Outside American International School Lagos

The introduction to Lagos is either a laugh riot or a maniacal debacle, depending on your level of jet lag and patience for paths to no where.  The first passport check is as you get off the plane.  Some guy at the end of the jetway flipped open my passport, stared intently at a blank page and then let me enter the airport.  Then we proceeded to the real passport check line, where no one follows the logical inclination to queue up and take turns.  Instead there is pushing and angling, with people offering bribes (dash) to be escorted to the head of the line.

We were finally greeted by official number one, who actually looked at our paperwork and declared we may not enter because we did not have a phone number.  Cue the first power outage.  The entire place goes dark as a cave and erupts in screams and moans.  We experience two more of these outages before we get out of the airport, an apt introduction to the realities of life in Lagos.

Michael dug up a phone number on his IPad, which we uses as a flash light.  We then snakes around back of this guy to get in another line (more pushing, shoving, maneuvering) whereupon we waited for official number 2 to examine the work of official number 1.  Some around us bypass this step (see above, re: bribes).  Then we go into a roped in pen where we wait to be summoned before official number 3, who actually has a computer to scan our passports and let us into the baggage claim area.  Our hosting librarian Kay Riley cannot believe that we accomplish this in less than 45 minutes, some kind of a land sea record.

Outside of the airport, more chaos.  A man comes up to us and offers to call our contact on his cell.  He calls Kay who is waiting with another teacher in a bus in the river of taillights we have seen from the air. You know those nice little cell phone lots they have at US airports?  Yeah.  No.  Cars wait in the same pushing and shoving lines that exist inside the airport. When we finally connect with Kay, she dashes the cell phone guy, the guy who lifts our bags into the van and the police officer overseeing everything.  I thought the guy with the gun and the uniform might be there to make sure that no one gouged us, but no.  He was mostly waiting for his dash.

What we learned getting out of the airport is that while it is illegal to take wooden masks out of the country, a subtly passed bribe to the screeners at the xray machine and they are willing to overlook anything suspicious in your hand luggage.  This is either welcome or distressing news.  Depending, I suppose.  We paid about $6 to get some masks through security.  Hopefully the rules are different if travelers are carrying anything dangerous, otherwise everything may be subject to what amounts to a TSA tax. Like the guy outside the door to the airport with the cell phone and the kids who offer to carry your bags in the market for a little dash, these are just people trying to get by in a country that has an unemployment rate north of 50%.

On our final day at school, we are able to make it to Lekki market which sells everything from socks to bananas to masks and jewelry.  The path into the market was sloppy muddy, the stalls hardly
more than clapped together wood pallets. 
Stacked inside were vibrant fabrics, intricate baskets, and polished
carvings.  Hampered by airline weight
restrictions, we carefully chose a few items to bring home.  Many many thanks to Nicky and Amanda for taking us to the market.

For all the scary stories you read about on the news, I can honestly say, we enjoyed our stay.  The locals we met were for the most part friendly and helpful.  However, if folks back home really want to know what it is like to have little to no infrastructure in a nation, I would recommend a stay in Lagos.

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