Sunday, June 29, 2008
Before moving to Gabon it never seemed to me that going for a walk was much of a big event. You grab your keys, everyone gets their shoes on and you start walking. Here in Port-Gentil, however, a "stroll"-- however short it may be-- is always a pretty big event.
First you've got to consider the heat. For 10 months out of the year the relentless sun and heavy humidity prevent you from spontaneously going outdoors for exercise.
Secondly, it's important to keep in mind that for those same 10 months giant mutant mosquitoes try to eat you alive whenever you find yourself outdoors, even going after the space between your fingers!
And thirdly, there's the issue of infrastructure, or lack thereof, in Port-Gentil. Roads are riddled with potholes the size of small airplanes, causing cars to veer aaaallllllllllllll over the road in an effort to avoid falling in. Now whether it's the constant heat or the overall mentality in town, or just general confusion, I dare say I've noticed that many a Port-Gentil driver is only able to focus on one issue on the road at a time. This of course means that if you happen to be walking along the side of a road with many potholes (sidewalks being a rare luxury in town) you are pretty much taking your life into your own hands. Or putting it in the hands of some random driver, which I can guarantee you is a very scary thought.
This year though is the first time the kids and I have stayed in Port-Gentil for the winter months of June and July. Suddenly temperatures have "plummeted" to somewhere in the high 70s/low 80s F (25-27 C), and with mosquitoes less apt to survive "the cold", taking a walk has suddenly become a possibility and a fabulous change of pace!
So on the last day of school for the kids last week I decided to pack Noah up in the stroller (which is a rare thing to take out on the streets here) and go get Cecilia, Jourdain and their buddy Yann from school BY FOOT!! Here's a shot of Jourdain at school at the end of his last day as a first grader!
I discovered it's about a 30 min walk from our house to the school, which is nothing to brag about in many countries, but in Port-Gentil if you set out on a walk across town with three kids and a baby and manage to make it home with nothing but a knee scrape or two, you've managed a pretty big accomplishment as far as I'm concerned!
On the walk the kids took turns pushing the baby in his stroller,
which seems pretty routine, until you actually start walking and noticing things like the hole in front of Cecilia in this picture. Throughout our walk I ended up shouting a lot of things like, "LOOK OUT FOR THAT BIG HOLE COMING UP!"
Here's a close-up of Cecilia's close call above.
At one point Jourdain pointed out this haunted house. He's been watching a lot of Scooby Doo reruns lately and I have to say I think he's got the idea just right.
Then it was Jourdain's turn to push the baby. And Cecilia was right there to point out yet another possible disaster.
Jourdain made us all laugh as he got stuck on a pole in the middle of the sidewalk. What is it doing there anyway?
As we walked home I figured out the best route for us, which pretty much follows a straight line, and there's even a good part on very quiet streets with a bit of a sidewalk area. Our trip involved only one major fall involving tears and a bit of a bruise, but by the end we figured out what we need to be looking out for in terms of danger zones and large, gaping holes along the way. In the end the five of us made it home just fine, and the kids and I all agreed that we just may start doing this a bit more regularly once school starts back up in the warmer months.