Life’s a beach…

Today we visited our local beach (Bar Beach) with buckets in tow to collect some sand for our sand table.  Bar Beach was recently cleared off squatters in preparation for a huge construction project (Eko Atlantic) and it all looks quite inviting. Acres of golden sand leading out to the sea.

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Anyway we ran into a group of area boys who are territorial young men you generally have to ‘dash’ a few hundred naira (a few dollars) to get safe passage.  So I brought my  Naira but honestly when we rolled up at the beach, I didn’t feel comfortable even with our driver present. Oh and they wanted a few thousand naira for access. And I had a feeling by the time we’d collected some sand they’d want a bit more naira on top.  Anyway we turned around and scuttled off home.

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These guys used to ‘manage’ the beach back when there were squatters so you can see their disgruntlement at having the rug rudely pulled from beneath their feet by politicians.  It’s not like any provision was made for them. Also it’s pretty much what happens with more children out of school than any other country.

Ru-bear cried his eyes out. Pampered child of the West that he is, he thought area boys were a cuddly cartoon gang like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and didn’t understand why they wouldn’t let us access the beach. Time to wake up and smell the slave-labour produced coffee, Son.

Looks like we’ll have to find another beach.

Fieldtrip Fridays #8 – work soft, play soft

We’ve been trying to find a beach for a field trip – nothing fancy, we’re not planning to swim, just collect seashells and enjoy the sounds of the sea and the feel of the sand. I want to make a sea-side sensory box – something a bit like this.  There are a lot of beaches in Lagos actually, the problem is safety.  I’ve already experienced how touts or ‘area boys’ (unemployed young men who consider the area their territory to harass and demand money from people) can ruin a nice afternoon out so I’m wary. I also don’t want to pay or take the risk of a boat ride until I get proper life jackets for the family.

This week we went to Dreamworld Africana which bills itself as a theme park for kids.

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It is quite easy to get to off the Lekki Expressway and offers a range of fun things to do from amusement rides (it has a roller coaster) to indoor/outdoor play areas.  I’d been saying for some time that I really needed a soft play area – rainy season lasts from April to October and some weeks can be relentless rain and (almost) chilly so great to find a place to go at such times.

Mummy look at me now!

Mummy look at me now!

If I’m honest the main draw for me was the soft play rather than the rides (some of which were dodgy, double check the restraints – some seemed to have ‘melted’ in the sun and were useless. The  soft play was like any good soft play centre you might find in the UK. Perhaps a little small but definitely good active fun for little boys and girls.  It has an area for older kids and younger kids.  Just the place to hang out with other mums and have a natter.

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And the best bit was the drive home…

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Fieldtrip Fridays #7 – back to the LCC

Today we headed back to the  Lekki Conservation centre with our new field trip buddies who hadn’t been.  I’d been in the process of making excuses about not going anywhere this week so it was good to actually be going somewhere and with company.

On our last trip we saw more tortoises. This time they were hiding but we saw some snake skin a python had intriguingly left for us on the boardwalk. This kids loved that and we also got to see two big Nile monitor lizards close up.

I want to come to this place more often. It’s very shaded so even when it’s hot you can still do outdoor activities. Slightly worryingly, the guide said Lagos State is planning to ‘enhance’ the facilities with a bbq area and bar. doesn’t sound like the most appropriate appendage to a nature reserve where you have to be very quiet if you want to see any animals. Oh and my son threw a huge tantrum because I wouldn’t let him climb the tree house, but other than that – good times!

Fieldtrip Fridays #6 – The Whispering Palms Resort, Badagry

So one thing I’m noticing through my field trips is just how nice people are to my kids.  Especially I guess cos we go in during working hours, they aren’t that busy and extra glad to get some new business. Perhaps being ‘not from around here’ also helps too, but it makes me think, instead of being just one kid  in a large class vying for one teacher’s attention how nice to have your view of adults shaped by kind attentive people  who are really pleased to see you and WANT to sit down next to you and high five you and explain things to you and ask you what you think and even carry you when you get tired or ratty and then go out of their way to accommodate your particular wishes and not tell you to be quiet or go sit down or wait.

This week’s field trip was to the Whispering Palms Resort  in Badagry, Lagos.  We stayed overnight as the road is under construction so although its supposed to take 40 minutes on an empty road it actually takes up to 3 hours off peak and if something capsizes it’s been known to take 8 hours.

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The resort is kind of quirky.  It was built 20 years ago by some professor and sprawls along the Lagoon housing animals, african art and even has an art gallery, a heritage room, an indoor/outdoor gym, a swimming pool. miniature golf, paddle boats, hire bikes, a fish park, a sports field, tennis courts – you name it.  If you’re looking for a plush first world experience, let me tell you now –this ain’t no  Club Med.  For a start there’s no actual beach and parts of it are in need of a good clean or an update. Pretty nice for a field trip though.

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Whispering palms has lots of native art and heritage

It was well worth staying overnight,  it was too hot to really enjoy the place until late afternoon and they don’t have the generator on until 4pm – although they kindly put it on earlier for us so we could have aircon.  In the evening the palms do whisper – its pretty atmospheric- and the resort felt very secure.

Our rooms were very clean, the beds big and comfortable, the food was ok.

The kids loved the animals; turtles, peacocks, crocodiles, donkeys, baboons, turkeys, cockerel, macaws and grey parrots and the animals seemed to really like us (except I think they were just really hungry and bored, kept in inadequate cages).   There were two children’s playgrounds and a bar that played upbeat music that they had a bop to.

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We went as a family on this trip as it was hubby’s birthday and his Lagosian friend came too who has lived in Lagos all his life and never heard of Whispering Palms.  It makes you wonder how many hidden gems there are here if you just ask around and take a chance.  I  set myself a 6 week 6 Fieldtrip challenge.  Its taken me 8 weeks but I’ve finished  kudos me!  I’m really chuffed to have made it and I want to keep going…watch this space!

Fieldtrip Fridays #5 – Nike Art Gallery, Lekki

Firstly,

I set myself a 6 week challenge to get out and about in Lagos every Friday and I can’t believe I am at #5 already.  (Ok I missed a week – don’t tell anyone).  I even found a friend along the way who has also been homeschooling temporarily and she has brought her kids along and made the trips even more fun.

This week we visited Nike Art Gallery which is a very famous gallery in Lagos.

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I had been planning to go for some time but hadn’t thought of taking the kids before.  Its a gorgeous place – the 4 storey building itself is a work of art and we learned so much about Nigerian cultural history during the visit, for example, the meanings behind the symbols traditionally used in Nigerian fabrics.

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The owner Nike Okundayo is an iconic figure in Nigeria and beyond.  Meeting her as we left was a highlight. She gave the children bracelets and kisses – how awesome.

Chief Nike Davies Okundaye

Chief Nike Davies Okundaye

The children did not zone out as I thought they would but found the paintings and sculptures intriguing. They delighted in identifying some of the mixed media (like CDs) used in some of the works and also deciphering the sculptures.

Our guide was fabulous, bearing with our rambunctious kids and it was all free. Afterwards we went to a local cafe which offered clay painting to kids and the kids produced their own works of art.  A day of complete inspiration.

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Fieldtrip Fridays #4 Horsesome Day at Ikeja Saddle Club!

The thing I like about Field Trip Fridays is they don’t have to be anything.  No boxes to tick,  no lesson plan to follow, no prep and no need to work in phonics or pre-math (unless you feel like it).  We’ve done all that. Now a day to just be and see, spray mosquito repellant and let it all wash over you – I make the best natural mosquito repellent by the way 😉

Today we visited the Ikeja Saddle Club.  They have a nice website but still fly slightly below the radar here in Lagos, like most attractions.  I was even advised, why bother – there’s a Polo club in the centre of Lagos.  There is, I’ve been there many times – played squash there a while.  It’s in a bad state, houses mostly prized race horses and is just not generally very kid friendly although I’m sure its not a bad place to go. 

ikejasaddleclub.com

ikejasaddleclub.com

The Ikeja Club also houses some prized polo horses but bills itself as a place to learn to horse ride and enjoy riding.  It’s on Isheri road just before the Ogun State border – about 30 minutes from central Lagos (Victoria Island) with low traffic.
We got there about midday when the horses were feeding which was good because they were all in their pens eating grass and we could observe them at our leisure but it meant the kids couldn’t sit on any of them – which of course they really wanted to!
yeah - I need a new camera phone

yeah – I need a new camera phone

Some of these horses have very exotic names. Indosita, Killa, Jopila to name but a few. I’d love to know the stories behind them. Nigeria has its own horses, but most of these were from Argentina apparently.  The grounds are quite large, certainly more than we could cover and there were some antelope and ducks roaming around as well as birds and the default lizard.   A lot of different trees and bushes.  Why is it when I ask the name of a tree I’m always told its a fruit tree?  Answers on a postcard please!
The staff were very friendly and patient. Kudos to those guys – we’ll definitely go back there for some riding lessons.  If you live in Lagos, I highly recommend heading down there too!

Field Trip Fridays #3 – National Museum

Soooo this trip nearly didn’t happen as I nearly succumbed to my excuses today.  No driver, too much to do, looked like rain, terrible traffic, tired kids etc  but  somehow we made it to the National Museum.

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This was a little bit of a cop-out as it’s just down the road (even with terrible traffic) and therefore is kind of a default option.  They don’t allow photos inside so apologies for the lack of pics.

The Museum has a  main block which houses photos and relics of old Lagos.  There’s a stuffed lion, some carved stones representing ancestors and festivals etc.  Then they have their particular exhibits which can change.  I remember visiting a wonderful exhibition of the history of fashion in Nigeria which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Today they had an exhibition of life cycles as represented by traditional custom and spirituality.  So the traditional way of preparing for child birth followed by coming of age, adulthood, passing etc.  It was quite interesting and a good overall introduction to the three year old of the traditional and spiritual aesthetic.  Of course he could not understand but I do want him to be familiarised with these images and appreciate the deeper cultural messages associated.  He really liked the lion too!

There was an exhibition on concerning Nigeria’s governments. The main display was the  sinister bullet-hole ridden Mercedes belonging to General Murtala Muhammed, former military ruler of Nigeria.  The three year old did point out the car was a bit smashed up.  There were lots of photos of Nigeria’s various military rulers.  It was a bit above both our heads  but we all appreciated the visit.

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Box ticked.  I will try to be a bit more inspired next week!

Fieldtrip Fridays #2 – a day at the nature reserve

Today we got to go to the Lekki Conservation Centre in Lagos which is a lovely nature reserve with animals living naturally in the wild.  They have monkeys large and small, turtles, antelope, rabbits, peacocks, butterflies, birds, large lizards and some of the scarier stuff like snakes and crocodiles.

The LCC is 23 years old and has so far no one's been eaten!

The LCC is 23 years old and has so far no one’s been eaten!

LCC is about half an hour’s drive from central VI just off the Lekki Expressway without traffic and painless to find.  It was an amazing afternoon and I’m really glad we made the effort.

Founded by the late Chief S.L. Edu in 1990

Founded by the late Chief S.L. Edu in 1990

Insert usual caveats here about inadequate infrastructure (health and safety  isn’t going to be the same as more developed countries and we weren’t offered a guide or information about the place) but the staff that we saw were friendly and informative and there were signs. Its a straightforward enough reserve to DIY.  This centre is still a great family day out as long as you take care and the children you’re taking are steady on their feet and willing to hold your hand (and walk – if you cover the whole reserve you’re going to walk 4-7 kilometres).

Mummy I found one!

Mummy I found one!

We started outside with the peacocks and the turtles. Peacocks have a surprisingly loud honk and are not shy!

Did you see me in Kung Fu Panda 2?

Did you see me in Kung Fu Panda 2?

The grounds are pretty and well-maintained.  There’s a functional library and bookshop (both quite sparsely  supplied). Adequate facilities and its all reasonably clean.  We then entered the reserve, which is accessed by a wooden boardwalk.   Some of the boards are a worn and occasionally a board is missing so take care.

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It was just peachy to be out among nature even though we’d just come off a busy road and honestly its like you just stepped into a forest.  I can’t describe how amazing it is so please do check the photos.  You feel totally cut off from the real world (except for the boardwalk). The sounds of birds and bugs and monkeys are all around you.   We didn’t see any  snakes or crocodiles although Ru-bear was really looking out.  Personally I was glad!  The monkeys were thrilling enough.  There’s a very high tree house you can climb and a children’s playground.    I will definitely  be coming back here for future field trips!

can you see the crocodiles? No we couldn't either

can you see the crocodiles? No we couldn’t either

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Fieldtrip Fridays!

It will soon be three years since we came to Lagos as a family, high time to get out more  hence my Fieldtrip Fridays challenge to do a field trip every Friday.  Getting out’s been an issue because of security and traffic but no more excuses – we kicked off our Fieldtrip Fridays challenge with a visit to the Railway museum in Ebute Metta.

Entrance sign for the Nigerian Railway Corporation in Ebute-metta

Entrance sign for the Nigerian Railway Corporation in Ebute-metta

Railways were here before ‘Nigeria’ existed.  The British built them to transport  resources during colonial times.  After they left the railways went into decline, although the Chinese are now bringing them back!  The Railway compound houses a lot of Federal buildings along with the small Railway Museum.  There’s not a whole lot there but well worth an hour or so visit.  There’s open space for children to play or lunch on the grass and Seun the curator is very knowledgeable about Nigerian history and the artefacts on display.

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Ms Seun Adeniyi - curator

Ms Seun Adeniyi – curator

Amaru had a great time inspecting the railway carriages and tracks.

Original timber tracks from late 19th/early 20th century

Original timber tracks from late 19th/early 20th century

an old Railway Car

an old railway car

An air alarm - honk - train coming!

An air alarm – honk – train coming!

Inside the museum are a pictures and artefacts from the railway era and a bit of Nigerian history in general.IMG_1452IMG_1451  – please excuse the quality of my railway map pic.  You can still get the train from Lagos up to Kano with a few stops on the way. It takes 3-4 days depending on delays.

We saved the best till last – an amazing vintage railway set complete with steam train that actually moves (when the power’s working!).  What a great way to round off the tour!

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Hope you have enjoyed the first episode of our Fieldtrip Fridays.  Would love to hear your thoughts!