Sao Tome and Principe Partnership

Week 3 of Phase Three Prep Trip by administrator
April 3, 2008, 11:34 pm
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.

Standing on the Equator

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.