do what they think is best. It was great to have the delivery but it also saddens me to see how outdated and under trained they are. This is why help is needed to bring healthcare up to developed countries standards.
Shortly after this I had to make my way home, through the rush hour in the lovely Mr Dee’s car. So after being in the heat all night then all day, then in the car whose window won’t open and has no air con for a slow hour’s drive, I was disappointed to find no electric at home. I smiled and asked Mama to put on the generator as it was getting dark and I needed a cool shower like never before.