Mongomo in Africa

1 Dec

A two-day trip to Mongomo started Monday noon. The Presidents and the first lady’s home town. Business trip for one. A supposedly pleasurable one for the other. One thing I may have not mentioned (clearly) since I got here is the way Guineans drive. There is no such thing as driving school here, or if there is, it’s not how we know it… One learns how to drive young and continues older. If you want an official driving license (which you do need in order to drive a car) you simply go buy it… This results in a very bad driving style. So many accidents (I wish I could post photos of the car wrecks I see by the roads… It’s impressive). Basically the logic seems to be that if you drive on the right lane you can switch to the left one as you see fit. Why should you keep to just one if you can get both ? If you wish to stop in the middle of the street to pick someone (taxi) or something (truck) up, why should it matter that there are cars behind you and that by stopping only too suddenly, someone may bump into you ? If you want to turn right, you don’t even have to look to see who’s coming from the left. No need as it is right you’re heading anyway, right ? Turning a sharp bend without slowing down and at fast speed, or pressing on the break right in the middle of it… “yes, so ?”… So, as I was saying, driving here is dangerous and insanely scary. You may be a fantastic driver but those around you may scar you for life… Monday’s trip freaked me out. Almost 2 hours of me clutching to the front seat to save my life. My fingers may still be printed on it. 100-120km/h sharp turns. Passing cars and forgetting to return to the right lane… 2 hours of stress and panic. The moment hubby took over the steering wheel seeing my face and feeling my fingers dig in for all that time, my stress level dropped and my nerves went back to place. The crazy driver was his employee. Nice guy outside a car, not my friend in it.

Arriving in Mongomo, we checked into our ***** hotel. The presidents hotel. Big, clean, sterile, empty… We heard the staff tell each other as we entered : “need to check out of the rooms. Real guests are coming”…… After a much-needed drink at the bar and what-was-left-on-the-menu diner to take the day off, my bed was ready to crash on me before I even got to it….

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Day 1 in Mongomo at the Mongomo Abayak Grand Hotel…

After a night spent in the light (fell asleep with the lights on), we woke up to a grey sky. The non-working red phone next to the bed reminded me strangely of a hotel room I had once upon a time in Israel. A room with a phone… Cordless phone but when complaining at the front desk I was told “you asked for a room with a phone. You didn’t mention you wanted a phone that works”…….. After watching a bit of Jacky Chan on English TV, we headed for breakfast… non continental. One may think ***** hotel ; royal breakfast… One may get it wrong. I asked for a coffee with milk. I was brought instant coffee grains. I was brought a cup filled with milk. No water… They brought some bread. There was no butter. They brought a little marmalade. We asked for 2 pains au chocolate. They brought 2 mini pains, stone hard and empty of the chocolate. We asked for juice, they brought the container. Thank god I brought my breakfast in a bar from home… We laughed. We drank. We left.

Going by the lady’s room to wash my hands I was looking for the hand drier. To my left there was a hanging towel. Too wet to serve my needs. In front of me, a pack of table napkins in its torn up plastic bag.

What I have noticed around here is that there is no sense of proper service as we may know it. Watching a French program the other day about palace hotels, we saw the maitre d’hôtel of the George V in Paris tell his waiters that when a client raises his head, he has a need. If he raises his hand, it means the staff has failed to serve. You should not wait to be called upon. You have to anticipate the clients needs. Here is a whole different story despite the number of stars on the hotel sign. The outdoors are treated with care. The lawn. The pool. The tennis court. There is a night-club and a casino. Impeccable. The indoors are clean, but empty enough to hear your echo everywhere. The staff is present but not very attentive. What can I say. The standards are quite different and your expectations should stay low if you wish to have a pleasant stay.

As I write this, off line, I am now standing on the border of Gabon. One foot in EG, the second one… In EG too, and judging from the custom guy’s faces, I should keep it where it is. However, I can almost touch it.

While some work, others watch TV. I watched English TV all afternoon in the hotel room. Films. Making of’s… Could be worse. However, at 9pm, at the hotel casino having a hard time finishing my drink and dreaming of a long-time-ago dinner. How can I move two drinking men, nowhere near finishing drinking and talking business continuously… Ends up, you cannot. So, I’m sitting, waiting, trying to convince my stomach it is no longer hungry and take me straight to bed…

So we made it to dinner by 9.30-10pm ater I made some clear faces of how hungry I was. I had the caesar salad I’ve been dreaming of since 2pm (a lot of fresh green crispy lettuce, a rare find) But no bread. No more bread in the hotel since lunch time. Once we all finished eating… bread arrived. We asked for some cheese with bread. We got a “No” for an answer. A ***** hotel restaurant that refuses to serve you… A hotel where the receptionists sit behind the counter on a trash can as their chairs have been taken away. “Why” you may wonder… Seemed they used them to sleep on rather than sit on and work. Cleaning staff that sleeps on the lounge sofas and found by hotel tenants in the morning heading for breakfast. Restaurant staff that asks you to finish up your dinner and leave because they want to go home… The classic *****.

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Day 2 in Mongomo at the Mongomo Abayak Grand Hotel…

For this second day at Mongomo, I got a private tour of the newly built Mongomo official annexe residence. Endless rooms. 3 kitchens ; one decorative kitchen (just for show, not for cooking), an industrial kitchen (situated outside the house as cooking is not appreciates indoors, and which will be properly used by the presidential chefs) and a traditional kitchen (more of a living room space with a big fire in the middle for (re)heating). Each around 100m²… There are 2 fitness areas, guest rooms, more bathrooms than your body can take. Dressing rooms (I show my full support for that one), a chapel, a private cinema… A small 3000m² residence for weekends, holidays and more.

The trip back was rough today. Too hot. Tricky check points… But am now home. The cat is purring next to me on the sofa… A calm afternoon in Equatorial Guinea.

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2 Responses to “Mongomo in Africa”

  1. ima December 2, 2010 at 9:49 AM #

    If you had been to George V in Paris, you wouldn’t have such an interesting story to tell the world. Who cares about places where things go smoothly as they should!
    Enjoy the purring kitty! Wish I could do the same. Pusi.

    • apolo September 17, 2012 at 8:03 PM #

      Dear madam, i was sad knowing that the condition of the Hotel Mongomo now. I can proudly say that me and my group came there to trained staff starting from their hygiene problems to proper ways of service to guest, but importunately our service been terminated because of the corruptions of same of staffs of the president who wants to run the area. We are group of Filipinos who were the first employed to trained and run the Hotel, I still remember when they held the marriage of the Presidents daughter and Oil Companies Confab in the hotel. 6 months of hard work little rest and 24 hours pressured from the corrupt staff that made us decide to go.

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