Sunday, September 30, 2007



So I slept on the beach again last night, in the hopes of seeing some baby toytles being born and escaping into the ocean, and impressing the World Wildlife Fund lady with my determined resolve to help Cape Verde protect one of their precious few natural resources. Only, I was so exhausted from hiking the day before that I slept through the entire night, and awoke around 5 AM to find 8 or 12 people in matching white T-shirts huddled around one of the older nests, all fondling my day old baby sea turtles! A million questions raced through my mind. How did they know to be here on this particular day? Had they spent the night here as well? Did they know I was here too? What were they doing to my baby sea turtles? Where did they get all those matching white T-shirts?

People who steal turtles or turtle eggs (it’s illegal here…although so is stealing sand from the beaches, and people do that all day every day) can make a ton of money selling them. Thinking that’s what was about to occur here, I brushed a few inches of sand off myself and walked over to confront them. Approaching, I internally preparing a brief but well-articulated lecture about the immediate and long-term value of preserving and protecting the turtles, about how the turtles have some sort of magical internal magnet that will guide them thousands of miles across the open ocean, some day years from now, back to this very same beach to lay their own eggs, and also about how much tourists Love to see shit like this. Upon arrival, I was greeted cordially by everyone, given a matching white T-shirt, 3 pamphlets about environmental awareness, and a brief but well-articulated lecture about the value of preserving and protecting the turtles, about how the turtles have some internal magnet that will guide them, some day years from now, back to this very same beach to lay their own eggs, and about how much tourists Love to see shit like this.

Then they explained that they are actually a group of Cruzinhans, funded (barely) by the Cape Verdian government, who’s mission it is to monitor and report on all sea turtle-related activities. They, rather we, at this point, considering that I now have my own matching white T-shirt) are even taking the turtles back to Cruzinha to attach some sort of microscopic ID tag to them. Turns out the government here does get some things right. Who knew?

Anyway, before long, they’re explaining that they’ve got an entire Turtle Day planned for the kids in Cruzinha, complete with a sea turtle talk to be given by the Minesterio do Something-or-Other, a meet-and-greet with the baby sea turtles (we get to hold them!), a march to back to the beach with all the kids, and then we get to set the little bastards free in the ocean. (The turtles, not the kids.) Finally, we were to wrap up the whole affair with a beach clean-up, then bring on the snacks and juice and stuff. (A note here: How all of this was thought up, planned, funded and implemented without me ever hearing a whispered word about it is beyond me. Keep in mind this is a community of less than 200 people, and this was a Major event for them…er, us. Possibly the biggest thing to go on in this community all year. Sorta like being in high school and waking up at the goddamn prom, with everyone already decked out fancy, only you never knew it was coming and aren’t really sure what’s going on.)

So anyway, contrary to my experience thus far with the Cape Verdian government and their best-laid plans, the day went off exactly as had been described to me, and was definitely one of my best days here so far. I made some new friends, all the turtles made it safely into the ocean, the beach was cleaned up spick and span, we feasted on treats, and I got a nifty-looking matching white T-shirt. So, without further ado, here are the pics!!

(Also, someone please send me some Bar-B-Que Sause!!!)

Bucket O' Toytles

Toytle Expert Talking to the Kids

Kids Waiting for Toytles

Toytle Close-Up

Holdin' the Toytles

Settin the Toytles Free



Thursday, September 27, 2007

First Day of School!

So school started this week, and I went to Cruzinha with a neighbor who teaches there. They do it RIGHT here in Cape Verde...the whole first week is nothing but games and fun. Here is a picture of the kids playing Hot Potato.

Cruzinha Harbor

Here is a picture of the harbor at Cruzinha. My litle cove is just to the right, out of the frame.

My Diving Rock

This is one of the big rocks you can dive off of, into the little cove on the right. It´s about 30 feet deep and FULL of fish and other creatures.

Computer Classes...Wha?!?!?

September 26, 2007

About Computers, and my classes….

So some people are having a hard time that I’m going to be teaching computers in a tiny African village with only 397 people. Here are more details about that…

My classes are free and are for anyone who wants to come. I imagine I’ll have all ages, 10 to 90. We’ll have to limit the number based on how many computers the kamera sends us, but I can teach more than one class a day. (I think my class schedule will be Monday through Thursday 5 to 630, and 630 to 8pm, although we’re still working that out.) They have one computer here in Cha di Igreja, and it is in my escritoria (office) in the Associacao. There are about 4 people who know how to use it. But, the CV’n government is really pushing computer literacy here, and have bought many computers to use in formacaos (sort of like a 2 month long seminar), which is what I’ll be doing here. After one village gets a formacao, they move the computers to another village, and someone else teaches them there. To me, and apparently to many of y’all, it seems ridiculous to be teaching computers in a village where some families are living off of ¼ kg of rice and ¼ kg of beans a day, where some people share their bedrooms with livestock, where some people use a bucket for a toilet, and where they have exactly one functioning computer…but, it’s what my town wants, so I’m going to do it.

I think the upside is, the Accociacao will learn how to use WINDOWS, WORD, EXCEL and INTERNET, and can draft letters and proposals seeking help for the town from charity organizations. They’ll also be able to conduct their normal weekly correspondences with the kamera (local government office) via internet, instead of having to pay the 600$00 transportation cost to send someone to Punto do Sol, where those offices are located.

The other good thing about learning computers here is for the high school aged kids who want to go to college. Since there is no university anywhere in the country, anyone who wants to go to college has to go to Portugal or Holland or the US, where there are boquat (tons) of CV’n immigrants and they can stay with family for free. There are a LOT of scholarships available for Cape Verdians in those three countries (the Portuguese are actually obligated to provide thousands of scholarships per year I think, as repayment for hundreds of years of slavery here in CV), but all the applications are apparently accepted only via internet. So, the only CV’s that are managing this are the ones that live in the main, Capitol city of Praia, where most people already know how to use computers. Additioanlly, there are 2 or 3 internet cafes (used mostly by tourists) in the bigger towns on the island, so presumably, people could use whatever skills they learn from me, even if there is only one computer in this town.

Finally, the overall goal for PC volunteers and host countries is development. And we all know that these days, you can’t do much, even here in paradise at the ends of the earth, without computer skills. At least that’s how I’m trying to look at it.

K, that’s enough about that for now. I’ve been thinking and stressing about it (how do you explain the concept of the “Control + Z” or “ALT + TAB” features on Windows, or Right Click…to someone who’s never even seen a computer before?!?) for a few weeks now and am just ready for them to start so I can see how it’ll turn out.

Anyway, lest anyone accuse me of not having done any real work, here are my lesson plans for my FORMACAO DI INFORMATIKA (all in Portuguese by the way). Its in 4 parts, WINDOWS, WORD, EXCEL, and INTERNET:

Iniciação ao Computador – Explorador do Windows

Aula 1: Introdução de professor e alunos
Conhecendo o computador
Cuidados com o computador
O que é a informática?

Aula 2: Conhecendo o Windows XP
Ligar o computador e logon
Ambiente de trabalho e barra de tarefas
Propriedades de barra de tarefas

Aula 3: Barra de iniciação rápida
Barra de idiomas
Menu Iniciar
Painel de controlo (Aspecto e temas)
Alterar o tema
Alterar fundo
Protecção de ecrã

Aula 4: Aspecto
Modificar resolução
Painel de controlo (Contas de utilizadores)
Criação de contas
Mudar nome de uma conta
Alterar hora
Noção de pastas e ficheiros

Aula 5: Ambiente de Explorador do Windows
Barra de ferramentas
Usar lista das pastas no Explorador
Criar pastas (no Explorador e no Ambiente de trabalho)
Mudar nome de uma pasta
Apagar pastas com todo seu conteúdo

Aula 6: Trabalhar com ficheiros (clicar direito)
Selecção de itens
Copiar ficheiros para outras pastas

Aula 7: Noção de vírus
Dispor ícones por…
Mover ficheiros

Aula 8: Uso de unidades de armazenamento: cliquer direito
Criar pastas na disquete
Copiar pastas para disquete

Aula 9: Exercícios

Modulo 2 – Microsoft Word

Aula 1: Apresentação do professor
Objectivo do curso
Resumo de programa
Introdução ao ambiente do Word
Configurar Pagina
Orientação de pagina
Botões de formatação:
Negrito, itálico, sublinhado, tipo de letra, tamanho de letra, cor
Gravar documentos em Os Meus Documentos

Aula 2: Alinhar à esquerda/direita, centralizar, justificar
Botão Realçar
Aumentar/diminuir avanços
Abrir um ficheiro já gravado

Aula 3: Seleccionar parte do texto
Formatar>Tipo de letra (uma outra forma de formatar a fonte)
Utilizar e formatar marcas

Aula 4: Numeração automática
Emoldurar parte do texto
Formatar>Limites e Sombreado

Aula 5: Word Art
Criar documentos profissionais (Modelos)

Aula 6: Correcção automática de textos
Extra exercícios

Aula 7: Inserir cabeçalho e rodapé
Seleccionar, copiar e colar texto
O botão Pincel de formação

Aula 8: Localizar palavras em documentos
Substituir palavras em documentos

Aula 9: Trabalhar com tabelas
Formatação de tabelas (Propriedades)
Acrescentar linhas e colunas

Aula 10: Inserir imagens
Inserir imagens do ficheiro

Aula 11: Formas automáticas

Curso de Excel – Currículo

Aula 1: Apresentação (formador, formandos, curso)
Introdução ao Excel (o que é, usos vários, etc)
Ambiente do Excel (barras, botões, colunas, linhas)
Introdução de dados, alterar conteúdo, auto preenchimento
Seleccionar células, linhas, colunas

Aula 2: Inserir linhas e colunas
Apagar linhas e colunas
Alterar largura das colunas e altura das linhas
Formatação de células (número, alinhamento, tipo de letra, limites)

Aula 3: Orientação do texto
Unir e Centrar

Aula 4: Alterar nome de folhas, eliminar folhas, inserir folhas
Cabeçalho e rodapé
Desenhar limites

Aula 5: Copiar e mover células
Copiar e mover células para outra folha

Aula 6: Formatação automática
Ordenação de dados

Aula 7: Formulas simples (adição, subtracção, multiplicação, divisão, exponenciais, e percentagem)
Formulas com endereços

Aula 8: Funções

Aula 9: Uso de funções
Copiar funções

Aula 10: Graphicos

Curso de Internet-Currículo

Aula 1: O que é a Internet?
WWW vs Internet
Como surgiu?
O que eu devo saber/ter?
O que você pode fazer com a internet?
Enviar mensagens
Ler jornais/noticias
Ouvir música/rádio
Transferir ficheiros (abaixar)
Fazer compras
Olhar vídeo

Aula 2: Segurança:
O que é um vírus?
Protecção contra vírus, ladrões
Como abrir
Botões de navegação
Conceito de “home page” e como mudar
Barra de endereço
Ideia de um “link”

Aula 3: Buscar na internet
Procura simples
Procura com operadores
Algumas paginas úteis

Aula 4: Email
Criar uma conta de email
Adicionar outros alunos à lista de contactos
Enviar/receber um email
Anexar ficheiros
Abaixar um anexo

Aula 5: Continuar com email (se necessário)
Adicionar aos favoritos
Guardar imagens/ficheiros da internet
MSN Messenger: usar as contas já criadas

Aula 6: Pratica: “scavenger hunt”

Day to Day

September 25, 2007

Am I on Vacation???

So I’ve gotten a few e-mails accusing me of being on vacation in paradise for two years, rather than grinding out a life as a Peace Corps volunteer. While that is not entirely incorrect, it’s not entirely accurate either. Anyway, I though I’d give you a run down on my day-to-day activities here on Santo Antao.

My days are mostly…trankilio, as they like to say here. I wake up at 630 (everyone else does, and it’s too noisy to sleep later) make a cup of coffee and drink it on the roof, where I stare at the ocean and think about breakfast. Then I’ll either have a little cereal, or if I’m feeling ambitious, will go ranga (arrange) some eggs and some cheese, make some tortillas, and have breakfast tacos. That gets me through till about 8. After that I take a shower and shave, wash the dishes, and sweep and mop the house. That gets me through till about 9 or so. Then some days I either do laundry, hike to the beach, walk to the little plaza and play cards or guitar with the old men, go for a hike up the mountain, sit at a neighbor’s house and (try to) chat…pretty much whatever I want, until it gets too hot. By about 1pm, it’s REAL hot and I have to be in the house or in the shade (along with everyone else in town). From 1 or so until about 4, I get work done. I’ve been preparing my lesson plans for English and Computer classes, practicing my Portuguese and Kriolu, and writing letters to the local government offices to request assistance and/or money for my classes, but I also have a lot of paperwork to fill out for PC. Sometimes I need to request books, or fill out safety forms, typical boring government paperwork. Also, I’ll fix a grilled ham and cheese or something else easy for lunch, and read for a while. After 4, I usually read some more, or go for another walk, or try to meet someone new in town, or go to Cruzinha and jump off the rocks, or have a language lesson with my neighbour. In the early evening, I go to watch the town’s soccer team practice, or look for pretty girls, or take pictures, or read or play cards or guitar in the plaza. By this time the weather is perfect, nice and cool (low 80’s?) with a little breeze coming off the ocean, and the mountains and the whole sky turns a watermelon pink. Then every night I go spia sol txia na mar (literally translated, watch the sun get down into the ocean, or watch the sunset) from a cliff near the ocean (spectacular) where I think about you guys, and wonder what you are doing. It’s my “being sad” time. After that I walk back to town, stopping and chatting with whoever I can. By that time, everyone is out in the plaza or sitting around on the front stoops of their houses, and I’ll join them if I can. The plaza has a TV, and there are always a lot of people sitting on the park benches watching the news or else soccer. I’ll sit there for a while, try to meet someone new, maybe have a beer or some popcorn or fried moray eel. Then I head home and get to work on dinner. There’s nothing in a box, nothing you can just add water too, and no restaurants or take out, so it takes a while. (I’ve got a REAL appreciation for all the magic that my mom and my sister can work in the kitchen now.) I’ve been making spaghetti with my own sauce, tacos, boiled or broiled chicken, lots of rice and beans, sometimes just a sandwich or French toast or something easy, or else I’ll go eat with my neighbour and his family. (I actually have been doing that a lot.)

Of course some days I have to go to town for supplies. There is only one car a day to and from the nearest (bigger) town, which is called Provencao. It leaves here at 615am and comes back to Cha at noon. If I miss it coming back to Cha di Igreja, I have to spend the night in Provencao at another volunteer’s house and get it the next day, or pay 2500$00 to hire a private car, which is out of the question on my budget. So far that’s only happened once, but it’s no big deal because the volunteers in Provencao are really nice girls that love to cook, and they have an extra bed, and don’t mind the company. On Sundays, there is usually no transportation at all. I’ve also spent a couple nights in Punto do Sol, which is Cape Verde’s version of Malibu. Real pretty, real rich…by Cape Verdian standards. Once was for a town festa where I was at the disco till dawn, and once because I had a meeting with the president of the kamera (local government organization) about my classes, and missed the car back to Cha di Igreja. For festa, I stayed with a volunteer, and after the meeting with the chefe (president), I met a family in that town that let me sleep in their quintal (covered porch) for the night, after feeding me a handsome dinner of grilled fish and fried breadfruit. Such is life here.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Of course I’ve also been doing little stuff like decorating (taping pictures of you guys to my walls), getting my bed frame, a fan, and a lock-box, starting a little herb garden, writing entries for my Blog, writing to you guys, having meetings with my Associacao, hosting other volunteers in Cha di Igreja (CdI from now on), fixing my plumbing, putting together some shelves, giving my neighbour private English lessons, and trying to arrange a pequena (girlfriend). ;-)

All of that said, if you still want to accuse me or my CV’s neighbors of being lazy, you have to keep in mind that, until my classes start, there is absolutely nothing for me to do here, besides get to know my town. There are no businesses here, no jobs (other than being teacher or owning a tiny market), no hotels or restaurants or clubs, no social services, and no real, measurable government presence. So, they sit around and play cards and play guitar and wait for the rain. After the rain, they’ll be working (and please don’t take this the wrong way) exactly the same way they did when they were slaves…out in the fields or up on the mountain, doubled over digging in the dirt with a 2 foot spade, planting corn and beans by hand, pulling up weeds and grass by hand, gathering straw for the animals, carrying things on their head, etc. The difference being that now, all that work is for them and for their families, and not the Portuguese.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Here are my delicious home made tortillas. I´ve been eating breakfast tacos almost every morning. I tried to get my neighbotrs to eat some, but they don´t like them., WTF?!?!?

Three Volunteers on My beach.

Cave 2


Short Update

So I went poking around on that beach the other day, and found a really cool cave. It’s like something of a Pirate’s of the Caribbean movie or something. It goes back about 60 feet from the ocean and you can crawl all the way around to the other side. When the waves come crashing in there, it generates this thunderous booming noise, and huge wall of ocean spray. Here are a few pics. So cool.

Sorry I haven’t written much lately, but I’ve been busy preparing lesson plans. I’m going to start teaching computer literacy classes and English classes next month. Also, the Assciacao (sort of like a local government organization) that I’m working with would like me to try to figure out a way to buy a school bus for the town. OK.

Turns out all the kids here have to pay 400$00 a day to get a hiace to school and back, and that works out to about half a year’s total income for most families. Consequently, almost no kids from my village finish the school year. I’ve been working on a grant proposal to send out to all the development/charity organizations that I can find addresses for, but the proposal is in Portuguese, so it’s taking me a while. If anyone knows someone in Cape Verde who’s selling a bus for REAL cheap, lemmie know!

Other than that, I’ve been playing a lot of guitar at night with the guys from my village, hiking down to Cruzinha and going for a swim almost every morning, buying stuff for my house, and just trying to get to know the people in my village. The weather is hot, but beautiful. Got a little rain the past few days, and everything is already turning green. One of the other volunteers and her mom came to stay with me last weekend, and some other volunteers were here during the week, and on both occasions, we fixed nice dinners. Also, this weekend, a few more volunteers are coming up to stay for a night or two. That’s all the news I’ve got for now.

Hope everyone is safe and happy. For those of you who wrote to say you didn’t believe that I was actually making my own flour tortillas, here’s the evidence…

Take Care of Each Other

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Great Day (Pics below)

Please note that I had a slight change to my address. Itºs listed below the pics.

So I had a great today. Got up and made an omelet and coffee and walked downstairs to learn some dirty words from my crazy neighbor. He worked on shipping boats all his life and can cuss in about 8 languages. Then I came back upstairs and, on the advice of a neighbor, burned holes in the legs of all of my plastic chairs. They were made in China (like all things here) and the legs will apparently break in about a week if you don’t tie them all together with chord. Anyway, I burned holes in all the legs by heating up a nail and then I ran chord through all the legs and now they’re dret (fine). After that I made a PBJ and packed a bag for the praia (beach). On my way to the beach I ran into Djon, my neighbor and good friend. (My best Cape Verdian friend actually.) I told him I was walking to the beach and he insisted that he go with me. I was sorta in the mood for a walk with my MP3 player, plus I was going to read and relax a little, maybe take some pictures and have a beer in Cruzinha…so I resisted and told him I would be fine on my own, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer, and now I’m glad for it.

We took the 15 minute walk to Cruzinha and instead of heading West for the big beach that you can see from the road, he told me there were some “secret” beaches not too far to the East. So I took his word for it. Sure enough, about 30 minutes later we landed on what I’ll call Turtle Beach, since it has no official name, and it turned out to have a lot of turtles. It was amazing. It lies at the mouth of a HUGE ribeira, but it’s tiny (I’d say one and half football fields) and you can’t see it from the footpath. Once you climb down into it, there’s a big open sandy area, and an outcropping of rock that provides plenty of shade. There were these curios little chicken-wire baskets with signs all over them, and the saigns were posted by the Cape Verdian government and announce that the area within the wire was a confirmed turtle nest, threatened imprisonment to anyone who disturned the nest, and even announced the approximate date that the eggs would hatch. (It’s the 22 of this month, so I think I’ll go camp out on the beach for a couple days and see if I can see it happening.) Past the beach, the water is knee deep for about 30 yards out, with waist high waves. Past that there is a little drop off and it’s about neck deep, go past that, and the earth drops away to the bottom of the ocean. Fundo. (Deep.) So I was getting all settled and SO happy for the spectacular beach, when Djon said no’bei (Let’s go), he wanted to go to the other, better “secret” beach, and we headed off.

20 more minutes along the coast path, which is a worn and weathered cobblestone trail about 4 feet wide, we left the trail and climbed down into another ribeira and we txiga (arrive) at another stunning beach. It was huge, maybe 10 football fields, and not another soul in site. It is surrounded by steep, imposing mountains, and we could see the coast path above us. Big, 8 foot waves were crashing on a sandbar about 20 yards out, but there was a nice little 6 foot deep channel in between the beach and the sandbar with mostly calm-ish, crystal blue water, and we swam laps in it for about a half hour. Dipos (after, next, then) I busted out my kite (the wind was roaring today), got it in the air, and Djon nearly shit his pants. I’m fairly certain from his reaction that he had never seen or conceived of anything quite like it because he was absolutely speechless. For those of you that haven’t seen it before, it’s a REAL big, M-shaped 4-line kite, and you can mais or menos (more or less) drive it like a race car, do dive-bombs, make it dip into the ocean waves, flip and spin, stop and start etc.) Anyway, he came over and practically ripped the lines out of my hand before I could warn him about its pull, and he was immediately yanked face-first into the sand. This only served to increase his fascination, and within minutes, he had forgotten I was even there, and had a mile-wide smile plastered on his face for the next 3 hours. After that short span, he’s already as good with it as I am, and when he’d finally had enough, he came over to where I was sitting and, grinning like a cat, asked if we could come back tomorrow to fly it some more.

After the beaches we walked back to Cruzinha and had a beer and some fried eel, and corn-battered octopus at Djon’s aunt’s house, and then she taught me to play biska, which is a very fun card game. Dipos, we headed back up the mountain to Cha di Igreja. We’d been gone 7 hours. When I walked in my house, there was a huge cake sitting on my kitchen table with “Friends: Caley, Silveria, Alecia” written on it. Too cool. Silveria and Alecia were the first two people I met here in Cha. They’ve been helping me out by teaching me some Sanpadjudo kriolu, showing me around town and introducing me to people, cooking breakfast for me, etc., and I’ve been teaching them English. “Friends” was the first word we taught each other. Also, they’re both ridiculously good-looking, and don’t usually wear much in the way of clothing, as is the style in Cha de Igreja. More on that another time.

Anyway, great, great day today. Pictures are below. I’m never coming home. 


Big Beach

Turtle Beach 2

Turtle Beach


You can dive from the big rock on the left, and the little cove where the boat is is great for snorkling.

Beach to the West

Correction to Address!!!

Please see the updated address below. Tanks!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

My Address (Please send Care Packages!!!)

Caley McCormick
Cha de Igreja
Frequsia de S.P. Apostolo
Ribeira Grande
Santo Antao
Cape Verde
-via Portugal-

Other View




Front Door


My House

My House

So here’s my house. It was initially built as a tourist house, but this place is so isolated and small that no tourists ever came. (Which is a shame, because it’s a hidden paradise.) It’s definitely a palace as far as Cape Verde is concerned, and it’s hard to believe that Peace Corps would ranja (arrange) a place like this. It is right across from a “mini-mercado,” and a stone’s throw from the church…although that’s not saying much since the entire town is a stone’s throw from the church. Anyway, it’s sort of like townhouse, with three floors. You enter through a single (locked) door on the ground floor, and then each floor has a separate door. I’m on the top floor, and have a patio on my floor, plus the rooftop, all to myself. As you enter my door on the third floor, the window-lined hallway to my bedroom and bathroom is in front of you, and the kitchen is on the left.

I have a mini-fridge, a plastic garden table and four plastic chairs, a stove and a sink with running water. So far the fridge has milk, a coke, a beer and 3 huge things of water in it. Also, so far I haven’t cooked anything, as there are neighbors galore that are wanting to cook for me. I was all excited to make some home made tortillas (Peace Corps gave us a recipe book) and my first breakfast tacos in over two months. I guess it can wait. I’m also craving real coffee, but someone gave me some crappy instant coffee, and seeing as how I’m nearly broke already, I guess I’ll finish that off first.

Down the hall from the kitchen there are two empty rooms along the all. Since I have no money and no furniture, I imagine they’ll stay empty for the next two years. My bathroom has a cracked mirror, a toilet and bathtub/shower with running (cold) water, and a sink. It’s the nicest bathroom I’ve seen since I’ve been here, and I’m thrilled about that. I’m already contemplating boiling several gallons of water on the stove to prepare a hot bath, as I’ve only had cold showers for the past two months.

Across from the bathroom is my bedroom. When I arrived here there was nothing, but now I have a mattress on the floor, and I bought a rack to put all my clothes on. I’m also using the box my fridge came in as a shelf-type thing on which I’ve put my computer and mini-speakers. Last night I had my very first movie night all to myself. (Those of you that know me well will understand how much that meant to me.) I watched Open Range with the sound cranked up and the windows open, with popcorn and everything. It was heavenly. (That was good fuckin’ movie by the way.) It’s hot here, but with the windows open in my room, it’s bearable…barely.

There were a few roaches when I got here the first night, but I made some Boric Acid Roach Balls (out of the Peace Corps Cook Book) and haven’t seen a one since. There are also no mosquitoes, as far as I can tell. I guess they might come if it ever rains here, but so far I loving life without them. There are flies, but they’re everywhere in Africa, and I’m pretty much already used to them. Tomorrow I’m going to hang bags of water in all the windows (like they do at Rudy’s) to see if it really works. I’ll let you know the results of this experiment as soon as they become available. Yesterday a neighbor also came over to tell me I needed to heat up a nail and burn holes in the legs of all my plastic chairs, and then tie a cord diagonally between all the legs, to keep them from breaking. I tried to do that today and nearly set myself on fire. As it was, I only lost some arm and hand hair, which I didn’t need anyway, but it’s shocking how inept I am.

So that’s it for now. I’m king of my castle in Cha de Igresia, and couldn’t be happier about it.

One more cultural note. It’s custom here to leave all your doors open while you’re home (except when you go to sleep). Wanting to blend in as fast as possible, I have been following that custom, and as I began to write this at my kitchen table, in walked two 16 year old (approximately) girls, one of them carrying a newborn. I’m pretty sure the baby belongs to one of them. Anyway, I tried talking to them, a lot, and they just kept staring at me. So I finally gave up and just kept typing. Well they’re still sitting at my table with me, (almost 45 minutes later) and have still not said a word. Just sitting. And staring. It was freaking me out at first, but now it’s kinda funny. I’m just not sure what I’m going to do now that I’m done writing. Anyway, I’ll let you know how that turns out as well.

Hope all are well. Someone send me some goddamn e-mails and a care package.

Initial Impressions

Semptember 6, 2007
Cha de Igresia

So I’ve arrived, not without incident, to my new home in Cha de Igresia (village of the church). It is as beautiful as I remember it, and a lot smaller. Like, I went for a walk around the entire town yesterday, and it took about 5 minutes. My house is amazing, and it is going to be hard to remember that I’m in the damn Peace Corps, because my place is nicer than anything I ever rented in the States. I’ll send pictures as soon as I can. I’m sure I’ll write more about the town after I’ve gotten to know it a better, but here are my initial observations, having been here only 3 days.

Beautiful. It is beautiful beyond belief here, and I’ve never seen it’s equal. To quote the Bandt Travel Guide, “Santo Antao is truly one of the world’s most stunning and majestic landscapes.” I’m pretty sure the guy that wrote that was sanding on my roof when he wrote that. Cha has a unique combination of mountains, beaches, tropics, desert and lush green. There are nearly vertical mountain walls that cover about 300 of 360 degrees of view. The other 60 degrees offer a spectacular view of the ocean, which is a 15 minute walk down the ribera. The hills surrounding Cha have palm, banana and papaya trees, cane, corn and bean fields and an intricate canal system that channels the run-off water from the peaks above into the crops. The town itself is filled with brightly painted houses, flowering plants line the cobblestone streets, and a perfect and ancient white church sites directly in its center. Outside the church there is a public “plaza.” In the plaza there is a rudimentary playground, several benches and shade trees and a little tiny bar that serves ice cold beer and cokes. (They also have a television, and after the sun goes down, they turn it on and half the village comes out and sits on the plaza benches to watch the news or the Portuguese novellas. It’s quite charming.) Cruzinha is a little fishing hamlet (there are less than 300 people there) at the mouth of the ribera (15 minutes from here). I went there yesterday and it too is stunning. Crystal blue waters, a huge cave that offers shelter from the sun, and giant volcanic boulders that you can dive off of. Halelujah. If you continue past Cruzinha another 15 minutes, you arrive at a deserted and spectacular beach. It is completely inaccessible, except to walk from my village or Cruzinha, and if you keep reading, you’ll see that that makes it just about impossible to get to. I was on this beach yesterday, and I saw a half dozen of the biggest turtles I’ve ever seen, and maybe about 40 eggs buried in the sound. SO COOL! A neighbor in Cha told me that this is the month where the turtle babies hatch and run into the ocean, so I’m sure I’ll be spending a few nights conducting turtle watch on the beach.

Isolated. The road to get here from Provencao (the nearest town with computer, bank, internet, fresh groceries etc.) is ridiculously bad. In total its about a 45 minute drive, and there are parts of it that make me close my eyes in the hiace. The only thing that’s got me a little worried though, is that the hiace (van) that runs between Cha de Igresia and Provencao (and this is the ONLY van, and the ONLY road) runs exactly once per day. It leaves Cha at 630AM and comes back from town at 1200PM. So, if I ever want to go anywhere, and I mean ANYWHERE, I have to make sure I’m back in Provencao by noon, or I’m stranded. This means I can’t do any of the great hiking on the East side of the island, can’t visit Pont de Sol (which is the Cape Verdian equivalent of Malibu, and only 15 minutes past Provencao) etc., unless I spend the night. Luckily there is a volunteer in Provencao and another in Coculi, both with big houses, so I’m sure I’ll be able to crash there on days when I’m out past noon. This hiace situation also means of course, that nobody can come out to Cha de Igresia, unless they get on the noon hiace to Cha, spend the night, and go back on the 630am hiace the next day. Now I know why they requested a community development volunteer.

Clean. There isn’t any trash anywhere, which is a striking contradiction to the island of Santiago, where there was trash EVERYWHERE. There are public trash cans on the street corners. Flowering plants line the streets. Nearly all the houses (at least the sides that face the street) are painted in bright and pretty colors. There are no animals in town, except for a few chickens and dogs.

Hot. I haven’t been here long enough to know what’s normal for this part of Cape Verde, but yesterday it was Africa-Hot, and let me tell you, even by Texas’ standards, that’s pretty goddamn hot. I could actually feel my skin baking. (Don’t worry mom, I went inside and put on sunscreen immediately.) To be fair though, two days ago it was very pleasant, not climbing above 85, with a really nice breeze that lasted all day and night long.

Poor. There is nothing to do here, except farm the land. When they aren’t planting or tilling or harvesting (and there hasn’t been any rain yet, so none of that is going on) people are basically just, sitting around on the street, on porches, under trees, doing… absolutely nothing. My second day here I brought my guitar downstairs, and started playing around. Within about 10 minutes, half of the village was sitting there too, and we didn’t get up until the sun started setting. There is a LOT of free time. They can’t get jobs in Provencao because there isn’t any transportation after noon, and there isn’t ay sort of business here, except for 2 or 3 lojas (African equivalent of a mini-mart, where you can get rice and corn and juice and things like that). I’m really not sure what the answer to this problem is, and to tell you the truth, I’m not sure what these people do to get money. It’s possible, probable actually, that they don’t have any money, and that they are just able to grow enough to survive, with nothing extra. I’m sure I’ve got a lot to learn about this subject in the next two years


September 3, 2007

Escudos: Cape Verdian Money

So if anyone is interested, here is a little lesson on money in Cape Verde, which uses the Cape Verdian Escudo (CVE). I think right now the exchange rate is 76 escudos to the dollar, so 7600$00 CVE equals $100 USD. They have bills in 200$00, 500$00, 1000$00 and 2000$00 denominations, and coins for 1$00, 5$00, 10$00, 20$00, 50$00, and 100$00. All of the money is pretty and colorful and all of the bills are different sizes, but all smaller than American bills. Prices vary widely from island to island (Santo Antao is the most expensive because it’s the hardest to get to). Also, even though we’re in Africa, most things here are very expensive, because EVERYTHING you buy here is imported from Brasil, the U.S., China or Portugal. Most everything here is low quality. I’ve learned to check the expiration dates for everything, as things are often way past their prime. (Yesterday I ate a Snickers bar that was probably made in the late 1980’s)
In Cape Verde, here are some average prices:

1 litre bottled water = 100$00
beer = 80$00
candy bar = 65$00 (they only have Kit-Kats)
good kitchen knife = 450$00
“loosey” cigarette = 10$00
1 small pack of juicy fruit gum = 75$00
bed sheet = 350$00
propane tank = 2000$00;almost all cooking is done on a bunson-type burner that is attached to a gas tank exactly like the ones people use on Bar-B-Q grills. (Unless you’re from Texas and then you use charcoal and mesquite chips.) Gas tanks in CV are subsidized by the CV’n government in an attempt to get people to quit chopping down trees to use for lenha (firewood for cooking).
20 Megs worth of internet time = 150$00; in Cape Verde, some places charge you by bandwidth instead of time. Consequently, if you’re uploading pictures, you can spend 150$00 in about 5 minutes. Other places charge by the minute, but they are even worse because the connections are usually so slow that it may take 2 or 3 minutes to send one e-mail using Gmail. People in America, BE THANKFUL for DSL!!
20 minute ride in a hiace from Assomada to Txa di Tanki = 50$00
45 minute ride from Porto Novo to Ribera Grande = 400$00
1 hour ferry boat ride from Mindelo to Port Novo = 700$00
frying pan = 2500$00
broom = 300$00
1 kg of tuna = 400$00
20 kg bag of rice = 400$00; these come in huge, heavy sacks that.
1 shot of grog = 20$00; this is the local moonshine that is available everywhere. It tastes worse than Everclear, and is a little bit stronger.
Post-it notes: 100$00
Cheap Chinese shelf for clothes: 2500$00
8 eggs: 240$00
spoon: 100$00
jar of peanut butter: 300$00

Monday, September 3, 2007

Me and Rosie



This pic is a good way to show the difference between people from the Northern islands (Sanpadjudos) and people from the Southern islands (Badius) The girl on the right in from the north (more European influence) and the girl on the left is a Badiu (more African influence). Either way, everyone here is beautiful.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

My Host Family

So it was normally just me and Naninho and Palmerira at the house in Txan di Tanki, but the whole family came home to wish me goodbye. Here they are!!!

Swear In!!

Swear In!!!

So I’m no longer a trainee, as yesterday we were sworn in by the US Ambassador to Cape Verde, and now I’m an official volunteer! The ceremony was really nice with lots of speakers (myself and another gal from our group included), the little girls batuku group from Txan di Tanki, and some really bad-ass lanxi (snacks) afterwards. Apparently, my speech (and my very awesome Kriolu accent) was a real hit, because afterwards, a whole series of events happened that made my head swell up real big.
First of all there were lots of old ladies, and even a few grown men, crying during nha diskurso (my speech). Then when it was over, the news crews came up and asked me to talk on camera for the national news broadcast. After crapping my pants, I asked our country director if it would be OK, and he said sure, just watch what I say. Sweet. After that, the Ambassador came up to me and said some very kind words, and introduced me to a guy that runs a very prestigious program called the Millennium Challenge. We as volunteers had already learned quite a bit about it, but he gave me some specific project examples that are currently underway on my island. Notice how I said “my” island? Essentially, the US donates huge amounts of money to fund worthy projects in developing countries, provided those countries meet some tough standards regarding transparency of accounting, demonstrated need and benefit, etc. They’re currently building some roads and bridges on Santo Antao, as well as working with micro-credit and micro-finance, agricultural extensions, etc.
Anyway, he encouraged me to call him once I was settled into my new place, and suggested we could talk about some ways to get me involved in those projects. This was a really great thing to hear, because I feel like if I do a great job here, and keep in touch with guys like these, I’ll have gotten my foot into a very important door, as far as development work goes. By the end of the day I was pretending to be very busy and important.
After all the shenanigans (including a very upsetting and tearful goodbye with Palmeira), we were shuttled off to Praia, where we spent the night before leaving this morning for out sites. We flew from Praia to the island of Sao Vicente at 6AM today, with an obscene amount of luggage (and paid equally obscene overweight luggage fees), and very little sleep. After arriving in Mindelo, I went off to ranja (arrange) some dishes and pots and pans for my new place, only to find out that I had missed the boat to Santo Antao (you can only get there by boat). We were told before I left that there would be another boat in the afternoon, but it isn’t coming after all. Anyway, works out well enough for me, as I’ve got a hotel room in Mindelo all to myself for the day and the night, and I’ll be able to shower and shave and look presentable for my meeting with my counterpart tomorrow.
Mindelo is a beautiful city by any standards. Beautiful sparkling blue water and white sandy beaches populated by ridiculously gorgeous Cape Verdians, quaint shops, restaurants, boutiques, music and art studios, coffee houses, hotels, internet cafes, dance clubs and bars…it’s hard to believe it’s in the same country as Txan di Tanki. I spent the day drinking coffee and wandering the streets, window shopping and fantasizing about all the things I wants and can’t afford. It was a great day.
Anyway, that’s what’s new with me. Other than all the sadness from leaving Txan di Tanki behind, I’m feeling good, nervous, excited, optimistic and confident…all at the same time. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping, traveling, etc., all by myself, which is a daunting challenge, but one I feel like I’m prepared for after 2 months of cultural, language, safety, technical and medical training. I guess we’ll see.
So, I thought I’d close by attaching a copy of my speech in Kriolu. I was going to translate into English for you guys at home, but then I realized that you’ll probably be able to get the main points on your own.
I should have a new address (that will be good for a couple months until I get a post office box established) this week, so if there’s anyone that’s got a hankerin’ for sending me a care package, one would CERTAINLY be appreciated. Don’t forget I’ve got a birthday coming up! Cooking stuff (mostly spices), candy, gum, school supplies, and books are in SHORT supply here.

All My Love and All My Best.

Kids Batuku Group at Dia di Limpa Skola

Me in Txa di Tanki (Rosie´s House)

Kids Painting the Front Wall of the Skola

Dia di Limpa Skola (pics go with this post)

OK, well we had the Dia di Limpa Skola project yesterday, and all I can say is, it was one of, if not THE best day of my life…no shit.

There were problems, to be sure. For instance, the school director, who I saw just 2 days ago, went to Portugal on vacation, which wouldn’t have been a terrible problem, except that he had the keys to all the rooms. Also, a couple kids dug a hole about he size of a grave and when I asked them what it was for, they told me that we were going to put the trash in it and burn it all, then cover up the hole. (Environmentalists will be happy to hear that other arrangements were made.) There was also a shortage of water for drinking and cleaning, no plates, spoons or cups, not enough cleaning supplies to go around, general disarray and chaos, some spilled paint, a few cuts and bruises, and a lot of standing around.
However, plenty of things went right as well. Yesterday we had 57 kids show up, we filled 14 huge bags full of trash, fixed 6 windows, painted 6 doors (and a mural on the wall of the school!), swept and mopped 8 class rooms, fixed 3 door locks, had lunch, put on 2 skits about drugs, had a children’s batuku group perform, made announcements and thank you’s, and to top it all off, the kids wrote and sang a song for all of the Peace Corps volunteers living in Txa di Tanki. The chorus went, “Korpo di Paz, nu ka ta skesi di nhos!” = “Peace Corps we will never forget you.” Two of the volunteers that live in Txa di Tanki were crying. I was one of them. Finally, and most importantly, the kids, with virtually no help from me, all signed their names to a paper and had someone write a letter to the kamera, and to Peace Corps and the Ministry of Education, thanking them for the supplies, and requesting free English classes in Txa di Tanki. I showed the letters and list to my training director, and nearly broke into tears.
Other than this sort of quantitative stuff, I’m not really sure how to describe what happened in that village yesterday. Windows were repaired and trash was picked up, but there was something else going on as well…this really deep, almost overwhelming sense of community pride and involvement…of giving and sharing, and I was literally, overjoyed to have had a hand in bringing it about. Smiles and Laughter All Day Long. These kids were EXCITED to be doing all this hard work, EXCITED that their local government had sent them some paint and some trash bags, EXCITED that their school was getting a makeover. At one point, I had to take the paintbrushes and hammers away from the group that was painting the doors and fixing windows, as they wouldn’t stop working when the play was getting ready to start. And as far as the festa afterwards…fahgeddaboudit! Riotous laughter during the play, booming rounds of applause for the little batuku girls, people paying attention while others were speaking, everyone sharing all of the food…it was just amazing. It was a whole day of work and fun, all centered on the kids and the school. I don’t know what anyone else thinks of when they think of “the Peace Corps experience,” but yesterday was it for me…everything I came here for, and more. I’ll never forget it, and if I can have 2 more days just like it over the next 2 years, I’ll be satisfied. I know I’ve only been here a short while, but it feels like I’ve been doing this kind of work all my life, and it’s difficult for me to imagine doing anything else.
Pictures of the day to follow soon.

Read this before looking at the pics below!!!

Hi guys. Just wanted to give you all a quick update. It’s been a very hectic week as I’ve been busily preparing for my “Dia di Limpa Skola” project in Txa di Tanki. I’ve made Portuguese avisos (flyers), invitations for kids, families, other volunteers on this island and also Peace Corps staff, drafted letters (also in Portuguese) requesting supplies, assistance and money to the kamera (City Hall) in Assomada, the Ministero di Educaҫãὀ and an Environmental NGO (non-government-organization) called Ambente. All have promised me some form of aid, but most of it has yet to arrive, and the project is tomorrow. So far, the only things I’ve managed to secure for sure are 3 buckets of paint, 2 paintbrushes, 3 mops, 3 sponges and a big bucket.
The kids in town are also going to do a batuku performance, and the group that did the play for the festa in town is going to do a 15 minute short play about drug use. To top it all off, everyone is bringing snacks and drinks to have a little party after its all over. Although I know how I want everything to go, I am having a hard time visualizing what will actually happen tomorrow. I’ll be sure to let you know though.
What else? This week we talked with the budget guy and he’s a REAL jackass. Peace Corps, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to pay us 4 times a year. (I’m really wishing I’d have taken some sort of budgeting class in college right now, and I’m sure my family is shitting golden bricks as they read this and envision me going hungry for the next two and half months.) Included in that quarterly payment will be ¼ of all work-related travel allowances, emergency money etc. that we will receive for the fiscal year, even though we don’t know when, where or how often we’ll ever need to travel, which makes a HUGE difference. (For instance, if we need to travel to Fogo for training or medical purposes, that costs about 24,000$00, whereas a trip to Santiago would cost about 12,000$00, but we don’t know ahead of time where we’d need to go.) Lastly, he told us that everyone gets the same amount for their “settling in allowance,” which is the money (about $100 USD) they give us to buy everything we need for our house…bed, bedding, pots, pans, cups, spoons, knives, desk, chairs, cleaning supplies, etc. Thing that made me want to shoot the damn messenger though, is that there are only 3 of us (myself included) that will be living alone, and that are moving into completely new sites where there has never been a Peace Corps volunteer. Everyone else is moving into an established, ready-to-go Peace Corps house with furniture, kitchen stuff, roommates, beds etc. So they’ll have a house and an allowance for fun, travel or luxury (internet, chocolate), and the three of us will be sleeping on the floor and cooking rice in cups. I know it’s the Peace Corps and all, and I realize I’m bitching about money amidst a country full of people who have none, but c’mon. How about a little love for the few of us that are going to be out in the sticks?
And as long as I’m bitching, also this week we’ve been getting what Peace Corps is calling “Emergency Sanpadjudu” kriolu lessons. On Santo Antao, the island I’ll be living on for the next two years, they speak a different version of Kriolu than the one I’ve been learning and have worked so hard to become nearly fluent in. It’s not something you could equate to understanding a Boston accent versus a South Carolina accent, as the difference here is actually a dialect. For instance, in the Badiu kriolu that I’ve learned…

Modi ki bu sta? Modi ki bu txoma? Modi ki bu ta fla?

Becomes, in Sanpadjudu kriolu…

Oi manera, tu dret? Manera ke’b nom? Manera ke’k’bo te’dze?

So, although there are definitely some similarities, I feel like I’m basically starting from scratch, which definitely sucks. Peace Corps has yet to give us a good explanation as to why they are only giving us one week (one hour a day) of “emergency” sanpadjudu, but I think it has something to do with the gross inefficiency, lack of attention to detail, and piss poor planning. I’ve been told by my host family not to worry, because all the people on my new island will still be able to understand me…I just won’t be able to understand them. Anyways, as soon as I get there, I plan on arranging a new family to teach me how to talk, how to behave properly (it’s improper to stretch, sit cross-legged or touch anyone with your left hand here for instance), where and how to get mail, where to take trash, how to find a car to the nearest town etc.
Essentially, the home-stay, language acquisition, cultural integration etc. that I’ve had for the last 2 months has been a practice run for the REAL immersion that I’ll go through beginning next week, except this time I’m on my own. Time to see what I’m really made of I guess.
Anyways, basically I’ve been running around like mad, and jdan kumenza ku sodade di nha vizinho y familha (I’m already starting to miss my neighbors and host family), I don’t have anything to read (in English), I’ve had a cold for about three days, and I’m a little bit scared that tomorrow I’ll be standing around the school with three buckets of paint all by myself. So, a bit of a rough patch, but I’m still having the time of my life, and wouldn’t trade this for anything. I am living on an beautiful desert island in the middle of the ocean after all.

I hope all is well with everyone. Although I wouldn’t really know, as I think the novelty of my adventure must have worn off, and there are rarely any new e-mails or Blog comments waiting for me anymore. (Guilt Trip) If anyone has or is planning to send a card, letter, book or care package (Guilt Trip), I’ll have my new address in a week or so. I should also be given a cell phone by Peace Corps, as apparently I’ll be the “Safety and Security Coordinator” (no idea what that job entails) for the other volunteers on Santo Antao, and a cell phone comes with that gig, although God knows what it would cost to call me on it. Anyways, information to follow shortly.

Y’all take good care of each other.

Me and Sweili at Dia di Limpa Skola

Clean Rooms!!

Kids Painting the School

Kids Cleaning the School