Friday, April 30, 2010

No Matter Where You Are in the World, Boys Will Be Boys

I started a donation program for a local orphanage here in Libreville.  The orphanage, Arc en Ceil, takes care of young boys and girls, many of whom are victims of human trafficking, which is a major concern here in Western and Central Africa.

The donation program was successful because of its simplicity:  a few pictures, facebook, simple instructions, generous friends and a US address (fortunately, we can receive some US mail here).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's Dark At Night...

I’ll start with a few facts:  Gabon is small and Libreville is a small city.  At night, it gets very dark.  Sure, it gets dark everywhere at night, but here, it’s pitch black.  There are a few streetlights, but many don't have or use electricity, it’s friggin’ dark.  Comparatively speaking, NYC doesn’t really get “dark” at night; there are so many streetlights, traffic lights, apartment lights, lit businesses and car traffic that you can always see where you are going.
(a pic over the wall from a friends house, pitch black)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Meet the Boys...and Stop With the Trash Already

These are the boys, my buddies Toby and Blackie; and this is the back entrance to the compound where we live.  As you can see, the compound backs onto a beach and the boys love it.  The area has been cleared of all brush and the back wall does not go all the way to the shoreline like on other properties.  This sandy area is outfitted with two concrete benches and since logs regularly wash up onshore, additional “seating” is arranged by visitors; makeshift “beach furniture”.

This clearing was probably a nice concept when the compound was built, however, the clearing is way too inviting to locals for my taste…

A Local Military Picnic

The English Lab, run by the Gabonese military and supported by the US military had their annual picnic on Sunday.  It was a lot of fun.  A few of us were on site to help manage English word games, i.e. hangman, tongue twisters, sentence building, etc.

It feels good to do what you can to help out and be supportive.  Those who I have met before refer to me as “New York”.  The event was mixed, with varying degrees of ability and understanding, so some students are very English literate while others have great difficulty.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Few Pictures from Libreville

It was a beautiful day on Friday, even though we didn’t have internet; sunny, low”er” humidity, a high sky and a light breeze.  It’s amazing what a different mindset you get when it’s not stifling…you can easily forget about the negatives (like corruption, the pathetic lack of infrastructure for an oil rich country, limited work ethic, traffic, pollution, military stops, unreasonable cost of living, etc.) and focus on just how lucky I am to be here and experience all the positives…the ocean, the smiles, the sun and the sky.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Finally, American TV

Woo hoo, we're finally hooked up to the American Armed Forces Network in our home.  AFN is broadcast via satellite to military bases, embassies and navy ships around the world.  Obviously, everything is in English and much of the programming is broadcast within 24 hours of original broadcast in the US. 

The advertising guy in me notices an unheard of mixture of cross-network programming, i.e. the Saturday morning Today Show (NBC) is broadcast on a Sunday and is immediately followed by the show Sunday Morning, which is CBS.  In addition, the programming does not appear to be as "managed" as it probably once was...apparently the news channel only used to broadcast FOX News, now the channel regularly switches between FOX, CNN and MSNBC throughout the day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The African Diet

After trekking around for a while, you can't help but notice something remarkably different here versus back home.  I’m not talking about lack of infrastructure, no internet connection, or impenetrable jungle and forest elephants, but…Why are there no Fat Gabonese people?

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's the 3rd World, Figure it Out For Yourself

Living in Africa has taught me a new motto…just go figure it out.

The camera broke this weekend. I know it was still taking pictures, but you couldn’t see anything because the LCD screen wasn’t showing any images.  After being pissed, frustrated and upset for a day, I finally got off my ass and went to the internet (fortunately it was working).  I found a sight with recommendations from a “camera guy” who listed potential solutions to my problem.  A pair of eyeglass screwdrivers, a cloth to catch the tiny screws and a tweezer from the bathroom helped me take the LCD screen apart and reconnect the circuit board.  I don’t even know how to use the flash, but viola, a little trial and error and the camera is working again; which you can see from the pic above of Sabliere after the storm today.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nightime in Gabon

Did I mention that it’s hot here.  The heat index was 105 today.  I had a meeting in town with the WWF and I thought I would melt in the taxi (no, they don’t use AC).  Plus, my driver was moving slowly because I guess he thought that would save gas.  I noticed he was on empty and I’d be surprised if he made it to the gas station after he dropped me off, poor bastard.  It’s probably much hotter when you have to push your car.

I’m not complaining mind you, I like the warm weather.  It’s just that our satellite TV shut off 2 of the 3 English movie channels that we have.  Everything else is in French or Arabic.  FOX was the best and now it plays pop music videos 24/7.  With no TV, I am sitting outside on the patio at 11:15PM writing this short blog because I am bored, it’s pitch black, it's 92 degrees and I am sweating...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Seasons are Not What They Seem in Gabon

If you ever plan on traveling to Africa, especially Equatorial Africa, be sure to get the inside scoop on the weather from someone at your destination.

Gabon has 2 short Dry seasons; June – August and December/January.  The remainder of the year is considered Rainy season.  Gabon gets more than 100 inches of rain per year (Seattle only gets 36).  If you are like me, you may have thought, I have to remember to take advantage and get as much traveling done and pictures taken during the dry season.  Not the case.  Dry season is the worst time to come.  Sure, it’s a little cooler, but that’s because it’s cloudy, overcast and grey every day.  The rainy season on the other hand, is the best time to come, with bright blue skies and sunny days.  Yes, there is the occasional grey day, but it mostly rains at night.  I think I notice the rain more in NYC than I do in Libreville.  That’s not to say that I don’t see the rain; when it rains here, it pours.  Rivers accumulate in the street and flights don’t land.  What I mean is, the rainy days that affect your mood are more prevalent in NYC.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Lazy Sunday on the Beach in Gabon

Went to the beach on Sunday with the Lieutenant Colonel - I put that in for effect, so you don’t forget the community that I live with - did it work?

We just went close by in Sabliere, the neighborhood where we live.  It’s been hot here, it’s always hot here, but it’s been hotter than usual.  The heat index has 104 Fahrenheit everyday, but it’s cooler on the beach because of the constant breeze off the ocean.

Walls surround the compound where we live, like all properties in Sabliere, so you don’t get the effect of the wind to cool you down when you’re outside.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I am not a doctor and this is just my opinion.  I do not take malaria pills.  I obtained a prescription and brought malarone with me, supposedly the best medication available on the market, but it made me feel dull-headed and generally not good.   It is also ridiculously expensive.  No one that I know takes US prescribed malaria medication here.  Several friends have had malaria.  You know when you have it because you are extremely tired, mostly nauseous, and switch between fever and chills for several days. It is equivalent to a bad case of the flu.

Here in central Africa, they sell Coartem at the pharmacy which does a great deal to alleve the symptoms.  It is made by Novartis and although it may be a prescription medication elsewhere, it is purchased over the counter here.

Some of my friends from the environmental NGO's have had it several times after being in the bush.  Everyone says it is no big deal and they would rather deal with it if/when they get it, rather than take the US prescriptions, which may be preventative, but do not provide absolute protection.  If you get malaria while taking malarone, the recommended response is to take a higher dosage after you get it.  That's so "American".

Thursday, April 1, 2010

More Ridiculous Corruption

In many African countries, ‘power’ is divided into multiple ministries (economic minister, minister of forestry, minister for transport, interior, national defense, foreign affairs, etc.).  It sounds like this is set up to prohibit corruption…it isn’t. 

First of all, in most countries, ministers are assigned, not voted into office.  Secondly, there are so many ministers assigned it is hard to keep track of them.  Gabon used to have 50 ministers, although the new President, Ali, has apparently made a lot of cuts in an attempt to weed out corruption…or is it just a closer distribution of funds to friends and family, we’ll see.