Destinations magazine

We hebben een paar weken geleden een artikel geschreven voor het Destinations magazine - een kwartaaltijdschrift voor alle Shell expats wereldwijd. Elke keer belichten ze een bepaald thema of land en dit keer waren wij gevraagd om onze ervaringen in Gabon te beschrijven. Hieronder het artikel, want we dachten het is misschien ook leuk om te lezen voor bezoekers van onze site. Het is in het engels, dus ook leesbaar voor onze internationale vrienden.


Re-invent yourself........


Two years ago we started our first expat posting. Little did we know about being an expat, however, we like to travel and we love Africa, so a posting in Gabon was just what we were looking for.

Now we are getting close to the end of our assignment (although a bit earlier than hoped for), and so it's a good time to reflect back on the things we have learned and that have changed us during our time here in Gabon. What did we learn, what new skills did we pick-up, what has changed for us?

One of the things we love about Africa is the wildlife. Going on safari, taking pictures, enjoying the nature and living outdoors. Gabon is a great place to do all this and we have increased our library of wildlife pictures significantly. Every day is like a small safari here. On your bike to work you can see elephants, whilst enjoying your sunday morning coffee the monkeys play in your garden, whales and leatherback turtles can be seen offshore and if you're lucky, you'll see gorilla's on the road to the beach (we've seen them twice).

The Shell camp is in the middle of the tropical rainforest and still truly a wild place. Some 13% of Gabon's land has been set a side as protected national park. During our time here we visited the Lope park, the oldest national park and a 4 hr train ride from the capital Libreville and we visited the Loangopark, the most well known park of Gabon. To get a change of scenery,we also used our travel budget frequently to fly to South Africa(only a 4.5 hr flight from here), where we visited the Kruger park twice, Kgalagadi Transfrontier park, Madikwe, Tsitsikamma and Addo's. Having the opportunity to live in the tropical forest of Gabon, has only helped us to appreciate and love nature even more.

Sports are one of the activities that expats in Gabon like to do. Besides practicing, an expat posting in a remote location also gives the opportunity to organize events or become an instructor. There are plenty of sport facilities &opportunities around the camp.

Running was never Taco's favorite, but after signing-up for the Gamba triathlon last year, Taco started to swim and cycle frequently and lately he even joined the Yenzi running group in an attempt to beat his personal record of last year. Watersports was one of the things Taco always wanted to do more off, but never had the time for. Until we moved here and he learned how to use the sailing and power boats, for lots of activity and fun on the lake and lagoons.

Petra became active as a participant and instructor. She loves to swim and soon became part of the team teaching school kids how to swim. A useful thing to do, as most Gabonese kids normally don't get swimming lessons. In addition she became the yoga instructor, challenging us to get out of our comfortzones and explore and expand our capabilities.

But it's not only in sport that you can develop yourself broader. When the opportunity arose Petra also volunteered at the school as a learning assistant. She has always had a high value on learning, no year goes by without doing some sort of education, and during this posting she had the chance to explore and develop her teaching skills.

Learning a new language and better understanding the local culture was also one of our objectives. Unfortunately, we have not nearly progressed this as far as we could have. Basic french has improved and we can buy our vegetables at the local market, but deep and long conversations on cultural differences have not happened. Different interests and lifestyles and a language barrier hinder the full integration and we found ourselves spending most of our free time with other expats. In itself this is also very enriching, as we learned about many cultural differences between people from Europe, South-America, Asia and other parts of the world. Also celebrating other cultures parties gives a good insight in these cultural differences. We enjoyed the local music and fashion at Gabonese night, the dancing of Scottish night, dressing up for the Dutch weekend and the Asian food at the Christmas fair.

Because of the remote location and limited availability of materials, you also need to brush off and improve on basic skills. Ranging from doing car maintenance yourself, growing your own vegetables and cooking creative dishes with new ingredients, to collecting shells at the beach for creating beautiful crafts to decorate your house.

Being an expat in Gabon is not always easy. But living in this beautiful part of the world, meeting interesting new people and having the opportunity to do the things you really love, has definitely been a worthwhile experience.

Petra & Taco