The air is slightly cold. I can hear the muffled sound of ocean waves periodically crashing against the shingle beach not far away.
The ground is brown and dry. The desert sand shimmers in the bright Sal-island morning sun.
It’s a new day. I spent the night out in some strange concrete-block enclosement out here in the desert, off the island’s highway. It feels like a balcony, but on the ground floor. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.
It provided considerable shelter from the wind, so that was good. Rain practically never falls on Sal island, so I didn’t have to worry about a roof over my head.
I’m wearing my fancy rain jacket. The dark-green and brown one I bought at a thrift store in San Francisco. It has like ten different zippers. There are honestly zippers on this jacket I haven’t yet figured out how to use.
I’m actually not sure why I bought it – maybe I thought it would prove useful for winter in San Francisco. Maybe I thought it would snow or something. It didn’t, and I don’t think I used the jacket at all that winter.
It ended up becoming my camping jacket. During random night walks in SF, I would end up nestled up in the hills at Corona Heights- entranced by the interesting view of the city from above – the sparkly streetlights and the prominent visual outline of Market street.
Or snuggling up on a bench amidst interesting flowers at Golden Gate Park. The hooded rain jacket with endless zippers and pockets, proved immensely useful then.
I’m walking along the shimmering brown desert sand, wondering how the day will unravel. I see a tent up in the distance.
What, a tent?
I thought I was the only one here.
I walk towards it, wondering what’s going on.
It’s a cheerful-looking Caucasian man who looks like he’s in his forties. He’s rolling up some stuff around the tent.
We exchange a few pleasantries.
From what I can make of his significantly-accented English, he’s Polish- He and his friend sailed to Sal island (sailed, Wow). I’m not sure where he says they sailed from, but apparently they had a pretty thrilling journey via the ocean, and it wasn’t entirely smooth. Interesting stuff.
He had to have pitched his tent after I fell asleep last night – there was no one around when I got here.
We keep talking. There’s this book he’s very excited about – some guide book for travellers. “Reise Know-How” or something. He has the edition for Cabo Verde – Reise Know-How Cabo Verde something. Apparently it gives a comprehensive outline of interesting activities in Cabo Verde, for travellers. I flip through the book – I find the pictures and the graphics very interesting. It’s all in German though, so I can’t make much of it.
We talk some more as he packs up his stuff and prepares to leave. I’d say he’s a bit shorter than average, but his camping shoes look a little large – I find the look somewhat comical. Chatting excitedly while he prances about in his big shoes. His elation is contagious, and I’m smiling throughout.
It’s a different day.
Night. It’s night. Night of a different day.
I’m headed back to Calheta Funda from Murdeira, where I went to get some supplies. The past couple of days have had their ups and downs. I found this really interesting small cave right by the ocean – just big enough for me to snuggle into. It felt really cool- curling up in a cave, surrounded by the numbing crashing of ocean waves, and staring out at the reflection of the moonlight in the water.
A few days ago I headed to Espargos to get some food supplies. All of my stuff was by the cave at the beach. Clothes, shoes, other stuff. It was to my utter dismay that I returned and realized that the tide had risen immensely in the hours I was gone.
My stuff was everywhere. My Vans sneakers were completely missing. I could only find one leg of my formal leather shoes. I had to walk dejectedly along the shoreline, rethinking my life decisions as I trudged along the black pebbles that populated the beach, picking up whatever of my belongings the ocean had heartlessly strewn about.
The tide rose and the ocean threw your stuff all over the place- some never to be seen again. Who do you get angry at? You can’t exactly begin to pump your fist at the indifferent ocean, can you?
As I head towards where I have my things, I come across a pickup truck. There are two people in it. They look like European men. From the company logo on the truck, I know the guys in it are a bunch of surfshop entrepreneurs from Santa Maria. Sal has got a number of great beaches, and so there’s the trend of surfing enthusiasts from Europe with access to capital, setting up surfing and kitesurfing schools for tourists.
As I walk by, I say hello to the surfer guys. We exchange pleasantries. The man in the driver’s seat is eating something from a bowl. He says his wife prepared it ahead of his road trip.
“Good wife right?” He looks up from his food and smiles at me.
We exchange a few more pleasantries as I head on my way.
It’s a different day.
I just woke up. I’m looking around, wondering how this new day will unravel.
There’s someone staring at me. It’s a dark-skinned man. He looks suspicious. Like he’s wondering what to make of me.
I wave and say hello.
At some point I walk over to exchange a few sentences.
He’s Senegalese. Or Guinean. Or Gambian. Honestly I’m not sure.
But generally there’s a specific kind of problem I have with these kinds of people: They never understand what I’m doing. They never understand my life.
The idea of “camping by the beach” makes absolutely no sense to them.
They generally do not understand why anyone would spend the night outdoors, by choice. That’s just how the (non-Cape Verdean) African people here tend to think. I don’t know why.
I think another factor that makes things more confusing for them, is that I’m black. If they see a European person spending the night outdoors, they’ll probably think “Okay there’s just a white person doing white person stuff, nothing to see here”.
They see me doing that and they’re thinking “Hm, what is this person trying to do? Is he trying to break into a nearby building? Is he trying to bury a body? Is he trying to ambush passers-by? What could he possibly be doing there? I think I should call the Police, I do not understand what is happening.“
That is exactly the sort of misunderstanding that leads to me getting picked up by the police here. Officers at the Santa Maria station know me by name now. I alight at the station from their Police van, and the people inside are like “Oho, he’s here again”. Hah.
I’m conversing with the Senegalese/Guinean/Gambian looking guy. He works as a security guard in the area. As we talk, I see the suspicion on his face gradually melt away. He progressively warms up to me.
We keep talking. A lady walks up to us – she’s asking him some questions and asking about me. There are a bunch of kids behind her. And a dog.
He says she’s his brother’s wife. He probably doesn’t mean literal brother. Maybe “fellow Senegalese/Guinean/Gambian person”. Probably.
He offers me some food. He’s eating bread and something.
We keep talking. I take a bunch of selfies with the lady and the kids and the dog.
Thankfully there’s no misunderstanding today.
Image: Somewhere in the desert of Sal island.