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January 23, 1999

I have indeed arrived in paradise...Gabon is a beautiful country. I convinced a PC staff member to let me use his computer so I have to write fast. I don't know if I will have email available later but go ahead and send any replies to the address, I think this guy will let me use the computer whenever I want during training. And when training is over I think that I will be living in Libreville and can access the email anytime, but that probably won't happen until training is over in about ten weeks and I'm not going to get my hopes up too much. The telephone system sucks and with rare exceptions I don't think that it's going to be very much of an option. And if it does, you'll have to call me since calling out of Gabon costs $10 per minute.

Well, we've been in-country for three days now and I am completely overwhelmed. I don't even know where to begin. The flights from DC were long, boring and cramped. The first thing I noticed when we got off the plane was how hot and muggy it was, totally oppressive but something that I know I'll get use to. The Gabonese people are extremely friendly, which I thought might be the case considering the experiences I have had with the Africans in Zambia and Zimbabwe. We are living in a two story training house in Libreville with AC, hot water and lights so I don't have too much to complain about. Two weeks from now we are all moving to a place up North called Coco Beach for three weks where we will begin our individual home-stays with local villages and learn how to build the schools and teacher housing we came to do.

Yesterday we took a Land Cruiser to a beach called Cape Santa Clara north of town, you would not believe how beautiful it was....endless ribbons of pure white sand, pure warm water, palm and mango trees arching towards the sky. We swam and climbed coconut trees, opened them up by banging them against driftwood. What an experience! Like I already said, it is very hot and muggy here despite the fact that it rains two or three times a day. And the rain drops out of the sky in buckets, far more intense than the worst monsoon I've ever seen in Arizona. The Peace Corps people really have their shit together as far as providing us with the language/cultural/health training that we will need so I feel good about that.

Believe it or not but the limited French that I do know has been very handy and I am picking up more with each day. Some of us ate dinner at a roadside vendors stand and drank beer at a tiny little neighborhood bar and we did everything in French. The Africans got a kick out of that because we were murdering the language. Libreville itself is a large city spead across low rolling hills covered with jungle; lots of palm, banana and mango trees. The larger buildings/hotels are all located on the beach.

Thus far, I like all of the eight guys in our group and we seem to get along just fine, but then again, we haven't exactly been stressed out yet. We start training full time on Monday and will have classes eight hours a day, should be fun. The university students have been protesting against President Omar Bongo and some interesting things happened our first day in-country...I'll tell you more about that later (things like burning cars, tear gas, small arms fire), but don't worry, we're all very safe. Did I mention that the University is located literally in the training center's back yard.

I'll write/email as much as I can, but we're going to be pretty damn busy now...and I won't be able to access anything once we move to Coco Beach February 1st. But like I said, feel free to send an email reply, I think I'll have regular access once I get to know the PC staff better...right now we're the new kids on the block. And since I am serving in the capacity of Architect I might be working in this building (if I do live in Libreville) and will have access whenever I want. Keep your fingers crossed. Well, my time seems to be up now, it goes without saying that I miss all of you tremendously. I hope that all is well. Don't worry about me, I can already tell that everything will be just fine. After all, I'm in paradise!