Departing from the place Paul and I sleep, we passed by a small one-room shop, maybe 6’x10′ in size with a counter and a few shelves. Paul mentioned that a truck comes by every morning to sell them fresh bread that many workers eat for breakfast on the way to work. These little shops are located up and down many of the side streets of Sao Tome. There is such a shop across from the house where the core of our group sleep. The lady who runs the shop is often open early in the morning until late at night. Sometimes others run the shop, sometimes it is closed during short stretches in the day. But much of her waking time the person running it is in her shop, serving out small food items, phone cards, and cold beer. People hang out in front of the shop eating snacks and drinking beer from the shop. But they also play cards, gossip, and just watch people. We’ve done that ourselves.
Other than the size of the uilding and the wares being sold there (beer vs. ice cream), I could be describing my favorite East St. Louis hangout, Pirtles Ice Cream. Or it could be any the mom and pop shops throughout America, where the dedicated owners and employees spend many of their waking hours at their shop, and as a result serving as a gathering place for community to come together.