Go Gabon!

Tuesday 31 January 2012

As blogged before, the Africa Cup of Nations has taken over Gabon & Equatorial Guinea.  Gabon has now played 2 games and won both of them and everyone is reveling in pride and joy over their team's performance.  To be honest, it's been so nice to see so many smiles on the streets over the last week.  People are sporting green, blue & yellow, Gabon's colours, and the excitement in the air on game days is infectious.

There is a park a few blocks away from us and they have a large screen set up for spectators to watch the games.  When Gabon scores it almost feels like we could be in the stadium.  Cheers erupt, taxis are honking and vuvuzelas are blown up and down the streets.  Joe drove home from work at halftime for Gabon's first game and he exclaimed just how dangerous it was to be on the roads.  Taxis and minibuses were packed to the brim with people hanging out the windows waving flags and scarves.  Vehicles were flying down the road doubling the speed limit, honking and swerving.  There were people dancing in the streets and exclaiming their excitement to complete strangers.

Because we live right down town, we're right in the middle of all of it and even though the noise does get old hours after the game has ended, we're happy to see everyone so happy.  I can't even imagine how crazy it will get as Gabon continues in the competition.  (We have 1 game left in the opening qualifiers although with the last 2 wins we've secured a spot in the next round.)  The only thing I'm worried about is what happens when we lose, especially if it happens to be against a rival?

Odd Early Morning Wake-up Calls

Monday 30 January 2012

Lately, Joe & I have been getting woken up at 5 am by the football team, the police and/or the army.

All 3 of these groups take morning group runs past my house several times a week.  The running itself is not that disruptive however each group, with up to 50 people, clap, sing & chant along to a whistle as they pass.  You should know that they run incredibly slow.  My normal walking pace is probably quicker than their 'run.'  Actually, it's more like running on the spot and occasionally taking a step forward.  Also in order to keep traffic at bay, whatever traffic there might be at 5 am, there is one whistler at the front of the group and one whistler at the back of the group blowing those whistles with fervor.  And let's not forget the singing - I suppose it could be compared to a military chant although with an African twist.

All of this begins as early as 5 am and often times, one group passes and 10 minutes later comes another group, or the first group turned around and came back - I don't get up to look.  I just wish they'd find a different route.  We're one block from the road along the ocean... wouldn't that be nicer?

I did capture it on video one day but Wordpress is going to make me pay to upload it... sorry.


(PS. Our internet has been touch and go for a couple of weeks now.  Sorry if you've been left waiting for replies or skype chats!)


Tuesday 24 January 2012

The French have a lot of little sayings using 'bon' or 'bonne,' both of which mean good.

Bon arrivé (welcoming after travel)

Bon voyage (have a safe/good trip)

Bonjour (hello)

Bon courage (hang in there)

Bon chance (good luck)

Bonne journée (have a good day)

Bon après-midi (have a good afternoon)

Bonne nuit (good night)

Bonsoir (good evening)

Bonne soirée (have a good evening)

There are others too.  I used to think it was a bit excessive.  It seemed like every time I did something, someone was wishing a 'Bon' this and a "Bonne" that, however now I catch myself wishing I could use them in English.  They're so short and convenient and when I try to use the English equivalent it just doesn't seem to translate or fit the situation as well.  Funny how that happens.  I guess it's a sign that I'm becoming more and more accustomed to speaking mostly in French.

It's here! The Africa Cup of Nations is here!

Saturday 21 January 2012

Yes, you read that correctly.  Gabon along with Equatorial Guinea are playing host to the Africa Cup of Nations this year and it starts today.  Those of us living in Gabon have been hearing about this tournament a lot over the last year as the country has been scrambling to make sure everything is ready for the expected 80 000 footballers, fans & tourists that will be entering the country.  New stadiums have been built and infrastructure mildly improved in Libreville & Franceville so that Gabon can put it's 'best' foot forward for it's visitors.  The government is taking it seriously too; they mandated that all schools in the ENTIRE country will be closed for the 3 weeks the tournament lasts (obviously, football trumps education.  Duh.)  In Port Gentil, the mass exodus of expats have begun leaving the few of us staying behind with deserted grocery stores and beaches.

Will Joe and I take in any part of this football extravaganza?  Absolutely not!  In fact, most people I know in Port Gentil have no intention of heading to Libreville.  You may wonder why as it is a bit of a big deal and nothing much ever happens in Gabon so it should be exciting but we know how things generally happen around here and I'd rather not be in the middle of it.  Apparently, all hotel rooms, who even in normal circumstances are ridiculously overpriced, are completely sold out and it's difficult enough to navigate Libreville as a tourist let alone with the addition of 80 000 other foreigners.  We'll sit back and enjoy the lull in Port Gentil instead.

This morning I came across a rather funny take on the ACON.  Take a look here.

Why You NEED to Visit South Africa

Friday 20 January 2012

Every time Joe and I visit South Africa, we fall more and more in love with it.  (Read about it here, here, here & here.)  Yes, it certainly has it's issues and I know there would be downfalls to living there full time however, it is a fabulous place to visit and this is why...

  1. Kruger Park.  One of the most famous safari destinations in the world and it does not disappoint.  If you want the Africa experience that you see in the movies, this is the place to go.  Animals are abundant as are safari lodges ranging from rustic to ultra luxurious.
  2. The People.  From our experiences, South Africans are so kind and welcoming.  They have had such a vibrant and at times, terrible history but their resilience is inspiring.

  3. There is something for everybody.  Obviously, the animal lover will be in paradise but there's the wine country to drive through, the posh city life in Cape Town, cage diving with sharks for the adventurers, you can see life in townships first hand and learn about South Africa's rich and turbulent history.

  4. It's Beautiful.  The Cape of Good Hope and up the coastline, Table Mountain, beautiful beaches, wine country and many more sites to take your breath away.

  5. The Food.  Delicious.  Fabulous meat, fantastic home grown produce and more restaurants than you could ever want.  To top it all off, it's not that expensive!  Joe & I constantly revel at the bill wondering how we got all that great food for such a good price.

  6. VAT Refund.  In South Africa if you are a tourist you get all tax money back from your purchases.  Save your receipts and research how it works (it is a bit of a process and you must prepare ahead of time) but you get money back in your pocket at the airport when you leave the country.  Seriously, who else does that?

I know it's a bit of a trek for those of you residing in North America but I promise you, you will not be disappointed.  Save your money, book your trip, and if you feel so inclined, invite us!

Le Jardinier

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Joe's company hires us a gardener who comes around every 2 weeks to do the yard.

He drives this...

The weed eater/whipper snipper, rake and machete are strapped to the cross bar.  The small fuel bucket gets tied down to the back and he even carries a large canvas bag filled with all the clippings on the handle bars.  It must not be easy navigating traffic on a bike here not to mention the shady roads he has to travel on to reach everyone's houses.  (I can't imagine in the rainy season when some roads turn into giant pools of waist-high water.)

What is also not easy, nor efficient, is that no one owns a lawn mower here.  We once saw a gardener cutting the grass of an entire football field WITH A WHIPPER SNIPPER.  Can you imagine?

Tuesdays with Mahjong

Monday 16 January 2012

I've taken up a new hobby, as one tends to do when they have nothing else to do, and that is the game 'Mahjong.'  It's a Chinese game that could be compared to rummy except it's played with tiles instead of cards.  I've heard that it's fairly addictive and many of people have gambled away their savings and worldly possessions but don't worry, we don't even play for points let alone money.

The dealing is the most complicated part of the game.  Without going into great detail, everyone begins with 13 tiles except the dice roller, who has 14 and discards first to get the game going.

We move through, drawing and discarding in the hopes of putting our tiles into groups of 3.  You aim for 3 of a kind (called a pong) or a run (chow) and one pair.

My winning hand.

We have a regular group that gets together Tuesday morning (we've started Thursday mornings now too - I guess it really is addictive) and we begin with tea and snacks before we get serious.  We'll often get 8-10 games in before we must go for lunch.  It is quite fun and I find myself looking forward to Tuesday.  We've even discussed a game night where we'll stick the men in one room to play poker and we'll do mahjong - I know, we're pretty wild.


Sunday 15 January 2012

After Mauritius we decided to stay in Johannesburg, South Africa for a few days to enjoy city life and stock up on anything we needed in Gabon.  We've been through the airport in Jo-burg more times than I can remember but had never actually ventured into the city.  You see, out of anywhere in SA, Johannesburg seems to have the worst reputation and it isn't much of a tourist destination.  People are much more likely to head off to Cape Town, on safari to Kruger or even up to Durban.  Regardless, we didn't want to have to buy another flight to Cape Town just to shop.

We researched the safest and most convenient areas ahead of time as Johannesburg certainly isn't a place where you want to wander around blindly.  We settled on Rosebank which worked out perfectly as we easily got there using the Guatrain, a clean & safe high speed train that goes right to the airport.  Rosebank is home to a few nice hotels, a shopping mall and many restaurants so it was really easy for us to do all that we needed to do.  We did venture to Melrose and Sandton, both similar to Rosebank but because of our short time there and our big shopping lists, we didn't do much else.  I had really hoped to get to the apartheid museum but we ran out of time.

Hanging with Mr Mandela at Sandton.

Calgary has cows, Johannesburg has rhinos.

Yummy breakfast at Tasha's cafe every morning.

Look at all the fresh fruit - I was in heaven!

We did have a really nice time in Johannesburg and while I originally thought 3 days would be too much, I actually wished we had a bit more time.  As I said before, I would have really liked to visit the Apartheid Museum and others recommended a township tour.  Maybe next time.

A note about security...

Joe and I didn't feel particularly unsafe but we didn't feel particularly comfortable either.  We were fairly cautious about everything we did.  I'm quite happy we had so many restaurants at our disposal in Rosebank because I wouldn't have wanted to wander very far at night.  Joe asked his 20-something hairdresser about security and she cautioned that even in the nice areas, it's not safe to go anywhere alone at night, not even to your car.  (Especially as a woman.)  It's not a city you can walk around and explore because you don't want to risk wandering into the wrong neighbourhood.  That being said, we checked with the hotel ahead of time before venturing out and had no problems.  Like we'd already experienced in SA, the people are nice and welcoming and we really did enjoy our stay.

Funny Little Story

Thursday 12 January 2012

It was a friend's birthday yesterday and a group of us ladies decided to go out for a late afternoon drink to a little place downtown on the water.  One of the ladies ordered a gin & tonic but emphasized that she'd like just a little gin (they have a tendency to pour half and half here.)  We drank our drinks and when it came time to go we began to break down the bill.  We noticed the server had forgot to charge for the gin and being the good people we are, we let her know so she could fix it.

Well she explained to us that the gin was free because it was just a little .

I saw it and it was clearly a full shot in the cup.

Lessons learned -

Alcohol really is cheap here.
Next time I feel like a highball, order 'just a little' and the booze is on the house!


An Evening with the Ladies

Monday 9 January 2012

Expat housewives are always looking for something to do, particularly, another social event to organise.  We tend to do a ladies night every couple of months which switches up our normal morning cafés and it gives us something to look forward to.  This time, our Japanese friend proposed a dinner at her house and invited the women who walk in the morning.

Generally, we each bring a dish and wine or champagne to drink.  This time I decided to make a cheesecake.  Like, a real one.  I've made a few things that call themselves cheesecake but they're really just dessert with cream cheese in them.  I knew it was a bit ambitious as I'd never made one before and I had heard they were a bit finicky but I felt I needed to make a proper showing.  Many of my housewife friends here are fantastic cooks and they always seem to have something delicious to bring.  I, on the other hand, am new to this housewife stuff and while I can certainly cook, I wouldn't say I'm great at it.  I usually opt to bring an easy appetizer or if I can get away with bringing beer or wine I'm even happier because I'm never very confident about sharing what I make.

I kept my fingers crossed while rounding up the ingredients hoping everything I'd need would be in stock.  It was... but it certainly wasn't cheap.

This cheesecake was going to cost almost $60 to make!

I joked with my friends that it had better work out or we were eating anyway and they would smile and tell me it was fantastic regardless!  Luckily, it was a success!  Aside from a few cracks when cooling (I'll do a water bath next time) it turned out perfectly.

It tasted better than it looks here...

All in all, we had a lovely night and delicious food was brought by all.  I even boosted my baking confidence a bit!

A Day in the Life of the Rich & Famous

Monday 2 January 2012

One of the few times we left our hotel in Mauritius was an excursion to Flat Island.  The owners of our hotel also have several watercrafts and rights to the ruins of a Governor's house on a tiny island off the coast of Mauritius.  Anytime I read a review of our hotel, the guests were always quick to say, "DO THE FLAT ISLAND TRIP.  IT IS WORTH IT!"  So, we did.

We departed first thing in the morning on the hotel's private catamaran.  We cruised for just over an hour before stopping off at an island right beside Flat Island to snorkel.  After half an hour there, the masses started rolling in.  Commercial catamaran after commercial catamaran packed with people started arriving and soon the ocean looked like a parking lot.  It was then that Joe and I looked at each other and thought, 'This is exactly what we didn't want."  Luckily, almost immediately after, we left our catamaran and cruised off to Flat Island.

After a 20 minute walk, our guide directed us down a set of stairs and told us our bartender would be with us momentarily.  We reached the bottom of the stairs and it was like angels singing.  Bean bag beach loungers, parasols and a bar greeted us on this beautiful, white sand beach.  It was like an oasis on an uninhabited island.  Aside from the 5 of us and the bartender and chef, there was not a soul to be seen.  We swam, relaxed, drank and enjoyed absolute tranquility.  At noon, the chef came down to tell us our lunch was ready.

We walked up the stairs to the Governor's House where tables were set for us.  There we were served wine and the most delicious fresh lobster all while overlooking the Indian Ocean.  Afterwards, we returned to the beach.  It was the PERFECT day.  We felt like celebrities as we were pampered, wined and dined.

**Yes, that is a lovely sunburn on my face - small price to pay.**


Sunday 1 January 2012

2011 was an eventful year for us…

Here's to hoping 2012 brings us adventure (on the positive side of the spectrum) and many new travels!

AND... a very Happy New Year to all of you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
by mlekoshi