The Bad

4 11 2011

Here we go, “The Bad.”  There could be a whole lot of ‘Bad’ but I’m going to narrow it down to the baddest of the bad.

  • The Roads – I found when I was home this summer this was one of the most difficult things to explain.  The roads are horrendous and sometimes, I’m not sure why we call them roads.  Joe & I were discussing his best route home one day and he told me that sometimes route B was better because it wasn’t paved.  Paved roads mean sharp patches of pavement and deep, gaping potholes.  Unpaved roads mean dirt roads with holes so big they have to be driven through, not over.  These holes are filled with water 10 months of the year and one never knows how deep they are until you are in it.  I’ve had water come over my hood.  Keep in mind, I’m not talking about a couple of potholes.  There are more holes than road.
  • The Food – The food just isn’t that good here.  It really makes you realize how lucky we are to have good quality meat and vegetables in Canada.  The meat is famously tough here and the vegetables are few and far between.  The Gabonese certainly aren’t known for their farming; there are some people who have gardens and sell their produce but that can be touch and go as well, especially when you aren’t sure of the conditions it was grown in.  Most of the ‘good’ stuff is frozen but after awhile, you really crave something fresh and when you do find something to have fresh, you worry that you can’t cook all of the bacteria/parasites out of it before you eat it.
  • The Price – It’s one thing that we lack quality products here but it’s another when you look at how much they cost.  Last week I made bruschetta and 4 good-sized tomatoes cost me 9000 cfa ($18.)  Everything is double, if not triple the price that we would pay at home and the quality is nothing to rave about.  I had to pay for my own flight to Libreville when going to Singapore and the round trip (1/2 hour flight) cost 255 000 cfa (over $500.)

Imported peppers - $20/kilo and if you saw them up close, you'd see wrinkly soft skin that doesn't look that fresh!

  • Isolation – Because Port Gentil is sort of an island, it’s really not easy to get anywhere.  We have to take a boat or flight to Libreville and then onward.  We can’t jump in the car and do a road trip inland.  In fact, the furthest we can go is Cape Lopez and that is maybe 20 km from our house.  The bordering countries (Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea) aren’t places that cater to tourism either so if we want to travel, we have to go quite far.  The ‘weekend away’ just isn’t an option and it makes it quite difficult and expensive for anyone to come and visit us.
  • Unreliablilty – You just can’t rely on anyone or anything here, even the people you think you know.  Something breaks, you call someone to fix it and when they finally show up (days later than promised) they make a worse mess of things.  Spoken agreements (actually even written agreements) mean almost nothing and things rarely go as planned.  While it is still frustrating (see the post on our internet problems here) we have gotten used to this and are pleasantly surprised when something gets done.  Currently, the most unnerving thing is the unreliability of flights.  Sometimes you have checked in and as you line up to board the plane, they tell you it is no longer going and you need to get another ticket for another flight.  No one apologizes and no reason is ever given.
And those are the baddest of the bad when it comes to life here – at least for us.
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22 11 2011
The Ugly « Into West Africa

[…] to the final post in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” You’ve heard about our friends and the beautiful beaches, the horrendous roads […]

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