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 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.