Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009


So I hope this will be a real treat for everyone at home. This is a short clip from a video I shot a while back, but should give you a pretty good idea of what the Cape Verdian batuku style of music and dance is all about. As you can see, it's pretty spicey. This is a "semi-professional group, so they've got real drums, but in most of the rural villages, they use plastic sacs filled with clothes. The thing tied around the waste of the dancer is called Pano d'Terra and is a holdover from WAY back in the day. (Excuse the order to get this down to a size that wouldn't break me trying to upload it, I had to use some demo software.)

Dropping Copters

So, no, I"m not throwing kids out the window here. Rather, I've been teaching the kids about methods of transportation this week and today we talked about helicopters. Except for maybe in a movie, kids here have never seen one, so I made them all a bunch of paper helicopters and let them paint them and later we went to the top of the association building to drop them out the window and let them fly. They worked GREAT!
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Casa de Trapiche

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Txan d'Riba

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Ribeira de Inveirno

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Sugarcane in Garça

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So for about 7 days last month, I had the riotous pleasure of getting to know some of Benvinda’s extended family, namely, a housefull of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews of hers from her fathers side. Benvinda’s grandfather on her father’s side actually had, I shit you not, 42 children, by 7 different women. Her father, in turn, has 11 children by 2 different women. (I believe I’ve said before that men in Cape Verde are, as a general rule, pigs.) Anyway, the six full-blood brothers and sisters (those sharing the same mother), some spouses and kids and a couple of infants all ben d’fora (came here from France, Italy, Holland, The Netherlands, Belgium and Brazil) for a virtual festa-thon of eating and drinking.

The reason for their visit was the enduring Cape Verdian cultural tradition of honoring the dead. In this country, when the head of a family dies (in this case it was Benvinda’s grandmother...who died shortly after New Years last year), the entire family gets together exactly one year later to re-mourn the loss. There wasn’t much mourning going on though, and it seemed to me more of a celebration...and why the hell not. Here was a group of brothers and sisters, all born on Santo Antao, and now scattered all across the globe, who haven’t been all together in the same room in decades. Well, they got plenty close for comfort as the lot of them, plus Beni, her mom and her brother and sister, all slept at Beni’s house for the week, which is about the size of your average American bedroom.

Now I was nervous to meet all these people, as apparently word of my existence had already made it’s way to them in their various countries, and I was warned by Beli (Beni’s mom) that they would want to have a good look at me while they were here. The day of their arrival I actually tried to skondi (hide) in my house (ostensibly to give the family time to themselves, you know, for mourning or whatnot) but that did not go well as it wasn’t long before I heard Uncle Lili (who lives in Sao Vicente and whom I know quite well already) in the street shouting my name at the top of his lungs. I peaked my head out the window and was told I’d volta’d ingrot (become ungracious) and that I had exactly five minutes to appear down at Beni’s house. So, I put on my one pair of pants and, for the first time in four months, had to take off my flip flops and put on shoes, and I made my way down to Vuk Taref, and knocked.

Beli opened the door and I was instantly assaulted, in nearly every manner of the word. There was a lot of noise and confusion. My cheeks were kissed, pinched, and in the case of Lili, slapped. My ears were pulled, my head tossed around, my shirt pulled, my buns pinched and squeezed, my muscles tested, my wallet stolen. Someone handed me a beer and then punched me in my balls. There were tremendous, bone-crunching bear-hugs. And these were not slender people. Although Beni is fairly slim, at least so far, her Aunts are very short, very healthy women. It definitely took both arms to hug them, and even then I was more or less bent over and enveloped by ample bosoms, and had difficulty breathing amongst the cleavage. They were all of them, almost to a fault, warm and affectionate and inviting. It was readily apparent that these people were, to say the very least, a rowdy group. I was a little surprised by this actually, as this is not the normal reception for anglos in a Cape Verdian home. (Here, they naturally assume that when a caucasian shows up at someone’s house they’re either lost or looking for a bathroom.) That’s when I looked up and saw the other white guy in the room. The other white guy in the room turned out to be Bob.

Not knowing who or what or from where he was, I offered him my hand and greeted him in the language I now feel most comfortable speaking...namely kriolu, and he in turn responded, in perfect kriolu (as good or better even than mine I’m sad to say), that he was Bob, husband of ten years to Ana, Benvinda’s fierce and feisty aunt. This kriolu greeting between non-native-speaking white men (Bob speaks perfect English, along with a host of other languages) earned us rolls of incredulous laughter from the rest of the family and a resounding chorus of “Oi nha mae, es a prop Cabverdianos agora!” (”Sweet Jesus, they’ve officially become Cape Verdians now!”) I really liked Bob. We are a lot alike and honestly, if I was a middle-aged Hollandish computer programmer with more hair on my head, I’d be Bob.

Anyway, the week was passed mostly eating and drinking and talking and laughing. The second night of their visit I made the mistake of preparing caipirinhas (sort of like a Cape Verdian mojito) for the ladies, who had been slaving in the kitchen for 48 hours (and who would continue to do so for the duration of their stay), and they were instantly fuskod (drunk off their asses). There was unfortunately not enough limes to make drinks for the men and m toma um bon bokuat d’abus (I suffered a lot of abuse). Next day Lili had arranged a whole sack of limes and insisted I make a humongous bucketful for the next night, and over the course of the week we did indeed consume buckets of delicious caipis. Other activities for the week included renting a car and touring the entire island, several nights of grilled tuna and corn, vivts to extended family in the ribeiras of Mocha and Garça, a PBJ picnic on the beach and lots of watching sunsets. It was a great week and I’ve been assured by all the Aunts that I’m now able to count myself as um souç d’fmailia (a member of the family).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Update to Follow

So it's been quite a while since I wrote anything here, but that's not because I haven't been fact just the opposite, and anyway, they'd cut off my internet for most of last month. Not to worry though. Not only have I been working my buns off, but I've been walking them off too. In preparation for writing what may someday probably not become a bestselling book called "The Txangreja Hikes," I've been clearing and using some ancient and long-forgotten trails to climb to the tops of all the mountains in my ribeira, and you just wouldn't believe the views they offer. I've tried to post some pics below, but it really doesn't doe them justice.

Anyway, I've been busy well as planning for and seeking, asking, begging and swindling funding for a girl's summer camp here in Txangreja, so in the next couple of days I'll post something about how that process is going. I've also almost finished up posts on my meeting almost the entirety of Benvinda's family, which was a hoot to say the least. There are also entries regarding a bloody and horrid atrocity committed by me, and further atrocities that I'm currently considering. In the meantime, here are some pics.


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Looks like a Model!

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Ribeira de Boca de Moch

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Heading to Work

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Ribeira Garça

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