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“It’s like a resort here!” Marina Savelieva, paratrooper, Ukraine


Tofik and I arrived in Equatorial Guinea in 2009 as the members of the search and rescue airborne service.

To move here was a serious step for me. When I had to make a decision, I saw a wild forest as I was landing in a dream. Then I realized I’ll never go to Africa. Indeed, I saw the same picture as our plane was descending over Malabo, passing around the island and preparing to land.

In the Ukraine we used to live in different conditions and here we prepared for the worst. At that time I did not have access to the Internet to learn something about the country, that is why I was bewildered with the common idea of Africa – heat and sand. I did not even imagine it was such a green country. I thought we would live in a hut and took gauze with me to cover windows from mosquitoes. Meanwhile, we were given a comfortable flat with all the conveniences. We have already planted a garden in the yard. Our compatriots, who come here, are still taken aback by the absence of huts, barbed wire and checkpoints.

To cut a long story short, the host party offered us to instruct the Guineans. At first, they wanted to build up a team of 100 people, but soon realized that they did not have enough equipment, space, specialized air force, only the language barrier. Tofic and I agreed to take a ten-times-smaller group and started leaning Spanish. We gave the first lecture via a translator, but later relied only on our own knowledge of the language. Surprisingly, they understood us perfectly. Guineans got used to such a variety of languages. They seemed to learn Russian quicker than we – Spanish. People from all over the world come to Equatorial Guinea to work, so all languages mix. Only the Chinese lagged behind struggling with colloquial Spanish.

As for our students, they are volunteers, who are the state servicemen. Upon completing the course they will be able to teach others and maintain rescue equipment – airborne, sea and land machines. Unlike pilots who fly by two, paratroopers jump, fall, unfold the parachute and land on their own. This is an especially big responsibility because people in this country are unfamiliar to parachuting.

The students also faced hardships as they grew up in a forest and never walked in the ocean. The locals all are afraid of the ocean. To walk in the ocean for them was like a walk in the open space. They could not swim. Meanwhile, our plan was that they land on water and swim. Now, of course, they plucked up all their courage and are not afraid of the ocean any more. Even do not ask for aqualungs any more. To tell the truth, Guineans are quick-learners, not only our group. They are curious, sociable, openminded, not spoiled by civilization yet and have proclivity for foreign languages. You may walk along the market chatting and hear a Guinean behind you interfering in your dialogue speaking good Russian.   

In the mornings you may see the whole Malabo going to school. A bag behind the back, a food box on the beck, all hurry to learn. The Guinean authorities send children to Russia, Ukraine, Spain and France to gain foreign experience.

Equatorial Guinea is building and developing. The president is speaking all the time about future in his TV speeches, explaining why there are so many foreign specialists in the country. He says that Guineans must learn from them and go to work. He keeps explaining the national goal and warns that oil will be over one day. For instance, the island of Korisco now is a construction site. Soon it will turn into a resort. It is worth noting, however, that Malabo also feels like resort.

The living conditions are very comfortable with clean air, water and slow pace of life. There is no winter. It is very hot at times, but you get used to it. I, for one, decided to cut my hair short for the first time in four years. 

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