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.