“Red Wine In Straw”. 2.

I’m sipping some “Super Bock” beer. Wondering how this evening will turn out.

We’re exchanging some light conversation – me and the guy who has offered to host me for the night.

We’re doing what we can, given the language barrier.

Language barriers are so annoying.

I Like, we’re all human beings. Generally we all have this shared space of cognitive concepts we’re all familiar with. I’ve been alive as a human being on this planet for like the past twenty one years. This guy has probably been alive for a similar amount of time. There’s a lot we have in common – just by virtue of the shared experience of existing on this planet as instances of the Homo sapiens species.

But language barriers – language barriers make it seem like we’re completely different species with absolutely nothing in common.

I have things on my mind I’m unable to communicate to you. You have things on your mind you’re unable to communicate to me. I might as well be an ant that communicates with antennas on my head. And you might as well be a dolphin that communicates with underwater sonar signals. Because we’re just unable to exchange thoughts and ideas.

We’re doing so little actual communication because there’s no way to succinctly pass information across. Most of what’s happening between us right now is just vibes. We’re just enjoying this shared congenial vibe over beer at this local bar in the innards of Espargos.

There was this guy I met a while back. I was at a restaurant here in Espargos – I think I had something to eat, and then I was doing some stuff on my computer after. We got talking and he invited me over to his place at Palmeira. We spent over an hour together at his place, but exchanged very few words because of the frustration of the whole language barrier thing.

I was so annoyed. Like, “I know I’m going to like this guy. I know we’re going to be friends somehow, somewhat, to some extent. But we cannot communicate, We. Cannot. Communicate, WHHYYYYY.”

Every now and then I use Google Translate. The app is pretty good, and it translates spoken audio too. But so far it has only proven practical for very brief/more formal conversation.

Like I’m trying to ask if they have say potatoes in stock at a grocery store, and I’m not sure what “potato” means in Portuguese. So I speak into the app, and then a robot-ey voice pronounces the Portuguese equivalent of “potato”.

Those are generally the scenarios in which it has proven very useful.

But informal free-flowing conversation that hinges a lot on that constant continuity and flow in the moment? Especially for people who you’ve just met and are still in the process of building rapport? Nah. Translation apps just kill the vibe. They just don’t work.

We’ve left the bar.

We’re heading somewhere – I imagine his living space is the final destination.

We’ve just come across a number of his friends. They seem cool.

One of them is tall and athletic, with a head of mid-length dreadlocks – like a dreadlock afro. I like him.

We’re all walking along the street and chatting.

There’s a club nearby. Interesting multi-coloured lights and stuff outside. There’s a long queue outside the club. It looks interesting. It’s giving me flashbacks. Haha.

Somehow a carton of red wine appears. I think someone bought it.

So there’s this strange wine they have in Cape Verde. It’s not in a bottle. It’s in like a juice pack. Like the large hardcover sort of pack you’ll usually see like family-sized juice in. Yeah like that. But instead they put wine in it. Red wine.

It’s strange. It’s strange but it’s cool and interesting somehow.

So like, I can buy a “juice pack” of red wine at the grocery store on a random evening, take a few steps out of the entrance, sit down on the sidewalk and have myself some red wine. Straight out of the pack. Like I’m sipping juice.

I don’t know how you’d do that with a bottle. Like, first you’ll need to find a bottle-opener. I don’t think you can just ask random people on the road if they happen to have a wine bottle opener in their pocket or their handbag. Haha.

We’re passing the wine around, taking sips. We all have our own straws. So when you’re passed the pack you dip your straw into a hole on top, take a few sips, and then pass it across.

“Red wine in straw!”

It’s the tall guy with afro dreadlocks.

“Red wine in straw!” He says to me excitedly.

So there’s a way Cape Verdean locals speak English. Their pronunciation is different – for example they pronounce the sound “h” with a more pronounced constriction at the back of their mouths so their “h” sounds almost like a “k”.

So they say stuff like “Hkhow? Hkhow you do it Mayowa? Hkhow? Tell me, I want to know.”

There’s also something unusual about the way they space and stress their words.

For example this guy is saying “Red wine in straw”, but he says it like “Red winee IN…..strAW!”

I think it’s strange and amusing.

He has uttered the phrase like ten times now, and each time he said it the exact same way.

Every time he says it I burst into laughter. That’s probably why he keeps saying it. He looks so funny when he says it.

Something strange is happening. The initial guy I met at the bar – the one who offered to host me at his place for the night- His mood is souring and I don’t know why.

Every now and then he just stops and turns around and begins to shout and rant angrily in Creole. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s disturbing the vibe of the group. The other people are also concerned.

He doesn’t seem to be angry at anyone or anything in particular. He’s just becoming progressively irascible, and I don’t get it.

I don’t know anything about him, but the whole thing feels like the sort of pre-existing subliminal emotional turmoil that alcohol brings to the surface. I wonder what it is that’s actually stressing him.

We keep walking down the sidewalk.

The “Red wine in straw” guy keeps making me laugh and dismiss the other guy’s strange behaviour.

We keep walking and passing the wine around.

I keep watching as things progress.

All of a sudden the irrational guy walks towards me and drags my propane cylinder out of the crook in my elbow.

I’m watching in surprise. What?

He lifts the cylinder and slams it on the ground.


That’s it.

That is fucking it.

This is the last fucking straw.

Does this guy even know where I’m coming from?

Does this guy know how far I’ve brought this cylinder?

I’ve brought this thing halfway across the island!!

All for it to be ruined by this irascible motherfucker?!

Couchsurfing be damned. I can no longer stay within proximity of this person.

I pick up the cylinder and angrily walk away.

I’m about fifteen minutes away before I gradually begin to calm down.

I am still fuming and muttering to myself.

Irrational motherfucker. I wonder what the fuck his problem is.

Just threw the cylinder on the ground like that. For no fucking reason.


It’s almost midnight.

I have no idea where I’m going to spend the night.

The streets are pretty quiet.


Hopefully the police doesn’t find me wandering about in the dead of the night.

Ugh. No. Not today please. Not tonight.

Every now and then I find myself in some sort of an issue with the island police. For the most random things. And like, I’m never actually doing anything wrong. Usually. It’s usually just some sort of a misunderstanding somehow.

A good number of the police guys know me by name at this point.

Like, now they call out to me and wave whenever we cross paths.

“Like Hey Mister Strange man, hope you’re doing good today. And hope you’re not planning to get into any trouble on this new day”.

I’m this guy whose life nobody understands, no-one including myself.

I’m not in the mood to spend another night being the butt of jokes from those annoying Police guys.

Let’s see what’s going to happen.

Image: At Praia Antonio D’Souza. The beach on the southernmost end of Sal island, Cape Verde.

This post is one in a series. The other pieces in the series can be accessed here.

Cape Verde: A Story of a Transgender Prostitute. [Part 1]

“Some of them really want you to fuck them. They really like it.”

He is talking about sex.

Anal sex.

Homosexual anal sex.

Homosexual anal sex with a transgender woman as the penetrator.

I stare across the restaurant at a group of men seated a few tables away. They are all white except one. The last one is Cape Verdean- a badiu1. He seems to be hanging around them so he can get money somehow. Either by being their ad hoc tour guide, or via some other means.

Apparently all every black person in this room is thinking about is how to get money from white people. Either by being their bartender, or by being their tour guide, or by sticking a penis into their rectum.

I have run out of annoyance at this obsequiousness.


A few hours earlier.

I am in a bus at Espargos2. It is a medium sized bus, not the much more capacious single-decker buses that seem to be the only ones in use in the U.S. or the parts of Europe I have been to. In spite of that, the seating is still comfortable. Unlike Nigeria, the capacity regulations of public transport buses are actually adhered to in Cape Verde.

Much later I would wonder why Sal (the island I am currently on) has none of these larger buses in their transport system. Santiago, a neighbouring island, does. Does it have to do with the difference in size of these islands? Population? Complexity of the road network? I would not have figured this out by the time I decide to write this story.

It is a sunny day. It is always a sunny day on the island of Sal. I think this is the day when a colleague of the bus driver takes a piece of local candy out of my hands without asking, and throws it into his mouth before I can say anything. I don’t know the Cape Verdean name for the candy. It is brown and somewhat flat- bumpy on the surface with a smooth underside. I really enjoy the nameless brown Cape Verdean candy.

I don’t really mind about the candy- It isn’t my last piece. If it was, I would definitely get into some sort of argument with the covetous man. Although I am pretty sure he wouldn’t even do that if it was my last piece. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t.

The bus is on the way to Santa Maria- an interesting urban hub at the southern end of the island. As I look around the bus, someone catches my attention.

The first thing that catches my eye is his lipstick.

He has black lipstick on. At the time of my writing this story I will try to remember his hairstyle without success. I am sure however, that it is interesting. In my perspective Cape Verdeans have very interesting hair. The Cape Verdean population is majorly a product of centuries of genetic intermingling between Africans and Europeans. Consequently, they have a combination of physical features that I find very interesting because they defy the learned mental templates I usually employ whenever I unconsciously attempt to understand, and possibly appreciate a black person’s face.

I suddenly find myself changing seats to be beside him. Questions begin to position themselves at the forefront of my mind.

“What is your story?”

“How do you identify yourself?”

“What is your perspective on the state of transgender rights activism here in Cape Verde? In places like San Francisco, there is a pretty formidable Pride movement, how would you describe the enthusiasm of the people here towards advancing awareness about the transgender phenomenon?”

Before I know it, we have begun to converse.


Is this your new wife?

I laugh out loud. The question comes from a friend of one of my Senegalese neighbours. He is somewhat tall with hunched shoulders. His teeth are sparse and very brown. I do not know much about him, save that he has a very resonant voice and that he is always talking excitedly about New York in the Wolof3 language.

“Hahaha no, he is not. No he is not.” I reply.

I am referring to the trans-woman walking alongside me on the street. We haven’t yet discussed what pronoun he would most prefer being referred to by. He does not seem to mind being referred to as a “he” though.

A question pops up in my mind about something we discussed in the bus.

[End of Part 1]

This post is one in a Series. A list of all of the posts in this Series can be accessed here.

1. badiu – A name to denote the dark-skinned fraction of the Cape Verdean population.

2. Espargos – A city located around the centre of the island of Sal in Cape Verde.

3. Wolof – The lingua franca of the Senegalese people.

Image Credits: (Image has no actual association with the story save the striking lipstick) https://www.yslbeautyus.com/makeup/lips/lipsticks/rouge-pur-couture-the-slim-matte-lipstick/30YSL.html

Cape Verde: A Night In Police Custody. 01.

Part 1.

The Arrest:

My face is pushed against the side of the van. There are about four Cape Verdean policemen holding me still, muttering excitedly to one another in Creole, while one of them briskly handcuffs my wrists behind my back.

Unintelligible Creole words bounce about in the chilly midnight air around me. A multiplicity of strong hands grip me in different places, rendering me helplessly immobile. I feel the cold unfriendly metal of their handcuffs bite into my wrists. In all of this disorienting confusion, I am most taken aback by the hostility palpable beneath the actions of my assailants. Their voices are derisive- I can perceive that even though I understand nothing of what they are saying. Their hands are oppressive- thoroughly communicating the overbearing will of their owners, without even a smidge of regard for my comprehensively violated sense of self respect.

“I am an escola at Estados Unidos!” I cry out.

I honestly do not know if I am speaking English, Portuguese or Cape Verdean Creole. I am simply stringing together some of the few words I learnt from Clayton, the manager of the small hotel I lodged in a few days ago.

In the few days I have spent in this country, I have become aware of the level of regard  Cape Verdean natives have for visitors from the west. Telling people I go to school in the USA makes them afford me a different level of respect. I do not like it. In fact I hate it. I find it very irritating to think that I have to affiliate myself with “the white man” to be respected by black people. Irritating as it is though, it is ridiculously effective at making the people here treat me like a celebrity. So sometimes I do it.

Like now.

“I am an escola at Estados Unidos!” I cry out again.

I wait for some sort of reaction.

I wait.


Absolutely nothing. The excited Creole words still bounce about. The roughandling still continues. I am still haplessly pinned to the side of their police van.

One of the policemen makes the handcuffs even tighter between my wrists. My hands feel contorted- like they have been forced to assume a position they were not designed for.

I stand there. Unmoving. Flabbergasted. Utterly clueless as to why all of this is happening to me.


In the Van:

I peer at the outside world through the small opening at the back of the van. My hands are handcuffed behind my back, and so it is difficult to keep my balance. It is also difficult to prevent my face from hitting the back of the van as I peer outside. I think the driver is swerving unnecessarily from side to side to make the ride very uncomfortable for me.

The bright orange halogen street lights recede from me as the van moves forward. Street lights have never looked so beautiful. So desirable. Right now they represent freedom. Liberty. Something which is currently, painfully beyond my reach.

I am not sure why, but I feel like the policemen are enjoying themselves. In a tyrannical sort of way.

Swerving to make my ride more uncomfortable?


Or maybe they aren’t swerving at all. Maybe the captivity of the small dark van is amplifying whatever small movements the vehicle makes. Maybe this confinement is messing with my senses.


In the Cell:

Was I correctly implementing the matrix multiplication?

During back propagation I think I was supposed to transpose the gradient matrix before multiplying with the neural network weights to update them. Did I do that?

Did I make the right choice for the learning rate?

You know what, I’m not sure. Maybe that was why my code was not working as it was supposed to. Maybe.

The room is dark and still and quiet. The only light here is faint and distant- a tired beam that peeps through the remarkably tiny window situated high on the wall above my head.

I am lying on a hard concrete bench. I think the bench was cold at first, but it gradually warmed up to contact from my body. Time seems to make this alien room a little more tolerable. Even the hardness of the bench seems to gradually become less offending to my back.

I occupy myself with thoughts of computer programming. I was programming on my computer when I got arrested at the beach. I was trying to build a neural network module from scratch. I was working to acquire a deep understanding of how they work- neural networks.

Things have taken a different turn now, but I think I have regained enough of my composure to continue what I was working on. My computer and other accessories have been seized by the police, but I still have my mind. Some of it at least. So I keep thinking about programming.

Why was I having that annoying issue with the three dimensional visualisation? Is my Matplotlib up to date?


It is morning.

I am in the police van again. They say I should take them to where I stay.

So I take them.

We alight from the van. I lead the way to my room in the hotel where I am lodged. The policemen begin to push me for no reason. They seem to just derive pleasure from making me uncomfortable.

I do not like it. I stop walking, and begin to protest. One of them strikes me across the back with his baton.

I do not flinch. I got hit by thick sticks and leather belts and many other unfriendly objects while in boarding school in Nigeria.

Your stick isn’t really a big deal Mister policeman.


We’re back at the station. The policemen turned my hotel room completely upside-down. I have no idea what they were looking for. They got a good look at my international passport with the different visas that were on it, my school identity card, and some of my other means of identification.

One of them looked at me and said, “So you’re a smart guy right?”.

I had no idea what he was talking about. I began to wonder what exactly gave him the false impression that I was an intelligent individual. Like dude, look at the situation I am in right now. Look at my life. I do not feel very smart. I do not feel smart at all.

I am led into an office. Seated across me is the man who seems to be in charge of this place. I sit down and we talk.

After he asks me some questions, my mugshot is taken. This is the first time I have had a mugshot taken of me. It’s not as glamorous as I expected. Apparently, here they don’t have the interesting black and white Hollywood-movie background that shows how tall you are. What a shame. I would have liked that. I’m pretty tall. It would have looked really cool.

I am made to fill a police report.

The police boss gives some instructions in Creole to his men, and a number of them march me outside the station and into another van.

I am no longer in handcuffs, but the men are still ordering me around and treating me very roughly.

I wonder where they are taking me now.

I wonder.

End of Part 1.

Image Credits: https://www.cnc3.co.tt/press-release/3-men-escape-police-custody

This post is one in a Series. The other pieces in the Series can be accessed here.