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National and Global, United States

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On The Beach. West Africa. Digital Media

I received the hotel brochure from the client. By African standards this was a first class place. On the beach, great restaurant, balconies facing the ocean, swimming pool, outdoor bar, clean rooms, individual bathroom. “Great!” I thought. “On the beach in Nigeria on a great digital media consulting project”.

My driver pulls up to the hotel front entrance on Lagos Island. First thing noticeable is the guard house. Not like your gated-community guard house. The strange thing I notice is that the hotel, not only has fairly high walls, but on top of the walls is ‘razor wire’…all around the hotel. I will later see much more of this stuff, on houses, building, yes, and even on the beach.

We park the car, and walk up to the front desk. Looks like any other hotel front desk. Two pleasant people behind the counter, a porter, a valet. No problem. I take out my credit card to hand to the desk clerk. You would have thought that a terrorist was in the room. Everyone started to scramble. “Put the credit card away, sir” the clerk stated. “We do not take credit cards at the front desk.” “So where the hell do you take them, in the basement”, I said in response. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly where they take them.

At that moment, an elderly woman steps out from the office, and motions to the door behind and to the right of the counter. “Follow me” she whispers. While my driver waits with the luggage, I follow the woman through the door, and down a long winding staircase…to the basement!

When we arrive at the bottom, there is a floor-to-ceiling fence, with a lock. She unlocks the gate, and we step inside to a dimly lit room with a desk and two chairs. She relocks the gate.
“OK, you can give me your credit card”, she states. With that she sits down and takes out a form from the desk. She begins to fill out the form in writing, with my credit card information. When completed she hands the credit card back to me, and puts the form in a metal file cabinet, which she locks. I thought she would then swallow the key. She didn’t.

“Our porter will take you to your room now. Thank you”, she says. I’m just glad there wasn’t a line at the front desk, is all I said to myself.

Finally, after four days of travel, I arrive at the room. Actually, it is pretty good. Sheets are clean, the room is clean, there is a balcony, and there is the ocean. The Atlantic looking West. Strange site really. I’m used to the Pacific Ocean looking West. Perhaps on Sunday, I’ll take a walk to the beach. But wait, that’s a strange looking beach. It’s not Santa Monica, not even Atlantic City.
As I looked closer, I see that not only are the hotel walls covered in razor wire, so too is access to the beach. And there are homes on the beach. You know the ones on stilts. People live on this beach. I see a few horses, and dogs running around. Small boats fishing. Not so bad.

Looking out beyond the beach to the sea, I see a line of oil tankers, as far as the eye can see. All waiting to head up the Delta to take their supplies of Nigerian oil to other world ports. Lots of ships, lots of houses on the beach. For now, the hotel confines look comfortable. And my driver noted that I should not go beyond the hotel grounds alone, because I might get lost. Comforting thought, I thought. Altantic City can't be that far!

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