Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Old Man from Paul


Vani after washing her hair.

Turtle Habitat

August 25, 2008

Habitaçao de Torturuginha

So, after almost exactly one year at site here in Cha di Igreja (my one year anniversary is this Monday actually!), I finally have an actual, tangible, con-crete something to show for my time and energy, which I am proud to un-veil to you today.

You may remember the INDP group (they of the turtles and matching white shirts) that I was working with last summer. We tried more or less unsuc-cessfully, to build turtle “incubators,” gave a formaçao on environmental awareness, staged a beach clean-up and a “Get To Meet The Baby Tur-tles” day in Cruzinha. Well, over the past 4 months, I’ve been helping to coordinate a series of meetings between the president of the Associaçao in Cruzinha and representatives from the INDP in Mindelo. Basically, during these meetings a plan of action was developed and last month, we finally put everything into action. The result of which is shown in the pictures be-low.

Essentially what we’ve got here is a Turtle Protection Area. Using rocks from the ribeira we built a protected, sheltered and monitored area to put turtle eggs. Obviously turtles don’t know to lay their eggs here (read my previous entry about Sea Turtles to learn how they lay their eggs in areas where the water comes up and drowns the eggs), so we also had a forma-çao where INDP trained some volunteers from Cruzinha how to watch for, measure, monitor and document each instance when a sea turtle lays eggs on the beach and then how to handle and move the eggs to the protected area. There is now a volunteer sleeping on each beach every night watch-ing for mama sea turtles. Each instance is then logged into a log book and there will be volunteer ready and waiting 45 days later to escort the little bastards to the sea when they hatch.

As you can see from the pictures, there has already been quite a bit of sea turtle egg laying activity, and the habitaçao is already being put to good use. The giant palm leaf was my idea. So without further ado, here is the Sea Turtle Protection Area at Praia Boca di Mocha!

Habitat de Torturuginha

Killer Chinese Shit Balls

August, 29, 2008

Killer Chinese Shit Balls!!!

So I’ve just discovered what can only be described as a superior Chinese loja product. It is quite possibly the only superior Chinese product available in Cape Verde. It’s called...well I don’t know what it’s called because its written in Chinese, but its a tiny little bag of foul smelling fly killing shit balls.

If you look back a little ways in the blog you’ll see an entry about how abso-lutely crazy the flies have been making me the past few months...and I’m using “crazy” in the truest sense of the word. Well anyway last week I was at a restaurant in Poto Novo and they had these little pink balls on dishes out and they were surrounded by dead flies. I asked and was told that they were indeed foul smelling fly killing balls and that they were available at a loja there in Port. So I bought a 20 of them (they’re only 20$00 CVE each) and tested them out they instant I got home.

Works like a goddam charm!!!!! Although they smell like animal poop, they friggin’ kill flies like you would not believe. As you can hopefully tell from the picture below (not for the weak stomached) they do their job exceedingly well even. You tear open the packet and set out the shit balls and logue kel moment (instantly) the flies zero and and zip right to the tray where they are immediately incapacitated. No sht, they land on the stuff and immediately go into some sort of insect fit and sputter and die in about 5 seconds.
I’m not sure what’s in these shit balls, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know, but I’m happy as hell to have trays of them laying around my house. I did read the back of the package (which is printed in broken English and provides for some hilarious reading. This is, word for word, what it had to say:

“This bait can lure and kill fly quick. And is suitable for family, restaurant, breeding farm where flies are bread and gathered. The product is easy for use. Use: Unpack the bag and dump balls into open pan. Put it at the place where flies appear. In case where flies are much more, it is better to control density of flies to spread your balls. It can increase lure against flies if spreading a bit of beer on your balls. The product has lessen toxicity against persons and cattle. Warn: Insecticidal!!”


More about awesome Chinese translations into english later on. For now, feast your eyes on a thousand dead flies, which accumulated in less than one hour.

Dead Flies

Vista de Ribeira de Moch

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Power

So ´sorry I haven´t written anything lately, but they´ve pretty much shut off power in my town, which makes internet access and writing anything difficult. Over the last week we´ve had power only for about 2 hours a day, and at this point I´ve unplugged my fridge, as everything I´ve been putting in it has gotten ruined.

On the 31st I fo to Praia on the island of Santiago to teach Sanpadjudo kriolu to the new group of volunteers that will be living on the Northern islands. I should have plenty of internet access there so I´ll give you guys some updates then.

Last weekend was a really great music festival in Sau Vicente and the first group of turtle hatchlings should be coming out of their shells any day now. I´ve signed up to sleep on the beach for three days next week, so hopefully Iºll get some pictures of that happening and Iºll post them when I can.

Thanks VERY much for the recent string of care packages, I REALLY appreciate them.

I hope everyone is doing well. I miss you guys!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The "mini-peak" in Ribeira de Torre

cabo VERDE!

It´s getting GREEN around here!


So I’ve been out of contact for a while while I didn’t have a computer but now I’m back. Not even sure where to start that I think about it, quite a bit has hap-pened since the last post. Let’s see.

1. I got bit by a humongous centipede while sitting on the stairs in my house. I’ve posted a pic of one of these horrid monsters (though not the one that actually bit me). It hurts. A lot. After a day or two the burning sensation goes away, but now I’m scared to sit down anywhere and I’m always thinking I’m seeing one of the creepy bastards out of the corner of my eye.

2. There was a suicide here in Cha di Igreja last week. (See separate Blog entry)

3. There was a three day festival on the beach down in Cruzinha. There were dancers from Sao Vicente, the kamera hooked up power and there were food stands and grilled meats and night time swimming and live music and an impromptu rugby game on the beach. I missed nearly all of it after getting violently ill from a perhaps-not-well-cooked pork spitada (shish-kabob).

4. The group of volunteers that arrived the year before I did have nearly all left, and right now the new volunteers are going through their home-stay and language train-ing on Praia. Plus, as far as Santo Antao goes, nearly all the other volunteers are on vacation in Portugal, South America, the States etc. As far as I know, there is just myself and one other volunteer left on the island right now. That brings the population of white folks down from 14 to 2. Even though I rarely see the others, I’m feeling a little lonely. Weird.

5. The price of rice has almost doubled...again. When I got to Cape Verde, I could buy a half kilo of rice for 40CVE. It’s now 120CVE. Although I hear that this is a global problem and that even those of you at home in the States are noticing the increase in the cost of’s much more pronounced in a country where more than half the population lives below th poverty line and spends the majority of their budget on food. (See separate Blog entry about this.) I was hoping that Peace Corps would take that into account in figuring out our living allowances, as transportation, food, electricity and everything else has gone up significantly since we arrived here, but our living allowances have stayed the same. I suppose I’m being unreasonable though, as I wouldn’t think of asking my employer in the States for a raise just be-cause things get more expensive.

6. Electra, tho power company, has sunk to new lows. (See previous Blog entry to de-termine how low that must be.) In Txangreja, we now have power for about 3 or 4 hours a day. In a weird paradox, that actually makes the electric bills go UP. I guess it’s because of the fridge. After being off for 20 hours, it runs constantly on full blast for the next 4. I used to buy groceries in Povocon to last me for a week or so, but now I just buy whatever I can find here in Txangreja on a daily basis.

7. It rained! (See separate Blog entry.)

So that’s a brief update on the state of things here. I hope everyone at home is doing well. Brooks sent me some news updates recently and I gather that the economy is in the tank, Brett Favre has lost his mind, the campaign is getting ugly, there are terrorists trying to ruin the Olympic games and Batman is trying to beat Titanic for the box office record. Anything else happening that I should be aware of?


So this is an example of the centipedes that Cape Verde has...a lot like the one that bit me. I don’t know if you can tell form tis picture, but this specimen is about 8 inches long. I killed it right after taking this picture.



So last week Beni and I were sitting down at the point just beyond the cemetery, which sits atop a 150 meter cliff and offers a spectacular view of sol ta txi na mar (the sunset). We’d been there about an hour and the sun had just dipped below the horizon when Manu, a neighbor of Benvinda’s showed up behind us. We said hello, but he didn’t say anything to us and looked sort of annoyed that we were there, and left just as soon as he got there. We didn’t think much of it.

The next night, at around 4AM, I was awakened by the sound of screaming and shout-ing and a lot of commotion in the street below my window. I dressed and went outside, where Thoma told me that Manu’s mom had discovered his crumpled body laying in the cane at the bottom of the cliff beyond the cemetery. Apparently she’s heard him leave the house around midnight and when he didn’t return she went looking for him. I don’t know how she knew to look for him at the bottom of the cliff, but that’s where she found him. Terrible. She was understandably distraught, and is even now under a doctor’s care in Povocon.

He had recently been left by his girlfriend, who just moved to Portugal after securing a student Visa. He was 25 years old. A suicide is a terrible thing under any circum-stances, but it’s impact in a twon of 400 people is immeasurable. It’s all anyone is talking about these days, and people are obsessed with the cliff beyond the cematary and the cane below. The littler kids from town, possessed with a morbid sense of curiosity I suppose, have been trekking down to the cane and scaring each other.

So obviously I’ll never know, but I feel certain that when Manu came upon Beni and I the night we were there watching the sunset, he had come to do exactly what he did the following evening, and it sends a chill down my spine to think about it. I can’t imagine ever going back there to watch the sunset again.

Temporary (but spectacular) Beach

So this beach does not exist for 10 months out of the year, but during July and Au-gust, it’s heaven. Miles from anywhere and almost always deserted, it’s like some-thing from a movie set. When I’m here I feel like I’m in that scene from the end of the Planet of the Apes movie. I’m just waiting to stumble upon the remains of the Statue of Liberty.

Its Been A Long Hot Summer

Its Been A Long Hot Summer

...Without A Drop A Rain.

So after 339 days without a drop of rain here in Txangreja, 2 weeks ago we got 2 days in a row. I think the moisture and precipitation that we got here eventually turned into the weak hurricane that recently hit the Texas coast before heading inland and dumping a ton of rain and flooding the entire town of Ruidoso, New Mexico, where my dad hap-pens to live. Small world huh?

Anyway, it started out as a heavy mist type of rain. Never hard enough that you could hear rain drops, but hard enough that the surfaces of everything did get wet. That went on for about 3 hours and just after sunset, the first real drops started falling. Throughout the night brufa (drizzle) fell on the dirt and sand of Txangreja. The next day looked even more promising, with some pretty thick dark clouds hovering over the mountain-tops just up the ribeira from town. Sure enough, at about 2PM, the skies let loose and we got 32 minutes of what I would call torrential downpour. Like the day it rained in Txan di Tanki when I was in homestay on Praia, people were out in the streets singing and dancing and drinking the rainwater. People were putting buckets and barrels and pots and pans out on the roofs, trying to capture every last drop.

The next day everyone was out on the fields planting their corn and beans, and Lalino and I spent almost the entire day bent over an enchada (garden hoe) digging holes in the dirt while Bele (Benvinda’s mother) dropped in the seeds. It’s backbreaking work (the enchada is about 35 centimeters long so you’re literally standing spread-legged and doubled over to dig in the dirt. I learned that people prefer to plant only when the ground is quart ded moljad (wet down to a depth the equivalent of the width of four fin-gers), but we were planting in only 2 fingers. Apparently last year most people waited for the second two fingers worth of wet ground...and it never came.

Anyway, rainfall here in Txangreja is almost non-existant and due to our location in the geographical context of our valley, we receive much less here than most of the rest of the island. The mountains, which offer such a terrific scenic backdrop, act as a wind block, so the precipitation that falls in most of the valleys to the West of us has trouble getting over. The problem is further exacerbated by the prevailing ocean breeze, which blows inland from the water and serves to contain the few clouds that do make it over the mountain, up in the top of the ribeira near Garca...which is where we get our water from. Thus, just an hour away on the other side of our mountains in Coculi, they can get monsoon type events with driving rain and wind, while here in Txangreja it’ll be completely clear skies and 90 degrees. Typically the only time Txangreja gets any significant rainfall (the last of which I’m told was August of 2003...when it rained for 4 days straight) is when txuva ben d’mar (rain comes form the direction of the ocean). This is rare because although the configuration of the rochas y boca di moch (mountains and the mouth of the valley) create a “wnd-eddy” (just like an eddy in a river bend), the pre-vailing Sahel winds actually blow West to East...or out to sea. (Don’t ever say that Troy Kimmel, the TV weatherman that also taught my Weather and Climate class at UT, didn’t teach me anything!)

So anyway, we’re thankful for the rain we got, and everyone is hopeful for more. In the past weeks, almost the entire Northern half of the island has volta verde (turned green) faster than you can if the land was just waiting with baited breath for the rains. Keep you fingers crossed for those of us in Txangreja! (I’ll try and get some good green pics up soon!)

Mar Tranquilidad

Sunset in Tarrafal di Montrigo. This is Tarrafal, and the Mar Tranquilidad. If anyone back home wants to go to the end of the Earth and spend theor days in complete relaxation, this is the place to go. To get there from the States you’ll need to take a no less than three planes, three taxis, to busses, two boats and a three hour walk.

The Dangers of Power Outages

The Dangers of Power Outages.

So among the many challenges of life over here, is learning to live without power. Ac-tually, learning to live without power might be a little easier than learning to live with random and prolonged power outages, which is what is going on here. Two days ago, we had power for three hours...from 1PM to 4PM. The day before we had it for 5 hours, but they were randomly spread out throughout the day in one hour intervals. It’s wreak-ing havoc on my refridgerator, but I suppose I should just be happy to have a refrigera-tor in the first place.

I am mostly bald. (You’ll see how this relates to random power outages shortly.) So yeah...I’m mostly bald, and since forever I’ve cut my hair REAL short. I can’t stand to have it not shaved can feel breeze in it when it gets too long, it looks all fuzzy and ridiculous. Anyway, in the States I used to cut my own hair at least once a week with a home trimmer, and I brought that with me here. (Over here its such a pain in the ass though that I usually go for about two weeks between haircuts...which really pushes the limits on the fuziness factor.) Well in a week the weird electrical current here exploded my haircutter (despite the converter kit I had it plugged into) and I brought a trimmer here at a Chinese loja. Contrary to every other experience I’ve had with a Chinese loja product, this little trimmer has been a champ. No problems whatso-ever, and I’ve been happily short-shorn since I’ve been in Cape Verde.

Then came last week. Normally it takes me I guess about 6 or 7 minutes to shave my head. (I do still have some hair around the sides and the back...its just the top that’s shiny.) Anyway, last week, after 2 weeks without a haircut, in the middle of the day, 3 and a half minutes into my haircut, the power went out. I know it was exactly three and half minutes into my haircut because exactly half of my head was completely shaved. (The driver’s side half...not that it matters.) That is not something you can hide. I have a hat here, a big one even, but even it won’t hide a half shaved head. You can still tell that something’s not quite right when you see only half of a neckline cleaned up...only one sideburn. Normally I would not be too panicked about the whole thing, and could just wait for the power to come back on, or might just elect to try to stay in the house un-til dark and then go out with a hat. Not an option on the day in question though, having had some turtle-related trabalho (work) in Cruzinha later in the afternoon. Basically there was nothing for it. I would have to take a walk of shame. I figured it would funny though, a good laugh for my friends, which it did indeed turn out to be.

One day would have been ok to suffer the humiliation, but that was not to be. The next morning, I got up as usual, had my porridge and brown sugar breakfast, and then promptly left the house to go down to Vuk Taref (just down the hill from Txangreja), hav-ing forgotten my predicament. (There is currently no mirror in my house, so it’s not like I can check myself out before leaving the house, and in any event I’ve completely gotten out of the habit of doing that.) Thankfully I caught Te having a good chuckle as I was headed down the hill and he said “es koisa di kabexa k’bo ten.” Ah I remem-bered. I immediately turned back to the house and plugged in the trimmer and flicked the switch juice. The power was still not there. I waited. And waited. And waited. I shouted down to the mini precio at 11AM and asked Te if he knew when the power might be coming back on, and he said it had already come and gone...Txangreja having had power during the very useful hours of 4 to 8AM. I asked him if he though it’s be coming back on. He said “Kuas nao.” (Prolly not.) So I stayed close to or inside the house that whole day, grateful to not have any commitments in Cruzinha, and waited anxiously for any sign of power. Music from a radio or TV, a streetlamp, anything. It did not come that day. A second day with a half-shaved head.

The third day came and I was up early to check for power. I set the alarm and every-thing. Still none. I waited. And waited. And waited. Basically, standing in my kitchen (it’s the only available power outlet) with the trimmer plugged in and ready to go. At 10AM the light came on in the kitchen and I flicked the switch on the trimmer...and the damn thing exploded in my hand. There was smoke and everything. I said aloud, in English and to none at all….”You have got to be shitting me!” I wanted to hit some-one...preferably someone who worked at the power company or a chinese loja. Thoughts of another day with the ridiculous half head of hair, the stories that my neighbors would be telling, making the hour-long car ride to Povocon, possibly even making the hours long car ride to Porto Novo, searching through the various Chinese lojas for a new trimmer (they are hard to find and very expensive).

Some of you might quite rightly question why I didn’t just go to someone here in town who also had a trimmer and ask them to fix me up. At first blush a good idea, until you’ve been through Peace Corps medical training where they inform you that MANY Cape Verdians have that weird skin fungus on their heads (I’d say about half the kids in town have looks like...and may in fact be...ringworm, but I’m not sure what it is. Also, conditions here are less sanitary than what we’re used to in the States, and there is REALLY no telling where a hair trimmer might have been. I’d hate to even speculate. Basically we were fairly warned to get hair cuts at barbershops at our own peril.

In the end, I went to Povocon with the big hat and lucked out by finding a trimmer in the third loja that I tried. I paid WAY too much for it, and it’s not nearly as nice as the one I had before. This one takes about 3 passes before it cuts even my meager and gossa-mer mane. I give it one more use before it bites the dust. I’ll be ready I’ll cut my hair every three days, just in case.

Paul (from the air)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back Soon

So it´s been a while, and I´ve got a good backlog of Blogs that I´ve been writing out on papaer (does anyone do that anymore?). But, my new computer got here on Sunday, so I´ll spend part of this week typing them up and post them when I get back to Pocoçon, as there is still no internet in my town. I´ve got some great pictures of Ribeira de Torre and Mon Patraz as well, and I´ll get those up soon.

Things here are well´, although its hot and muggy and the flies are terrible. (Yes, I know its hotter in Texas, but they have air conditioning there.) Other than that, I´ve spent the last 2 days nursing Benvinda who has something approximating the flu. I can´t imagine surrering flu symptoms in these conditions (hot, muggy, sweaty, flies, no cold water, etc.). She seems to be feeling a little better today though, so that´s good. Amgiving a turtle and "environmental awareness" seminar next week in Cruzinha, and there is a festival on the beach there this weekend, with the big music festival in Sau Viçente the following weekend. Pretty busy month for me, before going to Praia for the month of September to teach the new volunteers Sanpadjudo kriolu. Looking forward to a change of pace with life on the big island.

I hope everyone is well, and thanks for the recent spurt of care packages. Very much appreciated!