Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Report: Day 21 

Yesterday I was Gabonese for a day

My Benrick assignment was to choose a country and feel patriotic about it. I chose Gabon which is a small nation on the West Coast of Africa rich in oil and uranium. Throughout the day I took it upon myself to educate reference patrons about the glory of Gabon. And because there is no reason to keep patriotism all to myself I pasted a Gabonese flag on the reference desk, and made a small one for my lapel, and totally Gaboned out all day!

Here are some things I found out about Gabon which make me proud.

Gabon's most famous resident was Albert Schweitzer who argued for the banishment of nuclear weapons and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 1952. Schweitzer used his $33,000 from the Nobel Prize to found Gabon's own leper colony, which is serving lepers and those who love lepers even today. I'm real proud of that.

Gabon's unemployment rate is at a staggering 21%, but that's down from 23% just ten years ago, so the downward trend makes me proud. There is a burgeoning cement industry in Gabon so I imagine things are getting a little easier.

Gabon has beautiful virgin rain forests over most of its area, but it also has a great deal of coast line which totally rocks when you want to hang ten and that swells my chest a little.

The official language is French; they have a bicameral legislature, which is always a good thing; and 18,000 internet connections over their sole internet service provider so if any of you native Gabonese are reading this drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you.

I tried to contact Ambassador Jules Marius Ogouebandja in the Gabonese Chancery in Washington, (202) 797-1000, to find out what made him proudest and most patriotic about Gabon, but the ambassador was home in Gabon. He's not returned yet from a trip home to celebrate a national holiday commemorating the establishment of the Gabonese Democratic Party on March 12. If only patriotism day had come just a bit earlier I could have lit a Black Cat for Gabon!

One thing I'm sad about is that there is a 20 point difference between male literacy rates and female literacy rates in Gabon. That's just not right. Also there is a very high (9%) rate of HIV/AIDS infection and that makes me sad. But not too sad to be totally patriotic about Gabon!

Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon!


Today I'm supposed to convince a stranger to enter into a pact with me requiring us to meet up again in ten years time.

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