Expatriate vs Tourist

11 04 2012

I’ve always found great value in traveling — exploring, learning, experiencing different cultures.  There’s nothing quite like stepping outside your box.  Traveling lets you glimpse into a different world.  You get a short stint (be it a day, a week or a month) in a foreign place and you can admire it for what you see.  Typically, you see the best of a country and if you do encounter the worst, it sucks, but you move on. After all, you want to appreciate it, the good and the bad, because before long, you’ll be back in your regular life.

Herein lies the major difference between an expat and a tourist; a tourist leaves and an expat stays.  Things that seem cool and different as a tourist become a fear or a frustration for the expat.  It’s not something they’ll take a picture of and move on, it’s something they’ll face day to day whether they want to or not.  Tourists will choke down less than desirable food knowing that in a few weeks they’ll be back to ‘real’ food whereas the expat has to find a way to make the less desirable, desirable.  Those weird smells – yup, you smell them every time you step out your door.  The particularly funny stories where you are trying to ask something in a foreign language and no one understands you, that is now your normal morning routine.  It can be incredibly tiresome.

However, there are upsides.  You may have to grumble through the difficulties but you also get to reap the positives; that beautiful beach is now part of your home and you can visit it every, single day if you want.  You also get to delve into a culture much deeper than a tourist sees on their short stay in the country.  You begin understand the inner workings of the place and you learn just how complicated a society can be.  You see the good and the bad and create a much fuller and deeper understanding of the culture you’re living in.

It really is quite rewarding.  Every once in awhile I look out my window and think, “I live in Africa.  Oh my god, that is so cool.”  Of course, there are occasions where I think, “Where the hell am I and how did I get here?” too, but I feel like I’ve grown so much in the last couple of years and I’ve learned more than I ever would have imagined.  Joe & I have talked about what a tourist’s impression of Gabon might be – beautiful beaches, jungles, exotic, tropical, poor, dirty, culturally interesting, all of which, it is – but I’m glad we got to delve a little deeper, even if it wasn’t so pleasant all of the time.


Hot, Hot, Hot

15 03 2012

It is so hot here.

We’ve entered the long rainy season which means heavy, heavy downpours but also the hottest weather of the year.  Weird, I know.  One would think the rainy season would be cooler but it is most definitely hotter!

By 8 am when I go walking in the morning it is 29 degrees Celsius and by mid day it’s between 31-34 degrees with 80 – 90% humidity leaving us with a RealFeel of 40-49 degrees.

Within minutes of stepping outside, you begin to sweat – sometimes from places you wouldn’t expect to sweat from.  Because of this weather, one must be extra careful about what she chooses to wear.  There is nothing worse than standing up and looking like you’ve peed your pants.  White linen and cotton are generally pretty safe as are lululemon pants but you especially avoid any colour that will darken dramatically when moist.

By far, the best thing to be in is a swimsuit preferably at the beach or poolside – which is exactly what I might do this afternoon!

Where would you live?

11 03 2012

Given our current state of affairs, Joe and I have been talking a lot about where we’d like to live.  Of course there are a lot of factors out of our control but if we had the chance to move anywhere in the world, where would we choose?

My dreams are big and thankfully you don’t have to worry about money in dreams!

New York City

Broadway, shopping, culture, museums and an endless amount of amazing restaurants to explore.


(You already knew about this one!)

Beautiful beaches & islands, friendly people, great food, tropical climate and having so many travel opportunities in the palm of our hands.

Cape Town, South Africa

We LOVED Cape Town and I’d love to have a house on a cliff overlooking the water.


Canals, bicycles and European living.

Sydney, Australia

Fun-loving Aussies, beaches, parks & great weather.

I could easily call any one of these places my home for a year or 2!

What about you?  Where are your dream living destinations?

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

I’ve Expanded My Phrase Book

9 03 2012

I’ve acquired some new phrases that regularly pop up in daily life.

Sometimes I hear myself saying them and wonder how I got here.

What a difference 20 months can make.

1.  I’m outside your house but I can’t find your guard.  Can you let me in?

2.  How deep is the water on that road?  Like, will I make it through?

3.  I asked my guard if the bananas in the yard were ready to cut down but he said no.  I’ll give you some when he thinks they’re good to go.

4.  The mosquito men are coming and the maid leaves at 10:30 so I have to stay home.

5.  Shit – Joe, there’s a cockroach in here.

6.  It is so HOT today.  (This is everyday right now.)

7.  Edgar, (our relief guard) you are not on vacation here.  Wake up, put your shirt on, turn the music down and let me sit beside my pool in peace.

Ok… I didn’t say that last one but I think about it every, single Sunday.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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.

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.)