Equatorial Guinea

The following posts tell about my trip to Equatorial Guinea. Through words and photos I hope to succesfully share my experiences. I've decided to do this on a day by day basis. I hope you enjoy. If there's anything I may have missed, or something you'd like to know...please email me at michaelh@uwyo.edu. Thank you all for your unconditional support of me, both financially and spiritually. Without you, this trip wouldn't have happened. More on Africa here: http://53lat158long.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Preparing, Traveling, and Arriving- Okay, before I really get started, I want to once again apologize for taking so long to get this out to everyone. I know it isn't much of an excuse, but I've been really busy this summer. I got back from my trip on a Saturday morning, slept most of the day, went to a friend's wedding that night, and then started work at camp the next morning. I've been at camp all summer, with only Saturdays off, when I usually just relaxed. Hopefully I can include some pictures and information from that after this. Fortunately, I kept a journal while I was abroad, and will be reading that as I go along so that I don't forget anything. Thanks again for your support and patience.

I would also like to quickly say that if these writings seem to sort of jump around and not be in the best order, it's because I'm doing these while I work desk shifts in the dorms from 12-4 AM. It's the perfect time to write, but I'm afraid my mind may not be working as well as it could during the day. Enjoy.

Before we had even left Laramie, we made it a point to get together as much as possible the few days before we left. Both to prepare ourselves spiritually and to make sure we had everything ready. After taking a few surveys, Andy (our leader) gave us all a specific job. Garrett's specific task was security; making sure that everyone was with us at certain times, and he was in charge of the walkie talkies. Stokes' (Ryan) job was water; making sure that we were all drinking plenty of water because of the hot and humid environment, and also making sure we had the water to drink. He was in charge of the water pump, in case we got into some situation where we couldn't get bottled water. Jill was the nurse; she was in charge of making sure we took our malaria pills when we were supposed to, and carried around a first aid pack. Bolzer's (Ryan) job was treasurer; he was supposed to keep track of where we spent the money and how much we had. I was the navigator; I got a map of the island, and got a GPS, so that we always knew where we were at. Unfortunately, my job turned out to be not as useful as the others, because we couldn't get a good enough satellite signal for the GPS to work while we were there. Anyways, the point of that paragraph was to show that we were completely ready to travel as far as safety is concerned.

We left Laramie at 6 in the morning on June 4th thinking that in roughly 30 hours we would be in Malabo (the capitol of equatorial Guinea). On our drive to Denver, I saw a few elk, one of which was a huge bull elk still in velvet. After seeing that in I-80, I decided this was going to be a good trip. We drove to Denver, flew to New York, flew to Madrid, and then finally reached Malabo at about 4PM Mountain Time on June 5th. Roughly 34 hours of traveling...I had never experienced anything like that before, but I actually kind of enjoyed it.

While getting off the plane, I remember wondering what I had gotten myself into, especially after being able to see the water condensing on the terminal windows. I wasn't sure if I was ready for either the humidity or the spiritual aspect of this trip. I just had to keep reminding myself that I was in God's hands now. Anyways, we got out of the plane, grabbed our baggage, and started through customs. This is where we ran into the first little bit of trouble. None of us really spoke Spanish very well, so when we were trying to get through and get our passports stamped, the officer kept asking us which company we were with. Most of the white people that come to the country are there with the oil companies, because a lot of oil was recently discovered off shore. Anyways, we had a lot of trouble trying to tell the officer that we weren't with any oil companies, and that we were just missionaries. All of a sudden, this middle aged Mexican man comes up and explains to the officer in Spanish that we were with him, and that it would be alright to let them through. This man was Carlos, the amazing pastor who we stayed with for the rest of our stay. He helped us through the rest of customs, and finally we were outside in the humidity. It was close to midnight there by this time, so it was actually kind of chilly.

After we were out of customs, we gathered up our luggage and we all piled in the back of this little Nissan van...soon to be deemed the "sweat wagon". The first sign that I saw from the van was a Schlumberger sign in front of one of their buildings. The van just had a couple benches in the back, and a car seat. It was quite the experience going from the airport to this little van in less than 10 minutes. The Africa driving experience is really interesting as well, but I will explain that in a later writing.

We finally arrived at a small church in the city. We were shuffled upstairs and got shown around. This building is where Carlos trains new pastors, and at certain times of the year they stay upstairs in the living quarters. The church is directly underneath. Once we were all kind of shown around, we all gathered in a little room and Carlos introduced us to his family. At this point we still didn't really have much of a translator, and our method of communication used more charades than anything. We were all treated to a nice cold Coke while we were being introduced. Carlos introduced us to his wife, two daughters (Tanya and Lizzeth), and a "stand in" son (Abram), that is helping them out for two years. It was at this time that Lizzeth started speaking a little English, to try to translate for us. Through our broken Spanish, her fairly good English, and charades...we were able to communicate very easily.

During this little meeting we were also told that we shouldn't take pictures in the city. There is a law that says not to take pictures of military personel, buildings or vehicles. However, that was sort of unofficially extended to just don't take pictures in general...at least not obvious ones. We could take them from the vehicle, and from the roof of the church if we wanted to. In the villages and outside the city, the people are a little more relaxed. We were told to be sure to ask the surrounding people if we wanted to take a picture.

After our little meeting, Carlos and his family left for the school, which is where they've been living since some trouble with some of the workers there. We all got situated and ready for bed. We were actually very well off compared to what we expected and had prepared for. We all had foam mattresses, a roof over our head, and food and water. We even had a toilet and shower to use...the toilet was gravity based (you poured a bucket of water in there after doing your business) and the shower you just poured water on yourself. Half this stuff I didn't expect at all, so we were very fortunate.