Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yay for Cape Verde!!

SANTA MARIA, Cape Verde - Winding up an 11-day African tour, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday she's optimistic about its future and voiced no regrets about "tough love" messages she gave to government leaders there.

"I love coming to Africa," Clinton said at a joint news conference in Cape Verde with Prime Minister Jose Maria Pereira Neves as she prepared to head back to Washington.

"I have been overwhelmed," the secretary said of her visits to Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Liberia, as well as Cape Verde. "I have been filled with hope and I have seen despair. But I come away with an even greater level of commitment than I had before," Clinton said.

She used the tour to reinforce a message that President Barack Obama brought to Africa earlier this year, a call for leaders to fight corruption, promote democracy, and combat civil strife, disease, violence and squalor wherever it exists.

Responding to Clinton, Neves said that "we represent a new and emerging Africa" with progress in the areas of free press, free speech and the rule of law.

U.S. officials have said that Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off the coast of West Africa, could serve as a model for other African nations as it has held numerous free and fair elections and has taken measures to ensure accountability and transparency in government.

Clinton, particularly, praised the government as "a model of democracy and economic progress in Africa." She noted that women account for more than half the members of Cape Verde's Cabinet. "I think the United States can learn a lot from your example," she told Neves.

Said Clinton: "I always feel a sense of awe that we are in the place where human beings began so many, many years ago."

"I leave Africa even more committed about what lies ahead," she told reporters. "The Obama administration has delivered ... a message of tough love. We are not sugarcoating the problems. We're not shying away from them."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Suzie and JC

Both former runner ups in the Miss Txangreja pageant.

Prima Vani


Haven't had a picture of Leo up in a while.

Sex Sells

So I've resorted to using Cape Verde's extreme sexual undercurrent to sell T-shirts...and hopefully protect the environment and save some sea turtles.

Beni and the Jets

Beni and Paolo

Bang the Drum


Beans beans the magic fruit....


So here is an example of the roaming, portable, tent-store-villages operated by the Senagalese. They follow the festas from town to town, selling their wares out of mobile tent cities.



Notice the image on the guy's shirt.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Barefoot Derby

So below are some pics of something Cape Verdians doing something, for fun, that most of us would find torturous. They are running full-speed, down a VERY tall, VERY steep, VERY rocky mountainside. These people are nuts.


Now playing: Frightened Rabbit - My Backwards Walk
via FoxyTunes



Thursday, June 4, 2009

Iris Looking Right Through Me

Dia Mundial de Criança

So yesterday was World Children's Day in Cape Verde. (In case you haven't noticed, Cape Verde is prop doid (totally crazy) about "World" and "International" Fill-in-the-Blank Days...including World AIDS Day, World Democracy Day, World Malaria Day, and my personal favorite World Disaster Mitigation Day...yes, it's a real holiday here.)

Anyway, yesterday it was all about the kids and we had a pretty fun little project in Txangreja. With a little help from a friend that works in the kamera in Mindelo, a nice donation from a couple of tourists who fell in love with our town during their 24 hour stay, and an accord I arranged with several families in which they agreed to kill one of their chickens in exchange for my carpentry skills (who knew I even had any?)...we managed to provide a Thanksgiving-like dinner (each student got 1 chicken part, french fries, rice, juice or milk, cranberry sauce and a SALAD!) for all 79 kids in our school, a trip to the beach and a hell of a party (complete with dancing, balloons, a poetry recital and a game of charades) to boot. Perhaps best of all, we managed to buy three trophies...none of which were awarded for sporting events, all of which were awarded for "Academic Achievement." This was a COMPLETELY novel concept for everyone involved...academic achievement in this country being regarded about as highly as one's ability to juggle. In any event, a trophy is a trophy, and kids were salivating for weeks at the thought of winning one.

Over the past few weeks the teachers and I had the kids busy memorizing poems, learning dances and doing various arts and crafts in anticipation for the big day. In addition to the various performances, everyone's handiwork (cut-out paper flowers, houses made of matchsticks, spinning tops carved from wood and toy fans made from sugar-cane bark) was displayed on tables in the classrooms, and pretty much the whole town came out to peruse and admire. At the end of the day, a select panel of esteemed judges (Me and one of the drivers) awarded the each for poetry, drawing and short story.

Basically it was a terrific day, and one the kids won't soon forget. It was great to see them laughing and smiling all day long, and the big meal was a REAL treat. Although I LOVED the part of the day when the kids' read their stories and poems and showed off their drawing, it wasn't my favorite part. That has to go to the part of the day where we asked for volunteers to come up to the mic to answer the question..."Why Are We Celebrating Kids Today?" The answers were as varied and surprising as anything I've seen in Cape Verde since being here, and even had me a little choked up at one point...although that's not saying much as I've been known to cry during dog-food commercials. was a great day, and I got some great pics of the kids all dressed up for their special day. Have a look below!

Diane Humoring Me

Vivian in his Hat

Mickey in her Dress

Admiring the Original Works

Big Meal!

Hamming it Up

Leo telling us Why We Are Celebrating Children Today

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Me and Neli

This was taken by Leo...who's 5. Pretty good!

Logoa 2


Almost at the top of the highest point in Santo Antao.

Cabrito 1

So it turns out that it's bad to be born a boy if you're a goat in Cape Verde. Since you can't produce milk, and you can't produce more goats, you're basically screwed from the get go. Accordingly, this cute little guy...

Cabrito 2 the hands of this cute girl...

Cabrito 3

...became this little guy. We grilled him up later that evening and he was DELICIOUS!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Boardwalk in Paul

...cobbles instead of boards.

Mar e Baixo

So its just about summer time again, which means the little rowboat fishing vessels can start going out again, after being beached for most of the past 4 or 5 months.

Black Saw

So here is a picture of the ancient abandoned leper colony at Serranegra..."Blacksaw."


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cutie From Cruzinha

Almost Abandoned Village

Still one family living here...even though it's a two hour hike to the nearest village with running water or electricity.

Long Walk Home

This is the halfway point along the almost-5-hour hike from Ponto do sol to my village.

Heavy Load

And you thought YOU had a hard day at work...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lavinha and her new Friend!

Depressing Update

So it was brought to my attention that I haven't written anything of substance in quite some time. Mostly because there hasn't been anything big or of real interest going on recently, just lots of little things. And also because most of those little things are sorta depressing. For those of you who are especially bored, feel free to read on...

The local association that I work with is going through a regime change and has pretty much closed it's doors until May, when the newly elected leader, Beti, will "take office." At our yearly association assembly, which drew a crowd of 50 (and that really is a crowd in this neck of the woods) Beti read Pedro the riot act, saying that since Pedro took office almost three years ago, the association hasn't succeeded in getting nary a penny, nor a single day of work out of the kamera, which isn't exactly true, but close enough. Remember that since the national government is SO inept (they are absolutely non-existent this far from Praia), its become the job of the local associations to beg and plead with the kameras for help and work and roads and jobs and everything else. It's true that Pedro isn't the most dynamic guy in the village, but it's not all his fault. Consider in the last month or two, we (as an association) have sent 6 letters to the kamera (and other organizations) asking for help with building 4 latrines for houses that don't have bathrooms or running water in them, money to send a group of six girls to a women's conference in Sao Vicente, a projector to show some AIDS awareness films in the plaza, money to help a woman who is slowly going blind from cataracts get lasic surgery, a truck to haul away to giant garbage container that has been sitting full almost since the day I got to Txangreja, and to help defer school transportation costs for the night school girls . In a stunning display of ineptitude and obscenely poor use of resources, the kamera decided to...expand our dirt soccer field. They actually sent a bulldozer here from Ponto do Sol (that trip alone probably took three days), right along our pitiful excuse of a "road" (which will undoubtedly wash out during the next rains and again strand the town for weeks without food or supplies or transportation) past town down near the shore to our soccer field. There it spent 10 days moving dirt around to accomplish nothing more than to add about 1 meter of dirt and rocks along one side of the "field." There were apparently unprepared to deal with the huge boulder that was along that side of the field, which previously served as a convenient place to watch the games from the sidelines, but which now resides right in the playing area. (See picture below.)

This is exactly the sort of asinine governing that is typical of this Ribeira, if not the entire island. Its up there with paying for three day festivals with bands brought in from Brazil and Portugal rather than three day seminars on domestic violence or alcoholism, buying new soccer cleats and jerseys for all the men's soccer teams in the Ribeira rather than new school uniforms or supplies for the boys AND GIRLS that need them, burning half an island's worth of trash every couple of months in one of the most popular tourist areas on the island rather than using it to fill some of the gaping holes gouged out of the bottom of the Ribeira's by the sand company. You could really go on for a week describing all of the bad decisions that the kamera makes and about two seconds discussing the good ones. But I'm just ranting.

Another thing that got me down recently was a fight in town. Other than the occasional signs of domestic abuse I see on the faces of some of the women and kids in town, I've seen nothing of violence or meanness since coming here. That changed a week ago when 2 guys got in a fight which was quickly ended when one guy literally caved the side of the other guy's face in with a huge rock. I saw it happen, heard the sickening crunch of bones. The injured guy is still in the hospital and if he lives it'll be a long time before he's eating solid foods or seeing out of his left eye. Despite police. Not that day, and not since. If you ask why not, you're told n'e nada ver d'nigem. (It's nobody's business.) It's terrible.

Finally, on the depressing side, is the issue of the night school girls that I mentioned earlier. In a weird way it's an extension of the American financial crisis. Vla is a rich Txangrejan who owns the one school bus that services Txangreja, and two of the hiace of which takes a group of 8 girls to night school in Povoçon (think of it as community college.) Until recently, Vla was living near Boston and working at a GM plant making good money. (All three cars, his mini-market and the local bar...all paid for by his GM salary.) That plant closed and he's been forced to come home. His first act upon arriving was to tell the night school girls that they were shit out of luck. For the past 6 months they've been paying 3000/month in tuition, and 3500/month to Vla's driver to take them back and forth to Povoçon (45 minutes away) every night. (Keep in mind that Beni makes less than 8000/month as a teacher, and that's considered a "good paying job.") Anyway, 2 of the girls dropped out and now Vla says it's not worth the trouble to take the other 6, unless they want to make up the difference. 2 months short of graduation, and now all the money they've spent thus far in the school year is wasted. It's EXACTLY the type of thing that makes development in a community like this so difficult. All that money saved or borrowed and invested in a worthwhile, potentially lucrative goal....a better education...and now it's been for nothing...because a greedy American - Cape Verdian wants apparently needs his 7000 escudos more than the girls need to get to school. It's really depressing, and exactly the type of thing that makes me want to come home in September rather than stay an extra year. (I've done the math on fuel, driver salary, wear and tear etc. by the way, to try to look at it from his point of view, and any way you slice it, he's raking them over the coals and making a very hefty profit. But I'm just ranting.

On the good side, we've just started the computer literacy lessons in town. I've spent much of the last 2 months helping 2 fairly computer-savvy guys from town plan for, prepare and implement a 2 month computer seminar. I gave them the lesson plans, student handbooks, practice exercises, and tests, and worked with them on teaching techniques, and how to be a better instructor. 35 students, 5 computers. It's tough, but people are excited and its nice that there is an activity going on again in town. So far things are going well, with only the problem of frequent and random power outages driving me crazy.

So that should bring you up to speed.

What's new in the Real World?

Worst Idea Ever?

It's a small pic, but I think you can make out the huge boulder that is now sitting in what should be the corner-kick area. 10 days of work, and all the trouble of a bulldozer sent to our add 1 meter width to our dirt pitch.

Click HERE!!!

Wanna test your mettle as a teacher? Try explaining the concept of a "right click" to someone who's never touched a computer before in their a foreign language.