Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ShamPOO, or, How Nigeria (Partially) Killed my Hair

Hi. I'm back from Nigeria! I managed to escape without contracting jiggers, chiggers, river blindness, malaria, the plague, tetanus, rabies, blood worms, bone worms, teeth worms, Parkinson's, Tourettes, asthma, food poisoning, water poisoning, sickle cell anemia, Legionaire's disease, swine flu, bird flu, monkey flu, cold sweats, hot sweats, or fingernail sensitivity.

I did, however, come out with a head full of sticky hair, which I have been trying, rather unsuccessfully, for the last week, to rinse clean. I guess it could be worse, considering.

I ended up with said sticky hair through a long and complicated process, only part of which was my fault. Here's what happened: the first day I got to Lagos, I desperately needed a shower after almost 24 hours of travel, so I decided to wash my hair. I was in the shower at the hotel, lathering up my hair with the little bottle of shampoo I had bought in the Frankfurt airport, when the semi-robust water flow suddenly turned into a tiny trickle. Uh oh, I thought. Panicky, I tried to wash each strand of hair individually with the couple of measly drops sneaking out of the shower head, but that didn't get me very far. I had a meeting downstairs in a few minutes, so I decided to just sack it in and try to rinse everything out tomorrow.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The next day, I woke up with a head of still-wet, sticky hair, plastered to my skull in odd formations. I tried to rinse my block of hair before we had to leave in the morning but it stayed the way it was, so I just pulled it into a bumpy bun and hoped none of my colleagues would touch my head during the day (usually a safe bet).

I guess I would have just continued the trip with semi-sticky and unmanageable hair, and things would have been okay -- good, not great -- but I made the situation drastically worse on Thursday by accidentally "washing" my hair with conditioner. I know. The deadly combination of my already gross, dried-shampoo-y hair and a tablespoon of thick conditioner can be analogized to an oil spill in Lake Erie. And I'm talking about the really foul part of Lake Erie -- the part that caught on fire.

After that, I suffered through the last few days of our Nigeria trip in a state of constant hair paranoia, positive that everyone was looking at my hair and wondering why it looked as if someone had raked their fingers through it, or why flies and other debris were getting stuck in it.

Things were getting truly desperate after the first leg of my trip back to Boston. I had a seven hour layover in the Frankfurt airport, and I decided that it was necessary to cough up 6 Euros to use the shower facilities in the airport. I never pictured myself as being the type of person who would shower in an airport, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I stood in there for 20 minutes or so, clawing at my mass of hair, trying to get the shampoo from almost a week ago out of it, to no avail. Horrible.

I've been back in Cambridge now for three days and my hair is still not totally back to normal. I've tried a lot of stuff since I've been back, including rinsing my hair with apple cider vinegar (I smelled like an overpriced salad the rest of the day). Finally, I went to Aveda and bought some cleansing shampoo, which helped, I think. Probably a few more days and my hair will be restored to its normal luster (lustre?) but it's a process. A long, excruciating, gross process, which I felt like sharing with you all.

The lesson that I've derived from all of this is that one should always use the buckets provided in Nigerian showers. They apparently do serve the very necessary purpose of catching those drops of water leaking from the shower head so that you can actually wash yourself (and your hair). I should never have scoffed at that bucket.

Hey, at least I didn't get guinea worm.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You eat African food?

I want to relay for you all the conversation that just happened between me and a waiter here at the hotel restaurant in Lagos, before its level of ridiculousness fades in my mind. The back story is basically that I wanted to order eba, which is a dough made out of cassava flour that is boiled and then pounded into a soft cone that you can use to sop up soups and sauces, along with chicken in stew, which is this yummy, spicy red sauce served over chicken. Here is how my attempt to order went down:

Me: Yes, I'd like the fish pepper soup, and --

Waiter: (incredulously) You eat African food?

Me: Yes, why?

Waiter: No, I just asked. No reason. People say Nigerian food is very spicy. Usually people from foreign countries don't eat it. (Pointing to part of menu I was trying to order from) This is AFRICAN menu. (Pointing to page on menu with "spaghetti" listed on it) This is other menu.

Me: No, I eat African food. I like spicy food.

Waiter: (still incredulous) Okay...

Me: Okay, so I want the fish pepper soup, the eba, and the chicken in stew, please.

Waiter: NO NO NO NO NO. You cannot eat eba with stew, you must eat it with a SOUP.

Me: But isn't chicken in stew kind of soupy?

Waiter: NO NO NO NO NO. This is impossible. It is impossible. I tell you, this is not done. You must order a SOUP with eba. Only a soup.

Me: But can't I just use the eba to eat with the sauce?

Waiter: NO NO NO NO. Only soup. It is impossible to eat eba with stew. No no no no.

Me: Um. Okay, I guess I won't get the eba. I'll have rice instead.

Waiter: Okay, rice, NOW you understand. Very good.

He then swept off to put in our orders and returned to deliver our drinks and two pieces of bread (there were three of us). After my colleagues ate their bread, one of them asked our waiter if we could have another piece, since there were three of us, after all. The waiter's response: "No... well, yes, but I will have to charge you extra." Our response: "Yeah, never mind."

Oh, Lagos!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


HELLO FRIENDS. I AM WRITING YOU FROM LAGOS, NIGERIA, WHERE WRITING IN ALL CAPS IS FEDERAL LAW. Just kidding. I'm here because I sent this cashier's check to this Nigerian prince who emailed me a couple months ago -- he just needed help with some political issues, I guess -- but I haven't heard from him since I mailed him the check and my bank account information, so I thought I'd come to Nigeria to check it out.


I am actually here doing a clinical project for law school! I'm here with the Negotiation and Mediation Clinical, and we're doing a project involving negotiation trainings with local communities here in Nigeria. We're working with a Nigerian NGO to help develop a negotiation training program, and it's been really interesting so far.

My mind is truly boggled by the fact that on Monday afternoon, I was in Boston, on Tuesday morning, I was in Frankfurt, and by Tuesday afternoon, I was here in Lagos. Three continents in 24 hours! I keep looking around here and realizing, Whoa, I'm in Africa. It's wonderful to be in a new continent, and Nigeria is certainly a fascinating place to start.

After a day and a half in Lagos, I remain astounded by all the movement, color, and noise in this city. The city is chaotic, strewn with trash, loud, busy, and huge, sprawling over lakes and rivers and touching the Atlantic Ocean. Riding around Lagos by car, I've seen women carrying pallets of fruit on their heads, hundreds of churches with names like "Power of Christ Heavenly Restoration Church," almost as many mosques, oddly named fast food joints (such as "Tantalizers" and "Flaky's Fried Chicken"), people in traditional gowns and head dresses, motorbikes with four people on them at once, construction sites choked with dust and rocks, chickens pecking in the dirt on the side of the highway, snaking lines of cars in front of gas stations, scattered palm trees, and car after car after car zig-zagging from lane to lane.

It's pretty nuts.

Since part of our negotiation training plan involves filming some video components, we spent a good chunk of today searching out filming locations. First, we drove to a nature reserve in the city, where we sat outside in the sweltering heat and watched two peacocks fight with each other while our Nigerian guide tried to negotiate with the reserve people about how much we'd have to pay them to film a short video on the property. Eventually, we left and decided that we'd instead film at Lekki Beach, a long stretch of palm trees and sand, punctuated by colorful bits of litter, with a row of thatched houses against the water. After that, we returned to the NGO offices and sat around for several hours while the video guy procured video equipment, and finally started filming at around 6 pm. Whew.

By the end of the day, we were all exhausted and happy to come back to our hotel to an all-you-can-eat buffet of local dishes. So far, I'm a big fan of pounded yams, which are cones of dough (made from yam) that can be used to sop up soups and sauces. I like how Nigerian food is hot and peppery, mmm.

Okay, we have an early morning tomorrow so I should probably be getting to bed soon. GOOD NIGHT MY DEAR FRIENDS.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Now & then

Today, I took my last law school exam ever. I am happy (see proof below).

It's weird to think that I've been in law school for almost three years and have taken five sets of final exams. Weirder still is that once I pass the bar (fingers crossed) at the end of July, I'll be a real lawyer. That means I'll be totally justified in writing "Esquire" after my name, and/or insisting that people call me "Dra." in Latin America. It also means I can legally go by my first initial and middle name (S. Margaret), and can begin to wear a severe bun.

I feel like I'm going to be passing on a lot of these professional benefits.

To be honest, I don't think the whole being-done-with-law-school thing has really sunk in yet. Earlier today, I was reflecting on what I did after finishing my exams spring of 1L year, two long years ago. Basically, the second I finished my exam, I went outside and began drinking with all of my section-mates, and kept that up until I had to start work that summer. It was awesome.

The afternoon we finished finals, someone thought enough ahead to bring a blender and various forms of booze and we sat outside in back of the Hark until someone came out and told us that mixing alcoholic beverages outside was against the rules. I actually think they just felt sorry for the kids still taking take-home exams in the dorms right next door, who could no doubt hear us reveling on our done-ness. Perhaps the best part of that day was when I got to jump in a giant bouncy house and express my sheer joy over finishing my first year of law school.

Now, that picture is my traditional "done with finals!" facebook picture. It really captures my feelings about the whole thing.

Today was a bit more low key. After I finished my eight-hour take home exam, I met up with my boyfriend, ate some candy, drank a Diet Coke, and walked around Harvard Yard, looking at all the beautiful buildings and flowering trees. Then, I took myself to get a manicure and pedicure, and now I'm sitting around, listening to Stevie Wonder (My Cherie Amour) and blogging. Oh, how times have changed! I haven't become totally boring in my old age, though. I'm about to go sit outside in this gorgeous weather and have a beer, before going to tear it up at salsa dancing.

Life is good, and I am DONE! Later, HLS. It's been real.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Okay, so I will readily admit that I am the type of person who freaks out at things like the swine flu. You don't have to drag that out of me.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that in 2006, I expressed mild concern over the bird flu (http://teffsinbrasil.blogspot.com/2006/03/tgisexta-feira-also-discussion-of-bird.html).

My exact words were:

I've spent a large chunk of today thinking about the bird flu and wondering if this is a people-stabbing-each-other-in-Walmart-over-duct-tape-and-gallon-jugs-of-water type situation, or something I should actually be freaking out about. Let's be honest, I'm going to freak out anyway, thanks to articles like this: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060309/NEWS07/603090573/1009

Detroit what.

I also blame Oprah for some of this. I mean, not for bird flu itself necessarily (but who knows really), but for my freaking out over it. She had this frightening show where a serious-looking epidemiologist or scariologist or whatever he was told us that we're all going to die and it's going to be like a horror movie and Oprah, you better reserve your vaccination now. And Oprah acted all scared. Like anyone's going to let Oprah die from bird flu. If anyone is going to be able to secure a personal supply of TamiFlu, it's going to be Oprah, I have a feeling. She and Gayle and Stedman are going to be a-okay.

Yeah. Turns out bird flu was not that big a deal and no one stabbed anyone in Walmart over it (Walmart deaths are generally reserved for Christmas-time stampedes). Oprah also survived, thank God. And I kinda have a feeling that swine flu will probably turn out to be the same kind of deal, where it just blows over after a lot of panic. It's obviously terrible that people have died from this, but I don't think it's going to kill 90% of humanity.*

But I'll admit that when news of the swine flu first broke, I was not so sanguine about it as I am now. The arc of my freak-out went something like this, if I had to graphically/textually represent it:

Mild alarm --> Resentment over CNN's fearmongering tone --> Fear --> More fear --> Considering buying a face mask but too embarrassed once in the drugstore --> Deciding to carry around hand sanitizer everywhere but forgetting to put it in my bag --> Trying not to touch anything in the subway, even when standing --> Lots of tripping --> Slightly less alarm --> Renewed alarm when someone tells me we are expecting the next global pandemic "any day now" --> Less alarm when I see that almost no one in the U.S. is actually dying from this and it's not spreading that fast --> Irritation over people talking about it so much --> Anger over Harvard Dental School idiots that brought the virus to Harvard and spread it around --> Annoyance that the law school has not been shut down and that my finals haven't been canceled --> Apathy.

So now that peeps are saying that the disease is "stablizing" or whatever, I feel like my earlier semi-freak-out was not entirely warranted. However, I continue to wash my hands three-hundred to four-hundred times a day, even after touching things in my own room. Who knows where that book has been? Okay, on my shelf, but still. One can't be too careful with the swine flu.

Okay, gotta go wash my hands after touching my own keyboard.

* But if it does, please note that I did express some mild concern over it.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Study fail

So, instead of studying for the Legal Profession exam that I have on Monday, I have been sitting in my room, cruising the blogs and giggling like an idiot. I feel like as long as I am in my room with my outline open on my computer screen and my textbook opened beside me, I am "studying," and that is not mitigated by the fact that I am listening to an old interview of JK Rowling (http://www.accio-quote.org/audio/bbcradio4-2005.mp3) and adding C-list celebrities to my twitter following list (hi Kim Kardashian!).

Perhaps the best thing I have discovered tonight while "studying" is Fail Blog, which has had me laughing out loud -- LOL-ing, as the kids say -- uncontrollably for the last half hour. Here it is: http://failblog.org/

Here are a few fails that I particularly loved:

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

You get the idea. This website is my new best friend.

I guess I should get back to "studying" now. FAIL.