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, October 05, 2006

October 5th, 2006

Tourism. It has an interesting effect on all our lives, really. And it may not be extremely obvious at first, but it has definitely had an impact on my life here. While Boa Vista is no Turks and Caicos :), it does have fairly nice beaches and a growing service industry that has lended itself to the rise in European tourists. The cost is fairly inexpensive to come here, and hotel lodging is also relatively cheap. Just for an idea, $1.00 = 86$00 or one American dollar equals about eighty-six Cape Verdean escudos. The hotel that Leland and I have been staying in for the past month, for example is, 4000$00 per night, or roughly $50.00. Our rooms have two double beds, air conditioning and the rate includes breakfast. And we are across the street from the beach. Now, for most people, this is a very good deal. There are, of course, more lavish hotels, and also, cheaper ones. My point: Boa Vista is a cheap but nice place for European tourists to come. Especially the Italians.

How does this affect my life, you ask? Well, Vila da Sal Rei is the main town on the island. I guess you could call it the capital of Boa Vista. This is where most of the hotels are, all the grocery stores, the main market, and several restaurants. This is the main hub of the island. As a result of the growing tourism market, the small 'businesses' (I put businesses in quotations because Maria who has a small fruit stand in the Municipal Market, is in herself a business, just not a conventional one) have begun to cater almost entirely to the tourist population. These businesses include the housing market. Now you see where my life is affected. Housing in Sal Rei is extremely difficult to find. But this is where the high school is, and therefore my job. Leland also works here in Sal Rei in the Youth Center, and so naturally we wanted to live here as well. Needless to say, we have looked for a month now and have not been able to find a house. There are new developments, to be sure. But as they cater to tourists, they are all either only one bedroom, or outrageously expensive. So Leland and I have been forced out of our comfortable hotel and we move this weekend to Jão Galego. Which has its ups and downs.

Tourism also makes our integration into the community extremely difficult. As you have heard me mention before, people simply pass us off as tourists. It doesn't help that we live in a hotel. When we first came to Sal Rei, Leland and I were a littledisappointedd at the lack of the inviting culture we saw in São Domingos. But there is no lack here. It is merely hidden away; tucked out of reach of the tourists in the back alleys of the town and side streets that are not immediately visible from the main square. It took us a while to find it in Sal Rei, but it's there. And now that he and I are getting recognized around the town, integration has become a little easier. The good thing about Jão Galego is that there is no lack of culture there. It is your typical small African village. Beautiful, and the ripples of tourism are significantly weaker out there. But it is in the interior, and a 45 minute drive from our jobs. What makes that even more difficult is that public transport only goes in and out of Jão Galego three times a day. I'm not really sure what we will do if we miss the car :) Sleep on the beach, I expect.

But in a small way, I am looking forward to moving. The traveling will be hard and I am sure take a toll. But I will have a kitchen (yay!) neighborsours, and we will integrate within the community that has its own customs and doesn't cater to anyone, foreign or otherwise. They are there for themselves and for their families and friends. They have culture, and that is what I am looking forward to.

One last interesting observation we made about the tourism impact, was interestingly enough the amount of smokers here. On the island of Santiago, hardly anyone smoked. I maybe saw three or four people smoke the whole time I was in São Domingos. Here in Boa Vista everyone smokes. Teachers, parents, probably some students (although I have yet to see that thank goodness) and especiallyplethorathura of Italian tourists. The Italians love Boa Vista. There are several who live here and have been doing a lot of developing for the investments of more Italian tourists. So Leland and I will go on our merry way and move to the interior. He's not so thrilled about it, but I think it will be a good experience. But I will let you know after a few weeks or so of the drive :)


Blogger Valerie Fazel said...

I just sent you an email before reading your blog, which is beautifully informative, by the way. I am sorry you and Leland need to move out of town but hopefully you will build a report with the driver(s) and they will extend you both some additional consideration once they get to know your routine. In other words maybe they will "hold the bus" for you if they see you come running. As I said in the email I sent you a couple of boxes of "supplies;" I'll send more once I know what we are dealing with as far as the local postal system. I love your very good attitude! Mom

07 October, 2006 16:53


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