Friday, October 14, 2011

Favor System

Money makes the world go 'round. But, it also turns nice gestures into selfish endeavors. Therefore, I prefer the favor system.

Some examples.

My friend Buba, and others from West Africa, make a type of green about three-four times a day. And everytime they make it they share with others. So much so that it might make sense to start selling cups of tea; something that is done in the capital. But Buba and the others just give it away free. I frequent these afternoon tea sessions so I feel its a nice gesture to give something back in return. So, whenever I go to the capital I try to pickup a package of tea or some vegetables that they can't find here in Pedra Badejo. Just so I don't feel like a mooch. And the other day I was over at Buba's house, watching a soccer match, and apparently it was dinner time. So, I ate. Good stuff, too.

And this system, I see as more humane than our current. Creating more personal relationships rather than dealing with money, an object that doesn't allow for exceptions or delays. I guess it is similar to the idea of time banking, which I don't know much about. But it just seems more human to exchange something, with more behind it (someone makes the tea, travel to the capital to buy tea), that creates an even greater bond of friendship, rather than money changing hands.

Money keeps us strangers, makes us distance ourselves from others. Favors build friends. Favors imply trust. Money doesn't. Favors are the future. And, I'm done.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mid Service Frustrations

I've been here a year now, and what have I done???????????

This is a question that I pose to myself, and I´m sure other volunteers do the same, almost everyday. Honestly, I haven't organized many activities, I haven't formed any women empowerment groups, I haven't tackled literacy, so what have I done?????

Concrete things that I've done. Taught 4 basic computer classes, maybe inspired a board change for our volunteer group at the youth center, organized a few activities (hikes, volunteer stuff), started monthly employee meetings at the youth center, and volunteered at a soccer school. That's about it. Have I made a difference???

As I go through all these mid-service trainings and hear about 0ther volunteers activities, I am constantly judging myself against the other volunteers to the point that it becomes stressful. Some are doing life skill summer camps, some building tanks of water and others starting english conversation clubs. What can I do?

I know now that I don't like organizing events, too much hustle and bustle and stress. I don't really like teaching english, nor really promoting the learning of english. I really don't want to directly teach life skills to kids that just want to play soccer. So, where do I go from here????

I recently turned down the opportunity to teach another computer class for a multitude of reasons, but principally because I want to do something different. Like many organizations and people, I think the youth center is stuck in its ways. They do what they know and are fairly hesitant to try anything that they haven't tried before. Very risk averse. So, I have to take that risk for them. This next year is about being different. I won't being as concerned with trying to fit in and will try to assert myself a little more. Start some new ideas. Maybe they don't catch on, but hopefully the idea and the intiative catches on.


Friday, July 22, 2011

The Importance of Saying 'Good Afternoon'

Hi all, hope everything is good. Life is good here, searching for projects and other work. I have poured urine on my compost pile, so we'll see how that goes, hopefully it gets a good nitrogen boost. So, I've gotten a request to tell more stories. Gladly. This one comes from about 3 months or so back.

It all began as a fairly normal day, I think it was a Sunday and I was coming back from the capital city, Praia, after a music festival that was on Saturday. The festival was so-so, but it was an alright night. Nothing eventful happened that night. So, Sunday, Scott, a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, and myself get on a hiace (van) to my town of Pedra Badejo. The ride was normal, rotxadu (packed), so 20 people in a van that should go about 15 deep. Anyways, Scott put his headphones on and nodded off, while I was stuck between him and another capeverdean in the far backseat of the hiace, hot and uncomfortable. We get out of the capital just fine and off the newly paved road onto a cobble stone road that has plenty of bumps on it. This road takes us all the way to my city, Pedra Badejo, but people get off frequently at various villages or houses on the way. At one of these fairly common stop points, for a town called Porto Madeira, one of the ladies asks the ajudante (helper), the guy who opens and closes the door and trys to recruit people to get on the car, steps out to fazi mandadu (run an errand) for one the ladies in the van. This time he was sent to get some cookies (more like nilla wafers but dryer) at the local store. Normal enough, this is a common occurrence. But this time there is some noise, which causes most of the passengers to look back. Me and Scott are late looking back because we're both tired and groggy from the previous long night. So, we turn to look and our ajudante is running into this empty cornfield, being chased by one of locals who had been drinking at the store (Especially in the rural areas all the stores will sell grogue, the local spirit, as well as some basic food items). So, now there's a standoff, a sort of drunken slow one at that. At this point, our ajudante picks up a big rock, like the size of 16 inch softball, which I thought would be used only to intimidate the guy and make him stand down. I had seen this before many of times and no one had thrown the rock before. I was wrong this time. Our ajudante threw the rock, sort of like a lazy line drive, it didn't have too much mustard behind it but it wasn't lobbed either. And it connected. Square on the drunken townie's forehead. This causes him to fall to his knees. Now, everyone in our car is screaming for the driver to go because they don't want the car to get assaulted by rocks from the other spectators who were at the bar, but the driver wasn't even in the car. He was talking to someone outside. So, he runs to the car, hops in the front seat and starts the car, bringing it to a crawl. Meanwhile, the ajudante starts to scramble back to the car and the other guy, after he gets back to his feet, realizes that his forehead is cracked open. Obviously, he needs to do something about this, so he decides to use his shirt as a sort of rocky-like bandage over his forehead. Once this is done, he slowly approaches the car (we're still moving at a snail's pace, I still don't know why). Then he makes his way to the driver's window. By now, the driver had to put his out the window ready for whatever. But the dude just looks him down and doesn't say word. Here is when the driver steps on it, and we make our way towards Renque Purga, the next town over with many people telling the hiace driver not to stop for fear of the group catching up to us. Admist this, the ajudante is explaining his case, over and over, that he just went into the store to buy cookies and the next thing a group had cornered him, asking him 'why he hadn't said mantenha (saludation, good afternoon)' to which he justified that he wasbusy and just going to buy cookies and there wasn't any need to say 'good afternoon'. After hearing that story repeatedly and then going on and on about whether you have to say 'good afternoon' or not, we arrived at my city safe and sound. And now, I think I say good afternoon a little more than before. Peace.

Monday, June 20, 2011


What up? Hope the people that read this blog are doing well and loving life. Here, life is pretty good. Still doing the same old: teaching a computer class, working on a compost pile, some other organizational development stuff at the youth center and the radio station (I'll try to record some shows and post them on the web)

But, aside from my job, I talk to people and this is by far the most rewarding aspect of my life here in Cape Verde. Throughout my first year here I've talked to old men, freedom fighters, immigrants who have seen the effects of civil war, colleagues and children. Each of them improving my understanding of the world and humbling me. Not all of the talks are serious. A lot of them are about sports, the weather and their families. But they all have an impact on the way that I view the world and the way I go about living in it.

I can remember one day where I talked with two old men, one who I frequently talk with, Sinhor Mauricio, and the other who is Sinhor Mauricio's cousin. That day we talked about life in the old days, back in the 40's. They spoke of the hardships they encountered, specifically the famine in 1947, which they remembered by date. At this point, Sinhor Mauricio's cousin unbuttoned his shirt and showed me a mark that was left from carrying those that didn't make it. Instantly, I was humbled, quieted and probably changed the subject pretty quickly after that because I really don't know how to react after someone does something like that. But, I was humbled.

Immediately after that conversation, I went to another spot where I hang out and drink tea with a bunch of people from Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and other parts of West Africa. That day it just so happened that those hanging out there got into an argument/debate over the use of the word "amigu" (friend) to call people from West Africa. (A lot Cape Verdeans use the word amigu and other terms to refer to anyone looking like they come from West Africa, to which many people from West Africa take offense) This argument/conversation took place between a Cape Verdean and a bunch of people from WA. Ultimately, it turned out to be a great conversation, although there were a few tense moments. I think we ended at a point of understanding that people should take the time out to learn each other's names and avoid the use of such terms. The path at which we ended at that solution was very interesting, talking about family heritages and trips to the continent. And then the conversation turned to what can be done to improve West Africa, including talks about free trade agreements and other things. But, it gave me hope and made me smile to hear people talking about that sort of thing openly.

Then there are times when my roommate and I talk to little kids. Asking them why they have a rock in their hand? or where there pants went? These often end up with funny answers or we can't understand the response. But either way, it's a good little mini-convo.

Those are just of the few good talks that I have. I could write about many more, they're all special and unique, but for the most part the result is the same. I learn something new, become humbled and smile.

Peace and Love.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quick Month Overview

Sorry for the lack of blogging. Legit excuse, though. Our internet was cut at the youth center and the internet cafe wouldn't let me post my blogs. But, I'll give y'all a quick update on what I'm up to.

We've started a compost pile behind the youth center, and I'm taking to it like a 7th grader with his science-fair project. It's awesome. I've already read books about composting. However, it's a slow process. I might start pouring my urine on it to speed up the process (it provides nitrogen to activate the bacterias that are doing all the decomposing) If it works out well, we might try to expand it.

Also, I'm starting another computer class on Wednesday. So, I'll be busy for the next month or so.

And, my roommate and I now have our own radio show every saturday. I'll try to post the shows on here later.

Read a good book last month that another volunteered had recommended to me, Wendell Barry Jayber Crow (and actually lent to me). In it, there is a quote about life; "And os when I have thought I was in my story or in charge of it, I really have been only on the edge of it, carried along. Is this because we are in an eternal story that is happening partly in time?" Thought it was a good quote, humbles you and I'm not even religious. Just shows that there are somethings greater than us.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

A little language goes a long way

So, I'm back at home, in Cape Verde. Life's a lot more relaxed. Don't have to worry about confusing airports, customs and all that stuff. For my flight back to Cape Verde, I actually arrived at the airport 5 hours before my flight just to lighten the stress-load. Airports are definitely not my niche. Felt good though to just chill, watch people and read. I'm definitely a better chiller since arriving on the island. But, the main topic of this blog is going to be language and it's importance. On Cape Verde, Cape Verdeans and I speak Kriolu. For most people in the world it probably seems a useless language and one that will probably disappear as globalization progresses and colonial languages assert their dominance. Globalization is an incredibly powerful force that has a head of steam, however, I'm going to argue that these languages are extremely important in providing diversity amongst humans and empowering the people that speak these languages. Kriolu has been the key to my success in Cape Verde. It creates smiles for young and old cape verdeans when they hear this white guy speaking THEIR language instead of portuguese or just trying to get by in English. I'm sure that gives them pride as well to know that a foreigner has taken the time to learn their language. The same was true in Guatemala. Where I lived, the language was Katchi´kel (excuse the spelling) and just by saying the few words that I knew, rather than speaking Spanish; it brought by smiles to old ladies selling flowers in the streets. But with globalization's power, this linguistic road is more of a one-way street, granting more weight to the colonial languages: english, spanish, portuguese and french (I'm sure there are others, but my history isn't great and I like hating on europeans and americans. So, I'll stick with it). So, we are slowly moving toward a world with fewer and fewer languages. And this effect is felt in the `developing´countries, where everyone wants to learn English, the lingua franca of the world. This is a terrible shame. Without this linguistic diversity, I believe that the world could become less diverse in many other way, eventually, leading to a homogenous population that shares Western values and beliefs. Causing us to appear more like robots than we already do (I can remember looking at the people lining up to take the escalator in London and looked like some other force was controlling everyone and they had no mind of their own). Consumerism would take over the world. Think of the weight of the word "economic" in our language. I hardly hear this word spoken here, and I'm sure it's the case in other languages like Kriolu. This puts more responsibility on us in the western world. We need to take an interest in more of these seemingly unimportant languages of the world. The Kriolus, Foolas, Waloffs and Katchikels that without incentives from the western world could disappear. Buy music, books, take lessons. Use globalization against itself. I imagine that the loss of language diversity could be similar to the loss of biological diversity, on different scales. With those words, Fika fixi (be well) And this coming from a guy who's about to start teaching english. Ah the world is a complicated place, full of contradictions.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


So, I thought that I'd loosen things up by providing some links to some of my favorite tunes. Hopefully, they provide some smiles, a little dancing and maybe some booty shaking. Here they are:

I think that's enough for now. One love