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.

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The Making of a Salad

13 03 2012

Making salads are so much work here and they’re super expensive.  That’s probably why I don’t do it very often.

Lettuce – 3990
2 tomatoes – 1767
Cucumber – 417

Total – 6174 cfa ($12)
**not including salad dressing or onion previously bought**

Soaking the veggies in a vinegar & bottled water bath.

Any produce you buy here that you plan on eating raw must be disinfected because there are all sorts of nasty bugs, parasites and bacteria that love to take over your stomach and make you violently ill for days on end.  (Sounds fun doesn’t it?)  So once you pay an arm and a leg for it and get it home you rinse all the dirt & sand off in the sink.  Then you fill a bowl full of vinegar and bottled water in which you must soak the produce in for 20 or so minutes.  Afterwards, you rinse the produce off with another bottle of water to get rid of any lingering yuckiness and the vinegar.  You dry it off and then can prepare the salad.  It takes forever and hardly ever seems worth it for a very basic salad with mediocre produce.

Said salad.

Occasionally I dream about a nice spinach salad with strawberries, red onion, craisins, seeds and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  Actually, funny enough, salads are one of the first things we order when we leave Gabon – that and a good latte.  Oh, and a steak too!





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.)