Six Month Retrospective
Some days it feels like we’ve been here a year. Other days- it feels like just yesterday we were all bundled up in the bitter cold of the DC winter, heading to Dulles to make the move to Gabon. Despite my wavering sentiments, I can attest that in the last six months we’ve done some adapting.
When we arrived in Gabon, I spent a lot of time missing Target, Costco, my car, a dryer and speaking English. I definitely still dream about the luxury of Amazon Prime, but have accepted that the only things to buy here are food and fabric. We have scored a dryer, so there’s one biggie off my list. I definitely still miss being able to communicate. Language brings independence, and I took that for granted in the states. I suppose the frustration is good fuel to continue learning though. On that note, I also took dishwashers for granted. Mmmm, dishwashers. But you certainly learn to live without some things, and where you can’t deal – you get creative. Like, bathtubs for example. I don’t have one anymore, so I have subbed in hot water bottles – you know those old school rubber things? I hadn’t used one until we travelled recently, and those things are underrated! Anyway, it also goes without saying that I miss you, too!
Gone are the days of being housebound and stood up by the provided company “transport.” I took my first solo cab ride on my 30th birthday and haven’t looked back. Getting where I want to go on my schedule has really changed things for me.
Getting in a taxi seems like simple business. With limited French, and no addresses to rely on however, it was a daunting jump – but one worth taking. Navigating is done via landmark. These days if I am heading home, I tell a taxi driver I’m going to Okala, that’s the area, and then, “Á l’entree Ciciba” which means, the dirt road that leads to the old defunct museum. haha. When I’m headed other places, I do my best… “downtown, near the big bakery,”etc. Somehow I get where I need to go, but every once in awhile, things do go haywire, like last Friday for example. I asked to go to the market in Haut De Gue Gue and the driver completely bypassed the area, like – big time, and started picking up other passengers that were going even further in the wrong direction. My momma didn’t raise no fool! I knew he was taking advantage, so I demanded he stop and I got out without paying the fare! Take that jerk! Definitely wouldn’t have had the nerve to do that, even back in March. Taxi trips are usually uneventful though. In between marriage proposals I get to practice my French with chatty drivers. I am paying less and less money for fares these days, which feels legit! Fares are negotiated, no meters. I took a cab for 200 CFA the other day (about 40 cents), a personal best.
Though still modest, our language skills have grown since day one! Six months ago I couldn’t even ask, “Who’s there?” when I’d heard a knock at the door. Now, many words come out naturally. Admittedly, I am still outspoken by most 3 to 4 year olds, but I do ok in a taxi, can order in a restaurant and have a handful of helpful phrases under my belt. Most used… “Yes, I am married/Oui, je suis mariée,” and “No, I don’t have kids/Non, je n’ai pas d’enfants,” which always results in a raised eyebrow by the asking party. B and I started with a private French tutor a few months back, and I am hoping to join the beginner class at the French Institute this fall, fingers crossed there is a course open at my level this time! Current favorite French word is donc, pronounced, dough’nk. Makes me chuckle every time I hear it. It translates to “So,” as in “the internet has been out, so this post has been sitting in my drafts for a week.”
We’ve seen a fair bit since travel since our arrival in Libreville! Business brought B to Istanbul, Turkey. He spent a week there and really enjoyed it. We hope there will be a return trip in the near future. We also took our first rotation to South Africa in June. AMAZING. In seven short days we had a fantastic safari experience at Kapama Private Game Reserve, took in more natural beauty and fantastic food in Cape Town, then ended our vacay in the Stellenbosch and Franschoek (the winelands outside Cape Town). In a nutshell it went: wildlife, food (repeat x3), sightseeing, food, wine, food, even better wine, head home. Photos to come. We’re still talking about it almost two months later! I was also fortunate enough to go to Switzerland and Italy last month, basking in first world amenities, historical attractions and FAMILY TIME! Travelled with my sissy Lara and visited cousin Nicole! Awesome.
Last week, we moved into a new house. That makes four moves for those of you keeping track! We started at Royal Apartments, in Haut de Gue Gue then moved to Orchidia Apartments in Centreville (downtown), which was a major upgrade. After being evicted from there (lamesauce), we moved into the company guesthouse. Brandon can now add Exterminator Extraordinaire to his resume. We’re happy to be out of there and in our current home. We’ve landed in a lovely house and are enjoying the peace and quiet of the ‘burbs after being in the city. Our weekends are spent by the pool and we are now rocking legit tans. So much so, that all of my foundations are too light, blast! I am hesitant to hang any art based on our mobility to date, but until we move again, B has a great commute and Diego is enjoying all the grass and two dog neighbors.
We’ve also said our fair share of goodbyes since February! Waahhh! Eight of our friends have moved on to new projects. While I was/am happy for them- I’m still missing the gang, many of which were Libreville veterans who had been here for years. Thankfully though, there are great people here, and more are arriving so that keeps things fun. Man, meeting the new people really puts things in perspective and highlights how far we’ve come in six months. So much comes at you on arrival. I think I spent the first month in complete shock. You can see ‘the look’ in new people’s faces, and I think- thank god I’m through that stage. Haha.
All in all, I’d say Libreville forces you to chill out. Roaches in cabs, rodents in the grocery store, garbage piles taller than I am, empty ATM machines, ho hum. There is no sense of urgency here, so you best take a deep breath and mellow out. The snail pace still tests my resolve though, especially when things break. Like, when the internet stops working for over a week, or your cable gets cancelled the same day you run out of propane for the stove. What to do now? I’ll walk to the grocery store. Oh, I forgot it closes for 3 hours in the middle of the day on Fridays. That’s when Diego and I go to the pool, or play cards with a neighbor. Haha. There has been A LOT of card playing lately. Haha. A change of plan is our way of life these days. It’s like Gabon is constantly reminding you to expect the unexpected. I like to think it’s made me a little more patient but who knows, I still lose my cool – like yesterday when the power went out while I had a Dutch Baby baking in the oven. BLAST! (It still turned out). The good part of all this is, we really appreciate when things work.
Tanner, bolder, and more self-reliant these days,