SAO TOME I PRINCIPE – SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE – SÃO TOMÉ E PRÍNCIPE

Pogled na crkvu u unutrasnjosti-A coutryside church

Pogled na crkvu u unutrasnjosti-A coutryside church

Predsednicka palata-The Presidential Palace

Predsednicka palata-The Presidential Palace

Vodopad kao Nijagarin-As important as the Niagara Falls

Vodopad kao Nijagarin-As important as the Niagara Falls

Cvetni docek-A floral welcome

Cvetni docek-A floral welcome

Glavna aktivnost je uvek ispod najveceg drveta-The main activity is always under the biggest tree

Glavna aktivnost je uvek ispod najveceg drveta-The main activity is always under the biggest tree

Iskren i nezgrapan natpis-A sincere but misspelt message

Iskren i nezgrapan natpis-A sincere but misspelt message

Javno kupatilo-A public bath

Javno kupatilo-A public bath

Lokalna crkva-A local church

Lokalna crkva-A local church

Plaza na ostrvu Sao Tome-Beach scenery on Sao Tome

Plaza na ostrvu Sao Tome-Beach scenery on Sao Tome

Katedrala u glavnom gradu-Se Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Graca de Sao Tome

Katedrala u glavnom gradu-Se Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Graca de Sao Tome

“Dobrodošli na Sao Tome, ne zaboravite Principe”, pisalo je na nepravilnom engleskom jeziku na aerodromu Sao Tome, onom većem od dva ostrva koja čine ovu zemlju pored zapadne obale Afrike. Doputovao sam avionom u nju iz Ekvatorijalne Gvineje u kojoj, blago rečeno, nisam osetio veliku naklonosti prema strancima. Očekujući sličnu sutaciju i na ovim udaljenim ostrvima, gde još dolazim bez vize, prijatno me je iznenadio široki osmeh dobrodošlice na aerodromu, koji su mi uputili predstavnici lokalnih vlasti. Odmah sam osetio ljubaznost, koja me je pratila sve vreme mog boravka, kao i portugalski kolonijalni duh u ovom delu sveta. Činilo mi se da ovaj narod razume da su osmeh i prijateljska otvorenost u ovom dalekom i relativno izolovanom prostoru najbolji način opstanka. Iako je siromaštvo znatno, čini mi se da su u njemu svi solidarni i srećni, sa željom da, svakako, usreće i retke posetioce.
Iako je žuti izlupani taksi bio moje jedino prevozno sredstvo po ostrvu Sao Tome  (vratiću se jednog dana i na Principe), zadovoljno sam evocirao uspomene na slične situacije uličnog sipanja benzina u rezervoar iz prljavih flaša, i nije mi to ni najmanje smetalo. Dopao mi se entuzijazam kojim su želeli da mi pokažu nešto od svog ostrva, jer ko zna kada će im to neko ponovo zatražiti. Bili su ponosni i na neki manji mlaz vode, koji je padao sa stene negde u unutrašnjosti ostrva, nazvavši ga vodopadom. Ali taj vodopad je tada za mene imao veći značaj od onih sa Nijagare, jer su mi ga pokazivali sa neskrivenim žarom i nestvarno lepim buketima tropskog cveća u rukama.
Na gradskoj pijaci nalazi se lokalna ambulanta, gde je čitav zid islikan simptomima raznih tropskih bolesti, koje bi možda mogle da vas zadese i kako da se od njih sačuvate, koristeći se, na primer, mrežom za komarce u borbi protiv malarije. Nekome to mora i na ovakav način da se objašnjava da bi imalo efekta, ali se pri tom i u vama začne crv zabrinutosti. Centralno drvo na trgu uvek ima ključnu ulogu u nalaženju spasa od vrućine, a stara portugalska crkva pruža i duboki hlad.
Osim nekoliko ostataka kolonijalne aritekture, ovaj gradić ne pruža nikakve druge znamenitisti, ali ostavlja utisak nesvakidašnje prijatnosti. Ovde vas niko neće primoravati na kupovinu nepotrebnih suvenira, jer skoro da ih i nema. A nema ni dovoljno turista da bi to postala navika. Ova lepa izolacija učinila je zato ta dva ostrva jedinstvenom oazom mira i spokoja.
Prisećam se delova putopisa Mladena Šuteja, koji je šezdesetih godina prošlog veka pristajao uz ove obale svojom jedrilicom. Pričao mi je da su mu tada za jednu konzervu mesnog nareska vadili pet ogromnih jastoga iz dubina. Danas ih sigurno malo više cene. I pored svega, ostali su dobar i naivan narod, pun poverenja i neiskvarenosti vredne poštovanja.
Vratiću se na Principe kad-tad. Možda… ali se ipak nadam. I zaista bih voleo.

Jun 2003.
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‘Welcome to São Tomé, d’ont forget Prínicipe’ was an inscription in incorrect English at the São Tomé airport, based on the larger of the two islands that make this country near the West coast of Africa. I flew here from Equatorial Guinea where, mildly put, I did not experience kindness towards foreigners. Expecting a similar situation on these remote islands, to which I came without a visa, I was pleasantly surprised by a broad welcoming smile from the officials at the airport. I straight away sensed their affability which accompanied me throughout my stay here, as well as the Portuguese colonial spirit present in this part of the world. It seemed to me that people here have understood that smiles and friendly openness in this remote and relatively isolated place, are the best way to survive. Even though deprivation is noticeable, it seems to me that people cultivate solidarity towards each other and are happy; they want to make infrequent foreign visitors happy too.
An old battered yellow cab was my only means of transport around São Tomé island (and I will come back to see Príncipe), and I was happy it evoked for me the old memories of a similar situation – pouring petrol into car tanks from dirty bottles in the street; and I did not mind it in the least. I liked the enthusiasm with which they showed me around their island, after all who knows when they will be asked again. They were even proud of a small jet of water falling from a rock somewhere in the hinterland, calling it a waterfall. But that waterfall had more importance for me than the Niagara Falls, because they showed it to me with sincere ardour while holding bunches of incredibly beautiful tropical flowers in their hands.
The city market is also a place where a local clinic is situated. One of its walls is entirely covered with drawings of various tropical diseases you could contract and their symptoms; it also depicts how you can prevent them – for example using a mosquito net against malaria. For some people this way of explaining is still the best so that they can understand fully; yet a niggling worry starts to form in your mind…Then you look for some respite from the heat under the central tree on the main square or you seek the deep shadow provided by the old Portuguese church.
Apart from a few remnants of colonial architecture this little town has little else to offer, yet it leaves an impression of unusual affability. No one is going to force you to buy unwanted souvenirs here, as there are hardly any. And there aren’t enough tourists either for this trade to take off. This beautiful isolation has made these two islands a unique oasis of peace and quiet.
I remember some passages from Mladen Šutej’s travel essays, who sailed around and moored at these islands in the 1960s. He recounted to me how for a tin of canned meat they would fish out 5 huge lobsters from the depths of the sea. Today they probably value them more. Despite everything people here have remained good and naive, full of trust and innocence which is admirable.
I will go back to see Príncipe, sooner or later. Maybe…but I hope so. I would really love to.

June 2003

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