Sao Tome and Principe Partnership

Sunday March 16 by administrator
March 16, 2008, 11:46 pm
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.


Sunday March 9 by administrator
March 9, 2008, 5:04 pm
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.