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.

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