I have now been in EG for 3 full days and 4 nights. Today it has been raining and thunder has been sounding across the compound. Surprisingly, the rain is cooling, although don’t get me wrong – the weather is certainly not cold! The rain has also cleared the sky so that the city of Malabo is clearer in view. I am waiting for further clearing to occur so that I might properly view the volcano that ordinarily hides among the clouds and mist.
Yesterday was my first trip outside the compound (apart from the short drive from the airport Thursday night). A hike had been organised on the southern part of the island with a small group of workers. It is only permissible to drive outside the compound if you have a local license. The husband presently does not; but his amigo, the one who assisted in facilitating our passage into EG, does.
We drove for over an hour, through small villages, up winding roads into the mountains, alongside the water and through checkpoints. There are two kinds of “checkpoints” – one is effectively a toll costing 100 CFA (known as “Sifa”) and the other is a security point where one is required to hand over one’s passport for inspection. My passport is no longer in my possession – but rather is held by the company together with the passports of all other workers. In lieu, the company provides you with a laminated copy of your passport and entry visa. You are required to keep that document with you so that it may be produced to local security or police outside the compound upon request. The company issues a strong directive not to leave the compound without your “papers.” I am not certain of the repercussions should you be found without your “papers” and do not wish to create an overreaction, however it is a risk which one would do best to avoid!
The terrain of this place is so green; it is filled with banana plants, plantain (which look kind of like oversized bananas) and palms. Unfortunately these plants are often overgrown with weeds which wrap their tendrils around anything in their way and in some cases bloom a vibrant jewel-purple flower. The weeds are strong – they engulf their victims until they are almost unrecognisable and can be seen to even take abandoned cars back to the jungle.
In the end, the scheduled hike did not proceed, due to a
traditional event taking place, and we meandered our way back down the mountain past groups of small children without clothing and makeshift power-lines where what looked like an electrical cord was suspended between long sticks.
Back at the compound, it is time for beers on the bench outside our apartment building before an organised Thanksgiving Dinner – yet another unknown concept to me. It is ironic that my first experience of Thanksgiving has taken place here despite 3 previous trips to the Thanksgiving homeland in the past!