life in africa (part 1).

When I started making plans to come to Africa, I called Verizon to find out if my cell phone would work here. A representative told me that they had no cell towers in Africa. He said, "Think about it - who would want to build a cell tower with a lion chasing you?"

I think (and hope) that he was joking, but it is true that there are a lot of assumptions and misconceptions about life in Africa. Before coming last year, I expected everything to look like the scenery in the Lion King. But Africa is a big continent, full of cities and villages, jungles and deserts, humid and dry places. I thought I would take a few posts to write about the reality of life here in Libreville, and also to answer a few of the more common questions I've heard.

The House

I currently live in the Envision mission house in Owendo, a suburb (-ish) of Libreville. It's a big house, meant to house quite a few people (one night this summer, we had 42 people sleeping here, but that is an extreme example). Upstairs there is a big living/dining room, kitchen, office, laundry room, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. I either have a room to myself or share it with one other person, depending on who is living here at any given time. Leanne and Hannah use the other two bedrooms.

Downstairs has pretty much the same set-up, with a (very long) dining room that we use when there are teams here, and a bunkhouse and extra bathroom for the guys (girls stay in the bedrooms that mirror the three bedrooms we have upstairs).

There is no air-conditioning, so we use fans to stay cool. It's not too much of an issue now, since this is the dry season (more about that another day). And over time, your body really does become more accustomed to the temperature, I think. I hope.

Our house is surrounded by a wall and we have a guard here most of the day and night. This isn't really so much because it's unsafe, but because we're considered wealthy (and really, we are) so this is expected. Thought I have to be honest - I find it a relief, especially when I'm here on my own. Paul (the day/weekend guard) and Sam (the night guard) also take care of the cats, the puppy we're currently babysitting, and all of the gardening (we have bananas, plantains, mangoes, pineapple, sugar cane, and avocado).


There are plenty of places in Africa without running water, and many more without any access to clean water. Thankfully, Libreville isn't one of them!

We do have city water for most of the day - it comes on around 6am and (usually) shuts off around 6pm. We have a water pump and two reservoirs that we turn on when/if the water shuts off (sometimes it doesn't). When there are teams here, we ask everyone to only shower before dinner to avoid using all of reserved water, and then around midnight the guard will turn off the pump for the night.

We do have both a washer and a dryer (two of each, actually) but because gas is really expensive, we line-dry our clothes, either outside or on a drying rack. If we dry them outside, we bring them inside and run in them dryer for 20 minutes, to get rid of any mango worms. It's a bit more work, but there is something about hanging my clothes outside to dry that I actually like.

The water isn't really safe to drink (though we do use it for brushing our teeth), so we have a filter and fill bottles of water from there for drinking. Bottled water is also readily available (if not very cheap).

I've got another post planned about climate and bugs, but are there other things you'd like to know? Anything I'm missing?


  1. What are you eating and how to you cook it?

  2. What about the coffee plants that were growing over by the wall???


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