Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's not about the Lizards... adjustments part 2

This little guy is amazing...His Gecko-Glue
 Defies Gravity!
One of the first things we noticed as we arrived in Africa, was the huge number of lizards.  They are everywhere!  In our compound, we generally see two different types scurrying around.  There is a blue and yellow lizard known as an Agama Lizard or Yellow headed Dragon.  The are huge and really creep me out.  I know that they eat bugs and mosquitoes etc, so I should be thankful for them, but I'm not.  In general, I leave them alone, and they stay far away from me as well.  The other little guy, with the insanely sticky feet, is a Wall Gecko.  I am amazed at their ability to effortlessly run up and down walls and even upside down on ceilings.  I'm not alone in my wonder as Aristotle wrote about them over 2000 years ago.   In Historia Animalium, written in 350 B.C., Aristotle mentioned these curious creatures at least five times. At one point, he described another creature by saying, “It can run up and down a tree in any way, even with the head downwards, like the gecko-lizard” (Aristotle, n.d.).  
They truly are fascinating and wondrous......until the second they enter my house, then they are disgusting little freaks!!!!!  Out in nature, I can appreciate their abilities and wonder about the Gecko Glue that adheres them to the walls, but in my house they are not welcome!!  Unfortunately, they have difficulty  differentiating between an outdoor wall and an indoor wall.  The ceiling of my bathroom is probably no different to them than the underside of a rock.  Well I don't like it, and I do my best to keep them outdoors, constantly reminding the kids to slip out of the front door quickly and close it immediately behind them.  In reality, the kids leave the door open while sitting in the doorway tying their shoes or rushing in from school.  Basically we give the geckos ample opportunity to explore the inside of the Woodruff Casa driving me absolutely nuts! 
The bottom of a geckos foot has tiny hairs..the magic ingredient for his acrobatics.
One particular day I had absolutely had it with these little creatures!  Alexis found a little Albino Gecko in her bathroom when she was brushing her teeth, causing the kids to avoid that area of the house until Tyson got home to remove it.  There was one perched next to our water purifier... blocking me from having anything to drink for the day, and two more were found scurrying along the hall wall.  When Tyson came home, I armed him with a mason jar and begged him to
 find all of the little creepers and get rid of them immediately.  Reluctantly, muttering  under his breath,  my hero caught and released all of our unwanted visitors.  Relieved that we were again alone in the house I picked up a laundry basket full of folded clothes to deliver to bedrooms, when staring at me was a huge yellow headed Nigerian Dragon.  Screaming, I dropped the basket and sprinted upstairs and had a complete and utter melt-down.  I stomped and stormed cursing and threatening the dirty lizard for trying on my clothes and sliding through my towels   I don't recall my exact words, but I know they were unkind, derogatory terms aimed at these home-invading reptiles.    I think I promised to slaughter every four legged tree climber in the entire continent of Africa, as vengeance for the crimes of the Yellow headed dragon.  During my tantrum, Tyson made a very astute observation.  Watching me rant and rave he calmly said, "It's not really about the lizards, is it?"
In our 8 years of marriage, he has never been more correct.  It was not really about the lizards at all!  In actuality I can handle a few four legged creatures in my space, I'm sure I could defend myself and children from a lizard attack if I needed to.  The lizards were just the last straw for the day..  A final inconvenience that when added to all of the other annoyances seemed exponentially larger than life!! 
I'm going to share a few of these little inconveniences that when piled up seem overwhelming.  I will inevitably reveal myself as an ungrateful, high maintenance, thin-skinned, brat.  But that shouldn't be news to anyone and isn't going to stop me from giving you a taste of a few frustrations!!! 

The kids always look forward to Friday after their homework, piano and chores are done and they get to play the Wii.  We've told the kids that  Friday and Saturday are called the Wii-kend because it's the time they can play their Wii video games. Logan is especially motivated by Mario Cart and counts down all week for the time he can play.  Unfortunately, as of last week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday will no longer be known as the Wii-kend at the Woodruff house.  (Instead, the weekend is just the time mom serves everything on paper plates so she doesn't have to do the dishes.)  The Wii that Santa brought last year for Christmas was inadvertently plugged into an outlet that didn't have a voltage regulator attached.   Basically, It means that the inside of our Wii consul and the inside of a chain-smokers lungs are virtually identical.  The kids and Tyson (my biggest kid) were devastated.  Alexis wants to ask Santa for another one.....but we explained that Santa only brings each toy once and he keeps track of what he has given.  It was a hard way to learn about the importance of using a voltage regulator for EVERYTHING!  I think the kids are ok about losing their Wii because we have talked about how fun it was to play with it every Wii-kend for almost a whole year!  Most kids around here will never even play once!
What I imagine the inside of our Fried-Wii to look like.
Speaking of electronics, when arriving in Abuja I had to trade my I-phone 4 (with Internet access, gps, and other awesomeness)  for a Samsung circa 1998.  Seriously, this phone resembles the one I had in college 14 years ago.  It's the type that requires you to push each button two or three times in order to type each letter. This is bad enough if you are trying to text someone a 3 or 4 word text, but  even worse if you have to include a greeting!... Yes, every conversation here (verbal, text, whatever) begins with something like, "You are very welcome, how was your night?  How are your children? How's the family?"  It  is considered impolite to just get right down to business as most Americans are accustomed to doing.  I just want to text "On My Way!"  but instead have to ask about health and family first!!!!  Aggghhh!  And with the old fashioned phone and it's cumbersomeness, by the time I have composed an urgent text, it is usually moot!  In the time it takes to compose a text on my phone, I could breed carrier pigeons, strap a letter to one, and have the message delivered. 
While setting up voicemail on my phone, the operater instructed me on the best method of checking messages while driving!  I wonder what the recommended way to text and drive is.
Also an adjustment is that the MTN network (the cellular phone service) gets overloaded regularly causing the phone to be a reliable source of communication only about 50% of the time.  There are no phone contracts here, as each person loads and reloads their phone with credits.   The economy here relies on Cash only, and everything paid in advance, so I go to the local hole in the wall to buy 1000 Naira cards to reload my phone each week. 
When you have a five year old boy at home the toilets don't always stay pristinely clean.  Our little guy has been working on being respectful of other family members by making sure that the toilet is flushed, and toilet seat is down and clean after each use.  I thought we were making progress until yesterday I found three toilets in the house that were un-flushed.  He denied even going to the bathroom, but I told him the evidence was right in the toilet bowl where he left it.....yellow and brown.  He and I walked to each bathroom to flush the toilets together and discuss proper bathroom etiquette.  My annoyance gave way to disgust when upon flushing, the water didn't clear.  We flushed again and again, and the water was still filthy.  I rushed around to check all the taps and sure enough the water coming from all areas of the house ranged from a dingy color pictured below, to a dark muddy brown.  I ran to the housekeeper to have her immediately stop the laundry as I didn't want my whites "washed" in what looked like coffee.  It was dark brown with sludge and smelled like a bag of potatoes that had been forgotten in a damp basement long enough to have sprouted eyes and hair. 
The embassy facilities manager came out  and had a crew working on it within minutes.  The city water had somehow gotten into our separate compound water supply bypassing the filter.  After many man hours of pumping water and flushing tanks, clean water was restored by bed time.  It left me with a lot to ponder about the cleanliness of the cities water supply.  I knew it wasn't drinkable, but didn't realize that it resembling sewage more than spring water.  Since we have a water distiller in the kitchen and a additional filter between the city supply, I didn't realize how bleak the water situation really is.  Clearly this was a one time event for me, but not for others. I want to look into it more to find out about the water quality available to the average Nigerian.  In the meantime it looks like I just need to apologize to Logan for assuming he didn't flush!!

Sorry Logan!!!


  1. I'll say it again - - I have a ton of respect and awe for your "good sportsmanship" in embracing your life in Africa. As I can see, it doesn't come without some big challenges! And creepy crawly ones too!!! Love you guys!

  2. Sorry you had a downer day! It is good to vent once in a while and I am glad this is a good place to do it. We all sympathize with you and are amazed at the positive attitude you do have most of the time. Much love to you!!!