13 May 2016

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Hello world, happy Friday. Hope you all had a great week!

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Nigeria will forever hold a special place in my heart.   The plan this year was to visit my home country Sierra Leone before I traveled to any other country. I actually wanted to start the blog with Sierra Leone. But things didn’t happen that way. 

Back to Nigeria. I remember asking a friend for tips on adventurous things to do in Nigeria. She laughed and said “going to Nigeria is adventurous enough.” I honestly thought she was being dramatic, but I must admit, she was right. I also remember the reaction of some family and friends  when they heard I was traveling to Nigeria. Many didn’t understand my interest in traveling to a country that is not my home country, one that some considered to be one of the most dangerous places in Africa.  I have to admit the warning from friends and family made me a bit nervous  but  I am a rebel at heart and so  was determined to see things for myself after all “there is paradise and poverty in every country.” 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country 

BEFORE TRAVELING TO NIGERIA

You probably already know you need to have a valid passport for visiting Nigeria. But you also need an appropriate visa for non ECOWAS passport holders. Some might ask what is ECOWAS? The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is made up of fifteen member countries that are located in the Western African region. These countries have both cultural and geopolitical ties and shared common economic interest.

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Even though I was born in  Sierra Leone in West Africa, which is part of ECOWAS, I only have a U.S. passport, so I had to get a visa in order to travel to Nigeria. With only one week before my intended departure date, I started the most difficult process of getting a visa. First I had to fill out the visa application form online and print it out. Tried making the first payment which had to be made with money order, debit or credit card. But let me break it down to you all, you are wasting your precious time trying to make the payment with your debit or credit card. I tried making the payment of $180( which is the application processing fee) but I automatically received a call and text message from my bank. I called the fraud department of both of my bank hoping that it will be  smooth sailing once it’s confirmed that I am indeed trying to use my debit card. Both banks gave me the same generic statement “we are sorry for the inconvenience, but this company is blocked from any transactions.” And my statement to each one of them, “how could you block an embassy, this is not a company, this is a country.”  Even if there were Nigerians who engage in fraudulent activities, but for crying out loud, this is a government site and not every Nigerian is a fraudster. I honestly think it’s an insult to the Nigerian government.  My only option was to go to the post office for money order because they only accept USPS money order. In order for the online application to be completed for printing, I had to put the money order information and mail it outs as well. At this point, I was getting frustrated. With my online application completed, money order mailed out, I headed to the Embassy with full confident that I will not take no for an answer because I had already bought my airfare for a trip that was less than a week away. I must admit, before going to the embassy, I was expecting so much negativity as the outcome. But I realized that the staffs were extremely helpful, they gave me all the necessary information needed. I went to the embassy on Monday, I was told to come back on Friday for my visa. I had to pay additional fees for expedited  process. I said to the processing staff will my visa be guarantee on Friday because I am scheduled to travel on Sunday. He gave me the typical response, “I cannot guarantee anything.” I anxiously waited for Friday, went to the embassy, and my visa was processed. I was so excited I left the embassy jumping like a little kid. Even with airfare and visa, it still didn’t feel real that I am about to travel to the continent of Africa. 

Another important information before traveling to Nigeria. GO WITH AN OPEN MIND. Chances are, what you have heard about Nigeria or Nigerians from other African countries or western media is not all true. You will leave with a lot of stereotypes unlearned and a new found understanding of the most populous nation in Africa.

Lastly, the locals speaks to each other in such an aggressive manner, but I realized there is no harm or bad intention. They can be very dramatic with conversation about almost every and anything. Don’t take it personal. That’s just their way of interacting. But I noticed how they change their tone when speaking to a foreigner. It was interesting to watch at times how I will see one of my friends or the drivers  interacting with a local, then instantly switches when speaking to me. 

HISTORY

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

From Nigeria Embassy:Nigeria declares independence from Britain in October of 1960. Three years later, it becomes a republic. Nigeria has the largest population of any country in Africa (about 120 million), and the greatest diversity of cultures, ways of life, cities and terrain. With a total land area of 923,768 sq. km. (356,668 sq. mi.) Nigeria is the 14th largest country in Africa. Its coastline, on the Gulf of Guinea, stretches 774 km (480 mi.). Nigeria shares its international border of 4,470 km (2513 mi.) with four neighbors: Chad, Cameroon, Benin, and Niger. Until 1989 the capital was Lagos, with a population of about 2,500,000, but the government recently moved the capital to Abuja. Nigeria lies entirely within the tropics yet there are wide climactic variations. In general, there are two seasons, dry and wet, throughout Nigeria. Virtually all the native races of Africa are represented in Nigeria, hence the great diversity of her people and culture. 

Sunny In Every Country, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria is one of those tricky countries that’s about half Muslim and half Christian, and while most of the population is fine with this, religious extremists create a lot of violence and ruin everything. And then there are those 250 ethnic groups, the three largest of which comprise 68% of the population—Hausa in the north (mostly Muslim), Igbo in the southeast (mostly Christian), and Yoruba in the southwest (Muslim and Christian)—and these three groups’ general annoyance with each other is behind much of the country’s violent past and political instability.

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

 12 hours flight from Houston to Lagos

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Nigeria, Lagos, Sunny In Every Country

After being picked up from the airport, I had this feeling that was unexplainable. I couldn’t believe I was in Africa, Nigeria to be precise. So I decided to jump around the hotel like a little kid in a candy store. Check out that Africa sun on my skin. I was GLOWING!

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

The first American franchise I saw in Lagos was ColdStone. 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

After checking into the hotel. I wanted to do my make-up and look cute for dinner. I must warn you if your face heavily depends on make-up, Nigeria is not for you. I don’t think I had on make-up more than two or three times the entire trip. I never knew my face could sweat. So make-up free won and we headed out for dinner.

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

We went to a shopping mall in Ikeja. The mall was as developed as local shopping centers in the States. I remember telling my friend “this mall reminds me of malls in the states.” This was one of my first stereotypes of Nigeria being unlearnt. 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Often times, I think of Nigerian food as tasteless with mainly tomato source. So I didn’t order the jollof. Boy, was I wrong, I had a taste of this jollof and it was nothing like the Nigeria food I’ve had in the States. It was insanely delicious. 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

With Bassey, his cousin Emeka and friend Nick. We asked the waiter to take this photo and they were telling him “oya take am fine oh.” 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

My face after I had some delicious Nigerian food that I didn’t think existed in a place that I definitely didn’t expect to be as beautiful. Two stereotypes unlearned in matter of 1 hour. 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by a place called University of Suya.  

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

What’s suya, you might ask? Well, it’s made with skewered beef or chicken and served with ground pepper and onions. It’s basically meat that has been seasoned in all these spices and left to soak and dry.

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

I went with Bassey and Emeka to get Suya, but I initially declined to eat any because I’ve been a pescatarian(those who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish) for 6 months and I wanted to remain just that even though I was in a country where meat consumption is basically a must. Emeka insisted that I try this meat, because it an exception to my diet since it’s soooo good. I said to myself, why not, I will continue my regular diet back in the States. 

lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

The aftermath. I ate it all and wanted more. 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

I was so jet lagged the next day. Didn’t want to get out of bed. 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

On our way to the Island. The driver needed gas and this was the queue for gas. Nigeria is not for the impatient. The wait for gas and traffic will make you appreciate the basic things you take for granted in the Western world. 

Lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Sunny In Every Country, Lagos, Nigeria

Sunny In Every Country, Nigeria, Lagos

Sunny In Every Country, Lagos, Nigeria Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

 This photo really shows how I felt after getting to the Island. Bassey took this photo of me while testing out my camera not knowing what I was feeling. He knew I was quiet the entire ride to the Isaland, but he thought I was just trying to take everything in, the fact that I am in Africa. What he didn’t know, I was overwhelmed with all the things I saw that day on our way to the Island. This was my second day in Nigeria. Yes, I always tell myself “there is paradise and poverty in every country.” I have never been in a country where there is so much wealth and poverty within minutes from each other, yet the gap is so huge. I hate to show emotions but I actually cried in the back of the car on our way to the Island. I had this sense of guilt and motivation at the same. Guilt of knowing someone has less than me, yet they seem happier and motivation that I should be doing more because of the opportunities I have.  Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

We went to Bassey’s friend, Olu’s restaurant. BBQ& Craving located in Lekki. The concept of BBQ & Craving is to bring American style BBQ to Nigeria. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Lagos, Lekki, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Listening to Olu telling his story of how and why he moved to Nigeria from the States was very inspiring. I thought to myself maybe I can live in Africa one day. 

Sunny In Lagos

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

These American style fries that Nigerians refer to as chips taste better than the American fries I’ve had in the states. BBQ & Craving is a must when in Lagos. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

The next day we went to Nike Art Gallery. Try not to pronounce it like the shoe brand, because it pronounce totally different. I embarrassedly did and was corrected. It an amazing four floor gallery filled with beautiful arts all for sale. Nigerians have talents. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

In front of Nike Art Gallery, there were many tricycles called keke. I’ve been on one in Guatemala, but I’m in Nigeria so I was curious to ride it. The driver John, charged me 500 naira just to take a photo of him and riding it for literally 5 seconds. I love the hustle spirit of the people.

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

I was too excited to be riding keke. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Many people attempted to discourage me from going to Balogun Market. The biggest market on Lagos Island. I was told, it’s not safe and that I would most likely get robbed. But being the rebel that I am, I declined all the small, safe markets offered to me because my mind was set on going to Balogun Market so a friend was nice enough to arranged for a local to go with us. I was told not to speak every time I wanted to buy something. The moment they hear my accent, the prices get tripled. But I wasn’t mad at their hustle. I bought few things for family and friends. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

After Balogun Market, we went to Freedom Park. Very close to the market, but seems far thanks to Lagos traffic. Freedom Park is a great place to learn general insight of Nigeria culture. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Freedom Park, Lagos, Nigeria

Freedom Park, Lagos, Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Island

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

The next day we stumbled upon this building while trying to get feminine products. I swear that time of the month happens to me every time I travel. We went to three stores before finding tampons. Apparently, most women in Nigeria use pads. Very few stores sell tampon. TMI: but it was too hot for pads. Back to this building. It basically a one stop shop. It has a car wash, barber shop, hair salon, restaurant and a club all in one building. Brilliant business idea!

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Four Points By Sheraton

After spending time in Ikeja and Lekki. I wanted to see the other side of Nigeria. I checked into Four Points By Sheraton in Victoria Island. The staffs were really nice. I told them to refer to me as Sade( The Nigerian name I gave myself). Indeed they all referred to me as Sade. Lol.  I got upgraded to a beautiful room with amazing view of Victoria Island. 

Startwood Hotel, FourPoints By Sheraton Lagos

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

These amazing women braided my hair in less than 3 hours for 25 dollars or less. I don’t remember the conversion rate/amount. Ladies, if you are ever in Lagos, please call Funky Beauty Salone for your braids. The owner of the salon is Funmi (the lady in pink with the child). Her number 08169466145. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

My friend Solo that lives between Lagos and New York took me to the most beautiful view of Nigeria. This was Oriental Hotel. I kept saying to him, it’s truly sad that we barely see this side of Nigeria in the Western media.

Oriental Hotel Victoria Island

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Trying to get used to my braids. It was a struggle the first two days. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Oriental Hotel Victoria Island

Sunny In lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In lagos Nigeria

Oriental Hotel Victoria Island

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Prawn Suya with a beautiful view!

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Solo advised that I change my room to the rooms with balcony. So I did just that. It was a bigger room with  amazing views of Victoria Island. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

My Friend Bassey came by the Hotel since he was heading back to the States. I was so excited to show him my balcony view and secretly wanted him to take pictures of me.  So we went outside and I started taking his pictures first with the hopes that he will take mine after. That’s my trick you guys. Haha, don’t judge me. The struggles of being in a beautiful hotel alone. He kept saying “Sunny you need to leave soon before you miss your flight.” I kept saying I will be fine, just take my pictures. My pictures were taken but I sure did miss my flight thanks to Lagos traffic and partially not leaving 5 hours early as advised. 

Sunny In Lagos Nigeria

The next day, boarded the plan, started sipping my virgin drinks and the pilot made an announcement that there is a mechanical issue with the plane. We waited for about an hour in the plane. Another announcement was made that we should all vacate the plane for the pilot to turn off the engine with the hopes that when it turn back on the issue will be solved. Well, that issue didn’t get solved upon the plane being turned back on. Three hours later, my flight was canceleed. I stayed at a hotel close to the airport call Golden Tulip. At this point, I started to regret my trip to Nigeria, two days out of schedule, loosing money while spending money can be very annoying. I met an amazing guy at the airport that was so positive the entire time. He was cracking jokes to make me smile and forget about my worries.

Nigeria

The next day, I checked into Protea Hotel Kuramo thanks to Solo. I honestly don’t know what I will do without Solo help while in Nigeria. From helping me find shops I should go to for tampons (HAHA, poor Solo) to showing me the beautiful side of Nigeria I didn’t know existed, hanging out with Nigerian celebrities and business men (don’t ask which ones because there were many), and ordering Uber (Yes, they have Ubber in Lagos). The list goes on. I can’t thank him enough.

Nigeria, Lagos, Sunny In Every Country

Hotel balcony view of Victoria Island

Lagos, Nigeria

I ate so much plantains in Nigeria. I am curious to know if there is a Nigerian out there that doesn’t like plantains. 

lagos, Nigeria, Sunny In Every Country

Lagos or Nigeria as a whole is considered one of the most dangerous places in Africa. While this might be true, my experience in Nigeria was nothing of such. It’s a country that is there to be explored but has been dealt a terrible hand in that the world’s perception of Nigeria is one that has no positives. Now that I have at least experienced some of what Nigeria has to offer I can clearly say for a fact that Nigerian people have been some of the friendliest I have met. 

Despite all that is bad with Nigeria, it is still an undeniably beautiful country with breathtaking places, extraordinary people and culture that is unparalleled.

Nigeria is a country I can recommend to anyone that has a sense of adventure, the friends that you will no doubt meet along the way are surely part of an experience that cannot be underestimated when travelling anywhere in the world and here is no exception. I hope this post helps inspire you all to visit the most populated Africa country to unlearn the unfortunate stereotypes constantly being portrayed in western media. 

 Please do not use my photos without permission!