Carlos Alberto Jr.’s The Incredible People of Sao Tome

Girl in Sao Tome

Incredible people of Sao Tome. Photo by Zita Kamugira

I write by hand in the moleskine that won my love. The flight to Praia delayed over an hour. TAAG flight leaving Luanda with a stop in Sao Tome and Sal. Leave Sao Tome with a good impression.

I did not go to Principe. It would take more time. Next time.

In the future, with that taste – that may not happen.

I met amazing people in Sao Tome. In total, 25 or 26 tapes of 40 minutes of footage each. On each tape, amazing people. I talked with fishermen on a boat at sea next to Goat Island.

Women with children raised going to the classroom learning to read and write in Santa Luzia, a rural area of Sao Tome. The classes are in a classroom at an elementary school.

In the next room, children follow the course. Many of them are sons and daughters of women who learn to read and write. Talked to some. Took pictures.

Some mothers take their children to school. Breastfeeding during class. The babies sleep in rags lying on the floor at the feet of mothers. Some attend classes standing.

One had a son in her lap, the other tied behind their back and a third in the belly. The class has only women. I talked to some of them.

They are the daughters of Cape Verdeans. One of them, 30 years, only now learning the first letters. I wonder why not study before. She says that her parents did not want her to. They did not think important, to place the children in school. Now she has decided to study on their own.

I talked to a grandmother in her fifties . Her 7 year-old granddaughter attends class in the next room. When classes are over, they go home together.

We asked to see women in return. A walk of 500 meters uphill. Many are barefoot. They sing. First, the hymn of Sao Tome. Then, in Creole language, the national language. Their shrill voices in unison regret thrill. The melody is sad. But it is also joyful. I do not understand what they sing.

Those women who follow uphill barefoot children in her arms, back, drawn by the hands are always with a smile on their faces. For a moment we’re all happy. Along the way begin to emerge either house.

I see men sitting on porches, chatting in small groups.

With the trip to Sao, I completed visiting 13 countries in Africa since April last year. In all these countries, women are always impressive. They work at home, on the street, take care of their children, accept that their husbands have other women.

I asked to visit their grandmother. She studies in the living room until daylight disappear. A lamp helps to illuminate the environment. When it gets dark, she will prepare the dinner. The rest of the tasks is the next day.

There is enough power in Sao Tome. In the neighborhoods outside the center only their generators. Who has no generator is in the dark.

I hear stories of misuse of public money. The people living in poverty. I do not know if the path of misery. Hunger think no more. There are fish. There are breadfruit falling trees. There are banana. The STP seem to lead life with dignity. But everywhere complain about the lack of jobs, poor schools.

On the roads into the interior, we come across women and barefoot children carrying their lives in the heads.
Cans, bowls, boxes, pots.

I met amazing people.

I write at the TAAG flight between Sao Tome and Sal. I drink two bottles of red wine to help me (dis) organize ideas. I feel a pleasant numbness, a happiness almost potentiated by the combination of alcohol and altitude.

Maybe that’s why there are so many disconnections in this future post. I met amazing people.

Arlindo, who will have its story told in brief. Fishmongers who have learned to do more sophisticated dishes with fish scraps that were thrown away. An Italian who planted coffee in Zaire, Bolivia and is now chocolatier in Sao Tome.

Amazing people. Amazing people.

Perhaps the effect of African fevers that sooner or later affect the non-Africans. Soon we will leave, but the people will torment us. In these travels, I look less and less authority and more and more amazing the people who insist on tapping on our way.

It is not always easy to identify the people amazing. It takes training. It takes less. It takes less and less. And I need less and less.

— Carlos Alberto Jr.

Carlos Alberto Jr. is a journalist for TV Brasil, and in the past years has visited and written about 15 African countries. This story was first published in September 2009 in the Diary of Africa (Diario da Africa)

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