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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Heinz 57 (catch-up) part 2

yea so i've been a little lazy.... So hear is stuff from the last week.

A lot of things happened between these two days. I don't even remember which one happened on which day. Micheal Jackson died. I guess that was pretty much the leading news topic everywhere. I called home and my mom was telling me that he was in the hospital and then Paul got a call from his friend George and he told us that Micheal Jackson passed.

It's easy forget the importance that Micheal Jackson played in a lot of things. He's the father of the modern music video . Every music video structure can be traced back to the complex or simple storylines that Micheal Jackson had in his music videos.

Besides music videos, he is the last of a generation of music artists that have used thier platform attempt to make a difference in the world. During the 90's, I could remember many of MJ's songs questioned the status quo and asked other interesting questions. One that comes up right away is the one forgot the name.... um..The one kid from home alone was in it. "It doesn't matter if your black or white"...)Good stuff....Now that I think about it...Bono is doing alot to help change the world as well..HE's using other outlets but I think Micheal Jackson tried to do it through music.

Besides Micheal Jordan, McDonalds, and maybe Barrack Obama now.... I think Micheal Jackson is one of the most well known American exports... People may not know english...but they know thriller or Liberian Girl. Like mother earth...everyone has thier his peak season, he really did make a difference in the world.

(Just want to let you all know that I am aware of the slant I may have for Micheal Jackson. I think the one thing I can argue though is that as many bad things as people have to say about him, there are more good things. He will live on through his music forsure.

Oh yea, we met with the minister of Education and i messed up the presentation I had ready for him. ( I would be the one to do that) and later on, we toured the school he suggested that we deploy the laptops at. The next day, we went to go talk to the head master and discussed with him what we are planning. We have decided that we are going to pick two 5th grade classes for a total of 90 students.

Yea so more probably happened but the last two days have been a blur to me.

Busy day. Mike and I went to Step- Up to fix computers. (He did most of the fixing...hahaha) We successfully fixed two computers. After that we went home and set up for the xo demonstration we were going to give for the students in Elvis's tech class. We  set 7 xo's up and let them get acquainted with the laptop. Then we taught them scratch, a programming application on the xo that lets you create a lot of different things. We walked them through a couple of samples and then we let them create thier own project. They were really quick in picking scratch up so it was easier than we thought it was going to be. After we taught them, Danny came to pick me and Mike up to go get our hair cut. It was interesting to see the barber shop that Danny took us too. It was very professional. People that worked thier had uniform and had pretty much the same set of things that my barber in the states would have. It felt good to cut my hair and its probably one of the top haircuts I have recieved. We got back and then we went to go see a bunch of kids dance at a local hangout spot. One of our students came up to us and introduced us to a bunch of her friends. Mike got all thier numbers!!!...hahaha... We got to meet a bunch of other people. This one guys spoke english, french and portuguese. This other guy learned english by watching movies. Makes me wonder if I can improve my french and portuguese by watching movies too. We didn't get a chance to watch the dancing becasue we had to go to dinner. We went to Jasmines, a restaurant accross from the prime ministers office. I could not tell we were in Sao Tome once we stepped into the restaurant. This restaurant could be in Europe for all I know. It was really nice. They served pizza, fries and burgers. I ordered a burger and a pizza and shared it with Mike.

After dinner, we went back home for a couple of hours and then we' went to Africana, a  nightclub. It was closed so we went to the Beach Club, one of the better clubs in Sao Tome. Beach Club was a club that was a part of the Pistana resort. This resort is so official it has its own airplane and aiport. It also had a Casino...which I didn't really care too much for. The Beach Club was nice though. I got a chance to talk to Ricardo, the manager of the club. He was really helpful because much of the staff didn't speak English. He spoke perfect English. I would assume that he is from Portugal and using this as an opportunity to build his resume. Real cool'd like him... So this place was pretty nice. It makes a lot of Chicago bars look like charity cases. The inside was really I dont know how to describe it but the outdoor section looked out to the ocean... We hung out there for a while and met a couple of guys from our plane that were here for the summer as well. We also met one of Ashleys friends. He has a cousin that was from California that was visiting as well. It was really interesting to talk to him. He lived in Brazil for a little bit, then moved to Sao Tome and then moved to California. He had an unique perspective on what was going on in the island.

Besides that amazing view and the cool people we met, Beach club was a bust. Friday nights are not the nights to go there I guess. Ohh and it was 150,000 dbs to get in (about 10 usd). Not bad but unreasonably expensive for any regular Sao Tomean to go to.

Today was a nice relaxing day. We all woke up and went to the beach accross from Omali lodge, one of the nicer hotels on island, and went swimming. Everyone besides me went swimming...haha....Its something about the vastness of the ocean that totally freaks me out. So i just sat around and listened to This American Life on my Ipod. There were some pretty interesting stories on that, but I feel bad that I didn't go swimming.

After that, we went home and cleaned up for the fifth annerversary party for STEP-UP. A lot of the people that we have been working with were there. (The Headmaster of the school we deploying the laptops at, the minister of education, Ned..the director of STEP- UP, Roberta...etc) We also met a couple that is from Seattle. They are part of a mobility project that they are trying to incorporate on island. They had a bunch of wheel chairs shipped to the island to distribute and they also want to teach some sports that could go along with the wheelchairs. They were thinking of incorportating wheelchair basketball, shotput, and javelin. These sports are already played by a majority of the disabled population on island.
We had lunch at step up and then went home to relax. Mike, Corey and I walked to the library to see if we could get internet connection but there was none. So we sat around talking and then Danny, one of our friends that we met through James and Ned, took us to a soccer match.

So we drove up the street to a soccer match going on in the main stadium. It was about 20,000 dbs to get in. (about 1.40 USD) It was pretty cool. The stadium was a turf field enclosed by a couple of cememt bleachers and a lot of walls. It was actually pretty nice. It lets me know that soccer is very important to the Sao Tome government, at least important enough to pay for a turf field. As we watch the game, we picked up Portuguese curse words...haha.... One thing never changes.... People, no matter where you are still get excited about sports. One thing I noticed though was that I could count the amount of girls in the stadium on one hand. A majortiy of the spectators were men. It was also interesting watching the match itself. Mike and I were breaking down the teams and we realized why a lot of African teams arent successful on the world stage. These teams were running all over the place. They had an unlimited amount of energy. It was like the last minutes of the game could have been the beginning for all I knew. The problem is that they try to out condition other teams. You may be smarter, more technically sound than them, but you will not be more conditioned than an African team. The problem is you need strategy and other aspects of your game to fall into place before your conditioning can come in to play...hahaha....... daddy if you reading this don't get mad at me because its true.

After the match, we returned home and played hearts  and I lost as usual. We were supposed to go to another club tonight but I fell asleep and everyone else was tired to we didn't go any where.

WOW!!!! Sunday fun day!!! We woke up around 9ish and we headed to Neves, a city in the north. This was one of the more exciting drives I've had in a while. We through Sao Tome city and headed north. The road was really nice...besides the pot holes in random spots on the road. We drove through a couple of little towns and stopped at an old plantation. It was a plantation at one point, then it was converted to a hospital. Now it is abandoned and people live throughout the guest quarters. We drove passed that and then we headed toward Neves. The road to Neves was amazing.  It was a coastal road that swereved all around the coast up to Neves. we were traveling with a couple (Jack and Lisa) from Seatle. They were part of the mobility project. The mobility project takes new and used wheelchairs and distributes them to developing countries. They have been all over the world. From wartorn Afgahnistan to the tropical regions of south America. They had seen it all.
We also stopped at the Blue Lagoon, a little lagoon area on the way to Neves. I walked towards the water and the water was clear as day. If we had more time, I definately would have gone swimming.  We climbed up to the hill and took pictures of the amazing view. We headed back to the truck....Oh by the way... I was driving in the back of the truck the whole time listening to my Ipod...haha.... I was sitting in the bed of the truck and enjoying the view and the natural air.  It was another 20 minutes to Neves from the Blue Lagoon.
So we drove into  Neves and we stopped at this crab restaurant. Once again....I've come to the conclusion that anything is good if you cook it the right way. So we all ate crab. Good stuff. Then we drove back to Sao Tome and headed to Jame's aunts house to eat some more. She cooked fish, backed bananna, rice and bitter leaf sause.... I laughed because I was eating this and I realized that it is actually the same thing my mom makes. It had fish and a bunch of leaves in it. It was great!! After eating , Mike and I went up to this area where they were playing music right next to James aunts house. Mike thought that he would share music with them. Him changing music with them turned into a huge dance party! Mike or should I say...Dj Mikeski...hahaha...Was playing some Chris Brown music on these large speakers and kids (from the age of 6-18) came out of the wood work. They actually had a dance group that had a sequence prepared and ready to go... We watched them dance and thier dancing is a lot more acrobatic than most dances. Maybe it has something to do with the influence of kapuara (brazilan form of martial arts....started by slaves in South America so that thier masters wouldn't know they were teaching martial arts... disquised as dancing) It was interesting to see.
That was pretty much my Sunday. Probably one of the more fun Sundays I've had.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The work begins


1st day of OLPC work. I woke up extra early today and Paul and I went into town to get breakfast with for the rest of the group. We picked up fresh baked goods, some eggs and mango juice/nectar. By the time we got back, everyone was ready and good to go. We had breakfast and we were on our way. We were scheduled to meet with Roberta, our contact within the IGO Step up, that we are working with. We went discussed what we were planning to do with her and our restrictions and she gave us a list of schools that would fit our restrictions.

When I talk of restrictions, I mean things like age limit, (OLPC wants to focus on 6 to 12 years old.)  and things like Infastructure limits (we are only going to schools with electricty because of sustainability issues.

We decided to target 4th, 5th and 6th graders and I forgot the name of the school we are going to deploy at but I will discuss the school on a future blog. After a short but successful meeting with Robera, we got a tour of the Step-up computer lab. This is the lab where they teach people how to fix computer problems. Elvis is normally instructing these classes. Touring the computer confirmed my beliefs that Step up and OLPC have a lot in common. They both want to bring technology literacy to the island and out partnership is like a match made in heaven.

After that, we took a stroll to the market to get items to cook dinner. (Veggies, rice, etc) As we were passing through one of the sections of the market I said bon dia (good morning in portugese) to an elder woman. She laughed and asked me if i spoke french. so I told her I spoke french in french!!! I find it funny that I have used Ibo, French, Portuguese, and English on this island. Ive even been working on my broken English. It is truly amazing!

So after the market we went to the cafe to discuss the meeting and how we thoguht it went. After that we went back home. Not a big day but still pretty busy.

Oh...So later on Paul came back and discussed with us the idea of having a fourth of July party at the house. This wouldn't be just any fourth of July Party, this would be a fouth of July party where the Prime Minister, the minister of Defense and several important officals of Sao Tome would come to our house to celebrate along with us! This trip keeps getting better and better!


Nothing much to do today. We were waiting on a phone call from Roberta. She was setting up a meeting for us with the minister of education. She hasn't called. So we played hearts and attempted to play spades. After a while, we had lunch/ and dinner which consisted of Crab and rice. Good stuff. I'm not really a seafood fan but I got a chance to try some crab and it was really good. Taste just like chicken!

I've also decided that on days that I don't have much to talk about, I will blog on a random topic like historical backgrounds of the people that are helping us or more history of the island.

Oh, Paul... I read your comment. We are still trying to figure out the most diplomatic way to distribute the laptops. Step-Up, our partner on island, currently works with about 7 schools. We chose a school from that list . We are still trying to figure out how we pick the kids on an individual basis or even if we are going to be the ones that are picking.

Thats all for now...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

caught up

I finally caught up!!! Enjoy!


Sao Tome!!! As we got off of the plane, I could see fishermen getting ready to go fishing for the day. It was 6ish in the morning...(One thing to know is that the day starts early in Sao Tome. The sun rises early in the morning usually around 5ish. So people are getting to work by 6 and done by 3 or 4. The sun sets by 5 or 6 and it completely dark by 7. )  It was about 70 F and breezy. The airport gave the impression of a small island seculded from the rest of the world.  (as it is being an island and what not) The airport was very small. The whole airport is about 1/4 the size of terminal 5 at O'hare airport. We went through customs and got our bags and met our friends Danny and James. (They will be explained later). We then headed to the place that we will be calling home for the next 8 or 9 weeks. As we were driving to our house, the beauty of Sao Tome was all around. The main street we took into town was right on the ocean. Imagine driving on lake shore drive but much closer to the lake. That is how it felt driving. I could probably get out of the car and after the road would be the shore. The city itself has an Africa meets Europe meets island feel to it. Its tough to explain but I'll try. If I put you on a plane and didn't tell you that you were coming to Sao Tome, you would be able to know that you were in an African country. The structural aspect indicates European design. The bulidings are worn down but similar in design to the buildings found in Lisbon. The way the streets are designed favor Europe. With all this mixed in, there is still an island feel to it. The island has a personality that I wish to explore even more before I leave....Yea so we get to the house we are staying at and its really nice! ( a blog for another day) The house is located just across the street from the Gabon Embassy. Maybe I'll stop in Gabon before we leave...hahaha.... There is a basketball court, movie theater and library 3 to 4 minutes from our place. The ocean is about a block or two away. We are in a perfect location. We unpacked and then headed to the market to get some food. Everything here is fresh. The bread is made daily, the veggies are picked daily, and the fish are caught hourly. Yea..good stuff. After the market we got back to the house and started unpacking the xo laptops that we were going to distribute. We found that we recieved solar panels that we did not order and that we were short 6 laptops. (out of 100)  This is an extra long entry so I'll save the rest for tomorrow.


2nd day in Sao Tome... It feels like its been a while...In a good way. Most of our time is spent getting the house togehter and planning meals. We also started to brainstorm some ideas on how we are going to improve the distribution of the laptops. We've decided to do one site. That means we are going to choose one school to distribute the laptops at. This will help us focus our attention on solid group of children and teachers for the remainder of our stay.  We also got to meet more people. We met Evlis, Jame's brother and we met Elcio (pronounced Elsu), another friend of Pauls. These guys helped Paul in previous years on other projects he had in previous summers. It helps to have so many people invested in our success. The more people that want us to succeed, the more likely it is that we will. What else happened.....Oh Yea... we went to get power strips and the guy that owned the store was...Nigerian...ibo in fact... from Anambra state (same state as my family is from) I greeted him in ibo and he was really happy. He gladly responded and after conversing for a bit he invited us to a block party that his area was having. Later on after making dinner, we went to his house to see him and we talked about why he was in Sao Tome, Nigerian food and America. Few focus points of the conversation:
-Nigerian food makes you strong
-Everyone still loves America
-Their are a lot of Nigerians in Sao Tome

Overall, interesting conversation....oh yes...I've come to the conclusion that anything is good if its cooked well. Sea snail cooked the right way tastes just like chicken.


Happy Fathers day daddy and to any other daddys that are reading this blog.

So today, I woke up pretty early agian. Not sure why, I think im still getting use to the time. A lady was knocking at the door. We had a discussion about how our gardener is leaving the rubbish outside and she was trying to keep the neighborhood clean. I of course agreed that the gardener shohuldn't be leaving the trash out but it was the mere fact that we were having this conversation that startled me. It was an individual trying to improve their environment on within their own means. That was a great start to my morning. After that, I sat around reading the Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama and some other guy. (Thanks Maurine, that book is helping me a lot). Later in the day, we went to Ned's house. Ned is the director of STEP-UP, the NGO that we are partnered with. Ned is an interesting guy. He is orginally from San Fransisco and has worked all over Africa. He owns ocean front property with a dock that goes right into the ocean. It was truly a great place to visit. It was also great to meet Ned. I look foward to hearing interesting stories from him about life. After I was at Ned's place, Ashley and I went with Elvis to the soccer match that the Prime Minister sponcered. It is a very interesting tournement as the teams are created according to politcal affliation. Here is an equation that explains it all....
let politics =p
let anything else=f

p+f= fighting

The womens match went without much action. The teams were not as good as i thought they were going to be. When it came time for the guys to play, james brought the two police officers. The other team decided that they were not going to play if the police officers were there. so we didn't see a mens soccer match.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Heinz 57 (catch-up)

Yea so... I haven't been able to access the internet since i've been traveling so wrote a bunch and didn't post them so here they all are:


I've always thought that the most exciting part of traveling is getting there. Lisbon confirms my believes. Lisbon is amazing!!! From the time we exited the plane, I could tell we were in for a great lay-over. We got a taxi to the hotel we would be staying at () and we walked around for a little bit to enjoy the sites of our surroundings. Our hotel was right in the middle of the theater district which meant that we were right in the middle of lively Lisbon. My first meal in Lisbon was Steak made the Portuguese way with mixed vegetables and rice. The steak sucked but I guess I shouldn't really expect much of steak from people that specialize in seafood. Oh my... there was seafood everywhere!!! I'm not really that fond of seafood but I guess if cooked the right way I might change my mind. As I look back on today, I realize that this isn't even the final destination point of my travels but I feel like its an experience I will never forget.

Day 2

Oh Lisbon!!! Today was filled with some of the best sites and most fun I've had in a while. We started the morning with a complementary breakfast from the hotel and after that we walked to buy tickets for the bus tour of Lisbon. Paul Adams went to the Airport to pick-up Mike and Corey while Danielle, Ashley and I went on a tour of Lisbon. I was unaware that Lisbon has such a thriving tourism industry. People from all over the world come to visit Lisbon. It has a well structured tourism industry. People that worked in industries that catered to tourists knew several languages. A girl that I was talking to at the spa knew 4 languages to the point of communicating with any customer that may walk in and know any of her languages. Besides from that, the restaurants had all their menus in about 7or 8 languages. To get back on topic, we got on a tour bus and got to see some historic sites of Lisbon. Lisbon is a very historic city and is full of story after story. Here are some interesting things I learned:

Lisbon had an Earthquake in the 1800's ( I think that was the century)
Portugal loves its Navigators and explorers
Portugal and Spain were one country for a couple of years

We eventually met up with Paul, Mike and Corey at St. Georges Castle. It was nice to have the whole team together and we went through the castle and discussed the workshops that they attended in Kigali, Rwanda. From there, we went to have lunch where I actually enjoyed Cod with a very interesting sause. It was creamy and amazing really good!

I took a lot of pictures of different places we were at so I wont try to explain them all. I'm glad that we all got an opportunity to go on this tour of Lisbon because it did a lot of things for me. Most importantly, it put a lot of things in perspective. The Portuguese are proud of their navigators and a lot of the history that goes behind it. This includes colonization of Brazil and other smaller islands. (Like Sao Tome) During colonization, the Portuguese exported things to these countries that they may not have been use to and things that the countries now accept as there own. Another example of this form of export is in religions. Religions find people that have not heard what they have been  saying and try to convert them to believe. I don't want to compare colonization and religion to what we and other groups with OLPC are doing, but it is important to realize the underlying similarities so we don't make the same mistakes that colonial powers or missionaries made.

On a softer note.... I was at the airport and I got a manure for the first time....hhahahaa...the rest of the group thought I disappeared or got lost when I was really getting a manicure.

Oh... Another interesting thing I noticed was that every male in Portugal was dressed really well. Males that wore suits had them tailored to perfection. The shirts were almost never wrinkled and their pants were the perfect length. Everyone was dressed well from the wealthiest of people even to the homeless people.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I've been attempting to pack for the last week. I'm finally starting to get everything together and hopefully I can start to get a good idea of how much everything weighs. Airline companies have decreased many of the lenient weight limits they have had in the past in an effort to cut fuel costs and it really makes packing more of an art than anything else. Another thing that makes it difficult is that different airline companies have different weight limits. We are using two different airlines (British Airways and TAP Portugal) and one has a check-in weight limit of 50 lbs while the other has a weight limit of 44 lbs....ugh

Aside from packing, I've been doing a lot of mental preparation. I'm extremely excited to be headed to Sao Tome and I can't wait to get started on the XO deployment!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


So if you don't know by now, in about a week I will be heading to Sao Tome for the One laptop per child (OLPC) program. OLPC is an international organization that believes that we can revolutionize how children learn through the use of technology.

This is the first year that OLPC has offered this program and it involves giving selected teams $10,000, 100 XO laptops and 1 server (to be installed at a school). They want teams to pick a country where they will deploy with the equipment and work with an existing non-profit on location who can maintain the program after teams leave. All teams are required to have a deployment of 8-10 weeks, one member of each team must attend a 10 day kick-off and training session in Kigali, Rwanda and one member of each team must attend a convention in October at MIT to present a report about the project. For our team Corey Jackson and Micheal Stein will be going to Rwanda. They left on June 5h.

We chose Sao Tome for a couple of reasons

Considered Sub-Saharan Africa

UIUC groups have done previous projects in Sao Tome

Connections with National Organization Step-up and Government

Personally speaking, I'm really excited to go to Sao Tome. I have always been fascinated with the implementation of technology in developing societies and how they can be leveraged to improve a peoples lives. I don't think that we will realistically figure out the proper way to to this but I think that the XO laptops are a good starting point.

More to come.....I have a lot of catching up to do... look out for random pictures and other random stuff.