Sunday. Spent most of the day inside at the computer practicing production in black and white.
Here are a few initial attempts.
Sunday. Spent most of the day inside at the computer practicing production in black and white.
Saturday. Went on a hike around Salamansa and Baia das Gatos. In the morning, I went down to the Praca Estrela to find a hiace, but they had already left for the morning, so I took a taxi instead. The cost was only 800$ ($10) which was less than I expected. I walked around town initially, and stopped and talked to a local boat builder. His name was Temoteo, and he was just about finished with a larger fishing boat (all by hand) and had the frame done for one of the smaller more typical skiffs. He asked if I would send him a photo that he could use to publicize his work and I of course agreed.
I then walked along the beach for a while and noticed a dried up riverlet that led up into a ribeira west of Salamansa, and decided to follow it for a ways. After a few hundred meters, I came upon a small stream that was soaking into the ground before it reached the ocean. I continued to follow this uphill, and the stream increased in size. Running water is unsual to find in Cabo Verde, especially on this island and especially at this time of year. I decided to follow the stream to its source and continued up the valley, which became narrower, steeper and rockier. After going about a kilometer, it dawned on me that no one had a clue where I was. Then, as I clambered up a slope, an oven-sized rock came loose in my hand and almost rolled over my foot. Thoughts of the movie 24 Hours went through my mind, so I did the prudent thing and turned back. Fooled ya! No, I went on until I found the seepage that started the stream. It is a very rugged, stark and beautiful area. The valley is a natural location for a dam, and I would think it would be possible catch and store the water and use it to supply Salamansa. It would be interesting to do a feasibility study of that.
I returned to the beach, and then began walking along the coast east towards Baia das Gatos. By road the distance is maybe 2K, but it is about 6K following the shore. This is also a rugged, stark and beautiful area. The different types of rock formations are especially noteworthy. In some areas, sandstone formations have been eroded over time and formed fantastic shapes. In others, pieces of basalt lie isolated in the middle of cracked mud flats. I came across several large rocks that had somehow come out of the ocean, as they were crusted with a thick layer of crushed seashells similar to coquina. I have been trying to get back into black and white photography, and this was a great place to practice.
Made it to B das G after about three hours and stopped at the Take Away Atlanta to have a beer and wait for a hiace heading back to Mindelo. Talked briefly to a man from Norway who was in the process of trying to build a large fish processing factory near Calhau. He said it would eventually employ 300 people. That would be a great economic boost for the area. Caught the hiace back into town (140$), had dinner, then went to Caravela to listen to some music.
Friday. Did many chores today. Laundry, paid phone bill, bought groceries, etc.
This is my third week of meeting with the seniors on their research project, and I am really enjoying the one-on-one interaction. Communication is going well and it is helping my Portuguese tremendously. After each meeting, I have the student prepare a brief summary of what they took away from it, which I can then translate and review, so that I can be certain he/she has understood me and vice-versa. They are all very enthusiastic, and even with my limited language skills, I think I can help them a lot.
Had a very enjoyable run yesterday. It was clear, cool and calm for a change. I have to start running again because my bike was stolen on Tuesday. I had come back to the apartment to pick something up before going downtown to run an errand, and put the bike inside the gated patio, but did not lock it, while I ran upstairs. I was back down in less than five minutes and the bike was gone. Unbelievable. On Wednesday, I went to the local police station and filled out a report, but it is doubtful it will be found. Oh well, chalk it up to another cultural experience in CV.
Don from Assomada is going to send me a copy of the technical English lesson plans he uses so that I will have something to base my class on. 19 students have signed up so far, and we will have our first class on the first Saturday in April. After 5 months of students laughing at my Portuguese, I will have my revenge, and will be able to make fun of their attempts at English (just joking of course).
On Tuesday, picked up another set of blood tests that I had to have for the physical, and my cloresterol has dropped by 56 points since I have been in Cabo Verde. Amazing! Eating a lot of fish and rice and cutting out all red meat definitely seems to work. I had a CT scan Wednesday. I went to the clinic at which the local physician, Dr. Spencer, had made a requisition, and asked to make an appointment. I thought it would take weeks, similar to the US, but much to my surprise, they asked what time that afternoon I could come in. Incredible! I went back at two, and left at three with a CD full of results in my hand. Can you believe it! In terms of professionalism, I could tell no difference between the way my CV CT scan was handled and the one I had in the US. Very impressive! The one difference that did exist was that I had to pay on the way out the door. 36.000$!!!. (those who have been following my blog know that is less than $500 US). The next day, I met with Dr. Spencer again and he signed off on the State Dept medical form. He said everything from all the tests and the CT scan looked good. Good news! So I will forward that to State and wait for their reply. All in all, another interesting look at the CV medical system.
Wednsday night, I went to a concert by a group of young musicians called Banda-A. Silvina, my tutor, had recommended them, and several of them are former high school students of hers. The group was very good, if a bit rough around the edges. When they sang traditional CV music, they were very good, but when they moved into more US-influenced songs (think Beyonce) they were less effective. The lead singer’s voice was made more for the traditional CV sounds, which are somewhat earthier (and to my ear more interesting), than the smooth, homogenized, electronic sounds of American modern music.
The lessons with Silvina continue to go well. While I am certainly learning much Portuguese, I am also learning a lot about Cabo Verde from her has well. She is very erudite and has a deep passion for the culture and history of her country. Our lessons normally consist of her starting out asking if I have any questions, I pose a subject about language usage, culture or something I don’t understand about CV, and then we are off on an hour-and-a-half conversation about some interesting topic. It is unlike, and much more interesting, than any language class I have ever had. I do not claim to understand everything she says, but day-by-day I can follow more and more. For example, on Thursday, after the Banda-A concert, we talked about various types of CV music for the entire session. Today, Friday, I brought up the fact that the other professors in my office are very reluctant to give me any time to help me work on my language, and so we talked about some of the cultural reasons that that was occurring and possible ways to overcome it. So it is proving to be a very worthwhile investment. If I could just learn to roll my “r’s”, everything would be perfect. (interestingly, in Portuguese, there are two different types of rolled r’s, one in the throat, and a different-sounding one in the upper palate, both of which I am totally incapable of doing properly).
Sunday. It has been a quiet weekend. Hung out at the apartment most of the time and worked on Photoshop and Portuguese.
Did spend Saturday morning at the fish market taking a few photos, but did not see much news-worthy (or maybe I just have visited the locale too much and am jaded). Did get yelled at by one lady, though, which is unusual. There was some decent looking tuna for the first time in weeks, so I bought a piece for dinner.
Went to lunch at Caravela and watched two of the final Six Nations rugby matches. Wales beat France to take the title this year, and avenge last year’s loss in the World Cup semi-final.
Got a message from Dr. Smith that he would like to have a CT scan done, so I emailed Dr. Spencer to see if he could set that up. It will be a look at another part of the CV medical system.
Have been trying to call Mom, but no luck for a week now. Susan says that she is very depressed and not participating in any “activities”, whatever that means. It has to be a depressing thing when you lose more and more of your independence. I hope that she (Su) is able to get her (Mom) up to Georgia and around her kids (Su) as soon as possible. Maybe that will help improve her (Mom) spirits.
Friday. Had to get one more blood test for cholesterol, so took care of that this morning, then went by another office to get my TB test read (it was negative). While there, I noticed as the technician was recording results that 3 of the 14 people he had seen that day had tested positive. I asked him if that was unusual, and he said no, that was about average. I had always thought that tuberculosis had been just about wiped out.
I have been meeting this week with the students I will be advising on their senior project, and during my meeting today, Vera and Ruben listened in. I asked Otaniel (one of the students) to develop a hypothesis for his project and give some thought to what he actually wanted to accomplish with his research and what he thought he would discover at end of it. To my surprise, the other two professors jumped in and said that this level of scientific inquiry was too advanced for the students at the university because they were not taught research methods, and that this project was more of an information-gathering exercise. I disagreed and we had a friendly but animated discussion over the purpose of the course. As the advisor, it is my call, though, so I am going to try and have them do more of a true research project.
Had my lesson with Silvina today, and she has asked me to come and talk to her high school class next week. That should be interesting.
I have decided that I need to get out and try some of the other restaurants in town (I normally cook at home) and so I went to onr tonight called the “Chave d’Ouro”. It has a good reputation, and is located in a nice space on the second floor of an old building. There was only one customer besides myself, however. The service was very good, by CV standards, but the filet of sole only average. I do not understand the economics of the restaurant business here. How they can keep the doors open when there is so little activity on a Friday night is beyond me.
After dinner, went over to Clube Nautico to listen to some music. A duo was playing, a quitarist, and the lead singer, who also played a percussion instrument that is essentially a wooden box that is beaten with the hands, similar to say bongo drums. It is a very common instrument here in CV, but I do not know its actual name.
The big news today, however, is that after almost two months, the peanut butter crisis is finally over! When I stopped at the Bento to do some shopping after school, the manager came up and let me know that he finally had some in. He had a grand total of five jars and I bought four (I did not want to be too greedy).
Tuesday. For one USAID position that I have been considering, I have to have a new, complete physical. So I have spent the last week and a half exploring the CV medical system. As expected, there are some good points and some not so good. The medical officer at the embassy in Praia put me in contact with a local MD who said he would be able to do the exam for me. I was able to make an appointment for the exam that next day. At home, it would take months. That was a good point.
After he did his portion, he then wrote me out orders for the various other portions – blood, chest x-ray, EKG, etc., and I ended up having to go to five different offices in different parts of town to get all this done, as opposed to having all the services available in one local, as I have typically experienced. That was a not so good part.
The cost was staggering, in an inverse sense. For example, the chest x-ray cost 1000$ or about $12 US. In the US it would be a couple of hundred. The TB test was about $4 (although you did have to bring your own needle – 50 cents), and so on. This was definitely a good point. Timing varied. For a couple of the tests, I walked into the office and had it done right then. For others, I had to make an appointment for a few days later. At no time did I wait more than 15 minutes though, once I got to the appointment. Another good point.
Finished up all the run-around today, will meet with the doctor later in the week, and hopefully be good to go.
This morning, as I was leaving my apartment to head to school, I heard yelling and screaming on the floor below, and found Sophie fighting with a man I had not seen before. Actually, she was doing the hitting and he was really just trying to protect himself. He had a large club in his hand though, and I took it away from him just in case and separated them. Sophie would not calm down however, so when Osvaldo came out of his apartment across the hall, I asked him to call the police. They came and took over the situation and I left for school. Turns out, the man was a tenant who was way behind in his rent, and he had tried to sneak into the apartment and get his clothes without Sophie hearing him. She seems to have a sixth-sense about people coming into the building though. This is one of the few instances of confrontation that I have witnessed since I have been here. For the most part, people seem to be very amicable and laid-back.
At school, had a talk with Vera about the End of Course Project that I am the advisor for several students on. The schedule is a little odd. Classes end on the 30th of June, but the first phase of the project is not due until 31 July. These are all seniors who have to do this project, so I wonder when graduation takes place for them. After the first phase, there is a second phase which is turned in the first week in September. I am not sure yet what the second phase involves, but I would think refining the written presentation and getting ready for the oral presentation. After the second phase is turned in, an oral evaluation is scheduled for later in the month. The student defends his paper in front of a jury of three professors, one of whom is the advisor. Vera is aware that I am leaving in September, probably before the verbal portion of the process, and is wondering how this will affect the student, and the jury process. We left it up in the air, but it is a subject that I will have to discuss with Peace Corps.
Attached are a few general shots of Mindelo.
Sunday. Had to clean the apartment this morning. The dust storm is back with a vengeance, and everything has a constant film of dust on it. Everything will be dusty again as soon as I finish, but I have to make an effort.
Later in the morning, my downstairs neighbor Osvaldo came by. He finally found a copy of the anthology of Cabo Verdean poets that has his father’s poems in it (there are also some of his, as well). He loaned me the book to read. The anthology has the poem in Portuguese on one page, and an English translation on the opposite. I am going to try and translate them on my own first, and see how it compares to the “professional” translation.
Today, Cathryn is celebrating her birthday, so a group of us went to the restaurant in Sao Perdo that I have previously described called Sto Andre for the pig roast they have each Sunday. It was good, but I am used to all-you-can-eat pig barbeques down south, whereas here you only get one small portion, and that was it. But worth experiencing, nonetheless.
In the evening, I went to the Nancy Viera concert that had been delayed. It took place at a musical academy only a block from my apartment, that has a nice, small (about 250 capacity) concert hall. The concert was excellent and Nancy Viera is a great singer. Her voice would put most if not all of the current crop of US female “stars” to shame. It is unfortunate that Cape Verdean music is almost unknown in the States.
Saturday. Today was my big bike trip to the town of Calhau, which is located on the southeast coast of the island. A taxi driver last night told me that it is 18 kilometers from Mindelo to there, but I do not think it was nearly that far.
Left around nine, after working on the bike for a while. I cannot get the new seat to stay at the height I want it at no matter how much I tighten the screws, the tube on the rear tire with “no leaks” continues to lose air, the bearings in the front wheel are shot and the rear brakes don’t work. As I said before, though, the price was right. Finished all the adjustments I could, then put myself into the hands of the cycling gods.
The road to Calhau is much flatter than the road to Baia das Gatas (last weekend), so it was an easier trip, even though it was longer. Just under two hours. The cobblestone roads are rougher though, and along many stretches there are not dirt paths along the side of the road you can use, so it definitely is a jarring trip. The air was very hazy with dust all day long, so while it kept me from baking in the sun, it was not a good day for photography. Still, I noted a number of scenes that will be good to go back to on a nice, clear day.
The road to Calhau goes by the university, so the first couple of k’s were familiar ground, then it was off into unknown terrain. As soon as you get away from the coast, the island turns brown, dusty and rocky. With one exception. About halfway there, you come to an area called Ribeira Calhau. This is the bottom of a dry watercourse that parallels the road for several kilometers. In contrast to what I said in a previous post, this area is rather heavily cultivated with small gardens irrigated by wind-driven, ground water pumps (similar to the windmills you see in old westerns). It appeared that mainly vegetables are grown here, and they are trucked into Mindelo each day and sold at various venues.
Calhau is a tiny town, and seemed to be almost deserted. South of the town, there are several small, modern-looking, condominium-type developments that have been built, but did not appear to be occupied. There are also a number of older homes that are round and have a conical, bee-hive like structure in the center. I would assume that this has something to do with ventilation, but I am not sure. The town itself has a mixture of nice homes and poor homes, and all but one of the nicer homes were not occupied. I need to inquire if they are second homes for people in Mindelo or emigrants and maybe that is the reason why. Calhua has a very dramatic and attractive location on the ocean, but the wind is harsh and constant, and I cannot see it ever becoming a vacation resort, as some have obviously tried to make it.
My Portuguese tutor told me of two restaurants to try for lunch – Chez Loucha, which was closed, and Hamburg, which turned out to be open. When I rode up to it, there was not a car or a person in sight. But the door was open. So I walked up, a lady came to the door, and she said that they were open for lunch. When I walked in, there was one other person in the place, and it was the same guy I had seen last weekend in Salamansa, playing his “guitar de fado”. Turns out he is actually from the Azores, lived in the US for twenty years (so we spoke English) and was just visiting in CV for a couple of weeks. He invited me to join him at his table, then he gave me a musical lesson in the “fado” music of Portugal and the Azores. He also makes (builds?) guitars, and finishes about one a month. They are beautiful instruments. Listened to him play while I had grilled “garoupa” again. Not as good as last weekend, but it had a great pesto-like glaze on it. Then we (the guitar player, not the fish) exchanged contact info and I hit the road again.
The trip back was easier since the wind was at my back, but the same cobblestones seemed even rougher on the return trip. Cobblestones are picturesque, but after you have to ride on them for a while, you can understand why people pave over them as soon as they can afford to. Got back tired, but satisfied with an interesting day. Now getting ready to go to a concert at a music academy near my apartment by a popular CV singer named Nancy Veira. She also performed at the Cesaria Evora ceremony. More on this in my next post.
Postscript – the concert was cancelled. Due to all the dust in the air, the planes from Praia could not land and the performer could not arrive. I have flown in many different weather conditions, but not dust, so I do not know how dust affects visibility as compared to fog, rain, haze, etc. It may make landing more difficult than the others, or it may just be that the airport has an older ILS system that does not allow for very low ceiling approaches.
Thursday. Had school in the morning, and Drew came by to visit. He had not seen the university before. I took him on a tour, then we went back to my zona and had lunch at Mistral, a hole-in-the-wall near my apartment with good, inexpensive food. Later, I spent some time on the phone setting up an appointment for a general physical exam that State Dept Medical has requested for my USAID application.
In the evening, I went to a ceremony for the renaming of the São Vicente airport in honor of Cesaria Evora, the famous “morna” singer. She is from Mindelo, and much beloved here. The Camera Municpal pulled out all the stops for this event, and even offered free buses from downtown so that the local people could attend (as the airport is about 7 kilometers outside of town). The ceremony started with speeches, of course, and most were short and sweet, except for the Prime Minister, who droned on and on. Why is it that the higher you get in politics the windier you get? Then came the unveiling of the new name of the airport on the side of the terminal (several of the back-lit letters were burned out – wouldn’t you think to check that before-hand?), followed by the uncovering of a large, not very attractive statue of the singer.
This was followed by a fantastic concert that included performances by a number of very well-known Cape Verdean musicians including Tito Paris and Nancy Vieira, among others. Because I was white and had a big camera (I assume), someone assumed that I was somebody (how little did they know) and I was invited into the VIP area and backstage, and was able to go up to the edge of the stage to take pictures. Saw several of the other photographers I have gotten to know from around town, and a couple of other Uni-CV professors as well. It is amazing how laid back the crowd was. Even though there were plenty of police present, everyone was well-behaved (even the grombies), and you did not feel the tension between spectators and security that you do at events in the US. All–in-all, it was a great way to experience another slice of Cape Verdean life.
Wednesday. The second semester started on Monday. I am not teaching any classes, but I am advising four students on their senior research project. I met with them earlier in the week, and scheduled times that I will meet with them individually each week in order to advise them on the progress of their work. I also will be sitting in on Yamilla’s class on Management and Safety of Construction Projects (which I should be teaching!) and helping her out
On Tuesday, I discovered once again the wonders and the dangers of Goggle Translate. As part of my Portuguese practice, I like to translate university emails. They mainly deal with administrative matters, but it is a good way to expand my vocabulary. Today I was translating one that contained the term ‘concurso bolsas’. I thought I knew what it meant, but typed it in just to be sure. But, I left out one letter, and ‘concurso bolsas” became ‘concurso bolas’, and the translation went from “competitive scholarships” to “tender balls”. I am glad I do not trust GT blindly.
I have also come to realize that in addition to beginning to learn how to speak a foreign language, I am learning parenthetically how to speak to a person who is speaking English as a second language (and not fluently). What do I mean by this? I know how I wish that people would speak to me so that I could understand them more easily. Using simple tenses, simple words, speaking slowly, pausing from time to time to allow the other person to catch up, things like that. An additional factor is being able to realize when people are faking it. I have become great at faking the understanding of a conversation. Normally I can pick up enough words to understand the general content, and then nod my head and mutter uh-huh occasionally, and the speaker will think I am following along. The danger, of course, is when that speaker talks for a couple of minutes, and then ends his discourse with a verbal question mark at the end, and you realize a response is called for, but you have no idea what he has been talking about. Very embarrassing. I believe I can recognize this now, and use the techniques mentioned above to save a non-English speaker from embarrassment.
Attached are a few scenes of Mindelo.