Friday, February 29, 2008

Passion, in two stories

Nearly skipped a month here at upnaira, first time since May 2005. As we're not to let that happen :) I'm taking advantage of this extra special last day of February to write a February post. Two stories for you. Hey, you should write too.

Well, the first story is that I made a list of the three things I love and don't love at my new job.

The DON'T LOVE list:

- one had to do with how people sat at the office, basically the foreigners and locals being on separate floors, and that has already changed for the better, since it's a startup company and always changing :)

the other two are de rigeur for most jobs,

- doing eight hours a day,

- the threat of "employee evaluation"

The LOVE list:

- (don't laugh) cool chair, clean office, stuff like that


- the people, especially the army of developers, are really professional AND warm. Please don't be jealous.

Anyway, check out the don't love list and see that I'm screwed, it seems I REALLY don't like working much. Although I'm getting used to not being as free as a wild horse, it may not last very long. Please write your comments.

And check out the love list and see that I never even mentioned the *work* - job type or industry. It's an important job at a cool company in an interesting industry - software and web applications. One really should do better in terms of matching a job to his/her passion. I'm working on this.

At least I finally made it to the right continent ;) I work in Egypt.

The second story is about my dear country. I was in Lagos in January.

On the island, you will find prices have risen to match US prices. Example, I found accomodation (likely geared to expatriates) that you could rent for 20,000 Naira. Per day. It's not a palace, just a clean one or two bedroom flat in Lekki.
I also checked out the Motherless Babies place. You can support them with tiny donations anytime, and if you want to go bigger, you can pay a child's school fees at 55,000 Naira per term.
Compare with the prices when you went to school? Exchange rates were around 125 Naira to 1 dollar.

Because of all these changes, the price inflation, the construction and ubiquitous road building, the super-expensive shopping you could find at the mall, the rush of bankers and banking, people having so many cell phones, I thought that maybe the economy had improved, that things were getting better.
Ehn, no. Whatever, great Zenith bank! There's still a lot of room for the Nigerian economy to improve, and the way to measure it is how the sand-carrying guys are doing.
There are these people that carry sand on the banks, you'll see them at the lagoons if you pay attention. Sometimes, they're quite deformed from the huge pans of sand they carry on their heads back and forth from a canoe to put in a pile maybe ten meters away. (They're really strong too, they should model?) In a good economy, there would be no room for this kind of employment, shuffling sand around. They would have graduated to working next door in the large construction project maybe feeding the cement mixing machines or something. That's what I hoped. Sadly, they are still there. The sand arrives in large canoes, which they start to empty one pan at a time. Then buyers arrive with lorries and they bend down (AGAIN) and load the lorries one pan at a time. You don't need to be a process engineer to see how inefficient this is, and what does it say about the worth of labour that such a foolish process survives for years?


Anonymous said...

first of all i think this article is really interesting. about the employee evaluation, one would really have to take it seriously because when applying to other jobs, employment evaluation is usually looked at.

I never knew rent in nigeria was that expensive...omg 20,000 per day, that is ridiculous, so how much is it going to be per month.
I guess i have to go into real estate then in nigeria..

"...Sometimes, they're quite deformed from the huge pans of sand they carry on their heads back and forth from a canoe to put in a pile maybe ten meters away. (They're really strong too, they should model?"...MODEL...LOL, I found that so hilarious.

what exactly do you think can be done in this situation to prevent these men from carrying huge pans of sand on their back, What equipment can donated to help the construction industry?

Mugizi said...

Wow, congrats Tosin!

You always manage to do the most interesting things!


t said...

Dear Anonymous!

I hear you about the evaluations.

That's not "normal" rent. It's just that you could find these markets where prices are so high compared to what most Nigerians would spend in their lifetimes.
I saw a shirt in Victoria Island the same week, nice designer but not particularly new or impressive. (Specifically: White chiffon shirt with a few white chiffon roses, forgot the label, but it had hanger damage at the shoulders. ) I saw the price tag and thought it was OK in Naira. Well, that wasn't the price in Naira. It was - get this - British Pounds. (multiply by 250) Yep.

Yeah, maybe someone should go there with a camera and makeup. Are you a photographer? I'm an agent. Better than this sand business.

If that was my job, I'd say, why don't we just carry the pans from the canoe to the truck once - when the buyers' trucks arrive, or I'd make like the ancient Egyptians ;) and do sth with a conveyor belt or a ramp and pulleys...and then I'd surely get fired either because the machine worked (<1% chance) or because I had the audacity to complain about carrying the pans all over the place (99% chance). So even if I'm the sharpest guy in the world, I won't think like that ;) A lot of times labour replaces smarts/machines/electricity in Nigeria cos labour is cheap.

t said...

Back to anonymous,
thanks for asking about equipment. I think the answer is to go with an engineer (quite a few around this blog and in Lagos too) and ask questions and build a rough improvement. the cost will likely be a little time (week or two) and money (time and a few recycled materials.) If they don't chase you away from their business, you may have fun and learn a lot about distributing building materials on the Island.
Are you in Nigeria? Or anytime soon?

t said...

And Mugizi,
Thanks. You always manage to be such an engaged and caring friend.

t said...

Re: anonymous on equipment donation
...I suppose if you want to give money in general, check out kiva and microloans that are targeted to people who know for sure what they're going to do with it.
If you're looking at this construction problem in particular, maybe sponsor an engineering student's internship or design contest - so basically have students design a solution. It's not a lot of money, don't fear. Please email/comment here if you want more info. Let's talk :)

Job update: I now work one less day per week. 8hours a day, 4 days a week. Power of negotiation, baby!

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