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Eating is a necessity. Eating well is a luxury.

The Huang family newsletter


december 2018
It is, of course, impossible to succinctly summarize the massive adaptations and adjustments that our family has made and continues to make in the wake of our move to Gabon two months ago. Sometimes living in rural Africa feels like we’re stuffed into a small life raft drifting aimlessly over the Great Barrier Reef, miles and miles away from the shoreline. We’re okay, we’re alive, and we’re afloat; but we’re living just above a whole other world, all of which we barely understand or comprehend.

Yet, we adapt. We fall into something resembling a routine, and we try to make our apartment feel more like “home,” whatever that means right now. For expatriates everywhere, the “home” culture can be defined by any number of familiar cultural specifics: clothing, holiday celebrations, fairy tales, songs. However, there are two defining cultural items that trump all others: language and food.

Language, for us, hasn’t changed measurably in our dwelling since moving to Gabon: we speak mostly English at home (occasionally peppered with French), and Kimberley speaks Mandarin with the children (to which Nolan, increasingly, responds in kind).

Food, however, is a completely separate issue.

anDrew shops while Kim waits inside the pleasantly air-conditioned vehicle.

In fact, food at Bongolo station is actually a rather complicated issue that deserves a longer explanation. There is some American (mostly canned) food that comes once a year on a container from a warehouse in the United States. There is a plethora of rather expensive food options available from large supermarkets in Libreville, the capital nine hours away. But mostly, there is food at a half-dozen or so general stores 5 km away in the town of Lébamba (nearly all of which are owned somewhat counterintuitively by either Malians or Mauritanians). Each store is roughly the size of a 7-Eleven, though the merchandise is usually more tightly packed and stacked.

Despite the various options for food procurement, food preparation is not always straightforward. Once Kimberley made some delicious soy sauce chicken wings, only to find out that they were essentially inedible. Like, we literally couldn’t bite through the chicken, it was so tough.

anDrew fails at biting through chicken skin. Nolan finds this hilarious.

We later learned that chicken comes in two varieties, dûre and molle – literally, hard chicken vs. soft chicken. We had unknowingly picked the hard chicken.

There was another time where Kimberley got a whole fish and proudly descaled it before pan-frying it – only to find out later that she had forgotten to clean it. We spent our dinner carefully picking out the meat from around the intestines and other giblets.

Kim points to the uncleaned packet of fish innards.

On the upside, living in an equatorial forest has its definite benefits: mangoes and avocados literally grow on trees outside our back windows. We’ve taken to picking, slicing, and hoarding mangoes in our freezer for when they go out of season.

Pineapples are also currently in season at the Lébamba market, where one can be had for as little as US$0.60.

We’ve discovered a nearby local farm that sells other produce extremely cheaply. There tends to be a lot of one type of vegetable at time, until they run out.

Our first farm-direct purchase was this collection of eggplants costing US$0.90 total.

We could literally write another five pages about food and cooking in Gabon (and we probably will, for another time); but seeing as it took us nearly six months to get used to grocery shopping in France (i.e. finding out what was available, what wasn’t, what was different, what was a good substitute, etc), we figure that it’ll probably take us at least twice as long as that to figure it all out in Gabon.

And so long as we don’t collapse from hunger, that’ll be just fine.
For information on how to make a year-end donation to our work in Gabon, go to bit.ly/Huangs.

And now...for some family pictures!

Solène is 1! We had a small birthday celebration in our new home, complete with a traditional Korean hanbok dress. (For those who know, she picked the pen.)
Nolan enjoys playing with many of the girls on station. They, ahem, also enjoy playing with Nolan. (No further comment.)
Joyeux Noël! Last year we spent Christmas in a French postpartum hospital room; this year, we're in the African jungle. We had cupcakes and presents; and we even went to go see Santa Claus!
Reactions varied.
Recent newsletters:
Arriving sight unseen
Transitions and tantrums
How French is like dying of dysentery
When butchering a language...
Spring break support report
     
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anDrew
: docdrew@gmail.com

Kimberley: kimboley@gmail.com
Copyright © 2018 The Huang Dynasty, All rights reserved.

This newsletter is about Andrew, Kimberley, Nolan and Solène Huang: their journey from the US to Canada to France and, ultimately, to Bongolo Hospital in Gabon, West Africa, with the Post-Residency Program of Samaritan's Purse (World Medical Mission).

The views and opinions expressed here are solely ours, and they do not necessarily represent those of Samaritan's Purse or World Medical Mission.

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