ECU Field Journal: Africa

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

Gabon, glad to meet you.
August 1, 2008

The adventure continues! We arrived in Libreville, Gabon’s capital, and were immediately bombarded by Gabonese taxi drivers at the airport entrance. With our bags in hand, Katie and I pushed through the crowd hoping to find someone from the Albert Schweitzer Hospital waiting for us. We had our doubts, as our plane was more than two hours late. The driver from the hospital was indeed there, but unfortunately, I had already dismissed him as being another taxi driver. We finally found him, and he led us through the crowd and down a dark alley. Katie and I struggled to keep up—me especially with my 50-pound travel backpack and carry-on bags. I was so relieved to see the Schweitzer truck there, like the North Star in the dark night!

Our driver took us to our hotel (yikes!) and we spent the night locked in our room. The next morning, we made the three-hour journey to Lambarene. The sights and sounds were quite shocking for me, as I have never been anywhere in Africa before. Shacks lined the streets of the capital for miles, and there were people everywhere! As we drove on, I had to bite my tongue not to call out to the driver. Driving is a bit of a NASCAR experience here—there are no real speed limits, stop signs, or designated lanes for the direction of traffic. Thankfully, we made it to the hospital safe and nearly sound. 

So, my first impression of Africa? Not sure yet…it is, of course, a very different world here. This is an extremely poor country, which is shocking when one realizes it is supposedly wealthy compared to the rest of Africa. If it were not for subtle similarities—cell phones, Coke, and Nesquik(!), and the warmth that we quickly received from the people around the hospital—I would think I was on another planet.