My Husband, the Beer Connoisseur

Friday 29 June 2012

My husband is a bit of a beer connoisseur - a sommelier of beers if you will.

Yes, he likes beer (as do most men) but he also knows a lot about it.  He understands the brewing process, he knows what hops are and he can guide you through IPA's, pilsners and ales like no one else I know.  He's tasted hundreds (I'm not exaggerating) of beers from all around the world and if you've ever spent time with him in a beer store, you know he'll spend hours perusing the shelves.

Joe will always forgo the run of the mill beers for a craft brewer and he generally believes that Budweiser, Coors, Kokanee, Canadian, Heineken and other's alike have misguided the general public into thinking that they brew good beer.  I appreciate this as I feel the same about music, books, movies and generally most things in life.  (Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's good!)  Unfortunately, we didn't get a lot of option in Gabon and while we certainly had our fair share of Castel, Heineken & Corona, we always look forward to getting out and tasting something different.

Joe's lifelong dream is to become a brewmaster - to start his own brewery à la "Steamwhistle" or "Dogfish Head."  In the meantime, he perfects his knowledge by visiting breweries and sampling beer.  

This week, while in Aberdeen, we visited the Brewdog Pub and I'm pretty sure Joe fell in love.  They had him from the minute he read the 'Beer School' pamphlet on the table and he was fairly certain that they must have stolen his entire beer philosophy.

"For how much beer we actually drink it is condemningly ironic how little we actually know about it.  Constrained by lack of choice.  Seduced by industrial brewers' huge advertising budgets.  Brain washed by vindictive lies perpetrated with the veracity of pseudo propaganda.  You can't help but be sucked down the fizzy yellow tasteless industrial lager rabbit hole.

There are plenty of bland beers made for people who don't care; dispassionate beer drinkers with no understanding, affinity or respect for what is in their glass.  It could really be anything, made my anyone, anywhere.  In fact, it probably is.

Maybe you want to define yourself with the lowest common denominator beer.  We won't have any part of it."

Yes, Joe was smitten.  And when he went to order and realised they had 6 IPA's on tap, the deal was sealed and I was pushed aside for an afternoon of sampling.  In addition to the myriad of beers on tap, there were their own bottled beers and dozens of imports of all different varieties.  I wondered if I'd ever get the man out of there.  

It's safe to say that we will be visiting Brewdog every single time we come to Aberdeen all in the name of Joe's next profession.

Customer Service

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Joe at Cape Lopez - just outside of Port Gentil

Customer service in Gabon is really one of a kind.  Sometimes it's just outright laughable.

Let me explain...


I notice my fuel light comes on in my car so I head to one of the small gas stations not far from where we live.  I see other cars pulling out so I pull into the proper lane, shut the car off and lean down to open the fuel door.  When I sit up, there's a young man standing in my driver's side window staring directly at me with neither a smile or a frown and waving his finger back and forth.

There was no "I'm sorry but we're out of fuel" or even a "We're closed."  Just a finger wave and a cold stare to reprimand me for even driving in.


Joe and I decide to go out for dinner and we choose a 'nice' restaurant we've eaten at dozens of times.  We enter and sit down at a table for 2 and await the server to bring menus and to take our drink order.  After several minutes, I glance around and catch the attention of one of the women working and motion that we'd like to order.  With a scowl, she shuffles over and stands beside the table.

There is no "Good evening" or any exchange of pleasantries.  In fact, there is no "Would you like something to drink?"  She stares at  us, paper and pen in hand, scribbles down our order and leaves.  Not a word was exchanged.

Later on, she returns to take our food order.  I commence in French, choosing something off the menu but pause to make sure she's got it.  When I look up, she's shaking her head at me.  I ask, "Non?" and she continues to shake her head at me.  I choose something else.


At the airport in Libreville, Joe and I have to pay for extra baggage weight at the airline counter.  There are 2 women sitting behind the glass partition on computers and no one else in line.  We approach the counter and wait to be acknowledged.  Minutes pass, nothing happens.  I slide the receipt through the deposit area and continue to wait.  Without addressing us, one agent asks the other agent to help us.  She refuses and they argue back and forth about who should do it.  I catch a glimpse of her computer and she's playing solitaire.  

After several minutes of this, the one in front of us finally breaks down and grabs the receipt to process it.  She tells us the amount we owe, we pay, she returns the receipt and she goes back to her game of solitaire.


Joe and I head to the hardware store on a Saturday morning to search for a couple of things needed around the house.  After perusing the store, we can't seem to find what we are looking for.  We find an employee sitting behind a counter and proceed to explain in French what we are looking for.  We aren't acknowledged.  "Excusez-moi?" we ask again to which the employee looks directly at us, turns, and walks away.


At first, this lack of customer service used to really bother us.  I mean, we come from Canada where people are generally pretty friendly (and occasionally over friendly.)  In fact, I used to hate going out for dinner because it just felt like we were paying to be treated badly and to eat mediocre food.  After 2 years in Gabon, it's fairly run of the mill and this is a fairly common occurrence.  You just couldn't live here if you let it get to you.  Now, we just laugh as it's so ridiculous - and probably one of the myriad of reasons that tourism has yet to take off in Gabon!


Monday 25 June 2012

My beloved pool

A couple of weeks ago Joe's boss phoned to ask when we were leaving.  At first we assumed he was going to try and talk us in to delaying.  Then I thought perhaps he wanted to throw us a party (yah right.)

In actuality, he had already found someone else to live in our apartment.

In the end, it worked out really well for us.  The new family decided to buy all of our furniture thus all we needed to do was pack our air shipment and our suitcases.  Everything else just stayed put in the apartment - it couldn't have been more convenient.

But, it's hard not to feel a bit weird about it all.  Joe & I will leave yet our apartment will stay almost completely intact.  The furniture I found and bought will remain just as I'd left it.  My guards will continue to be employed at the apartment and my ménagère may even stay on.  The 'new woman' has even talked about joining my friends at Thirsty Thursday and book club.  I just can't help but feel replaced.

I suppose it's a reminder that life goes on.

Adieu Gabon

Friday 22 June 2012

The time has come to say goodbye to Gabon.

It's unlikely that we'll ever be back here (although never say never!)

Both Joe and I have been challenged more than we could ever explain throughout our time in Gabon yet we've learned more than I ever thought possible, realised just how much we are capable of and grew closer together as a couple.

With heavy hearts we say goodbye to the amazing friends we've made, our pool that I think I'll miss more than I'd like to admit and our life in Gabon but we're so excited for what's to come!

So with that, we say...

Farewell Gabon.

Things I'm Looking Forward To

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Outside of Canmore, Alberta, Canada 2007

Moving from Gabon to Norway is a huge change but there are so many things I'm looking forward to.

:: I can't wait to step outside and breathe in fresh, crisp air.  It never dips below 24 degrees C in Gabon and it's always humid so it never really feels that 'fresh.'  (A Venezuelan friend of mine had no idea what I was talking about when I brought this up awhile ago - I suppose if you've only ever lived in a humid climate, you might not understand.)  Also, there is usually a lingering, unpleasant smell hanging amongst the humidity so it's not often that you want to step outside and take a deep breath.  ::

::  I can't wait to take road trips and Sunday drives.  We're sort of stuck in Port Gentil unless we want to pay an exorbitant amount for a flight to Libreville or take a boat out.  I miss a good old road trip or at least being able to drive further than 15 km. ::

::  I'm going to be so happy to be able to get mail again.  We can't really send or receive mail here which means no online shopping, no care packages and no magazines.  Cards and invitations sit at my parents house in Canada until we come home.  Being able to order something in when I need it and getting letters and photos will seem so exciting again. ::

::  I'm going to enjoy not being confined to my house after 6:30 pm especially when Joe is away.  It's just not safe to be out alone here after dark, even if it is just driving from one place to another.  When Joe's away, I'm stuck at home all night, every night.  It'll be nice to get some independence back again.  ::

::  I'm so looking forward to having options of things to do.  Restaurants that serve different types of food, cinemas, shopping, parks, yoga classes, hikes, easy weekend trips are all things we've missed the last couple of years.  ::

::  This might sound silly but I'm really looking forward to a non-summer wardrobe.  Jeans, scarves, boots, cute jackets - yup, can't wait to re-incorporate them into my closet!  (Not to mention not having to plan my outfit around how much I'm going to sweat and if my clothes will show it!)  ::

:: I'm really going to appreciate the modern day conveniences again - stable electricity, consistent running water with ample pressure, safe drinking water & not having to fill pots with bottled water any more, recycling and fast internet are all things I'm looking forward to.  ::

This list gets me so excited for the upcoming move!  Bring on Norway!


Monday 18 June 2012

Last weekend, I turned 29.

Funny - I don't feel 29 at all.  When someone says they're 25, I think we're the same age.

Young at heart I suppose.

This was the first year that Joe and I have spent my birthday together since 2005.  The past 2 years, Joe's been in Gabon and I've been in Canada.  Before that, he in Houston, me in Canada and before that, a 7 hour drive between our respective cities.

I don't really make a big deal out of birthdays but it was really nice to finally spend the day together.  We relaxed all day as we had plans with friends that evening.  They came around for a bottle of champagne (or 2) poolside before dinner and then back to the pool afterwards for more drinks.  The men went for a 1 am swim, we chatted, laughed, drank too much, played a board game and ended off the night with a Stanley Cup game on tv.  

 Funglish (I won)

My friends gave me a painting from a local artist who paints on a metal canvas.

I crawled into bed at 5:30 am.

The next day I was abruptly reminded that I am in fact 29 and not 18.


Friday 15 June 2012


How can you not love Paris?

We left Spain for France to spend the last 4 days of our holiday in Paris.  This was my second time visiting the city and Joe's first and it sort of felt a bit like coming home.  After 2 weeks in Spain with my knowledge of Spanish limited to cerveza, por favor, sangria and gracias, it felt so nice to be somewhere I could understand people again!  

(Funny enough, while in Spain, anytime someone said anything to me in Spanish I responded in French.  Even simple phrases like "merci" or "où sont les toilettes?"  It was really embarrassing and I tried consciously to stop it but it was like it was innate.  Anyways, I digress.)

We didn't plan a lot for Paris - I knew Joe would want to see the main sites and I was fine to revisit them.  Mostly, I wanted to sit in cafés, browse the shops, eat nice food and enjoy our last weekend in Europe.

We sat on the grass and people watched in the Luxembourg Gardens.

We walked the Champs Élysées right up to l'Arc de Triomphe and back again.

I ate a delicious croque monsieur and drank as many lattes as I could.

We strolled around le tour Eiffel both during the day and at night.

We stopped by the Louvre (although it was cut short by me losing my ticket...whoops.)

We admired Notre Dame but didn't catch a glimpse of the Hunchback.

But mostly, we just enjoyed each other's company and our last few days in Europe before boarding the plan back to Gabon.


-We decided to splurge a bit on our hotel in Paris as it was our last stop before returning to Gabon and decided on Hotel des Academies et des Arts in Montparnasse.  We chose it because it was a small boutique hotel and away from the majority of the tourists.  While the rooms were quite small (and we had an upgraded one,) they were decorated well and the space was used efficiently.  We liked the personal attention and we really enjoyed the Montparnasse area.

-For our fellow Canadians, friends of ours had told us about a Canadian Bar called "The Moose" and we decided to seek it out for a taste of home.  I had heard they had caesars and with it being just about a year since we've been home, I was dying for one.  Unfortunately they were out of Clamato but they did have several varieties of poutine which filled the void just fine.

-We went for Indian food one night and landed at Le Palais de Raja Maharaja.  The food was great and the service very friendly.  When our bill took a long time to arrive, the owner dropped off an unopened bottle of vodka from the freezer and 2 glasses as an apology.  While I don't typically drink vodka straight, we did have a laugh and a drink and we appreciated the gesture.

-One of the things I hadn't done while in the Paris area was visit Versailles and I was so looking forward to it.  Unfortunately, when I went to book tickets online, they were all sold out on the day we had available.  Again, it pays to plan ahead if you can.

-Paris is crazy with tourists - it is the number one tourist destination in the world.  Long lines are found at the majority of the main sites and you can end up wasting hours waiting.  Always look if you can purchase ahead of time online or at another location.  (For example, we bought our tickets to the Louvre at Fnac and saved ourselves a lot of time.)

{Expatriated} My Friend Jeanie

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Sometimes I get the impression that people think we are crazy for leaving all that we are familiar with for a life abroad but we aren't the only ones who have chosen this lifestyle.  In fact, there are a lot of us and many of us blog about it.  Expatriated is a series to introduce you to other expat bloggers.


If you have been around this blog for awhile, you met my friend Jeanie last year.  Jeanie is a real-life friend of mine (as opposed to those I've met in blogland) and she is one of the coolest people I know.  I have envied her jet-setting lifestyle in Asia the last 2 years and I was so happy that we got to visit her in her adopted home.  In the past couple of years she has visited Thailand, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong just to name a few and while I'm slowly trying to convert her to my kind of traveling (the kind that uses suitcases with wheels) she is adventurous and much braver than I will ever be.

So, meet Jeanie (if you haven't already!)

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I grew up on a farm outside a tiny town in Alberta, Canada.  This town itself has a name although it cannot boast about stop lights, fast food restaurants, street names or two lanes of traffic.  Cleardale, Alberta may not have a lot of things but it does have my heart!  I currently live in Singapore, Singapore.  It's a country, a city of five million and an island just off the tip of the Peninsular Malaysia.

How did you end up in Singapore and what inspired you to make the move?

I'm a teacher.  I'm an adventurist (as long as it doesn't involve me getting hurt in anyway.)  I'm addicted to travel.  I's got the wander lust.  I can't stop myself...I just do these things!

What is the best part of living overseas?

Travel.  Full stop.  In the last two years I have almost doubled the countries that I have been to in my life.  It is especially easy to travel in South East Asia from Singapore.  Changi International Airport is a twenty minute cab ride from my condo and I can literally reach ten different countries within a four  hour flight.  Thailand for the weekend.  Hong Kong for a conference.  Got a few extra days?  Go to Bali!

What do you miss most about home (besides friends & family?)

I miss the comfort foods of home.
Beef stew, twizzlers, cheezies and my Dad's gluten free waffles.
Mmmm...turkey with all the trimmings!
Bud Light Lime (don't judge me!)
Clamato (I know you feel my love here Jay)
Baked Potatoes with sour cream

What was the most difficult thing to adjust to in Singapore?

1.  The HEAT!  Going from a subarctic climate to a tropical steam bath was a bit hard to take.
2.  Finding new friends in a city with a huge expat community wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.  I was pretty lonely and homesick for the first couple of months.
3.  I really missed (and still miss) my car.
4.  Fresh air!  I love the crisp feel of a spring breeze.  A refreshing gust in Singapore usually means you have walked past 7-11 and you catch a drift from the air con!

Any funny 'whoopsies' while adjusting to your new life?

I hopped in a taxi during my first week and said, "Take me to IKEA!"  The Singaporean accent pronounces it more like Icky-yah, so the poor guy had no idea what I was talking about.  By the time I got there (45 minutes and 35$ later) he dropped off in the middle of what looked to be the busiest IKEA in the world.  There were literally thousands of people.  I ended up buying coasters and an iron; I was so overwhelmed with the people, the noise, the loooooong line ups, the exchange rate and the lack of swedish meatballs.  I thought IKEA would be a safe and familiar place to purchase a few household necessities.  Wrong.  The whole trip cost me about 100$ in taxi fares and four hours of my life.

Saving graces?

My condo pool, nuff said.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned from your time in Singapore?

I've realized how much I love and care about my family.  Although, I also have a new found independence as well (imagine independent?  I know my Mother is laughing right now.)  It's like being far away makes me appreciate people at home more, but I also know I can lead a fulfilling life abroad.  It's a very strange dichotomy to be faced with.  I struggle with feeling elated about it...and then guilty.

If you had the chance to move elsewhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Jeez, these questions are hard.  I'm kind of a sucker for English speaking that cuts down my choices a lot.  Sydney?  New York City?  Hong Kong?  Those are all cities that while visiting I thought to myself "I could live here!"

Any advice for the newly expatriated?

Hang in there, the first 6 months are the worst!


Thank you so much Jeanie!

Jeanie is leaving Singapore this year and after spending a few weeks in Australia, will be returning home to Canada.  I'm trying to convince her that there are plenty of teaching jobs at International Schools in Europe - I'd love to have her closer.  (Good friends are hard to come by and she's one of the best!)  

You can check out some of Jeanie's travels here.

A Weekend in the Jungle - Part 2

Monday 11 June 2012

So Joe and I took a leap of faith and decided it was high time to check out the interior of Gabon as previously blogged.  We spent way too long on boats and went way too long without a shower but it was all worth it because we saw a lot of animals!

Gabon is known for it's untouched and undeveloped land.  Tourism continues to struggle here due to sky high costs, inability to get visas and all around difficulty to travel within the country.  The result of this is that when you do try to explore, you aren't surrounded by tourists, the landscape is natural and beautiful and the animals are a-plenty.

On Sunday morning, we arose early for a trip to Loango National Park.  Two hours of travel on an unpaved and bumpy road through patches of savannah and then through dense jungle, landed us at Loango Lodge where we met our rangers for the day.
Because the lodge was fully booked for the long weekend, all of the land cruisers were taken for safari trips during the day but they were able to accommodate us with a pirogue, a traditional Gabonese fishing boat.  The rangers would take us by boat to different locations where we'd jump out, hike and search for animals.  To be honest, I was prepared to see nothing but was pleasantly surprised when we found buffalo and an elephant within the first hour.

The lagoon eventually opens up to the ocean and it's here where one hopes to spot Gabon's surfing hippos.  A few years ago, a National Geographic reporter happened to experience this rare sight and it's been famous ever since.  Unfortunately, it's very difficult to catch - in fact, the warden of the park has never personally seen it in his 3 years at Loango Lodge.

While we didn't glimpse the hippos surfing, we did view 6 hippos throughout the day.  They were fairly camera shy though making it near impossible to get a good photo.
Unfortunately, no surfing hippos on this beach while we were there.

At one point, we jumped out of our boat as we were trying to track down an elephant we'd seen at a distance.  When we returned to the boat, we found it floating about 500 metres away from the shore.  We joked as to who was going to swim out to get it when a hippo popped up in the water between us and the pirogue.  For some reason, neither of the rangers wanted to get in the water and thus, phoned a colleague a little further down the river to help us out.

Loango really did deliver the animals.  While we didn't see nearly as much as we did in South Africa, there was something about being somewhere so undeveloped and so unknown to much of the world.

The next morning we jumped back in a pirogue from Omboué to St. Anne's Mission - about a 30 minute cruise from the village.  St. Anne's Mission is very well known in Gabon as the church itself was built from the remnants of the Eiffel tower and designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.  Unfortunately today, much of the property has been let go as there are no missionaries there.  Local's from a nearby village give a guided tour and they still do hold Mass but the majority of the property is completely overgrown and unusable.

The Bamboo Cathedral

From St Anne's, we carried on down the river and through smaller waterways to find crocodiles.  Eventually, we turned into a narrow river with water so still and so dark that it created beautiful reflections of the towering jungle on either side.
The crocodiles like to sun themselves along the river's edge.  Our guide would pull our pirogue up quite close, we'd snap away our photos and just before we'd pull away, the guide would clap his hands and yell, waking the croc and sending him diving into the river.
After spotting and observing a few crocodiles it was time to head back to Omboué to catch our boat home.

While the weekend was far from luxurious, without running water and occasionally unpredictable, we really did enjoy our excursion inland.  I was really happy to see a different side of Gabon - one less reliant on the oil & gas industry, happy villagers, serene and natural.

(Note to Email Subscribers:  I've noticed when posts are emailed, it does not include videos such as on the Bull Fight post and the Road post.  To view the video, please go directly to the website.)

Updates & Things

Thursday 7 June 2012

A river cruise near Omboué

With all the posts of our travels lately, I haven't really written about regular life in Port Gentil.  

Ugh, it's been busy - so busy!

It seemed when we were working on the move months ago, time crawled by.  Day in and day out it felt like nothing was happening and all we wanted was for 'things' to come together.  In fact, we even tried to push up our move date to June 1 (partly because I wanted to be able to take advantage of all of the 'nice' months in Norway and partly because I was a bit fed up with Gabon.)  

Now - here we are and it's all coming to an end so quickly!  Our move has been shifted up by one week meaning we'll be leaving Gabon for the final time in 15 days.  

15 days.... 

Basically, we're scrambling.  Moving is a lot of work and a transcontinental move is an ENORMOUS amount of work.  We've sold all of our furniture, are in the process of trying to sell my car and we are literally knee deep in paperwork.  This in addition to leaving parties, Joe's regular work and my regular life.  It's exhausting and I've upped my cocktail per night to 2 3 solely as a coping mechanism.

In any case, things are coming together and we're busy trying to relish our last weeks of 40 degree heat, pools, beaches, good friends and cheep booze.

Seville - The Bull Fight

Tuesday 5 June 2012

We happened to arrive in Seville just as the Feria de Abril, their biggest festival, was coming to an end and right in the middle of the bull fighting season.  Given that we were in Spain and tickets were available, we decided to take part in this authentic Spanish tradition.

Almost immediately upon arriving in Seville, we made our way to the bullfighting ring to buy tickets.  Tickets are sold according to sun & shade - shade being the better and more expensive seats.  The South of Spain is known to get quite hot thus sitting in the sun would be uncomfortable and it would hamper your ability to see.  There are sun & shade seats meaning you would be in the sun for part of the fight and in the shade for another part and then of course, shade tickets which is what we opted for.  (If you are going to do something once in your life, we might as well do it all the way.)

The Plaza de Toros (the ring) is the oldest in Spain with construction beginning in 1749 and ending 1881.  It is located along the river and is one of the main landmarks in Seville.  As far as bullfighting is concerned, it's considered one of the most unforgiving rings in the world due to it's history and audience.

The atmosphere was exciting and vibrant.  People were selling cushions to sit on, small snacks and souvenirs all around the exterior of the ring.

Ready with my cushion and beer but completely oblivious as to what I was getting myself into!

Joe and I really knew nothing about bullfighting and we didn't have any time to do any researching in advance so we went in a bit blind.  As we watched people file into the ring and take their seats, we were surprised to see people dressed up, some women in full flamenco dress and men looking dapper in jackets and hair slicked.  (I did wonder if we had underdressed in our jeans.)

The event began with a dramatic entrance of the toreros (matadors), their assistants and men on horseback to trumpets.

For every bullfighting event, there are 3 toreros and each have 6 assistants to help them.  Each torero 'fights' 2 bulls.

The bullfight is a fairly ritualized event and each fight consists of 3 distinct parts all announced by trumpets.

The trumpets sound and the bull is let into the ring with cheers from the crowds.  This part is mainly dominated by the assistants waving their capes, challenging the bull, and seeking cover behind wooden barriers if the bull becomes too aggressive.  The matador stays back and observes the bull trying to pick up it's personality and how it moves.

Eventually, 2 men enter on horseback, the horses padded for protection, and the bull is goaded into charging the horse.  (This was one of my least favorite parts.)  The horses eyes are covered so it is completely blind as to what is happening.  The man on the horse holds a long lance and as the bull pushes up against the horse, the man stabs the bull in the large muscle on it's neck.  This continues until trumpets sound letting the horses leave the ring and making way for part 2.

The second stage requires 3 assistants each to stab the bull with flags in that same muscle on his neck causing it to lose a lot of blood and weaken.

When the 3 sets of flags have been stuck into the bull, trumpets sounds to mark the third and final stage of the fight.  The matador enters the ring and using his cape, provokes the bull into charging.

This part is actually quite a show.  The matador is flamboyant taking his stance against the bull and as he continues to get closer and closer to the bull and completing more and more passes he yells a deep "AH HA" and stalks off making a spectacle as to how he's tricking the bull.

After a series of passes, it's deemed time to kill the bull.  The matador holds a long sword behind his cape and when he decides the time is right, he pulls it out, positions it, and awaits the bull's charge.  If done correctly, the sword will enter quickly through the muscle on it's neck.  The assistants re-enter the ring, continuing to provoke the bull into charging until it finally collapses and dies.  The crowd jumps to it's feet, cheers loudly and the 2 horses enter the ring.  The bull is then dragged around the ring in one full circle before exiting and marking the end of the fight.

Each matador kills 2 bulls during the event resulting in 6 bulls dying by the end.  To be honest, after the first couple I kind of wondered what the point was - the bull stood no chance so what kind of fight was that?

 Then one matador struggled.

We watched him miss a step and bull threw him into the air.  His assistants rushed to distract the bull and he was given time to recover.  He re-entered the ring, visibly shaken, and tried again yet missed another step and found himself on the ground, the bull rolling him along.  Again, his assistants rushed to his aid.  Eventually, he succeeded and the fight ended and I was left wondering what was more terrifying - watching them kill the bull or potentially seeing someone get gored.

I left the bullfight feeling a bit conflicted.  I loved the dramatics - it was almost like watching a dance - however, was disturbed by the savagery of it all.

It was one of those things that we were glad we experienced but we certainly won't do it again!

A Weekend in the Jungle - Part 1

Friday 1 June 2012

When Joe and I moved to Gabon almost 2 years ago we had high hopes of exploring this country and all it had to offer.  Then reality set in - police hassles, Joe working weekends and 12 hour days, the sheer difficulty in trying to get anything done here, etc.  Aside from a few stays in Libreville, the capital city, we haven't seen anything other than Port Gentil.  With our departure looming and perhaps feeling adventurous, we agreed to take a trip inland with some friends for the long weekend.

From the moment we said yes I had heart palpitations and minor panic attacks.  Life in our comfortable home in Port Gentil can be difficult let alone a trip into the jungle where amenities are scarce.  Venomous snakes, giant bugs, and sketchy accommodation popped in and out of my mind while we prepared for our trip but I figured that if I've lasted this long in Gabon, I can probably do just about anything.

Port Gentil is kind of like an island because it's surrounded by sea and swamps meaning we can't actually access the mainland by car.  This trip required us to take a boat through the intricate river system that spreads throughout the country.  We were told the journey would take somewhere between 3 and 4 hours however, due to overcrowding and extra baggage, it ended up stretching to 6 hours and included a mid-trip stop in the middle of the river to transfer excess baggage to a small fishing boat also headed to our destination.

We were the only non-local, English speakers on the boat and I don't think the other passengers knew that I speak and understand French.  When the boat stopped, the other passengers began joking about what was happening when I heard someone yell out, "On va déposer les anglophones ici" and laughter overtook the boat.  I smiled and laughed along however, a joke about dropping us off in the middle of nowhere did make me feel a tad uneasy.

In any case, we arrived in Omboué later that afternoon and checked in to our hotel.  The accommodation was basic and clean enough but fairly good for Gabon.  (I've stayed in a lot of shady hotels here and this was perfectly acceptable even given my standards.)  Aside from a few mosquitoes there didn't appear to be any cockroaches or other creatures that would be sharing the room with us so I was relieved however, we were greeted by a large bucket of water and a cup sitting in the shower which can only mean one thing - no running water.

This is a common problem in Gabon and we've spent many a days without running water and I can assure you, there is nothing worse.  I'd even take an electricity cut over a water cut (most likely because we have a generator) but in this situation, there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.  The entire town was out of water and everyone was using the murky lake water as a substitution.  Apparently the plumber was supposed to be on our boat but he didn't show.  It certainly was not ideal and I'm sure we were a great smelling group upon our return to Port Gentil.

After checking in, we set out on foot to explore the town.  Omboué is a small fishing village located South of Port Gentil on a fresh water lagoon.  The infrastructure is minimal with most houses made from scrap pieces of metal and wood.  

There wasn't a lot to do in town so we didn't end up spending a lot of time there as we had excursions planned taking us first to Loango National Park to spot elephants & hippos and then down the river to find crocodiles - but that's another post...

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by mlekoshi