Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Arrival

I arrived in Gabon after roughly a day of travel, though it certainly felt like more than that. I flew from Detroit to NYC to Paris to Libreville (the capitol). I’ve flown to Europe several times, and normally I feel like jet lag wrecks me. I must have convinced myself that two 7-hour flights was just a normal thing to do because I was actually feeling pretty good upon arrival.

I stepped off the plane in Libreville to HOT and HUMID weather. Holy humidity. It’s the rainy season here so it’s to be expected. There was a “contrôle de la santé” (health control station) before immigration and thank goodness I had on a whim brought my vaccination record. You have to appreciate when your “just in case” moments become “thank goodness” moments. I had to get several vaccinations before traveling, but yellow fever is a specifically enforced requirement (offhand I’m not sure if this is a continent-wide or region-specific requirement). The contrôle and immigration were fine, and thankfully so was baggage claim.

(A side note about packing: I am a self-proclaimed super packer. I pride myself in my ability to bring only the necessities. And yet, I found packing for this trip very difficult! It’s a delicate balance between wanting to have enough socks and underwear to avoid frequent laundering, and just plain overdoing it. I also felt I was bringing an inordinate amount of toiletries, but something tells me I’ll give myself a pat on the back when I don’t have to run around Libreville looking for contact solution).

I wrangled my bags, exchanged some Euros to Central African Francs, and talked a taxi driver into a pretty reasonable fair to the hotel. I had planned on walking there (it’s only about 15 minutes), but it was starting to get dark and I didn’t want to chance anything. The guy who carried my bags asked for my number and a tip. He only got a tip.

I stayed at a motel that HAS arranged for me right on the water. I could hear the waves from my room and there was a delightful breeze J. There was some confusion as to how I was getting to HAS….first I was told I was being picked up on Monday, then it was Sunday, then a HAS rep found me at the hotel saying he had been at the airport waiting for me! We couldn’t have left that night anyway because driving that far at night is not advisable (HAS is four hours away) and his truck broke down anyway. I was very thankful HAS was looking out for me, but embarrassed I had missed him at the airport!

I’m writing this at roughly 4 am local time. I’ve woken up every couple of hours. Time changes are such a bizarre thing! One last thing: when I arrived in my room I found by the sink a bar of soap and a condom. There’s also an ashtray in the room, but I’ll take 2/3. Public health for the win!

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