Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How to Help Japan's Earthquake & Tsunami Victims

If you want to help survivors in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, please consider giving locally.

A friend and fellow blogsherpa from Lonley Planet, Todd of Todds Wanderings, has put together a list of local Japanese organizations who are trustworthy, have English donation pages and are on the ground working right now.  His list also includes globally known organizations like Oxfam and Habitat for Humanity.

Please vist Todd's page here and donate as you see fit...or pass it on to friends who may also be interested in giving even a small donation.

The Japanese people are facing a terrible crises, thanks in advance for any help you can afford.

& Todd

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tear Gas & Corruption in Gabon?

I have been out of Gabon for some time and I was just catching up on some recent news...

Police Use Tear Gas to Break up Gabon Protest
Gabon Opposition Leader Seeks UN Refuge

What?  Are you kidding me??? 

Apparently, the man who placed 3rd in the 2009 Presidential election in Gabon, Andre Mba Obame, declared himself to be the "true" president of Gabon.  He even announced a new cabinet.  He did this on January 26, 2011, a year and 1/2 after Presidential elections.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Spooky Stories

Attached is another blog carnival by the Lonely Planet blogsherpas.  This Carnival, Spooky Stories, is being hosted by Joe Tuck at Hello Pineapple.

Joe has gathered spooky, frightening and bone-chilling stories from blogsherpa's around the world...please click throuh the link have have soome fun.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My African Spider

Are you afraid of spiders?  I am...especially big, giant is my African spider story.

I was 'cat-sitting' for a friend on the embassy compound in Libreville.  Her cat is small and fast, so it was important to enter/exit the apartment quickly in order to prevent her from running out.  On the first day, when leaving the apt and locking the door, I noticed a large black spider to the left of the front door.  I mean it was stood as large as a tennis ball...and it wasn't moving.  Maybe I surprised it?  I didn't notice it when I went in, but I was fumbling with the keys.  Eeeww.

The next morning, there it was again.  It was in the same area and I was looking around for a stick or something to poke it.  It wasn't moving and I wanted to shoo it away.  No such luck.  When I left, sure enough, it was just standing there large and still.  My friends' townhouse is not far from the front gate, so I decided to ask the local guard if he knew what kind of spider it was.

He came over to check it out with his boots on.  I mention this because I wear flip flops and there is no way I am getting too close to that thing, it's so damn big.  The guard slowly walks up to it.  He bends down for a closer look and slowly puts his finger down towards it.  He pokes at it.  I am thinking, what is the RSO's (Regional Security Officer) number?  This guard is going to get bit by some large poisonous spider and I am going to have to call for help.  The guard picks up the spider to show it to me with a big smile on his face.

The townhouse next store is actually home to the RSO and his wife.  They have two children and one of them is a four year old boy who likes plastic bugs.  I was afraid of a plastic bug for two days.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Internet Connections

It's time for another Lonely Planet blogsherpa carnival, this one hosted by Jason at Alpaca Suitcase.  The carnival goes live on August 25th and the subject this time is fellow travelers' experiences with Internet Connections.  The following is my submission from Libreville, Gabon on the west coast of Africa.

As someone who grew up in New York City, a decent internet connection is something you take for granted.  If you're not paying for a high speed, broadband connection through your cable provider, you are "borrowing" one from your neighbor.  Otherwise, you can just walk up the block to the Starbuck's or the Barnes & Noble...even Central Park was outfitted with free wi-fi before the recession.  This is simply not the case in Libreville.

Internet access was achieved via two options, satellite or through the phone "system", there is no cable in Gabon.  Satellite was certainly the least expensive, but since the connection is weak and greatly affected by the weather, a better option would have been to use a box of old newspapers and magazines for search and two tins cans and some string for email.

Achieving internet access through the phone lines was the best option.  It worked 65% of the time and the connection was fast enough to bring up most websites.  Although, if you wanted to view that 3 minute video that your friends were sending around, it could take 45 minutes to download.  Of course, if you lost the connection in the middle, you would have to start the download all over again.

Electricity was another challenge.  The U.S. Embassy compound where I lived had a large generator system.  Whenever the electricity went out, which could be frequent, the generator would take less than 2 seconds to kick in.  Of course, since our internet provider did not have a generator, the fact that our lights and A/C kept running had nothing to do with maintaining an internet connection...back to the tins cans and some string.

Everyone talks about how wonderful skype is, especially when traveling.  Those people have never been to Gabon.  The one time that I was able to connect, with both voice and video, the time delay was more than 4 minutes.  Try talking to your parents with a 4 minute delay...not so wonderful.

Despite my complaining about the connection in Libreville, I was able to keep contact with friends at home, do research for work and maintain this blog.  I suppose it's just like anything else, it takes a little getting used to.

Please visit Alpaca Suitcase on August 25th to check out all of the entries for the Lonely Planet blogsherpa Carnival, Internet Connections.  Thanks

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer in NYC, Fire Island

I spent this weekend in Ocean Beach on Fire Island with a friend and his family.  I forgot how much I love this place.  There was a little drama, but I'll save that for the end, first an introduction...

Fire Island is about one hour outside of the city, followed by a 20 minute ferry ride to one of several villages on the island.  Ocean Beach is the main village, which hosts more restaurants, bars and stores than any of the others.

Outside of a few full time residents, there are no cars on the island.  You walk or bike and everyone lugs their stuff around in little red wagons.  The island is 26 miles long, but less than 3 city blocks wide, with the ocean on one side and the bay on the other.  This means that every home is really just a few steps from the water.  The majority of the homes are small and cottage-like, close together and line broad sidewalks that go from bay to beach.  There are no "streets".

A Fire Island distinction, one which I haven't noticed in any of the other beach communities that I may have visited, is the outdoor shower.  Every home has one on their deck, surrounded by a wooden privacy screen.  I suppose it was planned that way, to dissuade all of the sand from entering your house, but it is a distinction that is universally unique to Fire Island.  I wonder why every beach house doesn't have one; rain or shine it's a wonderful experience.

The island is pleasantly casual.  Since there are no cars, and you barely wear shoes, it is wonderfully difficult for anyone to be pretentious.  It's all about the beach...and maybe a few cocktails.

Fire Island is not really set up for a day visit, most people rent a house for days, weeks or months.  In Ocean Beach, there are a few small hotels with minimal services.

I have heard rumor of certain people complaining that there is not enough to do on Fire Island.  These people just don't get it, all you need is a decent beach chair and a smile.
The Drama
Unfortunately, whenever I travel it incorporates a little drama.

I woke up on Saturday excited for the day.  I was still tired, so I fell back into bed...unfortunately landing on the edge of the window sill and putting a 2 inch gash in the back of my head.  Whoever told me that head injuries can produce a lot of blood wasn't lying.  My friend said it looked like a crime scene.

They called the police.  You could hear the alarm, which signifies that the volunteer paramedics should check in with the dispatcher.  I had one alarm.  When you hear 4 alarms, that's a real problem.

They bandaged me up, but insisted that I go to the hospital to get stitches to protect against any infection.  I agreed.  Now I'm packed into a local ambulance and they take me to the dock.  At the dock, a police boat is waiting, along with a very large crowd of onlookers, to take me across the bay.  Of course I feel foolish, but it's a nice ride and the normal 20-30 minute ferry ride is cut down to 7 minutes.  On the other side, another ambulance is waiting to take me to a local hospital.  A short ride and I'm admitted through emergency.  Now I'm repeating my story for the 4th time, ugh.  A few hours in the hospital, they do a cat scan and use 4 staples to close my gash.  Everything is OK.  I just wish I had my camera.

I stayed Monday to make up for the lost beach time.

Much love and thanks to my friends and their family.  It was a great weekend, drama and all.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Paying the Bills

Hi, if you follow my blog or visit often, you may have noticed the inclusion of AdSense on my blog.  Adsense incorporates ads, hopefully targeted to my subject matter or your recent searches.  If the advertising inclusion upsets you, I apologize, but someone has to pay the bills : )  If you see something that may interest you, please click through when appropriate...again, someone has to pay the bills : )

I hope you keep following my blog, I have many more stories & experiences to share.

Thanks, Bret

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Advertising in Gabon

When I think back on my last year living in Gabon on the west coast of Africa, I wonder if I am in fact crazy.  Not crazy for spending a year in a country I never heard of before, but about wanting to get back into my chosen career.

Now that I'm back in NYC, I am attempting to re-enter the workforce based on my experience as a media/marketing/advertising executive.  It's what I've done for most of my career and I'm proud of some of the work that I've done.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Most Expensive Cities to Live In 2010, Libreville # 13

According to a recent survey by ECA International, which looks at the price of various items (rice, beer, lunch, etc.) compared to the US dollar, Libreville, Gabon comes in at #13; down a notch from 2009 when it was the 12th most expensive city to live in.

Interestingly, four of the top 20 most expensive cities are on the African continent:
# 3 Luanda, Angola
# 13 Libreville, Gabon
#17 Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
# 19 Abuja, Nigeria

For comparison, Tokyo is # 1, Paris is #19 and NYC # 29.  Think about all of the people on the contintent who can't afford $22 for lunch.

**as reported by Bloomberg/Businessweek

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rubber Stamp: My "Run-in" at the Airport Part 2

Thanks for coming back…here is the 2nd half of the story. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.

These posts are contributing to another blog carnival by Lonely Planet Blogsherpa’s.  The carnival is being hosted by GingerBeruit and her theme is Rubber Stamp – travelers’ stories of border crossings, passport nightmares, run-ins with the police, etc.  The carnival goes live June 21.

When I left off in Part 1, I had “run-in” to the airport in Gabon and then I was being hassled by some punks in the parking lot.
 I was nervous and I was concentrating on avoiding further hassle.  There is no one around and now I’m going to have to stop and deal with the toll gate.

Part 2
 I stepped on the gas as I made a quick left hand turn towards the gate…the next thing I know, I am not in control.  It is like a slow motion dream.  I can hear the rev of the engine and the squeal of tires.  There is a metal scrunching sound and I must have hit the brakes.  When I come out of the dream, the front of the car is now up on top of those metal poles that stick out of the ground, several feet in the air.  Pointing into the night sky.  I thought I was screwed before, now I am totally f*&$’d.