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.


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.


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.

For the times, they are a changin’…

2 04 2012

And so is this blog!

Back in 2010 when I started this blog, I really only expected my mom to read it; perhaps a few other friends and family too.  As time went on, other people started stopping by and reading and I began reading their blogs as well.  (Who knew the blogging community could be so cool?!)  Into West Africa was growing and I decided I really liked writing it and chronicling our experiences.

That has led me to today where I tell you that we have some BIG HUGE changes happening around here.


I started thinking about this way back in November when we were working on the move to Indonesia.  Obviously, when/if we move we won’t be ‘into West Africa’ anymore.  I needed something that would travel with us no matter where we ended up and so I’ve come up with something new.

No, I’m not going to tell you right now!  


I’ve really enjoyed my time here at WordPress and it’s generally been pretty good to me so I’m not leaving due to hard feelings however, it has restricted my creativeness a little bit.  I’m ok with computers but I’m not that good and in order to flex my creative muscles over here, I need to know a lot more than I do.  Blogger will allow me to do that so I’ll be heading over there with my new name and address.  

No, I’m not giving that to you right now either.

  (I am really going to miss that map on WordPress though!  Blogger, if you are reading, get on it!)


This one is kind of a given being that I’m changing the name AND moving to Blogger but I want my blog to be a reflection of me through how it looks, not just the words I put on it.  The templates that WordPress and Blogger give just seem a bit too impersonal so I’ve got a graphic designer working on a brand new look for my brand new blog.

All of these changes are coming in the near future.  How near?  I really can’t be sure.  These things take time.  I’ve been working on moving all my posts from Into West Africa over to the new blog and the designer has started working on the new look.  Hopefully soon I’ll be able to reveal it all to you!

Until then, I’ll let the suspense fester away.

Where in the World?

30 03 2012

(Image via)

As a blogger, I often look at my stats to see how many people have dropped by my blog.  When I see the numbers, I wonder who are all of these people and where do they come from?

Well WordPress has answered one of those questions for me.  They’ve just added this really cool new map to the stats page which shows which countries have had visitors to my blog on that particular day.  It’s sort of becoming an addiction for me as each time someone new from someplace new comes a long, another country gets coloured in on the map.

To date (since the end of February when the map appeared), I’ve had…

visitors from 54 countries.  54!!!  That is so cool.

Some of the most unique include:  Qatar, India, Malta, Togo, Kuwait, Latvia, Jordan, Peru, Belgium, Rwanda, Botswana, Croatia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Hungary & Trinidad and Tobago.

I would have thought my biggest audience would be from Canada but the top 10 rankings are as follows:

1. United States
2.  Canada
3.  United Kingdom
4. Gabon
5.  Singapore
6.  Germany
7.  Qatar
8.  India
9.  South Africa
10.  Brazil

(By the way, the USA visits double the Canadian.  I’m disappointed in my countrymen!) 

Anyways, I LOVE this new addition to the stats page.  Bravo WordPress, Bravo!


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?