Our First Night in Sao Tome

About a block away from Residencial Avenida is a bar owned by a French man named Pierre Blanchett. Among other things, Pierre is a graphic novel enthusiast, an art collector, a businessman, and a musician. Curiously, Pierre traveled to several African countries before settling, unexpectedly, in the small island of Sao Tome. He has owned this bar for three years now. After getting a coca-cola, I sat down in the adjoining room bathed in pink light. On the wall a bronze mask, lit from behind, emitted a fiery smile illuminating the guitar lying on the coffee table. With little musical training, I succeeded in playing a few chords on the guitar before attracting a small group. Pierre joined with his ukulele while Cynthu drummed and Melissa sang. The music was diverse ranging from familiar Beetles tunes to Bob Marley’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy. But most interesting for me was the traditional Portuguese folk songs and new age jazz from France.

Pierre’s friend, Sonia, sang traditional Fogo in a soft, melodious voice only slightly drowned by the noises of the bar. Noises caused principally by three Portuguese men, Zhee, Manuel, and Eric. Eric had a full beard that gave him an air of seriousness adding credibility to statements that were almost always half-truths at best. One such story ran as so…One day, I was showing inspectors around my navel ship. I told them that I was the ship’s cook even though in reality I was the Captain. As I walked, the men would salute me. The inspector’s questioned, incredulous, “I thought you were the cook?” to which I would respond “I am the cook; they salute because my food is so good.” Finally, the inspectors and I arrived in the Captain’s quarters. Again the inspectors questioned “And you’re the cook?” to which I responded confidently “Of course, they gave me the best room in the house because they did not want me to leave.” It was difficult to infer when Eric was telling the truth because he had initially introduced himself as a musician who played a rare Portuguese string instrument. By the end of our conversation, I just thought everything he said was a lie until I saw his face two days later on the television in his Captain’s navel uniform.

On other nights, we might Sao Tomean filmmakers who had traveled to the United States, Brazilian scuba divers, fellow artists, the Sao Tomean ambassador, and other administrators.