Things to Get Used to Living in Equatorial West Africa

31 07 2010

1.  Lizards
They are everywhere!  They are small, harmless, gecko type lizards scattering all over the place.  Most of them are a soft green however we occasionally see a black and orange ones that appear to be doing push ups when they aren’t running around.  I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to these things.  I don’t care that they are harmless; I don’t want them anywhere near me and especially not in my home.  That’s why I had Joe round up and chase out a baby lizard yesterday.

2.  Language
When travelling, it often isn’t difficult to come across someone who speaks English or has a basic knowledge of it.  Not here.  I rarely hear anyone speak any English aside from us.  Most of the other expats are from France so they speak French as well.

I notice the difficulty mostly when going out for dinner.  I obviously can figure out the basic words on the menu but still often have no idea what I’m actually ordering.  I see ‘poulet’ and think chicken however it could be chicken liver for all I know.  Luckily we’ve had no major mishaps yet.

3.  Help
There are always people hanging around ready to help.  At the airport in Libreville there are 2 options, use a cart to move your luggage for free, or have someone else do it for you for 1000 cfa (about $2.)  It is helpful and cheap however they can be quite aggressive and begin loading up your things before you’ve even asked them.  And don’t try cheap out… they have no problem asking for more money.  The other day, Joe paid one guy with a bit of a tip and the guy told him he wanted one more bill.  You don’t want to mess with the burly man because for all you know, he’ll load your luggage right back up and take it with him.

4.  Technology-less
While this is only temporary, I feel as if I’m on some sort of cleanse.  I have no cell phone or home phone.  I have TV however there are only 3 English channels, 2 of which haven’t worked for the last 2 days so I can only watch CNN.  I have no internet.  The hotel does have internet but it costs $6/hour and it sucks!  The last card I bought I was only connected for about 30 minutes before my ‘hour’ ran out and most of that time was spent loading and reloading pages and/or trying to reconnect to the network.  I have learnt to write all posts and long(er) emails in Word first because when the internet times out, you end up losing everything you’ve done.

5.  Water
As you can imagine, tap water is not drinkable here.  It is tough to get used to keeping a bottle of water at the bathroom sink to rinse my toothbrush.  The water pressure here is also something that is awful.  The water trickles out of the shower and if you happen to turn on the tap in the sink while waiting for the shower to heat up, the water in the shower stops completely.  I think half of my conditioner was left in my hair at the end of it all.  It was probably the worst shower of my life.  In homes, they install a separate tank outside of the house to assist in water pressure… thank god!

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