Note: Some pictures for this post were appropriated without consent from other beachgoers and are published here without their knowledge. I’m ashamed enough to admit it, but not ashamed enough to remove them.
It’s traditional for the Muslim religious leaders and the Nigerian government to battle out the placement of the other week’s holiday, Eid al-Adha. The confusion comes from trying to merge the lunar Islamic calendar with the solar Gregorian calendar. The clerics wanted Wednesday and Thursday, and the government, probably for efficiency, preferred Thursday and Friday. Nigerians (and us teachers) were talking more about which days we would have off than the unfortunate recent bombing in the northeast state of Borno. On the Tuesday, it was decreed it would be Thursday/Friday, and due to the last minute decision, it was difficult for anyone to take advantage of this extended weekend and set off somewhere. However, everyone needed something to do.
Exxon/Mobil has a rather sizable expat community here, and as we were all stuck in Lagos, we received an invitation to go with some other parents to their local beach. A beach in Lagos? You’re joking. It was a 45 minute boat ride out of the city and along one of the arms of Lagos Lagoon, then a quick walk across a narrow isthmus to the ocean. As our boats came in, women from the local village arrived to help take our coolers and beach bags over, a prearranged paid agreement that provides them with some additional cash. Mobil owns a small hut, large pavilion, bathrooms/showers and a brick barbecue on their space of sand. Although the beach was considerably cleaner than the lagoon side, the surf was impressively rough, high, and unpredictable. Trying to lifeguard a dozen or so young swimmers in the waves and getting tumbled in the surf was panicking. But the pavilion table was heavy with potluck food and drink, and fortunately the kids found a number of other things to occupy their time outside of trying to get swept into the Gulf of Guinea.
While there, we were invited to another beach for that Sunday, this time owned by the Lagos Yacht Club. Ogogoro Beach is on an island just across another arm of Lagos Lagoon (the same arm, incidentally, that is the access for cargo ships coming in and out of Lagos Harbor). It’s at these moments, when you’re watching your kids play in water while in the background a huge container vessel is slowly making its way out of the bay with some strange liquid spewing out of a dangling tube, you can see the Parent of the Year Award slipping through your fingers. Although some moms and dads were initially cautious about allowing their kids to swim, soon all of the youngsters were happily playing in the bay, unconcerned that it seemed like a cesspool. I started to wish we were in the riptide waters of the previous beach, especially when I had to get in and pull Áine from occasionally drifting into the deeper waters. Everyone would be getting a thorough scrubbing once they got home. There may even be a little bleach in the tub. Some might think we’re spoiled when it comes to beaches after living in Indonesia. Perhaps, but allowing our kids to swim in such waters may be a hint that we’re settling into Africa.