Friday, May 30, 2008

Quick update

So this week I’ve been in Praia getting ready for some training with PC, and also seeing the sights and enjoying life in “civilization,” which basically means I’ve been eating… constantly. There are like, restaurants here. Real ones. Last night I had schwarma in pita bread and grilled goat meat with onions and peppers. I nearly died from happiness. There is an American style grocery store here with everything you can imagine. It’s completely unreal and I was wigging out a little bit. The volunteers who live in this city and on this island have COMPLETELY different lives than I have. Anyway, more on all that later. For now, here are some pics I took in Cruzinha last weekend before I left.


Cute Kid in Cruzinha

Standing Rock

Friday, May 23, 2008

Povocon and Ponto do Sol

So it occurred to me that I frequently mention Povocon and Ponto do Sol (the two "big" cities on my side of the island), but I donºt think Iºve ever put any pictures up. Anyway, below are a few, to give you a frame of reference.

Povocon (inland)

Eskada Caxtig

People who live up the hill in Povocon call the stairs a caxtig, which means punishment.

Povocon (East)

You can see the soccer "field" and the road that leads to Paúl in the background.

Fishing Family

Bringing in the Boat

The Boats in Ponto do Sol

Sunset in Ponto do Sol

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Leo and I at Swim Practice

So Leo t´k med (is scared) to swim in the ocean, so we´ve been practicing his swimming techniques in some 10 inch deep puddles. So far, he´s not too crazy about the whole process.

Varias Bebidas

A sampling of some of the different types of paunches and grogues that they make here. Truthfully, they all taste pretty much the same.

More Flor


Despite not having a drop of rain in my village since last September, there are some really pretty flowers out right now.

A House in Cha de Igreja

Viva Revoluçao! The Uprising in Cha de Igreja

Viva Revoluçao! The Uprising in Cha de Igreja

So it was election day on Sunday, and in its aftermath, I actually got to witness a little revolution. A real life rebel uprising…albeit on a small scale. Ironically, the “revolution” was undertaken by members from both the losing and winning parties…together. To better understand the significance, here’s a little bit of back story.

The country’s main political parties are PAICV and MpD. The island of Santiago, and it’s capital city of Praia (which is home to more than half of the total population of Cape Verde) is maioria (predominantly) PAICV. The majority of all the other islands are MpD. Thus, you can make the generalization, as many Cape Verdians do, that PAICV is only interested in governing and helping Praia and Santiago, while neglecting the necessidades (needs) of those living on the other, less populated islands. Indeed, many Cape Verdians living outside of Santiago feel that PAICV and the inhabitants of Praia are, essentially, ot paix (a different country).

In America, under the system of the House of Representatives, states are allotted a certain number of delegates in congress, proportional to their population. As far as I can tell from limited research and talking to neighbors, there is nothing in the Cape Verdian constitution that provides for the same. Accordingly (as far as I can tell), in the Cape Verdian parliament there is a disproportionate share of representatives from Praia and Santiago, and very few people in government that are championing the causes of Cape Verdians living in Santo Antao, Sau Nicolau, Maio, Fogo, Boavista, Brava and Sal. So it follows that nearly all the kamera presidents and members of the Assmblea Municipal (sort of like city council) for the all the conselhos (counties) on Santo Antao are MpD. In Ribeira Grande, MpD has help sway for the past 15 years. PAICV did however campaign hard here on Santo Antao, and are striving to make inroads on the outer isles.

To that end, approximately 2 months ago, The Luta Contra Pobreza (a PAICV government sponsored group established to help fight poverty in Cape Verde) sent a water-well digging machine and its crew to the valley where Cha de Igreja is located. Their goal, according to PAICV representatives, was to test drill throughout the valley for suitable well sites, and eventually, to dig three new wells which would augment the (occasionally insufficient) current amount of water that Cha de Igreja, Cruzinha, Mocha and Ribeira Alta receive. The gesture was a clear attempt to curry favor with the local electorate, and over the past two months the machine had dug 2 test sites, none of which proved to be a suitable location for a well. The machine and its crew however, and the efforts of the PAICV party were warmly received.

Well as I said, Sunday was Election Day. Despite the well diggers, the T-shirts and caps and flags and really loud techno music (or perhaps because of the really loud techno music), PAICV lost. Apparently, it wasn’t even close. Within minutes of the announcement of the election results, the head of my local Associacao (who happens to be PAICV) got a call from PAICV party headquarters in Praia informing him that the well digging machine and its crew were to be removed from Rebeira de Mocha (the name of our Ribeira here), the following morning and sent to the valley of Paul, where PAICV had eked out a miraculous victory, ending a 15 year reign of MpD kamera presidents there. Yes, they were sending a truck The Very Next Morning. The party official claimed that the previous test sites were fruitless and that any further efforts were wasteful. We in the Ribeira would have to continue to get by on what water we have, the wells would be dug in Paul. (It should be noted that as much as 75% of the rain that falls on the island of Santo Antao, does so in the valley of Paul. They don’t have any water shortages there, and there certainly isn’t any need for new wells to be dug.)

Well, word spread. And fast. By 8pm on election night (the results were announced at about 6pm) there was a band of about 15 men stomping through the streets of Cha di Igreja, waving their MpD flags and shouting, and telling anybody who’d listen about the well machine’s imminent departure, and about what they perceived to be PAICV’s kaxtig (punishment) for the people of Ribeira Grande for having once again elected MpD candidates. By 10pm, the group had grown to about 30 young men, and they’d grown more angry. Among their numbers were several people who had, only hours earlier, voted for the PAICV candidates. At 11pm, I watched from my balcony as a group of about 45 men, wielding axes, shovels, and enxadas (spades) began walking up the Ribeira to where the well digging machine was. I ran downstairs and asked the leader of the group what they were planning on doing. He said “No ti te be faze un revloucao!” (We’re going to start a revolution!) A little alarmed, I asked if they were planning on hurting anyone and he assured me that no, they were instead going to take the machine hostage…by destroying the part of the road that the truck would have to take to pick up the well drill, thus preventing it’s removal. Fearing I’d miss out on what could be a very interesting night, I let them get a little bit ahead of me and then followed about 15 minutes behind them.

True to their word, they made the hour long trek in bright moonlight to the drill site and, after each having a couple of pretty stiff drinks, they proceeded to methodically destroy the little side road with their picks and spades. (It should be noted that when I say “road,” what I mean is a barely discernable path through the sand and rock. It’s not like they were tearing up cobblestones or asphalt.) The more ambitious members of the revolution rolled humongous boulders into a circle around the machine, while others dug a series of trenches around the machinery. Two huge drums of gasoline, stored there to run the machines, were buried out of site. (For any concerned US government representatives who might be reading…fear not…I didn’t participate and was nowhere near these activities…choosing instead to watch by moonlight from the cliff above.)

Anyway, all of this was completed in less than two hours, at which point the celebrating began. The revolutionaries marched triumphantly back to Cha di Igreja, clapping, chanting, and singing the MpD song the entire way. Upon their arrival in town a madrugada (at about 3:30 in the morning) they proceeded to faze volta (walk back and forth around town) while popping their flags and chanting. They stopped briefly in the plaza to toast themselves with some more grogue, at which point a tambor (large snare drum) was produced from nowhere, and they decided to march to Cruzinha and spread word of their accomplishments. I went to bed and slept well until 5am, when the entire drunken group, plus about 10 more people they’d picked up in Cruzinha, returned…still chanting and waving their flags, but stumbling now more than marching. They finally ran out of steam sometime around 6, and when I left my house Monday morning to feed my pig, I noticed three or four members of the revolution sleeping it off in the plaza.

Anyway, I love social anthropology, and this was pretty amazing thing to see. Politics aside, the leader of this little rebel uprising is a pretty good friend of mine here, and I asked him yesterday what they had accomplished, and what he thought would happen now?

He said: “Who knows. Maybe the machine will stay and make the wells they promised us. Maybe they’ll come with big trucks and take it. Who can say? But we need those wells. We need that water to survive. And when the government won’t listen us…when they won’t take care of us…it’s our responsibility to try and take matters into our own hands.” Then he added, rather eloquently, “The history of America has taught us that much at least.”

Word really does travel fast. So yesterday (Tuesday) 2 radio journalists arrived in Cha de Igreja to conduct interviews regarding this situation, and this morning their report aired on the Cape Verdian National Radio station. The reporter detailed the back story and the events of Sunday night, then let one of the participants of the uprising speak anonymously for a minute or two about why they did what they did. Basically, he told them the same thing he told me. According to the report, government officials are “investigating the matter,” and will make a decision regarding the drill in the upcoming week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


So Leo had his birthday on Friday and his Ma and I threw him a little party at the primaria (elementary school). There was singing and cake and juice and then all the girls in his class gave him a kiss. Here's some pictures.

Leo's Party

Leo Eatin' Cake

Here's Leo enjoying his cake. His mom baked the cake and I got him the rediculous shirt.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kaska d´Merkon

Kasca d’Merkon

So I heard an interesting turn of phrase the other day…kasca d’Merkon. I overheard the phrase in a hiace full of people all having different conversations, so I wasn’t privy to the context, but naturally assumed that they were talking about me. Now, the word kasca, depending on the context means, skin, shell or covering. Merkon, obviously, means American. So I guessed they were talking about the color of my skin, which happens all the time.

Unlike in America, where discussing someone’s skin color isn’t polite conversation, and where people normally being to cringe and quail on the rare occasion that we discuss someone’s skin color in public, over here, they do it all the time. Cape Verdians come in every shade from whiter than I, to black as ink, and they LOVE to talk about it. When describing another person, Cape Verdians will inevitably begin by detailing their color. Mel, mocha, brankinha, oskuro, kor moda bo, prêt prêt. (Honey, coffee, light, dark, same color as you, really black.) Generally, at least on this island, it is preferable to be lighter colored. For Cape Verdian men, a drop-dead-gorgeous, perfectly formed girl with dark, dark skin is actually less desirable than an average looking, plumpy, light skinned girl. Ask about a girl and you might for instance hear “Well, she’s not very light skinned, but she’s still pretty. I don’t really consider it racism, but there is an advantage to being lighter. If you happen to be one of he lighter skinned boys or girls, AND have the luxury of honey and almond colored eyes, the success of your future love-life is secured beyond all doubt.

Anyway, all that’s beside the point. Like I said, I thought this girl was talking about the color of my skin, so I asked her what they were saying about me. She laughed and said:

No n’tava ta fala na bo. So un koisa geral, merka ten kaska duro.
(We’re not talking about you. Just generally, America has thick skin.)

Ah, now I understood. I’d actually heard that before...this perception amongst Cape Verdians that Americans are sort of a tough, not-easily-offended bunch of folks that pretty much do and say as we please with little regard for the opinions of others. We’re perceived generally as confident, positive thinking, can-do people. But just to be sure, I asked her to explain what she meant.

I said:

Kaska d’Merkon sinifika assim a hora k’bo ten un fijou k n’kre kusinha dret. El t’fka na agua kent un bokuat, ma d’pois t’fka duro d’pedra. K’la e un fijou k’ten kaska Merkon. D’vera?
(American skin means like when you have a bean that doesn’t want to cook right. It’ll boil for a long time, but later it’s still hard as a rock. That is a bean that’s got an American skin. Right?)

And she said:

Mais o menos. Kaska d’Merkon sinifika kaska forte, ka ta straga. Nos t’dze assim modke tud kaska, pan d’kama, k’ven d’Merka, aex nunka t’straga. Aez e seb. N’e moda kex la na Chines. Poriz, kualkuer koisa k’ka ta straga, nos t’dze kuex ten kaska d’Merka.
(More or less. American skin means strong skin, skin that won’t break. We say that because every bed sheet that comes from America, they last forever. They’re awesome. Not like the sheets that come from China. That’s why we say anything that lasts forever has American skin.)

So anyway, I suppose you might find that considerably less interesting than I did. I’m always fascinated by foreigners’ perceptions of Americans, plus it’s so FUN to learn a new language, especially when you start picking up the little turns of phrase or subtleties, like I’m starting to be able to do.

In the same vein, tomorrow I’ll tell you about the little phrase that I know that has forever endeared me to my Cape Verdian friends and neighbors, and I’ll have word or two about that greatest of all social customs, the American Handshake.

Not yet fully grown Red sea turtle

Baby Turtle

Sea Turtles on Santo Antao

So here´s my attempt at a more professional writing style. I did research and everything.

Sea Turtles on Santo Antao

For four months during the summer, the beaches on the Cape Verdian island of Santo Antao (and most of the other islands of Cape Verde) serve as the nesting grounds for as many as five different species of Sea Turtles, most commonly the Tartaruga Parda (Dark Sea Turtle, [Dermochelys coriacea], and Tartaruga Verde (Green Sea Turtle, [Chelonia mydas]), the latter reaching up to a meter and a half in length, and weighing in at as much as 250 kg. Beginning in June and continuing through the end of September, the turtles make their way across hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles of open ocean to Cape Verde, where they lay their eggs on the exact same beaches that they themselves hatched from. Exactly how they manage this incredible feat of navigation remains a mystery.

What is known is that the female turtles arrive, always under cover of night, to begin the arduous process of making their way up the shore, using their powerful flippers to dig out a nest approximately 3 feet squared, and then laying anywhere from 15 to 30 eggs. Once finished, all parenting duties for the exhausted mother are complete, and she’ll return to the ocean, never to see her eggs or offspring again. Approximately fifty days later, the eggs will hatch, and with a little luck, the tiny turtles will make their way to the ocean. Reaching the water is only the first part of a long and difficult journey to adulthood, and it is estimated that for every five hundred eggs laid, only one will survive to reproduce.

Such poor odds make the continued presence of Cape Verde’s sea turtles a precarious one. To compound the problem, historically, turtles in Cape Verde were seen as a valuable and sought-after commodity. Until recently, they were hunted for their meat, which was used in stews, their shells which were used to make combs and other craftworks, and their eggs for use in soups. Of particular value were the genitalia of the male turtles, which are reported to be powerful aphrodisiacs. Such practices, combined with the turtles’ already poor odds of survival, made the continued presence of Cape Verde’s sea turtles a precarious one.

Enter the I.N.D.P. (Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento das Pescas, National Institute for the Development of Fishing). While their projects are not strictly limited to the protection of sea turtles, this nationally funded organization, which was created in 1992 and falls under the banner of the Ministerio de Educacao e Valorizacao das Recursos Marinos (Ministry of Education and Appreciation of Marine Resources), has begun to turn the tide in favor of the turtles through a series of projects aimed at increasing Cape Verdians’ awareness of the importance of preserving this fragile national resource. Using a network of volunteers and paid employees, teams of I.N.D.P. workers take watch over the beaches during the nesting season, cataloging and frequently tagging each arrival and nesting site, often sleeping on the beaches while documenting everything from the type, size and weight of the turtles to the number eggs and probable hatching date, and erecting secure net barriers and signs around the nests to alert people of the presence of the eggs. Other projects include environmental awareness seminars, the construction of small, elevated “secure beaches” to prevent poachers, producing flyers, pamphlets and videos, emphasizing the value of the turtles as a tourist attraction, organizing beach clean-ups, and even hosting an annual “Turtle Introduction Day,” where new hatchlings are brought to local primary schools for the kids to “meet,” after which they have the opportunity to release them into the sea. Thanks in part to the efforts of the I.N.D.P., the government of Cape Verde passed Decreto regulamentar #7 on December 30th, 2002, which established the protection of, and prohibits by law, the capture or killing of any of the seven species of sea turtle found in Cape Verde. Through the hard work and dedication of these conscientious Cape Verdians, visitors to the islands will continue to have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of these scarce and intriguing creatures of the sea.

For more in formation on the I.N.D.P., the Cape Verdian sea turtles, or other environmental projects currently under way in Cape Verde, call or write the I.N.D.P. headquarters on Sao Vicente at:

C.P. 132
Sao Vicente
Cape Verde

Telephone: (+238) 232-1370
Fax: (+238) 232-1616

Monday, May 12, 2008

Me, Leo and Nelinda


Me and Kode playing foosball in Paul. I lost. Bad.


So don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that the Peace Corps isn’t an adventure. Since April 2nd, two of the large ferry boats that carry people, vehicles, goods and other cargo between the various islands, have sunk. To the bottom of the ocean. On the cover Friday’s edition of the Cape Verdian national newspaper, was a story concerning the ship Musteru, owned by Agencia Polar (who also owned the boat that sank just South of Fogo on April 2nd, and the boat that I had been scheduled to travel to Maio on at the end of this month) which sank in rough weather in the middle of the night last Tuesday. Now I know why Peace Corps issues all the Cape Verdian volunteers a life vest. At the time of the accident, the boat had 108 persons aboard, including one Peace Corps volunteer. Although nobody died, passengers were forced to swim to several fishing boats which arrived from Porto Mosquito. The picture of the Musteru below shows that it was equipped with life boats, but there was no mention in the article about whether or not they were used. Although I’m sure the story was plenty embellished by the time it got to me via word of mouth, I heard the PC volunteer that was aboard was forced to dive from the bow and swim through shark-infested waters to a small fishing boat. Too cool.

If my Portuguese is right, I heard on the radio that the government has temporarily suspended all boat traffic between the islands pending an investigation. One of the largest impacts of this second accident then, will be that the tiny islands of Brava and Maio will be completely isolated in terms of communication and transportation. Since there are no airports there, anyone currently on those islands will remain on those islands until boat traffic resumes, although at this point I’m not sure if Agencia Polar has any more boats, and even if they do, I’m not sure who]s going to be willing to get on them anytime soon.

Front Page News

This photo was obviously taken BEFORE the boat sank last week.


I took Leo and Nelinda to Cruzinha for swim lessons the other day.

Me and Tynara

My unsuccessful attmpt at bottle feeding in Cruzinha.


Doing something mom prolly wouldnºt want me doing...

Political Speakers...but not the good kind.

Political Speakers…but not the good kind.

So, keep in mind that the following is just my opinion, that I am not in any way affiliated with any political party here in Cape Verde, and that my beliefs or statements are in no way intended to represent those of the United States government or the Peace Corps.

So it’s almost election day here in Cape Verde, and the politicos (politicians) are really ratcheting up the forca (energy)…or at least the volume. It is now clear that the general strategia de campagna (campaign strategy), on the part of both the MpD and PAICV parties, seems to be that of repetition and deafening their constituencies. There are no caucuses, no town-hall meetings, no speeches, no kissing babies. There’s not even a political message of hollow promises to help the people of Cape Verde. Here’s what they do instead. The ingenious party leaders rent humongous, Rolling Stone rock-concert-sized speakers and amps, run them off of gasoline generators, stick them in the back of the hiluxes (Toyota pick-ups, which are also rented), crank up the volume to a truly unbelievable level, and drive around all day blaring really bad techno gay bar music and party lines.

The PAICV trucks have especially bad gay bar music (I worked at a bar that played bad techno gay bar music so I am something of an expert on this matter) blaring and about every 30 seconds the music (it’s the same song over and over and over) fades and the party message is broadcast. It goes (and I’ve got this memorized by now) “Na desoite de Maio, vota sed, vota na melhor lista, vota na melhor equipo, vota na desevolviment do Ribeira Grande, vota PAICV!” (On May 18th, vote early, vote for the better list, vote for the better team, vote for the development of Riberia Grande, vote PAICV!), and then starts back up with the techno music.

The MpD trucks are especially insidious, as their party leaders have managed to import a lesson from American advertising practices, and have developed a “jingle.” It’s awful. It’s worse than that commercial that comes on during every break of your favorite TV show, it’s worse than the maddening radio jingle ads for cell phones or cable TV providers. It is apparently sung by an AC/DC version of Alvin and the Chipmunks, or possibly a group of small screaming and tortured children. If there are radio stations in hell, this song is playing on every one of them. If your nightmares had a soundtrack, this would be it. The worst thing about it is its simplicity. It starts with 2 seconds (I’ve timed it) of mandolin strumming, and then goes “MpD, MpD MpD!” It is absolutely the worst thing ever recorded. Someone deserves to die for this jingle. The worst part about it is that it is only 16 seconds song, and then it repeats, on an endless loop, all day long.

Now, all of this would be bad enough if you just had to hear it when the trucks were driving by, but in Cha di Igreja (and in Coculi as well) they’ve (both PAICV and MpD) taken an even more senseless and horrendous tact…they’ve rented people’s roofs and verandas (balconies). You’ll recall that Cha di Igreja is tiny…you can walk from one end to the other in three minutes. If you shout, everyone in the entire town can hear you. Keep in mind also that it is situated in a valley less than 1000 meters across, with sheer and looming mountain walls on two sides, so there’s an echo. (Maybe folks in he States have forgotten what an echo out in the middle of nowhere is like, as they probably don’t exist there anymore.). Well anyway, PAICV rented a balcony (for an absolutely staggering amount of money) of one family’s house on one side of the plaza. Their techno music-message is coming through full blast on 2 big Peavy amps. Not to be outdone, MpD has rented the roof of a house just across the plaza…not more than 30 feet away from the PAICV balcony. They have 5 speakers. The nefarious characters in charge of this godawful project have actually pointed their speakers at the speakers of the other party, like a little west African arms race, with speakers and amps instead of ICBMs.

At 10am every morning, like clockwork, both systems are fired up and the cacophony begins. It goes all day long, and does not stop until 10pm. Twelve solid, continuous, uninterrupted hours of “MpD, MpD MpD!” and bad techno gay bar music. The volume is truly frightening and when compounded by the echo off the mountain walls, the result will give a guy fits…sorta like the auditory version of epileptic strobe lights gone all haywire. You can’t think, but you can feel the bass in your stomach. Those that have TVs or radios can’t hear them over the noise. People standing 2 feet from one another literally have to yell to be heard over the din. The drain on the already meager power supply causes all the lights in town to flicker and fail. As I type this, the water in my glass is jumping. It’s absurd.

The worst part is, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Tud gent ta zongod. (Everyone is pissed off.) EVERYONE in town HATES the music. Absolutely despises it. Cha di Igreja prides itself on being a very laid-back, quiet, churchy community. There are a lot of old folks. People here enjoy their naps and take them very seriously. This is an affront to our entire way of life here. Essentially, both parties are managing to further alienate an already apathetic (if not down right hostile) population of voters. Informal polling suggests that not a single soul in Cha di Igreja will vote this Sunday, due in part to the inadequacy of the parties and their candidates, but mostly because of the goddam heinous loud music.

And there is further evidence of the idiocy of those in charge of the campaigns. The aforementioned trucks that tote the speakers around the island are often the only public transportation in and out of the smaller, more isolated villages, but they have been rented (also for an obscene amount of money) for the 3 weeks leading up to election day. Consequently, there are people in Mocha and Ribeira Alta and Boca de Mocha who are stranded in their villages until after Election Day, because their transportation is driving around balring music all day. It’s absolutely unbelievable. Yesterday, I was in Cruzinha to interview a fisherman, and the candidates for one of the two parties showed up in town, arriving in a minivan that was also blaring. They handed out flags and T-shirts and hats, and put stickers and posters everywhere, had a few beers, took pictures of each other down by the water, and then proceeded to do something truly staggering. In a poor town (one of the poorest in Cape Verde) where people are actually going hungry, they, the candidates, feasted at the Residencial Sona Fish (a place that caters strictly to rich European tourists that almost no Cruzinhan has or could ever afford to eat in), on a lunch of rice, shellfish, grilled tuna and lobster, wine and beer. They entered the restaurant as the smells of their smorgasbord exited, and you could actually see the mouths of Cruzinhans watering at the thought of all that food. Two hours later, buzzed and bulging in the waste, they left in a cloud of dust and thumping bass. Unbelievable.

By my estimation, the campaigns have now spent, in three weeks, more money on hats and t-shirts and posters and really bad, really loud music, than they did all of last year on development projects in Cha de Igreja or Cruzinha. What a shame.



So as I’ve mentioned before, kriolu is the language spoken by all Cape Verdians. It’s the first language, and is spoken in the home, on the streets, between couples, at bars and on the beach, amongst family and friends. When children learn to speak, they learn kriolu. It is, for the most part, not yet a written language. (I’ve found only one book printed in kriolu, and that was on Praia.) Each of the inhabited islands has its own particular dialect of kriolu, and oftentimes dialects can even differ from village to village within the same island. Although all the dialects are closely related, there are big differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax, grammar and punctuation. Consequently, a stranger to the islands might hear someone speaking the Badiu kriolu of Fogo and someone else the Sanpadjudo kriolu of Santo Antao, and think they were speaking two completely different languages. (This presents an especially difficult challenge to Peace Corps volunteers, as we all learn the badiu of Santiago, but are then shipped off to various islands and forced to learn a new kriolu once at site.) Cape Verdians can, for the most part, understand all of the various dialects, although each island would claim that their particular version was mex seb, (better…as we’d say here on Santo Antao).

Portuguese however, is the language that is spoken in schools, government offices, and on the television. All written documents and books in Cape Verde are printed in Portuguese. During classes at all the schools, teachers teach in Portuguese, and the students respond in Portuguese. When the kids head into the hallways during a break, they speak to one another in kriolu, then return to the classroom, and to conversing in Portuguese. Homework and papers are completed in Portuguese.

It’s something that we as Americans just can’t fathom. Imagine speaking one language at school or at the driver license office or at the bank, and another during happy hour. We (at least in Texas public high schools and universities) were required to take a certain number of foreign language hours, but even after 7 years in middle and high school, and 4 years in college, few people ever became fluent in their foreign language. Here, they are learning and speaking two languages almost from the time they can walk, they become fluent in both, and each language has its own environment. You’ll NEVER catch a Cape Verdian talking to another Cape Verdian in Portuguese under any normal circumstances. Its only used for official or governmental tasks.

I am reminded of the following conversation between myself and my friend Sabino, which took place one night as we were leaving my English class. It went something like this:

“Oi Caley, m ta kontent pa prende ex inglex official la na bo aula, ma, kuando bo te be enxine-nos kel kriolu d’bzot?”
(Hey Caley, I’m happy top be learning the official English in your class, but, when are you going to teach us your kriole?)

“Ami n’komprende-b Sabino. Kuale kriolu d’minha?” (I don’t understand you Sabino. What kriole of mine?)

“Asim a bzot ta fala dentru d’kasa. Englex de strada. Inglex familiar. Moda k’ bzot ta fala entre amigo. Englex d’alma.” (Like how you talk in the house. Street English. Normal English. The kind you speak amongst friends. English of the soul.)

“O Sabino, bo n’sabia k nos n’den un kriolu la na Merka? Nos ten so un lingua la, y so un moda d’inglex, y e maix o menos igual na tud part d’merka. So inglex.” (Sabino, you didn’t know that we don’t have a kriolu in America? We have just one language there, and it’s more or less the same in all parts of America. Just English.)

He was shocked. He felt sorry for me that I didn’t have another, deeper, more soulful language to speak. He told me that there are some things you can only say in kriolu. I told him that English is English, we all speak it all the time. It’s the same on TV as in the house, as it is in the schools, as it is in the books. I told him that I talked to my teachers exactly the same way I talked to my friends. He looked sad, so I tried to explain to him that America is made up of people from every nationality and that in a city like New York for instance, you might hear a dozen languages in a single day. I told him about accents from Boston and how they are different from accents in Texas and how those are different than accents in the Carolinas. I told him that there are perhaps still some crazy Cajuns in Louisiana that can speak a French-English Creole, but that it wasn’t the same thing as his kriolu.

Anyway. The reason I bring all this up is that the government of Cape Verde is currently working to standardize a written kriolu alphabet that will work for all of the variations of kriolu spoken here. (There was and possibly still is talk of deciding on a standard form of kriolu, but that will almost certainly never happen.)
Imagine, the word for “more,” depending on your island and your flavor of kriolu, is pronounced either mosh, mesh, mas, mays, mise, or mishe. However you say it, if you ever want to write it down, you need an alphabet and some basic rules before you can start.
This brings me to an article I found in last weeks A Nacao, the national weekly newspaper in Cape Verde. In it, the author makes his case for the ALUPEC kriolu alphabet (I have yet to discover what the acronym stands for) by writing the same short story in all the major forms of Cape Verdian kriolu, thus proving that it can and does work. It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this since coming here, and it’s easily the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen in the newspaper.
Unfortunately I am unable to make all the accent marks on my keyboard, so the transcription below lacks all the fun little marks and slashes you get to make, but I think you’ll get the idea. The story was long so I’m only putting in the first three sentences. They say, more or less:

“Once, there were two friends who were always together. Where you saw one, you were sure to see the other one as well. They had a strong friendship that was just right for spending time together, and anyone could see that they were great friends.”

Era un bes tenba dos amigo ki ta staba kuazi senpi djuntu. Undi bu odja un, bu pode konta ma kel out ta staba la djuntu ku el tambe. Es tenba un amizade tau finu pa kumpanheru, ki karkel argen podeba kusiba ses amizade.

Era un bes tinha dos amigo ki ta staba kuazi senpri djuntu. Undi bo odja un, bu pode konta ma but a odja-ba kelotu tambe. Es tinha un amizade tau finu pa kunpanheru, ki kualker algen podia kubisaba ses amizade.

Sintonton (this is the kriolu that I speak)
Era un vex, dox emige ex tava ztode kueje senpre junte. Onde ke bo tava oia un, bo podia konta ma bo te be oia kel ote tambe. Ex tinha un amizede mute fine pa kunpenher, ke kualker pesoa podia kubisa ses amizede.

Era un bes tinha dos amige ke staba kuaze senpre de junte. Und eke bo odjaba un, bop ode konta ma kel ote tambe bo ta adjaba. Es tinha un amizade de tau fine pa kunpanher, ke kualker psoa podia kubisaba ses amizade.

Tinha dos emige kit a sta tude junte. Und eke bu odja un, but a odja kel ote. Ar tinha txeu, txeu amizade pa kumpanher, ke era un invenja de tude jente. Un amizade de verdade.

Dja de Sal
Un vex dos amige ta stava senpe junte. Onde k’un stava kel ote tanbe stava. Ses amizade era tau expesial pa kunpenher ki kualker pesoa tava sinti inveja d’es.