Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Traveling Home to NYC for a Visit

I am going home next week for doctors visits, etc.  Very excited to see my friends for a few days and catch up.  Not too happy about the long flight or the cold weather, but can’t wait for a little China Town (soup dumplings anmd salt and pepper squid, yum).  Luckily I have some good books, because the trip is unusually long, too many connections:  Libreville – Paris – Amsterdam – NYC – Dubai – South Africa…meeting my girlfriend in South Africa on the way back to check out the country.

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Elephant Safari in Nyonie

We went on our 1st real trip into the jungle in Gabon.  Nyonie is a base camp about 2 hours south of Libreville, about ½ hour south of the equator.

The trip starts with a one-hour boat ride across the estuary and into one of the smaller waterways.  It’s an hour in a small outboard boat, a little rough and wet, but it’s all part of the adventure.  The next hour is in the back of a 4x4 through the tropical rain forest and down past the equator to the Nyonie base camp on the shore of the Atlantic.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paying Your Bills in Africa

The satellite cable went out a few days ago. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the connection, and everyone else on the compound has their TV working. After calling, it seems we were shut off because we didn't pay our bill. We never received a bill. Of course not, there is no mail here. There are no bills, you need to go to the office and pay your bills directly. Fortunately, they sent a guy over to pick up 6 months worth of cash. Of course we had to pay a set-up fee again. 3rd world infrastructure combined with 1st world fee structure.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Presidential Election in Gabon

I arrived in the end of August, just prior to the presidential election.

The former president died in June 2009. He was in power for 42 years. His son, Ali Bongo, was favored to succeed him (and he did). There were several opposition parties, although a visitor would not notice because there were posters for Ali Bongo everywhere (i.e. every lampost on the blvd) and I only saw one billboard for an opponent.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Local Friend & Our First Run-in with the Gendarme

We often visit a near-by boulangerie for coffee and our weekly bread (the only place to get bread products is at a bakery).  We made friends with one of the waiters, Dexter, who is very pleasant and is trying to learn English.  He goes to Omar Bongo University and he has been teaching us a lot about the local perspective (plus, we now get fresh bread without having to wait in line).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Taking the Ferry Across the Bay to Point Denis

Libreville is located in an estuary, at one side of the mouth to a river that spills into the ocean. Across the bay, the other side of the mouth, is Point Denis. A thin strip of land that sticks out from the continent and essentially protects Libreville from the ocean. The bay (and Libreville) is on the inside of the peninsula and the Atlantic is on the outside.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Quick Drive Through Libreville

Libreville, Gabon is a living, breathing dichotomy. It is very beautiful and very ugly; very rich and very poor; very difficult and very easy.  The beaches in the city are beautiful. Close to the road, lined with palm trees, white sand and rolling ocean. The problem is, you really can’t swim in the ocean near the city. The locals do, but the amount of garbage that washes up during the tide is atrocious.

Monday, September 14, 2009

About Gabon, Africa

Gabon is roughly the size of Colorado, with a population less than 1.5 million people. It is one of the least populated countries on the continent. Gabon is located on the west coast of Africa, on the equator. It is thick and lush with tropical jungle. So thick that the two major cities, Libreville, the capital, and Port Gentil, the major oil port city, are not connected by roads. Gabon has an 885 kilometer coastline along the Atlantic with some magnificent beaches; although the more pristine south coast is not easily accessible, except by water (no roads, remember).

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Leaving for Africa; Packing, Prepping & Arriving

Before I started packing up my stuff to move to Africa, my big fear was renting my apartment. Finding someone to trust is difficult enough, but finding someone who will achieve co-op board approval is a tuff challenge. Although I was moving all of my personal belongings out, I wanted to rent it furnished so I wouldn’t have to afford moving & storage. I love my little apartment, so finding a responsible renter was particularly important to me, especially since I was leaving so much behind. Apologies to my friends in real estate, but in this day & age, craigslist is definitely the way to go. Quick, easy and no cost. I found an investment banker from Chicago who was looking for a small furnished apt to stay during the week…he would travel home to Chicago on weekends to see his family. And he didn't try to negotiate the rent. Perfect. Thank you craigslist. As an added coincidence, he was interested in my last name and wondered if I had relatives on the west coast. It turns out he had worked for my uncle many years ago after he had graduated from Harvard.