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.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The local grocery store in my town got in a whole shipment of fresh fruit this week. Including….are you ready for it….PEARS!! I just about had a heart attack. Having limited funds with me, I bought two and an orange and smiled nearly all the way home. When I went home, I tried to ration myself with my newfound fruity wealth: one pear today, the other for breakfast tomorrow. I succeeded, but only in that I allowed myself to eat the orange that evening as well. On the way to class the next morning I ate the other pear with relish.

I was on my own this weekend, as Leland was in Praia for some conference. I have never been in this town in my house alone since I arrived. I was lonely and a little bored the first night, but I found it miraculous that 24 hours later I had completely readjusted. I told myself that Saturday I would treat myself to lunch in the praça (main square) where I could read and relax outside. I took the money I was going to use for lunch and went back to grocery store and bought myself an entire kilo of pears instead. I was pleased at the price. It cost about $3.00 for a kilo of pears (about 9-10 pears). As I sat in my kitchen eating a pear for dessert that night, I thought about my zealous pear devouring. I ate the pears down to the nub. If I could have eaten the seeds and the stem, I would have. This made me reflect on all my eating lately. When I first arrived in this country, I remember being amazed at the way Cape Verdeans ate their food. They find every morsel and eat it. A small chicken leg will go in to their mouths and a few seconds later, out will come a spotlessly clean bone. It’s not that their that hungry, it’s that why waste it when it was so hard to get in the first place?

As I have said before, fruit is quite the luxury. In general, it is expensive and hard to get. For what it is and the kind of sustenance it provides, it generally isn’t worth purchasing for most Cape Verdeans or for us. For just under twice the price of my kilo of pears, I can purchase a couple of boneless chicken breasts that I can then shred to make BBQ chicken. This lasts Leland and I for about a week’s worth of lunches.

But it wasn’t just the pear I have been eating with such care. It has now become just about everything. Wasting food, or anything for that matter, is something we avoid very carefully. We only make what we can eat, or what we can store and eat later. Cape Verdeans have very little waste. I remember living in my homestay family’s house and they barely had a trashcan. It was a small bucket that served for small things like napkins. Cape Verde just is simply not a disposable society. Any food waste they had went either to the dog and cat or in another bucket later given to the pig. I had to keep a plastic carrier bag in my room to throw my trash away, because a trashcan just isn’t a staple part of a person’s individual needs. I, on the other hand being the wasteful American that I was, had q-tips, wrappers, and other random pieces of paper that I threw away on a daily basis. When I moved out of their house, I went to throw the trash away. My little homestay sister was there and offered to take it out for me. By this time I had a few bags worth of things I didn’t want anymore (such as magazines my family had sent and had since been shared and discarded by my homestay family) as well as actual trash such as used q-tips, my nail clippings, and other private trash. My little homestay sister took it with her and when I came out into the common area after packing I saw the magazines out once again and my trash scattered around the room. I was completely mortified. A person’s trash is just so personal. But I guess one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and these people were even playing with the case my Intuition razor replacement came in. Disposable items just aren’t as prevalent here, so even my trash was something interesting to them.

Food, however, still remains the area we are most careful with. We are not of the mind, mind you, that you have to finish everything on your plate just because it’s there. Occasionally, of course, one simply is just too full to finish. But we don’t make a lot to begin with. We go through a painstaking effort at the grocery store to plan out exactly what we’ll cook and just how many ingredients we need to make the desired dish. It’s not that we can’t afford to buy more, it’s just that there’s absolutely no need to. Which is almost exactly the attitude felt by the rest of the people of this country. There is no need to have more, when having less works just as well, if not better. It’s like that line from Sabrina (I know I’m a romantic comedy movie weirdo): “More isn’t always better Lionus, sometimes it’s just more.” Anyway, the pear extravaganza has made my weekend and in a week we go to Praia for our big conference, which marks the end of the second trimester. Two down, one to go! So at the moment, things are looking up ☺


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi nadia - I was reading your blog on Joyce's computer in the office -she had never been onyour blog before. Anyway it was excellent reading. enjoy the fruit while you can.
love you and miss you.

20 March, 2007 17:15

Blogger Melanie said...

amazing how much this experience is changing your traditional american ways. glad you got to enjoy a weekend alone AND enjoy pears. love ya and miss ya!

21 March, 2007 00:40

Blogger Valerie Fazel said...

What a coincidence, Nadia! I had just bought a can of pears to send in the next box. You liked the peaches a couple of boxes ago, though I know they could never compare to fresh fruit. I will hold off now, and use the allocated weight for something else. I am glad you are re-evaluating what constitutes necessity. Frugality is a behavior that seems to have become devalued in our society, but its virtue lies in its possible global contribution towards diminishing the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. When one person wastes, another is denied. Remember the motto (one that I am sometimes mocked for quoting): "I do not live to eat, but eat to live." Your practice of choosing carefully is one I hope you will continue throughout your life. I am very proud of you. Love, Mom

22 March, 2007 17:40

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nadia l have a message from Aunt Cath for you, she said thank you very much for the card she was really pleased & was so glad that you thought of her (you nearly her favourite neice now, nearly but not quiet).Aunt Cath said she was glad that you are enjoying yourself & she is very proud of you
Love Trisha

31 March, 2007 11:08

Blogger DeAnna said...

My grandmother was a wise woman when she said, "Waste Not, Want Not." Remember when the cafeteria workers at LFC put all that left over food in that bucket for us to see? You have a little appreciation for that now, huh?!

miss ya, DeAnna

06 April, 2007 15:01


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