Monday, June 14, 2010


Not long ago, we took part in a boys' night out with some Gabonese friends. Of course, the initial idea was to go out for a drink with just one of them, but we ended up meeting a dozen and, more importantly, all of them men. I inquired if we were expecting female company, but, apparently, the ones who had girlfriends had left them at home in order to have some real guy fun. I was allowed to tag along because I was accompanied by my boyfriend and also because they simply couldn't tell me to leave. Ok then, I thought, used to unexpected twists by now. Boys' night out it is.

The undeniable advantage of such an arrangement was that we would visit typically Gabonese places, where, if unaccompanied by the African troop, we might be looked at in a strange way. On entering the first bar we did turn a few heads, but were quickly left to ourselves. There was nothing particular about the palce. As in any Gabonese club, music was louder than loud, which reduced my comprehension skills to the very basic. Unabashed, we ventured further in. We sat down at a table in the back and ordered a round of beers. The gentlemen were already discussing their lady problems (girlfriend away, Catholic girlfriend, no girlfriend at all) but I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. Is it the conversation?, I asked myself. No. Is it being the only whites in the place? No. Am I tired? Still no. My eyes wandered up and momentarily focused on the air-conditioning unit hanging on wall. Eighteen degrees. I realised instantly, that I was freezing cold, frantically wrapping myself in the only warm garment I had on me - the shawl I'd brought for decoration more than anything else (God bless female vanity!).

Soon enough it turned out that our friend knew the owner of the fridge - er, bar - and we even got introduced. Here's my chance at making things right!, I thought and asked him why it was so cold. I frankly told him I was freezing and if he didn't start serving hot chocolate and distributing blankets, we would leave very soon. The answer was unexpected. This is the coldest bar in Libreville, said the proud owner, grinning. The cold is a concept. I cannot raise the temperature. As if his reputation depended on it.

Clearly, we left as soon as we'd finished our beers, more certain than ever that the Gabonese are crazy about cold. They make sure they set the air-conditioning to ridiculously low temperatures, of which they are apparently proud. They wear sweaters throughout dry season (twenty-five degrees!). They jog covered from head to toe in waterproof suits to sweat better. And me? I keep forgetting to grab a sweater when I head for a public institution.


  1. and they play football throughout rain season (very humid thirty degrees) wearing gloves !!! - and he was not the goal keeper....

  2. who made the comment, though? :-)