Hello friends and family! A note about this post. It came out a bit educational. Feel free to skip the first bit if you aren’t interested. But you should be! It is your planet.
My fellow Drexel students and I have started to prepare for the three week expedition! The expedition takes place in the undeveloped southern half of Bioko island. We’re going to be helping conduct a census of the monkey species. Paying volunteers, UNGE students, and guest scientists will also on the expedition. Why are we doing this? Several of the seven monkey species on Bioko are considered endemic subspecies. This means that they are found nowhere else on the planet. They are also under threat from the bushmeat trade, which is the practice of taking wild animals from the forest for the purpose of consumption. In 2008, a ban was placed on hunting the monkeys, but it has not been enforced. This is why it is so important to keep close tabs on the population.
A bit of info about the bushmeat trade on Bioko, for those who are interested. Most of the bushmeat trade in Africa provides people living in urban areas with essential protein. They depend on it. The problem occurs when the demand for the meat outstrips the ability of the forest community to replenish itself. This can result in something called a ‘ghost forest’, with very little fauna. What makes Bioko different is that the Equatoguineans do not depend on the bushmeat for protein. The island is wealthy enough that the bushmeat is considered a status symbol. The meat goes for very high prices, and carcasses are even shipped over from the mainland.
There! I’m done lecturing. On to nicer things.
Our first real meal is EQ was amazing! David, the RA, took us down to a tiny stand at the side of a dirt road. The lady who runs it is from Cameroon, and she taught us some pidgin english. We got to watch her make ‘spaghetti omelets’. It’s a common dish in Cameroon. First she fried spaghetti, and then cracked two eggs over it with some kind of salsa/spice mix and also some little fish. One of my personal policies is not to eat fish that comes out of a tin, whether it be tuna or sardines, but new food trumps squeamishness. It was delicious!
There are many stray dogs wandering around in Malabo. The ones in the city are thin and rangy. There are large packs that run around the harbor. My initial assumption was that all dogs were mutts. Yesterday, we met an adopted puppy. Her name is Runner, and she is a beautiful dog. The dogs I assumed were all stray mutts are actually an African breed. Historians consider them to be one of the oldest breeds in the world. (Well, I find it interesting and worth sharing. So what, I’m a dog person!) Runner managed to sneak up on me and assault me with puppy kisses, so I hope she doesn’t have typhoid.
We three Drexel students have been paired up with three UNGE (National University of Equatorial Guinea) students, Prospero, Pastor, and Anton. They’re extremely nice, and conversing with them really helps my Spanish skills. They have a daily section of the radio called El Voz Del Medio Ambiente, and they’ve invited us to contribute as foreign students studying abroad in EQ. I’m excited about being a part of it; I really need to brush up on my Spanish so people can understand me well!
-I thought staying in Spain with no air conditioning was hot. NOW I know what hot is. You can’t get three steps out the door here without laboring under the heat. I think it would be easier to adjust to the heat if there was no air conditioning in the student house…but I really love the air conditioner.
-In Texas mosquitos are little annoyances that you don’t want to deal with. Here, they’re tiny little demons you must get before they get you.
-The ocean is so clear! I thought it would be murky, but it’s like glass.
-On clear days, you can see Cameroon from the oceanfront.
-This place is amazing!
-I saw my first sunbird! They’re small, brightly colored nectar feeders.
-I feel a lot safer here than I did in Barcelona.
-Sawasawa, one of the fruits that grows in the courtyard, tastes kind of like soft ice cream. It’s amazing!