Filed under: Uncategorized
We are pleased to announce a new website for the Sao Tome Project. To continue following our collaborations in Sao Tome, go to http://saotomeproject.prairienet.org. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed under: Phase Three
Teaching at the high school came to a conclusion on Friday.
Jake, who taught the first week focused on hardware. The teens learned about the parts of the computer and what their names were in English while we learned what their names were in Portugues. They also began developing their troubleshooting skills.
Chris, who taught the second week, focused on software installation and continuted helping the studnets develop their troubleshooting skills.
The East St. Louis teens were instrumental in the instruction of the class acting as lab assistants throughout.
Filed under: Phase Three
Today’s post is coming from the Santana Secondary School. We are currently installing four computers here. The internet connection, while not the fastest, has been the most reliable as the lab here is connected via a land line and not wireless internet which will drop you from the network often as many people try to use limited bandwidth. I have, in fact. just learned that my post last night never made it to the internet. Look for an update on the High School lab to follow.
There are currently two groups in Santana installing labs. Chris and I are here at the Secondary School, simlar to a middle school, while Jake and the East St. Louis teens are installing 10 computers at the city building.
Last Saturday we installed two machines at a girls traning facility located at roça São João.
Tomorrow we will be able to make our installations in Guadalupe and Neves.
Half of the computers located at the High School are ready for use and we will spend the afternoons this week preparing the rest.
Filed under: Phase Three
Welcome to the summer 2008 project blog. This is a continuation of a two year project joining the resources of the University of Illinois and the people of Sao Tome, West Africa. This summer the project is supported by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, the East St. Louis Action Research Project and the Academy for Entrepreneur Leadership. The project consists of two parts: the first is the expansion of information access points by establishing computer labs in secondary (middle) schools and the second is technology (hardware) training for Sao Tome high school students. (Technology Transfer as a Form of Social and Economic Entrepreneurship)
The summer project began on June 12 when I arrived in Sao Tome with my daughter Ashley. While I work on the logistics of the project and contacted government officials and partners, Ashley is teaching English to secondary students. The main group from UI and East St Louis arrived on June 26.
Paul Adams, team leader
Filed under: Phase Three Prep
With the computers safely in storage, work shifted towards prepping for our summer trip to Sao Tome. On Monday, Jake started the inventory of the mice, keyboards, and power cords that were delivered by the US Navy.
Tuesday, Paul and James continued on their search for a house to rent in the summer as Jake returned to the library. Paul also looked into car rentals.
Electricity came to our storage shed on Wednesday morning. With the new light bulb and power outlet, we should now be able to work comfortably in the shed and have fans run at least once a week to keep air flowing and keep the mildew out.
Thursday, started at Step-Up. This was the day when we intended to visit remaining schools which would receive computers in June. Due to the increase in power outages in Sao Tome, Ned decided to purchase a generator for the step up office. While James attended to this task, we stopped by a little place in town to discuss the balance of tasks we need to complete before leaving. If you ever find yourself in Downtown Sao Tome and need a quick snack, Cafeteria Sum Secreta serves the best donuts in town. After this pit stop we picked up James and it was off to the Ministry of Education to pick up the deputy minister who wanted to visit several schools in Trindade with us. After seeing the primary and secondary schools in that town, we dropped the deputy back at his office and started off to the south end of the island. Our southern most destination was Angolares. It is of historical significance because the first revolt against Portuguese rule originated here. Rei Amador an escaped slave led an uprising from the nearby mountains. It is also the home of the famous Roca Sao Joao. The owner, Carlos Silva is a world class chef of some note. He has television cooking shows in Portugal and Brazil. He is recognized as the leading expert on Lusophone cooking. Carlos was in residence and cooked us a eight course meal with emphasis on Sao Tome and Angolan cuisine. He also showed us his facility where he trains young girls in arts and crafts which can provide income for their families. After lunch it was on to the other sites. Working our way back north we were able to visit with teachers and principals at the schools.
Friday, Jake started to inventory the computers at the shed. After an hour, Paul stopped by and we took breakfast at Sum Secreta. After Sumol and donuts, we met James and Ireque at the National Library. Our goal was to see the small library in Santo Amaro that we were unable to visit on Wednesday. Following the site visit, we returned to the shed and successfully inventoried the 109 computers.
Saturday was a day off. We caught an early morning shuttle bus at the Miramar hotel. After a two hour drive on a long and winding road we were at a dock at the southern end of the island boarding a boat to Pestana Equator, a resort on Rolhas Island. Rolhas Island is located on the equator. We took the short climb up to where the marker for the equator was located. It was a great day of relaxing and swimming. The ride home was long and we settled for a late dinner before calling it a day.
On Sunday morning James stopped by Ned’s house to bring Jake and Precious (a friend from Ghana) to the Cyber Cafe that he runs. His computers were running slow. so we added memory to every machine. After a little lunch, it was back to the Cyber Cafe to attempt to install a program that would help James regulate the amount of time that people spend on the computers. Unfortunately, there were glitches and we were unable to get the program installed. There will be more work on it before we leave.
Monday Paul met with the Minister of Education and the Minister of Natural Resources. The Minister of Education had been appointed by the Prime Minister just three weeks before. She had heard of our project and was very interested in its implementation. She inquired about maintenance once the computers were installed. Paul explained the training for high school youth that would take place during the summer trip. It intent is to begin to train a cohort of youth who would be able to conduct basic maintenance. The goal is to provide continual training (through other sources) so that the youth may become gainfully employed in the future. The Minister of Natural Resources was interested in the possibility of other university support in the areas of petroleum engineering, environmental science, forestry and engineering (hydroelectric power). After some more errands in town, we set out for Ned’s. The combination of a long power outage and mechanical problems with Ned’s generator led us to dine on Ned’s porch with only the full moon and a flickering lamp for light. Dinner guests included Precious and Jorge Coelho. The fish was some of the best we had eaten in Sao Tome and the rice was very good. Conversation was intense and political, yet polite with both African and American issues discussed. After dinner, we all retired for the night. This very calm night was rocked by the strongest rainstorm that we’d encountered in our trips to Sao Tome. Buildings shook, windows slammed open, and sleep was disrupted for a few hours.
Everyone met at Step up on Tuesday morning. After spending some time on computers, we set out for the Polytechnic Institute (ISP) for a meeting with the Institute’s president. He was unable to meet with us, but we did have an excellent conversation with Alzira Maria Rodrigues the Director for International Cooperation. She had studied at Emporia State University in Kansas and her English was excellent. As we left her office, we met Henrique Pinto da Costa, a Yale Fellow and brother of the first president of Sao Tome. We had met with Enrique on previous visit to Sao Tome. We joined him later at the Miramar Hotel for a conversation on the possibilities of GIS as a tool for government planning. Ms. Rodrigues gave us a tour of the campus, highlighting classrooms, computer labs, the library, and the language programs. The Portuguese and French sections are well financed by those respective governments. The English section has recently started but lacks the resources needed. This could be a project where the university, US oil companies and the US Embassy could join together and significantly enhance the study of English and provide additional educational support. Lunch was at the cafe with Helcio. After lunch we were rejoined by James. We went off to visit Montecafe, a plantation 15 kilometers outside of the city that is well-known for excellent coffee. The plantation is located in the mountains. It is unique because it operates informally as a cooperative. Unlike most coffee farmers in Sao Tome who simply package the raw product and sell it to a wholesaler (at a low price), the coop performs a number of processing functions which increase their revenues. Rather than selling the raw product they roast the bean and finalize the packaging. An additional step of grinding the coffee is completed as well. The coop then sells the final product in town or for international distribution. Of course we were unable to resist the fresh aroma and purchased several kilos to bring home.
Wednesday, our final day was hectic. The word was out that we were leaving. Everyone wanted a meeting before we left. Three NGOs wanted to discuss acquiring computers; one of our friends wanted us to visit an institute of higher education where he served as vice president. We also hoped to have a last minute meeting with the Prime Minister (which did not materialize). After completing last minute commitments which included lunch at our favorite crab shack we went home to pack our bags and prepare for our early morning departure. That evening we thought we would have a quiet dinner over looking the bay. Shortly after we were seated James and his wife joined us. Shortly thereafter Helcio and his friend Stephan came to join us. And of course Jorge arrived. It was a great dinner with friends and conversation on the future of Sao Tome. We left with a better understanding of this wonderful place and are anxious to return in June.
Filed under: Phase Three Prep
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week were spent preparing for Thursday’s delivery of computers, reconnecting with staff at the National Library, troubleshooting library computers, meeting with government officials and finalizing the customs documentation for the offloading of the computers. We thought all the paperwork had been completed but additional paper, stamps and signatures were needed. Hopefully the way is clear for any future deliveries.
The computers at the Library are now hooked up to the Internet. Several were working fine. A few more needed some some work before getting back to normal. Ireque, the tech librarian had been using our computers to teach computer classes to children. We are very happy that the library is using the computers as they had originally intended.
Monday we see the USS Ft McHenry anchored off shore. An email on Tuesday informs us that the computers (110 complete systems) have arrived. Thursday morning we set out for the harbor to receive the computers. The US Navy was using the commercial port to tie up their landing crafts as Sao Tome’s harbor is not deep enough to dock a ship as large as the Fort McHenry. The ship was at anchor just off-coast so all people and equipment that needed to go between the ship and the shore had to be brought over in one of several landing crafts.
When we got to the harbor, the sailors who had volunteered to help us transport our computers from the landing craft to the storage facility were waiting for us. While we waited for the computers to arrive, we met with Commodore Norwell, the head of Africa Partnership Station (APS), and Commander Shaw, the commanding officer of the Fort McHenry. They stated how pleased they were to be able to assist in the delivery of the computers to Sao Tome and looked forward to working with us again in the future. After other supplies were offloaded on the dock the landing craft sped over to the Coast Guard landing where our computers were carried from the craft to awaiting Sao Tome military trucks by the APS volunteers, the Navy band, and Sao Tomean Army personnel.
The computers were moved into a storage facility that we have rented near StepUP. As it was a typically hot Sao Tome day, we treated the APS volunteers to a cool drink at the local cafe.
Exhausted, we retired to Jorge’s house for an air-conditioned nap (the temp has been in high 90s with 90+ humidity) before the Commodore’s reception at the Miramar Hotel.
The Commodore held a reception for Sao Tome government officials, US Embassy personnel, business leaders, expats and foreign dignitaries. We were also on the invite list. The reception included an extensive buffet, local drinks and a Navy band. Paul had the opportunity to meet the Minister of Natural Resources and US Embassy personnel.
On Friday, we took the Chaplain up on his invitation to tour the USS Fort McHenry. When we arrived on board we found a skid of computers that had somehow missed the previous day’s delivery. The seas were high and it rained all day so delivery of the last skid was postponed until Saturday morning. The ship, commissioned in 1986 is a docking craft. It has a large open interior bay for storage of equipment and smaller vessels. It has cranes and other large equipment to move the cargo. An interesting note is that to bring on the landing craft the McHenry must conduct a “controlled sink”. The ship takes on about 12 feet of water so the other boats can come aboard. Once the cargo hold is full the ship expels the water and raises the ship to its original displacement. Also interesting was the arrival of a similar French naval vessel. Quite a few sailors from both ships have been exploring the island the last several days.
An early call from the Chaplain on Saturday brought us back to the harbor. The last pallet of computers had arrived ashore and needed to be unloaded. After that small bit of activity, the rest of the day was more relaxing. Following some Internet time at the cafe, we met up with Helcio for a trek out to Neves to indulge in some of the famous Neves crabs in celebration of Jake’s 26th birthday.
On Sunday morning, Paul met with the DCM from the US Embassy in Gabon. He discussed our project and the other university projects conducted during the last year. Paul gave him a copy of the scenario plans completed by UI planning students last summer. The Embassy is very interested in the university’s work in Sao Tome and will support us when possible. They were impressed with our ability to get past all the hurdles to bring in the computers. Conversations will continue through email.
Tomorrow begins a very busy week. We need to inventory the computers, check out existing computers sites, identify new site for the summer project, speak with the high school staff about their future 25 computer lab and training for their youth, locate housing for the summer and various other tasks.
Filed under: Phase Three Prep
Four full days into our current trip to Sao Tome and Principe and it feels like we’ve been here for weeks. Our voyage to get here had its ups and downs. The flight out of Chicago through London to Lisbon worked well. Our hotel in Lisbon was perfect and we found a nice restaurant that offered traditional Portuguese food. Unfortunately, the airline that took us from Lisbon to Sao Tome made us jump through some hoops with regard to visas and baggage weight before we could leave Lisbon.
At the airport in Sao Tome, we were greeted on the tarmac by Helcio, a good friend from our previous trips to Sao Tome. While clearing customs, we encountered Elvis, another friend, who helped welcome us back to the Island.
After getting our bags through customs, we went to where we would stay for the next three weeks. Jake is staying with Ned Segilman, an American who directs Step-up, an NGO in Sao Tome. Ned was the director of the Peace Corps when it operated in the country. His house is on a bay that has the airport on one side and an amazing view of the city on the other side.
Paul is staying with Jorge Coelho, his former student. Jorge is currently with the maritime administration. He has a condo near the airport, equiped with airconditioning when there is electricity.
Day one was very full. We reconnected with other friends. Jake helped James Neves troubleshoot computers in his Internet cafe. He also participated in a news feature on international women’s day that was broadcasted on local tv. Luckily, our friends were able to understand the sentence that he said in Portuguese.
Paul caught up with Jorge and the latest local political news.
After a good night sleep, the morning of Day 2 we headed in different directions. Jake troubleshot more computers at Step-up. Paul’s morning involved a series of set backs which started with a flat tire. That was followed with a dead battery. That was followed with cell phone issues. The previous number had been cancelled. Once the number was reactivated there were issues with the battery and charger. The day became more productive with lunch and friends at Cafe e Compahnia.
The priority next week is the delivery of our computers by the US Navy. Over 110 computer systems were shipped from the US in December. The Navy offered to transport them to Sao Tome prior to the big computer lab build out during the summer. Storage space needs to be secured before next week. We went out to the Voice of America facility to discuss storage possibilities with the manage. It appears that this is not a viable option.
Dinner was at a small restaurant in the park downtown. The fish was once again excellent.
Saturday and Sunday were low key with rest as a high priority after a long journey. Jake spent Saturday morning reading for his systems analysis class on the porch at Ned’s. Paul joined in the afternoon for a good conversation with Ned imvolving potential future projects.
On Day 4, Sunday, we started with a slow morning and a late lunch at Neds. We were then joined by Jorge, who took us to see his property on the East side of the island near Santana where he plans to built a new home with guest house. Dinner with friends was a barbaque of fish and wild boar at his apartment. Planning for the upcoming week ended the evening. Excitement is high with the anticipation of the arrival of our computers in a few days.