Bosques y petróleo – first impressions of EG


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Africa » Equatorial Guinea » West » Bata
June 11th 2012
Published: June 13th 2012
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the road next to the house
After one week in Bata, things are well and life of a different kind of rhythm is opening up again. This time settling in has been a wee bit difficult though, while I normally adapt fairly easily. As to this blog, I’m reporting from here every now and then during my internship, so the ones who read it: hope you’ll enjoy some of these (occasionally lengthy) stories and learn something about Equatorial Guinea on the way! Like I’m sure to learn..! A country I never really thought of going to before and only found out existed around a year ago. Well, here it is in any case, a tiny country in African scale, filled with forests, booming oil industry and colorful mix of people from original Fang to Chinese construction workers – as much as I know by now.

About adjustment.. There are many familiarities to me due to closeness of Cameroon, and I really enjoy it; birds, sounds and smells, food and the way people look like. The differences are rather pronounced then..! From the first glimpse of the capital Malabo, it was apparent that the cities here are much less chaotic and busy as the big cities in
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the sea view across the backyard will soon be blocked I think..!
Cameroon, for example. The political atmosphere is yet a bit stiffer, and after extensive resources of oil were found in mid-1990’s the thrive of economy and business world has lead into a bit unequal development, which kind of increases the gap between the wealthier and the less wealthy of the population more than ever.

But the depth of these factual things will only slowly lighten up to me. The very first days here were rather a bit hazy. Already the weeks before going I was in a bit of a blank mode; perhaps because the planning of the internship was so full of uncertainties and adjusting all over. Then it was a really lovely time with friends just before leaving, and thus jumping into the unknown again felt a little weird, harsh almost. The tough cold or flu I had going on while travelling didn’t really help.. I was excited nevertheless, and on the plane absolutely thrilled when screening the landscapes below; special hazy green of Ethiopia, and the endless sea of green and meandering rivers when we flew across the Congo rainforest, as far as I could see and where it was not covered with clouds rising from
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Lobo is adorable..! but he tends to pee inside when he's excited, funny dog..
the moist of the trees. It was also lovely to see the plane finally approach the jewel-like island of Bioko and I could make out the familiar looking houses and vegetation. In that bit wavy state of mind I was very glad that I was welcomed at Malabo by a member of Hess–oil company who took me to rest and eat before bringing me back to the airport for the connection flight to the mainland and Bata. By then I was pretty much sleeping on my feet and thus even more happy that Juliet, my supervisor here and the project manager of the bushmeat alternatives program, was at the airport, friendly and talkative, and I didn’t have to think for myself as to how to reach my new residence. It’s been really nice to have her around during the first days here!

Now the haziness is gone, and I’m getting to know Bata and its people a bit! Our apartment by the sea is great, about half an hour walk from the city center. I share it with Juliet, one office and two friendly and funny guard dogs. Other spaces in the building are used as offices by Conservation
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visiting a bit more quiet beach, with a lady working at US embassy
International and Wildlife Conservation Society, and downstairs is a small restaurant and a hairdresser. The walk to the center is nice, it follows a newly built seaside boardwalk that shines its emptiness during the daytime and is a bit more busy during evenings when people finally feel like doing some physical activity, like roller-skating or strolling along the shore. They’ve built an impressive copy of Eiffel tower here in Bata.. A fancy looking restaurant up in the tower that is lit by blazing green and red during the night time. There is also a roman catholic cathedral, some supermarkets, lots of ministry buildings, huge industrial harbor and of course residential areas reaching far away from the sea.

The office of government institution INDEFOR is in the center. INDEFOR stands for “Instituto Nacional de Desarrollo Forestal”, and ZSL (which stands for Zoological Society of London) works in collaboration with them, currently mainly on this bushmeat issue. I’m doing the internship with ZSL, and they again have programs and projects all around the world that combine practical conservation with science and education. I was glad to have the chance to visit ZSL premises and zoo in London before travelling, to meet some people, while I was applying and waiting for the visa there. They gave me some things to bring with as well: a book of statistics, a printer, and some other small electronic stuff. This was useful for the project since in EG electronics can cost many times more than in Europe.

Upon my first arrival though the other bag did not arrive with me – with the printer, stats book and some of my belongings in it. Due to my weird unintelligent mindset I didn’t realize to make sure with the staff of Ethiopian airlines that my bag was missing and should be traced. The Hess person just kind of vaguely assured to me that they'll keep an eye out for it. So we left and I figured I would later contact the airlines - who then did not answer the following days, neither in Malabo nor in Addis Ababa. Me and Juliet were both feeling ill and thus went to visit a doctor at Hess in Bata. Theirs were fancy premises; clean and modern buildings, small golf-car-like wagons for getting around, and quite a bit of Americans and Asians working alongside with Equatoguineans. I received antibiotics for
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Paseo Maritima in Bata; pretty empty indeed during the daytime.
my whatever infection it is – I think I’ll finally beat this cough now. But I also wanted to talk to someone about my bag.. perhaps, via their contacts, they’d be able to help me find it somehow. That’s how many things work here anyway: money may not matter eventually, but good relations and contacts will certainly take you far. We went to an office where I could have asked about the bag – when I saw that it was there, my blue bag lying in the corner. Right in that office..! I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, given what I just explained above, but still; I was already expecting weeks of tracing and waiting before I’d get the second half of my clothes and Juliet would get the electronics.. and like a gift from heaven the friendly men of Hess had delivered the bag right there. I felt so lucky.

When it comes to work, I’ve slowly got started. For the first few weeks my job will be to analyze this huge amount of socio-economic data and write a report of it together with Juliet, before a multi-stakeholder workshop planned for early July. It takes a while
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Chipita on the balcony
to get familiar with the work they’ve been doing here.. This part is the baseline for the rest of the project; studies in a few villages around the country have been carried out over a year, and the next phases are to develop, test and implement socially acceptable and economically viable bushmeat alternatives in these communities. The aim is to provide some sustainable solutions to bushmeat hunting specifically in these places, but such that are also possible to copy and repeat elsewhere in similar conditions. For me this really is a great chance to see how research is being turned into management plans and policies, in practice.. I guess I’ll learn a great deal, while also hopefully being able to somehow contribute to the project. I think, and hope, that after this first phase I’ll be working on testing of the different bushmeat alternatives alongside with other students and staff, and that would then include some planning, field trips and report writing. But I’ll know more of it later; things still evolve a bit!

There is a lovely Spanish cultural center here, where they organize lots of activities and events. There was a dance competition Saturday evening: amazing groups of young dancers performing Equatoguinean hiphop! The house was full, literally from floor to the ceiling – and it felt like the ceiling was about to lift off due to the crowd cheering at their favorite performers. The dances were fascinating and it was lovely to see and feel the enthusiasm of the audience; clearly dancing is something most people greatly enjoy. On top of football. And well, why not..! Happy rhythms, happy dancers: it is all very empowering. I went together with an American English teacher and two helicopter pilots, other one of which is originally from Utrecht, Netherlands. One funny thing about travelling; how you never know where you’ll meet someone with whom you have something a bit special to share or discuss with.

Yeah, getting used to a new place.. it kind of feels like being stretched, I’d say. From the inside your core stays the same, but the outer part needs to take up a bit of a new form, adjust to the surrounding life while it adjusts to you as well.. It is all up to one’s mind after all, and it is in a way very refreshing, because you need to be somehow very transparent and ready for all sorts of things when going to a new place – so it makes you define yourself as well. At least unless you already have the overall tendency to filter everything around you through some encompassing light of serenity and consciousness, streaming from inside, that constantly makes everything seem to fit in place..! Something that I know makes it just so much easier to handle things, but that doesn't always stick around. Always learning, navigating in the endless net of little streams of life.. that’s what our days are made of, no matter where we are. To be a bit poetic.. And well, here, in daily interaction, moments are often made of laughter; that is something I was told to remember before going to Cameroon, and I think it largely applies here and everywhere else when it comes to that.. if it’s possible, it just makes most sense to greet each moment with a smile on one’s face.



Random little facts:

There seem to be 24 travel blog entries here from Equatorial Guinea. The corresponding number for Democratic Republic of Congo for example is 141.

Someone just told they had heard (though were not sure if it was really something close to the truth) that last year there was as much as 1 tourism visa issued for EG altogether.. I guess this figure must be higher, but it is a fact that most people who come here from elsewhere come for work; mainly at constructions, embassies or development/environment sector.

Will post another update someday soon again. Lots of love from Bata,
Miila

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17th June 2012

Following
Moi Miila! Thanks for updating us again! I will read your posts! - Maarten
18th June 2012

Love it!!!
Miila!!!! Nice to know that you had a great week and a lot of new exprience! I really love your blog! Hope to hear from you soon and take great care of yourself ^_^ Juan

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