Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A tiny African country ...

Along the road from the airport where you arrive ....
In Sao Tome for the umpteenth time, the sun is shining, it's 85 degrees, and I'm warm all the way through.  Nice.

Sao Tome & Principe is one of the world's smallest countries; a couple of islands in Africa's Gulf of Guinea.  Blessed with a tropical climate and beauty, the place is unknown to most folks.  Poverty encumbers most of the population, but the prolific forests produce bananas, breadfruit, jacque, and mangoes.

It's the end of the school year here at the elementary school.  The principal and teachers begin final exams for the fourth graders.  Today, it's Portuguese language, grammar, and literature.  Tomorrow, it's math, science, biology, and geography.  They have 6 years of government funded education.  After that, it's expensive and most don't have the opportunity.

Outside the city, friends walk me through their newly expanded garden.  What do you call it when it's about 500' square?

They've put a lot of work into cultivating the land they have.  Bananas, corn, green beans, okra, manioc, and several things for which I don't have names.

Manioc (or cassava root, photo left) is a big deal in Africa.  It's the basic diet for around 500 million people.  Good for carbs, no protein though.  Here in Sao Tome, it's a fill-in with the rest of what the land produces. 

Oh, and sugar cane.  It grows well here.

Dad has run a water line to the area so they can irrigate during the dryer season if they need to.  They're on the equator and on an island, so the rain is fairly reliable, fortunately.

Five kids, all but the youngest help in the fields.  The youngest would gladly join in, but she's just too small.  Three schools for the kids, one a mile east, another two miles west, and the last a couple of miles beyond that.  There's a bus for the two farthest schools.

 At the southernmost shore of the island, an incredible beach is at the end of a long trail through the forest.

Out for a day's adventure with a bunch of local teens, we've made this trek before, but they like it.  The palm trees provide a mid-day drink and snack.  A couple dozen coconuts go in the back of the truck for mom when we get back.

Nino and Mulere down by the shore

Gorgeous place, wonderful people.  Here's how we wound up here.
A good place for adventurous tourists?  Absolutely.  For the faint-hearted?  Hardly.  This is the road less traveled.