I am at Espargos.
I am on the ground floor of this interesting white apartment complex.
I saw this wooden reclining chair under the shade of some overhanging staircase structure. Facing the courtyard with the garden and the playground.
I was talking with the receptionist earlier. Asking her about the cost of renting one of the apartments.
She was occupied with something throughout. I think she was doing something with her nails. Or her phone, one of them.
She muttered something in Cape Verdean Creole. I wasn’t at all sure what she said.
I probed a bit more.
She muttered some more incomprehensible Creole in-between her doing whatever-it-was she was doing with her nails or her phone.
This time I caught something: Cinco mil or something like that.
Five thousand for rent.
Now I just don’t know what currency she’s talking about.
Five thousand Euros?
Five thousand Cape Verdean Escudos?
Both are accepted as legal tender in this country.
The US dollar is not. Even the Euro cents are not. I recently had to wish my collection of Dollar and Euro cents goodbye. I stacked them on the ledge of a grocery store window and sadly walked away.
There was just no point in keeping the brown metal discs which were nothing but an illusion of money.
The official at the bank said unlike foreign currency notes, coins posed too much of a logistical complication. They could exchange tourists’ dollar notes for local currency- They would simply have to ship the bag of collected Dollar notes to their HQ on another island.
Things weren’t so easy with coins because of the weight. Shipping bags of coins? Coins worth how much exactly?
She had a point. It was still sad to abandon the coins though. I could have really used the extra change.
I had no idea what the absent-minded receptionist was saying exactly.
And she did not look like she was in the mood for more questions.
I’ve got like fifty euros in a Cape Verdean bank account I recently opened.
I had this monthly financial agreement with an NGO in Nigeria which I had to rejuvenate upon the commencement of this gap year from college in the USA.
Right now I get about Fifty euros per month as a stipend for sending in monthly updates on an AI project I’ve been working on for a while.
Fifty euros, more or less. The Naira-to-Euro exchange rate usually fluctuates across months.
A new instalment came in a few days ago.
I head to the ATM to withdraw Fifty euros.
Fifty euros is equivalent to about Five thousand Cape Verdean Escudos.
The occupied receptionist said rent was five thousand.
It couldn’t have been five thousand Cape Verdean escudos could it?
Fifty euros? For those freshly constructed multi-storey apartments?
But wait- It also couldn’t have been five thousand Euros. For rent. For a month.
Or did she mean a year?
I’m somewhat confused.
But right now I’m not putting too much effort in understanding what is going on. I withdraw a bunch of notes from the ATM- Pieces of paper with numbers and portraits printed on them- the usual.
I head back to the receptionist and pass her the bunch of notes.
If she gives me the key to an apartment right now, I won’t even complain.
She looks at me with a strange sneer on her face, muttering some more incomprehensible Creole.
I don’t understand her own Creole. I’ve been on this island for over six months now, and I feel like I know enough Creole to at least get by.
But this receptionist- This strange woman that’s always attending to me from one small corner of her eye- I don’t understand what language she’s speaking.
Somewhere amidst the befuddling spray of unintelligible sounds coming from her, I discern yet again another number:
The rent is ten times higher than I thought it was. It’s not fifty euros, it’s five hundred. Fifty thousand Cape Verdean Escudos.
I have no idea where the miscommunication was from. Her inattention, her incomprehensible Creole, or the deceptive intricacies of currency exchange rates. I have absolutely no idea.
I was just thinking:
She mentioned a number.
I got some notes.
If I’m given an apartment key, I won’t even ask questions. I’ll collect it with gratitude and bask in appreciation of the strokes of good fortune in life which are beyond one’s comprehension.
I am at the Police station.
The wooden reclining chair I was lying on, was for the security guard.
He didn’t even communicate with me directly, like Hey you that’s my chair– he just called the Police.
I am seated in a room.
Opposite me is Carlos- the Commander of Police on the island.
We met earlier in the year- about two weeks after I arrived Cape Verde for the gap year.
I had just gotten arrested on the beach at the southernmost end of the island.
At some point I realized I was arrested just for walking along the beach at night.
A number of disturbing incidents had happened in the past where some inimical natives had robbed, injured, and in one case, killed a tourist.
These malevolent natives were usually walking along the beach at night, from where they intercepted unsuspecting tourists strolling around the beachfront hotels where they were lodged.
I- completely unaware of all that, was sauntering through the wet sand that night, thinking about how to navigate the mathematical nuances of building a custom neural network library from scratch using the Python programming language.
I had my computer and other accessories on the porch of an interesting empty-looking cabin I came across.
I was strolling along the coastline, absorbing some serious inspiration as the periodic crashing of the ocean waves massaged my ears and enveloped me in their riotous, transcendent rhythm.
I was wearing a hoodie.
And the hood was up, covering my face.
Prime suspect. I was definitely planning to kill someone. Like, without a doubt.
I don’t understand.
You can’t just keep roaming about like this.
You need a job. You need a place to stay.
You need ehh,
It is Carlos- the Commander of Police.
Samuel is the first name in my international passport.
I’m just sitting in this chair and feeling very irresponsible.
I’m here again.
I attempt to give some sort of an explanation. Give information on some of my professional-esque involvements with a Spanish Biodiversity NGO on the island.
At some point Carlos goes:
Hm, you’re very good with words.
In my head I’m probably thinking:
This guy likes me. I should stop disappointing him by getting arrested all the time.
He asks me some questions. Asks me what I think of him.
I say I think he’s a cool guy. That he has a particularly difficult and stressful job but he still manages to mantain a very jovial demeanor.
He’s excited by my perspective.
He says, Yes yes- Smile- Smile is good! Smile is good!! You smile, you know? You smile!!!
At some point the Police let me go.
Somewhere at the back of my mind I thought maybe they would give me a place to stay- You know, maybe one of those five hundred million euros apartment with the receptionist who is always engrossed in her nails.
You know, for some condicão.
I don’t know, I was just thinking.
I am at a bar.
I’m drinking some Cape Verdean beer.
Image: Earlier that year.
This post is one in a Series. The other pieces in the series can be accessed here.