Sal Island, Cape Verde: An Unrealized Tattoo. 1.

We’re at the bar. The defunct bar. The one in front of Hotel Aeroflot.

I’m at the central table, munching on some chicken and engaging in conversation. Tony is talking about something- every so often he walks over to the grill, to tend to the pieces of chicken he’s barbecuing.

The afternoon is bright and sunny, and the weather is great.

As it usually is on Sal island.

Tony is saying something about squid season. He says it’s currently squid season, and that soon some guys’ll be going out to fish for squid in the ocean.

Hm. Sounds interesting.

I imagine squid has a special place in the hearts of Cape Verdean locals. Because amongst other things you generally don’t really need money to access squid meat. You just need to go out and fish, or something.

For me right now- sitting on this wooden bar stool, staring at the crystal blue Atlantic Ocean barely ten metres away from my position here in the shade, squid meat feels especially accessible to me right now.

Like I could walk right into the ocean right now, and straight-up grab some squid.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just hungry.

I probably just need to accompany people on a squid fishing expedition or something, to get some of that calamari in my system.

But stuff like eg sausages? Imported stuff you can only get at the mini-mercados? All that stuff costs money.

And honestly, thinking about anything that requires me to have units of bank-issued currency right now- That- that just gives me a headache.

I’ve got no money.

The sorts of currency I possess, exist in other forms: I’ve got time. I’ve got my hands and legs to walk about and do stuff.

Accessing my needs via these channels – that feels way less stressful than having to think of bank issued currency as a factor intermediating between me my essential life needs.

Hm- You know, I might just go along on that squid-hunting expedition with the people Tony is talking about.

We’re still chatting.

There’s me, Tony, Danny and his wife who are on vacation (from the US, I think), Roberto, and sometimes Romano.

Tony has been friends with Danny and his wife- for like a number of years I think. They visit Cape Verde every now and then, and when that happens they meet up with Tony and co. They’re very nice people. They’re generally the ones bankrolling our supply of barbecued chicken right now.

I can’t complain: I live for free in a studio apartment here at the defunct Hotel Aeroflot. I spend my time generally trying to figure out my next steps in life – me being on a gap year from college in the US and all.

Again, I have no money. These wonderful people periodically set some chicken here up on a grill – about thirty seconds from where I wake up in the morning. They provide food, drinks and much needed company.

I’m not complaining. I’m not complaining at all.

Danny’s wife made fun of me one time. We were through with the chicken- and then not long after, I mentioned that I wanted to head somewhere to do something.

She looked at me and went, “Yeah go ahead. Eat and Run”.

Funny. Very funny. Great wordplay.

But I didn’t find it funny. Not at the time at least. I was actually pretty hurt. It spoke too directly to the reality of my financial situation. I didn’t even notice the wordplay until much later.

Haha. Hahaha. “Eat and Run”. Hah.

I’ve been thinking of getting a tattoo.

The thought has been very pronounced in my mind.

Like an impulse. Not a rushed spur-of-the-moment impulse, no.

It feels like something I absolutely need to do. Like something necessary. Like something vital – something that fulfils some deep-seated psychological need.

I don’t really get it.

It’s like there’s this groove in my personal space of thoughts, that I find myself periodically being sucked into once I’m in its vicinity.


Hm, I need to figure out what to do today. Mohammed says I can get some bread and coffee at the Baye Fall meeting later this evening. I need to go charge my laptop at some point – some documents I need to work on. Tony is saying something interesting about the tourist agencies on — TATTOOOOOOOO

Like this screaming voice that hijacks my thoughts every now and then.

I don’t really understand the feeling.

But I’m not fighting it.

I’ve been thinking about what sort of a tattoo to get.

Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons has really been on my mind over like the past year or so.

I got introduced to it in freshman year of college – in Multimodal Communications class.

It’s supposed to be some sort of abstract art, but with words.

So- similar to how abstract visual art generally doesn’t seem to have obvious denotative suggestions, but rather depends on some sort of mental state/contextual understanding that you project onto it to give it meaning, Tender Buttons does not make sense when you read the literal words in its pages.

It has sentences like “The change in that is that red weakens an hour”.

Sorry, the change in what?

It generally requires you to think about words and the intention behind a sequence of words in a different mosaic-esque sort of way, to make some meaning of it.

Stein’s intention behind the work was to enable the reader “understand without remembering”– something like that. Like you’re reading English words you come across every day, but these words elicit images in your mind that remind you of nothing you’ve ever encountered before.

I think.

Honestly with art sometimes I can’t tell if something is profound and surreal and shockingly non-intuitive, or if the whole thing is a scam and everyone’s just having an “Emperor’s new clothes” effect.

Regardless, there’s a specific line from the book that has been resonating in my thoughts since Berlin.

“All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.”

It has honestly felt like some sort of a spiritual mantra to me in recent times. Like a bible verse I clutch tightly to and build my life around, because it makes me feel safe.

That’s what that has been like.

I’ve been thinking of getting that as a tattoo. Around my arm somehow.

I’m still trying to figure out how to do it exactly.


Image: Sal Island. Hitching a ride to Santa Maria with two UK tourist guys on the hood of their quad bike.

Musings along Adalbertstrasse.

Girlfriend wants to travel.

She’s talking excitedly about some classmates who recently went to Amsterdam.

I listen only halfheartedly.

I recently decided to keep my bank account at a minimum of two hundred dollars.

It’s a goal I set for myself.

Hopefully my financial rock-bottom will only get higher from there.

She probably has the money to travel. In addition to her internship wages her parents probably send her some pocket money on a periodic basis.

I on the other hand, have just my internship wages. There is no money coming in from Nigeria.

I’m just trying to get by pls

I keep listening to her talking enthusiastically about Amsterdam while we turn a corner at a building with an expansive piece of like purple graffiti.

I am at a restaurant along Adalbertstrasse.

I bought a small pizza.

I’m munching on it while I scroll through my phone, preparing for a class which begins in less than an hour.

It’s an interesting restaurant. Gold-themed. Looks fancy.

I’m the only one here. Munching on my pizza and preparing for class on my phone and feeling cool.

I bought this burger the other day.

From a Burger place. Along Adalbertstrasse.

Chilli pepper burger or something like that.

I was curious what it was going to taste like.

I was heading down the sidewalk, wondering if I should join a fellow classmate in organising computer programming tutorials for students who were having issues.

I did stuff like that in San Francisco. It was pretty cool. People felt it really helped.

San Francisco was good. Come to think of it, San Francisco was actually good. San Francisco was very very good.

This semester has been terrible.

This semester has been extremely terrible.

I feel like an idiot.

Everything has been bad.

Hm, maybe I should organise tutorials in the parts of programming I know I don’t have to study for.

I don’t know. I don’t see how that makes anything better.

It’ll probably make me feel good temporarily.

Make me feel like I’m actually good at something.

Remind some people I’m actually good at something.

But I’m not going to escape feeling like an idiot overall. The academic problems I’m experiencing will still be there.

Plus it’s a completely insensible financial situation. People usually get paid to teach. Why am I paying school fees (however little, given the scholarship, financial aid etc), and then still teaching?

That does not make any sense.

I got back to the apartment and decided to try the Chilli Pepper Burger.

A few bites in and I was like

Oh My God

What did I just do

What did I just buy

How much did I just spend on this thing

What would have happened if I told the sheepily-smiling guy at the Burger place that I wanted the maximum level of Chilli

Oh God

Another time I bought a full chicken.

From another place along Adalbertstrasse.

I think the first time I ever bought a full chicken was in San Francisco.

It was one of these meal delivery companies that had an incredible student discount- something like that.

There was SpoonRocket. And Munchery.

They still send me emails.

I got a whole chicken at a very good price.

When it arrived and I opened the box, I felt bad.

I felt bad eating an entire chicken.

Like, me.

Just me. One person. A whole chicken.

I felt very greedy.

Growing up in Nigeria I was made to feel greedy for wanting more than say, the one piece of chicken I was given. During dinner or like at a party.

Usually we would make surreptitious plans to procure more chicken from wherever it was kept. We used to do it. We felt greedy doing it- for wanting more than we were given, but we used to do it.

Now I’m faced with a whole chicken.

Not one thigh.

Not one thigh plus two stolen wings.

An entire chicken.

I had to implore my American roommate to join in.

I was not going to be the unimaginably rapacious being who consumed an entire chicken by himself.

My roommate found it weird. Apparently, singlehandedly obliterating an entire chicken did not feel absurd to him at all.

I kept imploring him to join me. He kept declining.

In the end I had to go through the immeasurably shameful and deplorable act on my own.

Oh God.

Some (mostly) free food at the San Francisco dorms. From either SpoonRocket or Munchery.

There’s this Turkish place close to Kottbuser Tor.

Before the supermarket next to the Burgermeister.

I went there to get this Döner kebab thing they’ve got. The one wrapped in bread with lines on it, that looks like it has just been Panini’d.

It was at night.

I was just coming from the girlfriend’s place.

The moment I stepped into the restaurant, it felt like the middle-aged Turkish men over the counter had their eyes glued to me.

I was wondering what was happening.

The room was dimly lit, and the walls were like reddish-brown. Reddish-brown but more reddish.

I made my order, got my food, ate and left.

As I walked out the door I could feel their eyes pulled by my strides across the counter.

I couldn’t really make sense of it.

I just thought:

I don’t know. Maybe I smell like sex.

Maybe I’m oozing with some hormone that makes them think of their Turkish wives at home.

I don’t know.

I should read more on the whole pheromone thing.

There’s this Florist place.

Along Adalbertstrasse.

On the ground floor of this building that has scaffolding around it. Like they’re doing some renovation upstairs or something.

The flower shop looks really interesting.

I haven’t gotten the chance to visit.

Not yet.

I mean, I stopped by once.


There’s a manhole in the road- somewhere around the shop.

On the right side of the road if you’re coming from Kottbuser Tor.

I was on my skateboard.

Approaching the manhole cover.

And then I thought oh

Why not carve around the hole?

Head straight towards it, and then cut a curve around it?

The covers are pretty steady, so just skating straight on top of the cover is fine.

I mean, entire cars roll over the covers. I’m just one guy on a skateboard.

But then I thought why not try something different this morning

Why not

I got close to the cover.

Close enough to begin cutting a curve.

Then I began to swerve.

Almost done.

Now curve back into your original path of travel.

The skateboard wheels were sliding out a bit, which was expected- there were like 101a.

But oh

At some point it was evident there wasn’t enough traction to close the curve.

The curve was too tight.

No the curve was not too tight. Did rain just fall?

Is there some water on the ground

These were probably the thoughts forming in my mind as I somersaulted along the road.

I got back to my feet and tried to make sense of reality afresh.

I wasn’t so bothered by falling- with skateboarding you get used to it.

I was just surprised I fell. I didn’t attempt anything so spectacular.

A kind guy helped me fetch the board from the other side of the road.

I smiled and said thank you. He gave an understanding nod.

I collected the board and walked by the manhole cover again, wondering what in the name of God happened to me.

It’s dark.

I’m walking down Adalbertstrasse.

I’m right by this red-brick building that looks like the office of some diplomat. Right before the crossroads. The crossroads where the road on the left passes by a lakefront restaurant on its way.

The lake with swans. And overhanging foliage along the walkways that border it.

Ah, I’ll have to break my $200 minimum account balance resolution.

The girlfriend and I have been having literal arguments over this travelling thing.

We’re going to have to go somewhere.

Oh God.

Rock bottom here I come.

Image: Somewhere in Berlin.

Now Playing:

Cape Verde: A Story of a Faulty Quad Bike and Visualized Chicken.

It is evening.

I am outside. Outside the multi-storey building in which the studio apartment which currently serves as my living space, is located.

I am hungry.

I’m walking about, thinking about what to do.

I come across a Cape Verdean neighbor. He should be in his forties thereabouts. He was born on a different island. Got romantically involved with a female european tourist. That should have been like in his twenties.

He spent a number of decades living in Europe as her boyfriend. Or maybe husband. I don’t really know – I’m not even really sure what the difference is.

They had a number of kids.

At some point though, the relationship broke down.

I think somehow, the legitimacy of his stay in Europe was predicated on his relationship with said woman.

And so given the end of the relationship, he landed back in Cape Verde, with like nothing. No partner, no kids, no means of sustenance – or at least none that I was aware of.

I feel like his general grip on life was through the aperture of that relationship, and so given it’s dissolution, life was pretty much back to zero for him.

I am hungry.

He is also hungry.

We exchange greetings and head out for a walk.

We were having a chat at his place a while back. For some reason he refused to believe that I spent a number of months living in Germany the previous year.

And so in-between puffs of weed, I began to regale some of my experiences of the general Berlin terrain. Talked about Alexanderplatz and Rosenthaler Platz and a number of other “Platz”es and stuff.

By the way, I don’t understand how or where these people get weed. Very frequently, they find themselves in situations where they’re hungry and have no food to eat. But somehow it seems like there’s always weed to smoke- I don’t get it, I don’t get it at all.

Ahahahaha!!! You was in the Germany, you was in the Germany!!!

He began laughing and pointing excitedly at me. At that point he was convinced.

There’s a guy by the road with a quad bike. Tourist, from the looks of it. Or maybe one of those initial tourists who end up setting up tourist experiences. Like renting out quad bikes and stuff.

The quad has a problem. I think it won’t start. We agree to help him push it up the hill.

We’re at the destination. The quad has been successfully transported. The quad guy offers his appreciation. We respond- You’re welcome etc etc.

The Cape Verdean guy looks like he’s turning to leave. I don’t understand what he is doing.

What the hell is he doing? Is he not hungry anymore? This is dinner right here!!

Bruh, there’s no time to grovel in pointless inhibition this evening. There is hunger.

I express to the quad guy that we would appreciate some units of physical currency in addition to his verbal expression of gratitude.

Bruh we’re very hungry. “Thank you” is good, but we’re going to need more than that if we’re to remain alive and conscious pls

He reaches into his pocket and extracts some euros.

The Cape Verdean guy begins to smile very widely- expressing relieved excitement at the emergence of an assuaging answer to the problem of his (strangely repressed) hunger.

We receive the euros with thanks, and keep moving.

I feel encouraged. This night has started off on a positive note.

We’ve bought some light stuff to eat. Some other Cape Verdean guys have joined us. I have no idea where they came from.

We keep moving.

Onde esta Galinha?

I’m not exactly satisfied with the relatively austere things we’ve been eating so far. I’m in the mood for some chicken.


He is laughing very loudly. He turns to the other Cape Verdean guys and tells them I’d like to eat some chicken this night. They also begin to laugh at me.

Galinha hahaha!! You have sweet mouth!! We in Cape Verde call it “Muta Sabi”!!

He turns to the other guys- they’re all laughing and making fun of me and voicing the expression: Something something muta sabi.

I don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m just in the mood for some chicken this night.

The closest thing to “Muta Sabi” in Nigerian Yoruba would be maybe “Oju Kokoro”.

It literally means “Eye of an insect”. It’s used to describe people who are generally perceived to lack contentment.

Nobody should even piss me off with these annoying traditional expressions this night. It does not make sense to be content with an undesirable situation, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting tasty things in your life.

We keep moving.

Ineffectuality Regardless.

Tending to my chickens is the principal thing in my morning routine.

See how they’re doing, refill their feed, change their water, and generally make sure everything is okay with them.

I do all I can to make sure they live in the best of conditions.

I do all I can.

And then I pray.

Prayer is important, very important – even more important than refilling feed and replacing the water in the drinking trough.

I pray for my chickens.

I pray that they stay alive, and I pray that they grow healthy and fat.

I pray that they live in good health, and that sickness be very far away from them.

And then I pray against antagonistic powers. Against powers oriented against the welfare of my chickens.

I pray that these powers fail. I pray that they falter. I pray that they die.

Yes. I pray that any metaphysical powers- any person in fact, that intends to stand in the way of my chickens’ wellbeing should die.

Prayer is important, prayer is very very important.



Two of my chickens died last week. I don’t know what caused it. I do not know.

I must be doing something wrong. Maybe I’m not praying enough. Maybe I’m not giving enough money to the church. Maybe. But I know it means I need to intensify my prayers. I need to pray more fervently.

Some of my neighbours do not believe in the power of prayer. Some of them do not even believe in God. Fools. Complete and utter fools. How will one not believe in God? How? I feel sorry for them. For them and their chickens.

There is actually not any empirical evidence that my prayers have any effect on the welfare of my chickens however. My chickens are not any fatter than those of my neighbours. They are not any more insulated from sudden deaths. My chickens die just as frequently and just as sporadically as others. There exists no evidence whatsoever of the efficacy of my prayers.

But all that does not matter. My prayers work, I know they do. I am sure they go somewhere and are answered by someone. I feel it. I know it. I am sure of it.

My non-praying neighbours are fools. Fools of the highest order. My staunch belief in the need for prayer is unimpeded by the absence of any empirical evidence to support it. How else am I to protect my chickens from antagonistic powers if not by prayer? In this dangerous world? Amidst all of the evil powers that exist?

Prayer is key.

I get up from bed.

First I go to feed my chickens. I replace the water in the drinking trough.

And then I pray.

I pray my heart out.

Time to feed the chickens.

I leave my bedroom.




Image Source: