Things to Get Used to… Part II

Friday 13 August 2010

6.  Red Dirt

Fine red dirt is everywhere here.  The red dirt is like flour and it coats everything it touches.  Vehicles go zooming by our hotel sending this powder up into the air.  The trees and plants have a thick, dusk-like layer of red on them.  It finds a way into shoes, sandals, clothes, mouth, etc. quite easily.  I made the mistake of buying a pair of white sneakers just before moving here.  They aren’t so white anymore.

7.  Grocery Shopping

There are a few supermarkets here in PG, the newest and best being Super CKdo.  It is probably a quarter of the size of your average Safeway at home.  The wine section is bigger than the entire produce section.  (Some of you may be thinking that might be a good thing, but I don’t want to come home with liver disease!)  One would think, being in a jungle with warm weather all year long there would be a lot of locally grown produce here.  That is not the case; everything is imported.  The selection is miniscule.  This will prove to be a challenge when planning meals, as you are never sure what you might be able to get.

Aside from produce, most of the non-perishable goods are imported from France.  Brands and packaging are unfamiliar so it makes a simple shopping trip into a lesson as you try to figure out what is what.  There also is not a lot of selection.  At home when looking for a can of tomatoes you find half an isle of different brands and varieties.  You can decide between whole or diced, flavoured with spices or plain.  Here, there is 1 variety.  If you want diced, dice them yourself.

8.  Shopping Hours

Shops, including grocery stores, usually open between 8 and 9 am.  They remain open until 1 or 1:30 pm where they will closed for an hour or two for their lunch breaks/siesta.  Around 3:00, everything reopens.  Everything closes for the day at 7 pm.  There are no 24-hour convenience stores or anything of the sort.  Hopefully I never forget an ingredient or run out of milk or something as I’ll be out of luck!

Everything is closed on Sunday.  There are a handful of restaurants that are open but it is hit or miss and if they stay open Sunday, they’ll be closed Monday.

9.  Stray Animals

It is not uncommon to have to shoo away a chicken or rooster from your vehicle at the grocery store parking lot.  There are a lot of stray dogs that wander the streets.  They aren’t particularly hostile nor friendly.  I actually haven’t heard one bark yet.  Goats also make a regular appearance.  While walking along the main road beside the ocean, Joe and I saw a goat hanging out in a park and he must have enjoyed the 3 weddings that took place there earlier that afternoon.

10.  Cost

Things are expensive here!  Most people are surprised to hear that many of the most expensive cities in the world are actually in Africa.  Libreville, the capital city in Gabon, is #3 on that list this year.

To give you an idea of what things cost here, these are a few prices we’ve encountered recently:

Monthly rent for (hopefully) our new house – 4 000$/month
Old El Paso Taco Kit – 12$
Small bunch of Asparagas – 13$
Small men’s deoderant – 9$
Package of 5 men’s razor blades – 50$
Dinner for 2 at your average, mediocre restaurant (by Canada’s standards) with 1 drink each, no appetizers, no dessert – 60$
Couch, loveseat & chair that look like they’re from 10 years ago but really brand new – 4 000$

Coke and local beer can be bought for 1.50$ each in the grocery store but that seems to be the anomaly.


  1. So you're telling anyone who comes to visit:
    1. wear red shoes
    2. prepare for shopping Quesnel circa 1960-1970
    3. drink red wine (which oh by the way looks fine spilled on red shoes!)
    4. and drink beer for breakfast, lunch, and supper
    I'll be over in a jiffy.......but you have to pay the rent!

  2. Dears; I wrote a note to you and it vanished into cyberspace or somewhere.
    Are your dollars in Canadian or //????.sounds like the old fasioned stores.
    We are still enjoying hot weather. Nice to have a summer.Hope you get your house. Love to you both, ~Gram~ Did you get the Email I sent?

  3. Those are prices converted into Canadian dollars. Here they use Central African Francs (CFA) and it is about 500 CFA's to $1.

    Yes, did get your email but barely get on here to reply! Can't wait until we have a house with our own internet!


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