Monday, July 20, 2009

A week in review....

A week in Review......
After a couple of discussions, I've realized that I'd like to shift the focus of my blog. From now on I'm going to try to upload more pictures and see if I could tell a story around the picture. So starting from 7.20ish.2009, that will be the focus of the blogs. For those of you that have been reading and enjoying my longs rants, don't worry. These pictures are meant to enhance the text of the blogs and give a reference point.
There have been a lot of things that have gone on in the past week. The one week I should have been blogging daily, I didn't.... No worries though. I'm going to give you a wrap up of what went on in the past week. Its a little sketchy so forgive me.
We planned to distribute laptops today. What we failed to realize is that the day after independence day is a public holiday as well. We got to the school and there was no one there. There was one girl that showed up eager to get her laptop but we decided not to distribute. We would do it all on Tuesday. We got a good dry run in though.

Launch day! (officially) we distributed over 50 laptops today! It was pretty cool to see all the kids waiting anxiously to get their laptops. We even had kids trying to pose as other kids so they could get the laptop. It was difficult because we had many kids come whose name was not on the list to receive laptops. We had the Head of the school decide who should get laptops and who shouldn't so we didn't feel like we were picking and choosing. I felt like we were though. Who brings 100 laptops to a school of 300? A part of me felt bad for the kids that were not getting laptop but a part of me knew that it was important that this first year goes well in order to get more xo laptops to Sao Tome in the future. I looked at it is crawling before you could walk or run. Sure we  would all like to run right away, but it might not work out.
We were giving out laptops to the kids and then having them go to the next classroom for an introduction. We wanted to introduce basic concepts to them about the laptops like care, power and simple operation. Mike was teaching the initial concepts lesson. It was interesting to see kids helping other kids out. Some would get things faster than other and explain it to their friend.
After distribution day, Judy and I went to Mocha Plantation. This plantation was one of many plantations nationalized after the independence of Sao Tome from the Portuguese. The coffee plantation still produces coffee 7 months out of the year.  Most of the people that still live on the plantation are descendants of the slaves who lived and worked on the plantation. We got a tour of the plantation by one of the workers and got to see the process of making the coffee ready for sale. Judy even bought a bunch of coffee from the plantation.
Distribution day Part 2!! This was the day when everyone came...When I say everyone... I mean everyone was there. The Prime Ministers wife was there on behalf of the prime minister and the director of Education was there. There were about 80 kids stuffed in one class and they were all doing introductory work. It was a great photo op for the radio, television and newspaper that was there. Pretty big day..
After that, me and Judy went to the U.N building to meet with the UNICEF  Deputy Representative Batilloi Warritay and educational specialist Alberto Neto.  We discussed several projects that we could assist with. Distribution of Laptops and training could only take up so much of our day and we could use this opportunity to learn more about Sao Tome. UNICEF deals directly with children and women issues. Their programs span from education about health issues to education about gender roles. Pretty cool stuff. We got some statistics about women and children in Sao Tome like birth rate, age, disease and other figures. It was  a really informative meeting.
After a good day like that, it was just nice to go home and sleep.
A lot of stuff happened. I'll just highlight  a bunch of stuff throughout the last couple of days. a director of external affairs, I found out that someone was having an art Exhibition in the city so I took the group there... Pretty nice. I want some of this guys art.
I got into a motorcycle accident....ya... um I hurt my head and my arms and my leg. I was a little bloody but I was okay. I eventually called Dr. Wang, a friend of ours that we made on the island, and he checked me out the next day and side I was lucky.
Mike, Corey and Judy went to Peako de Sao Tome. It was a two day trek and they did it... Pretty good stuff.  Danielle and Ashley went to Joao Carlos's crib.... it was decent. They had good food and they taught English to the ladies that worked their.
Oh we added a new member to our team as well. Laura is from France. Her father is from Sao Tome and her mother is from France. She is a political Science Major and hopes to eventually to go to get her masters degree in International Development. It was a nice change of pace and it will be really nice to have her on the team for the two weeks that she's here.
Everyone else that was supposed to come came on Monday. Martin brought Damon, Sarah and Jeanie. They came in the morning and Judy left on the plane the came in on.  We taught Scratch, a programming application, to the kids. Pretty fun stuff.  Later on, we had a meeting with  the deputy representative and Martin and Paul. We talked about various projects that UNICEF wanted us to get involved with.
Well thats all... I'm going to try and finish strong with the last three weeks left. Man where has this summer gone?

Monday, July 13, 2009

A fruitful Weekend

Good weekend in general....

Blow hole and foodgasms

Deep breath..... woke up early and headed south to San Jauao. The ride there was amazing..... Most of the roads are a couple of feet from the ocean so it was really scenic. It was nice to see the towns outside of the main city. I will admit that I was asleep for a majortiy of the trip but from what I remember seeing, it was pretty nice. Besides the amazing view of the ocean, the trees added to the mystique of the trip as well. At times, we were traveling and the trees acted as a canopy from the sunlight...Now that I think about was really cloudy to begin with so maybe it wasn't the trees.

Joao Carlos Silva lives in an old plantation on top of the hill that overlooks the ocean. Its right near the town of Anglores. (Historical point..... Anglores is said to have the oldest population on island. It is home to the decendants of Angolan Slaves that shiprecked a while back...supposedly before the portuguese found the island..) Jauo Silva is a world renound chef that was educated in Brazil and hosted a television show in Portugal. Sooo he lives in this plantation and he has a school where he teaches girls how to make crafts. There was a store full of hand made necklaces, belts, and other various artistic items. There were a bunch of paintings, carvings and other objects as well.

As much as this was a sight seeing trip, there was some work to be done. Mike and I helped fix computers that were not working properly. Unfortunately, we only got one to work. I was joking around with Mike saying that these computers need to be "Africa ready". People should Africa proof the computers before they send it here. I don't know what that would entail but maybe I'll right more about it in another blog...... Ashley and Danielle taught some English to the girls that made the items that we saw at the store so they could communitcate more customers. They weren't teaching them like full English, but English enough just to help them communicate prices and respond politely.

After We were done with helping out, Jauo made us a 9 or 10 course meal..(Mike counted 15...haha) Yea it was just an onslaught of food. I think they way I described it to someone was that Its tough to describe some of the tastes but it was like a well orchestrated symphony...different flavors were working together to achieve one unique taste...IT was amazing.... he used many fruits to create a majority of the dishes.. He used them in a way that I would never have thought of. I plan on expirementing a lot more with fruits in a lot of my meals...haha...

Yea.... I could go on describing the meals forever.... It was amazing. After the meal, we headed back to Sao Tome city. On the way back, we stopped at a blowhole by the ocean. It was really pretty. Hopefully we can go back there later.

We got back and took a nap and then went to one of James's friends house for a independence day/ birthday party. This place had good food, a good band playing and good drinks.... which equals a pretty good party. I had goat meat with potatos and vegitables with rice.

After that, we got back home and then went for a walk around the town. It was a couple of minutes before independence day so people were gathering around for the "fireworks"....haha..fireworks... 7/12/2009

Independence day

Well We were out for a little bit during the celebrations in the morning and it was great to see the people happy about the rememberance of independence. Sao Tome gained indpendence from Portugal in 1975. Sao Tome was in the last group of countries to get independence from their colonial masters. People were extremely excited for their independence day. They look like they were way more happier than I would have been for independence day in the United Staes. It made me think of watching fireworks in Chicago for the Fourth of July or watching the fireworks at my house and thinking of how trivialized independence day has become in the United States. I honestly don't think of it as a big deal and its because I'm disconnected from the birth of the United States. Most of the people in Sao Tome have parents or have some kind of connection to Sao Tome during Portuguese rule. They are truly happy to be an independent country because they were around when it wasn't.

Now its easy to see that people are happy about independence and excited to be part of the democratic expirement but are they truly better off? (Devils advocate) It depends on what you truly define as better off. Sure people were eating and living in decent conditions(over statement) back then. Now, there extremely wealthy people (that are Sao Tomean by the way) and really really poor people who live in bad conditions and do not eat as well as they should. Nothing has really changed at all besides the who is calling the shots. Is that the change that people worked hard to get?

When people think of democracy from all around the world and getting independence from other countries, words like freedom, liberty, and opportunity come up a lot in discussions. Freedom for who though? Liberty for who? Opportunities for who? People throw these words around but in all actuality, these words never really mean anything to the average citizens. What it means in a post colonial country is that the Elites will assume the colonizers roll and the other citizens will continue to live the way they have been and in some will even live in worst conditions.

I am not making a judgement call here... I'm just wieghing out the positives and negatives. To me, though( judgement coming) they are celebrating the transition from one group of opressors to another group except, the opressors now are now the same color as them.

Ok...what now right??? I think Barrack Obama got straight to the problem when he gave his speech in Ghana. Someone (citizens) has to hold the leaders of these post colonial countries responsible. That is the only way their can be improvement for all citizens. Improvement has to come from within.

Independence days are birthdays in a sense...... The one thing I love doing on my birthday is reflecting on how I was in previous years, looking at where I am now, and where I see myself in a couple of more years. Birthdays are a really nice time to do this (you should always be reflecting i guess but its nice to have a bench mark...what better time than your birthday!) I hope Sao Tomeans and other countries that are very young take a look at where they have come from, where they are now and where they want to be because it all looks and sounds like the past to me.

Yea.... Thats my independence day blog....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Serving them up....

Keep your ears closed and let your eyes listen

Today was the last day of teacher training. We went through more programs and taught the teachers how to share files from laptop to laptop.

Me, Mike and Corey went to see James at work. He wanted us to help him fix two computers that were broken. Mike concluded that the power supplies were faulty because of unstable electricity.

We got back from James's and walked with Danielle to the National Archives. We walked around for a little bit and watched an old video about plantation life.  It was really interesting to learn about the history of Sao Tome. After the National archives, we all went on a bolo A bolo is a type of donut that is made here in Sao Tome. The best way to describe a bolo is to imagine a donut without a hole in the middle and sugar sprinkled on top. When these bolos are fresh, they are almost as addictive as They are really good.

After the bolo run, we met up with Ashley and headed towards Cafe Capania for dinner. on Thursdays, they have a live band and everyone comes to here them play. We met up with Andy, Ian, Judy, and Paul. They went to Neves to eat Crabs.  Fun stuff.... Yea so we stay at Cafe Capania for a little while and after that we head home.

Bonfire!!! Mike had the bright idea of having a bonfire and hanging out since we didn't have anything to do on Friday. That was pretty fun. We got the fire started and just chilled... Good ending to a good day.

Timeless trees and the fruits they bare

Woke up early today and found out that we were going to a plantation/old hospital.  We had passed it on the way to Neves but we never got to explore the area. We went to breakfast and the got a taxi to take us. It was interesting because the driver had family at that lived around the area so he knew a litte bit about the area.  We walked around and toured the abandoned house and got to look at the cocoa that was being processed. *Historical note....When the country got its independence in 1975, they nationalized all the plantations and production of cocoa and coffee were sold by the government....oh and people that live in these plantations are descendents of the slaves and the workers of that plantation.

I know I'm all over the place in terms of information but there was just so much to see.  After touring the abandoned hospital, we went to see the botanical garden they had. It had really excotic plants that were very interesting. They had one plant that would retract on touch. They had the cola nut tree as well.

After touring the plantation/ hospital, we went to eat lunch in the nearby town of Guadalupe. We had rice, bananna, salad and fish. It was really good. After that we headed back to Sao Tome City

Later on we went out for dinner at Jasmines.... We had pizzas.... fun stuff....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Practice makes better


I woke up early and went for a walk around Sao Tome. I wanted to walk to the dock and see them selling fish but I got thier kind of late. So I continued to walk around. I found the French was really nice and the size of their embassy made me realize why I have seen a lot of french military around. It was a pretty massive compound thats well hidden by trees and what not. I walked for about an hour or two. I don't know why I went walking but it felt good to just walk around and expirence an early morning in Sao Tome

I got back and everyone else was just waking up. We had breakfast and then planned out what we were going to teach today at the school. Ashley was going to teach distance, a program that measures the distance between two laptops and Mike planned to teach Scratch, a low level programming application.

Todays lesson went really well. Mike and Ashley did a good job of getting thier points across and the teachers picked up a lot of the information quickly. Ian and Andrew were thier. They are researchers doing some data gathering on malaria in Sao Tome. I was talking to Ian and we came to the conclusion that regardless of age, computer illiterate people respond to information the same. Its true because even with the language barrier and the fact that the teachers were a little older, they were responding like kids would be responding in a high school computer course.

Nothing else happened today.... Judy cooked a really good dinner and the peppers she used were blazing hot. Everyone was sweating from eating them. I thought it was funny.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

If blogging was my job....

If blogging was my job....I'd be fired....hopefully I can stay up to date now.

Independence day and the Three Wise men

Today was the big day! It was time to celebrate the 233rd year of independence of the United States. I woke up early today and helped clean the house and eventually helped everyone set up for the festivities. I honestly was very uneasy about throwing a party in a foreign land but I've come to assume four universal truths that will make sure  any party is good

1.Good food
4.Good host(s)

Back on topic.... We  prepped for the party. We also found out that the Prime Minister was stuck in Lisbon. We were all a little bummed but we still had a ton of guests coming.

Fast foward a couple of hours.. So we are at the party and James introduces me to the guy that wrote the book that he had given me to read, Exersising the Demons From the Throne. Being a political science major, I really was interested in seeing what a young educated Sao Tome Native has to say about his government. He wrote an excellent inquiry into the problems that Sao Tome has and comes up with solutions to help the country get on the right track. His ideas are very specific to Sao Tome but are problematic to many of the developing countries. It was a great opportunity to get to talk to him. I learned a lot from our discussion.

After our long discussion, I got an opportunity to mingle around and meet more of our guests. I met James's boss and two bankers.(Three Wise men) They were all Nigerians and were very friendly to me. We talked about EVERYTHING. I mean we talked about about the governor of Lagos state to raising kids and marriage. It was really fun to sit and talk to them.

As the party was winding down, the discussion with the three wise men was going full steam. They were the last ones to leave the party (in true Nigerian fashion)

Hmmm...Oh after our party, we all rested for a little bit and went to the beach club for the night. This place was pretty nice and upscale. It was right on the ocean and was pretty modern. This place was nice! I preveiously knew the manager of the club from another time we were there so it was nice to see Riccardo again. We got thier pretty early (11:45PM is early) and we sat around and waiting for everyone to start dancing. We met up with Ashleys friend, Biba. Biba introduced me to a couple of people that worked with the president. I felt all V.I.P and

It started to get lively around 1 AM. The dance floor was packed with people dancing. It was interesting to see how the dance varies from culture to culture. In continental Africa, dancing is very impersonal...two people will dance and their is definately a space between them and they will look everywhere but at each other. (traditionally speaking) The Sao Tome dancing style was very personal and very sensual... It was like two becoming one in one fluid motions. It was like a zombiesque slow dance. Now for all I know, this could be a borrowed dance style from the portuguese. I'm not sure, this is just what I saw.

A fun filled night at the club would not be complete without dancing. You can observe all you want, but you'll never have a good time until you get out there and dance yourself. So we formed a little security circrle and started dancing... Ohh we ran into two of the Nigerians that were at our party. They were having a really good time... Yea so we were all dancing together and it was a lot of fun. We were at a club in a foreign country but I felt like I knew everyone. I ran into  a couple of Ashleys friends. We ran into a lot of other people that we had met throughout our time in Sao Tome, we also ran into some neighbors that live 3 buildings down. It's a small island so people tend to see each other I guess.

The night ended around 3...


Happy Birthday Emeka!! You are probably not reading this but enjoy your birthday!

Mike, Ashley and I woke up early to go Swimming with a couple of the Tiawanese doctors that we met. We met them while we were eating lunch and we have hit it off. THey decided to take us to this one beach that was pretty close to the Blue Lagoon. It was sooo nice. It was almost like having a private beach secluded by the physical barriers of rocks. It was pretty cool. Dr. Wang went snorkling, Mike, Ashley, and the general practice doctor went swimming while I was taking pictures. I took some pretty good pitures.

After the swim, we got back home and then we went to Ned's house to hangout. It was nice to just sit on the dock and look out to the ocean.

Nothing else happened Sunday... after Ned's, we got back and i fell asleep for the night. No... we played hearts and then I fell asleep.


Training session for the teachers..... We showed them a couple of programs that were included on the X0. We are hoping that by showing them a couple of the useful programs, they will be able to adapt their lesson plans to instruction that utilizes the usefulness of the laptops. Oh...Judy got here this morning. Judy is the informatics advisor at UofI. She told us when we were having meetings back at home that she wasn't that good at portuguese. She got here and shes not that bad at all. What is interesting to note is that Judy gets a better response from the people here no matter what because she attempts to speak the same language. Thats all people whos speak the native language anywhere want to see at the end of the day...People that care enough to learn thier language before coming to thier country.

Nothing else really happened today so I'd like to take this opportunity to talk more about one of the things I've noticed in Sao Tome....The dogs. When I say dogs....some of you may think about little poodles walking around with their hairbows but in order to visualize these dogs, you have to think the total opposite. A majority of the dogs on island look like they have the same mom and dad. Sao Tome does not have a nutering program so it is probable. The dogs are everywhere. In the market,  on the streets, in the parks, everywhere! Here I think dogs are the equvilent of pigeons in a city.

Sometimes I feel that the dogs here have a split personality. They are shy around humans but when sometimes they just start barking out of control. Micheal Vick got in trouble for dog fighting but  every night I swear a couple of dogs go 12 rounds in front of a dog crowd. The barking and howling prevents me from going to sleep some nights.

The dogs are not even in the best health. Some of them are limping around because they got hit by a car or have unusual growth on their fur.

I feel like there should be some sort of program to put some of these dogs out of their missery. If anyone has any good ideas... I'm all ears.


Teacher training went  a little rough today. The teachers were having a difficult time understanding our questions. We wanted to better understand how they taught last year so that we could find more ways to implement the XO. THey kept on telling us how they would teach without the XO. We tried asking the same question 3or 4 different ways. We still did not get a solid answer. I came to the conclusion that there was no real answer to give. The teachers may not know what types of strategies they are going to use with the kids until they gauge how responsive the kids are to the information that they are giving them. All we wanted to know is the strategies they used..It didn't work out too well. Ohh... Mike was building a server box with one of the local wood workers. (It turned out great by the way) It was a true work of art.

Later on in the day, me and Judy went to the U.N building. We were looking to speak with a representatvie about doing volunteer work while we were on island. We set up a meeting with the director of UNICEF for a later date.

Umm...what else happened.....Mike, Corey and I went to go get our hair cut. After that we went to go pick up the server box. I think mike has a picture of the box on his Yea, it was pretty cool. Then we went to the fish market to meet up with Judy and Danielle. They had made a new friend. Her name was Alda. She was really nice. Judy and Danielle were quite the rage at the fish market. I heard some guy made a song about them. Fun stuff.

Thats pretty much all that happened today.... I'm sure I'm constantly leaving stuff out because soo much happens in one day its difficult to remember. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jay-z and the Ocean

Hmm.... Where were we....


Corey, Mike and I went to get lined and shaved up at the barber. We stopped at the market to get some stuff for sandwiches for lunch and we saw someone in a wheelchair that Jeff and Lisa gave out.

Met with 6th grade teachers and trained them on how to use applications on laptop. The teachers were very uneasy at first but they started getting into it and eventually they were really excited about the laptops.

I forget what else happened.... oh yes, we watched forgetting Sarah Marshall and it was still as funny as the first time I saw it.

Free day!...We didn't have anything scheduled to do, so we hung around and relaxed. Everyone was working on little side projects that we were doing. I was appointed the head of external affiairs for our group, so my job is to find other opportunities for us to help out around the island besides our deployment. I was going to call Dr. Wang, a doctor that I met during lunch one time, to discuss with him if thier was any way would could assist his medical mission. I will look for other opportunities as the arise.

We sat around for a little bit, than Danielle and I decided to go to the National Archives and walked around . We walked down the street to the shore line and walked around for a little bit. There was a really nice breeze coming in so that was nice.

We got back and I started reading a book on the political struggles of Sao Tome. From what I've read so far, its not too far off from what every developing African country is going through. It was just interesting to hear another perspective, I guess.

Later on, we went to Ned's house for a going away party for Jeff and Lisa. They helped bring more wheelchairs to the island. It was a really nice way of saying that we were thankful for what they have done. Besides the fact that thier mobility project is a great cause, Jeff and Lisa are great. They are really cool people. It was really nice to meet them. ooh... Ned let us borrow some books from his impressive library. I've become quite the bookworm as of late. Hopefully that doesn't slow down anytime soon.

Ned's house is right on the ocean. I was hanging out on the dock. As I was looking out towards the endless ocean, I closed my eyes and started to clear my thoughts.... I felt a peace that I had not felt in a while. It felt great to just be able to sit out there and feel so peaceful.

Now its about 11:20 and I can barely keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Back on Track...Kindof

Chill day.... We all woke up and went to the beach. I didn't really feel like swimming again so I just went in to Omali Lodge and hung out and got up to date on news. After that, we went out to lunch and then went home. Later on, Ashley, Danielle and Corey gave a XO lesson to two kids as a trial run. It went pretty well. A pretty non eventful day.

Tuesday..... We started the day early and went to go talk to the teachers about implementing the XO's into thier curriculum. The director gave us the wrong teachers. We needed 6th grade teachers and he gave us 5th grade teachers. We decided to comeback later on when the 6th grade teachers were free.

We decided to walk to Step-Up after our meeting at the school. Jack and Lisa were giving out wheelchairs that they brought through their mobility project. THey were giving out new, used and refurbished wheelchairs to people that came in. Their was a camera crew covering the ceremony and Everyone in Step-Up was there. It was nice to see the project have an instant inpact like it did. People were wheeling around in thier all terrain wheel chairs and kids were smiling as they were being pushed around. It was really a site to see.

After that, we went home for lunch and had squid and fried bread fruit. The squid was decent and the bread fruit was pretty good. Fried bread fruit taste like potatos. The squid was tough and was difficult to eat. May I stress once again....anything tastes good if it prepared well enough. Oh, Danny's (Ned's driver and friend) sister stopped by and she was cool. She works for the Coast gaurd and she is going to China for 7 years for electric engineering. I dunno... 7 years in China is a long time.

Later on I decided to play basketball at the court down the street from us. I was warming up and my shot was looking pretty good. Their was a team practicing but I wasn't really sure what they were practicing for but they looked pretty big and decently atheletic. Their were two coaches, who both spoke great english. The one coach looked like Forest Whitiker. I got an opportunity to talk to the coaches and I found out that they were the youth-17 national team. They were leaving for portugal on Monday for a tournament. I asked them if they had any sponsorships or anything and they said no. None of these kids had good basketball shoes on. The basketball they practiced with sucks. They didn't really have much, but you could tell by the way they played that they loved the game. They were defensive minded team. They thrive on the fast break and they are all decently athletic. They will outrun and outlast any team out there. The problem lies in their fundementals. They don't have the offensive fundementals down and they won't be able to keep up with firepower of the European teams. Anyways, it was fun playing with them....They play so fast and I got tired quick....hahaha.... Maybe because I'm out of shape and they are totally in shape...I don't know maybe its a mixture of both.

I was really tired from Basketball and I just wanted to take a shower and go to sleep.... There was no electricity in the house so I decided to go to Yoga with everyone. One of Ashleys friends was teaching in so it was pretty welcoming. I decided to sit out and watch because I was so tired, I didn't think I would have total control of my body. So everyone was doing yoga and I was watching/falling asleep. After that, we got introduced to some of the people in the class. One of the ladies was a news anchor for BBC. She's pretty

After that we went to dinner at this really nice restaurant. Its the kind of restaurant that doesn't have a menu but has a killer view of the ocean.....yea that kind of restaurant. Corey and I, like bums, ordered beef when we should have ordered Barracuda. The beef was good, but it wasn't as good as the barracuda looked.

We ended the night at Omali lodge using the internet.