Hotel Miramar. Photo by Inna Moody
Manfred Galland is German. But he’s lived in Africa for almost 50 years, and first came to Sao Tomé over 30 years ago.
Manfred has been the director of the Miramar Hotel for 12 years, and previously led the Polana hotel in Maputo, Mozambique.
Standing inside his hotel, Manfred has no idea about the young man outside, devouring the hotel’s Internet connection.
Roca Sao Joao, led by João Carlos Silva. Photo by Joao Maximo
It’s the same story with electricity. But it’s not only electricity, that worries those who live in the capital…
Aires Fonseca is one of the many night guards who get no sleep during the night of the capital. After all his song is no more than a revolt against the status quo. Aires is there for another long night with open eyes …. especially attentive to the state of the country, and the mosquitoes that never leave him.
On television, malaria is still a reality. The spraying campaigns and the new drugs are a warning against the disease that has most affected Sao Tome for decades, and has been deadly. Although the situation is under control, still some cases of malaria do appear, such as the daughter of Eclair. In the central hospital of Sao Tome, the scene is now more exciting, than it was a few years back.
Malaria prevention program. Photo by Isabel Julietta
These indicators no longer satisfy João Luís Batista, Professor of Public Health at the New University of Lisbon. In passing in the country, after having done his PhD thesis on malaria in Sao Tome, this researcher is nevertheless a warning.
Malaria is only one of the problems affecting today’s health care system in the country. Dr. Pascoal da Apresentação complains about the lack of equipment, and specialists Hospital Aires de Meneses, for example they lack a cardiologist.
University of Lusíada
At the University of Lusíada de São Tomé this is school year zero. For the first time the country has university education, which can help stop the exodus of young people from the archipelago, and strengthen the senior management of the country. For all these reasons, the dean Fernanda Pontífice believes this is a historic landmark.
During this year (2007 - ed) the University will teach 3 courses and about 200 students. The annual fee is 1000 Euros, in a country where the minimum wage is around 50 euros a month.
The road to Sao Joao de Angolares is bad. These 60 kilometers require a jeep, and a lot of patience. For an hour’s drive. But today, despite the holes, the road has asphalt.
Fernando Mendes with the kids. Photo by João Máximo
Fernando Mendes is already more Santoméan than Portuguese. He emigrated to the islands when 16 and today he’s almost 80 years old. He has no desire to leave São João dos Angolares.
Fernando Mendes is a businessman, he has gardens and livestock. He was here during the stage of colonialism, the one-party rule, until the present day democracy. In politics he does not interfere, but praises the presidential portraits of Eanes and Soares he has in his room.
Even today, Fernando Mendes is well informed on Portugal. Even the weather he knows by heart… What he doesn’t know if he’ll one day return.
Not far from the center of São João dos Angolares is the office of the only Health NGO outside the capital.
Anantole Txenko Niki is the Head of the Ami in Sao Tome. The Ukrainian doctor has been on the islands for 6 years. Public health is something that over time come to the voice of Olivia Paiva, a nurse for 6 months on the ground. São João dos Angolares brings back her childhood in Lisbon. They have at least calm ocean, a short-sleeve weather and lush vegetation.
Joao Carlos da Silva. Photo by Robert Grant
João Carlos Silva, a cultural agitator in Sao Tome, the same man know from Roça Com Os Tachos (Plantation With The Pots) television series, spends much of his time in São João dos Angolares. These days, he does not hide a restlessness of soul when it comes to the future. The country needs before anything, and above all, an introspection.
The Main Gas Station. Photo by Armando França
The Fixation On Oil
In the jeep’s radio returning to the capital, oil features often in the news. Already for a few years there’s this permanent anxiety. Although the country has already received $ 50 millions as a bonus for signing the concession agreements, the Prime Minister ensures that the country will still have to wait at least another 3 years (meaning today, 2010 - ed).
The population no longer appears to believe in the oil, and the benefits they may get. In all the conversations, the tone is almost always the same.
I remember the words of Agostinho. I remember Claudio Corallo. I remember Manfred. I remember Helio. And I remember especially the most recent conversation, with João Carlos Silva.
The Prime Minister understands well the feeling of living in a country close to oil, and the criticisms the government receives.
In any case, this country that in 2003 imported 650 barrels of oil a day may, with estimates of the IMF, produce 10 years later, 30 thousand barrels per day. The calculations of the IMF also say that these islands where over one half the population are still living below the poverty line, are likely to receive 400 million dollars by 2015.
True or not, what is certain is that after the sugar cane, and cocoa, there is a a new word, still weird-soundng, which has become part of the vocabulary of Sao Tome and Prince.
João Morais is a Portuguese journalist since 1989, with 15 years of experience as a radio reporter, now working as an Editor for TVI Television. This story was first published on Jan 19, 2007 on TSF – Radio. For the Portuguese radio version listen here.