If you can read this, something is wrong

I’ve had some problems with my internet hosting so I’ve migrated the blog over to whitewatersandblack.wordpress.com.  I think I’ve updated the auto-redirect from whitewatersandblack.com to go there automatically, but there’s a chance it is still redirecting you to this (now-defunct) site.  If you are reading this post, it means that your browser is directing you to the old site instead of the new site. I’d like to think that this should fix itself automatically, but in the meantime, you can be sure you’re reading the new content by going to whitewatersandblack.wordpress.com.

I am going to redouble efforts to post a bit more regularly too. Not to make excuses, but the first 2 months here were quite hectic just settling in, then I had a friend from orientation posted here for a few weeks and then my family was here. A lot has happened that I want to go back and talk about and I have pictures now that I have my computer up and running.

If you notice that I haven’t posted in a while, shoot me an email to remind me, please.

Posted on December 21, 2011 at 4:12 pm by Japansen · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Uncategorized

Teetering on the Brink

Yes, there is an excellent book on Nigeria subtitled “Dancing on the brink” but today I’m not talking about the abyss the country is falling into. I just got home after sending my beloved family back to Japan and I feel like I swallowed a chainsaw. I’m sitting here listening to Journey, that most nostalgic and emotional of greatest bands, writing this post to try to wring the pain out instead of using scotch and cigarettes to create bigger pains that block it.
We had the greatest time possible.  They got to see plenty of Nigeria, from the relatively high quality of life here in the city to the reality of life in Nigeria outside the capital. The Harmattan kicked in pretty hard the last week or so but they had great weather up until the dust blotted out the sun and began to sear our throats. The Eminent Wife is the greatest cook who patiently explained to me how to maximize the options here. The Eminent Child and I were together non-stop. I taught her how to play Hold ‘em and she took money from both the Eminent Wife and me. She had pretty good instincts for a rank beginner and would was able to fold rather than lose in a showdown even though she often pay to see all the cards and then put hers down.  Plenty to work with there.
I bought her “No Stress Chess”, a chess game that comes with cards that explain the moves. It’s played by drawing cards from the deck; players can choose which of the pawns, knights, bishops, rooks to move but the deck picks the kind of piece. It’s a great equalizer and gives every player a chance to win. Good fun there.
The Eminent Cat bonded with everyone, especially after I was able to convince the Eminent Child that if she ignored the cat, the cat would come to her, but if she insisted on forcing the cat to see how much she loved it, the cat would always attempt to escape.  The Cat is pretty affectionate and needs daily “luvs”, but she gets pretty aggressive at night and will stalk ankles and toes in pursuit of a wrestling match. Ambushes from under the bed as one is crawling in are common. Needless to say, there were many shrieks and much fun had in playing up the threat of the deadly feline hunter.
We hit several craft villages repeatedly and learned the art of negotiating with Nigerians. Miku scored big and was constantly given free objects, including a keychain, a bracelet, a necklace, a leather wallet, and an alligator hide purse. We weren’t sure the alligator hide was legal for Japan so asked if we could exchange it and got a pretty cute black leather bag instead.  We also discovered that one of the sellers was selling these huge carved ivory tusks. I was surprised that he let us take pictures; I’ll try to get them posted but I’m still dealing with the aftermath of the photo catastrophe.
Their visit culminated in the assembly of a giant Unimog Lego Technic model. It took us about 5 days to assemble. It’s about 2 feet long and has fully independent suspension and a completely functional powertrain that drives a winch in the front and a crane in the back. You can divert the power to an aircompressor that drives the 3 articulating joints of the crane. The crane of course has stabilizers that must be dropped down and you can even detach it from the back and put it on the front (there is a compressed air nozzle in the front too!).  
The greatest thing about this was that she was capable of putting a lot of it together. I still did the majority but she did a fair amount and helped out with collecting pieces for each step.  We watched Season 17 of Survivor while we built it, coincidentally hosted in Gabon which is just down the coast from us.  Nigeria isn’t near as awesome as the Gabon depicted on the show though. I wish I had elephants living behind me…
We celebrated our 13th anniversary while they were here. We considered going out but decided to stay in as it we only had 2 days left and it was more fun to just hang out at home. The Eminent Wife found some frozen steaks I’d bought and discovered that not only were they huge T-bones, they were phenomenally good. We’d been invited to a Texas steak dinner by a good friend of mine the night before that was really good, followed by these steaks that held their own against the Texas and even the Japanese beef.  Some garlic rice and potato/beans with bacon and it was heavenly. The best anniversary yet.  
The goodbyes in Nigeria and when I moved out of Japan weren’t that bad. They didn’t stay all that long during the trips to DC and the nature of preparing for the move didn’t permit them to really settle into the apartment. But since they’ve been here, they’ve settled in, and the hardest thing now is dealing with all the little reminders of them.  It’s easier to be the one leaving then being the one left, I think, as  you don’t have to deal with that gaping hole where your happiness used to be.  
It was five months since I saw them last; hopefully we will never have to deal with that long of an absence again. I will be visiting Japan from mid-March to mid-April (3 months from now) and then again in July or August (3-4 months).  That schedule is going to be complex to figure out since I want to hit my 20th class reunion in late August as well as the “once-every-3-years” Idahoan camping trip in addition to seeing my family. I don’t think it is economically feasible to bring them to the States. I also want to go to some training in DC, but that’s going to depend a lot on the availability and timing of the classes as well as the needs and expectations of the section at the embassy.  
Since I’m working Christmas this year I’m hoping to be able to get it off next year. Ideally we’ll be able to afford a trip for all of us, maybe Hawaii or Dubai but I’m prepared for either them to come here or me to go there. If I can swing the leave, it’s cheaper for me to travel and I welcome the opportunity to get out of here for a break but it may be more likely that they’ll have to come back.  So that’s 4 months from August, but then it’s only 3 months until March 2013 when we’re expecting them to move down here at the conclusion of the 2012 school year. The only thing that would impact that would be if I get posted to Japan next; no point in paying for them to move down here then.  
I can tell that life here is affecting me at least a little because when the driver who brought me back from the airport mentioned that he’d just lost his wife, I was shocked by his loss but also noticed a little voice in the back of my head wondering if he was trying to see if I’d offer to “help him out”. He didn’t say anything in that sense at all and I do believe that he was sharing it with me because he and I are fairly friendly (at least as far as the quality of the relationship between a driver and passenger who never meet outside the parking goes). It added a little bit of a twist to my frame of mind as well as I’m thinking about the costs of this career choice on my family.  I don’t (yet) regret taking this job but considering that one of the reasons I took it was to give the Child wider experience in the world, I keep retracing my steps to find out how I ended up here without her.  As good as it is to have her here and as good as it is for her to be here, she’s well served by the opportunities in Japan at this stage of her life. She got to go to the local international school here for a day and it was a great place, especially for the elementary kids. She was pretty far ahead of them in maths though and it reminded me of the quality of Japanese elementary ed. Factor in the activities that she’s involved in and the value of having a place with roots, a “home” identity that will anchor her during the future years of constant chaos, disruption, and transition and I know that this is a good decision.  
It still sucks not having them here though.
My only option now is to return to the self-preserving strategy I’ve been operating under since taking this job. Don’t dwell on the absence and distance and find ways to stay occupied. Work is great, keeps me busy and makes the time fly by. Outside of work I’ve got plenty to keep me busy between cooking, exercising, reading, playing, and hanging out with others. I think I’ve got a temporary fix for brewing (a full post explaining that is coming up soon) until I get the piece I’ve been waiting on; the real question now is if the yeast in the kits I intend to start with is still active.  We’ll know this weekend, eh?
Travel safe, Beloved Family. The Cat and I miss you terribly.

Posted on December 15, 2011 at 2:06 am by Japansen · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Abuja (Nigeria), Behind every good man...

UPS and down: the demoralizing fight against the power

I often hear people say that a good rule of thumb for life here is to get out of Abuja every three months, out of Nigeria every six.  I’m not able to consider this due to my desire to save all of my accrued leave for when I get to go back to Japan and the need to save as much money as possible to finance the expenses of family travel over the next couple years. I’ve prepared for the grind of living here and honestly, I don’t think it is all that bad.  My encounters with some of the fauna (I’ll post an update of the cockroach attack soon) aside, I don’t mind living here. I’ve got plenty to do around the house, be it reading, hobbies, exercise, or just zoning out with the TV.  I happy just hanging out in my little cocoon.

At least, I thought I was doing ok, until the most recent debacle associated with trying to solve the UPS issue.  UPS are Uninterruptible Power Supplies, the battery backup systems that will kick in to keep computers running during a power outage.  UPS are necessary here because the power is constantly flickering on and off, sometimes going out for a few minutes at a time. We have a generator at the compound that kicks (usually) and prevents extended outages, but if you’re watching a DVD, many of these hiccups will require you wait for the player to start up, the DVD intro to play, and then find your spot in the movie.  If you’re playing a video game, you lose all your progress.  The cable/satellite boxes take a couple minutes to boot up and can be very inconvenient when you’re trying to watch sports (even more inconvenient if you’re hosting guests for that purpose).

I bought 3 UPS before I came down here but messed up on my research of the models. Nigeria runs on a 230v 50Hz electricity system. Many computers have universal power supplies, large power bricks that can handle 100-240v, 50-60Hz electricity which basically means you can use them anywhere.  But many other electronics (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom) only run on 110v, 60Hz. I thought I bought UPS that had universal power supplies but learned after arrival that the units I bought won’t run on a 50Hz grid.

I found a UPS for about $110 in the electronics section of the better stores that turned out to be a complete waste of money. Every time the power went out, the fuse would blow, utterly useless. I should have done more research on it before buying, as it is never good when you can’t even find the brand in a Google search. These are expensive units and I should have know something that cheap was junk.

I asked around and found a reputable dealer of APC, the top brand for UPS. With markup for Nigeria, though, a $350-400 unit was running just over $500, and I needed two of them. I felt ill at the thought of spending a grand on these, but eventually came to terms with the fact that either I drop that kind of change or deal without my computer and unstable TV for the duration of my time here. I need the computer for photos as my laptop doesn’t have enough space to store them, nor does it have any backup.  I’m itching to find out how many photos I actually lost in my earlier catastrophe as well.

So I finally decide to buy 2 of these. My coworker also needed one and bought one on my recommendation.  It was a tough purchase but it was going to drastically improve my quality of life. We dropped off $1500 cash and waited a couple days for the units to arrive. They looked great, huge heavy hulks that looked built to take a direct lightning strike with vigor.

We were all pretty excited until we got home and realized that the input cable had a shielded plug that wouldn’t plug into the wall outlet and the outlet plugs on the UPS were not standard for US devices, ie there was no way to use them.

This was pretty upsetting and I just couldn’t shake it off.  I’ve taken everything Abuja’s thrown at me in stride but was caught off guard by this.  I abandoned my workout and ate a bowl full of mac and cheese and watched Eastbound and Down for the rest of the night, just feeling deflated.  I did get a hold of my seller and she promised that they’d get things working. I’d like to believe that, but I’m reticent to be optimistic. I’m preparing for the worst case scenario where we can’t use them nor return/exchange them. I’ll reimburse my colleague who bought it on my recommendation, of course.

PS: Every day dawns anew! Today one of my colleagues mentioned that he had a couple of adapters that I could use to get things working, so that brightened my day considerably. The guys from the shop showed up and claimed that they can get more adapters for cheap, so maybe in the end, it will all work out.  But nothing in Nigeria, is ever easy, and everything takes at least two, three, or more attempts before its settled.

Posted on November 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm by Japansen · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Uncategorized

Happy Birthday to me!

Friday was a great birthday for me. I got my car after working late on Thursday night and was able to drive to work for the first time. The new section chief bought us pizza for lunch (which turned out quite good; apparently the pizza shop is run by Americans who return to the U.S. every few months and bring back loads of cheese) and then I had a delicious steak dinner with several of my friends here. I wasn’t planning on doing anything socially for my birthday but when one of my friends suggested it, I was on board. I was very happy that so many people showed up and it made me feel that I was part of the group down here. It’s not that I’ve ever felt that I wasn’t, but it made clear that I was no longer “the new guy”.

The Eminent Wife and Child gave me an Amazon gift card apparently because the Child is under the belief that anything you buy online comes from Amazon. I sent her flowers from FTD International on her birthday; she talks about how I got her flowers from Amazon. I also heard a reference that perhaps I could use the gift card to buy myself from flowers from Amazon too.

Best of all was the card she made me. It was written in Japanese and English, with little hearts for the “o”s and dots on the “i”s. Very precious. I printed out a copy for my desk and brought one home. Because it makes me miss them more I don’t spend a lot of time looking at pictures, but I do break down and bear the pain of separation while I browse the stack of pictures I brought with me until I can’t take it anymore. I didn’t realize how many pictures I’d taken over her lifetime until I started printing them out. I ran out of time (and ink!) and only printed through her second full year, so most of what I have is her at her most precious stages. I can’t wait for us all to move together.

But don’t let that diversion into my little emotional hell make you think that I didn’t have a great day. I got messages from most of my family either online or voice mail that was very nice. On Saturday I had a long conversation with my family, made some pizza and calzone, and watched the Rugby World Cup.

The most unexpected bit came on Saturday when I got an email from Sugar’s vet informing me that it was her birthday. Go figure!

Posted on October 1, 2011 at 4:04 pm by Japansen · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Abuja (Nigeria), Behind every good man..., Cosmopolitianism

Armageddon has arrived

That’s what I’m thinking of calling my car, actually. I went down to the warehouse yesterday and watched them bring it out of the container. It was too wide for the ramp and tires squealed all the way down, but other than that, not a scratch.  Tie-downs have been known to snap, resulting in the vehicle rattling around inside the container all the way across the ocean. Thankfully nothing remotely close to that happened here.

The frustrating thing was that we’re required to carry Nigerian insurance but we can’t register it until we gain physical possession. Our shipping department was on top of it and tried to get it done in time for us (a buddy’s vehicle arrived on the same boat into Lagos and the same truck up from there to Abuja) but we couldn’t drive them home yesterday.  It all come together today, though, and one of the shipping guys offered to go over, gas it up, and park it at the embassy for me. I had a late night working and it was so very very nice to be able to clamber inside my beloved machine, load up the mp3 cd changer, and drive home.

I feel like I’ve finally arrived in Nigeria. What a wonderful birthday present, eh?

Posted on September 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm by Japansen · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Uncategorized

The joys (and horrors) of having a cat in Abuja

My Eminent feline, Sugar, has been a wonderful blessing to me. She came to me by happenstance, under conditions that led me to initially expect that she wouldn’t stay long. She’d rejected other families before, but she took to me and my friends and has been wonderful fun. She loves to play and wrestle, but she is also quite affectionate and requires at least one daily session of chin scratching and face stretching rubs.

She really likes to tackle my ankles and night and we then play a game where I gently stomp on her (no pressure!) and she rolls around on her back and fights my foot without scratching or biting. She also fetches Nerf darts and loves to jump up and bat them from a window after you shoot and stick them to it, then she brings them back to you for another round.  It’s awesome. I’ve also learned that she figured out how to open the doors in my apartment. They are lever type doors and she jumps up and grabs the handle until it springs open.  Way cool.

She’s also and active hunter. My apartment is pretty clean, no bugs or vermin, but occasional rather large (thumbsized?) cockroaches venture indoors.  The first time she got one, I found it on the bedroom floor in the morning. I was really proud of her but to my chagrin I discovered that it wasn’t completely dead. It tried to wriggle away when I went to pick it up and even though I pointed this out to her, she was convinced her job was done and didn’t care to finish it off.  Later on though, I’ve found two others, fully dead, again presented to me on the carpet near enough to my bed that I fear walking around without first turning on a light and putting sandals on.

Last Friday I got up to find her sitting on the floor near another prize, only this one didn’t seem to have taken any damage at all.  It scurried off when I went to dispose of it and she just watched it. I had to dispatch it myself with a shoe.

But tonight was the horror of horrors. I came home from dinner with the neighbors and saw an odd shaped, oddly colored “thing” on the floor. It was about 2 1/2 inches long and tapered to an end, in a rough triangle that had a very short base. It had some stripes on it and I thought that perhaps she had pulled one of the dangly bits from her toy. (This toy has a bell and a vaguely mammalian shape with feathers and stuff that hangs from a stick; I keep it stuck in the couch cushions and she plays with it all time). I pick it up to inspect and realize that it the terminal end of a lizard’s tail.

….

So now I have to face the prospect of coming across a tailless lizard carcass, or even worse, having it presented to me in the morning.  I saw my first indoor lizard today, a tiny little thing smaller than this piece of tail that my cat pried from a larger relative. I suppose it only makes sense that there’s a bigger one running around here.  Actually, that doesn’t make any sense at all.

Sugar does like to go out on the balcony but I’m pretty sure I’d notice if she brought something like this in. She got it during the time I was at the neighbor’s for dinner.  I really hope she scared it enough that it finds its way out however it came in; I really don’t relish the thought of disposing of lizard carcass tomorrow morning.

Posted on September 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm by Japansen · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Abuja (Nigeria), Cosmopolitianism

The making of a Consular Officer part 2

I’ve been here two and a half months. Most of the first week is spent getting your bearings and going through a rather detailed check in process at the Embassy and I did my first visa interviews about nine weeks ago. I’ve been here long enough that I know everyone now and am no longer the FOB FNG. There are people here who are newer than me and I’ve seen some friends leave as they transfer on to their next assignment.  That’s kind of disappointing, just as you are getting to know people, they leave, but that’s the nature of the job. I’m happy that the new section chief and one of the other officers and I arrived at roughly the same time to provide some good continuity in our section.

The new officer is replacing a colleague who’s been my mentor these last few months. It’s exciting to have the new guy here; we’d met in DC before I left so that adds to the fun factor, and the departing colleague is still going to be at the embassy, just transferring to a different section for her second year of the tour.  She’s been a great friend, patiently enduring my non-stop questions and desires to probe the edges of knowledge and rationale for why things are the way they are.

I’ve gotten very comfortable asking a lot of questions, but I realize now that its time for me start to be a bit more self-reliant. We got a new section  chief a couple weeks ago which is great to have, as we’d been operating without one just as a scheduling gap. My more experienced colleagues did a great job of running things but it is nice for them to hand off those extra responsibilities as well as to have the veteran guidance. I’ve noticed that I’ve been a bit of a burden on her though, since I naturally turn to the boss for questions but she’s still settling into the role and learning how things work in the section as well as the unique aspects of the job associated with working in Nigeria.

The Foreign Service seeks people who are independent, self-reliant, and able to deal with things on their own as needed. I’m comfortable with those expectations and responsibilities, but the nature of this job in particular requires that you hold back long enough to make sure you actually know what you are doing. US law is pretty comprehensive and it makes our job easier in a way.  Pretty much every scenario you’ll ever encounter is covered with some pretty good reference material that helps you understand how to apply the law.  But because it is the law and the decisions I make have a very real effect on people, I really want to get it right, you know? There are considerations when making an adjudication as well as general processes with the workings of the embassy.  I was also aware that my sectionmate in the desk next to mine was leaving for a different section in September and I wanted to get as much from her as I could. She was very patient, thankfully.

I realize that many of my questions recently have been more of the confirmation variety than of the clueless type. It always bugs my wife when I ask questions to just confirm my suspicions or expectations, but confirming what I think know gives me the confidence then to run with it once I know I’ve got it locked down. There is still plenty that I don’t know, but I’ve done a couple thousand visa adjudications, I’ve got a pretty good sense of what is going on. The new officer is going to depend on me for help and the chief needs me to step up as well.

I don’t really talk in specifics for a couple of reasons. The U.S. has very clear prohibitions on violating the privacy of others, be they employees, U.S. citizens, or visa applicants.  We have a very transparent visa process and there’s not great secret about how we make our decisions, but its important not to talk in specifics to avoid either violating privacy or revealing something that would provide applicants with an edge or a motivation to try to game the system. Many times ineligible applicants want more detail about why their application was denied. We can tell them that they don’t overcome the assumption of intending immigration (which is an assumption made about every applicant that they must overcome through the application process and interview). But there aren’t any magic bullets that will automatically qualify you for a visa, so if we provide any more detail, some applicants will believe that THAT is all that is needed and tailor their application (sometimes by misrepresenting themselves) in a certain way.  This information also gets shared among the applicant community and it isn’t fair to them or the officers who have to then shift through more crud to get to the underlying issues.

This has been kind of a rambling post (but if you’ve been reading this blog, you’re probably used to that).  I just wanted to try to explain how I’ve gone from the bewildered new guy trying to remember everything from the training to someone who knows is feeling comfortable assuming the mantle that is expected of me.  It’s exciting and to be honest, a proud development.

I absolutely love this job, in a general sense. I’m happy to be serving my country, I’m happy to be doing visas in Nigeria even though it is a pretty demanding job, I’m really really happy with the people I work with. Other than the obvious drawbacks of being separated from my family, I got no complaints, at least not yet.  We’ll see how well I hold up over the next 11 cycles of 2 months.

Posted on September 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm by Japansen · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Abuja (Nigeria), In the trenches

The unintentional hiatus (aka Hello, Stuff!!)

Arriving at a new post involves a huge transition in every aspect of one’s life. In a material sense there are always two and sometimes three major events that mark this transition: UAB, HHE, and POV.

UAB: Unaccompanied Air Baggage. This is 250 lbs of stuff (450 for a couple and 600 for a family of three, increasing by 150 lb increments for each additional member) that gets separated out from the bulk of stuff you want to ship over for your living quarters. It gets sent by air and arrives roughly 2 weeks after you do. Until that point, all you’ve got is what you brought in your suitcases, perhaps augmented by some stuff you mailed to yourself in advance of arriving and whatever you can buy on the local market.  Most people put in kitchen and bedroom essentials. I mostly had kitchen utensils and my pillows with a small amount of bathroom stuff such as some toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner, and so on. 250 lbs isn’t much but packed wisely, it can make a huge material difference in the quality of life.

HHE: Household Effects. This is the bulk of your stuff, sent by ship and typically arriving 2 months or so after you. Most housing in the foreign service is furnished and each family gets up to 7000 lbs of stuff.  You can have up to 18000 lbs total possessions, 11,000 goes into storage while posted abroad.  If you aren’t in furnished housing, you get a bigger shipment but I forget offhand if its 14K or the whole 18K.  Some posts also qualify for a Consumables allowance if the local economy isn’t developed enough to provide for the food and other stuff (shampoo, toilet paper, etc). I get 2400 lbs of consumables above and beyond the 7,000 limit for household effects. You can break the Consumables shipment into two parts and get the second delivered after the first year of a 2 assignment.  I didn’t have near the 7,000 limit for HHE and so packed all of my food and whatnot just as regular HHE, leaving the full 2400 lbs for delivery later on. I doubt I’ll bring that much over then, but it is nice not to have to worry about going over weight.

POV: Personally Owned Vehicle. Pretty self explanatory.  This also gets delivered by sea.

For Abuja, my HHE sailed to Europe and then was flown into Abuja and delivered by truck. My POV sailed into Lagos and then will be carted up to Abuja before being uncrated. Getting my UAB really helped with life here, but getting the HHE two weeks ago changed this experience from feeling like I was on a long vacation into living here. The first weekend I had my stuff I was totally occupied with unpacking, organizing, and setting things up.  I got most everything down now but there are still some piles of clothes and books that need to be put away.  But now I’ve got my TV, stereo, DVD player, XBox, computer desk, rowing machine, beer (!!) and food.  This is MY house now. But I was too preoccupied with taking care of business to update this blog. I’ve been reading a lot more too, which is nice, but MAN, do I have a lot of books.  If I read one a week, I might finish what I brought before I get out of here…

During the week, there isn’t much going on to report here. I get up, go to work, get home between 5 and 7, eat dinner, work out, go to bed. Without a vehicle, I don’t really get out of the house much on weekends either. There are barbecues and dinner parties, but those aren’t really good fodder for this either (not because they are scandalous but just because they aren’t very interesting after the fact). There is a really good community here that I am very grateful to have, but really, it’s just hanging out with friends.

The following weekend I was still settling into the house, but was surprised to find how much at ease I was at the weekend parties. I know people now, so the whole self-introductions and “I met them but am not sure if I remember names” is mostly past. It was the best weekend I’d had here, really just relaxing with friends and then of course celebrating the Eminent Child’s birthday.

She had a great weekend that started off with a pizza party with friends after school. They each got to make their own pizza and then made their own ice cream sundaes for desert. Her closest got to sleep over and the Eminent Wife set them up with a futon and goodies downstairs and just them stay up and play.  The Eminent Friend got a little unnerved when the lights went out (which is understandable considering that Japanese families often sleep in the same room well into elementary school), so the E.C. got the E.W. to come downstairs and provide a sense of security. E.C. emphatically pointed out that she was just fine without adult supervision; she just called her mom down to help her friend out.  Of course, the E.W. wasn’t allowed to sleep on the futon with them though and had to make do with the nearby couch.  At first I thought I’d dodged a bullet by being here, but then realized I wouldn’t have been invited down anyway because of my monstrous snoring.

This is all a long-winded way of saying I’ve been distracted the past few weeks as a result of getting my HHE.  Life is pretty good though. I still need to get some UPS (I mistakenly bought 60Hz units and Nigeria is 50Hz; was sure that I’d checked that out before buying, alas) and some propane tanks and attachments for my burners for the beer brewing and I’ll be fully settled in.

My POV has yet to arrive but it’s in Nigeria and just waiting to get processed through the port. It was supposed to be here last weekend and then this weekend but the beloved system here in Nigeria couldn’t deliver on those expectations, so I’m holding out hope for next week.  I did get my license and I know my plates are ready, so once its here, I’ll get to go out and watch it come out of the container, pay my local insurance fee, and I’m ready to roll. A new arrival at post agreed to include my new camera body in their UAB (thank you for giving me some of that precious early arrival weight!!), so hopefully within the next two weeks or so, I’ll have my car and my camera and can start exploring the city on my own.

 

Posted on September 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm by Japansen · Permalink · One Comment
In: Abuja (Nigeria), In the trenches

Good fences?

They say good fences make good neighbors, but I can vouch for the opinion that good scotch makes for great neighbors.  Following the UN bombing, I really wanted to just relax with a glass of scotch and my neighbor let me raid his cabinet. The only scotch I found was a 15 year The Balvenie, Single Barrel and he insisted that it was okay if I opened it. It was absolutely perfect for the occasion.

I ended up making a dent in the bottle and he suggested I just take the whole thing and replace it when I get a chance. He revealed that it was a retirement present when he left the military, which really impressed me with his generosity. We also discovered that they had a 12 year Macallan that I would have been plenty happy with. Now I just need to find someone who will bring a bottle of scotch down with their stuff for me.  I’ve asked one friend but I’m already indebted to them for agreeing to bring my new Nikon camera down after it got turned away from overseas shipping (I’m guessing the battery violated a rule) and I may be pushing my luck asking for them to front me an expensive bottle of scotch.  I’ll figure something out, or maybe just give him one of my Lagavulin’s.

Actually, I think I’d better just find a replacement bottle.

I guess this is a good a place as any to mention that I’ve run into several people who have brewed, one of whom is departing the country in a few weeks and dropped off several cases of big bottles. They’re dusty but in prime condition with a few unique shapes and markings on them. There are even a couple Grolsch in there too.

Posted on September 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm by Japansen · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: Abuja (Nigeria), In the trenches

4 Days without hot water….and counting

Actually it’s only been three days but it will be four tomorrow and we’re not getting hot water before then.  A pump went out and its proving difficult to get things working again. One of my neighbors mentioned that we’ve only been without water 6 times in 2 years, not too bad.  Depends on your standards, I suppose.

It’s all fine and well with me.  I’m still showering, just not for as long, and I’ve switched to morning showers for the time being.  Looking at the amount of sediment in the tap water makes me wonder how clean I’m actually getting.

 

Posted on September 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm by Japansen · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Abuja (Nigeria), In the trenches