ECU Field Journal: Africa

Marie's Blog from Lambaréné, Gabon<-- back

Hello. Goodbye.
October 27, 2008

Lambaréné welcomed another Pirate this weekend. My dear husband Mike traveled halfway around the world to bring his wife home. When he first arrived at the airport, I waited anxiously on the other side of the terminal gate for him. Words cannot express my excitement. I had a special pagne made just for his arrival, and couldn’t wait for him to see me in my Gabonese attire. Well, little did I know what was in store…

Arriving in Gabon is quite the cultural experience even before you leave the airport. I wrote about our arrival in August when Katie and I were swarmed with taxi drivers that even a football linebacker would struggle getting through. As I waited for Mike to appear, I was working on a plan in my head how I could smuggle him past the crowd of men yelling and tugging at his luggage. As the passengers from his flight exiting the terminal dwindled, I still did not see my husband. I began to worry…where is he? I went over and peered through the glass. It turns out that my worrying about the taxi drivers was unwarranted. What I should have been worrying about while I waited for Mike was something far worse…Gabonese customs! There I saw my husband with the customs officer, bags open! I watched the officer take some things out of our bags, and then Mike would reach over and take it back. I thought, “Oh no, language barrier heading for a crash!” So, what did I do? I had one of the taxi drivers that annoyed me so much just moments before, sneak me in through the gate. Ironic, isn’t it? I rushed to Mike’s side and interjected myself into the process. After much discussion we were able to leave, bags and belongings intact!

Upon reaching Lambaréné, Mike began to understand and appreciate my time here. He was welcomed with open arms just as I had been at my arrival. I am so thankful to have been able to share this with him, and it was a joy to watch him react to the new sights and sounds just as I had. We visited the old Schweitzer hospital and I could see the admiration in his face for all Dr. Schweitzer created here and all that exists today.

To leave will be bittersweet and there is so much that I will miss. I will miss the roosters crowing at ALL hours of the night and day, the bats chirping in my house, the beauty of the landscape, and exotic life here. Yes, I’ll even miss the bugs (the non-biting ones at least!). I will miss watching the children play by our house where they try to knock mangos out of the trees for hours on end during the wet season. I will miss walking to the hospital, seeing all the patients and Schweitzer people. I will miss the children who bring fish to the hospital doorsteps to sell every morning. I will miss my patients. I will miss calling them Maman and Papa and them calling me their petite fille, meaning their little girl. I was not just a medical person to them, but a friend. Even if I did not have answers for them, they knew I was doing my best for them. So, as I said good-bye to Lambaréné and our plane took off the runway, my husband and I talked about Lambaréné and the place it would keep in our hearts.