This is a guide for my family and friends about my life as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cape Verde, Africa. I teach English as foreign language to high school students in Boa Vista, Cape Verde. Also as a disclaimer, the comments expressed here are solely of the author and do not represent the United States Peace Corps, the American Government, or any other governing body.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Well here I am. At the end of the road. Well, maybe not a road, more like a long twisting side street of my life filled with bizarre experiences, unique people, and the rather vivid memories that include goat slaughtering and 1 liter of water showers. I arrived in Praia today, the capital city where I will conclude all my Peace Corps business and be on my marry way. Of course I could not have said my final goodbye to the Cape Verdean people without a truly Cape Verdean experience: as many of you know, my landlady is completely crazy. Well, maybe I haven't mentioned this before, but she literally is completely crazy. She spends most of her time in Italy leaving her niece to take care of her apartment building and clothing store underneath. Those were the salad days. Well, unfortunately, she has been back in good ol' Sao Vicente now for about a month and a completely harassing, unreasonable individual. Peace Corps always pays their rent, they rarely have problems with landlords of any kind that I have ever heard of. But she has been claiming to high holy heaven that Peace Corps has been cheating her out of her rent and that she will take them to the newspapers if she has to! Well today concluded the scene with some truly spectacular yelling on both my and her parts in the middle of the road. I had to catch my flight at 12:00 and she was refusing to let me leave! She wouldn't take the keys from me, until she had confirmed with everyone she could that the rent had been paid. She wanted to drive around to her bank, wait there, call her financial person, who conveniently happened to be in the hospital for some sort of finger cut and so on. She yelled to me in the middle of the street that she was a victim in all this and that PC was going to cheat her out of her money! (By the way, Peace Corps of course has copies of all the receipts from deposits and transfers and so on). So I asked her if she wanted me to leave the keys outside the door when I left, if that would be better. She screamed that she was going to the bank and if the deposit hadn't shown up she was going straight to the newspaper to report PC and their awful, cheating ways. Oh brother. Anyway, I'm done with all that. I think it shows how much I've grown simply by the fact that I didn't cry and sit on the stoop in the fetal position.

So here I am, the last leg of my journey and it's like all events in our lives that come to an end. It feels like merely a blip on the radar. But when I stop and think, and examine myself I see that it has had a profound effect on my life and way of thinking. I would like to think that I have had a similar effect on some of the people here, but I cannot be sure. The world is changing so fast for the people here and they're catching up at record speed. Today on my flight, I saw a Cape Verdean man with an iPhone. It's incredible how much things have changed here even in the past two years.

This is experience is something I can't really sum up in words. I hope my blogs have been sufficient to share with you all a glimpse of my experiences, but I know that when I get back to the States, that I will still get pressed for the 6 second sum up of "So, how was it?" Well, it was fine. We all have forms and states of being, and for most volunteers, living here or any other country is simply another state of being. It's harder sometimes, sure. But human beings adapt at extraordinary rates and to adapt to different environments is practically what we were born to do. I loved my time here and no, it was not all easy, and of course having no water isn't ideal. But I didn't quit, which means I proved 100% of the people I know wrong. But it also means that if I can do it, anyone can. And volunteering isn't something that has to be done on a global scale. It can be a simple thing you do locally, but it's more often than not quite rewarding. Ok, I've had my PC poster-child spiel.

But I also want to thank everyone who supported me throughout this whole experience. It was often very comforting to know that people were interested in what I was doing and wanted to read about what I had to say. And of course a very special thank you to everyone who sent me packages and goodies. You have no idea how much easier life becomes with a simple little Ziplock bag :). Honestly, I cannot express my gratitude, and I hope that my blogs and photos were sufficient enough to provide you with a decent understanding of my life. Sometimes it's nice to live vicariously.

So I sign off from my blog, and sit in Praia for the next week, and then it's a nice little vacation in London after that. And then home. Finally.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

So, I have a small observation to make about this country. Probably one of the last observations I will make. But it's something that strikes me as interesting simply because it's so purely cultural as to be quite unique I think. I was invited out by my adult English students to have a drink and perhaps a slice of pizza. My class decided that they wanted to meet outside of school at a place where we all could 'hang out.' At least that's what I understood to be the general consensus as it usually is with these social events. There were only 5 students in the class, so including me, we were only 6. An adequate size for an amiable group of people to simply hang out. But this term 'hang out' doesn't really exist here. The place they chose to go was loud and full of large tvs playing DVDs of live concerts by musicians, most of whom I had never heard of. So we sat, and drank Cokes and ate pizza and.....watched tv? I don't have a tv in my house, as I feel that it is not worth spending the money to watch three channel, one of which shows soccer 24/7. No thanks. But to socialize here is something entirely different then what I was used to in America. I can't imagine a group of my friends or my family going out to a restaurant and just sit there watching TV. We interact, we discuss, we talk and laugh and joke. Right? I mean, there are the exceptions, such as if we go specifically to a sports bar to watch a huge championship or something. But I don't remember CPK, or PF Changs having big screen tvs with music videos blasting. But it's even on a smaller scale. Nilton and I went over to his friend's house on Saturday night, because it was his friend's birthday. His friend's girlfriend was also there, so it was a nice group of the four of us. But right when we got there, he proceeded to turn on the TV and insert one of those famous music video DVDs and blast it. We could hardly hear each other. And for me, the foreigner, hearing the language properly is crucial in understanding what the heck someone is trying to say to you. So needless to say I simply kept my mouth shut most of the time, which is a shame, because wasn't the point of that situation to talk and socialize?

So that got me to thinking. What exactly is there to socialize about here? This is a small country and almost nothing on a grand scale ever happens here. If you think about the things you talk about with your family and friends in a social setting, almost none of those things exist here on a grand scale. Apple isn't releasing the new iPod or iPhone here, and there are no competitors trying to take over the cell phone market. There is not a huge world-changing presidential election here (although the last election here in May was very exciting, I doubt it was a blip on anyone's radar) that may effect the pitiful American economy or the global view of Americans. Cape Verde isn't making headways in the campaign for off-shore drilling, or saving the environment. The college I teach at isn't packed with Emo students drinking their way through 8am Intro classes. There just aren't these grand 'events' that unite the people here. They have nothing to discuss. I don't mean this to sound as though these people are just floating around living their lives, but in a way they are. Which is probably a good part of the reason why I'm here. But the population here is soooo small, under 500,000 people, that things are done one a much smaller scale. There are only so many people who work in the government and only so many people who work at a university, or a bank. Everyone knows everyone else, at least on each island. Just think about this: my first island, Boa Vista had a population of just over 4,000 people; the university I will attend next year has 10 times that amount of people in their undergraduate population, almost the exact number of people who live on my current island. Again, I stress that ASU, alone, has the same number of people as the island I currently live on and I live in the second largest city in the country. So I hope you can imagine what socializing here is, or is not.

Now, I'm definitely not saying that when my friends in America and I get together we discuss the geo-political ramifications of the Nintento Wii. I'm simply saying that we talk, comfortably about existence in general, an existence that seems to be so much richer with sensory overload that the only thing we can do is spit it all out when we interact. Here it's not like that. There is almost a complete lack of sensory input which therefor requires an additional buffer when you are in a social situation (enter the live concerts on DVD).

Anyway, that was my observation. In other news, my mother comes to visit me on Saturday, yay!!! And I leave this country in 37 days. Woohoo!!

Friday, June 20, 2008

So I'm back after yet another little break away from this blog. I find that my experiences aren't worthy of expression not because what I do is boring, but, well, because what I do is boring. I've expressed this before: I lead a normal life, nothing really that interesting happens to me because I live in a large-ish city, and I don't feel that my day to day activities warrant time spent writing or reading about them.

But, as school is winding down, I feel that I must share something, or no one will believe that I actually experienced anything of value these last few months. I have one official week of class left, although unofficially, two of my three classes have already ended and will not be meeting again. Woohoo! My experience with this school has been like experiencing ice cream and pickles at the same time (although some would argue that's a good blend of snack items, I can't believe that). The ice cream is the time I spend in the classroom and planning for the classes that I find so fascinating. I loooooovvved my literature class, mostly because I love literature of any kind. These classes were the best, and I was motivated to teach which transfered then to my students who seemed motivated to learn. The pickle side (and you all know how much I hate pickles) of the job was dealing with the administration. The director of this school I can only describe in certain company because the adjectives I feel describe her best are not words the general public should hear coming from such a well-brought up lady such as myself. Let's just say that she is difficult and mean and values formality and procedure far above the education of her students. She is an opportunist and micromanager and rarely produces any work of her own. She teaches one class that she rarely shows up for and is absent on account of 'sickness' more times than the rest of the teachers combined. As the director of the school, I understand that it's important to keep order, but her methods and policies are absurd and I am not the first person to notice. There is nothing I can do, however, as I do not have the power to try and help her see the error of her ways, also I think that would be a little presumptuous of the American 25-year-old with a simple BA degree to explain to the 40-something Cape Verdean director how she should do her job. So I live with it, like Peace Corps volunteers have lived with it in the past, and all I can do is warn the future volunteers to be wary and try to hold their temper.

But in other news, I have put my countdown back up on my wall. I had a countdown last year when I was preparing to go to England, and now it's back with the countdown for leaving. I leave this island in exactly 45 days. It's NOTHING!! And my mother arrives in 15 days to spend a couple of weeks with me, which will be nice. After I leave my island I will spend 3 days in Praia, the capital, just wrapping things up. Then I depart for London to spend a week before finally heading home. I arrive in Phoenix August 14th at 6:05pm (because I know you all want to be at the airport to welcome me:). And I cannot wait.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I have good news: I'm coming home August 5th.

Depending on the travel arrangements, etc. I will leave around the 5th and end up home the 5th or the 6th of August.


See you all then :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The bottom photo is of the Americans, except the one who is taking the picture.
The top is the hotel we stayed in. It was so cute

The top is a view of Porto Novo, the port city in Santo Antão

The next two are the clouds going over the mountain. I am no photographer, so I hope I was able to capture these ok.

I have never been to Hawaii or the Canary Islands, nor any other island chain or archipelago, so I cannot make any unbiased judgments about the archipelago I am currently living on. But this place can be so breathtakingly beautiful, it’s astounding that more people have not noticed. In a way, I suppose this is a good thing, as if more people knew, the scenery and landscapes would not be quite as pure and untouched as they are now. This past weekend, the Americans and I had a mini-break on the island of Santo Antão. The island is about a 45 minute ferry ride from Mindelo, São Vicente (for those not keeping track, that is where I currently live). You cannot get to Santo Antão by any other means, as the terrain is such that the airport was shut down for safety reasons. SA is one of the largest islands in Cape Verde, and it is all completely untouched by any outside influence. It is one of the most purely Cape Verdean islands I have seen.
When you get off the ferry, you arrive in a town that looks like it was leftover from the development of Mindelo. It is similar because it is immediately accessible from Mindelo and therefore a little more ‘modern’ with amenities slightly easier to obtain. As you drive away from the Port town and into the mountains, you climb higher and higher until you can see Mindelo from across the channel. This side of the island is browner, and even looks a little like the Rocky Mountains in Arizona. But the drive itself is amazing. You continue to climb until you reach the clouds and there is so much moisture in the air that it is practically raining. You find yourself driving through the clouds and the air is thicker than any other fog you have ever been through. But then you reach a point where the clouds are below you and in fact only on one side of the island, running like a waterfall over the mountains to the other side. You now have to get out and climb a little ways on foot, as the road has stopped, but the highest peak is still above you. The air is crisp and there are pine trees everywhere. It reminds you of camp and the smell of pine-filled mountains take you back to your childhood when the biggest problem that faced you was the fear of getting pulled out of bed to go ‘Polar-Bearing’ in the freezing-cold lake the next morning. Your current problems have been left behind, under the clouds, and most certainly await you when you return to reality. But for now, you are above them, literally, and the world is serene, quiet, and the air is so crisp you can feel yourself breathing for the first time in a long time. You can see 360˚ around the entire island and on both sides, the clouds are pouring over the mountains below you, moving quicker than you ever imagined, and looking almost like a quiet version of Niagara Falls. You sit at the top and simply breathe because that is the only thing to do and the only thing you can actually hear.
But it is getting late and there are other things to see. You climb back down to the little town where you have parked your car. You have rented a car because as those crazy kids are saying these days, you are traveling like a ‘baller.’ It is easier to see a place and go where you choose when you do not have to rely on public transportation to squeeze you into a seat next to bunches of bananas and people carrying chickens. So you go ‘baller’ style and discover that you can control the direction you are going; an idea that has been a little lost lately. With your destination town in front of you, you drive on, down the other side of the mountain and through the clouds again. The road is not really a road, but a one-lane cobblestone thrill ride that leaves you puzzled as to how they ever cut through all the rock and mountain to construct such a thing. The people here do not have Caterpillar machines or fancy rock-carving technology; plus we are talking about roads that were created years and years ago. So you drive carefully because the cliffs on either side are at 90˚ angles to the road and one wrong turn and the ribeira is the last thing you will ever see. But being above the deep-cut rocks is all that has your attention at the moment, and it reminds you a little of the spectacular nature of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes, Nature surprises you in the most astounding ways.
You reach the town of Paul where Peace Corps Volunteers have been in the past, but have recently vacated for one reason or the other, and you marvel at the purity of the town. There aren’t words to describe it; it is simply a small town, cuddling against the mountains, shying away from the ferocious waves that crash on the other side of the town’s only road. You stay the first night here with a cute little Italian man who runs a cute little bed and breakfast he has built himself to preserve the inherent nature of his surroundings. His modern-style buildings are brightly colored and yet blend in with the background. Your room has a large balcony and the most magnificent view of the ocean. On the other side of the balcony, you can see the statue of Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost children. He is standing several feet tall holding a little child in his arms and watching over the town on the island that bears his name.
The next morning you continue your drive through the ribeiras and see that every piece of accessible land is tiered for farming. These people have taken advantage of all the resources they can to build a small life for themselves. Nearly everyone on the island is a farmer on one capacity or another. And for good reason: the earth is rich, the land fertile, and the food needed. It is not easy work, however, as the mountains are steep and difficult to climb. They seem to have no problem accessing places on the mountaintops that you would never dare to venture.
The next day is spend driving around the island, visiting remote little towns where Peace Corps volunteers actually live and enjoy themselves. Of course everyone in the town knows them, so when you show up in a group of white people, they simply assume you are looking for the only other white person for miles. You eat cheese homemade by a German man who has chosen to liv his life on a mountaintop making cheese and grogue and serving it to the tourists who make the climb specially for his delicious cheese. And when you ask for a salad, he goes into his garden and picks all the ingredients for you including edible flowers, and you savor the taste of the freshest salad you have ever eaten, as it is probably still growing as it sits on your plate.
That night you spend the night on a hill top at a nice hotel that serves fancy dinner to the usual multitudes of guests. But tonight it is your group only and you get all the attention of the bored but content staff.
Sunday is driving again, and it's the dreaded drive back under the clouds and back to reality, and you wonder how the most beautiful place can be so close to the city full of people and noise and again more people. As someone who has lived on a flat deserty island, and then in a large-ish city, the landscapes and tranquility and grandeur of this island was absolutely astounding. I dearly hope to go back some day.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

There are several things to say at this point, but I had an interesting thought the other day. To continue my observations and amusements of the Cape Verdean people, I discovered something interesting recently. My first year English students, to whom I teach Literature, recently read O. Henry's "The Gift of the Maji" and they loved it. Usually I get a lukewarm response from my students; usually a select few like the story I assign and the rest are completely indifferent. But this one they actually got into, and they participated in class more than usual, too. I was surprised, I didn't think that this particular story would have such an effect.
Briefly, for those who are not familiar, "The Gift of the Maji" is the story of a couple who sacrifice their most precious possessions in order to buy the other a nice gift for Christmas. The story is ironic, in that the woman cuts her long and very beautiful hair to buy a gold chain for her husband's pocket watch. The husband, however, has sold this watch to buy combs for the woman's hair. So in the end they are both left with fairly useless gifts.
Anyway, I asked the question: "Who do you think made the greater sacrifice and why?" Well here is where the debate started. I always thought that the man made the greater sacrifice simply because hair grow back, and eventually the cobs would be useful again. But it would cost money to get back the man's watch. This was my assumption, and I wrongly assumed again that everyone believed what I did. Boy was I wrong. When I went to put this response on the board, there was an uproar in class like I had never seen. Oddly enough, it was the boys in my class who voiced the loudest protests. Hair, they claimed, was such a precious thing, that to get rid of it would be the biggest shame. The watch was a watch, they said, get some money from somewhere and you can buy it back easily. It was all the boys in the class who spoke out against cutting hair, which led me to my thoughts about the different opinions Cape Verdeans have for beauty and appearance.
Cape Verdeans have this opinion about hair that treats it kind of like this precious commodity. It wasn't until I asked Nilton and other Cape Verdeans I know that I realized that hair is like a status symbol. It kind of goes back to the whole 'mixed race' status I have mentioned before. A 'pure blooded' African has hair that's thick and course and breaks easily. Those that are more interracial have finer hair that can be brushed and styled and not just simply braided. Children and adults alike are often touching my hair, and when (on extremely rare occassions) it is blow dried and worn down, I always get comments and exclamations and more attention on the street. I've been told that cutting my hair would amount to a minor crime and that I would then be ugly. Well I always been sort of attached to my hair so I'm pretty sure I won't be cutting it short again any time soon.

On a separate note, as I have been here so long, I feel myself completely separated from American reality. I have this romanticized ideal of what America is and all I can seem to think about is the good. I know that when I get back home, I will be sourly disappointed with the state of things there, but I just haven't been there in almost two years. So much can happen and my memories and feelings have warped. My perspectives and views are all off I know, but I just can't relate to life there anymore. I was writing this blog about hair, and then I realized, well, maybe they do feel the same about hair in America as they do in Cape Verde. I actually have no clue. I can't comment on the differences anymore because I don't know what they are. I'm in this 'purgatory' state almost, not part of this culture yet not part of my own. It's a bizarre feeling, one I am anxious to get rid of. I just want to go home now, back to the America I keep romanticizing. I want the reality to hit me already and then I want to get over it. I'm anxious to have my real life back. I know I have done well here, and actually if you go to the Peace Corps home page you can see my name in a recent press release :)

Anyway, I am anxious to get home.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Strap in kids, it’s going to be a long one.

So in fine form, I have completely neglected my blogging duties and I’m sorry about that. Being removed and then resettled followed immediately by a vacation and then immediately back to work again, and now on break from school only to go back next week, leaves my life in a little bit of whirlwind. The ability to restructure myself into a normal routine has been a little difficult as I haven’t been in any one situation long enough to do so. The last time I wrote for you all I was about to go on the vacation of a lifetime. I will begin the story there and attempt to update you with my life since then.

Kenya was amazing, except for the tiny hiccup that was elections. I had been once before but, as I was two years old, the trip didn’t exactly stick in my mind. We began in the Mara, safariing around the wilderness. The weather was your typical plains weather: beautifully warm temperatures during the day, and near death cold during the night (ok, I exaggerate, but I haven’t been in any kind of cold in the past two years. It was a different experience for me). We slept in large comfy beds with hot water bottles placed there each night by the staff. It was beautiful and serene and Ashford was the best wildlife guide a safari-er could ask for ☺. Our trip continued through a rapid succession of four more places throughout the country where we saw wildlife, took lots of pictures, and ate enough food to feed a small country (something I would have been a little bit preoccupied about, but I adopted the mentality that ‘well it’s already sitting there on the buffet, I might as well eat it, I mean, what else could I do?) The last place of this phase of the trip was spent at the Mount Kenya Safari Club where we had the most amazing view of Mt. Kenya right outside our room (ok cabin, really). Of course the first thing my dad asked was “Hey can we climb it?” Responses mostly consisted of dubious looks followed by a stumbling explanation that basically meant “I guess, if you really want too…” But really, I wouldn’t put it past him, although he was informed that it is not Kilimanjaro, and slightly more challenging. After this, it was back to Nairobi to catch a flight to the famous Mombasa, a town that has gained infamy in our family and beyond as the place to compare other places to. Everything reminded my father of Mombasa, so much so that it became a running joke in our family. We spent a week at the Diani Beech resort lounging around, swimming, and of course eating. ‘Buffet’ became my new favorite word. The only downside of this phase of the trip was the disappointment we suffered on venturing into town. The Resort is long way off from the actual island of Mombasa, and my dad wanted to spend a day touring the island remembering the days when he was young and cheeky. It was just a matter of bad timing, in that the elections had just occurred and there was some unrest beginning to show in the main towns. But I was able to meet my father’s cousin whom he hadn’t seen in years, and she was a very nice woman.
Throughout the trip we saw every animal imaginable including babies of nearly every species. It was interesting to learn about the different familial relationships within the species. My sister’s favorite animal was the dikdik and if she hasn’t told you about it yet, just ask her and then wait five minutes for her to stop laughing. Dikdiks mate for life and when the spouse dies, the other partner becomes so sad that they commit suicide. It’s sweet, but a little depressing, I know. After coming back to Cape Verde, I have been thinking about this trip and looking at all the pictures we took. My family is such an interesting thing. I honestly believe that I have the best family in the world and we get along so well, (most of the time) that I forget that we are somewhat unique. There is a moment in this trip that stands out, and it really was nothing special. We were sitting in the Nairobi airport waiting for our flight to Mombasa. We had been bumped from our flight to one that departed a few hours later; so luckily we had some playing cards with us. The airport was minuscule, a couple of gates and a small café that served lovely samosas. The five of us sat there and played a couple of card games until we children decided to teach the parents how to play Spoons. Now anyone who has ever played this game knows that it isn’t the most discrete and quiet game in existence. But the five of us played and we played together; we weren’t loud or obnoxious, but we were having fun and laughing and in a type of pleasurable harmony that isn’t so common. Other people were pointing and looking at us, not in a derogatory or malicious way, but just to say, ‘hey, look at that.’ It was a nice feeling and one that will always stay with me. The entire trip had this same feel of harmony and just enjoying ourselves and of course eating more than our weight (ok, maybe I was the only glutton on the trip; it’s a fact my friends, that I hadn’t eaten a steak in nearly two years, so I of course gobbled any and all I could find. My eating endeavors were also not quite as gross as I seem to keep describing them). Anyway, it was amazing and I will be forever grateful for the chance to experience a trip like this.

And then the 30 hour trip back to reality and my new city of Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente. I do have to say that I absolutely love teaching in this new venue. I teach at a teacher’s college now and while most of my students are around my age, if not older, they are there because they chose to be. They applied, took the entrance exam, and paid the large amount of money it costs to go to this school. Now, admittedly, they are not all whizzes when it comes to the English Language, and I wonder sometimes as to how they tricked the entrance exam (although this may say something about said exam), but they are only first years, and I am teaching literature, in English, which I know can be something of a challenge. But English Literature was my major in college, and so I really am having a great time. This is the first year the class was taught so there were no previous syllabi or any kind of curriculum or direction they wanted to go with the class. Sooooo, I got to make up my own ☺. The best part about it is coming up with literature I think appropriate for them. I get to teach a subject I actually like to students who actually want to be there. I have had so much fun planning this semester’s classes that I am completely 100% prepared for the semester, which honestly, I don’t think I’ve been 100% prepared for anything in my whole life, sadly. Maybe this is a foreshadowing of my future…. Dental school here I come!!!! No, but really, I am enjoying it, and I like my students and more importantly, they like me. My director has called my Peace Corps office praising my work, and they’ve even given me my own desk in the coordinators’s room. I don’t coordinate anything, but I am translating the school rules and regulations for them from Portuguese into English, so maybe this earned me a desk and free internet access ☺.

As far as the new site itself is concerned, it’s s completely different from Boa Vista, I don’t even know where to start. Mindelo is the second largest city in Cape Verde, while Boa Vista was the smallest populated of all the islands. I can buy nearly anything here (except a good steak of course) and my apartment is big and I absolutely never run out of running water. All major amenities are present and there are so many restaurants that one could very easily go broke. Cruise ships park in the harbor and send the tourists abound. I sometimes miss Boa Vista; the smallness appealed to me, and I knew everyone there and my friends and I had fun going to the beach on the weekends and catching the food we were about eat. I enjoyed sitting on the stoop outside my boyfriend’s house in his two-street town, where everyone would go for the weekend and just sit outside and play cards or soccer. And then I will talk to Leland and here that one of the companies that sells water isn’t functioning at the moment and he hasn’t had water for a few days, then I smile and remember that things here are a little better. The climate isn’t so rough, the streets a little smoother, the life a little easier. And, of course, the highlight of it all: I can by sliced deli turkey and fresh lettuce! I know this does not seem like a huge deal, but how many times a week do you eat a deli sandwich? Uh huh, that’s what I thought. Imagine if there was NO deli meat (or only ham which doesn’t count for me) and you finally were able to get some turkey? It makes things just a little happier for me, along with the fabulous waxing lady I found in this cute little salon here. Aren’t you jealous that it costs me only $25 to get my entire body waxed? Ok, maybe if you’re a boy you’re not. The people here in Sao Vicente are a little different, it’s difficult to describe in words, but you see it in their actions and their behavior. The people native to each individual island are different in their own way, along with their language and mannerisms, and it’s nice to experience all this. But I like it here, I feel like it’s a small stepping stone between Sal Rei, Boa Vista and Phoenix, Arizona. At least I won’t be completely overwhelmed when I get home. Although I am completely aware that deli turkey isn’t exactly the scientific revolution of the century nor will it prepare me for the small little things that have changed in America that didn’t quite make it to international news; or all the movies I have missed for the past two years (although I did go shopping on Amazon the other day and blindly chose a few movies based on their descriptions as I had of course never heard of them nor all of this years Oscar winners I heard about. Sidebar: yay DDL, mom I know you’re happy!).

In other news, my boyfriend is still here with me in Sao Vicente. In true Cape Verdean fashion, the bank they were building on Boa Vista is of course behind schedule so he’s here until they finish the building. The Cape Verdean system owed me one anyway. He was supposed to leave at the end of January and he hasn’t heard any word as to when they are sending him back to Boa Vista. So, good for me.

Well I have just under five months left of my service here and I can practically taste America. The closer it gets, the harder it is for me to wait. I have an entire semester left of school, and yet five months seems like nothing in the grade scheme of things. This is what we call the home stretch and my mind is racing to begin the next phase of my life. When my mind isn’t occupied it often wanders to America, planning what I will do when I get there, what I will eat first, and then the days after that (hey, I’m a Fazel, of course my mind is on food). This is why I try to keep my mind occupied, because otherwise it just cries for America, and then my mouth waters, and then I remember lovely conveniences like free refills. I explained this concept to Nilton the other day and he was quite impressed. It’s the little things, my friends, the little things.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Well, this time around I am writing you all from Mindelo, São Vicente, my new home for the next few months. Mindelo is the second largest city in Cape Verde and so much more exciting in many ways. I have to say that I was not very happy about my "evacuation" from Boa Vista, as I had really enjoyed my time there. They tell you it generally takes about a year to fully settle in to your site and then the second year is always more comfortable and more fun. I must say that it is very true. But just when I thought all was comfortable, I was yanked out of my comfort zone and thrown into a brand new, much larger place. Mindelo is easy to get lost in, not just literally, but figuratively as well. This city is so alive and you will hear many people tell you that Mindelo is the smallest big city in the world. Everyone knows each other, but it's big enough that if you want to avoid someone, you can. The grocery stores are virtually unlimited and (gasp!) even open on Sundays! I can't tell you the exact population, but it's fairly large and just so alive. The change from Boa Vista is like night and day. When discussing my future options with Peace Corps, they were nice enough to let me basically have my choice of locations to go. I chose Mindelo because I had been here once before (last February for Mardi Gras)and loved the feel and ambiance of the place. It's large, but it's not Praia which I find too large and the shadow of the Peace Corps staff right over my shoulder. Here I can still walk anywhere within a maximum of fifteen minutes and the stores are plentiful and cheap. My apartment is very nice, it has two bedrooms and two bathrooms and I live in it by myself! Which is a little scary, and I'm thinking (to the objections of my mother) of getting a dog. It will keep me company and hopefully prevent a break-in which is unfortunately fairly common here. Anyway, I'm still thinking about it.

As far as my job goes, I will be teaching at Institute Superior do Educação (ISE) which is like a teaching college. It's where students go to school to learn how to be teachers. It is a higher education institution and I will be teaching a class that I may not be 100% qualified for, but most people tend to have faith in me, so I'll do my best. The class is called Cultural Literature in English Speaking Countries. Let's all give a round of applause for the fact that I may actually be using my college degree!! (I majored in English Literature). But I am nervous because, while the students will be easier and actually want to be there, they will also be my age and so I fear for my control of authority. But today is my first day and so let's hope that all goes well. I will just be giving introductions and doing a short little exercise. I will miss my students at the high school in Boa Vista, especially my new little 8th graders. They were just so cute!! But there is nothing much I can do about it really, and I'm sure they will have very little problem finding a new teacher.

Well as far as bad situations go, mine could have turned out worse. I never wanted to leave Boa Vista, but the outcome of this whole thing really worked out ok. I am in a city I think I will grow to love, expanding my teaching skills by teaching at a higher level of learning, and meeting new people which is always fun. Also, there are three very good friends of mine who completed their Peace Corps service this past summer. They stayed here in Mindelo and have opened up a English school of their own. Their business is going well and I'm grateful to have them here. Casey taught at ISE for the past two years and so she has been a tremendous help. I am just grateful that there is someone else here who has been through the same experience and is willing to help me through. Oh yes, things could be worse.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

There are only three words I can think of for my current situation: THINGS FALL APART. It reminds be of the Chinua Achebe novel, although I must admit I have never read it even though I know my father is a fan. He is also a fan of the phrase "All good things must come to an end." He is generally right in a lot of these philosophical aspects. Anyway, let me explain.

For a while now, I have been dealing with a little (rather harmless in my opinion) stalker problem. The man is from Boa Vista, teaches at the high school and is believed to be slightly mentally imbalanced. I believe he is also a homosexual (not that this belief is in general an issue, but it is particularly relevant to the story). So why has he targeted me, you might ask. He has an obsession with my boyfriend, Nilton. Nilton is also a teacher at the school and we all worked more or less in harmony last school year. Since Nilton and I have begun dating, he targeted us both when we were together. I have to say that mental illness and homosexuality is treated as somewhat of a laughable folly in this country. Neither are taken seriously, nor do most people even believe that homosexuality exists in this country. I assure you, it does. But let me give you an example. When explaining my situation a while ago to the chief of police on Boa Vista, he finally understood that this man had a homosexual obsession with Nilton and not a heterosexual obsession with me. As the realization struck him, he shook his head as if negating what I had said. Clearly he thought I was mistaken and told me so. "No," he said. "That doesn't happen here. No." This man was a fairly educated person I had though.

About a month ago, the stalking escalated. From what I've learned since then, this man was on medication and had around that time stopped taking his medication for whatever reason. I must also point out that since the stalking and harassment started, the director of the school no longer allows him to teach class, but he is the monitor of the library. She does not have the power to fire him, that is left up to the Ministry of Education. Each school zone has a Delegate of the Ministry that is in charge of all things related to education in that particular zone. It is his or her responsibility then to evaluate the situation and make recommendations to the Ministry in the capital city Praia. Let me just point out that this situation should have been dealt with before the school year started. I have several rants and raves about our Delegate, one being that he is particularly useless, but I would be wasting time and energy complaining about someone I can do nothing about. Anyway, the man now being off his medication was free to allow his mind to wander and eventually made up an entire history for me. When he saw me on the street he screamed obscenities at me, and claimed I was a criminal. The final straw came one Saturday while I was waiting in the teacher's lounge at school for my class to start. He came into the room and spoke to me in English. Luckily for me, another English teacher was in the room and she was able to witness and understand everything that was said to me. Basically he called me a criminal again claiming that my name was not Nadia, and that I had killed several people in the US. He then continued to say that if I continued there he would kill me. Following a meeting with the two of us, the school director, the two witnesses in the teachers' lounge, and the useless Delegate, the ministry agreed finally to do an investigation.

As I said before, mental unbalance is taken so lightly here. People treat it as a joke. Even the police. This man went to the police with his papers he had written about this supposed secret life of mine he had uncovered and they all but laughingly told him to fax it to the Embassy of the United States here in Praia. The Embassy people would take care of it, they need to know! He took their advice in stride. Obviously not realizing the humor and joke of it all, he proceeded to fax this ridiculous information to the Embassy. That's when I got pulled out of Boa Vista.

I am currently in the capital city of Praia and have been for nearly the past two weeks. The decision has been made that I am never to return to Boa Vista so long as I am a Peace Corps volunteer. The exception is when I go back accompanied by a member of the staff to pack my things. I will be there for less than 24 hours before I move to my new home in Mindelo, Sao Vicente. The Peace Corps has been extremely difficult and stressful to deal with, but they have allowed me to choose where I would like to be relocated which was nice of them. I have chosen Mindelo for a few reasons, but mostly because I have visited the city before and I liked it a lot. It has all the amenities of Praia without the Peace Corps constantly breathing down my neck. I will be the only current volunteer there which means I will be living on my own, but there are three other "Returned" PC volunteers, meaning they completed their service. All three are friends of mine as they just completed their service this past summer. I have known them for over a year now. I will be teaching at the Instituto Superior de Educacao, which is not a high school. It's a type of college where students go to learn how to be teachers. My students will be older, they will speak English, generally, and they will be there to learn. It should be interesting.

Please. I did not mean to alarm anyone with this story. I want you all to know that I am ok and while a little emotionally exhausted and at times a little depressed, I am still trying to keep a positive attitude about my new life. It's just such a bummer because it took so much to settle into the life I had on Boa Vista, and to be ripped out of there without hardly any notice has pretty much turned my world upside down. I now sit in limbo in Praia while the Peace Corps finds me a suitable house. The only positive side about being in the capital during this time is going to the bug Thanksgiving dinner at the American Ambassador's house tomorrow evening. All PC volunteers on this island are invited, but you have to bring a side dish. I am staying with another volunteer while I'm here in Praia which is nice, because I'm not by myself in a strange hotel at least. Anyway, she and I will be making broccoli cheese to take to the festivities, and I'm happy that I can spend this holiday with a bunch of Americans and a lot of turkey! Yes, they have whole turkeys here!!!

But I am doing fine now, and I just hope that things go well for me in Mindelo. I wish all of you Americanos a very Happy Thanksgiving. And to my family, I of course miss you very much and wish I could spend this wonderful holiday with you. Perhaps next year. And to the Brits: eat a turkey sandwich in honor of the Americans :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

So let's be honest here. I am nearly 25 years old and I have developed a large zit on the right side of my chin, just below my mouth. And it's large. One of the largest I've had in a while. Having surpassed puberty a while ago, I don't generally get many outbreaks, or random huge zits; but the combination of hormones in my body, oil on my face, and stress in my life combined to form a nice little red lump on my chin. Now, you're probably asking yourself why on earth I would go through all the trouble of describing something so ugly and repulsive. The answer is this: every time I see someone I know, the zit is the first thing that's pointed out to me. Friends, students, boyfriend, even people I have just met feel it their place in life to inform me at that moment that I have a huge zit on my chin and make a face. Of course there is nothing I can do to get rid of it any faster, I just have to wait for the thing to simply go away. But that doesn't stop my boyfriend from looking at me every day and asking, "How's the zit today?" It's fine, thank you; a little cranky, but otherwise in a fairly good mood, I'm glad you asked. I have daily reminders that this thing is there, as if I actually didn't see it this morning when I looked in the mirror.

Although, the idea of a mirror is an interesting thing to talk about. Cape Verdians on the whole tend to be fairly conceited. They love taking pictures of themselves (by themselves in the photo), putting this solitary photos as backgrounds on their computers, on their Hi5 pages, and having entire photo shoots with just them, one person, in the photo. I tend to shy away from pictures, especially ones where it's just me in them, and they can't understand this. But there is a remarkably surprising lack of mirrors anywhere. In public restrooms, houses, purses, etc. Anywhere you would expect there to be a mirror, there isn't. In America, houses and public restrooms are filled with mirrors; they're even simply used as a decoration. Here there are hardly any, and none in public restrooms. Maybe that's why my zit was pointed out to me so many times: people really didn't know if I'd seen myself yet today.

So back to the zit. Last night, I went out to dinner with my friend Paolo (who I believe I've mentioned before), and he introduced me to two friends of his, a CEO of a construction company here in Boa Vista named Luis, and a woman, whose name I honestly cannot remember (thanks daddy). The four of us sat in a dark lounge for a little while and when dinner was up we moved to our dinner table over which had slightly more light. Luis looks at me and exclaims (translated) "Oh my look at that zit there. Is that because you're in love?" Um, what? There are two major things wrong with that entire statement: 1. I met you about 20 minutes ago. I'm glad you feel comfortable enough with me to not only comment on the condition of my pores, but also my love life. And 2. You're right. Love, like chocolate, causes zits. Since then three other people have made the comment about zit/love connection, and I just cannot figure that out. Anyway, so until luck blesses me (although, ironically, I just broke the mirror that was in my house last week), I have to endure the ridiculous scrutinizing of my zit, and of course in correlation, my love life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's nice being comfortable in your own skin. To be able to live your life without ever worrying that you're stepping on someones toes, or saying the wrong thing, or making a complete fool out of yourself. Today I had a feeling of complete contentment as I finished my classes. I have Friday afternoons completely free and I plan on making tacos for dinner :). I was in Praia at the beginning of the week and managed to buy salsa and guacamole (not that I like guacamole, but that really isn't the point). Ground beef has once again made an appearance at the local grocery stores, so tacos for dinner it is! Take that Chipotle!

While the tacos are broiling away in my house, there is absolutely no one on the island of Boa Vista at the moment. There is an obvious lack of tourists, restaurants and hotels are still closed, and the shame of it is, our famous brand new international airport is supposedly officially open. No one's flying out of it though. Last weekend and 747 came into the island just for a test run and it was such a big deal. Many important government people were there as well as locals who just wanted to see the big plane land. It went off without a hitch, so we're all still a little confused as to why this brand new fancy airport isn't bringing the tourists in by the truckload. It's a shame, really, and as much as tourism has it's ups and downs for a community, I think at this point, this island could really use a little foreign money. Tourism is this islands main source of economy and I believe that in a few years, this will be the most visited island by tourists. We will surpass Sal as the main destination, now having one of only three international airports (although, granted 3 international airports for a country the size of Rhode Island is quite a few) and more beach square footage than any other island, I think this place will just boom.

In other news, school is going really well, I do little lesson planning these days because I'm teaching the same levels and classes that I did last year, so I just stay with the same lessons. Although, I think the water gods are angry with Leland and I as we managed to flood our entire apartment last night. The water came back on very lightly, and we left the shower head in the barrel to fill up. Well we had cooked such a delicious dinner of BBQ chicken wings that we completely forgot about the barrel on the bathroom. Next thing we know, the bathroom, hallway and my bedroom are all flooded. What a waste!!! Not to mention, a lot of my books were lined up on my floor, so they are currently sunbathing on my balcony. Anyway, there was no lasting damage, and next time I don't think we'll be so careless. The water issues never cease. Sometimes, they lessen slightly, but never cease. Oh well. Thus is life.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Well, a new year, new students, and so therefore new ways to try and date the American teacher. They're finally getting creative, although of course not subtle, as nothing in this country is. I do have to say that my 8th graders just make me smile and laugh at their obvious, but oh-so-cute affection; while my 10th graders are just plain obnoxious (4 out of my 5 of my 11th graders are female and I had them last year, so I don't get any trouble from them). There is something about my 8th graders this year. I don't know if it's just a good batch, or if strategies of raising children morphed in the last year, I'm not sure. But these guys are just so into life! I have two male students in my 8A class who just give me the widest smile every time class commences. Today, as they were all filing in to the classroom, the little guy named Dener just stood right in front of my desk and had this big ol' smile plastered on his face. "Hi teacher!" he said. "HI!! Fine? Yes?!" "Yes, thank you Dener. And you?" Students filed past and tried to get by, but he fought his way to maintain his position in front of my desk with a big giant smile on his face. His height may come up to my chest. I really couldn't help but smile kindly on him and try and show him as much appreciative attention in return that I could. I expect an apple on my desk any day now.

The 10th graders, on the other hand are neither subtle nor cute. In fact, they're downright insipid bordering on contemptible. A few nights ago, after class ended three of the girls came up to me and said "Teacher, a bo é um bom pequna." Basically translated as "You are one hot babe." There was nothing I could say that would make them feel as ridiculous as they sounded to me, so I simply said "thank you ladies." A few minutes later one of the more infatuated boys came up to me and said (translated) "Teacher I have some doubts/questions about the material. Can you bring me to your house so you can help me learn better. I want to learn more." Riiiiiight I thought. Not only is it completely inappropriate (at least in my culture) for a teacher to invite an underage male student to her house, but PLEASE! You don't even have doubts on the material, you're just being ridiculous. Which is basically what I told him. Today I had those same 10th graders write an assignment in class. They were to write 5 simple sentences about themselves or someone else using adjectives and adverbs we had learned that day. For example: I am very hungry. This same cheeky boy decided to write about me and all my glorious beauty. "Nadia is very beautiful. She is extremely intelligent." (Oh yes he used my first name). I feel so honored, loved, and appreciated. It's kind of a game I'm playing with myself: see how many times I can get hit on by my students before I actually hit one of them :) Of course I'm just kidding......

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Yes, I am extremely out of touch these days. I just looked over my blog site and realized it has been nearly 2 months since I last posted. This is very bad of me, I know, and I will try and update this site more often. I am now back to a semi-normal routine and will be able to write more often. Here is what's been going on with me for the past two months:

For the first time in my life I camped on the beach. Cape Verdians don't take camping lightly, and like so many things here, they are bizarrely organized. This is a thing almost all Boa Vistans do every summer as a mark of their time off. Things generally shut down for the month of August as school's not in session and it's an extreme low month for tourism. Lot's of restaurants and shops shut down (go on feria) and even a couple of hotels close their doors while business is at an extreme low. People travel, go to the beach, camp out and basically just have a vacation for a whole month. Anyway, I was invited to go on a camping trip with a bunch of my friends. There were about 60-70 people in total on this trip. Everyone pays a certain amount to cover food and drink costs, although a lot of the food is caught on the beach. One night they caught a whole bunch of little crabs and they were put in a large spaghetti pot and we had the most delicious spaget de caranguejo. Fish was caught and grilled whole and just eaten right off the grill. And one night, they even managed to catch a sea turtle. I won't go into the details of how the captured and caught it, because it was cruel and inhumane and I wanted to set the turtle free but they caught it a long way off from where the camp site was and I couldn't get there by myself in the dark. The next day the meat was cooked into a type of curry almost and eaten with rice. I have to admit that yes, I did experiment it and while I absolutely don't approved of the eating of an endangered species, I have to admit that the meat was tasty. In the interior of the islands, they eat turtle meat a lot because one fairly good size turtle can feed many people and they're caught for almost nothing, obviously because they do fishing themselves. I tried to explain to anyone that would listen that it's against the law here, and cruel to the environment. I got the same reaction I get for a lot of things I try and change: yes we know it's bad, but there's nothing we can really do about it. But the camping in general was fun. Everyone brought tents and sleeping bags to sleep in, a generator was brought to provide lights and music for the "discoteque" in the evenings. It was an unforgettable weekend and such fun. Not that I'm now a camping convert, once a year is plenty for me.

The rest of the summer was spent for the most part in Joao Galego, where all my friends live. Since there was nothing for me to do here in Vila, I spent nearly all the time I could in the interior of the island. Not that there's that much to do there either, in fact there's even less, but at least I would be doing nothing with friends.

School meetings began at the end of September and we have now been in class for about two weeks. I spent one last day at the beach with friends and we scraped conch shells off the rocks and made a really delicious arroz com mariscos. The beach we went to was again on the east side of the island and it was one of the most beautiful beaches I've seen on these islands.

At school, I'm teaching the same grades and levels as I did last year: 8th, 10th, and 11th grades. My 8th graders this year are 100% better than my students last year and for some reason they just seem smaller. But they're just so darn cute!!! I have about 80 new names to learn which makes things interesting, but they're really good kids and they listen to me which is nice. I am happy to say that none of my classes thus far has proven itself the Spawns of Satan, and I just don't think they will. I have a better feeling about things this year, I am more comfortable in my surroundings and in my life. I have friends, boyfriend, job, and I like it here. Don't get me wrong, I still ache for Chipotle and a decent salad at least once a day, but it's not quite the same sharp longing I used to have. I am happy, even though it is 100˚ outside with 100% humidity and no air conditioning in the school or my house. But you survive and learn to ignore it. So things are going very well, far better than this time last year.

Also, I have decided to upload my photos to one place that can be accessed by the public. It's just takes way too much time for me to upload them to several different places. So I have uploaded them to my Facebook page, but they are available to view by ANYONE! So here is the link, I hope you enjoy :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I sit here on a useless Monday afternoon. My eyes are tired and heavy from crying all day. I have lost my luggage for the second time in three weeks, and because I live in the most disorganized country in the world, they’re probably lost in the abyss of missing things. I have fought with airline workers on three islands and have managed to find the location of only one of the two bags I brought from London, England. It makes me think, once again, about my situation in life and the way my view changes with the surroundings I’m in. A week ago I was in a house of 15 people yet feeling liberated and free for the first time in a year. I came home to an empty apartment and a town of 2,000 people and I felt suffocated and compressed on my way to buy bread the next morning. And yet the camaraderie I felt at the music festival over the next few days could not have been matched anywhere else in the world. The people here, while so disorganized and at times backwards, can be so giving and sharing. Coming back from England has liberated me and yet confused me all at the same time. I felt relief coming back to my little apartment in my small town in the middle of nowhere and yet regret at leaving my family behind. I can see myself holing up here for the rest of my life hiding from the rest of the world and its complications, yet I can’t imagine not living the rest of my life in the United States. I feel comfortable with the people here but I ache for my family and friends I left behind. It’s been a year, and I have another year left here. I don’t know what that year will bring, and I want it to end yet am nervous for it’s culmination because then what? There are choices and decisions I dread making and a life I must choose for myself. I know I can’t have any help, nor can I please everyone with my choices. I feel torn, and I don’t like it. Being here makes me so happy and yet sick to my stomach. I miss so much from my previous life but life here is unparalleled. I know that I have done nothing but complain nearly the entire time I’ve served here, and I’m sure this blog will come as a slight shock to many of you. I’m just trying to convey a little of the confusion I’m feeling, though I’m sure I’m doing a miserable job. I guess my trip to England put my life here in perspective, one I wasn’t expecting to find.

The missing bag with all my clothes in it doesn’t help. The fact that I can’t just drive to the airport in Praia doesn’t help either. On a side note, I would like to thank all my little “bear” friends  for sending stuff with my family. I will send you a proper thank you I promise, when I don’t have 8 trillion things on my worried mind. But Derek, Stan, and Danielle, thank you so much for all you did. I really appreciated that stuff. Although, it’s all currently lost, let’s hope and pray that I will see that stuff (along with my clothes) again. I miss you guys.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Well I feel a new entry is once again long overdue. I mentioned before that July 4th is Boa Vista's municipal holiday. And they (please excuse the expression) balls out. The festivities began the weekend before with theater groups, and yes even our own Miss Boa Vista Pageant. How could I miss such an opportunity? There were 10 contestants ages 16-21 or so, and three of those 10 contestants were my 11th grade students. Nice. Well, of course it was not your typical beauty pageant. I expected (why I even create expectations for these things is still really beyond me) the ten girls to be shown in various outfits, along with maybe a talent contest, or something that would verify their respectability and reason for holding such a contest, other than to ogle the physical attributes of various (barely) adult girls. Of course, I was mostly wrong. The girls simply came out in different outfits, including bathing suits, while the same music played on repeat, people yelled, and random guys rapped in between sets. Of course, the two guys who rapped were from two different posses who of course got in fights. Although, I must say it was entertaining. None of the girls from my class won, although one did receive runner up. So congrats to her.

The festivities continued Monday night with the inauguration of the new polivalente. Tuesday night the island of Boa Vista was blessed with the (relatively) famous singer Gil Semedo in concert. He performed two nights in a row. He's considered the Cape Verde Michael Jackson. I definitely could see where they got the reference from. He prides himself on his dance moves, which I must say were amusing to say the least. In all the festivities, barracas are also set up, sort of vendor stalls that sell grilled chicken, pork skewers, french fries, and beer. They stay open all night. Everyone gathers in the area before the concert and activities begin in the polivalente and eat, drink and be merry. The night of the 3rd at exactly midnight (so technically the 4th) they displayed a fireworks show. Let me just explain to you that there are a few things in this world that make me completely happy. A fireworks show is one of them. The fact that I was standing in the middle of a BBQ pit watching fireworks on the 4th of July made me completely content for the 15 minutes of the show, and I almost pictured myself somewhere in America at the time. It made me so happy, my little piece of home. I like these little reminders. Well Thursday and Friday were spent recuperating. The Thursday the 5th was Cape Verde's independence day, but this island is so pooped from their municipal holiday that absolutely nothing happens on that day. I'm pretty sure everyone simply sleeps through it. I know I did.

Since Friday was our year anniversary in Cape Verde, Leland and I decided to go out to dinner to eat lobster. It was delicious. Too bad my stomach didn't think so. I spent the whole following weekend in bed very very sick. Poo. Well I'm better now, although I have a slight aversion to the thought of lobster at the moment.

Well, in my life in general, I am still giving my little summer school make up sessions, they end next Monday. this Saturday we are blessed with having three newbies coming to visit us. The new group of trainees arrived a week or so ago, and they are sending them to various islands to get a feel for what it's like out here. It's a nice idea, something I wish they had done for our group. Anyway, we are being sent three newbies to entertain and (according to my mother) "taint their minds." They are to follow Leland and I around for four or five days to get a feel for what it's like to be a volunteer. Although I do really think this is a good idea, and in theory it should work, but I'm not doing anything at the moment. I am not really teaching, just having a few study sessions and they end Monday. School's out. The education volunteers aren't really going to get a feel for what it's really like. I spend a lot of my time on the beach these days :), or at least more than I used to. Oh well we will try and show them what it's like to live like a volunteer, and who knows, I may (of course completely against my better judgment) go to the discotheque again.

Monday, July 02, 2007

For those of you keeping track, Friday marks my 1 year anniversary of being in this country. Now, I know I've had my ups and downs, and periods of misery where all I wanted to do was go home. But raise your hand if you didn't think I was going to make it this far. Uh HUH! Well, I did and proved everyone I know wrong. But seriously, I would not be here if it wasn't for the support of all my family and friends, so I just want to say thank you so much for everything you've done for me and support you have given. One year down, one more to go :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Well, the fourth of July is not only going to stick in my mind as an American holiday. All islands have their individual patron saint holidays. Boa Vista's happens to fall next Wednesday, July 4th. So there's reason to send sparklers in the air after all :) The entire island is scrambling to make preparations, they have built a new polivalente, like a sort of small stadium type place. Our apartment building has undergone rigorous construction for last two weeks, like it's going to make a difference really. But Boa Vista is determined to look it's best, especially my town of 2,000 people. They are making all the preparations they can to look and feel their best for all the people who will be coming in from all over the country to participate in simply a big party on the street, with maybe someone getting on the stage in the polivalente and singing at around 3am. I'm really not kidding. I was not cut out for this kind of socialization. This staying up all night and partying for two days straight business is killer for those of us who enjoy our sleeps! It's also a nice coincidence that Cape Verdian independence day is July 5th, the following day. So where else to spend it than the island that already began partying two days before?! So as we have heard from many of our friends, the island will be flooded with out of towners and no doubt the large handful of large-video-camera-toting-tourists. I am told by a friend of mine who used to work for the government, but now I'm actually not sure what he does, that an American singer/performer person will be coming to participate in the festivities. I believe he will be performing. I was pretty baffled when my friend Paolo told me his name and then asked me if I knew him. I'm sure a look of baffled amusement came over my face. I replied that sorry I didn't know him, although I held in the statements that America is not like Cape Verde, where everyone knows everyone else, if for nothing else but for the fact that they're probably related in some way. Anyway, he said he would introduce him to Leland and me and we would all go out for dinner.

Anyway, excitement is in the air for the up and coming party fest of non-stop drinking, eating, hitting buried chickens (probably while drinking and eating all that the same time), running through lighted bonfires (again, not really joking about this one), all while occasionally turning an ear towards the stage to listen to the current performer and possibly trying an attempt to dance with the nearest unlucky girl who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Well, I'm excited. No, really. This culture has managed to shine and excel at the most bizarre and random times, I look forward to seeing how they stand their steady ground in this event.

In other news, school is officially over, although I have to give a small recourse to a few students who managed to fail the cycle, meaning that their grades from 7th and 8th grade were bad enough combined that they may have to take a retest in order not fail my subject. I believe I have 5 8th graders who may be taking the course. When this recourse starts, or who exactly is coming, or really what exactly i'm supposed to do are still bits of useful information that have yet to be passed on to me. I'm not that worried anymore, as I am usually the last person to know anything. But it could have been worse. There could have been MORE than 5 people who failed. So my life has become a little more dull these days, as is evident by the complete lack of blogging, and for this I am sorry. I will give you all an update on the goings on of the festival as it progresses. But on the major plus side, ENGLAND IN 29 DAYS!!! Hope everyone is well :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

So, I almost never go to the discotheque. In fact, the last time I went was Christmas. So owing to a huge lapse in my judgment this past weekend, I decided to brave it yet again. The reasons for my going were basically one-fold: I was curious. You know, the same way a bug is drawn into the light and then gets zapped. It was something social to do on a Saturday night. Now my reasons for not going in the past have been about a hundred-fold and of course they were all reinforced the night I was there.

We the night began at a local bar where I was asked to be someone's girlfriend. Now this offer is not new, but the justification was quite original. He is a guy who works in our apartment building's office. He's actually the guy we ordered all our bookshelves stuff from, so he's an acquaintance of sorts. He basically told me that his situation in life demanded that he had a respectable looking girlfriend. It's not right that he has a comfy job in a respectable company and not have a nice little bit of arm candy to show off to all his friends (ok, when I refer to myself as these ridiculous things, please don't think that I was the one who actually said this about myself, these are all the silly things the beings we call male Cape Verdians come up with; I am not that conceited). Ok, well one interesting relationship proposal for the night, and we hadn't even made it to the disco yet.

We at the disco, I avoid the central areas as it is likely I would have ended up dancing with a sweaty smelly male who would likely thrust his hips just a little too close to mine and then I would regret ever being born and subjected to the kind of torture that is a 7 minute Zuk song. Who in their right mind decided that slow songs should last this long??! Not only that, but the DJ has decided to play a 1 1/2 hour run of these auditory nightmares and you can't really tell where one song stops and the other one begins, so what started as a 7 minute slightly bearable dance, turns into a mishmash of hell on a dance floor that has no apparent end. So anyway, I move myself to the outside and find a nice comfortable row of chairs that resemble a row of theater seats that were unceremoniously ripped from the theater and place on the wall of a Cape Verdian disco. So there I sit, waiting for 3am and therefor the bus ride home. Enter the man who wins the award for drunkest Cape Verdian at 2am. Conversation ensues. And when I say conversation, I mean he talks (and spits) about how beautiful I am and I try and politely inch farther and farther away from him. And before I know it, he has proposed marriage. Nope, I'm not joking.

Oh, I'm not done. 3am finally comes around. I am about to get up and go outside to catch the bus, when the man who wins the award for second drunkest man in Cape Verde enters, and sits down next to me. Several ridiculous compliments and a lapful of ponche later, I tell him I am leaving and I have to go. He seems to be a little troubled by this, but I am relieved to see he doesn't follow me. Oh nope, I was wrong. I am sitting on the semi-full bus and we are waiting for more passengers so he can cart a full load back to Vila. I see my latest admirer outside the window and I immediately try and hide myself. Didn't work. Onto the bus he comes and stands over me speaking nice and loudly so that all the people on the bus have a nice show to end their evening. He tells me that even though we've never had a conversation, he knows that I'm the one and he likes me so so much. I'm the most beautiful girl in Cape Verde, blah blah blah. It's just nice that it was dark or i'm sure I would have been 8 shades of purple by this time. People on the bus are of course staring and when I don't let him sit next to me he leaves once again. At this point I am tired, near tears, and I just want to go home. Oh, nope, he's back however. By this time there are of course more people on the bus, but there is also a non-groping/spitting man sitting next to me, thankfully. Apparently that is no object to my admirer who practically steps over him to hand me a little piece of paper with his name, phone number and address on it. I called it already, we're going out this Saturday :)

No, I haven't lost my mind quite that much yet! Anyway, that was my eventful Saturday night and if I ever consider going there again (unless it's for an extremely special occasion) will you please go to any lengths to stop me? Well, in other news, the end of the school year is in a week (yay!)and all my students have finished their final exams. Now, I just have to correct them all. Oh, and I go to England in 44 days. So excited.

Monday, May 28, 2007

We have had running water for the past 36 hours. I think that sets some kind of a record. I was thrilled to find that even after I had filled our rather large barrels that we have come to store water in for the week, that we still had running water. Lately, it's been coming on for about an hour a week, just enough time for us to fill up, and then it goes off. Not that I'm complaining too much, the water is sufficient and I've learned how to take a shower (conditioning and all!) with under 5 litres of water. It's amazing really.

Well, if I'm blogging about my showering habits, you all must know that life is clearly not that interesting. I didn't make it to the festival this past weekend, although I heard there were NO piãtas-chicken-in-the-ground style, so for those of you animal lovers, and really just normal human beings, you can rest easy knowing that I did not swing at a half buried live chicken. Like I would have anyway.

Leland is gone this week, he's in Praia for training so he can help out until PST for the newbies at the end of June. So I'm by myself in the house again, which has its pluses and minuses of course. I have heard rumors that our island may get another PC volunteer, although it would be in community development and not education, because the school doesn't really need another English teacher. So that could be exciting. This is our last week to review for the students' final exams, so things are pretty busy at school. It's definitely winding down, which makes me happy cause I'm tired of school, but at the same time, I won't really have anything to do when it's all over for the summer. Because of my traveling I won't really have the time to start any major projects, but what am I going to do for a few weeks at a time in between the school years? I dunno, anyway I'll figure it out.

Well, I'm sorry that was a disappointing update, but again, nothing really that interesting is going on here. I go to England in 59 days and I'm almost peeing in my pants with excitement. That's about the gist of it. I hope all is well with all of you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yesterday I was in a really good mood. I woke up happy and smiling, which is unusual for a Tuesday and I used to think they were my hard days. But since the Children's class, I have come to look forward to Tuesdays as they are the only day of the week where I don't have my children's class. Those classes are so exhausting and this time of year is so stressful anyway, that I look forward to the day where I don't have play Operator or slap hands in a Down By the Banks game with my six year olds. Also, I finally turned in my final exams, and other tests that I've had to make up, so my workload is considerably lighter for the time being. Anyway, I went to my first class at 8:30am yesterday morning, and they are my good eighth grade class and they did fairly well on the test, so I decided that before we got into some heavy review sessions I would let them play a game in class. It was a really fun game with music, and everyone was laughing and having a grand old time. So my good day continued. Well. At 11:40am I have, what I'm sure you're familiar with, my class from Hell, the other 8th grade class who last Thursday received a falta collectiva from me. Most of their class failed the last test, and only one person in the whole class passed the make up quiz that I gave on Saturday so I didn't feel that playing a game was the best strategy to help them learn. Plus, they are extremely hard to control and I know if I let them play a game, I would never regain control of the class. So, I commenced the class with attempting to explain what will be on the final exam (here on out called the PGI). Notice how I used the word "attempt." There are six sections of the test, I explained. Enter uproarious protestations here. "Six sections is a LOT teacher!" Let me just explain something. My PGI was checked by the Coordinator of the English department, the Sub-director of Pedagogy, and the Director of the School. It is in no way unreasonable in length or difficulty. Anyway, when the class finally quieted down (I had simply written 'PGI: six parts' on the board) there were still two boys who would not be quiet. So they got kicked out of class. Meanwhile, my loudest protester, a girl named Monica, had quited down, but she was hiding her head in her arms on the desk because for some reason she had found herself in a fit of giggles for no reason. She occasionally finds it amusing when I get angry. So, the two boys out of class, and Monica with a warning that she needs to face the front and listen respectfully, I attempt to continue. 'First part: reading comprehension' I write on the board. This time Monica has erupted into more laughter, and when I look at her, her back is to me, she is facing the back of the class, and when she turns around her face is red from laughter. So I then attempt to kick her out of class, as her laughing made others laugh as well. I tell her a few times to get out. This was her reply (first in Creole, then I'll translate):
"NO! A mi n ka fazi nada! Bu ka podi mandam pa rua, n ka fazi nada! A mi n ka ta bai, NO a mi n ka ta bai, a mi n ka fazi nada, a mi n ta fika li!! Bu ka podi mandam pa rua, n ka ta bai. No."
Translated: NO! I didn't do anything, you can send me out I didn't do anything. I'm not going to go, I'm not going to go, I didn't do anything. I'm staying right here, you can't make me go out, I'm not going."
Well, the whole class chimed in as well, putting their two sense where it didn't belong. I told Monica she gets a falta disciplina (she is now suspended for two days) and the rest of the class could just get out. I didn't give another falta collectiva, as it's not that fair to the ONE poor girl who wasn't talking, but I refused to teach the class anymore that day. Needless to say, I'm no longer in the good mood I was yesterday. But I've finished making up the tests, and my bad students were suspended, so things could be worse I guess. Oh and my Children's class ends today. So yay. But I just can't wait for the weekend.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Well, here I am in all my glory, a Peace Corps volunteer with so little to say. Although, I did, for the first time, give a falta collectiva in my Spawn of Satan of class. Today was climax of a very frustrating week. Only about half of the students actually showed up for class, and those that did for some reason would just not be quiet. Here, the discipline system works with 'faltas.' For example, if you don't show up for class, you get a falta. If you get kicked out of class, you get a falta. If you don't bring your notebook to school, or don't wear the proper uniform you get a falta, etc. These faltas build up and if you have so many in one class, they notify your parents. If you have so many in one trimester, you get kicked out of school. There are also falta disciplinas for if the students are fighting in class, or talk back to the teacher, or just do something extra bad. So, the students who didn't show up for class obviously got a falta, and those that did I basically kicked them all out, so they all got faltas as well. I gave two falta disciplinas to two students who wouldn't stop arguing and kicking each other. Well I got protests from the students of course, but I don't really care, cause I've had enough of their crap basically.

Everyone's so high stress at the moment, planning tests, then I have to plan makeup tests, then more tests, then final tests. I'm sick of planning/grading/re planning tests. But, on a more personal note, life is actually pretty ok. I think I'm the happiest I've been since I got here, and this is probably due to a variety of factors, but I can't imagine leaving at this point in time. There was a time in the beginning of my service where I contemplated leaving at the end of this school year; only I completely understand why they hold out service for two years. It's probably the perfect amount of time. My friendships are stronger, people have a sense of who I am, my students are comfortable around me except of course when they don't give a crap and half and won't stop talking. But I've noticed that just having been to the Norte and hanging out with the students who live there make them easier to deal with. Like they understand that I'm human, and not some foreigner they know nothing about.

But picture for a moment a college campus with about 4,000 students. All the students live on campus, and most of them are related. So everything you do, everywhere you go, everyone you talk to, it's all observed by someone who either knows you, or who's cousin is in your class. There is no privacy. Everyone is in everyone else's business because the campus is so small and secluded that people don't have anything else to do but gossip about everyone else. And because you're the "linda" Americana, your actions are monitored just that much more closely. That's like my life here. If I go out with someone other than Leland, people think I'm cheating on my husband. For the record, Leland is NOT my husband and even though we tell people this repeatedly, they don't seem to believe us. But I'm on a secluded island with 4,000 other people who are all someone else's cousin, so my actions are watched like a hawk by everyone around me. When I go to the Norte everyone knows and wonders why, and who invited me (the people in the Norte are fiercely defensive against keeping their little towns pure of outsiders/tourists. You basically have to be invited by someone who lives there in order to go. And in the car ride there, people will ask you why you are going to the Norte and who invited you).

Well this weekend, a friend of ours from Sal will come down and visit, which is nice. We like having visitors. Leland and I are throwing a little "American" party and invited some of our friends here. We'll make hot wings and pizza and just let loose. That's only if the back-again "bruma secca" allows our friend to fly here. Yes, the dust storms that interrupted our first Volunteer conference back in January are back and making everything gross and dusty again. Anyway, that's the small update on my life. I hope everyone has a good weekend :)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Last Tuesday was International Laborer's day. I decided to go to the Norte, specifically the town of João Galego. I've talked about that town before, Leland and I have been once. But several of the teachers that work at the high school live there, so a couple of them invited me to spend the Tuesday holiday with them. The town is almost on the other side of the island and there are beaches on that side. When Cape Verdians have the day off, they tend to have grelhas on the beach. A good friend of mine and some friends invited me along to theirs. Let me just explain something: when I think of grilling on the beach, I think of taking as few items as possible, the less to carry, the less to hassle with. Cape Verdians are the complete opposite for some reason. We left for the beach at around 9am and they brought everything, and I mean everything. Pots, and pans for cooking, dishsoap and sponges for cleaning, a plastic table to set up their "kitchen" and all the ingredients to all the food unprepared. It was remarkable, I couldn't believe how difficult it all seemed to me. I'm sure they have their perfectly logical reasons for doing this, I just didn't feel comfortable asking. For example: little tuna croquettes are made with canned tuna, mayonnaise, and spices. It is something that could have been mixed earlier at home and then brought all ready to cook. But instead, cans of tuna, jars of mayonnaise, and the spices were all brought separately and prepared there.

Anyway, it wasn't my picnic, so I just followed along and helped where I could. The first thing they did when they got there was set up their "kitchen" and prepared breakfast. We had two fires and a portable gas tank to cook meals for 10 or so people. It was some intense cooking. But the Norte "é sab" as they say here, meaning it's good. And it is good. The towns are small and so friendly. It's calm and quiet and everyone knows everyone. You go out for a walk and you end up staying outside for hours cause you find someone to talk to and you just sit there and talk. You remain on the stoop of a house, or in the main square on a bench or in a bar, it's just so cool.

This past weekend I decided to go up there again. Sunday was May Day, so Saturday night they held a party at the discoteca in João Galego. During the day, everyone just relaxes outside and talks and laughs. We would get a car and go to the other two towns that are in the same zone. Tarrafas has "world famous" ponche de mel a type of thick drink that's made from local grogue and honey. So Saturday, me and a few friends bar hopped around the towns, it was a good time. Saturday night was the big festa where there was of course more food than anyone could eat and fun music. Sunday was spent sleeping in. In the afternoon me and three other girl teachers around my age decided to go a little crazy and let go of some steam. We, four intelligent, composed professors were headbanging to Metallica and jammin to Snoop Dogg for two hours. It was great. I don't really even like Snoop Dogg. But these weeks are becoming stressful for us, we have so many tests to make up and grade. I gave my eighth graders their test last week and 40 out of my 60 students failed. So now, I have to make a make-up test of sorts so that all my students don't fail miserably at school. I'm exhausted and ready for the school year to be over. I have about a week left of my children's class which is just wonderful because as much as I love the little ones, it's a strain on my time and energy. The class ends next Wednesday and believe me I'm counting down the days.

In other news, my student Patricia was chosen to do the program in Praia. She's the only one on Boa Vista, and I'm so happy for her. I think she's a little nervous, and the people in charge of the program haven't been too forthcoming with the information about when it's going to be held and where specifically, so we're both a little frustrated at that. But it's the Cape Verdian way to leave everything to the last minute, so I'm sure it'll all work out in the end.

Well, I'm tired so I hope I didn't ramble too much. I hope everyone is well.

Friday, April 27, 2007

25th April 2007

Yes, the blogs are really piling up. Well, I am able to get on the internet now, but it is a very slow process. My computer-savy roommate explained that the main cable isn’t fixed, so the country is using a satellite replacement as a temporary solution. Apparently the satellite doesn’t carry nearly as much bandwith and with a country of 500,000 people using the same line, it gets a little slow. But I think it was a very bad idea to have a temporary solution. The mind set then becomes, ‘well, at least they have something, we don’t have to hurry to fix the problem.’ Brilliant. So for now, I will continue to write journal style and publish all million blogs when the internet allows.

Well, this past Monday was national Dia do Professores, or teacher’s day. So a great day was planned for all the teachers on the island. This of course includes the high school as well as all the primary schools. I would say there were about 100 or so of us teachers who participated in the day. They arranged for us to go to Venta Club, the humungous resort hotel that’s outside of the city, about a 20 minute drive. The Venta Club is an all-inclusive resort for tourists, so we never really see the tourists who stay there and they never really see us. Everything is included, and they have their own private secluded beach, swimming pools, a couple of restaurants, and their own discothèque. So everyone piled in the bus, and for about $20, we were given our run of the hotel as well for the entire day.

Needless to say, the problems started before we even walked in the front door. The teachers were told to pay 1,500 escudos (about $20) to be able to go. Everyone paid ahead of time. When we arrived at the Club, we were told that the actual feel was 2,500 escudos, about $15 more. The outrages started. No one brought money with them as this was an all-inclusive day, and who needs money? When you get a lot of Cape Verdians together, they tend to get a little overbearing. And since most of the teachers were women, they were not hesitant about letting their opinions be heard. Well since we were all there and making a slight fuss (although I have to interject this and nothing against primary school teachers, but it was they who were making all the noise. Those of us high school teachers were pretty blaze about the whole thing and willing to pay the extra 1,000 escudos later, as we didn’t have it with us) the Venta Club decided that they would let us in for an extra 500 escudos to be paid at a later date. Right. Like that’s going to happen.

Anyway, the place was amazing. And maybe my judgments a little screwed because I haven’t been around that sort of thing lately, but the place was nice. It was so big, and it had good food, and beautiful views and it’s own private secluded beach. I could definitely see why a British or Italian tourist would come to Boa Vista for vacation. Because you could be anywhere. On any beach in the whole world. There was no one else around for miles. The beaches in my town of Vila are 20K away, there is no one to bother you. So we Cape Verdians (I’ll just include myself in the group as I felt like I was anyway) spent the day lounging by the pool, eating, and for me, feeling really normal. I watched and got excited about a game of soccer, I played tennis on a grass court (aren’t you jealous daddy?), and swam in a (very cold, but who cares) swimming pool. It was really cool.

Trouble was bound to surface again in this perfect day. The main restaurant in the hotel is a buffet serve yourself type of place. They have a variety of different types of food, dessert and since it is all inclusive, a variety of beverages as well. So lunch came around and the hotel reserved an area of the sitting room for us and we were allowed to go and serve ourselves along with the other tourists. Now, even though the hotel is quite large and there were quite a few people staying there, the addition of 100-150 extra people is felt, especially in a dining hall. Our addition made significant lines and the food ran out quicker. I am sure that there was no lack of complaints from the guests. It’s not that we were that pushy (although the Cape Verdian culture doesn’t really include standing in line, it’s more of a just shove your plate in the front and grab what you can) I can see how the guests were frustrated with the sudden change of pace. Well, the evening dinner came around and we were told we could no longer serve ourselves; that there was now a set meal and we would be served. But we were asked to stay in place meaning out of the food serving area. Begin uproarious protestations now. Some people boycotted eating, some tried to leave and go home, all the while screaming about racism, that the blacks weren’t able to mingle with the snotty whites in their own country. Let me tell you something that my good friend Elizabeth (who is Cape Verdian) and I discussed: 100-150 people of any size, shape, or race, are a nuisance. They do get in the way, of course they do. I don’t think racism was behind the change of service, but it was a little abrupt and not explained properly, so of course there was going to be an issue. But the hotel had to bring in extra people to serve us and prepare dishes especially for us (although to add insult to injury they served us catchupa in between our appetizer and entrée leading people to believe that we were having that for dinner. Catchupa is the national Cape Verdian dish consisting of corn, some beans and occasionally ham pieces. Let’s just say it’s like putting a plate full of grilled cheese sandwiches in front of Americans who just paid about $20 for this dinner and telling them that’s what there was to eat). Anyway, this change was no easy task for them. Obviously, it was for the comfort of the guests and to make things a little easier on everyone. Anyway, but they turned our visit into Cape Verdian culture day, so afterwards there was a band who played Cape Verdian music (actually the only band on Boa Vista) and we all danced. And when I say we, I mean all the Cape Verdians and the tourists watched, which was awkward. I would have asked one of the torusits to stand up with me, to get them included in the dancing, but I was afraid I’d get a look like in the movie Dreamgirls when Eddie Murphy sings in that fancy Miami beach hotel to all the white people and the one woman jumps when he points at her (yes they have some new movies in the video store it’s very exciting). Anyway, it was just an interesting experience to be in such a segregated group, where such obvious racial tension was present all the time. Anyway so that was my day, it was a very good time, and I will post pictures when I can. I hope everyone is well.