There’s no question about it…I am way behind on this thing. So let’s see. When we last talked, I was living in a hotel, unsure of where to find proper groceries, clueless as to where anything in the town was located and stuttering along in French. I am now in an apartment, quite adept at finding groceries at a minimum of 5 stores, including some off-beat markets, prone to giving directions like “you know, it’s the green house -- the one next to the blue dumpster” and still stuttering along in French. Although for the latter point, I am happy to report that I no longer refer to my hair as “horses”, but now accurately refer to it as hair…at least I think that’s what I’m saying. It’s a bit close to call.
All in all, life is so good. We are immensely blessed with spectacular friends, fantastic beaches, a beautiful sunset off the balcony every night and a view, albeit distant, of the ocean. And a cat. We have a cat. I never thought I would say those words again, but she is the puppy-est of all kittens and we adore her. She wags her tail, waits by the door for the girls to come home, nibbles toes and eats cockroaches. As far as I am concerned, she can stay. Her name is Louise and she was born to be a Strock. She has been subjected to inordinate amounts of love – which has come in the form of being dressed in doll clothes, swaddled in blankets, carried around like a baby by Nora and until I caught Ava mid-act, almost tied to the top of a skateboard, because it was supposed to be, and I quote, “her royal princess carriage.” She endures it all and loves the girls tirelessly. Sometimes it’s good to have a friend when you feel far from home.
(Side note: I have a blog entry about the lead-up to Louise in my notebook…I might even type it up one day)
Our apartment is great. We sit at the top of a hill in a neighborhood called Haute de Gue Gue, just between downtown and the north end of town. We’re about 15 minutes without traffic and 45 with from the girls school. Fortunately, Declan is still my main man. He is here at 7am sharp every day to take the girls to school and drop Chris off at work. He brings Nora home every day at 12:15 and they are the best of pals. The other girls get picked up by Declan, who then switches with Idris, who then brings them home and often waits in the parking lot until I’ve stuck my head out of the 2nd story window to say that I’m all set and don’t need to go anywhere. They are wonderful, wonderful drivers and I trust them implicitly.
The dry season has just begun, which ironically, means cloudy days and cooler weather. I actually got cold (meaning I needed a short sleeve shirt instead of a tank top) the other day. But we’re doing our best to keep vitamin D levels at a max by going to the beach as much as possible. Last week alone, we did a trip to Point Denis (across the bay – 20 minutes by boat), 2 trips to Bae de Tortue (around the other side of the estuary from Point Denis and a prime place for Leatherback Turtle nests) and a final trip Sunday at to Santa Clara, a beach about 30 minutes north of Libreville. All in all, this Florida girl is happy.
The girls are in their last week of school. They have done very well…I mean seriously. They moved to a new country, started a new school mid-year, jumped into a new language, made new friends, lived in a hotel for 2 months, then moved into a new apartment. I couldn’t be prouder of them. 2 weeks ago, Ava and her friend won first place for the third grade/fourth grade group in the science fair, while Emma took third for the fifth and sixth grade solo category. This was followed by the end of the year awards ceremony where they took home math, science, social studies, language arts and P.E. awards. I think Nora was the only child that stood up on the stage and clapped for herself.
It hasn’t been easy for them. Nora excluded, they each have one other girl in their class. Don’t get me wrong, boys are great, but when you’re 11, you kind of want your girlfriends. The girls they have been friends with are sisters who are moving this summer. But we have heard that at least 20 new students are coming this fall, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for some new BFFs. After-school activities have been limited because of 1) language 2) lack of a car and 3) having no idea what exists here in town. But just recently, they started semi-private tennis lessons once a week, thanks to a good friend of mine here in town. We are planning to get Ava and Nora into dance this fall and if everything goes my way, Ava will be playing rugby at the French Military base. I told her it would make her look really bad-ass to all of her friends back home. As for Emma, she faithfully picks out tunes on her violin (she just figured out “Yellow Submarine” by ear, how cool is she?) so we hope to find a teacher soon.
And Chris…I will devote an entire entry to him soon, but quickly put, he is doing an incredible job. He has already been promoted, shortly before being moved to the planning team. As part of this team, he was to be working on water and sanitation infrastructure for all of Gabon, but soon after the switch, he was identified to serve as the lead project manager for the “Friendship Stadium”, a stadium donated and built by the Chinese as a goodwill gesture to the government, but sadly lacking in FIFA standards. He is now overseeing final stadium construction and upon its completion, it will serve as the main stadium for the 2012 Africa Cup. He works 6 days a week, but it’s good. Really good. He likes his job and has a great team and that makes up for a lot.
As for me…well, I think I said it all above. I am happy. My people are happy. Life is good.
I will try to do better in the future with updates. I have a few things in my notebook and might get them up one day. But, I will leave you with this for now. Also, I am trying to get pictures up on Flickr. I’ll let you know.
Thanks for reading…sorry this is so long…and delayed. The girls and I are looking forward to a long visit to the East Coast this summer, with Chris in tow for part of it. But I have to admit, as excited as I am to be heading back to the States, I will miss “home.”