Monday, February 25, 2008


Our friend's truck was broken into last night while we were dancing in the discoteca. Our group had a few hundred dollars worth of stuff stolen including a phone, ipod, camera, money, etc. Another friend had his window broken (but nothing stolen) at the same place two nights ago.

So in one week we as students suffered 2 thefts. I luckily have not lost anything but I have been careful not to put myself in a position for that to happen.

I want to catch somebody in the act and stab them.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Batete and Luba

Last night was spent acting as servers/food preparers for a photo exhibition at the US Embassy. In exchange for our catering services, we were provided with delicious food and drinks. It was a chance to socialize with some respectable people who work in Equatorial Guinea.

After that we made a brief appearance at a local friend’s house for some Karaoke. We only stayed for about an hour and a half, and likely left before the real party got started.

Today however was relatively exciting in the sense that we took a “field trip” to the local village of Batete and the modestly sized city/town of Luba, both towards the southwestern end of Bioko Island.

Here is the town of Batete seen from the top of the following bell tower:

In Batete we toured one of the two remaining wooden churches left in Africa from colonial rule. Although it was under construction, we were able to go inside and climb to the top of the bell tower. The inside was pretty nice and decorated with mosaics and stained glass.

After the church we visited a private boarding school for girls. Located in an old style open-air colonial building, I thought the colegio was fascinating. Some of the US students got the little girls to sing a few songs which I was particularly touched by. The girls had beautiful voices and they sang perfectly in key with eachother. As I was sitting in the school yard listening to this I got goose bumps.

Teddy bears holding it down in the dormitory at the colegio in Batete.

Then we headed into Luba where I ate the tastiest meal I’ve had to date on the island. At Hotel Jones, I had fried fish and plantains for the equivalent of $10. Lets just say it was probably the best ten dollars I have spent since being here. Oh, and please note how dusty all of the landscape pictures are. Since it is the dry season, we get suffocating fits of dry dusty air straight off the Sahara desert. Visibility is terrible.

After eating we headed to Colegio Claret in Luba, this one being a secondary school for boys (please excuse the obvious stitch seems in the above picture). We toured the classrooms, dormitories, and the library. The library is particularly special because it houses Spanish colonial era books that escaped multiple book burning campaigns during the last two presidencies. Very interesting indeed. After poking around in the library for a little we played some basketball in the school yard.
The schoolyard and tower in the background.
The dormitory at Colegio Claret, with mosquito nets ready to be deployed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Malabo City

So nothing too much new going on here. Classes are going well, it still hasn't rained, and life is keeping me busy. Yesterday evening somebody came in through the front door and made off with some stuff, including a computer. The whole operation took about 30 seconds, and there were two people in the house at the time it happened (although they were upstairs). It was unfortunate but serves as a reminder that despite our comfort and familiarity with the city, it is still a dangerous place.

Street scene.
Different angle of the above picture.
Nice trash fire going on in the middle of the sidewalk.
Our house, known to some of us as "the Fenix," taken from the banner put up by our landlord to advertise for his printing (?) company.
The Semu market is huge, taking up several city blocks.
Haggling at the market.
Neighborhood in/near Semu.

Monday, February 18, 2008

First week of classes

Transmitting from an internet cafe at the moment. Internet connection has been nonexistent over the past few days.

First week of classes went well. Life is back to “normal” at this point in the sense that I am not living outdoors and I am attending classes on a regular schedule. Most of our classes are scheduled in the late afternoon/early evening because the professors work full time jobs during the rest of the day.

The classes themselves have been interesting- I am taking Society and the Environment, Natural Resource Economics, and Spanish. I have been sitting in on a West African History class as well just to learn a little bit of history from a non-American perspective. All of the professors are good-humored and interesting people. Depending on the class, there are only 2-9 students total in each, so it is a very different learning environment from what I am used to.

In several of my classes this week we have lost power. I need to start bringing a flashlight to class. In all fairness, I should note that most of the time that the power goes out, it comes back on within an hour, but sometimes it takes longer than that. These outages happen pretty regularly- I would bet on at least one outage a day. Still, I’ll never take readily available electricity for granted again. Or running water for that matter. At our house here in Malabo we need to get our water trucked in weekly since it is the dry season. For some reason the mosquitoes have been really bad in the house too. Still, it is very livable for me.

Last weekend we were invited to dinner by Exxon Mobil employees. Mobil Equatorial Guinea Inc. (MEGI) has a compound outside the city center that is affectionately known among some of us as Little Texas (describing both its appearance and inhabitants). That being said, we had an excellent dinner and our hosts were very generous. The employees were interesting people, and having lived in Malabo for a few years, offered very insightful perspective on the country and its recent history.

One guest described Malabo, EG very fittingly: he compared it to the wild West. Since the economy has practically blown up since oil drilling started in the mid 90’s, there has been an influx of money and people from all over the world- Chinese, Indians, Arabs, French, Canadians, Americans, etc. Everybody wants a piece of the action, hence the reason for a coup attempt in recent years and the government responding in the form of paranoia.

My response to living in this environment has been pretty complicated. At first I was disillusioned, now I am pretty much indifferent. I won’t say too much for fear of getting myself in trouble, but I will say that it leaves me pessimistic about the future of this continent in terms of development.

I have been planning my post-semester Eurotrip over the past few days. I booked two flights yesterday. Bucharest to Cluj-Napoca (Romania) followed by Cluj-Napoca to Budapest. It looks like my month long tour is going to look something like this: Madrid-Bucharest-Cluj-Budapest-Prague-Paris-Marrakech(Morocco)-Madrid. Seems a little bit unreal at the moment, but I am excited to see what earthly secrets I can uncover along the way. I am as excited about the destinations as I am about the fact that I will be traveling by myself, exploring cultures that are amazingly foreign to me (Romania?) all whilst exploring myself. I guess I have always had a romanticized impression of traveling solo.

Music recommendation: Check out Dallas Green’s new album: City and Colour – Bring me your love.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

P a n o r a m a s

Back in Malabo and with (shady) internet connection. Moka was beautiful and everything, but its nice to be sleeping in a bed and to be eating something different besides rice, beans, and spaghetti three meals a day. Picture time.

Take a good look at this beautiful girl. My research project focused on surveying the bat fauna of the island and we caught this unidentified species a few days ago. We sent pictures and dimensions to the foremost bat expert for Bioko Island, to which he replied something along the lines of “this bat is going to be interesting to identify.” Bats in equatorial Africa are under studied so who knows what will happen. I just think this is a gorgeous creature.

Chamaeleo faea. Very interesting creatures that are next to impossible to find. This girl was pretty reliable though.

This is a young tree hyrax that one of the research volunteers adopted whilst on the Caldera expedition. Sadly enough it died a few days after this picture was taken but such is the course of life. The elephant is the closest living relative to the tree hyrax.

Here is a field of bracken fern atop Pico BiaĆ³, somewhere around 1,900 meters above sea level.

The cascades were very impressive. Just to give some idea of the size of these things, I will note that the above picture is a composition of three photos taken in a portrait orientation and stitched.

The crater lake just over the peak. Absolutely gorgeous. Sorry for the inconsistent sky tones from the photo stitching.

A cow pasture to the west of the village.

Until next time...