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, January 25, 2007

Before I begin, I just want to say that I am fine, everything is ok for the most part, so that's over. I am back from the big bad city and have discovered a few things over the past week. First and foremost: The Big City it slightly intimidating. My tiny town of Sal Rei, Boa Vista has just over 2,000 people. But not only is the population small, the town is condensed. There are no outlying neighborhoods, everything is packed within a 10-15 minute walking distance. Even the town I lived in during training (Sao Domingos) had twice as many people and the town spanned a least 4-5 times the distance. Everything is so spread out on Santiago.

We have one fairly large grocery store in my town (at least I thought it was large). It carries all your basics, plus the occasional foreign bonus. For example, you can almost always get chicken, beef, some sort of fish, eggs, flour, pasta, and kitchen items such as dish soap, napkins, etc. Recently, they had a load of spices come in, which was a nice treat. And about a week ago, they managed to import Suaza and Jose Quervo tequila. Something, I discovered, you cannot even get in Praia. Yay for us. But walking into the grocery stores in Praia is like a whole new world. There is one large "Americanized" grocery store that carries fruits and vegetables, and has a meat counter that is nicely stocked, but for all organizational and cleanliness purposes, still posses that air of Cape Verde. In another area of town, there is brand new grocery store that opened up since I have been in Praia (about 5 months ago). Being inside of it felt like being in any grocery store in central London. It was so European. There is just no other word to describe it. It was three stories. On the first floor were most of the food items, including a proper meat counter that was clean and organized, a produce section to rival some American stores, and isles upon isles of goods you would never dream of finding on my island. Things like soy sauces, curry pastes, even a Nando's brand piri piri (like we don't have enough of our own piri piri here). The second floor had beverages and household items and toiletries and on the third floor was an LG Electronics store. In between the second and third floors there was even a cafe with fancy tables and everything. It was so foreign to me, and yet part of the same country that I am living in. Cafes and restaurants (mostly, I noticed, foreign-owned) are mirroring ones you could find anywhere in Paris, London, or Italy.

Is this considered advancement? Because Europeans have brought their money and their exports and have built these big fancy stores with foreign goods? I never took an economic development class in my life but is this how we are going to pull this entire country out of its borderline third world status? That is a question I cannot even give an opinion on, I know too little of these things to pretend to be an expert. The interesting thing about this particular country is that we are a group of islands. And just because one city has managed to propel itself into borderline second world status, doesn't mean the rest of the country, or even the rest of that particular island, will immediately follow. These cafes and stores are highlights of an advancing nation, but the outlying neighborhoods are still poor and living in cinder-block huts with no electricity. Any country has this contrast, even in the United States, not everyone is on the same economic level obviously. But as far as growth is concerned, are the richer going to get richer, leaving the poor to get poorer? Or are all the economic levels going to grow together, still maintaining a class structure, but elevating them all to a level that is tolerable for everyone? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, other minute differences were noticed, which left me to ponder which place I would rather be: Praia, or Sal Rei. Taxi cabs are a must for any type of travel, especially at night. You have to carry your purse in front of you and guard it all times. There are a lot of people, and knowing every person who passes you in the street is nearly impossible. In Sal Rei, I can walk anywhere anytime probably naked with money taped to me and no one would bother me. Day, night, purse in front or in back, makes no difference. There is hardly any crime here in my town, and being on your guard is something that doesn't need to be thought of every time you step out onto the street. Praia, however, has it's markets with clothes and food of all kinds. The fact that there are more people there allows you to diversify your friendship base, also leaving more chances to maybe meet that special someone (not that I'm looking). Sal Rei, no one is really coming in or out of this town, it pretty much stays the same all the time. Same people, same festivities, same places to go, etc. But I never thought too much about that until I went to Praia, realizing that there were a million restaurants, clubs, bars, shops. I even saw the exact make and model of my father's car, only in black. That care was a rarity in Arizona!! My jaw was open for about 30 seconds after seeing it. Here in Sal Rei, there is one discotheque, a few restaurants, and one main grocery store, and all, like 10, of the privately owned vehicles are easily identified. But I like my town, and I like the people in it, and of course I love my beach. Boa Vista in general is just so laid back, "tud tranquil" as the Boa Vistans would say. Praia, is like a fast paced city; the New York City, if you will, of Cape Verde. I feel like Sal Rei is like Pensacola (although in all fairness I haven't been back there in a while). But just that type of feel to it. A small town where everyone takes it easy, hangs out on the beach, no one worries too much. The trade off is we don't have all the fancy things you can find in the big city. But it seems to suit us just fine.

In other news, my birthday went surprisingly well. During the day I suffered through uncomfortable doctors appointments and a blood draw or two. But in the evening, Neusa took me and another volunteer out to dinner. From there we went to yet another volunteer's house. Her college-aged students were throwing a goodbye party at her house for a student who was leaving to go to the United States. So my birthday kind of got incorporated into the party. It was fun: full of dancing, eating, and just having fun. So all in all, a fairly decent birthday celebration. Sidebar, I can't believe I am 24 years old. That's like mid-20s. The only downside, was I was practically unreachable so my parents were unable to call me on my birthday. But hopefully, I will speak to them tomorrow. Well that is all from me, I know this was a long one, but sometimes you just have a lot to say :)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad everything turned out ok for u Nadia, and Happy Birthday even if it is a bit late. 24 so so so old wow lol


25 January, 2007 19:06

Anonymous Danielle said...

I am glad to hear that you are feeling better. You were on my mind on the 19th. Thats awesome about the party. Who eles can say they spent their 24th birthday in Praia? Miss ya love ya!

26 January, 2007 02:42

Anonymous Danielle said...

oh ya, did you buy any fruit?

26 January, 2007 02:43

Blogger Melanie said...

um we ARE getting old. freakin mid-20s...and to think we met when we were just becoming teenagers! love you and miss you nadia!!!

26 January, 2007 23:52


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