A couple weeks ago, Casey and I went to Goodies Market for lunch and grocery shopping. We ended up walking back to the hotel because our usual method of transportation, a small three-wheeled vehicle called a keke, was not allowed to pass on a certain road. (Since it was the holiday season, the police wouldn’t let them pass for some reason.) We decided to take a video of the walk to show you all what it looks like around our side. Unfortunately we didn’t think of it early enough, so the video starts during the middle of our walk, but you still get to see a good amount of the neighborhood. Casey was holding the camera, and he was trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, so the camera shakes from time to time. If we decide to take another video, we’ll try to do a better job! But enjoy this one for now!
Well here we are in Naija (a common nickname for Nigeria, pronounced “nigh-ja”). Casey is back at work already today. I’m here holding down the fort and trying to write.
I thought of today’s post because that’s exactly what I’ve been telling myself: don’t look down. We’ve traveled to a lot of sketchy places and stayed in a lot of sketchy hotels in our day. Mainly they were overseas, but sometimes, on our quest to save money, we’d choose a shabby hotel in the US. We were only to blame for those decisions, but we really don’t have much choice in Europe and in Africa. Their standards are just plain different. And, if we don’t want to spend a fortune, we have to settle for some less-than-average places.
We learned that almost all hotels in Spain are ranked on a scale of 1-5 stars. Some US hotels also use the star system (i.e. “this is a 4 star hotel!”) but the system is more official in Spain. They can’t give themselves the rating; they are rated by some obscure hotel officials and then they have to try and stay at that level. Anyway, 5 stars would be the best and the most expensive, so we chose various hotels on the 3-4 star level. They were decent and perfectly acceptable for Spaniards, I’d imagine, but they lacked a few things we wanted: such as, a continental breakfast, one bed, better shower doors, and cleaner showers. We learned that continental breakfast are nonexistent in Spain – they just don’t do them. So that’s fine, we would get our morning toast, coffee, and orange juice from a local bakery. We learned that the majority of hotel rooms come with two beds. One bed for one couple is a luxury. We’re used to that though because a lot of hotels in Sweden also prefer the two bed arrangement. We learned that Spain uses a half-door system for showers, meaning that the door only covers half the shower length so water inevitably spills out onto the floor. Casey and I both think of ourselves as being intelligent people, but we can’t figure out for the life of us why they wouldn’t use full shower doors. That concept completely eludes us. And we learned that clean grout/caulk in showers are not a common thing in Spain. Why? I don’t know! Yes, there are dirty showers in the US at cheap motels, but I’d be willing to say that most nice hotels that you and I would stay at have clean showers and bathtubs. Is it the climate of the US versus Europe where more mold grows in Europe? I can’t believe that’s true. Do they just not care about cleaning their grout? That seems more like it.
The moral of my story is that we’ve experienced different standards and customs throughout our travels. We put up with a lot from different foods to transportation to hygiene and the like. Most of it we can handle. We manage either by adapting or by lowering our standards. But some things are just hard to swallow. Case in point: dirty showers.
You’ve probably realized by now that hygiene is up there on my list of important things. If I had to choose, I’d say it fills my number one spot. Casey calls me “Hygiene Girl” and I call him “Gadget Boy.” Regardless, a clean shower just goes a long way for me. I can put up with dingy hotel rooms, dirty carpet, dusty window sills, and water-stained ceilings. I can put up with bad customer service, pathetic continental breakfasts, and places that look like the Bates’ Motel. What I CAN’T put up with is calcium-encrusted shower heads, rusty faucets, dirty sinks, crappy toilets, and dark, moldy grout/caulk in the shower. I have a zero tolerance policy for these things! In the US, you can usually try to look at new rooms and find a cleaner one. In Spain, it’s hit or miss. In Nigeria, it’s a miss. It’s humid here, it’s hot here, they’re still working on everyone having homes and clean drinking water, so there’s not much chance in getting spotless bathrooms. That’s why we walked around the hotel the other day to try and find a decent room that would satisfy our number one priorities: technology and hygiene.
On almost all counts, this bedroom is primo. It’s large which means there is plenty of space for our 11 bags, we have closet space, we have a living space with two chairs and our piano, two desks for our computers (we asked for a second desk and were surprised to get it), the bed is comfortable (either they’re way too hard or way too soft), the internet is pretty good, the room itself smells fine (a lot of rooms smell wet and musty like they haven’t seen daylight in a few months), and the bathroom… is okay…
It’s fairly large so there is plenty of room to walk around, the sink is clean and has a nice under-sink storage area (I’m not using it, but it’s there), the toilet works and is clean, there is a nice-sized water heater (many rooms have much smaller water heaters so we have to take short showers), and the shower walls are clean. The good thing about dark tile is that it’s harder to tell what’s dirty. We moved a nightstand into the bathroom for extra storage space too.
The two downsides are that the sink is missing a drain cover (I can’t stand looking down a sink drain!), and the caulk around the bathtub is less than satisfactory. Hey, it’s been way worse in other rooms, but it’s still not all pleasant here. I’m glad that the bathtub itself is clean, so I don’t feel like I’m standing on a filthy surface. The first room we were in at this hotel had a tiled floor and some of the grout was dirty, so I would have worn sandals in the shower. I can’t feel clean if I’m in a dirty shower, ya know? That’s just one of my pet peeves. We found a couple really nice rooms with exceptionally clean showers, but we couldn’t have those rooms for one reason or another. I’m really content with this room for all of the positive reasons, but those two downsides still eat into my nerves and make me cringe. That is why I’ve been telling myself, “Don’t Look Down.” As long as I don’t peer into the abyss of the sink drain when I’m washing my face or brushing my teeth, I’m okay. As long as I don’t stare at the blackish-bluish-greenish mold underneath a clear glaze of caulk while I’m reaching for the shampoo, I’m okay. I’m okay. (You can click on those pictures and make them bigger if you so desire. Otherwise, I’m happy to keep them smaller.)
My rant is over and I thank you for listening to it. On a brighter note, we went shopping yesterday at Goodies, our favorite store. We stopped at the ATM first to get some more cash (see Casey in the little booth). We were looking forward to having a fish burger for lunch but they were out of fish. Maybe the fishermen are on strike? We settled on a chicken sub sandwich instead which was actually pretty good. We are still impressed by the quality of their restaurant. Casey ordered a caffe latte or café con leche as it’s known in Spain (coffee with milk). He said he feels like he’s sampling coffees from around the world. It had an immense amount of milk foam on top, which we both knew his mom would enjoy! And then we shared one scoop of kiwi sorbet afterwards. Actually Casey ate most of it because it tasted strangely like a candle to me. Alas.
After eating, we went shopping for food and other items. We had to watch our luggage weight on the airplanes, so we couldn’t buy food in Spain and bring it here. What a shame! That meant we had to buy super expensive food in Lagos. Sigh. Casey pointed out that being happy and content in Lagos is hard to come by, so pricy food is worth every penny if it keeps our moral up. I know exactly what he means, even though it’s SO hard to bear spending a fortune on the same items we’d get for less in other countries. I treated myself to some extremely expensive cereals though because I eat it every morning. Here is a copy of our receipt. I’ll tell you the prices for some items: A bag of Chex Mix: $4.20, Nature Valley granola bars: $5.30, A jar of spaghetti sauce: $4.54, Old-fashioned Quaker Oats: $10.14, Jif creamy peanut butter: $5.07, Smuckers jam: $5.30, Reese’s Puffs cereal: $8.00, Frootloops cereal: $8.00, Waffle Crisp cereal: $6.40, Basic 4 cereal: $6.94, Fiber One granola bars: $6.94. Our total bill came out to $109! Yikes! I joked that the red mark on the receipt was us signing in blood for our good food. Casey cringed. (It was actually the tape machine running out of paper.)
We’re still surprised that the owners of Goodies have done so well for themselves. They have an amazing amount of US brands (much more than in Europe), and their store is always packed. Now the restaurant is busy and has tasty food. Even though we don’t like our hotel all that much, we’re glad to be close to Goodies and Domino’s Pizza. We would not have these places if we stayed at hotels on the other side of the city.
We enjoyed a bowl of Reese’s Puffs last night for dessert. I made Casey some PB&J sandwiches this morning to take to work. Then I had Waffle Crisp for breakfast while watching my Golden Girls. Who could complain? I feel compelled to say that I try to eat healthier cereals and I usually succeed in doing so. I only keep healthy cereals around in Camas. But I haven’t had these brands in ages and being in Lagos is all about keeping yourself happy right?? Right.
I apologize for not posting more blogs recently. I have had zero motivation to write this past week. Fortunately (or unfortunately?), I’ll have plenty of time to write in the very near future because Casey and I are flying to Lagos tomorrow! Yeahhhhh it’s that time again! We have been packing today and are pretty much all set to leave. We won’t be coming back to Valencia next month, so we had to pack up all of our things. Yikes! We have four large suitcases and two totes. It’s a lot, but we’ve carried much more luggage before. I guess you could say we’re used to it by now.
So…. tomorrow we will fly to Paris, then we will have to run through the airport to catch our connection flight to London, and then we will fly to Lagos in the evening. Travel days at their best, right? Hehe. I’ll report to you all when we arrive!
We spent the last two days with Maria and Martina, so that was great to spend some final time with them. Abel is already in Lagos, so we’ll see him soon. We hope to return to Spain sometime next year, so that will be fun to look forward to! We miss everyone already! Marisa, Abel’s mom, has been so good to us by renting us this apartment and having us over to her house numerous times. We are so grateful!
Here are some pictures of Casey at dinner last night… it’s so funny! Martina randomly started climbing on top of him, as usual. She wanted to climb up all by herself so he didn’t help her. Then she grabbed his nose in her hand. I loved it!