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windy backs and sunny faces

Expat living as we see it

A couple weeks ago, my husband celebrated his 32nd birthday.  He made my birthday such a special day and I wanted to try to do the same for him.  I began scheming with one of my friends and she graciously offered to host a party for him at her home.  We decided to make it a surprise party… and I think we pulled off a pretty good one!  Here are some pictures from the night, courtesy of our friend H!

Seth's "what is going on here" face
The set up: We were going out to eat with some friends, but needed to go pick them up because they were having car trouble. When we arrived, Ani was still getting ready so Ali invited us in for a drink. We told Seth there was a power outage in their area (very believable here!) which was why the lights were out. This picture was taken just before the lights came back.
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The lights come on and SURRRPRIIIISE!!!

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The birthday boy with his official beer glass... before it broke!
The birthday boy with his official beer glass… before it broke!
SO sorry Ali :(
SO sorry Ali 😦

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The whole crew.  Thank you everyone for joining the celebration and making it so special!
The whole crew. Thank you everyone for joining the celebration and making it so special!

The PoG zoo

For a while now, I have been hearing about the Port-Gentil zoo and today I finally got to go!! Before heading over there, my friend and I stocked up on mangoes, papayas, bananas, apples, and avocados to give to the animals.  Yes I did just say GIVE TO THE ANIMALS…. like literally put the fruit in their hand!  I was a little skeptical heading over there thinking to myself, ‘theres no way they will let us just feed them’…. but feed them we did 🙂

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rabbits… in a zoo? sure why not
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-ducks too! not pictured are the hundreds of guinea pigs in the next cage over
As we made our way past all of these “wild animals” we started hearing some hooping and hollering coming from a few cages back.  This is who we found:

chowing down... he couldn't get enough of the fresh fruit!
chowing down… he couldn’t get enough of the fresh fruit!

As soon as we walked up, he knew we must have some goodies because he darted right over to us.  Yall, I have never been this up close and personal with a beast like this…  All that stood between us was a chain link cage!  In the picture above, you can see his right hand reaching out- there is a tube that extends from outside of his cage to where is hand is- this is how we passed the fruit to him.

This big guy!!
This big guy!!
Notice the mango in his foot... saving it for later?
Notice the mango in his foot… saving it for later?

We continued through the zoo and found more hungry guys.  I took pictures while my friend fed them and at one point, one of these guys reached through the fence and swatted me! I guess I wasn’t getting his good side….diva…

IMG_2157[1] IMG_2153[1] IMG_2156[1] IMG_2158[1] IMG_2159[1]Before making one last stop by the gorilla again, we found some goat/deer-ish guys….

This was the smallest piece of fruit we had left... he worked hard to get that thing through his cage!
This was the smallest piece of fruit we had left… he worked hard to get that thing through his fence!

I will admit, there is not a whole lot to do in PoG.  Its days like today though that help me realize that we’ve experienced things here that we never could back in the states…. and that’s whats so exciting about being here!  SO if you want to feed monkey some fruit, come visit us! 🙂

Holiday Recap

After a 2 month long trip back to the United States to see family, friends, and celebrate the holidays, we are officially home and settling back into Port-Gentil life.  While being back in the states was amazing and we have some wonderful memories from this trip, it feels nice to come back to a comfortable place that we consider home (Its still weird to think that “home” now is a place in West Africa!).

Before our holiday trip began, we got to celebrate Thanksgiving in PoG with a group of friends.  Some of our guests had never been to a Thanksgiving dinner, and I had a hankerin for some real deal comfort food, so I wanted to make sure we did this dinner right!  My friend and I set out around town on a mission to find all appropriate accoutrement for our Thanksgiving dinner and after searching through the various grocery stores PoG has to offer we even found a turkey!!  Sadly, pumpkin was nowhere to be found.  Here are a couple of pictures from our Turkey day.

Ani and Habiba prepare for their first wishbone break!  Mary standing by explaining the "pinkie rule"
Ani and Habiba prepare for their first wishbone break! Mary standing by explaining the “pinkie rule”

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Habiba wins!
Habiba wins!
Our group
Our group

It was so fun to celebrate and share such an important tradition with our Port-Gentil family.

 

Last week I celebrated my 28th birthday.  While 28 is not really a special number, this birthday is absolutely one I will never forget.

Prior to my birthday, my husband asked me what I would like as a gift.  While his thought was very sweet, we both laughed at the availability of shopping for anything here and I told him to not worry about it… after all, its the thought that counts right?  That said, we decided a good way to celebrate would be a date night at a local restaurant.  The morning of my birthday, my husband left for work early.  I began my daily routine of walking Jersey; however by the time I returned home, my husband’s car was in our driveway again.  I met him on the stairs and he explained he had forgotten something at home.  When I walked inside I was very surprised to see a wrapped gift sitting on the dining room table!  Back in the states this would seem normal… but given our new digs this is a difficult task!  I figured he must have found something at a local shop, but when I opened the package I found gym shorts I was looking at on pinterest a couple of weeks earlier!! Now THIS is a nearly impossible task here! Shipping items here is insane and the only way to do so is via DHL.  I later found out my husband had corroborated with family back in the states… talk about planning!  I was so pleased and the effort this took made me feel very special.

Every morning, my friend Mary is generous enough to give me a ride to the gym.  I had briefly mentioned my birthday to her a couple days earlier, but certainly did not expect her to remember.  When I got in to her car, she greeted me with a big “happy birthday!” and handed me a card.  Then as we walk in to the gym, I was greeted by another friend, Ani, waving pink balloons and saying “happy birthday”!!  This completely warmed my heart and again I felt so special.

All day long, I received messages, emails, and even a couple phone calls with special birthday wishes from family and friends back home.  Thank you everyone for keeping both of us in your hearts while we are away.

Later in the afternoon, I planned to go shopping for table lamps with my friend Lisa.  As mentioned before, shopping here is somewhat of a rarity so of course I was very excited.  The plan was to meet at Lisa’s house and we would leave from there.  When I got to her place, she invited me in and as I was taking off my rain boots, there was suddenly a train of ladies coming from the kitchen singing “Happy Birthday”.  I was completely blown away!!  I have known these ladies for a very short time, and for them to celebrate with me in a such a special way was so incredible!  I am amazed by how quickly relationships are formed here and how special they become in that short time.  Several of the ladies captured some moments from the party…

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Our yummy spread including some awesome dips, a homemade cake, and champagne!
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Posing with some of the ladies and the birthday tree (painted by Lisa) that everyone signed… something I will always keep!

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To end the night, my husband and I went to dinner as planned.  We decided on Mama Mia, the Italian joint in town, and dug in to some seriously delish grub.

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When I woke up, I did not have any expectations for this birthday.  My husband, along with family and friends back home, and new family in PoG made this one SO special.

Back from vacay!

SO… as a lot of our family and friends know, we have been stressed out working on a way to get our cats to PoG, pretty much since we got confirmation that we would be transferred.  (By we, I mean I have been stressed out…my husband is much more level headed about these kinds of things!)  After a crazy string of events and a little bit of chaos… they made it! Louie and Nola are officially living in Port-Gentil!

Image They were stuck in these crates for the entire 24 hours it took for us to get back… poor guys!  Overall, the gate agents and flight attendants were extremely helpful; one of the flight attendants even asked me what temperature I would like the animal’s cabin to be maintained at!

A couple of friends and family members have been asking what it looks like outside of our compound.  Here are a couple of pics from my walk with Jersey today.

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The road leading in to Abela. Our gate is in the very back.
Neighborhood side street behind Abela
Neighborhood side street behind Abela
Main road outside of Abela
Main road outside of Abela
Main road outside of Abela
Main road outside of Abela
With rainy season comes some beautiful blooms!
With rainy season comes some beautiful blooms!

Keep in mind this is just the very close area around our compound.  As you work your way towards town center, there are more tall buildings, restaurants, and shops.  I hope to add more pictures of the town soon!

Cape Lopez

Although my husband is working extremely hard, we have found Sundays to be a wonderful beach day for us.  In PoG, there are two beaches to visit.  The closest (and nicest if you ask me) is Sogara.  This beach is located on the eastern side of Gabon’s peninsula, providing very calm waters and virtually no wind.  Reminiscent of the Caribbean, this beach is absolutely made for the expat wives.  It features a beach front restaurant and bar with lounge chairs and tables in the sand.  The view is picturesque (homepage picture!) and the calm waters are perfect for floating in.  The second beach, which faces in to the Atlantic Ocean, is Cape Lopez.    It is a little further drive for us but offers wide open spaces and better waves to play in.

Last Sunday (my husband’s first day off since we have been here…5 weeks!) we decided to go to Cape Lopez with some friends.  We started with lunch at a BBQ joint by the beach.

.Enjoying lunch with a view!-Enjoying lunch with a view!

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Our view from the table
The best part about this spot? Jersey was able to come too!
The best part about this spot? Jersey was able to come too!

From lunch, we took a quick drive down the beach to meet up with our friends.

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Jersey couldn't care less about the waves coming for her... keeping her eye on the prize, her Frisbee!
Jersey couldn’t care less about the waves coming for her… keeping her eye on the prize, her Frisbee!

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Castel, the local beer
Castel, the local beer
If you look very very close you will see a black smudge... that smudge is a whale!
If you look very very close you will see a black smudge… that smudge is a whale!
Ending the day with a beautiful African sunset
Ending the day with a beautiful African sunset

Although PoG lacks a lot of activities we are used to in the United states (like ummm shopping!?) we are surrounded by natural beauty and have a completely new kind of playground to enjoy!

Our humble abode

Welcome to our African Abode! In this post I have included pictures of our home as you enter the front door. Once we get some pretty weather outside (it has been very overcast and blah) I will upload pictures of the compound.

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Our living room.. notice the beautiful chandelier!
Opposite view
Opposite view
Our bedroom... complete with mosquito net! (yes we do sleep with it every night)
Our bedroom… complete with mosquito net! (yes we do sleep with it every night)
Master bathroom.... wonderful for conversing while pottying :)
Master bathroom…. wonderful for conversing while pottying 🙂

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Spare bedrooms... where you will stay when you come visit!
Spare bedrooms… where you will stay when you come visit! All of our beds were dressed with palm tree linens. This is nothing compared to the Justin Beiber sheets our friends were provided!
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Kitchen

So There you have it! We have been very pleased so far with the housing situation over here and feel very grateful that it was arranged for us.  Some families associated with other companies are responsible for finding their own home.  Now I just have to figure out how to decorate this place…

Little Victories

It is amazing to me how after only being in Port-Gentil for 4 days now how much the little things mean!  By little things, I mean things that I totally take for granted back in the states. Like being able to hang my clothes up, having a small trashcan in the bathroom, papertowels?!?  All of these things are available at the local grocery store (super CK2) however I am not driving, and because its closed from 12PM-2PM daily, we have not been to the grocery store yet.  Needless to say, we’ve been eating out and eating ramen noodles that I smuggled in my suitcase a lot.  Anyways, one of the wives I have been hanging out with in the compound suggested we take a walk down to some of the local stores and boy did I jump at the chance!!  I have never been SO excited to find coffee mugs or a pair of scissors in my life!  We went to two stores, but mostly everything I bought was from a store called “Centre Fair”.  One of my friends jokes that this is the Bed Bath and Beyond of PoG.  While I was SO excited to find all these “necessities”, I was not so excited to see the receipt at the end.  Things are so expensive here!! For example, during this trip I bought:

-1 large wooden bowl

-toilet bowl cleaner

-windex

-8 plastic cups

-40 solo cups -in case we find some beer pong players

-tin foil

-plastic wrap

-2 pot holders

-8 sponges

-package of napkins

-4 small plastic bowls

-2 small metal shelves

-1 flexible cutting board

-24 hangers

-scissors

All of these items (which I know I could find at Dollar General back home!!) came out to 68,000 CFA.  This translates to roughly $136.00!!! I was absolutely blown away.  My friends have said eventually you just stop looking at prices because that is just how things are here.  The other tricky thing is the only place that takes credit cards is Super CK2… everywhere else is cash only.

My husband and I had discussed, prior to moving over here, how we had hoped this experience would give us a new appreciation for how truly blessed we are and recognize how accessible everything is back at home…. I think its safe to say that process has already begun.

Travel time

Any way you cut the mustard, right now it takes at least 3 flights to get to PoG from the states.  We took a 9 hour flight from Dallas to Frankfurt, Germany followed by a 7 hour ride to Libreville, Gabon.  Lastly, there is a quick 45 minute flight in to Port-Gentil.  We were both not really looking forward to traveling/waiting in airports for 24 hours… especially because we had our dog, Jersey, riding in the cabin with us.  When we got to the counter to check our bags in Dallas, the lady informed us we were eligible for an upgrade if we would like.  Well, it didn’t take long for us to decide, we took one look at each other and said “yes please!!”.

A toast to new adventures
A toast to new adventures

Jersey was an absolute dream during the first flight.  We gave her a little sip of benadryl and she crashed for the whole flight in her kennel under the seat in front of us.  The second stent was a little rougher for her, but I was able to sneak her in to my lap under a blanket and all was good.

All in all, the first trip was not too bad… of course all you can drink champagne makes everything better 🙂

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