Sunday, January 14, 2007

Africa on my mind...forever!

Antilope and Fries...Yum!

Time to go home...


It is difficult to leave this beautiful, peaceful and leisurely island. I will go back to the routine, the alarm clock, the long commute, the daily other world. Africa gets under the skin and becomes like an addiction that is difficult to ignore. It is the disease of most displaced Africans. When I am away from Her, I hear the distant drums and feel the pull no matter how much I integrate into American society.

Even though it is so very hard to live here, life here is a daily reminder that it is meant to be experienced to its fullest. Work is important but not all consuming, laughter is king, displays of affection are exuberantly shared, time is hardly acknowledged, family is first and personal accomplishments, dreams, ambitions, are just that...personal.

Bonko characters represent old trees which sway and dance in the wind.

Yankue is the name of the scariest bonko character because he represents evil. He is tethered by a chain to keep him "at bay". He also lights his head on fire and runs after the little kids...frightening! he is like the boogie man for many equatoguinean children.

These drummers play for hours. I think they themselves become hypnotized by the strong rhythms.

My mom (right) and auntie with their Onekind.

Many outfits, one fabric, Onekind

Bonko is a traditional dance of the Creoles in Equatorial Guinea. Around Christmas time they dance in the streets and make their rounds from house to house. They dance and sing about the local stories and gossip. The gossip is always very funny when it is about family members and neighbors but it is seldom funny when they dare to air one's dirty laundry!!
Kids get really scared of them because of the many scary legends about the Bonko (which represent live trees). The legends where used to keep small children from venturing into the dangerous jungle.. The dances include raw African drum rhythms with truly hypnotic cadences. The singing is done by the women who dress in traditional clothing of the same fabric which the call "Onekind". For every special celebration (weddings, new years, bonko, etc) the host picks a fabric in advance and all the guest buy this fabric and have outfits made from it. Actually, the women find any excuse to wear Onekind...visits from the president, graduations, etc.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mom and I decked out for the dinner at the US Embassy

Dancers at the church

The infamous Christmas Tree
See the flowers? see them? see them?


On new year's eve, we were lucky enough to be invited to the American embassy to eat dinner with a few big wigs including the American and French ambassadors. It was pretty cool.

The new year found us in my dad's Methodist church!. The service started in 2006 and ended in 2007. In the last minutes of 2006, people came up to the altar to share the successes of 2006. The we began to sing in a steady crescendo to African drums and clapping. Needles to say, there was much dancing as well. By the end of the count down there was much shouting, kissing, hugging and crying.

It was a very different new years celebration but a very interesting on.

You have to get a load of my mom's Christmas tree. She has used the same tree for about 20 years. Every Xmas, she yanks it out of the ground, she spray paints it (this year it was red) and decorates it. At the end of the season, she plants it back in the ground in her garden WHERE IT KEEPS GROWING only to be yanked out again the next Christmas! It even began to flower just before I left, NO JOKE!!!

No, those are not coconuts, they are bats the size of plump chickens. Like yeah!


I am no National Geographic photographer so it was very hard to take pictures of wild animals. Plus, when in the Jungle, most critters flea from man...I do not have the patience to sit in wait to get a good shot so I took pictures of more willing participants. Plus most critters made me want to pick up my skirts and run the other way...not pick up my camera

Mufasa? no, just a kitty cat that meowed in the local tribal dialect. African cats say "Meow, meow, meow...astonishing!!!!

Aaah to be a carefree kid again....

a morning cup of coffee with your toes in the sea...

More leisure

On this map you can see the island of Bioko on the left and the continent portion of Equatorial Guinea


The region of Equatorial Guinea located on the continent simply complete the marvel that is Bioko, the island where the capital, Malabo is. The climate there is less humid than on the island, there are way more beaches, less mountains and the air is very different. The vibe is more misterious and primitive...people are friendlier, and enjoy a quiet remote village life.. Bata is the capital of Rio Muni, the continental region.


Hakuna Matata! Don't bother asking anyone anything important because you can never get straight answers to most basic questions. Things here happen because the happen, when they happen and period. Do not look for explanations...
Question: "Where is the Restaurante Tropicana?"
Answer: "Over there!" (pointing with the chin)

Question: "When are we going to the Restaurante Tropicana?"
Answer:"yeah, right about now" (but didn't he say that 2 hrs ago??)

Question: "How does this work?"
Answer: "Well..." (at this point you might want to pull up a chair and marvel at the many ways one can combine words to say absolutely nothing)
No matter, I believe our workoholic society could take a page from this Guinean leisurely attitude. At first, this was very frustrating to me but after about 3 days, I stopped looking at my watch, I let go and simply allowed the culture to lead me. This was the first time in a zillion years that I spent more than 2 consecutive days without an agenda...and guess what? I did not even break out in a rash or nothin'....It is the art of doing absolutely nothing, yet getting many things done. I will take this home with me.


Poisonous of course, why not...even better, perfectly camouflaged!!. "During the dry season there are many snakes" someone says "yeah, what a relief" I mutter. Well lucky for me, I am staying in the city where the people live and not here in the farm where the many snakes live....

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My little brother Sam buying fish for dinner

To negotiate the price of fish with the fish mongers, my dad and his buddies (the cowboy duo) pulled table and chairs to the road and brought down the price in exchange of a couple swigs of booze.

Traditional market

Feeling the peace

off on a long explore...


Progress has brought with it great roads to circumvent the island. With camera in tow, I went on an adventurous explore. The beauty of this place is incredible

Chinese workers on their way home

Malabo plans to host the African Soccer Championship in the future


Cranes, construction, trucks, dust!! Even way out in this remote place. I am not really sure what all of this will do to the amazing rain forest environment of Malabo. It is all amazing and a bit sad.

There are hundreds of Chinese construction workers that are building the new Malabo. The construction is financed by oil money and managed by an agreement of both countries.

Chinese couple with my dad (far right) and other helpers
Flying Papaya

Watermelon puppy


Bioko, the island where Malabo is situated, is of volcanic origen. It has the most fertile land I have ever seen. Everything here grows so aggresively. The humidity is 98% year around. There are only 2 seasons here: rainy season and dry season. The dry season is during our winter and it is the best time of the year. There is no rain in the rain forest! During the rainy season (our summer) it rains every day for a couple of hours a day. This is the tropical storm season!
Bioko is ideal to grow any type of crop. During colonial times (Spanish Colony) cocoa was the main cash crop because it was very profitable. The problem with this type of crop is that it is at the mercy of world market and crops that do not sell, cannot be eaten. The alternative is farming edible crops like fruits and vegetables.

With the help of some Chinese friends, my dad has been farming all types of veggies. It is an experimental farm and the produce is at all levels of experimentation...some grow better than others. He produces about 50-100 Kg of vegetables a day but he wants to raise this amount to 1000 Kg/day. It is a project that has no fanancial backing and he is currently financing it with the sales of the produce. The project needs financing so that he can better his irrigation system and expand the farm.

Believe it or not, this is one of the only fresh vegetable farms in the entire country! The future of Africa is in farming and anyone with anyone with a bit of farm knowledge or willingness to participate can contribute.