Our Little Kingfisher Friend

18 04 2012

Every afternoon, usually between 4 and 5, our little kingfisher friend stops by for a dip in the pool.

He sits up on the ledge of the eavestrough and every once in awhile, he hurls himself into our pool before returning to the ledge to shake off.

Sometimes he brings some friends but mostly he’s on his own.  He’s quite amusing and we look forward to his visits when we’re poolside. (Impressive for me as I normally detest birds.)

(By the way, it’s extremely difficult to get a good picture of the little guy with our point and shoot.  I think it’s time to upgrade!)





Around Town

16 04 2012

I’ve been making a bit more of an effort as of late to take photos around town – just the regular things that don’t seem special anymore because we see them so often.  I thought I’d share some with you today.

City Hall – where Joe and I were married.

An occupied apartment building downtown

Walking the logs

The entrance to a small park on the waterfront downtown

Stalls in the market

Laundry day

People gathering to board the boat out of Port Gentil

The old lighthouse at Cap Lopez

Women heading back to the small fishing village at Cap Lopez.





A Trip to Mandji Clinic

13 04 2012

Commonly referred to as “Manky Clinic” in the expat community.

This is literally, my worst nightmare.  I am completely and utterly terrified by this clinic and I avoid going there at all costs.  I’m not one for doctors or clinics to begin with but you combine that with West Africa and it results in a legitimate phobia.

The Mandji Clinic is our company’s preferred clinic and International SOS lists it as the place to go in case of emergency.  There are 2 foreign doctors who have been in Gabon for decades in addition to African doctors .  It serves as a walk in clinic, laboratory, and hospital for expats and locals alike.  We’re advised to use this clinic for all minor ailments but if anything serious happens, we are medically evacuated to the closest hospital of international standard.  (For us, that is Johannesburg which is a little troublesome as it’s a 4.5 hour flight running 4 times a week from Libreville and you’ve heard me talk about how difficult it is to get out of Port Gentil.)

I’m sure there are far worse clinics in Gabon and Africa as this one is relatively clean but the standards are just so different from what we’re used to.  I’m sure if a Canadian inspector came to evaluate Mandji, it would fail before they even left the waiting room.

The waiting room and reception desk

The Mandji Clinic has a history of admitting expats and holding them hostage.  (Ok, perhaps I’m exaggerating a tad here but they do admit people, hook them up to IVs and advise they stay ‘just in case’ for seemingly mild-moderate maladies in which the patient would be much more comfortable at home.)  We’ve visited a few of Joe’s colleagues over the last couple of years and let me tell you, every time we walk out that door I say to Joe, “Whatever you do, never let them check me in to that place.  You get me on the first flight to South Africa!”

  Padded doors – I assume for those who try to escape.

Typical complaints are terribly unfriendly nursing staff, a high misdiagnosis rate, overmedication, and lack of compassion.  Personally, we haven’t had any really bad experiences yet but I do avoid going unless it’s absolutely necessary.  This week, with Spain just around the corner and some stomach issues, I decided to suck it up and go for the first time since last October.  Luckily, they didn’t try to admit me (yet) and hopefully the results will show nothing serious.





Looking Back – April 2011

9 04 2012

Exactly one year ago, Joe and I were in South Africa experiencing the best trip of our lives.  Perhaps it was influenced by the 3 months of hell we experienced prior (robbery after robbery followed by months of homelessness and frustration) but this trip made our move to Gabon seem worthwhile as I’m not sure we would have ever done it had we not moved to Africa.

I’ve been thinking a lot about our time in Africa as we know it will inevitably come to an end and while it has been filled with many highs and lows, I only wish we had more time to travel.  Our safari one year ago has left me yearning for more and once we leave Africa, I’m not sure we’ll be back.  I often think back on it and realise how lucky we are to have experienced something so amazing.





Splurges

6 04 2012

Most people are often shocked and surprised at how expensive it is to live in Port Gentil.  I guess when one hears ‘Africa’ they assume it’s poor and it must be cheap.  Currently, Luanda, Angola (to the South of us on the West Coast)  is ranked the most expensive city  in the world.  In 2011, Libreville was ranked 19th, the second most expensive city to live in in Africa, ahead of Paris, France and Brisbane, Australia.  Many would also argue that Port Gentil is even more expensive than Libreville because it’s the petroleum capital of the country and we’re sort of an island which makes shipping more difficult.

We don’t do a lot of shopping here – in part because there is almost nothing to shop for – but we do have to buy food and that is typically where we notice the extreme expense.  This week I found asparagus in the grocery store and it was in good condition, ie, not soggy and rotten.  I decided to splurge and go for it as it had been months since we’ve had it.

And splurge I did – those 15 asparagus spears set me back $14.  At least they were good!  This week I also purchased a tiny head of iceberg lettuce (the size of my 2 fists) and when I cut in to it to wash it, it was completely rotten in the centre – $11 straight in to the garbage.

At some point down the road you learn to ignore the prices every once in awhile.  On the positive side, when we travel, it makes everything seem ridiculously cheap.





Baby Boy Daniel

4 04 2012

My menagère stopped by today with her brand new baby boy, Daniel, and my goodness – he is the tiniest, cutest little boy I’ve seen.

Daniel has quite an extraordinary story.

“C” had her last baby 15 years ago and she was certain her childbearing days were long gone.  It came as a complete shock when her doctor told her she was pregnant – and 4 months pregnant at that – when she went for an examination to see why she hadn’t been feeling well.

Due in April, she took March off work to prepare for the baby  but Daniel wasn’t done surprising her yet.  She’d had a few complications during her pregnancy but as she entered the last month, she felt good.  Last weekend, she started feeling a little off and decided to visit the doctor Monday morning.  Early Monday morning rolled around and “C” was in pain.  Within 2 hours, Daniel was born right there in her home, close to 4 weeks early.  She was all alone except for her 18 year old daughter and the 17 year old daughter of her best friend.  Immediately after he was born, they caught a taxi to the hospital to finish the rest of the delivery and get baby Daniel checked out.

I am amazed and in awe of her for the entire process.  While I know many women have given birth at home and continue to do so in many parts of the world,  I don’t know anyone personally who has done it recently, especially without the help of a doula or a medical professional.  Thankfully, everything turned out fine and both Mom and baby are doing well.

Daniel is tiny and adorable – he currently weighs 2.2 kilos (4.85 lbs) at 9 days old.  His little wrist is about the size of my thumb.  It’s fairly common for babies to be born small(er) than North American standards but even Daniel is considered tiny here!  He’s eating well and has gained 11 grams since he was born.  I’m certain with his entrance to the world, he’ll grow to be a strong boy and man.





Smooching

27 03 2012

I’ve noticed a lot of really loud ‘smooching’ sounds around town lately.

For example, every morning we walk by a road construction crew and as we pass there is inevitably several loud SMOOCH sounds from the working men.  I notice it if I park outside of the grocery store parking lot as there’s a new apartment going up and generally a lot of men around and even as I stood on the street waiting for a friend to pick me up, taxis slowed and men SMOOCHed out the open window.

Annoyed, I brought it up to Joe a few months back and he said one of his local colleagues SMOOCHed him on the platform, apparently to get his attention.  It bothered him as well.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that a SMOOCH must be the equivalent to the whistle in North America (and perhaps elsewhere.)  You can use a loud whistle to get someone, or a group’s, attention or the whistle we all know if you want to express that someone is good-lookin.

I tend to find it bothersome and not at all flattering (especially when I’m dripping in sweat at 8 am) – as do most of my friends.

Men, can’t you think of a more pleasant way to get women’s attention?