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.

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What’s wrong with these photos, photos?

22 03 2012

I borrowed the title from Ellen.

A jewelry store in Port Gentil.

"Work together to preserve the environment."





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!





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.

 





It’s here! The Africa Cup of Nations is here!

21 01 2012

Yes, you read that correctly.  Gabon along with Equatorial Guinea are playing host to the Africa Cup of Nations this year and it starts today.  Those of us living in Gabon have been hearing about this tournament a lot over the last year as the country has been scrambling to make sure everything is ready for the expected 80 000 footballers, fans & tourists that will be entering the country.  New stadiums have been built and infrastructure mildly improved in Libreville & Franceville so that Gabon can put it’s ‘best’ foot forward for it’s visitors.  The government is taking it seriously too; they mandated that all schools in the ENTIRE country will be closed for the 3 weeks the tournament lasts (obviously, football trumps education.  Duh.)  In Port Gentil, the mass exodus of expats have begun leaving the few of us staying behind with deserted grocery stores and beaches.

Will Joe and I take in any part of this football extravaganza?  Absolutely not!  In fact, most people I know in Port Gentil have no intention of heading to Libreville.  You may wonder why as it is a bit of a big deal and nothing much ever happens in Gabon so it should be exciting but we know how things generally happen around here and I’d rather not be in the middle of it.  Apparently, all hotel rooms, who even in normal circumstances are ridiculously overpriced, are completely sold out and it’s difficult enough to navigate Libreville as a tourist let alone with the addition of 80 000 other foreigners.  We’ll sit back and enjoy the lull in Port Gentil instead.

This morning I came across a rather funny take on the ACON.  Take a look here.





Funny Little Story

11 01 2012

It was a friend’s birthday yesterday and a group of us ladies decided to go out for a late afternoon drink to a little place downtown on the water.  One of the ladies ordered a gin & tonic but emphasized that she’d like just a little gin (they have a tendency to pour half and half here.)  We drank our drinks and when it came time to go we began to break down the bill.  We noticed the server had forgot to charge for the gin and being the good people we are, we let her know so she could fix it.

Well she explained to us that the gin was free because it was just a little .

I saw it and it was clearly a full shot in the cup.

Lessons learned –

Alcohol really is cheap here.
Next time I feel like a highball, order ‘just a little’ and the booze is on the house!