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.

Indonesia 

(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.

Amsterdam

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)





A Tale of Heartbreaking Disappointment

8 02 2012

A few weeks back I was preparing to tell you some BIG news.  Something Joe & I had been working on for months and were so excited about.

You see, several months ago we’d been approached about a move that would take us out of Gabon and into our dream destination, Indonesia.  This new location would allow us to travel so much more easily and the job would be a promotion for Joe which he was so ready for.  We were invigorated at the thought of leaving Gabon and all of it’s troubles and continuing our adventure on another continent.  Anyone we spoke to loved their stay in Indonesia and raved that it was one of the best places to be an expat.  We were sold!

We had to battle for this move.  You see, this region didn’t want to let Joe go but we pushed and pushed as we knew this was the move for us.  This battle stretched over 3 painful months when, finally it was confirmed; we were being released and the move was approved.  Joe & I were elated but until everything was signed we didn’t want to say anything.

And then the phone call came…

The Indonesian government requires all expatriates to be 30 years old in order to obtain a work permit.  We’re 28.  Our company told us they’d apply for an exception and while it has been done before, they don’t make exceptions very often.  We prepared ourselves for the worst and patiently awaited the verdict.

The decision came today that we were rejected.

I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed we are.  We had begun dreaming of our life in Asia and we were so ready to take the next step.  Our hearts and minds began to leave Gabon as we prepared for our move.  Now, our patience has worn thin and the thought of staying in Gabon indefinitely is just so depressing.  (It’s not even that we hate it that much but we’d started to check out and feel relief at all of the issues we’d get to leave behind here.)

So now starts the process of working out our next steps.  What do we want to do?  Where do we want to go?  How much time are we willing to spend here?  What is our top priority, leaving Gabon or finding an ideal location?

I’m thinking we’ll discuss these over a bottle of red tonight…





Cultural Differences

30 11 2011

When you move across the world, you expect to encounter innumerable cultural differences.  Most of the times we only think about the big ones (food, language, politics, etc) but I think the hardest to cope with are the little things.

Some things we assume are common sense are actually cultural differences.

Joe’s company has a bunch of resources for those moving and living overseas and one of those resources is access to a database of information on other countries.  They talk about everything from climate to currency to finding schools and healthcare.  Last weekend, we were browsing the site looking at Gabon (to see how accurate they were) and I decided to look up Canada.  Reading the “Social Customs” section on our home country was quite amusing and it reminded me of some of the cultural differences we face while living in Gabon.

Some of my favorites are:

“Canadians are most comfortable when given ample personal space during conversation. They prefer not to stand very close when talking, and generally do not punctuate conversation with physical contact.”

This is so blatantly different here and it still drives me nuts!  For example, last week I was in a travel agency booking flights to Libreville.  The office is a fair size with 5 travel agents sitting at a long row of desks.  I was the only client in the office at the time and was seated across from a man who was confirming my booking.  The door opened and an older Gabonese woman entered the office and proceeded to sit right beside me.  There were probably 12 other chairs in the room and other agents who weren’t serving anyone yet she chose to sit in the chair directly beside me and directly across from my travel agent as if she was in the meeting with me.

The grocery store is another common place where I feel my personal space is being invaded.  In Canada, everyone stands in line at the checkout but we often give the person who is currently being helped more space.  Here, while I’m leaning over my purse trying to count out cash to pay for my purchases, there is almost always someone practically touching me while they watch me count my money.

Probably the most concerning place we notice this is the doctor’s office.  The one we use has a desk at the front with blocked off lines to check-in.  It is meant to form a single file line and there really isn’t room for 2 people to stand side by side.  One day, Joe was checking in, I stood behind him, and a man shimmied his way past me, right up to the counter beside Joe and looked on as Joe explained why he needed to see the doctor.  It was very awkward (for us) and had the potential to be embarrassing (depending on what you need to see the doctor for.)  Had my vocabulary for communicable diseases been better, I might have come up with something a little more amusing.

“Canadians are courteous with strangers and passersby. The uses of “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” are common.”

I can’t elaborate much on this one except to say, it doesn’t happen here.

“It is considered extremely rude to push ahead of others in line.”

While people do line up here, it’s not uncommon for someone to “join” the line ahead of everyone else.  If you happen to have an acquaintance already in line, it’s no problem to join them ahead of others.  Sometimes, someone sees the line, measures everyone up, and then decides they are more important and must move to the front.

One of the most aggravating instances happens while driving.  (This applies to many French men as well as local people here.)  Perhaps because there are no road rules that are enforced, people feel they can make their own.  When stuck in traffic or at a light, people begin adding lanes on either side of the actual lane and then force their way ahead of everyone else.  If you don’t let them in, they yell, honk, raise their fists at you like it’s your problem they have no where to go.  Perhaps, if they hadn’t driven through the ditch to pass 10 cars at an intersection, they wouldn’t be stuck there to begin with.

“Gestures in greeting or loud conversation generally are frowned upon.”

I often find myself wondering, ‘what all the yelling is about?’  In general, people speak quite loudly here and they aren’t embarrassed to hold a rather private conversation, loudly, in public.  Because we live above a store, I’m often privy to these conversations in the parking lot below.  Sometimes people are having an all out argument right there in front of everyone.  They’ll get quite animated, throwing their arms up, pretending to storm off only to return and yell some more and then seemingly out of no where, it just stops.  Both parties shake hands, wish each other an enjoyable day and head in their separate directions as if nothing ever happened.

While some of these cultural differences can feel incredibly frustrating, sometimes there’s nothing you can do but laugh (or join them.)

**The quotes above come from http://www.internationalrelocationcenter.com, Canada destination guide, as provided through the Halliburton network.**





Home

3 10 2011

On a much happier note, we are no longer homeless!  Before I left for Canada this past summer, we finally secured a new place to live.  After all of our troubles last year we were very particular and we are so happy with our choice.

This time we are right in the centre of things, the complete opposite of our more isolated house we had last year.  We are now downtown occupying half of the second floor of a building, a store below us and an office beside us.  We are one block from the ocean and just about everything one might need; grocery stores, banks, hardware stores, restaurants, etc.

Our apartment has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and an open dining, living, office area.  The ‘piece de resistance’ is the garden.  We have a pool and an outdoor kitchen, not an easy thing to find in Gabon, and a bit of grassy space with papaya and banana trees.

The living room and Joe's office in the background.

Eventually we'll have a dining table and it will go here.

The kitchen

Our room

Main bathroom

Our pool

The apartment, yard and my pool boy.

We’ll get a guest room ready as soon as you tell us you are coming to visit 😉





Sneak Peek at the New Apartment

14 08 2011

We’ve finally settled in to a new apartment and are already feeling more at home there than we ever did at the last house.  Once we get all of our curtains up and everything put away I’ll post a few more pictures of the new ‘home.’

 

Our new bedroom: nice, light and airy!





The Conclusion – To Menagere or Not?

12 08 2011

Awhile back I posted about menageres (aka maids) and expressed my uncertainty about hiring one.  I went back and forth over the past year and then an opportunity presented itself – a friend of mine was going back to Australia after 3 years in Port Gentil and of course, she was letting her staff go.  (She was an extreme – she held a staff of 6: 2 menageres, 2 guards, a nanny of sorts & a tutor.  She started with the guards and 1 menagere and each year added on!)

Christiana came highly recommended.  She worked with my friends for the entirety of their stay in Gabon and was reliable and trustworthy and the timing was perfect – our friends left in July and we arrived in August ready for our new apartment.

Currently, she is set to work Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm for a salary of 150 000 per month ($300.)  Obviously, we don’t need someone that often so many days I’ll send her home at lunch but we wanted to make sure that we didn’t give her too slack a schedule because then it might be hard to change afterwards.

There have been a couple of perks aside from not having to clean that I didn’t foresee:

  • When we need something done at the house (a plumber, electrician, A/C maintenance, etc.) I don’t have to sit around waiting all day wondering when they are going to show up because Christiana is here.
  • If there is a problem (like our new oven not working) I can explain to Christiana and she will phone someone for me so that I don’t have to do the dreaded French phone calls.  (Christiana does not speak English but she worked with English people the last 3 years so she’s a bit more intuitive when it comes to figuring out what I’m saying if I’m not sure of the words in French.)
  • She is great at ironing so even my sheets get pressed.
  • I’ve been getting a ton of practice speaking in French and she corrects me and teaches me new words all of the time.

 

So far, so good and fingers crossed that it continues on this path!

 

 





Day 1 to Now

9 06 2011

Sogara Club - lunch on the beach May 2011.

One gorgeous day, I joined some friends for lunch on the beach.  As we were sitting there enjoying the ocean, I reflected a bit on the time we’ve spent in Port Gentil and it reminded me of the first time I visited this restaurant.

It was Day #1 in Port Gentil, in Gabon and in Africa.  We arrived early in the morning and after stopping by Joe’s office and getting checked in to our temporary home at Hotel du Parc (which is no walk in the park,) Joe left me behind to unpack, sleep and ultimately, realise that we just moved to Africa!  He came home for lunch and suggested we head out to Sogara to eat.

I’m sure he took me there as after having my first taste of Africa, he wanted to show me the best part of Port Gentil, the beach.  The setting is picturesque; the sand, the water, the ocean breeze, waves breaking, shall I go on?

Before I continue, I must explain.  I’m afraid of birds.  Not deathly afraid like I’m scared for my life but I just really don’t like them.  I think they’re dirty and I hate them fluttering around me.  I blame this on barn swallows that swoop at your head.  Should you happen to be around me and a bird flies into my vicinity I will duck, even if it’s no where near my head.  I can’t help it.

We get situated and order our hamburgers when a few guests decide to join us.

Here I am trying to enjoy my first lunch in Gabon yet ducking every 5 seconds when another bird decides to join its friends.  I’m sure I looked crazy to everyone else dining outside.

And then, the lizards came.  Remember, this was my first day in Africa and I certainly wasn’t accustomed to lizards scurrying around.  There I sat, legs tucked up under me, dodging birds left and right and managing to get a bite or two of my hamburger in.

As I sat having lunch a few tables down from that first encounter 10 months earlier I couldn’t help but think, “My gosh, I have come so far.”