#FEBphotoaday – Photo Challenge

29 02 2012

About a month ago I stumbled upon a photo-a-day challenge set up by this blogger.

Basically, she created a list of photo prompts for you to follow and then post your photos on Instagram (an iPhone app,) Twitter, Facebook or even just to keep them for yourself.  It’s nothing life changing but it’s fun and a neat way of capturing some of the ‘little’ things in day to day life.  (And it gave me a chance to play with my newly downloaded Instagram.)

I thought I’d share a few with you…

1 - Your view today

7 - Button (on my favorite jeans)

10 - Self Portrait (unhappy in traffic)

13 - Blue

16 - Something New (a gift for my maid who is now on maternity leave)

17 - Time (and reflections)

23 - Your shoes (before my morning walk)

28 - Money

If you want to play along in March, check out the new challenge below and find full instructions here.

** If you want to follow me on Instagram, my username is cjstjohn.**


African Luxuries : Water Reservoir Tank & Pump

28 02 2012

I thought I’d start a new series of posts regarding African luxuries – things that aren’t essential to survival but certainly make life a whole lot easier if you have them.

The water pressure here is dreadful and that is why most houses have reservoir tanks and water pumps installed right away.

The regular town water fills up the tank and then when a tap is turned on in the house, the pump kicks in and forces the water from the tank through the pipes and into the house.  This ensures that the water pressure is sufficient for general purposes.

Without a pump and water tank, there is literally a dribble of water; not enough to even fill the kitchen sink to do dishes.  In actuality, without the pump, at our second floor apartment we probably wouldn’t even get a drop through the taps.  When we first arrived we were in a hotel room that didn’t have water assistance and I couldn’t even wash my hair in the shower as there just wasn’t enough water nor pressure.  It assured me that yes, a pump & tank make life in Gabon A LOT easier.

You can check out the first edition of African Luxuries here.

Weekend Recap

26 02 2012

This weekend started with Joe offshore and me recovering from a very unpleasant bout of food poisoning.  Luckily, it could only go up from there.

Saturday was gorgeous so I stayed poolside with our next book club selection, The Hunger Games.

Joe got home Saturday just in time for dinner and we had a pretty relaxing evening.

Sunday was another beautiful day so after breakfast we went for a walk around town.

It was really, really hot so we only made it a couple of kilometres before heading home.

We had lunch and spent the rest of the day at the pool.

I finished The Hunger Games.

Joe finished book 2, Catching Fire.

And then we had pizza.

Say NO to UHT

24 02 2012

We don’t get fresh milk in Gabon.  I didn’t even think that was possible.  I figured everyone had fresh milk.  Apparently not.

Instead, we’re stuck with this crap…

It’s called UHT milk or Ultra High Temperature milk which means it’s heated to 135 degrees C for a few seconds before it’s bottled, sealed and stuck on a shelf.  Yes, that’s right, a shelf… and not in the fridge.  It has a shelf life of 6-9 months.  Once open, it must be kept in the fridge and spoils after a few days.

Apparently, 95% of France consumes UHT milk which completely baffles me.  Yes, it’s convenient that you don’t need to worry about refrigeration and you can always keep a stash of milk in the pantry but it just doesn’t taste good.  (This coming from someone who grew up allergic to milk and limits milk intake to lattes but I can confirm that a latte with UHT milk does not measure up to a latte with fresh milk.)  Joe, however, does drink milk (or used to.)  He now limits his milk consumption to cereal and even so, much of the milk is left in the bowl when he’s finished.

Fresh milk is one of those things we really look forward to when going home and we certainly hope it’s a staple in our next location.  (That along with fresh fruit, fresh vegetables & fresh meat.  Maybe we’ll just go crazy and even luck out with stable electricity and water.)

The Vacuum

22 02 2012

Or “l’aspirateur” as the French call it.

(Photo Credit via)

The vacuum is a fairly common appliance in the North American household but not in the typical African household (along with clean running water and electricity so I suppose it makes sense.)  I pulled it out when training my menagère as sweeping can be so arduous not to mention all the little bits that get left between the cracks of our wooden floors.  She looked at it with horror and terror in her eyes.

I quickly pulled out the cord, put everything together, turned it on and did a brief demonstration before abruptly handing it over to her to give it a whirl.  She abruptly handed it back to me and asked me to show her again, this time a bit slower.  After another orientation with the vacuum, she decided she was ready to give it a try although she did ask me to stay close and watch her for a bit just to make sure everything went alright.  I hadn’t even thought how foreign this might be to her.

I watched her that first morning slowly and timidly pushing the vacuum around wondering if she’d ever feel comfortable using it or if it would go back in the cupboard never to be touched again.  Each week she pulled it out and after some practise, she was quick and confident.

Last week she went on maternity leave but beforehand she gave her replacement a tour of the house and a brief rundown as to how she organised her week.  When she got to the vacuum, she pointed at it, giggled a bit and told me I’d have to give another demonstration.  Round 2 went a bit better but I’m sure they both think we’re crazy for lugging around this big, noisy thing when there’s a broom just around the corner.


African Luxuries: Generators

20 02 2012

I thought I’d start a new series of posts regarding African luxuries – things that aren’t essential to survival but certainly make life a whole lot easier if you have them.

Just before our arrival in Gabon, Joe’s company began installing generators at every expat household.  The generator is big; it holds 100 litres of diesel and can power most of the house.  If needed, it could keep us out of the dark for 2 days without a fill up.

The electricity goes out fairly regularly here.  At our last house, we needed the generator at least once a week but in our new location, the power seems to be much more stable.  Sometimes the cuts last for an hour or 2, other times it’s several hours or days.  The generator starts automatically and it shuts off automatically when the electricity returns.  The only thing we need to worry about is keeping it topped up with diesel.

Unfortunately, our apartment seems to have 2 separate electricity lines and the generator is only tapped in to one of them.  We didn’t realise how bad it was until the power went out one day and literally, half of our apartment was without power.  (Funny enough it’s not just the right side or the left side; it’s the AC in one room and lights in another or one outlet works but not the next.  Nothing an extension cord can’t fix though.)

Spring Travel

18 02 2012

When life gets us down, we plan a trip.  It’s the easiest way to pull yourself out of a funk and it gives us something to look forward to.

So… we’re heading to SPAIN!

We'll start off in Barcelona.

And then we'll head to Valencia.

We'll rent a car and head South to visit places like Granada and maybe Seville.

And we'll end our stay in Spain with a few days in Madrid.

Before we return to Gabon, we'll spend a weekend in Paris.

 We depart 2 months from now and we’ll spend 2.5 glorious weeks abroad.

Have you been to Spain?  Recommendations are welcome!

(Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)