Saturday, September 18, 2010

free time in free town

this is my second weekend here. starting yesterday afternoon, i've been able to get out a bit. my first journey was to a couple of project sites with my new boss (we were still on the clock, so maybe it doesn't count for weekend time, but its worth talking about).

we visited two of the 15 can 2012 sites - a practice field and a hostel complex for teams. they are well underway and should be ready by early next year.  here's a picture of the site manager standing along side the newly installed pitch and another view of the field:
 the sites are located on the eastern part of town, so i was finally able to get beyond the bord du mer. in many ways, the neighborhoods were not unlike those in port au prince. small block houses stacked on top of each other and up slopes of hills. but there is definitely a higher level of well-being here with really nice houses sprinkled about:
more on that in bit...last night we went to dinner at a place called l'odeka - it specializes in african game food and definitely caters to the expat community, so doing the touristy thing we had to try it. we each ordered a plate and shared it family style - so now i can say that i've eaten antelope, crocodile, python, and porcupine! i wish i had pictures of scary snake heads, horns, croc teeth, and quills, but the plates were actually really boring, which i guess is good because we really shouldn't make a spectacle of such things (i can hear my vegan friends cussing me now - sorry y'all!). anyway, we had big chunks in sauce - so it looked more like beef stew rather than anything else. the python was the most interesting - really bony, but good (you had to suck on it like you might do eating a chicken wing), the antelope was a lot like venison,the crocodile was excellent - better than a good piece of chicken, but the porcupine was just nasty. those things don't need quills. certainly an experience, but i'm not sure i'll go back!

earlier today (now saturday), we went out to the libreville golf club. this is where the stomach tightened up and the guilty feelings came swooping in. i'm not a golfer, but two of the guys are, so we went to hit some balls at the driving range and have lunch. it is one of the greatest symbols of power here and ironically we had to drive about 20 minutes through some of the poorest shanty towns to get there. the guys were certainly humbled and said how grateful we are to be in our position. we talked about how most of the world lives like this - young girls gathered around the only water pipe collecting water for their house, carrying what they can manage on their head. boys playing soccer with an old and flat ball barefoot in the broken street full of rocks and broken glass. open drainage trenches full of trash and standing water in a malaria endemic area. its easy to fall into the trap that poverty is not systemic, that as this country develops their infrastructure, diversifies its economy, and educates its people, that its just a matter of time before they life themselves up and reap the benefits of modernity. i know i get preachy and judgmental, but until poverty is exposed as a consequence of this type of development, a development that i fear will maintain the current structures of power and violence, the people who have "made it" here will keep speeding through the shanties on the way to catch their tee time. i need not mention that lunch didn't taste very good.

trying to close on a positive note...after wards, we stopped off at a couple of markets.

we don't get many fruits and vegetables, especially at the hotel. we're told that gabon doesn't grow anything and must import so much of their food. well, it was a great relief to find masses of fresh fruit and veggies! bananas, pineapples, avocados, carrots, greens, onions, peppers, yams, okra, limes and some i tried learning the name of but can't remember! here's what i walked away with for less than $2.

i even found some local honey. it has a strange taste between the honey i'm used to and molasses. i look forward to eating this stuff and getting to know a bit more about life away from the table. until then, i'm heading out to sit in the thinking tree for a while.


  1. What is that wrapped up among the veggies?

  2. Sounds like you are getting to see and experience a lot of the country and try new things. The golf trip was just something you had to do but in the process you got to find some local markets and buy some local food. Which is something you may not have done otherwise. Now you know where to go back and get your produce.