Desert Meanderings. 1.

It’s a random night in January.

I’m walking along Sal’s major highway – the one that extends along the island’s longitudinal axis like a vein.

I’m headed towards Santa Maria, at the southernmost end of the island.

The road is smooth and empty. Population here is low relative to land area, so the road is usually empty at any given instance in time – as far as the eye can see.

I enjoy playing dreamy surreal songs from Wildlight while walking along this road at night. Autograf too. I like their music too for stuff like this.

I walk along the edge of the road as it wraps over a hill. On a good hill you can see the edges of the island. During the day.

I think it’s an interesting feeling: Standing on a highway and being able to see the water lapping against different shores delineating the island. It makes you much more keenly aware that you’re really just standing on a piece of land surrounded by water.

Any piece of ground anywhere on the planet is a part of an expanse of land surrounded by water, but it’s just never really something you’re very conscious of- until you’re staring at the different edges of the stretch of land you’re standing on.


I’ve just come across someone. A guy. He’s about the same age as I am. Thereabouts.

There’s a tall structure off the highway. A little into the desert. I’m not sure what it is. It looks like something in-between a lighthouse and a telecommunications mast.

I think I was walking towards it out of curiosity when I came across him. He works security there. He’s on a night shift.

We talk for a bit. He’s from the Gambia I think.

There’s something of a language barrier, so we can’t communicate extensively. We spend some time hanging out in his living quarters. It’s a small room at the base of the tall structure. We’re talking about Santa Maria, and watching some Youtube videos on his phone.

It’s strange seeing technology from the perspective of an insider-somewhat. To a lot of people an app is really just a name that they generally associate with the emotions they experience from using it.

And the company behind the app, the people who build are maintain it, are really just this nebulous, extra-terrestrial and omniscient “They”. “The YouTube people”, “The Google people”, etc.

I recently spent about a year living in Silicon Valley, and so that gave me something of an insider perspective into apps and software technology in general. There’s the insider perspective you get from learning about how the tech works, and there’s the social dimension you get from living in a place that’s renowned for software development.

The people behind the apps are neither nebulous, nor extra-terrestrial, nor omniscient. They’re people. Like everyone else. Things that generally happen to people also happen to them.


At some point I feel like I should head back on the road. I mention that to him. We talk a bit more as we head out of his quarters.

He looks like he could use some company on his solitary nights shifts. He also seems to miss his family back in The Gambia.

We exchange our goodbyes and I head out into the night.


Image: Hanging off some weathered rocks somewhere on the western edge of Sal island.

Mango Trip.

It’s a random day. A random morning.

I’m hungry.

I’m walking along the cobblestone road which cuts across the entrance of Hotel Aeroflot – the place where I stay.

There are a couple pawpaw trees nearby.

Every now and then I come along and steal a couple. I think the trees are mostly for decoration, but Hey, fruits!

There don’t seem to be any pluckable pawpaws today.

I keep heading down the road.

I walk past a few coconut trees.

A few boys recruited me into their coconut plucking mission the other day.

They asked if one of them could stand on my shoulders so he could reach the coconuts up ahead.

I said Haha okay.

They got a number of coconuts that day.


There’s a mango tree up ahead.

Hm. Mangoes. Hmm.

Sounds like an interesting idea.

I’m watching the tree from a distance, thinking of how to most effectively to approach it.


I’m at the tree. I’m attempting to pluck a number of fruits.

There’s a queue of tourists not far from me. I think they’re trying to check into the lodge here. The mango tree is in front of the lodge.

Something happens somehow, and I find myself in conversation with some of the tourists. I think someone was curious and and amused, and they asked what I was doing – something like that.

So we’re talking.

I’m talking with this couple from the UK. They should be in their forties or fifties. Or maybe late fifties.

They’re both doctors.

We’re talking about a number of things.

They say they were recently on a number of other islands in the country. We talk a bit about some of their experiences there.

They were recently at Sao Vicente. Sao Vicente is one of the other islands which comprise the Cape Verdean archipelago.

I’d really like to visit Sao Vincente.

Someone said they have a lot of parties there. Someone I met at Terra Boa – the town around the centre of this island – Sal. His name was Aurelio.

He said “Sao Vincente? Festa! Every time Festa! Every time!”

Haha. Sounds like an interesting place.

I keep talking with the Doctor couple.

The woman says something about her husband – says his knuckles are dragging on the ground or something like that.

I’m not quite familiar with the expression.

She explains a bit more.

I think it alludes to being something of a luddite.

In his defence he says a lot of recent technology just doesn’t go down well with him.

He talks about how they send tax reports in the UK.

I think it’s tax reports. Something like that. Some document they prepare and submit to the government.

He said previously you had to walk down to the office and physically turn in the document. That there was a resounding feeling of finality to that process.

“Now there’s just some page on the internet where you click a button to submit, and that’s it.”

It’s just not the same thing. It just isn’t.”

Hahaha.

He says he prefers to still walk down to the office to turn things in.

That he’s never going to be comfortable with just doing that on a screen.

Haha.

We keep talking.


A man just walked out of the hotel entrance.

He’s Cape Verdean.

He’s pointing his finger and yelling at me in Creole.

Hm. I wonder what’s going on.

I think he might be the hotel manager.

Yeah. Yeah he is. Yeah he’s the hotel manager.

“Go away! You! Go away! Go and get a job!”

“Do you have job?”

He stares at me and asks on the very top of his voice.

“Do you have job?”

“Go and get a job! Go! Go!”

I have some sort of an understanding of what is happening.

He thinks I’m trying to ingratiate myself with the tourists somehow. With the intention of somehow getting money from them.

That’s something people here generally do. Tourists and tourism are the primary source of revenue on this island, and people employ formal and informal techniques to get in on some of that tourist cash.

I don’t know what this hotel manager guy’s problem is.

I was just having a plain conversation.

There aren’t so many people on the island I can converse in English with – everyone speaks Portuguese/Creole.

Ad so it’s usually refreshing coming across people with whom I can have extended conversations in English.

I’m a bit hurt, but I don’t blame him.

He’s not entirely wrong.

I do not have a job, or any serious source of income.

That part is true.

Ugh.

I knew my gap-year decision was going to come with consequences. Being misunderstood was one of them.

In all though, I’m not too bothered by him.

I say goodbye to the friendly tourist couple and head on my way, a few mangoes in hand.


Image: Random plant thing somewhere on Sal island.

“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.

Ahhhhh!!!!

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.

Fucker.

It’s almost midnight.

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

The streets are pretty quiet.

Hm.

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.

Sal Island, Cape Verde: A Homosexual Brushing.

It’s a random afternoon.

I’m walking around Santa Maria. I’m going somewhere.

I’m walking by Ocean Cafe – a really cool bar/restaurant/lodging space in front of the small city square, close to the beach.

Someone calls out to me.

I turn around to look at him.

Ah. It’s this guy.

It’s this guy – some Spanish speaking guy. He looks like he’s in his late fifties- or maybe he’s older, I’m not quite sure.

Every now and then we come across each other, and he’s always trying to start up a conversation somehow.

He’s from the Canary Islands I think. He speaks Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish. I’ve been learning a little Portuguese-esque here and there, from my interactions with Cape Verdean natives in their Creole version of the language.

I’ve realized Spanish and Portuguese are actually very similar. Normally I would expect to still understand this Canarias guy somewhat, but his unfamiliar accent adds a-whole-nother dimension to his speech.

It feels like he’s talking very quickly, and so I never understand a word of anything he’s saying.

There was this day he invited me to join him at a table where I think he was having a drink. He looked very frustrated.

“Tralsjo su jasnxihsbal ciuhnxah fawusknfbahb kxaiusn,abx hkjknfxalwjk xbk aiskgjxfla!”

He ranted, waving his arms about in the air.

In my head I was like Okay, from the look of things there’s an issue. Okay.

I just sat there and tried to be empathetic.


Now I’ve come across him again.

One of his knees is in a brace. And he walks with a limp. I’ve always known him like that.

He also looks frustrated again today. He walks up to me and begins to utter some more utterly unintelligible sounds.

At some point he offers for me to come along with him. Says I look very untidy. Says I should come spend some time at his apartment.

I can make out that much from what he’s saying.

I say okay.

The past number of months have been me seriously thinking about my life. I’m currently on a gap year from college with practically no money. My intention is to utilize the ample time and space I have right now, to figure out my life direction.

My problem right now isn’t money – not really.

If I put in some effort I could probably get a job working hospitality somewhere on the island. Job in a hotel or something. I speak English, and that’s valuable here because you’ve got a good number of English-speaking tourists in a country that speaks primarily Portuguese (Creole).

But that’s not my issue. Working a job in hospitality somewhere and having enough financial resources to procure access to the usual living amenities – “Condição” as Cape Verdeans would call it – That has absolutely no effect on the higher-order ambiguity of overarching life direction that constitutes the existential quagmire I’m currently embroiled in.

What I need right now is time. Time time time time time.

Hygiene hasn’t exactly been on top of my priority list for a while.

So yeah. I probably look very untidy. He most likely has a point.

I go along with him. The Canarias guy.


We’re at the building where he stays.

It’s actually right behind the defunct hotel where I live.

The building where I live used to be a hotel owned by an airline. “Aeroflot” or something. Their air crew and flight passengers used to lodge there during stopovers, from what I heard. At some point the airline ran into some sort of a disagreement with the Cape Verdean government, and they were dispossessed of the hotel – something like that.

The building is fine – the location is actually great, it’s like 10 – 15 metres from the beach.

The studio apartment where I stay, has a super cool beachfront view.

The only issue is amenities. The building isn’t actively maintained by the government, and so that means there’s no electricity, running water, etc.

Over the past year I’ve really begun to deconstruct all of the different components that constitute living spaces. Usually when you rent out a living space, it’s really just this black-box that you procure access to, with money. It’s not exactly clear how all of the different components of the living experience, relate in a nuanced way to the money you just paid.

At Hotel Aeroflot I’ve got shelter, and I’ve got privacy. I’ve also got a super-cool view. I’ve got no security though. Those pesky Cape Verdean neighbours keep burgling the apartment every now and then – it’s so frustrating.

Electricity and money are the things that make it necessary for me to leave the apartment on a frequent basis.


We’re at the building where the Canarias guy stays.

We walk by the security guard. He’s a tall, muscular and very-dark-skinned Senegalese guy. I know him. Well, kind of. We have lunch together every now and then at Nongo’s place.

Nongo is a Senegalese artist who works from a studio apartment at Hotel Aeroflot. He makes interesting artwork of dancers I think, and silhouettes of people with wide straw hats paddling on canoes against the backdrop of idyllic sunsets.

We’re on the same hotel floor.

He’s got a group of like six people who work with him on the art. They make the pieces with paint, brushes and sand somehow. They use a good amount of sand.

In addition to working on the art, I believe Nongo manages the relationships with his retailers and stuff, who eventually sell the artwork to tourists on the island.

We met for the first time, on some random day. I was extremely hungry. I had absolutely nothing to eat. I was sitting down in front of the apartment where I stay, staring listlessly at the beach ahead. I was probably on the verge of dropping dead or something. Spending my last moments as a sentient instance of the Homo Sapiens species, staring at the glistening crystal-blue beach ahead of me – Praia Antonio Souza.

Wonderful. Because I can eat the beach.

Nongo was walking by. He could probably tell I was hungry somehow.

At some point he invited me to come join him and his artisans for lunch.

“Come come! Comé! Comida! Mangé mangé!”

He made gestures with his hand – moving his hand towards his mouth.

I gladly obliged. With the final quotient of energy left in my body, I lifted myself up to my feet.

They were having Chebujeri – it’s a Senegalese dish of rice cooked in spicy tomato sauce. They had seasoned cabbage and fish and all sorts of good stuff. Apparently there are a number of Senegalese spots in Santa Maria that make traditional Senegalese food for the community here.

Chebujeri is similar to Jollof rice – a dish found in a number of West African countries. Like Nigeria.

That was a wonderful afternoon. That was an immensely wonderful afternoon. Nongo is such a great guy.


We’re at the building where the Canarias guy stays.

We just walked by the tall muscular Senegalese security guard.

He also works security at Odjo D’Agua hotel. Odjo D’Agua is a beachfront four-star hotel about five minutes away from here.

There was this day he saw me at Odjo D’Agua. Having something to eat and using the internet. I was with my computer. It’s a 15″ MacBook Pro I bought in San Francisco.

I imagine it was an astounding sight. There I was, sitting at a four-star hotel with a computer that was worth like a few thousand dollars (or something), but I was frequently in situations where I had no food to eat.

I was eating food at this really-nice hotel not because I had ample money, but because I needed a reason to spend as much as time as I could using their wonderful Wifi network.

That Odjo D’Agua wifi is something else.

I imagine it was extremely confusing for him. The Senegalese security guy. I imagine it was.

Honestly it’s confusing for me too. I myself don’t understand my life.

The next time I was at Nongo’s place for lunch, I could hear a conversation erupt between the security guy and everyone else the moment I left.

He was about to regale them with tales of me and my expensive computer.

As I walked away, I could hear him yell “Original!” amidst some other things he said in Wolof.


We’re at the Canarias guy’s apartment.

It’s an interesting space. It’s on the topmost floor of like a four-storey building. With an interesting view of the beach.

I would probably have found the apartment much more awe-inspiring if I didn’t live in the building right in front. With an even closer view of the beach.

We talk for a bit. He says he used to be a journalist. He’s retired now.

He shows me a couple of newspapers and stuff.

I say Hm interesting, interesting stuff.

At some point he suggests I should go take a shower.

I oblige. I could definitely use a warm shower right now. There’s no hot water at Hotel Aeroflot.


I’m in the shower. Covered in lather.

At some point the Canarias guy walks in.

I’m not sure what he’s doing.

Like dude I’m naked, can’t you wait till I’m done.

I’m not too bothered by it though. I spent about four and half of my six years of high school in Nigeria, in boarding school. In the male hostel I frequently had to take baths in an open space with tens of other flailing, naked, lather-covered boys.

And so I’m not entirely uncomfortable being naked around guys. Not really.

I keep washing my body.

At some point I feel a hand trying to slither through my legs.

HAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!

WHAT IS THATTTT?????

I open my eyes.

MISTER CANARIAS!!!!!

CANARIAS GUYYYY!!!!

AHHHH SO THIS IS WHY YOU WERE PERSISTENTLY INVITING ME OVER TO YOUR APARTMENT!!!!

AAHHHHH!!!

OHHH SO YOUR PLAN ALL THIS WHILE HAS BEEN TO GET ME NAKED IN YOUR BATHROOM!!!!!

Ahhhhh, now I get it. Now I get it!

I express to him that I’m not homosexual, and that I’m not up for any of this.

He tries to persist.

I express to him some more that I’m not interested.

I’m careful not to physically touch him.

He’s this very frail-looking guy limping about in his knee brace.

I can touch him ever so slightly, and he’ll end up falling on the floor and hitting his head on something.

I’m not interested in being the guy who killed a Spanish tourist in Cape Verde. I’m still debating with Cape Verdean law enforcement on the validity of my visa-free stay in this place.

I don’t want problems please.

I verbally express some more that I’m not interested in his current intentions.

I finish up my bath and quickly head out of Mister Canarias‘ bathroom.


Image: In the bathroom mirror of the Hotel Aeroflot studio apartment.

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 “date” 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.

Of Wifi Struggles and Free Beer.

We’re sipping on beer, the two of us.

Out on the patio of an interesting bistro at Santa Maria.

I’m sipping on beer he bought for me.


“Unlike you, I have a wife and a daughter in Germany.”

“You, you’re free. You’re free to do whatever you want. With whoever you want.”

“Me, I’m not.”


I do not quite agree with him.

I mean, he has a point- he definitely does. But I don’t feel free.

I don’t.

I’m not. Free.

I’m not free.


I’ve spent the past few months reeling in the frustratingly-boundless anguish of heartbreak.

It’s been a whirlwind of emotions.

Anger. Frustration. Hate. Sadness. Hurt.

Desire.

Anger. Frustration.

I don’t have a wife and a daughter in Germany, but I’m not free. I’m not. Free.

I’m not free.


We’re talking about immigrants. Immigrants in Germany.

I recently read a news article about a batch of new African immigrants, who were setting off a flurry of sexual harassment cases somewhere in Germany- I think it was Berlin.

Those immigrants seemed like pretty problematic people to me.

He has a different take on immigrants.

He says the country needs them.

He’s a landscaper.

He says he doesn’t have enough workers at his company. He needs the ample labour that these immigrants have to offer, but the government has been slow in providing them with work permits. He says it’s very bad for his business.

Hmmm.

We keep sipping on beer.


It’s been difficult getting internet.

I don’t have a steady income from which I can purchase mobile internet plans on a periodic basis. So I use restaurant Wifi networks.

I initially visit the restaurant as a legitimate guest.

I buy stuff. And then I obtain the password.

My subsequent visits are usually less legitimate.

I usually just hang around the place, nibbling on the fringes of their Wifi for free.


There’s this hotel at the major Santa Maria roundabout. Very close to the Pirata club.

Some guy at the reception gave me the Wifi password earlier in the year.

I spend at least an hour everyday at the open-air mini- street gym right across the road.

And no, I haven’t been trying to beef up my calf muscles.

I usually just laze around the equipment while I use their wifi on my phone.

Check emails, check social media, send out professional applications, go through disheartening rejection emails, adjust to the sour new reality of dashed hopes, all the while pretending to use the swinging leg-exercise thing.


We’re still sipping on beer.

Me and the German landscaper.

This restaurant was set up by this cool guy from somewhere in the UK. He and his wife. They both moved to Cape Verde from the UK. Moved to Sal and set up the restaurant. They recently had a baby.

I was asking him a few questions the other day. I asked him how different life was, with a baby. He said his energy level had increased for some reason. That he just felt a lot more energetic all of a sudden.

Hmm.

I initially got the password on a legitimate visit to the restaurant. Used it on a number of subsequent less-legit visits. And then at some point the password stopped working.

On another legitimate visit, I realised it had been changed.

I confidently asked for the new password over some Spaghetti Bolognese.

The next time the password was changed, I was more equipped to adapt to the situation: I had figured out a valuable pattern in the UK guy’s choice of passwords.

It was usually the name of the restaurant, and then three digits.

I was like Great, easy.

I wrote a Python script to generate a list of three digit numbers from 000 to 999. I appended these numbers to the name of the restaurant and then employed a command line Wifi password cracking tool to figure out what the new password combination was.

I think the tool was Aircrack-ng or something. Used to be part of the Kali Linux package and stuff. There was a way to set it up on the MacOS terminal.

Like, UK guy I understand you need to limit your restaurant’s internet usage- but I’m a severely impecunious student on a gap year from college and I need to check my emails.

Please bear with me.

Plus, it’s not like I don’t visit as a legitimate guest every now and then. 🙂


There’s this other country-wide wifi. Cabocom Wifi.

One very auspicious night I attempted to log into the network, and for some strange reason it didn’t request a password from me.

It just logged me in.

I took a few minutes to give profuse thanks to the Persian god of good fortune, before I then proceeded to rapaciously download a number of TV shows I had been looking forward to.

And it wasn’t just a one-time thing. It usually just works.

I don’t complain.

I don’t complain at all.

Praise be to the Persian god of good fortune.


Image: Somewhere in Santa Maria.

Circumventing Sunday Service/ Meeting with the IMF.

I just escaped the building.

Sunday Service will begin very soon. Everyone finds it very weird and disrespectful whenever I walk right through an ongoing gathering like they’re not there.

Their church gatherings are where they congregate to commune with God. Walking right through an ongoing gathering is perceived as a flagrant disrespect- both to them and to their almighty God.

Well it’s not completely my fault. The space within which they hold these meetings is right between the entrance and the rest of the building. And so sometimes when I need to get into the building and upstairs to the room where I’m arguably being lodged as a guest, I have to walk briskly through their gatherings so I can be on my way.

They don’t like it. They don’t like it at all.

And so this morning I’m exiting the building before their Sunday service even starts.


I am at Hotel VIP Praia.

Hotel VIP Praia is a 4-Star hotel erected on the expansive black rocks lining the southeastern coast of Santiago- the capital island of the Cape Verdean archipelago.

I was recently here to make inquiries about the hotel facilities.

At this point in time, I am aware there is a penthouse bar overlooking the awe-inspiring crystal blue ocean water. I exchange pleasantries with the receptionists and head into the elevator.

I am yet to come to a convincing understanding of why the beaches in Cape Verde have such crystal blue water.

I raised this question with a Dutch engineer I met on Sal island. He brought up an interesting idea, and we hypothesized along the lines of sand particle weight.

Maybe the sand particles here were somehow heavier than in other places, and consequently always settled to the ocean floor very quickly- leaving the water crystal blue.

I think it makes sense, but I’m not too convinced that’s the answer.


I am at the penthouse bar.

I walk past the bar, and past the rooftop swimming pool on my left, as I head up a staircase.

There is an elevated platform right above. I ascend the stairs up to this platform and take a seat.

I take a few minutes to marvel at the impressive woodwork in my immediate surroundings, while breathing in the refreshing ocean air and thoroughly enjoying the engrossing view of the entrancingly blue ocean water.

I open up my computer and attempt to connect to the WiFi.

My time at a college in the USA whose program was structured around online classes and distributed learning, has given me considerable experience with shamelessly striding into the most upscale of locations primarily intending to make use of their WiFi network.

In the US no one seemed to care if I spent hours in a cafe or restaurant, making pretty heavy use of their WiFi while buying just a few cups of coffee and some light snacks.

In Germany things were also similar, although some places could be problematic.

In Cape Verde, the smaller restaurants and cafes made me feel guilty. Past a certain point I would begin to literally feel the owner/manager’s gaze drilling into my skin. Or maybe that was just me feeling self-conscious.

But this right here is Hotel VIP Praia- a 4 star hotel. This sublime edifice is definitely more than capable of handling my meager WiFi consumption. I prepare myself for a good time.


There is a problem with the WiFi. The computer is not connecting to it.

Maybe it’s the location.

I walk about the roof of the bar, and eventually head down the stairs to the rest of the penthouse.

There is a guy working on a computer. He has multi-colored tattoos all over his body. Arms. Legs. He also has a fluffy white square beard. I think he looks really interesting.

I mention something about the Wifi. He empathizes, and says a WiFi extender would be a useful installation. To extend the network to the area above the bar. I agree with him.

I take a seat opposite, and we begin to engage in conversation while I connect. At some point I learn that he’s a consultant with the International Monetary Fund.

Hmmm!! The IMF!!! Hmmm!!

I am very very surprised. I had no idea the IMF hired people who were like covered from head to toe in multicolored tattoos.

My classmates at the US college during my last semester there, were beginning to experience this existential anxiety involving charting out some sort of professional path for oneself. Frantic internship applications were the principal community-wide activity.

Students who had secured shiny-sounding internship positions were being quietly envied by others. The college itself was featuring these shiny professional engagements on their website.

The school hired some Professional Development Managers or something like that. They periodically organized Career Development meetings where they gave guidelines on how to craft the most effective CVs.

I never went for their meetings. One of them kept sending me emails. Jesse or something like that. He was probably a nice person, but the context of his employment in the university and what he represented, made me find him and his emails very annoying. I never replied.

I even began to hate the word “career”, because to me it represented this very ascetic concept that required one to completely shed every strand of individuality and personal idiosyncrasy, to facilitate direly needed absorption into the cold, phlegmatic and completely unfeeling machine of the world of work.

And so sitting here right now at a 4-star hotel penthouse bar, across the table from this white-bearded biker guy covered in multicolored tattoos- the very exemplar of individuality and personal ideosyncracy- who is currently on a professional assignment with the International Monetary Fund, I feel like there is hope for me. Me with my complete disregard for somber career development meetings and lifeless CVs.

I casually give an exposition on some mathematical nuance I’m engaging with, in the course of some of my work involving Artificial Intelligence and Endangered Languages.

He seems very interested. I provide some more detail over which we discuss.

The mentioned research endeavor was one I crafted myself as a conceptual spear head with which I intended to transpierce and forge a path through the nebulous terrain of life professions. It did not exist prior.

It was a number of things to me:

It was an emboldening intersection of passions, skills and expertise which I wished to structure my life around.

It was also an endeavor to procure solutions to what I believed to be a pressing world problem.

In addition however, I think it also sounds very cool and important. You know, something you can casually bring up in conversation with a consultant from the IMF.


We’ve been chatting for over an hour, all the while sipping on beers and working on our Macs.

We’ve talked about his motorbikes, about his family and mine, about his children’s disapproval of his tattoos, and about my mother’s sudden visit to Cape Verde to understand why in the name of God I took a gap year from college in the US.

We’ve talked about his frequent travels on the job, and his divorce which was largely a consequence of that. We’ve talked about financial worries and anxieties about the future.

Now we’re talking about his current relationship. With a woman he met in Albania. She recently created a photography page on Facebook, where she posts pictures he takes during his travels. She sounds sweet.

At some point the excited bartender offers to bring up some Cape Verdean girls for entertainment.

The IMF guy turns to him:

Sorry I’m not here for that kind of fun, thank you.

We keep talking.

At some point his supervisor joins us at the table.

First I am very taken aback by the very idea that this person has a supervisor.

The supervisor is a cool guy. He brings some very interesting perspective to the conversation. Sheds light on some illicit activities foreign hotel chains are engaging in:

Leveraging subsidized import duties to sell imported construction materials at a profit on the black market. IMF is here to keep such behavior in check.

Mmm!! Interesting!!!

I nod my head in excited understanding.

We keep talking.

At some point in our conversation, the tattooed guy mentions that I’ve had a very accomplished day. I laugh out loud and express my complete agreement with him:

Escaping Sunday Service to end up having a super interesting chat with IMF officials at the penthouse bar of a 4-star hotel overlooking the Cape Verdean Atlantic. Excellent day.

We talk some more. Later the supervisor gets up to leave. It’s his birthday today. I think it’s his seventieth birthday. He’s probably going in to prepare for some sort of celebration later in the evening.


Image: View from the Santa Maria pier at Ilha do Sal.