First Impressions

Friday 30 July 2010

We have arrived in Port Gentil.  The journey is not a quick one but it actually went very well.  We were fortunate enough to be bumped up to first class for 2 flights, one from Toronto to Frankfurt and another from Frankfurt to Libreville.  That made a huge difference in our travels.

We arrived in Port Gentil early Tuesday morning.  We were picked up by a driver from Joe’s company and dropped off at a hotel directly across the street from Joe’s work.  The hotel is livable.  We have a one-bedroom suite with a small kitchen.  It is fine for the time being but both Joe and I are anxious to find our own home.

So I know many people are wondering what it’s like… I’ll try to sum up some of my first impressions as best as I can.

The City:  Apparently, Port Gentil has around 100 000 residents but it does not feel like a town in Canada with that population.  Much of the town looks a lot alike.  Many of the buildings look a little run down, partly due to lack of upkeep.  The centre of town is littered with homes, expat and wealthier local homes, restaurants, shops and markets.

There is an area referred to as ‘the village’ by locals and expats alike.  I have not ventured there yet and I’m sure it would provide a different scene, as I know that many of the locals live in poverty.

The streets are bustling with vehicles, often dodging potholes, and people.  It doesn’t seem to matter the time of day; there are all sorts of people everywhere.  Generally, people are pleasant and friendly.  The language barrier is a bit of an issue as almost no one speaks English.  Sometimes my limited French isn’t even enough to get the point across.  When it does, they tend to reply back speaking so fast I’m lost after the first phrase.  Hopefully this will become easier with practice.

Climate:  It is generally pleasant.  It hasn’t been overbearingly hot nor cool.  We are in the winter season so it is a few degrees cooler right now.  I’d say it hovers around 27 with of course, some humidity.  It seems most places have air conditioners so it is easy to cool off.

Roads:  I grew up living in Saskatchewan and I thought I knew what bad roads looked and felt like.  Ha.  There are a few well-maintained paved roads through town but they often turn into a nightmare.  There are, literally, potholes the size of swimming pools here… and several of them in rows down streets.  Often times, people drive down the shoulder of the road or the opposite side or wherever they can in order to avoid the potholes.  I imagine this can get dangerous for pedestrians.  Sometimes, it is not possible to avoid them and it is like off-roading in the city.  Just when you think the road couldn’t possibly get any worse, it does.

All in all, while it is a big adjustment, I can see Joe and I adjusting to our new surroundings and enjoying life here.  Things move at a slower pace, the people and the town are vibrant and the beaches are beautiful.

Well this post is getting long and although there is much more to post, I will save it for a later date.

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