I received the wrong type of visa for entering the country as a researcher, so, whilst waiting for questions around the visa irregularity to be solved, I have been discovering more of life in Libreville. Something that can nearly be described as German Bread fell into my arms in the supermarket, and I moved to a new guesthouse run by a truly wonderful American missionary couple, and with wi-fi, which was like a new lease of life, not constantly having to run to internet cafes.
One of the bureaucratic aspects here is that each time I go to Minvoul or Makokou, I need a so-called ‘ordre de mission’, a document which entitles me to be in the area and, in my case, to work with the Baka. I must get this paper signed and stamped by the province’s Governor and Prefect, and several other authorities the last of which is the village chief – and I’m in trouble, if I don’t go through this procedure. In return the authorities including the gendarmerie (police) are responsible for my safety and well-being.
Over the last few weeks, I have had many conversations about my experiences outside of the capital which helped put things into the Gabonese context, and I attended another anthropologists’ viva (oral exam for doctorate). I’ve been to some funky concerts and other cultural performances, such as Annie-Flore Batchiellily, Gabon’s very own politically active singer-songwriter. As I have to get taxis everywhere, I urgently wanted to do some sports, and I have started to go swimming regularly at a local sports club. Here on the equator, the sun sets around six thirty and nightfall is immediate, so I get to swim under the stars by 7pm (19:00 Uhr) – life in the tropics does have its advantages.
Another thing I have discovered is that Africa really has a different sense of time than we know it in Europe, or even no sense of time at all – bizzarre and challenging at first, but interesting and enjoyable when you start adapting to it. But it’s the festive season in many parts of the world and so I wanted to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy and successful 2011!