This was our last “work day” and since the media event ended up being canceled and a press release issued instead, we were mostly off the hook. A few of the teams went into the offices of their respective clients because they still had things that they felt they needed to accomplish.
As for me, I spent most of the day hanging out at the hotel “not using the internet”, packed some more and spent time visiting with my new-found friends from all over the world. We said goodbye to a few of the people who were leaving out and then a few of us had a nice dinner. It seems like so long ago that we actually arrived and all met for the first time, but I believe we have made some life long friendships. I’ll share more about those in my next post…. which should be the last!
Thursday ended up being a fairly light day, and many of us are beginning to pack and do any last minute shopping. A few of the more ambitious teams are still working to give every last minute of value that they feel they can provide… as for me, I’m happily relaxing in my hotel room and enjoying the downtime. I still have a few open items and commitments to keep but the majority of them can be accomplished more easily via e-mail, especially once we have more consistent access to it.
Thursday evening, the entire team (except for Glyn and Pradip who were being taken out by their client) gathered at a nice Lebanese restaurant which we had visited earlier during our stay. We had a nice meal and a great visit relaxing and talking since most of us have already finished our work and are beginning to decompress. Looking forward to spending more time with the team on Friday and then people begin to fly out Friday evening.
Wednesday started out rough, but ended up being fairly productive. In the end, we were able to give our final presentation to the Executive Director and the entire board of directors. The presentation was very well received and even though some of the findings were already known to the agency, hearing it from an independent 3rd party added a little more weight and validation to those particular issues.
So far my efforts to get home earlier have been unsuccessful, as Lufthansa wants to charge $2000 extra for me to move my flight a day earlier (there are seats on the flight and it is code-shared with United… but unfortunately since I am booked with Lufthansa they are less tolerant of changes than if I had booked my ticket with United.) This means I will get to spend an extra day in Abuja…
Today we presented our final presentation to Dr. Ogbe, one of our sponsors at the NPHCDA. He made a few suggestions for tweaks and we will be presenting it to the Executive Director tomorrow… wish us luck! Most of the suggestions we have where things could be improved within the agency would have long-lasting financial impact to keep things going in the right direction. I haven’t really felt that there is some “silver bullet” that will solve all of the issues but we are really trying to be as creative as we can. However, since the organization has been thinking about how to overcome their issues for some time, and they already have input from WHO, UNICEF, etc. there isn’t a whole lot we can come up which they haven’t already thought of.
It is even more expensive than in my home country to have a reliable infrastructure, network, servers, connectivity, etc. since you really cannot depend on the power grid or the internet, and the budgets seem to be more constrained as well.
In other news, our media event for Friday has been cancelled, and due to some safety concerns at the hotel, some of us are trying to get flights a day earlier than previously planned. There are actually a variety of concerns with the hotel that we have tried to make light of and considered it part of the experience, but there are limits… such as when someone is awakened by poisonous gas (chemical pesticide fumigation) being pulled into their room by the AC unit when the hotel decides to fumigate right outside their rooms during the night while they are sleeping…. and when they go to the front desk out of concern over the situation, they are offered an air freshener! Everyone is safe, but that could very easily have turned into a much more tragic situation.
The rest of the week should be fairly boring, but I will try to think of things to share!
Very near the front gate of our hotel is this small window in a wall. Inside this window, you can buy just about anything. These little “Hole in the Wall” places are all over the city if you look closely. If you need a Coke, or a snack, you can usually find something here that suits your tastes. Here is Glyn and Ke Xing posing in front of our local “Hole in the Wall”.
Another interesting topic which I haven’t really covered is all of the vehicles that you see on the roads. Unlike some other countries, cars are not shared by entire families, it seems that many people have their own vehicles, and other than the Peogots and Mercedes, the majority of them seem to be imported from the United States. If you look closely, you can easily find remnants of stickers and decals from American universities or car dealerships. In addition, just about every vehicle has some sort of religious decal or wording somewhere on the back.
Another surprising thing, at least for me, is how many iPads and smart phones I have seen, as I would not have expected them to be so prevalent. Mine has proven very useful here but the internet seems to come in waves here… you never know how much you are going to get or for how long, so when you get it, you try to accomplish as much as you can.
Today we are wrapping up our final presentation with the expectation of presenting our findings to our client on Wednesday. Wish us luck that our recommendations will be well received!
We had a pretty relaxing, understated day today, although there was very limited access
to the internet (our gateway back home to our loved ones). Glyn, Ke Xing and myself headed out to the Sheraton for lunch and since we were so close, we walked across the street to the Arts & Crafts village one last time.
For those who usually get a post card from me when I travel to a new country, I’m sorry to say that you will be disappointed. In our entire month in Nigeria, I have yet to see a single post card, or even a post office for that matter, although I’m told that the post office does exist. I know they have DHL at least, as you see little motorcycles running around with yellow boxes bolted on the back of them (which look like they would hold about one package).
I’ve also been looking for any sort of sticker which says “Nigeria” on it. Glyn found a wood carving at the craft village that was in the shape of Nigeria, but I believe he settled for one in the shape of Africa instead because not that many people where we are from would recognize the shape of Nigeria. I might make one last attempt this week to look for that kind of stuff, or even on Saturday since my flight doesn’t leave until 10:45pm. Even a Nigerian soccer jersey would at least say “Nigeria” on it. The ones we have seen so far do not look like they would last through more than a couple of washes so we haven’t bought any yet.
I went to bed my earliest ever since I have been here (8pm), but I’m expecting a very busy final week so might as well take it while I can get it.
As we begin our final weekend, we want to experience anything left that we have missed. Personally, I am torn between wanting to see more or wanting to just hang out in my room and rest in preparation for a very busy week next week as we do our final presentations to our clients, a large media event on Friday, and most of us fly out on Saturday.
Niki and Kate were ambitious and decided to head down to Lagos for the weekend. Lagos is described as hustling and bustling – extremely busy and hectic at all times, a big ball of energy. Since I can barely walk through Times Square in NYC without getting annoyed at all of the people (as well as uncertainty regarding the security situation), I decided to stay behind. Knowing that I can live vicariously through Niki and Kate, I am looking forward to hearing about their experiences!
Glyn arranged for his driver to pick us up and take us to a local market. We walked around the market (which was quite large) for a couple of hours and many people were begging us to take their pictures. It seems that some of them assumed we were some sort of media people since Glyn had his large SLR camera and Kim and Asha had their cameras at the ready as well. Some people seem excited about having their pictures taken, some people want to charge you money to take their picture, and others don’t want their pictures taken at all. I’m finding it easier to just not take pictures rather than figure out minute by minute whether it is okay or not.
Once we left the market, we decided to check out the National Soccer Stadium. It was closed but a security guard was happy to take us inside. There wasn’t room in our vehicle so he trotted in front of the car through the parking lot to the stadium itself. Next time I see it on television, I’ll be able to say I was there! (And I checked in on FourSquare as well, never know when you will need something like that for a badge!)
After leaving the stadium, a little after 11 AM, a short trip around a traffic circle to take a picture turned into our afternoon adventure. There was road construction and we probably went about 10 miles before there was a place to turn around… and then traffic was backed up for miles, so Glyn’s driver, Chris decided to take an alternate route back to town rather than sitting in completely stopped traffic for hours. I think in total, the detour took close to three hours and we ended up skipping lunch… again. lol (yeah, if you know me, you know that I like lunch).
In some places, due to the traffic on the actual road, local residents decided to make impromptu toll booths, where you have to pay money to drive on the land to bypass the traffic on the road, and they erect barriers to make sure that you cannot get through unless you come through their “toll booth”. To the left you will see one such toll booth. No one can argue that the Nigerian people are not enterprising!
Due to much more traffic and security check points, including bonfires and bulldozers where the government was demolishing buildings which had been erected illegally, we didn’t get back to the hotel until around 2pm. Here is a picture of the traffic (at this point, we had cut through a playground with swing sets and were trying to get back on the highway.) The smoke in the picture is from one of several bonfires set by the demolition crews, and there were police standing by to guard the activities.
I was scheduled to go with Glyn in the afternoon to visit some boy scouts he had happened
upon the previous week, but by the time we got back to the hotel, I was pretty much done
for the day. Glyn unfortunately got stuck in traffic again for several hours due to rain and flooding, so although I felt bad for him, I was happy in my decision to veg at at the hotel for the rest of the day.
My apologies in advance for this post, as I feel the need to share a few points of frustration, although I have been trying to keep a positive spin on everything.
We were asked to establish meeting times for the final presentations to our clients. Today, we met with Dr. Ogbe to arrange a time for our final presentation with the Executive Director, CEO. We are set up tentatively for Wednesday, July 6th at 10:30am to present our findings to the agency. However, we have spent the entire month reprogramming our brains on how to be flexible and let things happen when they happen, then for our very last task, IBM CSC has asked us to pick from a list of six specific dates/time to have a meeting with the most important person in the agency and the time slots are first come/first serve.
I have to admit that I am a little flustered by this, and it will be interesting to see how it works out. The Executive Director of the NPHCDA has been nominated for a Ministry position in the Federal government (as a result of the recent Presidential Election in Nigeria). He was already a busy man, and this nomination, of course, adds to the complexity of his already very full schedule. The general consensus at the NPHCDA is that they are happy for his impending promotion, but at the same time, they are sad because he brought so many good things to the agency and it is uncertain who will end up replacing him.
I hope that our findings will be helpful to the agency. Our agency already works with so many global organizations, (WHO, UNICEF, etc.) that the “low-hanging fruit” has mostly been picked long ago, in regards to improving the efficiency of their business processes. You may have noticed that I started out giving a lot of detail in my blog about the challenges we face, but as we have moved forward I have not spent as much time talking about it. We decided that it was better to keep the findings to ourselves at least until we have had the chance to inform the agency of our thoughts.
Friday evening, Glyn, Pradip, Sumit and myself took a taxi to the Sheraton for dinner where we each had our own pizzas from the Sheraton’s Italian restaurant. It was really tasty and I have to admit that I am kind of at my limit on eating Indian food (although I have a new-found appreciation for it), so anything else was welcome. The only restaurant within walking distance of our hotel is Indian and the cab drivers do not seem to know where anything is in town even if you have the address and the streets are clearly labeled. This is one of the things I struggle with patience for, as I shouldn’t have to say that a restaurant is next to (insert landmark here) if it has an address and in some cases cross streets. I have been told that I need to accept that things just work differently here, but I have a hard time putting aside basic logic as logic should be cross-cultural.
I understand the importance of being thrust into local culture, however since the assignment has a limited duration, it does not seem to be the best use of time for every meal (other than breakfast) to be a several hour ordeal and about half the time I end up skipping meals out of frustration. Our team is unanimously in agreement that the next CSC team to Abuja should NOT stay in this particular hotel, for a multitude of reasons, especially given the difficulty moving around due to transportation challenges.
Hopefully my next post will be more positive, but I believe that if you want the real feel for how we are doing in Nigeria, I have to share the good and the bad.
Another CSC team was just deployed to Kenya. It is exciting to see their tweets and blog posts start to come in and I am happy that they are in a place which seems to have tourism. I wish them all the best and hope they have an amazing experience!
Today I have a special treat! For your viewing pleasure, I’ve uploaded a video of us driving on the sidewalk on the commute back to the hotel in the afternoon. I’m sure the song is copyrighted, so we will see how long it lasts on Youtube.
Beyond that, we are starting to prepare our final presentations which we have to give sometime next week, with a media event scheduled for next Friday. This weekend will be out last full weekend in Nigeria, so I am not sure what we will be able to fit in, I’m sure I’ll be writing about it though, whatever it is!