A Story of a Hungry Gap-Year Student and some Untouched Hotel Food.

It is an afternoon on the island of Sal.

I am headed somewhere.

Maybe to find some electricity to charge my computer.

Maybe.

I am headed somewhere to do something.

My computer is in my backpack.


I am hungry. I am immensely hungry.

I have not had a decent meal in a good while.

Usually my sense of personal pride and agency is sustenance enough to withstand the discomfort of physical hunger.

But every now and then, even that gets depleted.

And then I resort to my tagline:

Hello, I’m a student on a gap year from college in the US. Do you think you could help me with some money?

Usually people are sympathetic. Cape Verdean natives are generally very generous. Not with money- not really, because they themselves might not have so much to spare. But with empathy, with goodwill, with food, with company, and with alcohol.

Usually the problem with generous Cape Verdean men playing board games at local bars, is that I end up with a hangover the next morning- From drinking ill-advised amounts of Grogue– their unfamiliar rum.

Tourists generally have more money to spare, but I’m even less inclined to ask them for money because usually they’re Europeans on vacation in the Cape Verdean islands. And so there’s a perspective from which it’s really just some disadvantaged Black guy- You know, just one of the innumerable disadvantaged Black people in the news, asking some White guy for money.

I think that’s an immensely horrible picture. And it’s just absolutely horrendous imagining myself as the disadvantaged Black guy happily receiving Aid.

I’d rather just stay hungry.

I don’t enjoy having to depend on people’s sympathy, and so I usually avoid employing that “Gap year student” tagline.

But every now and then, push comes to shove and I have to admit the reality of my current financial situation.


I am hungry. I am immensely hungry.

I am walking through a cobblestoned walkway in Odjo D’Agua hotel.

Odjo D’Agua is a four-star hotel on a rocky promontory of Praia D’Antonio Souza- Sal island’s southern beach.

I think it’s a really interesting hotel. It’s owned by a Cape Verdean native. I don’t know for certain that he owns the hotel, but it’s not unlikely. He definitely feels like someone with the means. Plus, he does not have the air of an employee. He moves with the air of someone who built something from scratch. Or maybe it’s just me.

I think Odjo D’Agua is really interesting, and I’m particularly fond of it because it’s the most prominent Cape Verdean hotel on the island. It’s the most prominent one which actually aims to promote Cape Verdean culture and tradition, in addition to providing a luxurious hotel experience.

Pretty much all of the other renowned hotels are foreign. They’re also really interesting, I’ve spent some time exploring a few. I just think it’s important for a good proportion of the most prominent hotels to be locally-owned, and designed to promote the native culture. Like, what’s the point of even spending time in a country if you aren’t going to soak in as much of the culture as you can.

I was in a conversation with his younger brother- The hotel owner’s younger brother, at his own restaurant in Espargos earlier in the year: Caldera Preta.

Caldera Preta. Black Pot. That’s the name of the restaurant.

Odjo D’Agua means Sea View.

It was my first time meeting him. I picked up the menu, wondering what to order. A dark-skinned man in a light white beard turned to me and said “Sorry, we don’t have pizza today”. In case I was thinking of ordering pizza.

We began to engage in conversation. Interesting guy.

At some point he mentioned his older brother- who I didn’t know at the time, and some issues he was facing with directing tourist streams towards his hotel.

A lot of the foreign-owned hotel chains in Cape Verde have their visitors book all-inclusive stays. So you’ve got tourists coming in from Europe and the US, booking their stay at these foreign-owned hotels- complete with food, island tours, recreation, etc, before even stepping foot into the country. And so most of the money they’re ever going to spend while in Cape Verde, is going to be spent inside these foreign hotels.

Of course that’s a problem for locally-owned hotels who do not have as much of an established presence, both online and in the scene of international tourism. Or locally-owned restaurants who don’t experience as much patronage because the tourists have all their gastronomic needs met in their walled-in, all-inclusive hotels.

Impecunious gap year student that I am, I definitely empathise with the local business-owners.


I am walking through a cobblestoned walkway in Odjo D’Agua hotel.

I am walking by the dining area, which is separated by some palm trees and decorative plants.

The owner of the hotel is having a meal. He seems to be having a date with some woman.

She looks very young. Relative to him at least. She looks like she’s in her thirties. The Odjo D’Agua guy on the other hand, must be at least Seventy. Or sixty-something.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s not a date. Maybe they’re just having lunch. Maybe I’m just reading into things.

I keep walking.


Not so long ago, I was having a conversation with a tourist couple from the UK on the Santa Maria pier. The man was mentioning to his wife about the fibreglass job on one of the fishermen’s boats, and how it was similar to that on their own boat in the UK.

I was curious what fibreglass was, and they seemed like friendly people so I asked them a question.

We ended up talking for about thirty minutes on the pier.

We talked about the man’s profession and his career decisions, we talked about their recent Safari vacation in I think, Tanzania. When I mentioned I was studying Computer Science in the US, he told me the husband of one of his daughters worked in Tech, and was doing VERY WELL. Like, VERY WELL in Caps.

That’s one aspect of the entire conundrum I’m grappling with during this gap year. Everyone says Tech is a great professional domain to venture into. I’ve got the skillset for it, but I don’t feel like that’s the path for me. Usually people are primarily concerned about the financial prospects of a career path. That’s usually enough motivation to forge ahead. For some reason I’m not really like that.

How am I like? What am I like? I don’t know. That’s why I’m here on some island in Cape Verde with no money in the first place. To figure things out.

At some point our conversation touched on the Odjo D’Agua hotel. The man said they had been vacationing in Cape Verde for a number of decades. He said initially the entire southern beach of Sal island used to be empty. There was nothing there. No one. No businesses, no restaurants, no Windsurfing schools, nothing. Just the Odjo D’Agua hotel.

I found the span of his perspective immensely interesting. That was something a person my age would just like, never know. Just because they weren’t alive or usefully sentient back then. That was something I could really only learn from talking to someone much older than me.

Given that one piece of information, it was very possible to visualise the trend of business-population formation on the beach over time. Initially it was just the Odjo D’Agua guy. And then as both the tourist numbers and the awareness of tourism as a stream of national income increased, businesses gradually began to dot the beach.

In your head, you could practically visualise the beach populate over time.

I thought that was really interesting to think about.


I am heading back.

I am walking back through a cobblestoned walkway in Odjo D’Agua hotel.

The Odjo D’Agua guy and his β€œdate” have left the table.

The hotel owner guy left his food practically untouched.

I need to get back to the—

—-

WAAAAAIIIITTTTTTTT

The hotel owner guy left his food practically untouched.

There is Food on that table. Food- There is Food on that table. Practically untouched Food.

What is going to be done with the Food???

Yeh! What is going to happen to the food??!!

In this very moment, my body ceases to be my own. My legs begin to march around the palm trees and decorative plants, towards the hotel dining area.

What Rubbish.

Because he owns a 4-star hotel he thinks he can waste food however he wants.

What Nonsense.

I find myself seated at the table. My backpack is on the ground, resting against one of the table legs.

The rice in the plate ahead of me begins to rapidly disappear.

As I sit there, munching and fuming, face practically buried in the plate of rice, I vaguely perceive a uniformed being hovering over me.

I am completely incapable of processing what is happening. All of the currently ensuing events are far outside the circumference of my shrunken consciousness.

My sole concern in life right now, is effectively seeing to the plate of rice before me.


I am about to finish the rice. Hunger somewhat assuaged, my sense of environmental-awareness gradually begins to expand to its usual extent.

Now I have the cognitive resources to process the visual signals I was receiving earlier.

The hovering uniformed being was a waiter at the hotel.

The waiter carted away the bowl of chicken on the table.

Ah that’s true, there was chicken.

A pang of grief stings me. I find myself grieving the departed chicken.

Why did the waiter take the bowl of chicken away? Couldn’t they see I had plans for it?

I finish up with the rice.

At some point my ears begin to function, and I can hear the ocean waves crashing against the beach a number of metres to my left.

I couldn’t hear all of that before.

I drink some water and prepare to leave, fuming sub-vocally at the overzealous waiter.

I pick up my backpack and sling it across my shoulder, as I find my way out of the hotel dining area.

Today has not been such a bad day.

Not so bad. Not so bad at all.


Image: Random day at the Santa Maria Pier, with the Odjo D’Agua Hotel in the background.

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