The sands of Harmattan


After our lovely trip to Namibia for the Christmas holiday (more to come on that later), we returned home to Lagos on what seemed an unusually overcast Monday night. I, for one, had totally forgotten, but our return fell right in the middle of harmattan, the season from November-February in northwestern Africa when winds blow fine sands from the Sahara Desert across the west African subcontinent (hence, the seemingly gloomy conditions). Both the length and incessance of the incredibly fine sand-dust leave everything outside covered in a thin layer of grime, like our car in the covered garage


Or our trampoline on the balcony.


As you can imagine, this usually isn’t good for the human constitution. When the dust clouds first hit just a few months ago, Brent started feeling ill at work and then crashed hard at home. His immune system kicked in and left him with an aching fever for several days. Even this morning, Ruby woke up with blood-stained sheets from a spontaneous bloody-nose in the middle of the night (this, Wikipedia tells me, could be the result of the change in humidity that follows the setting in of harmattan). Many of the other expats in our building have been sick and out of commission for a few days as well.

As an outsider, my first question is how on earth do the local Nigerian people handle this seasonal occurrence? I can’t imagine filling your lungs with ultra-fine particulate matter does your respiratory system much good. In my view, it doesn’t seem like the Nigerians barely slow down hardly in the face of the ominous dust cloud–life continues as normal, the kids are still begging on the streets, and most folks is doing their thing- business as usual. The streets are certainly emptier, but that may just be that it is the holiday season. I personally have been hesitant to spend much time outside at all, limiting my exercise to indoor workouts where I can. Even still, the dust seems to be so fine that it gets in everywhere. Our family PC recently stopped working, and when I opened it up to take a look, sure enough, the graphics card was covered with a thin layer of lint dust and harmattan dust.

Chatting with some expat friends who spent several years in Korea, that region experiences a similar seasonal invasion with sands from the Gobi Desert. There, everyone dons facemasks to keep the airport dirt out of their lungs. We’ve spotted some facemasks for sale on the streets, but in my brief and few forays outside I haven’t seen anyone really wearing them.

Hopefully, the cloud passes soon and we can see sunlight unobscured by floating foreign soil. In the meantime, I am thrilled that we live in air-conditioned home with windows that can remain shut.




Etosha Salt Pan, Namibia

Covering about 2000 square miles, the Etosha Salt Pan was once a vast salt lake. The rivers flowing into the pan eventually changed their course tectonic plate movement and now flow to the Atlantic Ocean. Now it is a vast expanse of mud and clay that can be seen from space. And it is completely flat!

It is located about 500 kilometers off of the coast of Namibia, on the southwestern side of Africa.

Merry Christmas to my awesome mom!

My mother could not be with us in this beautiful place this Christmas. Here is a small glimpse of one of the truly beautiful places on earth, at the tip of South Africa, Cape of Good Hope, for her and my dad of course too. We wish we could be with our parents and grandma and grandpa! The beaches are full of tide pools that we home to all sorts of creatures. The ocean water, despite being very cold, has a variety of stunning blues and greens that can’t be properly captured even with a good camera. So come see for yourself!


Rules to have a successful Nigerian Christmas party!

Definitely, one of the most educational and fun experiences we have all over the world, is when we get to celebrate Christmas in a foreign country, another way, with other foods and traditions.  We experience first hand what the feeling is like in the country at Christmas time, what the expectations are and how important the celebration may be to the people. So, when my husband said we would be having an office party at our home, I immediately began thinking about some of the tastiest “Christmas” party treats I have had, what ones I would like to use and make and generally what would constitute my version of a “Christmas party menu” for the Nigerian staff.

Funny enough, this thinking was shot down quite quickly, within one day actually.  My husband consulted his staff and found out that most importantly of all is the food at a party…and…it was to be strictly Nigerian…and was to be the exact same dishes they eat all year-long.  They love their goat soup, their fish, their fried chicken and especially their specialty – “jollof rice”. Well, this would definitely require some additional help because these are not dishes that I cook and would definitely not be able to get the intense spiciness and “heat” just right for a Nigerian.  In my thoughts – “heat” meaning – death by eating the spicy food!  For some reason, despite all my travels – my palette still cant’ tolerate the spicy and stickw with my upbringing of the simple yet delicious “meat and potatoes” food.

We have actually had to plan several parties with Nigerians for Christmas, and each time I mention perhaps a “special Christmas dish” or dessert they would like to bring or have – they always in unison announce

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“jollof rice!”  So, that makes things really simple.  My children who were also involved did ask that we definitely make our own Christmas party, with our “own” foods that we usually have special at Christmas time.  I understand it, I was thinking the exact…same…thing.

Pay attention closely! Travel to the African country of Benin.

We will be posting our adventures of border crossings from Nigeria into the country of IMG_6778IMG_6781Benin.  The quietness and calmness of Benin versus the chaos of Nigeria was a lovely change.  We will also soon be exploring more African countries, South Africa, and Namibia in the next few weeks.  What do you want to see on a trip to Namibia?  Let us take you there.  Watch soon!!

Early morning, hot sun.

This was taken early in the morning in  Lagos , Nigeria. I can already tell it will be extremely hot, sticky, thick air, and even thicker with smells and various odors that come from an overpopulated city with poor sanitation, and water surrounding it that is used to dump all kinds of waste into it.

It is also the Harmattan season when the winds blow the sand from the Sahara to the western part of Africa; Nigeria. The sky is never blue, but hazy and grayish with heat searing through the cloudy cover.