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.

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!!


Anonymous Danielle said...


05 July, 2008 21:03


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