Third Time’s a … Pain!

24 02 2011

Our house has been broken into again!  And this time, really broken into!  Tuesday morning I was collecting towels from around the house to wash.  We have 3 bedrooms down a hallway that we don’t use except for the shower in one of them.  When I entered the room I happened to look across at the other side instead of just going straight into the bathroom.  That is when I noticed the window had been broken.

Our windows are all like the picture above.  We have wooden outdoor shutters, then a wooden insert with mosquito screens (although not in the picture above as that goes out to the screened-in patio) and finally the window.  Both the window and the shutter have the handles and bars to secure it closed.  When you turn the handle the bars retract and allow it to be opened.

In the room that had been broken into, the wooden shutter did not close properly so it was pried open.  They then cut out the screen and broke through the middle pane of the window in order to have access to the handle.  Once open, they had full access to the house.  Something must have spooked them as nothing was taken and both of our laptops were easily accessible.

As soon as I saw it, I called in our day guard, Rock.  He then told me that Saturday night our neighbours had been robbed.  Their guard was sleeping and whoever it was gained entry through a window and took their TV and some other things.  I’m assuming our break-in happened the same night.  Joe and I would have been sleeping at the other side of the house and we didn’t hear a thing.

We’ve had a bit of trouble with our night guard, Robert.  He’s a nice, young guy from Ghana and he has been with us since we moved into the house.  His shift starts at 6:30 pm and ends at 6:30 am and he is supposed to be awake and ‘guarding’ the entire time.  The problem lies in the fact that he is also working a day job elsewhere (they only make about $280 CAD a month.)  When we found this out we expressed our concern to him as we needed him to be awake here and he continually reassured us he would be.  It’s not easy to catch him sleeping as we don’t get up in the middle of the night to check on him but we knew he probably was.  A few nights ago, I was out with friends and returned just after midnight and couldn’t get in the gate.  I banged on the door, yelled in the windows of the guard shack and finally, Robert appeared, red-eyed.  He had been in the guard house with both doors shut and fast asleep.

Our immediate concern was getting the windows and shutters secured and we decided we needed a new night guard.  Robert was fired and we felt terrible about it but we need someone who will actually do the job.  Our new night guard started Tuesday evening and I gave him my best lecture in French about staying awake and that he was here to work and not to sleep.  Let’s hope it worked.

We’ve also had some workers in to secure all of the wooden shutters and they did so by adding a few extra latches to secure them shut.  Unfortunately, they secured them at the bottom and top of the shutter behind the mosquito screens so we aren’t actually able to open them anymore.  I suppose if we can’t open them from the inside, someone won’t be able to open them from the outside!

And thus is life in Africa…

Break-in #1 – iPod and toiletries stolen probably by someone we let in the house.  (Solution: no one comes in the house when we aren’t here.)
Break-in #2 – Money stolen out of a suitcase while we were on holidays.  (Solution: all locks changed.)
Break-in #3 – Window broken but nothing stolen.  (Solution: secure shutters and new guard.)

I sure hope we’ve covered all the bases this time!

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Rest & Relaxation Vacation

8 02 2011

While we generally like living in Gabon, it is fairly evident that life isn’t always easy here.  It’s impossible to get anything done in a timely manner, the water and electricity are out regularly, it’s not as safe as Canada, and corruption is everywhere.  It is because of this that we qualify for what is called a “Rest and Relaxation Vacation.”  In short, Halliburton employs a company that ranks living conditions in different countries and if you live in a zone that qualifies, you are entitled to 1 (or 2 if you live somewhere worse) paid weeks of vacation and return flights to somewhere else in order to rest and relax.

Joe and I have decided to take our rest and relaxation vacation in South Africa and we have just booked and confirmed our flights for March 25.  We figure that we need to travel to the places around us first as if we don’t travel in Africa while we live here, we certainly won’t do it later.  We will begin our vacation by flying to the small town of Hoedspruit and from there to Kapama Game Reserve which borders Kruger National Park.  We have booked ourselves into a luxury safari for 3 nights where we’ll be able to do game drives twice daily to see if we can spot the big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) among other animals.  (Yes, I said luxury and for those who know me, you may not be surprised to see that however, I did research more rustic versions but decided I live without electricity and water enough in my daily life that a little luxury is needed!)

From there, we’ll catch a flight to Cape Town where we’ll stay for another week.  Cape Town is widely known for great food, great shopping, and lots to see and do.  We are staying at a small guest house/boutique hotel for the duration of our time there but we plan on renting a car at some point to tour the area.

Of course, nothing is done without a bump in the road and this time it was Joe’s passport.  While it was valid until 2012, he is out of pages.  (They go a little overboard here and every time we renew a visa it takes up an entire page and every time we leave Gabon we need a visa sortie which also takes another full page, not to mention the trips to Congo, etc.)  There is no Canadian embassy in Gabon but there is an honorary consulate in Libreville, which funnily enough, doesn’t actually employ Canadians.  After contacting the closest embassy which is able to issue passports in Cameroon, Joe caught a flight to Libreville today to hand in his application which, they’ll send off to the embassy.  While that seemed easy enough, getting passport photos to the Canadian standard was tricky.  We couldn’t find anywhere in Port Gentil to do it but Joe asked at the consulate and they sent him somewhere in Libreville and have reassured him that it should be fine.  If all goes well, Joe should have a new passport in 15 business days and we’ll be off to South Africa soon after!





Golf

6 02 2011

Port Gentil Golf Club - The First Tee

There isn’t a lot to do in Port Gentil but there is a golf course and some of the expat men have started their own league Sunday mornings.  Joe and I joined them today.

The Club House

There are 18 holes, a driving range and even a clubhouse but remember, we are still in Africa.  (This is no ‘Quesnel Golf Club.’)  A round will set you back 25 000 cfa (about $50) and while there are no carts, you can hire a caddy for 5000 cfa ($10.)  They can be useful for many things other than golf tips like pointing out dangerous bugs and even keeping an extra eye out for snakes.  The green mamba is often seen on the course ,especially in the rough, and it is highly poisonous.

The Caddies

The ground here is mainly sand so it’s not surprising that the fairway occasionally looks like this

A Sandy Fairway

Because of the sand, it can be quite difficult to grow good grass so the ‘greens’ aren’t very green.  I like to call them the ‘blacks.’  (May or may not be politically correct given the area we live in.)

The "Greens"

It’s actually sand with a bit of oil mixed in.  On the positive side, you don’t need any fancy equipment for upkeep!

The 'Green' Keeper