Friday, April 6, 2012
Sao Tome Good Friday What a beautiful place. The island nation of Sao Tome and Principe sits on the equator several hundred miles off the coast of Cameroon, and in fact is part of the same volcanic mountains found there. It was discovered in 1473 by the Portuguese, who imported slaves from all over Africa, and brought banana trees, coffee and cocoa from Brazil. If you didn't know better you might think that you were on a Caribbean island. The major religion here is Roman Catholic, with a smattering of other religions represented. One of our activities today was to visit a church, where the choir sang for us. The hour were all young men, and sang a Capella in Portuguese. I found it very moving. We visited a picturesque coffee plantation, that had many old buildings. The Portuguese influence is in the architecture, with red tile roofs. Even before we got off the bus, the children ran from all directions. They are the children of the workers on the plantation. School is not compulsory on Sao Tome, and many people refuse to send their children to school, because they need them to work. Many people have 6, 7 or more children. If a man wants to get married he visits the woman's parents, and pays a bride price. If after 3 months she isn't pregnant he can return her. Today, Jay Dickman, Pulitzer prize winning National Geographic photographer taught me how to photograph a waterfall! How cool is that? There was a long steep rickety wooden staircase, with a shaky handrail that I had to descend to get where Jay was, but it was worth it. Everywhere there was lush greenery, ferns, wild banana trees, breadfruit trees, cacao trees, and god knows what else. As we drove to the restaurant for lunch on top of the mountain it began to rain--not so unusual in a rainforest during the rainy season. It poured while we ate lunch in an old plantation house. A perfect time for the rain. By the time we finished, the rain was over, leaving a mist over the mountain. Our last stop before returning to the ship was a chocolate factory,run by a man who was half Italian, and half Portuguese. Of course there was a tasting. The chocolates were all very high cocoa content. My favorites were the chocolate with salt and pepper , and the chocolate with ginger. The chocolate was very expensive, so I contented myself with the tastes during the tour. Happy Easter to all, as you may not get this epistle until then.