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.

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.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Danielle said...

I can't wait for you to come home!!!!!! I am so glad to see a new blog I was getting worried! :) I loved hearing about Kenya and your card game with your family! I am sending you a hug!
Miss you, love you!
Danielle

06 March, 2008 06:39

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can not believe 2 years coming to an end this summer! reading your blog tells me you have had the most amazing experience being there and have done so well. We are so proud of you....

any chance of returning to usa via London .... samosas?
love
muneera

08 March, 2008 08:09

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are so glad you had a great trip. I bet your two youngest cousins would love to see some of the pictures from your trip. Especially the dikdik. There was one on a game they used to play. THey nicknamed it the "Surprise Animal" because it would appear from behind a bush and make a small puffing sound. THey laughed everytime. Hmmmm....
Aunt K

09 March, 2008 22:56

 

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