I spent a week in Lagos, Nigeria. Nigeria is the next country east from Benin, but half a world different. Benin (Dahomey) was a French colony, Nigeria was British. Benin is very safe, in Nigeria, Embassy folks are limited in where they can travel without security. Cotonou still has the feeling of being somewhere undeveloped. Lagos is halfway to being a Western city, particularly in the areas Americans tend to travel. In Cotonou, the embassy is small and we tend to have to band together to find our pieces of home. In Lagos, the Consulate General is large, there’s an American Club with a bar, restaurant, commissary and pool where Thursday is Tex-Mex night.
I was in Lagos to spend a week seeing how a big consular section does it. I stayed with a friend from A-100 class. Here is the view from Wes’ balcony.
Just ignore some of the details and it’s really quite a nice view. The housing is closer in feel to “American Standard”, where it falls down is in maintenance, which is a problem throughout Africa. Something nice gets built, but nothing is maintained.
Talk to anyone about Lagos and the first thing they’ll mention is the traffic. It’s worse than you heard. A five minute drive can take hours. There’s a ferry that runs from one island to the other to bring Americans to and from the consulate from some of the housing areas and the American Club on another island. It saves all kinds of time. While we were trying to go to dinner one night, stuck in traffic, we saw Will Smith…well not really, but look at the license plate on the motorcycle…
Believe it or not there’s a Tex-Mex restaurant in Lagos. Not the best in the world, but it’s not that there’s a great Tex-Mex restaurant in Lagos. It’s that there is ANY Tex-Mex restaurant in Lagos.
And if that’s not enough, KFC has invaded Nigeria. The first restaurant opened recently and the second will open in a few weeks. The franchisee has a license to open as many as 25 in Lagos alone, and if it goes well, throughout the region. The Chicken tastes the same, but it comes with fried rice instead of the usual biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy. Fries or slaw are available, as is soft serve ice cream.
It’s a shame transportation in this part of the world is so hard. Given an “Interstate”, Lagos and Cotonou would be an easy drive apart.