Life as an Expat Wife

5 05 2011

Never in my life would I have expected to be a housewife, especially in West Africa.  I consider myself an academic who likes her job, loves to be challenged and continually learning and while the prospect of not stressing over report cards, or the kid who can’t read, or feeling guilty about the pile of marking on my desk, or the countless hours of my personal time dedicated to my students seemed alluring to leave behind, I was a bit worried about life after pausing my career.

My first month here was pretty boring as most of my time was spent waiting around for Joe to come home.  We arrived mid-summer when many expats have left to their home countries while school is out and even so, all of the people we saw were French.  Luckily, another Canadian Halliburton wife had put me in contact with an English friend of hers who introduced me to the PWC (Port Gentil Women’s Club.)  It was formed a few years ago by some of the wives here as a social club.  While it started off quite small, there are now 80 members.  Most are expats but there are a few Gabonese women on the list.

There are a few regular happenings that members are welcome to participate in if they so choose.

  • The first Wednesday of every month a coffee morning is organised at a local restaurant.  Quite a few women turn out for this so it’s an easy way to meet other people.
  • The third Wednesday of every month is ‘Aperatif night’ where we meet for a cocktail at a local restaurant.
  • Every Wednesday morning there are 2 groups, ‘Couture’ & ‘Bricolage’ (Sewing & Crafts.)  I attend ‘Couture’ not because I like sewing but because it seems that all of the English speakers congregate there.  Both of these are set up in order to make things in which we sell at a couple of events throughout the year.  In the end, the money is put towards different things for charities and schools in town.
  • Every Friday morning is ‘Conversation.’  French and English ladies meet at a specified location to discuss a specified topic (some are more serious than others.)  The object is to communicate in the language you are trying to learn.  Half of the time is usually spent speaking English while the other is spent in French.  It’s kind of like a free language class.
  • There are walking groups, movie groups, book clubs and of course special events such as this Saturday’s Annual Gala where we dress up, pay a lot of money for dinner, watch local entertainment and give money to charity.
So I keep quite busy with the PWC.  I’ve also made quite a few friends and we get together regularly for various coffees, shopping, beach trips, husbands out of town nights, and whatever other excuse we can think of to get together.
Aside from that, I’m teaching English to several expat children.  This year, I chose to work 2 afternoons each week where the kids come to me and we sing songs and play games.  Most of the kids are complete beginners who don’t know a word of English so it can be a challenge especially combined with the fact that they are between 3-7 years old.  There are 2 English teachers leaving this summer so I’ve been bombarded with calls for September so I’ll probably take on a few more kids.
I had high hopes of volunteering here but it’s just not as easy as one would assume.  Because Gabon is a pretty rich country, foreign aid groups don’t really come here.  (Unfortunately, the president spends a lot of money on expensive homes all over the world instead of on his own people.)  There are a few orphanages and other local run organisations and while I’m sure they need help, they aren’t organised enough to take it and if they are, it can be risky in terms of liability.   I will continue to try as I feel it’s important here.
While I’m sure my life probably seems easy and almost laughable to some of you, and trust me, I hear about it (Cassy & Corbin) but there is a downside.  I’M IN AFRICA!  General life is not easy here.  Sure, I’m not working a full time job but I am dealing with sometimes daily electricity and water cuts, shady police officers, unreliable and untrustworthy people, being homeless, robberies, guards that are constantly sleeping, roads that are barely drivable, stores that never contain what you need, $25 broccoli, and all in another language.
I’ve had people ask, “Are you ready to come home yet?” and the answer is a simple, “No.”  There are positives and negatives but the experience we are having is invaluable.  I’m sure at some point we’ll return home and I’ll pick up my career again but right now Canada might seem a little too easy and potentially even boring after all of this!
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One response

5 05 2011
Mindy

Cheers to you Jay …. I think you’ve got a great attitude. It’s always invaluable knowledge….. Gotta take the good with the bad!

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