Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dec. 29: Time Flies

Can you believe that it was a decade ago that Prince blessed us with the last big hit of the millenium (and arguably the best party phrase) as he taught us how to "party like it's 1999"? Despite all fears that our computerized world was going to melt down and cease to exist as we knew it, we partied anyhow and have lived to tell our tale.

Now here we are 10 years later and I must take a moment to reflect on all that has happened in this relatively short time frame. I do not want to dwell on things - I would just like to provide a quick flipbook, if you will, of some highlights from 2000-2010. The rule is that each year gets one sentence.

2000: Graduated from university for the first time.
2001: Dropped out of university for the first time and road-tripped across USA to see the lady for her birthday - realized our relationship might be serious.
2002: Got engaged.
2003: Graduated from university again, got married, and moved to Texas.
2004: Spent Thanksgiving remembering the Alamo.
2005: Ran first marathon
2006: Started working with current employer because I wanted to see the world.
2007: Became a Yukon Sour-Toe, crossed the the most northern border between USA and Canada, and swam with the turtles in Hawaii.
2008: Moved to Paris and ran marathon PR.
2009: Got pregnant (well not me - but I have been putting on the sympathy weight), survived living in the woods with the boys, and moved to Nigeria.
2010 (sneak peak): Become a dad!

There you have it! Wham, bam, thank you ma'am!

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dec. 27: Vivid dream and a little running

I had the most vivid dream on Christmas Eve. I dreamt that I was logging on to my email and I saw that I received an email from my lady. The subject of the email was, "So the baby is scheduled". I opened the email and read, "We are going in to have the baby on January 18 at 3- to 4- pm."

Since I will not be arriving home until January 16 (and the baby is due on January 12) perhaps it is my sub-conscieous trying to will the baby to stay a little longer with mommy before I get home? (Jennie says that she is going to keep her legs crossed until I get home. I told her that if she kept her legs crossed in the first place then, perhaps, we would not be in this situation to begin with...!) Or perhaps I have crazy pyschic abilities?! I guess we will know in a few weeks!

In other news I have actually done some running outside this past week. I am still trying to decide what I hate the least. The overwhelming heat and humidity of running outside in Nigeria, or the mind-numbing process of running on the treadmill. Anything that breaks up the daily routine of living in a "secure" (hmmmm....gaurded anyhow) place is good I suppose.

I am authorized to do outdoor activity on Banana Island. It is almost exactly a 4 mile loop. I did 4 miles yesterday and 6 today. It has been a while since I have lived in Houston and my body is not at all used to working in these weather conditions. Well, who am I kidding - my body really isn't used to working at all these days!

And here it is...(oh my goodness I thought he lost it)...a garmin image of my run today!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dec. 23: Man Up

Hmmm....if I am going to be a dad that any kid will actually take seriously, I better stop crying while watching movies such as Rocky Balboa....

ps - Jennie is now full term! The baby is now just getting fat, growing hair, and chillaxing in his/her own personal VIP area.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dec. 20: Dear Baby

Dear Baby,

I have not yet met you, but I miss you deeply. Is it possible to miss someone that you have never met?

I have talked to you. You have heard my voice (hopefully over the hum of all of your mother's internal organs and internal processes). I have heard your heartbeat. I sounds strong and vibrant, just like daddy's. But I still wait anxiously for you to have a voice in the world. I cannot wait until you can talk to me. Before that day, I cannot wait to hear whatever gurgles and gargles that you want to share.

Dear Baby,

You are already acting up. You are supposed to be "in place" by now. Your head is supposed to be down and you are supposed to be getting ready for your first ever journey. You will not be going far but for me it will be the most important journey of your life.

Instead of having your head down, you are a little lop-sided and your butt is sticking out and creating a little bulge in your mom's belly. If you ever get mad at me for disciplining you later in life, just remember that your mom was the first to spank you regularily.

Dear Baby,

I apologize for not being able to call you by your name yet. Your mommy and I do not know yet if you are going to be a girl or a boy. Mommy wants a surprise and daddy wants whatever mommy wants.

Based on our difficulty in determining baby names, your mommy and I think that you will be a boy. We had no difficulty in coming up with a girl's name. Infact, we knew what it would be since this past summer. The boys name has been more problematic. For this reason we believe you will be a boy.

Dear Baby,

Please keep your mom company for 4 days after you are supposed to enter this world. I will not be there to join you both until then. If you can do that for me I will not pester you for the first year of your life to say "daddy" before you say "mommy".

Although I am telling you to wait I really wish you would not. I cannot wait to see you.

Your daddy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nov. 22: Travelling Revelation

The best way to travel is with the one(s) that you love. If they are not available make sure you have a good book instead.

ps - A got a few sympathetic comments and responses from my last post. So thank you for that. It was perhaps a little long for a post with such negative energy (sorry). I find that I really do not have an outlet to 'vent' or to express frustration. It is hard to vent to coworkers because I do not like bringing that kind of crap into the workplace. If I have to vent in french that will just add one more thing that I want to vent about, so that eliminates everyone else that I normally see every day. So, unfortunately for you guys who are reading this, you are my whippin' boys.

As an update, I am finally out of Nigeria and in France. I spent all of yesterday walking around Paris. I had no particular destination in mind. I just wanted to enjoy the crisp autumn weather and the last remnants of the autumn colors. Currently I am really enjoying hi-speed internet in the hotel lobby. I never thought I would be so excited to see how quickly I can navigate the web!

pps - My treadmill is working again. A couple of days after my last post I re-plugged it back in to try some troubleshooting on it that Landice had sent me. Before I started the troubleshooting the treadmill just started to magically work again. David a year ago would be trying to figure out exactly how this was possible and would spend endless amounts of time investigating. David today does not care and is just happy to be running! As an aside, the customer service and professionalism before, during, and after I have purchased the treadmill has been spectacular. Not only that, the treadmill is spectacular. I highly recommend them.

ppps - If you had to choose to only have one type of meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Your choices are breakfast, lunch/dinner, brunch, high tea, midnight snack, post workout recovery meal, or other.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nov. 15: Being optimistic is highly overated

Today is Sunday. Today I am supposed to be in Paris eating baguettes, adding 'eh' to the end (or 'le' infront) of english words that I do not know the translation of hoping that the French will magically understand what it is that I am saying, and drinking bitter over-priced coffee. Instead I am sitting in Nigeria, eating pickles straight out of the jar and convincing myself that it is a well balanced lunch. How did I get here? I think we need to start at the beginning...

I woke up Friday morning with a airplane ticket in hand, full of optimism that by the end of the day I would be whisked off to Paris for the weekend. Then I was off to the south of France for a week, which would be followed by a journey back to Canada to see the Mrs, whom I have not seen since August. It was a blind optimism. I was still without my Passport.

Since arriving in Nigeria, my passport has been travelling through the entrails of my company, the bowels of the French system, and the corruption of Nigerian authorities. To be honest, at any one time I could never precisely tell you where my passport was, what was being done to it, or if some political refugee was borrowing it and starting a new life in Canada. My passport was like the electron in Schrodingers atomic model - at any one time you may know the location of the electron, but not the speed, and visa versa (if I remember correctly).

What made me think that I was going to get it back on Friday? Oh yes, because I was naive enough to believe the same people who told me that I should have had my passport over a week ago, that today was THE day. At any rate, I would not know for certain until 3:15 pm. I did not even bother packing as I left for work. If I REALLY was going to leave, I would just come home early, pack, and be on my way. (I remember that there used to be a time when travelling across the Atlantic, or Pacific for that matter, was a big deal that required a lot of planning. Now it feels no different than catching a bus across town, but I digress).

Oops, I forgot a minor detail - even if I wanted to pack the night before, I could not. My power and phone were out all night. Sitting in my underwear in the dark, trying not to sweat, I contemplated the future and the probability that I would leave the next day. My optimism on Friday morning stems from my own positive power of persuasion on myself (self hypnosis perhaps...is that possible?).

Back to Friday. I am not superstitous by any measure but when HR hung up on me when I called them in the morning to get a status report of my liklihood of travel that day I recalled that it was Friday the 13th.

Like the great Salt Lake, my optimism was high as though a rainy season had refilled the reservoir but it was starting to receed quickly, leaving crystals of doubt. By the time 3:15 rolled around a thick sheet of salt was all that was left of what was once a great sea of optimism. I started to shift my plans to going to play poker instead with some co-workers.

After work I was greated by a hot and stuffy home still without power, phone, or water. There goes everything in the fridge. No worries - I did not really have much since I was preparing to be leaving for 3 weeks anyways. So, maybe I will just go early to Poker night, drink someone else's beer and win big - that will turn things around, no?

Oh what's that, mantatory evacuation from the flat to the Eko hotel? Let's go. Oh what's that, heavy traffic - it will take over an hour to get there? Sure, whatever. Oh what's that, you could care less now about poker night because now the thought of speaking French all night just seems like extra unnessary stress?

Unlike Friday, I woke up on Saturday a little grumpy. I had the night to sleep off my initial disappointment of not leaving but now I was grumpy because I had an 'optional' meeting that night at work at 7pm. What?!! Back the truck up...did I just read that correctly?! Although it was an 'optional' meeting, a second meeting had been planned for Sunday in case this one conflicted with your schedule. I figured I had to go because I would not be surprised if roll-call was going to be taken. So, what to do until then?

I would like make a brief interlude in this dismal story to say that brunch at the hotel was fantastic! I do plan on going back some weekend just for brunch.

After brunch, I waited 1.5 hours for the shuttle to take me back to my flat (with power and water now - still no phone). Then I waited another 2 hours for a car to come pick me up to go grocery shopping. Then I got stuck in traffic for 1.5 hours on the way to the store. The store itself was packed - not with shoppers, but with locals who had gathered around the tv showing the Nigerian soccer match - big day, they qualified for the world cup!

Normally I go to the local pub if I want to watch the big games with my team. Going to the grocery store to watch my boys vie for the Stanley cup has never before popped up on my radar. I am sure it will now - "Hey man! Big game tonight! Let's go have some beers and watch it! Sure, but we better get to Krogers quick - all the best spots next to the broccoli and cucumbers fill up quick!"

I got home just in time to squeeze in a quick run on the treadmill before getting picked up for the 'optional' meeting. Well, I thought I was going to go for a run until it became clear that the treadmill's motor got a little cooked from all of the power issues of the previous day. Earmuffs - Insert your favorite 15 swear words here ___ ___ ___ __ ___ __ __ __ __ ___ __ __ __ __ __. I am optimistic that I will be able to get it fixed. As you may recall, I was also optimistic on Friday morning and we all see how that has worked out for me.

Before leaving for the meeting I slipped a bottle of Reisling into the fridge to get chilled. "You and me are getting drunk tonight," I informed it as I left.

To my 'joy' the meeting was held all in French and finished past 10pm. What struck me as odd, was that I was the only person who seemed to think that it was strange and inappropriate for a company to have a meeting at this time. I find it odd that companies talk about the relationship of corporate values, personal values, and family values and how important it is to nourrish these values. Then on your one free night of the week to really let loose and to call your own, they take you away from your family to meet in the boardroom to discuss strategy.

But why was I the only one who seemed to have an issue with this? That is the more scary question. Or, perhaps with all of my waiting around this weekend I have nearly read all of George Orwell's 1984 and my brain is looking around me at the conformity, uniformity, and the inability for people to say no when 'big brother' demands things. At what point in time will I just start accepting this type of thing from the company with no questions asked? It seems that there are a great many people who are like that. It is sad. Seeing it yesterday was really scary. It even made me forget a little about the treadmill.

Arriving home I went straight to the bottle, cut the foil, and was greeted by a moldy cork. "No worries," I thought. "I have been to the caves of Moet & Chandon Champagne and there was loads of mold and things growing down there. This should not be a problem." The mold ran pretty deep into the cork, which was not snug in the bottle. In fact, I pulled the cork out with my hands. I took one sip and quickly decided that I was more in the mood for some red w(h)ine tonight anyways.

I started to screw into the cork of the red wine and started producing copious amounts of sawdust. The cork was dehydrated beyond recognition. I am no wine expert, but that was definitely a skunky bottle. So, I went back to the white and decided that alcoholic vinegar was not so bad afterall.

I fell asleep on the couch thinking that I can only go up....or sideways, from here.

Sunday has been an upward progression. It was a big morning for me - I ran outside! I ran from my flat, around Banana Island and back. The heat was stiffling, but boy did it feel good to be out running! My biggest issue was with my lungs. Normally my lungs feel like they are burning and ready to explode. Today they felt like they were drowning and in desperate need of a life raft. All in all I ran 45 minutes and walked 45 minutes (I walked home).

While running I could feel the eyes of everyone watching me from a distance and then piercing through the back of my head as I continued past. I felt as I have always imagined the President would feel when running with his entourage and the media following him. Living in Houston I always thought that it would be cool to lay out a threshold run during such instances (if I were the president that is) and then watch them talk about how greasy fast I was (for a president) on all the major news networks!

There were a few other runners out there too....it appears as though I have opened a new and interesting chapter here in Lagos. If my treadmill had not broken down I never would have discovered this. Oh oh, there I go with that optimism again...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nov. 3: Restless Nights

Lately I have been having very restless nights. The type of nights where you are dead asleep for a short interval, wake up, roll around for a little bit, then repeat many, many times until the alarm sounds (and out of pure habit I will still hit snooze after a night like this...what's the point of that?). Normally when I am sleeping by myself (and I am not talking about when I have to sleep on the couch because I am in the dog house with Jennie!) I sleep on my normal side of the bed and wake up pretty much in the same position. Normally I only only disturb about 2 feet of the covers on the side that I am sleeping on while the rest of the bed looks as it did before I went to sleep. I think this is a result of marriage - before I got married I used to fall asleep in a spread eagle position lying in the middle of the bed - the whole bed was used (Well, the whole bed was used during the honeymoon too, but I digress...). But now I have been "trained" to sleep on my side of the bed.

Maybe it is because I have been gone for so long now (too long) that I have started to fall back into my old habits. I am waking up with my head where my feet should be, my arm hanging off the bed, and a lagoon of drool collecting in my ear. But the thing that gets me are the dreams I have been having. I am not sure what to make of this last one...

It starts off with me back in Houston (I think...I am not sure - but everyone from Houston was there). Actually, to be clear I am at some Strider running event. But my focus is on my main man JD who is making fun of me because I am actually skinnier than he is (in my dream). But I remember being confused because I did not know if that meant that I lost weight or if he grew a fat ass like mine.

So, then we took off running - we were both really excited because I had just returned from Africa and this was our first run together. But before I knew it, all the Striders were passing me like I was standing still. By now my main man JD was long gone. They kept looking at me surprised but nobody said anything to me.

"Why I am so slow?!" I cried.

Then off in the distance I recognized JD's voice yelling at me, "Because you run slow on a treadmill."

(As an interlude, this part of the dream clearly comes from my 3 weeks of treadmill running at an 8:00 min/mile pace. I am convinced that the pace on a treadmill is much faster than the equivalent pace outside. If I try to run my usual 'easy' pace of 7:15-7:30 min/mile I feel like my legs are about to spin off.)

All I remember after this is walking around confused until I come up to a bridge over the ocean (long bridge I guess) with no railings and I see JD and the rest of the Striders running towards the edge of the bridge. At the last second JD realizes that there is no railing and turns to warn the others. Before he has a chance to alert the others the momentum of the herd (imagine a Buffalo jump here) throws him and everyone else into the ocean.

So - before anyone gives me a hard time for having a dream with my buddy in it know this - in that same dream I killed him! (Sorry dude).

On another note, the longer I live by myself, the less utensils I use. I think I am turning back into a caveman. Just as Darwin went to the Galapagos Islands to discover evolution, I have come to Nigeria to discover anti-evolution.

I also saw yesterday a huge running group run by my apartment. I would have ran out and joined them if I was not on my work shuttle at the time. I must find out who these people are (I believe they are the Hash House Harriers...I have been told that they have a presence here).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oct. 25: Dilemma

Ok, first before I start this blog I have to pay tribute to the number one dad in the world (well, until January at least!!) and wish my dad a very happy 64th birthday! I really wish I could be home to celebrate it with you dad.

This weekend was a bit of a strange one. My car got hit by a motorcycle taxi, or 'Okada' as they call them here. The Okada T-boned me just behind the rear wheel on the driver's side. So, I guess you could say that it was more of a passing glance but it did result in 3 grown men scattered across the road. My driver got out, felt and rubbed the newly formed 'ding' while still cursing at the men who were busy evaluating their road rash - still on the ground. Then he jumped back in the car and we drove away. The reason the Okada hit us in the first place was because they were trying to avoid the cops. So the cops were right there and they could care less that they just witnessed a motor bike accident. Hit 'n run Nigeria style I guess. (Note to self - try not to create too many bad habits while in Nigeria. What is normal here will surely put me in jail back home.) I wonder if those guys are all right?

In other news, Precious has passed her one month trial period (durn, has it been that long already?) and I decided that she is a keeper. But this is where my dilemma begins. I had her drop by on Saturday to have her sign her contract and to pay her for her first month. Now, I made the contract out to "Mrs. Precious", which kind of reminds me of those Mr. Men books you read as a kid like Mr Grumpy, Mr Happy, etc. But that is normal here in Nigeria - everyone is Mr or Mrs then whatever their first name is. So far so good. The problem is when she signed the contract - it turns out that her name is NOT Precious afterall. WHAT?!! Yes, I knew it was too good to be true - her name is, in fact, Patience. She must be patient to have put up with me calling her by the wrong name all this time.

But I am really puzzled - how did I get her name wrong all this time? She was introduced to me by my French neighbours who, of course, have an accent so I can see how if they introduced me to her as Mrs. Patience how it could have sounded like Mrs Precious. However, I remember being so struck by the name that I repeated it several times as "Precious" to confirm that I heard correctly. I distinctly remember doing this - wouldn't you if someone was introduced to you as Precious and she was not a working at a "gentlemen's club"?

Now I have been calling her Precious all this time. At first I felt a little creepy, which is documented in an earlier blog, but then I got over it realizing that it is just her name. But it is not her name - what has she been thinking all this time?? I JOKED that it felt wrong to be calling her what to me felt like a little pet name. But to her I WAS calling her a little pet name. I might as well have been calling her "babe" or "darling" all this time. Yikes!

So the dilemma is what do I call her now? It is kind of like that guy in the office that you always see at functions and meetings and talk to all the time but you have no clue who he is because you really have never been introduced - it is always just sort of assumed that you know each other. After a while you just cannot introduce yourself because you have gone beyond that point. So instead you spend an hour on the company directory trying to covertly figure out his name so you don't look lame by finally admitting that you have no clue.

So do I keep calling her Precious, which she responds quite favorably to? Or do I switch covertly to Patience and hope she does not really notice? (but how would she not notice someone calling her two different names? I would notice!) Or do I talk to her about it? That option is a little scary because what if she tells me that she wants me to call her Precious?! Now that I know that it is not her real name, I really would feel creepy calling her it. All I need now is a thin, upper lip moustache, tight pants, and gold chains to make the image complete.

I also have to confess that I am really disappointed that her name is not Precious. Precious just had the "Wow" factor to it when you told people about her. And now, oddly, Patience just seems too normal of a name. One thing is for sure, she certainly lives up to her name by letting me call her Precious all this time!

Maybe I will refer to her as "the nanny formerly known as Precious"?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oct. 21: Finding Solutions - Nigerian Style

Since I have moved into my flat I have been making constant complaints about the condition of things. The stove does not work, the patio does not lock, I found cigarette butts and ashes on the floor upon arrival, and the patio has a leak that is damaging the tiles and makes half of it un-usable. Each of these complaints (among the others I have not mentioned) have been addressed in typical Nigerian fashion. This basically means that instead of coming with the intention to fix these problems they are more eager to enter your house just to see what you have and if anything might be worth stealing. Then they report back to their superiors that the problem is fixed. This leads to multiple phone calls and emails by me to convince their superiors that they were lied to and the problem is still just as bad as ever (but thank you for continuing to waste my time).

Regarding the patio leak I previously mentioned, here is the email chain concerning this issue (and I am quoting the emails exactly):

Me (first email): "There is a leak on the patio, which damaging the patio railing and floor. Thank you for helping resolve this issue in a timely fashion. "

Me (second email - 5 days later): "I am still waiting on this issue. What is the status of this requests? Thank you"

Response (6 days after initial request):
"The problem: The slab of Flat 6B balcony accummulates water which drips on the balcony of Flat 5B . The water gets inside of the slab through Tile joints, which inplies that the surface of Flat 6B bacony was not properly water proof.

Solution: We advise you to put a Flower pot on the spot to absorb the water and make the spot pleasant to view."

Welcome to Nigeria folks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oct. 10: Living in a Corrupt Country

This weekend I am not allowed to go anywhere without a police escort. Well, not really a police escort, but a privately hired police escort who have bigger guns than the local police. Why the increased security you ask? It is because they are expecting more police than normal to be within the area.

Now, coming from a 'normal' country's perspective this seems very strange. One would think, "Hmmm, if there are more police in the area, I should be safer, no?"

But from a corrupt country's perspective it just means you have to have more money available for bribes when out driving. It is a delicate balance of what is the minimum amount of money required to make them go away and what is too much, which encourages them to lookfor more.

So, this weekend I will be staying at home. Not because of kidnapping or terrorist threats, but because there will be too many police corrupting the streets. Good times.

ps - another 40 minutes on the treadmill today - more good times.

Oct. 19: Now what?

Last night I finally made one last push for the summit on my latest goal - to read all 1201 pages of Les Miserables. I finished just before 11pm! I cannot believe that I have read the whole book! What is more I only started at the beginning of September. This tells me that I have a lot of solitary indoor time these days. This is a good thing because it allows me to accomplish some of these things that I once thought would be impossible (1200 page book...seriously, who normally has time to read that in a month and a half?). It is a bad thing because it is solitary indoor time.

As for what I think of the book - it is the best book I have ever read. Period.

But now what I am supposed to do?!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oct. 16: Running Style

On Friday night I went for some Italian dinner at a place called Il Sorisso, which was overprized and not very good. However, that is beside the point. What was interesting was a conversation I had with a co-worker of mine from Paris who has also managed to get assigned to Lagos. For reference he also has run a few marathons, so he can appreciates quite well the task at hand when running such an event. It went something like this:

"Dave, the first time that I saw you and that you told me that you like to run I thought to myself, 'Yeah, he is a pretty fit looking guy - I can see that he runs.' Then later when I found out that you ran a sub-3 hour marathon I thought, 'BLOODY HELL! How does someone who walks like Keyser Söze from the Usual Suspects manage to move that fast?!!'"

"Really? You think I walk like Keyser Söze? Wasn't he a cripple in the movie?!"

"Yeah. you bob around a lot when you walk. The fact that you can bob-around so fast is bloody amazing!"

"Thanks! I always thought that I walked with more of a swagger...I had not put myself in the cripple category quite yet."

"Bloody amazing I tell you! I do not know how you do it! The best that I can manage is a 3:45 and I can walk normally!"

"Tell you what - let's go out this weekend and I can show you a few things that might help you understand how a sub-3 hour marathon is possible. But let's not stop there. Let's meet every night for the next six months, and perhaps you will see how 'my swagger' is able to run a sub-3."

"Bloody hell."

Yep - I guess I walk like Keyser Söze. This is not really news to me. People have always told me that they can pick me out of a crowd because I have a very distinct walking style. I have been told that I walk like my grandpa. And now to my coworkers they imagine a cork bopping around in the water, and that is me running!

Always being aware of 'my swagger' I have tried in the past to change my running style to be more steady up top. This has usually led to very stiff and uncomfortable running. So, I just let my body do what it does naturally and let it move side to side like a metronome. Running styles are as unique as a fingerprint and just because it is different, does not mean you will be any better or any worse than the person next to you. The key difference is if you actually get your 'running style' out the door and put it to use. That being said, I off to visit the treadmill!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Oct. 12: Shipment - Part 1

Yesterday I got the phone call that I have been eagerly anticipating for the last 3 weeks, "Mr. David, we have your shipment. Can we deliver it today?"

"Hells yeah you can!"

Infact I have two shipments coming because in true North American fashion I (we?) seem to want to pack everything with us. Yet within my family I have a reputation for ruthlessly throwing out key momentos and such. At any rate, I definitely spend more money to move my "neccessities" around the world than I should. In my defense, I figured that if I could ever justify a place in which I need my gear to survive - Nigeria is that place.

Check out how high the back of the moving truck is. For reference, that is a full grown man loading a box onto his shoulders. Perhaps it is time to introduce the back of truck loading ramp to Nigeria?

After 1.5 hours of lifting and hauling, I was left with this mess.

It looks like a lot of stuff but one thing that has puzzled me with this move is why the total volume of all my stuff is so much higher than the total volume of stuff I moved from Houston to Paris. I made several key purchases, but even after taking those into account this shipment was twice my previous shipment. This resulted in me paying more money to the movers and it has been a question that has been bothering me since summer. After opening the first box I finally confirmed that I was not going crazy because the answer was obvious.

The two key purchases I referred earlier to were my new treadmill and Jennie's Pilate's reformer with half-cadillac. We had these shipped straight from the States so it was quite exciting to open them up. It took me two hours to get the treadmill set up. (I was amazed how excited I was to actually be getting ready to run on a treadmill - definitely the most giddy pre-treadmill run feeling I ever had!)
Since I sweat like a pig you will notice the strategic placement of the treadmill below the AC.
The reformer. It is still not quite set up (my priority was the treadmill).
Jennie - this wall is at the foot of the reformer and treadmill. I am thinking mirror in the middle and perhaps a little TV/DVD on the drawers to the left to watch the Pilates videos on. And of course, the shower is nearby to wipe of my man grease when I get off the treadmill.
ps - Today I did my first real run on the treadmill. 30 minutes - time to start excavating this body for that long lost athlete who has some stories left to tell.

Oct. 9-11: Weekend

Fridays these days are just not filled with same sort of eager anticipation I used to have when I worked back in Houston. In Houston I only worked half-day Fridays, which meant that if you strolled in a little late (which most people did), went for a coffee with a couple co-workers (which most people did), and headed out a little early for an "early lunch" (which most people did) you barely had enough time to check email and make plans (usually a little Golden Tee and beers) for that afternoon and/or the weekend. (The Koz and I call this "early dismissal Friday" and it was awesome!)

Now in Lagos, everyone generally works at least a half day on Saturday, which leaves Friday with a pretty normal feeling associated with it. The only time that people get really excited and giddy around here is on their travel days when they are headed out.

So, on Friday I woke up and commuted to work as usual.
After putting in my usual day of "changing the world one seismic interpretation at a time", I headed out for some beers at Bunglows. The general Friday night routine is to meet for beers at Bungalows, go home and "freshen up", then meet back at some restaurant (hoping that you do not have to pay any police bribes while crossing Falamo Bridge), to be followed by some more beers.
But remember be to responsible about your beer intake. You would hate to be caught in a situation where you might be forced to pee on somebody's wall.
No seriously - do not pee on his wall.
I think I see at least one person peeing against walls, or posts, or cars every day. But strong warnings like that should make him think twice...no?!
This sign (below) made me laugh for two reasons.
1. My mom used to tell me this all the time when cleaning was to be done. (This is another shameless parenting technique of guilting you into making your bed or putting your toys away!)
2. I took this picture on a Sunday, which is one of the few days that I can actually walk around and that my company will authorize personal driving. Why Sunday? Because all of the people in Lagos are in church and there is no traffic. But Lagos is the dirtiest place I have ever seen (besides a dump). So, perhaps you can see why I find this sign ironic?
This is my new home. You would think that it is garbage day with the garbage out front. But to be honest, I am not even sure that is our garbage.
Me heading into the building with the weekend drawing to a close.
Another week has passed, which means I am one week closer to returning home to seeing Jennie and baby!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Oct. 9: Random

I think I pay Precious too much. She just had massive hair extensions done and is sporting some new threads. I was told that she needed the job to put her kids through school. (Don't mind the fact that you cannot read son, doesn't your mom look great?!)

Jennie is 26 weeks pregnant. Apparently the baby is as long as an English Cucumber and is starting to put on some baby fat. That is something that daddy and baby have in common....when will my treadmill arrive?!

Jennie thinks she will have an outie soon. Of all the changes that a woman goes through during pregnancy, this one makes me giggle.

When we lived in Paris, we already had visitors by now. We even talked about having a guest book to remember all the people who came and visited during our stay. I just laugh at that thought now!

I just passed the 900 page mark on Les Miserables - only 300 left!

My shuttle is here - off to work. Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oct. 7: Words of Wisdom

(overheard at a Nigerian Bar from one office mate to another)

"I used to pray to God for a bicycle, but I soon realized that God does not work that way.

So, I stole a bike and prayed for forgiveness instead."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oct. 5: Precious

Of the many things that I was told to do upon arrival, one of the main things that sticks out in my mind is to hire domestic staff. In fact, my company will not allow me to NOT have a driver. I must be driven everywhere. The traffic is terrible - it is much worse than I-10 on a Saturday during the height of its construction while trying to navigate around Beltway 8. But no worries now - I just let the driver deal with all that while I sit back and read, or sleep, or try to process in my mind what it is that I just saw at the last corner behind me. (I actually do not have my own driver yet, but I am taking the "company taxi" provided for us newbies).

The other important thing is to hire a nanny/maid. Lucky for me, my neighbours recommended someone and she started working for me immediately. She is great! I have absolutely no complaints. The only thing that I wish, is that I could say her name without either laughing or feeling like a creep...her name is Precious. I still feel dirty when I say, "Would you mind washing my underwear Precious?"

At first I was only going to hire her half time - afterall, how dirty can I actually be? (do not answer that). But then I figured that I would splurge that extra 20 euro/month and employ her full time. It is awesome! She sterilizes all of my fruits and vegetables (another post), irons all my clothes (including my underwear, and I am pretty sure my socks, but I have not confirmed that one yet), washes everything, makes my bed like they do at hotels, and pretty much anything else to help out. At first I was apprehensive about moving to Nigeria, but I could get used to this!

As an example of her skillz, here are before and after pictures from when I left for work this morning to when I returned this evening.

Before work:

After Work:

Pretty sweet isn't it?!

(If I tried doing this while Jennie and I were living together I do not think that I would be allowed in the same bed as her at night. Now I can do this AND go sleep in a bed that was "preciously" made for me!)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Oct. 4: Did you Miss Me?!

So, for the last 2 months I had big grandious ideas of uploading blog posts from all the things that I did last summer (yeah, remember, that thing that ended a long time ago?) but life has decided to make things very busy, and when things were not so busy, life decided to take away my internet. I have many posts in "draft" mode, which I will publish one day, but I figured I better get on with the here-'n-now. Otherwise it will be Christmas and I will be trying to remember what I did on Sunday, October 4th. So, without any further delay, let's get reaquainted shall we?

On August 23, 2009 I kissed the Mrs. Goodbye and boarded a plane from Calgary back to Paris. She, being pregnant, was not allowed to come with me on my next square on this boardgame that's called Life. (However, she will be pulling a "Go directly to Lagos, if you pass Go collect $200" card in the spring after the baby is born and ready to travel). Ultimately I was headed to Lagos, Nigeria but I had to stop in Paris first and await my Visa.

What was supposed to be a 3 week pit-stop turned into 4.5 weeks. Surprisingly it was not because I had any immigration issues, but because I had to stay in Paris for some "very important meetings". This was a bit of a blessed curse - you see I was quite looking forward to hanging out in Paris, checking emails, catching up on my blog, and basically being a slacker while I waited for my visa. Instead, the boss-man decided to put me to work and make me earn my pay-check (the nerve!). Although I got to delay my eventual depart for Nigeria, my work kept me quite occupied.

Finally on Sept. 22, 2009 I jumped aboard a 1-way plane to Lagos, Nigeria. The first thing I did, of course, was discover the local beer. A lot of Guiness is drunk here, but I seem to see Star more often. They are served in huge bottles (reminds me of Oktoberfest serving sizes - so sorry Andrew, you probably would not be able to handle yourself over here!). When I am with others we often split the bottle so that we have half-a-chance of at least drinking it while it is still cold.

My first week was spent holed up in a hotel (The Millenium). It was a little depressing. My life was dictated by the schedule of the shuttle that picked me up at 8am for work and dropped me back off again at 6:15 in the evening. The next 5 waking hours I was held prisoner within the small confines of my hotel room. Without a gym, local running route (ha ha), tv (unless you count CNN on a loop as TV), or internet my options were limited to reading and watching TV DVD series that I packed from home. I am currently reading Les Miserables, which I bought at the Calgary airport en route to Paris) and have made it to page 800 (only 400 left) - I owe this progress to my solitary confinement. (As an aside, although I am only 2/3 of the way through (ha ha), this is the best book I have read...it is an amazing read!) If I was not reading, you would see me like this (below) burning out on Friday Night Lights. (I watched all 3 seasons in 2 weeks...I told you I burned out!).

Outside of my solitary confinement, I was "working". Well, trying to get everything in place so that I could work would be a better way of putting it. Although we have been planning for this since the spring, I have learned that nothing is done here unless you are physically here. I am, more or less, up and running now. By all standards my installation was lightening quick. My office mates who arrived 2-4 weeks ahead of me are still waiting for things.

While waiting for things to happen, I got to enjoy this view (below) out of our conference room. In most offices that I have worked in before, the conference room is generally a place where a company likes to show itself off a little. Here we show off the neighborhood. (The reflections from the window are quite bad but, trust me, if you look closely you will find 2 cows down there).

Finally on Sunday, Sept. 27 I moved into my new residence.

I am still awaiting my shipment of goods so I am still living out of my 3 suitcases that I packed so long ago. Practically, what does this mean? Well, I have used my towel as a blanket, rolled up clothes for a pillow, and sometimes have to pull double duty on my underwear to make them last until my next round of laundry. Thankfully, I have some great neighbors who have lent me some bed linens and a pillow that have dramatically improved my nights! They also had me over for dinner on my birthday (oh yeah, that happened somewhere in the mix too - I never knew 31 would be this exotic!).

The first couple of days at my flat were tough since it was given to me in disgusting condition. It was dirty and the workers (i.e. squatters) who were supposed to fix my tub left cigarette butts and ash all over the place. Since I was not yet moved in, I have good reason to believe that these workers and families lived in my place before I arrived. (Yeah - high five to my security for keeping a tight wrap on things like that!). Furthermore, I discovered that I was not given all of my keys - one had magically gone missing. (I am learning that many things "magically" happen here in Nigeria...or "magically" do not happen - whichever is the worst thing for you!). After replacing all the locks, I could start enjoying the sunset view from my dining room a little more.

Being out of the hotel I better opportunity to venture out and start exploring the "city" (well, the little radius of the city that I am allowed to explore anyhow). Future posts, I am sure, will have many adventures to add on this! People are always sitting on the corners, or walking in the traffic trying to sell something - here is a fruit and vegetable stand not far from work.

And, alas, we have arrived to today. I am starting to discover my stride and am learning that although things are very different, you can still enjoy some of the comforts of home. Take my breakfast for example.

And after breakfast, I played a solo game of Le Havre. I have been looking forward to this all week - sort of my weekly reward for making it through the entire week!

Later I went to the store and you will never believe what I saw...!!!

Texas' own right here in Lagos! Now here is a question - how much do you think it cost? If you said 18 euros (~$25) then you win! Needless to say, I never bought any!

There you have it! Welcome to Lagos and welcome to my new life!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday, July 21: TdF - Day 3

Today everybody woke up a little extra giddy than the past few days. The reason was simple – we were going to watch the Tour de France live and in person today! I thought that it was a little ironic that my first live experience of the TdF would occur in Italy as we were planning on watching the tour somewhere along the ascent of Col du Petit Saint Bernard. Today’s stage started in Switzerland in Martigny, cut through Italy, and ended back in France at Bourg Saint Maurice.

We left our hotel in Les Houches, drove through the Mt Blanc tunnel and arrived in Pre St. Didier, Italy. This allowed me to check off another new country off my list. My impression of Italy so far – it looks just like France.

Today’s ride started in Pre St. Didier, which was also the base of the Category 1 Col de Petite Saint Bernard.
Most riders in the group agreed that it was not the grade of the climb (average = 5.4%) that made it a category 1 but its length (23 km). The objective today was simple – just climb. The elevation profile of the ride clearly illustrates the daunting task ahead.

I started off by myself just spinning and getting into a rythym. Although most of the “good riders” agreed that the gradient of the climb was not steep , I found it plenty steep for me. (Perhaps I am the most out of shape rider in the group? Or perhaps I am the most honest?)
It was quite exciting to be climbing the very road that the best cyclists in the world would be riding just hours later. Near the base of the climb there were spots of people camped out and eagerly waiting the tour. These spots turned to thick throngs of campers, cars, tents and TdF enthusiasts near the summit. The practiced their cheering as I rode past, which made for a sweet experience.
There were many other cyclists on the mountain that were also looking for the same experience. I was surprised by how many cyclists there were – all searching for bragging rights to say they too rode the same climb that would be broadcast worldwide later that day.

All of these thoughts ran through my head as I just concentrated on grinding each mile after mile. I am quite sure that you learn a lot about what kind of person that you are on these types of adventure. Some people like to take their time, stop for pictures, and make the ride up as “relaxing” as possible. Others like to race up against others for bragging rights. Myself, I just wanted to ride from bottom to top without stopping. That was my challenge. I figured I could sight-see on the descent.
3D View of Col du Petit Saint Bernard. The Yellow line is the Italy-French border, which is at the summit.

84 minutes later I crossed under the polka dot banner signifying the top of the climb. I had done it! To make sure that the ride would be a proper challenge I packed up a bottle of champagne and some plastic stemware to have a champagne toast to celebrate. One of the Aussies in the group told me that was something that an Aussie would talk about doing but would be too lazy to actually do it. So he made me an honorary Aussie. He also mentioned that if this is what I would do for this climb he is scared to think about what I will do to celebrate Mt. Ventoux in a couple days.

It seems that most (all?) people think that my bike is really heavy and they think I am crazy for what I pack around in it (i.e. champagne). But none of them seem to mind the champagne toast. And after being one of the first people up the climb (7th in the group), their joking is definitely out of respect.

After the toast I pointed my bike in the opposite direction from which it had been pointed all day and finally let gravity start to work for me. The throngs of people, the fact that the road was still open, and the sure length of the descent did not make it as enjoyable as I had imagined it might have been. I did, however, stop twice for two great photo ops.

The first was with Dido – the ever famous guy that you see on TV every year dressed as the devil. He has the reputation for being overly stinky, but he must have showered recently because I was still able to get quite close without any sensory damage (or perhaps I have gotten used to hanging around stinky French people for the past year and a half?).

The second was with some fellow Canadians. That maple leaf always does my heart good.

Back down in Pre Saint Didier I met back up with Jennie. We positioned ourselves just off the base of the climb to watch the tour. Before the tour comes the caravan, which is really quite an experience in itself. The cars fly by with people just throwing freebies hard down on the road infront of you. It is like being involved in a drive-by shooting but instead of dodging bullets you are diving away from sugar candies, dried sausage, and key chains.

The men of the tour arrived about an hour later. I made the mistake of telling the people that I was with that I got shivers up my spine seeing them go by. They thought that it was funny that men in lycra gave me the shivers…
Team Astana leading the charge. Lance Armstrong is the fifth person back wearing the black helmet. Alberto Contador is in the yellow.
Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) is in the center. The sprinters like to huddle together for support and security in the mountains. For them it is a matter of survival.
One of the team cars following the riders.

What a great experience – I cannot wait to do it again tomorrow!

People are now just starting to call me “Dangerous”. (I am sure my kid will read through this someday and think, “surely they are not talking about MY dad.”

Monday, July 20: TdF - Day 2

Today’s final destination is Chamonix. Actually, the people who paid full price get to stay in Chamonix - the rest of us are bunking in Les Houches ("Les Hoochies" is what I prefer), just outside of Chamonix. To break up the day, we started by riding the first 50 miles from our hotel in Beaune to Cluny.
The Fonz has nothing on me...Haaaaaaaaaay. Getting Ready to depart.
In Cluny we had lunch, a red neck shower, which consists of squeezing the remaining water from my water bottle over my dirty bits for a little rinse. It is important to clearly distinguish the water bottle from the gatorade bottle BEFORE you start cleaning - you do not need your cheeks sticking to the bus seat for the remaining 4 hour bus ride Les Houches.
The ride is shown on the left in blue (point-to-point from North to South). We drove the remainder to Chamonix (bottom right).
After yesterday’s hammer-fest I decided to start the ride with the “slow group.” It was a beautiful, sunny day for a ride – riding through the French country side with the sun shining down on you is the most fun you can have with lycra on. As Ms. Beckistan would say, “you got to punish the lycra”.

As it turns out, the “fast group” took a wrong turn and had to repass us further down the road. They went from being called the “fast group” to the “development squad” or the "soft tops". When they caught back up I decided to jump on and join them since their new names that we had bestowed upon them were no longer intimidating to me. (Whereas before I had given them nicknames like White Goodman in Dodgeball..."and there riding up front is Blazer, sitting next to him is Lazer, followed by Tazer..."

It was all good until the first crash of the day, which occurred just two bikes ahead of me. We were approaching a climb and, as it appeared to me, when the riders got out of their saddles to start digging into the climb there was a little rubbing of tires. (Sometimes a little rubbing is a good thing, but not in this case...). Two people went down, some flesh was used to patch a few holes in the road and, thankfully, that was about it.

After this incident I figured I better ride with the “slow group”. Perhaps this more casual group would decrease my risk of going ass over tea kettle in the French countryside. Again, all was going smooth until the second crash of the day. I was near the back when suddenly the whole group infront of me slowed in the middle of the track. Everyone was touching their brakes or slowing for some reason. The ripple effect to the back of the group had disasterous consequences. I hit the bike in front of me (who happened to be ridden by the guy who started calling me Dangerous Dave) and got thrown from my bike.
Having been in this precarious situation before I instinctively unclipped my left foot, skied along the pavement with me cleat while unclipping my right foot as my bike hit the pavement and skidded between my legs. Miraculously I ended up on both feet with my bike lying beneath me. Unfortunately the lady behind me did not have quite the same performance on her dismount. When the peloton slows/stops without warning the back of the peloton is definitely put at risk. To avoid these situations tomorrow I think I will just go for the yellow jersey and let all the people behind me worry about the perils of the peloton. The tips of the ladies fingers got chewed up pretty bad...she is now known as "claw".

Was it coincidence that I was at the scene of both accidents in the two different groups? “Dangerous Dave” is really starting to catch on. (But seriously, by all accounts and witnesses, I was not at fault for either accidents…I swear).
It has also been suggested to me that I should have a little scoreboard on my “suitcase” on the back of my bike so people riding around me will be fully aware of the risk they are taking when riding next to me. Since the first accident occurred infront of me, the group on the bus has decided that my score is 1.5.
It is a rest day in the TdF so Astana can perhaps have a little team building after yesterday's "fireworks". Unfortunately for Lance, I think the fireworks came from the wrong person!
View from our hotel room.
Les Houches.
Jennie in Les Houches.
Me in Les Houches.

A+ from Les Houches.

Sunday, July 19: TdF - Day 1

Today my new friends and I left Paris en route to Beaune. Beaune is about a 3 hour bus ride away, which allowed plenty of opportunity to “bus-bond” with everyone.
Loading the bus in Paris.
While it seemed that the front half of the bus was enjoying the quiet tranquility of the French countryside, which lulled them to sleep, we were in the back half of the bus with the more rowdy crowd (led by big Geoff and his crazy toe slippers (shoes?)). I was hoping to catch a bit of a snooze myself but sitting in front of Geoff all but guaranteed that would not happen!

We were dropped off 27 miles from Beaune giving us all the opportunity to “stretch our legs” through the vineyards and country roads into town.
Dave had mentioned to me (later in the tour) that there is always one guy on these tours who rides a really old bike (mine was the oldest - or as I prefer to say, "the most classic") and has not bought new bike gear since the florescent phase. Hmmm...it looks like I am "that guy". Might as well ham it up a bit.
Yep, I am definitely "that guy".
I somehow managed to get caught up with the front guys where, starting with the first climb the hammer was dropped and remained that way all the way into town. The only reason why I was able to keep up was because the really phenomenal climbers who chewed up the first hill decided to descend and reclimb the hill so (in their words) they could “keep warm”.
The first climb seemed to take most people by surprise. - it was a little longer and steeper than "we" (?..or maybe it was just "me"). It was an abrupt reminder that my vacation has now begun...hmmm - something seems wrong with that statement. I am hoping that it awoke some of the deep muscles that have not been used in a long time in time for the alps in a few days!

The countryside was phenomenal! Beaune, being the center of the burgundy wine country, meant that the whole ride rolled through the beautiful surrounding vineyards. A strong headwind motivated me to keep up with the fast guys infront (Brian and Dave) because, although I am used to generating a lot of hot air myself, the last thing that I wanted to do was to battle the wind solo.
A point-to-point ride gauranteed that the wind would always be against us.

I finished the day hoping that every ride will not be like this one! Sure it is great to throw down the hammer from time to time, but with the mountains looming ahead I was not so keen to do it on day one! Either way, it seemed that most people were just trying to figure out the group dynamics. From what I could tell you had two groups:
1. The Tazmanian Devils who were here for training
2. The rest of us.

Jennie stayed on the bus with her new found friends and barely beat us into town. Upon arrival the very next priority was to find a little pub where we could watch the Tour de France. We were all excited to see the stage since Lance promised “fireworks” on his Twitter page. (This information was brought to us by "Team Livestrong" (aka Jim and Angela) in the back of the bus. This was to be the first of many such instantaneous twitter updates.). There were fireworks alright – it looks like the tour has entered a new era – The Contador Era! Finally, the tour is getting exciting…or is it already over?

A few more beers in the beautiful Beaune town square with my new French buddy Francois (who was being overwhelmed by the Australian contingent of our group before I arrived), nice dinner in a cave restaurant, and I was knackered!
Jennie in beautiful Beaune.

Of note, my bike seems to be getting a lot of attention amongst the group. I am still getting a lot of flak for having my “suitcase” (i.e. my “small” saddle bag) tied to the back but they all love my “old school” bike. Glenn told me that I “make uncool cool”. I am pretty sure it was a compliment…but stay tuned!

I have also been given the title of “Dangerous Dave” from Paul. That’s right Ice man…I am dangerous!