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 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 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).