A day of Yenzi life – Living in a small compound in Gabon
Luba Fateeva, an expat living in Gabon, sent us this delightful story of a day in her life.For Expat Archive Centre
June 2, 2016
“Slon! Slon!” – I heard my two year old shouting in Russian as he ran into the house. That meant there was an elephant outside and I had to make sure we were all inside.
Wildlife in Yenzi camp is very present, abundant and has big impact on its residents. Here we live in a small compound on the border of tropical jungle where the animals kindly
share with us their habitat. It is not uncommon to see elephants through your kitchen window, breaking into your patio or even eating all your vegetables in the self made garden in
the back yard. It is very common and becomes quite normal after some time to see them coming out of the forest, how they cross the road and carefully stepping over the oil pipe
lines, helping the little ones to get over them. When that happens all the cars on the road stop in a distance and respectfully wait for the group to pass by.
We are all well trained now to bring our cell phones and cameras with us all the time, so we can make movies and snap photos as the opportunity occurs. And we never have enough of these moments! I will always remember my first introduction to the elephants in the camp. When we just moved into our house in October, it was during the rainy season in Gabon. The mango trees started to bring their fruits. Naturally these delicious sweets attract a lot of elephants. One evening as the sun was going down and the light was becoming slightly red, two big elephants came into my garden and started a fight. As I didn’t have anything planted yet I wasn’t much worried about the damage. I just grabbed my camera and made photos of those magnificent giants just some 15 meters away from me. I could not believe it was happening right in front of me. It was truly an amazing, a breathtaking experience. And it was the only time I have ever seen wild forest elephants so close. The same goes for my daily morning rides to the bakery to buy baguettes. As I bike along the jungle piece I see monkeys jumping around, looking curiously at me. They are very cute, especially when you see the whole family with babies playing around or crossing the road. It seems that they know the time and show up exactly at the same place every day. That’s why they call that part the “Monkey Road”. Another reminder of the tropical wild life here is the sign at the Yenzi lake “Look out for crocodiles”.That sign is not a joke. Although I haven’t seen any of them myself, I was told they do live in that lake and it is better not to swim at night. Here in Gabon I have seen hippos in the wild for the first time and learned that they are number one dangerous animal that runs and swims extremely fast despite its short legs. Our camp as well as our life here is filled with animals of all sorts from lizards and snakes to monkeys, elephants and African grey parrots Jaco. All of us get used to seeing them around so much that when we don’t see them long we say “Oh, where are they? Haven’t seen one in a while.” We miss them. They become our pets and some of them even friends. One particular elephant earned a name in Yenzi – Solitaire. He became famous by breaking into children’s pre-nursery school and by wrecking a wooden cupboard at the playground where he found his breakfast – freshly made morning baguettes:) The whole camp talked about that incident for days! And that is just one story of many others that pretty much every resident of the camp could share.When we leave Yenzi camp we will take with us these truly remarkable memories about this beautiful place with giant broccoli looking tropical forests, seaweed lagoon water, most incredible ocean and, of course, its animals.Thank you to Luba for sharing! If you have a story about your expat life to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
International Archives Day: Archives, Harmony and Friendship
Did you know? June 9th is International Archives Day! The theme for this year is “Archives, Harmony & Friendship“, a topic that we are happy to report comes up often in the collections we hold. Expats are used to getting plunked down in a new country and having to start making friends from scratch, so our archive contains many beautiful stories of friendship and harmony, both with other expats and with local residents in the countries where they end up. During the EAC’s joint exhibition with ACCESS and The Hague Municipal Archives, Expat Impressions of The Hague, we dedicated an entire panel to the topic, “Get in Touch with the Dutch”, including many lovely photographs and stories of friendship between Dutch residents of The Hague and their expat guests.
As part of the exhibition, we invited current residents of The Hague to write postcards with their own impressions of the city, to be preserved in our archive. From funny to nostalgic to heart-warming, these postcards are a snapshot of life in The Hague as expats experience it today. As part of International Archives Day, we’d like to share a few of those postcards with you. We’ve chosen three that encapsulate the expat experience of friendship, not only here in The Hague, but universally. Enjoy!
“Den Haag brings me memories of long summer nights with friends who, although new, felt like we had history dating back to childhood.”
“Friendliness! Such nice people – both expats and locals – a very friendly place to be!”
“My time in The Hague is a beer-soaked bitterballen* eaten with friends aplenty.”
Interested in seeing the exhibition? It is currently on display again as part of reopening month at WTC – The Hague. You can see it there until June 30th.
Do you have an expat story to tell? The Expatriate Archive Centre collects the life stories of expatriates and repatriates worldwide, including stories of friendship. Find out more about donating a collection.
*For our non-Dutch readers, bitterballen is an iconically traditional Dutch food, a sort of meat gravy rolled in breadcrumbs and then deep fried.