This past weekend we moved to a new apartment downtown!
- LIGHT! This is the most noticeable (and appreciated) difference compared to our old digs. Our living area has three floor to ceiling windows that face the ocean, so we are flooded with sun and have a great view sunsets.
- More interior space! Yeehaw! We have a second bedroom/office space that is perfect as a laundry room. We don’t have a dryer yet (most people don’t), but we may have one soon! whoopie! For now, the second bedroom houses multiple drying racks that the previous tenant left behind. Score.
- A half bath! In addition to the master bathroom, which is pretty spacious – we also have a 1/2 bath in the foyer area. That will be great for guests!
- A full kitchen! Our fridge is almost US sized… we have an oven now! I made my first quiche last night and we’ve dubbed it a success.
- South African Cable! Say WHAaaaaaaat? YES. I have versions of Food Network, E, Fox, Travel Channel, Nat Geo, and more! DUDE. I watched some Barefoot Contessa today- simple comforts!
- Improved internet! At the new place, we are able to stream movies, music, and have had better luck with Facetime, at all hours. YES.
- Walkability! We are now within walking distance to Gabonaise attractions such as, CK2 (Walmart/Best Buy), two Artisan Markets, a grocery store, restaurants and our new favorite bakery – La Parisienne. This place is legit, and not just legit ‘for Gabon’. They have super tasty sandwiches, delicate pastries, baguettes, crepes… it’s ON. MMmmmm, butter.
- English/French speaking, lovely neighbors! The couple that lives above us, colleagues of Brandon’s – have been wonderful. On Monday, the wife took me all around downtown… showing me where the nice fruit stand lady is, how to get to bank, even got me a ‘club card’ for the grocery store! (Here they call them, ‘Fidelity Cards’. heehee. I don’t know why that makes me laugh.) Then after a few hours touring around, she had me over for lunch and her special Greek coffee-frappe! Heaven.
What’s less than rad.
This place is a definite upgrade, and we are stoked on all of the above. The challenge here (every place has at least one) is the lack of ‘pet’ space. We are downtown, and just like city centers back home… there is a lack of potty-appropriate area. We have already been shooed away from the nearest little grass area, so we’ve been using the overgrown traffic circle as our personal yard. Diego literally disappears from view when he jumps in to take care of business. Trooper. It’s really fun, I stand there with Diego on leash (whom no one can actually see) and I get a bunch of bizarre stares as people drive in circles around me. “Who is the white girl up to her knees in weeds?” Linz y’all!
Once we are through outside, we navigate our way back to the apartment. Our new building is mostly commercial… bank on the main floor, a series of other offices up to about floor 4, then it transitions to apartments. Lots of professional types coming in and out all day…. a big change from our old place. What’s consistent about our new neighbors however, is the confounded look you get for having a dog. I laugh it off most the time, but some people’s reactions are so ridiculous, you’d think I was leading a rabid rhinoceros into the building! The looks get old, but I’m sure as more and more people see us, they’ll get over it. In the meantime – it sure would be nice not to have to take Diego out so much…
Enter, the engineer! To remedy the situation, Brandon has been bringing home bundles of grass from a nursery near his office. We have grand plans for a potty-patch type dealio on our small balcony, and it’s coming right along – or at least we think so. Diego doesn’t yet share our potty aspirations, but we have hope he’ll come around. I don’t care if we have to lug a tree up to the 7th floor, he’s gonna learn to potty up here, dangit! The Stattons conquer potty breaks!?! HAHA.
Challenges aside, we are grateful for the new place. The mold of Royal A is now a distant memory. Spores no more!
ps. By the time I write my next post, I will be an official resident of Gabon! Tomorrow I am off to get my carte de séjour which makes me a legit resident! Woooot. Imagine DMW/Social Security office, Africa style. Me thinks I’ll have a story to share. : )
Last night as we were prepared for our first night without power, I told B, “Africa ain’t for sissies.”
Much of the city was without power yesterday. One neighbor’s building has even been without water for days… double whammy! That leaves her and her husband to shower via the bottled water method. (In preparation for such events, we are advised to fill empty water bottles with tap water so that you may shower/flush toilets when water is unavailable.) With our water working, I was counting my blessings… though powerless, we could flush, shower and cook since our stovetop runs off a propane tank. However, we needed to procure a few things before the sun went down… namely, candles and matches.
For the first time, I went to the Cecado by myself to gather the supplies. (Linz conquers previously unremarkable errand!) Although the store is within walking distance, I felt accomplished going alone. Walking with money and my cell phone in my pocket isn’t something I am 100% comfortable with, yet. Then, there’s the checking out process…
Since I don’t have a good grasp of my numbers yet, paying and handing over cash can be a little awkward. Usually, at this local place… the checker ends up rifling through my available funds and taking all my coins, haha. We have learned that Gabonese aren’t big on change. As in, the surplus of money you are owed when you pay with a note greater than the total. From what we’ve experienced, you’re lucky if they get you within a few dollars of what you are actually owed. There have been times when we’ve got nothing back at all aside from a look that says, “get lost,” haha. I don’t know if small bills are rare or what, but stores big and small get visibly irritated when you can’t pay with exact change – which for us, is almost all the time. How do you give change when you rarely receive change? Another time…
So I did it… I got there, I found what I needed… I bought 2 packs of taper candles, 2 boxes of matches, 2 cans of kidney beans and a 6 pack of big waters. Total 8,630 (about $17). As I am finishing up paying, I look up and realize the bagger guy is outside with all my items. DANGIT! He expects to be paid for the assistance I didn’t request. Luckily, I was given a 500 note back with my “change” (about $1) so I gave it to him and he released my groceries.
I made it home with enough light to get Diego outside and to start making dinner!! We ate quietly with our provisions of candles and matches close by. Just as we were losing the last rays of light, the lights flicked on. SCORE. Weirdly enough, the WIFI was magically working just before the power came on? Then as the power returned, the WIFI went to poo. I asked B how this could be possible? We agreed never to question why things are working. Reminder again to maintain an attitude of gratitude. So our provisions didn’t end up being used, but we figured, hey – at least we’re prepared for next time.
‘Next time’ ended up being this morning… no power until noon, and then again this evening just as B got home from work. Once everything was back on, I checked my email to find a detailed schedule of outages for the entire week. These were planned!?!?! Granted, they were inconvenient, but dare I say I was impressed with the power company. Damn if the black outs weren’t dead on schedule!
Surprises, I’m learning, are something you can count on here.
Takeaway this evening? All is relative. Last month, I would be put off when What Not To Wear was overrun with Say Yes to The Dress. Today, ‘irritating’ is no power and recent threat of water shortages. I’ll deal with that when it comes. Until then, this week’s interruptions have served as a nice reminder that uncertainty is a part of life, and the healthiest place to be is the moment. Not fearful of the future, or focused on the past. I’m working on this.
Libreville is keeping me on my toes, and though parts are difficult, I am grateful for the realness of my life right now. I feel more in touch with myself and my precious family of Brandon & Diego than I have been in a long while. My emotions run the gamete, content to frustrated, triumphant to nervous, laughter to tears. But it’s all real man, and teeming with perspective.
Currently missing: you. dryers. a car.
Currently grateful for: electricity. bottled water. wifi.
Current Mantras: Here, Now.
Today, the maintenance dudes (who knew) showed up and addressed the multiple smoke alarms that have been chirping non-stop for a week throughout our building! Hooooooooooooooooray!
It was mighty echo-y around here, let me tell ya! All the hallways and units are tile/marble here, so we had some DOLBY surround sound shiz happening! Literally, a perma-eye-twitch wasn’t far off. I have no idea if the batteries were actually replaced or just removed (completely possible), and I don’t even care! Sanity is mine! It’s peaceful again, and I am stoked at the silence.
We’ve officially been “residents” for 9 days, can I get an A-MEN-nah?!?! Brandon is almost through his first full week of work, and Diego and I have been learning the ropes. Where to begin…
Not sure if ‘Panty Roses’ were available in the states for Valentines day this year, but here they can be got quite easily on the main boulevard. Just roll down your window, negotiate a price and it’s yours! Your very own fake rose complete with faux water droplets, and one-size-fits-all thong that is wrapped around the stem. We weren’t in the market for any undies, but we did celebrate our first African V-Day with a group of couples from work. 11 of us dined at La Sud (The South), a nice fish restaurant that is run by a Frenchman. No menu… each days cuisine depends on what he caught or bought that day. You could say – everything is ‘Market’ fresh? The food did not disappoint. Brandon and I both ordered Capitan Provencal – a nice white fish with an herbed tomato sauce/salsa, served with rice and a small salad. YUM! Even despite all the cigarette smoke. : )
After dinner it was pool time! As in billiards. We walked up a few blocks to an unassuming exterior and entered what looked to be a totally legit club/bar/billiards place. That seems to be the way of things here… You never know quite what you’re gonna get. Exteriors don’t necessarily denote the quality of the interior, and vice versa. You know what is consistent around here, though? Gas stations. They are oddly comforting, almost just like what you’d see at home. Although when you walk into the ‘Mart’ portion… people are standing around drinking? Anywho! Pool was fun… typical nightclub atmosphere, complete with music, overpriced drinks, and those dudes that stand around the perimeter staring at all the ladies.
The ladies I’ve met have been very gracious, inviting me to accompany them places… offering to show me around. Their hospitality is GOLD I tell you. Not speaking the language or knowing where you are – you depend heavily on the kindness of others, and I feel very fortunate to be included. On Tuesday, I accompanied them to the tailor, CK2 (which I will call Gabonaise IKEA), the Artisan Market, ATM, lunch, fruit stands and grocery store. My biggest day to date! Almost 7 hours seeing new sights, going down new streets, attempting a few French phrases… I was exhausted by the time I got back home.
His business is located in a long narrow cinderblock stall, a few minutes drive from our place. (Note: One of the girls has a car and drives, only having lived here 8 months. My hero.) The 3 girls had items in varies stages of completion… some were dropping off things to be made, others were making alterations to garments in progress, and some were picking up finished pieces. What an experience. The tailor seemed very nice. He smiles quite a bit, which stands out to me lately. He and his 2 employees work amidst PILES of fabric, all with hand written notes attached… measurements and the like. They seem to be plenty busy. Apparently it was the place to be… while we were there, we ran into one of the directors from the French Institute and other friend from our building. All these people in a very tiny space, mind you!
The girls tried on their new duds in the dressing room (the area partitioned off by a shower curtain in the corner of the room), and it was a success! Cute dresses, cute skirts… some required a bit more tailoring for size, but I was impressed! You can either bring the tailor a photo, or drop off an existing garment you want him to copy, along with the fabric of your choice… Then you come back a few days later, and Voila! I have a photo below of a cute peplum dress he made for a friend, with exposed zipper in back, for $30. Holler! I am excited to get something made… but a trip to the ‘fabric lady’ has to happen first. So we left there, after encountering a small mouse – and headed to Gabonaise IKEA!
..or IKEA, as we’ll call it…great surprise.
- A) This place has a dedicated parking lot
- B) Well stocked, and you get a receipt
CK2 would be best described as a Target/IKEA/Best Buy hybrid… but without the food component. When you walk in, it feels like a combination of the aforementioned. A/C, florescent lighting… All the signage is done in blue and yellow, hammering home that IKEA vibe. But yeah, one of the girls needed a blender, so for about $80, you can buy the lowest end model available. AND they throw in an eye roll for free! Blender: check.
Then it was off to downtown to go to La Parisian, a lovely cafe/bakery from what I’m told. We didn’t succeed at our goal, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The area was really congested… cars inching along, no where to park (people pull up on the sidewalk to park here), so we changed course, and hit up the Artisan Market since we were in the area. There are two of these markets in town from what I understand… we went to the bigger one. Here I learned about the parking attendant. As we parked near the market… a guy helped us locate a “spot” (I use that term loosely), and guided us into it with with hand signals, etc. This is not a gesture of kindness, it’s a service. If you pull into the place he “showed you,” you pay. You also pay when you get back into your car to leave. Lots of entrepreneurs here.
Anyway, the market. Behind a concrete wall are stalls and stalls of vendors, covered by a mostly complete corrugated metal roof. HI-YO! I mean, it’s hot here all the time… but put a lot of bodies in a mostly enclosed space with no air flow, and baby – it’s steam shower in there. haha. This market is the place to go if you want anything carved out of wood…figurines, masks, tongs, bottle openers and the like. You can also buy quite a bit of clothing and fabric, alligator shoes (preowned), bracelets, and even random new pairs of sparkly hooker-esque shoes, haha.
We steamed in the market for an hour or so. Some of the men in there speak a few words of English – you hear, “Good price” a fair bit… haggling is part of the experience, and I learned, you have to be willing to walk away. Play the guys against each other, and work for the price you want. I don’t feel confident enough in my numbers to haggle just yet, but give me time. As I walked around, I was taught, “j’observe”, which is ‘I’m just looking’ – that was very helpful. If you look at anything, the dealers are ON you to buy buy buy, so I got comfortable with my, “just looking” and “no thanks” phrases. And I was just looking, until I spotted some potential lounge wear pants… I dont know if it was heat exhaustion or hunger, but I had to have them! Sopping wet, I asked-
“Combien?” (how much?)…
“cinq mille,” (Five thousand) I understood.
Just like that, I had made my first purchase! A sweet pair of purple paisley harem/Aladdin pants for about $10 bucks. Photo below. After a bit more browsing, we navigated our way through a series of road blocks (dealers who block the aisles to sit and eat lunch), and we made it back outside to the fresh-ish air with our treasures in tow, and starving!
This is a new restaurant that opened about a month ago in the center of town. Great surprise. Again – after coming from the Aristan Market neighborhood – Paolo’s is a TOTAL haven. Air conditioned, waiters in matching uniforms… A Menu! Bottled water! HOLLER. They specialize in sandwiches and pizzas that actually look very good, as well as desserts and gelato. The four of us sat for lunch and I ordered a croque monsieur, which was only $5 – very affordable for Libreville, and it was great! Lately, anything that I don’t have to make it amazing. I hope to return there soon…
We finished off the day swinging by a fruit/vegetable stand, the tailor one more time, and Géant Ckdo (the big grocer). So far, this fruit stand has been my favorite. The lady was very nice, she threw in some English where she could, and gave me a free lime with my purchase of a pineapple and some oranges. Dig it.
More later. Until then, a few photos I’ve managed to snap. Sorry for the bad quality! My phone is always foggy!
À plus tard,
p.s. For anyone on Instagram, check out the user, jaimelbv. A nice sampling of photos showing Libreville in a very flattering light. I’m anxious to find some of the locations in their feed… I must say, they don’t look too familiar : )
I had plans to go to lunch with few girls today, but it turns out my digestive system had other plans, dangit! There’s always next time I suppose. At least this extra time affords me the time to do another update!
Yesterday, a lovely neighbor introduced herself and invited me up for coffee. She took me on my first taxi ride, where I learned that fares are negotiated before you take your seat. No meters in Gabon. First things first – where do you want to go? And how much do you want to pay? Second- do you want the cab to yourself? Yes? That’ll cost extra. Cabs are more like busses in terms of function. If you are headed down to Geant CKdo (a grocery store) and anyone on the way is headed that direction too, they hop in the cab with you. Making friends! haha. Note: Always exit the cab on the right side.
Unfortunately, once we negotiated our fare, it was time to part ways with our canine shadows. There are lots of street dogs here, and two take permanent residence in the alley outside our apartment (pics to come). The boy dog, who I am calling Tres (because he hops around on his 3 good legs) and Mama dog, who is obscenely pregnant. Puppy anyone? They seem really friendly, but I typically don’t get too close, though Diego really wants to meet them.
Anywho, as we headed for the main thoroughfare yesterday to catch a cab, Tres & Mama followed us…The WHOLE way – literally, in a perfect heel… navigating traffic, and the roads here are busy! (probably explains Tres’ only 3 working legs.) The girl I was with explained that last time Mama had puppies she started feeding them, and now whenever they see her – they stick to her like glue. She wasn’t kidding!
Once we got to the Geant, I was pleased to see that most items had price tags. AKA, when you ring up, they scan your items just like they do in the States, and the price shows up on a traditional looking register. Whereas the first market (cecado) I went to, rings by strictly recall – all the pricing from memory, and if they don’t know it (about 30% of the time) they make up a price. Prrrrrrobably getting ripped off there… another reason I need to get my numbers down fast, among other things.
But yeah – word from coworkers is that Geant is a safe place to shop – so I bit the bullet, and got some produce – even meat! (Which some of you know, even skeevs me out to buy in the States.) Feeling a little cautious about the dinner I had planned to make tonight, considering the state my stomach is in- having eaten only prepackaged items, nothing fresh. Oh well, gotta jump in sometime. Send my gut solid thoughts friends! Happy, probiotic thoughts!? haha.
Most items in store are in French, but you do see things like Corona, Coke, and most Post cereals. I bought a few bags worth of groceries, including random other essentials like all purpose cleaner, a wine opener, paper towels, and then basics like juice, cheese, flour, etc. The total came to 58,30 CIFA. (Had to borrow 1oK from my new friend/neighbor). Cost equivalent, about $120. Food is really expensive here because most everything is imported. Tortillas are $9.00, I passed on those – though I was tempted. Learning quickly that I need to come to the market prepared… getting to the store is a bit of an ordeal. Gone are my daily walks to Wegmans to grab whatever I needed for whatever I felt like cooking that night. Meal planning is going to be a must. Load up on groceries, less often, and get creative. We don’t have an oven in the apartment, so I am working with 1 pot, and 1 skillet, and a microwave until our shipment arrives. Nothing I can’t handle… but an adjustment for sure.
I spent the rest of the afternoon getting my creative juices flowing at my neighbor’s place. She loves to paint and was gracious enough to share her supplies with me. It was so lovely being in her apartment… she has been here a year, so her place was homey, and decorated. Felt like something actually lived there, which was so amazing compared to our blank, bare bones place. We made Valentine’s day cards and listened to music…I could have been anywhere.
Happy Valentine’s Day,
Bonjour! We made it to Libreville, and it’s now our second day in town. The trip here feels so long ago, oddly enough… maybe that’s the jet lag talking – but, once we landed, a lot came at us – fast. It’s assimilation time! Compared to our first day in Libreville, the journey getting here seems unremarkable – though at the time, felt daunting. *ps. Diego did fantastic. Almost 20 hours from start to finish, he made not a peep until our final hour waiting in line for our visa. He didn’t mess his crate, and doesn’t seem to hate me for putting him through that.
Since we landed a little over a day ago, we have been hosted for dinner at a colleague’s home, experienced our first tropical thunderstorm, visited the local grocer twice, had our medical orientation, gone to what looks like the Gabonese Walmart, acquired a sim card for my iPhone with the help of a french speaking coworker of B’s, we’re learning to navigate street dogs with Diego in tow, walked down to the Bord de Mer (the main street that runs along the ocean), made our first meal, and completed a load of laundry. People- it feels like a major accomplishment.
Today is Brandon’s first full day of work, and Diego and my first day “alone”. Although the accommodations leave a few things to be desired, the absence of smell for example, we have TV that gets a few channels – among them, the Olympics, in English- which is awesome. AND! The most amazing of all – INTERNET. Incredibly grateful to have working internet and a cell phone today! (all of which are possible because Brandon is the best). It has come in very handy already, for instance- this morning I translated a message for the building cleaning lady, explaining that it is unnecessary for her to come everyday (which I wrote on a receipt for her to read). I have been in touch with family and friends via email, iMessage and even FaceTime has been working. Our best hours for a good connection are in the AM and afternoon. In the evenings, the connection is taxed because everyone is home and taking up bandwidth.
We are temporarily living in an apartment building called, Royal… a series of three buildings, two of which house other company employees. We have heard that we’ll be here for a month or so until we are moved into our actual place, which we hear is a bit nicer. Not too shabby.
Initial culture shock-like observations include: Large lizards, everywhere. haha. Machetes are available at the grocery store, (they are in a cardboard box near the paper plates, of course). Cars always have the right of way. Diego is quite the anomaly here, lots of rubber-necking from people walking and driving by us.
More later. Until then, here is small album of our travel day.
Unbeknownst to Linz this site is being developed, setup, and brought to the internets live – by her husband – in preparation to be handed over to her on Christmas. The purpose of this website is so that she can post images, content, videos – things of interest to her – so that her friends and family can see what she is up to. This is mostly due to the fact the Linz moves… a lot… and does not have the luxury of close proximity, daily phone conversations, or face-to-face coffee chats with the people she cares about.
Love you Linz!