Children’s parades and MindelFantasy

Friday. Went by Drew’s office at the Joventude to drop off the camera. First time that I had been in there. He and Rory were in the middle of giving an English test to a class of theirs.
Went by the office at the University to put in an appearance, but not much was going on.
In the afternoon, I followed one of the children’s parades that started in Monte Sossego. Many of the schools put on their own parades. Part of the theme for this one was using recycled materials to make the costumes.
At night I went down to the plaza across from the Pont d’Agua and watched the assembly for the start of the MindelFantasy parade. The lead group for the parade is the Mandingas. This is a group that coats themselves with motor oil, dresses in what they imagine to be tribal costumes, and act as if they are fierce warriors from deepest, darkest Africa. I am told that the concept for this particular group is to remind Cape Verdeans about their African heritage, as a large portion of people in this country (and probably a majority in São Vicente) are of mixed race. I then walked with the parade as it wound through downtown. So far, I have not had any problem taking photos in the middle of parades. It seems that if you have a big enough camera, they think you are official, and they let you right through the lines. This parade was a lot of fun and lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

Drew and Rory's place of work at the Centro de Juventude Mindelo

Eager to start the school parade in Monte Sossego

The parade marshals ready to go

Explaining how a parade works

Waiting for the siblings to come by

Heading off down the road

A recycled costume

Holding on to his hat (10 years from now he will hate his mother for dressing him up like that!)

Little girl in yellow

Woman and sons waiting for the Mandigas (little kids are normally afraid of them)

Mandinga at MindelFantasy parade

Mandinga in full regalia

Mandinga war dance

Maybe not so war-like afterall

The Mandingas have scary women too.

Motor oil does wonders for the complexion!

Enjoying MindelFantasy

Categories: Cape Verde, Carnaval, Mindelo, Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

Playing tour guide

Thursday. Gracie’s friend Francis came into town from the States last night, and we all met him at Café Colonial for dinner. He was born in the Czech Republic, and I have actually been through his hometown. This morning, I went with the two to them to the fish market, as Gracie asked me if I would show them around – she had not been in there before. We did a little more sight-seeing after that and went by the yard where they are making some of the floats (andores de carnaval). Came back and worked on Photoshop for the rest of the afternoon, researched Mozambique for a while, then met Drew downtown for a beer and to loan him a camera. Forgot to check the battery, however, which was dead, so I will need to bring it by his work tomorrow. Pretty quiet day, but the carnaval parades start tomorrow, so this is the calm before the storm.

May the angels help us finish on time

She's almost ready for her big moment

The tools of Carnaval

Fixing nets

Unlicensed fruit vendors running from the police

Mindelo harbor

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Playing with Photoshop

Wednesday. Went to school this morning and had Vera review my test for the two students who did not pass. She made a few corrections, and I printed out the copies I need, so that is out of the way and I am all ready to go for my last task for the semester.
Having been trying to learn how to use Photoshop and work with “camera raw”. My friend David back in Bowling Green has been helping me out, and he has been extremely patient with me, but he is so far out of my league it can be a problem as he thinks I know things about computers that are intuitive to him but a mystery to me. On top of that, I was watching an instructional video that was saying one thing, referencing the Photoshop website that was saying something else, corresponding back-and-forth with David and a different set of instructions, and wrestling with my computer that decided it did not like any of the above three. So what would take an IT person 30 minutes took me all afternoon.
I finally get one photo converted as an experiment, and am putting it up here now just to see what it looks like. It will probably come down later as I play with this some more.

Experiment - yellow door 1

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Off to Mozambique?

Tuesday. Valentine’s Day (or Dia de Namorados) and once again no valentine. Oh, well!
Looks like the week will be a quiet one. Went to school and started preparing my test for the “segundo chamada”, the second exam for those students who did not pass the course. Later in the day, I went by one of the guitar makers for Dan. He is thinking about having a guitar custom-made and needed some information.
The big news today, though, was finding out from Peace Corps that I can transfer to Mozambique in September if I want. I would then serve there until December 2013. They do not know yet what I would be doing. The other PC option is to stay here until September and then finish service early and go home. Since I am only assistant teaching next semester, I have asked about the possibility of leaving for Mozambique early, but that would upset the bureaucracy and its procedures and thus not possible. So with either of the two PC options I basically waste the next six months of my life. Everyone in Cape Verde has been given the option to transfer, most to Moz., but some to Mali or Benin, and we have until the end of this month to decide. Decisions, decisions.

Fixing the fishing nets

Afternoon play at the beach

Trying to sell some fish (but not too hard)

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Hike to the Sao Pedro lighthouse

Sunday. It was a fairly clear day today, for a change, so Rory and I decided to go back to São Pedro and try to walk out to the old lighthouse. We had no interest in walking all the way from Mindelo, like we did last time, so we decided to meet in town and try to find a hiace that was heading that way. Luckily (because the streets are pretty deserted on Sundays), we were able to flag one down after only a few minutes.
After we got to São Pedro, we walked across the beach to the side of the bay the lighthouse is on, and easily found the path. It was about a 40-minute walk to the point the lighthouse sits on, along a narrow path cut into the side of sheer cliffs. The lighthouse was built in 1893/1894, but is now abandoned. Definitely a lonely experience for the lighthouse keeper back then, but great sunset views. We also explored a path that leads from the lighthouse down to the ocean below, and there are some interesting caves that the ocean has carved out.
The stone formations along the cliffs are as interesting as the lighthouse itself. There are vertical layers of rock that run through the area that are much harder than the surrounding material. As erosion has occurred, these layers have remained, and they look as if someone had built a series of purposeless walls up and down the cliff side. This place would be a geologist’s dream.
We walked back into town, had a beer, then looked for a hiace back. There were none to be had, so we walked to the airport, about a kilometer away, and caught a taxi back to Mindelo, where we headed our separate ways. Not a terribly productive day, but at least I got out of the apartment and saw a little more of the island.

Heading out to sea past the lighthouse

Sao Pedro from the base of the lighthouse

The ocean from the lighthouse

The beach at Sao Pedro

Ocean rocks

The lighthouse path

My fellow photographer at work

View of Sao Pedro from the lighthouse

Interesting rock formations

Categories: Cape Verde, Mindelo, Photography, Travel | 1 Comment

First hint of boredom

Saturday. Today was the first day I have actually felt bored since I have been in Cabo Verde. Yesterday, I went to school for a while, met with some of the students, and posted my grades on the university form. Two of my students did not pass, and I will have to give them an oral exam, but the date for that has not been posted yet. As a result, I am completely done with school for the time being.
Came back to the apartment and got my blog up-to-date for the first time since I have been here. So that is another big task out of the way. Then did my shopping for the weekend, as I had decided to take a hike to Monte Verde today in order to do some photography.
But when I woke up this morning, the weather was still cool, windy and overcast, and the hike would have been a waste of time from a photo point of view. So after I ran, and had breakfast, I had nothing to do! For the first time in six months, I sat there and said what in the hell do I do now. A very odd feeling.
One thing that I have found as I have practiced photography is that you have a freshness of vision when you visit someplace new. But over time, you lose that fresh perspective, and it as if your vision becomes glazed over from seeing the same thing too many times, no matter how scenic it might be. And that is starting to happen to me in Mindelo. Views that were interesting and colorful when I first arrived here have now become commonplace. That is one reason I was looking forward to getting out of town today and seeing some new scenery. So I need to start working harder at finding the uncommon in the common-place. One subject area to do that in is with people. Photographing people has always been tough for me – I do not like to invade their space – but I have always enjoyed it. And the people of Mindelo have not gotten common-place yet. So it is a vein of photography that I need to mine.
As a result, I went out this afternoon with the intent of just shooting people. Nothing great so far, but it is a start.

Waiting for the bus

Candy seller, knitting

Dona (lady) with a drink

Old Man and the Harbor

Waiting for the doors to open to that big break

Barber at work

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Country Dave comes to Mindelo!

Thursday. Have spent the last two days at school finishing up end-of-the-semester paperwork. Many of the students have come by to see what they made on the final, and it has been interesting trying to converse with them outside of the classroom. I have been fortunate that I have had such a good group my first time out. They all want to know what their final grade for the course is, but I am not allowed to tell them. Apparently, currency of payment of university tuition and fees is a continual problem, and the admin office will not issue a final grade to a student unless they are fully paid up. So all final grades are sent to that office and posted from there.
During my lesson with Silvina, we spent an hour-and-a-half talking about local politics in Mindelo/São Vicente. There are two legislative bodies that run the island – the Camera and the Assembly – and both have a President and a number of members. I do not yet understand how they differ in responsibilities, but am working on it. Silvina lives in the zone of Bela Vista, and she told me that her community has a number of concerns that they have been trying to get the city to take care of for years, but the politicians have been completely irresponsive. Bela Vista has a community association in which she is very active, and they are going to have a big meeting on Saturday to formulate another petition to send to the two government groups. I asked her why they didn’t just throw the bums out in the next election. She explained that there are two main political parties that control most of the political power, the PAICV and the MPD, and the parties chose the slate of candidates who are going to run for office. Voters do not choose individual candidates, but only the slate. Even though independent candidacies are allowable, the vast majority of people vote for one of the two big parties, so change is difficult. Silvina is very passionate about helping her community, and once I got her going, she forgot she was talking to a novice Portuguese speaker, so I am sure that I only got a rough idea of what she was talking about.
Wednesday night, Melissa was in town from Santo Antao for her work. I picked her up at Chez Louca, which was where she was staying, and fairly close to my apartment, and we walked to the restaurant Bodegita and met Drew and Rory for dinner. She and her husband Scott are second year volunteers and will be departing in September. She said they are not sure what they will do next and related how difficult job hunting is from their remote location.
Tonight, I went to Clube Nautico to see “Country Dave”. When I saw the poster for it, I said I have got to check this out. Actually, he was more folk than country, and actually he was English not American, but actually he was not bad. He had a small back-up band which was good except for an out-of-tune fiddle player. Practiced on my low light photography.

Clube Nautico

Country Dave at Clube Nautico

Country Dave's guitar

Country Dave singing cry-in-your-beer music

Country Dave's "picker"

Categories: Cape Verde, Mindelo, Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

and Dust Bowl

Tuesday. Ran this morning. Breathing was difficult because of the dust. There is a huge dust storm that has blown over us from the Sahara desert. This is the worse day of it so far, and I could barely see several hundred meters ahead. Stayed home and finished grading all my tests, and a few remaining relatorios. The class did well on the test; everyone passed except for two students who did not show up to take it.
Review a medical update form from the Dept of State medical office that I have to have our Peace Corps medical officer sign and email in. The medical clearance was the major hurdle last time, I hope I can get over it this time. The form was sent electronically, but for some strange reason, you cannot save any changes you make to it. You have to fill it out, then print it out, then scan it back in, then email it back. The logic of that completely escapes me.
My gas tank ran out for the first time. I had been wondering how long one tank would last; now I know, 4.5 months. The bad news was that it ran out in the middle of a batch of chocolate chip cookies. The refill (it was one of the larger tanks) cost 3000$, about $40. Not too bad I guess for four months of cooking.

Satellite view of dust cloud from the Sahara blowing over the Atlantic and Cabo Verde

Monte Kara on a clear day

Monte Kara in the dust storm

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Portuguese language progress (or not)

Monday. Spent most of the day at school. The seniors in the CE program have to do an “End of Course” individual research project as one of their graduation requirements. Each professor puts together a list of four possible topics that the students might use as their theme. If a student selects a topic from a particular professor’s list, that professor then helps the student with the project, providing guidance and advice. Vera, my boss, explained all this to me and asked me to prepare four topics. We had this conversation in Portuguese, and we were actually able to communicate! It made me feel that I am making some progress in the language.
Then, I had my Portuguese lesson in the afternoon. Silvina is trying to get me to properly pronounce the “r” sound. It is a type of trill made with the tongue slightly touching the top of the mouth, and my tongue is physically incapable of making it. We tried and tried, but did not get close. So maybe my progress is not as great as I thought this morning. She and I also had an interesting talk about the evolution of the local language Kriolu. She does not think that Kriolu will continue to exist as a language a hundred years from now because of all the influences from Portuguese (both Portugal and Brazil), English and Dutch.

Old door in Mindelo

Old window in Mindelo

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Super Bowl

Sunday. Yesterday, I was planning on taking a trip around the island and seeing some parts of it that I have not been to yet. But it was one of the first really lousy days, weather-wise, that we have had since I have been here. We have had bad days, but this one was cold, windy, overcast, dusty, with an actual rain in the afternoon – the tourism officials are going to have a hard time putting a positive spin on today. So, I stayed in the apartment (I am torn between saying “stayed home” or “stayed in the apartment”) and worked on the blog all day.
Sunday, I ran, worked on the computer, and did some cooking. Mac-and-cheese for the Super Bowl party tonight and spaghetti sauce for later in the week. We gathered at Cathryn and Ten’s for a Super Bowl get-together. They were able to get an internet feed and put it on their television. It was fun to watch, even though the wrong team won (go Patriots). But, as one of our group commented, though, Brady has Giselle – he doesn’t need another SB ring. I was actually hoping for San Francisco versus Baltimore. It would have been interesting watching the two brothers (the head coaches) battling it out for family bragging rights. Plus their father was the coach at WKU while I was in Bowling Green. Game got over about 2am local time, so we (or at least I) suffered the following morning.

Chowing down before the big game

Our friend Ten teaching how to make the local drink "caparinho" (like a mojito)

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