29 January 2009

The view from a car

I visited NLNG’s office this afternoon. It is a 5 minute walk from the hotel but they insisted that we get driven there. I asked if we can walk and the answer was no. The drive took about 15 minutes due to a circuitous route (streets are one-way) and the traffic congestion. There are cars everywhere, parked at the side of the road and jampacked into the road lanes. Motorcycles make their way in between the cars stuck in traffic. Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets but I guess the rule is not clear on what type of helmet since some people were wearing bicycle helmets and construction hats. The sound of car horns fill the air. There are vendors on and at the side of the road. They sell candies, clothes hangers, fashion magazines, bread, headache medicine, and a bunch of other stuff. There are many people standing about - drivers waiting for their employers, security guards outside buildings, people with nothing else to do but sit and chat. Everywhere you look, there are cars and people.

The view from the GM’s office in NLNG.

A street vendor's array of candies

A lady selling bread

28 January 2009

It's been a busy few days

First up, my adorable cat Bob. He had a bout of FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) which required a two-day hospital stay. He finally came home on Saturday morning and when we got home, Neo and Bob started hissing at each other. Neo was NOT a happy camper. He kept hissing and growling at Bob. I kept Bob in the laundry room for the afternoon. Poor cat kept peeing every five minutes. I hope he was not in pain. I finally let him out and the two cats were very wary of each other. Bob learned to just ignore Neo’s hissing after a while. We theorized that Bob picked up all sorts of strange smells at the vet's and Neo was freaking out because Bob smelled like other animals. Finally, on Sunday night, Ed and I bathed Bob to get him to smell like shampoo instead. He was really good about being bathed, which was a unexpected. He usually freaks out when we do any kind of grooming for him but in the bathtub, he just stayed still. It almost seemed like he was enjoying the bath. He was really cute.

Then on Monday morning, I was off to Lagos, Nigeria. It took 27 hours from the time I left our house to the time I walked in to my hotel room in Lagos. Very long day. Lagos is a crazy place! My colleague Bill had some issues with his visa and sure enough, it took a lot of dollars to sort everything out. "Is there anything you can do for us" is the key phrase from the immigration officers. Then there was the situation with my luggage which was not in the pile of luggage from our flight. So I proceeded to report it lost. When I said that I had flown business class, their attitude changed and less than two minutes later, my luggage appeared. I was just so relieved to see it! I thanked everybody at the counter, grabbed my luggage and went to find Bill who was still sorting things out (i.e. handing over currencies) with the immigration folks. And all this within an hour of arriving in this city. Welcome to Nigeria.

Then there was the ride from the airport to the hotel. Our client had arranged for us to be picked up and driven to our hotel. What we didn't know and expect was that there would be armed security people in trucks driving in front of and behind our van! A fully armed security escort through the city. It was pretty surreal. And they drove so fast. Apparently, to deter the carjackers from targetting you, you just have to drive faster than them. The traffic and the way people drive here are also pretty crazy. I guess when you have 15 million people in a city, that tends to happen.

The hotel where we are staying is very posh. And we haven't left it since arriving. The meetings with our client are taking place at a conference room here at the hotel and they are discouraging us from leaving the hotel compound (it's all fenced in with armed guards at the gate). Tomorrow, we get to go to their office which is a five-minute walk from here. But I think they've arranged for a security convoy to take us there. I really would prefer to just walk and see a bit of what's outside the walls of this compound.

The people we've met have been very friendly. Tonight, I met a couple of guys from India who do business here and they said that Nigeria is the land of opportunity and lots of money can be made here. All other markets are saturated but Africa is not, and Nigeria is the place to be.

At our hotel, it is not cheap. I had a cocktail before dinner tonight and it cost $22. That's for one drink. It is a luxury hotel, I suppose. The guys from India said that a bottle of Star beer (that's the Nigerian beer) in the hotel is 650 naira but outside, you can get it for 150 naira. I wish I could wander outside of the hotel and see the other parts of Lagos. That would be so interesting.

27 January 2009

Bob and Nigeria

Writing about two different things in one post...

After two days in the hospital, Bob was discharged on Saturday morning. He needs to eat special food for six weeks and is taking antibiotics for two weeks. I’m just glad he is going to be okay.

However, when we got home, Neo and Bob started hissing at each other. Neo was NOT a happy camper. He kept hissing and growling at Bob. I kept Bob in the laundry room for the afternoon. WhenI finally let him out and the two cats were very wary of each other. Bob learned to just ignore Neo’s hissing after a while. Finally, on Sunday night, Ed and I bathed Bob. The theory is he picked up all these strange smells from the vet’s and Neo was freaking out because Bob smelled like other animals. So we bathed Bob in order to get the strange smell off him.

He was really good during bath time. He didn’t flail around or get violent. He just stayed still, almost like he enjoyed it. He was really cute.

Hopefully, the bath will help and the two cats can live peacefully together again. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I'm posting this from Frankfurt airport. I'm on my way to Lagos, Nigeria. I've been on the road for 16.5 hours already and I still have another 9 hours of travel to go. It's been a long day.

I barely made it to my connecting flight in Calgary since my flight was delayed out of YVR. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my luggage made it on the plane, too. The Calgary to Frankfurt flight was pretty good in terms of the food. I had wine and port and tuna appetizer and arctic char and cheeses and some pie. That was dinner. I did manage to sleep a bit during the flight. I also started reading the Jane Austen book I borrowed, Persuasion. I also listened to some music, watched a couple of The Hour podcast episodes, and listened to a couple of BBC documentaries. The in-flight entertainment system was not working so we’re going to get airmiles instead. That happened during the flight from Paris to Montreal, too, last July. What’s up with the entertainment systems? Thank goodness for the iPod!

17 January 2009


Darren drew an avatar for me a few months ago...

I think it's pretty cool. Does it look like me?

12 January 2009

No more 20/20

I had my eyes checked just before Christmas and it confirmed what I had suspected for months - that my eyesight is finally no longer 20/20.

I picked up my reading glasses today. I am kind of glad I have them. I was cutting the cats’ nails last night and realized I’ve been struggling with it for a while. I'm sure my cats will be glad to know that I can now see their little nails clearly.

However, it is a sign of aging. And for that, I am not too thrilled about them.

Impulse purchase (sort of)

When Ed and I visited my brother in Edmonton last March, I got to play around with his Nikon D80 SLR camera. So beautiful and I immediately wanted one for myself. I thought the D80 was too big for my hands but there are smaller ones that I was sure would fit me quite nicely. Then my friend, Jay, told me to wait for the Canon EOS 450D that was coming out around May or June. In Canada, it is marketed as the Canon Rebel XSi. I went to dpreview.com to read about the camera and when I went to the mall, I would always check it out in the camera shop. But the cost was stopping me from buying it and I have a perfectly good camera, a Canon Powershot S3, that made me feel guilty about buying another camera.

When we were in Turkey, I got frustrated with the S3 for various reasons. At one point, I told Ed that I finally got it why people spend thousands on their cameras. It isn’t just about the pictures you end up with. It is equally about the experience of taking those photos. And during one of my frustrated moments, I blurted out “That’s it! I’m buying an SLR”.

Yesterday, Ed and I went to Future Shop to buy an HDMI cable for our TV. We walked out of Future Shop with the HDMI cable and a new Canon Rebel XSi. The XSi kit (the camera body and a 18-55mm lens) was on sale for $699.99. I have never seen it at that price! It was around $1200 last June and I just could not let this good deal pass me by. So, totally unbudgeted, I bought it. I do feel buyer’s remorse but it was such a good price. I’m sure it will be $500 by this summer and I’d feel like a fool. But then again, after taking a few pictures last night, it’s hard not to fall in love with it and feel happy that it’s in my hands now.

Now I need to learn how to actually use it properly!

2 January 2009

Finally, pictures from Turkey

Ok, I don't usually take this long to post pictures from a trip. But, I took over 1800 pictures in Turkey and it took a while to sift through them and select just the very best to upload to Flickr. Plus there's the "enhance photo" step that need to be taken for some. Anyway, no more excuses... It's done! Please visit our Flickr site to see them.

Turkey was a fascinating place. I felt like I was on a 2-week history class and it was great. I learned so much about Anatolian history and the empires that ruled over it through the centuries.

The main reason I chose Turkey as our destination was the Blue Mosque. I wanted to walk into the mosque and admire its beauty with my own eyes. And when I did, it was a wonderful moment.

I found Cappadocia to be the most interesting place. The landscape and cave dwellings were unlike anything I've seen before. And going on the hot air balloon ride (our first time ever) to enjoy the fascinating scenery was definitely a highlight.

The most impressive Roman theatre we visited was Aspendos in Perge. It is so well-preserved and the acoustics were amazing. And I bravely (and proudly) sang O Canada there. I couldn't believe I was singing in a theatre built almost 2000 years ago.

The ancient cities we visited were Perge, Phaselis, Hierapolis, Aphrodisias, Ephesus, Pergamom, Asclepion, and Troy. I really enjoyed Hierapolis in Pamukkale, with its many tombs and impressive theatre. Although the walk down the travertines barefoot was a little too painful for my liking.

I can't say enough about how good the food is in Turkey. The kebab, kofte, fish, Turkish pizza, Turkish ravioli, salad, and bread were always sooo delicious. I loved eating the food there. The Turkish delight and rice pudding were great, too. And I loved the apple tea they have there. It was always a good way to end the meal, with some tea or apple tea. And the Mediterranean diet is so healthy.

It was a great visit. Our tour guide, Ergun, and driver, Ekram, really helped make the trip very, very enjoyable. And our tour group was a fun bunch that just added a whole lot of positive energy to the trip.

So, if you have a chance to go to Turkey, go! Definitely a great travel destination.