Monthly Archives: May 2012

life is good

Santiago’s bottled water company, Trindade, has started producing seltzer. Available in the loja (store) near us.

No idea how to say “seltzer” in Kriolu…

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Tenpu Sta Poku (Time Is Short)

Adam and I are into the final countdown in Cape Verde: we leave for Benin in less than one month.

Wow.

I’m incredibly excited to see what Benin is like, what our new host community is like, what our jobs are like (we don’t know any details yet, just that we’ll be in the Community Economic Development program). This time I’m eager to learn new languages (we’ll learn French and I think also a local language). On the other hand, the reality of leaving is setting in, and I’m sad. I have pre-emptive sodadi for the people and places that I’ve come to know here: our neighbors, our friends, our routines, our mountains.

Though I’ve prohibited myself from thinking in ‘what-ifs,’ I can’t help but think that if we stayed here another year, we could apply all we have learned and that things things would get a whole lot more interesting as we moved along with our primary project. And that life in general would get a whole lot easier as we applied our experience and improved our language. A couple of things—both negative and positive—have happened in the past couple of weeks to make me sad that we’re leaving.

Adam and I went to Santo Antao on vacation last week (photos, photos, photos, photos!), and on our first day back in town we visited our elementary school to touch base with the principal and see the garden. Most of the garden was empty and that the gota gota (drip irrigation) equipment was not yet installed in some new sections. These things are understandable, and there are good reasons for them—the irrigation technician has been too busy to spend an entire day at the school, and the school staff is planning to plant everything at once once the new sections are hooked up. These are normal wrinkles, but they show me that there is a place for me and Adam on this project. The fact is, the garden project is a lot of work for the principal and teachers, and on top of that they’re trying to do new and different things. We have the time, the ideas, and the experience to help, and I’m disappointed that we can’t.

Since we got back from Santo Antao, the technician and several other community members volunteered a day to install the drip system. It’s still a work in progress due to some equipment issues, but we’re making headway.

On a happier note, we went out visiting last weekend and got to stop for a couple of hours at a particular neighbor’s house for the first time. For whatever reason, we hadn’t had the chance to stop in before, though we’ve meant to. We got to talking about some of Cape Verde’s traditional foods, and either Adam or I mentioned that we hadn’t yet tried kamoka, which is roasted, ground corn that you can eat in lots of different ways—in coffee, yogurt, with corn meal, and more. (To be honest, I lose track.) Our neighbor’s son silently stepped out and returned a few minutes later with a bag of kamoka for us to bring home (homemade from the family’s own corn). Wonderful! Next thing we know, grandmom steps out without a work and returns shortly with a bag of ovu di tera (chicken eggs from free-ranging chickens). In the space of ten minutes, Adam and I were pretty much set for the week’s breakfasts. (Since then, I’ve been given eggs at least three other times. We haven’t had serious rain for months, and all the fields are picked clean, so I guess eggs are the month of May’s fixon kongu.)

An example of the bounty. It’s really amazing how much food we are given. And how seldom we leave anyone’s house empty-handed.

This hospitality and generosity also makes me sad to leave, but in a much nicer way. Our week away in Santo Antão, including our time visiting other Volunteers’ sites, made me come home with fresh eyes. I have slowed down this past week and tried not to take anything good for granted. I’m trying to stop and chat longer, spend more time people watching in town, and visit more.

To help me remember my year here and the people I have met I’ve been collecting seeds from friends and family (and wild tomato seeds), and I’ll plant them back home in the States.

Saving tomatinho that I collected while hiking: wild mini-tomatoes—very tart and delicious.

I’m also trying to figure out how to transport my rock collection. Heh.

Rock photos are pretty, but they make lousy paperweights.

Amidst all this, I’m incredibly excited that we’ll be welcoming a group of students from North Star Academy (where Adam worked before joining Peace Corps) for a week-long visit to Cape Verde. The students will be studying food security, building a tire garden in our satellite elementary school, and learning about the culture of Cape Verde. They are top students and awesome kids, and it’s going to be a fantastic trip! Preparing for their trip has me busy, but I’ve enjoyed running around work and town to organize things. In order to plan the best trip I can, I’ve been trying to see our town through the eyes of the students and teachers who will be coming. In this way I’ve started to remember my first impressions, and I’m trying to savor things while I can.

For a long while I felt like an outsider here. Despite (perhaps because of?) the morabeza, I am still a guest. Lately, however, I recognize that I have a unique role in our community, and that people do consider me a neighbor, even if I’m a temporary one. People call dibs on the papayas from the trees in my yard. They shout for me on the way past my house to go work in their fields. They tease me about being lazy when I don’t show up for aerobics class. Casual conversation here often consists of simply guessing at where a person is going… more and more, the woman who sells candies by the chapel—who keeps track of pretty much all of my comings and goings—is getting it right about me.

nos montanha :: our mountain

We live in a valley near the foot of Pico d’Antonia, the highest peak on Santiago. Every day we are lucky to see the changing face of this beautiful mountain, and we wanted to share some of those wonderful views with you.

This week’s picture of our mountain…

April 24, 2012

4:15 p.m.

Taken from a zone on the outskirts of Assomada, the central city on Santiago island. The houses give you a pretty good idea of what construction looks like all throughout our island. Many homes are new, and very few are finished, so you see cinderblock and rebar all over the place. It really shows how much this country is growing. Every few houses, you’ll see an older home with a clay tiled roof and finished sides.

 

photos: Vacation! #4 — Ribeira de Paul

Santo Antao’s most famous attraction is Ribeira de Paúl, and that’s where we headed the next day. From our lodgings at the top of the mountain, we descended through an extinct volcanic crater (yessss!), hopped over the other side to the head of the valley, and then began the steep descent into Paúl.

This valley is the greenest we saw on Santo Antão. It has a permanent stream, and the valley is broad and full of cultivation. Of course, this being Santo Antão it’s still ridiculously steep and all the farmland is situated on terraces. Irrigation canals are built into the cliffs all around the valley, and we saw water moving all around as we hiked. It seems like every available inch of land is terraced, with kana (sugarcane) being the most popular crop. The kana is used to make the grogu (rum) that (in addition to scenery) makes Paúl famous.

Our path switched back and forth down the valley until we met with the road (also cobblestone, but made for vehicles). From there, the road was much less steep, and it was a short walk to the very famous ‘Grogue and Cheese Place’ for some… grogue and cheese of course! Delicious, but overrated. We got to see the cheese curing under hoop screens out back. We continued on to our hotel, which was nestled near the valley bottom, up a ways along a steep footpath on the opposite side. The hotel was a collection of little houses, each with its own patio. Ours was sheltered by banana trees and it was a great place to sit and enjoy the late afternoon breeze. Banana trees make a very nice, calm sound in the wind.

The next day we did a second hike in Paúl. This one was far better than the previous day’s descent along the road because this trail led through the agricultural fields. We got to see the terraces up close and we passed by people in the midst of the day’s work cutting, pressing or carrying kana, or irrigating fields. Our hike led up to a small peak right in the midst of the valley (which may have been Santo Antão’s Pico d’ Antonia, although I’m not sure). From there we got a view of all the terrain we had traversed in the past two days. From there we descended again to the road and caught a car to the beach at Praia da Curraletes, a ways south along the coast. We were the only souls on the beach… until some goats showed up to snack on the sand. We took a few refreshing dips and then headed back home for showers, cold beers, and dinner.

photos: Vacation! #3 — Ribeira da Torre

Our hike up from Bocas das Ambas Ribeiras was just a warm-up for the next hike, up Ribeira da Torre. This valley is intense! There’s not much to say about the route except that it was steep and unshaded. But spectacular. Again, the trail was a cobblestone path (although it turned into a stairwell carved into the bedrock when we got closer to the top of the valley). The trail passed through some small villages along the way, right past the front doors of the houses. Once or twice we passed under the shade of someone’s garden of banana trees, until we passed the final village and began the steepest part of the track. We climbed higher and higher until we could see over the ridges clear to the ocean in all directions. The sun was brutal, but I’m glad it was such a clear day because the view of the water was gorgeous.

At the top of the mountain, we crossed suddenly into the planaltu, which was reforested about ten years ago. From hot sun and bare rock we crossed abruptly into shady and wonderful-smelling pine forest. That night and the next we were to be hosted by fellow volunteers Scott and Melissa, so we found their house, relaxed, ate lunch, played cards, and explored while we waited for them to get home.

The next day our hosts showed us around their stomping grounds, this time the zone at the top of the mountain. We walked around the southern side, which overlooks the port town of Porto Novo (where the ferry comes in) and the island of Sao Vicente. This area had much more subdued terrain than the ribeiras, with rolling hills and shallow canyons along the seasonal riverbeds. This is an area where people pasture their animals, and we met a little baby burro. Very cute.

photos: Vacation! #2 — Porto do Sol

The next day of vacation we caught the 8 am ferry to Santo Antão. This gave us plenty of time to take a car from the port to the northern end of the island, where we stopped at the city of Porto do Sol. That day we didn’t do much—just watched the fishermen bring in the day’s catch, strolled around the town, and watched the sunset.

The following day we planned to do one of the island’s best hikes, which follows the coast from the town of Chã de Igreja to Ponto do Sol. We were a little lax about arranging transportation so we ended up taking what we could find, which meant starting inland, in the valley town of Bocas das Ambas Ribeiras (Mouth of Both Valleys). This meant we needed to clumb up and over a towering ridgeline to reach our planned start point. I’m glad we did, because the climb and descent were beautiful. It was our first glimpse of the topography for which Santo Antão is known: nearly vertical valleys and sharp knife-edge ridges.

Upon reaching the coast the trail became a wide cobblestone path… big enough for two passing burros, but not suitable for vehicles. The trail rolled along, climbing and dipping as it wound along the headlands. In the town of Furminginhas we found a little patio bar overlooking the ocean, where the dona (woman of the house) made us a heaping bowl of pasta, to order. We continued on through the towns of Corva and Fontainhas, which were nestled in the ribeiras (valleys) and were therefore cooler and greener than the more exposed coast. Luckily, we found a ride back to Ponta do Sol just as the sun started to get low in the sky. We got back no later than expected despite the extra mileage at the start and caught our second sunset from the hotel rooftop.

photos: Vacation! #1 – Sao Vicente

Last week Adam and I took our first trip off-island and visited the islands of Sao Vicente and Santo Antão. It was fantastic. Santo Antão was our real destination, but since it doesn’t have an airport, you must take the ferry from Sao Vicente. This worked out well for us, as there are several volunteers in Mindelo, the urban center of Sao Vicente, and this gave us a chance to stop and see them.

We stayed with Drew and Rory, who were kind enough to show us all around Mindelo. In the morning Drew walked with us through the town, stopping at the fish market, the sukupira (open-air market), and his soccer club. We took the bus back to his apartment, after which Adam and I stayed on to ride the entire route, which took us out to the fringes of the city and back. Then we met up with Rory and went to the produce market, several artisanal museums, and a restored lookout tower that had a display of photos showing the cities of Praia and Mindelo in the early decades of the twentieth century (very cool). From there we got some great views of the city from above. That night, we made dinner at Drew and Rory’s place, and the rest of the Peace Corps crew came to hang out.