Here in Nigeria again, for work. Who would have thought I’d be back here so soon? Certainly not me.
Nigerian TV is surprisingly good, with top notch Hollywood films and the latest music videos playing seemingly non-stop. To date, despite being fatigued every night, I have watched Meet Joe Black, The History Boys, and Blood Diamond. Admittedly that last one wasn’t the best film to see while in Africa.
I recently read an article about Inequality in America which commented that poor health among the urban poor is driven, among other things, by a lack of safe, convenient options for outdoor exercise. It’s one thing to read it in a scholarly magazine, but it’s quite another to experience this first hand. Here in Lagos we are often entreated by our hosts not to go anywhere unescorted, and the “roads” around the hotel compound in one of the nicest parts of the city are uninvitingly muddy, pot-hole riddled obstacle courses lined with discarded tyres, fallen lamp-posts and other debris. I’ve been told the nearest big parks are an hour outside the city, by car. In this I’m reminded of my time in Dhaka during the monsoon floods back in 2004, when we were equally restricted with few options for taking walks. Even then there was a small park a block away from the hotel that was accessible for the first week or so before being flooded.
Here I’ve been making do with desultory in-room exercises, supplemented by energetic prancing around the enormous bedroom to music from iTunes. I’m concerned that someone will embarrassingly see me through the balcony doors, but so far I think that hasn’t happened yet.
I went to church today, prompted by my curiosity to see what is apparently the largest Christian church in the world. Turns out it’s an enormous network of smaller churches under the “Redeemed” banner that meets as a huge congregation on the first Friday of every month. On this Sunday we attended a smaller service near our hotel in Victoria Island. It was more colourful, varied and fun than I had been prepared for. I supposed I hadn’t formed enough of an image in my head of what it would be like. The two of us that went were terribly underdressed. Most of the women wore large hats with feathers and silk flowers, a la Ascot. The men were mostly in suits or vibrantly hued local garb. The singing was sensationally joyful, rather like attending a concert, or being on the set of an African Sister Act. The large church band had an excellent saxaphonist, and a lot of stamina. I’m glad I went, especially this will likely being the only bit of tourism I do on this 9 day trip.
I pray I manage to successfully stave off excess eating these next few days. There are many good restaurants here (two lovely Italian outlets in this hotel alone), and our hosts have been very insistent that we eat rather too well for my waistline’s liking