It is daybreak. It is my first morning in Cape Verde.
Rolph has left for Maio.
I feel sad. There’s this poignant, albeit relatively brief, sense of aloneness I experience whenever I’m separated from a travel companion. I felt it when the Mozambican left to catch his flight in Lisbon. Now I feel it again.
The airport here feels small. I felt like I spent almost an entire day exploring the airport in Lisbon. The airport here at Praia looks like it’ll take about fifteen to twenty minutes. Skateboarding is not even a possibility. Relative to airports in major European cities, this place feels squeezed.
It is warm. The air is warm- possibly as a function of the climate here, but at the same time I can also feel the warmth of the bodies moving around in the room.
The floor tiles look like they cost less. Everywhere looks less new and less glossy. It takes a while to appreciate this relative absence of glossiness.
The bathroom reminds me of Nigeria. Not in any negative way, no. The sanitary wares just look like the types used in Nigeria.
The morning air smells of leaves and transpiration and the uncertainty of the future.
I’ve had this piece of paper with me since Lisbon. I’ve been writing poems on it. Poems about heartbreak and nostalgia and anxiety. I wrote one about airports. The title is “An airport is multiple places”.
There are some small planes outside for inter-island flights. This is my first time seeing a plane with actual propellers- so far I have only physically seen planes with jet engines. The blades are black, with one like a fan on each wing.
There was an issue at check-in. I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane with my skateboard. I didn’t understand.
The immigration officer talking with me, engages in some additional consultation with a woman who appears to be his boss in the airport employee hierarchy.
He says they’re trying to prevent a situation where the skateboard is used as a weapon to harm the people on the plane.
I am very shocked. I have never heard that before.
Eventually we agree to transport it as baggage. And I don’t have to pay for it. The officer promises to have it transported safely. I think we exchange a knowing look— He himself is surprised by the sudden policy on skateboards. I think his boss is just being irrational this morning.
I am in the plane. It is a small plane, even smaller than the Wow airlines discount flight I used with an Indian classmate a number of months before.
The plane is sparsely occupied. I think I am the only one on my row, which has about four seats.
There is a brightly colored picture of a laughing Cape Verdean woman dressed in very interesting attire. The picture is up in a number of places in the plane. I’ll later see the same picture on the packaging of some traditional Cape Verdean coffee.
There is a guy a number of rows ahead of me. I have heard him chattering excitedly in Creole since I got in. It is most likely his first time flying. He keeps laughing and chatting euphorically and bouncing on his seat and peering through the window.
The environment in this country feels very different from Germany, where I lived for a number of months. Amongst other things, I am still trying to get used to being around so many black bodies.
The plane takes off.
We are flying over Sal. I stare down at the bright brown undulating desert sand, mesmerized.
We touchdown at Aeroporto Internacional Amilcar Cabral, somewhere in the middle of the island.
As I exit the plane, I am welcomed with the warm, relatively-humid air of Sal.
Like Praia, we exit the plane by walking down the stairway at the side. In my previous travel experiences, there was usually this channel that led from the airplane door to the airport- travelers never actually used the stairway thing.
The airport is sparse. There is an excited couple getting their bags. I think the woman is pretty.
At some point I’m the only one in the entrance hall and there’s no other traveler in sight.
It is so bright and sunny here. It is the polar opposite of cold grey Berlin. I will later find myself in situations (mostly in Nigeria) where people do not understand why I sometimes just lie out in the sun.
The dull grey cold of winter in Berlin gave me a deep-seated appreciation for sunlight and atmospheric warmth. People who have spent (usually) all of their lives in tropical climates generally see spending extended amounts of time out in the sun, as punishment and as something to be avoided.
And so it’s exceptionally strange for such people to see me lying out in the sun and “punishing myself”. Although it definitely has to be said that the intensity of the sunlight in Nigeria can sometimes be highly unconducive to leisurely naps.
My skateboard landed safely, as promised.
In about four months I’ll give this skateboard as a gift to a neighbor- the younger brother of the Cape Verdean guy with an estranged European family. I bought it at a skate shop along Market street in San Francisco. It has a picture of rotting fruits on the underside. I liked the picture because at the time I bought it, I felt like I needed some sour stimulus- something to jar my reality.
Skateboarding will not be as much of a priority in a few months. I’ll be spending tons of time, energy and concentration figuring out my plans for the future and for my life. There won’t be much spare energy to channel into skateboarding.
I leave my bags at the airport entrance, and go skateboard in the car park. I do this for about two minutes before airport security stops me.
In my perspective, one major difference between the urban experience in relatively developed countries and developing ones, is the presence of stricter security around buildings (and generally locations) of attraction in developing countries.
In relatively developed countries, pretty much everywhere looks nice. In developing countries the relatively nice looking places highly contrast with the less aesthetically pleasing areas (this is also usually the case with regard to relative socioeconomic advancement) and usually require stricter security to prevent such locations from devolving into the less admirable conditions prevalent in the immediate environment.
A consequence of this, is that people living in developing countries acquire this learned inhibition around these locations. Coming from the West however, these locations didn’t seem overwhelmingly awesome to me — They were nice, yeah- just not to the point where I would feel any inhibition around them. And so I would be skating around a relatively nice looking building- like:
Yeah I used to skate around the buildings in Berlin like this.
To the residents however, my behavior was strange, somewhat disrespectful, and (especially to security) unacceptable. After overcoming the stupefaction they experienced regarding how I was able to move about so freely and carefreely in such a “NIICEEE” environment, they would stop me and generally try to influence me in the direction of a more inhibited and self-conscious disposition.
It always pissed me off.
I pick up my bags and get a taxi to Espargos.
The next time I’ll be inside this airport, I’ll be coming out of a police van after spending the night in a cell at Espargos.
I’ll meet Carlos- the Commander of Police on the island. I’ll perceive him to be a pretty interesting guy- very admirable biceps. Conscientious and determined, yet open enough to smile and be friendly.
We’ll sort out the misunderstanding which led to my arrest. We’ll have an interesting conversation and at some point he’ll attempt to introduce one of the very attractive Cape Verdean women working in the airport, to me as a potential girlfriend. She’ll look even more appealing given that I spent the night before languishing in a dark and unfriendly cell at the station. I’ll be too self-conscious after such an experience, to give much thought to his proposition.
We’ll talk some more- he’ll talk briefly about his childhood, and the determination which drove him to acquire a foreign education. He’ll talk to me about some issues he’s facing on the job. Regarding unwanted immigrants and difficulties with politely returning them to their countries of origin.
I’ll wonder why the Commander of Police is talking to me about these things. I’ll wonder what about me makes him afford me such regard. I’ll wonder why he thinks I could possibly have something helpful to say.
I mean, if I take some time to think I’ll probably come up with something- but I wonder what gives him that impression about me. Me who was brought here in a police van, freshly released from handcuffs and a night in the cell at the Espargos police station.
Image: Walking along the major expressway in Sal.
This post is directly connected with a number of others. An index of these other posts can be accessed here.
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