[IBD: Gabon] Last Day in Libreville

After three weeks, IBD Team Gabon’s life in Libreville has come to an end. Here are some of the things we’ve learned along the way:

·    Images of President Bongo (basically a democratic dictator) are everywhere – wall prints, button-up shirts, and on billboard signs, like this one, which reads: 40 years – Peace, Unity, Stability and Progress:

40 Years of Peace, Unity, Stability and Progress

  • Paper products such as napkins, toilet paper, and paper towels are a precious commodity. Don’t leave home without a roll of toilet paper.
  • The cost of taxis is not based on a meter but rather distance, time of day, and cab driver’s mood. Always set the price before getting in the cab (1000-1500 CFA).
  • Mosquitoes are strangely lethargic here – a quick clap can result in one smushed ‘skeeter.
  • There are more stray cats than dogs here. These poor kitties are usually over-looked and desperate for attention.
  • Running is an oddity. Every time we went for a run around our neighborhood, we received not only stares from every passer-by, but also shouts of “Ils sont fous!” (“they are crazy!”).
  • Our botanist friend Manuel once told us, “The Gabonese got rich at the wrong time in history” referring to the proliferation of tacky 70s style architecture:

  •  Flexibility and patience are critical to doing business in Africa. A 10 o’clock meeting may not start until 1 pm. Someone says that they will email you a document the next day, and you have to send a courier to go pick up a paper copy… three weeks later. You tell your British client that you need someone to take you to the airport for your 11:15 am flight, and about 15 minutes after the time you should have been picked up, he sends you a text saying that you’ll be picked up at 11:00.
  • Many residents of Libreville display a very French sense of “malaise”, seemingly perpetually dissatisfied with life. However, a quick bonjour or bonsoir accompanied by a smile will nearly always result in a reciprocal greeting.

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