Monday, September 8, 2008

Kids Doing Chores in Cruzinha

Still an Idiot

So I’m still paying for my stupidity back on Sau Vicente. (The whole walking through the flood fiasco). Shortly after arriving in Praia (I’m on the island of Santiago for the next three weeks to help out with the training of the new group of volunteers) I developed what I thought was a severe case of athletes foot. There were some tiny little poison-ivy-esque blisters on the bottoms of my feet, and they itched like you couldn’t possible imagine. Heeding the Peace Corps medical advice, I liberally applied the pomade di pe (foot cream) that comes in our medical kits. Usually that helps the athlete’s foot itch, but this time it didn’t even make a dent.

Well it has quickly become clear that this is something more than a bad case of foot itch. The little blisters became really really big blisters, and hurt so bad that it pained me to walk anywhere in flip flops, and shoes were absolutely not an option. Then two days ago, one of them popped and...well...something came out of it. Something alive. A tiny little writhing something. I nearly passed out from the horror. Having consulted a really really old lady in the streets of Assomada, I now believe that I have managed to contract something called borginhas, which is actually a bug that lives in the poop of pigs, and enters the human body through the bottom of the foot, where it lays its eggs in little sacks (the itchy blisters) where they grow for a few days before being brought into the world in the form of the broken pussy blister. So I’ve got that going for me. The worst part is that the broken blisters are now pretty large, VERY painful cuts that are very hard to keep clean, and are Defintiely going to leave some nasty scars. According to the old lady, I probably managed to get these little parasites while walking in the floodwaters of Mindelo, which likely contained the poop of dozens of different types of animals.

Anyway, tonight I’m on headed to visit my host family, where hopefully Palmeria can inspect my foot for signs of any further infection, and dig out the remaining eggs sacks. Never in my life did I think I’d need an old African lady to dig egg sacks out of my feet. Gotta love the Peace Corps.

The good side to all of this is that Peace Corps has got me in a very decent hotel in Assomada...complete with air conditioning and hot water, so at least I’ve been otherwise comfortable while I’m going through this nasty business.

In other news, the new group of trainees seems to be doing well. Next week I’ll be giving them a talk about school gardens and the effects of the Food Crisis in Cape Verde, and we’ll talk about projects and other things they can do in relation to that. Plus the Northern kriolu classes will start next week, which should be interesting.


Learning My Lesson

August 30, 2008
So I’m currently in Mindelo on my way to Praia (Assomada actually) to begin teaching the new group of volunteers the Sanpadjudo kriolu, and I’m traveling in the midst of Cape Verde’s version of a hurricane. Having no access to the outside world fro mCha di Igreja, I, and apparently everyone else in Cape Verde, was unaware of the hurricanish storm approaching Cape Verde from the West. Well it got here last night, and things around here are pretty darn wet. I never thought I’d hear a Cape Verdian say there was such a thing as too much rain, but that’s exactly what they’re saying today.

To put things in perspective though...whereas we in Texas would say it was raining (not drizzling but not pouring either), people here in Cape Verde on on High Alert. The Commandant of the Sao Vicente fire department is on the radio right this second warning people to stay indoors and urging business owners to keep their stores shut...on account of the rain. No shit. I don’t really get it though I was just out walking around in it and it’s nothing to write home about (no pun intended.) It was much much worse on Santo Antao.

There at home, two of the drivers from Cha di Igreja came knocking on my door last night at about 3AM to tell me that the “road” from Povoçon to Cha di Igreja would be flooded by morning and that if I needed to get to Port later today (which I did) we needed to go right then, which I did.

True to their word, the water was definitely running through the ribeira on Santo Antao, and there were some spectacular looking waterfalls cascading down the mountainsides. The road was halfway gone by the time we got through it and the drive that normally takes about an hour took just under three. So eventually I arrived in Port this morning (carrying three stool samples of another volunteer...which is another story entirely) to catch the boat to Sao Vicente and because of the rain, I had to sit indoors on the boat instead of on the uncovered upper deck. What a terror. By now I’m used to Cape Verdians being sick on the boat, but normally I can avoid the worst of the vomit smells and sounds by hanging out on the top deck in the fresh breeze. Today however, in addition to the seas being exceptionally rough, I was inside the closed compartments with about two hundred retching, yacking, heaving, spitting crying, moaning, coughing Cape Verdians all vomiting up their breakfasts into their little plastic bags. It was as if all the occupants of the ferry were being gassed by Nazis or something. People were wreathing and trembling on the floor. The scene was nightmarish and the smell was unbelievable. I was pretty sure I was going to puke as well, as the smell and sounds of other people puking will do that to me, but I managed to fend off the queasiness by breathing through my mouth, closing my eyes and concentrating on the music in my earbuds.

Anyway, I get to Sao Vicente and there is three inches of water in the caixa (the port where the boat docks) and not a single taxi to be had. You’d think they’d be out making mad money driving people around in the rain, but there wasn’t a single car there. I, along with everyone else from the boat, waited for about an hour hoping some would show up but they didn’t. Eventually we all decided to walk to our various destinations. Two hundred Cape Verdians and a white guy all schlepping our wet bags through the rain in Sau Vicente. So, about twenty minutes later I arrived at Hotel Sodade, both bags thoroughly soaked.

Upon arrival I heard the announcement from the fire chief asking everyone to stay home. Imagine...a whole city shut down on account of a little rain. (To be sure it’s a lot of much needed rain for this country, but it’s not posing any danger that I can see. At least not yet I guess. Now its true there is a fair amount of flooding in the streets, but nothing too severe. Small taxis are able to make it through the worst of the giant puddles and there are certainly no rushing rivers or gulches or anything that’s going to sweep anybody out to sea or anything. And aside from not wanting to get soaked, I see no reason for people to avoid going outside. Certainly I can’t see how shutting down businesses is justified, but they seem to be heeding the advice of the fire department, as everything is definitely closed and Mindelo is a ghost town this Saturday afternoon. To me, it’s seems much ado about not too much, but what do I know.

A different story in Santo Antao I gather though, as I just got a call from friends in Cha di Igreja telling me that yes, the “road” is indeed completely washed out, so nobody will be coming or going to Cha di Igreja for the next few days at the very least. I’m told that a group of people from town will go out after the rains stop and begin the task of removing fallen boulders and rocks and filling in the gulches that the run-off has created. (Remember that the mountains there are impossibly steep and the rain gathers in the narrow crevasses of the mountainsides, gathering force, volume and speed until it hits the valley floor where it has, evidently, completely obliterated the “road” that was there just yesterday.
So anyway, now I wait in a ghost town version of Sao Vicente for a plane that May very well not be coming. Another adventure in travel in West Africa.

So I’m often man enough to admit when I’m wrong, and this is one such occasion. It’s clear that I know nothing. Contrary to the advice of Exellençia Comandante di Bombeiros do Sau Vicente Sr. Jao Pedro Batista Cruz (that means the fire cheif, and that’s really his official title) I went walking in the rain last night. I made a terrible mistake. Within minutes of sitting down at a great little falafel restaurant, true to the word of the fire chief, the Heavens opened and instantly soaked the entire island of Sau Vicente. Within minutes, immeasurable volumes of water began cascading off the mountainsides, flooding the city of Mindelo in a nasty brown soup. The streets ran like rivers, and I saw several cars with water up past their windows. Obviously there were no taxis running to take me back to the hotel so I was forced to walk through the worst of it. (My own fault I know.) It was something like out of one of those rescue shows on TV, as, wading through rushing water past my knees, I had to hold on to whatever fixed objects I could find to avoid being washed away into the sea. Submerged, unseen objects crashed against my shins, and my flip flops were swept from my feet. The walk that took me ten minuted coming took almost an hour going back. I had a light raincoat but it soaked through to molha (soak) my wallet, my paperback copy of The Fountainhead and my pin drive. I’m an idiot.

The next day I left for Praia, but went for a walk to survey the damage first, Mostly it smelled bad (the underground sewers were flooded so much of what was once below managed to rise above the surface and run through the streets). The entire city was a vast blanket of mud, and the normally pristine bay at Laginha was the color of iced coffee. Most of the shop owners along the flooded streets closer to the ocean had successfully sandbagged their doors so I think the damage from flooding was minimal.

Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson and the next time I hear an official on the radio telling people to stay home, I’ll take their word for it.